Who Am I?

One year ago, I stood near Caesarea Philippi. It was November, Christmas was around the corner – and I remember asking myself, who is Jesus – really? 

That night I lay awake, and began scrawling in a notebook…

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:13-16 NIV

Near Caesarea, up in the in high hills intricately crafted niches are the remnants of pagan idols that once invoked the worship of many in Jesus’ time. This was the place that Jesus chose to bring his disciples to ask them a pointed question, “Who do you say that I am?” Only Peter spoke with bounding heart knowledge, professing that Jesus is the Son of God, Messiah, King. Jesus intentionally asked the question in this place, where many humans came to search for truth – and were deceived to believe that by giving themselves to stone idols, there, they could find truth, meaning and purpose. Today Jesus, who travelled the birth canal, who slipped under the currents of the Jordan, who crafted the cosmos, bounced upon a stinking donkey through noisy hosanna palm branches, and poured blood stains down the same streets as he travelled to skull hill one week later … God who died – to offer you a white heart slate … God who came back days later on the Galilean shores to announce fish breakfast to the disciples…Fish breakfast of all things! This Father-God-Spirit-Son asks you today, “Who am I?” He asks you in the midst of bustle, and He asks you in the moments when you begin to offer your heart to idols that will not satisfy – money, acceptance, power, happiness. He asks because He knows that unless He is your First Love – You will never be satisfied. He doesn’t stand far off from the state of your heart, even when your own search for truth and and meaning leads you to false idols – No He enters in, He gets your attention, and He asks kindly, “Who am I, to you?”

Thankfully, Jesus has not changed since I wrote these words. He is the same yesterday, today and always. When you go to God, you always know who you will find, you always know where you stand with him – but you rarely know what He will do. This is the greatest adventure.

The Last Word

“A young 12 yr old tried to commit suicide tonight .. en route to hospital right now.” A text message I received November 13th, 2017.

My friend Janice is the Principal at Ahtahkakoop Christian Academy. We became friends last spring when I visited the school she runs on Ahtahkakoop First Nation Reserve.

There was stark contrast between her excited expression as she spoke proudly of her school and students and the difficult aspects of hopelessness she described.

The suicide crisis is ugly and the Christian Academy is facing it head on with mighty big Hope for kids and families feeling lost.

Schools have the power to transform society as they shape the hearts and minds of an entire generation.

“If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.” – George Couros

Meaningful change is happening for students at the school. Relationships are being built. Quality education is being taught. The food program is meeting practical needs. The Hope of Jesus is being felt – and is transforming lives.

However, the challenges are real.

“Sorry sis … the ambulance is calling, can’t talk now.” – Janice Nov 2, 2017 4:04pm

I am a high school teacher. I teach in a public high school and I am grateful for the outstanding and unique learning opportunities, tools and supports made available to Canadian students in my classroom. There are many practical needs that would enhance the ways students can be empowered at Ahtahkakoop Christian Academy such as: A school playground, food program supplies, support staff, a new bus, building needs, and educational tools and supplies.

Janice recently wrote to me, “I need prayers today … lots to do … I know Jesus is with me.” – Janice

Yes, she needs prayers. Yes there is much to do. BUT Jesus is with her and this changes everything. Hope is here. Hope gets the last word. The suicide crisis is NOT the end of the story for youth in this province. Hope gets the last word – Always. Because over 2000 years ago He rose from an unlikely Stable … the King of the universe rose up, for us.

Powerful leaders, advocates, athletes and world-changers are rising up from unlikely places at Ahtahakakoop Christian Academy too – and across this province.

I play with a band called Rise. We are a musician/songwriter collective that loves Jesus and aims to instill God’s hope. We recently recorded a Christian song called Hope Will Reign. Songwriter Vanessa Samuel scripted the lyrics, “In that stable, lost are found … Hope is here, here to stay.”

The song, Hope Will Reign can be purchased today at https://riseyxe.bandcamp.com/track/hope-will-reign.

All proceeds will go to Ahtahkakoop Christian Academy so that Hope can continue to reign in bigger ways through the school.

Hope is the belief that things can change.

The crisis is real, but it’s being beaten one heart at a time. Thank you for considering being part of this change!

Where Hope Sits

Hope always sits within your reach, always.

Hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.”

Some days, It’s downright hard to Hope.

One frustrated student joins our math class late most days with little motivation to lift a pencil. Her name is Hope.

The promise I’ve made her is this: I am on your side. I will support you in every way I can while you persevere and grow your skills and understanding. I won’t change my mind about you, decide you are not worth my time, or give up on you. I believe in you, this is my promise. Will you believe me? Will you trust that what I am saying is true? Will you choose to hope?

Sometimes, I feel unmotivated too. Why does it matter? What’s the point?

The promise Jesus makes to me is this: I am on your side. I will support you in every way you need while you grow and learn all I have designed for you. I will not change my mind about you – I completely love you. I will not decide you are not worth my time or give up on you. I believe in you, this is my promise. Will you believe me? Will you trust that what I am saying is true? Will you choose to hope?

This is the ground-shaking promise of a committed God, to me.

And I am reminded:

Hope doesn’t come through believing in myself, my abilities, or that my circumstances will change.

Hope appears when I believe what He says about me is true. Hope is trusting.

Choosing Hope brings change:

  1. It changes how we view ourselves

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come” – 2 Cor 5:17

  1. It changes what we value

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” – Matt 6:21

  1. It changes what we do with our lives

“When Jesus saw him laying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, Do you want to get well?” – John 5:6

Hope always sits within your reach, and the brave heart reaches out and opens up to receive it.

Hope reached out and it’s changing her heart. She recently wrote to me:

I believe in myself in this class and I will keep going because I know I can do amazing!

Hope is not the belief that you can change – or your life can change.

Hope is the belief that Jesus can change you – and there is enough for everyone to reach out and take it.

Restore My Soul

 Sisterhood happens anywhere the Gospel lives. It is a way of life that flows rich out of Gospel blood, Gospel love and Gospel grace.

But sometimes we forget the Cross-message: You are enough in Me. And I am enough for you. Rest here.

We are restored by His love and we reclaim Our Identity. The Gospel leads us to reclaim our position in Him and we STAND.

Security.

Togetherness.

Authenticity.

Named Purpose.

Diversity.

Close your eyes for a moment and experience the word picture David has painted for the children of God that has comforted hearts for centuries and guided the bravest through vast stormy waters.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Satisfied – room for all)
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
He restores my soul.

Rest …
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, (perfect love casts out fear)

Reflect …
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

David reflects, even in the presence of those who hate him, there is a feast prepared!
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Declare: I have more than enough. I refuse to live with a poverty mindset

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Believe: I expect good things. I Hope in Him. I am replenished.

Living with a restored soul involves rest and reflection and results in replenishment.

The Gospel is a mighty fountain of Restoration. It has restored me…

My sweet grandma and I lie in her tiny hospital bed, eye to eye. Tears are spilling down her wrinkled cheeks. She knows goodbye is imminent. I don’t want her to leave me. We’ve recited it so many times … But in this helpless moment, hope is just beginning to flare – Hope is born in the darkest places…

And I say it out loud, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”

Her and I have said it so many times: On the gravel road during harvest time as the combines roar, before breakfast on the early morning after a sleepover, on the phone as I lay awake, sick, homesick and provinces away.

We’ve recited this so many times.

Now, I lay beside her and she is dying and in those moments of goodbye, I am stirred by a love message ringing loud. Her voice is too weak to join mine so I speak for both of us: “The Lord is My Shepherd … He restores my soul.” 

Her soul, mind heart and body; about to be fully restored.

Just as I am recognizing my own restored state,

Her new life in heaven.

Mine declared bold on earth.

Something about that moment releases me to rest in the love of God. To let Him be enough, and let me be nothing – Come as you are, He says. Empty vessel. Let Me Give Everything. You offer nothing. Only open your heart to receive my love.

If we do not have love, we have nothing. What about when we can’t feel it?

Bible Scholars say David was facing extreme anxiety while penning the famous Psalm. God had spoken great promises to David, but he’s stuck in the Desert.

We all have desert moments and anxious concerns … How will I pay these bills? Will I ever get a new job? Will I ever get married? Will my kids hate me forever? Will my circumstances ever change? Will I ever kick this addiction? Will I ever be able to tell anyone?

What do we do in those moments we have no strength to Rise, to STAND?

David feels like He cannot restore himself … He has forgotten His position.  

To reclaim His identity, David doesn’t say I AM. He points to who GOD IS, to him.

We cannot restore ourselves, and we mustn’t try. But we can reclaim.

God has already restored and will continue to restore, and we must reclaim.

Reclaiming is not about generating something new, building, creating or conjuring something up. Reclaiming is about recovering something lost. It is about restoring back to what was originally intended. In Eden.

“The Lord is my Shepherd.”

This reminding and restoring gives David the strength to Rise up and STAND.

When you find your identity in who God is, and you rest there, you are empowered to live Gospel Grace.

TO LIVE

Secure with the dogged refusal to believe the lie that you are not enough and you don’t have enough.

Together, standing in healthy, interdependent relationships – receiving grace from Calvary so you can give it lavishly.

Authentic so the whole world knows the Great Grace story is not for the perfect, it’s for those willing to receive it. To show up and be real. To be vulnerable. To be brave.

Named for purposes that are vast, creative and unique – trusting fully as you depend on God.

Inviting Diverse voices and perspectives to come sit at your table!

When David is restored, He shows others Who God is. This POSITION is the Great Commission.

David becomes the very fragrance of Jesus to thousands and thousands of hope-hungry men and women spanning centuries.

David’s words were the fragrance that filled that little hospital room as my grandma slipped from earth to glory.

As we are restored, we rise and stand, we become the fragrance of Christ for all to inhale.

… I remember my grandma’s withered hands. A pioneer’s daughter, a hard working mama, a Jesus-trusting woman. I remember how her hands reached to pull mine up in her final moments on earth – so that I could see love. So that I could Rise up and STAND.

Together, we are lifting one another to Rise up and STAND in position.

To live as restored, powerful people – at rest in Him.