why the ferris wheel might not be such a bad idea after all

IMG_5580Pastel coloured gazebos decorated the spokes of the giant wheel, as if it was a prize for making it through the sensory overload of games at the fair. “Let’s go on the Ferris Wheel,” I suggested to my adventure companions. “But Liesel,” they started, “you’re afraid of heights.” Mmmm, but I won’t remember I’m afraid of heights until I am on my way up. When we finally stepped onto it, the first symptoms came: increased heart rate, dizziness, short breaths. It wasn’t until we stopped a quarter of the way up that I clutched the post with my eyes shut, “this … was a very … bad … idea.”

Ten years ago today I was boarding a plane with a life’s worth of belongings and a plan to live in Ireland for a minimum of a four year term. As the plane took off from Vancouver airport I had the same gut reaction as I did two weeks ago on the Ferris Wheel. This … was a very … bad … idea. A commitment of four years to anything at that time seemed like a life sentence, never mind to be living it by faith. By faith, that God would work miracles in impossible situations. By faith, that he would provide for all my needs. By faith, that I wouldn’t turn into a permanent prune because of the cold and damp. With every hour that brought me closer to Dublin I fluctuated between feeling the thrill of freewheeling through the air in an indescribable leap towards whispered promises, and opening my eyes to see just how far from the ground I really was as the adventure appeared more of a teetering excuse for a safe pod up in the sky, nothing but a flimsy chain separating me from a gigantic fall to earth.

That feeling has never seemed to be terribly far away on any given day. I often find myself closing my eyes and grabbing onto the only thing that seems to be truly stable and explaining all the reasons why living life by faith is a very bad idea. In some magical and mysterious way, God just stays there while I rant at him, sometimes morning, noon and night, about how I just don’t have it in me to live hope where the only thing visible is hopelessness. When I am done reminding him (fairly loudly and firmly) about who he is and the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness …. that he has on offer to not just me but to everyone around me, he calms my soul and gives me courage to see the world from a different perspective. Up there, from a bird’s eye view, I peel open my eyes and breathe in measured breaths. The world looks different when we see it from above. He is safe. His view is more than I could have imagined. Hope stirs every time, without fail – 100% track record. It fills my words and directs my actions.

With feet back on the ground again there is an overwhelming feeling of “I did it! I survived it!” Every single year when I look back I can’t believe that “I did it! I survived it!” … by faith.

IMG_5581

preach to me what you practice

I see your actions. I hear your words.

You preach what you practice and it sounds good.

How do you do it? I might ask.

Preach to me what you practice. Give me knowledge to do the same.

 

I hear your emotion. I see your expression.

You preach what you practice and it sounds real.

How do you do it? I might ask.

Preach to me what you practice. Give me courage to do the same.

 

I see your dream. I hear your reality.

You preach what you practice and it sounds strong.

How do you do it? I might ask.

Preach to me what you practice. Give me faith to do the same.

IMG_0767

St. Brendan

faith that is beyond me

2014-04-15 08.23.47-2

One day something finally clicked for me. In the basement of the church, down the hallway and in the  library/classroom through the last door on the left, I put my children’s Bible on the ground and proceeded to stand on it in front of my Sunday School teacher. “God’s promises are real! And I can really stand on them!!” The realisation seemed to fly through me. It was still the remnants of the era where people talked about standing on the promises of God .. and sang the hymn. I’m not sure how my teacher felt about me disrespecting the Word of God by putting it on the ground and squishing it under my dirty shoes. That physical act declaring faith in that truth set me on a trajectory of putting my true weight on the words of that book. It was one thing to say, “Jesus, forgive me,” and quite another to act as if the breath of God was living in the words copied over and over again until they reached my hands.

It was on the road up the Oregon coast a couple years later that I let it slip that I’d started to believe in a faith that was beyond me. Our family was driving back to BC after a dream trip to Disneyland. As we made our way up the coast each campsite was marked no vacancy. We knew we would have to find a place soon to set up camp. There was one site that we were hoping to stop off at – the perfect place along the coast. As we neared I asked that God would find us a space, not just that but the perfect spot. A child’s prayer in faith, really, after having heard the story of Jesus speaking about faith the size of a mustard seed. We neared and saw a line of cars leading out of the campsite – a sure sign that if there were any spots, they’d be well gone by the time we pulled up. I begged my parents repeatedly to just join the line and see if there was a vacancy. It was completely illogical for there to be one so we carried on into the nearest town where dad was going to call ahead to a few places. I kept asking if we could go back. Finally my parents asked why I was so adamant about going there. I hesitantly revealed my secret, “I prayed that God would give us the perfect camping site there.” We turned around and went back. I couldn’t tell you how long we waited in line until we finally pulled up to the registration booth. Every car in front of us had to turn around and leave. It seemed completely illogical and foolish to believe that our story would be any different. The woman in the booth was on the phone when we pulled up. Fair play to my dad, when she got off the phone he asked the question destined to failure – was there any chance that there was a campsite available? She told us that she had just been on the phone with someone who cancelled their reservation. There was, indeed, a campsite available for us!

The words of God still taunt me to test them, stand on them, put my full weight there. The faith that I need is for so much more than a campsite – I need faith to believe that God really does long to restore all creation to himself. I need faith as I place my hands on people and ask God to work miracles in their lives. I need faith to step courageously into the small things that I know to do each day, believing that by living in obedience despair will truly be replaced with hope. That darkness of loneliness, hurt, anger … will be broken and freedom will be found in whole communities in the visible signs of peace, community, joy … Logic would tell me that these are impossible.

But these are God’s promises.

I rise to stand, setting both feet firmly on the truth of them. I strap them to my soles and let his promises leave their imprint as obedience and knowledge rise from the faith that seeps every fiber of me.

Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them. ~ Psalm 119:140

one lenten journey

With eagerness she sat with hands upturned, smile on her face, waiting to see what God would fill her with in the immediate moment. B. grew up in a Catholic home and had a deep sense of intimacy and relationship with the Holy Spirit. She welcomed his presence in her life and the good things that he had for her. Having recently started coming to our church she watched as her husband and sister-in-law begin to learn more and grow in faith through the Alpha course. At the point of her desire to have something just for her, we advertised the Lenten small group. Her joy filled the house where we met. Her desire to know more and experience more of the God of her faith was inspiring.

As a group we waded through the deep waters of challenge that Mark’s gospel sent our way. It began with throwing off everything that could weigh us down and prevent us from truly living and seeing God’s kingdom come in our lives and in our communities. We were challenged to let these words really take root in our lives – not just sit there as theoretical concepts. We were comforted by Jesus’ response to the tenacity of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. We were in awe of Jesus’ ability to calm the storm with a couple of words. The moment that stands out for me was when Jesus spoke about binding up the strong man and plundering his house (speaking not of people but of the enemy of our souls). The richness of the daily readings made Lent seem like a very long time this year but we were in it for the long haul.

As Easter approached there was an invitation given to the church for people to be baptised. In Ireland most people are baptised as an infant into either the Catholic Church or the Church of Ireland. Confirmation of faith comes around like a ritual and rite of passage from primary school into secondary. These are the natural and culturally accepted faith practices. Being baptised at any other time is a public declaration: I chose Jesus. I need a Saviour and I chose him.

On Easter Sunday the church gathered around our small circular pool in the centre of the building. People gathered around the balcony to get a better view. B., her husband and her sister-in-law each stepped into the water that day, honouring their parents for the choice they had made for them before they could speak for themselves, and publicly announcing that faith in Jesus for salvation and life was how they chose to live.

Faith in God is more than just spiritual connection – it is walking daily with him, accepting his grace over and over again – this forgiveness and freedom from guilt and shame that we so desperately long for. It is allowing our lives and our decisions to be shaped by a truth outside of ourselves. This is where we see glimmers of what life was intended to be.

Every path He guides us on is fragrant with His loving kindness. ~ Psalm 25:10

Glendalough in August (4)

hands of generosity and hospitality

Empty walls, ceiling and floor cause restlessness. There is no door and no suggestion of where this is. The void echos. A message appears. The instructions are impossible. Embossed along the top edge is the only suggestion for completion: By Faith.

First there is anger. The complete audacity to suggest that this task is even possible. There is nothing in the room that will help. No resources. No step by step directions even.

There is loneliness.

There is fear.

There is fight. Fists beating against the wall only cause bruised and bloodied hands.

Remembrance brings hope like the dawn. Behind closed eyes are memories of goodness and memories of love. Thankfulness begins to dig deep roots and strengthens the body again until feet are firmly planted and contentment washes over.

Eyes seek out empty but open hands. On one is written generosity and the other hospitalityThey had been so full before, covered in the possessions that filled them. The words had never been seen. Here they were empty – the words so clear. Hands with purpose but with nothing to give anymore.

By Faith.

Unexpected people begin to fill the room, holding out their hands of generosity and hospitality filled with good things. “No, no, I couldn’t.” In knowing perseverance they wait until the need for a glass of water becomes to great and there is no other option. The words written on hands disappear as they are covered over with good things. As the others leave, the room remains full of their offerings. The silence prompts another look at the instructions given earlier. One look around the room brings a surprise – everything needed is here! From the hands of generosity and hospitality it was provided and from the hands of generosity and hospitality it will be completed.

20140517-125747.jpg