He’s Not Just a Quiet Time

I sat there, waiting for something to happen. On that front porch, overlooking a street and above was a violent pink and orange sunset with glory written all over it. Frustrated with myself I waited. Feeling for the first time in awhile, the freedom in doing nothing but what the very core of me wanted to do. Living in the present, and giving up on caring about anything to do with the past or the future. There was a grace upon me that I didn’t care to understand, all I wished was that it didn’t go away. I looked up at that sunset in which man couldn’t create and asked God why I was the way I was. I felt like Paul, in the midst of his OCD battle in Romans.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” 7:15

I couldn’t reason with myself as to why I’d get so inspired by people yet lose my commitments I had set for myself. WHY couldn’t I be that Christian. WHY couldn’t I love Jesus like that, for that amount of time in the mornings. I’d watch video after video sinking in the inspiration of Todd White, Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Ravi Zacharias… and somewhere in me I’d subconsciously tell myself, NOW I can live that way. This is what I have to do to be like them. Replicate their strategy and Jesus will give me the never-failing-healing-hand. He’ll give me His eyes and I’ll be able to prophesy over nations!

None of these predictions came to light. All I’d see the next day was a tired Haeli desiring to be the best and ideal woman God made her for, yet not being able to reach that potential, feeling too dry to pick up her Bible.

“So, God, why am I this way? Why do I know what I should do but make all the excuses to not do it? Why is loving people a drag? Why can’t I be who I know I’m supposed to be? Why do other people get to experience you like that?” Two words He said to me. They started with a ‘Q’ and a ‘T’. And it wasn’t “Quiet time” Ha! No that was something I strived for every morning. Sitting there with Jesus waiting for my heart to crave scripture, or an hour of intercession. No, He said to me two different words that can easily be manipulated in our finite minds to meaning the cliche quiet time.

He said, “Haeli, I want quality time. This marriage with me THRIVES on quality time. You cannot come away from another human being expecting them to change your life. That inspiration will not go far. But, look at My Son. He is the essence of love for me. He will teach you how to love me.” From then on I knew; my times with Jesus have been forced and messy. He never asked me to wake up and force myself to read the word trying to quench my spirit, but feeling nothing at all. He never asked me to pray with my eyes open easily distracted. He wanted my quality time. He wanted me to come away with Him into a quiet place and just sit. To be still and not pick up a journal or scripture until He said so. To put no expectation on myself.

Some mornings I find that I’ve sat there for so many minutes with my eyes shut not trying or striving to do anything and out of nowhere I’ll start vomiting prayers with tears streaming over nations and people groups. A heart I had desired to have for so long but was going to the source of others to attain it.

The Body of Christ is a beautiful source for encouragement and inspiration, but I’ve found that there is no one like Jesus. There is no feeling like waking up and sitting there until Heaven comes and takes over.

This blog can inspire you, but it can’t do anything for you. I’ve had to learn that I can’t watch a sermon or Heidi Baker roll on the floor possessed by the Holy Spirit and expect that He’ll somehow possess me too. I love Jesus, and now I know how to be His friend.

The Only Way to Live!

I think that many people in their Christian walk hit a point where they seriously question whether the hardship and internal struggle of this walk is worth it at all. I’ve been in that place. It came soon after I started taking my relationship with Jesus seriously. It went like this:

  • For the longest time, I didn’t really know or believe God was real. Torn between a searching heart and a skeptical mind, I put the decision (and relationship) off for years.
  • But eventually God’s knocking on my door became too loud to ignore. I started to dabble in this Jesus thing. Got my toes wet. I still wasn’t convinced, though.
  • I spent a year researching and reasoning to satisfy my skepticism. Apologetics. Still one of my favourite areas of study today.
  • Finally, I hit a point where I said “alright God, I’m all in.” I stumbled as often as you can, but kept on going.
  • Eventually, Jesus led me to uncover deep shame. Things I didn’t even know I was holding on to. This made me realize just how incredibly sinful I am. A magnifying glass had been put to my seemingly clean heart and revealed it to be rotten and black to the core.
  • I tried to fight it. I said I’d be better for Him- be holy for Him. But I just couldn’t do it. It was exhausting. I was so tired of fighting an impossible battle. I desired to go back to the blissful ignorance that came with not knowing the extent of my sin. 

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no way out. I could keep going forward, uselessly striving towards a goal that was always out of reach. Or, I could give up and embrace the sin I couldn’t escape from anyway. I could go back to the way I was. But I couldn’t really do that now either- I had become too keenly aware that sinfulness and Godlessness never satisfy the soul.

The Lord will not let the godly go hungry, but he refuses to satisfy the craving of the wicked.

Proverbs 10:3 (NLT)

The cravings of the wicked will never satisfy. Even though my flesh wanted to look at the past through rose-coloured lenses, I knew in my bones that life is shallow, self-centred, and unfulfilling.

The Lord will not let the godly go hungry. But I wasn’t godly. I was stuck in sin that I knew wouldn’t satisfy me!

But there is a third option, and it is the only way to truly live. I am sinful. To the core. It’s my human condition. But guess what? Grace is big enough in spite of this. Jesus knows I cannot achieve sinlessness on my own and yet he died for me anyways! I had to redirect all the time and effort I put into striving towards perfection into realizing and being grateful for what Jesus had already done.

I had to take the focus off of me, my sin, my issues, my good deeds, my bad deeds. Put the focus where it belongs. On the overwhelming, jaw-dropping grace of our God. He loves us so much. Don’t lose sight of this. Come to your knees in gratitude.

Keeping my eyes fixed on Him and His love, I quickly find myself becoming who I had strived to become in the first place. Remember who He is (Love) and you’ll remember who you are (Beloved). Then you’ll act out of that Godly identity.

Once I learned I was trapped in His grace just like the murderer, the atheist, I sunk deep and rested in it. This gave room for me to finally tap in to ways I could bless Him back. There’s a beautiful humility in knowing how small you are in the sight of Living God. Now I can give my upmost for His Highest without it being in vain. Now I can run from sin and towards God with the strength and identity that Christ provides. I was missing the shift in my heart that could only be attained through knowing who I really was. He is our beautiful Father and we are His dearly Beloved. Always.

As John Mark McMillan sings, “tangled up in the great ridiculous way You love, it is the only way to live.”

My Only – John Mark McMillan (YouTube)

-Sydney

He Displays His Splendor

A few months ago I had an incredible revelation given to me by the Lord. I was inductively studying Matthew and hit a wall in Chapter 2. Pretty far, right? But I did. I ran in to a question that scared me, and shook my faith.

“The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18  “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

The Return to Nazareth

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

-Matthew 2: 13-23

I soaked in the passage admiring the fulfilled prophecies of Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. The skilled writings of Matthew, and taking in the horrific acts of King Herod. I loved the way God sent His angels. I loved the beautiful hints found in the passage displaying God’s humility, patience, trustworthiness. But, then I wondered; If God knows everything, then why didn’t He tell Joseph and his family to go straight to Nazareth? If the prophets prophesied that Jesus would be a Nazarene, then wouldn’t God just send them straight there? The question seems simple, but it is actually really complex.

I feared that God was inconsistent. That He was not all-knowing. Which makes the question very complex. Because if God is not all-knowing then how can He help us in times of trouble? How could we ever be prophetic? How is Jesus really going to come back? How is the Bible true, because the Bible says that God is all knowing? I refused to believe these things about the King of Kings. Though my flesh wanted to skip the passages, skip the doubts, and move on with lazy faith, my Spirit was jumping inside. So I sat, for hours. Praying, digging, meditating, repeat. I couldn’t figure it out. If there was an answer on the internet, I didn’t want it yet. I had to figure this out on my own because I knew God wanted to reveal to me who He was Himself, not through another’s interpretation.

Then it hit me! We cannot be all-knowing because we can’t be God. For wisdom, we have to choose the all-knowing God. I suppose the ‘why’ is unimportant. God allowed Joseph to still be human and go through what made sense before revealing His change of plans. God stoops beneath His infinite knowledge of what He ultimately knows is going to happen. He is consistent and patient. If He took us where He always knew best, we wouldn’t be human, and life would take no amount of faith. We couldn’t have a relationship with God because we would never choose Him, instead we’d be in this bubble of protection from failure, sin, hardship, and ignorance. Gods ourselves. It is these things that bring us to God, and His knowledge is too wonderful for us to know ( Job 42:3 ).

As I rejoiced in this revelation, God continued conversing with me about it. He asked me if I really wanted to know everything. He told me I was incapable not because of my lack of power, but because I couldn’t handle knowing the weight and impact my sin has on other’s lives. It was a very humbling moment between the Lord and I.

I thank Him that He is all-knowing every day now. We cannot do this life ourselves. How beautiful it is that we get the privilege of having a relationship with a God that suffers watching us suffer, and gives us the choice to choose Him amidst the suffering. The answer is simple. God is all-knowing because that is His character and He can’t not be, and we get blessed by His character! We don’t have to continue governing ourselves, our families, and our relationships. We can drop to our knees in desperation, and reach out to the God who knows the quickest answer to the wonderfully complex questions.

-Haeli

“Come Away…Come Away With Me.”

I was encouraged to ask a question by a friend. A question I struggled with. It took me a long time to realize the lie I had been living under. The lie that spit in the face of Jesus. The lie that told me I could not go to Him, be open with Him, because I was way too dirty. I felt like a pig that had just rolled through and through sloppy mud. Continuously bowing to my flesh. Doing what I did not want to do. Fighting the same battle Paul fought;

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15

A spiritual OCD. I knew what was good. What was clean. What was edifying to my mind, and all my flesh would do is the opposite. I finally came to the end of myself. The end of my abandonment, control, fear, rejection, and I asked Him.

“Jesus, can you take me to the Father?”

Jesus and I are in a very large beautiful field. He’s sitting at my feet holding my hand as I stand and stare up at the sky. All I see is light. Bright, radiating, filling the entire atmosphere. The sun is nowhere to be found, no, for this light swallows the light of the sun and extracts over the entirety of the sky above me.

Jesus pulls me down next to Him and we laid back on the soft grass. The light above was behind the fogginess of a thin layer of clouds. Jesus said, “You do not understand the father. His presence will not kill you, and He wants to be near you.” I replied, “Jesus, take me to the Father.”

Jesus tilted the world onto its side. His body became a bridge stretching from the field to the sky. I walked across the bridge, went through the wisps of cloud, and into the overwhelming light.

It didn’t hurt me, nor did it blind me. I was spinning in the midst of nothingness. Just a yellow glow on every side of me. I was praising with my arms held high and my voice proclaiming the glory of God.

“Father, please show yourself, I want to see you.” The next thing I heard was “Dun dun. Dun dun.” I was in the heartbeat of my Father.

Out of the air Jesus walked to me and sat at my feet again. When I saw Him I started laughing, and a voice from all around me that didn’t come from the lips of Jesus spoke, “Haeli, why are you laughing?” I told the Father that I missed His Son, and then thought of how much He missed Him while He died for humanity. Jesus showed me a loaf of bread, and a beautiful glass of wine He brought.

Brushing His hand over my eyes He closed them. He told me when His body hung on the cross He thought of me. He remembered me and whispered my name. He acknowledged me before I lived, and loved me too quick for me to love Him first.

Then I felt the bread touch my lips,  I took of it and ate.

Jesus showed me a beautiful glass of wine. As if He was just holding the wine without a glass, it was so clear. I would of thought it was invisible if it weren’t for the sparkle along the edges. “Drink my blood, Haeli. For this is the only way you will have life. Drink of my blood every morning, and let it flow through your veins. Let your body be mine, you can not do anything alone.” I took the transparent cup and drank.

Jesus took me by the hand and picked me up. He said, “I have prepared a feast for you.” The next thing I knew we were walking through a doorway into a room dressed like the Christmas season. Twenty four elders, 12 sitting on each side of the long table, stood for me and welcomed me to my seat next to Jesus. He sat on the end and I took the corner seat next to Him. On my head, He placed a crown. He straightened it, and as He did I could hear the silencing of the enemy’s tormenting lies. I heard the chains falling off my ears. Off my brain, and off my heart. Jesus told me, “The cost is paid, you will always have a place at my table.” And we ate.

“Why would You do that for me?” After sitting on the shower floor for about 30 minutes lost in this vision I could not get up from weeping and asking the question over and over. He took away every bit of sin between us. He grabbed them from my heart and gently tossed them away, so bold yet without the slightest bit of arrogance. He did what only He could do. My hiding couldn’t clean me. My dishonesty with myself wouldn’t wash me. My control couldn’t fulfill me. There was a wall between me and the cure to all of my pain and that was Jesus. Satan distorts the truth and says, “Jesus won’t take it away, it’s a waste of time.” If Satan distorts, then isn’t the opposite true? Won’t Jesus take the pain away? Give us the very white shirt off of His back over and over and over again no matter how many more times we roll through the mud?

I can see it. His hands stretched out over the world, calling it back to Him. Like He did in the days of the prophets.

“A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and the pleading of the people of Israel, because they’ve perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God. Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” Jeremiah 3:21-22

Jesus pleading with the nations of people bowing down and worshipping the lie that says we are not good enough to come to Him. Pleading with the nations to enter in to His presence. He says, “Come away, come away with me. I know what you did, but just let me love you now. This moment is too sweet. Please stay here with me and love on me a little longer because I’m so in love with you.”

Have you gone to Jesus today? Have you gotten on your knees and asked Him what He did for you? Asked Him why He says you’re worthy? I want to encourage you, like I was encouraged. Ask Jesus to take you to the Father. Accept His grace that is ever so sufficient for you. His blood that has been atoned for you. Don’t waste any more time running away from the Father when He looks at you with the same smile, the same laugh, the same compassion He looks at His son with. You have a place at His table, just waiting. Do not waste any more of your time. Go away with Him.

~Haeli

A Community of Blessings.

What’s community with others supposed to look like?

  • The Pharisee says “everything is done for people to see” (Matthew 23:5). Community is about status and importance.” But the outside of the cup tries to look clean while the inside rots away. Performance is everything. There is no ‘community,’ only comparison and self-focus.
  • The Religious Person says “if I do good things, God will accept me. If I do bad things, God will reject me. Community is about making sure I strive to do good to others so I can be accepted by God.” But inherent in making sure you do good is keeping extensive record of your actions. It is about striving, striving, striving to be better. We compare and judge ourselves with others. And judge others with ourselves. There is no altruistic good done to others, community is only a pursuit of divine favour for yourself.
  • The Secular Humanist says “throw off the shackles of religion and declare your independence from traditional moral constraint. Community is about humans coming together to freely think.” But without a moral standard to look towards, there is no truly free-thinking. The lines between right and wrong become blurrier and blurrier until nothing is left but whatever fancies that particular person. The only common thread left is the one that says we all can define our own morality. But free will in this state quickly becomes bondage to our lesser instincts as we justify all sorts of behaviour. We become slaves to lust, pride, selfishness, etc. while maintaining the illusion of choice. Therefore, community is nothing but the enslaved self-interest of each person, multiplied.

All these perspectives end in self-centeredness, making for a very uncooperative community. Jesus tells us something different. He tells us the recipe for a community in the two greatest commandments:

Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.”        -Matthew 22:37-39 NLT

First, we are to love the Lord our God with all we’ve got. Not just theoretically ‘love’ Him. To accept His gift of grace through Jesus Christ- that you are fully and completely sanctified and made righteous in God’s sight. To dive deep into the depths of His love. To love Him who first loved us. More and more intimately each and every day.

Then we are to love others as ourselves. To serve them, to genuinely care for them. To be moved with compassion for them. To turn the focus away from self and toward others. After all, God loves others with a burning, unconditional passion just as much as he does for you or me.

When a group of people do this, it makes for a unique community. One that shines brilliantly with love. One that I’ve been exposed to recently. Let me give you some examples:

  • As Haeli and I prepared to drive from Alberta to Missouri, we had the car inspected by a mechanic and a few important things repaired. This mechanic was recommended by my pastor as a God-fearing man with integrity (a blessing in itself). But after he repaired everything he did something shockingly kind- he didn’t charge any labour because he wanted to support us as we started our ministry.
  • When driving from Missouri through North Carolina and then up towards Ontario to leave for Nepal, the car needed urgent repair on the front tire while we were stopped at a friend’s house for a night in Pennsylvania. The friends we were staying with connected us with another Christian mechanic and then they graciously offered to pay for everything. But once the repairs were done and I was waiting to pay, the mechanic just shook my hand and said “take your wife out for dinner, that’s my charge.”
  • Throughout this whole process of mobilizing towards Nepal, we’ve been blessed countless times by encouraging words, prayers, and gifts. People have just poured out the love of Jesus onto us and our mission. The family and friends we have stayed with have been incredibly kind and hospitable. The churches we’ve gone into as one-time visitors on the way have encouraged and commissioned us out. The people we love back home have done the same.

We have been floored at the generosity, fellowship, and love with which people have poured into us, all because Jesus first poured into them. And here’s the craziest thing about it: it’s a cycle of blessings.

People we feel so blessed by look at us and tell us we have blessed them. Not even because of anything we have done, but because of the divinity in a Christ-centered community. The blessings go round and round. They are lovingly given and lovingly received.

It’s like nothing else. You can’t find this in secularism. You can’t find it in works-based religion. You can’t find this in self-centeredness (by its very nature). You can find acts of love and kindness by the world’s ever-changing standard, but you can’t find a whole community rooted in the infinite, unchanging love that is God and His grace. That’s not to say that Christians live that out perfectly. There are countless stories of hypocrisy and judgement from within the church. I admit it! I am a Christian and without Jesus I am a hypocrite, a pharisee, a religious fool, a secularist. But by the grace of God He picks us up when we fall if we allow Him to. God’s kindness brings us to repentance. His grace is magnified. We can have the same grace on our brothers and sisters. We can cooperate with one another with understanding because we are all victims of a fallen world.

So that’s what community is supposed to be like. And it’s just crazy. It’s not perfect because we’re not perfect people. But it’s awesome. I’ve lived the secular life. It’s unfulfilling and hollow. I’ve lived the works-based life. It’s exhausting and a waste of time. There’s no community in these worldviews. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice that there’s only community through God’s love but I know I don’t want anything else. Thank you, God, for designing a world in which we can choose to genuinely love each other because you have loved us. And thank you, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for blessing out of that love.

-Sydney

All Systems Go!

Well, a lot has happened in the past month!

In about a week we head out from Missouri making our way slowly up towards Toronto, where we fly out to Nepal. We’re stopping to see family, friends, and ministry contacts along the way.

Whoa! What a change God has made. He has changed our plans quite drastically from road-tripping around North America to living and serving in Nepal for at last the next year or two! We’ve learned a lot, prayed a lot, talked a lot, prepared a lot, and now we’re just about to ready to launch head-first into ministry full-time. We spent days wrestling with the Lord making sure this change was Him. Neither of us knew if this lined up with God’s character. One day in our quiet time we came across three chapters at the end of Job. Chapter 37, Job goes straight to God and pleads his case. His head hurts, his body hurts, his empire collapsed and his children were killed. He questions God. Chapters 38-39 God answers Job, not with answers but with dozens and dozens more questions. After several dozens of questions, Job has gotten the point. He responds with, “ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; I talked of things too wonderful for me to know.” Although we weren’t in a time of agonizing pain, we understood the same point Job did when we read how his questioning of God ended. God owes us nothing. No reasons. No explanations. And sometimes He gives them, but sometimes if He gave them we couldn’t understand them. When we made the decision of saying yes, we quickly saw the fingerprints of God on our lives preparing us for something different. We excitedly agreed to God’s change of plans, and couldn’t wait to embark on them.

We’ve focused a lot on partnership over the last week, which is something we certainly intend to continue for the rest of our lives. All of you reading this blog, praying for us, and contributing financially are as much a part of this as we are. You are the ‘senders’ and we are the ‘sent’.

So let’s go.