A Psalm a Day

“Why are you not writing?” he asked, “your encouraging voice needs to be heard in this season.”

I’ve been thinking about the gift of the Psalms. ‘How would you advise reading them?’ a student asked Eugene Peterson. ‘Begin at Psalm One, read one each day, then 150 Psalms and days later, start again.’ 

The Psalms are our guide to the pilgrimage life, expressing all emotions, describing life’s beauty, grit, truth, despair and soul ache. 

Timothy Keller describes them as the ‘medicine chest of the heart.’ 

Ignatius, ‘the balm of salvation.’

Calvin, ‘the anatomy of the soul.’ 

The Psalms use a walking language, a way, a pilgrimage. They describe a measured pace, where we notice, stop and linger awhile. I’ve heard the Psalms described as sounds and words a symphony held together by pain and joy, the big picture of life. Henri Nouwen wrote, ‘sadness and joy kiss, we have all experienced this. Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.’ The Psalms capture this, we can lament, laugh, and make beautiful sounds while the guttural groans are real. 

This gift of the Psalms, the language of the heart, is ours. 

Here are some verses of Psalm 84 that I have been travelling with this week. 

“Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools. They go from Strength to Strength—every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Psalm 84:5-7

These verses describe a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the weary pilgrims would pass through Baca, a perilous pass. The scorching sun, the parched ground, the dry air, thorns lacerating, and the beasts lurking. This wouldn’t have been a chosen route, but to reach their destination, they had to travel through. The meaning of Baca is ‘the valley of weeping, tears or mourning.’  

This time we’re in is a valley of weeping, tears, of parched ground. What is your Baca in this season? How is the ground under your feet? I speak daily to those who have lost jobs, are despairing, facing sickness in their family, grieving, estranged from loved ones, frustration, disappointment. We see pain and anger on our screens. 

Please be encouraged today that God is in your midst; the Holy Spirit is alongside your journey, counselling and comforting. 

Psalm 84 advises three aspects to connect with on the journey, strength. Wells. Destination.  

Strengthen yourself in the Lord. Scriptures repeatedly speak of renewing strength; there is health and growth as we wait and bind ourselves to the Lord. Verse 5 speaks of our hearts set on the pilgrimage. Let’s remember that in this season, where we feel bounced from pillar to post, it is not our final destination; we are not staying in Baca. 

While this is true, there is always a question we can ask of the Lord in prayer,  

What do you want to teach me here? This season of self-isolation – this struggle?

Verse 6 speaks of wells and pools. Even though we are tired and weary, there is time to dig a well. To make room in this tough situation. Through prayer, worship, through changing our perspective, seeing the problem solved in a new way. Notice the verse the pilgrims dig the well, and the well fills from the top – we dig, and heaven’s rain falls and fills. As we partner with the fountain of living water, we will see our landscape changing. Let’s give out of our struggle, and find a place of refreshment for ourselves in the desert, leaving a garden of grace for those following behind. 

The Passion version translates the verse this way, ‘even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.’  

My prayer for you is that you will know God is with you; that you will know Him as your strength. He promises that he is both with you and ahead of you. Be encouraged that you will leave the valley of Baca, this season, with a testimony of all that God did and said. He is faithful. 

You are loved, Michelle ♡

 Isa. 41:17, 18, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

The Most Highlighted verse in the Bible

This devotional is the first of eleven short pieces that can be read alongside Phil’s new online course that teaches about Anxiety and Stress. You can find the course on the Fill In website by clicking here

This introductory piece will offer a few additional insights and some encouragement as you engage in the course. As you know, anxiety, fear, and worry are familiar words to us, and many of us experience them at different times.  Anxiety is no respecter of demographics or status and shows up in various ways such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD. It is not our aim to offer a quick fix to rid your anxiety, or give you all of the answers but rather acknowledge the reality of this epidemic and offer some thoughts, helps and God-given solutions. 

For some, this will be a lifeline to find a way to live with anxiety in Christ, others might find the answers and lights on moments to find new freedom. We have known and experienced both, and our prayer as you listen and read is that you will know a new reality and profound truth of the God who encourages you to cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 

We are not alone in our search for answers. Data from Amazon found here describes the most popular, beautiful, and poetic passages that readers had underlined in many online books.

Here is the most highlighted verse from the NIV version of the Bible. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“ Philippians 4:6-7. The verses before and after encouraging readers to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ and focus on where our thoughts are landing by thinking on ‘whatever is true, whatever is admirable.’ We are encouraged to not be anxious about anything… ANYTHING. Easy for you to say, Paul. But maybe not as I’m reminded that he wrote this from prison. He had clearly found a way to find peace in this cold, anxious place, encouraging us to find peace ‘by prayer and petition.’ 

Other translations put it this way…

The Message (MSG) ‘Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.’

It is so easy to allow newsfeeds, news flashes, and our hypothetical headlines to cloud our knowledge of what we know is true in God. I like how the Passion Translation translates the same verse, ‘don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about something. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.’ 

Saturation becomes the answer to paralyzation

When I spin on the hamster wheel of anxiety, and as the swirling clouds wrap me up, and I become excessive in my overthinking, I find that grace has a harder time breaking through. For this introductory post, I thought I’d introduce a few wins for my own journey – I hope they help. Further posts will include testimonies of friends and my community who have found their way with anxiety. 

My practice… 

Acknowledge anxiety: 

What causes your anxiety? What causes you to lose sight of God’s love, sovereignty, and care? Journal your answers. 

Remember: 

One of the things I love to do when I get stuck in the ‘traffic jam’ unable to move, I remember. I remember that God has proven Himself faithful, over and over again. He has shown me His mercy and His promised presence daily. 

…and finally, another piece the most underlined, this time from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

Wrong will be right,

When Aslan comes in sight,

At the sound of his roar,

sorrows will be no more,

When he bares his teeth,

winter meets its death,

And when he shakes his mane,

we shall have spring again.

Meditate and Memorise 

Throw all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you,” 1 Peter 5:7

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:25–26

Listen: I’ll Give Thanks, Housefires 

Part two in a few days, don’t forget to sign up and forward to those it might help,

Love, Michelle x

I wake in the morning and hope it’s Wednesday or Sunday

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I write this from the beautiful Normandy countryside. We are nearly at the end of our second Pursuit School trip to France, working alongside our friends Gerard and Chrissie and the ministry of Bless. We’re visiting with a new group of students who have just finished their Pursuit School year. Our days are filled with time in the Bethanie prayer room, working on Bethanie land, celebrating d’day on Pegasus Bridge and worshipping in a tiny chapel on the Compostela pilgrimage on the grounds of our friends’ campsite.

Our main focus has been the work of Bethanie and SOS Chai who have been working in the Presqu’ile in Caen for 2 years. Twice a week they serve hot meals and drinks, clothes and toiletries to a group of migrant boys while playing games and forming friendships – and we were able to join in! Many new boys have joined the Presqu’ile from Sudan, Senegal, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia….We converse through our limited French, their limited English, but understand the universal language of smiles and soccer.

We heard these words yesterday,

‘I wake in the morning and hope it’s Wednesday or Sunday’

‘It’s good to serve people, and it’s even better to sit with people’

‘We are a family now.’

And as we enjoyed our family time, we watched this familiar story unfold.

The story of a menacing sky. Overshadowed by a rainbow. Laden with promise.

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Over the warehouses. Over the white vans, housing trafficked daughters – candles burning. Over purpose-filled lives created in the image of God. Our new brothers, with their wide smiles and long eyelashes. Their laughter. Their new love for spike ball.  The ones who have walked across the land, the desert and the Alps.

We are blessed.

SOS Chai needs our help to keep going – you can find more information here  

Thank you!

Love, Michelle xo

‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.’

 

Transformation!

Hello again from France!

As our time here draws to a close, I thought I’d offer part two of my musings alongside a few pics – click here for the first.

The theme of transformation runs deep through the ministry of Bless.

Whether it’s the land on which they live (shout out to these girls who laid the floor this week!)

or the lives they reach,

What a privilege to partner for the past 10 days and involve ourselves in the joy and hands-on work of transformation. As our time in France comes to an end, we know it’s just the beginning of a renewed friendship with our longtime friends here in France.

Our refugee friends hold a place in our hearts. Our new brothers with their wide smiles and long eyelashes. Their laughter. Their fierce love for dominos.  Of creativity and colour. The ones who have walked across the land. The desert. The Alps.

Who are leaders and dreamers and carers

Who are created in the image of God.

WIth purpose.

This week we have offered meals, water, fruit, clothes and lots of shoes from the converted ambulance. SOS Chai needs our help to keep going! You can give through their Giving page here.  

 

This song will remind me of this trip. 

I am no victim

I live with a vision

I’m covered by the force of love

Covered in my Savior’s blood

I am no orphan

I’m not a poor man

The Kingdom’s now become my own

And with the King I’ve found a home

(And with the King I have a home)

He’s not just reviving

Not simply restoring

Greater things have yet to come

Greater things have yet to come

He is my Father

I do not wonder

If His plans for me are good

If He’ll come through like He should

‘Cause He is provision

And enough wisdom

To usher in my brightest days

To turn my mourning into praise

I am who He says I am

He is who He says He is

I’m defined by all His promises

Shaped by every word He says

Greater things have yet to come!

Praying you’ll experience the transforming grace of God in your life today,

Love, Michelle xo

 

God sees Diamonds

 

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Hi friends,

We are seven days into our Pursuit School trip to Normandy in France, working alongside our friends Gerard and Chrissie Kelly and the ministry of Bless.

Our days are filled with time in the Bethanie prayer room, food and games with our new Sudanese friends (connect four champ over here;) speaking at church plants, celebrating D’Day.  Onto worshipping in a tiny chapel on the Compostela pilgrimage, on the grounds of our friends’ new campsite and visiting the landing beaches on D’Day.  

 

Stay tuned for my musings over the next days as I reflect on our time.

Let’s begin with the Bless mission statement written by Gerard 

 

We believe every human being has a worth, worth seeing.

Every name is a sound worth saying.

Your potential is a prayer worth praying.

You see coal – God sees diamonds

 

We believe in the grace of the gifts God gives.

His breath in everything that lives.

Greater gifts to be discovered – deep in you, disguised, dust-covered.

You see coal – God sees diamonds 

 

We see traces of truth in the yearnings of youth

God’s image in imagination.

We crave a community that will honour audacity,

And cherish the dreams of its children.

You see coal – God sees diamonds.

 

We see God seeking a servant generation.

Kindness as the kindling to kick-start transformation.

Love as liberation of a captive creation.

We are digging for the diamonds God sees.

 

During our first visit to Caen, we enjoyed the church of Saint Pierre built around the 13th century and the Chateau de Caen built by William the Conqueror in 1060. Our eyes were drawn to stained glass and broken walls, ancient limestone carrying whispered prayers of hundreds of years – of wars and rebuilding.

It was a warehouse on the Presqu’ile that captured my imagination.  

The old warehouse surrounded by white vans housing trafficked daughters – their candles burning.

The derelict warehouse with shattered windows and prophetic graffiti.

The roof caught my attention.

Among the verses of love in 1 Corinthians 13, we are told that ‘love bears all things.’  Brian Simmons writes, although commonly understood to mean that love can bear hardships of any kind, the nominalized form of the verb (stego) is actually the word for ‘roof’ found in Mark 2:4 which says, ‘since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. Paul is saying that love covers all things like a roof covers the house. And like a roof protects and shields, you could say that love springs no leak. It is a safe place that offers shelter, not exposure.

The challenge is that as we offer this kind of love, we can bring transformation that does not follow a system but looks for ways to take off the roof.

||As we stood on broken glass and sang Amazing Grace, Dedicating the ruins,

I saw the pieces forming a mosaic, Into a place of beauty,

Where the writing is on the wall, And a new song rises from the land||

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Watch this (sacred) space,  thank you for your prayers!

Love, Michelle xo

‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink…whatever you did for the least of these you did for me.’

 

Get On With It…

Hey friends!

It’s been a while.

I blame the dreaded flu, an unresponsive Macbook and that January meh.

Anyway! Here I am with a February encouragement for you…

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As you know, Phil and I love to teach, disciple all and invest in the next generation. So it was no surprise when five years ago at a conference in Kelowna, we were given a word about a ‘school’ where people would learn to minister, to preach, to live in God’s presence, to pray – to do. It was a far-reaching Canada wide word.

Then three years ago at Bethel, we were prayed for by several Pastors and were given the same encouragement from the Lord.

We wrote it down, for the appointed time

Last year, Phil was asked the question, ‘who is training the ministers, the evangelists?’ With a divine ‘Kapow’ that appointed time was speaking a clear,

‘Get on with it!’

We wrote a vision document and presented it our denominational leaders and with a resounding YES we gathered a group of people, young and not so, in our living room and presented a vision for a class/placement school in Kelowna, based out of Willow Park.

We dreamed and prayed and pursued.

We worked hard – writing, connecting, decorating, learning, collaborating, wondering…

Last September Pursuit School began with twelve full-time students, starting with a ‘boot camp’ where we took students through our Set Free retreat, Hearing God and understanding the importance of mentoring. The curriculum is packed with subjects, such as how to prep and preach, effective storytelling and understanding culture. Students have shared in church, rang bells with the salvation army, planned projects and taken part in our 21 days of prayer! Pursuit Night School also began with many attending weekly to hear the ‘condensed version.’  

I love the challenge of Bob Goff, ‘quit aiming for what you’re able to do; pick a couple things only God could do.’

I want to encourage you today, dig out your journal of dreams and divine promises.

Allow the breath of God to blow the dust off those prophecies and hear the whisper,

‘Get on with it.’

There’s something for us all in these poetic words of writer and blogger, Sarah Bessey.

My philosophy of ministry right now could best be described as “Get on with it.”

~There will be those who misunderstand: get on with it.

There will be those who judge and find your efforts wanting: get on with it.

There will be those who think you are doing it wrong: get on with it.

There will be those who hold you up as a warning: get on with it.

There will be those who say you have no business doing it: get on with it.

There will be those who believe you’re outside the boundaries: get on with it.

There will be those who are certain you are too much: get on with it.

There will be those who question your faith, your credentials, your right, your voice, your methods, your manners, your tone, your size, your doctrine of atonement, your style, your medium, your translation of the Bible: get on with it.

Get on with the work of the Gospel.

Get on with rising, on with love.

Get on with speaking up and speaking out.

Get on with setting more places at the tables in the wilderness, with opening the doors a bit wider, with blowing the roof off with praise.

Get on with late night walks under the stars and kisses behind the minivan.

Get on with praying for miracles and working for them, too.

Get on with reading widely and listening deeply and being disrupted.

Get on with new paths in unexpected wilderness.

Get on with the people who laugh and cry easily.

Get on with proclaiming freedom and welcome.

Get on with making a home where the dispossessed feel at rest.

Get on with giving away your money and making plans for goodness.

Get on with feeding the hungry and offering water to the parched.

Get on with paying attention.

Get on with staying awake and watchful.

Get on with making a nuisance of yourself to the powerful.

Get on with organizing and protesting and making speeches on Facebook.

Get on with declaring this is the year of the Lord and you’re not going to stop until there is beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.

Get on with making friends and being kind in ordinary ways.

Get on with your own healing and wholeness so that you can offer a healed and whole glimpse of the abundance of God.

Get on with renewal and redemption and resurrection~

We are now accepting applications for Pursuit School starting this September. If you are interested or know someone who might be, get in touch via our website pursuitschool.com

Blessings on you and yours,

Love, Michelle xo

 

I’m stuck in Hope

Hey y’all  – a quick check in from the land of Hope!

Pursuit School of Evangelism was prayed for and commissioned yesterday at the Multiply conference in Vancouver with Luis Palau. Excited to see where God takes this vision!

I am sitting here in a terracotta colored motel room in a town called Hope, BC. Perhaps not our first choice of vacay but the Coquihalla is closed due to multiple accidents and severe weather warnings. In fact, it’s the first time in many years that all roads between the Coast and the Interior are closed. We are often involved in firsts.

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So we end up in Hope where Rambo was filmed! There are a few more visitors tonight as sleepy motels fill up #quietatmosphere

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It brings me to thinking about… wait for it…Hope!

I reposted a blog yesterday, which told the story of my baby bro – here it is. It was read and shared more than ever. Always thankful for hope being shared and the power of prayer realized.

I was thinking about some of my old Hope posts and remembered ‘Camp Hope’ from 2010. Can you remember the emotional scene as we watched 33 Chilean miners rise in the Phoenix capsule, following the natural response of family, friends and strangers setting up an actual ‘Camp Hope.’ Above ground. Waiting.

I love hope, not wishful thinking hope but a confident expectation kind of hope.

I spend a lot of time in Camp Hope. Praying and believing for those trapped, blinded by the dark and awaiting rescue. I’ll wait in Camp Hope for as long as it takes – until I see the Phoenix. We all have our role in the camp, some keep spirits high, some cry, some keep order and some can’t find words  and that’s ok too.

‘The moment we get tired in waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans’ Romans 8:28

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark.

My favorite quote is in a letter written by 19-year-old Chilean miner Jimmy Sanchez? ‘There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here’

And then there’s Jacob (Joseph’s Father) in the Old Testament.

On reaching Jacob they told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt. Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them’ Genesis 45:26

This far surpassed any news he could have expected – in fact – the King James Bible says he fainted. Of course he did! He had concluded that Joseph was dead – therefore he was unable to conceive any alternative.

God loves to break in far beyond our imagination, far beyond our expectations and our conclusions and surprise us.

Let’s allow our imagination to run wild and find our faith extreme.

I’m staying in Hope,

Love, Michelle x