Thursday, November 30, 2006

God of Eternal Blessings

Psalm 52:8-9 (New International Version)

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 I will praise you forever for what you have done;

in your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

In these lovely verses from psalm 52, I am reminded of God's eternal Presence.

I will praise you for what you have done (vs 9) Past

I trust in God's unfailing love (vs8) Present

In your name I will hope, for your name is good (vs 9) Future

Prayer: Lord, you surround us with your blessings, in front, behind, and all around. You are good to us and how we love you. With the trees of the fields we clap our hands with joy to you. Abba Father! We love you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On Riches

1 Timothy 6:17 (New International Version)

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Paul writes to Timothy, "Command those who are rich in this present world..." These words are a reminder that our stay here is temporary.

I found some notes I'd made when I read these verses at some other time. I had written, "Our concern should be whether we are rich in the world to come." This sounds categorical in the cold light of day! How easy to write and how hard to do.

Instructions follow, in verses 18-19, for ways to be rich in the world to come: being rich in good deeds, being generous, willing to share.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (New International Version)

18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Read Psalm 49 for more wisdom on the topic of riches, and also Ecclesiastes 5:10-20

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I have much to learn about handling finances in a godly way. We in North America are privileged with wealth in comparison to most of the world. Help me to use all that you give as your word commands--to do good and share. Forgive me for being so far from your standard of goodness in this. Please help me to reflect your heart more fully.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Culture Shock

1 Timothy 6:16 (New Living Translation)
16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

Psalm 104.2a "He wraps himself in light as with a garment;"

Living in North America we are spoiled. We take for granted amenities that the rest of the world considers the height of luxury.

My Mum recently moved into a cozy, warm flat, but not so long ago when I would go back to England for visits I experienced culture shock, especially in the winter. Mum and Dad lived in a humble house, with built in ventilation. No shortage of fresh air! There was a gas fire in the living room, around which we would all try to warm at least the side of our bodies that faced it while the other side tensed with cold. There was always careful discussion between my parents about whether we really needed two bars of the fire, or three. For me, keeping warm was a constant preoccupation!

The upstairs had no heat and similarly drafty windows. During one January visit I remember below zero temperatures outside, and feeling like I was sleeping on the side of a hillside.

Hot water was a luxury for which the water heater was specifically switched on at certain times--for a weekly bath, for instance--and the water for washing dishes was heated on the stove in kettles.

I'm not really seriously complaining about any of this. It was worth it and far more to see my parents, and we were not badly off at all. I was just a pampered North American being brought down to earth a little.

Jesus came down to earth too. He who was used to the brilliant light and blazing glory of heaven--the One who once said, "Let there be light," came down to a world wrapped in darkness and not light. The wonder is that he thought we were worth it. But he did! And I am so grateful.

John 1:3-5 (The Message)

3-5Everything was created through him;
nothing—not one thing!—
came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
the darkness couldn't put it out.

Monday, November 27, 2006

More Love, More Power, More of You in My LIfe

Mark 16:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

17And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages;
18They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.


As I wrote last week, at our cell group study of Acts 2, someone said, "We serve a supernatural God and he acts in a supernatural way."

This afternoon as I sat in my cozy olive green walled, retreat and read a chapter each from the books of Numbers, Mark and Acts, the truth of those words was reaffirmed. But there is a difference between the adventures I read about in the Bible and my daily life with him.

If there is more of God to experience; more power--miracles--then I want to be counted in for that. That doesn't diminish the miracles that I do see daily--the beautiful earth he created for us to live in and enjoy and the miracle of lives changed by his power, these are glimpses of his hand at work and I rejoice in them daily.

So I prayed today for more of God. I prayed expectantly, believing that he hasn't changed. Stay tuned for more on the adventure as it unfolds--and join me in it if you are so inclined!

Hebrews 13:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Treasure of God's Word

Psalm 138:2 (Amplified Bible)

2I will worship toward Your holy temple and praise Your name for Your loving-kindness and for Your truth and faithfulness; for You have exalted above all else Your name and Your word and You have magnified Your word above all Your name!

How easy it is to read the Bible "routinely," by which I mean taking it for granted--reading it like a familiar novel. I try not to, but sometimes I do. When I think about what I'm reading and pay attention, its like the difference between someone who notices a sunset and one who doesn't.

At the moment I'm reading the book of Numbers. I discovered that it was written approximately 1,400 years before the birth of Christ. That would be about 3,400 years ago. How mind boggling is that? The people whose names are written there and the lives I'm reading about really existed, over three millenniums ago. I'm getting a view of their lives and individual spiritual journeys as well as the spiritual journey of a nation. I think that's very cool and interesting.

It's fascinating that because of the vast distance of outer space, and the speed light travels at, what we see if we look at the sky through a strong telescope is the stars and galaxies as they were and not as they are right now, in fact we may be looking at things that no longer exist.

That's how it is when I open the Bible. Although they lived long ago, people of the past live, breathe, walk and talk--flesh and blood human beings--and their stories are gripping and real.

We tend not to see ourselves in the context of history, the vast span of eternity. Our lives are truly mere grains of sand in the desert of time. The Bible helps bring that perspective to us. Without it we inflate our own importance and are blind to our mortality.

In the gospels I see a radical creed for living that is counter culture. It challenges me to examine and rethink my values. The Holy Spirit speaks to me through the Word, encouraging, guiding and correcting me.

What a rich book the Bible is to read; historically, sociologically and as a piece of beautiful literature. Most of all, it's the Living Word of God. What a precious treasure.

Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version)

12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Affirming Gifts

Psalm 139:14 (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.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Sometimes it seems that our gifts don't exist for us until someone else acknowledges and affirms them. It is as if others need to discover them before we can do so.

We have a greater need for affirmation and encouragement than we realize. I remember giving a presentation and needing so badly to hear the words, "Well done." I had no way of knowing if the message God gave me to deliver had reached its mark until I heard someone mention it later in the day.

As a result of realizing my own neediness, I forced myself out of it to affirm three other people who had also made presentations. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, to find them equally insecure. They responded with the question, "Do you think it went well?"

We tend to think that others know how well they did--but they--and we ourselves, never do. Affirmation, a generation or so back, used to be sparingly meted out, lest it create pride. It doesn't. It recognizes a gift. In itself, that is a great gift.

I want to be more intentional in refocusing my attention towards others--to remember to notice other's gifts and affirm them daily.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Good Cry

Luke 7:38 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Having family in England, I fly home frequently to visit. I always board the plane wondering who will share that cramped space with me for the next seven hours. There are no rules of etiquette to govern relationships with the people you elbow over meals or climb over to get to the washroom. It always seems that we are thrust into a sudden relationship that is somewhat like a blind date. It has the potential for a pleasant few hours spent together--or it could go badly wrong!

I've had some interesting conversations on plane journeys and made some friends who continue to stay in touch. I was reminded of one such connection this week.

It was several hours into the flight before we spoke. I think he had returned from stretching his legs and as he settled his large, long frame into the impossibly tight confines of the seat next to me, he broke our comfortable, mutual silence by opening up in conversation.

I learned that he was a Jamaican ex police officer, from Birmingham, not far from my old home in England. We were traveling in the fall of 2002, and the topic of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 came up. He told me he had an uncle who worked in the World Trade Centre. He was one of the many people whose life was saved by the fact that he was late getting to work the morning of the attack. We marveled at the seemingly insignificant moments in time that made the difference between life and death.

As he continued to talk, I heard an old, old story, the story I love to hear more than any other; the story of a soul coming to faith in Christ. He was new to faith--no more than one year old. It had been about a year ago that he had come to Canada to visit his sister, a Christian. He had high walls around his heart and soul and had no interest in having anything to do with God, and he made that clear to her when she gently invited him to join them at church.

But at the airport, waiting to go home to England, something happened. He suddenly and inexplicably felt the Presence of God and he knew that he was calling his name. He boarded the plane and this big man said he began to cry. He couldn't stop. He said he had to cover his face with his coat so no one could see, and he cried all the way home.

I understood that cry. It's happened to me a couple of times. It's the cry that happens when the Holy Spirit is washing a person's soul clean of junk. It's a good cry; a really good cry.

It was interesting that I would find an old letter yesterday, in which I wrote to my dad about this man--this week when the Holy Spirit has been on my mind.

2 Timothy 1:4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

She Came Bursting

Isaiah 44:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.

At the dawn of this day the sky was soft baby blue fading to shell pink on the horizon. The grass was frost silvered and the stand of trees on the hill was hazy, dark charcoal gray in silhouette.

The sun went down at the end of the day in plumes of deep raspberry, flung across deep turquoise and overlaid with the black lace trees. God's palette for each day is different and it is always stunningly beautiful!

I think again of last evening. Seven of us gathered after supper for a bible study on the book of Acts. Six attend a Pentecostal church, while one of us is of Baptist background.

Someone was thirsty for more of God and their yearning stirred something within us all. Some expressed their longing that their children and grandchildren know the reality of the moving of the Holy Spirit. Another cautioned carefully against excess and mere emotion.

Then our Baptist friend burst forth like water from a dam, as if she could no longer contain herself, waving the text book she had brought with her (her heart was racing a hundred beats a minute she said afterwards).

"We serve a supernatural God," she said. "He acts in supernatural ways."

I love God's sense of humour and irony that he would use this friend whose gift is teaching, to teach us-- remind us, of that simple truth.

God acts in supernatural ways. We cannot contain him within a fence of our expectations and assumptions. All we can do is hold on tight and be ready for the adventure, for he has said that, "he will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground."

Rushing wind blow through this temple,
Blowing out the dust within,
Come and breathe your breath upon me,
I've been born again.

Holy Spirit, I surrender, take me where you want to go,
Plant me by your living water,
Plant me deep so I can grow.

Keith Green

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

She Came Thirsty

John 4:13-14 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

It is 10.30 when the final goodbye is said. I close the door and lock it, then wander the rooms, picking up coffee cups, bibles, emptying one load from the dishwasher and putting in the next; the house suddenly quiet. I notice one bible left left behind on the hall table. The cover is blue, with a picture on the cover of a drop of water landing and sending out a ripple. The words on it say, "Living Water for those who Thirst."

And, I think, she came thirsty tonight.

It was supposed to be an ordinary bible study. Our cell group is studying the book of Acts and tonight was the second week, the second chapter of Acts. And she came thirsty.

But tonight wasn't about studying the historical record of the birth of the church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was a room filled with people, mainly women, hungry and thirsty for more than a dry "institutional" church; hungry and thirsty for more of God. She came thirsty, and refused to quell her restless heart and study mere words. Her thirst found an echo in our hearts.

So we studied, hungry and thirsty. And we learned. We learned that Jesus came to be our Lord as well as our Messiah; that we need a cleansing to make room for the Holy Spirit. And we learned that He is a gift and a promised gift at that. He is promised to believing Jew and Gentile, to us and to our children, and to all who have been called of God. And we are thirsty.


My Eyes Are Dry
My eyes are dry My faith is old My heart is hard My prayers are cold And I know how I ought to be Alive to you and dead to me But what can be done For an old heart like mine Soften it up With oil and wine The oil is you, your spirit of love Please wash me anew With the wine of your blood. Keith Green


Acts 2:36-39 (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.

36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, and to your children, and even to the Gentiles[a]—all who have been called by the Lord our God.”

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why We Need Jesus

Mark 14:12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
The Lord's Supper
12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

Among Jesus' twelve disciples there were varying degrees of intimacy, but all had walked, eaten, slept and ministered with Jesus and in his Name. They were his closest friends.

The hour was approaching when Jesus would feel that he had lost connection with even his beloved Father. The process was already beginning--the trial by fire upon which the fate of the souls of all mankind depended.

As he broke the bread he said, "Take it, for this is my body," and giving the cup of wine, "This is my blood poured out for many. " Did he hold their gaze as he did this, willing them to understand?

Among his followers there was not one who in the next few hours would not betray, desert, or deny him. He told them this, but they seemed not to hear, or understand. The Bible says that they sang a song and went out to the Mount of Olives.

How often do his words fall on my unhearing ears and dull heart? How often do I drink the cup and he knows that short hours will pass and I will fail him in my heart, attitude or word?

But that is why he came. That is why he died. That is why I need a Saviour.

Mark 14:23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Religion

James 1:26-27 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I decided a while ago to continually read the gospels, along with other Bible readings in the old and new testaments. I wanted to try to stay connected with the radical simplicity of Jesus' teaching on a daily basis.

One thing I've noticed is how Jesus was always in so much trouble with the religious people. Now you would think those would be the people who would love him. After all, he was so good. He loved the Word of God and brought it to life when he spoke. He had such compassion for people. But it was those who were the opposite of religious who flocked after him--those called sinners--the publicans, tax collectors, women with checkered pasts.

I noticed the same thing in the book of Acts. The upset and turmoil of the early church was with religious people. What's with that?

"Religion" is equated with law keeping--rule keeping. People who loved that kind of religion hated Jesus because he broke the rules to fulfill the law. My Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has several definitions for religion, but one of them is "scrupulous conformity." Jesus was a non-conformist.

Religion, many will argue, is the source of so much of the world's war and suffering. And they are right.

I want to be like Jesus but it is a struggle to be. I am a child of this world and still so wayward of heart. His words; his teachings are still revolutionary and counter culture and they are full of peace, love and gentleness for the struggling and lost. They still have the potential to make religious people angry.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be your disciple, a student of your ways and words. I want to know you and understand your heart. I don't want to be "religious" but I know that sometimes I am. Please forgive me for that. I repent of religion, and long for your holiness and heart of love.

James 2:12-13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Finding God

Matthew 13:44 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Finding God is easy and it is hard. He wants to be known, but there are obstacles set against us knowing him. We live in a fast paced culture. We want everything quickly--yesterday would be nice.

Finding out who he really is takes effort and quantities of time. We are not given to spending effort and much time on searching for God in this day and age. But we cannot trust or rely on anything other than a personal quest to know him. He will be found by those who seek him and the effort is worth everything.

Sometimes being shut away, seeking him, feels as though I'm being lazy, as if it's a lot of time just sitting and reading, studying, writing and reflecting. I hear people busy about their work in other parts of the house--vacuuming--drilling--and there are things I need to do too, but nothing is more important than this: knowing him.

Anything worthwhile takes time. Why do we think that learning to play an instrument, or speak another language should take time, effort and practice, but knowing God can be done without spending time and effort?

Oh sit in his presence with me, my friends
Come to the fountain so sweet
Spend time just quietly listening
Listen at Jesus' feet

Belinda

Matthew 13:45-46 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fruit

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Yesterday I went out into the misty November day for a walk. Once out, I realized that it was gently raining, but I was committed--my body is seizing up with lack of exercise so there was to be no turning back. I decided on a short walk, but was stunned at the unexpected beauty I encountered on every hand.

The air smelled fresh and of the rain soaked earth. I noticed a Scotch Pine, each needle bearing a single droplet of water on its point, not frozen as they will be soon, but held suspended by some law of physics.

The ends of the blades of grass on the banks of a small, fast flowing rivulet, streamed in the direction of the current as if they longed to follow the merry water's flow, but the blades remained firmly rooted in place.

Black-eyed Susan flowers bowed their bedraggled heads, looking like ladies caught washing their hair in a sink and everywhere--glorious, gaudy colours, brilliant in their contrast with the gray day--garnet, yellow, lime green and gold.

Brownish black orbs, the fruit of a Black Walnut tree, lay broken open and emptied by pillaging squirrels. And a Mountain Ash stood, bare arms to heaven, surrounded by her scattered red fruit as though making a sacrifice of her children to God.

I wished I'd had my camera on the walk and when I got home I called the camera store to see whether the lens I'd ordered long weeks ago, had come in. I said that the day had been so beautiful I regretted not having it. The salesperson absentmindedly sympathized, "Yes," she said, and then "No--wait--it's not a nice day!" I tried to describe the glory, so that she would understand.

Prayer: Lord, through the rhythms of the earth you speak to me. The trees make no effort in order to produce their fruit; they simply put down deep roots, and be what they are. You take care of the rest. I pray that I may be as fruitful as they, simply by being what you made me and having deep roots in you.

Genesis 8:22 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
22 "As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease."

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Gathering and Waiting Time

Galatians 4:4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

From my warm room, I look through the window and see the branches of the silver birch bend, golden leafed, a bright spray, like the tail of a comet against the damp, soft grayness of this morning. A fog curtain has dropped over the stage of my beloved fields, but in front of the misty veil, the row of black alders lining the creek, stands sentinel, bare limbed. Today they seem so still and I think of how I love to watch them dancing in summer, swaying so elegantly in the slightest breeze, like exotic elephants bearing Indian princesses aloft.

Every blade of grass is still sodden from the rain that rat-tatted on the sky lights all night like a thousand million tiny needles. Any day now the fields will be blanketed by snow, but for now they wait, in that strange time in nature between fall and winter, the gathering time; the waiting time...

Jesus came once, in the fullness of time, but today makes me think of his promised return. We too are in the gathering and waiting time--for his return, which will come, even more surely than the snow will come to Ontario in winter.

Acts 1:11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
11"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Such Love

Ephesians 3:17-19 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

17May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
18That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
19[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!


I read these verses first this morning in the New International Version of the Bible. Immediately I knew that I had to read them in the Amplified Bible; go deeper--look harder--get all the wonder hidden in the words.

I'm glad I looked at the Amplified Bible, because otherwise I would really wonder at verse 19 in the N.I.V, in which Paul, the writer, prays that we will "know the love that surpasses knowledge." It seems as though he is praying for the impossible, but the Amplified Bible expands on the meaning of the verse. Paul is praying that we will "know" in the intimacy of knowing another person--the experience of God's love, which far surpasses mere knowledge about God's love.

I'm writing more than I meant to, but I can't stop without the final thought--amazement that we could be filled--wholly filled, with God himself.

Come Lord Jesus--make your home in me; "settle down" in me--root me in your love. Let me be filled with all of the fulness of your being--I can't help but shake my head in wonder at what that means. Let the beauty of your Presence be upon me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Path

Psalm 37:23-24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,

he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

The day is cloudy, but unseasonably mild for November and the grass and fields have the look of muddy March. The dark evergreens stand straight and tall, in contrast with the rakish weeping willows whose green-yellow leaves are still clinging, on branches that trail like the fringe on an elegant shawl and sway gently in the breeze like the plumes of a large feathered fan.

I'm driving north on Bayview Avenue. Passing through Richmond Hill, the signs left over from the election the day before still line the road and I am struck by the multicultural mixture of names: Spatafora, Gandhi, Duggal, Cohen, Chan, Di Paola, Halferty, Bagsavanadis and Kahn--post election day in York Region!

A man walks along the grass verge, collecting some of the signs, white with blue lettering. Grey hair to match the day, his face looks sombre--probably his candidate wasn't one of those victorious last night.

I think, as I drive about the path of life and how I don't believe it's all random the way things turn out.

I think about our children and some rough experiences they've had in jobs in the past. The dates are noted in my Daily Light on the Daily Path when they had particular struggles. The scriptures on those days always seemed to be so appropriate and encouraging. God has been faithful in their lives and I'm so grateful that they trust him, confident that he is directing their lives, even when the path is confusing, dark and painful.

For some friends whose son just had a car accident that could have been so much worse and other friends whose daughter is recovering painfully slowly from an eating disorder that has ravaged her young body--God is their children's refuge too.

Proverbs 14:26 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
26 He who fears the LORD has a secure fortress,
and for his children it will be a refuge.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Note

I have been so enjoying the book, Blue Like Jazz and sharing some quotes in posts. I wanted to be sure that doing so wasn't infringing copyright, as I had an uncomfortable feeling I might be. I checked with the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers, and found that I was. They were very gracious, but did ask me to remove direct quotes, from previous posts, which I have done. I feel badly for doing something not allowed, but am glad I asked the question.

Anyway, go out and buy the book. It's wonderful!

Intentional Love

Ephesians 5:2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

At work we have talked a lot about the "Fish Philosophy"--four principles that are so simple but that make a huge difference to the morale and effectiveness of a team. The difference happens because someone decides that they buy into the principles and decides to pay attention to them, looking for ways to bring them to life in their work. People who buy into the Fish Philosophy end up looking for ways to "make their day "(for other people), "be there" (focused on others), "play," and "choose" their "attitude." When a group of people buy into this idea, the energy and fun level goes up dramatically and even though the work doesn't change, our experience of it does.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about about living a "missional life," and how looking for people who need love is a powerful thing. I think that the powerful thing about it is that often we find what we look for. Just as practicing the Fish Philosophy heightens our awareness of opportunities to pay attention to people and look for ways to bring them joy, so we can expect that when we start to look for people who need to be loved, we will find them all around us.

Living a life of love isn't easy or "airy fairy." Everything in us is arrayed against it because our natural tendency is to focus on our own needs and not the needs of others. But I want to do it. I want to be looking intentionally, for those who need to be loved.

And the truth is that everyone needs to be loved.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A Prayer

Psalm 51:17 (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.
17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Dear Lord, I love you
I love the way you are
I love the way your Spirit loves people
pursuing them
winning their hearts
all of this so that you can pour out more of your love on them

Forgive me Lord
for being so weird
and so wrong, so often
it is a great wrong to blind people's eyes to Jesus
by making him seem different than he is
I've never intended to do that
but so much of me gets in the way

And now Lord you're boiling it all down
to something so simple
"to notice people who need to be loved" and love them
that's what you do
and because we are yours
that's what we must do

Doing this, it seems to me
will be hard sometimes
so I'm asking you to fill my heart
with your love
and to give me your eyes of love
to see through

I thank you for the loveliness of this morning. Snowflakes drifted gently to the ground and the world looked as though it belonged in a Christmas globe where the "snow" drifts down and slowly covers everything.

The sky was pearl gray clouded and in the middle, in the south-east, above the stand of maple trees on the hill, the clouds parted, mother-of-pearl edged, around the pale, wintry sun.

Everything you do is beautiful and it is good.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Repentance and Grace

Acts 20:21 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
21I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

In the chapter I read this morning, from Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, he and five Christian friends on the campus of Reed College, had a radical idea for Ren Fayre weekend, a festival characterized by the majority of the student body getting drunk or getting high. Donald had the idea of building a confessional booth for people to confess their sins. He meant it as a joke, but his friend, Tony the Beat Poet seized on the idea and soon a design was being drawn up and the booth built. The thing was though, that they didn't actually accept confessions, they made them; the booth was for the Christians to confess their sins to the other students.

They apologized for getting in the way of Jesus, for misrepresenting him personally, and as a movement that called itself by his name. They apologized for the Crusades, for televangelism, for neglecting the poor and the lonely and for their own bitterness and hardness of heart. They told people who came to the booth that Jesus loved them.

After initial incredulity, the response of the students as they listened , was grace, respect and forgiveness given, They went and told their friends, and then they wanted to know, "What is the message of Jesus?"

The Christians' confession and humbling of themselves, earned them the right to be heard, even though they hadn't started out with that in mind.

I think that what they did was a brave and good thing to do. I wonder if I would have the courage. Jesus is not who many people think he is, based on the actions of his followers, but he isn't hidden from those who care to sincerely seek him. His gospel is radical and full of goodness and mercy. I want to reveal, not obscure, that gospel of love, grace, forgiveness and truth.

Acts 20:24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
24However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Gifts that Complete

A reflection by Ezra Connection

Acts 13:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Acts 13 1
NOW IN the church (assembly) at Antioch there were prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God) and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger [Black], Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.


Somehow, I could picture the five men mentioned, and see them earnestly praying in a group in the church in Syrian Antioch—a church a long walk north of today’s Lebanon and Israel.

The paired concept of “prophets and teachers” leaped out at me, and almost on its heels another pair, “Barnabas and Saul.” I looked back to Acts 11:19 to reread what had happened after Stephen was stoned. At that time, believers spread from Cyrene in North Africa (Libya), and from Cyprus, and took the Gospel to Antioch, the third city of the Roman Empire, situated on the routes of trade.

When Barnabas was sent from the church in Jerusalem to check out the group of new believers, he suddenly found a good niche where Paul could minister and grow, and went to seek him out. The vision Barnabas held included others. He exhibits a relationship that is complEmentary (spelled with an E, as in complEte). Even Luke’s comments about “prophets and teachers” seems to imply relationships in team work.

William MacDonald’s “Believer’s Bible Commentary” defines a prophet as a person “specially gifted by the Holy Spirit to receive revelations directly from God and to preach them to others.” In contrast, he states that a teacher was someone “to whom the Holy Spirit had given the ability to expound or explain the Word of God in a simple and understandable manner.”

These opening verses in Acts 13 bring out the importance of differences. Differences we experience every day: male/female, husband/wife, parent/child, employer/employee, teacher/student, left brain/right brain, logical/artistic, objective/subjective, organized/scatterbrained…

I see that God fulfills His work because of the diversity He created. No one around me is lesser or more—we complement one another, to enable God’s work to go forward. I wonder if I can follow in the footsteps of Barnabas? Though for 2000 years we have known of Paul’s preaching, and have read his letters, I am so glad that Barnabas saw a need, and acted on his vision of seeing a partner established in the right niche!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Living for Something

James 1:22 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

This morning I read something that made me think. In "Blue Like Jazz." Donald Miller, the author, said that one of his friends, "Andrew the Protester," had challenged him to "be" what he believed. He said that Andrew taught him that what we do is what we really believe--not what we say we believe.

That would have given me enough to think about for a whole day, but there was more. The passage goes on to say that living for something is harder than dying for something and that we "live for what we believe."

Well, I'm not sure that that dying for something is easy; even dying to self is a battle! But living "for" something may indeed be harder. It's about getting our faith from our head to our heart and from our heart to our mouths, hands and feet.

Prayer: Dear Lord, in this day, help me to live for you--help me to demonstrate kindness, justice and mercy--and the glory; may it go to you.


Micah 6:8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Poem to Start the Day

Dear Lord, before I start my busy day
I come before you and I pray,
Please give me strength for every task
And keep me close by thee, that's all I ask.

The day ahead is full, the hours will fly,
and other thoughts and cares will fill my mind,
But Lord--break through the earthly noise and din,
And may my heart feel your sweet peace within.

Belinda
November 28th 1977

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Basic Training

Hebrews 12:11 (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 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

It feels good to be coming out the end of a training tunnel. It wasn't fun being in there and I admit to feeling lower than an earthworm over the past week as I came face to face with things I didn't want to know were lurking in my heart. A friend said that one of my posts reminded her of a song by the band MercyMe, "So Long Self." I looked up the lyrics and how they fit!

Well if I come across a little bit distant
It's just because I am
Things just seem to feel a little bit different
You understand
Believe it or not but life is not apparently
About me anyways
But I have met the
One who really is worthy
So let me say

So long, self

(MercyMe, from the album, Coming Up to Breathe)

I wonder, "Who was that person last week?" Today it seemed so much easier to do the generous thing, the kind and selfless thing. Maybe I really can say, "So long, self!" For a while at least...

Romans 5:3-5 (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 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Out of the Fog

I feel as if I have been in a bit of a fog for the last few days.

Yesterday Keri, one of our blog/devo family of friends wrote to say about God:

"He never treats us with a pointed finger, a stern face or a disappointed look. Instead He has open arms and a hug saying don't you remember my little one you over came that already, now keep your eyes on me and continue on the path I made for you.

He is always compassionate and kind, full of mercy. We sometimes think of the worst and make ourselves feel stupid. But we must remember we are His children and He loves us more than we can fathom." She ended her email with, "So just say, Thanks Abba Daddy!"

Keri, thanks for your joy, and for your gentle reminder to stop wallowing!

This morning I read in Mark 10, the story of Jesus' encounter with The Rich Man. So much flows through and between the words they spoke to eachother. It's almost as if they are speaking on one level, with a much deeper meaning just below the surface. The man calls Jesus "Good Teacher," and in doing so, acknowledges that Jesus is God, for Jesus says, "Only God is truly good."

The Rich Man has kept the commandments since he was a child, but it isn't enough and he knows it. Love flows between Jesus and the man as Jesus considers his sincere longing to live a godly life here and gain eternal life. Jesus then puts his finger on the crucial thing; he challenges him to give up his possessions. And, Mark writes, the man went away sad. Jesus told his disciples that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

This has been my struggle, Jesus putting his finger on my "riches" of time, space and solitude and saying, "Give to the poor (whoever needs what you have to give) and you will have treasure in heaven."

No wonder the disciples said, "Then who in the world can be saved?"

And Jesus said those wonderful words which give me hope, "Humanly speaking it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God."

So Keri is right, and I am going to say, "Thanks Abba, Daddy. I know that with me it is impossible, but with you everything is possible."

Monday, November 06, 2006

Congruity

Galatians 6:15-16 (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.
15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

In a section I just read from the book, Blue Like Jazz, the author Donald Miller, was recounting a conversation he had with his pastor at a pivotal point in his spiritual journey. He said to his pastor, when explaining why he needed to opt out of teaching his College and Careers Sunday School class and go and really find God, that he had become an "infomorcial"God, but he didn't use the product.

Sometimes I feel that way too, as if I look good on the outside, but I wish there were more congruity between the things I believe and say and the things I actually do.

Galatians chapter 6 talks about reaping what you sow, a principle that God built into the universe when he created it. I can't help wondering if God did this because he knew the depth of our potential selfishness. If for no other reason than the principle, we would, if we were wise, be driven to live a life of kindness, goodness and generosity of spirit.

It's not good enough though. I don't want to be driven by such a selfish motivation. I want to be driven by love of him--the One who gave up everything for us. I want to lay down Self, beyond my limited comfort zone, for love alone. That's the only thing that really matters, the only thing that counts; the only thing that makes faith in Christ real and not an "infomercial," and this is the meaning of the cross.

Galatians 6:14 (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.
14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Slaying the Giant

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (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.
8 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.

I wrote on Tuesday (Steering the Titanic), about a struggle with selfishness. The words in a song on Ali Matthews' new CD, Window of Light, poked at me this morning. The song is called, "Give it Away," and here are some of the words, written by Ali :

Look at these hands clutching so tightly
To something that might be the chance of a lifetime
The silver and gold we're holding and hiding
So clearly deciding what's yours and what's mine

Give it away
You could just let it go, you know
Love isn't love until it's what you let go of
The moment is fading and freedom is waiting
it might even come back some day
If you give it away

Look at this life, a life of abundance
You know I'm not wanting for anything
I'm just feeding the fear with a quiet reluctance
to hold out my hand with the simplest offering

One of the dangers in writing is that your own words come back to haunt you and your own daughter even quotes them at you "helpfully." It makes me groan because I seem to need "refresher courses" in lessons I thought I had learned!

A poem I wrote only serves to underline the gulf between the aspiration and the reality.

If I am guilty, let it be
Of loving much, forgiving much
Of seeing more than eye can see
Let generosity my trademark be
And if perchance the world should take from me
The Lord will make the balance up—
You’ll see!

Well, here's to slaying the giant Selfishness!

1 Thessalonians 2:12 (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.
12 We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you to share in his Kingdom and glory.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

When God Is Silent

Psalm 102:6-7 (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 I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.
7 I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.

The wind had a bite to it and early snowflakes hitched a ride on its wings and swirled around the parking lot. The local Christian bookstore was having a music sale, part of its gearing up for the Christmas season, and as I entered the store, there was the owner, a friend of mine, sitting on a walker, surrounded by Christmas decorations.

As we caught up with each other's news since we last met, I was shocked to hear that since mid May, she had been seriously ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which caused paralysis of her lower body, and from which she is still recovering, slowly, almost six months later.

My friend has always been a busy person, running stores in two communities and so I wondered how she'd coped with being totally incapacitated, her whole life put on hold so suddenly. There were no glib answers. She described how utterly silent God had been and how she'd cried out to him, asking where he was. Something a friend said to her helped. He'd said, “When you were in school, having a test, the teacher was there, but she was silent, wasn't she?”

In a passage I read this morning from Donald Miller's "Blue Like Jazz," he described his journey as a new Christian. He'd intellectually come to a point of belief, then went through a phase of euphoria where he experienced God intensely, and the Bible as a vibrantly alive book. He writes of wanting spiritual feelings to endure and remain romantic like a couple newly in love. He struggled when this didn't happen.

There are times for all of us when we wonder where God is and it's then that we learn what faith really means. We can only lean on who we know God to be and choose to trust in the darkness. As with Donald Miller's analogy of a romantic relationship, we grow beyond "feelings," and choose to love and to believe.

My friend said that when she prays for those who are sick or going through tough times now, her prayers have changed. She knows what it is to be in the valley. And God has given her the gift of credibility, a credibility that those who haven't walked a thorny road can never have in quite the same way.

Zephaniah 3:17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

Friday, November 03, 2006

To This You Were Called

1 Peter 2:21-23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, that you should follow in his steps. 22"He committed no sin, leaving you an example, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

I wrote in my post of November 1st, "One thing I know about the Bible is that it tells the truth. The heroes are all flawed; their mistakes are there for all to see."

This morning I read the text from 1 Peter, and the words, "To this you were called," resonated as I thought of my own flaws.

I think I have figured out why some people look up to me. I think it must be because I'm quiet. There's a verse in Proverbs that always makes me laugh, "Even fools are thought to be wise when they keep silent; when they keep their mouths shut they seem intelligent." Prov. 17:28 NLT. It's true--the moment I open my mouth I prove the point--if I am a hero at all I am a flawed one. I'm not as good a listener as I wish and am prone to reacting to a part of what someone is saying to me, then not even hearing the rest. I could go on; there is quite a list.

I often think of a quote I heard at a Peacemakers seminar: "Never be surprised at the sin in yourself, or the sin in other people." It's very freeing and very true.

I thank God for scriptures that tell me that in Christ I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and promise that he will complete the good work he's begun in me (Phil.1:6) ! There is hope-- and more than hope--an assurance, that no matter how many times we fall flat on our faces, we are only down and not out.

"To this you were called...that you should follow in his steps."

I have a long way to go before my feet mirror my hero's foot prints, but I know what I am called to and I'm pressing on...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Titanic or Treasure

By: Ezra Connection

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NRSV)

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The recent blog with the metaphor of seeing God steer the Titanic, reminded me of another man who almost wished he could, and of someone else who showed me a glimpse of true treasure, instead.

“Tite,” though brilliant, thought of himself and his own glory. Years ago, we served briefly on the same English language committee after the Titanic had just been raised from its watery bed. Earlier, he had had the grand vision that he alone could raise it, and the glory would be his. He “spent his all,” as the Prodigal Son had once done, and went far into debt as well, to buy an ancient hulk of a ship to act as the base of operations.

Suddenly, a different team raced to find the Titanic and raised it, and “Tite” was left with a lost dream, with a ship no one wanted, and, probably, with lifelong bankruptcy.

In contrast, a year ago, when a prominent man died locally and his estate was suddenly sold, the faithful older groundskeeper of a quarter century moved with his wife, to our farm. Our humble “cottage,” more usually known as a classroom portable, barely met their needs in transition. Despite their reduced status, “Barnabas” often waved a cheery greeting, as he voluntarily rode his big riding mower around our huge farm lawn. Or, sometimes, after shopping, they came in with a small bunch of roses for our daughter, saying they seemed “just meant for her.”

Yesterday, as this couple prepared to move to their chosen seniors’ housing, and we passed on our grateful thanks for the blessing they had been, Barnabas graciously bowed, and left a gentle kiss on my cheek. His words touched me deeply: “I have wanted to tell you that you are loved very much, far more than you can ever imagine.” A tear almost escaped—because I, with my restrained British roots, so seldom pass on my deep appreciation—whereas he at that moment enfolded me in God’s love.

“More than you could ask or imagine,” came to mind, so recently repeated at church from Paul’s prayer. If they, as neighbours, could so bless me, how much more could my own dear heavenly Father bless me, and others through me, if I gave my all to find that Pearl of great price—and, instead of claiming a sunk Titanic, experienced the vast ocean of His love!

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NRSV)
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In God We Trust

Mark 8:34-35 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The vehicle in front of me on the road this morning caught my eye. It was a silver van with a ladder tied onto its roof and it was towing a trailer shaped like a box on wheels, filled with tools. Handles poked up at odd angles above the edge of the rusty, dark olive green trailer. What drew my attention though was a small, oblong, silver plate attached to the lower right hand corner. The gold lettering on the plate said, "In God We Trust."

I'd been thinking as I drove about the how a lot of what I'd read that morning at home, was pointing to the fact that God wants us to trust him, and almost sets us up in situations where we have to. So seeing that plate, there in front of me, made me feel as if God was saying, "Yes, you were hearing me right this morning."

I'd read some of Leviticus, the book I'm in at the moment. God seemed to be talking about Sabbath over and over and I wondered why it was so important to God that we rest, that the land even rest. I couldn't get away from the fact that Sabbath seemed awfully important to God. I thought that maybe he was saying, "You will get more done in six days than you will in seven if you trust me and the land will produce all you need if you let it rest every seventh year." He was saying, I think, that work beyond the boundaries he sets can actually be counterproductive because we are relying on ourselves, not him.

Then I turned to Mark 8 and I read about Jesus miraculously feeding the four thousand people with seven loaves and a few small fish and having leftovers--seven baskets full. Just after that the disciples and Jesus were in the boat and the disciples realized they'd forgotten to bring any food. All they had was one loaf of bread. Jesus asked if they had forgotten so quickly what had happened when the huge crowd was fed with so little. There seemed to be a connection with what I'd read in Leviticus.

Maybe "resting" means taking a rest from trying to meet all of our needs in our own strength and giving them to God.

One thing I know about the Bible is that it tells the truth. The heroes are all flawed; their mistakes are there for all to see. But nowhere is it recorded that anyone ever trusted God and he failed them.

"In God We Trust;" I think I have something to learn about doing that more fully. God asks us to do things that make no sense from our point of view, and to do so is to step from the realm of the natural into the realm of the miraculous. I'm up for that!