If I Weren’t Christian…

…how would I be like?

Skywalker asked me this as we were driving one day. It’s interesting to think of what might’ve been. It’s also a little scary to consider where I’d be without the grip of Christ on my life. I remember praying, around the end of high school, for God to show me why I needed grace….because quite frankly, I thought I was doing pretty good. And then, layer by layer, God gently showed me those dark areas. Good gracious! Yes, I need grace. Desperately. The older I get, the more I’m aware of it.

But back to Skywalker’s question….without Christ in my life, I would:

    • swear a heck of a lot more. I still work on not swearing so much in my thoughts when I’m angry…without the strength of the Holy Spirit…it’d be all escaping through my lips.
    • be much less compassionate, patient, gracious, empathetic, forgiving…I’d only care about something if it has some direct impact to myself. Still have lots of room to grow in this area though.
    • be more self-righteous, legalistic and judgemental.
    • probably be more vindictive. I catch my thoughts now of how I’d get even, how I’d get you back where it hurts most…and then hear the Spirit say “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.”
    • probably also be a serious partier…and maybe a recreational drug user. (Yes thank you for all your prayers Mom!) This is considering some of the friends I had in high school and university. Though, because I always want to maintain control, I might not let myself get to the point of losing control over my thoughts and actions…I’m sure everyone says that at the start.
    • have had a lot of boyfriends. In early university I made a commitment to God to be first faithful to Him, to my future husband, and to respecting myself. I’m pretty sure that’s kept me from a lot of broken hearts and breaking many others’ hearts.
    • have shallower relationships with family and friends….it’d be based more on obligation and whether or not I felt I benefitted from the relationship.
    • be materialistic and focused on status as well as body image. I struggle with NOT being caught up in those things now because I know more what’s eternal and what will count at the end.
    • have more burned bridges behind me….as well as coffins with all the nails in. I know my pride would’ve made reconciliation near impossible….whether the fault was mine or not.
    • be more angry and less joyful. Less content too.
    • have rash and reckless tendencies. Even now, the thoughts come into my mind and I have to take it captive to Christ to keep it from becoming words/actions.
    • have a serious temper. Like a SERIOUS temper.
    • be a b*tch….unless I liked you.

Yeah…I’m   S O   G L A D  I have a new life and a new heart in Christ. Tremendously relieved He is faithful to completing the good work He started in me…and that it’s not up to my own devices to be a better person. There’s so much freedom in knowing I’m not bound by the compulsions and natural tendencies that lead to death in the end. I’m so thankful to have a choice in my words and actions, that my dark thoughts have a place to go (to the Cross!) and that I get to be transformed from the inside out as I let Christ live in, through and in spite of me. Thank You LORD!

New Beginnings

There’s something exciting about starting life in a new city. In our case, it’s a city I’ve lived in for a couple years in the past…but a new city for Skywalker. Yes we’re both excited. And yes we’re both a little nervous. Nervous because it’s not as familiar as home. Nervous because we’ll need to rebuild a social community. I may have lived there and had my network, but this time we’re here as a couple. We have to build OUR network.

This past weekend was Moving Part 1…just to bring down some non-essentials. It’s an interesting exercise to see what we consider essential or nonessential. We have so much “stuff” here in North America. We accumulate things easily. There’s so much that is nonessential.

We’re also realizing that our two bedroom condo on the West Coast is definitely smaller than our two bedroom townhouse here in the Prairies. It’s a downsize. There is no storage locker. So we’re going to have to get really creative with storage solutions. It also means we need to purge even more nonessentials. Actually I’m glad we’re going through this because living simply is a huge feat in North America. We always want bigger/better/newer/more.

Living simply is like a burden lifted off and a breath of fresh air. We can enjoy what we have. And we have only have the things that we want. More essentials, less nonessentials.

We’re looking forward to it.
(Along with milder winters, great food, beautiful scenery, etc etc etc.)

Let’s Get Real

What I appreciate about fruit is that they’re always genuine. A banana, whether you peel it open in Canada or in Thailand, is still a banana. It looks like a banana on the outside, and the inside is also a banana. You don’t peel it open and find it to be an orange.

(I know using fruit analogies only go so far…especially as there are those hybrid melons now where it looks like a honeydew but when you cut it open, looks like a cantelope. Or the fruit that look fine until you cut it open to reveal it’s gone bad. Tricky tricky. But I digress…just stick with me on the common fruit analogy.)

So likewise, apples are apples, no matter where you go. Oranges are oranges, and not kiwis. My question is, are we the same person wherever we go, and to whomever we present ourselves to?

I’m guessing for most of us, we don’t have the same degree of character consistency as fruit. (Except maybe how some look fine on the outside but are rotten inside.) To our coworkers we portray ourselves one way. To church friends, we’re another way. To other peers, we’re yet another way. To significant others and maybe even to our spouses, we pretend on…if only for a little while. But to your family…perhaps they’re the only ones who see who we truly are.

I found keeping appearances to be rather tiring. And I was challenged years ago to be more transparent about myself, wherever I go. To whomever I meet. Granted it takes a little longer to get to know more of who I am compared to that first impression you might have of me…but I try to not hide anything. There’s a lot of freedom in that! (Though, I must caution, being an open book isn’t necessarily wise either. A post for another time.)

We’re all drawn to genuine people…and want genuine relationships. How does it happen? I think it’s to first be genuine and be real about yourself. I don’t want people to like me because they think I’m a certain way and then find out I’m not truly what they thought I was portraying myself to be. I’ve lost nothing in not having the interest of someone who doesn’t like who I am. This is particularly applicable to potential marriage prospects. When I was single, my Dad in particular, bless him, was advising me to be more this and less that in hopes I’ll be more attractive and less intimidating. I told him I’ll attract the wrong guy that way and that the right guy will take me as I am…prickly, blunt, quirky and all the rest. (Skywalker was totally game and so I married him. He does tell me I need to work on not being so prickly though. I do agree with that. ha ha.)

So with any genuine relationship, it should be no different. Don’t generate expectations you weren’t meant to live up to. Forget trying to impress others with things or qualities that you aren’t. Forget trying to be what you think other people might want you to be. Be humble with your strengths, be honest about your weaknesses and don’t hide either of them.

Move On Sweetie

I joined a Beth Moore study at my church and it’s on the subject of “Believing God”. Many will say they believe IN God…but their lives don’t necessarily show they actually BELIEVE Him or His Word. This little intro could turn into a complete blog post from what I want to write today so will pause that and get on with the really encouraging and inspiring message I received last night.

The reading was from Joshua 4:1-24…and even that has more to unpack than what I want to write…so am focusing in on verses 7-11.

The Israelites were nearing the promised land. The generation before them had crossed the Red Sea and now they crossed the flooded Jordan. “The flow of the Jordan was cut off”…and the words “cut off” are repeated. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for “cut off” is karat which means “to cut, cut off, cut a covenant” and is reminicent of when God first cut a covenant with Abram. Sacrificial animals were cut in two, halves facing each other and then while God put Abram into a deep sleep, God Himself walked between the halves thus signalling He was carrying the covenant for them both. (Yes the image of walking through blood is gross but any covenant worth keeping was cut in blood.) So, with the cutting off of the flow of the Jordan and God crossing through ahead of them, God seems to say “Because I have cut a covenant with you, I will also cut a path through any obstacle that stands between you and fulfillment of My covenant promises. I will make the path, but you must take the path.”

Are there paths I’m unwilling to take? Do I sit there asking God to show/tell me what to do when He’s saying “You already know what to do…you’re just waiting for Me to tell you something different.”

And then in verse 8, when each tribe is taking a stone out of the middle of the Jordan, consider the significance of “the middle”. The middle is that halfway point between where we were coming from and the Promise Land. We hold longing for the past….and longing for the freedom in the future. A step in either direction will take us closer to one or the next. Most of us know this halfway point, the place of sudden doubt and indecision.

Sometimes, there are strongholds and addictions and lifestyles in the past that as much as we hated being bound by it, was more comfortable than the unknown future of freedom in the Promise Land. We can’t picture whatsoever what a life of freedom is even like. And so we look longingly back. But here’s the thing, God isn’t asking us to picture freedom for the rest of our life, He’s just asking us to believe Him it’s there and to picture freedom until noon. And then until dinner. Until the next morning. For one day. Two days. BAM…slip and fall? That’s ok! You get to start again…Day one, two, three…one week, two weeks…one month, three months…one year. Just one day at a time. Per Samuel in 1 Samuel 7:12, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.” That’s all…just go “thus far” and thank the Lord for strength to get there. Or for the strength to try again. Thus far.

And here’s an understated illustration…end of verse 10, “The people hurried over“. Can you see them hussling, jostling on through? Sometimes, the wisest thing is to just hurry over to the other side already! If we’ve received a Word from God, while the Word is still fresh, hurry over! Move it! God doesn’t tell us to do something without the power to obey it…but the longer we wait to do it, the power wanes. Spirit willing but flesh weak…this I know full well. But it’s not new…consider Exodus 14:12-15…here were the Israelites, freshly and miraculously busted out of 400 years of slavery under Egypt and pressed up to the Red Sea with the Egyptian army behind them.

What do they say? “Let us go back!
What does Moses say? “Stand firm. Be still!
And God? “Why are you crying out? MOVE ON!

Sometimes, I wonder if God ever face-palms.

My destiny is the Promise Land. If I would just believe God at His Word I could tell a mountain to move and it would. Or God would give me the strength to get it under my feet and I’ll climb that thang! (Beth Moore has a southern accent and it sounds really cool when you say “thang”.) Or, God could cut that obstacle in two and we’d walk through it. He’s going to live up to His promises. But sometimes, even though the mountain has moved or has been cut, we are the ones holding onto that mountain. And God says “Move on Sweetie.”