Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Steering the Titanic

Galatians 5:6 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

A friend is with us for a while, the circumstances of her life having her down for the moment. I saw a documentary on T.V. a couple of years ago about people who lived in their cars in the States, and was shocked that people lived that way. These people were ordinary people who didn't want to live in their cars and wash in public washrooms, but something had happened that tipped the balance of financial viability in their lives and they found themselves out on the street with only their cars and a few belongings. It can happen to anyone, I realized--not many steps keep us on this side of security.

We've lived with more than our share of houseguests in the past, but we've come to enjoy our solitude at this stage, and so it was a stretch to make room for someone else again. I've learned that it's important to talk up-front about how it will work when someone moves in, and I did, doing a good job of setting out the boundaries around my selfish world. In doing so, I lost the grace of Jesus, who would have me respond with welcome, hospitality and compassion to people who need help.

I consoled myself by thinking of the story of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32, one of whom said he wouldn't go and work in the vineyard when his father asked him, but did in the end, and telling myself that at least eventually I "got it.". But I felt that God must often feel as though he's trying to steer the Titanic when he wants to work through me. This is a metaphor for how my life is; God has pretty regular course adjustments to make!

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Galatians 5:6b New International Version

(Written with the permission of my friend).

Monday, October 30, 2006

Spooked

Isaiah 11:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;

It had been an intense week at work, with deadlines on several projects converging simultaneously. Ironically, I'm told I always seem calm and unruffled, like a ship sailing serenely through the sea of life, but on the inside I was feeling more like a leaky row boat that required baling and rowing all at once.

It was late afternoon when I left the office. I'd worked hard all day, but I relaxed as I drove out of Bradford in the safe bubble of my car, windshield wipers slapping away a gentle drizzle--radio people chatting away about the news in the rest of the world.

I was startled from my peace and anticipation of getting home by the loud blast of a horn. In the rearview mirror I saw a large truck close behind me, making it clear that I was going too slow in the fast lane. I hadn't realized my reverie had caused me to slow and my knee-jerk reaction was to speed up, going over the speed limit under the pressure from behind. I saw that the approaching lights had turned yellow and I realized that I was speeding on rain slicked roads. So I put on my brakes and slowed to a stop. This caused the closely following Road Warrior to blast the horn again and swerve around me on my left, zooming through the now red light and on into the distance.

The next morning I was on my way to a meeting in Alliston and stopped at a red light in Bond Head. A car beside me honked its horn. Still spooked, I thought the car looked like my daughter Brenda's, but I wasn't sure. The way was clear and I turned north.

Five minutes later my cell phone rang. It was Brenda. "Mom, are you mad at me?" she asked (it had been her at the lights). Something had happened the night before that she thought I was upset about. She'd been suffering anxiety over it and when I looked at her warily at the lights and drove off, that confirmed it for her--I was mad. So sure was she of this that it took her five minutes to pluck up the courage to call.

So many different realities! A truck driver who probably thought I was a road hog. Me who thought the driver was road rage personified (maybe the person had a crisis to get to) and Brenda and me, both spooked by something from the day before and reacting accordingly. How easy it is to misinterpret the actions of others. The only way to know, is to ask like Brenda did, but so often we don't, it's easier to interpret and judge--and get it wrong.

Isaiah 11:3-4 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Isaiah 11
A Green Shoot from Jesse's Stump 1-5
A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse's stump, from his roots a budding Branch.
The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him,
the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength,
the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God.
Fear-of-God
will be all his joy and delight.He won't judge by appearances,
won't decide on the basis of hearsay.He'll judge the needy by what is right,
render decisions on earth's poor with justice.
His words will bring everyone to awed attention.
A mere breath from his lips will topple the wicked.
Each morning he'll pull on sturdy work clothes and boots,
and build righteousness and faithfulness in the land.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Rain, Snow and Wind

By: Ezra Connection

Job 38:22-30 (The Message)
Copyright 1993, 2002 by Eugene Peterson

"Have you ever traveled to where snow is made,
seen the vault where hail is stockpiled…
Who do you suppose carves canyons for the downpours of rain,
and charts the route of thunderstorms that bring water to unvisited fields…
You don't for a minute imagine

these marvels of weather just happen, do you?

The storm door slammed in a gust of wind, and glass lay in shards all over the floor. After it was cleaned up, the aluminum door, installed years ago to give added protection to the old Ontario farmhouse, had lost the screen and the top glass window that held it in place, plus the sliding glass section that is pulled down in winter.

Later, I opened the solid wooden door, and almost gasped with the unfamiliar clarity of the view across the farm fields. Rain since Thanksgiving had brought down many of the yellowed leaves from the century-old black maples nearby, and they carpeted the green lawn. The two watery ruts down the long gravel driveway shone white, reflecting the sky. Beyond the split-rail fence, Leroy the donkey ambled, while horses buried their faces deep in what was left of a 600-pound round bale of sodden hay, their feet standing in more “white” puddles, and their backs wet and shiny.

Someone laughed, saying, “There are no streaks on that window!”

I suddenly realized that the narrow aluminum frame of the door, now missing screen and glass, offered me a gift. It’s true that the screen often protected me from mosquitoes, big shiny-brown June bug “beetles,” smelly Asian beetles pretending to be ladybugs, and scores of flies. Equally helpful in a freezing wind were the glass panels. But all of a sudden, I found that the very things I choose for protection year-round also keep me from the truth of God’s creation.

At first, the vivid colour startled me—especially, the vibrant yellows. Little frost had come, so not many leaves had turned red, but high overhead, the trees glowed, and the greens and wet browns of the fields reminded me of Dutch oil paintings.

Slowly, as I moved beyond the sense of sight, a dull “pad” or thud drew my ear to the sound of a heavy drop of water from the tree, after it hit a damp, leathery leaf on the ground. Then, tinkles of drops fell on one end of the roof, on metal shingles, each embossed with a maple leaf, and specially designed to catch water and snow for the cistern in the early 19th C. farming days. Sudden watery sounds from the eavestrough under the roof edge gushed down the gutter downspout—and my five senses started waking up.

The dampness of familiar, pungent “farmy” odours of manure when walking in the rain, added the sense of smell to the artist’s picture. Had the view been on the other side of the house, I might even have imagined the taste of the last few red tomatoes on a sunny day, or the feel of their warm skins.

Quietly, God’s voice revealed that many things keep me from really reveling in His handiwork, some good in their proper place, and some not: screens and windows, blinds and curtains…but other things, too. Maybe I miss out on His beauty because of tiredness and busyness, priorities, selfishness, lack of time with Him, other choices and relationships…or even choosing not to look.

However, now that I have had the gift of a broken window to remove my blindness, I can say with Job, “I had heard of You [only] by the hearing of the ear, but now my [spiritual] eye sees You” [42:5 (Amplified Bible)].

And, even though the door will soon be repaired with new glass, I hope that God gently reminds me to remember today.


With wonder, Lord, we see your works,
We see your glory there displayed,
Below, above, in all that is
In beauty made

From a hymn by Brian Foley
(Based on Psalm 8)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Nothing Can Separate

Romans 8:38-40 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Those words, "Nothing can separate," came to mind this morning. I was making the bed, but preoccupied by a hurt when I thought about them--these words that are a great comfort when it comes to our relationship with God.

"We are fearfully and wonderfully made," says Psalm 139, but sometimes I wonder at the capacity for complexity that God built into us when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes I would like to be a more simple soul, but then a voice warns me, "Be careful what you wish for," and I stop with a smile--that time may come soon enough. For now I'd better rejoice in the gift of knowing and being known--and I do.

"Nothing can separate;" I heard God's voice, loud and clear saying, "These words don't just apply to me, but to my children." Well, I think it was God; it sounded like him. I'd never thought of the words being applied to human relationships before and if he is our pattern, if we are being conformed to his image, shouldn't they?

Walls of self protection arise in me when someone hurts me; and ever so slight distance, that I allow to swirl up around me like a gauzy veil.

Yet I'm reminded by the words from Romans 8 that God values community to the highest possible degree and so then, must we. I must allow nothing to separate my brother or sister from my love. Nursing a hurt is nursing an enemy dart that I have allowed to lodge in my heart. I need to either deal with it or evict it from its lodging place. I have only these choices and no ruminating, no walls of protection or gauzy veils of distance allowed.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Perfume

Song of Solomon 1:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
3a) Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out...

When I was about seven years old, my auntie May, uncle Tommy and their children Diane and Paul, came to spend a few days with us. They were from the North East of England and spoke with an accent I have loved ever since--the "Geordie" accent of the characters in Catherine Cookson novels. They weren't really my aunt and uncle--auntie May was one of Mum's two best friends. They'd met ten years before when Mum had come from Holland to work in England after the war when they were both just out of their teens. They are friends to this day.

My parents gave up their bedroom for auntie May and uncle Tommy to sleep in. I don't remember where they slept themselves. But I remember as though it were yesterday, the wonderfully feminine fragrance that filled Mum and Dad's bedroom while they were there. Auntie May was lovely; she loved beautiful clothes, wore make up, and she smelled so good. She called me "Pet," which I liked because it was English and not "Schattebout" which was what Mum called me, and which made me embarrassed when friends asked what a "Schattebout" was.

Mum was beautiful, but she only wore lipstick and perfume when she was going somewhere special. Being Dutch she was thrifty--and anyway, we had no money for such luxuries. The only perfumes I knew of her wearing all the years I was growing up were inexpensive: "Evening in Paris (Soir de Paris)," which came in a dark blue glass bottle with a silver, grooved and pointy lid, and "Californian Poppy,"a golden liquid, which came in a small, sharp shouldered, clear glass bottle with a picture of a poppy on the front. I remember the tiny rubber stoppers in the bottles--I think because I must have taken them out many times to smell or put on, Mum's "precious" perfume. I loved the smell of Mum's red lipstick too, which she carried in her handbag, with a handkerchief she used to dab her lips with after applying it. Her purse smelled of lipstick, powder and Polo mints.

The memory of the perfume in the bedroom stayed with me, like the haunting of a half remembered dream. I would often stop by the fragrance counters in stores and try to find "the perfume" but I never did. Then one year, when I was in England, and auntie May, now in her seventies, called to say hello, I told her of my memory and asked, "Do you remember what perfume you used to wear, all those years ago?"

"Yes, Pet," she said, "I still wear it," and she told me the name; Aromatics Elixer, by Clinique.

I went out that very day and bought some--for myself and for Mum, who deserved it after wearing all that "Evening in Paris" and "Californian Poppy." I have rarely set foot outside the house without wearing it since. I love it, and people comment on it all the time. I often hear some one coming down the stairs to the offices at work, saying, "Belinda's here. I can smell her perfume."

But there is a "signature scent" that is more lovely than the most costly perfume on earth; the fragrance of God's Presence in our lives. The Song of Solomon says that the bridegroom's name, was "like perfume poured out," and that the fragrance of his perfumes was pleasing. As we spend time in the chambers of the King, may his fragrance cling to us and draw people to him.

John 12:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
3Then Mary took about a pint[a] of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rain and Cold

By Ezra Connection

Acts 28:1-2 (New International Version)Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Ashore on Malta
1Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.

Following the gorgeous Canadian Thanksgiving weekend we had in Ontario, the many centimeters of rain over the next week seemed to be a constant item in conversation.

Making my weekly trip on the rather luxurious commuter bus to Toronto, I took out my pocket New Testament and started to read Acts 28, noting the events following the shipwreck, when the apostle Paul had floated ashore. The dual thought in verse 2 struck me as very appropriate for the current week: “because of the present rain, and because of the cold.” However, as I mused, God led me to grasp that the rain and cold in Acts brought out an unusual response—-a response so radical that it could only have resulted from a perspective altogether different from mine.

Sometimes it’s good to read in other versions, and the King James brought out one great cultural divide of the first-century. Dr. Luke, the author, and a Gentile physician trained in Greek in Alexandria, Egypt, was probably sensitive to the “political incorrectness” of the times. He writes that on the island of Melita (or Malta), “the barbarous people [showed] us no little kindness.” Luke’s very terminology aptly describes the barbarians, the ones who should have no “Christian” or “religious” or even “Jewish” feelings—-“those people.”

In contrast, Luke tells how these foreigners showed kindness to “us.” He lumps together all 276 (or 76) who had swum ashore: the pilot and ship-owner; possibly a motley group of sailors (if they were anything like those who made stops in Corinth); Luke and other companions; Julius, the centurion who liked Paul, and the guard soldiers with all the other prisoners.

As the rescued shivered in the cold air, soaking wet, and probably shaking with their near escape, the “barbarians” hurried to meet their need. They dragged the beach for wet driftwood, and must have kindled a bonfire significant enough to dry off the huge crowd. Undoubtedly, the residents also sent out word that hot drinks were needed, with food; and dry spots for all these people to sleep. Publius, the chief, even lodged them for three days. Luke says, “They showed us no little kindness.” I sensed that though these barbarians had to endure the rain, too, and tolerate the miserable cold, they looked beyond the unpleasantness; they wanted to meet the needs of a mixed crowd that people in our culture might have shunned.

Now, if I got a sudden phone call that two busloads of foreign tourists had suddenly been stranded with flooded roads in my community, I certainly wouldn’t feel I had the means to invite them home. And it is very doubtful that even the whole church would rally to get them lunch within an hour. Why, then, did the Maltese express such a radical response? Might it be because they noticed how discomfort affected “other” people, rather than how it affected “them”?

Maybe barbarians, after all, can teach me something—-that God is fully able to show His kindness through “them”! How much more appropriate, then, for “me” to recognize God’s nudge, the next time the weather is miserable; for “me” to look beyond myself to someone who needs encouragement!

Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

John 13:34-35 (NIV)
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Another Gospel

Galatians 1:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

It was 12:30 and a light rain was falling as I left my office for the drive north to Springwater township. Crossing the street from my office, I was balancing a heavy briefcase, empty thermos, my favourite red travel mug and a black zippered lunch bag. I flung everything across to the passenger seat of my travel worn but trusty plum Honda Civic and slid in.

I called the person I was meeting in Springwater on my cell phone, to tell them I was running late but on my way, and set off, turning the car radio on as I did. I'm a CBC listener and the program Ontario Today was just starting. I listened with interest as the announcer said that the guest today was a woman who'd previously been a nun and was the author of a book about Mary Magdalene. Only a few minutes into the program though, listening to the voice with a clipped British accent, confident, zealous and authoritative, I found myself praying for the listening audience, that they would be protected from the deception of her words.

It was a strange experience listening to someone make statements that were so obviously "another gospel," not the one I know from scripture, using the Bible as her supposed base, and being taken seriously. The saving grace was that this was a "call in" show and so I knew that other view points would be aired, but to my dismay, the first couple of callers seemed to be under some sort of spell-- they were agreeing with her. I couldn't believe it.

As she continued to speak after the first two callers, I found myself listening for the call-in number, then putting on my head set and dialing it, praying that I would only get through if it was me God wanted to use on this show and taking deep breaths to calm my nerves. "Ontario Today, can you hold please?" the phone was answered. I waited while the program was interrupted by the news. The woman who initially screens the incoming calls asked for some brief details about my identity and the point I wished to make, and then, after listening to yet another caller who agreed with the author, I was on the air.

I didn't have brilliant theological arguments to contend with the tangled web of lies she was presenting as fact, but I did have the truth when it comes to what the Bible says and I was able to present it accurately, calmly and confidently.

I looked up the woman's web site this evening before writing this. I saw a smiling white haired woman just seven years older than me with an extensive theological background and educational credentials. She has been barred from teaching by the Catholic church however.

I thought of how the Enemy's strategies haven't changed over centuries of time; he is still using a grain of truth mixed in with every ounce of deception, but today I felt a little of what Jesus said would happen if we are called to account for our faith--that we are not to worry, it will not be us speaking but the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:18-20) and God will give us the right words at the right time.

2 Timothy 3:13 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
13 But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stronghold

Psalm 27:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Psalm 27
Of David.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

A few precious moments to sit in his presence before starting my day. Starting to read, my eye gets stuck on the word "stronghold." As a child, my appetite for reading resulted in learning words in context and assuming their meaning and pronunciation before hearing them spoken or explained. I've made some funny mistakes as a result and now, still a lover of words, I find myself sometimes focusing and wondering, "What does that word really mean? Is it what I think?"

The word "stronghold" is mentioned often in the Bible and it seemed important this morning to open it up, to fully understand it. So there I sat, steaming, strong black coffee at hand, the clock ticking down the minutes until I absolutely had to leave the house, having read hardly anything before I skidded to a halt, stopped in my tracks by a word, dictionary and concordance open, reading glasses perched on my nose and scribbling down notes as fast as I could!

I discovered from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary that a stronghold is, "A place of security or survival; a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic."

According to Barbara Ann Kipfer's Flip Dictionary, it is, "A bastion, bulwark, bunker, castle, citadel, fort, fortify, fortress, garrison, redoubt."

In psalm 27 the Lord is the "stronghold" or "place of security and survival", or "fortress," of my life. I think of other things I have used as strongholds, or places of security and survival, besides God; fortified places in my life and heart, defence mechanisms, means of self protection--I still have them--barriers against the Holy Spirit.

I think then of 2 Corinthians 10:14 where a stronghold is referred to as something to be pulled down. Out comes my big Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, and I find that the root of the word translated "stronghold" here is "argument," which is clear in the Amplified version of the Bible (see below).

Things that need fixing are often "stripped down" so that they can be rebuilt. That's what I want, any stronghold that I run to other than God--I want to be torn down. May "every thought and purpose be led away captive into the obedience of Christ." May the Lord alone be my stronghold, my place of security and survival.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
3For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons.
4For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,
5[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),

Monday, October 23, 2006

Worship

Our worship team is singing the final song. This morning I'm in a supporting role, not leading. Through the service, the four of us who are singing, bound together by a strong bond of relationship, are experiencing a glimmer of what heaven may be like as we do something we love to do; sing with each other and lead others into a place of worship.

I look down at the faces of the people in the pews. Some faces are lifted, eyes closed, worshiping God, some bowed down, just as lost in communion with him. One young girl, not even in her teens yet, in the very back row, has a hand on her heart as she sings with all of her might. I am overwhelmed with love for the people God has chosen to be my family in Christ.

Although it's the last song we'd planned to sing, the pastor has left the option open for anyone who wants to, to come forward for prayer. One or two people come and pray silently to the side of the altar. As the song comes to a close, our leader closes in prayer, and I see her; a petite, quiet woman, who usually slips in and out of church quickly, walking towards the front. I see the look on her face, a look that tells me she is crying out for something from God, and as she gets to the front I am already on my way to pray with her. As my arm goes around her, it meets another arm--another friend is on the other side and we're praying together for her like two guardian angels, one on each side. The words flow easily-- and I know that God is filling my mouth with the words she needs prayed.

The rest of the worship team continues singing and I am filled with an overwhelming need to just kneel in his presence and continue worshiping him. As I do, tears of gratitude and joy flow down my cheeks. I feel a hand on my shoulder and I think that someone has come to pray for me. I turn to see who it is and my cheek meets another cheek, wetting it with my tears. It's my five year old grandson, Stephen, and his little face is close to mine, a smile and curiosity written on it. "Omie, why are you crying?" He wants to know. I tell him that I love God so very much and sometimes when you love someone very much it makes you so happy that you cry. Once before when I was kneeling at the altar, his little form snuggled up beside me. I wonder if life on earth gets any better than this.

Psalm 95:6-7 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
6-7 So come, let us worship: bow before him,
on your knees before God, who made us!
Oh yes, he's our God,
and we're the people he pastures, the flock he feeds.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Words

Yesterday I finally finished the book that Panna, the woman I met on a plane en route from England, gave me, on August 5th. The book was, "Hungry for More of Jesus," by David Wilkerson and I've been reading a bit of it each morning. What the author had to say resonated with my soul, confirmed my longings and inspired me daily. I was sorry it was over and felt as if I were a child on one of those rides in the mall where you put in a quarter (or probably a dollar these days), but all too soon the ride is over and you wish it could have kept going a bit longer.

This morning I went to my bookshelf and chose, "Blue Like Jazz," by Donald Miller, to read next. Maybe because it seemed such a contrast to the last book, it drew me. I read the first words and was hopelessly captivated. It is a writer's book, full of metaphors. I am stunned by the sheer intense brilliance of the words, strung along the threads of sentences into a necklace of mesmerizing beauty.

1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Gratitude

Many of my friends know that I read "Daily Light on the Daily Path"--in fact many of them read it too. It's a compilation of scripture verses without additional commentary, put together into morning and evening readings, by the Bagster family, over 200 years ago. Good things last!

My book goes with me everywhere and has criss-crossed the Atlantic ocean many times. The cover is worn and held together by numerous layers of Scotch tape and many of the pages have notes--some of them on every available space hi-lighting significant events that occured on a particular day or when something I read held special meaning. A couple of days ago, on October 19th there were three notes, all of them sources for gratitude:

One note says that this day in 1997 was the first time two dear friends came back to church with their family after a long time away, some of it in a spiritual "desert." How I praise God for that day and all the days since then in which I've enjoyed their presence in our church family and in my life. I had underlined the following verse:

Psalm 130:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.

Then there were two notes from 2002:
The first said that Victoria, one of our four grand daughters, three years and seven months old at the time, had in a very simple way said "Yes," to an invitation to open her heart to Jesus at a church event for children. I pray that she never stops saying "Yes" to him.

The second was beside another underlined verse:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.
4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

Beside it I had written, "England, 02~Grace." I had just returned from England and it was a time when God was healing my relationship with my father. I was able to clearly see myself in as much need of grace and forgiveness as he was and let go of judgment and anger. I didn't know that three months later I would return for his funeral. I'm so grateful for the perfection of God's timing.

I celebrate God's grace and goodness in the lives of my friends, my family and in my life. How much there is to be grateful for!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Admiration/Affirmation Addiction

Philippians 2:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

It was dark as I drove home, sipping delicious Lemon Lime Zinger tea from my favourite red travel mug. As the tart flavour woke up my tongue I pondered the amazing ability of our taste buds to clearly distinguish two separate yet similar flavours.

My mind drifted to the battle I wage with an inordinate appetite for affirmation and admiration. I decided that the need for affirmation isn't quite as dysfunctional as a craving for admiration. God demonstrated affirmation toward Jesus when he said, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." We affirm one another in our gifts and our good qualities (which often we don't recognize until someone else points them out), but admiration is more tricky. I've become more aware lately of numerous subtle cues that I extend, almost--but not quite, subconsciously; to friends, co-workers and family, in an attempt to bolster my insecurities. Only my dear husband seems totally oblivious and immune--I have to use the direct approach with him: "Why do you love me?" and "Can you be more specific?"

I laugh at myself for this trait but it's truly something I'd like a lot less of, especially when I long to be conformed to the image of One who lived his life in humility and servant-hood. Admiration and affirmation--I will try to lay down the need and remember that I am his beloved child. It may take a while for my friends to notice a radical difference, but I'll be working on it, with God's help!

Philippians 2:5-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Labour and Tears and Blessings

By a dear friend, Claire Alexander~Ezra Connection

On Tuesday our thoughts on Psalm 23:4 turned to the knowledge of Gods presence with us, even when we are walking through the valley of the shadow. I remember having someone point out that this was not the valley of death, but of the "shadow" of death, which for some reason may compound our fears even more than death itself. Sometimes fears overcome me, and I find at those times the consolation of memorized Scripture verses assures me of Gods tender care, as does the hug of a dear friend enfolding us in the arms of the Good Shepherd.

The thought of this valley brought another to mind--the valley of Baca, mentioned in Psalm 84:6Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well. Nowadays we can look up online Spurgeons Treasury of David, or what is known as R. A. Torreys Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, although it was written by several authors 200 years ago. Such helps describe another valley of trials and doubts.

The interpretation that especially touches me says, "Baca is probably a large shrub, which the Arabs still call baca (see on 2 Sam. 5:23), and this valley, as Celsius observes, seems to be one embarrassed with [such] bushes and thorns, which could not be passed without labour and tears." As we have days of struggle onward on the pathway, we find that "no misery can be so great, no estate so barren, but a godly heart can make it a well, out of which to draw forth water of comfort."

O Lord, I find it so easy to complain on the journey. Help me to remember that You have walked this journey before me, and are with me in my need. Teach my heart to choose to be thankful, and to find ways to turn painful labour and tears into springs of water that will bring comfort to others.

Psalm 84:6 (New International Version)Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools [or, blessings].

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now

2 Corinthians 4:4 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Three Scenarios:
I walked out of the opticians office with my new glasses, into a world that I suddenly saw in sharp focus. I could see every blade of grass, every leaf on a tree in unbelievable clarity.

She walked into her first meeting after having had a cataract operation. Someone asked her how she was and she said, “I’ve got new eyes, it’s dazzlingly beautiful. I didn’t know what I wasn’t seeing!”

We'd been on a long walk and she'd shared her belief system based on eastern mysticism. She'd spoken of her belief in reincarnation and karma--the belief that your state in this life is a result of actions in a previous life. I'd contrasted her beliefs with my faith in Christ, explaining that Christianity compels us to reach out to the poor and powerless, whereas the logical outcome of the faith she espoused would be to believe the poor deserved their fate. Later, over lunch, she laughed at me mockingly and looking into her eyes it wasn't my friend I saw. Her face was contorted as she challenged me. "You can't really believe that Jesus came back to life after dying can you?" This friend, well educated as she is, was blind to the paradox of her words. She was willing to believe that we die and come back in an endless cycle, but refused to seriously consider the historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Christ.

My friend didn't just have a different point of view, but was suffering from spiritual blindness. Human logic and reasoning, isn't always what is needed. Sometimes we need the spiritual weapons of prayer and tearing down of the enemy "strongholds" that can be a barrier against the Holy Spirit who leads us into truth. God has given us everything we need for the battle along with instructions.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
4For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Comfort

Psalm 23:4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

I've been thinking all day about the comfort of knowing that God is with us. What could be more comforting than knowing we are not alone--ever--even if we sometimes forget that he is there.

Sometimes there are painful and hard places that we wish he would rescue us from--come and take us out of. I've wished that he would parachute in sometimes and fix a situation, but usually we have to just keep going--we will get through in the end.- He does however promise that he will never leave us or forsake us; he will be with us as we go through the valley. Sometimes that's the comfort we need to share with others--the valley is real and difficult--but he is there with us. He is "the friend who sticks closer than a brother."

We take him with us into other people's painful situations. If we belong to him we bring with us his peace, comfort and hope. It is no small thing to carry him with us wherever we go--we carry in and with us, the Light before which all darkness vanishes.

Matthew 1:23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
23"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sunday Morning Soliloquy

Psalm 28:7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

Through the white, wooden slatted shutters, I see trees; smoky blue on rich burnt plum, on yellow-orange. To my right, a row of subdued green weeping mulberry trees stands sentinel, following the curve of the drive--the mulberrys are always the last to "leaf" in spring and last to lose leaf in fall--latecomers and late goers like me. Birds find them accommodating, though, with juicy clusters of fruit, and friendly places to hide.

It's Sunday morning and the house is still, even though it's already 9.45; but in the three floors of our house, three generations of family are experiencing their own versions of sleepy Sunday morning and are preparing for the day.

"Joy comes in the morning," and it has come, along with peace and a quiet anticipation. What will this day hold? I lift it up to God and invite him to share it all with me.

Psalm 63:7-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Sharing Joy

Romans 15:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This week I've been reading a jubilant blog called, "Three Beautiful Things," by Clare, a young woman in the U.K. ( www.threebeautifulthings.blogspot.com ) Each day she simply lists three things that bring her joy, and in the process inspires many others to notice the things in their lives that are joyous. Clare is adding to the joy in the world and I look forward to checking in each day to see what she's written.

Sharing joy is a good thing; this world is in dire need of joy and good news, but even Clare's wonderful daily splash of joy can only take a person so far.

There is a joy that will be there in spite of trouble and which even gives thanks for pain and hardship because growth occurs more in tough times than easy ones. I think of this as joy with its sleeves rolled up--joy that gets going when the going gets tough. The world needs this joy even more than its lighthearted sister. I want to do a better job than I do at sharing this joy, and the reason for it, my faith in Christ. I've been thinking a lot this week about the joy of knowing him, the blessings in our lives when we actually know and follow his ways. We live in a culture that has denied God and the values that Jesus taught should guide and shape our lives. All around us we see a world that desperately needs to know about him and the hope that comes from knowing him. He makes a difference for great good and great joy, both here and in the life to come.

James 1:2-4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Trials and Temptations
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Paintbox Day

I drove to Collingwood on Thursday morning and it looked as though God had dabbed the almost empty tree branches with a paintbrush loaded with every brilliant colour in the box.

The rough textured bark of some trees I passed, was softened by green velvet moss, and golden, leaf layered forest floors lay dappled with sunlight under a giddily deep blue sky.

Before heading home in late afternoon, I stopped at a fruit stand. Ontario had been surprised by snow during the day and as I stepped from my warm car into air that suddenly held winter's bite, my body tensed at the cold and I shivered, hunkering down into my coat. I left with autumn's bounty-- in my trunk a bushel of sweetly fragrant Courtland apples--and in my hand a soft green and pink, sweet ambrosia apple to munch on the journey.

A big grey cloud hung in the sky, full of more snow and starting to sprinkle its contents, like a pillowcase scattering downy feathers over the landscape. Trees of dark spinach green, cadmium yellow, and orange, looked as if they'd been dusted with icing sugar. A gossamer veil of snow drifted over the more distant landscape softening and silvering the colours that had been so brilliant at the start of the day.

A simple day, here and gone--a paintbox day-- and if heaven is more beautiful than this, then I can only gasp in anticipation!

Psalm 147:15-17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
15 He sends his command to the earth,
his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.

Friday, October 13, 2006

In Celebration of "The Ordinary"

James 2:1 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
James 2
A Warning against Prejudice
1 My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

I've been thinking this week about people who have celebrity status and how I'd like to celebrate ordinary people. I think that really, every person is extra-ordinary!

When we made our home in Canada in 1969, one of the things we loved about this country was the lack of class structure. We loved the freedom and acceptance we found here. To those who've never known anything else, that may be taken for granted.

I love the fact that among the twelve men Jesus chose to leave in charge of his ongoing work in this world were several fishermen, a tax collector and a physician. Hardly the cardre of theologians you might expect him to choose, not that there is anything wrong with theologians--that's not the point.

I feel sorry for people who only move in "certain circles," or who want to know who someone is before they decide if they are worth knowing. They are missing the fact that the image of God is in every human being.

In the same way that the wild flowers we pass at the side of the road are as glorious as the rose, for those with eyes to see, people are beautiful--all of them--and infinitely precious.

Matthew 25:37-40 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Gift of This Day

Dear Lord,
You gave me this morning, a most precious gift--a brand new day! Of all the days since my life began, no day has ever been more precious than this new day.

As I stand on its threshold, it is with the awareness that were my time on earth done, no money, or any other treasure, could buy another day. At that moment, it would be too late: To add to the love in the world; to visit someone who's lonely and dispel some of that loneliness; to walk with my Lord, hear his voice and be his hand extended to the world; to tell someone who didn't know, that Jesus cares; to write a letter to a loved one far away; to feel the sun on my skin, the breeze on my face, and rejoice that I am, at this moment, privileged to be here, and that I can, in this precious day, choose to make a difference...

Ecclesiastes 12:6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Finding Comfort as a Family

By Claire Alexander~Ezra Connection

Matthew 6:9 (King James Version)
King James Version (KJV)
Public Domain

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven . . .

As I opened the little British Daily Light first printed almost 200 years ago, I turned to the evening reading of Scripture, and read the opening thought of the Lord’s Prayer.

The plural pronoun “Our” leaped out at me. I sensed that my praying is not in isolation. I am not alone in addressing “my” Father. “Our Father,” on the other hand, implies that a family exists. There are offspring, and they are plural in number. “We” come together in unity; we speak jointly to our beloved Father.

Then my eyes caught the preceding word “ye” in the King James version—a pronoun that is also plural. Now, I remembered in French, that explaining the difference between the singular “tu” and the plural “vous” isn’t always easy, because “vous” can also be used in polite speech with a single adult. On the other hand, I recalled that in German, the polite form for you—“Sie”—comes in the third person plural, so the singular and plural words for “you” are distinct: “du” and “ihr.”

The Lord’s Prayer follows earlier instruction in Matthew 6 given to each of us individually, as though given to a child, using “tu” or “du” or “you singular”—go, and pray in your closet. Pray alone. Pray humbly. Then, the Lord seems to broaden that first instruction, and reminds the disciples that they are a team, a family, and that everything at the beginning of the chapter still applies, though wider circles are drawn. In fact, He might even be using the southern expression “you-all.”

Last night a fellow writer, dear to many of us, emailed that she had been called home from the cottage Thanksgiving Sunday night suddenly, but arrived only after her mother had passed away. The pain of missing the farewell, and of her mother’s dementia and earlier wish to reject God, and to hold no funeral, created a heavy burden for her—and I felt it in my heart.

Suddenly, I realized that just as my prayer was not alone, so her prayers were not in isolation, either. All her believing friends and fellow authors could surround her as her family—and together we could come to the only One who is the source of comfort, saying “Our Father.”

Tonight, then, Lord, we come to You as our Father, as Your own children, to uphold our dear ones in their need. We bless You that You are God—the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. We pray that You would help us pass on the comfort You have given us in our times of need, and ask that You would be both “our” and “their” Rock and Hiding Place. Thank You for enfolding us all in Your all-encompassing arms!

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
New King James Version (NKJV)
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Comfort in Suffering

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Someone Must Have Lifted Me in Prayer

Galatians 6:2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
2Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

I felt your gentle touch today Lord,
"Someone" must have lifted me in prayer.
While all around the storm was wildly raging,
I felt within my heart that You were there!
Caught up with all the cares of daily living--
I'd found no time for kneeling at Your feet,
But how I thank you Lord, for Your calm Presence,
And for somebody who lifted me in prayer.

This poem was written in 1984 at a time of intense stress. I remember driving home from work and taking the burdens of the day with me. My stomach was churning, mind racing; there seemed to be no end in sight to the workload and I felt that I was over my head and sinking fast. Then I stopped at a red light; I remember that it was 5 o'clock. A peace fell over me that was palpable. I can't explain it, but I knew someone was praying for me. Later I thought of the time difference of five hours with England, and realized that my mother would have been having her quiet time with God, as was her habit, before bed. There are times we need to carry one another in prayer and I for one, have experienced the blessing of being carried.

Monday, October 09, 2006

All That Really Matters

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

23 This is what the LORD says:
"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches,

24 but let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.


Our church family lost a part of its heart a couple of weeks ago.


Yesterday I drove a car packed with sandwiches, squares and salad, along the seventh line from Bond Head to Tottenham under a clear blue sky and bright sun. I marveled at the beauty of the colours I passed en route to the church. The leaves that remained on the trees outdid themselves in brilliant clear yellows, lime green-yellows, golds, reds, pink-reds and browns. The trees looked like ladies that had stood in a gale force wind and done their best unsuccessfully to hang onto pieces of clothing as hats and scarves blew off!

As the wheels of my car scrunched onto the church parking lot I saw the sign: "Bob Jurgens Memorial Service, 1:00 pm Oct. 7th." It seemed unreal to see his name on the sign; as though a movie plot had gone badly wrong.

Inside, the smell of fresh brewed coffee wafted up the stairs and the church was humming with activity as it had been for the past 24 hours, preparing for the large crowd that was expected. It wasn't long before the place began to fill. Before the service started at least 350 people filled the little church. Every available seat was taken, and seats overflowed into the foyer and hallways. Many people stood for the hour and a half as Bob's family honoured his memory in words and song. Many rich and famous men might envy the heritage of friendship, love, dignity of character and courage that this man left behind. He also left us with a longing to get our lives as right as he did with God first, family second, and the rest of the world following close behind.

When it's all been said and done
There is just one thing that matters
Did I do my best to live for truth
Did I live my life for You
When it's all been said and done
All my treasures will mean nothing
Only what I've done for love's Reward
Will stand the test of time

From the song, "When It's All Said And Done," by Robin Mark.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Willing Captive

By: Rev. Ronald F.T. Burston

Make me a willing captive,
Lord of Thee,
Come inhabit my entire being.
Write loyal lines of love upon my heart,
And help me sing them in the dead of night
To make the hills reverberate with heavenly joy,
And cause the music of the
Whispering breeze to call out--Jesus!

O may the whole world ring out
with anthem true,
The brooks, the rivers, rills and
lakes, bubble with exploding praise,
To Thee Emanuel--"God with us"--
Hope of Eternal Glory,
Come, Holy Spirit, cause all to
Magnify and cry out--Jesus!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Autumn Glory

Today I saw streams of molten lava cascade down the banks lining the highway, in view of passing motorists, who looked straight ahead as if they didn't see. The live basalt torched the trees--scorching the sombre gray tongue of road with flambeaux!

In late evening, driving the same road home, the coals still glowed on the banks as a lilac sky changed in seconds to a luminous raspberry that reflected the glory of the earth. I gasped in wonder at the metamorphosis. And then I stepped from my warm car into the crisp, cold air and the anti-climactic, gray dusk. But I held close the memory of glory.

Psalm 65:11-13 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

11 You crown the year with a bountiful harvest;
even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.
12 The wilderness becomes a lush pasture,
and the hillsides blossom with joy.
13 The meadows are clothed with flocks of sheep,
and the valleys are carpeted with grain.
They all shout and sing for joy!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Looking Towards Heaven--Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

Hebrews 11:13 & 16 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
13 All these faithful ones died without receiving what God had promised them, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed the promises of God. They agreed that they were no more than foreigners and nomads here on earth.

16But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a heavenly city for them.

Hebrews 11, sometimes called, "The Faith Chapter," contains a long list of heroes. I used to think it was a contrast between those who had faith and received, and those who had faith but suffered martyrdom. One day I read the verses in the text above and realized that whether they died a martyr's death or not, they all had something in common-- a faith for something more than this life; something beyond the here and now.

How wonderful to meditate on that and then read the start of the next chapter:

Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Dear Lord, we are in a race towards a city that is not of this world. Help us to run well, run free and with perseverance, until we cross that border.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

Isaiah 43:25 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
25 "I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.

I few years ago I heard a wonderful story about forgetfulness on the air, and wrote it down in my journal.

An email had been sent in to CBC radio by a listener in response to a show about preacher's kids. The man who told the story had been a preacher's kid himself. The incident in the story took place years later when the church that he'd grown up in was celebrating a special anniversary.

The man's parents were by this time living in a nursing home and they asked him if he would drive them to the church. His father was 95 years old and his mother was disabled as a result of a stroke.

As they entered the church, his mother's recollection of people was dimmed until she came face to face with her old nemesis whom he referred to as, "Mrs. Meanie." A flicker of recognition passed over her face and she said, "I know you!" The other woman, who was suffering the effects of a stroke of her own, said, "I know you!" -- and they embraced.

As well as being a funny and touching story, it made me wonder if that's what heaven will be like. Will we just recognize each other, forgetting any hurts? How unimportant they really are after all, and how wonderful it would be if only we would choose to have that perspective down here.

Lord, I thank you for speaking to me through this true story. Help me to be forgetful of little hurts and not prone to nurse them.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Letting Go of What Isn't and Loving What Is

Philippians 4:11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

A few years ago, just after returning home to England, my mother had a stroke. It was hard to be so far away at such a time, but even harder was the terrible feeling that I had "lost" her, even though she was still with us. The long letter she wrote to me, the weekend before her stroke, was the last she wrote, as writing was very difficult for her after that. She had just mailed it when the stroke happened. Mum's speech was affected as well as her memory. Although she has made great gains since then, at the time we didn't know that would happen. I remember struggling with the feeling that I didn't know "who" she was any more.

God gave me an insight that helped me through that tough time. I found myself thinking of when as expectant parents we anticipate the future, dreaming of what will be for our children. For instance, I remember the moment I heard the words, "It's a girl," after giving birth to my daughter Brenda. I remember my mind catapulting to the future; thinking of the things we would enjoy doing together, like going shopping -- something we now love to do.

It was a while until we got there though, and initially I found myself caring for someone who sometimes slept all day and was awake all night and who demanded all of my attention, without regard for my need for rest or personal time. But I loved her, just as she was, and other parents love the little ones they find themselves responsible for. We love them for who they are now, not who they will be, or who we imagine they will be.

We love our children at each stage of life. We love them when they are two and both frustrated and frustrating -- and when they are teenagers, confident they know everything and fighting for their own identity. We make the adjustment to who they are at any given time and we love them anyway and often because of it!

Sometimes the adjustment is harder, as it was with my mum and it's very hard when a child receives a diagnosis that means the future you dreamed of is replaced with a different kind of future. There is a grieving of the loss of dreams and hopes. But peace and freedom come when we let go of what isn't, and get busy loving what is.

And I do love her -- this woman who was Love to me before I had words. I love her fiercely and protectively now, as she loved me then. She is as vulnerable and needy of care as I once was, but she continues to teach me about the depth and quality of love that flows from heart to heart when love comes full circle.

Father, I thank you for showing me that accepting someone for who they are is such a gift, both to them and to me. You accept us as we are. I am so amazed and grateful at that.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Power of a Paradigm

Mark 2:6-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7"Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Paradigms, or ways of looking at the world, fascinate me because they make all the difference for good or bad. In the text, Mark 2:6-7, I see a faulty paradigm. What would have happened if the teachers of the law had asked instead, "Who but God can forgive sins? What then, does this mean?"

In verse 16 of Mark 2, we see another faulty perspective:16When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

What if they had asked instead, "This man eats with the wounded and broken-- what does this mean? Could he be the one spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (see chapters 53-61)?”

Their paradigm was "the law" as an end in itself and it had become their focus of worship so that they couldn't see the one who was the fulfillment of the law standing before them.

Dear Lord, keep my point of view -- my paradigm -- clear. Help me to see the circumstances of life through your eyes.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Church Triumphant

Matthew 26:34-35 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
34"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."
35But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

I’ve read the account of Jesus’ last supper many times, and if I focused on the theme of betrayal, I would have thought of the obvious candidates -- Judas, or maybe Peter. Today I noticed the small sentence that follows Peter’s declaration that he would die rather than disown Jesus: “And all the other disciples said the same.” All of the disciples declared their loyalty, but all of them scattered, as Jesus predicted they would, under pressure.

Isn’t this a picture of the Church? I know it is of me personally. Loving Christ, spending time in his presence, yet sometimes getting it all so wrong; misunderstanding what seems so clear in retrospect, overconfident and sometimes neglecting the discipline of prayer in which is protection and direction.

Yet amazingly, Jesus chose these men, he chose the Church and he chose us, to impact the world; passionate and poor, stumbling and bumbling -- and yet somehow, in spite of our weakness, filled with his glory!

Lord, shine through your church. Be glorified in our weakness, but don’t let us stay in babyhood -- bring us to maturity; let your image be formed in us corporately and as individuals!

Ephesians 5:25-27 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

25And you husbands must love your wives with the same love Christ showed the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God's word.27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hearing and Doing

1 Peter 4:10-11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

I reflected more this morning on joining in with the work the Father is doing in this world. I've found that if I step out and act after hearing his voice, he often confirms my words or actions in some way. It often feels as though he's teaching me to obey and encouraging me by saying, "That's right, you're on the right track. You heard me correctly."

As a writer, sometimes I feel excited at what God has given to me to share. I can't wait for a moment to write it all down and pass it on. Other times it seems that what he has given is so short or simple, that I wonder, "Did I hear him, or is this just me?"

It's often at those times that someone will write back and say that something in that piece touched them deeply. When that happens, I am encouraged anew to trust him more and hesitate less!

Sometimes God prompts me to say or do something that requires me to step outside my comfort zone. I remember two times when reading the Bible, God impressed on me that I had to deliver the words I'd just read to someone in particular.

The first time, the verses God told me to share, made no sense to me. They were to go to a Jewish man dying of cancer and they were from 1 Peter4:1-6. I remember thinking that God must surely have got it wrong. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to share a passage from the Old Testament? Isaiah 53 perhaps? But I was learning at the time to be willing to be "a fool for Christ's sake," (1 Corinthians 4:10), so I sent him a letter with the verses before I could lose courage, explaining why I was sending it. I heard after he died that he kept that letter with him and would ask for it to be read out loud when he could no longer hold it. The words didn't come from me but from God.

The second time was equally profound and following God's lead resulted in a significant turning point in a family's life.

I don't think anyone ever obeyed God and regretted it but I have heard people say that they didn't follow his prompting and regretted it.

Dear Lord I thank you for the way you teach us, as a gentle father would teach his children. Please make me quick to obey and to leave the result with you.

John 2:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."