Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Cheerful Giving Requires Humble Taking

A common theme in our conversations lately has been about seasons of giving and taking. We all go through these seasons - sometimes we need to be able to humbly accept what is being offered to us and other times we need to be able to give from our abundance to others in need. I would venture to say we are much better about giving than taking. Giving makes us feel good, fulfilling a God-given and innate need for us to offer our things and ourselves for the good of others. God loves a cheerful giver, right? Taking makes us feel vulnerable, weak and useless. The Bible never mentions God loving a cheerful taker. Yet with all the mention of widows, blind men, lepers, the hungry, the sick and the ever-present poor, they all had to be takers at some point in their life.

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17:11-19

The thankful leper didn't compare himself to the other nine lepers and think he wasn't as worthy to receive Christ's healing as they were. Who knows how afflicted he was compared to his fellow lepers? Maybe he had more skin lesions than they did, maybe much less - it doesn't matter though. He obeyed Christ's command, realized he had been healed and came back to thank Jesus. He not only received complete physical healing, but in coming back, he received spiritual healing as well. In our seasons of need, let us not refuse to take the offerings of others. Instead use these times for reflection on our ultimate dependence on God and recognizing and thanking those He uses as instruments of His charity and grace. 

As Christians, we are commanded to take care of each other and "to love our neighbor as ourselves."1 If the world judges our faith by how we treat each other, we must take great care in watching out for each other and providing for each other. By loving each other and acting like the early church, we will be greater witnesses of Christ's love to those inside and outside our Christian community. So let us love each other. Let us need one another. Let us meet each others' needs "and so fulfill the law of Christ."2

1. From Mark 12:31a
2. From Galatians 6:2

Friday, August 26, 2011

Young, Hip and Teachers of Good Things

The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers,  not given to much wine, teachers of good things;  That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands,  to love their children,  To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands,  that the word of God be not blasphemed.   Titus 2. 3-5

 Whether you grow up in the church or became a believer as an adult, eventually you come across the passage in Titus 2 that admonishes one to find or become a  Titus 2 woman.  What is a Titus 2 woman, you may ask?  Well, according to it states: For women, Titus chapter two addresses two seasons in our lives. When we are younger, and when we are older. As older women we are to model and encourage good things to those younger than us. As younger women, we are to look to older women for wisdom and encouragement to do that which is good and right.  The way this passage is written, we can surmise that older women are ones who have already raised children and are in a position of experience to encourage younger women.  The funny thing is the life stage I find myself in (like many of us Kajijis Girls) is not being quite old exactly and having the ability to freely take on the mantle of the "older woman" and still being smack-dab in the middle of raising very young children and feeling very much like the "younger woman".  Truth be told, I'm in denial about how old I really am and prefer to still think of myself as a young, hip mama.  However, in today's society where motherhood is put off so much later than when this particular Bible passage was written, we are caught between being both women, the one with enough experience to encourage those younger than us yet still craving the necessary instruction of those whose footsteps we follow behind. goes on to say this:  All of us, no matter how old we are, are older than someone else. It's important to realize that no matter how old or young we are, we always have a younger audience.

Carolyn McCulley in her blog post titled Where's My Older Woman? says, "You know those times where someone says something and God bursts his light into an area of darkness in your heart? I had one, big time! A dear friend responded to the above scripture with words that both convicted me and encouraged me to repent. For many readers, I trust they'll do the same for you. She said, simply:
"So many times I've read Titus 2, about the older women training the younger, and immediately thought, ‘So where's my older woman, God?' Never did I ask him who my younger woman was."
This, sadly, is how I have responded for most of my Christian life. I felt certain that some elusive, godly grandmother type (preferably a pastor's wife) needed to take me under her wing and teach me how to be godly just like her. If I'm really honest with you, I have often believed that I simply couldn't be a godly woman myself until that older woman appeared. What a tricky deception!"

Carolyn's blog posting on this topic was both convicting and inspiring, and I encourage you to read the entire post here at The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood (Sounds official...and cool, doesn't it?  I look forward to delving more into this site and seeing what else they have.) So do you have a Titus 2 relationship with anyone yet?  Do you find you're the mentor or the mentee?  Or a little bit of both maybe? 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Two Paths

My best friend is moving to France.  For a whole year.  There, I said it.  I may still be in denial about it, but I said it.  Besides death or divorce, this is probably the most traumatic thing an adult female can go through.  Losing one's best friend to another country is a difficult thing to swallow.  And having a baby just before being abandoned by said friend doesn't make the situation any easier.  So as I sit here in the daze of my fourth trimester as I like to call it, busy nursing, rocking and comforting my baby, my friend, Erin, is in the throes of her own chaos cleaning her house from top to bottom (did I mention they're house swapping with a family from France?), packing for an entire year abroad and saying goodbye to friends and family.  And besides being able to pillage her house and borrow whatever she's not packing and can be considered unnecessary for a French family to survive in America, I really see no benefit in this for me.  And yet God speaks to me and tells me there are lessons in store for me over the next year - in the words of Tim Hawkins, Yippy Skippy.

Though I don't idolize my friendships, per se, I can become very dependent on them.  After all, Kajiji Girls would not exist without Erin nor would Food n Flick or our awesome Thursday night ladies Bible study.  I may have some great ideas like starting something such as Kajiji Girls, but I probably wouldn't put it into action without Erin being my encourager and catalyst for such ideas.  This may be hard to believe if you know me, but being an introvert, I sometimes have a hard time being social or speaking up in a group or creating new events.  Even though it will be hard enough to get out over the course of next year with a new baby, it will be that much harder without the influence of my extroverted friend.  But God is telling me to learn to depend on Him that much more.  He will fill the void that is left when she leaves.  I'm not sure how He's going to occasionally babysit my kids or hold my new baby when I need an extra pair of arms or give me a cup of sugar or bake me crepes in the morning (ah, the tears are flowing now), but I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Though I have a houseful of kids and I homeschool so therefore I'm busy, God has shown me the times in my day that I tend to waste.  Now that I won't have the wonderful distraction of visiting with Erin or talking on the phone with her, there will be extra time in my day to do the things I need to do such as clean my house, take care of my kids, homeschool, meal plan/cook, etc.   You can only imagine how much time we spend each day conversing with each other or seeing each other and how that can impact my day.  She's established a great habit of every time she's on the phone, she'll clean her house or complete another chore.  However I haven't established that habit - enough said.  There will be new meaning to the verse, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."I get the feeling I will be much busier this upcoming year and much more productive, and I have yet to be given a thoroughly happy heart about that.

Anytime I have a problem or issue to talk through, I pick up the phone and call Erin.  Though she technically will still be only a phone call away, it will cost us money to speak internationally so we've decided to try Skyping with each other for free.  But using Skype will require a bit more "work" than picking up my phone and hitting the two buttons it takes to reach her.  However God has provided me with an amazing network of sisters-in-Christ with whom I can talk to, fellowship with and depend on.  I don't mind asking Erin for help because I know how much she loves me and is willing to help me with anything, but learning to ask others for help will take some effort.  It requires a different instinct to reach out to those one is not used to reaching out, but it's another lesson to learn.

It takes faith to love someone and then let them go.  I will grieve this year's holidays spent without seeing my "other family".  I will grieve every time I pass by their house now occupied  by foreigners.  I will grieve not seeing them as part of our house church fellowship every week.  I will grieve the times they, as my children's Godparents, will miss in seeing my children grow another year taller and all my new baby's firsts as well as seeing my own God-children experience another culture, another world and other friends.  It takes a LOT of faith to let them go - faith that we will survive this next year without each other, faith that I can be happy for them even when I'm sad, faith that they will stay safe, faith that they will come back and faith that the changes we both experience over the next year will not change our commitment to each other. It also takes faith knowing that God's lessons may be hard, but they will always be beneficial and "being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 2
God's thoughts are not our thoughts nor His ways, our ways (3), and experiencing my best friend moving to France would not. be. my. way.  However seeing God provide this opportunity for them and how He has worked in this situation has been a comfort to me knowing they are on His path for them.  We can't always walk on the same path, but as long as I'm on the path He wants me to be on, I'll be alright.  May God converge our two paths together again quickly, and may we be better people and friends for the paths we're currently on.

1. Colossians 3:23-24
2. Philippians 1:6
3. Paraphrased from Isaiah 55:8
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