Sunday, October 08, 2017

Thanks-Giving

Lord, your love is evident everywhere I look,
When you were making this fair earth,
What tender care you took!
You could have made the birds talk,
As plain as plain could be,
But joyous cheerful melodies,
Ring from tree to tree.
The sky so blue above us,
Your love did hang in place,
Without earth's special atmosphere,
We'd stare right into space.
In every sight, in every sound--
Your love is there--outpoured.
Oh, how I want to thank you,
My great Creator, Lord.

Belinda, 1980

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mercy Me

Our son Pete usually calls to chat during his long commute to and from work in the city and it was during one of these conversations recently that I mentioned having the gift of mercy.

He loves to tease me about what he describes as my "random mercy," and says that I'm always able to "ferret out" the good in people. A particularly flattering choice of metaphor, I thought. 

He launched into his "axe murderer" routine, saying he imagines me saying, "Well, on the good side, he always cleans up after himself. And he keeps his tools nice and sharp."

He muttered something about not many people wanting me on a parole board--getting carried away now--he was on a roll--I was laughing so hard I could hardly catch my breath--the fuel to his fire.

Pete may have been exaggerating for dramatic and comedic effect, but when I told my granddaughter Tori about his teasing, she said, "Omie, remember that terrible dream I had a few weeks ago? There was someone trying to kill me, and you didn't believe he would do it." 

And my art student granddaughter, Tippy, who only just retired her nose ring and Mohawk haircut this summer said that she would describe herself as a little more on the "conservative side" than me. The evidence in Peter's favour was mounting as I thought about it.

But this is the beautiful thing in the Kingdom of God--although we are exhorted to exercise our gifts for the common good, none of us carries our gifts in isolation--others have balancing gifts--wisdom and discernment, for example, see Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

I am married to Paul, who has a great heart of compassion, but also great wisdom. He often tempers my strong emotional reaction to something, with considered and careful caution. In one another there is safety--and challenge when it is needed.

We didn't talk to Pete on his way home on Friday because Paul and I were out for dinner that evening. But I told him on Saturday that when we were driving home late the night before, I said to Paul, "We should call Pete." 

Paul said, "No, he'll be home by now," and I said, "Exactly--he can talk us home!" 

"But," as I said to Pete, "We had mercy on you." 

"Augh!" said Pete. 

Touché! thought I.

Humour isn't mentioned in any list of spiritual gifts that I can see, but it is sprinkled like seasoning through the feast of wisdom in the pages of the bible--a gift indeed in which truth can be delivered with laughter.

Note: I read this to Pete, to get his permission to press "publish," and he said, "It's very well written. I'm glad you've been sharpening your writing skills." I did have to tell him to stop. :)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Naturally Imperfect

It was midsummer when I drove for miles down roads that wound up hills and down, to buy some apples for my small pie business. As I was leaving, the woman behind the counter of the rural country market told me that they were the end of the line and there would be no more until the new crop came in.

The three large boxes I managed to get represented quite a few pies, but one by one they all found a home before the new crop was available from my supplier. When my freezer was finally empty, I went to my local No Frills, which is a little more expensive, but I looked for the apples in bags labelled, "Naturally Imperfect." These apples lack conformity in size or shape--they aren't quite "perfect," but are perfectly delicious in the pies.

Recently as I was thinking about a fault that was obvious in an acquaintance, I thought of the "naturally imperfect" label, and how appropriately it could be applied to humans. In that moment, instead of persisting in my critical thinking, I thought instead: Why shouldn't that person have faults? Don't I? Don't we all? Isn't it part of the human condition to be imperfect?

Later that same day I was in a meeting when a topic was raised about which I had some strong feelings. When I had a chance to give input, I went on far too long, went into way too much detail, was too emotional, and, in retrospect, I realized how pompous I must have sounded, as though I thought I was some kind of expert on the subject we were discussing.

When Paul gently confirmed my suspicions after we got home, I felt so embarrassed. That was when I remembered--I am Naturally Imperfect. It was helpful to remember and accept that about myself. Sure, I embarrassed myself a little--maybe even more than a little, but so what? My friends in the meeting simply got to see that I am very human.

One area I do have some expertise in is pastry, and in my hands, even imperfect apples turn into a perfect pie. It's not a great leap to realize that it isn't about me, but about whose hands I am in. God can use me, even in my weakness and imperfection, just as a well-known old poem called The Old Violin (The Touch of the Master's Hand) describes:
But the Master comes, 
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand, 
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought 
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moment of Decision...

It's been almost a week since we returned from Mishkeegogamang, a First Nation 2000 kilometers north of our home, and I feel as though I have a suitcase full of stories to unpack. 



We went as a team of 23 diverse people, brought together by a common desire to bring encouragement, hope, practical help and spiritual support to the people of Mish. Ten of our team were teenagers, and this story is from Tippy, who was one of  them. It happened on our first full day there and is shared as she told it to me:



Susan said that we needed to set up a buoy line, and I said, "Okay, I can do that," not thinking that the water was going to be as cold as it was. So me, Dylan, Tori, Jared and Max all went down to the water to set it up.
We got everything ready and had anchored the two 50 foot sides and were taking out the 100 foot rope for the back of the buoy line. We anchored part of the 100 foot rope to one of the sides and were taking it across to the other side, when the side that had been attached came undone and was drifting off into the river. 
So Max said, "Let's just pull it in," and we said, "No, no, the pool noodles are going to come off the rope," and he kept saying, "No, no, it'll be fine." But of course it wasn't because we could see the end of the rope getting really close to that first pool noodle and were yelling at him to stop.
But then of course the inevitable happened and the pool noodle became detached from the rope and began drifting off into the river.
So at this point Tori and Jared were on the shore holding the ropes and keeping them steady, and Dylan, Max and I were in the water watching the pool noodle drift away. And then Dylan said, "I'm not going to get it," (he couldn't see the bottom of the water,) and Max said, "It's too cold," and I'm standing there thinking, I don't want to let this pool noodle drift away, and I took off my shirt and my glasses and handed them to Dylan, and then I just dove in the water. 
I swam out and got the pool noodle, and on the way back there was just silence! I don't think Dylan cared, but I think that Max felt a bit humiliated--he just got showed up a little bit.
They asked me if it was cold, and I said, "Yes, what do you think?" and sent Tori to get a towel. I called them wusses, and Jared said, "Oooh!"
I read Tippy's account to Tori today, and she laughed, remembering, and said, "Yes, that's pretty much what happened. except she forgot to mention me yelling, 'Go get it, Dylan!'" Which he didn't.

I only wish that I could have captured every story every day, there were so many funny, sweet, moving and poignant moments but trying to commit them to memory was a losing battle. I did take hundreds of photos but will try to capture some of what we experienced, in words, too.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

The Movers and the Moth

It was 2004 and I had gone back to England for two weeks to help my brother Robert move Mum from the two story home she was living in, to a perfect little ground floor flat in the same village.

Robert and I had a lifetime of gathered belongings to sort through and condense into a much smaller space, while Mum, blissfully unconcerned with all of this, patiently waited for the move.

I persuaded Robert that it might be a good idea, even though Mum's final quota of belongings was small, to get help in the form of a moving company.

We settled on movers called Mike and Al. Their advertisement in the phone book sounded so promising. "No job too large or too small," it boasted.

From the moment I made contact with "Mike" though, something in his voice gave a different impression to the enthusiastic advertisement. In fact, I wasn't sure that he really wanted to do this job, although he didn't come right out and say so.

When I pressed him for a quote, saying that we didn't really have a lot to move, he said, "That's what everybody says and when we get there it is a lot."

"Okay," I thought, "That's probably true, often," but it didn't seem like a very promising start to our moving relationship.

On moving day, they arrived. Each was driving a small, shiny, red moving van, one larger than the other, just like them.

Robert and I felt uncomfortably as if we were in the middle of a family argument as Mike and Al bickered with each other from the start, arguing over how items should be lifted or carried and how the move was to go.

Mum's antique china cabinet, which had belonged to Oma in Holland, had twin owls on each of two wooden spires. We asked Mike and Al to be especially careful with these. Inevitably one of the owls was broken off. It resides in a drawer of the china cabinet to this day.

Because the front door was open, a moth or butterfly fluttered in and when Mike spotted it, he said, "Is that a moth, or a butterfly? Only I've got a phobia about moths."

A phobia I could understand, although I did ask if he was really serious. But what, I wondered, was the difference between a moth and a butterfly when it came to a phobia about things fluttering?

At that point, Al came in and asked the same question about the thing on the wall. Apparently he had the same phobia.

And just in case that you ever need this piece of information, the answer was, "Moths fly at you in the face. Butterflies are frightened of you and fly away."

So good to know!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Word Makes a Difference

Sometimes one word can make a profound difference, as I found through reading the book: “Understanding the difficult words of Jesus—New Insights from a Hebraic perspective.” 

The authors, David Bivin and Roy Blizzard, Jr., believe that the first three gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke; also known as the Synoptic gospels; were not originally written in Greek as was believed for centuries, but in Hebrew, which was then translated into Greek and then from Greek into English. 

A triad of languages involved in translation, create issues obvious to anyone who has tried using Google Translate, which seems to focus on words alone as opposed to the idiom it is translating. For example, I translated “raining cats and dogs” into Dutch, and got the result: "hondenweer," which literally means “dog weather” or “dogs again.” 

Bivin and Blizzard’s  theory that the first three gospels were originally written in Hebrew is based on relatively recent evidence revealed by the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, between 1947 and 1956, as well as by studying the writings of the early church fathers and the inscriptions on coins from the time of Jesus.

This was interesting, but understanding how one particular word should have been translated acted like a key to understanding other scriptures. It was all to do with a Hebrew verb that was poorly translated into Greek, and in the process confusing the tense.

I learned that in Hebrew, the verb “karav” means “to be at, to come up to and be with--to be where something or someone else is,” but this was translated into the Greek word “engiken” which means “about to appear” or “is almost here,” and is sometimes interpreted into English as “come near.” 

The original word “karav” was sometimes used to indicate intimate relations between people as it clearly does in this account in Genesis 20:1-6: Abraham, was worried that his safety would be at risk because of the desirability of his beautiful wife so he told her to say that she was his sister. Here is the text:  

20 Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the land of the [a]Negev, and [b]settled between Kadesh and Shur; then he sojourned in Gerar.Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 
But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is [c]married.” Now Abimelech had not come near her; and he said, “Lord, will You slay a nation, even though [d]blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my [e]hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also [f]kept you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her.

Why is this all so important and how and why does it make such a difference? Luke 10:1-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB) describes Jesus sending out 70 disciples ahead to the cities he planned to visit. Notice the instances where the words “come near” are used:
The Seventy Sent Out
10 Now after this the Lord appointed [a]seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no money belt, no [b]bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a [c]man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in [d]that house, eating and drinking [e]what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’10 But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you; yet [f]be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’

Verses 9 & 11 use the phrase, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you,”  but translated back to the Hebrew “Karav” it should say, “It’s here! It has arrived!” That makes a profound difference.

Luke 17:20-21
New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20 Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with [a]signs to be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is [b]in your midst.”

 How was the kingdom of God present in this case? In the people sprinkled like salt and light amongst the crowd--Jesus and his followers.

We who know him, represent the Kingdom of God. We carry the kingdom where we go—light in the darkness of the world.
Everything about us should represent God’s rule and reign--his character: goodness, mercy, patience, gentleness, love, kindness, long-suffering, faithfulness, humility. Realizing this makes a difference. I am not just representing me but someone and something more important. I have to pause and consider this when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed in a grouchy mood.
Familiar verses have a deeper meaning.
Micah 6:8New American Standard Bible (NASB)
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love [a]kindness,
And to walk [b]humbly with your God?

In other words, God requires us to make manifest the values of the kingdom of God and of the heart of God. And this is why Jesus could say to us:
Matthew 5:48New American Standard Bible (NASB)

48 Therefore [a]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 It isn’t actually we who have to struggle to be perfect, but it happens as a result of our awareness that his kingdom has taken up residence in us.

2 Corinthians 4:7New American Standard Bible (NASB)
 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

John 17:11New American Standard Bible (NASB)

11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are.

 When “the name” is referenced in the Bible, it talks of character. At a conference author Mark Buchanan said that he understood the commandment “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7) to mean that the sin is to act in the name of God in a way that doesn’t represent his character; in other words to misrepresent God to the world.

When Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which you have given Me, that they may be one even as we are,” it is to do with his “keeping us” in his character—upholding his kingdom as we represent him to the world.

   Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of the “fruit” of the Spirit.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Fruit is the product of intimacy. Think of that word “karav” again, interpreted as to “come near,” but actually a synonym for an intimate encounter.

In John 3, Jesus has an encounter with a curious member of the ruling council of Pharisees.
John 3:1-6New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The New Birth
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these [a]signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born [b]again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus *said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Before there can be a spiritual birth, there must be an intimate encounter with someone, the Holy Spirit.
A couple of Sunday mornings ago, I was meditating on what I had just seen about the kingdom of God before church. An hour went by like short minutes as scripture after familiar scripture came alive in a new way.
That morning our pastor led us in the Lord’s prayer.
I listened to the words “Your kingdom come,” but instead of seeing them as a prayer for his kingdom to come in the future, I prayed them as in the present tense, “Your kingdom come--now—in me.”
The prayer ends, “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
Not our power or glory—it is all his!
During our sharing time that morning I had asked for prayer for a man who had not been heard from for 5 days in Thunder Bay, the brother of a friend on a northern reserve.  The night before she had been distraught with worry and I said in a message to her on FB that we had no place to run but to Jesus. On my mind were the many First Nations people in Thunder Bay that have been found in the river. When I got home from church, I checked FB and saw that she had posted a one line prayer:
“Our Father who art in heaven.”
Another person added
“Hallowed be thy name”
Then someone else wrote
“Thy kingdom come”
Twice in one day, it felt like God confirmed what he was teaching me about the Kingdom of God.
My prayer that I wrote in my journal that morning before church was:
 “Today I am praying that God will make me usable and keep me in a state of usability.”
I could as easily have simply written, “Thy kingdom come.”
Hidden Treasure
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
A Costly Pearl
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls,46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.


An intimate encounter with the Holy Spirit—it can happen here and now. We just have to answer “yes”--and open the doors of our hearts.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Here!

I had the privilege of delivering the message at Green Valley Alliance Church today and because it was live-streamed I can post it here.