Monday, September 29, 2008

Little Bird

There's a girl who's been calling me. Little, bright, brown eyed one.
Fine boned is she, delicate outside and tenaciously tender to the core.

Yet she hungers, presses in to the side of me, and whispers
"Can we go today Mom? Will you pick me up?"

She knows our time is coming, stolen moments for a Mommy~Daughter
pair. With life so full of busyness, challenges to distract, this little flower
has been waiting, face upturned for the nourishment of attention. One
on one time for hearts to connect, eyes to meet, mouths to laugh, arms to hug,
and time to stand still.

I will go, for I see her yearning and I know that sweet anticipation of being
in the joyful presence of little heart who was birthed from mine. For sparkling eyes
and small strong arms to embrace so tightly.
I'm always so amazed by the strength of her hug as she reaches around my neck and
grabs me close each night, "One more hug Mommy. I love you tooo much." She whispers as I tuck her in.

Her name means Faithful and her middle name is Joy.

I am utterly and completely blessed.

And so I go.

She is waiting on the bench outside the office when I get to the school. Big smile and a hug and off we go.
"Where are we going Mommy?" she asks, and I say "To the park" with a smile back at her, tucked behind me in our car.
We arrive and choose to eat our picnic on a large rock. So we sit facing each other and thank God above for this day and this time to share, then dig into our bagels with cream cheese.
She's happy, I can tell, not overly chatty, just noticing and eating and being...being together.

This is what we came for isn't it.
We noticed a jay, bold in his blue attire, saucy with his jaunty crest, perched on a rail fence, then flapping his way into the tree above.
We discussed little things like what the poppyseed things were on her bagel, and how things are with Jesus...not so little.
After food we headed off to swings, not such a great prospect for a forty something Mom with a full belly, but after a few tries and a determination not to give into a dizzy head and woozy tummy, we were soaring.
She's like a butterfly this little one, so light that she's airborne in a matter of seconds, dark brown hair flying back from her face, revealing a great grin that erupts into laughter. "I'm going higher than you Mom" she laughs as she swings by me.
I begin pumping, ignoring my protesting head, and pretty soon we're both in the clouds, level with the top bar of the swing set, eye to eye with russet leaves adorning trees in the park.
"Oh that makes my tummy feel funny" I giggle out, "Does yours feel tickley too?" She screeches out her "yes".
Then we slow down, hop off and head to what we call the spiderweb, a network of ropes and poles built to climb on. So up we go. She shimmies up in seconds flat as I try to weave my adult body through the ropes. But then, there we both are again, up high, laughing like school girls.
It makes me think of that song "Love lifts us up where we belong, where the eagles fly, on the mountains high...".
Yes, a love song to be sure, but I love my daughter, and the choice to indulge and play together today is completely rooted in that love.

We clamber down. She swings herself along a set of monkey bars, with sinewy strength to match that of any boy, and then we're off for a quick walk in the woods. It's quiet and we enjoy the journey, just being together, holding hands, walking, talking about everything and nothing.

Then it's off to school again, and we're late, gloriously late, and I'm glad, because what she could have learned in school may or may not stay with her, but our time together today will always be a treasured memory.

What a Tale My Floor Does Tell


Warm water pools on floor with suds. I scrub hard at this week's dirt and grime. Enjoying the solitude and quiet, I thank God for servant-hearted husband who takes high-spirited children to Grandma's and Grandpa's house for the afternoon.

I think a while on the fun they'll have, collecting apples, picking raspberries, father and son shooting their arrows and drawing bows. Grandma's peaceful kitchen where tasty snacks and treats are served to wide-eyed grandchildren. In my mind's eye, I feast on sugar maples with garments of orange, red, and yellow. I think of still water at pond's edge and hope there'll still be a duck or two. I know they'll have fun and come back exuberant, with adventures to tell. Soon I will hear their laughter, animated voices, and the calling of my name, "Mommy....and the stories unfold. I look forward to their arrival.

I take scraper to hardened dribble of pancake batter and smile as I remember the cook. Enthusiastic daughter ladling batter to skillet, changes mind on amount and pours some back in bowl. Dribble leaves a trace.

Three tiny smeared blackened foot-prints around dishwasher bring a smile to my lips as I wipe them from tile. I ponder the wonder on two-year-old's face as he carefully rested his soiled foot on wet dishwasher door and made his mark there and on the floor. His eyes were wide when he slid and watched the dirt smear from tiny toes. His innocent upturned face looked into my eyes when he said, "Sorry, Mommy," after I cautioned about slippery wet and messes made.

I have found that dry cereal with milk becomes soggy and adheres to floor. I take a scraper to this, add water, and a little elbow grease. I remember admonishing, "Stop flinging cereal!" and lecturing about the example of being the oldest brother. His response, "Ah Mom, they (the twins) were laughing." The glint in his eye told me he thought it was worth it. I remember thinking, "Why do I have to be the mom and kibosh tomfoolery?" I remember when I was his age and I thought it was fun too. Now it's about messes and respect and being responsible, setting examples and the clean-up. I might've gotten him to clean the mess but chose not to go down that road then. Next time, maybe I will.
Around the table is always the worst with dirt-covered sticky stains. I remember juicy nectarines in pudgy hands, and older children slurping the nectar of large pears. There were cantelope wedges and conversations at breakfast with dribbles on tiny chins. Scraper in hand again, I excavate some rice bonded, evidence of warm home-made beef soup. The trough in boys' bibs is great for catching solids, liquids run as toddlers wiggle. The twins' little game of saying hello as they bend under table to play peek-a-boo back and forth is an interaction we all enjoy. Our floor bears the tale of contents spilt. So I wipe soils and now stringy dried beef that crackles and skitters across the floor.

I hear fridge's hum and rustling leaves whisper through the screened patio door, noises that often are unheard as little foxes rumble in the den. I listen to car engine's drone fade and children playing several lots over. Content, I find peace in afternoon's space.

This act of measured effort, scrape, scrub, wipe dry, yields a harvest of gratification. I revel in the stories my floor tells. There are secrets too, this floor can't tell. These secrets leave marks on hearts, not floors. Times of impatience, irritability, harsh words, and offenses given and taken. They are stains that can't be wiped with my rag and pail. It's God who scrubs clean this sinner's heart.

...and so, on bended knee I scrub the floor, and with a humble heart I repent of words spoken, and attitudes harboured. I ask forgiveness for my heart's stain and He lovingly wipes it clean too, like this floor.

Pail is dumped and suds scurry down the drain. Satisfied, I enjoy clean floor sparkle and purged heart, light now from the weight of sin's grime. I know it won't be long before new stains find their way upon this heart and floor.

He is faithful. His grace washes life's messes clean. I hear laughter and voices of my children. A smile lights my face. What a tale my floor does tell.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 NASV

He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.
Psalm 18: 19 NASV

Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, But much increase comes by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14:4  NASV

Sunday, September 28, 2008

As for God His Way is Perfect

She had written on my Facebook Wall, "It's Thursday...is the plan still haywire?"

On Monday, after a time management seminar the week before, and excited about a new planner, I had launched into the week with such hope. But this week at least, God had other plans.

Sue delights in teasing me about the never ending quest I'm on to fit my life into neat boxes; whether it is my infamous Excel spreadsheet with the colour coded blocks of time, or a new planner.

She is organized to the max. I think she must have married our son Peter to balance out the gene pool in our families.

On Friday, though, there was another message from Sue on Facebook:

"Think back for a moment to 11 years ago, October 20th 1997. You walked into a room to find your daughter-in-law in a mess of tears. (to put it lightly!!) Remember? I had just discovered that my "plan" had gone haywire! REALLY haywire!! Plans are great but sometimes its better when they fall apart. Katherine is evidence of that! I am grateful everyday that God will sometimes override our plans."

I remember all right! Peter and Sue had moved in with us to save for down-payment on a house. One October evening, we heard the sound of loud sobbing from their room, and when we ran to see what was wrong, we found a very strange scene.

Sue was sitting in the middle of the bed in their room wailing, while being comforted by Peter, who looked like he was illuminated from the inside with joy. It took a few seconds to realize that this was the announcement that a grandchild was on the way; I'd never imagined it happening quite that way.

"I'll be responsible for another person; I'll be a terrible mother; I'm too strict; I'm too selfish!" she cried, while worrying about where they would live.

Sue was full of mixed emotions. All of her goals had taken a detour. She felt overwhelmed and inadequately prepared for motherhood.

It didn't take long for the calculations to begin. Evidently this little one would be born between June 29th an July 7th. Sue and Peter had tickets to Riverdance on July 19th and I think that Sue wanted to know that at least one of her plans was going to pan out.

On July 1st 1998, Katherine Elizabeth was born. I can't imagine our world without her.

Jay and Brenda used the Riverdance tickets.

Since then, Katherine has been blessed with some siblings: Stephen, Joshua and Emily...and Sue is a most amazing mother.

I'm with Sue. Our plans should be made of gossamer, for God's are always better.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (New International Version)
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hospitality

It was Mikey's birthday on Thursday. My oldest grandson. Eight years old! Where have those years flown!

I arrived home way too late to drop in before bedtime, so I made a date for breakfast the following morning. His love language is "quality time" so I knew that would be something more meaningful to him than had I just been a face in the crowd of celebrants the evening before, and so was relieved of any guilt. I told his mom to let him know I would pick him up at 7:00 and then drop him off at school later, on my way to work.

I was running a bit late when the phone rang at 7:05. I was ready with my apologies. "Sorry I'm late, Mikey. I'm almost ready! I'll be right there!"

The line went quiet and I immediately thought that I had hurt his feelings by being late. I gushed reassurances. "I'm just combing my hair and then I'm going right out the door. I promise!"

"But I wanted to walk in the fog." His voice was so quiet that if I wasn't listening very hard, and if I didn't know him so well, I would have missed those critically important words entirely. Suddenly the light went on and I was instantly in the world of a child again. Of course he wanted to know what it felt like to walk through a cloud!

I rushed through the last few things I needed to do to be ready and ran out the door. I didn't want to miss this golden moment. I positioned myself in the middle of our laneway right by the lilac bushes. I was just in time to see the light go on at the back steps of the house next door and a small figure exit into the fog. He came across the dew drenched grass towards me, his backpack, the straps needing adjustment, bounced up and down as he ran. I bent my knees into a crouch so I would be just at his height. I could see his smile clearly long before he reached me, and I'm sure I was smiling just as brightly. I held out my arms and was nearly bowled over as he ran right into them. Just like a scene out of some sappy movie! I tousled those beloved golden curls - I can never resist - and we were off to McDonald's. His choice.

It was a small moment. But as wonderful as any I've lived to this point.

As I ponder the memory of that moment of anticipation, culminating in a full blown embrace in the fog shrouded world, I find myself wondering if that's how Father-God feels about me - about each one of us - when we are getting ourselves ready to come apart from the busyness of our lives to step into his presence and spend a few moments with "just Him" each day. There's a lot in that analogy. Running toward Him in the fog, our burdens bouncing along on our backs... soon to be lifted by gentle hands as we plunge into his embrace...

Ahhhhhh. Could there be any better way to start the day?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Theory and Fact

One hazard of writing a devotional blog, is that it is soooo easy to find yourself feeling like a hypocrite of the highest order!

Take yesterday's post for instance; "Passionate Emotion" was the topic for our writers group, which met last night. I was "inspired" to make the subject fit the blog post, so that I wouldn't have a post to write at 10.00 p.m. when I got home. But the ring of truth was slightly missing. I noticed that when I pushed the Publish button, and I pushed it anyway.

I had ended the post by writing what I thought I should. It bore no resemblance to what I actually did. I apologise for that to you, dear reader.

"I’m there, in that good place; and I am waiting; waiting for God." Yes, that is what I wrote; but I wasn't. At all.

I forgot that I was writing about me and began writing In Theory.

I woke up in this morning and stepped into the stream of the day flowing fast, past my bed. I instantly became a piece of flotsam, bobbing about and trying to hang on for dear life.

When I checked my email, I saw that my dear daughter-in-law, Sue, a.k.a. Miss Accountability, had written on my Face Book page, "It's Thursday. Is the plan still haywire?" How did she know? And did she have to ask?

The truth is that The Plan went haywire on Monday morning and stayed that way through Tuesday and Wednesday. By the time I got up this morning I was so tired, I had no patience and not a nice bone in my body.

Before I left the house I sent a "hurt" email to one of my dear friends who asked an innocent question that I took offence at.

And I didn't have more than a quick read of my beloved Daily Light on the Daily Path. Not exactly Waiting for God.

Within minutes of landing in my office I was impatient with one of my team who asked me another question. That's it; no one should ask me questions when I am tired!

I dashed off to a meeting that was on my schedule, but I was not really sure why. It was the right thing to be there, but I felt that the mess I felt on the inside must show, so on the way home, on my lunch half hour, instead of eating, I went shopping.

Back at the office I rode the wave that the stream of the day had by then become.

I was glad that I had a chance at the end of the day, to reconnect with the coworker with whom I'd been impatient in the morning. We chatted about the issue at hand and then I said goodbye.

"Was there anything else?" she wanted to know.

"Um, well, yes, sorry about this morning," I said, "Will you forgive me for my impatience?"

"Again?" she said.

"What do you mean, 'Again?' " I said, "Do you mean "I'm asking to be forgiven," again? You have to, don't you? Isn't that what we're supposed to do?"

And she said that she supposed so!

I apologised to my friend of the morning email too, who fortunately had chosen to ignore my umbrage. She has been perfecting behaviour management; do not pay attention to behaviour you don't want to reinforce. It does seem to work.

Paul is away, so I was able to stay late at work and plug away at the things that had been The Plan on Monday, before an unplanned situation diverted the course of that and the next two days. As one by one I brought order to my world, I began to feel better, even though it was late when I left.

I felt lighter. My offences were confessed and forgiven graciously, and I had caught up on the original things that needed to be done.

When I got home, the phone was ringing as I came through the door; a call related to the situation of earlier in the week. The call confirmed that the work we had done was good. Trust was earned and deepened because we were honest about a wrong and focused our energy and efforts on putting it right. I felt God's smile.

I ate a late supper alone with a book, since Paul is away. The book, Harold Taylor's, Making Time Work for You, is the sanest book on time management I have ever read. Tonight I read about the 10 Time Management Myths, but it was Myth # 7 that sank in like salve on a sore.

Myth # 7: The biggest time wasters include telephone interruptions, visitors, meetings and rush jobs. Harold writes, These are not time wasters, they are time obligations; they come with the job.

Moms home with small children could apply the same principle and be set free from the frustration of plans gone awry.

The first four days of this week have been heavy for me and the rest of my team. We haven't necessarily got the things done that appeared to be the most important on Monday morning, but we made wise decisions to prioritize the right things as we worked the week, and the swell of the wave is leveling out.

So, yes, daughter-in-law Sue, I am so happy that I can say, "It is Thursday, and The Plan is no longer haywire." But tomorrow...who knows!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Passionate Emotion--or Power?

Once there was a man named Peter. He was passionate and enthusiastic, and when Jesus asked his opinion on whom he was, Peter got the answer right. Peter was always quick to respond; with a heart ready to obey.

Sometimes, though, Peter’s good intentions went curiously wrong in the execution phase. For example, there had been those heady, gravity defying moments on the water that were followed quickly by panic and a terrifying sinking feeling.

I wonder if that is what lay behind Jesus’ searching questions in John chapter 21. There was never anything accidental in what he said, did, or asked.

“Do you love me?” he asked three times. Each time, Peter assured him, “Yes!” becoming gradually more emphatic, indignant and hurt, as he did.

Each time, Jesus responded with a directive to do the thing that he had called him to do—feed sheep. He meant spiritual food; to sheep of the human kind, of course.

Did Peter see any connection between the repeated question and the events between the Last Supper and the cross?

Had he forgotten that after passionately expressing devotion to Jesus--and swearing never to fail or forsake him--he did both within a few short hours?

It was no surprise to Jesus when Peter fell asleep instead of supporting him in prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Or that Peter denied knowing him, under pressure.

No surprise. As Peter pointed out, he knew all things.

But, when the resurrected Jesus caught up with Peter on the beach, he pushed him for more—consistency of heart and action.

Did Peter grasp the challenge and run with it? Not exactly; his response was classically dysfunctional. He turned and looked at a fellow follower and said, “What about him?”

Jesus patiently pressed Peter, “What is that to you?”

If it sounds as if I’m being hard on Peter, trust me, it’s because I see myself in him. I too, am enthusiastic, passionate and know who Jesus is. I too, lack follow through on many of my good intentions.

I am “slightly disorganized,” according to a quiz I recently took; this in spite of an Excel schedule I tried to make work for me. I am easily distracted and sometimes prone to take the easy road. Like Peter, my courage sometimes fails. But none of these excuses hold water; they are all leaky vessels.

Jesus asks me the same searching question he asked Peter, “Do you love me?”

I answer, “Yes, Lord, with all my heart!”

And he says to me, “Then do what I have called you to.”

Peter, transformed at Pentecost, gives me hope. It wasn’t self effort, which is where I get stuck and fail. Peter must have hit rock bottom by the time he met Jesus on the beach, and I think that’s where God needs us in order to find us useful.

He uses people who know that they need more than passionate emotion; people who are desperate for his power; people who have hit bottom and cry, “Help! I give up; to God alone must go the glory.”

I’m there, in that good place; and I am waiting; waiting for God.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Talking the talk: walking the walk

At dinner last night my daughter asked if I believed that all of my mother's family are in Heaven now. I said "Yes". She recalled how she felt when she went into the room at the funeral home where Mum was laid out after her body was brought there while Rachel was still at school. She remembered how she felt jealous that her Grammy was with Jesus, and she was still here on earth. And yet she had never really heard Grammy talk about her faith. She knew that she was a serious Anglican, and had attended the same church for 60 years, and was much beloved by people there. And she knew that my sister and I had had some good chats with Mum in the weeks before she died.

I spoke of the term "inarticulate faith" that I have sometimes heard others use to label Christians who have spent all their lives in churches where they say the liturgy and pray the general confession every Sunday but may never have been led through the Sinner's prayer, or taught the Four Spiritual Laws. I recalled the many stages of my watching over my mother's life through all my years as a Christian. It had often hurt me that she didn't really understand my motives for being a missionary, that she had difficulty seeing me as someone qualitatively different in my life after I grew in a serious way as a Christian. I had come to see that as part of Mum's story, and not about me, but it had still hurt. It had still made it hard to overcome the barriers with Mum to talk with her about Jesus, and encourage her to look forward to being with Him.

But Mum's debilitating cancer and her growing dependence on my sister and me in her last year of life changed a lot of that. I sang hymns to her, prayed with her at times with her request, and I was with her when she died. I could write many stories of the joys and sorrows of life with my mother. But what I am getting at here is that I never did pray the Sinner's prayer with her, or go over issues about her salvation in the way that some other evangelicals might have urged me to do. I knew her too well. She had seen a lot of people who talked the talk and didn't walk the walk, and for many years I think she often lumped me with them. But in her dying days she was glad of everything we did for her, including our prayers, and those she knew came from others.

Mum never appeared to sort out a lot of stuff spiritually or have a deep assurance of her salvation in the way that I do. She didn't seem to find a great joy in her faith in the way that I do. But I believe, just as I know so surely that she is with the Lord, that she had a real, often inarticulate, faith that was there for her deep deep down. I saw her face when she received communion, I felt the humbleness in her spirit as she knelt in church, even though I could be wounded by her sharp tongue soon after. But so much of this may be conjecture and assumption. What is known only to God is what really matters and mattered then.

Something similar was going on with her family too. I remember her mother, my Grammy, asking me to read the 23rd Psalm to her after I had tied her shoes in her nineties. I remembered praying with my aunt, her sister, in her final years, and finding an eagerness to have more assurance of faith. I remember the well worn Bible in my uncle's personal effects returned after his untimely death at the battle of Vimy Ridge. I remember the assurance given to me about my father when I sent someone to visit him in hospital and talk about spiritual things. That discerning prayerful person told me that Dad had been sleeping at the time he dropped in, but he felt the Lord impress upon his spirit that my father did know the Lord, and that I should relax.

Yes, there was a lot of unbelief around in my mainline churched family. Yes, we didn't talk the talk a lot in our family at home or in the extended family. Yes, my father's father was a wonderful Christian Anglican bishop. He definitely both talked the talk and walked the walk. My cousin said of him that when he walked in the room the air changed. And he christened me and all my cousins as infants. His mantle rests upon us. There was faith, and there was lack of faith in our family. Only God knows how much of both.

What I am trying to say is that God knows our hearts, and those of others. We are not the judges of faith, or talking or walking the Christian life. Yes, it's great when there is openness and reality that is clear to all, carried with gentleness and fervour. But what really counts is what is going on inside. Many of us, and especially my family, are and were introverts, despite lives of public service. Questions of faith are intimate. Neither I nor any Christian has the right to barge into people's lives and inflict harsh questions upon them. Our job is to be close to the Lord ourselves and wait for His instructions about each person we meet. And sometimes, especially with family members, those instructions are to relax, to rest in Him, and trust that He knows the whole story, and that is what matters.

2 Timothy 2:19: The Lord knows those who are his.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Corn Field Prayers

As I've been pondering the journey with Nicholas and the other more minor challenges that have arisen in our family lately, thoughts of birth have come to mind.
I was raised in an English family. We lived in the hills of Hockley Valley, otherwise known as Ontario's Heartland. We had horses on the five acres, a beautiful century barn nestled at the bottom of the hill and our home was a log house. Sounds perfect doesn't it.
It was, except that we were a family of humans, sometimes fraught with sin, tension and temper. But we grew up, all of us with a knowledge of Jesus. Dad became a Christian in his 40's, and Mum had walked with God as long as she could remember. Each of us three children had our difficulties, but ultimately came to a place of decision and made the one to follow Christ.
Glory be to His Name.
I share this to say that we are a blessed family, one that has not seen struggles the way some families do. We often ask the question, "Why are we so blessed, when others seem to struggle so?"
There isn't a clear answer except to say that "To whom much is given, much is expected."
So we receive, and we give.

So as these afflictions over the past year and more recently the past few weeks have descended on my young family, I've been forced to press in to the heart of my merciful maker, the Potter who knows how the clay needs fashioning, to trust that His image is being forged in all of us in this sometimes fiery place.
Chris (my 9 year old) broke his wrist one week ago at school. Two days later, at a church baseball game, my valiant husband was smashed in the nose, which broke the bridge and left him with a bend he didn't have before. In the midst of it all Nicky continued with his seizures, more than ever over that weekend.
So we pressed in.
I have often given sage advice to those who question God when they see suffering children, until now when it's my child. "Why don't you heal him?!" I question in disbelief as I see his anguish and fear as another storm flashes through his system, compromising his day, and ours.

Last Friday Frank was home as he'd just had knee surgery, so I ran out to do an errand and found my way to a quiet place to pray.
I parked in a corn field off a sideroad. The corn was thick and tall, golden tassled tops reaching for the ocean blue sky above. It was a sacred place of solitude for those few moments and I felt my heart cry out a new prayer.
"Lord, whatever you are birthing in me, help me to accept the pain, not to resist it, to work with it and allow You to do Your good work."

When I had Chris almost 10 years ago, I didn't know how to work with the pain my body was experiencing. I tensed up, tightened my muscles against the opening that needed to widen, curling inward and making the process much longer than it probably should have been. I demanded Frank's comfort at every contraction, unable to cope with the intensity.
When a tiny, squalling Christopher was finally thrust from my body 27 hours later, I was an exhausted wreck, because I resisted the difficult job that my body needed to do.

Conversely when I had Nicholas just over 4 years ago, I yielded myself to the movement that was taking place, willing the widening of the birth canal to be accomplished, so this new life could pass safely through.
Unlike the first time, with my fourth, I went down to the couch in the basement and labored all night on my own, so as not to disturb Frank. Then the next day, Nicky arrived with such speed and force that Frank ended up having to deliver this new life himself, on our bed, while on the phone with 911.
It was an incredible adventure that I will never forget. And the lesson for me in it is that I must not fight what God is birthing. If I can grasp onto His mighty hand in cooperation and yield to the process that is taking place in me (and in our family), then perhaps it will not be so long and terribly painful, than if I should resist and tighten up when He works to bring forth new life.

I know that there is no guarantee that Nicky will be healed. But that will always be my prayer, along with a determined willingness for whatever God allows into our lives. Because ultimately I trust Him. His ways are not our ways. Sometimes it feels as if we are being given a stone and not bread, but that is a different post, because sometimes things are not as they seem.


"...Shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?" Job 2:10b NKJV

"And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Cor 12:9 NKJV

Monday, September 22, 2008

Soul Rest

"In the tempestuous ocean of time and toil, there are islands of stillness where we may enter a harbor and reclaim our dignity." ~Abraham Joseph Heschel


Leaves rustle like chimes, two distinct notes on the wings of the breeze. Summer's supple green dance with autumn's brittle brown. A bird twitters, another cheeps. I hear the buzz of a fly clear and distinct, then recede and fade. Nature's harmony.

My eyes close. Sun's rays warm my skin. I hear His voice.


"Rest awhile. Slow. Draw near to me. I am here."


I stay. I languish in the now. My toes rest in the cool damp. Grass massages my feet. A gentle breeze stirs and He speaks softly in the quiet,


"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden light." Matthew 11:28 NASV


I exchange my yoke for His. The week's worries dull. I lay my petty grievances at the cross. I turn my head from the swirling tempest of the last several days. I give in to my heart, the one He gave me, the heart that seeks and longs for Him.


And I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7 NASV


I bask in His humble, gentle, complete love. I trust the One who formed me, to hold me. This weak one calls out "Abba, Daddy..."and He hears.


He speaks into the weariness and strengthens my heart, mind, and body. Head ache eases. Vitality returns, flowing from within.


I thank Him for hearts that yearn, for my soul thirst. He is Lord. Only he can give drink in the parched places of journey's trail. He shines His light in the dark corners; where dangers lurk, hidden from ourselves.


I found my way back to Him. I gave up the role of Martha to try Mary's way. This time I chose to sit at His feet. I quench my thirst. I drink long and slow. I don't hurry. Not this time.


I know the way now. I'm counting on finding it again. Perhaps you've been there many a time. In His grace, maybe we'll meet there and talk awhile.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Straw Men and Melon Patches

Jeremiah 10:5 (New International Version)
5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good."

"Like a scarecrow in a melon patch"...

He stands, arms spread wide; bright checkered shirt fluttering in the breeze, his hat at a jaunty angle.

The scarecrow does his work well. By his mere presence he discourages hungry beast and bird.

At closer scrutiny his eyes stare vacant and his lips are frozen in a forever smile. But a quick and careless glance from a distance, and he could easily be mistaken for the real thing. And between me and a place of fruitfulness there too, can stand a man of straw, in whom I invest too much power and who holds me back through fear.

The preceding verses, 3 and 4 say:
For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
4 They adorn it with silver and gold;

they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter

Back then people made idols of wood. They invested their precious resources in a worthless thing.

I too, must carefully consider the things I give my heart to. I am not so very different to the people I read about in Jeremiah.

I don't want to waste my life's resources; strength and energy, time and finances, on worthless distractions. I long for better focus so that I am like an arrow winging towards a bulls eye; God's purpose for my life.

And I want to poke at the fears that keep me from all that God wants to do in and through me. They are mere shadows, as powerless as a scarecrow.

Jeremiah 10:5
...Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

An Apology

Dear Readers,
We realized after some input that there was terminology in Wednesday's blog post that could have caused offence, and we wish to apologize for that.

The thoughts shared were inspired by the original version of a beloved devotional written 83 years ago, Streams in the Desert.

The sentiments expressed were true and solid, but our sensitivity to how we honour one another in terms of the language we use has changed, and Wednesday's post has been edited by the author to reflect that.

Thank you for your understanding as we learn together.

Colossians 3:15 (New International Version)
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace...

Re-programming

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2: 4-7 NASB

This week I sat in a lecture hall and learned a little bit more of how our brains operate. When normal function of the brain is compromised during development - through injury, genetics, or trauma - the effects may last our entire lives and will even determine some of the choices we make.

The more I learn of the complexity and working of this rather smallish lump of grey matter which lies in there between our ears, the more I am in awe of God's ability to reprogram things and re-route established thinking patterns. And the more I understand that some of these things have to be the work of a powerful miracle working God. And the more I respect the nature and scope of the work that must be done in order to "conform me to the image of Christ". And the more I understand my need...

No wonder it's such hard work for "self" to die. The more I contemplate how badly my brain is patterned in some things, the more grateful I am that we have access to "the mind of Christ". And how much more I realize that I must understand and accept the workings of His mind more, and my mind less. Thank God that He is risen! And thank God for the Word, in which his mind is revealed to us in direct relation to how much we are willng and able to receive. And thank God for the Spirit, which connects us to "the mind of Christ", and breathes Life into the revelation of His mind, His Word. Maybe we can't change the physiology of our brains, but we can tap into His... because he is risen, because His mind, perfectly patterned, perfect in understanding is alive.

What a gift! What an incomprehensible, obscenely lavish gift! And oh, how I want to grow in that gift and see him glorified through this feeble life...

"For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ." I Cor 12:16 NASB

Oh, Lord, Shepherd of my heart, Ruler of my mind, thank you for your Life, and for your ways. Forgive me and heal the hurt I have caused others by continuing to cling to my old ways, my old patterns of thinking, my old coping strategies. Thank you for your faithfulness... As I seek you in your Word, you reveal yourself, little by little, step by step, line upon line, precept upon precept. I thank you for the miracle that my ways of thinking can be traded for yours. I am in awe of your faithfulness, your goodness, your generosity.

Friday, September 19, 2008

But Sometimes He Does...Story # 2

Exodus 19:4-6 (New Living Translation)
4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me. 6 And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.’ This is the message you must give to the people of Israel.”

Yesterday and today are the eleventh anniversary of the events in my second story about God using a human to deliver a message to someone.

It was the evening of September 18th, 1997. Paul and I both shared office space back then, on the top floor of an old building, over a lawyer's office in town.

It had been a long day. The organization we both worked for was in the midst of restructuring and we had been packing up our offices getting ready to move in different directions.

At 7.00 o'clock we decided to call it a day and as we walked down the narrow, creaky staircase to the street, we looked at eachother and said, "Let's just go to MacDonalds for supper."

We sat down beside the window with our supper--not healthy but fast and easy--and looked out to see Susan and Ron Stewart, old friends that used to attend our church several years before.

We waved and smiled and they came into the restaurant. We didn't know it then, but they had quickly conferred about whether to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken instead when they saw us. It wasn't personal, but we represented something painful to them at the time: Church.

Paul's late father had always had a special place in his heart for Susan and Ron and their family of nine. He became a sort of adopted grandfather who would show up at their house with chocolate bars in his pockets. He was their pastor too, and loved them. I had always liked them too, from a distance, wanting to get to know Susan but our lives were busy with young children and other concerns and we never did get together. And then eventually they drifted out of our lives and began to attend another church.

It was obvious now that there had been some tough times in Susan and Ron's lives since we saw them last. They didn't go into any detail, but they said they were no longer going to church and pain was etched on them. I could see it.

The next morning Paul and I read a chapter from the book of Exodus after breakfast--chapter 19. I was reading it out loud. When I got to verses 4-6, I had a strong impression that God meant these verses for the Stewarts. Beside them was a cross reference to 1 Peter 2:5 and when I looked it up I again felt sure that this verse was for them.
1 Peter 2:5 (New Living Translation)
5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.


Usually I would have left for work right after breakfast, but on this particular morning, our furnace was having its annual tune up and I had to wait for the serviceman.

I rarely just call people, but God had given me a message and even the time in which to deliver it; I had to do it and not worry about the consequences.

On the other end of the phone, Susan did not sound as if she thought I was crazy. She said that she had been wondering where all the shepherds were.

Thus began the journey of a precious friendship and the healing of hearts.

On September 17th, the day before we met Susan and Ron, The Daily Light starts with Matthew 12:20:
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,

and includes Ezekiel 34:1616

I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.

On September 19th, the evening reading for the Daily Light begins with Psalm 121:1-2

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121 was Susan's mother's favourite psalm. The perfection of how God weaves things together!

Paul and I would hardly ever be at work that late and would rarely choose to go to MacDonalds. Ron and Susan could easily have turned away to avoid us and gone to Kentucky Fried Chicken instead, but God had a plan.

And yes, sometimes he does use us to speak to others...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

"The Facts" According to Tiffany-Amber

This plant has been proudly blooming amidst the collection in my sunny back room. Tiffany-Amber wasn't the first to ask me, "Is it real ?"

"It is indeed," I said.

Tiffany-Amber and Victoria were getting ready for a trip to Point Pelee National Park with their grandfather, great, great uncle and a cousin from England. I was hunting for a pair of binoculars that I was sure was under the table this plant stands on. I wanted to make sure that she could get a close up look at the birds and butterflies that flock in this glorious park on the southernmost tip of Canada.

But she was fascinated by the plant and her ten year old mind spilled out some interesting "facts."

"Wow," she said, "If a woman wasp and a man wasp came along, the flower would get all excited, and accidentally pollinate itself...or something..." Her voice trailed off with uncertainty and I was left smiling at our resident Expert Naturalist.

The trip to Point Pelee was apparantly a great success. I have since heard tales of great fish, flocks of Monarch butterflies, dragonflies, eagles, osprey and species of birds, fish and insects too numerous to mention; the glories of God's creation, sometimes expressed with a distinct sense of humour; at least it appears so to me! How generous and liberal his handiwork. How infinite in variety and forms of beauty.

Lord, your creation astounds me and I am in awe of all that you have made.

Psalm 8
A David Psalm
1 God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name.
2 Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you;
toddlers shout the songs
That drown out enemy talk,
and silence atheist babble.
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden's dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
9 God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Leanin' on the Lord's Side

I could hear the deep and earnest tones of the preacher : "And, O Lord, support us! Yes support us Lord on every leanin' side!" Streams in the Desert took me into the world of a southern prayer meeting. I have been at such meetings even in Scarborough, Ontario. In fact, it was at one of those that a Jamaican sister saw me in a "picture" playing with African children and we both agreed it was a sort of vision of the future for me in Africa. Before I did go to be a missionary in East Africa, I spent time in Jamaica in missionary training, and so appreciated the same kind of earnestness at prayer meetings there.

But this brother's words touched me in some deep place. How much I can feel like I am leaning and almost toppling over at times, with reactions and triggers about situations and people, that throw me off balance in how I handle my emotions and my life. I am so grateful for all that God is doing, and His instructions to "make straight/level paths for my feet" gain new depth with the concept of Him supporting me on "every leanin' side".

Flashback to other meetings with Christian brothers and sisters in Uganda. Those times I was the leader/facilitator, usually leading Bible classes or workshops at Scripture Union conferences, often with Ugandan co-leaders, and invited guest speakers. On one such occasion I had an enthusiastic young Christian from England share his favourite songs. My dear Ugandan Bible class members and I thrilled to the actions accompanying these words:

Whose side are you leanin' on? (Leanin' on the Lord's side) ( action - leaning back with a bounce)
repeat twice
I lean, I lean, I lean, I lean (Leanin' on the Lord's side).

Other verses went on to illustrate other things we do on the Lord's side, like jump, sing, clap, etc.
So the general import seemed to be to encourage us to do everything God's way. Seemingly more about choosing to follow Him, than to think of leaning ON Him.

Now a whole new picture has emerged for me. Yes, I choose to lean on Him, as in choosing to be on His side in everything. But leaning is about so much more than jumping or clapping or whatever. I really do need to lean on Him in every way, and to recognize that I have many "leanin' sides", and that I need to ask Him to support me in those, to "straighten me up" in every way that I need Him to, not in harshness but in gentleness and support.

And so I share these other deep loving words quoted in Streams in the Desert on that same day:

Child of My love, lean hard
And let Me feel the pressure of thy care;
I know thy burden, child. I shaped it;
Poised it in Mine Own hand; made no proportion
In its weight to thine unaided strength,
For even as I laid it on, I said,
"I shall be near, and while she leans on Me,
This burden shall be Mine, not hers;
So shall I keep My child within the circling arms
Of My Own love." Here lay it down, nor fear
To impose it on a shoulder which upholds
The government of worlds. Yet closer come:
Thou art not near enough. I would embrace thy care;
So I might feel My child reposing on My breast.
Thou lovest Me? I knew it. Doubt not then;
But loving Me, lean hard.

Yes, let's lean hard, and feel His love today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gentleness

As I drove out of the driveway in the dark of the waning day, my first thought was, "their family is marked by gentleness."

We had just spent an afternoon and evening with the Stewart clan, at least a large portion of them.

Beth and Susan had invited us over to Beth's house for a visit and dinner. This on the heels of baby Owen just being added to their already busy household of four, now five boys.

When we arrived we were welcomed by another grandchild, the daughter of Beth's sister Christy who was visiting, and as the day progressed more of them showed up.


When I say "more of them", I mean more of the nine children whom Susan and Ron have birthed and raised.

We gathered together with five of the Stewart siblings and their parents and little ones. It was an evening bathed in grace as we witnessed the operation of this busy, yet calm family.

Perhaps they will laugh when they read this and think "Ha, they bought it...". But I don't think so. There was in each member there, a quietness of spirit that can't be pretended, but is formed by an environment of calm.

They listened to each other. Even the jesting was gentle and kind and answers were given thoughtfully.

There was a lack of competitiveness and a sweet presence of acceptance.
It marked who they are as a family and we were so blessed. Even when a little one disobeyed and needed to leave the room, Grandma Susan gently and firmly undertook this discipline.

Make no bones about it, we can all be on our best behavior when people are visiting for the first time. We've all been there. And I have no illusions of perfection, but the aroma there was sweet and the gathering a blessing to be a part of.

I was challenged as I followed the moonlit road home, to consider my own family and how I know we need more of that gentleness we witnessed and partook of tonight.

Sometimes we don't know what God, in His wisdom, has ordained when we carry out our plans, but I think that night He was shedding a light, showing a way of peace that has sometimes eluded us in our home, where competition can be fierce and the way of things sometimes too harsh.

This was a breath of fresh air for which I am very thankful.

Thanks so much, all of you Stewart and Prock family. Who knew His plans...?

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
He rises to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for Him!...
...Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,
"This is the way; walk in it."
Isaiah 30:18 and 21

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friends, Pickles, and Sunflowers

The call came on Tuesday at noon, sooner than I had expected. Then again had it come later in the week, would I have been any more ready? I don't know. My bushel of pickling cucumbers had been picked and was ready for pick-up.


I had already purchased the necessary quantity of sugar, vinegar, and onions earlier and had yet to make the last-minute collections of fresh sweet peppers and dill. For the last two years I had purchased large quantities of dill from Barrie Hill Farms which is conveniently located a few km north of the Harris farm. Unfortunately for me, Barrie Hill Farms was closed until Thursday, by which time I hoped my pickles would be bottled and lined up like soldiers in neat little rows.

The children whooped and groaned when I announced pickling. On one hand, it meant less book work for them but on the other, they would be needed to care more for the twins and help with pickling. My eldest daughter rolled her eyes.


Did she remember how short-tempered I was last year? I wished I could promise them Mommy would not be cranky or irritable this time. I asked God to help me with my usual responses under pressure. Would this year be any better? Again Jason was on evening shift, and this time he was doing a day job as well. Could this be a joyful and memorable experience even though it was hard work? I desperately wanted it to be. I called out a prayer asking for God's provision for dill and for His grace, mercy, and strength in the midst of task. "Lord, help me to be gentle, patient, kind, and humble," I asked.
"I need your help, Father, to keep my attitude light, to focus on family and relationships first and pickles last."

God's grace fell like a steady rain. It came in many forms.

The dill came in a large white bucket with several long, curly-stemmed sunflowers from a friend's garden. She gave generously and thoughtfully. How their sunny faces blessed me as the clock ticked long past midnight and my strength waned. In the wee hours of the morning I smiled often at their large brown eyes and golden yellow petals. A gift of encouragement.

...

...

Busily the children pitched in for entertaining the twins, washing cucumbers, preparing a light supper, and other various tasks. "Many hands make light work" These dear hands and spirits were another blessing from His hand.

On a cloudless warm Saturday at the cottage on Labour Day Week-end another friend had asked to come and watch the pickling process. She wanted to add a new skill to her household management artillery and pickles to her pantry. So she came. It was this friend that brought the dill, went out to purchase a hand chopper (mine had broken), and then once shown, began bottling dills. She also brought a few cookies from Tim Horton's which was a thoughtful treat to make the labour light.

One of the steps in making relish is chopping cucumbers. I was given a food processor a few years ago but I had never used it. My friend didn't give me the manual so I needed to work through a learning curve. Let it be said, I am not technically savvy nor do I have a knack or patience with technical machinery. I found it necessary to chop 4 quarts of cucumbers and 6 large onions for relish. In the past I had used a meat grinder however this apparatus had broken the last time it was used. The process proved to be stressful as I was liquifying, not chopping, the vegetables. It was a trying experience. Later that evening after calling another friend, she came over with her food processor experience and a manual. Within no time we were turning out 4 quarts of cucumbers and all the onions. Hands of friendship given by God, taken and held, and our lives are richer, more abundant.

The pickles were done mid-evening the next day. At times I was short-tempered and hasty in my words. More often I chose, in God's grace, to exercise patience, compassion, and kindness. I found that my gentle responses bore good fruit. I realized more than pickles, we made fun memories.

Along with many perfect pickles, I made a weak brine for one batch of bread and butter pickles. Several jars will be consumed by our family, not shared or given to others. When we eat those pickles I will savour God's faithfulness and generous provision with every bite.

....

Some of the bounty...


...


From my distress I called upon the Lord; The Lord answered me and set me in a very large place. Psalm 118:5

Thank You Lord for your faithfulness and provision. Thank you for friends, pickles, and sunflowers.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

But Sometimes He Does

On Saturday, on Chewing the Fat , my friend Dave wrote that someone had told him that he had offended God in a presentation he gave.

The post prompted quite a few comments; mostly, including my own, along the lines of , "Be very careful if you dare to say you speak for God," and "How often does God really give people message for others anyway, when he is quite able to speak to them directly?"

But as I sit here listening to the thrumming of rain on our roof and the slapping, plopping and dripping outside, my mind wanders in a slightly different direction to two occasions on which God compelled me to communicate a message. I guess that since the instances were about 20 years apart, it isn't exactly an everyday occurrence, but... sometimes he does urge us to speak to others instead of doing it directly himself.

God is God and he doesn't have to explain himself; sometimes he uses humans!

The first time was in the 1970s. We knew a Jewish man, Jack, the brother of someone who lived with us (we were house parents to people with disabilities at that time). Jack had brown eyes that twinkled with humour, and distinguished looking white hair. He was kind, generous, funny, and not particularly religious. He developed pancreatic cancer and the disease progressed quickly.

I remember it so clearly, even now. I was a young mom with a very busy life, and one particular day I had exactly ten minutes for my "quiet time," before I had to leave for a meeting. I opened my Bible to quickly read from the beginning of 1 Peter chapter 4 (verses 1-8). But the verses leapt off the page; they stopped me in my tracks, and I knew that I was supposed to send the verses to Jack. "What?" I thought, "These verses aren't a good choice for someone of the Jewish faith!" They were not what I would have chosen at all, they talked about Christ. If this was God, wouldn't he have chosen something more fitting from the Old Testament? But very clearly, God affirmed that I had heard him correctly.

I was much more shy then than I am now, but when I got back from the meeting, before I could change my mind, I wrote Jack a letter and explained what had happened, and I included the verses. The letter slipped from my trembling hand into the yawning mouth of the mailbox. Gone! No turning back.

I had read a passage where the apostle Paul spoke of being willing to be a fool for Christ's sake, and that is what I was sure I was.

A week or so later, Jack called to speak to his brother. I was so embarrassed to hear his voice on the other end of the telephone. But he thanked me for my letter. He said that it had deeply touched him. I know that whatever I replied was brief and expressed the fact that the letter was not really from me.

It was not long before Jack died, and Paul was asked to be a pallbearer at his funeral. One of Jack's sisters took Paul aside and told him that Jack carried the letter in his pocket until he died, reading it and rereading it. When he became too weak to hold it, he had someone read it to him.

I wondered if I should have done more than just send that letter, but I know that I did what God told me to do. Perhaps it was a link in a much longer chain. One day I will know.

The other occasion?...Well, that's another story for another time!

1 Peter 4:10-11 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
7-11Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Dead in Christ Shall Rise...

The clock on the stove says 4:47 as I open the kitchen door of the old farmhouse and step out into the pre-dawn world. A cricket chirps loudly from under one of the porch boards. He stands out as the soloist, backed up by the muted choir of millions of his fellows, their songs joining into one lovely cacophonious chorus all around us, my cricket friend and I, gathering volume as it travels across the sod fields in the darkness beyond the neighbour's barn. I breathe deeply. The cedars partially lining one side of our yard share their characteristic perfume with the sweet musky smell of dew dampened earth. The sky is deep and dark with the edges of the trees outlined like black lace against an eerily soft charcoal-grey velvet. There are no stars this morning and the dark, humid air enfolds me and draws me further as I step carefully onto the porch steps and desend into the blackness. Tiny, tiny droplets, too tiny to be called "rain" freshen my face. There is a storm raging to the south, just like the one that often rages in my heart. But in this moment and in this place, there is stillness. In His presence, there is peace.

I love the promise of these moments shared with God alone. I think of the day ahead and wonder who I will meet today... Who will need his life as it flows through me and I hope that this is a day that will end with no disappointment in failures to minister his love to others, but only joy in his glory revealed.

Will I be yielded and ready when he needs me? Will I think of his mission, his message, his fame, his reputation, his glory, his words, his comfort, and not my own?

I look to the eastern sky and I wonder about his coming. Will it be today? Will I hear his shout and the shout of the archangel as that grey velvet peels back, sky splits with blinding light, and the Son of Man, the Lord of Glory descends? Oh, I wonder and glory at that thought!

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 NIV

I pray that this is the day. If not his physical coming, I pray that this is the day he comes into the life of everyone who touches mine. I pray this day I am able to turn my members over to him to use as he sees fit. I pray that everywhere I go today, that surrender will be my foremost thought and that the dead in Christ will rise...

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Good Way

Jeremiah 6:16 (New International Version)
16 This is what the LORD says:
"Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls...

I stepped out into the dark of this September evening and felt the cool, refreshing, fall nippiness in the air, as crisp as a Macintosh apple.

The Swamp Creatures still chirped and sang, but gone was the sultry, heavy air of just last week and instead of a peach slice moon, a mottled silver almost-orb, hung in the centre of a soft rainbow rimmed halo of light.

The scent of woodsmoke wafted in the air as I picked up our blue boxes from the kerb. I walked back to the house, savouring the few moments out there in the dark.

Last night I poured out my heart, feeling so far from God; so disconnected. Without him I die, and I know that I have nothing at all of worth to give to another soul in this world.

Just being brutally honest about where I was, felt necessary. I had to acknowledge it in all of its awfulness before I could get beyond it. But I went to sleep with a peaceful heart, knowing that for better or worse, at least my heart was clean before him.

Today I could pray again, and as I did, I felt life flowing back into me. His life. And it felt so good.

I read tonight in Jeremiah about "ancient paths" and a "good way" that we are to seek and walk in. The promise? Peace; rest for our souls.

Abba, Father, I come to you with grateful heart. I need you, oh, how I need you. Please fill me to overflowing with your sweet Self so that what spills out from me will be to others what they need from you.

Matthew 11:29 (New Living Translation)
29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Make My Life a Prayer to You

It is quiet here tonight and I am alone with my God. I wish I could say that it is a comfortable thing, but it is not.

Silence and solitude press down upon me; twin weights. The ticking of the clocks, which I usually find a comforting sound,tonight seems to carry a polite reproach.

There is much to put right before him; a heart examined, and found sadly wanting. So little love and devotion to him, so little compassion and love for others.

I believe in the maxim that we cannot lead people farther than we have gone ourselves. Those words sober me. I am a poor follower of him of late. How then can I lead?

Well, perhaps I can lead on my knees.

Dear Lord, please take my prayerlessness and make my life a prayer to you. Please take my old and tired heart in your hands and make it over, into a thing of beauty as only you can do.

Romans 12:2 (New International Version)
2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's all about a relationship

I wonder how I would have been today if my children had not come home last night. If the British Airways flight they were on had been blown up by terrorists, or if there had been a technical failure in the engines, or whatever. In some ways the possibilities of what could have happened are endless. I know Uganda well enough to be amazed that “nothing” amiss happened to them in their months away. They weren’t robbed, they didn’t lose their passports, their money, their camera, any of their possessions. They had the usual inappropriate requests from Ugandans, and all the stuff that goes with being white in Africa, and with being pretty young women who are white, etc. But all their connections went smoothly, they were blessed by friends and acquaintances, and they blessed others. People were sorry to see them go. Their reconnection with the land of their childhood, their former home, their childhood friends, was a fulfilling and enriching and empowering experience. A great adventure. And now they are safe at home, warm and snug in their beds, and I have a grin from ear to ear, and great peace in my soul.

I am so blessed. I am rewarded for my faithfulness as a mother, my trust in letting them go, my belief in their capacity to cope, my expectation of God’s provision for them and their growing trust in and connection with Him. But still, it is all about God, all about His faithfulness in this time, these relationships, and His purposes in their lives and ours. But it might not have been so. I could have been like the mother of one of the soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. Her baby was only a few years older than my babes. Why should it be okay for me, and not for her? Do I love my children any more than she did hers?

And what about my rejoicing in comparison with the father of the prodigal son? Is mine more or less because my daughters have not been prodigals? They have been wise with their money, and plan to pay back their portion of the cost of the trip. Their choices about relationships have been mature and chaste. I do not know the grief of parents over “wayward” children, doing drugs or sex or “getting into trouble”. That reminds me of my horror struck reaction to an interview on CBC in their series on kids and school. A parent was describing the experience of witnessing his daughter’s rebellion and how it alienated him from her. My immediate reaction was that he was the one with the problem. He had no admission that his part in their family system might have contributed to her choices. No recognition that there but for the grace of God he might have gone. No looking at the possibility of his own addictive choices, whatever they might be. I was enraged at him, and filled with compassion for his daughter.

I think, if you are a mother or a father, you join with me in the intense inner joy of being a parent, an acknowledgement that you didn’t know fear or joy before being a parent like you do now. It reminds me of the words of the mother in “What Every Girl Wants” who said to her ex-husband, played by Colin Firth, who, having just discovered he had a daughter, was full of anxiety about her. She said “It never ends”. (How I appreciate the honest human truth in so many movies that have bits that can be offensive to fastidious uptight Christians!) And how unnatural it would be to sit in judgment instead of reaching out. I think most of us know what it is to feel we would die for our children, that we could not live with the guilt of causing them to stumble, or making them feel rejected. Can a mother forget her child? It is as if they are carved on the palms of our hands.

As I waited for two hours at the airport, watching every face that came around the corner of the arrivals concourse, witnessing the joy of many reunions, my eyes fixed on the spot where I would suddenly spy my babes, I kept thinking of that father of the lost son, who, when his son was a long way off, ran to meet him. There was nothing in that moment except his relationship with his son. Nothing else mattered. And when my girls finally appeared, from the other side because they had insisted on declaring all their sweet gifts from Uganda, they looked so amazing, so grown up and lovely. I could not believe they were mine. These were the babes that came out of my womb.

My heart is rejoicing today. The relationship with my children is teaching me about the power and intensity of love, its fierce devotion and all encompassing reality. And how wonderful to know, from reading scripture, and knowing that story, that God’s love for my daughters, for me, and for each one of us, is just as intense, just as specific and powerful. No wonder we can sing “The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell”. I thank God today not only for the safe return of my children, the joy in their goodness and blossoming beauty and faith, the bright hope for our future days together, but most of all for the reminder this relationship and experience gives me of His intense love for and joy in me, and all His children.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

To Release and Yield

I woke him at 6:40am, little body snuggled into warm covers, eyes closed, breathing deep. His brother was already awake and sprung out of bed as he usually does.

I nuzzled Nicky and he stirred, awakening to his first dawn of school. A grin escaped sweet lips while heavy eyelids resisted light glowing in from the hall.

He was a champ all morning, getting dressed, enjoying his cheerios at a table full of cheer, while I filled backpacks with lunch laden sacks.

After teeth were brushed and devotions read he tromped out the door with a pack on his back that set him of balance, but he refused all offers of help.

Everyone posed on the large rock in our front yard for a first day picture and then the walk to the bus stop began. He stumbled a couple of times with the weight on him, but went courageously and boarded the bus without a backward glance.

Alicia, our bus driver smiled, and said "Enjoy your day Ang". I raised my arms in victory, feeling a great smile of relief spreading across my face.

It was only when I got back to the house and quietness set in that I allowed myself to think about the immensity of this day.

As I unloaded the dishwasher I asked the Lord "Should I go to the school and take his picture as he gets in his line up with the other kindergartens, or should I stay home and not interfere". Better judgement told me to stay home and not mix things up. But in the end, curiosity and a desire to share in the joy of the day compelled me into the van and I found my way to the school.
I could see that the bell had just rung as the grades 1/2 were lined up outside their door. And as I slowed down I could see Nicky in that line, with his big sister, Rebecca. His teacher Miss Veenstra was standing calmly beside him with her coffee in hand, chatting with another staff.
I didn't pull in then, but drove to the second entrance feeling like a spy, turned around and waited until they would have gone into the school before pulling out again. The pavement was now empty and quiet as the bustle of students had moved into the building and the doors had shut.

So I went home, praying.
"Lord help Nicky to come under the authority of his teacher, to yield, to have courage and joy in this place".

Now he's out of my hands.

I've been reading "The Power of a Praying Parent", by Stormie Omartian. I've had it on my shelf and picked it up here and there, but a few days ago, I found it in my hands again and the prayers and guidance in it set my heart where it should be concerning Nicky and all my children.

The chapter Frank and I shared this morning in the quiet dark of predawn was called "Releasing My Child into God's Hands". Hannah released Samuel to Eli, Stormie released her first born, Christopher, to God. We release Nicholas to God. He belongs to Him anyway. We are just the stewards of his life here on earth. When I think of things that way, I am released. God has not dropped the ball where Nicky is concerned. Sometimes though I have, by trying to control and direct difficult situations in my own strength and earthly wisdom. He has good plans for Nicky's life and as I trust and step back, I allow these plans to unfold, instead of being fearful and trying to control, to everyone's detriment.

Nicky had much difficulty over the past two weeks. Seizure upon seizure landed him in the hospital last Monday, the day before he was supposed to start school. He had to be restrained for bloodwork to be done and then the long exhausting wait for results.

One of his medications was too high and probably causing him some grief, so an adjustment was made. More seizures occurred each day last week, but each day less than the one before.
In the end when we finally reached his neurologist he felt that the anxiety over school was probably bringing on much of his difficulty as well. So we decided to bite the bullet and send him this week, so that he could get over the mountain of anticipation and settle into routine.

Teachers and staff were briefed on how to support him if a seizure happened and at 7:27 this morning I released him onto the bus. Then I released him again as I snuck by in my green van and hid in the parking lot.

Now as I've had a call from the school and learned that Rebecca is in the class helping him to adjust I release him.

Then as Eleanor and I speak on the phone she says "Oh, they're weaning him off Becca now. She's going to her class". I hear his screams in the background and my heart wrenches for his struggles.

Eleanor wisely says "I'm going to hang up now, because you don't need to hear this".
I hang up and fall to my knees at the couch. "Lord help Nicky yield. Give courage, peace, joy. Saturate him with your love. Strengthen Miss Veenstra and Debbie and Eleanor for this journey. Give wisdom Father".
I know he's in capable, loving hands, so I yield too.

In her book, Stormie refers to the scripture in Lamentations 2:19 that says "Pour out your heart like water before the the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children". And so I do.

And I am also reminded in the the devotion we read from 'A Table In The Wilderness" by Watchmen Nee.

He speaks of Joshua who was quite possibly overwhelmed at the thought of leading Israel against Jericho. The scripture in Joshua 5:13-14 says "And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?"
So He said," No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come".

Then Watchman Nee spoke of God's position of Captain, of Commander.
He said "We want everything to circle round us and serve our interests, but God will not have it so. He does not stand in the midst of conflict giving a little help here or there. For us the question at issue is not one of receiving help, but of accepting leadership. You do not know God if you think He can occupy a subordinate position in the battle. His place is to lead. Only then will you know what it means to have His sword drawn on your behalf ".

This struck me deeply. So often I ask God to become involved with our challenges with Nicky and I instruct Him as to how I think He should help.

Yet what soldier instructs their Commander? My position must be one of submission and waiting. He will give the instruction as I listen.

Thank You my King and my God. You alone are worthy of this position. You alone see all and know all and therefore are able to carry out all. I commit to listen and follow your instructions.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Behold, I Will Do Something New...

"Behold, I will do something new,..." Isaiah 43: 19

So many times a day we encounter, "Right here, right now moments". These are moments that give us the opportunity to choose wisely. You know the ones. The ones that elementary teachers talk about when they say, "Sow an action, reap a habit. Reap a habit, develop a character. Develop a character, and earn a reputation."

The opportunity is often subtle but we get to choose. Right here, right now...what will we choose. Sometimes we err in saying or doing the wrong thing. We gossip, criticize, or take offense quickly over the words of another.

Sometimes we err in choosing to say or do nothing. Someone is talking about a weakness in our friend and we stand in silence. We offer no truth or insight into one of their strengths, the beauty of their character. A neighbour struggles with a heavy load, and we offer no support.

Some of us have a plethora of "Right here, right now moments" where opportunity is afforded us to win over a certain sin area. One person's mountain, is another person's mole hill. I have been working at a mountain in my life for a long while. It has been a discouraging battle at times.

Several times a day I feel threatened that the tsunami of needs will wash over me -squabbling children, hungry tummies, grimy hands and faces, full potties, household chores, inquiring minds, and the clock that reminds me that it is time to move on to the next task. When this happens and a cup spills, or an action of my children occurs that requires correction, or a wee one asks a question,it can be like the proverbial "straw that breaks the camel's back." I see the situation and count the minutes it will take to remedy. Then I, too often, react. At those times, I lash out with my tongue. Sometimes I blame or criticize. Sometimes I speak from resentment or bitterness. My words cause strife. They give offense. They wound.

I grieve with God over this sin. I know the torment of regret. I spend much time on my knees.

I am learning new patterns. I'm gaining ground slowly. Sometimes I see the mishap as an opportunity to show God's love. For a spilled cup, I sometimes remind myself that accidents happen to big people and little people and I kindly ask for help to clean the mess. At times when the children have made foolish choices, I thank God for the opportunity to train these little persons for His glory and the opportunity for me to learn patience. At these times I am thankful to cultivate gentleness, and develop compassion. I know what it is like to choose kindness or to "put on" love. In these moments, I bask in the blessing of right choices.

I am humbled by the process of overcoming. It is slow. I toil at the oars. The effort exhausts me and more often than not, I miss the victory. I ache with regret at the hurt it causes me and my loved ones. Sometimes I want to give up and yield to the way I know too well, the way that was modeled for me. This sin is three generations deep. I have cried out to God again and again. Sometimes I feel the mountain is too big and difficult to climb. Sometimes I know, in His strength, I will overcome. How I rejoice when I choose gentleness, patience, humility, kindness, and compassion with Jason and my children. How I grieve when I lash out, blame, and speak from a place of resentment or bitterness. How I weary of the vicious cycle. I assure myself when I am weak, He is strong. I remind myself that it is He that works within me. Sometimes I imagine a future time where I no longer struggle in this area. Will I experience complete success? God is faithful to complete the work He began in me.

This is my mountain.

Last week I was reading from "Streams in the Desert", by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. The entry on September 3 gave me pause for thought and contemplation. She said,

"Straining, driving effort does not accomplish the work God gives man to do. Only God Himself, who always works without strain, and who never overworks, can do the work that He assigns to His children. When they restfully trust Him to do it, it will be well done and completely done. The way to let Him do His work through us is to partake of Christ so fully, by faith, that He more than fills our life."

To succeed in our "Right here, right now moments", we must be full of Him, not full of us.

To dwell on past mistakes is counter-productive. We need to acknowledge our sin, grieve it with God, confess it and ask forgiveness of God and of the person(s) we've wronged. However, we cannot spend too much time in the quagmire of regret. I have done this for too long. It causes me to stay "stuck".

In the past short-while God has provided three opportunities for me to hear the same scripture. On Sunday I heard a dynamic message on this passage and I'm beginning to get it. I'm so thankful God is patient with His slow scholars.

May this passage put courage into each of our hearts as we climb our mountains to the victory summit. May we learn to fully trust in Him to do the work in us. It will be "well done and completely done" when we encounter those "Right here, right now moments". We shall sing with the saints who went before us, "To God be the glory, great things He has done."

"'I am the Lord, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.' Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea And a path through the mighty waters,...'Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.'" Isaiah 53: 15,16,18-19. NASV

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Creator and Completer

Psalm 139:16 (New International Version)
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

What utter peace and wonder I find in these words. From all eternity our days were already recorded, "written," in God's book.

Selah! Think about it. What does that mean to me?
  • He knows their number; they were ordained.
  • He knew when I was expected before my parents did.
  • He blessed my formation.

Philippians 1:6 (New International Version)
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

He is at work, on and in us, throughout our lives. He completes things. I long for that completion!

Ephesians 1:11-12 (New International Version)
11In him we were also chosen,having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

So our lives, dear friends, unfold; and all that happens, God uses to work out his purposes in us.

Our story is of such infinite interest and importance to him that he, its author, has stepped onto its pages and become actively involved with the story. He is both our Creator and Completer.

Dear Lord, I would so love to be, "For the praise of " your "glory." I don't know how to be, but I trust that you who made me in the first place, can do this, oh Author and Finisher of my faith.

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Just Forgiven?

We've all seen the bumper sticker. Once it was on the sign outside my own church.

"Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven."

That saying has always kind of bothered me. Though attractive, in some sense, I knew there was something that didn't quite settle right about it, but until quite recently I never could have said why. But now I realize it's because it seems to say that Christians are no different from anyone else. The only difference between us and everyone else is that our sins are forgiven.

But aren't we supposed to be "the salt of the earth"? Aren't we supposed to stick out as different? Aren't "they" supposed to know us "by our love"? Shouldn't we be living lives that are compelling - lives that draw others to Jesus, attracting them to the same kind of relationship with Jesus that we should have? I'm thinking this morning that the saying should go something like this:

"Christians aren't perfect, just victorious."

Sadly, in our North American culture, that is very often not the case. Sadly, in my own life and walk with God, that is very often not the case. (I would have to say "most often" not the case.) I know it's supposed to be "all about Jesus", we all know that, but the message which has been hitting me quite clearly of late is that I've been living counter that truth. Someone said to me recently "It's not about you!", and those words came as quite a shock. They cut deep at the time, but God has used them, by his mercy to help me realize, that the truth is this: I've been far too concerned with my life, my walk, my ministry, my perspective, my opinions, my ability, my image, and what people think of me. I've been trying to make sure that everyone around me realizes how "good" I am, (born, ironically, out of a deep seated belief that I am not good), doing my best to make sure I am doing all the right things, trying to reflect God in my life, so that I will be accepted and beloved. Yuck. Even stooping to using God to make myself look good. Yes, friends, it's been that bad...

What's the remedy?

Well, God, as we know, is the most amazing father. When he finally gets us to admit our need (he can't make us do that, he has to wait until we are sick of ourselves and the results brought about by following our own ways, that we finally turn to him) he floods us with answers.

I went into Chapters last week to buy some books for my grandchildren. I wasn't looking for any answers there. I don't go to Chapters to buy Christian books. I would generally go to a Christian bookstore for that. But as I made my way from the children's section back toward the counter to pay, I passed a section labeled "Religion".

"Hah," I thought to myself. "I don't need religion, I need Jesus," (one of my opinions) and I almost missed it. But my eye was drawn to the photograph of a leaf on the exquisitely beautiful dust jacket of a book sitting on that shelf. My curiosity got the best of me (I have a special affinity for things like leaves and feathers). I picked it up to examine the photo on the cover, and was hooked by the title of the book. "The Beautiful Fight - Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life", by Gary Thomas. I read the flyleaf standing there in the store, and walked out with it still in my hands.

And wow. God is speaking powerfully to me though this book. And I'm only on page 40, with some 200 pages to go.

Getting back to the bumper sticker - the fact is, God's glory is revealed in us, yes, by the fact that we are forgiven, but it has to be far more than that. It is when we have been transformed by Him, and living compelling lives that others are able to see him in us. It is when, and only when, we are weak, but victorious, that others can see Jesus in us.

Transformed. Compelling. Victorious. What does it take to get there?

Humility.

It's a powerful, powerful commodity in our lives.

"Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and in due time, He will lift you up." James 4:10.

To be continued...

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Treasury of Wisdom

Psalm 36:7-9 (New International Version)
7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.

This evening it was a little cooler than yesterday's, but the "swamp creatures" in our neighbourhood were as noisy as ever as I walked down our snaking driveway to add some cardboard to our recycling boxes. A peach-slice moon hung rosy in a swirly grey-cloud evening sky.

As I walked, I thought about a little book I've been reading, called, Mom in My Heart. I picked it up from a table at the back of our church that had a sign saying, "Free--take home." Well, who could resist? Gradually, after waiting decent intervals for others to have a chance, I acquired four or five books that I was thrilled to "take home." Mom in My Heart is the perfect book of short stories to dip into at odd moments, and I must have lots of those, because I'm half way through already.

It says on the front cover that it is: A Treasury of Heartwarming Stories about Moms COMPILED AND EDITED BY JOE L. WHEELER. They are the kind of stories I used to read when I was 11 or 12 and inherited a stack of books with colourful gilded and embossed covers, which had been Sunday School prizes in the early 1900's. The stories are sentimental to the max and full of feverish children, pale faces, trembling hands and lips, and moral lessons skillfully woven into story. Some of them are quite old, and the author's names are long lost. They have survived by being beloved.

At lunchtime today I told a co-worker about the latest story I read in my new-old book. I couldn't shake it from my mind. It was called, Applesauce Needs Sugar, and it took place during the Panic of 1896, a slump in the economy caused by far-off India switching its coinage of silver, to gold. A ripple effect caused by plunging Western mining and silver stocks, resulted in over six hundred banks closing their doors, seventy four railroads collapsing and thousands of businesses failing.

Against this depressing backdrop, is told the story of a Canadian family of 7 caught in the U.S. when the Panic hit. With no welfare and everyone in the same boat, people began to starve. The story is one of desperate faith in the face of grinding hunger and hopelessness and of course, in the end, the mother's faith is answered. But what struck me so deeply was not the true point of the story, that God hears and answers prayers, but the dramatic contrast between a world in which people on the continent of North America were literally starving and living on cornmeal mush, if they were lucky, for days and weeks; and the world we live in now.

How much we have to be grateful for with our comfortable, temperature controlled homes, full fridges and freezers, and far too easy credit. My glimpse into a place and time in the past, has made me realize how much we take for granted.

So tonight I thank God for all of his blessings and ask forgiveness for ever feeling discontent, and for greed that cries out, "More."

Thank you Father for all of your blessings. Thank you for reminding me of how rich we are. Thank you for the blessing of this book and the power of story to teach a lesson I need to remember.

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society