Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Fight Next Door

In the house next door, live five of our most rambunctious little grandsons. The oldest two, Mikey aged 8 and Matthew, age 6, can fight like two tenacious little bulldogs. It's a good thing they have parents to pull them apart, or I'm sure they would both have cauliflower ears by now.
One morning this week they each pulled up a stool to the breakfast bar in their kitchen as they were getting ready for school. Both are handsome boys; Mikey has golden curls, peerless creamy skin, and glasses that make him look wise beyond his years and Matthew is fine featured, slightly built, and with deep-set, thoughtful eyes. Somehow (rarely does anyone understand the origin of these things) they got into a battle over who it was that got to pour their Corn Pops out of the box and into their bowl first.

"I poured my cereal in the bowl first."

"You did not! I did!"

"No, you didn't, it was me!"

"Me."

"ME!"

As the volume of their voices increased, so did their stubborn refusal to let go of this entirely pointless argument. It was finally enough to get the attention of their usually laid-back and patient mom.

"Eat your cereal and get ready for school! Both of you!" Her voice more than equaled theirs in intensity and volume, but even her no-nonsence tone was not enough deter them one bit. They were both determined to win. And the fight carried on.

"I did!"

"No, you did not. It was ME!"

"No, ME!"

"ME!"

"THAT'S IT!" She grabbed both their bowls and slid them out of reach. "Mikey, you can't eat until Matthew says you can, and Matthew, you can't eat until Mikey says you can."

They were stunned for a moment at this strange turn of events, but only a moment. "Well, I'm not going to let HIM eat!"

"I'M not going to let HIM eat!" the battle was on again, going back and forth like a ping pong ball.

"I'm not letting him eat!"

"Well, I"m not letting HIM eat!"

Mom once again entered the fray. "Listen you two, neither of you are going to get any breakfast at this rate. Remember what it says in Proverbs about how a gentle word turns away anger, but harsh words stir up strife? Well, one of you is going to have to give in and be kind to his brother and let him eat so that the other one's heart will be softened and give in too." She might have been quoting Scripture, but her tone still had that "no nonsense" quality to it - the tone all mothers are expert at when their children are bickering and in grave danger of missing the bus.

It was quiet for a moment as they considered their options, both of them with their arms folded firmly over their chests. It was hard to tell what was going to happen next.

"Okay, Mikey, you can eat," Matthew said it very quietly with a sigh of resignation that filled the whole kitchen.

As Mikey steered a spoonful of cereal into his mouth he stared pointedly at Matthew with a look that goaded and begged response. But it didn't last long. Guilt began to set in before he had time for the second spoonful and the battle with his conscience was over. He turned and said gently to his brother, "Okay, Matthew, you can eat too," followed by a big sigh.

Both boys finished breakfast in a spirit of cameraderie, chattering away with each other as they headed to the mudroom to don their outer clothing and run out to the bus. Both boys had received a solid lesson from a wise mom. And so did their Mommy'sMum who lives next door.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This is my offering

My daughter and I discuss her assignments for her World Issues class. Her deep heart expresses itself through her choices: modern slavery, child soldiers, invisible victims of war in Northern Uganda, the ignored plight of the southern Sudanese. Two years before my other daughter did projects on the genocide in Rwanda, won acclaim for her film about the needs in Kenya, spent a Christmas in an orphanage in Kenya. This summer both daughters returned to their childhood home in Uganda, on their own, reconnecting with former playmates who today are successful, healthy and happy.

I continue to battle for professional and financial survival back in small town Ontario. Gone are my missionary days, when I was free to work without pay, create and carry through projects, help various poor friends, respond to needs on our doorstep. Even gone are the days of sitting by the bedside of the daughter of a friend dying of AIDS, through no fault of her own, weeping with her friends and family. I shall never forget the day I arrived at the home of another friend in time to see her shrivelled body placed in a rough wooden coffin. In four years she had gone from a bouncy vital laughing woman to a tiny shrunken drug crazed victim of AIDS. I didn't know the reason, but I saw the horror before my eyes.

In those days I felt connected to world issues. I lived among them and made my offering in these various ways.

Now I wonder how to do that. Yes, I support other missionaries, yes I helped my daughter adopt her own foster child, yes I am training to help people in the western world with their private agonies. I see misery and pain before my eyes every time I go supply teaching. What is my offering? I have been a Sunday school teacher and now a worship leader. I go to Worship conferences, not conferences on AIDS and world issues.

Now I have a little platform on this blog, and on my own personal blog. I have reflected much on God's gracious work in my own heart, His healing presence in my own life. Yes, it has blessed others. But what does it have to do with these huge world issues?

Each time I have attended Christian concerts with my daughters or worship conferences with famous worship leaders I have been so impressed at how they used their platform to address world issues. They themselves have not been able to serve as missionaries for long periods of time. Their calling is to lead worship, to write songs, to give glory to God through their music and words. But they have realized their power, and used it to point their audiences to these needs.

I was reminded again of that power when I found this video from one of my favourite worship bands, Third Day. I share it now with you. As we move into Advent, preparing for Christmas, it is indeed a fitting time to remember what is going on in the wider world, and do what we can, each day, through prayer, or whatever other means, to do our part, as God leads.

For me, today, on this platform, I give this offering.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Honour One Another Above Yourselves

Romans 12:10 (New International Version)
10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

An extra post today. I am laughing and smiling and shaking my head.

As our readers know, Whatever He Says is a nominee in the Canadian Blog Awards, in the category of Best Religious/Philophy Blog.

We, on the other hand, nominated a beautiful blog,written by Ann Voskamp,Holy Experience

because the blog awards are all about the best blogs in the Canadian blogosphere, and Holy Experience is one of the very best.

When I didn't see a nominee icon appear on Ann's site, Joyful emailed her to make sure she knew that it could be downloaded.

This evening, when I came to my computer, I noticed a sudden and unexplained spike in hits on Whatever He Says. At the same time I went to Holy Experience,wondering if Ann had the icon up. She had the icon on her blog. But!!! She told all of her raaders to surprise us, and vote for US!

This is the blogosphere in the Kingdom of God. And yes, this is why I am laughing and smiling and shaking my head.
Dear Ann, and kind readers of your blog, what grace, generosity of spirit and loving fun you have spread abroad! Thank you for making our day.

The Song of Christmas

Isaiah 60:1-3 (New International Version)
1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
I drive home through the dark night. The beautiful music of Kevin Ramessar's Acoustic Christmas Album fills the warm bubble of my car. Each note is plucked with skill, clear and pure. The notes surround me, dancing about my ears; familiar Christmas carols woven into new cloth of gold. The CD arrived today at work, one for each of us, a gift from our CEO, and Kevin Ramessar. I am so grateful.
The world is stirring with preparations. Christmas is afoot.
Today plans for our biggest party begin to take shape; posters made and sent out by email; talk of skits and songs and merriment gathering momentum.
Some friends and I are planning a simple evening of music close to Christmas, with viola, piano and violin, perhaps a guitar and definitely some voices. Our friendship and common love of music, God and simplicity, makes our preparations joyful, exciting and filled with anticipation. There will be children and adults sharing music and it will usher Christmas to our hearts. Some of the children wanted to sell tickets for one or two dollars and give the money to an orphanage in Africa with which they have a connection. I love the heart of the children who want to use their gift of music to bless other children in a land far, far away.
My heart is singing the song of Christmas.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving to Marilyn and our other readers from the United States. You are in our thoughts today!

Something Festive This Way Comes (with apologies to William Shakespeare)

Today I broke through to Christmas! It's official. And I have the chocolate letters to prove it.

This past weekend I made up an Excel spreadsheet with a page each for the groups of people in the various different parts of my life for whom I buy the letters, and today on my lunch break, I went to Dutch Treats in Bradford, and armed with organization, quickly gathered 105 of them.

The owners of the store, Cor and Louise DenBleker, packed all the letters into two large cardboard boxes and then took my photo for their bulletin board. In Bradford, so far, I reign unchallenged as the Queen of Chocolate Letters.

Since I am half Dutch and half English, I celebrate both cultures to the max, every chance I get. Just when I thought things could not get much better, having all of those chocolate letters and all, Louise pointed out that they have branched out to also include English treats. There on the shelf, right next to the Wilhelmina Peppermints, Zoute Drop and Haagse Hopjes, sat Fry's Turkish Delight, Cadbury Flakes, and Walnut Whips. Oh, my cup runneth over! They even have cans of English Heinz Baked Beans, which taste totally different to North American baked beans. I left with "just" my letters though, and a mental note to return soon.

Back in the office my priority was the big Christmas party to be organized. From mid November on people have been asking, very politely, but with a gleam of desperation in their eyes, "Belinda, do we have a date for the Christmas party yet?" Well, it is now happening! I have connected with the caterer and booked a date and tomorrow just have to confirm that it works for the church where we usually have the party.

In spite of it always coming together at the very last minute, this is the absolute best party of the entire year and I always think that we should sell tickets to it, because nothing brings Christmas to my heart like this party for 100 or so people with disabilities and their support staff. To say it is organized is really to use the word loosely. It is chaotic joy!

So, my house is not decorated, although I do hope that comes about very soon, even if it is a modest attempt, but this Sunday is the start of Advent, Christmas has come to my heart and I am in celebration mode. What a difference a day can make.

1 John 4:9-10 (Amplified Bible)
9In this the love of God was made manifest (displayed) where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique [Son], into the world so that we might live through Him.
10In this is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pre-Christmas

It is Pre-Christmas--when every year at this time, I long for Advent.

Last year "The Thing in the Attic;" hung over my head like the sword of Damocles. "The Thing" was our giant artificial Christmas tree that lurked ominously up there. When Paul decided to get it down, he didn't ask anyone for help and the boxed tree shot from the attic into his waiting arms like a baby rushing down the birth canal into a midwife's hands. Only he was on a ladder at the time.

This year Paul has been distracted and busy with other things, but on Saturday, over pancakes, Brenda, whose tree is already up downstairs, teased him about his lack of festive spirit. "Downstairs it's all 'deck the halls,' " she said, "and upstairs it's all 'bah humbug.'"

"Don't encourage your dad to get that tree out of the attic," I said.

"Please don't try it on your own," I said to Paul.

Brenda laughed and said that she could see the headlines already: "Crushed by a Christmas tree; Paul always did love Christmas; it just didn't love him back."

Did we go wrong somewhere in our child raising? Well it's too late now.

In spite of there being no evidence at all of the coming celebration in our part of the house, the rest of the world seems to be galloping towards Christmas.

I drove down the main street of town after dark, and while stopped at a traffic light, I gazed at a storefront window full of blinking blue and white illuminated stars . As they pulsated, they reminded me of a giant organism with a beating heart, or the machines in an Intensive Care Unit. Yikes! The invasion of the Christmas Lights.

My car blended into the stream of traffic slowly and carefully making its way down the snowy highway, bumper to bumper in either direction, the line of lights like diamonds in a double stranded necklace. Wet snow stuck to windshields and wipers and I thanked God for my snow tires securely hugging the road. Winter has arrived.

I know that sometime soon, Christmas will descend upon our household and hearts just as the glorious heavenly host descended on the hills of Bethlehem.

I think I will try what my friend Marilyn wrote about on her blog. She got out just one Christmas decoration, electric candles; and placed them on her window sills. This simple thing energized her and filled her with peace. I can get one thing out, no problem; and who knows what will follow?

Meanwhile, I am focusing on preparing my heart for Christmas; making a place of welcome and space there for Jesus. That is the most important decorating, after all.

John 1:14 (New International Version)
14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Self" Sufficiency

Sometimes there's not enough of me to go around. As I survey my life and the things that are filling up those empty spaces I treasure, it makes me gasp for breath or sigh in resignation as another chunk of time is eaten up by the monster of busyness.

I said to Frank, that as another task is added to the pile, I feel the energy for something else ebbing, where before there was passion.

I think it's called exhaustion, but this too can pass with a bit of sleep, okay, a lot of sleep, some exercise and lots of time doing what Mary did best...sitting at the feet of Jesus.

I know that's what's been missing. I have been grabbing a snack here and there and really do love my Lord, but I've been letting the tyranny of the urgent take hold. I've also been slacking off and excusing myself from investing in my relationship with God.
So...no deposit, no withdrawal right...?

Wrong! The more I get to know God, the more I realize that He doesn't operate that way.

He's waiting, calling, watching and ready to pour in as soon as I wise up and position myself at his feet instead of running headlong to somewhere, or just refusing to take the time.

What is it, after 26 years of living the Christian life, that still gets me into this position.

The only thing I can think is self sufficiency, which if you take it apart is a lie.

"Self" is not sufficient. It is finite and I need the infinite to be able to keep going, to have breath and vision and hope. Those qualities and elements are not conjured up by my 'self', but breathed into me by the Almighty, by the One who gave me life.
Only He is sufficient and so once again I kneel and submit myself, joyfully, with a contrite heart at my stupidity for trying to sustain myself.

What a foolish concept when you think about it. HaHa, it's even laughable. Yet the One who sustains is there...here to restore and renew.

Loving Father,
Thank you...for Your grace, for Your patience with Your child, for Your wisdom, and for the all sufficiency that You are. Forgive me for trying on my own again. Thank You for letting me hit a wall and to find my deep need of You again.
I love You.

Lead Me to the Rock that is Higher Than I

Sometimes it is hard to see beyond the difficulty of circumstances and the struggle of the immediate. Bills overwhelm, sickness lingers, responsibilities demand, and problems mount. We acknowledge with the psalmist,

"Thou hast made Thy people experience hardship; Thou hast given us wine to drink that makes us stagger." Psalm 60:3

And yet these trials test our faith and produce endurance. God wants to make us, not break us.
This week I've had to preach to myself. Jason separated his shoulder Monday evening, our sump-pump broke causing a flood in our utility room, I've been battling a cold for the fifth week, and I got sick Saturday. After struggling with my inadequacies in parenting throughout the week and coming up discouraged, I was rebuked at a family gathering on Sunday by a family member who has never spoken any words of affirmation into my parenting.

My trials, in the light of many others, are small. And yet, by Sunday evening I was digging in scripture for encouragement. I found a reminder of the fruit that can grow from these hard times in James.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1: 2-4 NASV

I am so glad we have a Heavenly Father that knows us, in our strengths and weaknesses, and loves us anyway. We can cry out to Him and He hears us. Our trials don't always end, we still struggle, but our Father wants to bring good out of our difficulties. We rejoice because He is our strength, a place of refuge, and an ever-present help in trouble. We rejoice because he's less concerned about our happiness, how comfortable we are, but more concerned about our character. He takes the coal that is us and makes us into a sparkling diamond that can be used for His glory. His refining is painful and difficult at times but his love is governing the fiery blasts. Nothing that happens to us has not first been sifted through His loving hands.

I go to the psalms when I'm depleted and weary. I find encouragement there and strength.

Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to Thee, when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For Thou hast been a refuge for me,...Let me take refuge in the shelter of Thy wings. Psalm 61: 1-4

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Prompt to Pray


Mark 14:37-38 (New International Version)
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."


The days passed in a whirlwind of busyness. It seemed that there was always something calling for her attention from the moment she awoke in the morning, until she stumbled exhausted, to her bed at night. So busy was she that she actually forgot about eating. Oh, she intended to eat, and she did snatch little snacks from the shelf here and there, but although she thought longingly of having the luxury to sit and eat at length, and although she aimed to get up early enough to have a good meal at the start of the day, her increasing fatigue made it hard to wake up in time and each day she got up too late to eat.
She began to lose weight and without proper nourishment her energy level flagged. Her hair lost its lustre and her eyes grew dull. Soon, she thought, I will have to make time to eat.
Of course, this little story is highly unlikely. During two periods of high stress in my life, I did actually find it hard to eat, but not for long! Fortunately, our bodies are designed with persistent signals that alert us to the need for food. God also gifted us with incredibly sensitive taste buds, which can discriminate between, and enjoy, five distinct taste sensations that make the act of eating extremely pleasurable.
How different it is with our spirit, which also needs nourishment. Signals of spiritual hunger are more subtle, and often we don't recognize them for what they are and we soothe our aching spiritual void with other things instead of what we deeply crave and need; communion with God
And so our spirits waste away and we become spiritually weak; until we fall asleep. When people are asleep they don't hear the voices calling to them, or see what is going on around them--a war in which the stakes are high.
Feeding ourselves spiritually requires a conscious choice and effort, for it goes against our natural impulses to extremes of activity or laziness.
The reason that fasting is twinned as a discipline with prayer may be because we are acutely aware of physical hunger, but less so of spiritual hunger. Physical hunger is a useful prompt to pray.
Dear Lord, I want to grow in spiritual strength and vitality. You showed the way by your example of solitude and prayer. May my habits be patterned on yours.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 (New International Version)
6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8vBut since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gift Exchange

Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The plaque on the kitchen wall said, Life Is All About How You Handle Plan B. I smiled at first, thinking how true the words were, but they were also poignant, for the one in whose kitchen I sat, was mourning the death of a much loved husband, who died just a few months ago; a sudden separation and all too soon.

Outside a winter storm was gathering strength as the afternoon drew on, but the kitchen was cosy and welcoming, with sunshine yellow walls and white painted cupboards. Interesting nick-nacks stood on window sills and shelves and the air was filled with the aroma of the evening's supper cooking.

We sat across the table from one another and talked the minutes and hours away until the late afternoon was darkening and it was time for me to go. I asked if I could pray before I left, and found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I did, thanking God that he has no "Plan B."

When I finished, she looked up at me and said, "Thank you for that. I was wondering what I would write in my letter this year and now I know. It's only Plan B to me."

Before I left she showed me sea glass; sea softened shards of lavender, green and milky white, gathered from the shores of Prince Edward Island. And a beautiful heart shaped piece that she found on the beach after her beloved husband died and which a friend had framed in silver and made into a lovely piece of jewelery. She told me that on the island they say that if you find a heart shaped piece of sea glass, it is a message from the Creator that you are loved.

She smiled wryly as she talked of her own training in death and grief counseling, and of the phases of grief and how they come randomly and sometimes all in one day. And then she told me how she had learned how important it was to notice and honour the small deaths that people suffer. She said that if we did that, we would stand out as very different to the rest of the world.

It was my turn to reflect deeply on the implications of her words. I thought of the deaths this could apply to: the death of certain expectations, hopes and dreams or the death of a marriage.

These deaths may go without the conscious mourning that is the path to good healing. There is no wake, no gathering of supportive friends and family, and yet it would not be hard to be a better friend when such times come, if only we knew that we could and should.

I was so grateful for the insight she had shared with me, and thanked her as we hugged goodbye and I prepared to step from the front door, out into the storm. "You gave me the line for my letter," she said, "and I gave you this." It was the first gift exchange of the season.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mature Content

The radio was on as it frequently is when I'm driving, and the host was doing a good job promoting an upcoming show. Then he said these words, "There will be mature content; those who are easily offended may wish not to tune in." Although I appreciated the warning, I found myself wondering why we use the phrase, "mature content," in this context.

I mean we teach our kids and grandchildren not to use bad language, to understand the difference between private and public behaviour and to respect themselves and others. And then, when adults do and say the things that kids learn not to, it is called "mature content," as if ony those with sufficient maturity should view or listen certain types of material. I wonder about such things!

On the other hand, we never stop growing up and it is always encouraging to look back and see progress, even though progress doesn't mean perfection. Letting off steam in angry words is something I've come to see the devastating consequences of. It doesn't solve anything; it just expends emotion. Now I would rather work on how to change the situation that elicited the emotion, by calmly talking things through.

As a circle of friends we are growing deeper in relationship, in our skill in expressing the truth in love, and without judgment. We are more prone to trust each other's hearts.

Now that is mature content!

Ephesians 4:29-32 (New Living Translation).
29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unprepared



"We are not called to proclaim philosophy and metaphysics, but the simple gospel. Man's fall, his need of a new birth, forgiveness through atonement, and salvation as the result of faith, these are our battle-ax and weapons of war."
C. H. Spurgeon


The first real snow of the season falls relentlessly. It transforms our world and we bend to its icy will; helpless.

On my way to work, at a red stoplight, in the cozy bubble of my old but trusty plum Honda Civic, I shiver at the sight of a woman hurrying across the street in front of me. She hunches her shoulders up to her neck and crosses her arms over the front of her short black jacket. Her feet, trudging through the sludgy snow deepening on the road, are bare except for flip flops. I think to myself, "Unprepared for the winter." On the morning news I hear of people scrambling at the last minute for snow tires; unprepared.

The words of Chris Tomlin's beautiful song, I will rise, play in the background and hit me with their poignant relevancy.

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

One day we will face the judge of all the earth and be brought to our knees in awe and worship. For some the encounter well bring dread. How many will be unprepared? What am I doing to make sure that the people whose paths I cross are prepared?

I recently read the compelling words of Ezekiel and then our pastor preached on the same passage on Sunday:

Ezekiel 33:7-9 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
7-9 "You, son of man, are the watchman. I've made you a watchman for Israel. The minute you hear a message from me, warn them. If I say to the wicked, 'Wicked man, wicked woman, you're on the fast track to death!' and you don't speak up and warn the wicked to change their ways, the wicked will die unwarned in their sins and I'll hold you responsible for their bloodshed. But if you warn the wicked to change their ways and they don't do it, they'll die in their sins well-warned and at least you will have saved your own life.

And I thought back to some video clips I'd watched last week of the actor Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, a preacher, talking to people on the street about the 10 Commandments. Most people only knew one or two of them, if that, but when told what they were, they had to admit they had broken many of them, if not all, especially when interpreted by Jesus' standard:

Matthew 5:22 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
21-22"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

Kirk and Ray used the law, not to condemn people, but to show them their need of a Saviour and then show them that the price for our sin has been paid by Jesus. The good news of the gospel is that if only we repent, turn away and choose to live the rest of our lives in relatonship with God, we need never dread facing him.

Galatians 3:24 (21st Century King James Version)
24Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

A woman crosses the street in flip-flops, bare feet in the snow; unprepared...and I shiver.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Voice in the Darkness

Three hours driving carefully into the blackness of the night, the white flecks of snow driving mercilessly at our car, mercifully shod with snow tires only two days before. My eyes strained to follow the path laid out by those ahead of me, my arms steadily gripping the wheel, my heart quietly speaking, "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength."

Forty seven years before those words had been pasted by loving hands on a white card on a black page by my Granny Kay, her gift to me for my confirmation, my public profession of faith within my denomination. All the way home, as I stared at white on black, my mind and heart pondered, as many times before, the meaning of those words written so long ago, black on white on black.

The rounded characters of her English style handwriting on that white card spoke to me, as always, of the comfort, warmth and kindness of her character. Dear Granny Kay, specially beloved second wife to my widowed grandfather, precious and dear, Bishop W.T. Hallam, an outstanding evangelical Canadian Anglican bishop in his day, but most of all a man of God, a servant of Christ, of whom my cousin said, "When he came into the room, the air changed." It was one of his Bibles that Granny Kay passed on to me on that special day.

I didn't fully appreciate the significance of those words until many years later. I think at the time I thought them odd, as if they didn't speak enough of great exploits that awaited me in my life in Christ, as if they didn't promise great weapons to fight the battles I felt lay before me. After all, I always felt I carried the mantle of spiritual leadership from my bishop grandfather, and that my destiny involved rising to responsibilities within the body of Christ that were weighty and solemn.

Such was the confusion of a child reared in the church without enough nurturing of deepest needs. Yes, Granny Kay's deep faith was there, expressed largely in an Anglican way, carried with deep and loving humility, the fruit that had won the heart of my grandfather after many years of friendship to his family as she served her own mother and graciously worked at her profession as a Home Economics teacher and area supervisor. I spent many hours with her in her own widowed years, reading to her from the Book of Common Prayer, and hearing her talk of sensing "Will's" presence with her in her room. We shared the bond of our faith and our love for my grandfather, who died when I was five, but who had baptized me as an infant and held me and cherished me often in my early years.

What was the confidence of which she tried to speak to me? Who else was there to help to guide me into that deep trust? Yes, she exemplified that quietness and confidence. How was I to find it in the midst of the turmoils of adolescence and young adulthood? How was I to make those words come off the page of my life, be the white light of guidance on the black pages of experience?

I found many through the years who taught me about confidence in Christ, who fostered my growth in spiritual gifts, gave me opportunities for leadership in the body of Christ, spoke prophetic words over my life and encouraged my sense of destiny. Some were noisy and some were quiet. And the spiritual climate in so much of the body encouraged a seeking after new words, new teaching to shine light in the darkness and illuminate His word in my life. But as the years wore on, like the long journey in the night with the almost blinding snow in my face, it was His quiet voice that began to speak more loudly in my heart. "You belong to Me. That is all that matters, and that is the source of your confidence. Your confidence is your trust in Me. I am faithful. You can rest secure in me."

The almost blinding snowstorms of life have knocked lots of stuffing out of me: my self confidence in my abilities, my pride in my family heritage, my record of spiritual leadership as a missionary, my academic awards, the letters after my name. All of them are rubbish in some sense, and so they should be. Granny Kay and Grandad knew that. That was why they wore their mantles of leadership and achievement well. I seek now, so many years later, to have my strength, like they did, in the quietness of the confidence of my trust in my mighty Saviour and Lord, my friendship with the creator of the universe, who tells me I belong to Him. I am His because He created me in His image, and I need nothing more to make me worthy of His love. And I need nothing more than His righteousness, His gifts, to make me able to stand in His service and His presence, in this world and the next. These are the secrets, the keys to my identity, my worth, my confidence and my trust.



WHO AM I by Casting Crowns

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart
Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are

I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours

Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love and watch me rise again
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me

A wave tossed in the ocean
Vapor in the wind
Still You hear me when I'm calling
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling
And You've told me who I am
I am Yours

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snow Stories and Daughters



SNOW
Today the snow was falling. Well it was yesterday too.
It was big and fat snow. But today it was only flurries.
I wish it was big, fat snow.
There is still a lot of snow, and I’m glad.
Today I can’t go out because I’m sick.
It’s been going around.
I am so glad it is winter.
We get to toboggan, build snow men, have snowball fights,
and have hot chocolate. We do all sorts of fun things in the
winter; especially just seeing the snow fall on the ground!


The End (by Rebecca)


Today my daughter stayed home with me. Her tummy didn't feel quite right, sore when she ate and a bit queasy most of the time.
So we had a quiet day in; she and Nicky and I.
Nicky always likes to have Becca around. She's like a little Mom, alert to his needs, caring, cuddly and loves to read him stories, and with a little persuasion, will sit down for a board game with him. She loves him and he knows it.
She's a good girl, my Becca, kind of heart and willing of spirit.
She's petite and flits around with her little gap toothed grin, always pressing in for a touch, a snuggle as she flies by me, boundless energy wrapped up in small girl beauty and softness.

I treasure her. I treasure my boys too, but that's another story...
I think of Joyful's yesterday post, and pause to ponder my girl. I see greatness being formed. I see a heart of concern and hands of help and reassurance when her little brother has a 'storm' as he calls his seizures. I see her draw encouragement to others as she puts pencil crayon to paper, and flowers, rainbows, horses and hearts emerge, along with words of love, to her family, her teacher, her friends and pen pal in Kenya. She enjoys life and though she is a bit sad that she doesn't have a sister, she romps and rollerblades and wrestles through life with her three brothers.
She is tender though and needs time with Mommy and Aunties, Grandmas and girl cousins and friends to fill that feminine part of her.
I love her so deeply.
She is a dark haired, dark eyed beauty with an impish smile and a light sprinkle of freckles over her nose. She is olive skinned like her Dad and goes a beautiful brown in the summer.
But her physical beauty is not what draws you to her. She is vibrant and alive. She knows God loves her and asks hard questions about Him and wants to understand. I find her doing devotions and reading the Bible in her room and my heart fills with thankfulness at the gift He has given me.
It is His creative design that has made her and His grace that has saved her. Now with continued grace she will grow into greatness. She will find the path He has set for her life and walk in it.

Dear Lord,
Give me the grace and wisdom to guide this little girl you have given me, to point her to You and trust You to complete the good work You have started in her. She is precious beyond words to me, and I know that is just a drop in a bucket compared to how special she is to You. Thank you for the gift she is.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Micah 6:8 NIV

Monday, November 17, 2008

Do They Know?

I sit, bible and prayer journal in hand, in the corner of the Nikolettes Gym. Parents are in the viewing area and several gymnastics classes are going on simultaneously. Girls on beam, bars, vault, and floor- learning skills, strengthening their bodies, gathering body awareness and balance.  I look at all these beautiful girls, made in their Father's image. I see blond ringlets, and curly wisps of auburn and chocolate. There are thick masses of long brunette and deep asian dark. There's indian dark beauties and fair, freckled, irish red-heads. I look into eyes of blue, green, and brown and I wonder about the soul of these precious girls. What do they know of You, creator of them, giver of life? What do they know of Your love and righteousness? How will this culture they live in deceive them into believing success is outward beauty?

I think of a line Marilyn Munro shared so many years ago. "They'll give you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."

She knew, this icon of her generation, the emptiness of worldly value. Her worth was measured by outward beauty, not by the intrinsic worth of a soul. Worldly beauty and success is empty and fleeting. Nothing's changed really, since then.

Oh Lord, these girls who You love extravagantly and perfectly, will they know that love? This generation before me will be the parents of tomorrow, the teachers, politicians, business developers, service providers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. Each one has a different story, a different path before them. I wonder how, those of us who know You, are doing? Are we sharing our faith boldly? Is Your love shining bright enough from our lives? Is there less of our sin and more of your righteousness emulating from our lives? Are we holy as you are holy? How do we do, being the hands and feet of Jesus? Do we shine in the dark places in truth and love?

Lord, are we too busy aiming our children at success and not greatness? I think of the definition of greatness that I learned from Dr. Tim Kimmel, author of Grace-Based Parenting and Raising Children for His Greatness. Greatness, according to Kimmel, is raising children who are humble, generous, gracious, and servant-hearted. As parents, we clothe ourselves in these characteristics and teach and cultivate them in our children.

The success of this world, money, fame, and outward beauty, pale in the light of the inner qualities of greatness. Children and adults who aspire to greatness are other-focussed and those who aim for success are self-focussed. Do our children have the strength and power of knowing who they are  in Christ? Do they know?

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. 1 John 3:1  NASV

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; ... Philippians 1:9-10 NASV

Oh Lord, Your grace is larger than the oceans and your love is deeper than anything we know. Blaze spirit, blaze. Shine Jesus, shine. Let us be a light in these dark places of this world. Let us bring Your light wherever we go. May those groping in the inky black find their way to You. May we be purposeful enough in what we do to make a difference in this culture and in this generation. Oh Lord, may these young girls in this gym, may young girls and boys everywhere know true greatness, not the empty success that so many of us see as the real thing. May the children of You see through the veil of our culture and know the truth. Oh Lord, may we all learn to love as You do.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

He Puts a Song in Our Hearts

It was nearing midnight as I walked out into the first real snow of the season, grateful for the snow tires I had installed weeks ago. It took me a few minutes first to find my snow brush amidst the accumulated junk in the car and then to clear the windows enough to see for the journey home. The darkness enfolded me and the cold brought some kind of unexpected comfort as I worked, gingerly protecting some recently strained muscles in my back. The lights burned bright in the house I'd just left and the memories made of an evening spent with some very special people kept me warm. An old hymn was stirring in my heart, settling there, even as the heavy wet snow settled around me. It was a hymn mentioned in an email earlier in the day by a dear friend who had no idea she was passing on a message from Jesus the Encourager straight to my heart. (Thank you, Claire.) I love how God encouragaes us along the way. He knows our struggles, and he understands our weakness. And he puts a song in our hearts. Just the song we need at the time...

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase,
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half-done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun.

His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.

Annie Johnson Flint

Thank you Lord, for who you are... how thoroughly and how well you care for us! Dear shepherd our hearts, there surely is no lack with you!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Face in the Mirror

Psalm 32:7 (New International Version)
7 You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

Love prodded. I resist the pull to old ways, I wrestle.

But Jesus is defined by love. It is his very essence.

And so I open my Bible to a passage I have lived in of late: 1 Corinthians 13. Today I read it wanting so much to be the love that I read of. After all, love that cannot be tested, is no love at all.

Love...
Is patient, where I can be so impatient.

Is kind, and cares for the other person more than for self--another area in which I need to grow.

Keeps no record of wrongs. When I feel accused I am tempted to rehearse past hurts.

Always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

I fight the urge to hide, but he is my hiding place (Psalm 32:7).

How appropriate are the words at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 in verses 11-12:

11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

A child's thoughts are naturally self referential and only gradually shift to greater selflessness. There is a connection with agape love here. How "childish" I still am!

God challenges me to put away childish ways so that the face in the mirror looks more like Jesus. I want that more than anything.

As a garment takes the shape of the body it clothes, be in me and shape me, Lord. Conform me to the image of Jesus.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God En-fleshed

John 1:14 (New International Version)
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

A few nights ago, a dappled ivory moon hung luminous, large, and round in a clear evening sky. I thought of the same moon shining down an ocean away over England, where my mum, and brother Rob live.

When I went there in October, it was to visit with them, but the time away was also spiritually refreshing.

Mum and Rob live simply. I can be driven by materialism. Because I would have felt embarrassed at my natural selfishness being exposed in obvious contrast, I bought things for others and not so much myself, and felt better.

Their lives have a quiet, regular rythm, where mine can be excessively active and short on sleep. I knitted and read and uncoiled my soul and felt better.

I was really there to be with them, but my compulsive need to communicate with friends and the rest of the world, can take precious time away at library computers and internet cafes. I went days without running to a computer and focused on simply being where I was, and although at times I struggled to do that, I felt better.

I memorized some short scripture passages and I'm adding to them still, so that slowly but surely I am hiding his Word in my heart.

I watched my mum and admired the beauty of her soul, a soul that radiates unselfish love, and I thought about the beauty of God's love and how I long for that to flow from me.

I thought about being clothed with kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness and patience, as Jesus was.

I wrote this note in my journal:
October 2008; the start of the year of fruitfulness and the shedding of the leaves of old habits that have hung on long enough and are no longer wanted: Greed, extravagance, sloth and selfishness.

The journey continues and I have leaves that still need to drop off, but my confidence is in him.

Lord, may I en-flesh you in this day, as you were robed in flesh when you first came to earth.

May your glory shine through the windows of my fleshly temple and all of the fullness of your grace and truth fill the rooms within.

John 17:23 (New International Version)
23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Ezekiel 43:2 (New International Version)
2 and I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not Just In My Heart

Jesus: please be, not just in my heart, but in my mind, my hands and my lips; even in the least obviously significant corners of my being. Baptise me; fill me, full of you Lord.

I need Christ; not me and my ways, wisdom, or effort. I need his love to flow from the pores of my skin, and through my tongue and fingertips.

The fruit of the Spirit is a natural result of him in me. I realize that I cannot afford to go one day without being before him and inviting him; begging him, to come and fill me up with his dear self.

I am tempted to use the word "suddenly" and say that I suddenly have so much more clarity on all of this, but of course it hasn't been sudden, but a persistent seeking to understand over time. I have been a slow learner!

Verses that previously puzzled or perplexed me and seemed impossible to live up to, now make sense. In fact, it is as exciting as seeing the world through a new pair of glasses. I can't live up to them, but he doesn't expect me to be able to. He only asks that I know him, and let him fully occupy the land of my life and then he will live them through me. For instance:

Matthew 5:48 (New International Version)
48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

Would he ask something of us that is as impossible as that sounds? If we read it as meaning that we have to do the work we are undone before we start.

John 5:39-40 (New International Version)
39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Watchman Nee writes in his book, The Normal Christian Life, p.181:

God will not give me humility or patience or holiness as separate gifts of his grace. He is not a retailer dispensing grace to us in packets, measuring out some patience to the impatient, some love to the unloving, some meekness to the proud, in quantities that we take and work on as a kind of capital. He has given only one gift to meet all our need: his Son Christ Jesus. As I look to him to live out his life in me, he will be humble and patient and loving and everything else I need in my stead.

1 John 5:11-12 (New International Version)
11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life

This means that I am free from both credit and condemnation. Mainly I am free!

Come Lord Jesus--fill me with your love. Be love in me, be patience and gentleness, kindness and humility in me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

All I Can Say

This week I don't have the words of my own to express what God is doing and what is happening within me. I have to trust that God knows what He is doing, and that, as this song from the David Crowder band says, He was washing my feet when I didn't realize it. So I thank Him for what He is doing, and share this very deep song, trusting it will speak to a similarly deep place within you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Treasures Within the Trial

I am hijacking a sermon from my Pastor for this blog.

Yesterday's message was a gentle, yet pointed reminder needed by all who heard it.

Pastor Wayne spoke on trials and how God in His Word exhorts us to respond, not with complaining and grief, but with pure joy.

James 1:2
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish it's work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."


The truth is that how I respond to the trials in my life will either glorify God, or the enemy.

As I snuggle up with Nicky at night, resting with him as he crosses over into dreamland, there has been a likelihood that he will have seizures as his brain shifts gear and switches into sleep mode.
Each night as I lie there with him, I feel the burning and churning in my stomach as I anticipate the 'storms' as he calls them. Sometimes they come, sometimes not. When they do, I leave his room later, depleted and shaken. This is not something you can get used to, or control.
He's a brave little soldier and I've told him that he's my hero, so courageous. But the key hasn't been my desperately whispered prayers as he tremors in my arms, or the authoritative rebuking of whatever causes this in his little body, but the leaning into the struggle, accepting the trial and singing along with Casting Crowns "I will praise you in this storm...".

Something shifts in me, in him and in the spirit realm when I praise...as Alvin Slaughter sings..
"When I praise Your Name, heaven stops to listen, when I praise Your Name, in honor bow before You, when I bring a sacrifice, You're worthy to receive, O' Lord I know You hear me when I praise..."

So I read and absorb another scripture shared yesterday, "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." Romans 5:3

Pastor shared that while worry and critical thoughts release damaging chemicals into the body's sytems, thankfulness releases healing chemicals. God designed us to give thanks and reap the benefits of this.
He reminded us that if we think this way, and understand the potential outcomes of our trials, then they need no longer be viewed only as trials, but as character strengthening exercises.

As Paul the apostle described his trials, and there were many, he allowed them to chisel him into the image of the Savior. Paul said in Hebrews "I will boast in my trials...so that Christ's power may rest on me...".
We need to dig deeply for the gold within our circumstances.

The author Barbara Johnson stated "Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional."

One study that Pastor cited showed that memories of trauma get lodged deep within the limbic system of the brain. This part also affects moods, attitude and relationships. Brains scans have shown that when there is trauma, this limbic centre heats up and glows on the scan. The trauma is accompanied by feelings of cynicism, pessimism, moodiness, negativity, decreased motivation, negative emotions and a score of other difficulties.

However it also showed that with the right kind of thinking, this limbic centre can be cooled down.
Translation...PUT ON THE MIND OF CHRIST.

Not so easy some may say. I agree. At first it may be a grueling, uphill battle. Perhaps notes around the home and office reminding of what God has to say about our trials, and focussed prayer and meditation on this topic. But as we learn, and our hearts begin to shift, we will know the benefits of praising God and focusing on thankfulness.

When we pray as a family, Nicky loves to sing the VegieTale song "I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky, for my Mom and my Dad, for my piece of apple pie, for the love that He shares, that He listens to my prayers, that's why I say thanks everyday...".
And the song goes on.
He's got it right. The chorus says "A thankful heart is a happy heart..."

Thank you Lord for this teaching. It was needed to help shift my heart. Remind me moment by moment to give thanks in all situations



YouTube - Casting Crowns - Praise You in the Storm

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Cozy Afternoon



I enjoy homeyness. Warm wood fires, the smell of coffee perking and being in the house with people I love. I savour family and food and times together. I delight in quiet times of reflection,  a good book, and stimulating conversation. Simple pleasures.


As I write now, I smell roasting vegetables in the oven. There's carrot, potatoe, parsnip, zuchini, red and green pepper, red onion, and whole mushrooms, tossed with garlic, fresh rosemary and oregano and some olive oil. Soon we'll taste the melding flavours of roasted fall veggies along with some steak that is grilling on the barbecue. Hannah will likely suggest candles because she likes the romantic atmosphere like her mother. Probably Jason will groan and Josh will complain because they'd rather have light. The diversity of individuals within a family are expressed in so many ways.

Now, classical piano favourites are playing on the computer, Chopin, Beethoven, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, and Lizst. In the background I hear the sounds of laughter and the air hockey puck ricocheting off the sides of the game as children play downstairs. The older ones finished their hot chocolate and popcorn after coming in from skating with their dad.

The rain falls cold and damp on this late autumn day and yet inside all is cozy and homey.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it.  And it is...it is. 

Earlier I yelled to my nine year old, "You're not wearing that shirt to church." One of my daughters scrambled to find dress shoes and blamed another for losing them. Children needed too many reminders to pick up clothes and reminders to speak kind words. I had to preach the same sermon to myself. There were mad dashes to the kitchen cabinets to have the first choice of mugs and yet the winner served his sister willingly. 

We are a real family, made up of real people. We jostle one another, chirp and yelp. We are a bruised people, learning to extend grace and live in peace. We choose to love. Minute by minute we choose. Sometimes we don't choose wisely and well. Like the apostle Paul we struggle with sin, each of us from the parent to the child. Like Paul we cry,

"For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing that I hate...So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which indwells me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;...For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil I do not wish...Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:15,17-19, 24-25  NASV

We are a sin-based people. Only in His righteousness, by His grace can we find His way in this world. Love is messy. It hurts at times. Peace wilts quickly in this family of sinners. Yet in humility we try again, we forgive generously, we are grateful for what we have, and we learn to serve.

In the chaos and the mess we find joy.  I am happy in the little things, ordinary things. Little boys'  hugs, the silky soft of preschool heads, kind words between siblings, air hockey, a lunch table of silly laughter, an offering of dandelions, a good book, roasting veggies,  and homey, cozy things on a rainy autumn afternoon.

I ask God for His grace, for His fruit to be born in my life, in your life. And I pray for my children, myself, for my family, for yours, for the christian church. I ask God for Paul's words to the Ephesians for us.

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." Ephesians 4:31-32 NASV


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Reflections


I stowed my luggage in the overhead baggage compartment and sank into my window seat on the aircraft. The friendly man who sat next to me introduced himself, as did the woman beside him, but I was glad that they were soon in conversation with eachother. I had lots to think about on my way home from England.

We were soon airborne and flying at a lower altitude than normal to avoid turbulence. I looked at the land far below; at rivers, lakes and a patchwork of fields and communities, as the aircraft slowly moved across them like a giant bird. How peaceful and quiet the world looked from that angle!

The week I left for England I had been thinking about the ongoing work of God in our hearts; how he softens and shapes us, sometimes painfully, but always lovingly.

My friend Susan gave me a book to read on my journey to England called, A Treasury of Great Moral Stories~The Book of Virtues for Boys and Girls, edited with commentary by William J. Bennett. It might seem like an odd choice for an adult, but actually it was perfect.

The day I left, we both attended a leadership training day put on by satellite by an organization called Lead Like Jesus. It was a profoundly moving and challenging day, in which old fashioned virtues were emphasized as strongly desirable servant-leadership traits. Things like humility, kindness, gentleness and above all, love.

While away I memorized a couple of verses from the Bible about these traits or "fruits," : Colossians 3:12 and Galatians 5:22-23; and I spent time meditating on the character of Christ.

England is a secular culture; much more so than even Canada, and I was interested to see that when Christians showed up as characters a couple of times on programs on T.V., they were unflattering characterizations--portrayed as wacky weirdos. Yes, they were stereotypes, but sometimes there is a grain of truth in a stereotype. I wondered how different it would be if Christians spoke less about what we believe; focused less on what needs to change in others lives, and instead lived Christ's teachings more faithfully ourselves, truly following his example. The people he upset most were the religious people, but others were drawn to him like a magnet: the outcasts; the unpopular; the renegades--they all loved him.

If we did this, would people be drawn to us, as they were to him? I think so!

To be continued on Thursday.
Colossians 3:12 (New International Version)
12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Galatians 5:22-23 (New International Version)
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Physics and Fruit

Physics was my worst subject in high school. I used to feel as if my teacher, Mr. Johnson, was speaking a mostly unintelligible language with words like fulcrum, friction and velocity. I only remember a few random things from those brain wrenching hours.

So who could imagine, over 40 years later, that something useful would come out of my dim recollection of Mr. Johnson's class? But that is exactly what happened recently when I thought of displacement; that is, measuring the volume or weight of liquid displaced by an object submerged or floating in it.

John 15 is a passage I have read countless times but I think that I never really understood it until now, with the help of my elemental knowledge of physics.

John 15:5 (New Century Version)
5 "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If any remain in me and I remain in them, they produce much fruit. But without me they can do nothing.

I suddenly saw the connection between the fruit Jesus referred to in John 15:5 and the fruit of the Spirit, which the apostle Paul writes about to the believers in Galatia.

Galatians 5:22-23 (New Living Translation)
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

In my previous readings of John 15 I interpreted the reference to fruit as meaning a "fruitful life" in ministry; more about the things done; even though in Christ's strength alone.

I think I was missing the point. I believe that Jesus was saying that when I remain in him and he "in me," he displaces (Mr. Johnson would be proud) my egotism, self centredness and selfishness and replaces them with himself and his characteristics. Both things can't fill the same space.

This is affirmed in verse 8:
John 15:8 (New International Version)
8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
This verse indicates that the fruit is more about "showing" than "doing." And the passage ends with another reference to "fruit that will last;" and a command to "be" the expression of God's fundamental essence; "Love:"

John 15:16-17 (New International Version)
16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

I have long been trying to understand the "how" of the work being God's not ours. I believe that Jesus' death accomplished the redemption of my fallen nature as well as my soul, and I believe that this isn't to be by my effort; besides that clearly hasn't worked very well to this point! But how is it to happen? John 15 holds the answer.

Nothing can be more important than to spend time unhurried time in his presence; to be still; to meditate upon who he is, to memorize his Word; to listen, and to open my heart and my soul to him so that he can pour himself into me. That is where the fruit comes from. Not from my efforts but by him growing out through me.

"Lord, fill me up with you; clean me out of me; clothe me with humility--and then use me."

Wilson Goode; Lead Like Jesus

Friday, November 07, 2008

Deep in Love With You

Belinda is away at a leadership training retreat in Orillia this week. She has no access to the internet and asked me to post on her behalf today. She will be back in her blogging saddle for Saturday.

To follow Belinda's post of yesterday seems impossible with words of any kind. I think Micheal W. Smith has a chance of coming much closer than I ever could... May God satisfy your hunger and thirst as you listen and connect with Him heart to heart...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Follow the Way of Love

1 Corinthians 14:1 (New International Version)
Follow the way of love...

It is the beginning of winter; a new season.

Outside it is raining in the early morning dark and a chilly 4 degrees. Soon the cold will deepen and the rain will turn to snow. In our northern land it is inevitable.

In my heart there is a new season and I feel it just as certainly as the turning of the year; but there is no chill in my heart, only glowing embers intensifying in warmth and love, fanned into white heat under the breath of the Holy Spirit. For I am a captive of Love and Love has me at last; all of me.

Much has happened over the past weeks and I will be writing about it more in coming days, as God helps me to put it into words. It is hard to adequately express the depth and sanctity of my deepened understanding of his love.

Oh, how I love him. His beauty enthralls me and I am drunk with love. The words of the Song of Songs are mine: Song of Songs, chapter 1:7
Tell me, you whom I love, where do you graze your flock?

Song of Songs, chapter 1: 3
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like ointment poured out. No wonder the maidens love you.

These words of extravagant, passionate love; costly love; they give voice to my love for my Jesus; my saviour, lover and friend.


Song of Solomon 7:10 (New International Version)
I belong to my lover,
and his desire is for me.

John 10:27 (New International Version)
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

And not by traveling, Lord, men come to Thee,
But by the way of love; and we love Thee.

Amy Carmichael, Edges of His Ways, November 4th

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Here in the Grace of God I Stand

"It is your business to learn to be peaceful and safe in God in every situation."

I read the words in Streams in the Desert and agreed with their truth. It was freeing because it was true. And they expressed what I have been trying to live and accomplish in my own life. Somehow they resonated with my understanding that the concepts of taking responsibility for our own stuff, not dumping it on others or projecting it outside ourselves, and yet resting in God and depending on Him can all be wedded together in our understanding and experience of Christ. I didn't know how it was true but I knew it was true.

This is a truth I want to proclaim to others, to help them to pull themselves up short like I have done when I was complaining or excusing myself about why I had the right to feel miserable or ungrateful. Yet I wonder how it will be received. Will others, especially those who are gripped with depression and intolerable circumstances, experience it as freeing or imprisoning? Will it become one more truth that is piled on top of others which just serve to condemn them further in their misery and inability to rise above their circumstances?

I don't know. I'm not sure how to present them, how to express them. But I do believe that if they are true, that truth will do its work. It will speak, like the words of scripture, straight to the heart of those who need to hear it. My job is not to figure out how, but just to speak their truth, as I am led.

So then I pondered why it is possible. I left the pondering with my deeper spirit, and let it speak to me. A few days later I woke up singing that childlike song, " I am a new creation". It seemed almost too simple for the complex issues I have been facing, and that I know others face. These days of increasing adult weariness and worries seem far from my years of singing this song delightedly to children, playing my guitar, leading worship and Sunday school, making butterflies and teaching about transformation and freedom in Christ.

The words washed over me: "I am a new creation, no more in condemnation, here in the grace of God I stand. My heart is overflowing, my love just keeps on growing, here in the grace of God I stand....and so on...."

"Here in the grace of God I stand." Ah, these are words I understand now. These words I live, every day, inside and out. I stand, when I want to rest, I stand when I want to sit, to lie down, to give up. I stand and I stand and I stand. In His strength and in His grace. His grace alone.

A child's song with an adult's punch line. Seemingly light and frothy, it flies like a butterfly into my spirit and lands a solid truth. Plunk. Like Luther I stand in the face of ignorance, stupidity, and outright destruction of truth.

Heavy words to describe the daily battles, but that is what they are all about. Sometimes they are just in ourselves and the little things that happen day to day. But it takes God's grace to stand in the midst of them, with lightness in our spirits, with overflowing joy, and with a willingness to praise Him for all that He has done.

And that is the connection. Because we stand in His grace, we can be peaceful and safe in any situation. Because we are new creations in Him, we can stand, without condemnation, from ourselves or others, with lightness in our spirits, never forgetting who we are. We are always His little children, but we stand boldly, with those big adult words, "Here in the grace of God I stand."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Grace Gathering

It's 10:30pm and I'm home. A busy day and then night, but fruitful.

Hearts shared, torn parts partly bared then quickly covered back up again by a laugh.
Yet trust grows, inch by tender inch, friendships form, meld, pull back again and test, then reach forth, tentatively to connect.

It's what we all yearn for isn't it?
Safe relationships, a place where hearts can come out from coverings and find a haven. A place where judgements are laid aside, where forgiveness is plentiful and eyes seek to know the beauty that lies within.
It's a place where truth is known and lies are exposed, where confession is welcome and grace is a river.

Isn't this church? Not a building, but a community, a gathering where hope is present, hope that something greater than the past exists, that redemption awaits and is available to all who will come asking, or maybe just come to see.

I know Jesus is there, in all of our meeting places, patient, reaching out with those nail marred hands to minister, to love, to cradle and recreate what has been so scarred by unbelievable, selfish choices.

He is the Light
He is the Life
And I'm so grateful
That He comes
And that He loves us
That He mends us
Takes the time
And makes all new.

He is gentle
He is kindness
Let us learn
As He is present
He completes us
He's sufficient
Lord we give it
All to You.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Choose Life

Words lash. They find their mark. Sting. Volley returned. Another wound. So why do we fuss and fight?

Children learn early how to argue, fume, defend, and retaliate.

I listened quietly in the kitchen as I swept the floor. They fought over bathroom cleaners, each wanting to begin Saturday morning chores, each one wanting to clean their assigned bathroom (all on different floors) first. Tears and scrambling. Still I waited...as a mother waits. I hoped they would come to resolution, peacefully before the need arose for me to intervene.

They didn't. Voices raised until there was a physical tussle. My husband got there first. Perhaps he had been listening too or maybe he heard only the final crisis. He didn't gather stories this time. Each was sent to their bathroom, one with broom and dust pan, one with toilet bowl brush and cleaner and, one with mirror spray and a rag.

I could still hear whimpering from the main floor bathroom, but all else was quiet.

I went about my tasks, finishing sweeping the floor and making salad dressing for the evening meal, praying for these children to have kind, repentant hearts. I thought a lot about the human condition. We want things our way, to serve ourselves first. It's not just my children, I am guilty too.

I thought of the verses that have come to mean so much to me over the past several months. Before the people of Israel were about to enter the promised land, God wants to bless them in the land where they are entering to possess it. God says,

"I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 NASV

It is natural for us to want to do things our way. It is easy to give in to the desire to be first, to have the last word, to retaliate, defend, argue, and to want all the cleaners so we can get our chore done first. I'm trying to teach the children, implore them, show them that it is hard to choose the unnatural way, to choose the way of Christ. I'm learning too.

Christ wants us to return good for evil not evil for evil. He wants us to choose to be gentle, kind, compassionate, humble, and patient. He wants us to esteem others higher than ourselves. That is not the natural way. Only with Christ, can we do this.

God invites us to choose life!

Earlier in the week I found another invitation in the Psalms. It comes with a promise.

"O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! O fear the Lord, you His saints; For those who fear Him, there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing." Psalm 34:8-10 NASV

We, who seek the Lord, shall not be in want of any good thing. Good things and blessings come when we choose the way of our Lord.

God had to remind the Israelites to choose life, He invites us to taste and see that the Lord is good. He reminds us also why He sent His son. Jesus says,

"The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." John 10:10 NASV

Heavenly Father, help us to live the abundant life that You desire us to have. O Lord, help us to taste and see that You are good today. Help us to see the vast array of choices before us and when life and death are before us, help us to choose life. Choosing life for me means to slow down to experience more - more of You, more of those You gave me to love. Choosing life for me means to do whatever is necessary to give my best to those You gave me to serve.
Lord help each of us to understand what it means to, Choose life!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Bridge

I watched this video clip last week and wanted to share it here. It speaks so powerfully that I will not add a single word more.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Putting Love Glasses On


"There is no place where earth's sorrows
Are more felt than up in Heaven;
There is no place where earth's failings
Have such kindly judgment given."

Faber, as quoted by Hannal Whittal Smith in "A Christian's Secret to a Happy Life"

I had occasion to attend a funeral this week. This one hit me a little differently than I expected. I didn't know the man well. He was the husband of a coworker and my entire relationship with him had existed only by telephone and every one of those conversations had been short and directly to the point. I had formed my little opinions of who I thought he was, as we humans are wont to do with our very limited bits of information.

At his funeral I learned so much more about him. The pastor had known him for a very long time and made no secret of the struggle with depression which had dogged him for many years. He talked about how the man was faced with many choices over the years - how he had longed to just check out and go home - but that he had over and over again chosen to live, no matter how difficult the living was. He talked about the relationship he had with God, how he leaned heavily into his strength, and how in spite of the depression, this man was a prayer warrior. The pastor had called him many times to ask him to pray and he took on each request with seriousness and a heart of compassion. The pastor counted on him for that.

His sons rose to speak, one of them reading something their sister had written, both of them sharing from their own hearts. It was clear this man had raised children who feel deeply - poets and thinkers, all three. That said something, too.

I thought about how I had seen this man and how he was being presented now. I realized my vision had been so clouded. I'd seen little of him, yet I'd made judgements. I thought, as I sat there in the pew, about how this service must be a very close representation of how God saw this man and realized that is how I wished I had seen him, too. If only I'd seen him as God did... I wondered if that would have been possible and what might have been different about our conversations if I had.

The pastor told how the man had been scheduled for heart surgery the week before, but it had to be canceled due to a cold. God had other plans, the pastor said. After many times, making the choice to live through his pain, this time the choice was taken out of his hands. It was time for him to come home. Home to where there is no more sadness, no depression, only the fulness of joy.

He died in his chair. He appeared to be sleeping and there was a look of peace on his face, they said. The pastor told us that he often prayed in that chair, and he had reason to believe he was praying that Sunday evening as God gently took him home.

What a way to go.

It made me think, this funeral did. About how I want God to open my eyes to see people the way he sees them and only the way he sees them... I've clearly been missing too much.

" ...and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2