Saturday, June 30, 2007
I didn't know then how I would be feeling after spending much of today reading about Canada's First Nations. I am going on a two week missions trip with daughter Jorie (age 16) in two weeks time to the Mishkeegogamang First Nation north and east of Sioux Lookout. I wanted to have as much familiarity as possible with what the needs might be and how we would best be able to serve during our short time there. So I have been attempting to look at "the aboriginal issue" in Canada through their eyes.
And my heart is broken.
I am becoming aquainted with a race of people who have survived unbelievable assaults against a people's most fundamental and essential structure: the family -- not to mention the assaults on every other aspect of their culture and way of life. Without going into all the issues, and there are many, let me suffice it to say that anyone who is not concerned about our First Nations peoples can't possibly understand how difficult Canadian society has made it for them, how deep and long acting the wounds that were inflicted (and still are being inflicted!)
Tonight there is a group of young people (our church youth group, hosted by daughter Jorie and son Joel) sitting around a campfire in our backyard, roasting wieners and marshmallows and having just finished a very rowdy and noisy game of touch football in the field adjacent to us. The back door opens and closes on occasion as one them separates from the main body in search of another can of pop in the fridge. I can hear the strains of Christian rock drifting in each time the door opens (thank goodness we live in the country with no close neighbours to disturb) and the occasional burst of laughter when one of them says something funny that cracks up the entire group in unison. They're great kids. They have a great heritage, a great life and they have a great future.
The contrast is hard to understand. In comparison life seems so easy and straightforward for our kids. Life sure isn't fair.
I'm glad it's not for me to understand. It's for me to go, though, to Mishkeegogamang in two weeks time. Carrying simply a burden of love and pure service. The rest is up to God...
Friday, June 29, 2007
3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,
"The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry."
These words, adapted from a poem by Robert Burns, are an apt description of my week--which I spent being busy with many things--most of them unexpected and unplanned.
This morning, for the first time--at work when I'd planned to be off and preparing to speak somewhere on Sunday--I felt a twinge of panic rising in my stomach. I called one of my team, saying that I needed to pass the baton and go home. Immediately, capable hands took over and not only that--I knew that several people would be praying for me. Relief flowed, soothing my soul--as refreshing as cool waves lapping over my feet on a hot summer beach.
I thanked God, as I do many times each week, for the way our work team functions--supporting one another lovingly and gladly. We never feel alone in any situation and we flow together in a synchronized way.
Later, in a grocery store without a shopping list--just not that organized this week--I found myself spotting things and thinking, "Paul would like," this or that. Raisin tea biscuits, Devon custard and the less healthy peanut butter (not the all natural kind I prefer) found their way into the cart. I anticipated his pleasure at these small treats.
I thought about laying down our lives and self interest for each other and God--out of love. When you love someone it isn't a burdensome, but a joyous thing to please them.
"His commandments are not burdensome"
Romans 13:10 (New International Version)
10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
Face Book--who hasn't heard of it--joined it--or resisted joining it?
Even though I haven't joined the Face Book community, I've been amazed at how this social networking tool has reunited old friends.
Peter and Brenda have reconnected with friends of twenty or more years ago from Bible College (in Peter's case) and the private Christian public school they both attended. As they have mentioned long forgotten names, my memory bank has spluttered and coughed up from the depths of dusty, long forgotten corners, some faces to match the names.
The leap of twenty to thirty years at one jump feels a bit like a ride in a time machine. That scamp of a boy with the glint of mischief in his eyes that I had such a soft spot for--ended up in jail--and so on...I've heard with interest, story after story of who and where these grown up children are now.
It's been dismaying to find that some friends--including a group who had been at Bible College--seem to have lost their faith in God. I've been thinking about this a lot. How could this happen? I meet people regularly who have discovered God in the midst of a secular society and whose lives have been transformed by faith in Jesus Christ--and so it's been hard to understand the reasons for those who knew him young, yet fell away and lost their faith.
In Matthew 13 can be found the parable of the sower and the four soils. I think there are clues to be found there--where Jesus talks of the seed taking roots quickly on the rocky soil, but withering in the hot sun--or springing up but being choked by the cares of the world.
Paul wrote to Timothy:
2 Timothy 4:10 (New International Version)
10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia.
People have fallen away from the beginnings of the faith--it shouldn't be so shocking or surprising.
In the story of the wise and foolish builders, one built his house on rock--and the other on sand.
How important it is to make your faith your own at some point--making the transition from a learned faith to an owned one. A faith that is faith at all, needs to be questioned, and poked at and prodded and explored--even doubted if necessary.
I think that we are too afraid of this--afraid to encourage questioning and thinking. But then we don't encourage the building of spiritual muscle and maturity.
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray for true faith, not wishy-washy, pale imitation faith. I pray for grand children and God children and nieces and nephews and younger friends who are searching and open. Please help them to find a rock solid faith in you. In Jesus' Name!
Matthew 7:24-27 (New International Version)
24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
I could smell the coffee, rich and comforting somehow, but the brightness of the morning light scared me. I was right to be scared--it was much later than I'd intended to be up.
Paul was long gone...I would not have known, having slept on the couch downstairs. I had not wanted to disturb him by going to bed as late as I had, when he had such an early start.
At 5.00 I'd woken to a chorus of birds outside--and closed the window. My feathered friends did their best, but alas I foiled them--and myself in the process.
In record quick time, leaving behind dishes in sink, unmade bed and other traces of a hasty exit, I was on my way to my first stop of the day--Collingwood.
I have an artist's eye for light and I wondered this morning how light can be so different from one country to the next--one day to the next. I grew up in the soft light of England and now know the bright mostly dazzling light of Ontario. This morning the light was soft and beautiful and the landscape was bathed in a wash of it.
The road between highway 89 and Stayner--the Mansfield Road--a continuation of Airport Road.--runs through some heart stoppingly beautiful countryside. Vast swathes of Simcoe forest run along the road that passes through Mansfield, Avening and Cashtown, small communities with general stores and antique stores and quiet country churches.
The road goes up steep hills and down again and through ski country dotted with alpine style chalets. Golden fields of grain, stood thick and lush. Other fields were dotted with rolls of hay. It hardly seems five minutes since winter and here already crops have been harvested and baled.
I drove past ramshackle barns and houses and wondered at how descriptive that word, "ramshackle" is. On every hand, for miles around, acres of farmland lay under the sky, in shades of yellow and green.
My meeting? I got there only a minute or two late. That was amazing--but oh, how I loved getting there!
Prayer: Dear Lord, I am in such awe at your creation. You who make leaf and blade and feather--you make all things well. I'm so grateful for sleep when I really, really need it--and I'm grateful for the aroma of coffee to wake me up. Such lavish beauty on every hand astounds me. I worship you, the creator of land and sea and sky!
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
5 But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you: to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul."
- Love the Lord your God
- Walk in his ways
- Obey his commands
- Hold fast to him
- Serve him with all your heart and all your soul
I had just been reading and thinking about this verse and its implications when the phone rang. It was Peter, our son, checking in--trying to track down his dad.
Since Paul was out getting my car back to its pre "battle-with-a-raccoon" state, I had the blessing of a few moments to connect with Peter. Conversations with Peter usually involve thoughtful exploration of ideas punctuated by frequent breaks to mediate outbreaks of war amongst two or more of his flock of four.
He'd almost finished a thought provoking book that he said he'd like me to read and give my opinion on. I'd already had feedback from Paul, who read it first and went from wondering if he agreed with some points to being challenged in a good way on others. I said I was looking forward to reading it when Peter finished it. The book title is Letters to a Young Evangelical by Tony Campolo.
We got to talking about denominations. I love worshiping at our church, which is a Pentecostal church--but I resist calling myself a Pentecostal because I think of myself only as a Christian. I've never wanted to define my faith by a denominational label.
Peter pointed out that the first people to be called Christians were given that name because people recognized by their way of life--the things that they did--that they were followers of Christ Acts 11:25-27 .
We agreed that rather than focusing on denominationalism, it was important as people of faith, to be readers and students of God's Word--always asking, "What does scripture say?" and "What does the Church teach?"
But it made me wonder--if people didn't know that I was a Christian--would my life seem so radically different to that of society at large that they would immediately know I was a follower of Christ. There are so many nice and good people who aren't--so that isn't what defines a follower of his. Food for thought...what should mark us as his?
Sunday, June 24, 2007
9 Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you..
Paradigms--frameworks--what our son Peter once referred to as a set of coat hangers on which to hang our thoughts about life--we all have them. But, like fences, they can keep good things out as well as in, and they need to be examined periodically. We can miss important things when the perspective of our hearts and minds is so small that we're not open to really listening to what others have to say.
That was the problem with the Pharisees who were contemporaries of Jesus. They were so sure that they had the world securely nailed down in terms of what was right and wrong. Jesus called them "blind guides."
The Pharisees worshiped "religious systems" rather than God. It's easy to judge them smugly and miss the fact that we are all prone to being as blind as they were. It wasn't just their error that was the problem--but their rigidity in holding to their framework.
Coming to Christ in the first place requires a transformation of thinking. The apostle Paul--who was a Pharisee--threw out his religious props when he encountered the one whose followers he had been busy persecuting. He wrote from personal experience to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5:17), "...if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"
If we are closed off, it may be hard for God to get through to us. In the case of Paul it took a flashing light and a voice from heaven (Acts 9:1-8) I've often read Psalm 32:9 and prayed that I would not be like a horse or mule, and that God would not need a bit or bridle to get my attention--but dismantling and letting go of my preconceived ideas hasn't been easy.
I want to spend the rest of my life living open to what he and others are saying and doing a better job of hearing. I want my frameworks to be well thought out, tested and true, so that when I have the opportunity to share them--they are sound, solid and helpful and most of all, godly.
Ephesians 1:17-18 (New International Version)
17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
Saturday, June 23, 2007
On Friday evening, there was a ceremony and parade to mark the departure of some 2,000 soldiers of the Vandoos in August. Thousands of well wishers were reported in the Globe and Mail to have lined the parade route, but there was also a swarm of protesters that met them at the end of the parade route, shouting anti-war slogans and urging the soldiers to desert.
Susan was an eye witness to the parade from her 10th floor hotel room and emailed me some thoughts, which she gave me her permission to post on the blog.
Friday, June 22nd 2007
From Susan Stewart
There is supposed to be a parade at 8:30 this evening in Quebec City of some 2000 soldiers who are about to be deployed to Afghanistan in two weeks time. There is also supposed to be an anti-war demonstration and the police are beefing up security in fear of some violence. I would LOVE to go out there and support our troops and wish them well and tell them we'll be praying for them back here at home. But not with Mikey here in Quebec City with us.
It was a strange feeling today to see a lot of these soldiers here and there about town and realizing they could be some of the ones on the news in the coming months that don't make it back home again.
There was one soldier in the Subway when Mikey and I were in there. I intended to go up to him to tell him we would be praying for them while they were over there and to thank him for what he was doing for the Afghanistan people (especially the women) but he had left the restaurant by the time I had finished paying for our order. Well, if I see any tomorrow and if they understand English, that's what I'm going to do.
That parade I told you about? Well, it went right past our hotel--right under our window.
I was sitting on the couch tap-tapping away on my laptop when I heard the muffled, but unmistakable sound of military drumming. I jumped up as quickly as I could, calling Mikey and Ron in the next room to go to their windows too.
Below us, marching down La Grande Allee, was a full military band in bright red uniforms and tall bearskin hats. They marched to the drumming holding their instruments poised and ready. Just past us, they raised them and began to play a stirring march.
Behind them, row, upon row, upon row of young khaki-clad soldiers followed in almost perfect formation. (It wasn't quite like the movies. There was the odd fellow out of step and the odd line not quite straight. Ron estimated that there were over two thousand of them in platoons of 120 (six across and 20 deep).
The route was lined with civilians who, thank God, were cheering and clapping and letting them know that they are supported. I wished I'd been down there. Oh, how I wished I'd known when they were going by so I could have cheered and clapped, too. The long green line was followed up by yet another military band in red uniforms. It was stirring, even from 10 floors above.
It was hard to understand all the emotions running through me... I was thinking all of the following thoughts:
1. I wondered if some of those young men who would be leaving for Afghanistan in two weeks, might return in boxes and be all over the news, like the three who died there last week.
2. I thought about my dad, and yours, and how they would have marched through the streets like that.
3. I thought about how I hate war, but at the same time I'm grateful for the freedom that the war has brought to some of the people in Afghanistan, especially the women.
4. I thought about my four sons and breathed a prayer of gratitude that none of them were in that parade. I wondered how I would feel if one of them had been in those ranks.
5. I wondered if what we are doing as a nation is right. I wondered what God thought of it all and breathed a prayer for their safe return and that they would be "good soldiers" over there, representing our country well and afraid that they might not be.
6. I felt proud. I don't know why exactly, but it made me feel proud to be a part of them and a part of this great land.
7. I felt a little afraid. It made "war" feel awfully close to home...
Susan's thoughts made me think of one of my heroes. Known as 'Woodbine Willie,' his name was George Studdert Kennedy--and he volunteered as a padre in World War 1. He was nicknamed 'Woodbine Willie' for giving Woodbine Cigarettes along with spiritual aid to injured and dying soldiers.
He was converted to Christian socialism and pacifism during the war but earned the Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty" during the attack on Messines Ridge.
Dear Lord, we pray for your protection over these men and boys who could be our sons, brothers and fathers. We pray that you will surround them with your angels and bring them home safely. May they bring peace and not bloodshed to the land of Afghanistan. May your Holy Spirit prompt us to pray for them often.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Carefully groomed lawns, dotted with trees and shrubs, transition to fields with wilder beauty.
Crops break the ground--the brown earth vanishing from view--giving way to stalk and leaf.
The alders--how I love the alders--with their tall, waving, ostrich-feathery plumes, swaying side to side in the breeze like lumbering Indian elephants in royal procession. A princess could not be carried with greater dignity through the streets.
Through the front window I see that the lawn is a dance of shadow and light in the morning sun. Every bough is bending or bobbing or waving . The garden is astir and full of movement--light and leaf and blade.
Free to move where I wish--I am not rooted in the ground. Yet I seem more constrained than the trees and grasses that celebrate their freedom by waving at the world of man hurrying by.
Dear Lord, free me up to taste the simple joy of "being." Let me reflect peace, and celebration at being alive to those around me--just like the trees.
Psalm 1:1-3 (New King James Version)
1 Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Thus said Brenda one recent evening, when someone had thrown her a curve ball. We both laughed when ten minutes later, she decided that she would do what had been asked of her after all--she said she had just needed time to adjust mentally to a change in what she'd been expecting.
Turn the clock back eight years and she is a young mother of a one year old baby and nine months heavily pregnant with her next. She's tired--and she's rocking the baby--Tiffany-Amber--to sleep on her shoulder in the dark kitchen. Louis Armstrong's rich gravelly voice is singing his well known song, Mac the Knife.
We all knew that album--The Best of Louis Armstrong--by heart when Brenda's girls were babies. It was such good "baby rocking music." Brenda had it down to a science--by the time Mac the Knife started, Tiffany-Amber would be relaxed into that floppy armed, dead weight on the shoulder that meant she could soon be put into her crib, blissfully asleep. On this particular night--just at that moment--her friend who was staying with us at the time, walked into the kitchen and flipped on the light--to talk! It's one of those "moments" we laugh about now.
Another "moment" a few years later. Brenda is teaching now at the Montessori school her girls attend. The way Brenda describes it--"God opened a door today - He didn’t just open it but swung it wide on its hinges and rolled out the red carpet. A parent came to me and told me, “I’ve told my child to come to you to talk about God and Jesus, because I know you know and you have kids, so I figured you’d be able to explain it to him.” There are no words to describe the sense of God being all over this moment!
But the moment I remember best of all is the moment the nurses said to me, "It's a girl." This was 35 years ago--before the days of the routine ultra-sound that means most couples know the sex of the baby they're expecting. We had a wonderful little two year old boy already, who never stopped talking--Peter. We would have been so happy with another son--but the moment I heard that we had a daughter and they laid her on my stomach, my eyes filled with tears and in my heart I treasured all of the special moments that lay ahead with this precious little girl.
Psalm 127:3 (New Living Translation)
3 Children are a gift from the Lord;
they are a reward from him.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
15 But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), ...
1LISTEN TO me, O isles and coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The Lord has called me from the womb; from the body of my mother He has named my name.
God says that he calls us by name from the womb. He chooses and sets us apart for "something," and discovering what that "something" is can be an exciting journey of discovery--or--for some people, a perplexing puzzle.
I read this morning in some notes from a workshop I took a while ago, "There are a lot of things going on that God sees, but we don't see. What we see and understand is only the tip of the iceberg."
Yes, I believe that and have experienced it. There have been times when just as I was about to take on a role in ministry I found myself in an inner struggle with some personal area of weakness--sometimes the struggle came before I knew that I would have an opportunity to reach out to someone but when the opportunity came, I understood the battle that preceded it.
Sometimes I've had the feeling that the enemy of God and of us, was working hard to sabotage God's agenda. It was as if he (the enemy) was turning up the pressure, hoping to sideline me, and therefore anyone else that God could have used me to reach. In spite of that, God can use even our failures and brokeness if we only yield them to him.
Other times when I've been going through a "growth spurt" as I have lately with the removal of some blind spots, I've realized afterwards that the growing and pruning was God's preparation for the next level of what he wants to use me for. I had gunk and muck that needed to be cleaned out so that his pure clear refreshing water could flow through me to others. As one of my friends said today, "It's all good, right?"
I don't need to know what the rest of the iceberg looks like. I'm content to trust God and be glad for his work in me and through me.
5Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you [as My chosen instrument], and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you; [and] I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
3 8and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Tuesday evenings are "open house" at our home and a "cell group," which is a cell of the Body of The Church, meets here for supper and community.
Tonight I worked quietly to prepare the supper after work. As the potatoes and vegetables began to simmer on the stove, they filled the house with the smell of dinner cooking. Tuesdays are the only sure night that I cook supper any more--Paul and I are free spirits when it comes to food--often eating cereal (him) or leftovers (me) during the rest of the week. So on Tuesday it's a treat to smell a good old fashioned home cooked meal cooking.
I looked for some music to play and found one of my old beloved Keith Green Cd's--the one with one of my favourite songs--My Eyes are Dry. Something about the words and Keith's passionate, plaintive voice, gets my heart every time. The song expresses my heart's cry. Yes, Lord, soften my heart with oil and wine!
And as I listen to the words, I think of two men--nearly fifty years apart in age. The older man recently apologized for the emotion that choked his voice and made it tremble as he read something powerful he had written that moved him deeply. "As I get older," he said, with slight embarrassment, "I find it harder to hold in the tears." The younger man has the opposite problem--he wants to feel--to be able to grieve a deep loss--but something is holding in check the grief he longs to feel fully.
Tears are such a gift from God really. Several times I have wept before him--having no idea what I was weeping about. The weeping was like a deep, cleansing and healing wave, flowing over and through me.
We need to have hearts soft and tender towards God. I'm glad that Jesus wasn't offended by having his feet washed with tears and that I know he also wept.
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me
But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up
With oil and wine
The oil is you,
your spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of your blood
Monday, June 18, 2007
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
This morning the sound of a telephone ringing downstairs woke me up. The brightness of the sun shining into the room let me into a secret--the morning was well underway--it was already 8.30!
I had taken the day off to recover from the writers conference I'd been at for three days last week. I hadn't meant to spend so much of it asleep, although maybe I should have, having stayed up both nights away until 1.00 a.m. talking with my friends Bonnie and Susan.
I took my morning coffee out to the small square deck on the north-east side of the house and sat in the shade, reveling in the luxury of unhurried time.
A breeze riffled the leaves of our 15 year old maple tree. One of the small trees--mere twigs in 1992--given away by the government to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Dominion of Canada-- it now towers over 20 feet tall.
I closed my eyes and the sound of the breeze in the tree made me think of a fine lady, taffeta petticoats rustling under a silk dress, as she walked by, tall and elegant. As the wind picked up I heard carriage wheels passing by, just as Heidi in the book named for its main character, heard the carriage wheels down in the street and thought of her home on her beloved mountain heights, with the wind blowing in the trees.
I read some notes in my journal of the weekend where I'd written about the things I know.
I know that I am my Father's beloved daughter.
I know that he has a path for me to follow--a commission for me to fulfill.
I know that I am his bond servant--bound to him by love, I will do whatever he asks of me.
I know that I must listen for his voice alone. Many other voices may call--even good ones--but they may pull me from his path--and that's the only one I want to follow.
Prayer: Dear Lord I am yours. Show me "who" I am in your plan.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
29 The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us...
Romans 11:33 (Amplified Bible)
33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unfathomable (inscrutable, unsearchable) are His judgments (His decisions)! And how untraceable (mysterious, undiscoverable) are His ways (His methods, His paths)!
But...there is a change of ownership and responsibility here--the things revealed belong to us.
The insights he reveals to mere humans through his Word, are ours to be blessed by personally--to be nourished and changed by--but they belong to us as a trust."
I wrote these words this weekend--at an annual writers conference--my eighth, early in the morning as I spent time listening for his voice. They had deep significance for me.
Several years ago I took a workshop with N.J. Lindquist--Discovering the Writer in You. She said that when God gives an insight we should treat it like gold--to be cherished and used--passed on.
It was a couple of years later when Marilyn Yocum, another instructor said, "Don't say it's a "call" (to write) and then disrespect the Lord by not following through on it."
Both exhortations were spurs on my writing journey.
John 15:15-16 (New International Version)
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last...
Jesus makes known his secrets that we may share them with others. We must do so carefully. It is so easy to put a personal or denominational slant on his words. As writers we have a responsibility when we pass on his words or an insight--to be faithful to him--his character and his true intent.
"You ... must remember that a great charge has been given you, that you are here for one thing and one thing only ... to listen. The whole duty of Art is listening for the voice of God...
So it must be with you. You are here to listen. Never mind if they tell you that story-telling is a cheap thing, a popular thing, a mean thing. It is the instrument that is given to you and if, when you come to die you know that, for brief moments, you have heard, and that what you have heard you have written, Life has been justified."
This was the note waiting at the reception desk of the Comfort Inn in Waterloo, when my friend Irene and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon last week, after work. We had a rendezvous with two more friends--Frances and Susan--and Frances was obviously in town and looking for her outfit for the evening.
The four of us were in Waterloo to attend The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards in the Recital Hall at Wilfred Laurier University-a black tie, formal/semi formal event.
My dear friends had come to celebrate with me. No, I wasn't receiving an award--but I had been given the honour of writing a speech for the presentation of an award. They were with me to hear it being read.
Before heading to the University, we went downstairs to the Golden Griddle for a bite to eat--the reception after the awards was not until 9.30. I looked across the table at my friends, laughing together--dressed to the nines-- and thought of how very rich I am to have friends like them to celebrate the joys of life with. I thank God for them and my other dear friends. How empty life would be without them to share special moments like this with.
Proverbs 17:17 (New Living Translation)
17 A friend is always loyal,
and a brother is born to help in time of need.
Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
"That's my mom," she said, as casually as you please as she walked down the hall from one room to another.
Sure enough it was her mom. Her parents were both professional singers and this particular recording by The Toronto Symphony Orchestra was featuring her mother as the mezzo-soprano soloist. We were in awe at her ability to pick out the sound of her mother's voice even in such casual circumstances. It seemed so cool! She knew her mother's voice.
Last evening, Irene and Frances and I attended, with Belinda, the annual gala for the Word Guild, where outstanding Canadian authors are recognized for their achievements. Belinda was listed as a "speechwriter" in the programme credits and we three had tagged along with her to encourage, celebrate and listen to the words which had been put together by our friend.
When it came time for her big moment, I was amazed. Someone else was reading what she had written (in this case a man - with a deep voice!) but I could hear her writing "voice" in the words he was speaking. I have read so much of her work that I could tell which parts were "her" last night and which parts had been edited in by someone else. Cool!
It's like that with God's voice. The more our relationship with Him grows, and the more we "listen" for his voice, the more we are able to discern it from all the other messages which come at us in our lives. He doesn't always speak in words, I find. He speaks through his Word, of course, but he confirms that Word in a thousand different ways. But we have to have listened enough, to have developed that discerning ear.
This weekend, as we are at Write! Canada, I want to make sure I am ready and waiting to hear that Voice above all other voices. That was my prayer on the way here this morning and all day long, I've been recognizing what He has been saying to me through the encouraging words of others, through things that I've read, and different circumstances that have come about.
How cool is that?
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 (NIV)
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”
There is something wonderful about new things.
I remember new shoes as a child--that wonderful smell of new shoe leather--the click-clack of new leather soles on the red tile floor of our kitchen--the sheer joy of the time Mum let me have the impractical pair of shiny black patent shoes, so different to the sensible sandals always bought a little big so that I could grow into them. Whatever kind the new shoes were, I used to put them beside my bed at night, in their box with the soft tissue paper, so that they'd be right there in the morning!
Other new things that I love--the impossible delicate softness and sweet smell of new babies; the bright green of tiny, perfect, new leaves; a new journal--never written in--full of possibility--new words to write.
God makes things new--I know it because his Word says so and I know it by experience.
My friends, family and I are learning new and better ways of relating to one another--learning new patterns. We may slip, bump up against eachother and scrape the occasional knee, but just as in learning to ride a bike, or to play a sport that requires the development of some skill and coordination--the bruises along the way are so worth it--so very worth it. The prize is deep intimate and abiding relationships with eachother.
Another kind of new is the new life that begins when a soul encounters its Maker and yields Lordship to him.
Ask what difference Christ has made in a person's life and it can be a very emotional moment. I can't count the number of people who have told me that they wouldn't be here if they hadn't found Christ--they, or self destructive lifestyles would have ended their lives.
Tonight at cell group someone gave us a glimpse into their life B.C.--before Christ. His defining moment came at a New Year's Eve party two and a half years ago. It was a rock bottom moment, sitting on a floor, leaning against a wall after a night of of hard drinking and heavy drug taking. Someone stood in front of him and asked him if he wanted a line. He said that by that point he should have been dead, he'd taken so many drugs that night and had so much to drink. He saw the devil in the person in front of him offering him more and he said no. He got to his feet and wandered around the house he was in. Everywhere he saw people wasted on drugs and among them he could see demons. He made up his mind he was going to change his life--and with God's help--he has.
Thank God that he is a maker of new things--new lives, new patterns, new beginnings.
He makes all things new.
Psalm 66:10, 12 (New Living Translation)
10 You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver...
12 We went through fire and flood,
but you brought us to a place of great abundance.
Ezekiel 36:26 (New Living Translation)
26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.
Monday, June 11, 2007
One by one the five worship team members escape from the bustle into the quiet of Pastor Dave's office. We're here to pray before we go to the platform to lead. Pastor Dave isn't here today--he's having a well earned week away, but Pastor Peter joins us and we all form a circle, holding hands. We bow our heads--and spot an odd collection of things scattered at our feet.
Brenda, who as well as being on the worship team, is the church secretary, says, "Oh, this is only the tip of the iceberg--usually there is much more scattered on the floor."
On the floor is:
- A plastic bottle of wallpaper remover
- A small pile of envelopes and papers topped by a booklet by Rick Warren, entitled, What On Earth Am I Here For?
- An offering envelope, and
- A brochure entitled, Envision Your Retirement
We all pause to consider these items and wonder--is there some hidden message? A "Pastor Puzzle" indeed!
We bow our heads and pray--the service is about to begin!
Philippians 4:21-23 (New Living Translation)
21 Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. 22 And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household.
23 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I read a journal entry from March and suddenly I can see the pride, arrogance and detachment with which I wrote. So sure of my "rightness," I left no room for others, and little room for God--to change my perspective.
If anyone reading this doubts the reality of God and his power to change hearts and lives--think of me. He has changed me radically and deeply.
I know that although there will always be so much more for God and I to work on, I will look back on this period in my life as a pivotal time when I learned some profound lessons.
Matthew 11:25-26 (New International Version)
25 At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.
Amy Carmichael writes of verse 26, that the "Yes," is of complete content, "The welcoming "Yes" of acceptance."(September 15th, Edges of His Ways)
She reminds her readers that "Love is planning for us. Love has planned the best that Love could plan."
What a comfort to meditate on the fact that God plans all for our best.
Prayer:Dear Lord, thank you for your love gift. The revealing of hard and disappointing truth about myself was hard to comprehend and receive at the time, but I am grateful and rejoice in it now. "Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."
Saturday, June 09, 2007
25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Who then can?...With man this is impossible...but with God...
2 Corinthians 13:11 (New International Version)
11... Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
I'm thankful that our God doesn't ask the impossible of us. When he tells us, as he does in Matthew 5:48 to "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," it must be a foregone conclusion that he will be the perfecter.
Amy Carmichael, in today's reading from her devotional book, Edges of His Ways, says that "the same fingers that made the blue of the kingfisher's wings, and every lovely thing on earth," are "putting finishing touches to you and me today."
She says that "these finishing touches often come through the sweet joys of life, but they come, too, through the tiny trials, the little disappointments, the small things we hardly like to speak about..."
When I feel squeezed, pressed, or prodded, perhaps the fingers of God are working steadily away at this lump of clay. All so that I might be a "vessel of honour." All so that I might display his glory.
Prayer: Dear Lord. I want my life to be of use for your Kingdom. Have your way in me, even if there is more work ahead than I ever realized.
Philippians 1:6 (New International Version)
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Friday, June 08, 2007
23 If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.
When I read this verse this morning, it stopped me in my tracks. I’ve read the book of Proverbs how many times? I don’t ever remember reading those words before.
“I would have poured out my heart to you, and made my thoughts known to you”?
Imagine. God, pouring his heart out. And making his thoughts known -- to me. God, telling me his secrets.
I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be willing to listen to him when he is trying to get my attention - to respond when he lets me know I’ve gone off-track, missed the mark again. I just have to be humble enough to give in to him when he tries to herd me back into the fold. To embrace his rod of correction when it comes. How hard can that be?
I wonder how many times I’ve missed this opportunity to know God’s heart, to understand his thoughts . I wonder how often I’ve been too proud or willful to hear his voice, to heed his rebuke.
Oh, God, help me to have a heart that responds when you’re trying to get my attention! The cost - an intimate relationship with you – to know your thoughts, to have you pour your heart out to me – is far too high. Lord let my response always be one of humility. I want to know you! I want to hear your voice!
The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Psalm 25:14 (NIV)
Thursday, June 07, 2007
18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
In Genesis 3 it says that God walked in the garden in the cool of the day and although that might have been the morning, I wonder if it was the evening.
It's a magical time in a garden, the evening--so peaceful. This evening the breeze whispers in the tree tops. "Sssssssssh," it says softly. Mourning doves coo in gentle tones while other birds twitter and chirp from their resting places.
The heavily pregnant poppy heads nod wisely--green orbs soon to unfold into brilliant red--and the peonies bend over in glorious and luxuriant full bloom--creamy white, deep rose and palest delicate pink. On every hand are lovely hidden nooks and crannies. They whisper, "Come; pause--admire--Peace is here."
I think that God walks in evening gardens still.
I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has been cleaning the windows of my soul--helping me to see much more clearly. The past month has been such a journey of discovery, testing and joy.
This week I've been thinking about the importance of acknowledging sin--confessing it to safe friends, as James tells us to (chapter 4). Admitting to weakness and sin--saying out loud and with honesty, things that bind and weigh us down--that is the beginning of the end for them--the start of the unshackling!
We learn to hide, as Adam did in the garden. We hide from God, from our friends and even from ourselves.
I don't want to hide from God or others or myself. In the past month, God has opened me up like one of those poppy pods. I was so tightly and firmly closed, but--slowly, slowly I have opened up to his truth and beauty in my life.
There is more of course, but like little Much Afraid in Hind's Feet on High Places, I am on the journey to the heights; building altars as I go--picking up pebbles and putting them in my pouch to remember the sacrifice of love made at each step of the journey.
The wonder of it all is that I thought I was holding up my hands, giving something up in sacrifice, but instead, he filled them with precious gifts that he had wanted to give all along.
He was only waiting for me to give up, so that he could give back...
Titus 3:5-6 (New International Version)
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. 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.
2 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again."
9 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the place has been called Gilgal to this day.
Someone shared with me a few days ago, on the scriptures above. She explained that this was the second generation of the Israelites that had left Egypt and that God was taking away from them, the reproach of the previous generation.
The act of circumcision, represented a taking away of the stuff clinging from Egypt--the hearts being peeled, with nothing from the past to hold them back from the pursuit of all that God had for them.
This friend is spending some time in fasting and prayer, over the forty days between the day of Pentecost--which was on May 28th--and July the 7th, 07--which being the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year of this millenium, is significant.
Numbers have significance in scriptures, and seven denotes spiritual perfection. It is the number or hall-mark of the Holy Spirit 's work.
What an awesome idea, I thought, to take time to be open to God's deep work, allowing him to free us completely from the chains of our past, so that we step into the newness of the life he has prepared for us, with nothing of the past clinging to us.
"And," my friend said, "Once we are free, next comes the pursuit--of God and all that he wants to do through us."
God has been freeing me from wrong patterns that have been hurtful to others and have damaged relationships. I am so very grateful for the changes that I am experiencing in my personal relationships. I feel freer, more relaxed, happier, more at peace, than I have ever felt.
As my friend said, "He gives treasure. You thought you were going to receive gold coins, one at a time, and instead, he opens up a whole treasure chest."
Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray with this friend and other friends too, that you will lead us into the fullness of all that you have prepared for us--in this world and the next. Yes, Lord, we follow hard after you!
Hebrews 12:1 (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.
Monday, June 04, 2007
9 'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the LORD Almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace,' declares the LORD Almighty."
This is God's way, isn't it?
He completely accepts us where he finds us--but to know him is to engage in a dynamic process of ongoing change that won't end until we graduate from earth to Heaven.
One of my favourite contemporary gospel songs is Nicle Nordeman's "Brave."
The gate is wide
The road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground
You're safe and sound and
Until now it's where I've been
'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything
But it's been love,
Your love, that cuts the strings
So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave
This morning, in Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways, she wrote:
"...each act of obedience opens a window in Heaven, and light pours through the soul that obeys, and it walks on in that Heavenly light."
Ephesians 5:8 (New Living Translation)
8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!
2 Corinthians 4:17 (New Living Translation)
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
Prayer: Dear Lord, change and growth are painful sometimes, but oh, so worth it. Have your way in me--that's my prayer. Change me more and more into your likeness.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Just as the hot weather set in for good this year--the air-conditioning on my car broke down. I tried to do without it--but arriving at meetings feeling hot and crumpled--with a red and shiny face--drove me to the car dealership, especially after an ominous rattling sound set in under the hood.
I was relieved to find out that the noise was related to the air-conditioning compressor, but since replacing it is expensive I decided to take a couple of days to consider my options before committing. There was a smell of burning plastic as I drove, but having had the car checked out gave me a sense of security.
On Saturday I set out in the heat of the afternoon, for Newmarket, and after a while I noticed a burning smell again. A pick up truck passed me and the young man in the passenger seat was waving at me. I realized he was signalling to me to pull off the road.
On the soft shoulder I got out and walked around the car and noticed smoke streaming from under the hood.
I was grateful for a cell phone and CAA. Soon a tow truck and my knight in shining armour--Paul--were on their way and my car was headed for the dealership again...smoke has a way of getting your attention.
My friend vented her anger and frustration as she described a stand-off with a neighbour. The neighbour is planning a project that will have a significant impact on them in terms of noise level--and right below her bedroom window.
The fight has become less about the hot tub they are planning to build, and more about attitudes.
"What kind of Christians are you anyway?" the neighbbour had yelled after their latest encounter.
"That's when I saw red and really let her have it," said my friend, this morning at church. We both saw the irony as she wiped away the tears of frustration.
Smoke signals...sometimes it's a good idea to pull over and fix what's going on under the hood before driving on-- when it comes to relationships, as well as cars.
Hebrews 13:20-21 (New Living Translation)
20 Now may the God of peace—
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,
through the power of Jesus Christ,
every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
This morning the first call came early--before 8.00.
It was Peter, to wish me a happy birthday for yesterday, with the children.
"Happy birthday Omie," said Joshua, and he ran off.
Next came Stephen. who I noticed, sounded like he had a cold. He confirmed that he had and that he'd come home early from school yesteday, and gone to "Miss Beth's" house, where he had played lots of games of Mario, which he had won.
"So you didn't go easy on them?" I asked.
"No, only you, Omie," he said.
Katherine too, came on the phone--she had a friend there and was slightly distracted.
Joshua zoomed back again to say "Happy birthday," and was gone.
Peter came on again. He said that Emily, at 17 months, wasn't quite up to saying much yet, but he said she'd learned to unscrew the handle of the dishwasher and he was pretty sure that she shouldn't be able to do that yet. He said that the older we get, the more we are amazed at what our kids can do. He said that he imagined eventually the conversation would go like this, "Hey, our kids can count. We used to be able to do that."
Mum and my brother Robert called from England--we usually talk on Saturday mornings in a three way conversation, which takes the pressure off Mum, who understands everything we say and loves to listen and chip in here and there but finds maintaining a conversation on her own, hard since her stroke.
Robert told me that the chiropodist had come as planned, yesterday, to do some work on one of Mum's toes. He said, to tease Mum gently, "Of course, Mum had to tell them that she'd been waiting all day when they came at 4.30."
Then he said, "I knew what she meant, because Mum insisted on not having her pantyhose on when she got dressed in the morning so that her feet would be ready for them."
He said that they had said to her, "With an attitude like that Mrs, Cater, there will be no more visits for you."
"But," he said--and I could see the twinkle in his eye--"I managed to smooth things over."
Mum laughed at this version of her chiropodist appointment!
Stephen livened things up on Tuesday by calling 911. His mom, Susan, had asked him to bring the phone downstairs. When she went to dial the number, she couldn't get a dial tone, and said, "What's wrong with the phone?"
Stephen said, "There was someone on it when I called 911."
"What?!" said Susan, "Hello, hello?"
An officer was on the line, asking if everything was okay. Susan said, "Yes, but my six year old just dialed 911."
They said that an officer would be arriving shortly. "No," said Stephen, bursting into tears now, "I don't want them to come."
Susan explained that you can't dial 911 and then tell the police not to come.
Stephen said, through shaking sobs, "But they are too big."
Stephen answered the knock on the door, still crying and trembling. The female officer came inside and asked him when he thought he should call 911. Stephen gave all of the reasons perfectly. He left out his reason for calling that day, though--to see if they would come.
He now knows they will.
Philippians 3:13-14 (New International Version)
13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Friday, June 01, 2007
1 A gentle answer deflects anger,...
She had built high walls of defence to keep out the hurt she'd had too much of in her young life. She had learned a lot so far--unfortunately mostly the wrong things--things that would best be unlearned. Some of the strategies worked--to a point--but they didn't get her what she really wanted--to love and be loved.
In her new home the staff on a Christian team charged with keeping her safe, bowed their heads to say grace over a meal, also thanking God for her and who he'd made her. She responded with anger, "God can just go to hell."
"Actually, he's already been there," said one of the team.
She looked shocked.
A few years ago, there was another young girl--heart hardened by different hurts--she was cynical and disillusioned. "You can flush your religion down the toilet," she had said to her mother, eyes flashing as cold as diamonds.
"You should see her now, in her uniform," said her mom.
The uniform--Salvation Army.
Prayer: Dear Lord, you melt hearts with your relentless love. I hold up to you some young hearts that on the surface, seem impervious to your love. As Brenda prayed at cell group on Tuesday--just as the Berlin wall was dismantled in such a miraculous way, you can take down the walls around hearts. You love to do the things that amaze us. Amaze us with this!
Proverbs 25:15 (New Living Translation)
15 Patience can persuade a prince,
and soft speech can break bones.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (New Living Translation)
18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.