Sustaining Souls

Moses: A Lesson in Humility

When I asked my daughter what “humility” meant to her, she said “It’s when you fart in class!”

via GIPHY

Like her, I think many people confuse humility with humiliation. But humility is something you practice voluntarily. Humiliation is often something done to you, a deeply embarrassing event, not an attitude. Humility is a result of grace, whereas humiliation is a result of shaming.

Take a look at the Old Testament with me. It is peppered with exhortations like these:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV

“He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.” Psalm 25:9 (NIV)

Humility, in the Old Testament, was always in reference to people’s attitude toward God. It was always voluntary. And it was always the path to true confidence. In Numbers 12:3-8 we get a description of Moses that demonstrates this truth.

Now the man Moses was a quietly humble man, more so than anyone living on Earth. God broke in suddenly on Moses and Aaron and Miriam saying, “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting.” The three went out. God descended in a Pillar of Cloud and stood at the entrance to the Tent. He called Aaron and Miriam to him. When they stepped out, he said,

Listen carefully to what I’m telling you.
    If there is a prophet of God among you,
I make myself known to him in visions,
    I speak to him in dreams.
But I don’t do it that way with my servant Moses;
    he has the run of my entire house;
I speak to him intimately, in person,
    in plain talk without riddles:
    He ponders the very form of God. (MSG)

Is that not the very picture of confidence? He has the run of God’s house and speaks intimately with God, all because he was a quietly humble man!

Was he always humble? He certainly hated injustice like God, and killed a man in his zeal! Was that humility in action? No. Rather, it was pride in his rightness and authority to make someone pay. But he realized it, and humbled himself as he ran far out into the desert. I wonder how much of that run was fueled by self-condemnation. Was every day of those forty years in the hot, sunny desert clouded by shame and self-condemnation? Possibly. For when God met him in the burning bush, we find a man so low in his own esteem that He doubts the power of God.

When God calls Moses, he answered, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 MSG), and “Moses objected, “They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’” (Exodus 4:1 MSG)

This is the hidden danger in humility. We slide out the other side into humiliating ourselves with our self-condemnation. We sink into doubt – since I see myself so poorly, surely God must hate me, distrust me, not love me. We humiliate our Father with our mock humility, making him out to be a silly old fool for doting on us.  

But God fixed the hole in Moses’s soul by not letting him out of his call and by focusing Moses’s attention on who He was. He repeatedly called Moses to enlarge His view and understanding of who He, the great “I AM”, was. God didn’t answer Moses’s self-doubt with “this is who you are,” but with “I AM”.

The more Moses focused his attention on God and held him in awe, and the more Moses walked out God’s call, the more truly humble he became. He walked confidently into potentially enormously humiliating situations. Surprisingly, humility led to courageous action.

Humility is a stance of worshipping stillness before God, realizing our small creature-liness before His infinite divinity. It is the guide into both intimate sanctuary and courageous kingdom action.

Do you need courage to do something God’s called you to? Do you need courage to ask forgiveness or reconcile with someone? Do you need courage to face an enemy? You will find it in humility. Worship God and He will give you courage.

May you enter the gate of humility and discover the wonderful significance He gives you. May the fence be mended in your life to keep you settled in humility and not fall into self-condemnation. May you leave through the gate of humility, confident in what He’s called you to do.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Humility, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Humility Brings Abundance

Abundant life comes, paradoxically, through humility, not through “to do” lists. Among other descriptions, humility is realizing and accepting you can’t do it all. It is simply recognizing that you are a created being under God, that God is great and giving. It is not putting yourself down, or being a doormat for others. Most picture humility as a person kneeling and bowing, which is something we do only to those in great authority. Thus, we are focusing on who, not what or how, when we practice humility. As we bow to God and not our accomplishments, He gives us life.

This morning I had the familiar feeling of indecision and forgetfulness that leads me to write down all I need to tackle today. The list, of course, is enough to fill three days minimum. With each scribble, my heart nestled more tightly into the cushions of denial, while my adrenalized mind spun into superwoman orbit tightly circling the tasks that peopled my day. But I have enough experience with my ways to know that this dichotomy would only split me into a frazzled, frustrated, commando by the end of the day, if not sooner!

Instead, I heeded the nudge in my spirit, the desire that drew me out into the sunshine away from the glaring white light of my “to do” list. In order to make enough space to experience God’s presence, I had to leave the couch, the house, the computer, and enter the world. As I did so, I simply enjoyed being outside. I enjoyed the chirping chickadee, my skittering, flamboyant dog, the brisk breeze frying my ears with freeze, the blue backdrop and the white steady sunshine. My heart came out to play then. And to play gladly with it, came the presence of God.

Soon creative ideas danced in my mind, the agenda left behind. A basketball hoop made by “Goaliath” connected me to the idea that David didn’t kill the mighty giant, Goliath, with a “to do” list. He didn’t map out: “I’m going to kill a giant someday, so I need to train myself how to shoot a slingshot perfectly accurately, accommodating for distance and wind speed and the height of the sun.” He didn’t set for himself a schedule of practice sets to accomplish each day, enter competitions, or master the calculations required for making such a hit. He didn’t focus on the accomplishment, which is what “to do” lists do. He focused on the “who”. And not the “who” that was humiliating the Israelites – Goliath, but the “who” that was filling David with courage. David knew that only God was worthy of kneeling down to, in humility. He knew Goliath was not worthy of that. And because David was in the habit of bowing to God, he could overcome the impossible.

So, without having mastered a program on how to take down giants, God inspired his willing, brave heart at just the right time (God calculated the wind speed, sun’s zenith, and distance) with just the right tool (God provided the right stone and used David’s familiarity with the slingshot) to accomplish the impossible. This is what happens when we humble ourselves before God.

I am entering a season in answer to the call of God that is bound to be impossible. I am not slaying giants, but if I were to write out a “to do” list for the next year, I would hibernate with my heart in a safe cocoon hoping the giants will pass without noticing me. He’s asked me to do big things. They require a great deal of faith. I cannot do these things by way of an agenda. The only way will be to continually humble myself, confessing my inability to do it all, pressing into His presence and not into my abilities. He gives us more than we can handle. He does this so that we will honor him and demonstrate his loving might.

How do we stand up courageously under the towering giant of “too much”? By bending down in humility, picking up a stone of remembrance, standing in the courage born of knowing that God is far stronger than the giant, stringing our slingshots with the tension of faith, and letting fly the weapon of the Word that admits I am not enough, but God is. This is the promise:

“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

I’ll take you back into the day I wrote this post because it illustrates in microcosm what God does on a macro level with our lives.

Instead of dragging myself from task to task, I found that I was filled with energy and joy. What had looked hard became easy. The indecision went away, I had space to be creative (something I thought would have to wait for another day), and I accomplished everything but one on my list that I had thought would take three days. In addition, I did a few extra things. The even more marvelous part was that I did it with a deep sense of God’s presence and accompaniment and strengthening.

I will be honest, this does not always happen, for there are days that do drag and are difficult, and I don’t have a sense of God’s presence, even after humbling myself and meeting with Him. My spirit feels lean and hungry then, so I (try to) lean into the promise that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) The abundance promised here is not felt yet, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The challenge here is not to try to fill my hungry spirit with accomplishments, but to carry on waiting in humility.

Then God shows up big, like he did the day I wrote this, and as I experience the fullness of his presence I am empowered in my tasks. I get a taste of heaven, and I am humbled all the more into joyful awe that today, in my life, his will was done on earth as it is in heaven.

He’s arranged it so that our small days are filled with promise, with provision, with Him. Whether it’s a day that you taste heaven or a day that you hunger for it, the more we recognize our inabilities and stand courageous in His abilities, the more we will be full of hope and peace and joy. Our interior worlds will not be constrained by worry, or “to do” lists, rather, they will be full and spacious. An abundant life is not something achieved; it is given.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Humility, 0 comments

Parenting is a Puzzle

I love being able to look ahead to a goal and work backward from that to establish the step before me today. It’s somewhat like making a puzzle, where you’ve got the top of the box to go by, and a zillion colorful cardboard bits jumbled before you. First step – flip them all right side up. Second step – find the edge pieces. Third step – study the picture and choose an obvious image to assemble first (don’t start with the sky!). Fourth step – keep doing this section by section, until – ta-da! – you have a completed picture!

I apply this in life. To my children. (Do you hear the threatening turn in the music?) As if they were a project, a simple flip of a puzzle piece to be maneuvered into place. The picture I’m trying to make with their lives is obvious – to me.

“You don’t want to do that? Why can’t you just calm down, can’t you see it’s for your best? If you do [insert homework, cleaning, saying sorry, etc.], then you will be prepared for tomorrow by having these skills, so why wouldn’t you do it now?” C’mon, just flip. But instead, the puzzle piece tumbles to the floor, face down, frustrated and unyielding.

If my kids could see and understand the trajectories in my head that thread through their lives today, they might be glad for the direction, but they’d more likely rebel. It’s not their picture. They have their own puzzle box lids to look at and only they can assemble it. God has given them their own puzzle box to follow, and I only see glimpses of it. God shows us parents enough to support them in seeing their pictures, to show them how to assemble a puzzle, but not enough that we can put them together piece-by-piece. What’s inside is between Him and them.

https://pixabay.com/en/child-puzzles-photo-montage-2970588/

Oh, that’s humbling. And it takes a huge amount of confidence in God to not put my hands in the puzzle box, trusting that He will assemble the picture.

When I want my child to behave a certain way, or cooperate with my plans, and I push into steel-edged word-weapons, impatiently enforcing immediate change I know that I am working on my own puzzle, not holding the box to theirs.

As a parent, I know better. I know raising my voice isn’t the right way. I know they have to make their own mistakes. I know that they should choose what I want them to choose because my experience informs that. But that’s my experience, not theirs.

But, dear parent, do you know that Jesus put up with your mistakes and misbehaviors, your past ones and your present ones, even the one you are committing now as your eyes set in hard flint, your voice rises in sharpness, and your blood boils?

“[Jesus] waits, with patience, the opportune moment…Why be more demanding and impatient than God?”

Jesus often waits for years for that opportune moment, for that puzzle piece to click into place. We, parents, need to humble ourselves to the master puzzle maker, for we do not see our kids’ pictures clearly. We, parents, need to have confidence in his ability to work out the trajectories in our kids’ lives. We, parents, need to provide the home for our children to develop their own relationships with God, and we need to show them how to be a puzzle piece in the hands of God, how saying sorry and asking forgiveness is part of our pictures, too.

Posted by k2mulder, 0 comments

My Humble Dad

As part of the 2018 series on cultivating a ‘Mary’ heart, I am focusing on humility for March. 

 

Twenty years ago today, my father was turning fifty-three. I don’t recall whether I was able to call him for his birthday or not. Most likely I couldn’t, for I lived in rural Ukraine at the time, and phone lines were unreliable, and the internet did not stretch to my area.

Today, I cannot call him either, for he died that year of 1998, and neither phone lines nor internet reach heaven.

As far as we’ve come technologically in twenty years, there is still only one access point for heaven and we can still only communicate through the age-old manner, prayer. We humans have tremendous abilities and inventions, yet they still are, and always will be, not as wondrous as God’s abilities and inventions.

My father loved science and technology. In his spare time, he tinkered with new computer coding languages, devising programs to better serve his patients and fellow doctors. It was so typical of him to be contributing significantly, but in the background, quietly. Yet, there was little science and technology could do, other than attempt to keep him comfortable, five months later against the cancer ravaging his body.

During the last week I shared with my son the story of how my dad quietly went to bat for me, and how that led to lasting change in our church. He was a boys’ club leader there, and I wanted to join in their cub car racing. I saw how much fun he and my brother had dreaming up a design for their cars, then shaping, painting, and weighting them, and I wanted in on it. The problem was that it was only for the boys. But he went to the other leaders and asked if I could make a car. They agreed. Then I pressed to join in the race – that was a little more contentious! However, he pressed on in his calm, logical, persistent way, and eventually I was permitted to race. I didn’t win, but it was a victory for the girls that would follow me. Now, the church opens the race to all boys and girls.

My dad never shamed those who thought I shouldn’t participate, he never bad-mouthed any of them, instead, he consistently served alongside them and demonstrated a different way. He didn’t advertise this victory as his accomplishment, because it wasn’t about him. He was humbly, faithfully living the truth of leaving one’s world a better place. He fought this battle with love and care for those on both sides of the issue. His example humbles me.

I also recall finding him sitting in the white wicker chair in the wasabi-green carpeted Florida room, light streaming in the many windows, leg crossed, as he slouched over his Bible or Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline most mornings before work. When I was in high school he discovered this treasure of a book, and it made a marked difference in his life. Dad was discovering that it is a humble thing to be in the presence of someone greater than you, but when that greater one is Jesus, you receive peace and joy. Because I witnessed this, I, too, now practice these disciplines. 

Once, I wandered in to the Florida room as he was finishing, and I asked what his favorite verse was. He told me it was Romans 8:38-39.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Yet, I have his old Bible with his barely legible notes scratched alongside the verses, and I know that he had questions and doubts. He hid them not from God, but presented them in prayer with thanksgiving. A highly intelligent man, he humbled his intelligence to the mysteries that God kept hidden in his wisdom, and he accepted in faith that God knew better than he.

Even as he was dying, he demonstrated the wrestle that it is to humble oneself to death — at moments seemingly at peace, while at others struggling to avoid it. But when we — his sister and brother-in-law, wife, son and I — sang “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, we could see him visibly humble himself to death, and receive the peace offered him as Jesus welcomed him into his full embrace.

I am so proud, in an awed, humble sort of way, to have had such a demonstrably humble dad. His legacy of humility has left its mark in his work, his church, and, most of all, his family. Typically, we think we must prove ourselves, achieve something, and create a legacy. But my dad proved that it is not in proving oneself that one receives peace and creates a legacy, it is in humbling oneself to the One who works through our legacies. 

Do you have someone who has demonstrated humility in your life? Or someone who has left a legacy of humility? Please share in the comments, we would love to hear about others who go before us in this way.

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Humility, 4 comments

A Child Again

 

I propose that within every adult is a desire to be a child again. What is more, that desire is not something to hide or ignore, rather, it is the very desire that leads us to live fully, that gives us access to Life – our Father.

Take a look at what gives you delight (and if you aren’t sure anymore, then dig into this question and find it back!). Is it hanging out with people you care about? Is it being silly and playing games? Or perhaps it is getting wrapped up in a good story, or exploring, or discovering something new. Don’t you feel alive then, so much so that you’ve likely lost your self-consciousness? You are wrapped up in the fun and wonder of it, the clock no longer exists, and the “shoulds” and “have-to’s” have lost their hold on you.

Ironically, it was during the years of my children being very little that I lost my desire to be a child. I still had it, I just couldn’t find it. I remember hearing from other mothers how having children gave them an excuse to play and be like a child – they were fulfilled and glowing with their role. I, on the other hand, found it very difficult to play with the kids. I have since learned that it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be as a child, I just take delight in other things – many of which are difficult to do with very young kids. The few that I could do with them I dove into almost with a fearful tenacity, as if my life depended on it.

I didn’t realize it then, but it did.

Those delights kept me sure of my good Father, kept me connected, kept me comforted in an otherwise dull and difficult season. A mom of young kids easily becomes overwhelmed with all the nitty gritty care of these wee ones – it is a laundry list of “shoulds” and “musts” that easily drowns the exhausted spirit not buoyed by surety that someone good and loving and greater than her is caring for her.

When we do the things that make us feel a child again, we often feel that someone good and loving and greater than us is caring for us.

Because we don’t know this, or we don’t like it, we hide or ignore our desire to be as a child. In so doing, we hide or ignore our Father, our greatest caregiver and chance of living fully.

You may have heard the oft-quoted idea that everyone was created with a God-shaped hole in them that only God can fill. Jesus was describing this idea in John 7:37-39:

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit…

“From within them” is from the Greek word koilia which means belly, stomach, womb and, by extension, means feelings and emotions. It is an empty place meant to be filled. It is the spiritual place from which comes hunger and thirst, and into which is poured grace and love so that we can birth the same. Blaise Pascal wrote in his Pensées:

What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable; in other words, by God himself. (VII(425))

When you come to Jesus as a child, he fills this craving hole. No matter how old we are, we are still God’s children. It is a fundamental part of our identity. He made us to be dependent on Him, to receive His care, and enjoy being with Him.

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13

The things that help you be as a child are access points to your Father.

What helped me out of my difficult season was rediscovering childlike delight. Things like cross-country skiing, reading The Lord of the Rings, exploring a new park. As I did those things I would always receive a sense that my Father was there with me, enjoying these things with me. Sometimes that sense was overwhelming and I would weep. There is a tree in the park I ski in that has witnessed many times of tears of wonder and gratitude. Slowly, but surely, through these good, delightful, childlike things, I was warmed and reassured of my Father’s care until it was no longer a rare feeling or a struggling belief.

Had I not done those things and continued determinedly on in my very great responsibilities I would have drifted further and further from the experience and knowledge of my Father’s care – not that it would have actually been gone, but I would not have known it, and I would have remained desperately hungry. And when we are desperately hungry, but do not take action to get the nourishing food, we will eat anything; we will become indiscriminate and selfish in our “hangry” state. It is here that the world lives, sadly. And so we see adults driven by selfishness, acting like tantrumming two-year-olds, trying to drown the emptiness rather than be filled. We adults have believed the lie that we must do it all, we are on our own, with no one to care for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We see in Mark 10:13-15 Jesus’s strong response to those who withhold children from him:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

So let us not hide or refuse our desire to be a child before God. Like a mother and a father hurt by the fact that their child wouldn’t come to them for help, Jesus is angered by this! He wants us near, he wants to give us the kingdom, he wants to pour his love into our empty places.

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 4 comments

Fasting for Lent

Are you starving for love? Maybe you are hoping to get flowers or chocolate or at least a card today, since it is Valentine’s Day. Maybe you are heartbroken, torn by death or distance. Maybe you are just wondering if you’ll ever know what it’s like to be beloved. Most of us are looking for love in some way, shape or fashion.

There once was a guy who had found love, and then walked into a desert alone because of it. He went without food and water for forty days. He was not protesting a spurned love, nor was his love tormenting him. Rather, he was demonstrating love, but without sonnets, flowers, or a diamond ring. Instead he almost died. And right when he was at the brink of death, he refused to eat because if he had he would have broken the heart of his beloved. His going hungry drove him deeper into love. And in that deep place of great need and great Love, where just licking a lip cost precious energy, the mouth of God whispered the life-sustaining words through parched and cracking lips:

Bread alone will not satisfy,
but true life is found in every word,
which constantly goes forth from God’s mouth.” (Matt. 4:4 TPT)

His name was Jesus. He faced the deceiver in great, emaciating hunger so that His strength and love would meet us in ours.

When we are hungry, be it physical or spiritual, we are sorely tempted to fill it with anything. This is the great temptation of hunger: end it, and end it now. We become generalists, making do with anything that promises to fill us, rather than enduring the pain and discomfort to be filled with the particular, life-giving nourishment we need.

I eat at the slightest hint of hunger. For a few months I was on a strict diet and I had to learn what it felt like to be hungry, and push myself to endure it for an hour (just an hour!). I learned how to be aware of my “hangry” mood and not let it gain control, and I learned the joy of being filled with nutrition after being empty. Sometimes I have to force myself to pass the drive thrus that line the road home, saying no to instant gratification so that I can say yes to healthy food at home and yes to my health.

Sometimes I have to say no to drive thru prayers and make myself sit in God’s presence for fifteen minutes, an hour, to feed my soul. It can be too easy to read a Bible passage for two minutes and call it good for the day. It’s not that it’s not good, it’s just that that’s like grabbing a lollipop for a sugar high when I need a solid meal.

There is a lot of deception in quick things: quick prayers, quick devotions, quick food. Soul growth is slow growth. There is no quick way of the soul. It is a quality endeavor, one that requires deep nourishment, and deep hunger.

We need to do without, like Jesus did; to hold out for the good stuff, like Jesus did; to bank our very lives on the very best, like Jesus did; then we will taste and see that the Lord is good, that His feast awaits us and it is the very best. It takes a monumental amount of trust to lay back down into emaciation and deep hunger when one has the power to fill the terrible emptiness. So, rather than grabbing my Bible to scan through a Psalm, I wade back in to the wrestling prayer, the waiting prayer, into the places where He is challenging my understandings. I take the hours to reflect, listen, question and worship.

When we refuse to stuff our souls with the equivalent of cotton candy – feel good quips and quick answers – we are exercising our trust that God will fill us with something more satisfying — Himself. And that He will, for He, the bread of life, withstood temptation in near starvation so that you and I could be nourished.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent and traditionally a time of fasting. Lent is representative of Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness and begins with the account I wrote of above. Only God can fill our spirits with hearty nourishment, and if our bodies need to go without in order to grasp that, then follow into the fast.

Christians around the world for centuries have practiced fasting in order to stimulate the spiritual appetite. It is to make us aware of our actual poverty, which so often goes unnoticed in our lives of bloat.

If the Lord is leading you to fast, whether from a particular food or a meal a day or some other way, meet Jesus in this simple act of faith, trusting his nourishment of your soul and your body as you do so. As you experience physical hunger, may its sharp pains trigger your remembrance of Him who endured forty days out of love for you. He went through it to protect you, to rescue you, to show you his love. He let his own hunger for restored relationship drive him to demonstrate his love in self-sacrifice.

Some cautions regarding a fast:

  1. For some a fast can be dangerous – for example, if you suffer an eating disorder. Or if you are tempted to prove your faith with a fast. Be honest and do not undertake a fast if these apply to you. Do not be ashamed if this is you! The Lord wants your heart and your healing, and he will lead you in grace. For some a fast would be chains and slavery, not the way to freedom. So listen to the Lord in this, and follow accordingly.
  2. Being hungry is not a sign that God has forgotten you, left you to your own devices, or no longer cares for you. Quite the opposite, being hungry is a sign that He wants to meet you in weakness, that he wants to fill you with truth, and that you can rely on him.
  3. Just because you are led to fast does not automatically mean you will have mountaintop experiences with the Father. You might, but you might not. Jesus had thirty-nine days of increasing agony, and three great temptations before the angels were sent to minister to him. But when we fast, when we are led into our hungry wildernesses, we do go with him who is with us all the time, and we go with our hunger guaranteed to be met.

Fasting is a soul strengthener, a road to finding true nourishment. May you walk it in the company of grace and find the nourishment of your soul. I leave you with the words of Psalm 107:1-9 (TPT):

Let everyone give all their praise and thanks to the Lord!
Here’s why—he’s better than anyone could ever imagine.
Yes, he’s always loving and kind, and his faithful love never ends.
So, go ahead—let everyone know it!
Tell the world how he broke through
and delivered you from the power of darkness and
has gathered us together from all over the world.
He has set us free to be his very own!
Some of us once wandered in the wilderness like desert nomads,
with no true direction or dwelling place.
Starving, thirsting, staggering,
we became desperate and filled with despair.

 Then we cried out, “Lord, help us! Rescue us!” And he did!

 He led us right into a place of safety and abundance,
a suitable city to dwell in.
So lift your hands and thank God for his marvelous kindness
and for all his miracles of mercy for those he loves.
How he satisfies the souls of thirsty ones
and fills the hungry with all that is good!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

Three Questions to Ask When Your Spiritual Appetite Has Disappeared

Apparently over a quarter of the students at my kids’ school are absent this week due to the invasion of influenza. We, too, have succumbed. And along with it our appetites have disappeared.

Sometimes our spiritual appetite disappears too. Praying, reading the Bible, going to church feels like eating dry crackers without water. Guilt sets in, further alienating us from living water. Like when we are physically sick, we’d rather go lie on the couch watching TV.

What do you do when your appetite for God is near-gone?

First, stop trying to evade it or to increase your efforts to feign hunger. Accept it, face it, and sit with it. It will be uncomfortable, but you need to know what is causing the loss of appetite. Its remedy depends on it. Then ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you exhausted? Have you been taking care of yourself? Relationships require energy, even your relationship with God. Fatigue and exhaustion can be great spiritual appetite suppressants. If this is you, give yourself grace and ask for the Lord’s help to rest. If the exhaustion is due to your choices and commitments, admit and confess them, then listen for His guidance on what to keep and what to get rid of. If the exhaustion is not of your making, then let your exhaustion lead your appetite with the prayer: “Lord, may my desire for rest draw me to You, the true resting place for my soul. Fill me with your rest, and as you replenish me, show me who You are. Thank you for your gift of rest and care.”
  2. Are you busy? Is there something that you are allowing to take center stage in your life? Something that is demanding lots of your mental energy? Something distracting and all-consuming? It could be a good endeavor, it could be a temptation, it could be an overwhelming circumstance of life. Whichever it is, allow Jesus to walk on the stage and direct you regarding it. He may say to cleanly turn away from it (as in the case of temptation), he may say to allow him to control it (as in the case of overwhelming circumstances), he may say something else. The key is to let him enter it, let him speak to you about it. Then you can discern whether you’ve been stuffing your appetite with a substitute, or you’ve simply been ignoring your hunger.
  3. Is it that you are bored? Maybe you have been following the same Bible reading plan, going to the same church service, doing the same things, and it has become too comfortable. In this case, change things up. Change the time of day you regularly pray, or take a walk, or read a different translation of the Bible (I especially like using The Message or the The Passion Translation for their more modern language). Try a different way to serve: volunteer for kids ministry or serve in a food pantry. Try practicing meditative prayer or lectio divina. Richard Foster’s Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is especially helpful for learning what these and other prayer forms are and then employing them in your life. I am looking forward to reading Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson which also converses on just such topics. Like reaching a plateau with your exercise routine because your muscles have gotten too used to it, your spiritual routine needs to change too. We need to stretch and challenge ourselves in new ways. When you change a workout regimen, you also change your appetite through new stimulation.

How did you recognize that you weren’t hungry for God and what did you do about it? Do you have any resources you recommend? Please share in the comment section below this post, I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Hunger, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments

When Fear Holds Hunger in Its Teeth

Last week I wrote about how I discern the voice of fear and the voice of Love. This week we are starting our month-long focus on “Hunger” and how it pertains to a centered life. I am sharing from my personal experience and hope that it stimulates your hunger for God!

I have written the following in truth and love, especially for my heritage. It is not glamorous, in fact, it may be painful to some. But I am trying to illumine what God has shown me as He has wrought more freedom into my life. I pray for your freedom as you read.

I grew up in a church community that valued, rightly so, giving and sacrificing for those less fortunate. Many of us were immigrants or children of immigrants with stories of making do and frugality forming our families. There were a lot of unsung, hard-working heroes in our family tree.

But somehow, in the trenches of making a living in a new land, the hunger that everyone had come with became buried under the work of our hands, the ache of the labour, and the strains of limitation. And it was buried in our spirits too.

Though hunger for freedom, for more, for a better life had driven our grandparents across the Atlantic ocean, that hunger went underground as they built their new life. It became inappropriate to want more in life: whether in the making of money or thirsting for God. As we became guardians of the status quo, God felt more distant. Like a knot of hunger in the stomach, our spirits hardened.

We were self-righteous in our mandated contentment. There were whispers of judgment regarding other churches, born of fear. We didn’t understand what they were experiencing as we heard of healings and changed lives. We were fearful of it, fearful of the powerful hunger that drove those people, not realizing that we had the same hunger held underground by our fear.

Only through resentment did we notice our hunger: other churches were growing, why weren’t we?

To desire more was evil ambition and arrogance. Desire was a fearful thing! For those who paid attention to the hunger in their spirits, there were few communal tables at which to gather. By God’s grace, there were a few, and life grew there. I ate with them, I hungered with them, and God met us.

We must allow ourselves to feel our hunger, to stand in it, not run away from it or bury it. It is the gnawing center of life in which we receive the bread of Life. God would not have given us hunger if it did not serve His purposes. That goes for bodily hunger as well as soul hunger. As we are filled, we are empowered. Motion can follow.

Sometimes we must allow our spiritual hunger to push us to immigrate to new places.

The word “desire” has forward movement inherent within it. It is the motion of attraction, like two magnets drawing together. God gave us desire to move us toward him. Desire is a gift, not a curse.

Our fears must not be allowed to control our hunger. The only fear God gave us is the fear, the awe and wonder, of Him; all others are hounds from our enemy. When we put hunger in control of fear it will eat up obstacles in its ravenous power. Let your hunger for God loose, feed it, and fear will cower!

The truly hungry do bold things that they would never do when satisfied. Dissatisfaction can be the Lord’s invitation into the bold changes of His kingdom.

Yes, we need to develop contentment in our souls, but there is a magnet in discontent that will pull us there.  The uneasy, discontented sensation of hunger is the invitation to the soul to find its true food.

In Luke 10, when Mary dropped her duties as host (much to her sister Martha’s consternation!) to go listen to Jesus, she was giving reign to her spirit’s hunger trusting it would find its satiation in the words of this visitor, Jesus.

If you suffer a squelched spirit do not settle in a false contentment saying “This is all there is, I am okay here.” This is where our hunger helps us discern between good and best. God wants our BEST which is good for us, but we often settle for what is GOOD thinking it’s the best. Fear wiggles into power ever so subtly in this situation. Fear says to the squelched spirit: “This is good enough, who am I to want more? I am denying God’s gracious gifts if I want more.” Rather, admit your hunger, and tell God. He is delighted to meet you in your hunger! It is through our hunger that Jesus works to reconcile us to himself. For it is His great desire to be reconciled with us.

On earth Jesus’ hunger fueled his every action. His hunger for reconciliation enabled him to say “No” to temptation in the desert, endure the whips, spears and nails, fit infinity into finity, feed five thousand with five loaves and two fish, and befriend and disciple many in three years. What will your hunger enable you to do as you are filled to all fullness with the bread of life?

 

 

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Encouragement, Hunger, 0 comments

A Perfectionist’s Story Discerning the Voices of Fear and Love

“Perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.” 1 Jn. 4:18 NIV

The type of fear John speaks of is the paralyzing, cowering kind that all people feel in the face of threats, violence, abuse and other evils. It is an oppressive, jailing kind that arises from the deceitful one, Satan. But Jesus came to free the captive (Isaiah 61:1).

The deceiver tailors his language of fear to his listener. To some he speaks in soft tongues, to others in sharp. The point of anything fear says is to control and bully, to keep the hearer from knowing freedom and love.

Fear bullies with sweet whispers. Fear seduces with sharp commands. Fear persuades with half truths. Fear controls with comfort. Fear is charismatic, a force of character that draws people to follow him into bondage. And he uses content of every kind under the sun: from self-perception to global annihilation, from sore throats to getting it all done.

Nothing but the whole truth, unvarnished and blazing gently in one’s being, will conquer fear. Before it, like wax melting under a candle, our rigid prisons fall away. To each of our personal realities God’s truth of love shines deeply into our personal convictions, changing and shaping them into action, releasing the prison gates of fear.

To the perfectionist’s ear, fear speaks in “shoulds”. He holds up the beautiful goal and desire for perfection, knowing that that IS what we are destined for, and says: “Look, that’s your goal, go get it! You should do this, then that, then that. You definitely shouldn’t waste your time on unproductive things. Do this…and this…and this.” The perfectionist climbs the mountain of “shoulds”, not realizing that it is made of pebbles rolling under her feet and she is getting no closer. Instead, she is wearing out, despairing, discouraged and unsure. Fear now holds her tired heart in captivity.

I am a perfectionist, and the above is my story. However, the story is not finished.

Into this captivity Jesus stepped. His foot light, he brought water, a pillow, His presence. He sat with me in my captivity until I had rested enough that I could listen. Then He began to speak, counteracting the poisonous thoughts I had been listening to for years, and when I was stronger, He invited me to get up and walk with Him. He began to show me things I had not noticed before, He ignited joy and peace in my heart. For a time, He refused to answer my request for a purpose, knowing that that would send me back up the mountain of pebbles.

After an uncomfortably long time, in which I finally found comfort, He invited me forward with Him. He never used the word “should”, always “let’s”. As He issued His invitation to me into His purposes He said: “You will go out with joy and be led forth in peace.” (Isaiah 55:12).

I am, literally, today, starting three major things to which He has led me. One of which is the series on this blog on “Ten Attitudes of Heart to Cultivate for a ‘Mary’ Life”!

Just to show you how personal He gets as He leads you, I will share the picture He gave me this morning as I listened to Him regarding these initiatives. First off, you have to know that I LOVE snow, playing in the snow, skiing, skating, all things snow. In that, I am a true Canadian:) In the picture, I saw myself as a child getting ready to go play in the snow, and in my excitement I wasn’t putting on my hat or zipping up my coat. He, Dad, came over and put my hat on, zipped up my coat to make sure I was prepared and then blessed me with a twinkle in his eye and said “Have fun!”.

I have been listening to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast “The Next Right Thing” (which I highly recommend!) and in episode three, she asks: “Are you being led by love or pushed by fear?” Over the last year, this has been especially helpful in my discernment process. It helped me recognize that a job I almost took was motivated by my fear of our future finances, not His leading. It helped me recognize that during this time of discernment, courage means taking the hours to go deep with God, to slowly process all the things He is showing me, and trust that my not getting a paycheck will not bring us to bankruptcy.  It has been eleven months so far without my pay check and we have always had enough, even as we moved to a house with a higher house payment per month!

For me, the voice of fear says excitedly and urgently, like a happy friend: “You should do this because you are so able. You should do this to secure your future!” But if I don’t comply my happy friend’s voice slides into a menacing, condemning voice: “You’ll never amount to anything. You aren’t doing enough to bless the world. You have been given so much and you just squander it. How can you call yourself a leader? A good mom?” In both voices, the identifying characteristic is a push to perform and prove.

Whereas being led by love, the voice is a gentle friend, welcoming and pleased to be with me, regardless of what I do. Love’s voice invites, converses. Love says: “This is the way, walk in it, and I will walk with you.” If I don’t comply, love waits.

I’ve had many months now of discerning the voice of fear and the voice of Love as I have waited on the Lord to direct my steps. A desire of mine from as far back as I can remember is to get my Master’s degree. I’ve started one, I’ve tested the waters with a course for another, I’ve perused many catalogs. Every time there’s been a check in my spirit at some point on the road – a lack of peace about the focus, a revelation that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should (there’s that “should” again!).

This time the Lord is inviting me to get my Master’s in Spiritual Formation and Direction. It isn’t a should at all, but an “I get to!” I know deeply that this is the right direction, partly because I realize that if I don’t make the attempt and join the Lord I will, literally, forever regret it. All my previous endeavors I was preparing to make do when all along, deep down I knew that I was cut out for this work and had lacked the courage to try. He has been persistently showing and telling me that He wants me living abundantly with Him in the purposes He has for me. He wants the BEST for me, not for me to simply make do.

Are you being led by Love, or pushed by fear? Only you and the Lord can identify the voice of fear in your life. It will speak differently to you than me. It will take courageous, deep work to identify and admit to listening to the voice of fear. But I promise, it is so well worth it. God made you for living deeply, joyfully and truthfully, not quickly, shallowly and fearfully.

Posted by k2mulder in Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 2 comments

Series for 2018 : 10 Heart Attitudes to Cultivate for a “Mary” Life

I am excited to announce the inaugural series for my blog “Living a Mary Life in a Martha World”! Over the next 10 months (starting in February) I will be featuring an attitude needed in order to live as a “Mary” in a “Martha” world. If you desire to be more attentive to Jesus and live your life from this center, not being pushed around by the world, then join me in this investigation. I would love to have you be encouraged and challenged by what I write, and to hear what works for you to be like Mary. Here is the monthly schedule:

 

 

 

If this piques your interest and you would like to join in, please subscribe to my email list so you can be sure to get the weekly posts. I pray it will be a blessing to you and I look forward to spending the year with you in this endeavor!

Posted by k2mulder in Attitudes, Encouragement, Spiritual Formation, 0 comments