Monday, 26 March 2012

Happy Birthday to my Big Sis!

My big sis and I - June 2011

Yesterday it was my one and only big sister's birthday (yes, I know, I should have had this written then-- oops!) and each year of our sisterhood I find myself just more and more thankful that she had one of those (a day of birth) in our family however many years ago (because as we're grown up now, it's becoming time to stop telling how old one is turning!)...

I don't know if any of you have a big sister, but if you do, you probably know that it can be quite an interesting journey growing up together. You can be night-and-day different in temperament and personality, like my sister and I, and yet not only forced to do everything together (including bathe, inhabit the small space between 4 walls, share all your dolls and barbies, wear one anothers' clothes, even share babysitting clients, and friends, and sometimes, crushes!) simply because your genetics made you two "the girls" in a family of 3 brothers, but you can also grow up being mistaken for one another (And that doesn't even have to change when you grow up and take on different styles-- I have literally gotten away with just pretending to BE her when her neighbour came to the door once a few years ago in The Cities because it was easier than explaining...!).

Your big sister might use her 3-years-older status to tell you exactly what's what (as in, "I'm the boss; I'm older!"), or to introduce you to the facts of life (even if those "facts" are slightly skewed when coming from playground-sources...) and bras and the "truth" about boys, or to force you to perform various acts of entertainment for parents' friends (which would come back to haunt you in the years to come), including the ever-popular "butt dance" to an old cassette of The Hippy Hippy Shake. Yeah... Your big sister may have been like mine and had a thing for purple growing up, which meant all of her clothes, coats, dresses, etc were some shade of purple-- which in turn meant soon all YOUR clothes, coats, dresses, etc were some shade of purple thanks to the blessed practice of hand-me-downs (I don't think I own a single purple thing anymore-- but when I was looking for a scarf for Hannah this winter, I got one in a shade of purple :))

Anxiously awaiting my first niece -- 2005
I'm not going to go into the truly embarrassing stuff here (and ooooh, you're missing out, because there is a lot of it!!). After all, it has just been her birthday and the aim of this little post is really to celebrate my big sis who is every year less and less just my big sister and more and more my true friend. Perhaps the years of feeling a bit bullied and all the rashly spoken "I hate you!'s" have been made up for by getting to experience up close and personal some sides of my sister's life that I'm still waiting for in my own-- like being her maid-of-honour at 16 (and single-handedly crafting 425 wedding favours in the weeks leading up to November 16th!) and being the first one called into the hospital room after a long arduous labour to get little Abigial Cathryn here when I was 18 (and experiencing aunthood has been one of the most tremendous blessings of my life to date-- I have THE BEST nieces and nephews in the entire world and I don't mind saying so!!!). My sister still gives me an honoured place in her life and in her family and I still haven't quite figured out how we went from warring little kids to deep friends of the heart. But I am so thankful.

Mom, Hannah, and I being matchy-matchy for Easter 1987
Sisters! - June 2011
I love you, big sis! I am so thankful that God knows what He's doing and that we've grown up and now when we talk, we can truly hear one another :) I'm so thankful that we can spur one another on in seeking His heart, and loving Him and loving others. I am so thankful we can count on one another to pray. And that riotous laughter is never far behind the sometimes-tears :) I looked up to you as a little kid growing up, and I look up to you now and so admire your dedication to your adorable kids and your wonderful husband and your incredible proficiency at your job of raising your family well! I am just so thankful for you (and for my ability to school you without fail in Jeopardy on the Wii. Oh yeah!).

Happy birthday, Hannah!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A P.S. on Galatians

I had to giggle when I opened my bible today to my last chapter in Galatians and read:

"Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.  Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ"(Galatians 6:1-2). 

Yesterday I had written: The Spirit in me (and the moral of the story in Galatians) was saying that the law and grace could both be met by simply sharing each other's burdens (New Excitement, Old Concepts). hehe!

And, since I'm here, just a little bit more hope for you from reading Galatians--
"Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up" (vv. 7-9)

Don't give up, friends. The road can feel so long, but I'll share your burdens; you can share mine. Let's hold one another up as we walk it...

And go read Galatians!! :)

 “Christianity, if false, is of no importance & if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
– C.S. Lewis

Monday, 19 March 2012

New Excitement, Old Concepts...

Grace IS Amazing!
"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love."
-- Galatians 5:5-6

I was reading Galatians this morning for the first time in a long while and it kind of feels brand new...

I'm back in Sweden and I've unpacked my "proper" bible for the first time since December 2010! I have been in a constant state of travel, it seems, since then, and so have just been using my mini travel one. I can't tell you how good it feels to sit down in the morning with a cup of coffee (which I'm sweetening with honey and cinnamon now after reading about the health benefits-- and it's yummy!) under the window of my friend's house where I'm staying for awhile in Sweden, and cracking open the weighty leather-bound book and gold-gilded pages (So... I'm a little bit easy to please and find my whole mood improves around beauty, even if that be a beautiful thing like a pretty bible!)

Since returning to Sweden and my beloved church plant Brunnen, I have been hooked up with a new accountability partner. She's new in town, a lovely Swedish girl with a heart for world missions and a living love for Jesus. We've only been able to manage one meeting so far, but we clicked over our downtown coffee date and have been working out way through 2 Corinthians and Galatians to meet and discuss this week. And you know how we're always told the bible is the LIVING Word of God? Goodness, I love that it's true...

I've been dwelling on the difference between living under the law and living under grace. After some heavy time spent in some spiritually abusive climates, this concept has become a confusing one to me. I found myself being catapulted from an atmosphere where the law was maybe treated too legalistically ("For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God's grace." -- Gal 5:4), to an atmosphere where freedom was being abused ("For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature." -- Gal 5:13) and those who were genuinely confused by what was happening, and wanting to lovingly ask for clarification and walk the narrow road together, were being told they were living by the law and being judgmental.

Paul instructs neither of those sides and yet both of those sides: "Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another." -- Gal 5:13-15)

The Spirit in me (and the moral of the story in Galatians) was saying that the law and grace could both be met by simply sharing each others' burdens-- being open to accountability and willing to listen to one anothers' hearts. We are human and we are hopelessly flawed, and yet God, knowing exactly what we would struggle with, chose to adopt us as His own and cover us with the righteousness of His Son ("But when the right time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that He could adopt us as His very own children. And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, 'Abba, Father.' Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir." -- Gal 4:4-7). How much more should we then accept one another, worts and all? But constantly reminding one another of our new status as His children, and reminding one another how then to live... Not as slaves (to the law), but as heirs (rejecting the ways of our old status pre-adoption).

"But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love."
-- Galatians 5:5-6

It struck me anew how we are clothed in righteousness. We are not righteous in ourselves (hence our tendency to abuse our freedom by sliding into acting out sinful desires), nor can we earn it (by religious rituals-- Paul talks about being circumcised or uncircumcised-- or living perfectly sinless lives), but as His adopted children, we are covered in His righteousness-- the pressure's off! We don't have to be a certain way, one way or the other! It is our inheritance. And though we live earthly lives now where it can be so hard to see and therefore so hard to live out, we must trust it's true by faith. And during this blink-of-an-eye existence on earth (which most of the time feels SO LONG), "what is important is faith expressing itself in love" (vv. 6)

So let's love on, love on, love on, and toe the balance of fulfilling the law by living in grace by faith...

Whew. Am I a total dork to get so excited about this old concept again? Grace IS truly amazing, and I desperately needed the hope of this reminder. How about you?

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