Sunday, May 29, 2011

Trees of Fruit

Just last week I was at the All Ontario Youth Convention as a youth leader with our church.  I just want to share one of the ways in which God revealed himself to me in a really cool way.

Rewind to the Wednesday before convention.  Wednesday morning I was praying for a few of the girls in my youth group and as I was praying, I got a picture of these girls as sapling trees - healthy, but young.  As I prayed for God to work in each of their lives and reveal himself to them, I saw the trees grow into mature trees with full leaves and fruit on their branches.  It was a great picture, and I continue to pray that they (and all our youth) grow rooted in God's love and mature in their faith.

Saturday morning at convention - I woke up feeling pumped and alive, still feeling the presence of God from our first general session the night before.  I got up, picked up my Bible and decided to do the open-to-a-random-page-and-read-whatever-is-on-it style of morning Bible reading.  I opened to Ezekiel chapter 47:1-14.  In it the prophet Ezekiel is seeing a vision of a river flowing from the temple, and at one point he notices that there are many trees along the side of the river.  Verses 12-13 "Fruit trees of all kinds will grow along both sides of the river.  The leaves of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches.  There will be a new crop every month, for they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple.  The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing."
Pretty sweet.

After reading this, I felt drawn to read a verse in Revelation that has captured my heart recently.  Rev. 21:5 has been in my thoughts constantly for a few weeks here.  But this time, I read all of chapter 21 and into chapter 22, which says "Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  If flowed down the centre of the main street.  On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month.  The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations."

Wow!  Pretty amazing parallel between these two passages.  Throughout this whole day at convention I kept thinking on the relationship between what I had read, and then more passages kept coming to mind.

Psalm 1:1-3 - those who delight in God "are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do."  So, when we follow God, we are the trees?

Galatians 2:22-23 "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  So we're the trees, and this is the fruit - the fruit that brings healing to the nations.

Ok, yeah, wow.  All through the day I'm ruminating on these passages and making connections and feeling blown away by the Spirit.  Then that evening, I share these things with the girls that I was praying for (from the top of the blog) and one of them says - "that's like what you were praying for us."
Yes!  Right on!  You (we) are the trees planted by the banks of God's river of life, bearing fruit that brings healing!

Love it!

So there's all this amazing stuff about the trees and the fruit.  But there's also this river of life that the trees are planted beside.  In the Ezekiel passage, the river flows from the Temple.  In the Revelation passage, the verses I shared are directly after a section saying how there is no longer a Temple because God lives with His people, they don't need the temple because they are directly in His presence.  The river flows from His throne.  Awesome!  And in the Galatians passage, the fruit is produces by the Spirit - the Spirit is the River of Life!

I could continue - but for now I'll stop!  People of God, the Bible is so rich!  Be rooted in Him!  And lets use the fruit that His Spirit produces in our lives to heal.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sweet Tooth

I have a sweet tooth.  A sweet tooth the size of the Eiffel Tower.  

I also have been working for a year and a half at adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes walking, biking, and being aware of what I eat.  I count my calories most days and log them into a really helpful website.  And if you've been around me the past year or so, you probably know that I have had success with this and have lost approx. 30 lbs.  Give or take with the ups and downs of life.

What happens when these two things collide???  

I come home from work, and man!  I want something sweet!  Open the pantry, open the fridge - look!  Left over raspberry tarts!  Perfect.  Without letting my good sense catch up with me, I pop it out of its little tin cup and chomp, chomp - gone!  Now something inside of me says, "you better log that!"  But something else says - Nope, that was my freebie for the day. Within a few minutes, I eat supper as if that tart never happened, and my count for the day no longer is an accurate reflection of the days intake.  When that second side wins out, I trick myself into thinking its ok to omit the tart from my count, its ok to not tell my accountability partner that I snuck a treat, and somehow I believe it will not impact that number on the scale tomorrow morning! 

Oh how wrong I am.  

I know what some of you may be thinking right now - what kind of way is that to live!  Can't even allow herself some room for a treat every now and then??  

But here's the thing, if my sweet tooth had free reign, it wouldn't be one tart every now and then.  It would  turn into two tarts, a few cookies, a spoonful of peanut butter and a handful of chocolate chips.  Every day.  

I actual find great freedom from counting.  I feel more confident and alive now than I did two years ago.  I'm learning self-control.  Learning - still need the help of counting.  Maybe someday I will be at a place where I can maintain a healthy eating lifestyle without counting.  But for now I feel free and secure within my daily rhythm of counting.

Here's another scenario where my healthy eating and sweet tooth both win!  I come home from work, and I choose not to sneak any snacks because, man!  I'm looking forward to the chicken and potatoes we're having for supper.  I enjoy a lovely meal with my hubby, and I input my food data.  Kevin and I decide its a nice evening for a walk, and when we get back he suggests we have a bowl of ice cream.  I know because of the count that Yes!  I have room to spare today!  Woohoo!  My sweet tooth and my self confidence win!  Bring on the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream!

This is more than just food for me.  It's spiritual - learning a life of self control and honouring God through not giving in to cultural excess.  It's hard, but I feel its worth it.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The voice of Bob

I recently read the book Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer.  In it Phil talks about the creation of Veggie Tales and the incredible ride he and his friends had through its success and then through its bankruptcy.  At the end of the book Phil has two chapters on what he has learned <insert song - And so what we have learned applies to our lives today, God has a lot to say in his book....>  One chapter on what he has learned as a business man, and a second on what he has learned as a Christian.  From that second chapter, there are two thoughts he explored that have really stuck with me.

First, he said God's people are not to be people of vision, but people of revelation.  

Second, in response to someone asking him where he hoped to be in 5 years, he said If he is truly following God, where he is in 5 years is none of his business.

I love both of these statement so much because he has realized something a lot of people have not - Following Jesus is not about me!  It is not my vision or my plan that is going to define my decisions at the moment or my thoughts and hopes for the future.  

People of revelation - I love this!  It is not about trying to generate a vision within my own mind.  It's not even about being given a vision by God that I can then own as "my" vision.  It is about being open to the Lords leading, and letting Him reveal Himself and His vision to me.  When I think of the youth group I am a leader for, or the worship team that I help lead, or my daily interactions with friends, or my marriage to Kevin, or anything else in my life, I should be looking to Jesus to reveal Himself to me and see where He would like to lead.  I just find the difference between living out of my vision for the future and living out of God's revelation to be huge.  It is scary but freeing all at once.  Which takes us to point two...

Where I am in 5 years is none of my business.  Living out of God's revelation means giving up control completely - it means if He has chosen not to reveal what is coming around that next corner, then I have to wait and trust.  Actively wait, acting on what He has revealed for the moment, letting His Word be a light on my path.  In 5 years, will we still be enjoying the jobs God has blessed us with now?  Will we have a family?  Will we be called to move, or to stay?  I don't know!  But I can trust Him to reveal Himself when I do need to know.  And I can trust that if I keep pressing in, He'll continue to make me into the woman He wants me to be.

How do you find God reveals Himself to you? 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

He Loves Us

I'm sitting here at the computer before 7am checking my email and as the newly risen sun is streaming in the window, Kim Walker's song "He Loves Us" is playing on my little ipod shuffle.  And I am struck by the raw and awesome reality of those words.  God loves us - not in a calm, controlled way, not because He has to, but He loves us in a wild, undeserved, overwhelmingly powerful way.  Something in my spirit just feels like bursting with praise and tears and love when I listen and sing along with this song!  Oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us.  I am completely unashamed of how His love can leave me a complete mess!  A mess of gratitude!

If you have never heard this song, or need to again, check it out.