Monday, 27 February 2012

A Grandmother's Prayers

On the other side of the world a woman who I have never met has been faithfully praying for her family.

Our bibles lay side by side and open to the book of Luke on the dining room table, while light from a February thaw streams in the window.  Notes cover both our pages.  Mine with the dates of personal spiritual markers and notations, old and new.  Hers is newly marked with Korean letters and reminders of what those words mean.  Both highlighted with lessons and things that we have learned and are learning from Jesus.

Her fervent study inspires me.  Everyday, she slowly pours over the words from both her Korean and English bible.  Her questions are thoughtful and honest, both with her struggle to understand the English language and to understand Jesus. "Do you believe all these stories?  Everything that it says He did?" she asks.  I nod my head and we go back to the beginning of Luke.

"Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed." ~Luke 1:1-4

"I want to believe." she confesses, "But some of the miracles....I just can't imagine."  Her life of studying science and chemistry weigh on her mind.  How can the things she is learning be proven?  I encourage her to keep praying.  If you are seeking Him you will find Him. 

"Can you tell me about this passage?" she asks as her eyes look up from her bible.

“I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” ~ Luke 12:49-53

I encourage her to tell me what she thinks it means.  "Jesus is the dividing line," she says.  I nod in agreement.  "Why do you think that is?"  I ask her.  "You are different when you believe in Him and you cannot be the same again. Those who believe will be with Jesus forever right? And those who don't will not."  And then before I can respond she says, "My family is already divided.  My Grandmother believes in Jesus but my family does not."  
It is an admission that comes with the knowledge of understanding that no matter what she decides the division is real and it has already affected those she loves.  I can see her heart hurting before my eyes.  I share about how my family is divided and about those that I love who do not believe in Jesus.  "I keep praying everyday that they will make a decision for Jesus," I confess.  And then her confession, "My grandmother prays for me.  She always tells me that I need turn to Jesus but I didn't really understand."  

In that moment, my heart is intertwined with a woman on the other side of the world, who I have never met.  I can imagine her praying for her family and for my friend. I am overwhelmed that God would see fit to bring Yuri here to our house to study English and now to learn about Jesus.

Three women now pray.  One is searching and studying, seeking with her heart and longing to know more.  One is praying beside and for the one seeking each day. And on the other side of the world a grandmother continues to pray for her family.  Would you join us?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Friends - Encouragment to Persevere

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. 
~ Hebrews 23-25

Some friends know.  They hear it in your voice when you declare that you are "fine".  They see it in your eyes, when you smile.  They are moved by the Holy Spirit to pray for you when you need it the most.

We are an unlikely group. We now live in three different cities and are at very different stages in our lives.  Some still with small children at home, some are at the empty nest stage and some are in a bit of  both of these stages.  Our personalities are on polar ends of the spectrum, some are shy and reserved and would never buy anything with leopard print or crazy colours and some of us...well let's just say some of us would love to have a leopard print couch in our house.  All of us have crazy, busy lives.  All of us love Jesus.  We are a group of women that only God could bring together.  

A couple of months ago when I was declaring that I was "fine".  One of these sisters of mine had other ideas.  She arrived at my door, with another friend and a hat in her hand,  a bright orange sombrero.  I knew in an instant that we were not just going for tea and I was in trouble.

"Put it on."  She declared.  "You have to wear it all afternoon."  Oh no, she has lost her mind, I thought.  (At this point you might be guessing that she is the one who would love a leopard print couch in her house and you would be right!) "I can't fit in the car with this hat on."  I complained.  "Okay you can take it off for the ride. "  she said with a sweet smile.  My second friend just giggled. This scenario happens a lot.  You should see when all of us can be together with our other friend (who has a palate for feather boas).  Again, only God could hold this eclectic group together.

Cheri the mastermind behind our adventure

I asked a number of times where we were headed, secretly hoping that it was a secluded place, where I would not have to see anyone with a crazy sombrero on my head.  I tried to reason with them.  I am trying to help Jason start a church here.  "What will people think if I have a silly sombrero on my noggin?"  "Maybe they will ask you about it.", Cheri countered.  She continued to drive and I knew it was hopeless.  I was doomed to wear an orange sombrero.  Finally, we arrived at our destination and my sweet friend Louise, who is a hospitality queen, pulled out fabulous trays of food from the back seat. 
Louise and her fabulous eats!
And so, an afternoon picnic commenced.  An afternoon of good food, heartfelt prayer, crazy picture taking and much laughter that was good for the soul.  And yes, a poor man drove by on his bicycle and almost fell off when he saw my lovely sombrero and Louise's parasol.  We giggled and wished that our friend Michelle could have been with us to celebrate and see the sights.

Cheri and Louise

And the lovely sombrero

There is that smile that I see so often when Michelle and Cheri do something crazy

Cheri's idea to get a pic on a log that over hangs the water

I thought it was not very safe - hmmm

She is truly crazy! But I love her.

I am thankful for my friends.  I wish we lived closer and we were able to get together more often.  In fact, right next store would be great, but for now God has us in different cities and on different journeys.  They still ask how I am and even though I still say I am "fine" it is actually more acurate these days.  Who knew an orange sombrero could be such a great gift!   Maybe it would make a lovely present for someone that you know.  Persevere my friends!  Encourage one and other!  Don't give up getting together to pray and to laugh and to spur each other on.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

When Your Heart is Slow to Learn

It has been while since I have written.  Life in our McGibbon Zoo has been full of change over the past year and somewhere along the way, I forgot that I had things to share.

 I keep telling myself, I have been through this before.  I am not new to church planting.  This is the third church plant that Jason and I have been a part of helping to start.   During the first, in Oakville, where we lived and grew up, we learned and watched others pour their lives into their new community.  We loved what God was doing and joined in. After four years, God began to call our hearts to Milton and we left that church that we loved and moved our family to a new place to share with others what we had found.  For the next six years we worked with our friends, Jim and Joy to plant another church.  We love our church in Milton and so when God began to work in our hearts for Hamilton I wrestled with God.  I stomped my feet.  I reasoned.  I cried.  Having done this twice now,  I knew what it took to plant a church from nothing.  To find a new house, to get a house ready to sell, to help kids leave their friends and get a family settled in a new place, to leave my friends and my safe church family, to go without a salary and financial security, all the while never losing sight of God.  But the burden for the people of Hamilton got stronger.  Finally, my fears and concerns began to pale in comparison to the fact that I did not want to miss God.  I surrendered.

So nine months ago, we moved into our new house, in our new city.  I have been through the honeymoon stage of discovering my community and the amazing things of living in an urban centre.  Having only one car in our house I love the freedom of being able to walk everywhere.   We met lots of neighbours on our street and everyone seems to know one and other.  It didn't feel like a big city and actually reminded me of a small town where people borrow sugar or milk when they run out and the egg man delivers right to your door, bright and early on Wednesday mornings.  In the warmer weather, people sit on their porches and watch the kids play in the streets.  Our kids made friends and declared they love it here.  Jason started to meet people, build trust and have spiritual conversations. God began to provide for our financial needs in miraculous ways.  We began to see again how He is never late.  Sometimes right close to the wire but we have never missed a mortgage payment!  Those first few months were full of discovering, learning and responding in joy to God.

The fall hit and homeschooling started.  We opened our home to a Korean student and my days were filled with laundry, making meals for seven, schooling kids from ages 6-16, teaching our new student English, helping her to feel at home here in a new country, explaining to her who Jesus was and trying to help and support Jason to plant the church.  The new year brought another student from Korea to learn about Jesus and English.  Eight living in our house plus our two crazy dogs.  Even for me this was a crowd.  From the moment my feet hit the floor, I was running until I fell into bed at night.  I felt like I could never catch up.

In the fall, I knew we were through the honeymoon phase and I was missing my family, my friends, my church family and Sunday morning worship in Milton.  We spent and still spend Sunday mornings trying to meet people out and about in the neighbourhood.    I missed gathering together as a corporate body (larger than our family) to open God's word together and to sing praises of thankfulness.  The pendulum was swinging and all I could feel was the darkness of our new city.  I was and still am overwhelmed by the poverty, addiction, mental health issues and homelessness of those who just live a few streets over.  There is a 20 year difference in life expectancy between my neighbourhood and the one in the next postal code.  How is that possible?  I cannot forget about the people who come in the middle of the night and pick through my recycling bins to look for bottles and cans to return.  Or the people who aimlessly wander through the streets having no place to go.  I have no experience with any of these poverty driven issues that affect so many of our neighbours.  I grew up in the suburban safety of a middle class Christian home with parents that were cheer leaders for everything that I tried to accomplish.  I have nothing in common with those on the margins of society and in comparison my life has been perfect.  Why didn't God call someone more qualified?

To others in our city, Jesus is a bad word used only by crazy fanatics who want to push their fundamental agenda on the rest of society.  Some people looked at us like we were uneducated and just didn't understand real life.  They were polite but I could feel their pity and their immense disapproval.  Their firm belief that churches are exclusive and closed minded overshadowed any conversation that we would have.  I was feeling like a square peg in a round hole.  What was I doing here?   The small victories, the start of our first house church and the quiet way God was moving was being crowded out in my heart and mind.  The immensity of the task that we have been given was crushing my spirit.  How can one family proclaim Jesus and bring His best to our city of over five hundred thousand?

"For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens." Ephesians 6:12  

I knew in my mind that this was the battle that was being fought but my heart....oh my heart is still slow to learn.  What do you do when your heart will not recognize the unseen?  When your mind knows that God is faithful, that He equips the called,  that He works best when we lean into Him and can not rely on our own ingenuity.  My mind knows that I need to be less and He needs to be more but my heart...oh my heart is slow to learn, it is often distracted and discouraged and forgets easily.  And so I keep reading God's word, I memorize Jesus instructions, they are becoming my mantra when I can not see the unseen.  I stay on me knees, recognizing that I need Him in every moment, big and small, and everyday I look intentionally for His gifts.  They are always there and have always been there I just need to look.

The pendulum is swinging back again, more to the middle.  God's joy is bubbling up around me.  My eyes are seeing the unseen.  Jesus is moving in people, changing lives and making Himself known.   Even in the exhausting business of our daily life,  His light is breaking through the darkness.  And even on days when my heart is still slow to respond, I know that God is working, still faithful in the work that He has begun in me and through even this has given me something to share.