Monthly Archives: February 2013

Worth The Struggle

Have you ever struggled with God? I don’t mean struggle against God, though I’m sure some have. I’m speaking more of struggling together with God to grasp what he is up to. Maybe it’s a hard teaching from the Bible you are struggling to understand. Maybe it’s an inexplicably unanswered prayer. Maybe a point of obedience that makes no sense to you. We don’t like struggle, but struggling with God through issues is actually a positive thing. If you struggle against God you’ll lose, but if you struggle with him there are tremendous blessings to be gained.
How does that work? On a basic level it can be compared to the relationship I had with my old mare. When she first came into my life she was already into her prime but hadn’t had much finishing put on her. Apparently a good part of her life to that point had been up in the bush of Nothern Alberta around Conklin running with the herd belonging to folks from that community. The horses essentially ran free and when someone wanted to ride they would just ask around if anyone had seen where the herd was at.
When I began riding her you could get her to go, you could steer her by pulling her head in the desired direction, and if you had enough space you could eventually get her to stop. She also had this rearing thing she’d do if she didn’t like what you asked her to do. But I liked the look of her eye and decided she’d be my horse. I started from scratch with her as though she’d never been ridden, and together we struggled for many hours.
But in that struggle we came to know each other, and she came to trust me. There wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do and wasn’t anywhere she wouldn’t go. She was the one I put my son on to learn to ride, and the one I used to drag home the Christmas tree out of the bush, closing the barbed wire gate behind us without having to get off. Working together at a guest ranch we climbed up and down cliffs, crossed rivers, and led trail rides for Japanese tourists who spoke no English. With the crack of a whip we’d race along side the horse herd gathering them for the day’s trail rides, and later I’d fire a pistol off while we “held up” a bus of tourists. Over the years we’ve pushed cows through deep bush, open prairie and just about everything in between. We cut the calves out, and then roped and dragged them to the branding irons. We even rode in the Calgary Stampede Parade.
None of this would have happened without going through a struggle together. Similarly, it’s in the struggles we go through with God that we really come to trust him; that we learn to know him. So embrace the struggle.


God’s Best Friend

I haven’t had a very good track record of keeping dogs for very long. My first puppy lasted all of a week. My next dog lasted two years before coyotes got him. My dogs have been stolen, kicked by a horse, and hit by a vehicle. Currently there is one that has survived about ten years but I think that’s mostly because when we moved here we had to give him to friends because our yard isn’t fenced.

The best dog I had was a border collie/blue heeler cross named Luke, who had one blue eye and one brown eye. He was so easy to train that much of it almost seemed instinctive. From the first time I whistled for him if he could hear me he came running no matter what had his attention at that point. I never had to teach him not to get into the garbage; in fact I never even had to clean up after him at all. Even if we were in the bush he always went off the trail to do his business.

I had gotten him as two month old puppy and very quickly a bond developed between us, so much so that he literally became depressed when I was gone on holidays. I left him with my brother for two weeks and he was convinced Luke was seriously sick, but he was his normal self when I got home. Sadly this was the dog I’m pretty sure the coyotes got.

Sadder yet, though, is that most people probably identify more with the bond between me and Luke than with the bond God longs to have with us. I have said before that God longs to be longed for. The relationship I had with my dog is a pale illustration of a far deeper, profound, and satisfying relationship we can have with God.

The challenge is how to develop that relationship; how to “practice the presence of Christ.” Here’s a suggestion someone gave that helped me. Find something in your routine that you do, or hear, or see a number of times during the day. Simple things like a favorite color, the phone ringing, school bell, or starting a new task, maybe even your dog barking. It can be anything, but let it remind you of Jesus’ presence with you. Breathe a quick prayer at these times. Something simple; “Thank-you Lord,” “Be merciful to me a sinner,” “Fill me with your love.” You will be amazed at where that simple practice will lead you.

God’s Desire To Be Desired

Valentine ’s Day is coming up. I’m not typically one to make a big deal over it, but I’ve come to at least see it as a good reminder not to get lazy or complacent in romancing my wife. It’s important that I communicate to her how much she is treasured, how beautiful she is to me; how desired she is. For me saying ”I love you” is easy and natural and is a daily occurrence. But, without minimizing the value of that, finding other unique ways of communicating the same thing is valuable for both of us.
We like being desired. In fact it is such a powerful thing that advertisers tap into this longing and make billions trying to convince us that we will be desirable if we buy their product. Of course this is a lie and only leaves us hollow and empty. But in a committed marriage relationship it is wonderful and fulfilling to have our spouse make an effort to woo us and pursue and entice us proving that we are desired.
The Song of Solomon is an amazing account of what a healthy, Godly, Biblical marriage relationship is like. It is beautiful, and passionate, and intimate and full of expressions of desire for each other. Throughout both husband and wife try to allure and entice the other but also take pleasure in being pursued and persuaded to love.
For centuries it has been understood that the Song of Solomon is also a picture of God’s relationship with his people. Paul makes a similar connection in Ephesians speaking of Jesus as the groom and we as his bride. What I think we easily miss is that as much we value and are pleased that Jesus has pursued and wooed us he too derives pleasure from us reciprocating much as husband is pleased by the affections of his wife.
Many of us are uncomfortable thinking of, let alone speaking of Holy God in this way but that’s because we don’t fully grasp the profound nature of the relationship God literally desires with us. It is an awe inspiring thing to realize that I can bring pleasure to God; that God, though undeniably self-sufficient, desires to be desired. Let me suggest that during these next few days when there are so many reminders of “love” around that you allow those to direct your thoughts and desires to the one who is Love.

River Fishing & True Success

What does it mean to successful in God’s eyes? Is there any difference between that and what our culture understands as success? Not just in terms of money and stuff, but in everyday life how do you define success and does it match God’s definition? Let me illustrate God’s definition and see how it lines up with yours.
My whole family went on a horse packing trip up the Ram River for my parent’s 25th anniversary. After getting back to base camp one afternoon I decided to do some fishing. I grabbed my rod, headed down to the river and began working my way up stream.
If you’ve never river fished before, it’s different from lake fishing where you may sit in one spot for hours. On the river you’re constantly on the move looking for little eddies, and sheltered spots along the banks where the current gently swirls upstream. Once you’ve tried a number of casts into one hole and not had any response, there’s usually no point staying so you move to the next hole.
When I’m fishing like this time doesn’t mean much and by the time I figure I’m done I’ve usually got a long walk back. Wendy didn’t realize this process and began to get concerned after I had been gone for a couple of hours. But Dad assured her everything was fine, having done the exact thing many times himself.
Meanwhile I had found a perfect hole, but I wasn’t going to be easy. There was a lot of overhanging willows and it was a challenge to get an angle that I could cast my lure where I wanted without getting hung up in the bushes or getting myself wet. But it was worth it. On just the second cast I got a big hit on my line and I landed a beautiful rainbow trout.
When I got back to camp the pride in my dad’s eyes as I describe my adventure is something I’ll treasure my whole life. But it really had nothing to do me catching a big fish. I could have fallen in the river and come back with a broken rod and seen the same pride. The pride was in seeing his nature and character and values reflected in his son.
That’s the success that God values; when he sees himself expressed through his children. Galatians 5 calls it the fruit of the spirit. The characteristics that are expressed consistently through a person’s life that spring from the very nature of God himself.