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Showing posts from March, 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 lif…

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, sh…

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 m…

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 …

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.”
Lam…

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…

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…

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 wa…

Saturday Morning Pancakes

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…

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 happene…

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.

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 b…

Choose Life!

Belinda and baby Benjamin Trenholm!

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 a…

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 ou…

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.

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 th…

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!&q…

A Faithful Friend

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…

Muddy, Marshy--March Break

Today 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…

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&#…

A Place of Wonder

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 o…

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 t…

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 G…

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 …

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 …

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--po…

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 anyth…

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 d…

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…