Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Restless Heart: Is There Something More?

Do you ever feel like you could run on the currents of the fresh night air? You would run boundlessly until your lungs and legs ached, if only you knew where to go. You know you should go to bed, but nervous energy keeps you wide awake, eyes refusing to close. 

Is there more to life? More than a nine to five, more than college, a spouse, kids, career, and a white picket fence with a dog inside? Do you find yourself on the outside of every 'inside' in which the rest of the world expects you to dwell?

Questions quiver like the new green leaves on Spring zephyrs. What is this aching inside? Why this restless feeling? Where am I to go? Am I supposed to learn something? Will I learn more if I stay here, or if I trek on a new adventure? The sky is the limit, and even that cannot hold me captive. There is outer space to explore, after all. 

Innocent, trusting eyes look up to the Maker of all things, querying what He would have me to do. Go or stay? Go where? And if I stay, what is the 'more' I am seeking? Is it something I ought to be doing? How can I better accomplish what is at my hand to do? How can I open my heart more to being shaped by the Spirit of the Holy One? What is obedience and how do I practice it? Where does one gain a heart of Wisdom? How does one hone the art of discipline?

In short, how do I go 'further up and further in'? 

How can I be living daily to know God MORE? 

More of God. More Holiness. More direction. More diligence. More Wisdom. More faith in Him and His plans. More obedience. More discipline. More LIFE.

My heart is restless in me
My wings are all worn out
I'm walking in the wilderness
And I cannot get out
I need You, Oh, I need You
Blessed Savior come
I need You, Oh, I need You
Fill the every longing of my soul
~ Josh Bales, I Need You ~

~ Johanna

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cranberry Pumpkin Bread & Aprons

Preparing to Make Cranberry Pumpkin Bread...

First, one needs an apron. Thanks, Kasey!

Next, you mix together all of the ingredients...
And lick the bowl, of course. ;)

Finally, bake for an hour and eat with a pot of tea.

(Good tea, you know, not American tea.)


~ Johanna

Sunday, April 8, 2012

He is Risen!

O, He is risen indeed!

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,

Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness and into Thy health,
Out of my wanting and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

~ William T. Sleeper

A joyous Easter to you!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Do you ever feel like you do not have what it takes? What exactly does it take to be a man, win a girl's heart, provide for yourself (or others), or to meet someone's standards?

My real question is, what are you hiding behind? When Adam and Eve disobeyed God they realised they were naked. In that moment they experienced a strange new feeling: the need to hide.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary defines naked as: discovered; unarmed; defenceless; open; exposed; having no means of defence or protection against an enemy's attack, or against other injury. Due to our current, almost exclusive, use of the word 'naked' to mean 'unclothed' we often substitute the word vulnerable to express those ideas.

Who do you allow to see you naked?

Who are you willing to allow to discover you, unarmed, defences down emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually? Is there anyone with whom you are always willing to be vulnerable? Someone who does not laugh at your deepest dreams, hurts, desires, feelings of failure, and lack of meeting standards (yours, theirs, or God's)?

Be honest.

We do not have what it takes. We withdraw from others, even God, at some point. There are times when we become uncomfortable and want to hide.

I will be honest. I hide behind my personality, my intellect, and my appearance. If I am friendly, fun to be around, cheerful, kind, and hopeful, then surely others will like me. In my general circle of friends if I am intelligent then I obviously have what it takes to be a well-respected, thinking Christian - or even a good member of society. If I shop at Goodwill but look classy, I will not appear as poor or uneducated. I am so afraid of people seeing through my fa├žade of being a good Christian, a valuable member of humanity. I think that I can determine my own worth. Somehow I believe the authority to set the standards for what it takes to be good or valuable is mine.

But God.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5.8) God loved us when we were unlovable. God loved us when we spit in His face and ran the opposite way of His outstretched arms. God loved us when we did not have what it takes. God loved us when we were naked and vulnerable. And He still does.
"To ask that God's love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable."
~ C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
It is God Who makes us lovable. It is God Who has what it takes. It is God Who has the authority to set the standards, and God Who meets them. God was vulnerable enough to love us first. He was naked on a tree, spilling out his life blood to make His love visible.

~ Johanna

Monday, April 2, 2012

Beyond Hope and Salvation: What is the Gospel?

“If there’s anything in life that we should be passionate about, it’s the Gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to colour the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the Gospel ought to be.”
~ C. J. Mahaney

What is this Gospel? Is it the story of Jesus in the first four books of the New Testament? Is the Gospel narrowed down to blood pouring out, seven final words, so many hours on the cross, three days in the tomb, and the Son of Man's resurrection from the dead? Is this what causes our hearts to rejoice and colours our thinking of the world?

Or is the Gospel marvellously extensive, revealing redemption in minute detail? Maybe the Gospel is more than the story of Jesus, more than all the words etched on the leaves of the Bible. Quite possibly the Gospel is the story of the world: creation, fall, the promise of Hope, Redemption, and the trajectory that redemption takes us: into boundless, complete fellowship with God Himself.

Perhaps the Gospel is more than salvation and more than hope. It is possible that the Gospel is much more than restoring things to a pre-fallen state. Could the Gospel be making things better than they were? It is certainly all of these things and not less... And it is beyond probable that the Gospel is more abundant and invasive than we have ever considered.

How has the Gospel, the story of Redemption and beyond, changed you recently?

~ Johanna

Holy Week Commences

Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.
Glory be to Thee O Lord Most High,
Blessed is he who cometh in the Name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest!

Heartiness v. Heartlessness to Others

Beware of outstripping God by your very longing to do His will. We run ahead of Him in a thousand and one activities, consequently we get so burdened with persons and with difficulties that we do not worship God, we do not intercede. If once the burden and the pressure come upon us and we are not in the worshipping attitude, it will produce not only hardness toward God but despair in our own souls.

God continually introduces us to people for whom we have no affinity, and unless we are worshipping God, the most natural thing to do is to treat them heartlessly, to give them a text like the jab of a spear, or leave them with a rapped-out [harsh] counsel of God and go. A heartless Christian must be a terrible grief to Our Lord.

~ Oswald Chambers (1 April, My Utmost for His Highest)

This past weekend was refreshing to my soul. It was spent with friends over cups of good tea, hearty conversation (and a box of kleenex), laughter, food, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, walks, more conversations, and more delectable food.

Over a breakfast of crepes and fresh fruit (and delightful tea), one of the women at 'The Awesome Ladies House' read the above text from My Utmost for His Highest. Several parts caught my attention, but in light of a conversation had the day before with the very same friends, these lines hit the hardest: If once the burden and the pressure come upon us and we are not in the worshipping attitude, it will produce not only hardness toward God but despair in our own souls.

If we run ahead of God, if we seek to care so deeply about others that even God Himself cannot care as deeply as we do (or so we imagine), then the burden becomes intolerable. We are crushed under our own compassion and concern. What is right to have our hearts broken over becomes despair to our souls. Whether it is love for another, a brokenness over someone's hurt, anger at the problem of evil, a hatred for death, or something else with a good root, if it is carried too far (and not surrendered to God) it breaks us.

Yet how could we think that we care about something or someone more than God? How could sin or death, hurt or evil break our hearts more than they break God's? We are tempted to think that God is not so good as He actually is. That is a lie. God is Good, even when we cannot see the outcome. God hates brokenness and the Fall far more than we ever could. And only the Christian God did something about it, because He could. Only He could become a man, live a sinless life, and as one with authority –yet innocent– die in our place and be raised to life by His own power.

Surely the One who did this hates brokenness, death, and pain more than we do. He hates it enough to not only desire to fix it, He actually stood death on its head at the cost of His own life.

As I have been reading the Matthew's gospel I have been brought to tears at Jesus' attitude. He pronounces woes upon the Pharisees (with whom I have far too much in common), but juxtaposes that with the desire for life and hope for all of Israel (and the world). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

Over and again the book of Matthew says that Jesus was moved with compassion for a person, a crowd, etc. It is this idea of a hen gathering her chicks to herself for comfort and protection that paints the picture of God's tender love toward us. The word 'compassion' etymologically means to 'suffer together'. Jesus is the only God in history who suffers with us. He suffered for us in His passion and death. Now He suffers with us when our hearts are broken. He even teaches us what is good and right to be broken over.

We only taste the barest portion of His suffering (either in our own experiences, or in suffering for or with others). Further, we only taste a fragment of what true joy, hope, exhilaration, life, and Beauty are. The more we know God, the more we cultivate a capacity to experience both the depth of pain and suffering, along with the heights of joy and hope. Imagine how much richer our experience and understanding of the good, true, and Beautiful, of life itself, will be when we are with God in the new heavens and the new earth!

This leads to what another of my friends said after we read Chambers yesterday: "When you rearrange despair it becomes praised". Indeed, as Chambers said, if we meet with suffering or burdens when we are not in an attitude of worship, we will despair. Instead we must seek to 'give thanks in all things'. If we are praising God for who He is, all that He has done, for His word, et cetera, because of or in spite of life's circumstances, then how can despair gain a foothold?

These are the thoughts given to me upon the commencement of Holy Week. Though I 'missed' church yesterday due to breakfast with 'The Awesome Ladies', I was given more hope, life, and hard things to chew upon than one hour of liturgy at church often offers. In fact, I will long remember what I was doing this Palm Sunday because I was living out 'church' (being the body of Christ) with these ladies. I am tempted to break church tradition and say the 'H word' a week early: Hallelujah! He is worthy of all praise, adoration, our hearts, and our very selves! Amen.

~ Johanna