Search This Blog

Friday, 18 March 2011

A Purpose Driven Life

I'm titling this blog entry to correspond with the book we are studying in our housegroup through the 40 days of Lent. Most people in the group have done the study in the past and I think I read the book about 10 years ago but for some reason I'm getting so much more out of it doing it with a group of folks that are committed to reading it and committed to encouraging eachother through a Facebook discussion group. I'll summarize what we've read so far in terms of what it's meant to me and what God is teaching me through it.

When we first arrived in Germany I felt so on fire for God and excited about our ministry here. I was having my quiet time every day, praying for our supporters every day and memorizing German scripture verses. I had committed to not getting on my computer until I had my quiet time each day whether I "felt" like it or not. Some days it was really hard to hear from God and sometimes I felt so incredibly close to Him but I noticed that those days where I took the time and made the effort I had a lot of peace, joy and I felt really on fire for God.

Then we started school and we were getting up reallllllly early and rushing around trying to get everything done and so my quiet times started to fall until after we got home but then when we got home we were hungry and tired and just wanted to relax and so several days I missed my quiet time all together. I would still pray and talk to God but the more days that went by where God wasn't first in my day the more down, unpeaceful and discouraged I became.

Then came this study. We made a commitment to do the study with our housegroup and Alan and I started three days early and then re-did those three days with the rest of the group. As I allowed Gods word and the truths in this book sink into my heart I again began to feel hope and peace and much less discouraged. It's been twelve days now and I haven't missed a day studying the chapter, reading Gods word and praying He will reveal himself to me more and more each day. For a while there when I wasn't sticking close to God the devil and my flesh had a hay day on my spirit and on our marriage. How silly we are to think that we are not at war each day with a very real and live enemy bent on destroying us. How forgetful we become that our flesh is still at work to pull us away from God and toward the world.

The things so far that have really stood out to me in the book are:
Ch 2: You are not an accident - "If there was no God, we would all be "accidents," the result of astronomical random chance in the universe... your life would have no purpose or meaning or significance. There would be no right or wrong, and no hope beyond your brief years here on earth. But there is a God who made you for a reason, and your life has profound meaning! We discover that meaning and purpose only when we make God the reference point in our lives."

Ch 3: What drives your life? I felt convicted that at times I have been driven by guilt, resentment or anger and by fear. I no longer feel driven by material things and while I appreciate and need others approval it's not a driving force in my life. I want a focused life. Focused like light through a laser beam - able to cut through metal. I want a life focused on Christ and his purpose for my life. Am I there yet? No but I do believe in the past several years that when the big choices and big decisions have come up I have passed the test. It's the little stuff that seems to trip me up. Life here on this earth is truly a test. I love how Warren puts it though when he says we will have a final exam before we enter eternity but because God wants us to pass this test he has given us the two questions in advance. The first is "What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?" It's not about your religious background or doctinal views - it's about whether or not you accepted what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him. This first question determines where we will spend eternity. The second question will be "What did you do with what I gave you?" What did you do with the gifts, talents, opportunities, energy, relationships and resources God gave you? This second question determines what you do in eternity - what God will put you in charge of, what rewards you will receive and eternity is a LONG time! Why we focus so much on the here and now when we have eternity to look forward to is a really good question.

Ch 4: Made to Last Forever: "If your time on earth were all there is to your life, I would suggest you start living it up immediately. You could forget being good and ethical, and you wouldn't have to worry about any consequences of your actions. You could indulge yourself in total self-centeredness because your actions would have no long-term repercussions. But -- and this makes all the difference -- death is not the end of you! Death is not your termination, but your transition into eternity, so there are eternal consequences to everything you do on earth. Every act of our lives strikes some chord that will vibrate in eternity."

Ch 6: Life is a temporary assignment: "Repeatedly the Bible compares life on earth to temporary living in a foreign country. This is not your permanent home or final destination. You're just pssing through, just visiting earth." Just like Alan and I are foreigners in Germany and life here sometimes is really tough and lonely and frustrating, we are also foreigners on this earth and things aren't how we'd have them to be. They aren't supposed to be. This is a fallen world and it's not our home.

These are just some of the things that have really touched me so far reading this book. I am grateful for a group of believers that have struggles just like Alan and I do but that are so encouraging to us and that show us through their successes and failures, hopes and short-comings that we are not alone and that God is still a God of forgiveness and love. He takes pleasure in US! We make God smile when we live for Him - when we live to bring him glory. He is deserving of the very best we have to offer but when we screw up, he doesn't condemn us. He doesn't accuse us. He doesn't stop loving us. He helps us up, brushes us off and encourages us to try again. I love that.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Breakdowns - the theme for the week?

No I'm not just speaking of Alans and my breakdown on the autobahn last night. Officialy I've had two total breakdown/meltdowns this week that I'm not proud of. The first came Wednesday night when we were trying to get to housegroup on time. I was driving and about 10 minutes into our drive Alan realized he didn't have either his bible or his German lesson book that he was going to study on our way to housegroup. He knew he had them when he was heading out the door and thought he either put them on top of the car or on the stairs going down to the car and so we decided to turn around to find them. When we got back home his bible and book were nowhere to be found so I told him to check the apartment and sure enough he'd left them in the kitchen. No emergency after all but now we were going to be late to housegroup. Ugh - we hate being late.

So we're driving and we take this route which I hate but the satellite nav insists it's the shortest way. The reason I hate it is because it goes through the mountains and the German drivers insist on driving right up on your tail to try to intimidate you I guess. Talk about stressful! Well Wednesday night was no different and as we drove out of the mountains and we got to the bottom of the hill we found a huge line of traffic waiting for the light before you go onto the motorway. So we waited... and waited... and waited. About 20 minutes later I'm getting really frustrated because the line of traffic we are trying to turn into continue to block the intersection making it impossible for anyone coming from our direction to turn. It's too congested to be anything but a bad accident and I'm watching the clock and saying, well now they're having dinner and now they're singing and now they're praying -- all the while knowing we were still 20-25 minutes out even if traffic started moving right away. Ugh.

You see - I really, really needed to get to housegroup. I had been feeling so incredibly depressed this past week with adjusting to life here in Germany. I had experienced off and on anxiety about being a first time mom and the language learning, especially for Alan, has become another big stressor. Being around other believers and being encouraged is something we look forward to all week and it didn't look like we were going to make it or if we did, it would be for the last five minutes only... ugh.

Have you ever noticed that when you get stressed, others around you start getting stressed too and suddenly it's no longer about the German tailgaters or the terrible traffic or having to turn around to try and find something that wasn't lost to begin with but suddenly it's about you and the other person and you're taking jabs at eachother over nothingness and that makes you more stressed, etc., etc? Well this was what was happening with Alan and me. In a matter of about fifteen minutes I had gone from being upset about our circumstances and my depression over the past week to being upset with Alan. I can probably safely say that my pregnancy hormones had taken over but when I started to cry I just couldn't stop. This in turn stressed Alan out unimaginably. Needless to say we turned around and went back home. We sorted things out between us after a good prayer time and I was able to call my mom and get encouragement from her as well which I needed.

Then last night we decided we wanted to go and see the English version of The King's Speech which was playing in Mannheim. Unfortunately our car had other plans and as we were driving along the autobahn it decided to breakdown. Fortunately Alan got it over to the side of the road but German drivers on the autobahn drive so incredibly fast that we knew we couldn't stay there for long. Someone could very easily hit the car so we needed to get out and phone someone for help. As my week would have it though my phone decided to die at the exact same moment as the car and my phone has all our church friends numbers stored in it. Alan brought his phone but the only number it had in it was my mobile phone, our home phone and Cathy Thompsons phone number in Hungary. Alan thought it would be a good idea to walk down the autobahn and cross over into a field where there was a road we could walk on into the small town about a mile away but I was terrified of walking on the autobahn so I made him climb over a metal barrier and cross a big field. Unfortunately I managed to get caught on the metal barrier and my favorite maternity jeans tore from my butt to almost my knee. Insert breakdown number 2 here.

I won't go into the details but it wasn't pretty. Here I am over 6 months pregnant, walking through a plowed field trying to make it to someone who could give us the phone numbers of our friends, a tow service and a mechanic. My jeans are torn and Alan is saying how we just need to relax and trust God. At this point I didn't care about trusting God. I was mad at God. Mad at Him for calling us to Germany, mad at Him for not giving us a reliable car, mad at Him for letting my phone die, etc., etc. AND I was mad at Alan. Mad that he hadn't gotten our car fixed when it started acting up a while ago, mad that he didn't manage to help me over the barrier so I wouldn't tear my jeans, mad that he kept insisting I was going to fall in the field and so could we please walk on the road instead. Yeah breakdown number 2 wasn't pretty either.

You know the one good thing about being with someone that loves you? Truly? He'll forgive you when you're freaking out and blaming him for everything. Alan always does and God does too. For some reason that hit me in the face later because I attribute God to having so much less love for me than my human relationships and in reality those relationships don't hold a candle to how much God loves me. AND He doesn't abandon his children when they need him. Yes they might experience a breakdown, get hurt or damaged trying to get help, stumble a bit for a while through a dirty field but He's always there and all things work together for good for those that love God. All things. Not the occassional few or most things but all things. This was no exception.

For example: God provided a newstand with a sweet lady that loaned us her phonebook. We rang our pastor who gave us the number for a recovery service in addition to calling our other friends in the church and asking them to drive out to help us. He provided a sweet man in the newstand who told me where I could find a bank and then he followed me there to make sure I found it ok. God provided a recovery service that towed our car to the church where we could leave it until we figured out what to do with it. Finally he provided our friend Matt who came to meet us, picked me up from the train station where I was waiting for Alan, drove me to the church to meet Alan and then he gave us the church van as the pastor said we could use it until we got our car sorted. Provision, faithfulness, unfailing love.

Today we got to see The King's Speech and loved it. We spent a few hours before the movie enjoying Mannheim, walking Webster and eating 1/2 meter long bratwurst.

Is living here easy? No. It's really hard sometimes but is it worth it to see God working in your life and watching over you so evidently? Yes.

God willing Alan and I will be parents in 12 weeks. We'll either get our car fixed or God will provide something else. We're learning German and we're meeting some great people from around the world while we do it. Yesterday I took orchids to two of our sweet neighbors that we've met who have been very kind to us and just knew this was where God wanted us.

Will I have more breakdowns? I hope not. I hope I can become more grounded in the assurance of Gods love and faithfulness so that when these acute stress moments come I can take a deep breath, widen my vision, pray and deal with them constructively rather than destructively. It's all about Gods grace and I'm so glad for it.