Monday, April 30, 2007

First Day

I'm taking some vacation days this week and am so grateful at the end of this good day, for the gift of time at home. I'm using the time to complete a writing assignment for a course--and enjoying the chance to catch up on some of the things that don't get done in a normal week.

Last night there was a strong wind determinedly finding tiny cracks in window frames and singing mournfully through them. In the morning I sat on the couch to reflect, read and pray but found myself distracted and gazing through the window at the silver birch. Little green leaves adorned each branch and the catkins blew out in the wind like green streamers. And the branches of the tall blue spruce in the middle of the front lawn, its strong centre trunk holding firm, danced in the wind, in constant movement as if being shaken by an invisible and mischievous friend.

Victoria ran down the driveway to catch the school bus with Molson trotting beside her and then Tiffany-Amber followed. Hair and spring jackets billowed behind them. A few minutes later they ran back to the house to change into warmer clothing--the glorious sunshine had tricked them into thinking it was warmer than it actually was.

When I reflected in the end, it was on what a prickly porcupine of a person I can be--or an armadillo or turtle--when confronted with a fault. Instead I would like to be soft as a rabbit, with tall and sensitive ears to listen well! That is my prayer this week.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to receive reproof or criticism as a gift--even though a gritty gift--to refine and polish me into a better person. Please purge me of pride and defensiveness.

James 1:19 (New International Version)
19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunday Afternoon Celebration

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"Just put your arms tightly around her waist and lift her up," called Susan to Victoria. Emily had been climbing on a wall and Susan was instructing Victoria in how to take charge of her littlest cousin. As Victoria carried Emily to a safer part of the back yard, Molson trotted along, curious about this little one who travels on all fours just like him.
An April Sunday afternoon and after church our house is filled with family. We are grateful for an opportunity to spend precious hours together--a gift never taken for granted.
A few balls to kick or throw--all that are needed to keep two grandparents busy running up and down the lawn following Stephen's instructions. "Omie you go in goal," or, if he's in goal, "Go really easy, shoot in the middle."
Our skins soak up the wonderful warmth of the sun and cool to the gentle kiss of the breeze. The fruit trees in the orchard are covered in velvet buds from which are unfurling tiny, perfect, fresh green leaves.
I lie in the slightly damp coolness of the grass and rest for a moment, gazing up at the deep blue sky. "You okay Omie?" calls Joshua, "Get up. "
Susan lifts Emily onto the picnic table and stands her up. If she was on the ground she would sit down and crawl, but somehow being on a table is different and she stands for a few seconds, seeming to enjoy the feeling.
Later, Susan "walks" her down the lawn, in front of her own legs, holding her hands. At fifteen months and tiny of build, Emily has not yet walked by herself.
Then I see Susan take her hand and step away from her, encouraging her to come towards her. Emily stands slightly unsteadily--Susan lets go of her hand and encourages her--we all are encouraging her now...and Emily does it--her feet take two or three wobbly steps. Cheers break out! We are all clapping as we celebrate the wonder of her first steps. Brenda caught it all in a video clip on Susan's camera and as we look at it afterwards we hear all three of us saying, "You can do it Emily!" Emily is smiling--so happy and loving the applause. How exciting to have witnessed this milestone.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the precious gift of family--and for our friends and church family too. What a blessing to have each other and to be a support to one another in whatever way we can--each one of us having some gift to contribute that will help fill a need for some other. I am so grateful for this day--and for this afternoon.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Perfectly Made, Perfectly Loved

Psalm 139:1-5 (New International Version)
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.
5 You hem me in—behind and before;

you have laid your hand upon me.

How wonderful people are--each person a sum of their genes, upbringing, experiences and culture. At birth, already affected by the emotions, sounds, nutrients and chemicals that flowed around and through the tiny form that grew in the dark but safe, hidden place.

With each successive year, unique factors influence, washing over the growing person as water on stone, polishing smooth, creating a shape, hue and sparkle, distinct from any other in the history of time.

Some experiences are painful and wounding--creating nicks and scars--but even these are part of our uniqueness.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed,
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
He is called by thy name,
for He calls himself a Lamb,
He is meek, and He is mild;
He became a little child,
I a child, and thou a lamb,
We are called by His name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
William Blake (1757-1827)

Psalm 139:13-17 (New International Version)
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
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!

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Shaving

Deuteronomy 30:6 (New International Version)
6 The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

It was an intense conversation with my friend Frances. She'd had an upsetting experience at the beginning of the week and although a couple of days had passed, anger had only faded from white hot to red. She needed to talk it through in order to fully resolve it. A few minutes later the storm was settling; the bad feelings evaporating. As she said goodbye, she told me about a razor she'd bought, made especially for trimming callouses, which she suffers badly from. "I'm willing to be shaved," she said--not referring to feet--"there is such comfort afterwards and there is soft skin below."

Her words took me back to Tuesday evening at cell group. We had read Acts chapter 16, which starts out by describing the circumcision of the young disciple Timothy by Paul. The irony was not lost on us. Paul did this to the half Greek, half Jewish Timothy, so that he would be accepted by the Jews in the area--and then he took Timothy along with him on a trip--for the purpose of delivering the decisions reached by the council in Jerusalem. One of the decisions was that circumcision would not be required of the Gentile new believers. We had read all about that the week before in Acts 15. Timothy though, paid a higher price as one called to leadership--the painful cutting off of flesh.

Today I spoke with a young man, freshly baptised into the faith within the past year. His joy was deep and moving. He had no trouble pinpointing the change in his relationships since taking the step of publicly acknowledging his faith in Christ. He said, "You have to love--you even have to love your enemies."
"Wow," I thought.
He went on, "You have to forgive. It isn't easy at first."
"Wow," I thought again.
And he described a transformation from a living a selfish life to wanting to serve and love.

He was describing the shaving. The hard, tough, callous of self had come off, revealing beneath, a soft and tender, sensitive, feeling heart.

Ephesians 2:11-12 (New Living Translation)
11 Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. 12 In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Related by Blood

Acts 20:28 (New International Version)
28Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

God is big on relationship--in fact everything he does is about relationship. Relationship and community--he knew these things wouldn't be easily learned, so he gave us the church to practise with. Oh--and families. Come to think about it, church is family--we're even related by blood--just not the blood that runs through our veins.

There are times when I would much rather treat practicing relationship as an optional extra--but it really is a non-negotiable. It can be discouraging and hard when we really get down to the nitty-gritty and try to work things through on an issue but God made sure we wouldn't have to figure it all out on our own. He left us lots of help in his guidebook.

Brenda sometimes gets stressed out when she's around me and my friends when we are having what she calls a "train-wreck." Apparently she can see one coming when we can't, and gives off all kinds of silent signals--"Stop! Don't go there! No..." but on we go--I and whichever friend I'm heading for the train-wreck with. We don't usually notice the help she's willing our way from the sidelines. But from each "train-wreck" a friendship rises stronger, more solid--deeper--because we love each other after all.

Not that train-wrecks are to be sought out or encouraged--but not avoided either. A perfect church isn't a lake with a calm smooth surface--it's one whose waters are choppy sometimes and feel scary--a little like Galilee, upon which the disciples sailed their boat into a squall. This was no small storm--the boat was being swamped, according to Luke--and they truly were in danger. You would think that Jesus would have been more understanding of their panic, but he seemed to be expecting faith--faith in him. He calmed the storm, but there must have been something lacking in the disciples' response for him to rebuke them as he did. What exactly did he expect of them if they had more faith? Could it have been to ride out the storm--trusting him? I believe that if they had, they would have reached the other side safely.

Luke 8:22-25 (New International Version)
22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let's go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. 23As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
24The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!"
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25"Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Hound of Heaven

His eyes shine with a love that is all about giving. Stephen's heart is worn prominently on his sleeve and those of us blessed enough to be the object of that love by virtue of being a grandparent or some other relative, well, we are blessed.

Last Thursday evening I dropped by his house after we had all been at a baby shower. As I was leaving, with hugs and kisses for all--Stephen, Joshua, Emily and Katherine--Stephen cast around for a gift to give and picked two balloons he'd brought home from the shower, tied together, blue and green--already slightly deflated. "These are for you," he said--but it was the tender look in his eyes that was the real gift. I feel so protective of this little one--that kind of love...it is so vulnerable to hurt.

Stephen has a hero--his uncle Jay. We're not sure if it's because they both share a passion for Nascar racing, but Stephen is never here for long before he asks, "Where's uncle Jay?" He loves to sit beside him on the couch and watch a race.

Being a little boy's hero is something Jay is adjusting to! We love our son-in-law dearly. He's a big, handsome man, skilled in woodworking and very creative--strong, a loving father and husband--and a private, quiet person. A father of two girls--Tiffany-Amber and Victoria, he doesn't seem quite sure what to do with a little boy who persistently seeks him out and seems to love spending time with him--but he'll figure it out--just give in and love him back. It's kind of hard not to!

Stephen kind of reminds me of the Hound of Heaven--in the poem by Francis Thompson, relentlessly pursuing with love--but most of all he reminds me of Jesus. Jesus loves like that--with a love that holds nothing back--no guardedness--no self protection--only love; for God is love.

1 John 3
1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Checking In!

Psalm 121:1 (New International Version)
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

Just checking in to say--it's going well with the storyboard since I created it on Sunday.

Where I was feeling defeated, I feel confident.
Where I was tired, I feel rested.
Where I felt sluggish, I feel energized.

Change--positive change--is happening. Rah!

I'm reviewing the storyboard regularly to change my mind about who I am--reminding myself that I am a new creation in Christ--and reminding myself of who that person is.

Amy Carmichael writes in her journalled thoughts, published in the book, Edges of His Ways:
April 24th

"Can we command our thoughts? I believe we can. God has given us the power to close the shutter of our minds upon hurtful, weakening thoughts. He has provided all manner of shutters. A book that swings us off ourselves and into another world is a very good shutter; a song set to music; beauty; the dear love of those who love us. Above all, there is this: Look at Calvary. Look steadfastly. Take time to look and all within you will be hushed, for power streams forth from Calvary. We need never know defeat.

Romans 8:25 (New International Version)
25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Loved and Secure

I fumbled with the keys to the door leading to my office in the lower level of a house that is home to five people with developmental disabilities. As the door opened, he was waiting for me, still pajama clad, slightly unsteady of gait, one side somewhat disabled by childhood polio--it was just the start of the day--but he was anxious to tell me, in his distinctly Italian accent, "Hey! We miss you at church yesterday!"
"I missed you too, John," I said, "But the baby dedication I went to at my friend's church was very special."

I thought later that John would be a great person to call people if they missed church. When I drive him and his wife home after church each week, we have a ritual of going through the drive-through at Tim Hortons for a large double-double for John and a medium steeped tea with milk and sugar for his lady. It never fails--the girls in the window lean over and yell into the car, "Hi John! How are you?" and he shouts a teasing comment back--the rest of us in the car might as well be invisible. He is known all over town--by everybody--for his sense of humour, bantering skills and outgoing personality. Yes, the role of "missing people follower-upper" would fit him perfectly. How nice it was to know that I was missed at church and to be told so with such warmth the moment I stepped through the door.

Before leaving the house this morning I was reading some verses from scripture that gave me a similar feeling. I read that "We all, like sheep have gone astray," Isaiah 53:6. "Yes," I thought, "Absolutely--we are a wandering and wayward race of beings, we humans.

But God doesn't leave us alone to wander in the wilderness without help. "He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:3 "Does he not leave the ninety and nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?" Luke 15:4

Yes, he does! He is the God of fresh starts and new beginnings--the God of all hope. God doesn't just love me when I'm doing well, but when I'm struggling--as I was recently--spinning out of control in some areas of life--he cares and helps us back. That thought made me feel so wanted, safe and secure.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The New Has Come!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

I read these words this morning and decided--I receive them. I love that they are stated positively as fact. I am a new creation.

Lately I haven't felt very much like a new creation as I've struggled with some old patterns that are unhealthy--overeating and not getting enough rest and exercise--but these words gave me a needed change of perspective.

A couple of years ago I attended a great workshop presented by Deborah Gyapong, on "storyboarding" your life. For a while I've wanted to revisit my storyboard and update it and this afternoon I did.

Storyboarding is a media term--a way of showing the sequence of scenes in a story by pinning up pictures of the scenes. Applying this idea to our lives involves making two columns on a page and in one column making word "pictures" written in present tense describing how we want our lives to be and in the other column writing the "script" or how it will look, taste, or feel being that way--the more sensory detail the better.

This is based on the fact that we all have sub-conscious scripts that we've absorbed while growing up--some good--some not. They are very powerful and resistant to change. An example would be someone who loses weight but before long gravitates back to their previous weight--often gaining more. The person lost it in his or her body but not in his or her head!

Creating a storyboard of our life and then reviewing it regularly--daily is great--is done with the aim of changing that inner script.

So--I am choosing to be that new creation that God says I am. I am receiving into my life as reality, new and healthy patterns--being the person I want to be--with the help of God.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for working in my life today--overcoming hopelessness and replacing it with energy and focus. I thank you for the truth of your Word. I receive into my life in faith, new and healthy habits with which I will honour the body you gave me for this life.


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A gift from God, a miracle--Ava Claire Jasmine--surrounded by a host of friends and family, she was anointed with oil and dedicated to God today!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Waiting with Patience

John 6:17 (New International Version)
17... they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.

Isn't that a metaphor for our lives? Jesus is slow in coming (appearing--answering), so we get into the boat and head out...What were they thinking of? What are we thinking of? What would have been happened that day if other choices had been made? Yet, Jesus knew where they were and pursued them.

John 6:27 (New International Version)
27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval."

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to trust you even when you seem to be slow in answering. I give to you all of those situations about which I might be tempted towards hopelessness or impatience.

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Celebration

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Drawn to God by cords of love
I feel his loving arms encircle me
As in the still, still, evening hush I stand
And gaze upon the beauty of the land
A quiet celebration in my heart
Rejoicing in the earth, and sky above
Bathed in the splendour of his love!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Real World

In this morning's reading in 2 Corinthians 4, I was struck by three "do nots."

In verses 1, 2 and 16:

1) We do not lose heart
2) We do not use deception
3) Nor do we distort the Word of God
4) We do not lose heart (Paul states this at the starting and ending of this chapter)

At the end of the chapter Paul states, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

How we need reminding of that! This was reinforced as I was listened to an interview with Terry Waite on CBC radio this evening. In 1987, after volunteering to negotiate the release of hostages from Beirut, Lebanon, he was taken captive himself. In a previous interview with CNN he said,

"Because of faith, I could say in the face of my captives, 'You have the power to break my body and you've tried, the power to bend my mind and you've tried, but my soul isn't yours to possess,'" he said. "That little affirmation was enough for me to maintain hope and I think in a situation of real difficulty if you can maintain hope, you're half way home."

In the interview tonight he shared how his captors told him he had five hours to live--surprisingly he coped by going to sleep, then after five hours he was taken into another room where he was allowed to write one letter. He was then told to face the wall and a gun was held to his head...which was then dropped and he was told, "Not today." He lived with the constant awareness that any moment could be his last and said that what this did was to bring life into sharp focus.

That focus was actually a gift. We get things so mixed up, thinking this is the real world--the one that will go on forever, when it's not. If we could live more fully aware of that without having to go through a trauma such as Terry Waite endured, I wonder how different our experience of life would be?

More recently Mr. Waite, now approaching 70 years old, offered to go to Iran to negotiate the release of the 15 British Royal Navy personnel. He was quoted on Sky News as saying, "All this talk about force and violence gets us nowhere.
"We need to get beneath the problem and find a face-saving way out of it."

These are the words and impulses of a brave man whose life is God's and who knows that this world is temporary.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living with Freedom and Purpose

Every culture has a worldview. For instance, North America’s culture is focused on the individual, whereas in Africa and the Far East, the family or community is the centre.

But what of the Kingdom of God--how does the worldview of the Kingdom fit with the culture we live in? Do we even realize they are different?

Our culture highly values achievement, setting of goals, accomplishing numbers of things in all areas of life. This seems so plausible and productive—what could be wrong with it? After all, aren’t hard work, discipline and productivity worthy virtues? Of course they are, but sometimes my own life feels as if it’s spinning so fast that I could be in danger of missing something far more important if I don’t take time to consider what I’m doing—and why.

Jesus said, (John 10:10 (New International Version)) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The thief is Satan, the one who was set against God from the beginning. He steals many things from our lives and not always in obvious ways. Things that appear on the surface to be good, may draw us away from God and his plan for our lives.

I’ve lived my life in a struggle to do more in less time—convinced that if I only arranged things in a different order, perhaps I’d be successful—blind to the fact that there is a finite amount of time in each day and some of it needs to be used to rest. Is this the way God wants us to live? I don’t think so.

I’ve found myself living under the tyranny of the “To Do” list. I will always be a list maker. A list helps me to focus and get things done—and I love crossing things off when they're done. But I’ve decided that mentally I will no longer call it a “To Do” list, but a “Possibility List.” I want to be open to the possibility that God might have a different agenda for my day—and I don't want to feel frustrated or guilty if he does.

Another key to a lifestyle more in keeping with the Kingdom of God is to spend some time discovering who God made me to be. Ephesians 4:11 says that, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” I believe that we are all born with a purpose a reason to “be”--one that we are uniquely crafted for. As someone once said to me, “Writers write.” It was a statement of fact.

The enemy’s strategy is to dilute our uniqueness and blur God’s vision for our lives. In our childhood we reflect the seeds of God’s purposes more clearly—and it is as we get older that they are forgotten, set aside for the duties of life. There are some good books that take the reader on a step by step process of rediscovering the things that made our hearts sing as children—and then through a process of considering how to fulfill the calling for which God created us.

Once we discover who we are, we are freed to “be” that person and to make choices to focus more deliberately in those areas, and just as importantly, to say no to things that are not in line with our strengths and passions, confident that God has gifted others in the areas we lack.

To make the switch from “doing” to “being” is a radical change. The focus is less on activity and more on letting our actions flow from our unique identity in Christ. We lose our joy in life when we spend time in guilt and condemnation over what we should have done—another trap of the enemy. Act 17:28 says that “In him we live and move and have our being.”

There is also contentment and peace in giving up expectations—mainly those of ourselves. I don’t mean to give up all motivation, initiative or energy but to relax into life in partnership with God. Jeremiah 45.5 says, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” It has been my experience in life that God’s plans for me exceed any that I might have for myself and he leads me on adventures I could not have imagined. If he has done this while I still had one, and sometimes two, feet in a world so different to his, I can hardly wait to see what is in store as I yield my life more fully to simply being—and being available—for his will.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Erica--Sweet of Spirit

"Let nature take its course," was what the doctors said when she was born.

Inoffensive enough, those words--they could allude to letting a cold get better without resorting to medication--only in this case they meant allowing a little girl to die. "She'll be dead in a month," they said, "We'll just keep her comfortable."

Fortunately, the little baby born with a hole in her back--spina bifida--and a raging infection-- also had a mother who didn't listen to the doctors. Erica survived the infection and is now an eleven year old who lights up the life of anyone who meets her.

When she was five she would regularly ask her mother, "When am I going to learn how to walk?" That was never a possibility for Erica but it hasn't held her back from life.

Until now, her mom has catheterized Erica four times, each and every single day. She is about to have an operation to enable her to be independent. She will be able to do this herself afterwards with a tube that will go into her stomach.

Her mom says that nothing stops Erica. She "runs" every where--for instance she will say, "I'm going to run to my friend's house."

Sometimes Barb, her mom, will ask her if she misses being able to walk but says, "It doesn't enter her mind."

Erica--Sweet of Spirit--the world can learn a lot from you.


Isaiah 11:6 (New Living Translation)
6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Adversity

Adversity sometimes drives people to their knees. It was like that for my brother in England in the year 2000 when his marriage broke up. That year was a nightmare--a year of heartbreak for him and for his children--and a year of anguish for everyone who loved them. I would never want to revisit the pain of that season in his life, but during it God drew him closer than ever before.

On September 10th 2000 I wrote:

Yesterday Robert and I spoke. He had received a large lawyer's bill that had to be paid this week and he was worrying about his dwindling resources when he remembered reading a page in the Daily Light that was a comfort along those lines

He had received the Daily Light that I had sent him from Canada, on May 5th, and so he began looking through all the pages since then, especially at the pages than he had bent the corners down on. As he did, the words of many other pages moved him deeply and he kept saying to himself, "Why didn't I turn the corner down on this one, or that one?" and as he did, the corners were being turned down. He said that the tears began to flow as he read the words of scripture and as God spoke to him through them. He never did find the page he was looking for, but I did, when I went afterwards and checked. It was May 5th....

Morning
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For . . . your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.—No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!
I want you to be free from anxieties.—Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”—“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”—“Have faith in God.”
Matt. 6:31, 32; Ps. 34:9, 10; Ps. 84:11, 12; 1 Cor. 7:32; Phil. 4:6; Matt. 10:29-31; Mark 4:40; Mark 11:22

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Being Real

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (New Living Translation)
2 The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.

To be fully myself with others has been a lifelong journey. Growing up shy and an introvert by nature is part of it--and like much of the rest of the world, I've struggled with insecurities and lack of self worth (the enemy loves us to believe that we are worthless).

I can trace the process of breaking free of hiding through poems, reflections and revelations in my journals and now I think that my closest friends know me pretty fully.

I've come to realize that the only real gift I have to offer the world is myself and that to be fully me is the best thing I can be--not measuring myself by anyone else's yardstick. What peace and freedom there is in that.

2 Corinthians 3:2-3 describes our lives as letters--not written with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of God on human hearts. If that's true, then I want to be an accurate letter--showing the world who I am in Christ, as a mother, wife, friend and leader. If I hide the part of me that is Christ-focused from others (or any other part for that matter), thinking that they may be offended or turned off, or I may be percieved as pushing my faith on them, I am hiding the thing within me that is the most valuable to the rest of the world. "The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves," says Paul, writing to the Corinthians--"you yourselves."

This morning my friend Susan led our worship team at church. We aren't the most polished, we all had colds, but we are worshippers. The worship service was filled with a sense of God's Presence. This is what she wrote afterwards:

"I gave myself to God this morning and asked him to please flow through "me". Instead of trying to focus on "how" I "should" be doing it, I just focused on "Him" and making sure that "who I am" was as available as I can be for Him to flow through. And then I just loved Him and enjoyed His presence... "

Giving ourselves to God and others--our real selves--that's all God asks and it is a gift that in his hand can be put to amazing use.

Romans 12:1 (New Living Translation)
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pray!

Ephesians 6:19-20 (New International Version)
19Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

The man who wrote these words was Paul the apostle--known as Saul, of Tarsus before his dramatic conversion--a brilliant and educated man. He first appears at the very end of the seventh chapter of Acts--a party to the stoning death of the first martyr, Stephen--and his life was an adventure from beginning to end.

The Life Application Bible, in its profile of Paul says:
God did not waste any part of Paul--his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses.

And yet, this man who had everything, counted it all as nothing--except to give it all to God. He refused to use his brilliant mind to persuade people of the truth of the gospel, although God flowed through his intellect and used it.

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 he states that he "would not come with eloquence or superiour wisdom" but would only preach the message of the cross, "Christ crucified," recognizing that it would be foolishness to many. This was so that his listener's faith, "might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Paul did not dare to rely on anything but God, and in his writings he repeatedly asks for the prayers of others so that he might be given the words to speak, and the boldness to speak them.

How, is something of a mystery, but God hears and answers prayer--my journals and our cell group prayer journal bear testimony to that. It is probably one of the most important things we could do.

I'm continuing to read and enjoy, Prayer--Does it Make any Difference?--by Philip Yancey. The book probes and explores the question posed in the title in ways that would never have occurred to me. It's an honest and thoughtful book. Reading the book, and more importantly, reading the words written by the apostle Paul, there is no doubt, prayer makes all the difference in the world.

2 Corinthians 1:9-11 (New International Version)
9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.


Friday, April 13, 2007

A Gentle Day

Peace pervaded my day today. I don't know whether it was because it was Friday, or because I actually got to bed before midnight last night and was well rested, but it felt good. I felt as though I was moving calmly and purposefully through the tasks at hand--with no pressure, just accomplishing things one by one. My office was peaceful and quiet--the phone hardly rang and there were few emails--perhaps because several of my team were at training. And I knew they'd be having a wonderfully inspiring day.

I left work for the day in the early afternoon, taking some lieu time in order to have lunch with a friend. As we left the restaurant and headed for my car, the biting cold wind blasted us. A windswept man approached us, clutching a clipboard full of pages that were flapping madly in the gusts of wind. He was slightly disheveled--and in his early sixties I would have guessed. "Would you like to sponsor me in a walk for MS research?" he asked. As it became evident what his mission was, my friend gathered her coat more tightly against the wind and walked towards the car--giving a clear body language message--"No thanks."

I asked if it was a registered charity and he said, "Oh yes, of course."

I said, "Yes, I'll make a donation," and pulled out a bill from my purse and gave it to him, then wrote out my address for a receipt as he steadied his clipboard against the battering wind. I asked him if he knew anyone with MS and he said that actually he did--that someone with the cottage across from theirs had it. I was thinking of another friend of mine who is praying that tests will come back negative for the disease.

As I got into my car though, my friend said (probably wisely) that she would never hand over money like that and that she's very careful what charities she supports. I wondered if I'd been impulsive and foolish, handing over money to a stranger with a clipboard, but then I felt an assurance that no, it had been the right thing to do--that even if he had taken advantage of me--that didn't matter. Again, the peace I'd felt in the morning, continued with me.

I drove my friend to her home, dropped her off and headed to my next stop--a flower shop to order flowers for the memorial service tomorrow of another dear friend. I ordered two floral arrangements--one from our family, and one from the ministry for which I work--where she volunteered and was a special friend to people with disabilities. I also picked up three sympathy cards as the clerk made the arrangements for the flowers. She asked about the person they were for as she worked. She had to ring the flowers in on two different credit cards--and she asked if she could do the sympathy cards seperately to the flowers since they weren't part of the delivery to the church. I said, "No problem, I can pay cash for them."

She rang them in and said, "That's ten twenty six, but don't bother about the change," I was thanking her, when a strange look crossed her face and she said, slightly embarrassed, "You know, don't bother about any of it, just take the cards."

I said, "Really? Are you sure?"

And she said, "Yes, you're doing a good thing with the work you do--and she must have been a wonderful person to volunteer like she did."

As I thanked her for her kind gesture, I assured her that all of us who do our work consider ourselves to be the blessed ones, the peace I'd felt all day--the gentleness--the kindness of God wrapped itself around me like a warm cloak. I walked back out into the chilly air outside to continue my last errands before heading home--on the inside I felt very, very warm. Kindness seemed to be spreading like a ripple on a pond. My final stop was at the IGA, where, as I was leaving, I bought Girl Guide cookies, telling the young girl selling them, "You realize I'm addicted to these things?" I ate the entire vanilla section on the way home--but I saved the chocolate (which I don't prefer) for Paul!

1 Corinthians 10:31 (New International Version)
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Well, I think God is smiling.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Against all Odds but God's

Her long, straight, dark blonde hair frames a face with serious and sincere eyes. She is one of the young people of Canada--who grew up singing a national anthem with the lines--God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee--but learned nothing of God as she grew up, and had only scorn for those who believed.

Like many young people, Jennifer had dabbled in paganism and the occult--nothing serious--just curiosity--but she thought Christianity really stupid. A history major, she knew that religion, including Christianity, had been the catalyst for much trouble and inhumanity over the centuries. Besides, she had never met anyone who could defend the Christian faith. There was one girl in high school who believed, "But," she said, "We could all talk circles around her."

Her mother and sister had a nominal faith. They believed in God, but didn't practice their faith in any way--they didn't go to church or read the Bible. They were probably typical of another cross section of Canadian society, who would call themselves Christians if asked. Her parents are divorced and her father is an atheist.

Yet Jennifer is currently part way through her studies for a Master of Divinity degree and involved in pastoral ministry to disadvantaged youth. What happened to change the course of her life?

A year and a half ago, Jennifer was engaged to be married and living with her fiance, when over the course of six months, without being around Christians, the Holy Spirit rolled away the stone that had been over her heart. She was working in a bookstore when one day a young woman came to her cash register with a New Testament "Bible-zine" entitled, Becoming. Jennifer asked, "What is this?"--she didn't know whether to punch it in as a book or a magazine (the tax would be different depending on which it was).

"It's a New Testament," the girl said.
"Okay..." said Jennifer.
"Yeah, you should get one."

Jennifer did get one and read it. She found it an interesting format, with the many side-bars. Next she found a copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis and read that too. Since she was preparing to be married, she was thinking about children. She wasn't sure she wanted to bring children into the world, but she thought that if she had children, it would be good to take them to church. She thought they would learn good moral teachings and how to be good human beings. So she started visiting churches.

Meanwhile, Jennifer's fiance didn't want to go to church with her and was openly antagonistic. As Jennifer continued to listen to the Word of God being preached, she began to realize that if what she was reading and hearing was true--as she was beginning to believe it was--she needed to make some changes in her life. She broke off her engagement and moved home to live with her mother.

Jennifer's mother began to attend church with her and her faith began to come alive. Her sister also moved back home and while she initially preferred to sleep in on Sunday mornings, she gradually started attending church regularly. Both Jennifer's mother and sister are now involved in church ministry.

Jennifer's boyfriend now is a pastor. Her father (the atheist) will visit church when her boyfriend is preaching.

As she concluded her story Jennifer said, "I often think of that girl in high school who tried to tell us why she believed. I'm sorry for how we treated her and would love to tell her that."

A soul's journey--against all odds--but God's.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Her van was ten years old and it had seen better days. Between monthly payments, and oil changes, she was spending $1,000 a month and then there were repairs. There's a critical point in the life of a vehicle, when you suspect it's becoming a black hole into which money vanishes. The van was there!

Barb was a single mom of two children--one of them,Erica, had spina bifida--a bright spirited little girl who used a wheelchair. Being a student nurse in her fourth year of studies with one more to go, every penny was needed but Barb asked her mechanic if he'd seen any cars that might be within her means and suitable for her needs.

The mechanic said that he did have a Honda Accord. It was $3,000--but a lady was coming to see it. "That's okay," said Barb, "If she has the money, you should sell it to her." The other woman was sending a friend to look at the car before she bought it. She had $2,500 to put down as a deposit. Barb also went to see it--on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday! She took Erica to see it with her wheelchair. She was used to getting the wheelchair into the van, which had a sliding door, but she said, "If this is God's will, I'll be able to get her in." Amazingly, she found that she could.

She said to a friend, "I don't want to buy this car without God. If this car is for me, I'm asking him to show that by providing the money." Barb knew that if she was going to get the car, God would have to provide the money by the next night--Thursday evening.

On Wednesday night she went home and started going through the mail. There were three envelopes--one was a letter from York University, another was a letter about money owed on her student loan and the third was to let her know that she had received a bursary of $450. The letter suggested going to the website where she'd be able to say thanks. When she did, in the account she found not $450--but $3000!

Barb told her mechanic, but because it still would take her a few days to get the money, she said, "If you need the money, you can still sell the car to the lady who was looking at it."

"No," he said, "I think this car's yours."

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Civilla Martin

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Life Recorded

1 Corinthians 16:15-18 (New King James Version)
15 I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints— 16 that you also submit to such, and to everyone who works and labors with us.17 I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours...

Once again tonight I opened one of my boxes of journals. Some are simple loose leaf spiral bound books, some cloth covered; some are brightly patterned and others in muted shades--one even has a cover of hand made paper. They chronicle my life from when I was a twelve year old school girl in England (that one a silk green leatherette five year diary that used to lock but upon which I still felt the need to write "Private"--twice--just in case). On they go through my teens, young motherhood, then through my thirties, forties and now my fifties. The journals have an old, papery smell and old photos and clippings lie between the pages and flutter out when they're opened.

There are pages full of goals and determined vows to do better as a wife, mother and friend. Definite themes reoccur throughout--spend less money, lose weight, be less selfish, be more consistent in spending time with God.

I had a discussion with a group of fellow writers once about journals. I'd been horrified to read that someone burned hers. Her thoughts going up in smoke was unthinkable to me--but to some the mere act of getting thoughts down on paper is an end in itself--therapeutic--and once done--an act of release--it has served its purpose. To some their thoughts are so private that the thought of someone else reading them is enough to take drastic measures to ensure that doesn't happen.

My method of journaling varied over the years. Sometimes all I did was record prayers. These are a blessing to read many years later. Sometimes I don't even recognize the names of the people or situations I prayed for, but other times the answers came and seeing the prayers written down reminds me of God's faithfulness.

Tonight I read this, from September 1994:
"I believe God is leading us into a ministry of hospitality and refreshing others. There is a real need for those younger in the faith to "connect" with others, more than just during our time in church." And then I quoted the verses above from 1 Corinthians 16 about the household of Stephanus, devoted to the service of the saints and about whom Paul wrote, "They refreshed my spirit and yours also."

It happens to be Tuesday evening--the night the cell group meets in our home. Tonight there were a few people missing and just five of us relaxed after dinner. Instead of reading the next chapter in Acts, we just hung out--talked and laughed and laughed and talked--one sixteen year old, a thirty five year old and three in our fifties. Normally there would be someone in his twenties and a young couple with their baby as well as others in their fifties. We all hang together and give to one another--support, caring and love. Two small grand daughters sit around the table with us each week--they are always excited and happy when they realize it's Tuesday--Victoria rushing upstairs each week to set the tables for dinner...A prayer has been answered, a calling confirmed.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Simple Thanksgiving

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Joshua--two years, ten and a half months old! He has a smile to melt the hardest heart and the sunniest disposition in the world. Give him a ball and he is beyond happy--especially if someone will join in a game of catch. He has lots to say and some of it we even understand now. We love him dearly.
In the fall of 2004 when Josh was almost five months old, he woke up one afternoon with a very high fever. Our daughter-in-law Susan instinctively knew that something was seriously wrong. She bundled him up and took him to the hospital in nearby Alliston. The doctor there was very concerned and sent them on to the hospital in Barrie where Joshua was admitted and kept for the next five days battling a serious staph infection. His mom never left his side the whole time. I remember what a pitiful sight he was--limp, lethargic and clinging to Susan. Had she not acted as quickly as she did--had the doctor in Alliston not taken it seriously--things might have turned out so much worse.
The suspected cause was a faulty valve from the bladder--setting up an environment that made frequent infections highly likely. The doctor said that he would have to be on a constant course of antibiotics for six months to prevent that...
My journal for October 12th 2004 reads:
On Sunday, Susan stood in church and shared how God has been drawing her closer and that she is believing God for healing for Joshua when he goes for his tests on Thursday. At the end of the communion service, Susan brought Joshua forward for prayer. I hope I always keep the picture in my mind--Susan, eyes tightly closed, her arms wrapped around Joshua, who was facing the pastors and deacons praying for him, looking from face to face with a bright smile!
Dear Lord, I hold these dear ones up to you--Joshua and Susan. You know what you are about and I trust you. Dear Lord, please heal little Joshua of the faulty valve.
When Joshua went for his tests, there was no sign of any abnormality. He never did go on the course of antibiotics and has been perfectly healthy ever since.
It's good to remember and celebrate God's goodness. I want to thank him and praise him for the blessing of this child--for the wonderful little person that he is--and for the fact that he answered our prayers for healing.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Costly Faith

The day began with my alarm going off at 4.30 a.m. stirring me from my sleep. I resisted my usual habit of hitting the snooze button. I didn't want to risk a second snooze this morning--I haven't missed an Easter morning sunrise service for the past ten years.
There's something about this yearly gathering with other believers from all of the churches in town that draws me. I love the opportunity to meet with our friends from other denominations and worship together, declaring, we small crowd, huddled on the hillside, that "Christ is risen!"
Breakfast afterwards is always especially good too, rotating around the churches--old fashioned bacon, sausages, eggs, pancakes and home made preserves.This morning the half moon hung in the gray sky of morning as we left the house, dressed warmly against the frosty cold that nipped at our cheeks.
As we drove along still deserted roads, past silent, sleeping households it felt, as it always does, like we were headed to a secret meeting--reminiscent of the time I stole out of the house as a child, past sleeping parents--on a secret quest for adventure very early one morning.
When we finally get to our eleven o'clock Easter morning church service--we committed die hards--comparisons can be overheard about what time people got up that morning in order to be there--just as I wrote at the start of this story.
Gatherings of Canadians on cold hillsides in early morning in the name of God--these are declarations of faith worthy of note in an increasingly secularized society--but this afternoon I opened an old journal and found a story even more worthy--and today it seems fitting to tell it.
A few years ago, a friend, Sumitra, came from her native India to visit relatives in Toronto. Her mother had come with her, and before they returned home, we managed one visit. We had met years ago through our work, but remained friends after our work paths parted, bound together by our common faith.Sumi's mother was 87 then--a dear, gracious lady, so elegant in her gold jewelry and silk sari. She was so obviously a woman of deep faith in God and I asked her to tell me her story; how had their family come to faith in Christ?
The story begins in what I would estimate was the eighteen eighties--nearly 130 years ago, during the British Raj. Sumi's great grandfather, was known to be an excellent linguist and was engaged as a translator at just twenty years old by the District Collector. One of the tasks he was given was translating the Bible into Tamil. As he translated he became convinced that it was God's Word and gradually came to the realization that he had a decision to make that would cost him everything. He had only one brother and he knew that becoming a Christian meant that he would be disgraced, disowned and disinherited. He finally told his parents, who persuaded him to wait a year and think it through carefully. He did so, but at the end of the year he decided that though it would mean the loss of wealth, position and family, his faith in God meant even more.
Sumi's mother continued the story of her grandfather's decision. The houses in India had verandahs. The young man was told to leave the house and go out onto the verandah. Then they threw out water after him, to wash away "the dirt." Although he did return later to visit his mother, he was never again allowed into the house, but could only come as far as the verandah.
He prospered in spite of starting out with nothing and married one of the seven daughters of another Christian man, having a family of several sons who also became prosperous--one of whom was the father of Sumi's mother.
Today on a day we remember costly grace, I celebrate a man of costly faith.
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Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Second Shift


Paul and I are noticing a subtle shift that's happening in our relationship with our kids.

I first noticed it last year when Brenda took me out to dinner to celebrate getting her income tax refund. It was a chilly day--and as we were leaving the restaurant she said, "You stay here Mom--I'll go and get the car." I let the feeling register--"I think I am being 'looked after,' " I said to myself. I surrendered gracefully and a little gratefully, but as I waited obediently in the doorway I wondered, "Is this it? Am I getting old?" Normally I would be striding purposefully across the parking lot trailing my daughter in my wake!

This afternoon Paul and I came home from lunch at Tim Horton’s to find our son Peter here with Katherine, Stephen and Joshua. Tiffany-Amber and Victoria came upstairs to play and I surrendered to three hours that included Black Beauty (we wiped away tears together), another wild game of Sorry, throwing balls and much wiping of one very runny nose.

During this time, Peter was working on Paul's computer. Paul said, "I don't know all the stuff he did. He just took off a bunch of old programs I didn't need and disconnected a drive I didn't need. I'd asked him to fix it so I could burn photos and DVDs."

Just as Peter was finished and getting ready to leave, Jay, our son-in-law popped upstairs. Paul had just bought a new VCR/DVD player. This combination of events is like the aligning of the planets. Jay is guaranteed to be sucked into our technological black hole.

Peter laughed as he gathered up his kids and said, "It's like Jay's the apartment superintendent." Now what did he mean by that? And then he said, "He's the second shift."

Is this it? Is this how it happens? Suddenly your kids are looking after you? Suddenly I feel "needy!" I'm writing this with laughter--the "second shift" indeed! I hope he was kidding...
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Jesus Revealed

Today I simply want to share some scriptures that reveal Jesus. They speak more clearly than anything I could say~

Genesis 49:10-11 (New International Version)

10 The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his.
11 He will tether his donkey to a vine,

his colt to the choicest branch;
he will wash his garments in wine,
his robes in the blood of grapes.


Numbers 24:17a (New International Version)

17 "I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel...

Isaiah 42:1-4 (New International Version)
The Servant of the Lord
1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets.
3 A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
4 he will not falter or be discouraged

till he establishes justice on earth.

Dear Lord, I thank you for the gift of your Word, especially your prophetic Word--revealing you.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Invitation Accepted

Matthew 26
1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2"As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."

Matthew recorded these words, but there is no record of the disciples' response.

Perhaps they were busy--arguing about who was the greatest in the kingdom--wondering where they could find food for the next meal--concerned with the petty (the little) things of life--the things that occupy me too.

I wonder if he longed for friends in whom he could confide. He confided anyway--although his words so often fell like stones that didn't meet their targets.

I don't want to be like that--distracted by minutia, but I am...I am.

Jesus is waiting for me as he waited for the disciples--waiting for me to slow down and listen. I want to receive the gift he holds out to me--the gift of intimate fellowship--a life lived in communion with him.

I've found myself thinking this week of the words of this beautiful song...Sweet Hour of Prayer. It speaks of the invitation to sweet communion that Jesus offers.

Sweet Hour of Prayer

William Walford, 1845
Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, that calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father's throne make all my wants and wishes known;
In seasons of distress and grief, my soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter's snare, by thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, thy wings shall my petition bear,
To Him whose truth and faithfulness engage the waiting soul to bless;
And since He bids me seek His face, believe His word and trust His grace,
I'll cast on Him my every care, and wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer.

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer, may I thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah's lofty height I view my home, and take my flight:
This robe of flesh I'll drop and rise to seize the everlasting prize;
And shout, while passing through the air, farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Singing in the Shadow of His Wings...

Belinda,

Your post of Monday (April 2, 2007) touched me deeply and drew me closer in devotion to the One who gave so much -- for me... Thankyou for that gift to us this Holy Week... I've been thinking about your words all morning and I remembered a poem I wrote some years ag0.


Singing in the Shadow of Your Wings
March 7, 1999

Just when I think I'm finally getting free
it seems to come about by some necessity
that I'm forced to look into my book of memories.

Every leaf, to my chagrin,
falls open to a place I rather would not see!
And I can sense
a feeling rising up in me of pure futility-
As the pain of all my past cascades and washes over me.

And then...

I feel your love enfolding me
Drawing me, holding me...
Close to your heart!
And there's no place I'd rather be
Than waiting right here quietly
Just being in the shadow of your wings.

As I lean against Your breast,
Once again I know to rest
In the hope and peace that your forgiveness brings.

My heart is filled completely. It begins to overflow.
with a gratitude
that only one
who's fallen quite so far-
Could ever, ever know!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tears

I felt the tears gather in my eyes as I watched out the window. Rebecca had been sliding on a long strip of ice beside our house. She fell hard and banged her elbow. I heard her wails and saw her clutching her arm and opened the sliding door to comfort her. She sobbed in my hug and scowled at the same time, frustrated at this turn of events. When I suggested to her that she try playing at something else in our yard, she shook her head stubbornly and stomped back to her hollering brothers, still rubbing her hurt and wiping tears away.

That was when my own welled up. I love her so, and I hate to see her wounded. Children know that if they do certain things there is a risk of injury, but they keep on because it's fun, there's a thrill involved.

I wondered if this is how our Father feels as he watches us fall and hurt ourselves. He lovingly prompts us that the choice we're making may be hazardous, but we keep on, digging in our heels and insisting that we must go our own way. Do tears of compassion well up in His eyes as He sees the consequences and hears our frustrated cries?

In Mark 10, Jesus speaks with a rich young man who asks Him how to inherit eternal life. When Jesus presents him with the commandments, he answers that he has kept them all since he was a boy. It is at this point that I am taken, because as the Lord is about to give him a difficult directive, the gospel says "Jesus looked at him and loved him." Then he instructed him and we are told that the young man went away sad. He went his own way. We are never told of the outcome of this story. I hope he went home and counted the cost and avoided the pitfalls of running from God.

Lord I thank you that Your loving arms are open, that You are waiting to restore. Help me be willing to hear Your wisdom with my heart, so that I need not place myself in harms way.

"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11 NIV

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Loneliness of Jesus

Matthew 26:7-9 (New International Version)
7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.
8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. 9 "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."


Step into Matthew 26. Be there in the moments in time captured in words. Agony, turmoil, a sense that all familiar and safe was unraveling, coming to an end--close bonds being torn apart. Feel it rather than read it--as it must have felt to those involved.

Yes, all these things are there in that chapter, but today I'm seeing only Jesus--and the pain that came before the searing physical pain that lay ahead--that those closest to him--his most intimate companions were so far from being with him in his preparation for suffering.

The chapter starts by describing the conspiracy of evil, the plot, the lies against one who had only ever done good. Jesus doesn't hide from the disciples what is brewing. He tells them clearly, "The Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified."

What were they thinking, I wonder. Their response isn't recorded by Matthew--no acknowledgement of what he just said--no protest or expression of devotion or love.

Only one act of devotion is recorded. A woman comes with an alabaster jar containing perfume. The perfume is very expensive, the writer notes. What she does is outrageous, scandalous--a lavish expression of love. She pours it on Jesus' head.

Then the words that cut to the quick, "Why this waste?"

Jesus was preparing to die, more alone than he had ever been and about to be even lonelier for even his intimate communion with the Father would be broken.

I'm so glad that through the act of this woman, Jesus was touched by loving hands. Perish practicality where love is concerned. Love knows nothing of measure and carefulness.

"...you will not always have me," said Jesus, "You will not always have me..."

Dear Lord, I am not so different to your close companions. I would like to think that I'm the woman, full of devotion, but I only want to be like her. Forgive my disconnectedness, my distractedness, draw me to your feet to worship and love you as you are worthy of being loved. Especially now, especially this week, as we remember all that you did for love.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Gap

Romans 8:18-19 (New International Version)
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.

I've been thinking about tension of a particular sort over the past couple of days--the tension caused by the gap between what is and what we wish was, or what we think ought to be. Like most other people I suspect, I haven't always handled the gap well.

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and we are part of the equation. We are prone to forget that when filled with disappointment, frustration and criticism.

We shouldn't be surprised at the gap--rather we should accept the fact that it will be there--usually it would be more surprising if it wasn't. Accepting this fact isn't the same as accepting the status quo.

Discerning what is and what isn't within our realm of responsibility and control is a tension reducer. The moment the lines get blurry, things get harder.

Determining what I can do to make a productive difference in any situation is another good thing. I'm the only one I have any real control over.

Celebrating what is working right about a situation--counting the blessings in it, is helpful. Usually there is so much good and it far outweighs the bad.

Take any church for example. As I was leading worship this morning in my own church, I looked out at the faces of my church family and thought of the challenge, from an organizational perspective, of steering the ship of the church. We are a hundred and fifty or so different personalities, from different backgrounds, with different strengths and weaknesses, passions and peculiarities. I thought of the challenge of leading a church. The wonder is that we do as well as we do. Yes, we have to do better, but still, given what God has to work with--us--we have much to celebrate in how much we love and care for one another, how many of us are actively involved (over 60% I'd guess) and the fertile ground for growth and ministry that exists.

We are, I think, at a critical point--of growth--and of outreach to the community that lies beyond our doors. As we grow and more families are joined to our band of ragamuffins, we can be sure that along the way there will be tension in how we respond to the needs people bring with them and how smoothly we flow as a family. How we handle "the gap" will be critical--because "the gap" will always be there. Maybe one of the most important things we can do is to plan to how we're going to handle it.

Romans 8:28-30 (New International Version)
More Than Conquerors 28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.