Worthy of my trust

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It’s not a good sign when you cry all through the worship at church. My heart was sore. I felt discouraged, tired, and disappointed. If I hadn’t had a commitment right after church, I would have attended bedside Baptist and never left the comfort of my pjs.

Well, maybe it is a good sign. I needed to meet God. I needed to hear from Him. I needed His strength and encouragement. I needed a place that would not allow me to wallow. I really wanted to wallow.

Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Psalm 54:2 (NIV)

Listen, God – I’m desperate. Don’t be too busy to hear me. Psalm 54:2 (MSG)

It is a comfort to my soul that my God is one who listens to me. My place of pain is not ignored by Him. He wants to hear from me. David, the one who was known as a man after God’s own heart, felt like sometimes God didn’t hear him. He begged for God’s attention. He desired open communication with Him.

My God wants me to take my eyes off my circumstances and focus on Him. Not because He wants to diminish my emotions, but because when I look up I gain a better perspective. Rarely is the fantastic view seen at the bottom of the hiking trail. Rather, climbing up to the top reveals the breathtaking landscape. It wasn’t that the hike wasn’t beautiful all on its own, but the spectacular is hard to see in the midst of the work on the way up.

Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me. I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good. Psalm 54:4, 6 (NIV)

Oh, look! God’s right here helping! God’s on my side I’m ready now to worship, so ready. I thank you, God – you’re so good. Psalm 54:4, 6 (MSG)

This is the God I trust. The One who comes through and lifts my head so that my praise is earnest, sincere, and honest. He’s always there walking with me. I crave His presence.

Bethel Worship’s Lion and the Lamb

All Sons and Daughters Great are You Lord

Hillsong Cornerstone

Lincoln Brewster Everlasting God

Looking

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I knew they were somewhere. They had to be. I had worn this particular pair of pants with that certain belt just a day or so before. But I had come home in a rush. I had to be somewhere else – NOW! My brain turned the auto pilot function on and the pants and belt were put in a very safe location.

I looked. I checked the closet – nothing. I checked the laundry – not their either. I searched through the drawer – they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Bags were dug through, items shuffled around and no pants, no black belt could be found.

I should have looked more carefully! It’s amazing how multiple pairs of black pants all look the same when they are close to each other. Turns out, my auto pilot brain had done the right thing and hung the pants where I thought I had. I just needed to get past the skinny pair and the jeans to get to what I was really looking for.

God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Psalm 53:2 (NIV)

God sticks his head out of heaven. He looks around. He’s looking for someone not stupid – one man, even, God-expectant, just one God-ready woman. Psalm 53:2 (MSG)

My God is looking. He’s not looking for a certain pair of pants. He’s looking at His creation – those made in His image and likeness. While I spend far too long looking at the outward appearance, my God is looking at the heart. He wades through the masks, the facades carefully placed on the outside, and He is seeking the truth of my heart.

The truth of my heart is not always a lovely thing. Under personal inspection, I don’t always like what I find there. Jealousy and envy can coat it in a thick green slime. Anger, frustration and bitterness can colour it red, hard and mean. Challenges and new experiences sometimes paint it a yellowish tinge that is nothing like a sunny disposition but decidedly cowardly. My heart can be incredibly fickle, flitting from one extreme to the other, incapable of making the decision that is called for.

It’s not always like that. Sometimes its tender and empathetic. It can be helpful and spirited. At times, it’s encouraging and hopeful. On the best days it’s God-tuned, God-sensitive, carefully listening to and for His voice. Desiring to please Him, not for an atta-girl, but out of a heart longing for obedience demonstrated in love and adoration.

He’s looking at my heart. He desires me to be God-expectant. That’s the spirit He’s looking for. I long to be the tender hearted God seeker that He desires. The child of God who is becoming more and more like the Master – sounding like Him, speaking His words, listening with His heart, moving my hands and feet to where He wants me to be. Tender. Not the tender where my feelings are easily squished and damaged, but the tender that feels His gentle nudges and then obeys.

He’s looking. Not to judge or condemn. He’s looking to find me ready to be moulded and shaped. He’s looking for our relationship to be rich and deep. God-ready. Abundant. Full.

Amanda Cook’s Pieces

Of life and olive oil

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But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints. Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV)

And I’m an olive tree, growing green in God’s house. I trusted in the generous mercy of God then and now. I thank you always that you went into action. And I’ll stay right here, your good name my hope, in company with your faithful friends. Psalm 52:8-9 (MSG)

I don’t live in olive tree country! As the snow flew past my window today, the subtlety of autumn has dissipated and we are left with the reality that winter is here. If there’s an olive tree to be found in my part of the world, it’s growing inside.

However, I had the luxury to visit Basilippo – a family run olive orchard in Spain. I became an olive oil snob right then and there. We were taken on a tour of the facility. How the olives are harvested. We toured the processing plant. We were taken through the shipping area. We were pulled into a room where little blue jars of oil were waiting for us. It was time to sample! Such care is taken to ensure that the quality of the oil remains. The oil is photo-sensitive so the opaque jars made sense. As the oil is exposed to light the flavours change and the oil is more prone to spoil. A tasting does not begin with the mouth but rather the nose. A good olive oil smells like green tomatoes or freshly mown grass. This oil did not disappoint. Then the taste – absolutely delicious. I now smell my olive oil every time I go to use it. No green tomato or freshly cut grass smell – out it goes!

My life is a lot like an olive oil.

It all starts with a tree. The right amount of sunlight is needed for the tree to grow. Certain fertilizers work, others only harm the tender plant. The perfect amount of water, the right kind of soil, will help the tree reach maturity. Without the right conditions, if it gets too cold, the tree will be lost. In order for me to grow, some favourable conditions are required. Time with my Lord, a must. Time spent with others, a top priority. My growth rate is impacted when I willfully neglect the opportunities to be refined.

In order to be harvested, the fruit must grow on the tree. It’s not a process that occurs overnight. The growing season is precious. Each moment of sunlight is eagerly anticipated. Each drop of rain is carefully guarded. The learning experiences in my life are like that. The best learns, the ones I can’t get out of my head – those are the ones that seem to take the longest to acquire. Each part of the lesson, forming a unit of understanding, is essential for the next one to be built on. Those lessons are sometimes sunlight – coming easily. Other times, they are acquired in the thunderstorms and downpours of circumstances – some of them are hard to learn.

The tarps are spread out under the tree to catch the fruit. I sometimes have a good memory. I file the lesson away. The moment arrives for its application and I pull it out again for the memory to help guide the process I am in.

The tractor shakes the trunk. But sometimes, the memory bank forgets. Or I file that particular item away so well that there is no way I can ever retrieve it. Then a little more force is required. Those lessons, the ones that take multiple applications and tests to apply, I don’t like very much. I’ve usually dug in my heels, demanding my way, claiming that I know better and understand more. My trunk getting rudely shaken has a way of reminding me that I have much to learn. I have not arrived in any way, shape or form.

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But the end, result, the oil, that’s fantastic. It’s pungent, unmistakeable. The good stuff is not to be missed. When the lesson is applied by my God’s tender hand, when it sticks in my memory bank more than my craw, it’s good! It’s precious! It’s been worth the shaking and jolting, pressing and refining. It’s a beautiful thing.

I may not live in olive country, but I pray for a life that’s a high quality extra virgin olive oil. A life that’s spent in pursuit of the One who loves me best, delighting in His presence.

A new page

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There’s something about opening up a brand new notebook, one without anything written on the pages. The paper is crisp. No wrinkles, smudges or tears. It’s just waiting for words to be added.

My pencil hovers carefully over the first lines, waiting. Knowing that these are the first words that are going to be written in the book, I want to be careful that they are written right – the right slant, the right height, the right formation, just right. Somehow breaking in with those first words is a big deal! (Yes, I obsess much!) Those first written words set the tone, the atmosphere of that particular notebook. I want it to be the right reflection.

Sometimes, I long for a do-over. The scripted text didn’t look right. It didn’t feel right. The words that were recorded didn’t fit. Luckily, with a scribbler there’s the opportunity for that change. Turning the page helps. A fresh page, a new beginning. But sometimes, it seems that the only answer is to tear out the evidence and begin again.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Psalm 51:10 (MSG)

I’m so grateful my God is the God of new pages in the scribbler of my life. He’s the God of fresh starts. He knows me well. He knows the areas of my life that will provide the most temptation to forget Him. He knows that my memory is short and that I will willingly fill up my scribbler with all sorts of gibberish and nonsense that is not worth it. He knows that the scribbler of my life will get dropped in the mud, tea stained and bent out of shape. He knows I’ll even lose it sometimes.

But, He promises again and again that He will not abandon me. (Matthew 28:20) Instead He picks me up, dusts me off and starts over again. (Isaiah 1:18) He turns the page on the past and continues to move me forward clean page after clean page moulding me into His image and likeness. My God likes new pages, new starts, new beginnings. (Revelation 21:5) He knows the chaos that surrounds me. He knows the chaos I choose to make for myself. He must smile, knowing that, eventually, I will run out of my own steam and come back because He is the only one who can possibly make it right again. He does make it right again. I may have consequences to help me learn from the choices I’ve made but He delights in what is new and He delights in my desire to be with Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

A new page is waiting in the scribbler of my life. I choose to give the pen to my God. I love the permanent reminders of who He is. The page is all His.

Sometimes I’m like a seagull

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I offered the challenge to my learners. We’d been looking at the depth and extraordinariness of love that is described in I Corinthians 13:4-8a. I wondered aloud with them about how amazing God’s love is for us and all of the qualities it is marked by. The list is astounding – it is patient, kind, it doesn’t envy, boast or is proud, it never fails …

As we reflected, I was pondering my own love and was challenged in my spirit about the ways that my love for others does not line up with God’s love for me. Out of the love God has demonstrated to me, He asks, even requires, that I love others in a lavish way. Just as His love is extravagant, so mine is called to be. As I asked Jesus where my love falls short, the line “It does not envy” hit me right between the eyes.

Far too often, I live with a jealous love. A love that does not revel in the delights of others, but a love that observes and then pouts because that same blessing has not been granted to me. It’s not a quiet, unobtrusive pout either. It’s a full on, ostrich hanging off the lip kind of pout. I envy. I’m jealous. I’m frustrated with God that those same circumstances have not come into my life. While my eyes are completely fixated on my own selfish mine moments, I miss all the of the blessings that He is pouring into my life.

I was also reminded that every time I say “Mine,” I am claiming ownership, staking my possession. God set me to rights again about my feelings of control.

“I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.” Psalm 50:9-11 (NIV)

“But why would I want your blue-ribbon bull, or more and more goats from your herds? Every creature in the forest is mine, the wild animals on all the mountains. I know every mountain bird by name; the scampering field mice are my friends.” Psalm 50:9-11 (MSG)

My God is completely unlike the seagulls in Finding Nemo. While all they see is an opportunity to claim a meal, my God is reminding me that He is really and truly the One who is the Creator of all things. He formed each unique creature. He gave them all their wonderful quirks and idiosyncrasies. He created each amazing habitat. Nothing was beyond the scope of His imagination.

Every time I stamp my foot, demanding my share, I tell Him it’s not enough. He didn’t live up to my expectations. Since when have my expectations ever stood up to the immensity of who my God is? Instead, He’s placed me in this moment and in this time for a specific purpose. He’s placed the people in my life that He is asking me to rub shoulders with. He has granted me more blessings and provision than I can ever truly understand. He’s asked me to steward those blessings in such a way that His name is lifted high and praised. Because absolutely none of it is mine. It is most certainly all His. My every breath, my every opportunity, every gift, talent and moment is meant to be lived bringing glory to His name.

I pray for open hands. Hands that will loosely hold what I have been given with an eye to ways that it can bless others. I pray for eyes that are open. That I will see the needs and concerns of others. I ask for ears that hear, so that as I see needs, and listen to my God’s generous heart, I will obey as He calls me forward. There is no Mine. There is only His.

All Sons and Daughters Great Are You Lord