Thursday, January 31, 2008

Standing on Holy Ground

By Joyful Fox

I lay awake in the inky black thinking of today. Husband breathing softly, I reach under my pillow to turn off alarm...close to 5:00...I sigh softly...aware of the warmth of blankets and silent home. Wouldn't it be nice to burrow here awhile...a long while. These days have been hard.

I'd rather not begin today. I smile to myself and choose to slide out of bed. I take captive, erring thoughts...and remember muted yellows and blues of my journal...the crisp white page awaiting first thoughts of the new morn...afghan of burgundies, rust, and evergreen... beckons from soft leather sofa. The Father's love stirs a longing in my soul. I need this...the first meeting of the day.

Ready now, I scramble into clothes. Fingers fumble as I find the tag, slipping into athletic pants, silently snatching sweatshirt, ever mindful of all who slumber on...cautious now, I creep down the stairs. This time for seeking, listening, meditating, and exploring...far too precious to tarry long.

"Here I am, Lord..."I sound like Moses. Peace settles as His word speaks into anxiety in predawn dark. Sacred silence...hallowed hour...treasured time.

The bush burned yet it was not consumed. So Moses said,"I must turn aside now, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up." Exodus 3:3

God called to Moses from the midst of the bush. Moses answered, "Here I am."

God said to Moses, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Exodus 3:4-5.

The place on which Moses stood was Holy Ground. God was speaking to Moses. Present with him. I can't imagine how glorious that would be.

I contemplate a while. Christ has come. Immanuel, God with us. Spirit indwelling. I am standing on Holy ground. My Mount Sinai is here...in this home...in this hour...in every hour of every day.

My burning bush is His still small voice, the soft and gentle one...I often miss when I leave the sanctity of this holy hour.

Cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, trimming tiny fingernails, peeling potatoes, changing diapers...this is Holy ground...the hallowed in the everyday.

I struggle so...to carry His sacred presence into the day.

His voice, soft and gentle...hard to hear when my own voice raises...harsh and severe, over bickering children, crying baby, and squeals echoing off in another direction. Stimulus overload?...Yes, yes.

I am still standing on Holy ground. Oh, me of unclean lips.

Blaze, spirit blaze...set my heart on fire...may it blaze like Moses' burning bush.

The place on which I stand is Holy Ground.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Courage

Hebrews 12:1-2 (New International Version)
...let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...

It was one of those conversations that God was all over, a conversation that plumbed some deep places as she worked on my hair.

As I went from chair to hairdryer, to sink, to chair again; in between consulting on colour or hi lights (just colour this time) , conditioning treatment (please), trim (yes, the ends need it), we went deeper, from light hearted banter to "God talking." I saw it in her eyes, her spirit responding; not to me but to him, and I felt it in my own heart as she shared a story prompted by our conversation.

She told me about two elderly customers, a mother and daughter; the mother in her nineties, both of them now living together; how they were both crusty characters but the mother was so bright, intelligent and feisty that she had asked her, "You've lived such a long life; do you have some wisdom to share with me?"

And the woman told her how in her 20's she had taken up fencing as a hobby. She had a natural gift for it and easily beat every one her instuctor arranged for her to fence against. Eventually he said, "I can't find anyone for you to fence against that will challenge you. I suggest you start fencing at the university level and seriously consider preparing for the Olympics."

My hairdresser's attention was rapt as the old woman told her story. "What happened?" she wanted to know.

"I didn't do it," said the woman, " and I've spent my life wondering what would have happened if I had."

And she went on, "The wisdom I pass on to you is this; if you don't do something, ask yourself, what is it that is holding you back?"

I remembered the challenge I had heard at a retreat just two days earlier: "God can do anything. Are you willing to let him do "anything" through you?"

In the fall, I had been offered an exciting opportunity in my "outside of work" life, and after praying, I had said yes to it, safe in the knowledge that it was going to take some time to unfold.

My already busy life though, was busier than ever in the early winter, with a trip to England and then Christmas and many work deadlines. The opportunity waited, lying ahead, but panic began to tighten around my heart when I thought of actually fitting it into my life. When a phone call came to plan the next step, I pulled back.

"I've been thinking about it," I said, before my friend could go further, "How would I fit it in? I would love to do it, but I just don't think I can."

My friend said she'd pray that God would clear something from my schedule.

"Please do," I said, "I'm always praying for God's agenda for my life."

Over Christmas I received a disappointing letter, but it was deserved and shouldn't have been a surprise. In a writing course I'd been taking extremely slowly I had missed one too many deadlines. "Call us when you're ready to reconnect with us," the letter said in essence. But strangely, although one part of me was disappointed in myself and wanted to call right away and jump back in, something kept me from doing so and I felt a peace at letting that one pressure go; for now--and only now; I do want to finish it.

God had taken something off my plate, and as the saner pace of January settled over me, I wondered; had I thrown away an opportunity when I had told my friend I couldn't do it? Now I thought that maybe I could do it. Some other circumstances in my life were building confidence and I was beginning to realize that maybe the reason I had backed away had more to do with fear of "stepping out of the boat," than busyness.

I was driving to the hairdresser when the friend called me. "Have you thought any more about that idea?" she asked.

"As a matter of fact I have," I said. And God had a hairdresser waiting to confirm all of this with such a story.

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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hair Dye

I was in the bathroom the other day and realized that I need to dye my hair again, if I want to maintain that elusive appearance of "no grey". It's emerging, right on the top of my head and creeping down the sides just a few short months after the last application. A mix of black and grey topping off the lighter tones and highlights blended into the rest of my "glory".
Why do we do this? I swore I wouldn't be caught in the trap. At the most I only apply dye twice a year. To do this I must let all the colour fall out until I am back to that salt and pepper look that somehow makes me feel older. After all "grey hair is the crown of the aged" isn't it? But wait a minute...I'm not aged. At the ripe old age of 41 I'm only half way through. I know women older than me who have a lot less grey, and they don't dye. It's in my genes they say. Well my jeans don't fit the same way they used to either. But yes, Mum did go grey early, as did her siblings.

Is it the pressure of our society that we must have the look of eternal youthfulness, or do our spouses subtely suggest it "Hey honey you need to buy another box of that stuff". I had a friend whose husband gently told her that she needed to dye again, while his bald palate gleamed and the fringe round his ears trumpeted his losing battle with age and mortality. Did she lovingly reply "Sure honey and while I'm out getting the box, I'll get you a few brochures on HOW TO GET A HAIR TRANSPLANT!"
I jest (mostly).
And then there are many men who also dye their hair. I find that the look of an aging face surrounded by a halo of dark, obviously dyed hair is disturbing...no offence intended to anyone. But aren't we supposed to change as we age?
I'm just trying to find out how to do it gracefully...And I'm pretty sure the way of the box isn't the only way.
I'll go out and buy another supply. I like the more youthful look, although I have gone a few shades lighter. It's kind of fun to experiment.
There is no right answer to this question.
I know many beautiful, vibrant women, who are, yes, older, but funky, gorgeous and confident in their silver.
It's like the commercial that came out a while ago (for a popular drug store chain) with mature women saying things like "I want to grow older, I want laugh lines, I want to be a grandmother...". The women in it were attractive, strong and older, with character, laughter and wisdom etched onto their faces by the molding hands of life.
I want to be like them....eventually.
For now I'll pick up a box of something and rinse a shade from the fountain of youth onto my tresses...an illusion...? Maybe...

1 Timothy 2:9-10 "I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God."

Father God,
Teach me what this means. It seems to be quite clear, but we are very far from this in our lives of decoration and embellishments. Help me first to be clothed with Your righteousness...
Amen

Update on Lucy's Parents in Kenya

Lucy heard from her parents this morning. They made it through the weekend and for now things seem to have calmed. Please still keep praying.

Thank God for answered prayer. Through another writer on this blog, Joyful Fox, I am aware of an orphanage that one of her neighbours in Alliston founded. Please pray for the safety of the children and their caregivers. More information is in Joyful's comment on my post of last night, For My Friend.

The Canadian Blog Awards

For those who have not yet voted on the Canadian Blog Awards, this is to let you know that the voting ends tomorrow at midnight PST.

Whatever He Says is nominated in the Best Religious Blog category. For those who have honoured this blog with your vote, I and the contributing writers thank you!

Chewing the Fat, Dave Hingsburger's blog is nominated in two categories, Best Activist Blog and Best Blogosphere Citizen. It was Dave who nominated Whatever He Says, thereby setting off a huge flurry of excitement.

... you do not have to be Canadian to vote for a blog. If you'd like please visit ...http://cdnba.wordpress.com/ and follow the instructions to vote.

Blessings to you--voter or not! :)

Monday, January 28, 2008

For My Friend

John 13:12-17 (New International Version)
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

The tension in the room was as palpable as the rank smell of tired, sweaty feet and bodies.

The air hung, close and warm. A deep eddy of inexplicable sadness tinged the familiar preparations for Passover. A darkness moved among the friends, biding its time; a traitorous heart.

The story is told in the language of paradox, "...the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that God had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."

What? The evil in the room is momentarily confounded by the foolish act of humble service to the weak and the weakest and most vile. "He knows. I know he does," it whispers to itself, "He always knows what they are thinking. What game is he playing?"

He is kneeling before them all, even the Betrayer, taking their feet in his hands, handling them with gentleness. Gnarled and broken-nailed fisherman's feet, he pours cool water over them, cleansing them; the only sounds that of the softly slopping water and the barely perceptible rubbing of the towel. 24 feet in the room washed one by one by a King. No one stooped to serve him; who would think of it? His feet went unwashed.

And I was in that room too, so long ago. I have been the Betrayer and I have been the blind unseeing ones, the thoughtless ones who let him serve them then.

But now I am his; all of my glad self is his. I live to serve the King and my life is nothing more and nothing less than this. A life for a life. His for mine and mine given freely back to him. An unfair exchange to be sure, but he never seemed to bargain by our rules.

Please Pray

This morning an urgent need for prayer came to us at work, from Dwayne Milley. Dear readers, please join your voices with ours in prayer:

Lucy, our Volunteer Coordinator - her parents live in Kenya. They are from the tribe which is being targeted by violence. So far the violence has not been near them. However, in recent days some of their properties have been burned. They are now at the point where they must stay in hiding, and are worried they might not make it through the weekend.
Lucy's parents are happy that Lucy and her siblings are out of Kenya, some here in Canada and some in South Africa. But that's little comfort for Lucy.
Please pray for Lucy, that God's peace will sustain her. I can't imagine what she's feeling. Please also pray for her parents, that God protects them.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Still Small Voice...

The words silenced all thoughts. My heart leaped for joy. I wept. A knowing began to wash over my soul...a sunrise, after night...brightness after murky dark...the freedom of truth...again God's grace.

I first read these powerful words from I Kings 19:11-12 on a friend's blog on Thursday afternoon...God's revelation to the prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb (Sinai):

Then He (the Lord) said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord." And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. I Kings 19:11-12 NKJV

Interesting that God speaks...after the wind...the earthquake...the fire...in a still small voice. God chose to speak to Elijah in the proverbial, "calm after the storm". Is that the way He speaks to us as well?

So often the storms of life grab our attention. We think that God is speaking through the storms. At least...it is the storm that gets our attention. The crisis...the trauma...the devastation...shouts at us. We're riveted and become very aware of how small we are in this vast world.

I think of September 11, 2001 and the falling down of the World Trade Centres in New York...of the Tsunami December 26 a few years after on the shores of Asia...of many disasters on a large scale. I think of personal trauma that affects our lives and the ones of those we love...death, disease, accidents, violence.

I think of small crisis', sometimes daily trials we have. I think of last week when I was reeling from the tsunami of needs in my life...a feverish child, and another with a migraine, a brother who lives in a group home who needed a complete medication change, and I...struggling to maintain the household with less than 3 hours sleep for several days. The hungry tummies, diapers of twins, mountains of laundry, scattered dinky toys, school lessons,and the urgency that is generated by 5 young children...and my troubling fears that have assaulted me...on and off...since the day of my first child's birth almost 10 years ago...am I gentle enough, loving enough, kind enough?" I panic. The truth is I am not gentle or loving enough, none of us are.

...the panic ensues after we face our inadequacies. We cry out...sometimes to God, yes...to anyone. We need help. We cry out or we sink...

I can't listen when I panic...Can you?

In the middle of fear, the rush of adrenaline, the racing thoughts, we cry out and it is the Lord who sustains, who fights for us. He rallies the angels, stirs peoples' hearts to meet our needs and works in ways we will never know. He is God. He is love. Out of that love He orchestrates and intercedes on our behalf. He is our refuge and our strength. When we are weak, He is strong. His power is made perfect in our weakness.With Him, all things are possible.

We learn, like the Egyptians as they fled from Pharoah's wrath,

"The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." Exodus 14:16 NASV

How many battles does the Lord fight for you and I. Miraculous and poignant, "The sons of Israel walked on dry land through the midst of the sea, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and their left." Exodus 14:29 NASV

Can you imagine the awe of the Israelites as they walked on dry land through the sea, water heaped on either side of them? What a battle! Oh, to witness such power in a tangible way!

When we grasp His truths, our faith grows. He is the source of life, abundant life... the life He longs for His children to live.

"...cease striving and know that I am God...The God of Jacob is our stronghold."Psalm 46:10 NASV

Over the past 2 days I've thought a lot about the words in I Kings 19: 11-12. Once the wind, earthquake, and fire got Elijah's attention...God spoke in a still, quiet voice. Was Elijah listening then? I think he was. God was gracious with Elijah. He is gracious to us.

His grace...abundant...rich...free. His grace lavished upon us...bestowed upon you and me. Humbling...merciful...loving...that is God.

I was reading this morning in the Psalms...it spoke into my life and resonated truth.

"Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised...God in her palaces, Has made Himself known as a stronghold...terrified, they fled in alarm. Panic seized them there, Anguish as of a woman in childbirth...We have thought on Thy lovingkindness, O God...Thy right hand is full of righteousness...For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us to death." Psalm 48:1,3,5-6,9-10,14 NASV

God guides us...even in the storms of life, the disasters, the traumas, and the crisis' that He has allowed...all part of His plan, if not His will. In our panic...He still guides us.

Lord, I yearn for more. I need more. I need to listen to your soft and gentle voice...the one that comes after the storm. The one that came to Elijah after he came out of his cave. Teach me to listen, please Lord.

Elijah, like myself, struggles with a little self-righteousness. I am not really that bad, am I? Like Elijah, I cry, "I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts;" I Kings 19:10 NASV

Elijah also said, "...for the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." I Kings 19:10 NASV

There in a cave the Lord dealt with Elijah. God asked Elijah to stand on the mountain. He didn't obey. He stayed in the cave. Only later did he go out to stand in the entrance of the cave...after the wind...the earthquake...the fire...only when the prophet heard a still, small voice. It was this gracious voice of the Lord which brought him to the entrance...that stirred him to obey.

How like Elijah, we are all. We obey in part. We are courageous at times and after mighty victories of faith, we get despondent and depressed. Then we need to sit under a broom tree and rest. We need food and drink...more rest food and drink and then we can go on.

There are gales in our life, soft winds, earthquakes and tremors, and the purifying fire and then we are ready to listen. We hear our Lord calling us...

A soft and gentle voice...a still small voice...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Let the Chips Fall

What's the matter with me? Why can't I write ANYTHING?

Is this what writer's block is? It must be.

I think about what I've read in my bible the last few days - how the Father has distilled certain parts of it into pure spiritual water washing over me, cleansing my sullied heart and mind. I think about all the profound teaching in the last two weeks from a number of different sources and how I heard his voice through it many, many times, bringing enlightement and peace to some dark places in my heart. I remember the moments of solitude; the quiet listening and waiting, my mind becoming still; strength being renewed and purpose re-formed. I ponder again the rich conversation of this very afternoon - the sifting and the blowing off of chaff between two friends. I start. I stop. I erase. I think. I start again. I can't do it. I can't.

God? What's wrong with me? Why can't I write anything tonight? Again!

I pick up my bible and begin to read in Exodus again where I left off this morning. There's the ephod and the robe and the pomegranates the breastplate, the long-sleeved checkered tunic - all about Aaron and what he is supposed to wear in order to minister to the Lord...

Is this what's wrong with me, Lord? Do I not have the proper garments in place? Am I not fit to enter your presence? Is that why I can't hear your voice or reflect anything of the intimacies you have quietly spoken into my heart these last few days?

That cannot be. For you have done all that could ever be done to make me fit for your presence. The work is finished and as I acknowledge that fact with humility and accept the pure and boundless efficacy of your blood, I am free to approach you. Absolutely free.

I read the words... shoulder straps, and onyx and beryl stones, and clasps, and purple and gold and scarlet and twisted linen... My eyes and my mind read the words, my heart slips away to range freely, even as my eyes and mind take in the sentences on the page.

Suddenly, inexplicably, it's clear. My heart knows! I close my bible and listen some more...

I'm afraid. Afraid? But of what, Lord?

Your words. They won't please everyone. They will be "out there". And subject to criticism.

Ahhhh. Someone might criticize. Or misunderstand. Or read between the lines to fill in the blanks with things I did not intend. So that's it.

So what? So-o-o-o-o what!!!

If I weren't so full of Self, I wouldn't care, would I? I wouldn't be afraid at all. I'd write whatever You put on my heart to write. I wouldn't write for anyone else but you. And I'd leave the rest - what others think and what they might (or might not!) say - in your hands.

What was it that Belinda said yesterday? I heard those words too, at the same time and in the same place she did. She wrote last night about how Erwin McManus had said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the absence of self."

The absence of self. My self isn't absent at all, is it Lord? It's alive and healthy - and the cause of this paralysis of words!

Father, see my pathetic, puny little self? Here where I've placed it on your altar again? It's been SO important to me! Next to your holiness, though, bathed in the light of your goodness, and surrounded by your glory, suddenly I can see it for what it's worth. It's so puny and small and pathetic! Not worth protecting at all!

So why do I try so hard?

Because I so easily lose sight of what you want to give me in its place. What else was it Erwin said? That as I die to "self" - to my "will" - you want to give me your character instead. That you want to conform me to the image of your Son! And you want to use me... You can't do that with my self in the way.

Here it is. My self, my will - over to you, Lord, over to you. And since you have it all in hand? Let those chips fall where they may.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Step by Step

Exodus 23:30 (New International Version)
30 Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

In a difficult moment yesterday, even though I felt really badly at the time, instead of reacting in accusation, judgement and emotion, I was able to be calm, pretty quickly understand where the other person was coming from, and not take what they did personally. I had help from a book that I just bought that was relevant to the issue.

Thanks to getting some insight last May, and realizing that I have a propensity for trampling boundaries, I was able to recognize that "the issue" belonged to the other person and not to me, and I was also able to focus only on my part, not theirs.

I say this not to boast--I know how fatal that would be--but to encourage others. People who have been on the journey with me for a while know that I have my struggles like everyone else. I just feel the need to celebrate good things when they happen. And I'm thankful for good books, based on God's ways, that aid us in marriage and friendships.

Sometimes on wobbly legs, little by little, step by step, we take the land!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Panic

Exodus 14:14 (New International Version)
14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Psalm 46, in which is found that wonderful verse, "Be still and know that I am God," starts out saying that if things happen, such as the earth giving way, and mountains falling into the sea, then, be still.

That's rather funny, because the last thing I tend to do when I am panicking about something is to be still.

Well, there is another important part to the directive: "Be still--and know that I am God."

I'm starting to get it at last because of reading Watchman. It isn't a "being still" in the sense people intend when they say in a crisis, "I've got to centre myself;" meaning to focus on an inner core of peace. No, this is an entirely different type of stillness.

This stillness is the utter peace of knowing that God the Giver, the Healer, the Provider and the Protector is the "doer," and the "mover." "The work" belongs to God, I have only to be trusting, patient, and obedient. I found writing the word "obedient" hard because it is such an unpopular concept these days, but the obedience here, is a glad obedience born of love.

At work we had a staff retreat yesterday and someone sitting by me said, "I obey him because he is a King and I am a slave. It's all about the fame of his name."

Later on, we all watched Erwin McManus's talk, "The Character Matrix," and a couple of statements challenged and stayed with me. Erwin said, "God can do anything. Are you willing to let him do anything through you?"

He also said, "'Courage is not an absence of fear, but an absence of self." And really this is all connected, because if we die to self, then it no longer matters what happens to us.

We can be still, because although it no longer matters to us (at least not so much, as we are learning this concept) it matters to God what happens to us. He always takes care of what is his.

Psalm 46:10 (New International Version)
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Father's Bones

Exodus 13:19 (New Living Translation)
19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear to do this. He said, “God will certainly come to help you. When he does, you must take my bones with you from this place.”

It was early morning yesterday when I sat down in my room of olive green to read and pray.

Opening my tattered and love-worn Daily Light, I momentarily caught my breath, for on the top of the page I had written 5 years ago, "Dad's homegoing."

The day had taken me by surprise.

I read the scriptures for the day, taking special comfort from many of the verses, but one in particular:

Psalm 61:2 (New King James Version)
2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

The verse took me back to my childhood.

On top of my parent's shiny dark brown wooden wardrobe, with the intricately engraved handles, there was a battered cardboard box.

I used to enjoy hauling it down from its dusty perch, plonking it on the bed and unpacking the contents. I never tired of the ritual of looking through the embossed brown leather covered photo album, with the delicate, opaque paper separating the pages on which were black and white photographs of my mother's family in wartime Holland. Towards the end of the album the scenes in the photos changed to England. My beautiful mother, her dark hair falling to her shoulders in curls, standing outside St. Paul's cathedral, or leaning over a bridge above the river Thames, about to meet my father by chance in Hyde Park.

There were envelopes; of brown manilla and white, holding more photographs. I would open them one by one, looking at the young faces of my aunts and uncles and grandparents.

And there was a scripture text, on a large piece of cardboard, prettily decorated with flowers, that looked as if it was given for a wedding gift. The text was part of Psalm 61:2:

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I

Like a spiritual sponge in the arid desert of my childhood, I often looked at that verse. It was significant to me that it should be in the readings for the day Dad died.

I snapped out of my reverie and called Mum's number in England. "Oh, hello Belinda," she said, and the pleasure in her voice was palpable.

I heard my brother's deep voice saying to her, "I knew she would call." He picked up the extension.

They were planning an expedition to the village churchyard where Dad lies. I asked them to touch the stone for me. "We will Belinda," Robert promised. They didn't think it a strange request; my father's bones lie there.

Later I read in Exodus how Moses took the bones of Joseph with him when the people of Israel left Egypt and I think of how precious the thread of connection is--with one another; and those who are "ours" and are gone.

The Canadian Blog Awards Round 2

Dear Friends,
Whatever He Says has made it to round 2 of the Canadian Blog Awards in the category of Best Religious Blog! This is very exciting.

To vote, go to http://cdnba.wordpress.com/ and click on the voting tab.

Also check out Chewing the Fat at www.davehingsburger.blogspot.com Dave's blog made it to round 2, too, in the categories of Best Activist Blog and Best Blogosphere Citizen. It was Dave who nominated Whatever He Says for Best Religious Blog. Thank you Dave!

Thank you to all who voted and if you enjoy Whatever He Says, I hope you vote again.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dante

In the fall our family went to the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto. A fantastic experience for the children and Frank and I too. One of the events we enjoyed there was seeing the SuperDogs go through their paces and races with their owners.
They had a special guest that week.
Dante Camacho a Brazilian Agility Champion and member of the Superdog team was there with one of his dogs and the performance was stunning.
This man and his dog went through a series of moves, sometimes dancing, sometimes demonstrating obedience....but the thing that grabbed the attention of both Frank and myself was the dogs' posture toward Dante. His eyes were constantly fixed on his masters face. Constantly. He was sharp, attentive and obedient. He was riveted, waiting for the next command.
At first I wanted to call them partners, as in the dance, and didn't want to call Dante the owner, but there was no mistaking that each knew their roles extremely well. There was no doubt that Dante was the leader, the owner and that the dog was yielded, submitted, and quick to obey. All his intent was focussed on absolute, immediate follow through on his masters command. Not just compliance, but energetic follow through.
It was truly a sight to behold and you know the story that lies within.

O my Jesus. To be so captured by Your will. To love You so much that my only purpose is to fasten my gaze on Your face, my ear to Your voice with urgent attention so that I may hear and see Your every direction and do Your Word with absolute love and diligence.
The rewards are beyond measure (beyond doggy biscuits and Your hand ruffling the fur around my ears :-) and that's just here on earth. Your presence, Your voice, Your approval. And that's just here...
1John 2:5-6
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

You can see one of their performances on YouTube called Dante Freestyle.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pondering Watchman's Words

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (New International Version)
12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.

Paul and I, as I've mentioned here before, are reading a little book by a man named Watchman Nee. Watchman has been dead for thirty six years and he died in a jail in China, where he had been for the last twenty years of his life.

The book, called, Sit, Walk, Stand, compiled from the spoken ministry of Mr. Nee, is only 78 small pages long but every morning I read some of it out loud to Paul, and we find enough in a few paragraphs to give us food for thought for a whole day.

So this morning, as I drove north to Huntsville, over snow covered roads, tucked in behind a large red truck rumbling solidly along, I was pondering Watchman's words. I had to keep my mind on the road at the same time, and my eyes were always aware of my surroundings; noting every now and then the clouds of snow that spontaneously dislodged themselves from tops of trees that lined the highway. Like mini avalanches the snow clouds fell!

We had been challenged by a story Watchman told of a man in South China who had a rice field on a hill. The man had a system of irrigation that he used in times of drought to water his field, involving a water wheel, worked by a treadmill. Two fields below him, another farmer came in the night and made a breach in the dividing bank, draining off his water. The man repaired the breach but the breaching of the bank and draining off of the water was repeated three or four times.

Finally the man, who was a Christian, consulted his fellow believers. He told them that he had tried to be patient, "But," he asked, "Is it right?" Wisely, they didn't answer him straight away, but prayed. What a lesson there is in that alone! Then one of them said, "If we only try to do the right thing, surely we are very poor Christians. We have to do something more than what is right." The man with the water took this counsel to heart, and the next morning he pumped water for the two fields below and in the afternoon he watered his own field. From that time on the water stayed in his field, and the farmer below him was so amazed at his actions, that in time he was curious enough to ask questions, and he too, became a Christian. The point Watchman Nee made was not to stand on our rights, which goes against the human grain, and certainly involves a great deal of dying to self.

Is it what Jesus taught? I have to say, yes. Is it the way I live my life? I have a long way to go!

Tonight I read from the gospel of Mark, a conversation Jesus had with some Pharisees. They had a lot of "religion" of the man-made variety. I don't want to be like that; I want to know Jesus and follow his teachings, even when they are as hard as this. I don't know what would happen if people started radically applying Jesus's actual teachings, instead of what men have taught about his teachings. Perhaps we would end up in prison like Watchman Nee. A lot to think about on a long drive north.

Mark 7:6-7 (New International Version)
6 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: " 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7 They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Soft Rain

Like the beginning of a soft rain...I feel the gentle wet. God's truth touching my soul.

To "be", simply "be"...an instrument of Him...is about understanding His grace...abundant grace lavished upon us, even us.

Are we worthy?
Am I worthy?

Thankfully, it isn't about me or how much I can accomplish for Him. It is about Him...being available...willing...for Him to use me...when... as...He chooses.

I have lived a lifetime of striving...wanting to be good enough...sports, academics, writing, marriage, parenting...even striving to be the best friend I can be...fearing rejection...fearing failure...trying to earn acceptance, love, value...

Not surprisingly, I never measured up.My standard was illusive....just beyond my grasp...but I'd continue to try...strain...persevere.

No one can be the best at everything. What does 'being the best', mean?

In sports 'being the best' is clearly defined...medals...trophies...ribbons. I have boxes of those.

I have learned that victory,in this area is short-lived. You fight to stay on top but there are many skilled athletes...striving to achieve a better score, rank, position...just as you worked to earn the position that someone else achieved before you.

Academic success is also clearly prescribed. The first letter of the alphabet is a clear standard. A specific number is attainable...over 80...pretty good...over 90...even better. "Honour rolls" and words like "with distinction" printed on a certificate marks achievement.I worked hard to accomplish this as well.

To achieve excellence in other pursuits was more difficult. The goal became harder to define. There are not always governing bodies with clear standards for things like...career,writing, parenting,and friendships. Often, excellence in these areas are subjective. To achieve superiority,I'd pick someone I felt was 'tops'- based on their reputation or my observations.

Off I'd go...I'd hit the starting gate,running...a racehorse...trained to go 'all out'...blinders on, focussed only on the finish line.

Sometimes I'd attain it..."All-round athlete of the year",in high school...to find I'd have to do it all over again the next ...

Sometimes I failed...and the cost was high. A marriage that had no hope for success...shattered dreams, broken promises...

My standards were set by myself...others...not God.

Pursuing excellence is worthwhile...noble...admirable. However, it is important to find out "who you are", before you allow what "you do" define who you are. "Being" must come before "doing". Somewhere on my journey I let "what I do" define me. I recently heard it said that we are "human beings" not "human doings". Humorous insight...thought-provoking.

While I was "doing", God was loving. Unrecognized, His grace sustained me.He waited while I pressed on...in my strength...yearning for all God gives...longing for His peace...knowing something was missing...pressing into God but missing the truth...for years...

It's not about me. It's about Him. It isn't my works. It's His work. I am a part of that...by His abundant grace. I am His child, because of the riches of His grace.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:8-9

This marathon of pursuits, this striving...doesn't work in the light of His grace...His truth.

I long to learn "unforced rhythms of grace...to live freely and lightly" as Magda Wills shared from her study of the Message in Matthew 11. Those words resonate deep in my soul. I weep. Beautiful.

When I think of the power of the cross...Christ's death, His resurrection...I realize now...it is so much more than I will ever know. He lives in me and it is He who does His work as I yield to the power of Him in me. A beautiful mystery.

This is a journey...begun...

I am a work...in progress...

Like the beginning of a soft rain...I feel the gentle wet. God's truth touching my soul...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Celebrating a Miracle

I was hard at work in my sunny, pale green office yesterday morning when the phone rang.

As usual the day was flying by; an intense series of quickly answered emails, phone calls, meetings, and churning through the stream of paperwork that seems to grow exponentially like the Amish Friendship Bread will do, that Ellen gave me on Wednesday.

The AFB lies flat on my counter top in a clear plastic bag on which Ellen has helpfully marked the dates of the days I have to add flour, sugar and milk and in between I have to "mush" it. By day ten I will divide it into 4 and make a loaf of bread with one of them, giving the other 3 bags to 3 friends. Now my friends are warned--Amish friendship bread is coming--and day 10 is Friday, January 25th.

But I'm off on a rabbit trail!

Into the middle of my concentrated busyness came an interruption that poured like liquid, golden honey onto the bread of my day, saturating the paper white with sweetness.

I heard Lori Lei's warm, low voice on the line, and I heard laughter and pride in its tone.

"Hi, Belinda," she said, "I have someone here who wants to say hi to you; hold on."

And I heard a small voice, say, an unmistakable, "Hi."

Ava Jasmine Claire, Lori Lei's and Lance's darling miracle, almost one year old, calling to say "Hi."

On Thursday, January 25th 2007, I wrote about Ava's birth, which was indeed a miracle all the way from her conception to her actual birth.

Now this beautiful child is almost one and it's time to celebrate again. She is sunshine and light; a happy little girl with eyes that shine with easy laughter, with little provocation, just like her mommy's.

Paperwork, deadlines and a time crunch--they suddenly faded from view. I had been slowed down to sensibility by Ava Jasmine Claire.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Anybody!

Yesterday was my golden opportunity to sit in a time management seminar. God is so good. It was an incredible opportunity and truly one of the deepest desires of my heart meeting reality in God's plan for my life.

My purpose in learning how to better manage my time was not to figure out how to cram more busy-ness into an already too busy life, but rather to discover how to live more purposefully - and less frantically. I want to be able to trim the excess "busy-ness" and to become, not only more efficient, but more "effective".

One of my ancestors, my dad's grandfather - was a stone mason and first came to Canada to work on the bridge that crosses the Niagara River at Fort Erie. Every time I've crossed that bridge, I have marveled at the work and the careful design that went into it. Each stone had to be finely and accurately crafted by one of an army of stone masons and, following the design of the master builder, laid one by one to finally fulfill the purpose of their work. That bridge represent years of disciplined and competent craftsmanship, built one stone at a time.

If I look at the hours God has given me as the building blocks of my life, I don't want them to be lying willy nilly here and there like the stones I used to play around in my great-grandfather's pasture. I want to co-operate with God in such a way that they are used to build something that is not only useful to Him, but will bring him glory.

The seminar was awesome and I'm sure that snippets of it will be oozing out of me for a very long time to come. I picked up so many simple, but profound and potentially life-changing ideas. I know the day will make a difference if...

If.

If I put the things I learned into practice!

One of the things Harold Taylor shared was, "Look after the minutes and the hours (and days and weeks and years) will look after themselves." He said that it is the little things - the little choices we make - which determine the development of our skills in managing our time and reaching our long term goals. I am excited about leaving behind my old ways. Time (or the lack thereof) has a way of driving us, and managing our lives. How often I've declared how much better I work "under pressure"! I don't want to live that way anymore! I want to be harnessing the time alloted to me instead of feeling driven most of the time and running away from it the rest of the time. I'm tired of living from crisis to crisis. I want to live purposefully.

Harold said in the seminar yesterday that if we want to gain control of the undisciplined and unproductive areas of our lives, we have to replace our bad habits with good ones - and that is very hard to do. Developing skill in making the most effective and godly use of the time given to us must be developed with persistence, diligence and discipline. It costs something to lay aside the old ways of doing things and to build new habits. It won't happen suddenly; the effects won't be seen right away, but the blessing will slowly but surely eventually overtake us.

Harold, by his own admission, was at one time a most disorganized person and living a very pressured existence. But he worked hard at learning some better ways and replacing those habits with new ones. How? By making small and consistent choices - sometimes having to be really hard on himself, often going back and doing things over and over again, until it started to come "naturally". He says that people now say to him, "I can't believe all the things you have been able to accomplish," and "I can't believe all that you do..."

Harold Taylor is 73 years old, and living life more abundantly than many people half his age. His eyes sparkle and his mouth turns up into a nearly constant grin. He takes care of himself, exercises daily, and he has no intention of ever retiring because he loves what God has given him to do! His life is a witness of God's glory and of the blessing that comes from "being faithful in the little things". The best news is that Harold says, "If I can do it, anybody can!"

Anybody. Well, I certainly fit into that criteria!

"Father, be my strength, my stay, and my guide as I walk into these next few habit-changing weeks. Thank you that in You, it's never "too late" to learn your ways. "

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much..." Luke 16:10b

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" Matthew 25:23

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

I ran to the window, attracted by a relentless movement.

Several days of gusty wind and dancing rain had given the land a fresh "wash and blow dry" and the coat of snow had vanished from Ontario in mid January; an unusual thing. Green dared to show itself in plant roots; vibrant spring life playing peek-a-boo with winter.

But now something was afoot outside and lazily swirling, down they drifted, an army of a million foot soldiers taking back the land into captivity. As soft and light as goose feathers, but theirs was a deceptive gentleness, for the green was quickly vanishing beneath this gentle force of white.

A phrase that has lingered in my mind for months came back to haunt me over subsequent days as I thought about the power of many small things, small acts, small thoughts--in the same direction; "A long obedience in the same direction."

I'd heard the phrase used in a talk and wrote it down to remember. I didn't know that it was the title of a book on discipleship by Eugene Peterson until I went to the source of information on almost anything--Google!

But I've been thinking of the significance of the small things and I think that they are probably more weighty than the large, for the small things are what make us who we are.

Small habits of character; small choices that seem so unimportant. "Do I really need to confess and apologise?"

Like a blanket these choices cover us and become the fabric of our lives.

Romans 13:12 (New Living Translation)
12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ultimate Joy

Genesis 37:28 (New International Version)
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Genesis 42:25 (New International Version)
25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man's silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey...

Some of us are in week three of The Marathon of Biblical Proportions and I have to say it's been fun doing this reading through the Bible with a relatively large group of people of friends and to have our pastor preaching from some of the passages we have "marathoned" our way through each week.

The pace though, feels more like a daily sprint than a marathon at times, and reading 3 or 4 consecutive chapters a day is like watching a reel of one of those old black and white silent movies in which the people all seem to be running in fast motion. Fall behind a day and it's hard to catch up.

Yesterday, as I was reading Genesis 44, racing to the end of chapter 45 because I had to leave for work, I felt God slow me down in spite of myself. I picked up journal and pen and began to make some quick notes so that I wouldn't lose the thought he was giving me, and tried to finish the reading, but that wasn't good enough. It felt as if his hand was on my shoulder saying, "Look deeper, there's more." So I did; and there was.

I'd been reading through the dramatic, colourful story of Joseph, and had almost finished the part where Joseph's brothers come to Egypt in a desperate quest to buy grain during a time of famine. Joseph had been living there for years and had risen to a position of power, after having been sold into slavery by his brothers for 20 shekels of silver. He recognised his brothers immediately, but they didn't recognise him.

Twice, in chapters 42 and 44, the account is given of Joseph giving orders that the silver with which they had bought the grain, and finally Joseph's special silver cup, was hidden in the sacks of grain, causing dismay and fear among his brothers when they discovered it.

By then, silver had little value to them, in comparison to the grain they needed to stay alive, but, just like someone who ate forbidden fruit and then was forced to eat that fruit until he was nauseous and vomited, Joseph confronted his brothers repeatedly with silver, the substance they sold him for. It was as if he was giving them opportunity to remember, to face what they had done, and repent.

And I thought of how God is like that. He lets us gorge ourselves at the table of the world until we "see;" until we come to our senses, just like the prodigal son, in a story told many years later. He softens our hearts through the resulting trials and sorrows until we are ready to listen. These circumstances brought Joseph's brothers to their knees in repentance. but soon made them recipients of great blessing from the hand of the one they had rejected. And painful, desperate circumstances can be a kindness, when they bring us to God.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Canadian Blog Awards

Hey Every one,
Whatever He Says has been nominated for Best Religious Blog in the Canadian Blog Awards by Dave Hingsburger of Chewing the Fat www.davehingsburger.blogspot.com which is also nominated in the Activist blog and Best Blogosphere Citizen categories.

If you would like to vote, go to http://cdnba.wordpress.com/ and click the Vote tab at the top of the page. Next, on your left you will see the instructions on how to vote. You get one vote in each category.

Voting closes for this round on Friday.

Exciting! :) Belinda

See The Wind

"Mommy come and see the clouds", he said, grabbing my hand in his own little one. He took me to the living room, where three tall windows look out over our front yard. We climbed on to the couch and he leaned forward, pointing out and up. "Look Mommy, the clouds are moving". And indeed they were. Large dark splotches against the sky being blown straight across by the wind blasting through our neighborhood. It whirled around our house and had buffeted the children and I as we walked to the school bus.

Heavy, dark clouds filled with rain, sent onward by a forceful wind.
Rain clouds, full, bursting, releasing, splashing, cleansing.
Blowing wind, sending, wind of the Spirit.

Now as I write, clearing skies, patches of blue and clouds turning from stormy black to soft peachy brown. Gentler wind still blows, continues to send, but softer, more subtle.
Sometimes I need the force of wind, His wind to blow me with strength where I need to go, so pregnant with all His filling to spill, to rain...to pour out.
He sends me, Jonah like....Go!
Other times, it's just His whisper, His gentle breeze caressing, to send with a splash of joy to another who needs the softest trickle of His grace.

Lord I want to go where You send, as Your gentle, or strong Wind directs my path. Help me lay back on the wind, not fight it. As each turn happens in my day, remind me to lift my hands up and dance in the joy of being caught up in your slip stream, as children, and the horses do on a breezy, frisky day, tossing their heads, urging against the bit, reveling in a gallop, swept along on that current of energy. When we have to hold our coats in place and lean in, laughing as we are buffeted and love every minute and come into the house after with cheeks rosy and eyes sparkling, feeling alive. That is the effect of being swept along by the wind. Let me remember everyday Lord Jesus and know You as You send...
"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 NIV

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Unforced Rhythms of Grace

Last week I wrote a post entitled, "Making Room," and the next day posted a response from Ellen Fox. We received an email from a fellow writer, Magda Wills, which I asked to be able to share. Here it is--with some thoughts to reflect on. Thanks Magda!

Dear Belinda and Ellen,
The struggle with BUSYNESS is a difficult one for the world presents so many challenges and yet Christ wants us to come away in silence with Him. How do we manage it all?

The scripture passage I have been reflecting on for the last week is from Matthew 11, The Message:

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

I love the words unforced rhythms of grace. What does He mean by that? Is amazing grace the reality that the battle is the Lord's, not ours?

I don't have answers for you or for anyone else. I believe the solution is found in spending more time listening to God, to discern His will and He will guide you. When I look back on my life He used poor health a number of times to bring me to a halt. And the most direct communication I ever had from God was the day He told me to quit work in spite of the consequences. There are no easy solutions and God has a different plan for each one of us. The important thing is for us to listen more and speak less in our prayers.

When I left my positions as Social Services Consultant with a Christian organization, I heard God say I was to sit by the well and He would bring people to me, just like He sat by the well when the woman came to Him. Note the placing of this story in the bible. The Pharisees were busy conducting their outcome evaluation by counting the number of baptisms by John and Jesus' disciples. Jesus response to this program evaluation was to leave town and go sit by the well. And note that the story of Mary and Martha follows the story of the Good Samaritan. Were the religious leaders who passed by the Samaritan living busy lives like Martha? One of a number of reasons I left social services consulting was because I no longer believe in the world's process of program evaluation and yet that was my specialty and what I was hired to do. So much of my work was what the Pharisees were doing - counting outcomes.

When I quit work I thought I would be doing some independent consulting, I had the expertise but God had other plans. The name of my husband’s and my company was Chartwell Consulting, Note that I heard God say I should sit by the "well". I thought this meant Chartwell, working from home. Instead, my marriage ended and I am no longer associated with Chartwell Consulting. But God always has a surprise for us. The lovely home God found for me here in Newmarket is the Chartwell Model and so I am living in Chartwell. I am not working from home but my life at home is my work.
.
My former counsellor/spiritual director believes my dreams are part of my spiritual gifts and that someday God will show me how He wants me to use them. One of the central themes in my dreams is the issue of busyness with some incredible metaphors.

May God grant you the wisdom and discernment to find the answer you are looking for.

Blessings!

Magda

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Well done, Jennie...Well Done

I think of Jennie. I've thought about her a lot this week. Her radiant beauty...freckles and blue eyes, a ready smile that melts your heart...kind...loving...vibrant

She would have been 11 on February 21st...now she will be forever 10.

Jennie is with Jesus.

We are here...pilgrims...the light of Christ, shining through us in these dark places of our globe. Each one with a purpose...a cog in the wheel of our Father's divine plan. Each one so loved...cherished by our Father, created in His image...

Our days are numbered. Time finite. A gift.

While we sojourn on this planet, we do the work that our Father has prepared beforehand that we should do.

Jennie's work here is done. She was faithful...she is part of God's great plan...although no longer on this earth...yet she lives on...we will see her again...her family will be re-united again...their 'home going' so much more glorious...such a celebration.

But for now they carry on...the spirit of Jennie, their memories, the void of her passing and in her mom's words..."the ache is so great...I've never felt so much pain..." Oh God of all comfort, be near them now...

Death has touched me a lot these past few months. Friday's funeral, the most recent and the death of a child, hits closest to home. The tears Friday probably could have made a pond...for sure a river of wealth flows from our suffering...

Jennie had arrhythmia and on Monday, during gym class at school, her heart stopped. Her death...unexpected by all sojourners on this planet...not for God...probably not His will...but part of His plan...to be used for His glory.

I have had to unpack 'death' a lot this week.

You see, Jennie was my eldest daughter's friend...not a close friend but someone she knew. They spent 5 years of Sunday School together, birthday parties, and church picnics. The funeral on Friday was Hannah's first.

There have been many questions without answers, tears, and new doubts...That's o.k...God understands. It's good to seek, to question, to doubt, to explore those difficult places.

Death is not final as I once thought. Those who love the giver of life, live forever ...we will join those who have gone before us one day, when it is our time.

Death is a great teacher. We learn...

...to live with less regrets...love deeply...celebrate the gifts of our loved ones with reckless abandon.

We figure out what "abundant life" really is and live each day like there are no tomorrows...

Since early December, I have loved my husband of 10 years more deeply and intimately. I have laughed more, cried more, and enjoyed each day more fully. I have held each one of my children longer...buried my nose in the fragrance of their hair...rejoiced at their antics...listened to their songs...and treasured the moments...


...I have found more peace in the glorious messes of our lives and understood more about His grace. Our love, however flawed, is real.

Oh Lord, help me (all of us) determine to spend our time more wisely,abandon vain pursuits...enjoy every day...celebrate the ones we love...live with fewer regrets...seek wisdom, gain understanding, develop prudence, learn discernment...value one another...choose righteousness.

I join others in the knowledge that when we love Jesus, our time on earth is a pilgrimage. One day we will be with Him forever and we will see Him as He is...in the meantime we fulfill His purposes, and prepare to worship Him forever.

Jennie has done that.

It is only through Christ that we find true peace in grief.

In the bulletin of Jennie's funeral, I read this beautiful tribute...


Our precious daughter Jennie,

From the beginning you touched our lives, you filled our hearts with joy. You had an abundance of love. We honour you today, and the God who made you who you are. There are no words to describe the void left in our hearts. Your relationship with us we will cherish and celebrate for the rest of our lives.

In the words of her Saviour Jesus Christ...

Well done, Jennie...well done.

We love you.

Mom, Dad, Matthew and Jacob

xox



Jennie's Mom and Dad find courage to suffer, the strength they have found during all this, is from Christ alone... and from years of drinking from the well of Jesus and cultivating the knowledge of Him.

Jennie's mom said, "The Lord has prepared us for this."

God is so gracious, so kind to His children.

One day we all want to hear Our Lord say, "Well done."

It's all about Him...not about us.

Today on the way to church, Hannah asked me, "Mom, do you wanna worship God today? Do you feel like singing?"

I was touched by her honesty. I asked her, if she was thinking of Jennie.

Hannah said, "Mom I'm sad because I can't imagine Mr. and Mrs. Swales singing and I'm kinda mad at God for taking Jennie. I don't feel like singing."

Ah...I understood her first question.

Hannah I said, "It's o.k. to be sad for the Swales...to be thinking of them...
to not feel like singing. It's o.k. even to be mad because God understands and because He loves us."

I said to Hannah then, as we went into church, "I am going to worship and sing today and I feel like singing even more today...because of Jennie."

I smiled at her and gave her another hug.

Since I've been home I thought of all the worship songs we sang at the funeral, "How Great Thou Art, Great is Thy Faithfulness, and It is Well With My Soul."

I'll have to remember to tell Hannah that Jennie believes those words, and so do Mr. and Mrs. Swales and many others...that I believe them. I'll have to tell Hannah that it takes courage to worship when you're sad...when someone you knew died and it doesn't make sense. I'll have to tell Hannah the verse that talks about making a sacrifice of praise...or maybe I'll just have her read this.

It's hard to understand...perhaps we never will...until we talk to Jesus face to face.

....and yet we seek, yearn, long to love Him more, die to self...and choose to silence our doubts...we learn to trust when we don't understand...simply because HE is faithful.

"In the way of righteousness is life, And in its pathway there is no death."
Proverbs 12:28 NASV

"...The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21 NASV

"Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait I say, on the Lord!" Psalm 27:14 NASV

"His master said to him,'Well done, good and faithful slave;you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of the master.'" Matthew 25:23 NASV

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Plan "A" or Plan "B"? It's My Choice.

Everyone has heard me whine about how busy I am - and how pressured I get at work. Truth is, much of the reason for my busyness is my woefully inefficient use of time. There is so much more I want to do! So much more I could do, if only I could organize myself better - in every area of my life: time, money, tidyness. This is no small problem. It is something that has plagued me my whole life long. Recently, when it became more and more of a struggle at work, I decided that, instead of giving into my fear of being "found out" and running away from it (as if I was the only one that could see it!) I would fight the urge to try to hide my weakness. I knew that the answer to much prayer on this matter was that God would help me find a way to stop moving those ever larger piles of unorganized paper from my desk and into boxes where they were out of sight at least, if not out of mind. I determined to face the problem head on, look my weakness straight in the eye, and conquer it. My motto of late has been "Onward and upward. Through, not around." Well, this challenge would be the perfect opportunity to put that new motto into practice.

So I purposed to take a course on time management and even wrote that down as one of my goals for 2008. The plan was not only that I would I learn to manage my time better and thereby become more productive and hopefully less stressed, but it also occured to me that God could equip me to the point of being about to share with others, too. I've seen Him work like that before. He not only meets our needs but does so lavishly and abundantly, with enough left over to share with the same spirit of generosity with others. I started to sense His pleasure in my decision. My excitement, and my vision began to grow. Not only would I learn and put into practice all I could about time management, I was determined, with God's help, to become an expert to the point of being in a position to help others, too. Now that's the kind of victory that God takes us through to when we put our trust in Him. Not just conquerors, but more than conquerors!

Belinda had directed me some time ago to Harold Taylor's website, http://www.taylorintime.com/ . He is an expert in time management and it also a Christian. In fact I believe she wrote about it one of her blog posts last year. I looked longingly at the courses offered there and at the cost and decided to order an older set of DVDs which I could watch on my own and then also share with others - if and when the opportunity presented itself. It would be a start. But what I really wanted to do was to be on the cutting edge of the latest in time management information. I wanted to sit in a classroom with Harold Taylor and learn directly from the master. Considering the cost of his live seminars, "maybe next year", I told myself. Because sometimes God just doesn't move as fast as we'd like Him to.

Last night (Friday), not quite at the end a very long and crazy-busy week at work, I found myself at a drugstore in Newmarket right near closing time, picking up some medication for someone I work with. I was tired and fighting discouragement. I had wanted to take the day off and ended up putting in a very packed ten and a half hours instead. My cell phone rang. It was Belinda. She rarely calls me outside of work hours. What could possibly be up?

"Have you read The Word Guild emails?" she queried. There was a distinct note of excitement in her voice. "There's an email from Harold Taylor! He has two spots open in his time management seminar next Thursday! He's inviting anyone who belongs to The Word Guild to come free of charge! You just have to email him directly..."

I nearly jumped out of my skin. I couldn't get out of that drug store and back to a computer fast enough. I was SURE that all the disorganized writers in the world would get to him before I ever could. It took me a minute or two to calm down and remember that if God wanted me there, He could certainly take care of all the details. Every last one. Including making sure I got through to Harold in time. And if I didn't, well, then that would mean I wasn't supposed to be there anyway.

So I got back to my office, emailed Harold immediately, telling him that taking a time management course had been one of my goals for this year, thanking him for his generosity and letting him know that I understood if both spaces had already been filled, as I was sure they would be. Then I left it with the Lord. I figured it would be at least Monday until I heard back as this was his work email and I was sending my message late on a Friday evening.

Well, Harold Taylor must be a night owl, because I got an email back from him at exactly midnight. I opened it with bated breath. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away," I thought. I was all ready to be let down.

"Susan, you were meant to go," the message read. "I'll send map, survey sheet and instructions later. Thanks. God bless. Harold."

HALLELUJAH!!!! YIPPEE!!!! YAHOO!!!! GLORY!!!! GLORY!!!!

IS GOD GOOD OR WHAT????

Do you think He really wants me to become an "expert" (compared to what I know now) in time management and share my skills with others? Well, only time will tell for sure, but it certainly looks like things are heading in that direction. I'll keep you "posted" on the journey. In fact, by the time I post again next Friday, I will have attended the course and you can bet I will bring back a report.

I'll have to find a power suit to wear. After all, the room will be filled with people - mostly business people, I presume - who can afford to be there! Along with one incredibly grateful, and still incredulous time management expert wannabe... Me!

I was born with a disorganized brain. That's the way God made me and trust me, I have often wondered why, and even outright grumbled and complained. The enemy has certainly attempted to work through my weaknesses in an effort to take me out of the game - to discourage, to side-track, even to completely derail me from God's purposes for my life. But it's God who always has been in control of Plan A... Plan A or Plan B, the choice is ours.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

I'm thinking that in equal measure to how I lay it down on the altar for his use, God is planning to use my shortcomings to help others and to bring glory to Himself. That's the God that directs the paths of my life when I give him the reins.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5,6 ( This was my mom's "life verse". Thanks, Mom! How true.)

Friday, January 11, 2008

Making Room--A Response

Belinda,
Making Room is beautiful.

In this world where we create such busy lives for ourselves; where sometimes the lines cross between what He lays on our plates and what we take on; in this life in North America, in this decade--there's so much at the "all-you-can-eat" buffet. It's hard to make healthy choices...it's hard to find those nutritious, healthy foods...it's hard to have the self-control to know when to stop.

Just like in life....so many choices...some healthy and wise...some empty of eternal value...feels good but of no merit in His Kingdom. It's hard to make room sometimes when our plates are already full....when we don't know what to let go of...when we're addicted to being "stuffed" and we don't even know that we've lived here so long...Oh Belinda,I pray that you...that I, that others would know how to make room...that there would be room simply because our schedules aren't so full...wearying, keeping us busy, causing us to be short, irritable, or simply "absent" from those we love (whether in body or spirit)...

Oh that we'd never even have to "Make Room"...because He owns the inn; that he has so much of our hearts, our time, our space...that it waits.

This week has been enlightening; my life is too full...I keep eating too much at the buffet...I always have...and Making Room has been the story of my Christian walk...Belinda, my life is so scheduled "full" that I am irritable, cross, edgy, with those he called me to love...those precious little ones that I'm here on this dark corner of the globe to "show the love of Christ" to--when I sit, when I rise, when I eat, and walk along the way--encourage, disciple, love, and show them Christ.

My husband, lover, my one of flesh union,...I ache...for the sin of yesterday--today...

Belinda, I need wisdom to know what to change - academics for the children is full; soccer, piano, violin, bible study, family bible time, scripture memorization, travel time - other "nitty gritty" of my life...laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, managing this household of 7......as you say, "which are glass balls, and which are rubber?" because my life, my plate...is too full.

I need His wisdom, His grace, His mercy, His Strength, His Power...I need to do more than Make Room, I've got to move out my things (full schedule) because it's His Inn.

Thanks so much for sharing this devotion, kind friend,
Ellen, a.k.a. Joyful Fox

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Making Room

2 Chronicles 6:18 (New International Version)
18 "But will God really dwell on earth with men?...

Exodus 25:8 (New International Version)
8 "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.

I read the verses above in this morning's Daily Light and they caused me wonderment as they always do; these verses that speak of God wishing to camp out with us. But yes, that is exactly what they say--that he isn't far away and distant; he really wants to be with us.

Sanctuary; a sacred place; I thought about the need to make that place for God in my life daily.

We have to create space for him, a place set aside and then guard it, for it will be assailed by all the forces of hell. They know well that when we linger with God, in intimate communion, we are transformed and strongholds are broken through prayer rising to heaven.

Making room for him; how that reminds me of Bethelehem. We ought to be throwing open the doors, inviting him in and anointing his head and feet with perfume. We ought to be bathing him in our tears and wiping his feet with our hair as we read in the gospels that a woman did long ago.

Instead it is possible to live such distacted and busy lives that we have no room. I want to give him lavish space and make him welcome there.

2 Corinthians 6:16 (New International Version)
16 ...For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Being Known

A week ago we gathered, two musicians and five singers, from each of our churches worship teams; to learn new worship songs.

We worked hard; laughing, listening to the music, listening to each other, helping one another get it right. None of us are professional singers and we have varying degrees of technical knowledge and ability, but all of us love to sing and feel a calling to lead worship. As our voices warmed up and began to blend more smoothly, our pleasure in singing grew and I felt re-energized.

I had been tired when I arrived; it having been my first day back in the office after New Years. Not every one was back yet, so I had slogged away uninterrupted in the office, working hard.

An hour and a half later we were done but my mind was already on the things I still had to do when I got home. By then my eyes as if they were about to fall out of my head. A day staring at a computer screen had taken its toll.

We turned off lights, set the alarm and headed out into the dark, windy night. I hugged Susan and Frances goodbye and as I did, Frances said, smiling, and eyes bright, "We're going for a coffee, do you want to come?"

"No," I said, as if she had asked me to take a bath in a vat of acid instead of out for coffee, "I've got to get home; I've got a blog to write."

And off into the night went my social butterfly friends as I got into my car to go home.

I worried about my blunt response, hoping I hadn't hurt Frances feelings. I hadn't meant to be so lacking in finesse.

After the short week, Saturday dawned. From the start of the day I felt as if every time I opened my mouth I was not a blessing. I saw the hurt in Paul's eyes at something I said carelessly. Although the tension was soothed by a quick apology and loving hug, I was sorry it had been necessary and was only another reminder of my need to think before I speak.

On Sunday our team met early to practice again; it was our turn to lead.

It was a communion service; the first of a new year. We were there, we broken ones, to share the emblems of Christ's body, broken for us.

The songs went well. We forgot ourselves and felt God using us as the congregation entered into worship in a way that told us they were connecting with God. At the altar service afterwards, there were one or two people who lingered long, heads bowed. As long as they were praying, we stayed, softly singing and praying with them in our hearts.

When finally the service was over, I turned to Frances and said, "I'm so sorry for being so blunt on Wednesday."

She laughed. It was obvious that she wasn't upset. "I wouldn't worry over something like that," she said, and I reminded her of her trait of sensitivity and that once upon a time that would have hurt her. She thought for a moment and said, "But now I know you."

I thought about the grace that is summed up in those words and how I lean into it in my closest relationships. Another friend, in a different context recently, talked of our friendship "being able to bear" the areas where we divide.

Being our true selves involves taking off the corset of courtesy that holds in our beastie side. It also involves risking a lot to be truly known when some of what we are is not pretty. But oh, there is such joy, grace and comfort in being known and loved anyway.

Lord, tonight I celebrate friendship, especially spiritual friendships. I thank you for the depth of love that is possible between friends and the grace that flows out of it.


Proverbs 27:17 (The Message)
The Message (MSG) by Eugene H. Peterson
17 You use steel to sharpen steel,
and one friend sharpens another.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

PART II

TO CLEAVE

One never knows if one is going to be the bearer of just a greeting, conversation or a delivery of some sort, of meat, as it were.
Today, “Our Farmer”, as I like to call him (aka Paul) came by to deliver our meat order. And what started out as a simple conversation over why he is growing his hair, turned into a two and a half hour session of teaching, questioning and growth, for me. Let, me make it clear, that any conversation had with Paul is always deep and full of a journey. When I told my husband on the phone that he was on the way over with the meat, Frank laughed and said “Well I know you’ll have a great, long conversation about something!” And so we did.

It started in Genesis 1:1 where I was challenged to study more deeply the meaning of the words "In the Beginning..."
Paul has been studying the way and words of the Hebrews for years now and he and his family practice what they've learned in their daily living.
He speaks of Yeshua.
So we journeyed through the deep waters of the first few verses of Genesis 1 and my understanding of scripture is forever challenged.
We spoke of Eve and women, names and meanings and the relationship between Adam and Eve (men and women). I realized that The Holy Spirit was speaking through Paul about Edith Bunker.
What? You ask! What would God want to say about Edith Bunker? Well here is the tie. Read Part I above and see her strengths.
After God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth, Eve was taken out of Adam. She was formed from a part of his body, even from a part that covers, protects his heart. Without her, he is incomplete. Without him covering her, she also is unsheltered in this world. As a woman, who bears her children out of water, she is the water bearer. She is the helping, softening water to the dust he is formed from. She is meant to flow through life with him, assisting, coming alongside, praying, uplifting, all with the strength that the Holy Spirit provides, in order that the two might truly be one flesh as they journey along the river of life. The husband is told to leave his mother and father (Matt. 19:4-6) and cleave to his wife. The two actually do become one flesh again, but it's so much more than flesh, as spirit, heart and will mingle into each other. The cleaving is meant to last beyond physical union as each yields their life to the other in an agreement of oneness.
I knew this, in an intellectual sort of way, but it was enlightened to my mind today with a freshness I have never comprehended before.
This is what I see in Edith Bunker. She cleaves. She is not one, but lives intent on being a completer of Archie and even of those around her.

I know that the Comforter is coming to make things clear.

There is so much more to be had out of the Word. And it’s like Paul said…”There are two Bibles and you can read either one in the same book. You can skim the surface and read the one or ask the Holy Spirit, study the meanings and go deep.” Two Bibles. I know which one I have been reading for years, and I think it’s time I picked up the other.

I am looking forward to indulging the hunger that has been provoked in me, to eating slowly and hearing, learning of Him.

I said to Paul as he left "Well thanks for bringing the meat. It seems that you come bearing many kinds.....to eat, to discuss.....". He laughed.


“Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen"
Romans 11:33-36 NIV "
But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise..." 1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV

Monday, January 07, 2008

PART I

Edith Bunker My Role Model: Who Would Have Thought

My husband says Edith Bunker (married to the notoriously ignorant Archie Bunker of the sitcom All in the Family), is a perfect Christian woman.

Trying with all the self control I can muster, I have decided to study the attributes of this character. At first glance she comes across as a simpering fool who tiptoes around her chauvinistic, bigoted husband squeaking out in her silly voice “O’ Archie, would you like another cup of coafeeee?”. She seems to miss all the insults he sends her way, or just waves her hand and panders to his nastiness.

Yet as I find myself sucked into hating him, I also find myself somehow respecting her.

In the last episode we watched, their daughter Gloria had PMS and said some horrible things to both her parents. When accused of being a doormat by her daughter, Edith spoke up and said that “No” actually she was winning over Archie by going in the kitchen to have a cup of tea, when he was being nasty. She stayed there long enough that he forgot what he was being horrid about and she gained the upper hand by doing this.

I do believe that was exemplary in some ways. She walked away from conflict, quieted herself and waited out the storm. My only struggle with that resolution is that she must spend most of her life in the kitchen with her tea, because Archie is always nasty. He just constantly berates and puts others down, especially her.

The overriding virtue of Edith’s life seems to be that she never thinks about herself. She is constantly attending to the needs and feelings of others. Her motivating force seems to be to please. She always manages to turn a situation around from a conflict to “Let’s go eat everybody”, or “Gloria, I remember when you…” and shares a sweet memory (which always gets rolling eyes from Archie).

Lots to consider here.

Edith is wise. She is compassionate and has the grace to see past Archie's failings into his heart.
These attributes are what has given her the right of speaking up in her family when the situation calls for a response. As she did at the end of this episode after a big fight broke out between all members of her family. She eventually positioned herself between Gloria and Mike (her husband), and screamed "STOP", until they did. She then directed them all (including Archie) to sit down and then gave them firm and loving instruction, which they received and the issue was resolved.

Are there drawbacks to being a people pleaser? Would a good psychotherapist have a heyday with Edith’s personality? I’m sure. But none of that is delved into in the sitcom. She is presented as the balanced one. And despite the fact that something in my flesh rises up at the idea, and wants to identify her apparent lack of intelligence, and how she looks like an idiot trotting around after Archie like a little fairy godmother always trying to make things right, the writers seem to have hit on something. She is peaceful and a peacemaker, other centered and willing.

In a culture which teaches women to be the force behind their own destiny, that it’s all about personal choice and about ME, she flies in the face of everything women profess to hold dear.
Yet somehow, she holds a softness and peace that many women are missing today.

Perhaps God does have something to say through Edith Bunker?

(Note: My husband is nothing like Archie Bunker, but sometimes wishes that his wife was more like Edith).

Sunday, January 06, 2008

It's All About You, Lord

At times, we strive...accomplish...set goals...develop ideals...build lives. We fail...call out...remain...too often, fiercely independent.

At other times, we withdraw...become passive...an inert complacency settles...we pass time...dependent on others.

You are faithful, God. You formed us, called us by name and know our every thought...as countless as the grains of sand.

Your lovingkindness, longsuffering...waits...for our call. We need you, even when we think we don't.

We need you, when we look to others to fulfill our needs.

We need you, when our busyness erodes our awareness of your presence.

As we stand at the brink of another year, we are thankful for the gift of time.
Let us seek your abundant life...rich...vibrant...May we celebrate with joy...the time You give us...each day...the moments...savor all you give...

Mighty God, Holy Father, Lord:

You are our redeemer...You give us beauty for ashes...Your mercies are new every morning...Your grace...all is grace. Each life a testimony of it...Oh Lord, we each could say, we would be dead but for Your grace.

Your word...truly a lamp unto our feet...a light to our path.

Your word shines bright into our sin...revealing it.Because of You, we confess it.You forgive again and again and again. You cleanse...a God of second chances...a God whose love is flawless...perfect.We receive that love with reckless abandon...You show us righteousness...exhort us to be holy...yet show mercy when we fail...How can it be?

You are God...mover of mountains...author of miracles...lover of our soul...our salvation...stronghold...King...Lord...El Shaddai.All our sufficiency comes from you.

Your word penetrates the culture, race, time, and language. It speaks volumes...speaks life...into the dying...into those of us who believe we can live...without You. Your eternal love. Steadfast. Complete.

Thanks is not enough.

Our life...a testimony.We lay it down...for You to use...for Your glory. We die to self...so you might live...through each of us...children...created in Your image.

Make us an instrument of worship and glory...to penetrate these dark corners of the globe...where You have placed us.

We are not worthy. Your power is great. You take the unlikely...the downtrodden...the overlooked...the abused...even sinners...like us.

Your grace...All is grace.

We stand, we say, "Here I am. Use me."

It's All About You, Lord.


O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Thy name in all the earth, Who has displayed Thy splendor above the mountains! Psalm 8:1 NASV

(It is God)...Who does great things, unfathomable, And wonderous works without number. Job 9:10 NASV

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 NASV

Saturday, January 05, 2008

By Faith Alone

Genesis 15:6 (New International Version)
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Romans 5:1-2 (New International Version)
1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

"Believing God;" I'm finding that it's a choice. It usually involves believing in spite of what a person can see, not because of it; so I need to decide whether to believe the apparent evidence, or believe God because I choose to.

I read these verses on Friday morning and they powerfully came alive to me. God credited Abram with righteousness, simply because he believed him. And in the verses from Romans, I was reminded again that it's all about faith, which is another way of saying "believing."

Later that day at work, I was praying about some staffing shortages over the weekend in one of the homes run by the agency I work for. I knew that if the shifts weren't covered, that Susan, the manager; and my friend and fellow blogger, would be working them. I was very concerned for her. She had a break of a few days after Christmas and over New Years, and I didn't want the benefits of that much needed rest to evaporate. I prayed and believed God that those shifts would be covered.

We were both busy on Friday and it was late in the afternoon that she called. I asked about the shifts and had a perfect opportunity to practice believing in spite of the evidence. It looked like she was going to have to work 12 hours over the weekend. I managed a feeble, "Well, I'm believing God!" but I confess the words rang a little hollow I was thinking, "Okay, God, I'm doing the believing, come on now, I'm counting on you."

I wanted to be like George Mueller, that great man of faith and prayer, who exemplified believing God for the needs of a whole orphanage full of children; but my faith was wobbly I'll admit.

On Saturday afternoon Susan called. It was 1.15; 15 minutes after one of the shifts she should have been working would have started. But she sounded like she just called to chat.

"Aren't you at work?" I asked.

Susan said, "Didn't you get my email at the end of the day? Today's shift was covered. I only have to work 4 hours, tomorrow."

Oh, how I praised the Lord!

I was feeling sorry that I had been such a "wobbly believer," until this evening when I read in Genesis 17:17 that Abraham fell facedown and laughed when God told him that indeed, he, at ninety-nine, would be the father of a child with Sarah, who was ninety. Admittedly he had reason to laugh, but Abraham is still known for his faith and God honoured him for it.

This gives me hope that I may still learn to be a great woman of faith. I want to be--in every sense. I want to see astounding miracles. I want to see God proving himself faithful; even at the very last minute; and I want to be so sure of him that I don't question that it will be so.

Amazing Grace

These people, seen singing their hearts out, are a small part of a Salvation Army church choir, one of the best I have ever heard. They are known as “The Songsters” and attend the Yorkminster Citadel in Toronto. As good as they are, and as appreciated that evening as their performance was, this post isn’t about them. It’s about the young woman on the far left of the front row whose fair skin is contrasted by the crisply pressed black serge of the Salvation Army uniform she wears. Her blonde curls have been tamed temporarily for the performance, pulled back from her face and waiting to be instantly released by the pins that are holding them down. Her mouth is formed around words which are singing praises to God. She is beautiful. A trophy of grace.

Just over five years ago she was so lost - to the point of telling her parents, “You can take your religion and flush it down the toilet”, and she meant it. She was going to do her own thing, go her own way and oh, she tried. Her once tender heart, now wounded, began to scar over and harden against God and all he represented. But as hard as she was running from Him, she was being prayed for by a small band of people on Tuesday evenings who just wouldn't give up.
Gradually her heart began to soften and in pain and desperation, hope almost gone, she cried out to God. And things in her life began to change. She began to devour God's Word, wearing out a Bible in those first two years, and gradually she began to lay down her own ways and pick up the ways of God. Here she is five years later, wearing the uniform of the Salvation Army, her old life gone and a new one, built on a foundation of faith and being led down paths of righteousness, is well established.
The evening this picture was taken, she had come to our church to sing and I was sitting in the front row with her dad. When she sang with the choir the old familiar words, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see," the tears ran freely down my face. I don't know that I've ever felt such gratitude, such a deep joy.
When I gave birth to her nearly 28 years ago, her survival was considered a miracle. Born with all four chambers of her lungs collapsed from pneumonia contracted intrauterinely, we were told about our baby daughter, "If she makes it through the first 24 hours, she'll have a 50-50 chance." Well, she made it, all right, as you can see. And it was only by God's intervention - a miracle. Not nearly as great a miracle though, as her second birth. Not even close.
I love you, Emily! Mom.