To Follow Christ Means Having Times of Rest

I am nearing the close of my time in Israel and it has been an incredible time of learning, laughing, seeing, experiencing, and resting in God. As I have either walked or driven past various places I have continued to ask the question: What does it mean to follow Christ? My devotions this morning came out of Psalm 46:10 where it says, “Cease striving and know that I am God…” A timely devotion for me!

To strive for something means that we go to great “efforts to achieve or obtain something.” And if we are really honest with ourselves we can acknowledge that there are times we are labouring in God’s strength and there are times we are labouring in our own strength. Whichever the case may be, striving takes considerable effort, and it is because of this that we need times of rest. We need to cease. There are several ways that the word cease can be interpretered. It can mean to fall into God. It can mean to relax. It can mean refraining from work or movement in order to recover strength. And by the way, the word cease in the Hebrew is actually a hifil imperative which means that it’s not an optional activity but is something we are supposed to do.

Today I am having a day of resting in the Lord. I have been sick (recovering thankfully!) and so today I decided not to do the long day trip into Petra (I’ve been before) and I am going to walk (sit) along the Red Sea and am going to marvel at the beauty that surrounds me. This is a time to recover my strength, to relax, and to be refreshed.

Ceasing striving is critical to our wellbeing. When was the last time you were intentional to relax? (I know that comes in a variety of ways as we are each uniquely wired.) When was the last time you took time away to be strengthened in the presence of God? To remember and know that He is God? If it’s been a while, then I encourage you to take out your day-planner and block out some time to cease – it will be good for you!

Shalom from Eilat.
The picture below is of a big chunk of salt, and actually the entire mountain behind me is mostly salt…very interesting!

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To Follow Christ is to be a Sent One

I am sitting on the balcony at my hotel room in Jerusalem having my morning quiet time. It is quite surreal to be overlooking Jerusalem whilst reading my Bible and reflecting on what it means to follow Christ. During my time this morning, I reflected on yet another aspect of followership, namely, that of being a sent one.

In Luke 10 Jesus is said to have “appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.” Why did he do that? In part it can be rightly said that he did that because he could not be in all places at all times and he had a very important message to get out: the Kingdom of God has come near. Today, we too, as Christ-followers are sent ones. This is something that has become so real for me on this trip, especially as I’ve had conversation with fellow travellers.

In our current group we have people from all walks of life and all at different places in their spiritual journey. Some embrace Jesus Christ as their saviour; some don’t have any understanding (although they are currently learning) about who this Jesus is. Throughout our time together I have had conversations with those searching (So thankful I have attended a Bible college as it prepared me for this trip, but that’s a story for another day!) and conversations with those who long to go deeper. The point: we are sent ones with a message no matter where we are in the world. To follow Christ is to be sent with a message.

So wherever you are today, be curious about who Jesus is sending you to. “Sentship” (poor grammar, I know) has two parts: an awareness that Christ sends and an understanding of the message we are sent with. That message can come in various forms and various ways, that is for you to discern.

Blessings sent one.

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Behind me is Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

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To Follow Christ is to Accompany Christ

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

It can be meaningful to linger on a theme, word or topic for an extended period of time. For me, as I indicated in an earlier blog blog post, I am reflecting on what it means to follow Christ. This theme is very meaningful as I continue my journey through Israel. Today I am travelling to Nazareth, the place where Jesus grew up. And following some sightseeing there I am then headed to Jerusalem for four days.

Yesterday I did a search on the word follow and discovered that there are several passages throughout the Old and New Testaments that use the word “follow.” One Scripture in particular that caught my attention was the one quoted above. It’s a verse where Jesus is quoted as saying he is the “light” and those who follow him “will not walk in darkness.” I don’t know about you, but there are times when I feel like I am stumbling around trying to figure out life, searching for the way that I am support to go. Jesus reminded me this morning that I, in fact none of us, are alone on the journey.

To “follow” Christ means to be accompanied by Jesus. To “follow” means to go with Jesus somewhere. The Greek word for follow is akoloutheō, and it can be nuanced the following ways: come after; accompany, go along with,; be a disciple, follow; follow, obey; follow. (That’s from a a Greek lexicon.)

Anyways, to wrap up: we are invited (asked) to follow Christ, but we are never asked to do it alone because to follow Jesus means to be on a journey with Jesus.

Blessings on the journey, may you sense yourself accompanied by Him.

Shalom from Jerusalem,
Carmen

This photo was taken today on the Israeli side of the Jordan River, but in the background is the Jordanian side of the Jordan River.

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To Follow Christ is Service

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am captivated by the call of Jesus. A call that says to each one of us: Follow Me. Now naturally, a statement like that can create a myriad of questions. How? Where do I start? What does it mean to “follow?” My devotional reading this morning provided some answers. (Funny how God can give us a theme and then provide little answers each day!)

My morning devotions took me to Mathew 20: 26, 27. And though a familiar passage for many, it is a timely reminder for me that greatness is found in following Christ, not in title or position. Tozer says it well. He writes, “…true greatness among humans must be found in character, not in title or position.” He then goes on to say, “We have to follow [there’s that follow theme!] Christ in service to the human race, a selfless service that seeks only to serve, and greatness will be ours!”

So, as I travel to Caesearea, Meggiddo, and several other places today, I am curious about following Christ and serving others. I am wondering who I will meet and what opportunities to follow Christ may present themselves.

Let me leave you with this: If you agree that following Christ equals service to others, be curious and open to the ways in which you can follow Christ today. (And then share your experiences with another so they can be encouraged and strengthened!)

Shalom

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The Call of Jesus

I’m sitting in the Saskatoon, SK airport imagining what my heart will feel when my feet land once again on Israeli soil. This will be my second trip to Israel, my first being in 2010. And throughout the last twenty-five years the only place I have longed to visit (clearly more than once!) is the land of the Bible, the land where it all began. The land where Jesus is recorded as saying to ordinary human beings, “Follow me.” (And much, much more!)

To follow something takes courage; it also takes an insatiable curiosity fuelled by the ever-drawing power of the Hoy Spirit who points us in a certain direction. Who is this Jesus? How does his life, his teaching, shape my thoughts, actions, and desires today? What was he like? Can I truly know anything about him? If you’re like me, you’ve likely had similar questions in your journey. Questions are good! They keep us searching.

Here’s what I know for sure: I’ve heard Jesus’ invitation to follow him. I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good. I’m (we all are!) loved by a God who chose to take on flesh and walk among us. Why? Because he’s a God who wanted, and continues to want, to be known.

Be curious today about the ways in which Jesus might be inviting you to follow him. Be curious today about the ways in which God maybe trying to show himself to you. Be curious about the many ways he says to you, “Follow Me.”

Stay tuned for more reflections from Israel.

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I was a guest blogger for Zoe Projects!

It is a privilege to be called a friend of Zoe Projects and I was thrilled when they recently asked me to write a blog post for them.

You can read it here.

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Free To Lead Women’s Leadership Conference

I am very excited to be a part of planning and teaching at this conference. To all my local leader friends, you don’t want to miss this! It will be a great time of fellowship and leadership development. It’s a first of its kind on this scale in Saskatoon. Please share it around! More information can be found here on Eventbrite or here on the Facebook page.Powerpoint

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“Mom do you want to…?”

“Mom do you want to…?”

I have come to appreciate these words deeply in recent weeks because those of us parenting teens know that doing so is no easy job. And when you’re raising a large family (remember I have six!) there are a variety of personalities. Those personalities translate into various struggles as our children enter the teen years and go through a transition of trying to figure out who they are and how to deal with the many pressures that surround them.

I’ve discovered after parenting through several teen to young adult transitions that at some point part of our teen’s vocabulary goes missing. As of late I have especially noticed how certain questions seem to disappear. Questions like: Mom do you want to hear my poem? Mom do you want to know what I got on my test? Mom do you want to know what happened today when I did my presentation in class? If you are raising a teen(s) then perhaps you have another question that you would throw in there.

Now before it simply sounds like I wait for them to ask me questions I want you to know I don’t. But when the kids were younger (and two still are in this season!) they were all too eager to jump in the car after school or after an event of some sort and tell me all about it the moment I said, how was…? Now some didn’t wait for the question, they just started giving me and anybody else in the car a detailed description of their experiences that day. But as some of the kids have transitioned into the teen years it appears at times as if they have lost their voice. Why? Because within themselves they are going through a very real struggle with emotions and their current reality of life.

Growing up is not easy in today’s world with its information and message overload. And even when you provide your children with the most loving and nurturing environment that you can, many will still struggle. But don’t lose hope! When it seems that they are pushing you away, respect their space but keep asking the questions. You may not get a response, but let them know you are still interested in what’s going on in their life. Read their school work, the notes they leave around, and take time to listen to the songs they sing or the art or poetry they write – you will learn a lot about what’s going on with them! And at some point, when they find their voice, they’ll being to speak up again to ask, Mom do you want to…? And when they do, it will fill your heart with joy. I know this full well because it happened to me just yesterday!

A picture of my beautiful family!

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A Forever Home is Coming Grandma

Last weekend I had the opportunity to head east to Alberta. The primary reason for going was to watch one of our daughters play in a volleyball tournament. (That was quite an amazing experience!) Another reason for going was that I wanted to have the opportunity to visit family that I had not seen for many years. (This was amazing as well!)

Since returning home I have been reflecting on the visit with my grandmother. Our visit was both joyful and emotional. The first time I visited her I did so with my hubby and some of our children. I took great pride in introducing two of my girls to their great grandmother! The second time I went for a visit I did so alone because I wanted to just be with her, and it was a very special time.

I sat with her over dinner and we talked about this new home she is in, it’s very different than what she is used to. She’s now in a care home, and though I am sure the nurses and staff are doing the best they can, it is not home to my grandma. At one point my grandma looked at me and said, “I understand that I can’t go home and I have to accept it and not think about it.” That statement was filled with pain, longing, and a sense of hopelessness, but she knows that one day she will be in a home, an eternal one, that she will never have to leave, so she holds out hope that this will not always be this way. Revelation tells us of a new home that will be permanent.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

(Rev. 21:3-4)

I love you Grandma. Thank you for always praying for me.

I wanted to write this post to remind us that it is important to take time for family, to take time to listen, and to take time to tell those we love that we do indeed love them.

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Finishing Well

I did it!  I graduated with my Diploma in Christian Studies. And not only did I graduate, I did so in a way that I would have never imagined! Perhaps others might start their journey with a goal of achieving the highest academic marks and becoming their class’ valedictorian, but that was a goal that never crossed my mind. In fact, just doing my best and crossing that finish line was my goal. Did I dream about certain things along the way? Sure I did.

I remember in my first year as a student sitting in chapel listening to fourth-year students giving a message. I distinctly remember feeling a sense of aws. Awe because I realized that that could be me one day! Interestingly enough, I never did give a message in chapel. And not because I wasn’t asked during this past year, but because I had so many upcoming commitments during the available season that I suggested I could do it the year after graduation. (Being on staff means I get to continue to hang around the college!) Well, the Lord had different plans. As I steadily plugged away at improving my ability to communicate and learn, it payed off in the end. I will go down in the history books as the 2014 Horizon College & Seminary Class Valedictorian. I treasure that happy memory as a reminder that you just never know the blessings that will come your way when you commit yourself to doing ALL that you do with excellence. In the end, I recevied four awards: the Delta Epsilon Chi, you can read more about that here; the Validectorian Plaque; the Faculty Award; and, the Saskatchewan Women’s Ministries Award. Humbling, to say the least.

As I was preparing for my validectorian speech I asked the Lord to help me. (I’ve often prayed for his help during this process of learning  and God has been faithful to answer!) I was drawn to a story in Mark where a group of people witness Jesus heal a person and they remark, “He has done everything well…” (Mark 7:37). Immediately upon reading that statement I knew this was going to be my central message of encouragement to my fellow graduates.  And though I won’t rewrite everything here that I spoke that day, in essense what it means that Jesus does “all things well” is this: whatever Jesus set out to do measured up to its intended purpose, that the way Jesus lived his life – both in the public eye and in private – was done so with excellence and intentionality. And having a standard or spirit of excellence is not the same as being perfect, Jesus was the only perfect human being; however, I believe that a spirit of excellence can (and should!) be the mark of a Christ follower.

As I continue in my journey as a Christ follower, I look back on the last five years with fond memories and a grateful heart. I remember taking time to walk from Horizon over to the U of S for my Hebrew class. As I walked during those beautiful spring days with my backpack on my back I can still recall the smells and the feeling of joy I took as I strolled along and reflected on the fact that I am a student and how GREAT that felt. (Now don’t get me wrong, learning Hebrew was no walk in the park, but the season itself was one of great joy.) I’m grateful because I have had the support of so many amazing people! I’m grateful because God answered my prayers in amazing ways! I’m grateful for all of my teachers! I’m grateful for the interactions with fellow classmates! And in the end, I’m grateful because I know the Lord has used this time to deepen my roots in him and I am coming out of this season with an inner strength and confidence that I didn’t have at the beginning of this journey!

For my closing today, I want to leave you with this blessing (same one I used at graduation!): May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you. May the Spirit of God empower you to fulfill all that has been purposed for you, may a spirit of excellence rise up within you so that you may live your life in such a way that it can be said of you, as it was of Jesus, that you do all things well.

My eldest daughter and I.

My eldest daughter and I.

Hubby & I.

Hubby & I.

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