Monday, July 31, 2006

The Ark of St. Laurence ~ A Place of the Past, Present and Future

I climbed the steep path that borders one side of the village green in Alvechurch, leading to the churchyard of St. Laurence church. Glancing back at the village hall and the post office with the red pillar-box outside, I was engulfed in a wave of memories. This view has hardly changed since 1969, when I left for Canada, having grown up in the village.

I was looking forward to meeting Pat Spreckley, who'd be mowing the grass in the churchyard that morning. As I walked further up the hill, past the old house called The Shrubbery, near the churchyard I met John Sidwell. He was busy cutting the long grass on the banks below the high hedges there. On his head he wore a protective visor and as he raised it to greet me, while still holding the long "strimmer," he looked for all the world like a medieval knight, lance in hand. He paused in his work to walk with me to meet Pat, who was hard at work riding the lawnmower. On this unusually hot July day with the temperature soaring to the mid thirties, neither John nor Pat seemed sorry to take a short break from their work to give me a much anticipated tour of the Ark, the stunning boat shaped addition built on to the side of St. Laurence Church.

Over the past few years during visits to Alvechurch I've watched the progress of the Ark and the controversy surrounding its design and funding with interest, so it was exciting this year to find it being used and to have a chance to see it from the inside. From the outside it struck me as beautiful; its design of glass and wood, with the warm and lovely brickwork that tie it in with the old church, tells of a brave vision for the church in the twenty first century.

Inside Pat showed every part of the lovely building with well deserved pride. The kitchen would be the joy of anyone preparing for a large function, with stainless teel fridges, freezer and work surfaces and no less than three sinks. The place has a feeling of life and usefulness. Although aesthetically lovely, it isn't just a "work of art" to be admired, but obviously to be used and filled with people.

The large hall, which can seat one hundred for dinner, has two storey high, glass windows, gorgeous wooden floors and a high beamed ceiling, and gives a sense of being out in the green of the surrounding trees and churchyard. From the upper floor, the village stretches out below, and beyond that can be seen in the distance, the Rover factory at Longbridge and the hills that sweep up behind the village on that side, the Lickeys and the Wasthills.

There is a door in the wall between the Ark and the old church, a doorway I remembered as being bricked over, when I was a child. Now a beautiful Gothic arched glass door, framed with a border of golden wood, connects two worlds. I stepped through it, from the light modern glass and wood of the Ark, into the ancient church of my childhood, cool, even on such a hot day outside, the peace and quiet of the place a balm for the soul. In bright contrast with the shade of the interior of the church, sunlight shone through the exquisite, jewel coloured stained glass windows, which portray medieval and biblical figures. In the choir vestry, a woman in royal robes looks down from a window; a very young Queen Victoria.

The following Sunday evening at eight o'clock, I visited the Ark again, this time to experience the weekly gathering called "Engage." I found a group of people of all ages, seated on rows of chairs in a semi circle, facing the tall windows and a screen onto which the words of contemporary worship songs were projected. The singing was accompanied skillfully on an electronic piano played by Kate Harris, who was joined in leading by Hannah Genders.

The simple but vibrant gathering lasted just an hour, ending as the sun set over Alvechurch in a blaze of deep aqua and brilliant pink. The Ark felt like a beacon on the hill, where the church now known as St. Laurence was founded by the Lady Aelfgiva, and has watched over the village for centuries. The Church is obviously alive and well in Alvechurch, the re-opened doorway symbolic of breaking down barriers between the past and the present, and a faith that is relevant and real in any age.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Gifts and Invitations

Exodus 20:8-10a (New International Version)

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.

Sabbath: Did God really mean it when he included this commandment with the other nine, along with not coveting, committing murder, or idolatry? And what does it mean to keep it as God intended?

To some Sabbath is interpreted as a day of abstinence from certain activities, while others are considered acceptable - my maternal grandmother grew up in the south of Holland at the turn of the nineteenth century, and remembered knitting endless pairs of socks on Sundays, the only thing she was allowed to do (whenever we don't understand principles, we tend towards prescriptions) - to others it's a day of rest.

Luke 4:16 tells us what it was the habit for Jesus to do on the Sabbath, for it says that on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, "as was his custom." He took the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and read from the verses that spoke prophetically of the one who was reading.

"Sabbath keeping" pops up several times in the gospels, with Jesus, who is the "Lord of the Sabbath," being accused of breaking it. Luke 14 starts out by saying that one Sabbath, Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee and that he was being carefully watched. Jesus always seemed to know what others where thinking and took the initiative to ask questions of the experts in the law that no one dared answer, about whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath (obviously it was because he did).

Later, during this same visit, Jesus told the parable of the Great Banquet. "Come for everything is now ready," the giver of the banquet declares, and sends out his servants to gather the invited guests. All make excuses:
"I have just bought a field, and must go to see it."
"I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out."
"I just got married, so I can't come."

I wonder if there is a connection between this parable and Jesus' earlier discussion about Sabbath. I wonder if this is the invitation and a gift we often miss. Certainly the excuses sound familiar. Who hasn't felt overwhelmed by the pressures of life and been tempted to allow them to overflow into the day we call the Sabbath?

Simply reflecting on this, I know that I want to honour God by keeping the Sabbath holy (set apart to him). I don't want to get caught up in legalism, but want to heed and accept his kind invitation. If he has prepared a feast, I want to be at it. I want to rest my body, refresh my soul and worship him. And I want to listen to whatever else he says to me about how to do this in a world gone wild with activity.

Prayer: Father, your gifts are good, your commandments are life. Always you call your people to be counter-culture. Give us the courage to step out of the pressure cooker of our lives and into the peace you offer us as a gift. Let us demonstrate honour for you before a watching world, out of joyful obedience.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Language of Love

Exodus 19:3b-5 (New International Version)

The Lord called to him from the mountain and said...
"You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites."

God speaks here in the language of love, like a devoted father or a lover.

In the same chapter of Exodus we read that God descended to Mount Sinai. The sights and sounds that accompanied his physical presence were terrifying. There was thunder, lightening, a thick cloud, a loud trumpet blast and a violently trembling mountain. Not surprisingly, everyone who witnessed this trembled too.

In Revelation chapter 16, John the apostle describes the vision he saw of the seven bowls of God's wrath being poured out in judgment on the earth. A voice is heard from the throne (verse 17) and is accompanied by "flashes of lightening, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake," which caused the cities of the earth, John says, to collapse.

Sometimes we see God in a very one dimensional way, to suit our liking, but if we want to really know him, we must consider all that he has revealed to us of who he is. Moses and John did their best within the limitations of language, to describe the manifestation of God's presence. And yes, to those who steadfastly refuse to recognize him as Lord, he will one day come in all of his terrifying power and judgment; but his longing, his heart, is revealed in the poetic love words at the beginning of Exodus 19. We see one who commands the noble eagles to carry us to him on their strong wings, and who says to us, as he did to Israel, that we are his treasured possession.

We are wanted, we are cherished, and we are loved.

Prayer: Dear Lord, Almighty God, I bow before your awesome majesty. You are the Holy One of unimaginable power and might, yet you love mankind and long for each heart to respond in love for and to you. I pray O Lord that there will be a great awakening, a great harvest of souls, before the coming of the day described in Revelation 16.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Belonging

John 1:10-11 (New International Version)
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

A few days ago I wrote, "I know that it's his (God's) longing to reach every life, through those of us who know him," and that I was struggling to understand how to "cross the great divide, the gulf that separates me (I should have said, "God") from the souls of the people whose paths cross mine."

John 1:10-11 (above) came to mind as I continued to think and pray about that. Imagine what lies below the surface of those words.

Most of us have a circle of people to whom we're connected by certain ties. With them we are accepted, we belong, simply because of the bonds of family, friendship and shared history or experience.

Imagine arriving at an airport. Your eyes scan the faces of the waiting crowd in the arrivals lounge. You spot faces of people you love, that you know intimately, but their eyes look right past you with no glimmer of recognition. Would it feel as though there was a "gulf that separates?"

Imagine the loneliness, the alienation that Jesus must have felt. The next verses though(12-13), continue:

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or husband's will, but born of God.

And consider these words of Jesus from John 17:8-9 (New International Version)

For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

Prayer: Lord thank you for speaking so clearly through your word, answering some of the questions of my heart. Dear Lord, I pray for the wolrdl you came to die for and to save.

John 17: 20 (New International Version)
My prayer is not for them alone, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

So That You May Believe

On July 11th, in the post entitled, "The Never Ending Story," I wrote:

"The part of the book known as the Old Testament is filled with references to One who was to come, who we recognize as Jesus.

God gave specific clues, prophesies, about parts of his life, things that would happen to him, so that when we saw that they happened, we would recognize him and say, "Ah, he's the One!"

In Exodus 12:46 God gave instructions to Moses about the Passover Lamb, "Do not break any of the bones." There was no explanation, simply an instruction, but a thread was started there that leads the searching reader to Jesus, the One of whom John the Baptist said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)

The thread continues in Psalm 34:20:
"He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." This verse was quoted by the apostle John, who was an eye witness to the crucifixion of Jesus and who saw before his eys, something happening that could not have been planned for, but which he recognized as scripture coming to life before his very eyes.

In the nineteenth chapter of his gospel, John notes that it was Friday, the day of preparation for the special Sabbath, the Passover celebration. The Jews requested of Pilate, the Roman governor, that he have the legs of the dying men broken, in order to speed up the slow process of death by crucifixion. Not an act of mercy, but so that the bodies would not remain on the crosses on the Sabbath. The soldiers broke the legs of both of the men crucified with Jesus, but coming to him and finding him already dead, instead of breaking his legs, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear.

John writes in John 19:35-37
The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," and as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced." (Zechariah 12:10)

John was careful to record, not just here but in the other books he wrote, the events he was an eye witness to, so that those who would come after him would believe.

Prayer: Dear Father, I thank you for the treasure of your Word and the way you reveal yourself and your plan of salvation, from beginning to end.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Morning Chorus

8.50 a.m. and for the past hour the village of Alvechurch has been steadily rousing itself to a great morning bustle!

An hour ago the morning chorus was being led by twittering and chirping birds, with the occasional "caw, caw, caw," and the gently soothing calling of doves, all of whom had been busily about their business since much earlier this morning.

Like the rising crescendo of a great symphony the sounds of the day have been added, layer upon layer, the background soft hum of distant traffic increasing to a more urgent roar, overlaid by the calls and chatter of the children and grown-up passers by. The path they travel lies just beyond the tiny stream that edges the lawns like a silver necklace, and is bordered by trees and bushes that create only visual semi-privacy.

The clock of the ancient St. Laurence Church, on the highest hill above the village, chimes nine over the steady drone of the recycling truck's engine. A few moments ago, bottles and cans poured into the back of the truck like a waterfall of glass and metal, with a great CRASH, punctuated by the hisssssss of the truck's pistons. The engine gears up to move farther away, the sounds of its load gathering more muffled and distant now.

From the flat upstairs a few bars of a lovely melody float down from someone's T.V. set and dissapointingly are interrupted by the voice of a newscaster. These days sound bites are kept short.

The chink of a spoon on Mum's breakfast cereal bowl beckons me inside!

Prayer: Dear Lord I lift my heart and voice to you this morning. All creation praises you. You hold the world in your hands. Every living soul is known by you and is precious to you but so many are unaware of you. Open ears, open eyes, open hearts O God.

Psalm 98:4, 7-9

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
Burst into jubilant song with music;
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;
Let them sing before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world
In righteousness
And the peoples with equity.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Connecting

Yesterday (Saturday) I arrived in England! The morning was chilly but bright and sunny and the day soon warmed up to the perfect summer's day.

This morning I find myself suddenly aware of an area in which I need God's power and help. In the past 24 hours I've connected with Mum's new neighbour from the flat upstairs and her daughter, three of Mum's caregivers, and my nephew. The need I'm praying about this morning is to be able to cross the "Great Divide", the gulf that separates me from the souls of the people whose paths cross mine. I long to be able to share Jesus with the people that I meet who don't know him and it seems important to do so because I might be the only believer who they are in contact with, yet to do so seems awkward and contrived.

Well, maybe it is contrived if I'm trying to make it happen. Maybe I just need to care, to listen and be ready if the Holy Spirit opens up the way. Otherwise maybe I should just relax! I can be sure that this is one situation that God has an agenda for, and I know that it's his longing to reach every life, through those of us who know him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please take me to a deeper level of connection and perception when in conversation with people. Father I pray that every conversation will become a "Divine Encounter" because you are in me. I don't mean that every conversation will or should be evangelistic, but I pray that in the simplest of interactions, your love, your mercy, your kindness, your servant-hood, your keen insight will be in operation. I thank you for the answer already for I anticipate that something will result from this prayer. Give me your eyes, your heart O Lord.

Exodus 19:6
You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the promises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Friday, July 14, 2006

This is a last minute post before leaving for England for three weeks. I'm hoping to keep posting from there! Blessings, Belinda

Role Playing or Reality?

Exodus 14:12-14 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!"
13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."


Interestingly the next verse indicates:

Exodus 14:15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.

There are probably many other wise explanations for why this happened but to me this morning, it is a reminder of the critical need to listen to God.

The direction that Moses gave to the Israelites sounds wise and sensible. How could it be wrong to "Be still," something that would have been hard with the Egyptian army bearing down upon them.

Moses' advice was good, and pointed them to trust in God, but he hadn't listened to God yet, whose direction, when he did, was to, "Move on."

This reminds me of the danger and temptation of "going it alone" or "winging it" spiritually at any point. We cannot assume to know God's plan, but we can be sure he has one. We need to ask him what it is and listen.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I can so easily fall into exactly the same mistake that Moses seems to have made - following your ways in principle, but not consulting the "Way Giver." There's a choice here - role playing or reality - in my relationship with you. I choose reality. I choose to listen. Help me to remember that there's a difference.
A Matter of the Heart

Matthew 23:29-33
New International Version

29"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
33"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?


Wow, Jesus really hated what the Pharisees did. "Snakes! Brood of vipers!" he called them, just as John the Baptist is recorded in Matthew 3 as having done.

The issue that both John and Jesus seemed to focus on was how "lost" the Pharisees were in the outer things. They missed the point that God simply wants our hearts and instead made a system of rules and regulations that were impossible to maintain and in so doing misled all those who came to them for guidance.

I guess any of us who aspire to speak of God had better really be laying our hearts open before God and listening closely to him first. Anything less is just too dangerous. It's easy to look down on the Pharisees and forget that we can so easily get lost in outer things too.

Prayer: Dear Lord, the simple act of giving you my heart and asking you to keep it pure and set on you is my prayer this morning. I want to stay so close to you that I feel your heartbeat and find mine synchronizing with it. I confess that my heart is often so far from yours and so hard in comparison.

Psalm 86:11Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Ezekiel 11:19I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Being in the Right Place

Acts 17:26-27 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

"Is everybody in the right place?" The question was asked by the Chair of the working group I was attending for the first time. Twenty or so people had gathered from the fields of education and developmental services and many of us were meeting the others around the table for the first time.

The Chair explained her question by telling us that her father once went to Miami when he meant to go to New York. The only clue was that he'd thought the plane trip was taking a rather long time!

I understood! I'd once been at another new meeting only to realize as introductions were being made that I was in the wrong meeting with the wrong group of people. It's quite possible to be in the wrong place and be totally unaware of it.

Asking ourselves the question, "Are we in the right place?" is a good thing to do. It's one thing to be at the wrong meeting or on the wrong plane journey but if our lives are a journey, it's pretty important to know if we're in the right place so that if we aren't we can make a change.

One of the significant things to consider is our ultimate destination. That's something that many people don't even think about, or if they do, they may assume that they're headed towards a specific destination but they haven't really bothered to get a passport or found out if they have all of the correct documents, tickets and visas.

Most important of all is our spiritual journey. Isn't it worth asking, "Am I in the right place? Am I headed in the right direction?" As with the man on the plane, it may not be immediately obvious if we aren't, but oh my goodness, we ought to want to know it.

Fortunately it isn't hard to find the answer. God waits for us to ask. Often he's been trying to get our attention as determinedly as a marshaller, the baton signaller for taxiing planes .

Prayer: Father I thank you that according to your word you are never far from any one of us. You are always accessible and you have the words of life. You have a plan and purpose for us in this life (which is only the beginning), and for eternity. Thank you that you long to give us clarity and purpose.

John 10:7-9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

7Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

John 14:6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Whatever He Says

By Claire Alexander

On June 21, 2006, Belinda described how Jesus’ mother at the wedding in Cana told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” John 2:5 NIV. I was reading Ezra 7:10 at the time, and suddenly wondered if Mary’s words had an Old Testament link, or Hebrew imperative for her, in the same way that her words give us New Testament authority when hearing a speaker or writer’s words in our hearts.

Sometimes when I read the Psalms, I hear thoughts that are later repeated as echoes on the Cross, and wonder if the Lord Jesus was repeating the Psalms right through from memory, to anchor Him in His agonizing sacrifice.

Now, spending a few days mulling over Ezra, I find his leadership in chapters 7 and 8 pivoting around 7:10, which I memorized years ago in the King James:

“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Italicized words, like it, in the King James—“do it”—are absent in the original language—the verb says DO! so I’ll add the Amplified, and a very interesting footnote taken from www.biblegateway.com.

10 For Ezra had [a] prepared and set his heart to seek the Law of the Lord [to inquire for it and of it, to require and yearn for it], and to do and teach in Israel its statutes and its ordinances. AMP

Footnote: Ezra 7:10 God can use mightily one whose whole heart craves a knowledge of Him and His Word like that. Watch Ezra throughout the remainder of his story, as he turns the homes of his nation back from heathendom to God—in the pouring rain! He was not merely righteous, he was "[uncompromisingly] righteous" (I Kings 8:32) . . . AMP.

I wondered why Ezra even noticed that no Levites were present (8:15) among the exiled 3000+ men given permission to leave Babylon and go to Jerusalem—and why it was important at all—but I found that he himself descended from Aaron, and therefore from Levi, and in studying the Torah, knew God’s instructions. Ezra then sent leaders to Casiphia (on Silver Street in Babylon), the college of Levites, and found two large families of men, also descending from Levi, and had them carry the gold and silver utensils back to Jerusalem.

Ezra had a map—a ground plan—that was precise. He not only sought God’s Word, but DID it, and taught it. God had set out the pattern for transporting the parts of the tabernacle—and only the Levites were to carry it; others would die. Ezra knew God’s plan, and he re-established obedience to that Law, so as the exiles set out, they would come to know God’s blessing in place of death.

When Belinda opened up Mary’s command to the servants, I sensed that Mary also communicated the need to listen to the One who authored these truths—maybe she remembered Ezra’s role in changing people’s hearts and patterns of life in exile. I have become lax about a number of scriptural commands I was taught as a child—but I’d like to listen afresh to what the Lord says, and in trusting obedience say “Yes,” and then do it.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for deepening and reinforcing the original message of Mary’s words, through Claire’s added thoughts. Yes, Lord, I echo Claire’s prayer; I want to listen afresh to what you say and do it. Thank you for the depth and beauty of your precious word to us today.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Never-ending Story

John 1:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Psalm 119:89 (New International Version)

89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.


Picture this: God, the Source, the Genesis of all life, who is and was and always will be, longs to commune with and be known by, a race of beings he created - known as Humanity. Mankind, a creation with unlimited potential, whom he created in his own image and with the capacity to know him, inexplicably, but evidently, is a particular object of love for him.

Like the incredible energy released during nuclear fission, the splitting of the nucleus of an atom, reversing itself and returning to the tiny particle (if that were possible), is God condensing himself into words in the pages of a book so that he can reveal himself to those who care to find him.

But this is not just any book; this book is a collection of sixty-six books written by many different people, and to each of those people he gave part of the picture, each piece in perfect harmony with the entire picture as a whole. He left clues, prohecies about himself scattered throughout the pages, throughout the stories - shadows, glimpses, reflections of who he is - all like the needle of a compass pointing due north, pointing consistently and constantly to him.

The part of the book known as the Old Testament is filled with references to One who was to come, whom we recognize as Jesus. God gave specific clues about parts of his life, things that would happen to him, so that when we saw that they happened we would recognize him and say, "Ah, he's the One!"

The template was so incredibly complex that no human being would have been able to contrive or fake it, and yet when we look at the life of Jesus in the context of the whole scripture, when we spend time reading it, so that it becomes familiar to us - it's him we see; the One we read about through all the pages of the Old Testament and whom we read about in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible; it is "HIM". He is the One we see in the pages of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Revelation 1:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
8"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."



Prayer: Everlasting Father, in our hands we hold a priceless treasure, your Word. I confess that I have not cherished it, hungered for it, sought its pages for you as I ought to have done in my life. And yet you patiently wait for us to discover you there, where you are ready to reveal yourself to us. Lord, show me your glory!

Exodus 33:18 (New King James Version)
New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”




Monday, July 10, 2006

Seek Him - Find Him

Jeremiah 29:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I was sitting in my "green room," my quiet, reflecting, praying, writing space, when through the slats of the white wooden shutters on the french doors, I saw Brenda, my daughter, approaching. I'd already written the title for this morning's reflection, "Seek Him - Find Him," which was to have been a continuation of yesterday's thought, posted on the blog and sent out by email this morning.

I called out to Brenda, "I'm in here!" and she entered, her forest green "The Message/New King James" parallel version of the Bible in hand. Her eyes were bright and her face animated. She obviously had something exciting to share. I gladly switched gears and prepared to listen.

Brenda has been sailing the somewhat stormy seas of high adventure with God of late, pressing in close in a sincere effort to follow the voice of Jesus and struggling to know what it truly means to do so.

Her passion is teaching, but her contract as a Montessori teacher wasn't renewed for this coming September because she held firm to putting family first. She had determined only to be available for work during hours that enabled her to be home when her girls are.

Through a series of circumstances over the past year, she became resigned to saying goodbye, for now at least, to her beloved children at the school and the job she had poured her heart into 150%. It had been a painful process of laying down something very precious and trusting God and his leading in ever increasing measure.

One day, while driving, God had brought these words to her mind; "For I know the plans I have for you." When she got home, she asked me where they were found and I told her they were from Jeremiah 29:11. They were a comfort to her, as was Matthew 6:25-34, which speaks of how God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies and grass of the field and how we can then trust God to provide for our needs. Verse 33, especially has been meaningful to her:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

For me there could be no greater joy than to see her seeking to apply that verse in her life, knowing the blessing that would be on her life if she held tight to it.

But today what she wanted to share was that she had read Jeremiah 29:11 in context (reading the surrounding verses, always a good thing to do). In verses 12-14 she had read:

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you, " declares the Lord...

"So what d'ya think?" Brenda said with a smile, "Should I seek him?"

I told Brenda that I had my reflection for today, even though it wasn't the one I originally thought I'd be writing. Stay tuned for that tomorrow, unless God has other plans!

Prayer: Dear Lord, with the psalmist I say, "Your face, Lord I will seek." There is nothing and no one on earth that compares with you. You delight to make your dwelling place with us, Emmanuel. You have captured my heart! Bless Brenda and all of us whose quest is to seek you with all of our heart and to give you first place in our lives.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Hide and Seek

(God of Mystery and Secrets)

Revelation 2:17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

In this verse I see the mystery, the hiddenness, even the playfulness, of God. The manna is hidden, the new name known only to him who receives it.

God seems to delight in allowing us to discover him, and to discover ourselves in him.

It isn't that he doesn't want to be found, but he wants us to look for him and to open our minds, hearts, ears, eyes and souls to what he will then reveal to us. There must be some effort on our part if we want to know him.

The verse above speaks to "the churches" (which includes us) of overcoming something. The preceding verses use the example of the Israelites, describing their "enticement," their seduction, by the culture of their time. Aren't we enticed too? It's so easy to read verses 14-16 as referring to a strange and distant time and culture, but when we pause for a moment, as God asks us to, " He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says ," we realize he's speaking to us.

If we overcome the enticements of our culture, the very real and daily temptation to idolatry, the putting of anything before God, if we ask, seek, knock (Matthew 7:7-8), then he will reveal himself to us and give us some of the "hidden manna."

Manna was the daily "bread" that came down from heaven to feed the people of Israel in the desert, after they left Egypt(Exodus 16:13-18). They had to gather it (put some effort forth) daily (it didn't last longer than a day).

It was symbolic of Jesus, the Bread of Life (John 6:35), born in Bethlehem (which means "the house of bread"), who is revealed through the pages of scripture in layers upon layers of depth and meaning. He is there, hidden, but waiting to be discovered.

Prayer: Dear Lord, my heart responds to you again this morning with adoration, love and wonder at the beauty that waits to be discovered in you.

Psalm 27:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All That Really Matters

Acts 27:18-20; 30-32; 38;42-44 New International Version


18We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

30In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved." 32So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it fall away.

38When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

42The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul's life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land in safety.

Journal, July 26th 1998
The Storm at Sea, Acts 27
What a picture this seemed to me as I read it, of our life journey. Having met with three elderly friends this week, I am struck by the fact that the things we spend so much time and attention on all our lives, are of absolutely no importance at the end (if they have been of the material kind that is).
In the story of the storm at sea in Acts 27, bit by bit, important items and equipment were thrown overboard, until at last nothing remained, not even the ship - but no one's life was lost.
Prayer: Dear Lord, may it be so as we journey to the land that is our destination. May things, and all else but your Kingdom, be forfeited gladly, and may our motivation be only to reach that shore and take as many fellow travellers with us as we can!


Friday, July 07, 2006

Giving Up so God can Give


This week our old, faithful, hardworking photocopier, that was already reconditioned when it arrived at our office eleven years ago, was supplanted by a newer model.

I'd read the warning signs. Whenever I'd call the service guy in to get the old lady back on her feet when she faltered or went on strike temporarily, he would inevitably ask, "How long have you had it?" Then would follow a caution that sooner or later, the company we leased the copier from (toner and service calls included), would notice the age and increased likelihood of service calls and the very good deal we were getting. They would probably want to up the lease payment to cover the potential cost, "And besides, " Service Guy said, "Copiers have changed a lot in the past decade and you can get a much improved one these days."

So I met with a pleasant young sales rep. who I liked in spite of my innate resistant to new things. He demonstrated that we would actually save money with a newer model from this century. "Yea, yea, yea," I thought to myself, "Well I like our trusty old friend."

I wasn't looking forward to my day being disrupted by "the network" being set up so that all three of our office computers could then print to the new copier, or the tutorial on how to use this newfangled, stylish upstart, intimidated as I was by the digital display screen and numerous buttons. But Tech Support Guy was cheery and efficient, the network was set up in no time and this greenhorn received her initiation.

Something amazing happened with the "test run" from my laptop when Tech Support Guy showed me with one click of the mouse, how the interview forms I print frequently, appeared in the tray out in the hall, printed double sided, collated and stapled together. No more kneeling on the floor surrounded by islands of paper! I was euphoric.

For the rest of the day the poor people who called and asked, "How are you Belinda?" had to listen to me rave about our wonderful new photocopier and all that she could do. I didn't even care that Old Lady Photocopier was still standing out there waiting to be picked up. How quickly my affections had transferred.

It struck me this morning that this is the way I cling to old, non productive behaviour patterns. I am sure that God must long to break me out of the rut, replace them with new and better ways of being - his instruction book is full of good ones, but I am slow to see the gift.

Dysfunctional as some of my ways of being are, they are familiar to me and fit so comfortably. How foolish. How sad too, when people are reluctant to accept the greatest gift of all, eternal life through Jesus Christ. The treasure God wants to give us all is so precious.

Prayer: Lord, I don't want to miss one bit of the new life in Christ that you offer to us all. I want to be open to all that you have, all that you want to teach me. Break the old patterns and replace them with your ways. Please open the eyes of those in my circle of friends and family who may not be seeing right now the gift you offer. Remove the scales from all of our eyes .


Romans 12:1-2 (New International Reader's Version)
New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Copyright © 1996, 1998 by International Bible Society
Romans 12
Living for God
1Brothers and sisters, God has shown you his mercy. So I am asking you to offer up your bodies to him while you are still alive. Your bodies are a holy sacrifice that is pleasing to God. When you offer your bodies to God, you are worshiping him. 2Don't live any longer the way this world lives. Let your way of thinking be completely changed. Then you will be able to test what God wants for you. And you will agree that what he wants is right. His plan is good and pleasing and perfect.




Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Meditation on Peace

Micah 5:4-5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. 5 And he will be their peace.

The passage in Micah 5: 4-5 is speaking prophetically of Jesus. Hundreds of years later the book of Ephesians echoes the message of peace, brought to us through him. How I love the endless weaving together of his word.

Ephesians 2:14-15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,

Prayer: Dearest Lord, this world as never before needs to hear the gospel, the good news of peace. Let me have the sandals of peace firmly strapped on today. Please saturate me in your presence and let me bear your peace into every situation, every room, every conversation.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

More on Lavish Love

2 Peter 1:6-8 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
6 Knowing God leads to self-control. Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness. 7Godliness leads to love for other Christians, and finally you will grow to have genuine love for everyone. 8 The more you grow like this, the more you will become productive and useful in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Right in the middle of a self protective maneuver during a potentially painful conversation last night, God brought to mind the prayer I'd written out that morning: "Will you teach me what it means to love without restraint that I may mirror you?"

The words stopped me in my tracks. Mirroring Jesus was not what I was doing. In fact I couldn't think of one situation where he was self protective; on the contrary, he was vulnerable and broken out of love for others.

God had taken me at my word when I had prayed, "Teach me," that morning and once I remembered my prayer I had no real choice but to come out from behind my protective shield; one small step forward in following him.

This morning I remembered a line that seemed relevant, from a poem I wrote in April 1978. It's not a great poem but it shows that God was teaching me the same lesson twenty eight years ago. The journey continues!

I'd always been a "loner,"
Until my Lord one day,
Took me so gently by the hand
And I could hear him say,
"You've got to love each other child,
"Alone" is not the way-
To tread the path I'm showing you,"
And then to my dismay
He started to reveal to me
My soul through his dear eyes,
How full of pride and self I was,
I had a real surprise.
I'd never seen myself that way,
I'd thought I was "reserved,"
But now I clearly saw the truth,
I knew what I deserved.
I started to despise myself
And cried in sheer despair,
"Teach me to love my brothers Lord,
Please show me how to care,
And yes, of course he answered me
'Twas always in his plan,
To plant his love within our hearts
For all our fellow man.
Because you see, our love is vain,
It's fickle, frail and weak;
Dependent on all kinds of things,
But God's love is unique.
His love is unconditional,
Unselfish, patient, kind.
It hopes all things, endures all things,
And very soon you'll find,
That when you have this love within,
(which only he can give),
That love will flow to others
and a different way you'll live.
Belinda
Prayer: Dear Lord, I'm serious, I do want to learn how to love as you love; to integrate my longing to be like you, with my actions. Thank you for helping this sometimes slow learner to remember her morning prayer yesterday. Please help me to be attentive to your voice today.

1 John 3:23 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright
© 1996 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
23 And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Lavish Love of God

1 John 3:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
1 John 3
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

Ever since I first read this verse long ago, I have loved it. It expresses so much about God and the wonder of the privilege he has extended to us.

The word "Lavish" is defined in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as, "to expend or bestow with profusion: SQUANDER." Inherent in the word (as confirmed by Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary) is more than a hint of excess, waste, overindulgence.

God loves us recklessly, crazily, foolishly even! He dotes upon us in his love. His love is not measured, restrained, conditional, rational or sensible. He loves us wildly!

This verse opens a wide a window for us into God's heart . Do I dare to ask to be conformed to his image in this respect? Am I willing to love lavishly, without measure; foolishly?

How is this lavish love demonstrated to us? "That we should be called children of God." Children of God...I am his child. And the only way this could be accomplished was through the ultimate sacrifice, the sending of his son Jesus, in whom was only goodness, love and mercy, knowing that what awaited him was brutality, humiliation, loneliness beyond imagination and physical agony.

Prayer: Dear Lord there are no words to express my adoration and love to you, my deep gratitude and awe at your lavish love for me and all mankind. Will you teach me to love without restraint and reservation? I cannot reflect you to a world that needs you without doing so.

John 3:16 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
16For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Important Investments

I spent some time today reading past journals and was struck by the ongoing ups and downs of the relationships in my life. One thing's for sure, relationships are hard work. The work can be painful, but the alternative; surface, inauthentic relationships; is unthinkable. Staying connected is essential, as some of my friends remind me when I'm distracted by life. Without it, friendship, or a marriage relationship, withers on the vine. Sometimes you have to fight the forces arrayed against connecting regularly; busy schedules, the tendency to drift into isolation or intense work situations. It's possible to live together in a marriage but never connect below the superficial level; in fact that probably happens a lot.

I see a parallel in the ongoing struggle to "stay connected" as a couple and with friends, with my relationship with God. I can invite him into my day, "spend time with him" in devotions and prayer - yet not really look into his eyes, pay attention and commune. As painful as this is in any relationship, and it is a terrible settling for second best, it is even more tragic in my relationship with the One who fashioned me in my mother's womb, who knows every hair on my head, and who longs that I be present to him - aware, paying attention.

Being a better friend, mother, wife, sister, grandmother, child of God - these are never ending quests. Relationship with God and with others is really all that matters and an investment that is more important than anything else.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be attentive to you. I want to know you, to hear the whisper of your voice, be aware of your Presence, your plan for my day, my life. I will miss so much if I don't invest the effort in our relationship and I don't want to miss one thing that you want to show me or tell me. Please help me in all of my relationships to be present, to care in action as well as intent.

Philippians 3:7-8 (New International Version)

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

God's Name Reveals Who He Is

Exodus 6:2-3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

2 God also said to Moses, "I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty,
but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them."

Exodus 6:12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)

12 But Moses said to the LORD, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips ?"

As I read this chapter, my eyes were drawn irresistibly back to verse 3, as to a beautiful item in a store window that I've just walked quickly by. It felt like in that verse, God had something significant to share. What was the difference between the name God revealed himself by to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: God Almighty - and the name by which he was now revealing himself to Moses: the Lord?

My eyes locked on the name, "The Lord". I wanted to know more about the significance of that name.

The Amplified Bible, which expands on the root words in the original languages, giving the many nuances of the original text (in this case Hebrew) says this:

Exodus 6:3 (Amplified Bible)

3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty [El-Shaddai], but by My name the Lord [Yahweh--the redemptive name of God] I did not make Myself known to them [in acts and great miracles].

Names carry deep significance and throughout his interactions with mankind, God has revealed himself by many names, each one embodying a significant facet of his character, of who he is. He promises to be to us everything we need, the All Suffiicient One. But here, God is making himself known to Moses as Yahweh ("the redemptive name of God"), who would demonstrate his power in acts and great miracles.

I bought a t shirt this week that proclaims the message, "Expect Miracles". Sometimes we just need God to be "the Lord" to us, the One who will "demonstrate his power in acts and great miracles." I'm so grateful that in the situations where my abilities are insufficient, his power has only just begun.

How much easier it would have been for Moses if he could have said, "Oh, so that's who you are!" and stood on that name, "taken it to the bank," so to speak, but immediately after God revealed his powerful name, Moses was still focused on who he was, not on who God was, just like I am so often, even with my t shirt that says, "Expect Miracles.".

Prayer: Dear Lord, be the God of miracles in the situations where there is no other hope. I am thinking of several overwhelmingly complex situations that are ideal for you to demonstrate your miracle working power in. Help me get and keep my focus off me and on you. I do believe in miracles because I believe in who you are. Thank you for making yourself known, for slowing me down enough to show me who you are.