Wednesday, February 28, 2007
27 The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit,
exposing every hidden motive.
Yesterday I wrote about the sometimes merciless scrutiny of teenagers, but I've been thinking about a different kind of scrutiny today--the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. This evening's verses in the Daily Light on the Daily Path fit in with this so well (there is a link to the Daily Light online on Whateverhesays, where the verses can be read in full).
Far from merciless, the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit is gentle--but relentless. He probes the heart and opens our eyes--prodding, and convicting. How different from the condemnation that flows from human beings at times. Our judgement of one another--and ourselves is so harsh. God shows us his standard and the gulf that lies between us and it--but doesn't leave us there. He offers to shape the heart that is offered up to him, into a heart that loves the things that he loves.
He's working in a certain area of my life right now, digging up the soil of my heart in an area that he's been prodding me about for some time. The discipline that he's calling me to would have chafed and felt like a joyless obedience if I was doing this, but with his Spirit changing me and shaping me--I feel only joy at another kingdom of my heart falling under his Kingship.
Psalm 139:23-24 (New Living Translation)
test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.
I remember that awkward, painful, anguished time--adolescence. As flawed and fallible as my father was, I am sorry for the beating he took from me during those "growing up" years.
During my childhood he was the one who held a magic stick that would drag him to points on the living room floor like a branch in the hand of a water diviner. Sure enough, under the carpet, where the stick pointed, Robert my younger brother, and I, would find pennies mysteriously hidden. He also kept us spell-bound by producing pennies from behind his ear and we never tired of the way he could make his ears move, seemingly at will.
He would sit patiently while I combed his dark blonde hair--fine as spun silk--arranging it over his high forehead. He gave me the gift of wonder and made me believe that the light catching a piece of glass at the bottom of the garden really was a fairy.
But during my teens I railed against him--seeing only all of his failures with the harshness and idealism of youth.
He had the soul of an artist--a sensitive, poet's soul. He could paint and draw well, and write. I was so disappointed that he never used these gifts, but worked in what I scornfully saw then as menial jobs.
I outgrew my scorn, judgment and lack of personal humility later and developed a more balanced view, but I'm thinking this morning about the scrutiny of teenagers. In four years, the eldest two of our six grandchildren will arrive on the shores of that land of passage. I wonder--how will I stand up to their sudden clarity of vision? Now I am their beloved Omie--then, I hope that I can still make them proud.
I hope they see my faith as true and my life as having integrity. I hope they see that I am okay with being less than perfect, but that with all my heart I'm open to God's hand--allowing him to change and shape me into a better person. I hope that they won't look at the gifts God gave me and wonder why I didn't use them. These things really, really matter to me.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Of course those differences can sometimes--well--prickle. The qualities that drew us, caught our admiration and fascinated us with their "otherness," can, in the right set of circumstances, drive us absolutely crazy. Happiness lies in remembering that we were meant to be different--to complement one another.
I started thinking about all of this as I remembered a conversation that took place on one of our trips back to England to visit family and friends.
Paul and I have two dear friends in England who are like family to us. He is a gregarious Yorkshire man with auburn hair, perceptive brown eyes and a lean, lanky body. His mind is quick and physically he is full of pent up, restless energy. She is soft, plump, fair of skin, with pale blue eyes and a halo of curly light blonde hair that defies taming. Although once you know her, you know she has a tender heart and ready laugh--at first impression she might seem brisk, forthright and very serious.
Paul was telling them what he had bought to bring back to Canada for our God-children; Jacob, Summer and Eden. Paul and I have different ideas of what to buy for gifts--I tend towards gifts that inspire thinking--sensible, lasting gifts. Paul is the totally impractical "spoiler." Deep down I think that kids like his gifts best!
On this occasion he said he had bought something practical but, he added, "I'll get them a bit of sparkle and nonsense too."
My friend said breezily in her clipped, British accent that sounds more like the Queen than the Queen, "Well! Don't we all need a bit of sparkle and nonsense?"
"My dear," said her husband, "In all the years I've known you, I've never thought of you as someone with "sparkle and nonsense." Sparkle maybe--but no nonsense!"
I think that God was laughing at that moment. I wonder if he takes time off from all of the cares of the world sometimes and just laughs at us all--in a good way-- as we figure out how to make it work--how to get along and love each other--all of us so different.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
14 "I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?
I love stories and the Bible is a book full of stories that are full of drama, mystery, intrigue, tragedy and triumph.The best thing is that every time a familiar story is read, there is another insight to be discovered--another perspective to be seen, like a Russian doll inside which is hidden another doll--and another inside that. Sometimes a dialogue lights up with meaning beyond the surface and sometimes I wonder about what isn't said.
There is a dramatic account written down by an eye witness named John of events that took place in the village of Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem.
Death had touched a family dear to Jesus and he arrived on the scene with his friends, to find the two sisters Mary and Martha, in mourning for their brother Lazarus who had died four days before. The house was filled with loudly wailing mourners who had come to comfort them with their presence.
"Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" said someone. The question held disappointment, accusation and doubt.
"Could not he?" Yes--yes he could! But sometimes God writes a different script to the one we would write.
"Take away the stone."
"But Lord....." said the ever practical Martha--he was already calling though--calling to a dead man, "Lazarus--come out."
And he did. Lazarus did come out, "his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth on his face," the Bible says.
"Take off the grave clothes and let him go," that's what Jesus said next!
"Could not he?" Yes he could! He wants to roll away the stone in our lives--whatever is the barrier to Life. He wants to remove the grave clothes--the things that still cling to us with the odour of death.
I would have loved to see the reaction of the crowd that witnessed this miracle, but John only writes that many of them "put their faith in him." Word also got to the high priests and Pharisees--they called a meeting. John writes, "So from that day on they plotted to take his life."
How ironic that the giving of life should have that result, but of course the power of Death had been challenged and defeated. On one level the Jewish leaders were acting out of political expediency but on a deeper level they were playing out the age old battle between the forces of the Evil One, and God, the Creator and Lord of the universe.
As I look at our world, I want to pray for the day to come quickly when that battle of which this account is symbolic, is won on the earth--when there will be no more death--no more mourning--only songs of celebration and victory.
(See John 11 for the full story)
Saturday, February 24, 2007
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
Friday, February 23, 2007
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."
"Flying blind"--it's a phrase used to describe flying without seeing outside an aircraft. Am I the only one that finds that thought scary?
I once was in downtown Toronto, about to take the plunge and cross a busy intersection. Yes, I admit it--I'm one of those boring people who'll go out of my way to find lights to cross at if I can. I guess I'm not the greatest risk taker!
Something caught my eye in my peripheral vision and I turned to look. It was a couple, studiously listening to the sound of the traffic and they both carried canes. I froze. I didn't know what to do. They weren't asking for help--I didn't know the protocol--should I ask if they wanted help? But they didn't seem to be looking for it--I just remember feeling scared as they crossed the road, surrounded by the chaotic rush hour traffic.
Recently I had an experience of flying blind through a tough situation. Usually I have some sort of plan of approach, but this was uncharted territory and I had no resources of my own to draw upon--nothing but a lot of prayer. While I would not have chosen this experience, I am glad I had it. I learned that straining with the ears of the spirit to hear God's voice, is pretty exciting--because he speaks! Funny that he should have to render me totally helpless before I do that. Step by step he led--this God whose name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. I may not be a risk taker when crossing a road, but I've learned that putting my hand into the hand of God is no risk at all.
Psalm 25:12 (New International Version)
12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
12 The LORD will indeed give what is good,
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
In the 1870s, according to children’s refined breeding, my British Grannie could only talk to her parents when invited to speak to them.
Ancient thoughts of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount seem, therefore, all the more remarkable. Regardless of social patterns, Jesus admits that when hungry children ask for bread (the staple of life, even for the poor)—or a fish—they are heard.
Jesus shows how human parents will meet the pangs of hunger rather than offer harm.
However, the rules of “being proper spiritually” often bind adults even more, yet it’s important to admit our inner hunger. Since Moses taught that we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3), notice how Jesus uses the verbs ask and give.
We are not only allowed to ask, but Jesus commands us to ask—so let’s nourish our relationship by asking, and watch Him give!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Our God is a God who is not far away. Whatever experience we have or whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, God is always there. If we look for him, (on his terms, of course - in earnest, with some effort expended) he promises that he will make sure we find him -- not looking down on us from afar somewhere, but right there, right in the midst of the experience - right with us. What a glorious promise. No matter how difficult the road we walk, how painful the wounds, how dark the tunnel, how hopeless the situation, how far we have fallen, how broken the relationship, God is there. If we've given our hearts to him, turned our lives over to him - he's always there.
"And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28: 20b NLT
Monday, February 19, 2007
A large pair of hands reaches down and enfolds the creature, gently but firmly. A familiar voice speaks calming words. All is well- she is safe in the hands of her master. Her heartbeat slows and her eye and head movements are no longer frantic...
As I face a day with multiple demands and deadlines, anxiety rises in my chest as I try to be still before the Lord. In spite of the quiet of these moments, my heart and mind take flight, captured by images of waiting tasks. Then I remember the verses from a devotion I read earlier this week, “Be silent all flesh before the Lord… ” Zechariah 2:13a KJV, and my anxiety is calmed. My Master holds me in his hands...all is well, my ruffled feathers are smoothed, my heart quieted.
My eyes are drawn to a picture hanging on my wall. A simple, rich brown, wooden frame surrounds an image of two hands. One is outreached in invitation, while the other beckons....
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
Sunday, February 18, 2007
By 8.45 or so the pancakes are made, and a big pot of coffee for the adults--and soon the front door bursts open, wafting in a gust of the crisp, cold outside air and bringing in with it Stephen, Joshua and Katherine, while Emily follows in her daddy Peter's arms, looking slightly dazed and unsure at being out and about so early in the morning.
Upstairs come running Tiffany-Amber and Victoria to join their cousins, and Brenda too. Soon Paul comes down from our bedroom and we are ready for the most happily chaotic breakfast ever with English pancakes sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice, then rolled up like jelly rolls, and smaller "regular" pancakes too, with variations on the theme of sugar, syrup and lemon juice!
After breakfast there is a Cinderella 3 movie to watch with the girls. Stephen picks up a game and asks, "Omie, can we have a game of Sorry?"
"Not right now darling," I say, and I see a flicker of disappointment cross his face, so I quickly add, "But in a little while I'd love to!"
Later in the morning Stephen brings the Sorry game into the kitchen and we begin our game. There is nothing like a game with a five year old, to teach you that rules are not rules at all--just tools to accomplish a purpose. Stephen's Rules give me a glimpse into the heart of a little boy who is tender hearted and very loving. As we play the game, his whole purpose is not to win, but to ensure we end up at the end of the game "home" at the same time--or even to make sure I get there first. We long ago gave up ever actually using the "Sorry" card when we draw it. By mutual agreement it is glanced at and put aside--on to the next move!
Stephen draws a card, looks at it, then says with resolve in his voice,"I'm not going to use it." He does it again at his next move--giving me time to get around the board. I say to him that he has such a kind heart.
"Like God," he says.
"Wow," I think.
Joshua, three, joins us. His rules are even more flexible than Stephen's if that were possible.
"One, two--I won!" he declares, then says, "Your turn."
Saturday, February 17, 2007
It was November 11th. The weather was unseasonably warm and my husband and I had ridden our bicycles the ten kilometres or so into town for a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast. We hadn’t forgotten it was Remembrance Day, but were still surprised when a waitress ran through the bustling restaurant calling out, “It’s 11 o’clock! We’ll have a moment of silence, please.” And then she stood there in the middle of the room, coffee pot in hand, while we put down our forks, ceased our conversation, and collectively considered the great sacrifice that was made on our behalf and the freedom we were enjoying that very day. It was a stirring moment, shared with a restaurant full of strangers – soon over, and then back to business as usual. We thanked the waitress later for leading us in that simple act of remembrance and respect.
This morning, as I was readying myself to approach God in prayer, I thought about that moment of silence last November. And I thought about the agenda I had for my quiet time with God that morning. If my plans panned out, I would have had every single moment filled – with good things, mind you – like reading the Bible and praying for the needs of people I care about, but every moment would be filled. And I wondered what God thought about that.
I wondered what would happen if I gave him just one moment of silence before jumping into my list of things to do and say this morning. A moment of remembrance and respect. A moment of considering who I am in relation to him and what he has done for me. I wondered what would happen if I gave God a space in “my” agenda… A sacrifice of silence. Would he like that?
He certainly seemed to.
He filled that gift of space I offered with an awesome awareness of himself. An awareness that I would not likely have tuned into otherwise. An awareness that he was genuinely glad to have me there with him this morning. An awareness of how able he is and how much I need him to carry my life in his hands and how intently interested he is in doing just that. My minute turned into two or three or maybe five and slowly, subtly an unexpected change took place.
I found myself laying down my own agenda and picking up his.
“…There was silence; and I heard a voice.” Job 4:16b KJV
Friday, February 16, 2007
3Then Mary took about a pint 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.
John 11:2 (New International Version)
2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair
The perfume of paradise lost
fills the house
perfuming the hair
who shows us how to worship
Mary of Bethany
Ephesians 5:2 (New International Version)
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.
"Though nard is now rare on the shelves of the western perfumer, its name stood for centuries as an evocation of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden,"
"Nard has intense, warm, fragrant, musky notes,"
"In Ancient times, almost every royal court guarded amongst its treasures jars of Frankincense, Cinnamon, and precious oil of Nard and Myrrh. Some aromatic resins were even treated as precious stones."
Song of Solomon 1:3 (New International Version)
3 Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.
This week I read an article on Christian Conflict Resolution. In fact I read it more than once as I had a specific need to be reminded of the principles.
One of the things that struck me was the advice to "act in the opposite spirit." The writer of the article said that if a person was stingy, to be generous to them. He said if someone was full of hate and anger--to show them love, and so on. In other words, the article was saying, we should be generous to others, and even more so to those who least deserve it.
Then I happened to read Deuteronomy 15 and found it full of commands to be generous to others. It's all about freeing servants and canceling debts. God's ways are not about giving people what they deserve. I love that it doesn't just talk about generous actions, but generous hearts. Verse 9 says,"Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing." That shows me that God is very aware of our potential--even likelihood of calculated caring.
Our natural bent is not to be open-handed and open-hearted to people who may take advantage of that. But what an opportunity we have every day, to demonstrate God's grace and kindness. What an opportunity to preach a powerful sermon without words.
As a writer I am learning the art of "showing" instead of "telling." I think there's something in that for us as Christ followers too.
Matthew 5:38-42 (New International Version)
An Eye for an Eye
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Deuteronomy 15:10-11 (New International Version)
10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
11"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are, and were created."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
We can feel quite hopeless about the possibility of change when it comes to our areas of weakness. Often we accept the status quo. We may feel restless, a longing for something more. We may complain about our struggles--but we don’t really expect change. All too easily we accept these limitations as part of our identity and settle for what is, rather than daring to reach for what could be.
These “quitting points” come in many shapes and sizes. We may have allowed them to define us as having an addiction of some sort – overeating, spending or sex - or we might feel shy, or inferior to others. In reality though, walls that hold us back in life are only artificial--a construct of our own thoughts or beliefs. They might feel like they are impenetrable, made of solid brick, but we find they’re made out of tissue paper if only we have the courage to crash through them.
Of course there’s more to overcoming a barrier than simply crashing though it--we need to discover what’s going on below the surface. It’s important to get at the foundations of the wall. We don’t do anything without a reason and focusing on the surface problem doesn’t help much.
We came into this world full of possibility and potential, each of us a storehouse full of seeds just waiting to sprout into life and burst into fruitfulness. Just as seeds beneath the soil have to sprout and find their way to the surface, the seeds of potential within us for healthy, productive and purposeful lives, often have to fight their way through layers of wrong thinking before they find their way into the light. The exciting news is that we don’t have to be stuck where we are. We can grow; we can change; those walls really are only tissue paper!
Monday, February 12, 2007
This morning I stood in a Provincial Court of Justice. A very intimidating and scary place for the uninitiated and inexperienced. Enemies were all around me. Powerful enemies. And they weren't the people that were bringing the charge against me. Not the judge, not the police officer, not the crown counsel. My enemies were all within. The captain was "fear" and his army was called "the fear of man".
"State your name."
The judge looked at me from his lofty and imposing perch at the front of the courtroom. "Susan Stewart," I said, wondering as I spoke if my knees were going to hold me through these proceedings. I was standing there to speak to the charge of "speeding under the highway traffic act".
In the preceding weeks, most of the people with whom I had shared my plans to contest this ticket would immediately ask, "If you got caught speeding, why wouldn't you just pay the fine?" Indeed. Why wouldn't I just pay the fine?
Well, God had other plans. That's all I can say.
God wanted to show me today that I don't have to prepare a defence. That I don't have to fear any one or any thing. That all I need is to know that I am "safe beneath the shelter of his wings!" (Psalm 61:4 NLT), no matter how the circumstances may appear. I stood there before the court and answered the charge with a quiet confidence. Some of the words that came out of my mouth amazed even me. I knew God was giving them to me as I needed them. And I knew I was being delivered from intimidation and the fear of man.
Intimidation is something I have been prey to all of my life. In the weeks leading up to my appearance in court today, God had shown me this weakness in my character (okay, call it "sin" ) ; through books I was reading, through circumstances in my life, through painful interchanges with friends and acquaintances. But God never shows us our bondages without also being ready to set us free. The only stipulation is that we have to do it His way. We have to have come to the end of ourselves, the end of our own resources and be willing to cry out to him throwing our whole selves on Him, holding nothing back. He doesn't settle for half a heart, or half a commitment. He wants it all. He wants us all.
It feels like a scary thing to throw away all your reliance on yourself and your own devices. But it shouldn't be. God is waiting longingly for us to get to the place where we will finally do that. And when we do, he is altogether trustworthy, altogether ready to catch us before we fall.
It doesn't matter whether I won or lost in that courtroom today. What matters is that God proved himself faithful. He proved himself able to answer my cry. He proved that I can trust these final words from Psalm 61:
"I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation and my honor comes from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me."
Today I believed those words. And today I saw a life-long fear vaporize. I saw the fear of man lose its grip on me. And I saw an absolute confidence in God and his loving grace toward me take it's place. I had cried out to God to deliver me. And he did. He surely did.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to start the week with a smile by sharing a few things I have heard, mostly said at meetings and closing with a quote from the book of Luke that makes me laugh every time I read it--God has the best humour.
"We are all "under the gun"--in a very positive way, as far as guns go."
“Is everybody in the right place? My father once went to Miami when he meant to go to New York. He thought the flight was rather long.” (I appreciated this since I once joined the wrong meeting, which quickly became apparent when introductions were made and everyone was from a different field of work to me)
“I assume we’re not here to maintain status quo.” (I think that just struck me as so exciting!)
Someone walked into her first meeting after having had a cataract operation. When asked her how she was she said, “I’ve got new eyes, it’s dazzlingly beautiful. I didn’t know what I wasn’t seeing!”
"Don't worry about the past--worry about the future." (Very encouraging)
A quote from Peter, our son, on the art of communication (Susan has trained him well): "If you're going down the conversation highway and you see that the destination isn't one you want, take an off-ramp."
Finally, this is Jesus speaking, after rising on the third day after being crucified and meeting two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who did not recognize him.
Luke 24:17-18 The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
17-18 He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"
They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"
Saturday, February 10, 2007
12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
There was something disconcerting about the panel on the t.v.. They all wore perpetual broad smiles through the entire hour of the show, during which they were talking about something called, "The Secret." There was something about them that made me feel creepy, although I realize it sounds mean spirited to fault someone for smiling.
The basic premise of The Secret is that we are all energy--and positive energy attracts positive energy. We attract to ourselves the things we pay attention to.
It was interesting to observe the faces of the two women in the audience who had life problems they wanted to solve and to whom the panel preached their mantra. Even though they were on national television and the pressure must have been huge to conform and agree with the panel, I saw the merest flickers of incredulity and bewilderment cross their faces and register in their eyes, even as they were nodding their heads and agreeing that yes, they understood, their problems could be solved by focusing their thoughts and their attention on their desires.
The apostle Paul warns in Galatians 1:8, that anyone who preaches any other gospel, or "good news," than the gospel he had preached, would be "eternally condemned." The gospel these people were preaching is "another gospel." According to The Secret, we are all "wonderful." There is no need of a Saviour.
As in any deception, there are grains of truth--principles that are in God's Word for the reader to discover. We are the objects of God's love and he joys over us with singing, according to Zephaniah 3: 17. But there was something out of kilter. Their good news was based on the goal of getting what you want in life--and who wouldn't want that? There was no mention of God--only of "the universe." According to The Secret, it is the universe that sends good things to those who focus on them. But who made the universe, and who set these laws in place?
This morning Brenda and I sat in our sun filled room and drank coffee as she caught me up on her week. She told me about a phone conversation she'd overheard one day, where a woman was talking to a man who was depressed and considering suicide. All the woman had to offer him was "worldly wisdom," and Brenda said she felt like taking the phone from the woman and telling the man about the hope that is in Jesus. She said that as she listened to the woman, she could see with the eyes of her spirit, a black, tar-like substance oozing from the woman's mouth as she spoke.
Many people will no doubt rush to buy the DVD and book after seeing the show, believing that they have found "the answer,"--that their businesses can succeed, their debt be eliminated, their addictions beaten and their relationships all positive. I think of the one who said to Jesus two thousand years ago, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." (Luke 4:6-7) Jesus answered (vs8) "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
Jeremiah 2:13 (New International Version)
13 "My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Friday, February 09, 2007
(Faith Girl’s Post of Tuesday, Tears from a Child, prompted me to share this)
The span of years between us wasn’t great—a mere ten years--but 14 seemed a lifetime away from 24, which is how old I was when I found myself teaching a class of 11 to 14 year old girls.
I can’t remember how I came to be their teacher. Probably a teacher was needed and I volunteered, willing to be used, even though teaching was way out of my comfort zone and not my area of gifting at all. God made up for my lack of teaching ability by giving me a love for those girls though. If I close my eyes I can see their faces now. It felt like a great privilege to have an opportunity to make a difference at an age that was so vulnerable—a time of transition from girlhood to womanhood.
Over the years that followed, one girl stayed in touch faithfully . She hadn’t fit the mould of the typical, pretty teenaged girl. Tall, large boned and awkward and a little rough around the edges—a bit of a misfit—the kind of kid I've always had a special place in my heart for.
I followed her life journey with interest--a job--then a boyfriend, who sounded like a nice guy. She got married, had kids, and started a successful business.
Then one day, out of the blue, she told me something that broke my heart. The girl who sat in my Sunday School class with other girls discussing things like peer pressure, how to honour your parents when they're driving you crazy, and how to share God with your friends, was experiencing a nightmare at home. A friend of her father’s was abusing her. She described seeing his car pull into their long driveway, the crunch of the gravel as it wove its way towards the house--her feeling of being trapped with nowhere to go--and the depression and suicidal thoughts that set in. She said that often she would sit in her bedroom, thinking of ways to kill herself--a kid--by poking something metal into an electrical outlet, but something would stop her--a fragile, tenuous thread held her back. It was the thought, " They love me at Sunday School. If I did this, they would be so upset.They would miss me."
I cried when she told me and my heart felt so heavy—it was devastating to think of how oblivious I was to the pain she was in.
She said she didn’t mean to make me feel bad, she just felt she had to tell me.
I didn't hear much from her after that and we've lost touch in recent years. It was as if telling me was part of letting it go.
I learned that we never know from outward appearances, the pain in someone's life and that God can use us to make a difference even in our inadequacy. Sometimes knowing just one person cares is enough to hold back the darkness.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
Of answers yet to be discovered
We worship you
Thank you that our most perplexing situations
Are already resolved in your great mind
You must wait, and wonder,
"When will they turn to me?"
Forgive us for our independence,
our pride and our arrogance
Teach us how to be in each moment of our lives
Ears attuned to your whisper
Opening our spirits, hearts and minds
At the start of each new day--to yours
What possibilities await us
If we engage with you intentionally,
The wonder is that you want us to do so
But you do--you do!
Feb 8 Daily Light on the Daily Path
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.”
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”—“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”—These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.—Hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts! We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, the holiness of your temple!—The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.—“For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
“You are my friends if you do what I command you.”
John 15:15; Gen. 18:17; Matt. 13:11; 1 Cor. 2:10; 1 Cor. 2:7; Ps. 65:4; Ps. 25:14; John 17:8; John 15:14
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
My mind swirled with birth images as I read the verses from the book of Titus this morning. That's the thing about reading God's Word--it is alive--and no two readings yield the same thoughts and insights.
So this morning as I read about rebirth, I saw a baby in my minds eye. For nine months she has lived in a comfortable dark world of muffled sound and perfect, warm temperature. There she has grown--the sound of her mother's heartbeat and voice her constant companions.
Then one day the sojourn in the womb is over, and without notice she is violently thrust from a world with no future, into another world. There is no drama to compare with that of birth--those incredibly emotional hours and minutes when mankind is most closely linked with God the creator, partnering with him to bring a new life into the world. The baby is received by waiting hands that gently wash off the the remnants of the world she has come from--and then the journey begins.
So at rebirth the Holy Spirit washes us of the remnants of the world we come from--renewing and refocusing our mind--and then begins a lifetime of lessons.
Listening, reading , adjusting --hanging out with other "family members"--we need these things--without them there's the danger of returning to a world with no future--an insulated, "safe," warm, comfortable cocoon that leads nowhere. In the Kingdom, status quo is not an option--we grow or die.
God wants to renew us--to wean us off the pablum of self--to build grace and muscle, wisdom and strength into us. To grow us up.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (New International Version)
12 And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
But I wasn't happy, I wasn't where I wanted to be. I desperately wanted to teach the older group (grades 6 & 7), but that place was filled, and I couldn't find anyone who was willing to devote the time and energy to the kindergartners, so I was stuck. And God told me to stay and wait. Sometimes I really hate when He tells me to wait. But I did.
Two weeks ago, the leader of the older group had to quit for medical reasons and the only replacement we could find didn't want that class. She wanted to teach the Kindergartners. My wait was over, and with a nervous stomach I prepared for what I know God has called me to do. Lead the older kids.
My first week, I met the kids (all girls) and we got to know each other. By my second week, I was totally on fire. We got to talking about our Bible Lesson which was about how much God loves them and how special they are.
I closed my Bible and looked at them intently, "So what?". They looked blankly back at me. "So what?' I challenged them, "So why should this matter to you? How does this change your life?". Tentatively, hands rose into the air. "We are special, so we don't need to feel bad?" one girl towards the back offered.
"You are special." I confirmed, " SO special to the God who created the earth and heavens. YOU matter. YOU are valuable. No matter how alone you ever feel, you are never alone. God is always there for you." I continued along these same lines, desperately wanting to convey to these precious little girls how much they matter to God. As I finished, I looked around. Every eye was glued to me. Every girl was soaking in these words. As I looked around at them, one girl caught my eye. She was the only one not focused on me. Her eyes were on the table in front of her, her hands wiping away the tears that my words had brought to her eyes. Tears form the heart of a hurting child. She looked up and I caught her eye and we smiled at each other. That was it. She must have needed to hear that she was loved and special so very much...and now she knows.
I came home full of excitement over the feeling of God with us in our class that night. I spoke to my sister-in-law who used to teach that class. "I just never felt like I connected with them," she confessed. "I always wondered what they got out of the lesson.".
Confirmation. I am where God will use me best. I was used to touch lives. The feeling is indescribable, and totally addictive. I can't wait for Friday nights now. I am humbled and honored to be used as a tool of God. My prayer for everyone who reads this is that you will pray and seek your place in God's plan. That you will find it, and feel what I feel. God may ask you to wait, but it won't be forever.
Monday, February 05, 2007
47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day
Even Jesus did not judge those who heard his words but did not keep them. He said that he came to save, not condemn the world. However, to hear and reject will result in being judged on the last day--by those words not accepted--and condemned. I've always found these verses sobering.
A snippet from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald J. Chambers (July 28th)
"If we realize that obedience is "the end" (not training or preparation for some future "end"), then each moment as it comes is precious."
This is how I want to think of each day--as a series of moments in which choices can be made. In my heart I want to be a hearer and "keeper" of Jesus' words. The only way to do it is moment by moment, praying for his ways to become my ways.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
I caught myself at it this morning--looking down the prominent feature on my face, just below my eyes and above my lips. It's an unpleasant tendency that overtakes me periodically when I am dismayed at something that is inexplicable or reprehensible in someone else's behaviour. This time it was triggered by some research into some sad situations in the past. I found myself judging someone harshly when I really have no right.
I found myself asking God for forgiveness for all the times I've looked down my nose at someone--because he never does. I thought of Saul--who stood by as a man was stoned to death, Peter who ducked out when a friend needed him and Nicodemus, the synagogue leader who lacked the courage to visit Jesus except under cover of darkness. If they were my contemporaries I might be scornful in my judgment, yet all of them did what was right in the end.
It's hard to let people know the truth about how wrong I am sometimes in this regard, and just plain sinful. And it isn't even as if I have no other faults of my own. It's tempting to soften the truth, water it down and make it more acceptable, but there's no way to do that and still make the point with a punch. The point is that instead of saying, "How could they..?" I need to remember that under the same circumstances--I might have. That isn't to say there is no right and wrong--no absolutes--just that I am not called upon to be judge and jury. There are more important things to do such as praying for the person in question.
I will always be in need of God's mercy and forgiveness. I hope I remember that the next time temptation towards judgment strikes.
Micah 6:8 (New International Version)
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.
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
It was an ordinary Thursday when they got into their vehicles and set out. Ontarians are used to driving in winter, but the sudden snowstorm seemed to come out of nowhere and they found themselves on a major highway in snow that fell so thick and fast that the cars slowed to a crawl, barely able to see the vehicle in front of them. It was close to midday but time seemed strangely suspended. Back muscles tensed, white knuckled hands gripped steering wheels, radios were turned off so that drivers could concentrate better. Some lips whispered prayers and the name of Jesus was breathed.
Suddenly there was the sickening repeated thud and crash of metal on metal and adrenaline rushed through veins in panic, helplessness and vulnerability. Caught in the ripple effect of collisions as if part of some awful domino game, metal caved like pop cans being crunched. Flames leapt into the air--and from inside a truck cab, came frantic screams for help.
This morning it was reported that two people died in the terrible crash on highway 401, and not five as was originally thought. It could have been so much worse and it seems a miracle that it wasn't. Those who survived have a second chance at life.
Life is so fragile and yet we go through it as though we are invincible. We prepare for every possibility in life except this--that it could end--we somehow hide our own mortality from our minds.
I guess the upward look from this tragedy is that we have a chance to adjust our perspective. We can recognize that none of us is irreplacable at work, but we are to our family and friends. We can express our feelings to those we love--every day. If we mean to make our peace with God some day, we can do it now--we have this moment.
Matthew 6:33 (New Living Translation)
33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
I read a daily devotional book by Amy Carmichael and in today's reading she mentioned that Psalm 1 is the perfect psalm for the first day of the month because of the fact that it speaks of God knowing and watching over the way of the righteous.
Being a bit of a word detective, I hauled out my big Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and looked up the root words translated "way" and "righteous," in the Hebrew language.
Amy said that "way" in her Young's concordance meant "trodden path"-- that it is untrodden for us--but a Leader always goes before and so the path has already been trodden.
In Strong's I found that the root of "way" was "course of life," or "mode of action," "journey through--toward." I thought that was cool in the context of Psalm 1:6.
The Hebrew word translated "righteous," means "just," "lawful" "to be right (in a moral or forensic sense). It means "cleanse" "clear self." It made me realize that we cannot fit that description without claiming Christ's righteousness as our own and acknowledging that we are far from righteous in ourselves.
Finally I looked up the word "delight" as in "his delight is in the law of the Lord," (verse 2).
The word contains the meaning, "pleasure--hence desire," "purpose, willingly."
So, for those who take pleasure in and desire his ways, and are made clean--justified through Christ, he treads the path ahead of us, watching over our journey always!
Psalm 1:1-3 (New International Version)
1 Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.