Monday, 20 March 2017

On tiny flowers and warriors...

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

All sort of bizarre things are happening to me and the people close to me these days and I find myself left with two questions "What does this mean?" and "How can I display all of the above?"

You see, for the longest time I missed the part with "the fruits OF the Spirit." and I thought they were something I must do my best to display or I was not fit to bear the name Christian- Christ follower.

Every spring I have the great joy of looking at my flowers fight their way out of earth, but this year I decided to go in my garden every morning and observe their progress. Some of them look so tiny, fragile and bent in half. Yet if you give them a few days you literally see the ground split in half in the place where the tiny flower pushed its way out.

And I came to understand that displaying "love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" has nothing to do with performance but it has everything to do with endurance. Observing my flowers everyday, I noticed that in some days they appear so fragile and bent that it almost looks painful to look at them. But my flowers don't drop to the ground, they keep pushing the earth that covered them only a month ago. They endure so they can blossom one day. 

I never knew how to do that. Nobody taught me how to deal with pain in this world. It just came at me. So I helped myself, and I started to run as fast as I could and as far away as I could, because I always thought I am too tiny and too fragile to endure it. But I haven't seen any of my little flowers run away or lay on the ground and die. In the same way nobody taught me how to endure, nobody taught them how to run. 

This morning I had to face a painful moment. It sprang on me out of nowhere and it felt as if it hit me in the chest. My first instinct was to put on a song to block out my thoughts and have a good cry. But I remembered my flowers and I stood put. I told my soul "I know it hurts, but it is just a wave. Stay still and let it pass over you.Not every wave is tears worthy." So, I held it together and stood in my place. I realized a few minutes later that I was peaceful and that immediately produced joy in me and brought a smile to my face. 

We want to produce the fruits of the Spirit, but I realized today that perhaps we are so busy running from pain that the Spirit has no time to produce anything in us. This is because we are either busy striking back at the source of our pain, or we already leave a cloud of dust behind us in the rush to get away from it. And because we know they should be present in our life for "by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:20), we either struggle to produce them on our own, or we we imitate them by trying to copy those we believe got there already. And time and time again we fail to learn the courage of enduring, of staying put when it is uncomfortable, of allowing a wave to just pass over us. 

I talk a lot about warriors these days, because they fascinate me. Why? Because those who earned this name are the ones who endured the darkness of the earth covering them and day by day pushed their way out of it. They refused to run. They just sat there and allow one wave, two waves three waves of pain pass over them, until you will see them stand when facing a tsunami. 

For months now I am singing a song to God called "With everything", but I didn't have a clue what I was singing. I might as well have sang to Him "With everything that's left after I cleared off from here." 

We all know the verse from Psalm 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God," but we miss the first few verses from the Psalm in which it is basically being explain to us those circumstances in which we should be still:

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." Psalm 46:1-3)

Is it just me, or do these circumstances sound a lot like a tsunami? God could've said anything before the words "and know that I am God" and yet He said to us "Be still". 

"Stay put, do not run, hang in there. Endure this earth which seems to crush you, allow this wave to pass over you, push one more time today, and I will make you a warrior whose answer in front of pain will be love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I will make you stand even when faced with a tsunami."

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:10)

Monday, 13 March 2017

I'm done with running

"I'm free! I'm free!" my heart is screaming
While anchors hold me down
From under waves that push me under
I pray "Don't let me drown!"

Running is what has brought me here
Running from the me I hide
I thought the running will surely prove it
That she is gone and that she died.

But she's not gone, she's still pursuing
My days, my dreams, the boat I sailed
Through pouring clouds of guilt and pain
I heard "I'm here and you failed!"

"You are not me!" I shouted
And then jumped overboard
I rather drown a thousand times
Than be like her again, dear Lord.

I know I'm not Your Jonah
I don't expect a fish
I just know that these murky waters
Are not Your plan, nor my true wish.

"What do you want, My girl?" I hear You
"Why all this pointless endless running?
Can you not see at all, My daughter?
I made you free and yet you're dying."

"You're free! You're free!", I hear You whisper
There's nothing wrong with you
You are just learning and you're growing
My girl, you are not split in two!

Yes, you still fall and yes, you're failing
But in all that there's nothing wrong
The falling teaches you to stand
And failing's teaching you a new song."

I hear that song while You are speaking
And it keeps saying that I'm free
That one like me should not be running
That there's no split of "her and me".

So I rise up from underneath
And swim back to the shore
And I embrace the me I was scorning
For now I know she makes me whole.

And we will overcome together
What's haunting her and makes me run.
They thought they'll make us hate each other
But we are one or we are none!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Love Warrior

“My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there -- because I was designed by my Creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.”  Glennon Doyle MeltonLove Warrior: A Memoir

Some days my heart is filled with love
And on others it leaks pain
But I carry on, Father
For nothing is in vain.

These two are friends of mine and teachers
And shaped me, into me
To run away because it costs me
Would mean forgetting I am free

And I am free because they freed me
From all the running, guilt and fear
This pain and love You brought me, Father
Have taught me that You're always near.

And I look closely dear Father
At all the work they do in me
The way that they complete each other
And open all of me to see.

And what I see just makes me wonder
Why was I running all along
When love was teaching me about kindness
And pain was showing me I'm strong?

But now I see their purpose, Father
That's why I'm calling them my friends
For pain has turned me into a fighter
And love into a pair of hands.

My hands just want to caress others
The hurt, the lost, the broken ones...
I want to fight as pain has taught me
For all Your daughters and Your sons...

So thank You, Father, I am grateful
For sending these two friends my way
Help me to love like love has taught me
And fight for kindness everyday.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Why I remain in Him

"You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:3-5)

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:9-12)

"My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:27-29)

When Matthew 11 stopped me in my tracks today, my thoughts were "You talk about a yoke You give us, but it never felt like a yoke to me. It felt more like a warm blanket that you placed on my too exhausted soul after I tried so hard to be good for You..." The my next thoughts was "abide" so I went to John 15.

He starts by explaining how abiding works and that it works because it has always worked between Him and The Father. Why? Because it is not based on one of Them trying their very best to please the other. It is all natural and simple because it is relational. It is based on something that is already there, freely given and completely accepted- Their love for each other.

That is why The Father says about The Son "This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17) 
And that is why The Son never questions The Father's love and He knows what He was entrusted: "As The Father loves Me, so I have loved you"; "My Father has entrusted everything to Me."
Why? Because they remain in each other based on Their love for one another. They don't strive to remain, they just do it out of love. The Son doesn't sit there asking Himself "How can I make sure I remain in The Father?" He just knows He is in The Father. Remaining is not a process for Them. It is just who They are because of their relationship and what they are for each- "I am The Father", "I am The Son".

This is what Jesus was trying to explain to us. The Vine never questions or doubts Its fruitfulness because It knows and relies on The Gardener's hands. Jesus simply wants us, out of love for Him to replicate the relationship. He wants our remaining in Him, to be because of our relationship with Him and what we are for each other- "I am The Son", "I am a child of God because of You". It is that simple. For as long as you remain aware of this, you remain. You don't have to make yourself remain, you just do because it is all relational.And therein comes the rest.
Why does He want us to replicate the relationship? Because only He truly knows The Father. And He loves The Father so much that He wants us to "truly know" Him like The Son does. 

So where do we go wrong? How do we become so weary and burdened that we need an intervention? How do we start in love for The Son and one day end up here, crashing?
From personal experience, I think that this happens because we forget the beauty and simplicity and trust of Their complete love for one another. And we fall back on loving Him with a human kind of love. The only problem is that the human kind of love is selfish and insecure most of the times. It is selfish because it focuses on the self: "I love you so much that look what I've done for you..."
And it is insecure because it always needs reassurance and proof, so inevitably it always ends up focusing on performance and keeping scores: "If you love me, prove it, do this for me..." or "Remember when, out of love, I did that for you and you didn't reciprocate...?"

Jesus always talked about how much The Father loved Him and everything Jesus did was a reply to The Father's love for Him. He was trying to teach us God's love, the love that never focuses on the self and makes the object of their love the focus of everything that motivates their actions. He wants our actions to be motivated by His love for us, not our love for Him.
But we forget His kind of love, that love that drew us in the first time we encountered it. The feelings remain because we carry on speaking of our love for Him, but our actions become motivated by a human love that focuses not on His Persona, but on how much we love Him. And we carry on like this for a while without even realising that we are branches without a Vine; trying to produce fruit out of a selfish insecure love. And we try and try until we fall down exhausted and tell Him that what He is asking is too hard. Completely forgetting that the only thing He asked was for us to remain in His love and to allow that love to flow to others. But when we end up in this place, according to His good habit, He steps in again and beckons "Come to Me, My weary one, and I will give you rest. Let me teach you..." And then He starts again, "Remember how The Father loves Me? Look at Me and remember- that is how I love you. And beloved...I already proved it with My own life. So remember My love for you next time you tell Me how much you love Me, or when you're demanding proof. I love you as I am loved- completely. Now rest..."

That's why His yoke feels like a warm blanket on my exhausted soul. There's safety and complete acceptance here and a love that just flows over me without asking me to prove myself. So I remain here and I make His warm blanket my abiding place. Not because He asked me to or to prove my love for Him. I remain because He loves me like He is loved by The Father, fully and completely.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

A few thoughts on love...

I've been a Christian for 16 years and I spent at least half of this time picking myself up from the floor after a fall. But I am glad for all the falls because whenever I would get back on my feet I would discover a God who loved me every time and everywhere I would turn. So I came to know Him as Love, because after you go once through that Bible you come to realize that Love is His nature.

Above all else His Name is Love. "For God so Loved the world..." (John 3:16)

Yes, He is All Powerful and Just and Fair, but when it came to the crossroad of what to do with us- God LOVED the world.

So if our Father is Love and we call ourselves His children (John 1:12-13), how come we came to a day and age when we deal with love as if it is some incomplete mushy cheesy act... How come we have terms such as "my love walk", as if love is somehow separated from my daily walk as a child of God? I thought, that is how the world will know we are His disciples? (John 13:35)

"I love you, but I must speak the truth in love..." which 9 times out of 10 means "I am about to crush you because my opinion of you is far more important than my love for you". The Bible calls Jesus Truth (John 14:6) and Love (1 John 4:8). So if we speak "The truth in Love", if we speak Jesus in Jesus, the effect of Jesus will not be a broken heart and destroyed spirit after we are done talking.

"I love you but I must point to your sin..."
Let me make one thing clear, our Father hates sin. He hates it so badly that He sent His own Son out of LOVE and dumped on Him all sin once and for all. All sin. (1 Peter 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:15)
What motivated God's reaction to sin was His love for us, not His hate of sin. He chose to deal with sin within His own Son and He loved and embraced and loved the sinner to the point that The One who always IS, came up with the concept of forgetting our sins. (Hebrews 8:12)

Considering how much we talk about it and point to it in others, we almost come across as if we love sin and hate the sinner. How do I have the audacity to say that? Because I have "the great joy" of seeing how much people dwell on gossiping and pointing to other people's mistakes, and when they deal with the sinner it is all about "You must repent" rather than "I am here for you."
It saddens me greatly to see that at times other people's sin is akin to a form of entertainment for some of us, because it provides endless supplies of time when we get to judge others and feel righteous.

Zephania 3:17 talks about God gladly loving and "being silent in His love." God doesn't blow His own trumpet when He is doing us good and He doesn't blow the trumpet when He is faced with our sin. God just loves because He knows He already dealt with sin and He knows the plans He has for us (Jeremiah 29:11)- so He just loves us every single day of our lives out of darkness into light.
We read the end of Psalm 23 "goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life..." and we get all excited. But what is the point of goodness and mercy following me, if they only follow me for my benefit and I forget to show them to others?

I am never saying "let's ignore sin when we see it and sing together kumbaya". I am just saying always put yourself in the shoes of the sinner before you do anything. Remember when you were down? Am I right in assuming that what you most desperately wanted was for someone to tell you that it will be ok, that if you just get up and keep going it will be ok? Or that all you wanted was for someone to understand that you already felt guilt and shame and tell you that the gutter will not define you if you will not let it?

"Do unto others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12) We don't love Jesus because He hit us with a stick about what we did. We love Him because He loved us so much that He willingly stretched His arms on that Cross.

You want to raise up a sinner in love? Then love them, be their friend and build hope in them by pointing to a day when they will be more than shame, guilt and pain. And remember, all judgement achieves is to make one bow their head in shame, but love...Love always wins!

Monday, 20 February 2017

The Spotless Bride

"...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me." John 17:21

They tell me "God is holy
And righteousness He seeks" And to make sure I get it They use their freedom like a stick. I let them hit me, Father. With words and verses to their will And all the while within me Sadness is all I feel. Because I seek You, Father. In each and every one I'm looking for Your kindness I yearn to see Your Son... And I remember, Father His one true final dream That we will be united And walk here as a team. But so few seem to bother "It's righteousness we seek" Whilst we look at each other With icy hearts that leak. Today I'm tired Father Of trying to make them see That righteousness' the journey But love and mercy are the key So give me strength, my Father Wisdom and love from Yours To carry on embracing them In spite of all their sticks and stones. "Daughter," I hear You calling "It is all in their mind. My children are so righteous busy They forgot to be kind. And yet, they're still My children So love them as you love Me Forget about their sticks and stones I know who I will make them be. You just carry on loving And seek Me in every one Embrace Me when you find Me As one who knows a day will come.
When you will be united Walking on the same side Because nothing will stop Me From giving My Son a spotless Bride."

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A personal testimony- You will spread out

' For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.' Isaiah 54:3

'For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left...' A few years ago, this would have been one of those verses I would pass really quick thinking "This is not for me".
But you know what, looking back at my life before Jesus became my King and after that, ever since I met Him all I seem to be doing is spreading to the point that I literally spread abroad.

I was almost 21 when I finally accepted that I can't fight God anymore. It was 16 June 2001, a beautiful hot sunny Romanian day. I stopped seeing Him as the One to blame for all that was difficult and painful in my life. He literally melted me with His love to the point that I was a blabbering mess for about a month and no one in my family knew what was going on with me. I ran so hard from Him, I was so determined to prove that my mother and my grandmother were wrong and He was not real, that I began the fastest self-destructive race you can imagine. All under the banner "I don't care. You only live once." 

When I met Jesus for who He really was not who I imagined Him to be, I went to my poor mother who cried endless nights for me and told her that I loved Jesus and I will not run from Him anymore. My mum was in such a complete denial and shock that she did not believe me at first. You see, when crying for me, my mum always thought that the way I was going, I would never reach to be 30. Until one day she came home from a women's conference where she met the lady who through her honesty and love showed me who Jesus really was. The lady, Ani Lucaciu, told my mum that she was really blessed by my faith. My mum came home to me sobbing and she hugged me as one does a child they haven't seen in years. 

From the day I met Him, all He did was prove to me that I can't dream as much as He can do. I decided to stop taking a break from my life and apply to the Babes-Bolyai University (the equivalent of Cambridge or Oxford in UK). I mean if I really put Him to the test why not do it in big style. And then I thought I would go even further. My family was poor. I did not have 1 Leu (Romanian currency) to my name so I decided to apply for a scholarship or not go at all. The Romanian Government granted 25 full scholarships for approximately 500 students in my year. When I went to register my name for the entry exam, they asked me if I wanted, just to be on the safe side, to also add my name to the list where I would have to pay for my studies because I would have a better chance to get in. I told them "No, I want a scholarship." They smiled at me as if I was dreaming. I had good A levels, but not good enough to guarantee me a place. I went to the entry exam. They gave us an A4 piece of paper with a lot of information containing numbers, historical dates, colour combinations and loads of other stuff. They told us we have 15 minutes to read the information and then decide for ourselves what we want to do with it. I am appalling at Maths because I do not know what to do with numbers. They mean nothing to me and I am not able to retain them. So, because I did not know what else to do, I wrote all the numbers, all the colour combinations and all the historical dates on a piece of paper so I would not embarrass myself by being the first one to get out of the hall.

15 minutes later they took the paper away from us and gave us another one. They also told us "Congratulations, to any of you who decided to write things down. In this exam you get to keep any aiding material you have because what we care about is your initiative and ability to think on your feet." The new paper they gave us contained a lot of doted spaces which you had to complete with the information from the first piece of paper. From the 25 scholarships, I got the scholarship number 22 and I got in.

I already told you how He got me to England in a blog from September 2012

When I came to England in 2005, I left a job as a manager in Romania where I had the same salary as my mother who had been an accountant for 23 years. 

I got here and nobody wanted to give me a job. Many of them back then didn't even know where Romania was and they were not interested in my studies or experience or skills for that matter. After almost a year I ended up pealing potatoes in a fish and chips shop. My boss was a 17 years old Pakistani boy, who could not speak English very well and was constantly telling me I don't know how to peel potatoes. Yay me!

I still call that year "Humble yourself under God's mighty hand for at the right time He will  lift you up." And He did. First I got a job where I was chasing invoices in Italy. They hired me out of a bunch of other people and paid me almost double my salary from the fish and chips shop, because I was the only one who applied who could speak Italian. This job brought me to the attention of an agency who recommended me to the organisation where I work now. They didn't even meet me. They just offered me a job on the spot in 2007. I worked for them ever since. 

These are just a few of the examples I wanted to give you because this blog is already too long. The Bible says In Ephesians 3:21  "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than ALL we ask or imagine..." He certainly can. I am not going to sit here and type happily that I never thought that He abandoned me, or that I didn't think at times "I don't have a clue what He's doing". But I never ever thought that God let me down. I left my country with two suitcases, waving goodbye to my mother and my grandmother. It was the first time I ever got out of Romania. I was scared witless but I knew that somehow, I don't know how, somehow He will never let me down. You see, once I had Jesus in my life, I felt so loved and cared for that everything else was just a bonus, so I had nothing left to lose.

I told you all of the above, because He called us to be His witnesses and I can only be a witness to my own life. But what I can tell you with all my heart is that if you hold on to Him for dear life, even when you don't understand or when things shout at you that He forgot you, you better be ready to spread out because you cannot dream as much as He can for one who trusts in Him.