Saturday, September 26, 2009

Potted People... and our tender Gardener.

I have five potted plants in my apartment, each is a different species of plant and each is ever green but looks entirely different from the others. I love these plants as they bring some life into my city residence and I try my best to keep them alive.

One of the beautiful things about creation is that its very diverse. Some of these plants needed water every day, they start to droop to remind me if I forget. Some of these plants droop in complaint, if I over water them.
Some plants protest if they are not in the sunlight soaking in the rays, other wilt unless they are in a shady area.

Through sensitive trial and error I am gradually working out each plants "personality, likes and dislikes".

One of my plants has drooped - beyond repair.
I have tried more water.. I have tried less water, I have tried sunlight, I have tried shade, I have even tried praying on it - yes I know crazy Christian - but if Jesus can make a fig tree wilt He can also restore my little yellow flowered love. However nothing has worked. It died.

The Lord spoke to me as I pondered it. All creation is diverse, and as such humans are also diverse. Sure we are all Homo Sapians, and we have some shared experiences, but when it comes down to it, we have different needs, likes and wants. Spiritually too.. what will speak to one person will not speak to another, one form of worship will stir my soul, but you prefer a different style of worship. God speaks to me in a way that shows me He sees me, for you His “love notes” may be different because He knows how to garden you, and what will tap into your heart and hit your core in a way specific to you and your experience. Jesus is the only way, but He also said ‘every tribe and tongue” would be in that great crowd worshipping the Father, coming from all walks of life, God needs to meet us in different ways.

He tenderly cares of each of us, each person is different and He loves that diversity and is big enough to handle and enjoy it all. He loves it, and calls to us to love it too… To do so we need to be rooted deeply enough in our faith and our relationship with God that we cannot be shaken or threatened when God meets someone else in a different way (than He meets us). This can only come through relationship because love is real, and it births security where we know what we have with Him is real, significant and special regardless of what else He is doing in others lives. He has enough love for all of us. He sees me, He sees you. We are different but that is ok – in fact that is beautiful.

I would never choose to have 5 of the same plant in my apartment, I love that they all look different and have different qualities, I don’t mind getting to know their needs and tending to them individually, its worth it.

So Lord put Your love in our hearts, deliver us from this orphan mentality that believes that there is not enough love to go around, set me and us free from a self-righteous spirit that doesn't welcome diversity within the Christian faith Lord, help us to embrace each other in our differences and to worship you with one heart and voice..

“May they all be as one” - Jesus’ prayer - John 17

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This is my God.

You gotta meet Him. The more I get to know Him, the more I walk in relationship with Him, the more I'm like - "I stand in awe of you".
These are not "church" words to me, these are not some songwriters words -these are words from my heart "You are so real, you are so amazing, you are so personal, I just don't even know what to do with it. I don't. If people knew how amazing you are - they would all run after Your heart, amazing God, my Papa."

My God is not boring (I will elaborate later - please just bear with me while I gush) - He is anything but boring. Unfortunately I will give you this - that *some* Christians are - and they give Him a bad rap, but please don't make this mistake. Take once glance at the beauty, creativity, diversity and imagination in creation all around us and know that Someone brilliant thought it all to life, Someone with an intense love for those same things, beauty, creativity, diversity and imagination.

This weekend I was having a brain explosion. I was not Miss Christiany Christianson that's for sure. I was frustrated and mad about alot of issues to do with Christianity (as we call it) and Christians. I was on a judging, angry, waring warpath. God is very personal in how He deals with people, its a person to person, day to day thing. This is why He gives us His spirit to discern person to person, day to day how to love, what we say and do and what the most loving and healing response at that time is. This weekend, those that were smart, let me vent and rage, they mourned with me over my issues and then prayed (silently) for me while I aired all my thoughts, they backed off verbally allowing me some growing space, not trying to indoctrinate me - but letting me process everything I was thinking. In faith they believed that my heart was seeking God and despite all of the mental brutalising of the Christian faith (as we see it today) that I was doing and that as I was His daughter - He could deal with me and sort me out. They did exactly what they needed to do - love me where I was at, and leave the rest to God. Those that were not so perceptive to my mourning (though well intentioned) tried to counsel me with well known scriptural truths - but truth not in season just ends up wounding and they were not met with a receptive heart.

Here is how I expressed my heart this weekend to a friend,

"Im in a weird place right now and im working things out... and being challenged is maybe something some christians can't handle - maybe they think Im heretical and maybe for their sake I need to step back right now because my battle is one where I want to get past the christiany -ese sunday school answers and go deeper and find real truth that I can take ownership of. I don't want someone telling me what to believe, I want it to be real to me.

I want to question; question God (not Him himself - He is perfect and beautiful - I have no issues with Him even though much of who He is remains a mystery to me), I want to question Christian rituals, question life, how to live my faith and question myself.
I want to have time to question my motives.. why do I get excited when God moves- is it because I love that person and want their salvation, or because I feel with His heart and burn with passion for them to know Him or is it because I am just excited to see God move, or is it because it makes me feel more like a "christian" because I have influenced someones faith...

I want to question why the church is so impotent when they have the power of God at their disposal. Why are we living such faithless, "normal" passionless lives when the early church was so clearly different. If we are the children of God - shouldn't we be different too? So why the lack or on the opposite end of the spectrum we have the radical but judging Christian.. Where are the restful loving christians who lives are like Jesus, and who have nothing to prove and are not afraid to be challenged and questioned because their faith is real and deep, tried and tested and their God is big enough for peoples questions and unbelief- so they do not feel threatened and close down. I want to fall into the last category but I'm not there yet.

..... I have a feeling that its a God thing that I am wrestling through this right now, but its extemely frustrating to be preached at, I know what the bible says... and I thank God that ____ didnt do that this weekend... and I think that maybe its totally ok with Him that I am not a mild, submissively accepting sunday-school quoting "Stepford" daughter, that I want it to be real to me and to know why I think what I think."

I hope this is enough to indicate the place I was in this weekend - you were blessed if we didn't talk!

Well since then my mind calmed and peace began to return and I waited for God to answer. I knew I was on the brink of working out alot of it and I called on the Holy Spirit that nothing would be lost from my weekend of ranting - but that all the thoughts that were from God that I aired would take root and bear fruit, and those that were not from Him would wilt away.

Tonight God answered it, He answered it all. A few days ago I had left my iTunes running with some worship songs, mixed in amongst it was a sermon from Bethel Church ( I had switched the volume off but didn't realize that iTunes had kept playing through the songs - silently. When I went to use my computer and hit the volume button it was playing the Sermon by Bill Johnson called Wisdom's Tension. Something in my spirit moved- I don't know how to explain it except to say that I knew that perhaps I was meant to listen to that sermon. However I am pretty stubborn and not that quick to act on things like this. I had listened to that sermon a few months ago and so rationalised that I didn't need to again, also I was about to head out and so I switched it off and forgot about it. At the gym tonight (a few days later) I pulled out my ipod and went to select something to listen to. I made my selection and hit it but randomly (?) it flicked up to a few songs above the one I selected - have a guess at what that mp3 file was? That's right - Wisdom's Tension sermon by Bill Johnson. Again my spirit was alerted and remembering what happened a few days before I decided to listen. I ended up praying on the bike on the gym because particular truth at the correct time moves and grows the soul - I was so blessed by what was shared. As the sermon progressed I actually exclaimed out loud more that once with joy and laughter because I was so freaked out at how it was EXACTLY dealing with ALL my issues from the weekend. This is my God. He is my biggest stalker and I LOVE IT!

Later I sat at my table, mind completely boggled at how lovingly He deals with all my issues and lack of faith, love and grace. Tonight I stand, totally in awe of Him and mind now at peace. (I will write another blog later about what the issues were and His answers).

Now onto the part about how He loves the "me" parts of me.
I am an artist. I am not amazing at art, but I have some talent and I love it. I find it incredibly therapeutic and I scored an A grade in my final exam of High/Grammar School at 18 and then took it again as a minor in University. I don't paint enough, but I would definitely list it as something that contributes to "who I am" and one of my great loves. A friend of mine knows this and has recently been encouraging me to paint prophetically (this I'm guessing just means to pray into it and then follow the spirit's leading as to what is painted and what style). Taking up painting again was something that had really been on my heart - so much so that I had already bought the paints a few weeks ago but only used them once since. I sat down at the table and prayed a simple prayer - "Lord your so creative, creative in your ultimate creation all around me and creative in your ways of dealing with me and loving me, come and teach me some of that creativity in Jesus name." My painting was not to be of any particular end, I was painting only for the pleasure of doing it, not as an act of worship or outreach specifically. I started to paint, planning on using a thick brush to do an abstract painting. Then quietly in my spirit I was prompted to turn the brush upside down and use the wooden end to mould the paint. I don't know how to describe it- except as a prompting. I was not thinking about changing my method of painting - in fact there was no thought process in coming to the decision to change style (I had already started with a different style of painting) but this prompting came and I responded. It created a beautiful effect totally different from anything I have ever done before, I love the final outcome. But what struck me the most was the fact that Papa God loves the fact I'm an artist. He digs the "me" parts of me. They are not insignificant to Him, its just one of the many parts of my being that intrigues Him. He loves to join with me, when invited, to be creative together - like an earthly Father joining with his daughter in a similar activity. I can honestly say tonight that He was as real as that to me. I've never before thought of how He likes the intricate parts of my character, I always just saw His love for me as generic I guess- He loves all mankind and so that includes me. Tonight I realized a Sunday School truth (how ironic -right?) that is - God loves me, for me. There is no one quite like me and He digs that.
He made me this way, and He loves to see His children enjoy their gifts. Not just for the blessing of others (which of course is good and right) but also simply because this part of my character, something that brings me joy and reflects a little of who my Heavenly Dad is. We sometimes mistake that our gifts are simply and exclusively for serving Him and others... but actually painting with Him tonight became a form of worship as He was invited in. In that alone it was enough, like a beautiful piece of pottery - it didn't need to have any more purpose than that.

He says..

I no longer call you servants but friends John 15.15
You shall no longer call me "Master" but you shall call me Husband Hosea 2.16

This is who He is, this is what He is seeking- relationship, to know and be known. Doctrine, structure, rituals they all are secondary to relationship. He is seeking friendship, our part is to seek Him first and everything else will fall into place.

In light of this intimacy sometimes I forget how huge He is, the creator of all things, bending down to paint with me.
I stand in Awe (and joy) of who He is.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

I teach a kid called Tiger. You might raise your eyebrows and say "Thats unfortunate name.. " but then you meet his older sister, whose name is Sugar.

Before I met Tiger I had heard all about him, in fact he was the talk of the school. Its unusual for a British school to accept an older student with zero english, but by accepting Tiger's family (allegedly due to high social standing) we ended up with 4 non-english speakers. Due to the age restriction in the lower school, I teach only Tiger and his younger sister Anna (she got off easy).

I try not to judge a pupil on past teachers reports. Children are just as susceptible to personality clashes as adults are, they have their bad days as we do, bad years even. Also, changes in circumstance, self-image, homelife or relations within the school can alter the child's behaviour and academic performance. While what a previous teacher says can indeed be spot on and much can be gleaned from it, it can also be as helpful as talking to your current partners ex, and so needs to be treated with caution.

Past teachers reported that Tiger was "hostile" to speaking english, that his motivation for speaking english was zero and that after a year of everyday one-on-one withdrawal support from an Ivy League trained EAL teacher last year, he still speaks no english. He is back with the same class teacher he had last year and in the first week she excitedly entered the staff room to tell us that he had said "Hello teacher" to her that morning, she was thrilled that he had voluntarily spoken to her! Her enthusiasm at this simple phrase worried me, before I came to China I could have managed the same in Mandarin, was this really all he was capable of? But I was detirmined to not judge him until I saw him for myself. When I finally met him I was surprised to see a big, ambling boy (Balloo would have been a more appropriate name), shy and self-conscious he barely spoke or looked at me and was not at all what I had been expecting. In his testing however he scored according to past teachers expectation.

When I started at my new school, I began to pray for the students, especially the students I deal with day to day. Everyday I pray for Tiger, both about his life and his english capability. My God is a linguistic God. When the disciples first started preaching at the beginning of Acts, each man heard it in their own language. Language is never a barrier with our God- who could be a better teacher than the Holy Spirit.

For Tiger, the result of him not being able to speak english, is that he is not able to access the curriculum in any area. He is missing out on vital academic years. But yesterday I saw the breakthrough of prayer, and the very real value and reward of inviting God into every part of our lives. During our lesson I used some visual aids with Tiger to address new vocabulary. He was highly motivated by the visual and kinesthetic aspects of the lesson. We went through many new words and he was more engaged than I had ever seen him and things seemed to be clicking. I shared my encouragement with his teacher later, and she replied that the previous teacher had tried many things but nothing ever stuck, she told me to test him the next day to see if he would remember.

Today I tested him on the new vocabulary, he eagerly and without hesitation responded correctly to each one. Not only that but he was able to spell almost every new word. This is the child that couldn't spell j-a-m (by using single sound phonics - a KG technique) 3 weeks ago now able to spell church, chin, chicken, cherry etc. This is not my work, this is the Lord's mercy and outpouring, this is a direct response to a very simple prayer.

As people, made in the image of God our words (like His words - in Genesis) have creative power. Jesus said "I give you the keys to the kingdom". Power and responsibility have been given to God's people. Cursing and blessing lies in our hands. With the power to bless we can channel heaven's glory into the lives of those around us. God doesn't need us to complete His work, but because He wants us to grow in our hearts and spirits, and to walk in relationship with Him, He allows us to be an instrument in His hands to reveal Himself on earth.
Much like the potter and clay, a clay pot can do nothing much if it leaves the hands of the potter and attempts to do its own thing. But an clay instrument in the hands of the potter will do many things, according to the purpose the potter made it for. We as Christians have the ability to bless those around us, the taxi driver, the woman on bike driving past, the shop assistant, we have the power to speak blessing into their lives. More than that, those who are not strangers to us, those whose weakness and areas of need are very clear us, we have the power to speak blessing into those area of our friends, co-workers and even enemies lives. We have the power to pour out the God the glory and to make Him known on this earth.

Unlike the god of the prophets of Baal, our God never sleeps, he is never on vacation or at the bathroom (1Kings18). No, our God is eagerly listening for your heart's cry and the words of your mouth, because our God is a God that speaks blessing over His enemies and He wants His children to bear His image, He wants His children to have that heart of love and compassion and to become more and more like our Daddy. Jesus said "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44)
If we love our enemies, how much more should we love those all around us, those who are our friends, co-workers and family. Many of whom may be living in darkness. But darkness only makes the light seem brighter, so shine and release His light and blessing into their lives.

Daddy, Transform our hearts and minds - and make us more like You that you may be known and glorified and that unbelievers would turn from their unbelief and seek to know You. I pray that through your children those who don't know you would receive your love and blessing and that by your Spirit's work their hearts would be drawn to seek more of You. That we might be a taster, to whet their appetite towards You. That in beholding the grace, love and blessing that flows from your children, many would run with desire to meet our King. Jesus, you never had to promote yourself, the crowds ran to follow you, may your character be so reflected in us that people in our circles become captivated by you. For you are worthy of worship Lord, In your name Jesus, Amen

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Be Still and Know that I am God.

About a month ago I had a "God" dream. For me its not hard to know when my dreams are from God. I only recall having dreams if there is something spiritual going on there.

This particular dream was set in Ireland, where I was at the time. In the dream I was standing on one of those idyllic rolling green hills looking over the field. On the horizon I saw tornadoes coming, there was about 5 or 6 of them. As they swirled closer and closer to me, I remember thinking, "There are no tornadoes in Ireland, what on earth is going on?" I knew I was in grave danger but instead of running, I fell flat down on the ground and held onto the grass. Then I remember thinking, "Lord if I live or if I die I know that you are in control and that is enough for me."

A tornado is unpredictable, destructive and frightening and I believe its no coincidence that since that dream, in the last month, my life has been thrown into upheaval and there have been a few experiences both personally and professionally that have left me disorientated, stressed, afraid, completely helpless and anxious. Phil 4 tells us "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything offer prayer and supplication to God", but this easier said than done no doubt. Especially when the experiences that rage around you are completely out of your control. There is no escape and no other option but to sit tight and let it pass. People of all walks of life and of all faiths will face situations like this over their life span. But what makes those who walk with God different? What is our comfort?
What has gotten me through this time of testing my faith is ultimately God's grace. In the midst of these things beyond my control, there was a sense of His sovereignty in other unrelated things that also could have caused me trouble. I've seen His provision, His taking care of things for me so that I was not overcome or overwhelmed. His gentle persistance in talking to me, leading me to pray and worship and being in my life in a personal daily way - like a good "dad" that He is, allowed me to trust Him when the tornadoes came. He hasn't sent me into this storm and expected blind faith, instead He is right here with me, just as Jesus was with Peter when they were walking on the water. His presence has brought me the security that "this too will pass", that He knows exactly what He's doing, exactly where we are going and exactly what will happen next. By trusting in His past faithfulness and the goodness of His character I am able to take His hand and call on Him through prayer for help in times when I feel fearful.

A big part of faith comes from knowing that He is good, that His personality and love are flawless and that He is so much bigger than my mistakes and weaknesses. By remembering who He has been to me in the past and who He is reflected by His word, I have been able to heartify the lesson I already had learned in my dream; If God is for me... it doesn't really matter what is happening, I know that He has got it. If I live or die I am with Him, and its good.

As I've been thinking about this, I thank the Lord that I've been given parents that have always acted in a way that was for my best interest. Sadly I have many friends who didn't have this privledge. But for me, if my parents acted in a way that seemed to be to my detriment or that I was loosing out on something, I always realised afterwards that it was for my good that they had done this. A classic example is a toddler playing with a knife - you take it off them, not to deprive them but to love them and to protect them. Being able to trust my parents in this way was such a beautiful thing and even more so now because it has helped me to view God in this way too. When I'm in the eye of the storm, and events and people rage around me, I look up to the one who is at perfect peace in all circumstance because He is Lord over all things, He is Sovereign. But it is not His bigness that allows me to trust Him, its not His power - but its His goodness. I know that as big as He is, He sees me.
He sees me.He sees His little girl and in all thing He has my best interest at heart. He wants for me, the best and most whole life that I can have. His plans for me are much greater than anything I could put together, and He know exactly how to get there.

Sometimes thats means He will give - until the cup overflows and the storehouse can hold no more. Sometimes He will take away, even something that is most precious to us because it has become an idol. Sometimes He will lead us in to the valley of the spirit of death.. and sometimes by His spirit He will lead us into the wilderness to be tested (Luke 4:1-12). But we can be sure that He will also lead us by still waters to rest (Psalm 23).

The question is not "why did you lead me here Lord", the question is "what do you want me to learn, how through this experience will I become more like You? Closer to You and how am I going to grow in this season". This time on earth, is a time to learn to know Him, to know His beautiful character. It is a matter of growth, we don't have to wait until Heaven to experience the love and glory of God in our everyday lives. These times of good and bad experiences are a chance to grow and to put those roots down deep into the soil of His love. (Eph 3). When you have to trust God, you get to see how much He loves you and how worthy He is of your trust.

"I will fear no evil, for my God is with me... and if my God is with me, whom then shall I fear, whom then shall I fear??"

There is a beautiful poem that I want to share...

The Weaver

My life is but a weaving
Between my Lord and me,
I cannot choose the colors
He worketh steadily.

Oftimes He weaveth sorrow,
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I, the underside.

Not till the loom in silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.


Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Country, new season 09.Sept.09

After 8 months this year of "working things out", listening to the Lord sometimes and at other time learning the hard way and experiencing the powerful transforming love and grace of God I am back on my blog. In the last 3 weeks I have relocated to Beijing, China and been seeing how much God's spirit is moving here. I have much to tell and share and am excited for the opportunity to do it.

For months, so much has been going on, and the spirit has been challenging the deep parts of my heart. The result was writers block, but by God's grace my mind has restarted, the light has penetrated, healing is coming and ideas are flowing back. I won't promise as I have in the past to consistently write (my new job is CRAZY, long hours, not many breaks during the day and so I come home exhausted) but Papa has been teaching me a lot of things and I want to record my journey faithfully, so I will say this - as my schedule permits I will write.

To my friends - there is access of facebook here in China. The proxy I use allows me to view but not comment or upload pictures.

I love you all - you know who you are.
My "family" is spread all over the world and I praise God for the internet as a way to not lose touch with you. Please email, comment on the blog, send me pictures - just stay a part of my life and don't deprive me of the blessing of your friendship and love!