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Book Review: The Insanity of God

Nik Ripken isn’t his real name. The missionary wrote this book under a pseudonym to protect his identity and that of believers around the world who face death and torture by naming the name of Christ.

After reading The Insanity of God my view of the world and of what it means to follow the Lord has been forever altered.

Ripken and his wife served in relief efforts in Somalia in the horrific years of warfare and government overthrow. Ripken said he had learned that hell was the absence of God. And when he stepped into Somalia, where the name of Christ was not uttered and evil given full reign, he felt like he had entered hell.

The first half of the book describes the couple’s mission in Africa. The harshness and cruelty of this land and a personal tragedy raised many troubling questions for Ripken. The title of the book draws from this experience as he grapples with issues that don’t seem to make sense. He and his wife began to investigate how Christians live out their faith in difficult, seemingly impossible situations. Through the second half of the book, they travel the globe and share the stories of faithful Christians.

These accounts both inspired and shamed me. Often, I have the idea that God’s desire is to “bless” me and I get whiny when it doesn’t come through. Many other believers, though, know much better what Jesus meant when he warned that the world would hate them.

Ripken said he’d been hoping to find a program or procedure to reach Muslims and non-believers. But in the furthest, most dangerous corners of the world, he found a Person: Jesus Christ. And He is at work.

All we have to do is watch the news to see this reality as Christians in the Middle East suffer persecution and death. As their faithfulness is a model for us, may we be faithful to pray for them. And to pray for their persecutors, for the saving name of Jesus to be proclaimed to those who are held captive to sin.

On a personal level, I have come to appreciate afresh the privilege of holding a Bible in my hand and of joining with brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and also put some of my “troubles” into perspective.

I highly recommend The Insanity of God but don’t say I didn’t warn you about how it might rattle your world.
Susie-3994-EditPS 72
~ Susan

Dear Special Needs Mom….

Dear Special Needs Mom,

holding handsYou were ahead of me in line at Costco. You had a cart with two older children and a load of groceries. Behind you was your own mother pushing a cart that was empty except for a lovely young girl sitting in the front.

She had on a pretty pink summer dress and no shoes. Between her hands she held a long black sticker with the number “10” stamped down it in a neat row. No doubt she pulled it off some clothing item and you decided to pick your battles and let her keep it. She held the sticker close to her eyes and a then up in the air in triumph—twisting and turning that sticker as though it were an exotic treasure.

And she babbled to herself in a sing-song like manner with words that I couldn’t understand, although she was old enough to be understood. But you probably knew what she was saying. I tried to make eye contact with her and engage her, but she stared right through me and around me.

I looked at you and smiled. You smiled back but your eyes gave away your weariness. Your hair fell out of your ponytail and you pushed it behind your ear as you continued to unload your cart.

The cashier grabbed your bag of chips and said you’d have to select another, after all, they sell them in bulk…you can’t buy just one.

Your shoulders slumped in defeat. “Sorry,” you told the cashier.  “I’ll have to just leave it. I can’t run to the back of the store for a second one.” Your eyes darted toward your daughter. You knew that even a small change in plan would be too much for her.

Your mother offered to run back, but you just shook your head. “I’ve got her and we can’t do it.”

How I wanted to hug you and tell you that I’ve been there. I know what it’s like—a simple shopping trip can be like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The simple and mundane things in life can sap what little strength you have left some days. I wanted to applaud you for bringing all your children out together, taking the risk that it could go wrong and then to endure the glaring stares of those who don’t know.

I wanted to tell you to hang in there. Remember all her successes, no matter how small. I wanted to remind you that your daughter is beautiful and perfect just the way she is. I wanted to tell you that as long as you try your best, you are not failing as a mother, even if you feel that your best is not enough. Believe me, it is.

I wanted to say that this road we walk may be complex, but the rewards are high. There is beauty in learning to give your time, strength, energy and resources to those who can only give love in return. There is great joy in serving the vulnerable. And though it may be hard to lose independence, we have an opportunity to learn about interdependence and the richness in community.

I just wanted to let you know you are not alone. Not ever.

There is One who doesn’t promise to magically make all our challenges go away, but He does promise to be with us every step of the way (Heb. 13:5).

We need to feel the strength of others around us. We need others to help us and return that help when we can.

But sometimes others just can’t be there.

Some days that promise from Christ is all we have. And for me, that is enough.

Love,

Another Special Needs Mom

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Living IN This Moment

There are those times when I’m with someone whose story causes me to look at my own self deeply. That story that leaves you wondering how the person is even standing upright, how they’ve managed to live joyfully in the midst of the pain.

We spent time with extended family over Labor Day weekend. Every other year we all get together so while I don’t know any of them deeply, they have touched my life and it’s always a joy to get back together.

For the last four years, we’ve watched a couple in their fifties go through a deep valley. This year only the wife was there. Her husband had to be put into a nursing home because a disease has left the front part of his brain paralyzed. He can’t even communicate with her in any way.

She talked. She smiled. She encouraged. She praised God.

And I left the weekend completely convicted. If I knew what the next moment held, would that change my life? If I knew I wasn’t going to have those golden years with my husband, would I throw myself into the now? Do I love my family in a manner that I’ll never question why I didn’t show them more?

People have stories that take my breath away. Stories that break my heart. Stories that make me question. Stories that scream at me that I am blessed and at this moment, I should take full advantage of those blessings.

I need to live my relationships IN this moment so there won’t be the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.

Sara

As 2014 Slips Away….

autumn leavesSo here we are, the second of September. The day after Labor Day. The first day of school for many. Two-thirds of the year has passed. Six weeks until Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving and in 12 weeks Americans will have their turn with turkey and pumpkin pie. And dare I mention that are only 16 Saturdays before Christmas?

The point is, the year is flying by.

One author posted yesterday that September 1st is the new January 1st. I would have to agree. A new starting point. And this time of year always finds me reflective.

What were my goals this year and how am I doing with them?

What goals do I need to scrap?

What do I need to start doing?

Have I been paying attention to my ‘word’ for the year?

These goals are not always about doing or trying to conquer the world. They may be about doing less and just being. Perhaps it’s realizing that certain things are taking a lot of my time and energy when they should be taking less. And maybe those things that need more of my energy have taken a backseat. Relationships need nurturing, too, and shouldn’t always be sacrificed on the altar of projects/productivity.

How has this year been for you? Crazy, too?

If you are feeling like you’re carrying a heavy load, Jesus wants to offer you rest.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. – Matt. 11:28-30 (The Message)

If you think your priorities are out of whack, Jesus has a solution to get things back on track.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matt. 6:33 (NIV)

If you need direction, He’s got that covered.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. – Psalms 119:105

If this year has left you in a tailspin, feeling all alone, there is One who is crazy in love with you and promises that nothing separate you from this love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Hang in there. This year is nearing to an end – 2014 can be a year worth remembering.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Back on Tuesdays

I’m making my return to blogging on Tuesdays after a trial with Saturday blogging. The reason for the switch? Life.

Yes, life was happening and my regular schedule and rhythm that I hold so dear had changed. So I adapted. I made a change here. I made a change there. All in the hopes of keeping life’s great juggling act in balance and keeping all the proverbial ‘balls in the air.’

To be truthful, I am a creature of habit. I don’t love change. I would be happy to have each day a little more routine, a little more predictable. But that’s not reality for anyone…maybe for a season, but certainly not for the long haul.

I guess over the years I’ve learned to embrace change-to see life as a great adventure. And when I know something is coming that looks like a challenge, I’m learning (ever learning) to trust God.

Does trusting God during periods of change mean that everything will go smoothly? Many times, situations have worked out even better than I could have expected. Yet, sometimes those transitions have been like hitting speed bumps at 100 miles per hour. Ouch! But God has proved faithful by giving us strength and peace until we reached calm once more. God has never promised that we would have a problem-free life but He does promise to be to be with us through hard times and gives us hope. (See John 16:33)

In this life, there are many curves in the road…and pot holes, too. But I am glad there is one person who is always, always consistent. Jesus.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

Glad I can count on Him.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

How well do you handle change?

 

 

 

The most important thing

It’s not being a wife.

It’s not being a soul winner and seeing lots of people saved.

It’s not being the most morally pure person on my block.

It’s not being a mother to the motherless.

It’s not studying the Bible.

It’s not earning enough money so I can retire to go on mission trips and volunteer.

It’s not taking a stand on cultural issues.

It’s only one thing.

Love the Lord.

The single most important thing that I am called to do. Love the Lord with all my heart. I’ve been convicted that anything else that matters will follow if I get this most important thing right.

This song by Matt Redman gets my heart pumping and helps me see how every heart beat really can beat with the most important thing.

Blessings to you this Monday, friends!

~ Susan

Truth Reminders

In 2009, I kept a daily prayer journal. While going through a difficult and confusing situation, I wrote down a list of facts to help keep my focus on what was true. I’ve referred to that list many, many times since then.

And wouldn’t you know, I pulled it out this weekend.

I share it to help me nail down these truths once again and just in case it might help you, too.

  1. God is in control.
  2. God is good, loving and eternal.
  3. God’s word is true; my emotions are real but temporal.
  4. This is not how it will always be.
  5. There is coming a day when all will be made right.
  6. God can see the future and I cannot.
  7. In the darkest times, God is most at work.
  8. God has given generously; look at all He has done and I deserve none of it.

What truths are on your list of reminders?

~ Susan

The Love of a Father

heart handsThis week’s theme was Famous Father’s as a nod to Father’s Day that kicked off this week. Before I get too far into this blog post, I’d like to wish my dad a Happy Birthday who celebrates on this very day. It’s sunny here in Southwestern Ontario. My grandmother swore that it never rained on my dad’s birthday and today is consistent with her declaration. Enjoy the day, Dad!

This year, I agreed to do another read through the Bible with a friend. It’s been good to refresh on details of stories in the Old Testament or review the lesser read portions of the New Testament. There is one story about King David and his son Absalom that really stood out for me in the book of Second Samuel.

Absalom worked to conspire against his father. For four years, he would turn people away at the city gate who wanted to see King David for a matter of justice. He told them that there was no representative for the king to hear the people out…if only he were appointed judge in the land! By doing this he won the hearts of the people. (Not to mention, he is described as exceptionally handsome and without blemish.)

Before long, Absalom stole the kingdom from his father and won the allegiance of the many. David, on the other hand, had to run to save his life from being taken by his own son.

Can you imagine how David must of felt, having his own son betray him? Or, that his son would wish him dead?

I wouldn’t have blamed David if had become enraged and desired retaliation. But David responded differently. He longed for his son and left the palace weeping. Later, when David’s troop were forced to fight against Absalom’s army, he begged them to be gentle with Absalom for his sake. In the end, Absalom was defeated and killed in battle.

When the news of Absalom’s death reached David, he mourned for his son. In fact, his grief was so heavy that his army, who had returned victorious, fell into mourning. The men returned to David as though the were ashamed, instead of with the joy of champions. David wept so intensely that one of the commanders had to basically tell him to snap out of it. His grief demoralized the men. David was strongly advised to acknowledge those who defended him – if not, David risked the men turning against him.

What an intense love David had for his son. His son behaved in such a traitorous way – deceiving and betraying-and bent on murdering his own father. Yet, David showed nothing but compassion toward Absalom.

David was called a ‘man after God’s own heart.’ If he could have great love for such a son, how much more love does God have for us?

(You can read about Absalom in 2 Samuel 13-19:8)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

Catching Our Breath

We live in a busy, busy world. Gotta check our texts, tweets, and PMs on FB. We post pics Instagrams, least we forget what we’ve done. We have SMART goals. Commitments at home, church, schools, jobs, and in our communities. There is all sorts of pressure around us to meet up to some glamourized lifestyle as seen on ‘reality’ TV.

Can we avoid all of this busyness? Not always.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the seasons in life. There are just times where it feels like every morning you are standing at the starting line, waiting for the ‘On your mark, get set, go!’. And there is simply no way around it. Your kids are too little, demands at a job you must keep are too high, a loved one is ill, a spouse just walked out the door…

Eventually, we do need to stop and rest. This ‘rest’ may be for a season, it may be for 20 minutes. But we must rest.

I would rather be on the run all the time. I just love doing things. But what I’ve been learning this year by studying the word ‘rest’ is that we were not designed to run at high speeds all the time.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to stop. It’s okay to say ‘no’.

It is good thing to re-charge without the guilt for letting things go for a while. Let the laundry pile up. It will be there tomorrow. Order dinner-in and use disposible plates. Shut your cell phone off.

We all need a break. So take it. Guilt free.

I love how Psalms 23 is paraphrased in The Message translation:

 God, my shepherd!
    I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
    you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
    you let me catch my breath
    and send me in the right direction.

–      Psalms 23:1-3

We need to spend that time, in peace and quiet in God’s presence. He lets us ‘catch our breath’ and then He gives us the direction that we need to go.

Cherie Gagnon– Cherie

 

Do you take time to rest? Do you value rest?

Be a pepper

True – my word for 2014 – has been impressed upon my heart in many ways so far this year. This week, we’re checking in on how we are doing with our word for the year.

I’ve found myself thirsty for The Word. Often in the evening, I’ll open my Bible to find what is the truth in a world of shifting values. Scripture has been encouraging and convicting.

pepper

Some of the old dried peppers, then new life on a dead plant.

And it’s made me fascinated by this chili pepper.

I wrote about how I moved this plant inside this fall and enjoyed its bright red chilis into the deep of winter. Along about March, the leaves shriveled and died. The peppers dried out. Spiders started building cobwebs over it. All well; it lasted longer than I thought it would.

No need to keep around a dead plant, so I set the pot out on the porch. It was also about this time that I came to terms with some personal disappointments. The little chili had come to symbolize defying the odds, so when it died, it seemed a fitting way to bury that hope and move on.

This spring was especially cold. It might have even snowed on that tropical pepper. But spring finally arrived and with great joy, I gathered new flowers and went out to the porch to make a fresh, bright beginning. When I reached to uproot the dead pepper stalk, I stopped short.

It was alive. A little green leaf sprouted from the bottom.

And I’ve been noticing how God makes it clear that in order for something to live, it must first die.

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” John 12:24

Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20

“Since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.” Romans 6:8

There is no resurrection until there is a crucifixion. This makes me really uncomfortable. I’d rather talk about “surrendering” my will to God, or “committing” my dreams to him, or “offering” my life. But this dying business takes it to a whole new level. But God says to die.

And then truly live, because Jesus – who is himself truth – said he came to give life. I want new life, but I’m still coming to terms with how I am to die to my self and my desires. But this chili pepper gives me hope that God loves to defy the odds.

Susie Pink

My hope is that I can be a born again pepper.

~Susan