Molding a lump of clay

Molding a lump of clay
I am a work in progress, molded by my Maker, refined by His fire, shaped with His love. Walk the journey with me.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Becoming like little children

It's amazing how contented and happy kids can be stomping around in a pile of mud. They get dirty...they don't care! The dirtier the better. No worrying about getting the mudstains out of their clothes, or the dirt out from under their toenails. No worrying what nasty parasites might be lurking in the sludge, just waiting to burrow into their skin and bring some kind of crazy sickness. No fearing that there might be a sharp stone or stick hidden in the mix that will stab their feet. Just worry-free fun, a total abandonment to the moment, no greater concern than enjoying the present.

Recently God has been speaking to me through the well-known verses in Phil. 4: 4-7..."Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything , by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
I need that guard over my heart and mind. I'm so good at fretting and plotting how to fix
everything...I can get caught up in the possibles and not dwell in the's so easy for me to think I've got the inside track and everyone just needs me to show them!
But all I really want is that child-like peace...I want to play in the mud without a care in the world; I want to sit in the dirt and have tea parties with my friends; I want the joy of the Lord to shine in me.
I catch a glimpse of what Jesus meant when He said, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3) It doesn't mean we become naive, but rather trusting. Not immature, but dependent on His grace. Not childish, but humble.
Dear Father,
Make me into the daughter you created me to be. Help me to find my joy in live in the trust You with all the cares and ask You for whatever I need, and trust that You will provide it. Put Your loving guard around my heart and mind, that I might learn to love as You love, to think as You think, and to become more and more like you every day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Struggle sticks closer than a brother...

I laughed when I read that sentence...Struggle sticks closer than a brother. Mary Farrar wrote that in her book "Choices." She went on to say,

"Struggle is actually a vital part of the process of growing. Consider a tree. Its roots are empty hands stretched out to the earth. It is dependent on the sun, the air, the clouds, and the soil. But a tree doesn't sit there passively. No, in order for a tree to be healthy and grow, it must struggle. It must put forth an enormous amount of energy every day to raise the water and minerals from the soil to its leaves. It has been estimated that the work of a large tree on a given day equals the amount of energy expended by a person carrying three hundred buckets of water, two at a time, up a ten-foot flight of stairs.

"That is major struggle. You see, struggle is okay. Struggle is part of growing up. The key in the midst of our struggle is that we have our roots tapped into the right source - the pure, unpoisoned, vitamin-rich water of God's truth. The best we can ever have will come from the hand of God - as we follow hard after Him."

I like that. It's very liberating. It makes struggling look like a good thing, not just a difficult season that one has to get through and then get on with life. More like a long-term process of growing closer to God.

I used to feel ashamed of my seemingly endless struggles...I thought maybe I was too immature, maybe I had too much junk from my past, maybe I just didn't bear enough spiritual fruit to stave off the struggles. As if a mature, pure, fruitful person shouldn't have struggles.

But according to Farrar, struggling is where the growth is. And when I think about my struggles, they've often come after I've prayed one of those prayers that goes something like, "Dear Jesus, I'm tired of being this way. Please change me! Transform me! I want to become more like You!"

And then, WHAM! Smack in the face comes another challenge to which I usually react wrongly and then beat myself up for being worse than I was before I said the prayer! But after some time of agonizing and pouring my heart out to God and being broken before Him, I start to see things a little differently, and I start to feel His amazing love for me, and little by little I see the change in me. And that gives me the courage to do it again..."Lord, there's this other problem I see in me...I'm sick of it. I don't want it anymore. Burn it out of me, Lord!"

And then, WHAM! Back in it again.

It can be pretty exhausting, all this refining and purifying, but it's worth the pain to realize that God is molding me, and I am drawing closer to Him. And He graces me with deeper understanding of who He is, and who I am in Him.

The struggles are not in vain...the struggles are the stepping stones to the throne of Grace.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Prison...a different kind of molding

Isaac (top middle...smiling) and Kelvin (above) are normal guys with sadly common lives. Isaac was in the Ugandan army, had some personal problems he wanted to sort out, took leave to sort those problems, and didn't go back. He got caught eventually and was imprisoned for desertion...he got two years.

Kelvin had the usual family problems growing up...alcoholic parents, lots of fighting in the home, no sense of stability or love. His parents took the money that would have paid his school fees and his school uniform and spent it on alcohol. The neighbors mocked him. The rejection burned inside and set down roots. Not surprisingly, he also became an alcoholic and drug user. He was imprisoned for possession with intent to sell...3 years.

I met these two guys when I joined an on-going prison ministry. Every week we'd go and teach from God's Word and try to encourage the prisoners. Then we started an Alpha Course. Isaac and Kelvin were among the students. God touched their hearts and they gave their lives to Christ. The change in them is's like watching the caterpillar transform into a butterfly. Now they are leaders within the prison over their fellow inmates, and God is shaping them.

I don't pretend to understand what they go through in prison. Just yesterday Kelvin was asking if we could help them with laundry soap, as the prices have gone so high they can't afford to buy it anymore. The guys have to get their own soap for bathing and washing's not provided by the prison. And they want to be clean. They may be prisoners but they're not animals. They still have their dignity.

I'm a wimp when it comes to my molding sessions with soon as the fire gets hot I get all depressed and frustrated and discouraged with my lack of maturity. I can't imagine how I'd cope in Isaac and Kelvin's shoes. Watching them struggle to persevere and keep a positive attitude has challenged me a lot. How do I respond in the face of hardship? opposition? sickness? They are confined...I am not, but sometimes I think I confine myself with my own negative thinking.

What is the key to freedom? Giving it all to Jesus...all of it. Every day placing my burdens before Him again and again and saying, "I don't want to carry anything other than the yoke I share with You." He knows how much I can handle, and He knows where He wants to take me. When I just let go of the reins and hold His hands, instead....I experience that freedom...not a sense of nothingness, but a sense of being carried and cared for by a deeply loving Father. It frees me to be who He made me to be. And that's what I long for...just to be close to my Dad and live to please Him.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Let me tell you about my family...

What molds a person more than living with four other people who all have their own needs, ideas, characters and opinions? I've been challenged again and again by my own selfish behavior as I struggle to balance my wants with those of my family. The age-old tug-of-war between being a mother to three little kids and being a leader in the YWAM ministries is on-going. I don't have any easy answers, but at the moment I'm at a place where I thank God for my family, and love them very much, and thank God for the gifts He's given me to lead and teach. My heart is to draw closer and closer to my Shepherd and trust Him to balance my priorities according to His scales.

The biggest piece of iron that keeps sharpening me is this handsome guy...John. His
pastoral care and servant heart model Jesus to me, and I'm thankful for his patience and unconditional love. It makes the refining fire just that little bit easier to bear. His passion for missions and to see Africans rise up and take their place in fulfilling the Great Commission is an
inspiration to me. He's not perfect, so I get to rub at some of his rough edges, too. And yet he still appreciates me!

He loves plants and trees, and not just planting trees, but hanging from them.

Aidan is a lot like his dad. Being our first, he initiated us into the New Parents Club. Both Aidan and I lost our cool numerous times and left Daddy to sort out the mess. Remember that patience of John's I mentioned? Yeah...we really needed it then.

Noah is a little Bob the Builder. He loves taking things apart...I'm looking forward to the day when he learns to put them back together. He hated pre-school when he started this year until a little Ugandan boy called
Tendo gave him a piece of bubble gum. Now they're best friends and Noah loves school. Another answered prayer!

Keziah is my lovely little girl. I'm constantly amazed at how different she is from the boys...she prefers dresses to trousers, she ties teddy to her back African-style, she sweeps the house. But she still follows Noah everywhere and can play cars with the best of 'em.

Thank You, Father, for using these special individuals to make me more into the daughter you created me to be. Thank You for their love, and the joy they bring me. Help me to be a love-giver and joy-bearer for them. Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Roots and storms

It's late, now, and I want to rest. I've been setting up this blog for the last couple of hours, and haven't gotten very far. But before I log off, I wanted to at least write a few words to make it 'official'.

So here is my parting thought, something I read a short time back when I was going through a particularly challenging time: 'Storms make trees dig deeper roots.'

I like that. I want to go deeper in the Lord, and if it's a storm that makes me cling to Him all the harder, let it be. Yes, those storms are painful, but the growth is worth it.