Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pursuing Peace

After Dappled Meeting Place, Angie sent these words. I knew that others would love to read them too, and she gave me permission to send them out. This is part one of a two part story--Susan will be posting tomorrow and Angie's part two the day after:

Beautiful!
I love what you wrote. Those are my places too. Quiet places, in a bath, in a book or on a walk by a river or through a tunnel made of trees bending their leafy boughs over until you can't see the sky. It's a secret place where God is and where there are no phones or stereos or even the ever present hum of electricity.

Lately with all the busyness of life, my sometimes quiet place is under a silky, peach coloured scarf that I pull over my head. The children know that when I am inside there, I am praying.

Rebecca said "what are you praying for Mommy" and I said "Patience, gentleness." Now, if I've put the scarf down somewhere and a moment is happening with a small boy, she brings me the scarf and says "Here Mommy, so you can pray."

Ahhhh isn't life funny. God is good and I am grateful for those quiet moments.

Psalm 23:2-3 (New Living Translation)
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Faith Lift

"But without faith it is impossible to please God..." Hebrews 11:6

Today my friend Eline called me with the most amazing news and I just had to share it with everyone.

The journey begins with a teal colored sedan Eline and her husband have owned since coming to Canada. It has been faithful, taken them from point A to point B. But as time went on it has become more reluctant, had more problems and started to cost much more money than it was worth. Their mechanic eventually said "I don't mean to insult you, but this car is not worth spending more money on." So they have been praying.

As Eline gets in her car to drive her daughter to school, she can see the black smoke belching out of the exhaust. The car chugs along, but it's only a matter of time. It's become a matter of health and safety. So they pray, trusting God that though there isn't the money for another car, that He will provide. He is Jehovah Jirah and He has never failed them.

When we get together to pray on Saturday she speaks to us of God's goodness, His faithfulness and laughs about the state of their car. She prays and confesses His goodness and we pray for their need.

Move ahead now to Wednesday.
Eline has gone out to a bridal shower. At 9:30pm she chugs home and when she reaches her driveway there is a black Ford Focus parked there. She goes in the house to see who is visiting and finds out that no one is. When she tells her husband he suggests that someone else parked it there while they visit a neighbour and they should move it to the road. The keys are in it so Pascal backs it out of the drive and parks it at the side of the road. They leave it there until 10:30pm and no one comes to it, so Eline says "Let's check the ownership and see who it belongs to". As they go to it, Pascal says "It's got ribbons inside it". And as they look into the driver's side they see two envelopes. They look inside and find the ownership, in their name, and a card saying that this is a blessing from the Lord to them. A 2002 Focus in mint condition with spare snow tires in the trunk. All the bases have been covered. No signature on the card, just an unbelievable blessing from the Lord.

"What time did you go to sleep" I asked her. "Not 'till 2am" she replied. "We went in the house and rejoiced and thanked the Lord, and then we went for a drive. Then we got home and stayed up more and went to bed by 2am.

God is faithful! And Eline professed His faithfulness before the fruit was ever there for the eye to see.

"Glory to God, my sister" she proclaims, "All the glory goes to God".

"Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen"
Hebrews 11:1

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dappled Meeting Place

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"She moves around the house," he said--and his words told me that he watches and knows me well.
His observation was made during the cell group icebreaker that Sam was leading. Out of a list of rooms such as: bedroom, ballroom, dining room, studio or playroom, we had to guess each other's favourite room.
It was fun finding out how well we all knew each other and every one guessed pretty accurately for me--different rooms for different reasons--but Paul, who knows me best, chose the studio for creativity--but a roving studio.
As storm chasers follow tornados, I seek quiet spaces--pockets of peace to counterbalance the rest of my world and the rooms in my heart, which are full of people.
In quiet spaces I breathe in God's Presence. Without doing so I would not have a single word of worth to share with anyone else.
This morning I sat in a dappled place beside a sturdy clump of silver birch--so lovely that I had to capture it with the eye of my camera.
A canopy of leaf laden branches, danced above my head, while a breeze passed through them with a sigh.
The electronic drone of an air conditioner added to the symphony of tweets, twitters, chirrups and soft cooing.
Over my arms, warmed by the sun, the cool, silken veil of breeze flowed.
I was ready to listen in the cool of this morning.

Psalm 16:6 (New International Version)
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

So Good Saturday

It's Saturday and I love it.

The day dawns sunny and I am up early. I'm hoping to clean my windows. They surely need it.

Soon, pancakes--our weekly ritual--are bubbling on the griddle and the aroma of fresh brewed coffee fills the air.

After breakfast Brenda and I move to our big back room with another cup of coffee, for our weekly gab. As usual, our conversation is punctuated with phone calls from Peter and then Mum and Robert in England.

By 10.30 I'm back in the kitchen cleaning up from breakfast and emptying the contents of my fridge so that I can give it a good clean. As I work I'm listening to a CD loaned by my friend Ann on my Walkman. It's of Henry Blackaby from a conference on faith in the marketplace that she attended. It's inspiring and challenging.

The phone rings. It's my friend Angela and her voice is full of excitement. She tells me that Life 100.3 has a special morning devoted to the music of Keith Green. Angie and I share a love of his music. We quickly hang up our phones and I turn on the radio, as I take off my Walkman for a while.

The kitchen is immediately filled with Keith's incredible, soulful and passionate voice. It was 25 years ago today that he died at age 28 in a plane crash with two of his children and nine other people. His music never fails to move me deeply.

I turn on the radio in the bathroom too, so that as I move to fold laundry in the laundry room, I can still hear the program.

The fridge is a lengthy job because I make a salad and chicken soup as I do the clean up.

Brenda and Jay go shopping and the girls, who I am now watching until their parents come back, come up and have a bowl of chicken soup. Tiffany-Amber tastes it and then says, her voice with a tone of urgency, "You have to make that soup on Tuesday night!" Tuesday is cell group night, when I always make a big meal.

The next amusing thing Tiffany-Amber tells me is that it is important to turn the mattress when you change the sheets. "It's because of--what are those things called--they eat your skin cells."

We all try but fail, to think of what "they" might be--I think that she meant dust mites.

"We shed skin cells all the time, " she says, her eyes wide!

"Actually," she says, her whole body as intense as her words,"We are shedding right now!"

Victoria and I take a moment to consider this and to look for evidence of shedding, but Tiffany-Amber tells us we can't see them.

And so the day continued...I didn't get my windows cleaned. Another day!

The simple joys of home, family and friends--they are great treasures.

Dear Lord how I thank you for friends and family and for days like this, away from the rush of the week. I thank you for days that restore our soul and build memories for our children and grandchildren. Thank you for recalibration, for laughter and for inspiration.

Friday, July 27, 2007

His Plan will Prevail

Matthew 26:3-5 (New International Version)
3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4 and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5"But not during the Feast," they said, "or there may be a riot among the people."

The chief priests were determined. They had a plot to kill Jesus--but at a time other than during the feast of Passover.

They had their reasons--it would be so much better to do this at a more discrete time--quietly.

But the timing of Christ's death was significant--Passover had deep importance in the story of redemption. It was the commemoration of the exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt and the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) which forshadowed Jesus' sacrificial death.

Nothing could stop God's plan--neither a few religious people nor all the powers of hell.

Matthew 26:12 (New International Version) says, of the woman at Bethany, who poured a large quantity of expensive perfume over Jesus head--quoting Jesus:

12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

God's plan was rolling out unrelentingly...

I think of this and it steadies my soul--and it calms my spirit. Could it be so in my life too? Yes!

I don't have to worry, strive, battle, fight or push my way through life. I can simply rest in this. God has all things in hand--and his plan will prevail.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Five Things That I Love About Jesus

I was tagged this morning by Alan at http://thesheepfold.typepad.com/the_sheepcat/ and my mission is to share five things that I love about Jesus and then tag five others.

Five things I Love about Jesus:

I love his humour--as in that moment on the road to Emmaus where he, the risen Christ, joins the two Christ followers as they walk along the road and he asks them what they are discussing. Their response, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" is pricelessly funny.

I love his gentleness in revealing truth. If I were to see all at once the full extent of my fallen nature and the reign of Self in my life, I would be crushed and hopeless--but a step at a time he shines his light on areas that need to come into alignment with his ways--and then he helps me do it by living his life through me.

I love the way that he loves the least of the least--the tax collectors--publicans--the woman caught in adultery--the woman at the well--and me.

I love his deep compassion which I see flowing through my husband, whose strong drive to do something to change things for the better for the disadvantaged in this world, reminds me of Jesus--and comes from Jesus.

I love his unconditional forgiveness--his grace--his mercy. How different to "religion" which attempts to merit heaven by good deeds or legalistic codes of conduct. In loving God with all our heart, mind and soul--and our brother as ourself, the law is fulfilled.

I am going to tag--and I hope I'm doing this correctly--I don't know how to make the name of the blog the link!

Stephanie at Calcutta is Everywhere http://stephanie-emmons.blogspot.com/
Leann at http://viewfromtheeaglesnest.blogspot.com/
Shawna at http://throughthemidstofdespair.blogspot.com/
Debbie at http://lifedancegirl.blogspot.com/ and
Michele at http://michelle-worshipful1.blogspot.com/
Those tagged will share 5 things they love about Jesus and must tag 5 other bloggers. Those tagged must provide a link in the comments box here with their name so that others can read them.

Life Without...

Tonight I had a call from my friend Susan who is far away in the wilds of northern Ontario.

Up there they are sweltering in a heatwave some 10 degrees hotter than the Toronto area.

There's no air conditioning of course, but even if there was, today they had no power. The hydro failed after a storm and no one seemed in a hurry to get it back up and running. The taps weren't producing any water and no toilets could be flushed--and for supper tonight, she and her fellow camp counselors were going to resort to opening some cans of provisions as they had no means of cooking anything more elaborate.

My guess is that when they fly back home on Saturday--first on Bearskin airlines and then by Air Canada jet--after two weeks away they will experience reverse culture shock. Things taken for granted before--an abundance of hot water, fly screens without holes, a cool bedroom--these things will feel like sheer luxury.

Sometimes I fine tune my gratitude by imagining what life would be like without something or someone my life is blessed with right now.

This morning I tried to imagine life without God:

Without the comfort of his Presence

Without the peace that comes from knowing that he has a plan for my life that will be worked out even through times of inexplicable hardship.

Without the support of the prayers of others, at times when I am too weary or broken to pray for myself

Without the joy of finding my "place"--my purpose for being--flowing in it--know that he made me for this

Without the hope of heaven

Without the intimacy of relationship with him

Without the sense of that "great cloud of witnesses" who have gone before--cheering me on in the race

Without the gift of earthly friendships that will be eternal

Without the assurance of forgiveness for sin

Without the gentle rebuke and correction of the Holy Spirit

Imagining life without God, is--unimaginable! The very thought fills me with a terrible emptiness--and I am grateful--so very grateful--that I am his and he is mine.

1 John 3:1 (New International Version)
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!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Count Me In

John 5:24 (New International Version)
24 ...whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

Yesterday it came by email--an invitation to a significant event. I'd been invited a few weeks ago to participate in something God sized--but until the email came I hadn't allowed myself to think that it was really happening. When it came it was exciting--it really is true--and I am honoured, humbled--and also a little nervous--to be included.

Invitations can be harrowing things. Being left out of an invitation list, intentionally or not, can be hurtful. Children use birthday parties to demonstrate who's in and who's out of their inner circle. We probably all remember being on the "out" list at least once!

Today I'm thanking God for the "whoever's" in God's Word.

Revelation 22:17 (New International Version)
17 ...Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Thank you, Lord, that your invitation is to whoever!

The invitation is not only to the cleaned up--religious--sober--"together"--brilliant--famous--or good--although these are welcome too. These things are of no merit at the foot of the cross.

I'm forever grateful for "whoever," because that is me--that is you--we are in--if we choose to accept the invitation!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Very Good Night

It was Tuesday--cell group night-- but I didn't rush home as I usually do. I'd gone into work half an hour later in the morning, so I stayed later--on a roll with a task I was engrossed in.

At 5.20 I called Paul and asked him to turn on the oven and put in the casserole that was waiting on the counter top.

The phone had been strangely quiet--and the ringer was on because I checked! There even seemed to be fewer emails than usual.

Finally, I turned off my computer, locked my filing cabinet and changed my phone message for tomorrow to say that I would be out of the office all day--stepped outside and closed the office door.

As I drove home I wondered if anyone would come. Tiffany-Amber and Victoria usually wait for me to get home and then rush upstairs to help prepare for our company-- setting the table with cutlery, plates and glasses. But tonight they were away as they and Brenda were having dinner with Susan and Peter in Tottenham.

I have learned to go with the flow on Tuesdays--and as I made the coffee, and the salad to go with the meat cheese and pasta casserole--I thought that the whole world seemed to be somewhere else today. I set four places at the table--thinking that was optimistic.

Then I heard voices in the hallway. Sam was there--and he'd brought along a friend--all four places were taken. Introductions were made and a warm welcome extended.

Moments later Sam was setting another place at the table--Andrew had arrived.

Suddenly it seemed God had a plan other than a quiet evening for us. The energy was tangible and a sense of anticipation hovered around our small group as we pulled our chairs up to the table--three hungry guys in their twenties and we two--not in our twenties--around a casserole that suddenly seemed so small. And I'd forgotten to stop as I usually do for our weekly treat--a fresh, crusty french loaf. Instead I had just a few slices of ordinary white bread to offer. "Wonder bread," observed Sam rightly--but it was gratefully eaten.

In and around the passing of dishes and breaking of bread, there was something else--a hunger for more than just food. We met because we all hungered for community and for God.

As we sank into comfortable chairs after dessert--lemon cake--I picked up the book we are reading together--Soul Talk, by Larry Crabb--and gave a brief introduction to the topic of the book for the benefit of Sam's friend. I had read chapter 4 ahead of time and it was so good that I had underlined huge sections--but tonight we didn't get more than two paragraphs in. The words struck a chord so deep that we couldn't continue. We put the book down. And then we did what the book was telling us we should...we engaged in some Soul Talk. And it was so good.

There is no feeling like connecting heart to heart, soul to soul, with dear friends who are sharing the journey. And tonight we met a new one.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (New King James Version)
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Peter's Fatal Flaw

Matthew 26:33 (New International Version)
33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

This morning it leapt off the page at me--Peter's fatal flaw--self confidence.

But how often do I go into the day confident in my own strength, common sense, wisdom, self control and knowledge?

While I may have these qualities--in varying degrees on any given day--I am learning that there is a far better way to live. That way is in utter reliance, moment by moment, on God.

The battles of self that I have faced most recently, were not won, and will not be won, by human strategy or resolve, but by acknowledging my utter weakness and dependence on God.

Making my struggles a public thing has been helpful. Taking it out into the open, removes my tendency towards self reliance (maybe this book has the answer), rationalization (maybe it's not so bad) and procrastination (I'll start tomorrow).

I can't say that I know the personal struggles of many of the people I see at church each week-- and I don't think I need to know them all--but each of us needs to be known as fully as possible by a few good spiritual friends.

Accountability--voluntarily and honestly giving an account to someone brings me into a place of greater safety.

I wonder what Jesus felt as he heard Peter's quick, confident declaration of solidarity. I am sure he must have experienced a wave of deja vu. Peter was quick to speak and slow to listen--just like me.

If only he had listened and considered what Jesus was saying--if he had acknowledged that he was anything but solid--the boundless resources of Jesus's strength would have been his--a truth he would discover later. And these are the resources that are ours.

1 Peter 5:10-11 (New International Version)
10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More of Me

2 Corinthians 4:10 (New International Version)
10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Galatians 2:20 (New International Version)
20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

More of You

More of you, more of you
I've had all but what I need
Just more of you
Of things I've had my fill
And yet I hunger still
Empty and bare, Lord hear my prayer
For more of you

I love the song, More of You, but I'm thinking that in the areas where I struggle in my life--it isn't about me having more of Jesus, but about Jesus having more of me.

All of him--the boundless resources of his wisdom, power and strength are mine for the receiving according to 2 Peter 1:3 (New International Version).

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

So of what value is my faith if I remain stuck in bondage to an addiction or a stubborn self destructive habit?

I never want to portray myself as something I'm not--as someone who has no struggles or weaknesses--God knows that's not true. But neither does it bring glory to him to remain in defeat.

So far, since talking about this yesterday, the choices I've made--one at a time--have been good ones. I will be honest in sharing how it continues. Most of all I want to glorify my Lord, in a shady corner of my life that hasn't consistently done that so far.

I was talking to my friend Susan last night and she said that seeing how I've changed in the area of relating to others has given her hope for her own struggles. She knows me very well and is very honest. I know that I really have been changed. That's the blessing of laying our battles out there in the open and crying out to God for help. He is there--he does answer--and the glory--all of it--belongs to him.

2 Peter 3:11 (New International Version)
11... what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives

1 Peter 4:7 (New International Version)
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

One Day at a Time

Ephesians 4:22-24 (New International Version)
22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I was in the hairdressers--a much needed cut and colour was in process and two stylists and I were talking about our struggles with addictive eating. The funny thing is that no-one would guess by looking at us. The other two girls are much younger than me--both lovely--and they and I are not noticeably over-weight, but we had a bond of understanding. For us food isn't about physical hunger but something else--and we agreed that like any other addiction, it can only be beaten one day at a time.

Just talking to one another about our struggle and encouraging each other, boosted our resolve. I left with a determination to make it through the evening--typically my weak time--and I did--last night at least.

All of us have our struggles, I think--and as long as I am in a body of flesh and bone, with a nature that is a work in progress--my days will consist of both victories and failures in the choices I have to make.

I realize that to some people, a battle with eating may seem superficial--and in comparison with some struggles, that may be--but the principles of overcoming are the same. We need to be honest in facing the struggle; acknowledging it instead of living in denial. Sharing with at least one other person who understands and doesn't minimize the battle, and taking one step at a time, one day at a time, to break self destructive patterns--are key.

Ultimately there is a sense of helplessness even with this.Victory will never be found without making room for Christ to live his life through us, changing us from the inside out into creatures that demonstrate his glory.

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the hope of ultimate victory and freedom. I am so grateful for your moment by moment Presence and help in my struggles with sin and self. Thank you that you are the God of new beginnings and that no matter how many times I fail, you never give up on me or deny me a fresh start. I'm forever grateful for that.

Romans 8:22-25 (New International Version)
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Lord's Army


Ephesians 6:16-17 (New International Version)
16 And in addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

"Less blame--more action." I read these words on my friend Dave's blog this morning,

After sharing the poem that I had written in memory of a young girl named Robyn, yesterday, I thought of a young life that had made an impact on those who knew her in the short time that she was with them.

When I read Dave's challenge, I thought of how much time can be wasted in negativity; blaming, shaming and complaining--all of which can involve judging and pride. Worst of all--those things accomplish little, if anything, of worth.

I left the house to drive to work. A few days ago I'd seen an advancing medieval army from my kitchen window, metal shields locked overhead as the wet leaves of the corn glinted silver in the morning sun. This morning I saw soldiers standing to attention, spears raised by their sides. As I looked out at the vast armed force in the field, silk tassles waving in the breeze--they looked ready for something.

Every morning I offer myself to God for his use. I've learned that he will he will use any available recruit--he is not impressed by resumes or qualifications and--he seems to allow his army to learn as we go--as long as we refer frequently to the rules of engagement.
Romans 12:1-2 (New King James Version)
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Song for Robyn

Bright eyes look up at me
A smile so young and free
Your picture strikes a chord inside of me
Some things I've heard about you
Tell me that you knew
A Special Friend of mine--or two
Robyn, your love goes on and on
In friends and family
And friends of friends
Robyn, your life goes on and on
A precious circle that will never end
We'll never know the moment
When we'll have to go
I hope that when I do, I too can say
That I have touched the world
And that I've left behind
Some One for other friends to find
Jesus, your love goes on and on
In friends and family
And friends of friends
Jesus, your life goes on and on
A precious circle that
Will never end
I didn't know Robyn personally--she was the cousin of a friend--but I saw her photo, after she died tragically young, of anaphylactic shock while out with her youth group over 17 years ago. The young smile and bright eyes in her photo inspired this song--a reflection on life being so fragile and on leaving something of worth behind.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Confident Helplessness

Romans 4:20 (King James Version)
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Hebrews 11:12 (New International Version)
12And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

Utter helplessness will drive you to your knees.

A burden weighed heavy, an overwhelming situation--just too big to strategize a solution to.

As we prayed I felt my eyes taken off ourselves and placed upon God. I thought of a verse I have always loved about Abraham.

Although I cut my teeth on it, I rarely read the King James Version of the bible anymore, but this is one verse that the modern language versions don't quite capture in the same way--

Romans 4:12 says of Abraham, "He staggered not..."

I just love those three words--"He staggered not."

The Bible is a book full of humanly hopeless situations and the odds are always so far against a positive outcome that it is almost laughable--in fact laughter was recorded as a response more than once. The more I think about it--God showed up all the time in humanly impossible situations--which was a great encouragement as I thought of the one we were praying about.

Who but God would choose a couple of very senior citizens--"as good as dead," the Bible says-- to launch a nation.

In fact, the impossibility of a given situation should be strangely comforting--it is just such a situation that is ripe for God.

Yes, God--my God--who plants a nation in the womb of an elderly woman--or a Saviour in the womb of a virgin--I see your invitation in impossible situations.

You say, "Trust me and see..."

And I do--for I know you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tag

It's been a busy week so far and a tiring day and I was praying about what to write when I checked out my friend Dave's blog. He laid down an invitation to play blog tag. I hope you won't mind if I do that tonight--and you may find out something you didn't know! I copied the paragraph below from Dave's blog at http://www.davehingsburger.blogspot.com/

These are the rules.
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Like Dave, I am not going to send this to eight people like we're supposed to, but I'd love you to play if you'd like to. Just leave your blog address on http://www.whateverhesays.blogspot.com/ and we will come and visit you.

So, here are my 8 random facts.

1. I feel very socially awkward in a crowd. I always feel as if everyone else is engaging in conversation with the greatest of ease. "How do they do that?" I think, "they make it look so easy!"

2. I grocery shop for the person I want to be--but eat for the person I am. This explains why I have healthy food growing furry stuff in my fridge, while late at night I am raiding the box of miniature candy bars I bought for our grandchildren and sitting on the couch surrounded by candy wrappers--yes, really!

3. I have about 8 nick-names. At a certain point in friendship it seems that an affectionate name is called for.

4. I love entering the world of children. I understand why they treasure interesting stones and feathers and birds nests; I have treasure boxes with these things in them too. I enjoy getting them out and opening them up with children, hearing them exclaim over things that the grown up world would consider useless--but we know--it's treasure!

5. My favourite time of day is twilight. I love the way the world seems suspended between day and night, and the light has a magical quality. It feels as if anything might happen--a fairy might pop out from underneath a flower, for instance.

6. My favourite weather is--fog! Yes, well, I'm from England you know. It muffles sound and there is such a feeling of mystery and timelessness. I grew up in an ancient village and the houses that loomed out of the fog had stood for hundreds of years. My imagination was in overdrive on foggy days.

7. One of my most embarrassing moments was burping (well really "belching" describes it better) loudly, just when Paul and I were about to lock lips one time when we were dating. He stuck with me for some reason.

8. My greatest treasure in life is relationships--with God first and foremost--and then with family and friends. And that includes you--dear readers--thanks for indulging me tonight!

Monday, July 16, 2007

No Half Measures

Psalm 86:5 (New International Version)
5 You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.

Psalm 86:15 (New International Version)
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

I looked out one recent morning at the field of corn that is planted below the stand of maples on the hill. From the green leaves of thousands of young corn plants--wet from the rain that had come in the night, light was reflecting--silver. As I gazed on the shimmering field, it looked like a massed medieval army of soldiers with light reflecting from shields locked above their heads as they advanced into battle.

To the side of the corn field lay the alder grove and there the trees waved their arms at the sky in the morning breeze, the leaves dancing opalescent--simply beautiful--not caring if anyone noticed or not, it seemed.

I thought of how God made the world so beautiful, as if he loved to do it--as if he delighted in the exquisite craftsmanship of a feather or a leaf.

Yet his beautiful things aren't stored in galleries, protected by alarm systems--viewed from a distance. We can hold them, handle them and know that tomorrow though these are gone, there will be more--there will be another splendid sunset--another hushed twilight--just as breathtaking as those that were before.

God gives from a store of abundance and with seeming abandonment and if we would be like him, surely we must do the same. Can we give, confident that there is more?

Luke 6:38 (New International Version) 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Malachi 3:10-12 (New International Version)
10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. 12 "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Purposes and Passions

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (New Living Translation)

1 For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance. 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away. 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away. 7 A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak. 8 A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.

This morning I dreamed. I explored a secret wish--a longing that is rising up within me.

It has been stirring, deep in my heart, but hidden, held in reserve for a future time--not quite now.

Today I brought my dream; my passion; out and looked at it. I turned it over in my hands and prayed over it.

At church today our pastor spoke from Romans 12 on spiritual gifts.

He shared a delightful story from his childhood about attending a vacation bible school.

The children worked making moccasins out of real leather. He said that it was really cool and if you got finished early, you could even put on some decorative beadwork.

Each day he could hardly wait to go to vacation bible school. He imagined himself as Daniel Boone. Growing up on the farm as he did, surrounded by woods, he had lots of room for such imaginative play.

He said that the moccasins didn't quite turn out as he'd imagined. They were a little too big and they kept falling off, "But," he said, "for a while I was "in the zone."" I think he meant that he was doing something he felt passionately involved with--something that superceded interest in anything else.

That's how it feels when we're doing the thing that God made us for. Not to find that thing must surely be the greatest tragedy.

Dear Lord, Dream-giver--I give my dreams to you for safe keeping. Joseph's dreams did not materialize immediately but he expressed them out loud, even though they seemed bold and outrageous.

Father I am content to place my dreams in your hands. I know your heart. I know that you place desires in our hearts--and you grant the desires of our hearts.

Psalm 126:1-3 (New King James Version)
1 When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,
And we are glad.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Speech

3 John 1:14 (New International Version)
14I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face.

The capacity for speech is complex and amazing, but, when it comes to communicating--it sometimes feels as if God sat us down in an airport control tower and told us to bring in the planes--with no training.

The older I get, the longer the stretch seems from the moment we utter our first attempts at words to when we understand how to use them.

I sometimes wonder about God. He put us in charge of his creation in the first place--I really wonder about that. And then when it came to the task of carrying the message of his love for mankind to the rest of the world--he left us with that too--didn't he know how dangerous that was? And, as one of my favourite singers, Rich Mullins once said, "He didn't have a plan B."

The power of words is staggering. They can slay or salve, hurt or heal. They are quick to leave our lips--but so hard to undo.

This morning I read a little from each of a couple of books I'm working my way through: How to Have That Difficult Conversation You've Been Avoiding, by Doctors Henry Cloud and John Townsend, and Soultalk by Larry Crabb.

In How to Have That Difficult Conversation (chapter 18), I read a great passage on the need to listen and "contain," or simply "be with" another in a conversation. It talked about not reacting--simply allowing the other person to process their thoughts or emotions. This is a skill I'm working on as opposed to responding to an inner impulse to "help," or "make better" if someone is experiencing painful emotions.

Then, in chapter 4 of Soul Talk, Dr. Crabb was talking about our inclination to get involved in helping "activities"--programs, committees, initiatives, campaigns --contrasted with engaging in the process of what is really craved by every human being--to be known, explored and discovered by another.

This week I was talking to a friend who'd had a "soul talk" with someone--a conversation where he felt eternity hanging in the balance in someone's soul as they edged their way towards the Kingdom. Although he hasn't been reading these books, I knew it was soul talk because of what his friend said to him afterwards--"I appreciated it. It meant a lot to me--to be able to open up."
As my friend Frank said to me, "We live for times like that."

Dear Lord, you whose lips were full of grace--be Lord of my tongue. Please let me use it less often but with more of your power.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Gathering Storm

Isaiah 49:25 (New International Version)
25 But this is what the LORD says:
"Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
and plunder retrieved from the fierce;
I will contend with those who contend with you,
and your children I will save.

The sky is heavy and sullen on this hot morning.

As I glance out of my kitchen window a flock of birds swoops swift and low over the fields--their wings shining silver below the ominous, roiling grey of the clouds. Their flight is in unison, like arrows shot from the bows of hidden archers.

In the distance thunder rumbles--it sounds as if a storm is approaching.

I hear the door to the sun porch opening suddenly as if a friend is walking in unannounced--but no friend stands in the hallway. My "visitor "is the rising wind outside.

As I get ready for the day in the bathroom, applying makeup to my shiny face, my blouse is already sticking to my back. My hair clings limp to the back of my neck. I twist it up and secure it with a tortoise-shell barrette. Our air-conditioner isn't making enough of a difference today.

But when I emerge from the bathroom, to my surprise, the sky has brightened--the gathering storm has passed by, and even the stickiness of the air has changed to a more tolerable level.

I think of the problems that cross our path in life, threatening and oppressive as an approaching storm.

The enemy of God and his people is the master of menacing behaviour--he is described as "a roaring lion," (1Peter 5:8). The purpose of an animal's roar is to intimidate its prey or its enemy.

God's word for today reminds me that I need not be intimidated. He will either be in the storm with me, until it dissipates, as the storm this morning did--or he will take me through. How thankful I am for his Presence. I will have no fear either way.

Jeremiah 15:20 (New International Version)
20 I will make you a wall to this people,
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
to rescue and save you,"
declares the LORD.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Runaway

Psalm 119:32 (New International Version)
32 I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.

The reading from Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways yesterday morning spoke of that great missionary to India, receiving a letter with "power to disturb," right in the middle of her Quiet Time with God. She said that it dropped like a stone flung into a pool and that much seemed to press around her of things to be done.

As I meditated on Psalm 119:32, which was in that evening's Daily Light on the Daily Path, I thought of a true story entitled Runaway recorded by Ray Wiseman in his book, A Difficult Passage that recounts his boyhood on the prairies in the 1940's.

The scripture text and story have a connection to Amy's struggle.

*Ray tells of one fateful day towards the end of a school year when he and an assortment of fellow students were being driven home by a driver named Montana in a green van pulled by "a spirited team of matched bays."

It was a hot spell and the road was void of moisture, but during the last rain a Model-A Ford had plowed deep ruts into the road, obviously having skidded from side to side as the driver fought the wheel.

During a series of mishaps, the reins get dropped and the team, sensing freedom, breaks into a full gallop, carrying the cargo of school children on a wild and dangerous ride.

The story, told in much more detail--and wonderfully in the book--fortunately ends happily.

Freedom--peace--lie in resisting the intense pressure to do first--fighting and winning that inner battle daily.

If not, we will find our wheels, like those of Montana's green school van with the runaway team, bouncing in and out of ruts, careering wildly.

When we yield the reins of our day to God, before doing a thing--even though it feels counter-intuitive --we will know the freedom of running in the path of his commands!


*Shared with permission

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Surrounded

“How’d you miss it for so long?” someone asked me today. “Couldn't you tell you had a sinus infection?”

Well, I should have, but the symptoms all matched various other physical conditions I have and I had chalked them all up individually to other things. There was no more mistaking, though, what was really going on (for the last 8 weeks) when my temperature hit a high of 105 last Friday, my face felt like it was about to blow off from the inside out - if my brain didn't explode first - and I truly felt like there might not be a tomorrow. I have spent the last week, very, very sick. Every day there seemed to be some new symptom or some new challenge. The temptation to feel sorry for myself has been overwhelming, but I only gave in once, and very briefly at that! (That’s when the nausea hit like a brick wall – on top of everything else. And just when I was beginning to feel like there was some hope I would feel human again!)

Today, around mid-morning, I felt a sudden burst of energy and a sense of “wellness” that I have not experienced in over a week. The most dramatic change was that the very strong and most unpleasant nausea I was experiencing as a reaction to the antibiotic, suddenly lifted. I was surprised and briefly puzzled. Then, “Ah,” I thought to myself, “Belinda and her team of managers are praying this morning.”

It’s been an amazing week. Until something like this happens, you don’t realize how much support God has built around you in the relationships he has blessed you with. At least I didn’t. My family, bless their hearts, rallied to patiently and faithfully meet my physical needs, fetching cold cloths, and medicine, and endless cups of cold water, and finding the long-lost thermometer (mind you I had to offer ten bucks to whoever came forward with it first!) and offered up the first prayers, I’m sure. I sent out a weak, but impassioned “Help!” to Belinda via email, and she alerted the church prayer team, and her team of managers and who-knows-who-else she dragged into praying for me.

People started to call. Emails began to drift in. I knew I was supported and loved through this situation. How could I possibly feel sorry for myself? The support I felt meant everything as I lay there writhing in pain at times and other times showing signs of delirium from the fever.

On Saturday morning I am leaving for Mishkeegogamang First Nation on a missions trip for two weeks with my daughter, Jorie, age 16. Up until 10:30 this morning, that idea seemed like a bubble that just had to burst, considering my physical condition. But today, it looks like we will definitely be going. I know that is directly related to the fervency and numbers of prayers offered up on my behalf, not to mention the goodness and mercy of God to whom those prayers were offered. Today I began to build up my stamina again by going into the office for an hour and dropping in to cell group for a bit longer than that. Tomorrow I’m going to try 3 or 4 hours at work, and Thursday, hopefully I’ll be able to stay the whole day. All this with a deeply rooted, chronic infection, which flared up into a virulent life-threatening one -without the aid of antibiotics - just a week ago.

From the time I first was sick, I knew this was an opportunity to say, “I quit. I can’t do it. I can't go.” The illness was my out. And I would have been completely justified in doing so. But I felt the Lord saying to me… “You can stay home if you want to. I’ve allowed every reason for you to say you can’t go. It's your choice. But – do you believe I have called you?”


Yes, I believed. And Saturday we're going. I will still need his strength for every step we take. But we're going! We have to be at the airport at 7:00 a.m, leaving at 6:00 to get there. We won't arrive in Sioux Lookout until lunch time. Then we will wait a couple of hours or more for our 250 km. van ride to Mish. Knowing the team of prayer warriors that surrounded me this week will be such a comfort as we face each new challenge and rise in the road. I am SO pumped! Just waiting for God to reveal his more of his goodness and mercy in our lives.

“Thank you Lord, for every experience this week. For every victory – every physical challenge faced and overcome with your help. I am completely undeserving of your goodness, but you called in the troops and you helped me anyway, because that's who you are. Thank you for the support that you revealed that is around me all the time – that is around all of us who are called by your name and firmly planted in your family. I have no need to fear anything in the future. You and your people will see me through." Amen.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Coffee, Cereal and Conversation

The house was cool when we came down to begin our day. Before breakfast I made a quick trip outside to put something in my car and was hit by a wall of heat--and it was only 7.00 a.m.--the cool was only on the inside. "Thank goodness for air conditioning," I thought.

We sat across the table from each other sipping our coffee and munching on our cereal and Paul said, "That post you wrote a couple of days ago about the wedding--that was good." ( "Speechless"--July 4th)

"Hmmm--thanks," I said, feeling blessed that something God flowed through me had meant something to him.

And that started a conversation about the wedding attire in the story and the fact that none of us has any grounds to stand before God on our own merit.

I'd just been reading in the January In Touch magazine by Charles F. Stanley--January, because it's part of the reading collection in the drawer in our bathroom--an article entitled, A Church full of Failures.

The article, by Jedd Medefind, started with a young couple lamenting with friends, accounts of failure in the church. Medefind then went on to recount the failure riddled Bible "heroes,"--I'm sure we're all familiar with them--there is hardly a hero that didn't have his shadow side--some pretty radical moral failure. That's actually one of the things that points to the accuracy of the Bible for me. If anyone made up "stories of faith," they sure could do a better job of drawing heroic characters. The key was the struggle out of the failure--not the failure itself.

Our cereal gone now, we wound up our conversation quickly, agreeing that because of all of this, we can't understand or agree with, those who slam and judge fellow Christians for some aspect of their ministry that doesn't meet their standard of scrutiny. There are some that seem to feel a calling to alert the rest of Christendom to beware of those we consider brothers in Christ--and we weren't speaking of doctrinal issues. We struggle with this because sometimes the people slamming are people we otherwise respect.

Paul left and I opened my dear old, well worn and taped together Daily Light on the Daily Path.
This was the morning reading for today:

Morning
I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.—We have all become like one who is unclean.—I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.—You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.—Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but . . . the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
“Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him.”—The fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.—I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.


Zech. 3:4; Ps. 32:1; Isa. 64:6; Rom. 7:18; Gal. 3:27; Col. 3:9, 10; Phil. 3:9; Luke 15:22; Rev. 19:8; Isa. 61:10

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for your grace by which I can stand in your Presence. If I am wrong about those who feel called to be the watchdogs over the Church, forgive me and show me your perspective. For now, I am grateful for your Word, that does confirm our common state of dependence upon your grace and your love that covers us in your righteousness.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Paying Attention to Two Worlds

The natural world amazes me. My senses are saturated with beauty daily--I pay attention because that's the way God made me--I can't help it.

Yesterday, in anticipation of a hot day ahead, I had pulled down the blinds and the windows were open to catch the cool breeze before the heat came.

Outside, the wind blowing through the trees sounded like waves washing up on a beach. Wooosh--wooosh went the wind "waves"--while the blinds tap-tapped at the window frames.

This morning though, was motionless. I sat in my green room and watched the stillness outside. Not a leaf moved. The sky was ominous grey and the air hung moist and heavy.

I could hear only the occasional distant chirping or calling of birds and the tick-tick-ticking of our golden oak wall clock--a minimalist concert. The clock's rhythmic keeping of time contrasted with the random, free form sounds of nature.

The ticking reminded me that time can be a taskmaster--but the world runs according to time--it seems that for now at least, there is no escaping that.

And yet--there is freedom in listening for another Master's voice. What do I know of his plans--his schedule--unless I listen?

I wonder if this listening lay behind the conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus--a Pharisee. If ever there as a group bound by rules and rituals it was the Pharisees--and yet this Pharisee sought out Jesus. Not in daytime--as his contentious peers had done, seeking to entrap Jesus with their questions. Nicodemus came--we are told by John in the third chapter of his gospel--by night--secretly, seeking--questioning sincerely.

Jesus said to him, "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8.

Jesus also said, in the prayer recorded in John 17, that although we are in the world, we are not of it (verse 16).

Part of me must always be paying attention, listening for--a voice from another world--even as I go about the daily business of this world. I would love my spiritual antennae to be as finely tuned as my senses are to beauty.

1 Samuel 3:10 (New International Version)
10 The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!"
Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Turning Point

Psalm 119:105 (New International Version)
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.

It was mid morning when she called--my friend Poppy--a.k.a. Frances. We hadn't spoken for almost a week. I'd tried calling the day before and she had answered the phone, her voice husky with sleep, "What time is it?"

"12 o'clock," I said--I'd called on my lunch time.

"Can I call you back?" she asked--but she never did--that day at least.

So when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone the next day, I looked up at the clock and made a mental note that I was starting my coffee break--prepared to stretch it into my lunch break too, if necessary. It's hard for us to stay connected--my friends and I--when we're all working and on different schedules--but we manage because it matters.

Out came a tale of busy days--family visits--many of them in one week--a late night sister-bonding session--trying and failing, to watch scary movies--and all culminating in a few snatched hours of sleep before going to work--which is when I had called the day before.

Sometimes the journey gets weary and the issues we carry are dreary. That has been Poppy's state of late--but she wasn't calling to tell me that. She had a tale of victory to share.

She'd gone to work and a co-worker had seen her discouraged state and asked if she could pray with her. That prayer changed everything. As her co-worker prayed words that were led by the Holy Spirit, Poppy said she realized, "I've spoken too much life into anger, depression and negativity."

"And," she said, "the Lord has lifted my spirit."

She went on to say, "He turned my mind and heart to how much he loves me."

"The thing that will lift us--the thing that will sustain us is his love."

Poppy's final kick at the negativity can was to say, "I will get by--I will prosper--because of who he is and because he loves me."

And I knew that she was right.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Inconvenient Commandments

Luke 6:35-36 (New International Version)
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Sometimes God's direction is inconvenient and difficult--but impossible to ignore.

I mean I really love all that I read in God's Word about loving one another--until someone does something that is unfair, rude or unjust. That's when my own ideas of justice take over. There's something wrong with that--like saying I'm a vegetarian then having a juicy steak for dinner.

In Soul Survivor, a book by Philip Yancey, there is a chapter on Mahatma Ghandi, who was a Hindu. He admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Ghandi he asked him, "Mr. Ghandi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?"

Ghandi replied, "Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."

I confess--mine is far from the lifestyle Jesus lived and my heart has far to go before it reflects his heart--which was always for others and never for self--but I love him and want to press in to be more like him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to reflect you when it's hard--when it's easy I don't really think it counts.

More like Jesus would I be, let my Savior dwell with me;
Fill my soul with peace and love—make me gentle as a dove;
More like Jesus, while I go, pilgrim in this world below;
Poor in spirit would I be; let my Savior dwell in me.

If He hears the raven’s cry, if His ever watchful eye
Marks the sparrows when they fall, surely He will hear my call:
He will teach me how to live, all my sinful thoughts forgive;
Pure in heart I still would be—let my Savior dwell in me.

More like Jesus when I pray, more like Jesus day by day,
May I rest me by His side, where the tranquil waters glide.
Born of Him through grace renewed, by His love my will subdued,
Rich in faith I still would be—let my Savior dwell in me.

Fanny Crosby

1 Peter 1:22 (New International Version)
22Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart

Psalm 139:23 (New International Version)
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Serving "Someone"

Joshua 24:2 (New International Version)
2 Joshua said to all the people, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.

Joshua 24:14-15(New International Version)
14 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is, A Troubled Faith, by Alan Reynolds. It's a book that gives lots of opportunity to ponder faith--the what and the why and the how of it.

There's a chapter entitled, The God We Want And The God We Need. Alan talks about the incurably religious aspect of mankind and the fact that bad religion results from the tendency to create gods that serve us. These, he says, are the gods we want. They are not the gods we need. He talks about how when we create gods that will serve us, they end up controlling us. How true!

He writes that the final idolatry is when we worship our religion, or have faith in our faith, rather than recognizing that God is always more than our conception of God.

We must beware of creating a god in our image rather than being conformed to his image. There are so many passages in scripture that, if we truly read with eyes and heart and soul open, will challenge and convict us of our pale faith and the fact that we have choices to make--"who" will we serve?

It was interesting to read the retelling of the legend of the ancient kings of Europe, going down into the waters of Christian baptism, holding their sword arm out of the water in a kind of conditional acceptance of Christian faith.

Do I want to be like that? No--I want to be whole-hearted and to have no body, mind or spirit parts held up out of the water--reserved for my own private use. Do I think I'm there? No--my actions and thoughts betray me daily. That is why there is an altar--a place of sacrifice--a place where self can die--one part at a time--until we are wholly his.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive my many failings. Thank you for your endless love, grace and mercy. Thank you for caring to know us, revealing yourself to us in your Word and in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will purge my view of you from any tendency to make you into the god I want, rather than the God I need.

Matthew 22:36-37 (New International Version)
37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Speechless

Matthew 22:11-12 (New International Version)
11"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless.

I have a recurring dream. It's Sunday morning, I'm leading worship--I have no clue which songs we are singing. I try to quickly pull something together--but--never good at thinking quickly on my feet-- it's no good. As I fumble and drop sheets of song lyrics, I look out at the faces looking back at me and I know they know--I'm not prepared. I am always relieved to wake up and find that it was just a dream--but the feeling of panic and embarrassment isn't so easy to shake!

The aroma of roasting beef, mingled with exotic spices, fills the banquet hall, tantalizing the guests who have gathered for the celebration. Servants carry trays laden with luscious grapes, pomegranates and figs, circulating among those gathered for this special feast--a wedding feast. Music--rhythmic and celebratory--blends with the murmur of voices as the guests anticipate with curiosity, the arrival of the guests of honour--the king's son and his bride.

The king arrives first, and mingles with the guests. He stops in front of a man, aghast. The guest is not dressed appropriately, and the king graciously asks him, "Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?"

I can empathize with the man in this story. The Bible says that he was speechless. His worst nightmare was unfolding. He was not prepared.

Strangely, in the story that Jesus told, all of the guests had been gathered from the streets because the invited guests all refused to come for various reasons. I wonder who could have been dressed properly on such short notice!

The story goes on--the servants are commanded by the king to tie the man hand and feet and to throw him out into the darkness. It ends with Jesus saying that "Many are invited, but few are chosen."

So--the Invited Guests did not come--and those that did come--quickly gathered from the streets-- had to meet a certain dress code. What was all of this about?

The metaphor of a wedding feast describes the Kingdom of Heaven. The original guests could be the Jewish people, or perhaps the religious people--the ones you would expect to be at this wedding feast. Others, surprised perhaps at finding themselves unexpectedly invited to this feast, still needed a wedding garment.

Throughout the gospels and the epistles, the metaphor of clothes is used to refer to attributes or character qualities that we "put on," but it is clear that no clothing is adequate to stand before the King but that of Christ's righteousness.

Nothing that we try to "put on" before God will do--his searching gaze will see through any attempts at self justification. He has, after all, provided his guests with everything they need, even a wedding garment.

It's our choice--putting on Jesus--or being found speechless.

Galatians 3:27 (New International Version)
27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Prophetic Words

It was at least two years ago--sometime close to Christmas when our writers group was taken by storm by Geraldine.

Larger than life--she was a vibrant English lioness of a woman--artsy to the max--with a booming elegant voice--and a "darling" in every other sentence.

If I've made her sound affected--she wasn't--this was Geraldine--breathless--charismatic Geraldine.

Auburn hair cut in a shaggy mane, with dramatic clothing and jewelry--she sailed into our gathering one evening at the invitation of Sue, one of our members, who knew her well from Singing Waters, an inner healing ministry and retreat centre near Orangeville.

At the end of the evening Geraldine offered to pray for each of us--for the releasing of creativity. As she started to pray, I was stunned. Some of the people she prayed for, I knew as intimate friends--she had never met us before this evening and with her "attention deficit disorder" type personality could not even remember our names--and yet what she prayed over each of us felt so clearly from God that I made a concerted effort to remember what she prayed and type out what I could remember when I got home.

Tonight when I was looking for something else on my computer, I came across the words she spoke over my friend Susan. Although what she prayed was significant then, it is even more so now--when Susan is just about to set off in two weeks time for a missions trip to Mishkeegogamang--a First Nations reservation--to set up a camp for children with developmental disabilities. This is what she prayed--Susan won't mind me sharing it:


Susan – A ball of fire, a wild woman. You have been so misunderstood. God is taking all those arrows that have pierced you, the pain. He’s breaking off the timidity. You will reach people in unusual places. A nut. One of the expensive kind.

Probably not too many people know better than Susan and I how much truth there is in those words and how much has come true of late.

Some of the words she prayed over me were these:

Shoots coming up, birthing, recognizing the gift in people, doing something that causes it to start growing through the hard ground. You have a tender heart.

I see words like bells tinkling and you’re going to ring a liberty bell.


Those words capture my heart and calling. How wonderful it was to have God send us all a gift wrapped in Geraldine's brilliant packaging that night.

Prayer: Dear Lord, You have so many ways of encouraging us and using us to encourage others. I thank you for the gift of prophecy, which flowed through Geraldine the night you sent her our way. Thank you for the mystery of your ways and for confirming that you have a calling for each of our lives and you're calling it out and unveiling it as we yield ourselves to you. I pray for Susan as she prepares to go in your name--bearing love and hope with a humble and servant's heart.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Discarded Things

I had such a good sleep last night--a rare thing for me--to actually have enough! It felt so good to awaken sleep satiated instead of sleep deprived.

After breakfast I laced on my Rockport walking shoes and set out for some much needed exercise. It was the perfect day--sun shining brightly but not too hot and with a breeze that danced around me as I walked.

Twenty minutes or so into the walk I was coming to the end of our tiny village of Bond Head and heading into countryside--a few fields and then the beautifully landscaped golf course of The Club at Bond Head to walk past.

As I passed the last house on the way out of the village, the breeze carried the fragrance of flowers from across the fields on a sound like the ocean--the rushing sound that hides in a sea shell waiting for a child to put it to its ear.

On I walked, ears, eyes and nose taking in every detail that they could, as I wondered at the delicate and beautiful detail of wild flowers and smiled at the waving bulrushes, shrouded in fuzz.

But it wasn't only grasses, stones and fallen feathers that met my eye as I looked down to the ground. I was dismayed at the Tim Horton's cups, plastic slushy containers and other debris that lined the ditches non-stop--the cast-offs of the passing cars.

Later, back at home, the phone rang. It was Tiffany-Amber's and Victoria's other grandmother--Grandma Adams--calling to chat.

Marilyn--that is her name when not being called "Grandma"--updated me on the status of her ongoing "purging project." She observed that we spend the first fifty years of our lives collecting stuff that we just have to have--and the rest of our years getting rid of it. Her daughter Melody has given dire warnings about being left with a house full of stuff to deal with when Marilyn eventually leaves this earth--which she doesn't have plans to do any time soon.

So Marilyn is divesting herself of all sorts of hitherto "sacred cows." She told me that her best china is going--Royal Doulton--white on white with an elegant silver band. Her stem-wear has already gone. She's replacing the good china and everyday dishes with white Corelle. She's previously given away or sold several other "treasures."

We talked about how it's the thing for couples getting married to register for china--taking great care in picking out a pattern that is personal and elegant. We wondered why! Both of us agreed that it takes up valuable living space and doesn't pay for its keep.

We wondered about our shared granddaughters--would they treasure the things we want to pass on to them? I was worried that in her zeal, Marilyn was forgetting about that. I needn't have worried--she has saved some special treasures for them.

I have things that were my great grandmothers and I cherish them greatly and hope that one day my grandchildren will. One of my treasures is a painted metal bowl--white on the inside and pale green outside. The paint was chipped when I brought it across the ocean to Canada--and it's more chipped since I dropped it on the floor recently. I use it as a fruit bowl, and I think often of my Dutch great grandmother, Adriana Paauwe-Van de Werf to whom it belonged.

Then I think about what it is that I really want to pass on to my grandchildren. Perhaps I will be the last person to find significance in a chipped metal bowl--and that's okay--significance, as beauty--is in the eye of the beholder. But I hope that deeper things will not be thrown away. I hope that all six of them keep the Faith. I hope this for my God-children too--it's the one thing--the only thing I really hope they never throw away.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Daughters of Eve

I have never felt like a more welcome or special guest.

I had been invited to speak at the church that one of my friends attends and she asked if I would like to come for lunch after the service.

Ellen and Jason are parents to five children aged nine and under, including eighteen month old twin boys, so it was no small thing for Ellen to invite me to be their guest for lunch. I gratefully accepted her invitation and looked forward to sharing some time with Jason, Ellen and their young family. I really had no idea though, just what a treat I was in for.

Ellen and nine year old Hannah drove home from church with me while Jason went on ahead with Joshua--almost eight; Olivia--six-- and Josiah and Jeremiah--the twins.

Stepping into their home, I was greeted by the fragrant, appetizing smell of something very delicious cooking--brown rice with almonds, and pork tenderloin.

The twins were quickly seated in two high chairs and fed, then put to bed for a nap, while Joshua was happily occupied on the computer in the office.

The girls sat on either side of me on the buff coloured leather couch and gazed up at me with rapt attention. As interested as they seemed to be in me--I was smitten with them--these two daughters of Eve.

Olivia has hair the colour of copper and beautiful eyes to match, with a charming sprinkling of freckles over her nose. Three front baby teeth are missing, having been knocked out by a hockey stick this week--but the sweetness of her smile has not been diminished by that at all. And Hannah--tall, serious, thoughtful and helpful--with long, straight, dark blonde hair and dark brown eyes was delightful.

"What did you talk about this morning?" they wanted to know. They had been in Sunday school when I spoke. I thought for a moment before answering--it seemed important to answer seriously.

"I spoke," I said, "About the fact that God has a story in mind for each of our lives before we are even born."

I told them, as they listened with eyes wide--serious and attentive, that our stories and all the things that happen to us are part of the big story of God's love for mankind, and that if we know him and give our lives to him to use, our lives will be an adventure like nothing we can imagine. That was enough--they were satisfied.

Then I was regaled by music--Hannah plays the piano and violin with accomplishment. They sang for Ellen and I, standing together, hymn book in hand--singing all four verses of Holy, holy, holy--and Kumbaya. We looked at their special individual photo albums, lovingly scrapbooked by thier mommy--and they read to me stories that they wrote themselves--wonderful, creative and imaginative stories.

It was such a blessed Sunday afternoon being the grateful recipient of loving hospitality.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.