Archive for the ‘God’s great love’ Category

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Un-sexy churches, the story of Bethany North, and the God of small armies

In Bethany North,God's great love,Leadership,The Church on October 10, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

 Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.”

 Image
The words above were spoken by pastor and author (of the Message fame) Eugene Peterson.  Truer words have not been spoken, “A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place.”  Often times, the local church isn’t very sexy or exciting, or if it is for a while, it quickly fades.  For Bethany North, we now are turning three years old.  And the rite of passage makes me think back on what we’ve done.  Where we’ve been.  And where we’re going.

We started here in late September 2010- with 110 people and 55 kids.  We had hoped for 30 kids so lets just say from day 1, we’ve seen an abundance of God’s provision through the joy of children.  We stayed in the Richmond Highlands gym for 6 months and found another, larger spot.  We moved into the larger digs at Spartan Gym unsure of next steps- sure of only this one.

Now as we progress, we face new challenges.  How do we remain joyful in our volunteerism?  How do we continue to spread the news that there is a church in Shoreline built on making the invisible God visible?  How do we continue to grow based on the principle that the church is a people and not a building?  How do we deliver on the promise that as we connect and serve we will make Jesus known?  How can we inspire others with the truth that as we participate in the local church and the service in our community, God can continue to transform us?  These are the questions that gnaw at me as the leader of Bethany North.  But though questions persist, make no doubt about it; God is doing wonderful things in and among us.

And the truth, church, is that our best days are ahead.  In the book of Judges, God had raised up a leader named Gideon.  Gideon was facing an enemy army, and after being convinced God was calling him, Gideon exhibited great leadership.  He convinced others.  He cast vision.   He built something powerful.  He recruited an army of thousands to lead Israel into victory over the Midianites, a rival people group threatening Israel’s survival.  The army was 22,000 strong.  It was an army up to the task of facing the Midianites in battle.

But then God did something mind-blowing- He told Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me” (Judges 7:2).  Then the army of 22,000 became 10,000.  Then God separated them further down to 300 men.  God took Gideon’s powerful group of 22,000 and made it His own powerful number of 300.

What?  God wants us to win battles- but do it with smaller armies?  Do it undermanned?  Yes- the God of the bible is a God of small armies.  For real power comes from God’s strength and provision and not merely by growing things on our own.  When we build powerful teams and do powerful things, we’re often mindful of our own accomplishments and not on the provision of God.  But when we’re amazed and surprised that God has taken our humble efforts and blessed them abundantly?  Well, we’re able to be thankful.  We’re able to be humble.  We’re able to be mindful that our strength is in the Lord, not ourselves.

This is good news to me today, and for the last few weeks.  This little nugget is giving me hope.  Often times I’m mindful of feeling overmatched and overwhelmed and I’m aware there is much to do that I’m simply not powerful enough.  And yet, I believe in a God who is more powerful than my own efforts.  So, I’m clinging to the God of Gideon, the same God who came and took flesh as Jesus Christ- who took the incarnational, small army approach to transform the people that followed Him instead setting up an earthly Kingdom or regime.  The God of Gideon, this small army God, repeatedly used broken people to profess that God was alive and well and absolutely determined on redeeming this world.

This is my prayer this week: 
“God, will take my small army and make it powerful for You?
God- we confess- there is much about the future for Bethany North
we can’t figure out.
But we know You can.
Lead us we pray.
We are a small army.
We are broken people.
And we give You thanks for all the goodness and growth
and health we’ve experienced so far.
Its clearly been from Your strength and not our own.
Thank you God- You have been so good to us.”

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The story of the lost key

In God's great love,grateful,Jesus,The Journey on September 18, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

key

 

Monday’s was soccer practice on one of the muddiest, wettest, afternoons of the fall.  It was a tough practice trying to refocus nine 7 year olds from the preferred activity (making mud angels and throwing mud balls) to the ideal activity (practicing for soccer).  By the end of the hour I was wet, dirty, and most certainly a tad bit crabby.  The kids all got picked up, I gathered up muddy balls and practice jerseys, and went to grab the car key.  Normally we use a key ring with lots of other keys but in a hurry that afternoon I had grabbed the spare key.  One spare key.  Gone.  The zippered rain jacket pocket I had placed the single key had been unzipped.  The whole practice.  One single key, one entire soccer field, with no way to get home.

I grabbed two muddy seven year olds (mine and another) and my 9-year-old spectator daughter, and we began looking.  We walked here and there, carelessly, searching the muddy grass.  It dawned on me.  We’ll never find it.  At least not like this.  Searching has to be more intentional.  We have to have a better way to find the lost key.

I gathered the kids and hatched a plan.  We got in a line- 3 feet between us- and began traversing the field meticulously.  I still had my doubts we would find that key but at last now we had a chance.  Holding hands- crossing the muddy Francis Anderson field- looking for one lost silver key.  What are the odds- on 600 cubic yards that we would stumble over the one-yard that mattered: the one that held the key.  Back and forth, trying to maintain straight lines with military precision in the post soccer practice mess of two 7 year olds and a big sister waiting to go home.  “Its no use, we’ll never find it.”

“Nope we won’t,’ I told them, ‘if we stop looking.” As we continued to search, I began to realize a few things about lost things:

1) We can’t find what we’re not looking for.

Umm…yeah, got it.  Seemingly simply but so true.  I’ve had friends in recent days on social media who are poo-pooing the trapping of modern Christian faith and advocating instead an invitation “to the mystery, to the dance”.  I love that.  I love mystery.  I love dancing.  But if I’m left to my own initiative to pursue God, I’m going to be pretty lonely on the dance floor.  Because on most days I don’t feel like dancing.  I’m crabbing or shallow or simple or ignorant.  But establishing rituals of connection with the God who is always there to connect with us isn’t boring religion; it’s like intentionally looking for the key.  If you never look for things, you’ll never find it.  I realized some time ago I needed to spend more time looking for God, intentionally, in ritual acts of connection.  Setting my alarm to rise early, to run around the neighborhood looking for signs of the creator and praying for my loved ones, and returning to the pre-dawn quiet of the house and over a cup of coffee, reading the bible to remember just how big God is.  I’ve used different tools, different bibles, and different devotionals in different seasons to mix things up.  But I keep making time to search for God.

2)  If you don’t really need anything, you’ll soon tire of searching.

Looking for the key, we had made a few trips back and forth across the muddy pitch when I got frustrated- “forget it.”  I’ll call Heather, bring a spare key down, and just forget this stupid search.  But then I realized this was our only spare key.  There was no other option than finding the key.  No way to bail out.  No way to phone it in.  I NEED TO KEEP LOOKING BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ANY OTHER OPTIONS.  It reminds me that often it is those furthest from God who have the best salvation stories.  Why?  Because they had no other option than to pursue the God of all redemption stories: Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I look around at the people around me and wonder- do you even need God or have we gotten so used to living without God we don’t really need him at all.  Someone recently challenged me: “are you merely spoon feeding the already full?”  Or are we reaching out to people still looking for a key to their lives.  I want to be more like that.
3)  Lost things get found when someone is searching.

It would have been convenient to stop searching- but I couldn’t -and so I didn’t stop.  How much more than does Jesus pursue us?  Desire us?  And search for us?  Jesus tells this story to encourage his friends looking for truth:
 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8-10). 

Much like the woman’s quarter in the story, my own story was that I needed someone to find me.  I was 17, looking for purpose, and wondering whether God was true.  Lucky for me, Jesus inspired some YL friends to come looking for me.  And I began to hear about Jesus.  And then, in August of 1992, I was found.  I prayed and asked God into my heart, confessed my sin, and started a new path of following Him.  A path, trust me, that has had many failings.  And some dark spots.  But through it all, I knew I had been found by a God who loved me through His son Jesus Christ.  Even writing this, it feels good to remember my story of being found.  But I wonder how often we tell these stories to our friends outside the faith?  Or do we often spoon feed those already full?  Do we feel found by God on a daily basis?  And are we helping others seek for Him?  We worship a God who never stops searching for lost people.  I don’t want to forget about that part of God’s nature.

And then, near the end of our search, pointed down in the grass was the one, single, key.  We found it.  Because after all, the bible tells us, lost things get found.

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Do you love me?

In Bethany North,God's calling,God's great love,Jesus on May 1, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

do you love me?

God loves each of us,
as if there were only one of us.

~ Augustine

Lately I’ve been haunted by this question from Jesus in the gospels:  “Do you love me?”  At the time, Jesus was speaking to Peter.  Jesus had already died a horrific death and come back to life.  Jesus was appearing to his disciples along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He gave them the greatest fishing tip in the history of humankind “Try the other side of the boat!”  And they do it- and they almost break their net the fish are so numerous.  And then Jesus, being the Son of God, made them breakfast.  And over breakfast, with a fire probably crackling at their feet, their bellies full of fresh cooked fish and bread, turns to Peter and asked the fateful question:  “Do you love me?”

For Jesus, He didn’t couch the question with first declaring His own love for the disciples.  They already knew He loved them.  They saw Him wash their feet.  They saw Him hanging on a cross.  They saw Him come alive and serve them breakfast.  They saw the look of love on His face.  Once they knew of Jesus love for them, their identity as beloved was forged.  Nothing could shake their knowledge that Jesus loved them.

I’ve been thinking of God’s love lately.  Heather asked me the other day, “What are your favorite verses on God’s love?”  And I’m embarrassed to say this, but my mind went blank________________________________.   God’s love?  Hmm….let me think about that.  I can tell you all about sin and the wages and the death that resulted from Romans 1/3/6.  I can tell you my personal favorite anchor verse from James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  I can remind you from Genesis we’re made in the image of God, I can quote you pithy thoughts of wisdom from Proverbs and remind you of Moses and the great journey of Israel in Exodus.  There are of course the love verses from 1 Corinthians (“Love is patient and kind”) and 1 John (“we love because God first loved us”) but these mostly remind me of wedding ceremonies.  What verses remind me daily of God’s love?  Of His unconditional embrace?  Of His absolute delight in me?

How do I remember that no matter what I do, God already loves me?  How do I remind myself when I so easily forget that before anything else, I am already God’s beloved son?  Hmmm.  Truth is, I need more reminders that God loves me.  I need to write those verses on cards and stare at them each day.

Lately my oldest daughter’s nightly prayers have turned towards forgiveness.  She prays for her to be forgiven of all the bad things she has done.  Every-single-night.  After she prays, I then pray for her- out loud- “God, may my daughter know every night that you love her.  That You accept her.  That she is so good in Your eyes.”  And then I remind my daughter- God’s love is like my love- only way, way better.  I want my kids to KNOW they are loved by God and loved by their dad.   I think on my spiritual pursuits and often I’m running/clinging/pursuing Jesus and working so hard to do the things that I know God wants me to be about.  But what about my heart?

I was talking with a friend at church last month and he told me that he was struggling.  “What’s up?” I asked.
“I’m not sure why, but my heart isn’t feeling God at all.  Its all numb and void.”

I ran into this same guy Sunday after the church service.  “God answered my prayers!” he said.  “I’m feeling God’s love again.”

“Wow, that’s great,” I said.  “That means He’s answered my prayers too.  I’ve been praying for your heart.”

The truth is, we all need to reminded that God loves us.  Love does.  Love is.  Love wins.  We are good in God’s eyes.  We are loved.  Not because we do for others.  But because He first loved us.

Here are some great reminders this week that YOU are loved by God Himself. 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
– 1 John 4:10-12

 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
– Ephesians 2:4-5

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
– 1 John 4:7-8

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
-Psalm 86:15

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
-Galatians 2:20

“ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:6-7

May you feel the weight of God’s love today.  It covers you.  Before you’ve done a single thing. God loves you.  Period.  What reminds you of God’s great love?

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Grace, Marriage, and Princesses

In Family and Marriage,God's great love,Relationships on November 30, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

grace

The best love stories are those told at the end, not at the beginning.

Lately my daughter Harper is into “marrying”.  She wants to know when Mama and I married.  She imagines marrying some day.  She talks about “kiss on da lips.”  The other night she told me she will marry the prince at her birthday party and they will dance.  She then twirled on the steps of our house and I just knew I would remember this moment when she is heading off to Prom one day or when she gets married.  From our youngest days as humans we’re fascinated by love stories.

On Saturday night I officiated a wedding at Bethany.  Hundred of people came dressed up in their finest.  The sanctuary was decorated gorgeously.  Candles shone.  After the magical wedding, a limo whisked the couple down to the Fairmont Hotel for a gala celebration.  Thousands of dollars were spent.  Hundreds of hours were spent in preparation.  And it was fantastic…but all for a 45 minute ceremony.  Ironically, we spend months or years preparing for a wedding, when it’s really the marriage we should focus on.  The wedding is not the thing.  This is just day 1 of a journey of thousands of days.   And really, the best love stories are told at the end, rather than at the beginning.  We’ve grown skeptical of people’s promise to love, we want to hear about the couple that actually did it.  That couple that made it through 50 years of highs and lows and  that left a legacy of love by their actual example.  These are the best love stories.

princess 2Ever wondered why Disney stories typically end after the adventure and courtship of dating?  The book du jour my 2 year has me read to her lately is a princess book and it ends with a princess and prince running down the steps of a castle after the wedding.  Trivia question: name the Disney movies that actually show married people?  You could list “Up” (although the wife dies), “the Incredibles”, are there others?  All I know is you’ll not find married people in a princess movie.  “Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Cinderalla”, “Snow White”- these all end at “happily ever after”, as if a kiss and a promise will ensure smooth sailing.  And yet, trouble arises.  Tim Keller of Redeemer Pres. in NYC wrote this amazing article about marriage- “We never marry the right person.”  Keller writes, “The hard times of marriage drive us to experience more of the transforming love of God. But a good marriage will also be a place where we experience more of this kind of transforming love at a human level.”  His point?  Marriage is difficult.  Marriage is beautiful.  We’re called to the struggle.

Here’s what I’m learning slowly after 13 years with Heather.  I love my wife.  I love her more now than when I first met her when I was 21 years old.  I love her more now than when I proposed by the waterfall in Spokane when I was 22.  I love her more now than at the birth of our first child after a delirious 25 hours of labor.  I love her now more than when we held each other tight after our son Fisher had died at 9 months in utero and Heather delivered him through the night only to say goodbye.  These are highlights…these are days…these are points in the journey.  The call to marriage is a lifetime of average days…of good and bad…happy and sad.  People throw around the phrase “marriage takes work” and though I agree, I think what people mean is marriage takes patience.  And marriage takes commitment.  And mostly, marriage takes grace.  For grace is the best term of being accepted and loved even when you don’t deserve it.  Even on your bad days.

May grace reign in your home as you step into the Christmas season.  If you are married, may grace for your partner dominate your life.  And if you are unmarried, may you feel Christ’s grace in a new way this Christmas season.  We celebrate at Christmas the very arrival of grace.  God looked down and sent His son Jesus because humans just couldn’t get it right without God’s presence here on earth and in our hearts.  God saw that we needed a new way.  May your life mirror this grace and may your relationships thrive because you are able to extend this same grace towards all who you love.

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Letter to my son…no matter what.

In Family and Marriage,God's great love on October 23, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

It is the middle of the night and I’m holding my baby.  My son Schuyler has just turned a month old and we’re remembering again what it feels like to wake up every 2 hours.  My wife Heather is doing all the hard work of nursing him every few hours but in the last week we’ve settled into a bit of a routine where I take the baby starting at about 4am and give him a breast-milk bottle of breakfast and let him sleep away from Mama and let her have 3-4 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  On this morning, the baby can’t quite get comfortable after a 3am feeding so at 3:30 we tucked Mama in and Schuyler and I hung out for a few hours.  I rocked him for a good 30 minutes while he just watched me, sucking his pacifier, his eyes intently gazing into mine.  His face is still mostly expressionless; he’s yet to muster up his first smile, and these days he’s content to just watch.  He watches me, he watches the other 3 kids as they dance and twirl and carry on, and mostly he watches his mama.  This boy is a watcher.  He seems to be a deep thinker, with a sweet and quiet demeanor.  As I comforted him to sleep and laid him in his crib just past 4am, I wrote down some thoughts I don’t want to forget.  This letter is for him- but in some ways- it’s a reminder for all of us on the amazing, difficult, and transformative journey of parenthood.  

Dear Son:

Skye- my son- you have just turned 1 month old.  And though I wasn’t sure how our family of 5 would transition to 6, it now seems as if you have always been with us.  You just fit the whole Sund clan so perfectly.  Its like God had already prepared our hearts for the spot you now hold.  It is so beautiful.  And as we share our love with you and get to know you, your mama and I are wowed by your life.  I’ve done a lot of thinking in the last weeks about some things I want to teach you and tell you to hold onto.  So here is some advice from your father…I hope you are able to remember it for all your days.

As I held you and rocked you this morning, I spent a good long time looking into your eyes and wondering what kind of man you will become.  Your eyes are so dark and beautiful.  What kinds of wonderful things will you see?  What will your eyes behold?  You have a lifetime of adventure before you.  You will see great things.  Remember to keep looking.  Don’t be content with just skin-deep observations or judging others by first impressions.  Be a man who truly sees others as they really are.  Look deep.  The people I know that live the best lives are those that have developed an ability to really see.

Schuyler, your mom and I pray for you every day.  We want you to be a man who loves God in his heart and displays that love by serving others and changing the world.  When King David was dying, he gave these wise words to his son Solomon: “As for you my son, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts.  If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.  Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be courageous and act.”  I hope you have my faith son.  I have seen a lot of people try to live life on their own and it just isn’t how we’re wired by God to live.  We’re called to follow the One who made us.  Follow Him!  Seek Him…the bible says He will let you find Him.  Cling to that promise.  In the verse David is telling his son Solomon to build a literal house, as he was charging his son to build a great temple for God to live in.  And Solomon built it.

I don’t care what you build with your life son, whatever profession your choose or vocation your end up doing.  But build something great with your life, in your relationships, in your service to others; make your life beautiful by displaying God to the world.  That is your highest calling.  David also told his son some words I want to share with you: “Be strong and courageous and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you.  He will not fail you nor forsake you.”  Skye, God is with you.  You can be strong not by your own will or own accomplishments, but what God has already done in you and wants to do through you.  Never forget- God is near.  Honor and serve Him and in this way your life will be greater than you ever imagined.

I need you to know, as a pastor’s son, the world will put pressure on you that you must look a certain way or act a certain way.  Disregard other’s false judgments on who you are.  Look only to God and cling to the values of your family, but feel free to carve your own path.  Your mama and I will love you no matter what.  We are prepared to love you even if your choices don’t look like ours, no matter whom you choose to love, no matter what you choose to do.  You will make mistakes- we’re prepared to stand by your side no matter how bad the consequences are.  You will hurt and we’re prepared to hold you until you can walk on your own again.  And you will sometimes fall- and we promise to help you get up again.  We love you son.  I love you.  I look forward to watching you become the man that you will grow to be.  I look forward to spending time together and teaching you about fishing, and the ocean, and relationships and serving others and everything else.  I’m not perfect son, but I will share with you what I’ve learned over the years about living the awesome adventure of following Jesus.

The reality is that though David said those good words to Solomon, and Solomon followed God and did great things early in his life, Solomon eventually left a life of following God.  He disrespected women and had almost a 1000 wives or partners or relationships.  He disrespected his father by becoming an oppressive ruler to the nation of Israel.  And he disrespected God by building shrines to other Gods and worshipping many other Gods (even one that was a God of child sacrifice).  Son, there are moments when you’ll be tempted to turn away, to listen to the Lie that God isn’t real, that our family doesn’t believe in you, that goodness can’t win in the end.  Cling to the truth.  Seek God.  Love others.  Do not depart from the way that Jesus taught.  As Jesus said, “I came to bring you Life, and life abundantly.”

I’m thankful for your life, baby boy.  I promise to stand with you forever…no matter what.  I came across this parenting manifesto recently and it speaks pretty well of the promises I have made to you.  Enjoy.  I promise to love you with all that I am.

-Papa

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On a tree like this

In God's great love,Jesus,Practicing Solitude,Spiritual Practices,The Journey on August 23, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: ,

At the end of my self-sufficiency is the place where Christ can finally begin.  When I can stop, Christ begins.  How often do I fail to live into this?  Many of us claim that in Christ alone is our strength, to quote the worship song.  But do others fail at remembering this as often as I do?

Failure and frustration and worries abound.  Between fears of balancing work and play and the fatigue of an entire summer spent working 2 jobs and not doing enough rest.  It’s easy for me to feel “not enough.”  I’m “not enough” as a businessman, as a pastor, as a husband, as a father.  I’ve been struggling with anxiety and fear, self doubt and frustration.  Why does it feel like I’m not doing “good enough” in any one sphere of my life?  Am I alone in these self doubts and fears?

This has been a theme in past weeks- until words of a friend come back to me.  It’s Thursday at a coffee shop and he shares with me the same words from 1 John I had shared with him a few months back: 1 John 3:19-22:  “We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  Beloved, if your heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.”  Did you catch it?  “God is greater than our heart.”  God is greater than my worries.  God is greater than my fears.  God is greater than what I try to do on my own.  This same scripture I offered up a few months back to a friend in need of more confidence, was repeated back to me at just the right time.

I’m back at the fishing Lodge now and yesterday was another “not enough” day.  Needing a reminder, I head off for a walk for peace and restoration.  I end up in the back of our 40 acres- in an empty patch of the forest off the beaten track of the nature trail. I follow the path under fallen spruce trees and through native grasses and I enter a stand of new growth alder.  And then it hits me; I have entered a sanctuary.  Away from all else that distracts, it’s just me and my Maker.

The sun streams down in ribbons between the stand of coastal alder trees.  The smell of dew and fog hangs in the air like a sweet perfume.  I stand here for a minute and blink- ‘how am I the only one to receive this gift?’  I feel myself letting go of that which is plaguing me as I pray to God.  “God,” I pray, “You are greater.”

Amidst all the trees is one particularly of interest.  ‘On a tree like this,’ the Spirit whispers in my ear, ‘is what I died for you on.  So you don’t have to strive and worry and try to do it on your own.  When you stop, I can finally begin.’

On a tree like this- the world changed.  Because of the gift of Christ, we don’t have to pretend that we are strong enough and wise enough and perfect.  Christ’s perfection, refined in His sacrifice and death and resurrection, is enough for me to hope on.  I stay for a few minutes and feel myself becoming more centered.

The truth is, these are brief moments.  We don’t live back there amidst the alder.  We live in the real world of real worries and real obligations that are constantly pulling at us and telling us to be more, do more, accomplish more.  And if you are anything like me, you might lose your bearings from time to time as you try to be “enough”.

As a reminder today, Christ taught me again that His worth is enough.  On a tree like this…my life changed.  I’m confident He did that for you too.

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The Compass

In Family and Marriage,God's great love,Hurt,Keeping it Real,Questions,Struggles with faith on August 7, 2012 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

“You think you have problems?”  This is the line from my friend Jenni’s recent FB post that stopped me in my tracks:

“The joke in our house is “You think you have problems?”… because we know we don’t. We have a life full of blessings. We may have sadness and grief but it is only because of the joy and love that have blessed us. I’m so thankful that I was able to grow that little angel and then spend 25 beautiful hours with her… what an amazing gift for a simple girl like me. I wouldn’t trade one minute of the joy for less sadness, I am so grateful for each of my children.”

Yes Jenni is grateful for each of her children.  But the difference than other people with this same perspective, is Jenni has just delivered a baby girl Abby and after 25 hours, watched her pass away.  Jenni and her husband Trever have two healthy children but their third was diagnosed with Trisomy 18 halfway through their pregnancy.  Some people terminate these pregnancies; Trevor and Jenni chose to nurture her and love her and let her body develop in utero- even though they knew Abby wouldn’t survive more than a few days in the world.  You can read their journey on their blog here.  These people have such strength, not of their own, but clinging to faith in God.  A few days after baby Abby’s passing, Jenni wrote:
“[Please pray] for our continued strength is all I can think of. That we have the strength to enjoy each day, be present and patient with our children, feel the grief when it comes and generally not hide from ourselves, our pain and our joy.”

Though they are hurting- and the hurt of a lost child knows no greater pain- they cling to the hope and power of Christ to hold them together.  I’m humbled and encouraged by their example of true faith in the hardest of times.

I have another friend in our church who underwent a double mastectomy on Friday.  I ran into her at church last week and she grabbed me, with tears standing at the corners of her eyes, and said, “thank you, that was the perfect message for me.  We are clinging to Christ even though we don’t understand what’s next.”

See I had just preached on Colossians 2 and that Paul teaches us to have “hearts that are encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is Christ Himself.”  Paul’s encouragement to ‘cling to the knowledge of mystery’ seems to be a paradox- until we acknowledge that Jesus is the one thing we can seek and cling to in this life despite the great cloud of unknowing we face when struggles overwhelm us.  In the sermon, I told the story of being a new fishing guide at 13 when I took my clients 20 minutes in my boat into the fog and because of a variety of reasons, I took my eyes off of the compass.  Without radar or GPS on the boat, the one navigation tool I possessed was the boat’s compass.  But I let my eyes focus on the distractions instead of the one tool that could actually get me to where I was going.  The dense fog, my fishing customer’s apprehension, the passing cruise ship, and a huge tide moved our boat out of position and we very nearly got very, very lost.  It wasn’t until I saw a glimpse of hope in a far away shore and once again refocused on my compass, than I got to where I was going.

My point?  For many of us, we take our eyes off our compass.  We don’t mean to do this and believe me, it happens to us all.  We allow our faith to become a Sunday ritual; our times of prayer and bible reading get laid aside for more important tasks like checking email, doing housework, or checking Facebook.  But slowly, our eyes drift off the one source of life:  Jesus.  The bible tells us Jesus is the one compass that can lead us through life.   Need to be reminded of this?  Re-read Luke 7 and watch how Jesus heals people, takes pity on people misjudged in society, and is the one true source of real life.  Jesus ends Luke 7 with these simple words: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Is your life one marked by Jesus’ peace right now?  Are you putting faith in Him as the compass to lead you somewhere?  Or are you clinging to the changing currents of hard situations or less than perfect circumstances?  I know 2 women right now who are a true inspiration to me- teaching me that Jesus can still be the compass in the darkest of times.  I hope their story is an encouragement to you as well.