Saturday, September 17, 2016

God's Provision

Toni and I are back at our Lydia Avenue home, resting up after a busy day. We've been over at the "new place," but there's no place to lay our heads there, so we're back at the house we're renting from Paul Anderson. We'll be living here and working there until October 1st. (Scroll back through a couple previous posts on this blog for a bit more about our upcoming move.)

Toni posted a couple pictures of the outside on her facebook. Here's one indoor view, from the kitchen (still to be worked on) toward the front door of the house. Yesterday and today we worked (with lots of help from our son Dan!) to remove gold 1970s era draperies and carpet from the living room/dining area (leaving the hardwood floor you see in the background). Toni worked fast at painting--she's got most of the living room done. I puttered around with little stuff: replacing 3 switches, pruning bushes, closing up small gaps at the bottom of the backyard fence and removing a cabinet that was closing off the kitchen. There's a lot more to do but we're glad to have gotten a start on it.

My sister-in-law wrote: So glad for God's provision for you. Looks like a very nice place. Now it's time to work and dream and make a house into a home. 

It is God's provision. There is work to be done--lots of work--but that doesn't take away the fact that God has provided this home. In fact, every home we've ever lived in has been a gift from the Lord. We will give thanks. As John Abel once said to me "God's provision is His estimate of our need." John said that to me when he came up the stairs to our first apartment. Read more about that here.)

The topic of God's providence has come up many times in this blog, most recently 16 months ago when we were wondering where we'd go next. I'm amazed at the way our Lord works. And so thankful.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Not My Desire

The life that God seems to have chosen for me is not the one that I would have chosen for myself. (I say "seems to have chosen" in this public forum. In my own heart and life I say that with more confidence.) My Lord, who knows me better than anyone else, has chosen to plant me in Roseville, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. I would not personally have chosen this place to live. I'd have lived further south from here, down in St. Paul itself, nearer to where there are multiple ways of getting around besides driving, in a place where Toni and I could easily walk to stores or cafes or just jump on a bus. Up here, in Roseville, it's not practical to get around without a car. My compromise is to drive and park where I can get on a bus. That's what I've done many times this summer and will continue to do this fall. Still, it's a compromise. I'd rather just do it my way. (Insert tongue sticking out emoticon.)

God seems to be leading Toni and I to participate in a church that I wouldn't pick. There's nothing wrong with it. As far as "normal" churches go it has a lot to recommend it. But I wouldn't pick it because it's a pretty "normal" church: full of friendly people (on Sunday mornings at least), balancing "contemporary" and "traditional" music, pretty good preaching (the Lord has said something to me personally every week), various kinds of outreach programs, youth & children's stuff going on. I like both of the pastors. I met with one of them and we have a lot in common. Still, though, it's a pretty much run of the mill place. I'd probably pick something a lot smaller. Like a house church. (Another tongue out :p )

Some parts of this phase of my life are turning out much more "conventional" than I thought they would. I grew up in the suburbs and it looks like that's where I'll be for most of the rest of my life. I grew up in a pretty good suburban church and it looks like that's where we'll be. I imagined things would be different when we moved from the small town thing to the cities. I do get to keep my unconventional (for me) job, so that's one thing I can say is probably something I would pick myself, though it would have been completely unexpected until a little more than a year ago. But because I'm not picking these things, I expect God is at work in them, and I suspect that those very suburban things will turn out for God's glory. That's what I say, in faith.

Tomorrow I'll sing with the Roseville Covenant Church choir. That's also something I wouldn't have picked on my own. I had a sense, though, sitting in church a week ago, that it would be good to try it out. One of the things I've treasured about this time in my life is that I haven't needed to perform in front of audiences. And now I've volunteered to do it. I do really like the director. And, most inspiring, the choir of this church is the place where prayer ministry goes on.

Here's a pic I took of the choir praying for two choir members who have volunteered to lead after rehearsal prayer each Wednesday. Being part of a prayer group is something that I've been wanting, and I stumbled into it by saying "yes" to something I wasn't looking to do - that is, sing in the choir.

There's a spiritual principle in here somewhere, don't you think? God's best is often worked out in the midst of things that we wouldn't pick out ourselves.

Tomorrow we'll be singing this in the choir:
By faith we see the hand of God
In the light of creation's grand design,
In the lives of those who prove his faithfulness,
Who walk by faith and not by sight.

By faith our fathers roamed the earth
With the pow'r of His promise in their hearts
Of a holy city built by God's own hand,
A place where peace and justice reign.

We will stand as children of the promise;
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul's reward.
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We'll walk by faith and not by sight.
Yup. OK. That's what I'll do. And I'll do it with the men and women God has chosen for me.

Here's a church choir singing what we'll sing tomorrow -- but our group is not just men.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Moving With God (again!)

Toni sent out a note to family earlier this week in the hope that several family members can help us move. If anyone reading this blog would like to come alongside and help us with this move, we'd love to see you.

Our official moving day (for the furniture) is Saturday, October 1, but there will be boxes and bins that we'll move on other days before that. We'll also be ripping up carpet, installing an egress window and doing a bunch of other things beginning when we get possession of 1479 Millwood in Roseville on September 15. We're hoping to get the lower level ready for renters by sometime in October. There is a lot to do!

This will be our 10th or 11th move since we were married in 1986. The plan is to stay at the new place in Roseville until we can't live on our own. I'm planning on living to and beyond 100 years old so it will hopefully be a very long time until the Lord calls us to move again.

Yes, the Lord. God is involved with this move. He's guiding it. He's being its superintendent. I have a sense for how He's doing that, and I can remember some moments and times of decision that He has led.

I say this with some boldness, even though I can't prove it--not to you--not even to myself. 

Back in early August I read something written by Oswald Chambers relating to conversation Jesus is had with his hand-picked inner circle of followers not too long before Jesus' death and resurrection. He said "Everything that is written by the prophets" about him was going about to come true.
"He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again" (Luke 18:32-33).
The part O.C. focuses on is the following verse
"The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about."
Just as the disciples could not understand just what Jesus was saying in that case, so it's true that we cannot fully grasp the purposes of God for our lives. O.C. doesn't conclude, as others might, that this inability to comprehend just why and how God is leading us means we should give up on knowing God's purpose. Instead, O.C. sees a spiritual principle in this. He writes:
The call of God can never be understood absolutely or explained externally; it is a call that can only be perceived and understood internally by our true inner-nature. The call of God is like the call of the sea—no one hears it except the person who has the nature of the sea in him.
O.C. is speaking here about the work of the Holy Spirit. God works in our minds and in the circumstances of our lives, leading us, guiding us, giving us direction. Though there will always be a certain mystery and fallibility to hearing and understanding God's "voice," we can know enough to make decisions that honor and obey what he says.

I have seen God's hand leading me (and us) to make this move. I can describe many of the signs that have pointed to this conclusion. In the end, though, I won't be able to share all of it -- not on this blog and not even in person if we sat down to talk awhile. I would love to talk with you more about it, though, because I believe that as we share what God is doing in our lives, we can become more open to God's leading each time He calls.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Peace in Today's War

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
In commenting on this passage, Oswald Chambers says:
Any one of the relationships our Lord mentions in this verse can compete with our relationship with Him. I may prefer to belong to my mother, or to my wife, or to myself, but if that is the case, then, Jesus said, “[You] cannot be My disciple.” This does not mean that I will not be saved, but it does mean that I cannot be entirely His.

(Click here to read the rest of today's My Utmost For His Highest.)
You and I live our lives in relationship with others, and in relationship with our own self. We are in relationship with our Lord too -- but when we start belonging to Jesus, the struggles and, dare I say it, the wars that we are involved in with our parents and spouses and children etc., and our stubborn or weak selves, can be understood and felt as a normal part of the fact that you and I do not belong to ourselves anymore. There is an alien presence guiding us that will always, in some ways, be at war with the situations and people that we live with -- including my very own me.

Jesus' words here, and the example of his sometimes unhappy relationship with his own family, are a gift to us, giving us peace in today's war.

Don't be discouraged when you face this conflict. It really is the normal part of a disciple's life in this fallen world. Look to the Lord and know you're not alone, even in the close, uncomfortable and conflicted relationships of your everyday life.