{re}fresh

Month: September, 2014

The Knife Edge

by Wendy

Knife Edge Mt. Kahtadin

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

I shook my head, lips tight in frustration, and stared through the wood to the pond beyond. “Why?” I blurted to my husband. “Why are there always two camps who can’t see the other side?”

My heart split down the middle, aching, yearning for my friends to know the truth I’d long since grabbed: healing was a paradox, neither guaranteed nor evasive. Stuck between two factions, I watched my friends battle for their lives, neither side willing to cede territory. Neither camp, it seemed, had theological or emotional space for the other.

One group could not abide the thought of suffering, of Jesus not healing. The other shuddered at the presumption of expecting healing to occur. I stood in the metaphorical middle. Batted between two extremes, my heart was the little white ball in a ping-pong match, but the stakes were cruelly high and the game to be won or lost was life itself.

I was a sideline sitter but I was not objective. One friend died while her friends applied Scripture like a band-aid, commanding healing. Another lived a tormented life while her praying friends would only listen and comfort, afraid of the audacious presumption that healing was available on more than a miraculous once-in-a-lifetime basis.

No stranger to healing, I’d seen major illnesses cured, injuries mended and splints thrown away. I’d also grieved at too-early funerals and ranted at God when chronic illnesses didn’t relent. I could live with any outcome, but I couldn’t live with arrogant resistance. The extremes threatened sanity and dignity and I could not fall off into either camp, but I couldn’t straddle the knife-edge in the middle, either.

The knife-edge. My husband told me about his teenage climbing adventures on the Knife Edge at Mt. Katahdin. Aptly named and just three feet wide for about three tenths of a mile, the high rocky ridge fell off into cliffs on both sides. One could only traverse this summit trail with three out of four hands and feet touching the ground. I couldn’t imagine climbing, or even crawling, that great divide. Yet here I was, balanced on just as precarious a middle point.

The charismatics couldn’t fathom that Jesus sits and grieves with us in our pain; but the evangelicals wouldn’t understand that Jesus often heals, and we participate in the process. My conflicted heart burst out in words. “What do I DO, God?”

“Be the answer,” Jesus whispered, nudging my intuition

But “Be the answer” meant “be uncomfortable.” “Be the answer” meant going against the grain no matter what camp I was in. It meant praying for healing – or commanding it, if that’s what the Lord showed me to do – in a most unwelcoming environment. It also meant suffering and weeping with the unhealed ones while their friends walked away, shaking their heads at our lack of faith. And worse yet, it meant watching and grieving as needy hurting Christians, expecting miracles of healing, had to walk out a process of learning emotional maturity instead of claiming victory.

No, this was not an answer I liked.

It was, however, the answer I got. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the two groups move closer. And change might or might not happen. However, it was the way the Lord walked between the timid and the presumptuous, the passive and the arrogant, the uninterested and the taunting. He was always in the middle. Why did I expect to rest comfortably in one camp?

And so I climbed back up on the knife-edge, imagining my two feet and one hand holding me steady, the other arm reaching up to Jesus, and both ears and one heart listening for His opportunities. Who knows what small prayer or comforting hug might bring change to one or the other of the battling armies? It was worth the effort, if even one warrior climbed up on the knife-edge to ask “is there another way?”

And you? Where are you on this mountain of change? Would you join a friend on the knife-edge, balancing in the middle?

 

Window Catchers

by mandyade

windowtospring

Hearing God’s voice is like breathing; we can all do it. The Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t understand Jesus, yet the ordinary people were able to connect with Him. It wasn’t the particularly ‘spiritual’ people, but the honest and willing people who were able to discern and respond to God.

There is a story of a woman who had many broken relationships and who lived with her boyfriend. She probably didn’t have much experience with hearing God’s voice. One day she went to get water and she met Jesus! Her normal day could have continued to be normal, but she recognized the moment.

If she responded by continuing her chore she would have missed the window. But instead, this ‘unspiritual’ lady discerned that this was not a normal moment. God had given her a window and she needed to catch it.
She left her water jar at the well for something greater and went into town to call the people.

Earlier that day she had come to the well with a physical need for water, but she also carried within her heart a deep thirst for more. She had learned to live with this unquenchable need, but now Jesus filled her thirst! She was so impacted that she put aside her natural need and went ahead to share this new satisfying water.

The Sadducees and Pharisees had spent their lives learning the law of God, yet they could not see like this ‘unspiritual’ woman. This lady understood the weight of a window moment. She relinquished her normal day in order to catch the new window that God had provided.

Windows from heaven flash through time, if we don’t catch them, they may not come again. Often when ‘God opportunities’ arise we may be unsure how to respond…here are some keys:

1. Step into faith: If we continue life as normal until we know a clear plan, we may miss the window because most often a plan will not be clear until we step into the window by faith.

2. Respond to God’s invitation: God will anoint our stepping out even when it’s not perfect. If we wait for God to pull us into the window we may wait forever, because when God shows us a window He invites us to respond next. Our honest response will open the window and let heaven in!

3. Be flexible: Often we are called to set aside normal life and reschedule our plans for a season in order to catch the window.

Jesus wept these words over Jerusalem:

 “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:43-44)

Do you recognize heaven’s windows in your life past or present? How have you responded to these God-portunities?

To learn more about Mandy, please visit our Contributors Page.

Move Your Heart

by Rob Dunne

heartmove

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:51

Under other circumstances, this was no big deal. However, the family’s future in the music industry was in jeopardy. Greg thought about cutting his brother out of the group, but his parents’ wisdom and insight helped him realize the importance of family unity. He quickly went to work on writing a new song that would take advantage of the quirky transition Peter was facing. Rather than treating it as a liability, they used his cracking voice to their advantage and incorporated it in to the song. The Brady’s were a success!

Like Peter’s voice, life is constantly subject to change. People close to us move away. You are blessed with a promotion at work. Your best friend gets married. The pastor who has taught you the Word of God may retire or be called to shepherd a new congregation. Many people resist or downright hate change. They fail to see the benefit of it in their lives.

A day is coming when we as believers will experience the ultimate change. This will not be a gradual change; it will happen in an instant. Previously deceased believers will rise from their graves and get their glorified bodies. Likewise, those of us fortunate enough to be alive when Jesus returns will immediately be changed and become like Him. Every follower of Christ, past and present, will gather in the clouds and meet Jesus face to face. What a day that will be!

I used to be very pre-occupied with the return of Jesus. While I believe that those who eagerly await His return will receive blessings in the age to come, such anticipation can be a distraction. If we see Jesus’ return as a means of escaping life’s difficulties, we will miss the point of the Christian life. God expects us to change. He wants us to become love so that we can love others. Our willingness to love even in the most difficult of circumstances is what reveals the heart of God to the world.

In the re-worked song, Peter sang, “When it’s time to change you’ve got to rearrange. Move your heart to what your gonna be.” The lyrics of this song are curiously prophetic. As we anticipate the change from our mortal bodies in to our glorified ones, we need to properly arrange our priorities and allow the Holy Spirit to stir up love in our hearts and move us in the direction of becoming love. If we do this, then the Lord will find a worthy bride upon His soon return!

To learn more about Rob, please visit our Contributors Page.

Letting Go: a Hard Sacrifice

by Dawn Aldrich

lettinggoIn the silence I willed my aching feet up the step ladder one more time. My weary heart sank as I dunked the paint brush deep into the sunny yellow paint. One more step. One more stroke. Just. one. more.

Twenty-five years prior and five months pregnant with my daughter, I jumped up the rungs of that ladder feeling ten pounds lighter than today. You see, then I was painting God’s gift to us–the house I longed for…prayed for…every time I strolled by. It was the perfect gift where my husband and I raised our two children, entertained friends and ministered hope. It was a true desire of my heart that God wrapped up with a shiny red bow long ago.

And now? Now, God has asked me to let it go, to change course, to release it all.

With every coat of paint I rolled over sweet memories hidden inside my heart. The weight of all the sacrifice ahead grew heavier with every stroke. How could I release this perfect gift? How could I let it go and allow strangers in? Would they know how precious this house has been or would they just consider it a place to hang their hat?

But then God whispered, “I have bigger plans. There’s something more. There’s something new. Let. It. Go.”

You see, I’d been white-knuckling this house –wrapping my fists around it and hanging on with all my might as though without it I’d lose my true identity; like it was my source of blessing rather than the blessing.

So God reminded me that He was my source–is my source–and this house was but a very good gift. Now He is asking me to let it go; to sacrifice something very good for something even better.

In the midst of hard sacrifices, God calls us to worship; to refocus our attention off of ourselves and onto His goodness; to offer up our thanksgiving for His faithfulness in our past and thanksgiving for all His promises for our future.

“For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

So, right there on that ladder, I transferred my focus from myself to God’s goodness and worshiped God with every roll of the paint, thanking Him for the life lived between these walls and the family He helped us raise. And then? My attitude changed. I realized God wasn’t asking me to give up something very good for something even less, but rather to release the hold this home has had on my heart and to prepare for change.  Something better. Something lovely and freeing and full of His hope. Because that’s how God rolls.

The paint dried and every surface reflected the Son just right. We staged the rooms in picture-perfect-excellence and manicured every corner of the yard. It was time to release the gift and let strangers in.

Have you ever been asked to make a hard sacrifice? If so, was it easy to release that something? How did God use that sacrifice for His glory?

Precious Lord, thank you for the blessings. Thank you for the years of family memories and your faithfulness in providing all our needs every single day. Now we release these treasures back to you. We freely offer your gifts as a sacrifice of praise to use as you see fit. Prepare our hearts for the next chapter, the next adventure, the next new thing. Help our eyes to stay fixed on you.  Amen.

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