Mud and Money

This week, Financial Advisor Brandon Weibe joined the bustling morning math crew that I teach to talk about getting rich quick! … Or more like living a financially wise life and making decisions at a young age that will benefit them for the long haul (They were more interested in getting rich quick!) Several weeks ago I asked students what was their biggest fear was about the future – and many of them said, “Not having the money to do the things I would like to do in life.” Yes, life is more than money, and God himself says money is the root of all evil. However, money itself is not evil – Money builds wells for clean water, finances libraries to store the knowledge of the world, feeds families, provides electricity and equipment for hospitals and schools, ensures the care of the elderly, the sick, the challenged, and all of the vulnerable and defenseless. Money provides opportunities for people to reach their full potential, and fulfill their calling – to contribute positively to the world.

No, Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is. What we love most, we give our time to, we seek security in, we think about, and we serve. Money is simply a tool that we can use to do the things God has put us here to do – and learning practical wisdom in this area of life is wise!

Like so many areas of life, being financially wise is less about knowing the right things to do, and more about having the discipline and ability to actually do them.

In Brandon’s presentation, he pointed to the famous financial tidbits of Dave Ramsey who says, “Finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior.” Getting head knowledge is easy, changing behavior is hard.

I think this is why Jesus asked the blind man at the pool of Bathesda, “Do you want to be healed” before strangely reaching out to smudge mud in his eyes and set his life on an altered course. A first glimpse of this story leads a person to think Of course the man wanted to be healed! What a ridiculous question! However, as I walked on those very pool steps just over a week ago, I thought about all the ways the begger’s life changed in the mud moment. His business had been to beg – it is all he had ever known. This was his source of income and how he had learned to get by in the world. Healing meant learning a new way. Healing meant change. Healing meant the people around him were troubled and upset. Healing meant letting go of old habits and letting God work new things through the making of messy mud.

Sometimes, it’s hard to do the things we need to do to pursue long-term benefits. The short-term muddy discomfort can deter us, but if we are willing to let Jesus work in the mud of our lives, he will create the most amazing, purpose-filled contented days in our hearts. You can trust him enough to change, grow and adapt in the ways that will bring health to your life. Sometimes, the first step to long-term benefits is saying yes to the short-term mud.

“When Jesus had said this, He spat on the ground, made some mud, and applied it to the man’s eyes. Then He told him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came back seeing.” – John 9:6-7

It’s The Experience

Israel has been an explosion of new experiences, putting me on sensory overload. I’ve experienced unfamiliar and surprising tastes, jubilant and sorrow-filled sounds, the feeling of jagged rocks between my toes, surreal sights and market mixed smells.

My physical senses have allowed me to experience much in Israel, but more importantly, they have been vehicles for something deeper to take place.

As I ventured out of my comfort zone, touching peaks at Masada higher than my mind could map, I could feel God open up exhilarating new courage in my spirit.

And now, as my eyes see white fluff majestically hang outside my plane window, I can feel something deep in me shift in awe and wild admiration for the brilliance of the sight. This is unique to the human spirit. We, unlike animals, are made to feel beauty in the soul.

The sounds of the trip have been commented on by almost every member of my travel crew. Our voice instruments echoing masterfully inside St. Anne’s Cathedral and theJerusalem song blasting in our bus as we entered the Great City have been noted as common highlights. Not to mention various languages that carried bouncing worship all around the garden where the empty tomb of Jesus sits. The vibrancy of these sounds have been discussed more than any other element of the trip, because music is the heartbeat of heaven.

The unexpected and delectable food tastes created pathways for new and strengthened relationships. Between the bud senses and bites, encouragement was spoken, laughter erupted and HOPE was cultivated. We are made to thrive in relationships that stretch far deeper than fine tastes. It’s a basic human need to love. To belong.

The strong and unique smell of our hotel lobby in Jerusalem could not have been sweeter after a disorienting experience I had on the city streets. Home. Safe. Familiar. Secure. We all yearn to feel “at home” at times, and smells can trigger this kind of comfort. This is only a shadow of what we will experience when we catch the scents of heaven.

Certainly life is full of experiences and having “An Experience” can be fun and exciting! However, it’s when an experience touches our hearts that “An experience” becomes “The experience.” It’s here that God makes the common incomparable and the ordinary extraordinary. It’s here, below the surface of the senses that the heart and soul behold the person of God himself, in real relationship. It’s here that there is peace, joy and rest that transcends circumstances. It’s here that heaven touches earth, and we taste small wonders of Heaven. Israel has reminded me that life really is all about The Experience.

Poppy Red Footsteps in Israel

Jesus, today I saw courage in Nazareth wearing jeans and a T-shirt. They were draped on a Messianic Jew drenched in sweat, telling your story in a synagogue. He read your courageous hometown chant, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). You must have known they would reject you – just like so many in Israel reject the message of the Pastor in jeans who read your words today.

I saw your tenacity today on the rock stairs you skipped on as a boy. It emerged from the enduring steps of my new sweet friend struggling to climb the hill, but determined to walk in your footsteps.

I heard your desperation today to know God the Father and to walk closely with Him. Your heart sounded across the Sea of Galilee through the passionate prayer of a warrior woman declaring truth over each life on our boat.

On the road you walked between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee I shared a bus seat with a testimony that reminded me just how real you are and that your roads are always right. She followed your footsteps from pain to surrender to glory and joy.

I saw a cross today, just like the one you endured for the joy set before you.

I saw your lovely humility today. It was in a woman who carried a stool to accommodate the pain of a replaced hip. Her resolution to stay with the group, despite the discomfort, and walk in your footsteps reminded me of your “resolute” journey to Jerusalem, to hang in torture. For me.

I saw your unshakable commitment to your Father today. It was in the supper-talk of a woman who will sink into the baptismal waters of the Jordan tomorrow. Between bites she said, “more and more I cannot deny that He is real. I cannot.” Yes, truth is unshakable, and you call yourself truth.

I saw your humour today. In the same way you playfully popped from the sight of your Emmaus comrades, I was duped by the wit of my mischievous new clan of friends- providing comic relief for the whole crew.

I heard you speak mercy today on the Sea of Galilee. Through the storytelling of tour guide tales, you spoke to me saying, “Peter did nothing to earn my saving hand in the water. In fact it was in the very moment he MOST lacked faith that I reached out my hand to meet his need. You need not perform, daughter. I AM more than enough.”

I saw your honour for your Father today. God the Father remained in heaven, but you represented Him with honour on the foreign earth-ground. I saw this today in a red poppy pinned in the hat of my Canadian tour mate. He displayed the four red pedals in this foreign Israeli land where many don’t recognize its massive significance. You shed the MOST valuable red the world will ever know. Also Unrecognized by many.

I saw your pain today through the stories of peoples’ disappointments, divorces,  sicknesses and unanswered prayers. You asked that the cup be taken before bearing the cross up skull hill. You know unanswered prayer. But you walked on to lay down your life. Many of my new friends are doing the same. They are following in your footsteps, saying “not my will but yours be done”, for the joy set before them.

Yes, Jesus, I saw you today. Not because your presence lives only in Israel, but because your power lives where your people walk in your footsteps.

Thank you for walking.
Thank you for dying.
Thank you for living.
And leading us on.

Play A Part

Most of us have a secret love bubbling below the surface. For some it’s chocolate, for others, its basketball shoes. Mine is words. I love the way they can mix and mingle to make a statement to the world. I don’t get kicks from studying grammar and proper sentence structure. I love words because language is the carrier of ideas – and you can’t communicate your thoughts or opinions without it. Language is power.

If you can read and write words, you have the ability to advocate for the disenfranchised, to protect the defenseless and to make positive change. Some societies do not allow citizens to exercise freedom of speech – and language shapes a society. In the book Escape from Camp 14, Shin Dong-hyuk tells his story of growing up in the present-day North Korean concentration camp. Shin says the words “love” and “freedom” was forbidden in the camp and before his escape he had never heard them. This is how an entire nation can be controlled. Words carry meaning; therefore, if a society looses a word, it looses the meaning. Yes, language is powerful and your words count.

Some of my favorite word matches are playful oxymorons that make your brain gears turn. Some examples: “Act naturally”, and “deafening silence”.

How about this oxymoron: Team Player

While it is important to embrace your individuality, and make your personal statements to the world – it is equally important to recognize that you are just one player on a team when it comes to your purpose. You are one player on God’s mighty team, faithfully doing your part – wherever you have been placed in this world. You have the opportunity to use your voice to call God’s Kingdom to earth along with the calls of many others. The pressure is off … you can actually enjoy the journey of being part of a team.When we make a statement alone or work to make something happen in isolation, our words and purpose lose power.

Last Sunday night, I was honored to be part of an incredible team that worked to make a beautiful event happen at Elim Church called Strength and Grace. This was a new experience for me (I have a whole new appreciation for you brides out there!), and I’m not exactly a details girl… However, I was floored to experience the power of this team. The dancers and musicians performed and worshiped with wonder, the tech team was diligent and wildly focused, the photographers and videographer were fun, freely capturing the evening. The decor team was brilliant, the money handlers worked swiftly and the food team made deliciousness beautiful! Community business generously donated all kinds of goods for the gift-give aways, the stagehands were patient, the women sharing testimonies were brave and real, the greeters and café workers were warm and welcoming, “The Brotherhood”, as they like to be called, might have ironically been the highlight of the women’s event! Many others played a part to make the event happen. Together, through the event, we raised thousands of dollars for a project called Mirror Mirror that aims to empower young women in the community of Saskatoon with a strong sense of self-worth. Incredible.

Yes, your energy, words and ideas are used best when partnered with those of others. Rest knowing that whatever it is you want to accomplish, God wants you to embrace the relationships and enjoy the journey with people. God’s priority is not for you to get things done today. Remember, loving God and loving people was priority number one for the God-man Jesus.

“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer … locusts have no kind, yet they advance together in ranks” – Proverbs 30:24

These photos were taken by Jenna Rutherford