Saturday, March 31, 2007

Strength for the Journey

Matthew 11:28 (New International Version)
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Her bright eyes looked at me, sparkling with excitement as she spoke. She'd been praying for a specific need. The need had existed for quite some time--it had always been hard to fill it and even young and energetic as she was, she'd been getting worn down by the care of it.

So when we met, I couldn't wait to hear her news. She'd only told me over the phone that God had given her a "word" and that she'd stood on it--and the floodgates had opened, bringing answers to her prayer.

The word had been Matthew 11:28--the beginning a perfect description of how she was feeling.
"Then," she said, "I saw a vision of Christ on the cross, and he said, "I did this, so that you could give me all things.""

"And so," she said, "I did--and a week later--here you go!"

When the fringes of a miracle brush my life, I can only bow my head in worship. When we are weary he carries us; when we give him all of our burdens--he carries them too--and when we call--he answers; never early...but always on time.

Ephesians 3:16-19 (New International Version)
16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Scarlet Cord

Joshua 2:14 (New International Version)
14 "Our lives for your lives!" the men assured her. "If you don't tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land."

It was very perplexing. The carpet was well used, admittedly--but each week I sprayed that amazing enzyme eater stuff that we bought at the home show on it--and it looked clean and fresh again--briefly. A few days later I'd notice with amazement that the splattering of coffee and coke stains in front of the couch had returned. Eventually I gave up and just bought a rug to cover them up. It's a busy kind of rug. It doesn't show stains.

Not to compare Jesus to a coffee stain, but as irrepressibly, he is everywhere, almost on every page, of the Bible. It is as if God planted clues, like the trail of white pebbles in Hansel and Gretel, to lead the reader to find Jesus. Some call it "The scarlet thread," a picture of the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the Cross to wash away sin. No human could have devised such a stream, running through 66 books written over 1400-1800 years, by more than 40 writers.

This morning reading Joshua 2 there were glimmers of Jesus--foreshadows of Easter. I saw such a glimmer in the spies who said to Rahab the believing prostitute, "Our lives for your lives" (verse 14) foreshadowing the saving of lives with Christ's life, and in Rahab's words to the men in verse 16, telling them to go to the hills and "hide yourselves there three days," as Christ would be hidden three days in the tomb. Finally the scarlet cord which Rahab hung in her window, a signal that meant her protection, safety and alliance with God and his people.

This morning my friend Frances tried hard to share the light of God's Word with two ladies--members of a well known cult and they were blind to it. At the start of the day--knowing that they were coming to her home, God reminded me that his Word was the sword that she would have to pierce the darkness with, but as she later said--they had rendered themselves unable to hear his voice.

She said, "I figured out that all I had to offer them was being a vessel for the Lord."
"It was freeing,' she said, "I was the broken jar he chose to leak out of a bit."

When they left she was spent and sad for them but she had testified to a vibrant relationship with God, whom she knows intimately as her Father.

They are part of an organization that has their own version of the Bible, carefully reinterpreted to fit their belief system. and which indoctrinates its members with a tight web of control. There is no common ground to reason from and it is "another gospel."

It make me grateful for liberty and freedom to read and think, and most of all for the treasure of God's Word, bought and preserved with the blood of men who have died for it over the centuries.

Revelation 12:11 (New International Version)
11They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Adventure Continues

Note: Following the post of a few days ago entitled "Treasure in Strange Places." I had an email from someone from our church, who had read the post and who said:

"Mystery solved! I was counting the offering and wondered where that muddy bill came from!" :)
______________________________

Joshua 1:16-17 (New International Version)
16 Then they answered Joshua, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the LORD your God be with you as he was with Moses.

This morning in Philip Yancey's book, Prayer--Does it Make Any Difference?, I read a story entitled Treasure Hunt by someone named Harold. There were some lines about Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series that struck me with their relevance to the life of adventure in Christ. About Frodo, Harold wrote:

Poor Frodo only gets enough direction for the next lap of the journey. As he looks back, it all works out, but most of the time he walks around confused and helpless. Only occasionally, and in subtle ways does Gandalf actively give assistance and guidance.

God's guidance--one step at a time--how often I wish he'd give me the map! And yet...I've learned that I can trust him--and more--that his plans are amazing. I have only to follow.

The adventure continues...
Brenda came upstairs followed by two daughters fresh from their piano lessons. Her bright eyes and urgent manner told me there was news. I sat to listen--anxious to hear what she had to say.

As she drove to the piano lessons with two girls and a dog, she was thinking, "It's Thurday evening and where's my "Wow?""
She dropped off Victoria for her lesson and then, with Tiffany-Amber and Molson went to the park for half an hour to walk. There she met a woman with a black lab and they got talking about the dogs. Brenda shared that how she wanted to use the Molson as a therapy dog as part of the outreach ministries of our church. Then the woman shared how the Jewish tooth fairy had visited their house and that she always leaves behind the tooth and the money. Brenda laughed and said, "The Christian tooth fairy must be cheap!" It was time to go back to get Victoria but the woman showed Brenda where she lived and said, "Next week when you come back, knock on my door and we can walk our dogs together."

A few minutes later, Brenda came back to the park with Victoria and there was a man with his son who was named Noah. Brenda asked him, "Why did you name your son Noah?" and the man replied, "We like biblical names."
"Are you a Christian?" she asked.
He said, "Yes."
"I am too," said Brenda, "Which church do you go to?"
He told her that he belonged to a Christian sect named the Christadelphians. That began a conversation through which Brenda said the words just flowed from her. The man told her that they didn't believe in three gods (the Trinity). Brenda said, "I don't believe in three gods either." She told him that as her mind, spirit and body are separate parts but she is one person, so is God the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit--and on their conversation went--God giving her the words to speak truth into every difference in belief!

In the space of two half hour piano lessons, she had two "Wow"s.


Matthew 28:9 (New International Version)
9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.




Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Wow Factor

"I want The Wow Factor," she said, and a murmur of agreement went around the room. Brenda had been sharing her heart's cry when it came to her experience of faith in Christ.

Earlier, before the members of the cell group arrived, as I prepared dinner, Brenda had told me of an experience she'd had that morning.

She'd been at the church, where she works as a part-time secretary, when the phone rang. It was for one of the pastors, who were not in at the time. Brenda was about to hang up the phone, when she put it back to her ear and asked the caller, "Is there anything I can help you with?"

The woman said that she was experiencing double vision and needed to get to the hospital. In no time, Brenda was on her way to pick her up.

At the hospital, Brenda dropped the woman off and was headed back towards the church when she heard God say, "I wanted you to pray with her."

"Pray? Really?" Brenda said--and kept driving.

"You need to turn around and go back." And Brenda knew there was no real choice.

Entering the hospital again a few minutes later, she looked for and found the woman, who looked up with surprise at seeing Brenda again.

"Would you like me to pray with you?" Brenda asked, and the woman said she would.

Stepping right out of her comfort zone--praying--out loud--in a public place, Brenda began to pray.

As she prayed, the words began to flow with a power that came from the Holy Spirit, a prayer for peace.

Brenda opened her eyes to find that the woman was weeping.

"Were you scared?" she asked, and the woman nodded.

Brenda experienced joy--the high--of the Wow Factor--being used--being in partnership with God--available and obedient to him.

As we read a chapter of Acts together as a cell group that evening--a book that draws the word "Wow," often, we all longed for that excitement to be our experience daily.

In another context today I heard the words, "You only have so many opportunities to be called to bat." Those words captured my imagination with their significance in relation to opportunities to be used by God--and I knew that I didn't want to miss a single one of them.

Deuteronomy 12:7 (New International Version)
7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring

I’m sitting on my front step after taking Chris to the bus and spring is burgeoning all around me.
My children and I inspected the gardens yesterday and we found irises, tulips, daffodils, crocuses, day lilies, Canterbury bells, periwinkle and bleeding hearts all poking their courageous little heads out of the ground.

The earth smells new and the dove sings her sad song. I always thought she was a ‘morning’ dove, as that’s when you hear them most, but her song is mournful and I am captured at her grief. All manner of winged creatures are twittering and chirping in the new day.
I brush my hand over a pot of herbs that have sat outside all winter and the tangy scent is still strong. It’s thyme. It’s time! Nature is proclaiming all around me that it is TIME. Hope is springing new. The cycle continues and God is showing His mercy in the new day of spring.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV

Angcat

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Great Future

Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say. - Sharon O'Brien

Labours of love--these are the things that we should lay down our lives for. Writing is my labour of love.

At the end of April it will be a year since God said to me, "Talk to nobody, before you talk to me." Since then I've been writing; following his lead, learning, growing, listening, sometimes wondering if anything I've said made sense--but mostly trusting God that it did.

In January God amazed me by opening up the opportunity to write a column for Maranatha News, a Cross-Cultural Evangelical Newspaper dedicated to serve the Christian community. I write the Canadian Authors column, which means that I have the exciting assignment of connecting with authors and interviewing them. What a joy. My heart sings at the gift God gave me in the writing of this column.

In March my first column was published and I waited anxiously, checking the Maranatha News website regularly to see if it was up there. The website was slow being updated and my insecurities started to dance! I thought that maybe my column was so bad that they didn't want to publish it but were too polite to say so. But about one week into March, the column was there! Friends celebrated with me. I have wonderful friends. Then the great day came when actual hard copies came and along with them, my very first payment for writing. I photographed the cheque--and even considered framing it--but I did cash it in the end!

When Victoria and Tiffany-Amber came home from school that day, I opened the newspaper to the page with the column, pointed to my name and asked them to read what it said. Their eyes grew wide as they recognized the name. Tiffany-Amber turned to me, pointed, and said, "You have a great future!" I felt as if I'd been crowned Queen.

God has an assignment for each soul on earth that will make his or her heart sing. Finding it and doing it is one of life's greatest joys. I don't know about a great future--but the present is wonderful.

Psalm 139:16-17 (New International Version)

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Treasure in Strange Places

Matthew 10:10 (New International Version)
10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Another wonderful Saturday!

I started the day as I usually do, putting on the coffee to perk--always a bigger pot on Saturday for a family breakfast with three generations around the kitchen table.

While the coffee perked in the kitchen, sounding for all the world like a wheezy old man clearing his throat as it spluttered and gurgled, I went to the bathroom to get ready for the day.

I turned on the radio and listened to Jeff Goodes on CBC. He was announcing a six week fitness challenge and invited those listeners who wanted to join in, to email the radio station. I was in with both feet! I've been needing encouragement to get moving after a winter spent in exercise hibernation.

So this afternoon--although it was cool and gray, with a fresh wind blowing--I asked Brenda if she wanted to join me for a walk. "Oh, can I come too?" begged Victoria, and was so excited when the answer was yes. Tiffany-Amber heard of our expedition and ran to put on coat and boots too.

Off we set--the four of us--the girls running before us like horses let out of the barn, long hair streaming behind them in the wind, eyes bright, cheeks warmed to rosy in no time. We inhaled fresh air and detected here the scent of a bonfire and there the aroma of hamburgers barbecueing close by. We listened to the twitter, trilling, crooning and chattering of birds--even the rapid hammering of a woodpecker.

The ditches ran with water and the debris of winter--pop cans and bottles, plastic and paper bags--all flowed along with nature's more gentle refuse of leaves, twigs, pine cones and seed pods. Victoria ran along the edge, precariously close to falling in and receiving frequent stern admonitions from her mom, who was walking a few paces behind me. Suddenly Brenda said, "Oh!" I turned around to see her shaking what looked like a muddy piece of paper. It was a ten dollar bill! Laughter shone in her eyes as she told me of the one hundred dollars she'd earned this week for some work that she'd done, and the ten dollars she'd put aside for the offering at church tomorrow. She said, "Mom, God just provided my tithe!"

Faith moves us out of our safety zone, into God's "I can do it," zone. Our faith does not rest in our ability to believe, but in God's ability to bring it to pass.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Blessings Continue

Faith releases the power, provision and promise of God in the present

After Brenda's conversation with the credit card company, it was only a couple of days before the lower interest rate card arrived in the mail. Before putting it into her purse, she decided to clean it out completely. Among the things that came tumbling out was a Christmas gift card for Zellers and the Bay. She checked the balance on it and found out that it was $11!

Just as she was putting the last things back into her purse, Victoria and Tiffany-Amber arrived home from school. Victoria's first words were, "Mommy--I broke my school bag!"
"Oh no!" groaned Brenda.

After piling the girls into the car, she decided to try Zellers for the school bag--thinking that The Bay would be too expensive, but there were no back packs to be found--not one! She checked out some of the bag stores in the mall, but they were all too expensive. "What am I going to do?" she thought, She had $20 in her wallet and with the weather changing and the snow melting fast, the girls needed new rubber boots too.

She found rubber boots and after buying two pairs, had $1.50 change from the $20. She decided to try The Bay--just on the off chance that they might still have school back packs. There in the far, forgotten reaches of the store, she found a pile of back packs that had not been sold, priced at $9.99. Victoria picked the one she liked and Brenda used the gift card balance to pay for it. She ended up with a balance left over of 6 cents!

Luke 1:45 (New International Version)
45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

Saturday Morning Pancakes

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Friday, March 23, 2007

A Step in the Right Direction

Luke 12:28-30 (New Living Translation)

28 And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.


It was supper time when the phone rang and the male voice on the other end of the line identified himself as working for her credit card company. He said that they could give her a better interest rate but needed some information first. He told her the address she lives at and to reassure her, said that her credit card number began with a four. Then he asked her to give him the rest of the number. Brenda didn't, but the man was so persuasive--until she asked for his phone number and said she'd call him back once she'd had a chance to think about it. He refused to give it.

Immediately he hung up, Brenda called her credit card company and they said that they had received many other calls about this scam. They told Brenda that they would never ask for her card number over the phone--and told her that all credit cards of the kind she has start with the number four.

Even though she didn't fall for the scam she said it sounded so tempting because of the lower interest rate they said they were offering. That's when the person at the other end said, "Oh we can give you a card with a lower interest rate!" He completed the paperwork right then and there, and although the card has an annual fee of about $30, the interest rate is 7% less, which amounts to $50 saved every month.

Finances are sometimes tight because of choices we've made--but other times we are affected by circumstances beyond our control. Brenda left her previous job when the company she worked for went bankrupt. Like the other employees she was owed a considerable amount of money when it happened.

She and Jay have made tough decisions based on their personal values about her not working many hours out of the home while their girls are young.

Her credit card is maxed out and she makes a payment each month that is as much as she can afford, but barely exceeds the interest added to the bill each month. It's a huge pressure shared by many young people.

The money Brenda is owed would go a long way to covering that bill and if we were God, we would probably make it happen that way--I don't know why he hasn't--but God is God and we are not--and we love seeing how he answers our prayers, even if it is differently to how we expect! We know that we will see much greater blessings in the way God chooses to work, than in the way we think things should work out.

It's a step in the right direction and every little step towards financial freedom counts. We praise God for this blessing and are "prepared to be amazed" by how he will continue to turn the tide financially for Brenda!

Matthew 6:8 (New Living Translation)
8 ...for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Prepare to be Amazed

Hebrews 12:1-3 (New International Version)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

These verses speak of encouragement to those of us on earth, running the race--so that we do "not grow weary and lose heart."

That "cloud of witnesses," I have long believed, are those that have gone before--some perhaps the heroes of our faith.

Sometimes things happen that make me feel that in that cloud, not far away, are those with whose writings or life work, I have an affinity.

Yesterday morning just such a thing happened. Firstly, on CBC radio, I heard an interview with John Gray, mayor of the City of Oshawa. He mentioned that the "tag line" of the city is, "Prepare to be amazed." Those words captured my imagination. What an awesome thought to start each day with, I thought--expectant and open to being amazed. I loved it.

I was thinking about that line as I quietly sat in God's presence, and it reminded me of the Daily Light, evening reading, of March 8th:

I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able.
Able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.
Able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Able to help those who are being tempted.
Able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.
Able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

2 Tim. 1:12; Eph. 3:20; 2 Cor. 9:8; Heb. 2:18; Heb. 7:25; Jude 24; 2 Tim. 1:12;

Then I picked up my other devotional book, Edges of His Ways, by Amy Carmichael, a writer and missionary, long in heaven and a kindred spirit in many ways. I have sometimes thought I saw echoes of my beloved Daily Light in her writings and today she confirmed it, but in an "amazing" way.

She wrote of persisting in seeking God's encouraging word, "whatever need or trouble" we are in. Then she said, "Sometimes the special word is in...Daily Light." She went on to give an illustration of a time when she was anxious about someone. That night she found these words on the page of Daily Light: I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day.

That was from the evening reading of March 8th, which I had just reread and connected with the words, "Prepare to be Amazed" (because he is able).

At that moment, I felt that God had wrapped a mysterious gift and given it to me, and that a "friend," one who wrote the thoughts God gave her to encourage others, as I write mine, was in the "cloud," encouraging me. And God had indeed amazed me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What is the Value of a Life?

By Lorrie Freake

Last night I watched "Hotel Rwanda" for the first time. I was disturbed, angry, heartbroken and in tears. How can such a thing happen? How does one survive such atrocities with any faith in the goodness of man?

It is by small mercies.

God places people in the midst of hatred who have a heart for Him. These people risk all to save just a few. But they save them.

The world turns its back because "it's not our cause" and once again we ask, what happens when they come for me? We are our brother's keeper. WE, we cannot keep silent!

God has placed a believer in the seat of the President of Rwanda. Healing and forgiveness are beginning. Only this will prevent further senseless bloodshed in this fragile nation.

What of the other places? What of Sudan? What of the Congo? What of Nicaragua, India...and the list goes on...

God will place some of us in positions of active assistance. The rest of us, what can we do?

Pray.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Call

John 21:17 (New International Version)
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

What a strange conversation between Jesus and Peter; Jesus repeatedly asking Peter if he loved him--Peter becoming hurt and perplexed at Jesus' questions--and Jesus already knowing the answer, as Peter pointed out.

Each time Peter answered, "Yes," Jesus told him to feed his sheep or lambs.

Peter and six other disciples had been fishing. Because Peter's business was fishing before he left it all to follow Jesus, it's possible that when Jesus was crucified, he felt a chapter of his life was closed and he went back to what he knew.

This fishing trip was disappointing--they caught no fish--until the "stranger" on the shore called out to them to put down their nets on the other side of the boat--and then they caught a whopping 153! I wonder if this felt eerily familiar to Peter. What happened that day mirrored something that happened at the start of Jesus' ministry and is recorded in the book of Luke chapter 5, in verses 1-11. It's Jesus' original call to Peter, which involved leaving his fishing business and becoming a fisher of men.

The fish that Jesus was cooking on the beach had not been caught by the men in the boat. Jesus fed them and then he reminds Peter of who he is--a fisher of men, not aquatic animals. "Feed my sheep," he tells him.

Then Jesus gives Peter a picture of his mortality.

John 21:18-19 (New International Version)
18 Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

Time is finite--life and opportunities to be seized and used now. Jesus repeats the words of what was his call to Peter all along--his call to me, too..."Follow me."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Choose Life!

Belinda and baby Benjamin Trenholm!

Posted by Picasa John 17:23 (New International Version)

23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Today I acknowledge and declare that God is mysterious, miraculous and all powerful. To be connected intimately with him is to be "engaged" with--actually "in" --The One who is afoot in this world and on an adventure that we are invited to join.
To be so connected is to turn up the vibrancy dial on our life--to live in vivid brilliant colour, a life in which there are limitless possibilities.
John 10:10 (New International Version)
10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (New International Version)

19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Deeper into Truth

I was in my car, waiting for the lights to change when the woman caught my attention. I watched her as she crossed the road into the plaza. Her dark blonde hair was short and spiky--slightly unkempt--her face was pale and had a slightly quizzical expression. Her clothes were odd. Beneath the skirt of a cotton dress, she wore turquoise leggings and over her dress a short, light brown jacket. "An artistic soul," I thought at first,"Someone who marches to the beat of their own drum." Then she put a cigarette to her mouth and took a long drag on it as she hurried along--and with that small action, my impression changed--her eccentricity seemed of a different kind as she hurried along the street.

I thought of how quickly an impression can change based on very limited information and I thought of how limited my ability is to "see" well at all.

My friend Irene recently told me about the Johari Window. This window is a diagram related to how we appear or present ourselves. There are four squares that represent information about ourselves that is a) known both to ourselves and to others b) known to ourselves but not to others c) not known to ourselves but known to others and d) not known to ourselves or others. The bottom line is that perception is far from accurate or complete, much of the time.

I realize that my "vision" is limited. While I see little and in one dimension, God sees the integrated whole. I see in black and white--not the full spectrum of colour--God sees in technicolour.

Dear Lord, for all the times that I am quick to judge when I have no right, please forgive me. Thank you for this simple reminder of my limitations and your omniscience.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (New International Version)
12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Transforming Power of Prayer

In the book Prayer, by Philip Yancey, a quote from C.S.Lewis:
"We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us."

"To put it another way," Yancey says, "We trust God with what God already knows."

As I come before God--the clean breeze of the Holy Spirit blowing, grain by grain the sand of illusion from my heart--he helps me see what he already knows.

He takes me deeper, layer by layer, shifting my view of circumstances and situations. "Did I really not see that?" How differently things--"this thing"--seem today, to when I first came before him, burning with "rightness," to pour out my soul on the page before me.

And the process may not yet be complete. I must stay here--maybe over many days, holding my heart up to him--until I see as he does--until I see what he already knows.

Psalm 119:104 (New International Version)
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

God's Heart of Blessing

I'm getting ready to leave for the day, making lunches for Paul and myself and the coffee to wake us both up is perking--when I think of the fact that March Break is almost over. Brenda is taking Tiffany-Amber and Victoria to Tottenham where their "Auntie Su-Su" will look after them for the morning and they will play with their cousins: Katherine, Stephen, Joshua and Emily, while Brenda works at the church. I feel God's Spirit nudging me--"Those kids would love to go to the Dairy Queen for lunch for a treat." I check my purse and find I have the perfect amount for six kids and their mothers to do that and so I go down to the quiet apartment where two girls still lie sleeping and find Brenda watching the morning show on T.V.

When I hand her the money and tell her the plan, Brenda looks questioningly at me and says, "So do you know what happened with Victoria yesterday then?"
"No," I say, and she tells me that Victoria had wanted to go to the Dairy Queen and Brenda had said no, which resulted in Victoria having one of her legendary melt-downs. At almost eight, she still has difficulty controlling the overwhelming emotions of anger or disappointment. When they got home she was sent to her room and she screamed, "I know you said no, but why?"
Her mom said, "Because I need to save for your birthday and to buy you healthy food to eat."

As Brenda finishes the story, a sleepy eyed Victoria, clad in cozy, soft flannel p.j.'s--cheeks still with the warm flush of sleep upon them and hair tousled, comes into the room, rubbing her eyes. She sits down and her mom says to her, "Honey, wait until you hear what God told Omie to do."
I tell Victoria the whole story of being nudged by God and her mom says, "Who loves you Honey?"
"God," says Victoria, with a smile.
Later, Victoria prays, saying, "Thank you God for telling Omie to do that."

Brenda wakes up Tiffany-Amber and the first thing she says to Brenda is, "I'm sorry Mommy for what I did yesterday."
At nine she is beyond the melt-down stage, but just entering the age of the "eye roll." For this misdemeanour she had received a lesson in respecting her mother that obviously stuck and her little heart is still sorely repentant. When Brenda tells her of the treat she has to look forward to todayTiffany-Amber says, "But I don't deserve it."
Brenda says, "Honey, isn't it wonderful that God gives us good things, even when we don't deserve it?"
And then she added, "But when you say sorry, Mommy doesn't remember it anymore and neither does God."

And I think of the lessons of grace and of God's heart to bless, that our family was given today--and before we even had breakfast!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Obedience

By Lorrie Freake

Monday night when I came home--late because of the weather--my dog Teddy was exceptionally happy to see me, his large brown eyes liquid with anticipation and adoration. Teddy wound through my legs (and being a large dog, this proved a bit frightening!), jumped around and followed me closely as I went to deposit my bags in the bedroom. When I went out to the kitchen to decide what to prepare for dinner I noticed he had some food in his bowl. I told him to take it and after he made sure I was serious (I had to repeat myself) he ate eagerly. Teddy was trained as a puppy to first eat from our hand and then not to eat from his bowl without permission.

After a few minutes I went downstairs to check on the kids who had been home sick all day. I asked how long Teddy's food had been in his bowl. Cassandra looked at me with horror on her face--she had fed him in the morning! She had made Teddy sit, shake a paw and then walked away forgetting to tell him "Okay, take it!" That poor, wonderful, obedient dog had not touched his food all day! He had waited for the go ahead! No wonder he was glad to see "mom" come home! He knew that I would make sure he was fed.

It made me think of our relationship with God, the Father. How willing are we to set aside our appetites, whether sincere or contrived, to wait for is go ahead? Do we wait patiently and eagerly for him to come to feed us? Or, do we feed ourselves, impatiently moving ahead of God's approval and timing?

We can take a lesson from man's best friend--let us become God's best friend and trust Him!

A Faithful Friend


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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Set for Eternity

We sit down at our kitchen table, Brenda and I. I've just hugged goodbye to the last three friends to leave for home from the cell group that meets in our house every Tuesday evening.

I love Tuesday evenings--they are wonderful--a gift to us--to our grandchildren--to our friends.

I get home from work at around 5.00 and as I open the door and enter the large centre hallway of our house, the welcoming aroma of something delicious cooking greets me. I have mastered the art of the automatic oven--a wonderful invention.

As I quickly check for new email, the door to the downstairs apartment opens. Around it peers Victoria, my weekly helper, ready to do her Omie's bidding with swift feet and small eager hands.

Soon she is setting a table for eight as I fill the coffee pot with water and measure out decaffeinated coffee, then put on a large pot of potatoes to boil and other pots of vegetables. People start arriving at around 6.00, and we are ready, the fragrance of fresh coffee weaving in and around that of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and vegetables.

Charliene and Bonnie arrive--Charliene with bread, and cookies she always brings for the girls--she has such a kind heart. Then come Ron and Jorie--and Marilyn. Tiffany-Amber comes upstairs with Brenda and soon Susan and Ann arrive. The table for eight overflows into a second table in the kitchen. There is laughter and people bumping into one another as we get the meal to the table. Grace is announced by Paul and we freeze in place momentarily, heads bowed as he blesses the food--then without skipping a beat, go back to our laughing and conversation.

Over the course of an hour the meal is eaten and orders for dessert are taken. Some have moved into the comfort of arm chairs and some are quickly washing pots and pans and loading the dishwasher.

The girls disappear into the long, light olive green room that is a playroom for our grandchildren. I think that these evenings, strung through their young lives like precious beads on a necklace are shaping the fibre of their beings as my grandmother's table did mine in my childhood. I often think that my gift of hospitality--my compulsion to gather people around my table--is because of the happy memories I have of hers.

The grown ups are now settled in the large room, some have left after dinner, it's great that they were able to come for the meal and but they need to get home and to bed. The Bible is opened. Tonight it's Acts chapter 12 that Brenda reads out loud, putting life into the words so that we imagine we can see Peter being led out of prison by the angel, all the while thinking that he's just dreaming. We laugh at his arrival at the house of John Mark, where there is a prayer meeting on his behalf, but where the door is left shut in his face as the servant girl, Rhoda, runs back to the praying people to tell them that Peter is at the door. And we laugh more at the irony of the prayer group who insist that she must be out of her mind.

The conversation jumps to our own experiences and ways that we feel God is speaking to us as individuals now. There is a common thread--a sense of anticipation. We all agree that God wants us to be light in a world becoming increasingly dark. We see from the events in the Middle East--God's time piece--and the environmental changes in the earth--that we may well be approaching the climax of history--and that Jesus could return at any time. The tone becomes serious as we consider, "How then should we live?" Surely much of what we concern ourselves with is so unimportant. We all want to be more engaged with God.

We pray...for one another--for others in need of prayer. It is so good to be together.

And now, in the suddenly quiet house, I sit at the kitchen table with my daughter. She is sharing her vision for what God is telling her to do right now. Her heart is so full of passion to follow his leading. "Good girl," I say, laughing. Those words, I know, hit the spot. Our pastor, for whom she works as church secretary a couple of mornings a week, sometimes says them when she's done something he appreciates and she loves it.
"When I get to heaven," she says, "Never mind, "Well done, good and faithful servant," all I want him to say is "Good girl,"--and I'll be set for eternity!"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Muddy, Marshy--March Break

Posted by PicasaToday I took some lieu time from work and started my day by going to town to meet a friend for coffee. Coming home to work on a writing assignment, from inside the house I could hear the murmur of children's voices outside the windowed side door that leads out from our big gathering room. Yes, I peered out, and there were two girls, deep in the world of play--a sight I find impossible to resist. Victoria was making "oatmeal" out of mud. Mmmmm. Tiffany-Amber said "I don't like oatmeal." Later that evening I visited their apartment downstairs and told Tiffany-Amber that I'd noticed them making oatmeal. "You heard us?" she said, with a shy little smile on her face, as if she hadn't expected an adult witness to their playworld.
Earlier that day, before coffee with my friend, I had spent time with pen and journal, finding anew the gift it is to lay out a problem on the page and work it through. I wrote this prayer:
Dear Lord, how I thank you for the space on the page--a place to pour out my soul and gather it together again, restored.
2 Corinthians 1:24 (New International Version)
24Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Trust

John 19:11 (New International Version)
11Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above..."

I thought about power and trust this morning after reading chapter 19 of the book of John and some more of Philip Yancey's book on prayer.

The chapter in John takes the reader into the maelstrom of the hours before the crucifixion of Jesus. As governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate was a powerful man and no stranger to political maneuvering. He had offended the Jews more than once and managed to survive politically, but now he was caught in a situation from which there was no way out. He knew that there were no grounds to justify the punishment of crucifixion and in desperation and fear said to Jesus, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?"

Jesus' reply said everything there is to say about power. Man doesn't give power--God does.

Interestingly, what I read in Yancey's book on prayer was about helplessness. I've experienced coming to God in absolute desperation and helplessness--and found peace, answers and a way out when there seemed to be none.

This goes so much against the flow of our culture of independence, personal power and self reliance. Coming to God at the start of each day and declaring that without him we are helpless, could seem weak and powerless, but as Yancey says, if we lack the humility to do that, "All the while we are systematically sealing off the heart attitude most desirable to God and most descriptive of our true state in the universe."

Trust is placing ourselves, helpless and vulnerable, in the hands of another. We can only safely do that with God. As for power--I recognize how little I truly have when all is said and done.
I am content in knowing the One who is all powerful.

Isaiah 53:3 (New International Version)
3 He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Place of Wonder




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Saturdays--a day I love--a day of family, friends and a change of pace, from focused to relaxed. It's a day reserved for people first and foremost; for conversations--for catching up.
I love watching our grandchildren at play. Their world is one I remember so well--a place of wonder where time is spent simply and imagination is the magic carpet to adventure. It makes me happy to see that children haven't lost the capacity for make believe.
This afternoon Victoria had a play date with her friend Molly. When Brenda dropped her off at Molly's house, she said to Victoria, "Honey, I don't need to tell you about your manners and I don't need to tell you about listening--and I don't need to lecture you about not getting carried away."
Victoria said, "Mommy, you're trying not to--but you are."
In the afternoon I went to church in support of my friends Bonnie and Charliene who were leading the World Day of Prayer at our church for the six churches of Tottenham. We were unavoidably a week later than others with our World Day of Prayer but a fine crowd of ladies had already gathered when I arrived.
The prayer focus was Paraguay and the theme was "United Under God's Tent." There was a large, heavy length of deep blue cloth to represent the tent, and a pole which someone was to hold up underneath and in the middle of the piece of cloth, while two others held out the four corners of the cloth as they walked down the aisle under the "tent." Brenda was with me, and since one of the ladies who was to be under the tent had not yet arrived, Charliene asked her to stand in for her. The whole thing was quite a feat to manage while keeping composure beneath the tent. Charliene said, "The women of Paraguay wrote the program, not us."
The progress of the "tent" and its inhabitants, as they made their way down the aisle, was wobbly and punctuated by snorts, smothered laughter and other mysterious noises from beneath its wings. Our pastor was having difficulty maintaining a serious demeanour and eventually just gave up. It was a moment I wished that I'd had my camera to record--these words will have to do!
Prayer: Father I thank you for simple things; for children, for wonder, for friends and laughter. You give such good gifts. Thank you for the adventure of life, lived out each day.

Friday, March 09, 2007

God of All Beauty

Psalm 57:10-11 (New International Version)

10 For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

let your glory be over all the earth.

It was mid February, several years ago, when I spent a few hours on the 55th floor of the Toronto Dominion Centre, waiting for Paul, who was having laser eye surgery.

I had lots of time to gaze down on the city and the view beyond. Sun reflected off the waters of Lake Ontario, stirred into silver ripples by a cold, cold winter wind. Beneath the ripples, subtle bands of aquamarine and violet gray warmed the silk green of the lake with a promise of spring-time to come.

Toronto Island lay far below in the foreground--its seeming tranquility and natural beauty in stark contrast to the towering city of glass that had sprung up around it.

I had admired the doormen of the Royal York Hotel as we passed on our way from Union Station, their long greatcoats and fur hats, protecting them from the chill of the biting winds. They looked as if they'd stepped from early 20th century Russia.

I loved our foray into the city, and was as wide eyed and wondering as any tourist!

Prayer: Dear Lord--you who made the waters of the world in all of their many kinds of beauty, I praise, honour and worship you. You are the God of all beauty.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Perspective on Prayer

Acts 9:13-14 (New International Version)

13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."

This is one of those passages that I smile at every time I read it. The Lord had appeared to Ananias with instructions to go to a specific person's house where he would find "a man named Saul." Saul probably topped the "Least Likely to Become a Christian" list of of the first century. What is so funny is the fact that Ananias felt compelled to inform the Lord about who Saul was--as if he didn't know.

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is Philip Yancey's book, Prayer--Does It Make Any Difference? (published by Zondervan). In the second chapter, Philip talks about what passes for prayer so often. When coming to God with his concerns, Philip says,"I inform God, as if God did not already know." Hmmm, me too--maybe I shouldn't laugh so hard at Ananias--maybe I am Ananias.

Philip talks about coming at prayer from a different perspective--beginning with God--"starting upstream," he calls it, "where the flow begins." He talks about asking God what part he can play in his work on earth, and wonders, "Will I stand by the bank, or jump in the stream?"

"Prayer, and only prayer, restores my vision to one that more resembles God's. I awake from blindness to see that wealth lurks as a terrible danger, not a goal worth striving for; that value depends not on race or status, but on the image of God every person bears; that no amount of effort to improve physical beauty has much relevance for the world beyond."
Philip Yancey

How skewed my perspective and goals can become. When I compare my behaviour with the pattern laid out in the gospels, I realize that I am far more a child of the world than a child of God as far as my actions go. I need time in prayer for God to reorient my heart to his heart--his goals. Prayer is truly more about that than about telling God what he already knows.

Matthew 6:7-8 (New International Version)

7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Honesty

Two weeks ago, I sat in my classroom at church surrounded by my ever expanding little group of pre-teen girls and asked them if they've ever been embarrassed of being a Christian. "Be honest and put up your hand if you've ever felt embarrassed by loving Jesus." I said. No one met my eye. All hands stayed firmly clasped in their laps...until my hand went up. Slowly other hands began rising tentatively into the air until every hand in the room was up. "Good", I smiled at them, "I'm glad you are being honest. It's okay to feel like that sometimes, especially when we know that some people are going to treat us differently, maybe even badly because of our beliefs." I then asked the girls if anyone of them could give an example of a time when they had felt embarrassed. One in particular stayed with me. The girl who shared her story is not a Christian. She is so new and so fragile in her journey to faith. As she spoke to me, she tried to make it sound light, like it was no big deal, but her voice was higher and thinner than normal and her smile was forced. "I told my teacher that I come to BG Club, and that it's at church where we learn about God, and he laughed at me." Her eyes searched mine for an answer, something to bring comfort. That was when I realized I was standing there staring back at her with my mouth hanging open - not very supportive I guess-. I simply couldn't believe that a teacher would openly mock her beliefs. Boy, they wouldn't do that if she'd been going to a Muslim group, or a Jewish group..or just about any other faith.

I quickly recovered and offered a silent prayer to God for His wisdom. He led me to share a personal story with my group. About 5 years ago, I ordered a bunch of Christian T-shirts online. I was so excited when they came. I wore them to church and at home.....but that was it. It began to dawn on me that I only wore them to placed I knew they would be acceptable. I didn't wear them to the mall, to the gym, or even when I was grocery shopping...and I certainly wasn't going to wear them to my kid's school. I told myself as I chose my clothes each morning, they'd be too hot or not the right colour or fit, but I knew in the back of my mind the real reason. I was embarrassed. I didn't was to be labeled as a 'Jesus Freak'. I didn't want people to judge me and maybe even dislike me because of my relationship with Jesus. Once I faced the true reason for avoiding wearing those shirts, I had to wear them. I wore them everywhere. It was hard at first. I felt a little self conscious, but after a while I was proud to be thought of as a 'Jesus Freak'...after all that's what I am. I even had other Christians come up to me and say, "I like your shirt!"

I could see in the faces around the table that every single girl in there knew the kind of feelings I was talking abut. "But, what happens, when we die and get up to the gates of Heaven and for one second Jesus is as embarrassed of you as you were of Him?" Silence. "Were in big trouble." someone answered. We all smiled. It was true. We would be in big trouble.

We ended our lesson with this prayer, and it has become a daily prayer for me, "Dear Lord, Help me to care more about what YOU think of me today than anyone else."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Compelling Revelations

Liar, madman or Messiah--these are the choices when we contemplate who Jesus is.

So many can accept him as a good man, a great teacher and rabbi, but not as the Son of God. These are not choices available when we consider what he said about himself.

The testimony of Jesus about himself:

John 9:35b-37 (New International Version)
35...when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"36"Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."37Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."

John 4:25-26 (New International Version)
25The woman said, "I know that Messiah" (called Christ) "is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."26Then Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he."

John 11:25 (New International Version)
25Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

I can't imagine what it was like to be in his presence as he revealed himself ---Son of Man, Son of God--Messiah. He left no doubt as to who he claimed to be.The question is--who is he to us? Is he a good luck charm--historical figure--an invisible friend--or is he our Saviour and Lord--to whom we surrender all of our "rights" out of love and gratitude for his love for us?"

He is my Lord, Saviour, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father--Prince of Peace--and I worship him with all of my heart and soul.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Random Acts of Righteousness

Deuteronomy 24:12-13 (New International Version)
12 If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. 13 Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God.

The book of Deuteronomy is full of instructions for living life with compassion and justice. I was intrigued and interested, when I read in verse 13 of chapter 24, about a thing called--"A righteous act."

It sounded like something special--something to aspire to doing--"righteous acts." I wanted to understand better what they would be.

From the context it seemed to mean an act of generosity, compassion and humanity. The fact that God "regards it," means that he takes note.

I thought of a woman--unnamed--in the gospels of Matthew and Mark. She did something that Jesus described as "a beautiful thing." What she did--an extravagant gesture of adoration and love--pouring costly perfume over the head of Jesus--was such that Jesus said it would be remembered wherever the gospel was preached (see Mark 14:3-9).

Anne Herbert coined the phrase,"Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty." According to Wikipedia, " The second week of February is Random Act of Kindness week."

I missed doing this consciously in the second week of February, but this week I want to try hard to be looking out for opportunities to practice being humane, kind, generous and loving to others, knowing that what we do to one another, we do to him.

Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Broken Yet Beloved

She took my breath away with her confident audacity. "I disagree with C.S.Lewis," she said. My friend Frances had burst upon my Saturday morning, heralded by the ringing of the telephone and as we entered into conversation, I couldn't wait to hear how C.S.Lewis was wrong.

The troublesome passage came from The Weight of Glory and was quoted in the February In Touch magazine, in a column entitled C.S. Lewis on Love. This is the quote:

"The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine. God did not die for man because of some value he perceived in him. The value of each human soul considered simply in itself, out of relation to God, is zero.

As St. Paul writes, to have died for valuable men would have been not divine but merely heroic; but God died for sinners. He loved us not because we were lovable, but because He is love."

"I don't think he's right about that," Frances went on--"I don't think God tests us to find out anything--I think he already knows the nugget of gold that lies within." Other analogies poured out of her-- we aren't diamonds in the rough, but diamonds that have developed angles of roughness--the chaff covers the good grain of wheat.

My mind was spinning as I found myself unexpectedly in "think" mode on a Saturday morning when the house was full of grandchildren. My heart warmed to my friend's position of God's perception of value in us, but my spirit told me there was truth in both views.

We thought of the beautiful Leeland Dayton Mooring song, Carried to the Table. The second verse and chorus is below:

Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed

I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord
We are broken--yet beloved--and we were beloved even when we were broken. Where does that leave C.S.Lewis? Well, I think that as beauty is in the eye of the beholder--so is value.
"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NIV

Friday, March 02, 2007

Recognition

In "Searching For God Knows What" Donald Miller captures an essence of the faith journey that I hadn't wanted to ponder. He says "...it makes me wonder if secretly we don't wish God were a genie who could deliver a few wishes here and there. And that makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God. It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship".
That was a zinger. Some of my prayers are mere instructions that I utter carelessly with a wave of my hand, to my genie, rather than humble requests and worship brought to the throne of The Almighty. The question is begged. Do I really want God, or just Heaven, and the now blessings?
Yet, another revelation came through the writing of Brennan Manning in "The Importance of Being Foolish, How To Think Like Jesus". He quotes French psychologist Marc Oraison who says "To be loved is be looked at in such a manner that the reality of recognition is disclosed." And later Brennan states "For this is the very foundation of justice: the ability to recognize the other as a human being with the sign of the Lamb glowing on his brow."
And I realize that the people who have deeply impacted my life are "recognizers" As an insecure teen, I was pastored by Ed, who would stop and look at you and listen when you spoke. You felt safe and valued in that blue gaze. Then at work, my supervisor (and now mentor and friend) took the same pause; listened, valued and loved. Our school Principal says "I think I've figured you out". He takes the time to know people.
My neighbour looks straight into my soul, calls me "My Sister" in her glorious rolling Rwandan accent, and speaks of His love.
And I know that all of these people have drawn and captured me because the sign of the Lamb glows on their brows, and in their lives.
And if these interactions are just an inkling of what it's like to really know Jesus, then I know I want God, not just a genie!

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Point in Time

By Claire Alexander

A faint light from the memory of the sunset gleamed through the high, stained-glass window, barely outlining the beams overhead. Forming the vault of the darkened church in a reverse V, several extended sets of arms or wings could be made out with the glow, as though God sent his angels to bless and protect the gathering.

Flames of tiny tea lights flickered on a table as we sang, over and over, TaizĂ© meditations such as “Let nothing disturb you” [Nada te turbo], and Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord.”

With separate doors into the sanctuary, and the foyer of the church entrance enclosed by a normal ceiling, church members don’t often look up, up above that ceiling to the arched vault and stained glass window below the peaked roof. In response to the darkness, my eyes sought the only faint light in the distance—the varicoloured light barely filtering through the glass.

The window fitted right into the peak of the roof. In my mind’s eye, I could imagine a small child drawing her apartment building like a tall house with a pointed roof, the way we used to draw houses in kindergarten. I saw afresh the wooden cross, fully filling the shape of this tall, multi-coloured window. Suddenly, the reading from Philippians 2:6-11, and even individual words, unfolded before my eyes, as we sat on the platform in the choir chairs.

Christ Jesus, though he was God, emptied himself. The wooden cross symbolized the depth of becoming a slave, born in human likeness. “He became obedient,” the reading went on, “to the point of death—even death on a cross.” As the cross on the window merged with the apex of both the window and the roof, the word “point” in the translation jumped out at me like the point of an arrowhead.

The humanity of our Lord Jesus, his descent to earth, his humility, his sacrifice of his eternal relationship with the Father, his death, all converged abruptly at a point in time, viewed from our side. They collided with infinity, and could not cross the barrier, just as the top of the wooden cross stopped dead with the angle of the roof.

But the reading didn’t stop there. “Therefore also God highly exalted him”; from the cross Christ was raised, exalted far above and beyond the high window at which I gazed. He became my Lord—to the glory of God—and my Lord, too, as I bent my knees in awe and worship, the wonder of his gift flooding over me. And arched beams overhead seemed to express the breadth of his arms not only welcoming me, but wooing me into his dear embrace.

Philippians 2:6-8 (New Living Translation)

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.