October 26, 2006
And yet there are things that hurt... While I was thinking of these things I looked out the window at the dog that was yapping and yapping. Its a lovely little black dog - full of excitement - its tied up at the corner of a house in a closed off yard - in the shade. It can't bask in the sun, and when its been raining lots like it has recently - its damp and cold. I'm sure he has a coat that keeps him warm and that he is used to the weather - but he yapped and yapped - cause he wanted some attention - some food, some company, some freedom. All the while it was wagging its excited tail. I watched it wishing I was nearer so I could throw it a treat to eat. Then I saw the lady of the house come out - but instead of giving it a scruffy pat on the head - she took out a big bottleful of water - and splash, splash, splash - three big glugs of water splashed all over the hopeful little dog. I was so sad to see that... She turned back swiftly indoors - and the dog - dejected and wet, drooped its tail and curled up silent, with a little less spirit left in it.
And then I thought about joy... and I thought about Johnny Cash and his song "Man in Black" He tells all the reasons why he wears black - and would continue to - and it was for all the hurting ones, all those who suffered injustice or deciet or all those who never knew Jesus. He said if he could he would wear a rainbow everyday - but till things changed - he'd be wearing black. And I got his sentiment - I understood, and thought - I might lack joy - but its for the things that crush the spirit. But still - this world needs joy - needs life that lifts and builds up - and I need joy too. I'm gonna choose joy and love together - and the rest of the fruit that will fill my life to the full and be joy to those around me. I believe in it - I believe in the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Later that evening I looked out the window with my thoughts and for the fresh air - and I saw a young man sitting on the steps - he had a joyful little black dog playing tenderly with him. He was there spending time with the dog - loving it, and the little dog was loving it too! There is hope - and its these elements of love, joy, peace and all the rest that make a change to the things in life which would want to take away joy. So here's to Joy.
October 22, 2006
The sermon tonight at church was great. I always come away feeling that way from the small fellowship of Albanian believers that I am privileged to be amongst. So the text was -
“And Jesus said to his disciples (those he was teaching to have a sincere faith in him) For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat, nor for your body, as to what you will put on” Luke 12:22
Much was said that I could not explain in such as natural manner as did the preacher – but in the middle of it all he said he had to tell “nje histori e bukur.” A beautiful story. And this is the story...
There was a father who loved his daughter so much, and there was a handsome confident lad who wanted to marry the daughter. So the father said – well, since you have such love and want to marry my daughter – will you go through a test for her hand in marriage. “Of course I will” he replied with determination. So the father led him to an empty room, and said “For as long as I decide will you stay in here with no food – only water? Will you do this to prove your love for my daughter?” “Yes sir! I shall do that” the confident young man declared. So the young man was locked in the empty room, and a whole week passed and the father went to the empty room and unlocked it. He opened the door and directly said – “What do you want – a bowl of soup or my daughter?” Here is the scene one minute beforehand. The young man had endured the week – he was aching – his stomach rumbling, he was very, very hungry – he was watching, waiting for the door to open, and then the door opened and he heard the words “What do you want – a bowl of soup... daughter?” “Soup! Soup!” he cried! And the father brought him soup, but did not let him marry his daughter. :)
It is a beautiful story!
Will we be ones who trust the Lord with our needs – or will our needs be so desperate that we would forsake our true love to fulfil them? God knows our needs. Will we trust him to fulfill his promises to meet them?
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” Psalm 37:23-25
There is no doubt that this requires faith to believe, and faith is what God requires. Another psalm says God searches the earth looking for those to be strong for. Will we let God be strong for us? He knows if we are locked up in an empty room - hungry and in need. It challenged me....
hearts of gold and eyes so deep
but love wont cure the chaos
and hope wont hide the loss
and peace is not the heroine that shouts above the cause
and love is wild for reasons
and hope though short in sight
might be the only thing that wakes you up by surprise."
Lord Jesus hold our hearts and strengthen us where we are weak, that we might sing with joy and know the fullness of all you have given to us. You are Lord and you are wonderful and you have work for us to do, help us to do what you want us to do.
October 20, 2006
If anyone prays for me - pray I have the discipline to stick to this and learn as much as I can. Study and set times etc is not at all my strong point! Full of good intentions - to see them realised is by far another matter! God bless you in all you are doing too!
October 19, 2006
What I really want to say though is that it broke my heart somewhat to leave or be far from those I love, and I've known that feeling many times, and I knew it coming to Albania three months ago. And when that happens I loose a certain faith that the love within me will be expressed or fulfilled, but Jesus knows what he is doing with my life - and he fulfills the creation of me. I'm with a small group of Christians here that inspire me incredibly. Though its just been a small ammount of time that I have been with them - I have the deepest of repect for them and am in wonder at how deep the Fathers love for me can be that he would choose to place me here. I just want to be with them, learn from them. I've come to see that what I love so much in people - is seeing God character in them, seeing God expressed. The spirits of these people are beautiful - and I know they are alive in the spirit of the living God. Love enfuses me - I am so grateful for it. I know this love within me is a God thing - cause I never see that I can have anymore than what I already feel - and then I find myself surprised - cause it flows deeply once again! Somehow there is always room to love more. I think its an eternal fountain, it wells up to eternal life - from the source of Living Water that is there for all to drink freely from. Can there be such an amazing thing? I am in wonder.
October 18, 2006
I heard some teaching recently that said that "faithfulness" is not a commitment to the old ways, a continuation of doing the same thing - but it is venturing to something new - and using all you've got to do so. God called his people to do things that had never been done before - Noah to build and ark, Moses to set the people free and walk them through the parted Red Sea. These were considered faithful.
Jesus connected himself to John the Baptist when he begun his ministry on earth. John was no way like other "godly people" people who thought they were alright when it came to God and right living, Jesus wanted to identify with the one proclaiming - things need to be different! We need to turn from our ways and look to God to be changed! I need to be changed!! Continually. And I want to step into the new things that God would have me do. If I'm totally His - then He can use me in this earth for what He knows I can be a part of. Anyway - I'm not sure how this all fits for me. I know that the Bible is crucial and that relationship with Jesus is crucial. I know I've not yet arrived, and I wont till heavan - but I hope I'm committed to walking in the way of Jesus.
I think people who are disillusioned with the church are disillusioned because they see so much need of change in what is happening in the world and in relationships. Its a hunger for liberty and love and justice and mercy and love. Yeah I want to be challenged - just like Jesus challenged everyone he met. I want to turn from the things that are just not right in my life when I am before Jesus who is truth, but I want to be changed so that it is no longer about me... I want to be like Jesus - who loved people and was entirely in step with the will of God, and made a difference in a way no one would have guessed, no one would have chosen. He went to the cross. Who would of imagined such a thing? Not even his closest friends the disciples. Only God in His highest of ways.
Help us Lord to know how to reflect you and not push people away from truth and redemption - but instead shine for Jesus, really shine - unselfishly, and full of life and truth and in freedom. And give us a vision that is off you and the perspective you have of the desperation of this world. Reveal a reality of life that we can live out where we are. Change us Jesus.
I have some friends who have been reading books like Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis", Shane Claibornes "Irresistable Revolution", "Blue Like Jazz" I think I'm ready to dip into these books and attitudes. Maybe I'll read there things that I understand already - maybe I'll be challenged further - I hope so - but being challenged kind of rocks somethings that havn't been rocked before. I know I need challenging in ways that are probably unexpected and even that need an element of the rebel to whats been generally acceptable by Christians - and whats been generally acceptable to myself. Who knows but I hope to keep on finding that truth that sets free, cause what's the point otherwise!
I'm being challenged here in Albania by Christians who are living a faith in ways I've never seen before - they're sold out and they're not ashamed of the gospel of truth found in the word of God - at the same time they are committed to love and unity - because naturally - saoked in the word of God and in the example of Christ - there is no avoiding the "greater love that no man has - but that he would lay down his life for his friends." And we are his friends if we do what he commands. He's commanded us to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We could praobably do with loving them even more than that. I think the key thing in it all though - is never miss out on the most important relationship of all - with Jesus - the one who shows us the way - the one who is the way.
October 16, 2006
Was fun - I just came home from meeting to pray with Judith and Margaret, did my shopping on the way home. Monday mornings are for shopping and laundry for the week - and I decided to get a special sandwich at the super market - they're incredible - a toasted pannini with ham, cheese, cucumber, tomatoe, olives, natural yogurt, mayo, ketchup and a few chips!! I decided to give up diet coke and little extras like chocolate :( just to be healthier - but thought a nice tradition for my monday weekly shop would be a supermarket sandwich and a diet coke! Nice simple things of life! Nice to be building up a routine. When I made it back to my pallati (apartment) after the normal greetings to the lady at the bottom of the pallati and to Lorenc and Vera in their little shop, I tied up my bike and was unloading the two crates of water I have to buy (don't want kindney stones with all the lime in the water) and the young girl from the ground floor and her friend were there - they so excitedly asked if I needed help - so I said yes and they trooped up the strairs with the water. I said they were very good girls and they ran down the stairs smiling widely!
I'll go now to my language lesson in a house down the road, then go to a Bible study at the church, and come home in the evening after a busy day! I've made it! I'm through the transition stage. For now - I'm home!
October 14, 2006
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing."
October 13, 2006
I'm so glad I can admire what a family can be, and that I have a desire for friendship and creativity and the pure things of life - like nature and art, music, adventure, good times. I hope I'm going keep on knowing all these things - and knowing them better, I'm sure I could lighten up and have a bit more fun! Yet sometimes - I can see a dream of these things -something I could long for - or pray for or hope for, and in reality - its like wishing my life was different. I think the courageous thing is to live the creative and loving life in the surroundings that you find yourself in. For me its here - and that's because I believe God called me here - which must seem strange to many people. God might one day say - "well Beth - its time - I'd like you to fall in love and have a beautiful family". Then that will be a good and perfect time. But for now God has said - "well Beth I want you to go to Albania - and do the things that I have asked you to do". I woke up this morning more able to walk in that - because I realised that God knows the reasons he has asked me to be here - and because he knows the future I can trust him with what he asks, and not only that but his desire, his will for my life - is by far the best - because he knows why he is asking me to do these thing - now, in this specific timeframe. It may not be forever - but its what is needed for the time being, and in someways if not in all ways - only God knows why. So I'm going to trust in him, and ask him what he wants and how to do it. Everything else is in his hands - I hope he doesn't take away the good desires I have which he has no doubt given me - and the longings and hopes and dreams - I hope he fulfills them - but instead of being caught up in them - I want to be fulfilled and joyful and complete doing what he has asked me to do. God will take care of the rest. As long as it is Jesus who has asked - I can find all I need - to do anything he sets before me. Jesus said the same thing - "my food is to do the will of my father." Gods doesn't ask of us without reason.
October 12, 2006
October 08, 2006
In reality terms I think life may get busier, more complicated, spiritual times in the Lord will be sweetened by deep joy and love and forgiveness and strength, no doubt there are more times of feeling alone, there may be wounds from friend or foe, times of not knowing or seeing the way forward, times of having clear vision, there will be times of winning, laughing and great friendship and togetherness with others. Gods people are not always soldiers - sometimes they are children, they sit at banqueting tables, they are sheep in pastures green, by the rivers of life - they are always following or in the sight and care of their good, good shepherd. If I am in the truth, if I am with God, - I do have some battlegrounds around and ahead of me, not only within my heart and with my sin - but also in this world, in relationship with and in the midst of the people of it.
I feel like God has been challenging me recently - do you have courage in your heart? Do you trust me? Do you trust my comandments? Will you choose to sit aside or will you fight with me? Will you really obey me and believe what I have told you? I love you my child, and you are my chosen vessel - you are my Susan or Lucy of Narnia - but you could make some big or small mistakes - so please listen to me and put into practice all I have taught you so far. Personally I feel taken from a known world to another. I feel placed in an adventure that is unusual, has battlegrounds and journeys, friends and foes. There is a way to be taken, a reason for being and a destination that is out of sight, unclear but none the less there to be found. I wish I could express what is in my life, my spirit, my being... but what I think it is - is the christian walk of the way of Calvary Road. And I am sure of one thing that none of it is worth a thing - without honesty and real love. This road or my life upon it is in the hands of the faithful source of life, and truth and love - God, who is so near - who listens and speaks - but who leaves the steps I or we can take - to be our own - we can walk where we want. Here I stand a step away from a battleground - and I could turn aside in one way or another and that is what I sometimes do - but if I listen close and hear my Masters voice - I'll know how to go that one next step forward. I need the lead and the indwelling life of the One who has already walked the Calvary Road.