30 August, 2011

Worthless Idols or Grace? What to Choose?

This morning I was reading for my weekly Bible Read Through Group in the minor prophets and was completely blown away by the depth of this verse in Jonah. I'll do my best to give you a bit of insight into my processing.

Jonah 2:8
"Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. " (NIV)

If the truth of this verse doesn't hit you the first time, read it again and let it sink in. My first thought was: "Wow, this is powerful." Powerful and true for the non-Christian as well as the Christian. Non-Christians forfeit the grace that could be theirs by choosing worthless idols such as other religions, relationships, clothes, money, self-centredness, success, etc. and miss out on a purpose-filled and satisfying (though not easy) life with Christ. Even more, the non-believer forfeits the grace of salvation which is offered through Christ when he defeated death on the cross. The best definition of Grace that I've come across is: "Getting what we don't deserve." No one deserves to be saved or even to have a relationship with God, but by His grace He offers both.

The thing is, as Christians, we are not immune to clinging to "worthless idols" and forfeiting the grace that could be ours. In fact, anything other than God, no matter how good a thing it is, is a worthless idol if it takes God's place of centrality in our lives. Any time we decide to go our own way and live in disobedience by placing something other than God on the throne of our lives, we lose out on a measure of His grace. Do we lose the grace of salvation, no! However, we lose out on living in and experiencing grace for each day. When we chose "worthless idols" over following God, our eyes leave Christ and focus on ourselves and life loses it's clarity, purpose, and joy.

I want to be the kind of Christian who worships and clings to God alone! I don't want to forfeit ANY of the grace that God wants to give me.

How are you doing with surrendering "worthless idols" and claiming the grace God wants to give you?

23 August, 2011

Fish Tea Anyone?

So, I was walking down Byres Road in West Glasgow yesterday and walked past this sign. It made me stop and think. Took me a minute, then I understood what it was actually offering (proud moment...I realised that I'm actually understanding some things Scottish!). I kept thinking about the sign and chuckling, so I actually grabbed my camera from home and returned a couple hours later with a friend and took a photo to share with you all!

First reactions? Americans and other non-British folks, take a guess at what this is offering! Just wanted to share a bit of the fun of living in Scotland. :)

11 August, 2011

Counting the Cost

I was sitting on the floor in our room in Glasgow with my back against the far side of the bed, sobbing uncontrollably.  I had picked that spot so that I was hidden out of the way and could deal with my grief and frustration alone, but at the same time I hoped that Scott would arrive home soon and would come looking for me and find me. 

I’d been in Glasgow for almost 6 months and overall I'd been impressed with how well I had adjusted to living in Scotland.  My sister Emily had come to visit for two weeks and I'd loved spending time with her and showing her around my new "home," but now, just a few days after she flew home, I physically ached to be back with my family and friends. 

Feeling blue, I decided to keep busy to take my mind of things and making dinner seemed like an easy distraction.  

It was the end of the month, and like each other month so far that meant I was low on groceries, had no cash on me and I knew we had very little money left in the bank. Trying to be as positive and resourceful as possible I came up with a dish I could make from the ingredients we had. All I had to do was jump across the street and pick up the two simple and inexpensive ingredients I didn’t have on hand—a can of corn and a green pepper.  Easy.  

With a renewed sense of purpose I walked across the street to the ATM to take out the minimum amount (£10).  My heart sank as our account balance appeared on the screen… £9.35. Trying to stay positive, I reminded myself that it was not the end of the world, after all, I could pay with my debit card.

I walked the few yards to the small store and successfully found a cheap can of corn but no green pepper.  This time I had to force myself to stay positive in an attempt to keep the now threatening tears and feeling of defeat from overwhelming me.  "I’ll buy the corn here and get a green pepper from the other store at the end of the street," I resolved. I took the corn up to the counter where, to my dismay, I was reminded that this store only takes cash. As if I wasn't already frustrated enough, the gentleman behind the counter kindly pointed me in the direction of the ATM I'd just visited?!?  I forced a smile, thanked him, and left the store empty handed and feeling even more defeated.

Fortunately the other grocery store on the street is only 10 yards away and I knew that this one allows you to pay by card.  I was relieved to enter the store and quickly spot a green pepper on the shelf.  But then I discovered that they had no can of corn. Why was everything in life so difficult?

Doing everything I could to hold myself together I convinced myself that the dish would be fine without the corn since Scott doesn’t like corn anyway.  I took the green pepper to the cashier who, as pleasantly as possible, told me that they required a minimum spend of £5 when paying by debit card. Then, when I thought it couldn't get any worse, the cashier smiled and very kindly suggested if I'd prefer not to spend £5 I could go to the ATM just a few yards away where I could withdraw some cash?!?!?!

In that moment, on top of everything else, these daily inconveniences sent my world spinning out of control.  I felt frustrated, helpless and completely alone. All I had wanted to do was make a simple dinner and not have to think!  Using every ounce of strength I could muster I managed a stable sounding "thank you" to the cashier, left the green pepper, and sped off towards home.  

I wasn't even halfway across the street when the tears came in a torrent. Barely able to see, I fumbled my way into the flat and bee-lined for our room, where I collapsed in a heap on the floor and felt despair flood over me.

I was there for over half an hour before Scott arrived home and found me, huddled against the bed, a complete mess with snot and tears running down my face. He gently asked me what was wrong and through shaky, halting speech I told him the same thing I'd repeated to myself hundreds of times since collapsing there: "I just want to go home." 

I missed my family, my friends, a job that paid me more than enough to live on (so I could buy ingredients for dinner without stressing), a work schedule that was consistent and a job where I knew what I was expected to accomplish daily, a car and the ability to go for a drive whenever I wanted, etc.  I had finally come face-to-face with the COST of following Christ.  

Since being back in the States the past 4 weeks, I have struggled with the fact that I will have to again leave family and friends and American conveniences.  But do I think that moving to Scotland and serving in ministry is worth the struggle? Yes! 

Over the last year I have seen God claim and change the lives of many of the young women I am privileged to disciple and many of the young men Scott disciples. I continually see young people pumped up about being in the Word and becoming people of Prayer. I watched Him provide a church building worth £150,000 for £40,000 at a time when we had lost hope of finding a permanent facility of our own. Plus, I have grown tremendously in my dependence on God for both my identity and His provision. 

Without a doubt, God is moving in Scotland and I feel excited and honored to be part of what He is doing! Obeying and following God can be exhilarating, but is it always easy and without cost? No! Nevertheless…there is no place I’d rather be.  Despite the pain and the struggle, the frustration and heartache, I place my life in the hands of the One who Never Fails and I whole heartedly declare that I am committed to do Whatever God Wants, Whenever He Wants It, Whatever It Costs.