Gathering Discernment

I once went mushroom hunting and had no idea which mushroom was safe to pick and eat. Add to this, the complication that I was in a different country with companions who were learning English, and mushroom terminology was not part of the curriculum! As we stepped over logs and scoured under leaves, I had to rely on their “yes” or “no.” Left to my own devices, I certainly would have gathered ones that would cause illness. But, thankfully, we enjoyed the most delicious mushroom soup afterward—with no ill effect.

As we walk with God through the forests of our lives, we often don’t know what to gather that will nourish us. To teach us, God walks with us using the language of the Bible, circumstance, and internal nudges. We can become more adept in this language if we pay attention regularly.

So often, when we follow the prescribed paths—whether prescribed by parents, teachers, leaders, church culture, or wider culture—we miss a lot of mushrooms. We don’t listen to the guide. There’s a path so we follow it, whether it’s our path or not. We go forward because it’s safe and clear, while our Companion is pointing off to a thicket of trees to our right with a forest of mushrooms beneath—delicacies that will enrich our meal together. But we have to see him pointing, we have to say yes to the wander and no to the path, yes to the unknown and no to the clear, so that we can gather the gifts, joys, and nourishment to our soul that he intends for us.

Kimberley Mulder Gather.png

Have you ever hiked a trail that was harder and longer than you expected, and you didn’t bring enough water or snacks? You start to ration your sips and bites. Your mindset shifts into gritty determination to ignore the discomforts of dry throat and rumbling stomach. Making it to the end becomes the victory, hopefully with a nearby store, vending machine, or at least a water fountain!

But when you adventure with someone who knows where to find nourishment, you don’t have to carry so much, and you can finish your adventure satiated, even delighted! It takes trust, lots of it, because there’s no trail map telling you how long it will be or where to find food and water, there’s only Him—your Guide.

Maybe you have followed already into the woods. Stop and turn to your Guide and pay attention to what he’s pointing out, what he’s highlighting in your life. Are there topics, ideas, people, that are repeated in your life, seemingly out of nowhere or with no relation to each other—coincidentally?

That is often Jesus, the truest, wisest guide, showing you something that he is tending to. He is gathering these things to you for your benefit. It could be opportunities regarding service, or the topic of forgiveness keeps cropping up, or you keep crossing paths with a neighbor in unlikely places. It could be any of a million things, so take some moments to pay attention, maybe write them down to start seeing the connections, and listen to the Lord as he gathers them. What is he teaching you? Asking of you? Giving you?

Maybe you are on the path—it could be a trajectory laid out for you from birth, the most logical way forward, what someone else wants for you, or something that will benefit your pocketbook while starving your heart. If it is a path that Jesus is leading, not other people or other purposes, stay on it. Trust your Guide!

But if you realize your Guide has stopped and is pointing off into the woods, and you recognize your path was laid out by someone or something else, I encourage you to go gather your goodness with your good Guide. You are probably terrified of stepping off the path. It’s risky, there’s cost, and you don’t really like tramping through brush anyway. But He will never fail you. He is for you, He will not leave you nor forsake you, for you are His beloved. Trust your Guide!

Gather Kimberley Mulder

Whether you are in the woods gathering insights or on the path contemplating the step off, gather your wise, encouraging friends and share with them what God has been showing you. Have them pray and listen to God, too. We are fallible, we might gather the wrong mushrooms or draw the wrong conclusions, and the people the Lord has gathered into our lives are instruments of his grace. Do the same for them.

Maybe you are part of a small group at church, bring this to them. Maybe you have one or two trustworthy people who are looking out for your best interest, gather with them. If you don’t have these kinds of people in your life, ask God to gather them.

The Lord who points out what is worth gathering in our lives is the same who gathers us to himself, trust him to lead you well.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)
Advertisements

Trapped by Doubts

I think I need a lock screen on my phone with the words “You, bleary-eyed one, do not touch this! Danger!”—on a red background, in bold.

Have you ever regretted your early morning, nonchalant scroll through social media? I certainly have. Just this past week, I spent three days removing the shrapnel of allowing the many feet of Instagram and Facebook trample on the landmines inside me. You know, those parts of yourself that are weak, sensitive to comparison and criticism, your perennial Achilles heel. That simple, foolish, not-thought-through action loosed a storm of doubt within. As my coffee perked, I struggled to gain ground and fight back.

Doubt Kimberley Mulder

The first warning rumble had been the sinking sense of failure I felt as I read of a dear woman halfway around the world who is doing what I hope to do. She is younger, written the book, had the kids, already heavily involved in ministry, and gracious to all to boot. I’m struggling to write two blog posts a month, cope with my kids’ needs, stepped out of ministry for a season, and dealing with clogged sinks.

The next quake was the disparaging thoughts against another dear woman nearby posting links to activities she is a part of to further the cause of immigrants in America, while she leads conferences in other countries, and celebrates her daughters’ successes. All I could see in her good works was that I am doing little for immigrants, which shames me because I used to, hope to lead conferences someday, and at the moment am trying to figure out how to pay the counselor’s bill.

The explosion came when I couldn’t stomach the glad tidings of other writers’ successes, and I clicked my phone off. In the shallow morning light, I glowered in despair. Who needs coffee after that? I’ll just go back to bed, thank you very much, the world doesn’t need me!

Finally, almost grudgingly, I open my Bible app, recognizing I am in a bad spot. (Lashing myself all the while with “You know better, you should have started with this…”) And what do I read?

“Fear and intimidation is a trap that holds you back. But when you place your confidence in the Lord, you will be seated in the high place.” Prov. 29:25 (TPT)

And another look at it:

“The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.” (MSG)

Basically, God’s sweet reminder that sounds like this: “Wake up, sweet one, you are in a trap! I have come to enable you to live the life I have given you! Just as I am enabling these other women, I have laid your boundary lines and given you your portion in which to thrive and grow and minister and be with me. What works for them is not for you. Do not doubt me in this, I know what’s best for you, and I tailor it to suit you.”

Over the next three days, I realized that these doubts I had about self, ability, energy, and success were not just about me, but really rooted in doubt about God. I have set out towards these goals under God’s express invitation and provision. I said yes before, I said I’m all in, I accepted the invitation and dove into the action. I knew the days would come when the energy of excitement that sparked the beginning and gave the courage to step out in faith would dwindle. The path would look far too long, the moments far too difficult, and doubts regarding the rightness and authenticity and, most especially, my ability would glare at me. But this is part of what Eugene Peterson calls, “a long obedience in the same direction,” a day in the equipping and shaping for what is to come, a necessary hiddenness and difficulty.

Even as I felt the lingering impact of the internal explosion in the days following, I repeatedly took the fear and frustration to Jesus in prayer. I wanted him to take it and make me whole instantly, but that was not his way. I continuously had to face them honestly, and tell them “I do not fear you, for I know who has called me. I know what he has called me to, and I know he will bring me to it.” I certainly did not scroll haphazardly! Yet, I still struggled to get out from under it.

One thing you need to know about me is that I am not one to pick up the phone to talk through my problems. I figure the other person already has enough to worry about, but over the last few years of developing some friendships because God has repeatedly pointed out to me that this is vital and good, I have started to call on them when problems arise. So I texted, asking for prayers because of my overwhelm and doubts. A few hours later, the oppressive internal cloud was completely gone! I could see from God’s perspective again.

Kimberley Mulder Doubt.png

I was lifted to confidence in God, and out of the trap, through my friends. It required me to humble myself to not go it alone. I couldn’t release the trap of doubt any more than I could take shrapnel out of my own body. And now my faith is reinforced with gratitude and relief and friendship.

So, if you are struggling under a cloud of doubt, what scriptural truths do you need to tell yourself, and is there a friend you can call who will pray?


2016-11-02 13.10.06

Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Finding God’s HiddenTreasures in Our Identity

I am beginning many new things these days, and they each require introducing myself to new people. However, these new circumstances come with the added advantage of written introductions rather than off-the-cuff, meet-someone-in-the-store type.

You’d think it would be easy! Part of the difficulty is that the forums where I’m introducing myself are all looking at character traits, values, and what-makes-you-tick, rather than roles I have or jobs I’ve done.

Identity Kimberley Mulder

But every time I concentrate on finding the elusive adjectives or identifiers I could claim as my own, I am stymied. What are they? What comes to mind immediately are the accomplishments, certifications, and jobs I have poured my efforts into. It is so much easier to list off a litany of achievements or positions rather than delve into the depths of why I did those things or with what attitude.

I find that I literally have forgotten my character traits! Who am I? What do I believe about myself? About God making me? It takes excavation, intention, and input from my inner circle to unearth them again.

But truly, regardless of what we do, it IS what we believe about ourselves, God, and the world around us, that drives the accomplishments and informs the way we achieve them. Our characters are the bedrock, and this is why Jesus was always addressing character. He shapes and sharpens us.

If we remain on the surface, continually defining ourselves by our latest success, then we are caught in a never-ending marathon to go further, do more, and continually prove ourselves. Each success glows for as long as the latest tweet goes live, and off we go racing for the next accolade; for if we don’t, we will fade into the background, into nothing. Michelle deRusha writes:

“When we’re deep in hustle-produce-achieve mode, we’re more apt to lose sight of our true self – the person created by and beloved by God. Rather than resting in the knowledge of who we are at the center of our heart, mind and soul, we find ourselves scrambling to define and identify ourselves by what we do.”

Kimberley Mulder Identity.png

We want, and God wants, the work we do and the life we live to be an expression of overflow from who he created us to be. He has uniquely made each and every one of us.

I encourage you to consider: How has God uniquely made you? What makes you tick? Look at your values and inspirations, look at adjectives and character traits instead of accomplishments. Study the identity statements in the Bible first and foremost. Get to know yourself as Jesus knows you. Pick up David Benner’s book The Gift of Being Yourself, or pre-order Michelle DeRusha’s new one, True You for some guidance in the deep work of understanding yourself.

If you want your work, your life, to be an overflow of your heart, then allow God to unearth the treasures he’s placed in your character and personality. Let Jesus identify your identity!


2016-11-02 13.10.06

Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

The Contagious Conviction of Love

Like a moth enraptured by the light, I stood just on the edges of a circle of people hovering to listen. It seemed as though the sounds and words were woven together into a third dimension, as the musicians allowed their joy and assurance to bubble out through their music-making. Their skills good, but their hearts even brighter, they summoned me and others forth into the music. Into worship.

The first time this happened to me I was a music major in college. The musicians had learned music in a cobbled fashion, picking things up as they went from whomever they could. I had been given the streamlined education destined to shoot the straight and narrow into performance. But their music was wholly ragged, entirely captivating, and contagiously convicting. The difference was that they were not focused on playing beautiful music, rather, they focused on worshipping and beauty naturally flowed through it.

Kimberley Mulder Conviction

I looked for opportunities to be with them, to listen and learn because their confidence was so attractive. They were the first people I met who were utterly convinced that Jesus loved them, and loved us. I am sure they could not have kept silent even if they wanted to.

We most often speak of being convicted of sin, but these friends of mine lived convicted of love. Like sparks among dry wood, I and others caught the flame, becoming certain of love ourselves. I left my path to performance, in more ways than one, to live out these certainties.

Conviction Kimberley Mulder

Twenty years later, I picked up my tattered musical training and offered to use it to worship in Asia. I joined two leaders whose contagious conviction is that all are welcome, most especially, the children. I have never encountered two people more convinced of the powerful love of God poured out into welcoming children. They heartily embrace the belief that children are full-grown citizens in the kingdom of God, able despite their lack of experience, and powerful in their powerlessness. We, adults, are to welcome, bless, give opportunity, and encourage them.

Like my college friends, they invite and welcome all regardless of skill. Skill level does not dictate participation. Response to the welcome and willingness governs it. As an outcome of their contagion, our worship team traveling halfway around the world was made up of a nineteen-year-old, one fifteen-year-old, two fourteen-year-olds, a twelve-year-old, and then the leaders and my husband and I!

The young ones’ emerging skills, my rusty ones, and all those present were bound together into the warm flame of worship, and a beauty like none other rolled through it. Those listening felt it, saw it, and they gathered around the light of God and were re-ignited in love which they now carry with them into the countries of Asia.

 


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Positively Perplexed

Undulating road rolls under my chronically tumbling mind as I seek to soothe it by cycling into exhaustion. Call it my relief effort, or my ride to escape. However, I neither find relief nor escape. But I do find God.

Perplexed. That’s what I am. And being perplexed is like walking the side of a steep, muddy slope: one misstep and it’s a quick slide to the quicksand of fear at the bottom.

I know not what to do next. Answering that seemingly simple question is like putting pressure on a knot in my back that suddenly radiates threads of needles into previously unprotesting parts of my body. My whole network of nerves lights up with alarm, just as pressing into a tangled quandary of the mind lights up the whole network of interrelated areas of life: sin, personality, values, goals, beliefs, feelings, fears, purpose, culture, and more. The complexity of perplexity entangles me and threatens to strangle me into paralyzed fear.

 

Kimberley Mulder Fear (2)But who among us does not live in some amount of intricate confusion? Some live with health problems that radiate into finances, lifestyle, purpose, relationships and more. Others live tied up in challenging jobs riddled with sinful people and systems, fears of failure, lack of compensation, and questionable values. These are but two examples of the complexity of everyday life.

This is part of the human condition. We do not know all, and never will. No amount of understanding and figuring it out will free us of the puzzles of life. The danger is, in our attempts to escape the discomfort of perplexity, we despair and assume that our lack of clarity means God doesn’t know or care. We must find the peace in perplexity, the pace of it, for we will run our entire lives within its confines. How can I be positively perplexed and not slide into despair?

The Apostle Paul was perplexed. He wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” He accepted that his mortal body had its limits and would feel its sufferings in the midst of this complex world, and that God’s power and glory surpassed these limits, lifting him from the morass of natural fear into supernatural peace. He names perplexity as suffering, but he never translates these sufferings into beliefs that God was somehow against him or absent. For Paul, the only reason to despair, ever, was if God were to leave him, which is an impossibility.

Fear Kimberley Mulder

So I persevere through my puzzlement, allowing God to put pressure on my knots to release me from fear. Then I can be at peace even while I wait and wonder, knowing that He is keeping me in this difficult position of humility in order to bring about His glory and power in my life. I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t be at peace if I could figure out what to do next. Assuming the Lord was directing my decision, then I would receive peace. However, I can have peace even in the perplexity. For I know the One who created me, called me, holds me, and provides for me is always for me. I cannot be separated from His love. I trust that He knows, cares, and walks with me even in the confusing intricacies of my life.

I am positively perplexed, embracing my limitations of understanding. Positive that the power of God reveals Him bit by bit to my easily overwhelmed earthen being, and that the One who forever has perfect knowledge is guiding me through this present darkness.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, runs her proofreading business, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

A Hungry Spirit

Has it ever bothered you that you have to eat regularly? Would you like to be able to go without for longer – maybe get more done, not be interrupted, not have to think about what to eat and whether it’s good for you?

As much a foodie as I am, as much as I enjoy making good food (and eating it!), I get tired of having to think about it every day. There are days I wish we could go without and not suffer any consequence. It interrupts projects, capsizes moods, and reminds me of my need.

The daily-ness of hunger is humbling. And like all things humbling, once accepted it is a gift, but until then it’s bitter. I am a created being. I must eat. What I put in my body directly affects my well-being and my life.

Kimberley Mulder Hunger and Thirst (1)This goes for the spirit too. What I put in my spirit directly affects my well-being and my life. My spirit has need of spiritual food. In a daily manner, if not more often. I used to feel guilty for needing to read the Bible and pray daily because after a day or two (sometimes less) my attitude would devolve, my focus would dim, and life again looked grim. Goodness, I’d been a Christian for decades, shouldn’t I be able to go longer, using my memory?!

No. I can’t. No matter how long we travel with Jesus, we still need to eat daily. As we mature, we still have to feed our bodies daily, that never changes. It is the same for the soul. So, as a general rule, we need to treat our spirits as we do our bodies by feeding them nourishing food regularly.

But there are times when we must endure a strict diet, or even a lack, in order for God to show his provision and power.

Take Elijah as an example.

1 Kings 18 and 19 records that Elijah had just stood up to the priests of Baal, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in a mighty spiritual battle that became very physical. The Israelites were suffering a devastating drought because they worshiped other gods. Elijah was the only prophet of God left, and he publicly challenged the king, queen, prophets of Baal (450 of them!), and Israelites to a showdown of sorts. They were to offer their sacrifice and call on Baal to ignite it, then he, alone, would do the same to his God.

It grew macabre as the priests stomped and called and cut themselves, hour after hour, but to no avail. Then Elijah additionally poured water all over his altar, bowed, and asked once that God show himself. Fire fell; the people bowed; the rain came; and Elijah ran faster than a chariot.

To carry out this call of God, Elijah had had to deny his body, even in its hungry state, and let the Spirit of God take care of him. In the intensity of the drama he was able to do this, but once alone, he doubted God’s care. It was as if he had faith enough to confront Ahab, to do this ludicrous, dangerous challenge, and to escape with his life, but then he couldn’t see how God would take care of him personally. Sure, God would glorify his name, he would startle the Israelites back to him, but would he take care of one lonely prophet? Death seemed the only option. He told God this, I daresay with anger and tears as he wrestled with his exhaustion, and then fell asleep.

Hunger and Thirst Kimberley MulderNow, God focuses all his dramatic might into personal, loving care. In tenderness and power, God had an angel bake bread for him, rouse him enough to eat it, then told him to sleep some more. Some of the most treasured moments of a Christian’s life happen when we have followed God into battle in faith, suffered and depleted ourselves, and then receive Jesus’ care in deeply personal ways.

Maybe you are in a mighty faith fight, sure of God’s call and provision for the call, but secretly doubtful that He cares as much for you, the servant, as he does the outcome of this call. You have depleted yourself, given up much personally, and are now come to the end, only to find yourself empty, unsure, and wanting to hide. Take heart, God sees you hiding in your hunger, and he comes now to meet YOU, to feed YOU. Like Elijah, cry your desperation, be honest, then rest. And there, you will meet your God caring for you.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, runs her proofreading business, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Peace is Our Home

A parent embodies home, or should, at least. We all began existence within our mother’s body, the womb our first home. Instinctively, children return to mom and dad for safety, sustenance, and support. Our houses may change, but our parents should always feel like home, that is, they were meant to. Sadly, too many of us have had parents that didn’t,  couldn’t, or wouldn’t be that sanctuary for us. Whether you had parents who incarnated shalom for you or not, the following is of imperative importance.  

Kimberley Mulder Character of GodWhat is often unknown, or ignored, is the fact that before we were in our mother’s womb, the creative, giving, life-ordaining mind of God purposed each of us. It is with our Father that we have our true beginning, our true place, our true home. Likewise, it is in God’s accepting, receiving, redeeming presence that we will again return home.

Homing pigeons illustrate homecoming beautifully. They have been used to carry messages from far or unreachable places since 3000 BC. They proclaimed the winner of the Olympics in ancient times, they carried important messages over hostile territory during many wars, including WWI and WWII, and were vital to the success of the Invasion of Normandy. They were used for these endeavors because of their incredible ability to always find home, even over hundreds of miles!

By placing their enclosures in one location and their food in another, homing pigeons have been trained to fly round-trip. Some have been trained to fly over a thousand miles, trusting their homing mechanism to guide them. The term “home in”, which means to focus with intent on something or someone, has its origins in these talented pigeons.

So what are our homing mechanisms? And what do we focus on with intent?

Character of GodOur spirits are our homing mechanisms. Our spirits were made to exist with the One who made them. They are like internal compasses turning us to our true north. However, they are broken, uncalibrated, and will point us in the wrong directions if left alone. Jesus came to recalibrate us, to reconcile us, to point us heavenward, and to bring us home.

Our true home, in the presence of God, enclosed by His infinite care, is the place of greatest peace. The more intently we focus on Him, the less lost we will be. We will be able to navigate through war and conflict, with persistence and endurance, over short and long distances, in storm and sunshine, knowing that He, our Peace, is our home.

There are fathers on this earth who provide a foundation of peace for their children. These are men who surrender to God, who are consistent and faithful to both God and family, whose children feel absolute certainty that they are cherished and loved. They partake of his peace by being in his presence in all situations.

How much more a foundation, then, is our Father’s peace! He is peace. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – three-in-one who has no division, no competition, no evil within, only wholeness, complete cooperation, and complete power over evil. From this absolute unity he offers us his peace. A peace that passes understanding, a fully confident, unafraid, perfect peace. He gives of himself. Jesus brought us peace as he united our belligerent, broken spirits to our forgiving, peaceful Father.

Much like homing pigeons brought to a foreign location and charged with carrying a message, we live on this earth as foreigners (Hebrews 11:13) and are charged with carrying the message of peace. We go, winging our way on winds of peace, offering the olive branch to those who might receive it. When Jesus sent out the seventy-two disciples in Luke 10:5-6, he told them, “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.” Whether the people in our lives receive the message of peace or not, we return to our home, to the peace of God, to dwell there and be sent out again. Thus, it is vital to the peace of this world, that we live in the presence of peace daily. We, too, must become characterized by peace for our message  to be received.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

When Bitter Turns Sweet

Have you ever followed the Lord into risky, frightening territory, and as you did so seen Him do some massive, only-God-could-do-that, miracles? Maybe it was a change of career, or a move to a new place, or to do something entirely outside your comfort zone (like public speaking!). He opened opportunities for you as if they were paper-wrapped presents waiting for his eager hands rather than the mountain-moving challenge that they really were. Then as your trembling faith traipsed after this mighty One and you witnessed these marvels, your hope ballooned into an exuberant song for all to hear.

Kimberley Mulder bitternessWell, the Israelites had that experience when they were dramatically ushered away from their slave owner, Pharoah. Emaciated, oppressed, with all the scars of being slaves for generations, they marched out in darkness under the blackest, most haunting of wails – parents discovering their dead children. The wail alone would have haunted me for the rest of my life, but more immediate to them was the very accurate fear of pursuit. And pursuit came in thunderous rage.

They had followed the Lord with what hopeful faith they could under blood-stained lintels, through blackest wailing alleys, into a frigid and scorching desert on flimsy sandals with an earthly devil in pursuit. They were definitely outside their comfort zone, with their hope uneasy like a lump in the throat before the wave of tears. Then they saw the Red Sea. An obstacle as solid as a rock. The lumps in their throats cracked and their hope tore away from them.

How bitter they were! They wailed and railed against the Lord, “How could you do this to us? We followed you only to die here!” Bitterness flowed in torrents, flooded by their fear.

The Lord’s response is so calmly abrupt, it almost makes me laugh. “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” (Ex. 15:15) He gives Moses the details, but really they just had to stop panicking, listen, and go. God was not making a mockery of them, rather, he was making good on his call: to be an example of his saving glory! (Ex. 15:4)

When He calls you out into risky territory, it is always to show His power and love.

They celebrated and worshiped and then God led them whooping into the wilderness of Shur – a funny little coincidence for us English speakers – for we often (and rightly) move ahead after these incredible experiences of God’s salvation with sure hearts.

But for three days they wandered without water. At this point humans often die. As their bodies shut down, their sure hope was evaporating with every breath. Their brains were befuddled by lack of water and by God’s strange leading. Having been slaves, they probably brought their feelings of worthlessness with them. And after seeing God’s might, they might have thought, “Who are we to be worthy of saving?”

Then, water! God has provided again! However, their joy evaporates instantly. What was provision is poison. A bitter trickle. A mockery. Here is your lifesaving water, but, ha, you can’t drink it. This time the grumble is not a torrent of terror, but a whisper of weakness: “What are we to drink?” Their last hope drains away. Finality settles in: Here I will die. I followed as far as I could, but it is finished.

bitterness Kimberley MulderThere was another time that someone said “It is finished.” When He said it, the world went black.

But what was finished? The mocking voice was finished. Its bitter power annulled by the sweet love of the cross. Because he who said “It is finished”, ended the rule of mockery and bitterness. Jesus endured the mockery, the shame, the scorn, the pain, the darkness right to the bitter end. And as he did so, the rule of mockery and bitterness ended.

Bitterness does not have the last word. Because infinite love bent into this bitter world and blessed it, there is sweet in the rescuing and the rising.

The Israelites discovered this in their sure wilderness. Moses cried out for mercy and God steeped a stick of hope in the stream of bitterness. His powerful love drives out all bitterness, and with it all fear. “Perfect love drives out all fear.” (1 John. 4:18)

Let his life steep in yours and you will find any streams of bitterness in your life being turned to sweet.

 


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Thrive!

Author: Kimberley Mulder

Thrive is such an invigorating, exciting word, bursting with promise and exuberance! Within it is abundance, life, fullness, robustness, and joy. We all want to thrive. If it could be bottled and sold it would make billions. The self-help industry has tried, but thriving is not for sale. Thriving is not owned or bought.

Thrive Kimberley MulderThriving is a state of being, a description of living. It is life with Jesus: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Our culture has co-opted the phrase “having it to the full” to mean we must fill every nook and cranny of our lives with activity, experience, and stuff. Instead of it reflecting our being in Jesus it is now a grasping and striving. It was never meant to be something we achieve or accomplish. We can only thrive when we stop straining to do so. In American culture, stopping the strain is frowned upon as a sign of weakness, or, at best, impatiently tolerated. But stop we must to attend to the meal Jesus is offering our spirits.

Our spirits are born hungry, just as our bodies are. Just as the hungry person will eat almost anything to satisfy, we are tempted to put anything into our spirit to sate it.  The babe is given mother’s milk, slowly introduced to new foods and warned sternly away from those things that will injure or kill. Yet our spirits often lack that training, so we fill it with dissatisfying things much like a malnourished child.

A child given highly refined foods and lacking fresh produce is nourished but very poorly. His body is deceived into feeling full while still not getting what it needs. His body adapts the best it can, but he is unhealthy—so it is with our spirit.

A spiritual diet rich in deception will bloat and sicken the soul. Our spirits need to feed on truth, love, joy, peace, and hope. Our spirits need Jesus. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” -John 6:35 “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the Father.”- Matthew 4:4

Kimberley Mulder ThriveFailure to thrive is a failure to grow. Like doctors and parents everywhere we affix the label “failure to thrive” to problems we cannot figure out the cause. It can strike terror into our hearts.

We may very well be living under that label, unsure of what is causing our “failure to thrive”. Sometimes we don’t even notice it until we stop long enough to take inventory of our feelings,  thoughts, and ways.

So, this January day, when the rivers of holiday busy-ness have run their course, and you find yourself on a lonely sandbar, consider whether you are thriving.

Have you been more irritable of late?

Have you noticed a “deadpan” feeling running through your days?

Take some time to notice and then walk into Jesus’ presence with it. As Lord of all, He knows if it stems from a spirit undernourishment, or a physical depletion, or both. It is okay, nay, necessary, to stop and say: “Lord, I am empty. I don’t even know what I need, but I ask you for it.”

He, the Bread of Life, desires to fill you.


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and shares on her blog Living a Mary Life in a Martha World.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)

Wisdom’s Doorway

Author: Kimberley Mulder

Garland, on a fantastic sale, roped me in. Soon I was deep in the scrolling, pictures of fake evergreen to festoon my doorway flitting before me. Fantasies of sparkling greenery shimmering in new-fallen snow glimmered in my imagination. Until I realized how much time had passed and that I had purposed to write today about the doorway to wisdom! Wisdom’s doorway is not draped with discount plastic greenery!

Proverbs 8 is the personification of Wisdom, and in it she calls out to us. In verse 34 we read:

“Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.” Prov. 8:34

How inviting, how decked out would Wisdom’s house be? Would it be the grandest on the block? The simplest but most elegant? The unadorned? What would cry out to the passersby “Wisdom lives here!”

I picture a palace; a high, gilded doorway, rich with gold and fancy with filigree. Floors of exquisite colored tiles. Enormous, breathtaking paintings. This would make me want to linger in awe like a tourist in an exotic palace.

Maybe Wisdom’s doorway would be filled with ancient splendor that only the attentive archaeologist knows is valuable. The uninformed or fad follower would pass by it as old junk.

Christmas Kimberley MulderHow does one recognize Wisdom’s doorway?

By knowing who lives inside. The doorway is marked by the presence, not the decorations, not the gilded ornament, not the scuff marks. It is recognizable by the life lived inside. And it is found only by those willing to look for it.

The Magi wanted to find Wisdom. They saw and followed Wisdom, by starlight, to a wooden stable. Hinges loose, door banging, straw and refuse on the floor. Splintering wood beams. The doorway they stood in as they offered their gifts of sacrifice and love to Wisdom himself was nothing like a king’s.

But the Magi understood something that we often ignore or dispute – and that is that wisdom often leads in unlikely ways to unlikely places. They humbled themselves to the unlikely.

Kimberley Mulder ChristmasThey sought, watched, listened, waited, and anticipated with hope. They trusted that “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.” Prov. 8:17-18

And when the star led them to foreign lands, to the living quarters of livestock, they did not balk. Instead, they lingered in the splinter-beamed doorway of the King. What unlikely place might wisdom be leading you? It might be a low doorway under which you need to bow your head. You will know it by the Presence inside.

Consider: Jesus said that he is the gate (John 10:7 and 9). Now marry that with Proverb 8 and we see that “Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” Prov. 8:34

So I consider: At which doorway am I lingering daily? Am I looking for flash and fancy when Wisdom is in the mundane? Am I trying to gloss and decorate the truth? Am I too busy hunting down the best bargain on a gift (or a garland) to seek the treasure of life? Am I lingering at Wisdom’s doorway or at Walmart’s?


2016-11-02 13.10.06Kimberley Mulder is a contemplative at heart who deeply enjoys the company of Jesus in the day-to-day of caring for her family of 5 (plus a dog and a cat), teaching English to immigrants, growing her garden, and writing. Currently, her walk with Jesus is taking her more deeply into writing as she leads a spiritual formation group at her church, and records the reflections and connections Jesus gives her to share with others.  She treasures the truth that God’s Word does not go back to him without accomplishing the purpose for which he sent it, and that that Word is embodied in our lives. (Isaiah 55:11)