Wednesday, January 31, 2007
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Within minutes of last night's blog post going out,about knocking on doors with the gift of the fridge magnets, the first email came back with a message for Brenda, "Please tell Princess Butterfly I will join her in her endeavour..."
And it was from our friend Bonnie--who was having serious surgery at 7.00 a.m. the next day! It was good to hear that she's planning to get better fast.
Then another came from Susan saying, "I'm in," and by the end of today there were several more from friends in the church saying, "I'll go too."
It feels as if God is stirring up our hearts--filling them with passion to reach people in our community with the good news--in a simple way.
Someone shared by email that a person she works with has a fridge magnet with the name of a church on it and it has a message that reads something like,"My name is polly, my number is----I pray for people in our community, if you would like me to pray for you please call me."
That would be one way of making a connection and being sure that someone could actually follow through with our desire to serve our community and express the love of Christ to them.
Tonight at worship practice, Susan, Frances and I were sharing the idea with team members Esther and Lorne, who hadn't heard about it--and it resonated with them too.
I came home and told Brenda--and I had also passed the emails on to her. She looked overwhelmed! "Oh my goodness," she said, "What have I done?"
I said, "Do you think maybe God did it?"
And she said, "Yes, but I wonder if he's thought it through!"
John 12:46 (New International Version)
46I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
"Mom, I've been thinking," she said, "about what it would take to make our community more aware of our church--and what it would take for them to think of us if they had a need."
She went on, her eyes shining with excitement, "You know how companies have fridge magnets--what if we had fridge magnets in the shape of the church--and a phrase on them like, "Need Some Care? Need Prayer? We'll be There!" with our phone number."
"How can we bridge the gap?" she asked--and then without waiting for an anwer,"I've been praying--I so want to see our church filled with new people who don't know about God."
"And," she said, "We could go and knock on doors and just give the magnets and a card or package saying, "Hi, we're from the church on the hill and we just want you to know we care,"--no pressure."
I got excited. Suddenly I saw a hand knocking on a door--the door opening--and that being a turning point in someone's life. I told her--"I'll be your partner."
John 20:21 (New International Version)
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
Monday, January 29, 2007
23 He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me,
On Friday evening two friends and I met to go to the movies. One of us had two free tickets to share and we'd decided to split the cost of the third ticket. Friday night came and a snowstorm hit. I drove slowly and nervously through it and waited for them at the Tim Hortons in nearby Cookstown. After a few minutes their car pulled in and they got out to get into mine. The friend with the tickets left them on the counter top at home as she rushed out, leaving behind her husband serving supper to the children--but undaunted we pressed on. We'd looked forward to this night out and nothing was going to deter us.
The movie we chose to see was entitled, "The Pursuit of Happyness,"--yes, that's "happyness" with a "y." It starred Will Smith and his small son in the movie was played by his real life 8-year-old son, Jayden.
One of my friends found it depressing--she thought there would be more happiness and not so much pursuit--but I loved the movie, which is based on a true story. It is a movie that has the potential to make you better on many levels. I won't spoil the movie for anyone who hasn't yet seen it, but for me, like the effect of a vivid dream, the feelings it stirred have lingered. Mostly it made me very grateful.
I've written here before about a blog written by a young British woman named Clare, where she simply lists three things that have given her pleasure each day. The address is www.threebeautifulthings.blogspot.com .
This morning, feeling so grateful for every thing, large and small, these are my three things:
- Waking up in a warm bed, with a soft pillow beneath my head
- Thinking back 40 years to a visit to Paul's grandparents in the south of England, and his "nan" bringing up a bowl and pitcher of warm water to my room in the morning to wash with, then turning on the shower and being rained on almost miraculously by an abundant supply of wonderful hot water.
- Coffee--delicious, hot, steaming, rich black coffee.
And this was just in my first hour awake! How about you? What are you grateful for?Ephesians 5:20 (New International Version)
20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
14For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
The Fellowship of the Believers
Saturday, January 27, 2007
No child ever was prepared with more "stuff." Paul insisted on referring to Victoria's "presentation," no matter how many times our daughter Brenda, told him, "Dad, it's not a presentation." He quizzed her on how pingoes were formed and he put the video onto a d.v.d for her to share with her class. He also gave her photos, and a small inuksuk--a stone monument used by the Inuit for communication and survival--in the shape of a human being.
The day of the much anticipated class Brenda went to meet Victoria from the school bus. From Victoria's face, she knew right away something was wrong. It was red and she was very angry. "Joshua broke the inuksuk," she said.
She went straight to her room and stayed there, too upset to talk--she needed to process her feelings on her own. Brenda said to her, "Honey, Granddad loves you more than any pile of rocks," but Victoria couldn't bring herself to come upstairs (they live in the lower half of the house we share).
Eventually she did the thing she dreaded, told her granddad the terrible thing that had befallen the inuksuk. As Brenda had predicted, Paul put his arms around her and said, "Victoria, there is nothing in this house that matters as much as you."
It was a day of important lessons and they weren't about the North West Territories. Accidents happen. Stuff may be precious, but it's only stuff--and people matter infinitely more--a fact one little girl knows now--because she has experienced it.
Friday, January 26, 2007
I quickly got ready, leaving a message at work to say I'd be late, and set out for the hospital in nearby Alliston.
I stepped out of my warm car into the intense cold and brilliant sunshine of that morning, and my breath trailed behind me, and hung in the air as I hurried to the hospital doors.
Soon I was holding our petite, dark haired, fine featured beauty--Emily--and breathing a prayer over her.
Stepping back out into the morning, bound for work, the air danced with ice crystal confetti that caught the sunlight and flashed with diamond fire. It felt as if heaven was throwing a birthday party.
Today I held another little one in my arms and breathed a prayer for God's blessing on the life of Ava Claire Jasmine. I gazed at her dear china doll face with the perfect cupid bow rosebud mouth, and saw the pride and joy in her parents' eyes. Lance and Lori Lei--our prayers are with you and we thank God for your miracle.
Psalm 127:3 (Amplified Bible)
3Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Little Ava, Claire, Jasmine is one of God's very special miracles. Her conception and birth were against all the odds except God's and no baby will ever be treasured more than she.
As I try to put words to the quality I heard in my friend's voice when she called to tell me her wonderful news, I can only call it deep, unspeakable joy--and I think of the tender words from Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)
"He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
I remember my mother telling me many times about the experience of giving birth. She always said, "Darling, I just kept thinking of the fact that soon I would be holding you in my arms and when I held you, I forgot all about the pain." Again, a reflection--although a faint one--of the deep, deep love God has for us.
Welcome to the world darling Ava.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
35 “He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it. 37 Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. 38 He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today.
39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other.
In all of the "so"s of this passage, I saw the intentions of God!
He wants us to know that he is God and there is no other.
He wants to instruct us.
He wants to communicate with us.
He wants to bring us into the Promised Land--his Kingdom--around us and within us.
So--I want to remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
33 God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said,
“I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble,
a rock that makes them fall.
But anyone who trusts in him
will never be disgraced.”
Just a few simple thoughts on the utter security of trusting in Christ. God speaks of Jesus as a stone and a rock. We use the figure of speech, "As solid as a rock." Jesus is the rock on which we can stand with confidence. He will never leave us or forsake us, even in our darkest and most lonely hour.
He is a stone stumbled over by many. The religious people of his day stumbled over him--this radical teacher who spoke with such authority. People today still stumble over him--this man who said he is The Way, The Truth and The Life. You can't get much clearer than that.
Faith is a gift of God--he calls whom he will. We can't climb up to reach him by our intellect, or by a life of goodness or even sacrifice. Grace is free and has only to be received--and when it is received with open hands and heart we find in him "the mighty power of God and the mighty wisdom of God" 1 Cor.1:24.b.
2 Timothy 1:12 (New Living Translation)
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
Hebrews 6:18 (New Living Translation)
18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I put lunch on the table and called up the stairs, "Kids! Lunch is ready!". My 6 year old had forgotten something up in her room and as she made her way up the stairs in a hurry to get it, she came face to face with my 8 year old who was on her way down for lunch. Now, the problem was that they were both on the same side of the staircase (the one with the railing), and neither one was willing to move. "Mom! She won't move!" They each cried out to me. I came around the corner to straighten things out and was hit by an onslaught of all the reasons why they shouldn't be the one to move. "I don't feel well. I could get dizzy and fall if I let go of the railing!" , "I was here first! " , "I'm not moving! I always have to move!". As I stood staring at the ridiculous scene going on before me, I lost it. I blurted out the only thing that came to my mind, "Girls! What would Jesus do?" . My 8 year old looked at me, her little eyebrows knitted together, and a look of sheer determination on her cranky face, "Jesus didn't have a sister!" .
The thought had never occurred to me. The bible tells us that Jesus was tested in every way we are, but what my daughter said was true; He didn't have a sister, or a difficult spouse, or credit card debt, or cranky children or even an unreasonable boss. Her response stumped me.
I fed my kids lunch and began to pray. God, how could you understand what we are going through, if you've never been in these situations? It was a clear answer. It isn't the situation that causes the problem, but our reaction to it, our feelings that bubble up. Anger, frustration, fear, physical and emotional pain and suffering. These are the things we struggle with...and so did Jesus. He was tempted by sin just like we are. He dealt with all the other feelings we battle, so because of that, we know He understands.
I met my daughter in the kitchen after lunch and said,"You're right, Jesus probably never had a battle of wills with a sister on the stairs, but he came up against some pretty nasty people. He felt angry and frustrated just like you did on the stairs, but instead of thinking of Himself, he put the needs of others first." She looked into my eyes and asked,"Like when He died on the cross so we could be forgiven?" I nearly fell over backwards. Yes! She understood! "So, back at the stairs, what would Jesus have done?" I asked. "I guess if Jesus let people put Him on the cross and chose to stay there and die, he probably would have gone around his sister on the stairs." She fidgeted and looked at me, "Can I go play now Mom?". I patted her head and sent her off. She has no idea how much she just taught me, I thought.
I am so grateful for the perfect example the life of Jesus is to both me and my children. If we can figure out what Jesus would do, (which, by the way, is often NOT what We would do) then we can feel good about our choices, and likely be a light in the darkness to those around us who are unsaved. Nothing stands out in a messed up world like someone who really lives what they believe. Someone that truly does what Jesus would do.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
30 “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’”
Luke 22:10-13 (New Living Translation)
10 He replied, “As soon as you enter Jerusalem, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, 11 say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 12 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 13 They went off to the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.
We grow used to odd things when they're familiar to us. I notice this often in reading the bible, which is so full of possible pondering points that every reading yields new ones.
Today my thoughts were captured by Luke's record in chapters 19:30-31 and 22:10-13 of the way Jesus arranged for transportation and room bookings. Luke simply records what happened but I wonder--didn't the disciples think it was odd to be asked to basically hi-jack a donkey?
And the room prepared and ready--in an era with no email or phone bookings--didn't they wonder at all of this? There is no mention that they did!
Perhaps there is more to the account of the arrangements than is recorded, but Luke was quite meticulous in the detail he recorded in his gospel and the book of Acts, so it's doubtful.
So I'm left pondering the authority with which Jesus acted. He said, "The Lord has need," and "The Teacher asks," and showed through his actions who he was and is--the King who has the right to command all. That the disciples didn't question this and Luke made no comment, makes me think that this was not odd to them at all, but in line with the One who spoke with an authority and power that astounded all who heard him speak.
Prayer: Lord, Commander of All--from earth to the vast reaches of the universe, I bow my knee and heart to you. That you so humbled and limited yourself for us, amazes me constantly. I love and worship you.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled... by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware,
Later on Molson the golden retriever played in the snow with our granddaughters Tiffany-Amber and Victoria and was the epitome of joyful exuberance--now prancing in the snow, now digging his nose deep in the snow and tossing it in the air, now grabbing the string of the toboggan and tugging it as if to help it along--the ideal childhood playmate.
Molson went for a run through the snow in the Simcoe forest a few days ago with Brenda and a friend and her dogs--who happen to be his grandfather, Rourke, and uncle, Gillie. As the younger dogs romped in the snow, the older dog, Rourke, walked sedately along the trail, but a couple of days later, his owner found that he had a nasty thorn imbedded, which she had to take out. Brenda mentioned that she always brushes Molson on returning from a walk and always finds burrs and twiglets and the debris of the trail in his coat as she brushes it.
The verses from Luke 8:14 and 21:24 also talk about "debris of the trail," that we can pick up. Jesus said that the power of his word in our lives can be choked out by the thorns, which stand for the cares of this life--the things that distract us and dull our hearts to what is important, true and really matters.
Brenda's brushing of Molson, that gently removes the harvest that he brings home in his coat, is like what Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet and said to them that they needed to be washed by him if they were to belong to him (John 13:6-10).
Peter impetuously said, "Then wash all of me," but Jesus said that once we have bathed (symbolizing the cleansing of salvation through faith in him) it is only the feet that need to be washed.
We daily walk the trail of this world and gather thorns and briars that distract and dull our hearts to him. As we come into his presence he gently washes us clean, brushing away the debris, restoring our peace and disentangling us from the traps that the enemy has laid to ensnare our hearts.
Luke 8:14 (New International Version)
14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
Friday, January 19, 2007
44 But the Amorites who lived there came out against you like a swarm of bees. They chased and battered you all the way from Seir to Hormah.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses starts out by saying that a journey that should have taken only 11 days, had taken forty years because of fear and rebellion against God.
The Israelites had been chronic complainers--and even looked back longingly to their days of slavery. And when they finally did arrive on the edges of the Promised Land, they could only see barriers and obstacles--the giants in the land.
The Israelites might make me shake my head, but if I pause and think for a few moments, I can relate some of these flaws to my own battles--and as I said a couple of days ago--I have wandered in some personal deserts for 40 years too.
Moses goes on to record the foolishness of the Israelites, who, suddenly resolving to enter the land, did so full of rash courage and arrogance--and without God.
The people of the land chased them out, so the account goes, "Like a swarm of bees"(Deut. 1 vs.44)
So now I'm avoiding the splinters and thorns of compromise and half hearted commitment--and avoiding the bee stings by making sure I trust God and follow the One who must always go before me.
Deuteronomy 1:32-33 (New Living Translation)
32 “But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
My "Promised Lands" are those dreams that always seem just out of reach--not because they are unattainable, but because I subconsciously sabotage my own efforts or don't seize the vision and see it as easily attainable--somehow it's easier to keep it there on the edge of my peripheral vision--a comfortable companion, this unachieved goal.
Thinking in terms of splinters and thorns being constant companions of the compromising life (see January 16th devotion), I've realized--they aren't so comfortable.
So--I'm resolved, one at a time--to reach my Promised Lands. No more splinters and thorns if I can help it.
The people of Israel spent 40 years wandering in the desert before they entered the Promised Land. That was never God's wish for them. Come to think of it--my own track record is about as long.
I hope that thinking of God's words to the people of Israel (Numbers 33:55) will help me--and other people--break through the barriers that have held us back. Let's go in and take the land!
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
1 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.
I used to pass the room often, with a guilty glance. I knew he was there, waiting--I could feel his presence, just out of sight around the corner, but I was so busy--and so tired--that I just couldn't stop--and if I did, I would have fallen asleep the moment I entered and sank into the chair.
What was this frantic race that made me feel I couldn't stop to pray--or simply sit at his feet? My busyness was self inflicted--a result of my own choices, and, to be honest--preferences. I preferred to be busy--and I was avoiding God.
Somewhere along the way I chose to listen to his voice calling me to come aside with him before I entered the fray of the day. At the time I knew it was a significant turning point where I stood to lose something precious if I didn't listen. I'm so glad he called one more time--and I've been listening ever since.
Life pulls us in so many directions but God's agenda (and he has one) is the one I want to be engaged in. His agenda is one for which he's uniquely created and fitted me.
The first place to start is with relationship. We nourish our relationship with God just like any other relationship, or it dies.
He truly has something to say about our lives and wants to say it. We need to be still, take time to reflect and be quiet in his presence--hearing his voice requires listening.
Oh to be a saturated sponge that has soaked in his Presence--not dry and brittle, but full of him.
1 Thessalonians 5:24 (New International Version)
24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
55 But if you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will harass you in the land where you live.
The people of Israel were camped on the opposite side of the river Jordan, looking across to Canaan, the Promised Land, when God gave Moses these instructions for them.
Theirs was to be no army of occupation--they were to completely drive out the inhabitants of the land, destroying the images of the gods the people worshipped, leaving no trace of them.
It's easy to see how hard those instructions would have been to follow, but God warned them that anything less than that--any compromise or half-hearted commitment--would have painful consequences. The people who remained would be like splinters in their eyes and thorns in their sides--an endless stone in their sandal.
I'm a long way from Canaan, but there are a few "Promised Lands" in my life, and I can't help thinking of the parallels when it comes to less than full commitment to a goal.
Thinking of this account from the book of Numbers, I can see the futility of just looking longingly at the land across the river, or crossing over and being less than fully pledged to the goal of taking the land.
I've decided that whenever I'm tempted to dilute my efforts towards any of my "Promised Lands," I will think of splinters and thorns. Splinters and thorns are painful and irritating things. Ignoring them just doesn't work and if you want to get rid of the irritation you have to pull them out. Not taking them out can result in nasty infections.
Maybe, just maybe, I'm about to enter the land!
Monday, January 15, 2007
At 10 to 7 in the morning, I was awoken by the sound of tiny ice pellets being driven against my window. The same excitement I'd known as a child raced through me. I hurried into the living room and turned on the local news. The anchor woman began rhyming off a multitude of cancellations. It seemed that buses everywhere were cancelled...everywhere except here. I made my way upstairs to wake my very disappointed children and get them ready for the school day we were all sure wouldn't happen. Glued to the TV for further updates, I dressed, fed, groomed and packed up my girls.
We walked out the door to a fierce wind driving icy pellets into our faces. "Mom!" my 10 year old protested, "You're not going to send us on the bus in this are you?!" I trudged ahead of them, head tucked against the wind spouting promises of things like, "The roads are fine or they would have cancelled the buses." and "Don't worry, the bus won't slide into the ditch or crash.". Tears rolled down their cheeks as we saw the bus coming down the road and their last hope of staying home died away. I kissed them and sent them off into the storm with more promises of a safe arrival back home at the end of the day.
The bus drove off with my three precious children and I was suddenly struck with an awful thought. What if I was wrong. My peace from last night was gone! I'd promised them things that were not within my power. I told them they would be okay, but what if they weren't? As I made my way back up the drive way I began to pray that God would be with them, that His angels would fill and surround their bus. It helped, but I still catch myself glancing nervously at the swirling snow outside the window and wonder if I should have just kept them at home, safe with me.
Peace is a funny thing. We tend to have a concept of how things will be. When life is working out the way you expected, we have peace. No surprises seems to give us the feeling that we are in control. But, as soon as life takes a turn we didn't expect or prepare for, our fragile, self-made peace falls apart, and sometimes, so do we.
What must it be like for God? He never has situations come up that he didn't expect or prepare for. He is ALWAYS in control. I guess the key to peace is to remember that even when we think we are in control, we aren't. But that's okay because God is. The same God who made the storm will see us through it. He doesn't promise us freedom from pain or suffering, but he does promise us HIS peace - not fragile, not even comprehensible, but perfect. Perfect like His plans for us - and for our children.
I have learned - I hope - not to make false promises that offer false peace, but to promise my children instead things like, "God has given His angels charge over you to keep you." and "Don't be afraid, the Holy Spirit is with you, so if you are scared or in trouble Pray and God will answer." These are promises I can keep to my children because they are the same promised that God make to every one of us.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
14 But many were amazed when they saw him.
His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.
Isaiah 53:5 (New Living Translation)
5 But he was pierced for our rebellion,crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
As her mind and body stirred into consciousness on that May morning in 1940, she heard the deep rumble of thunder. The thirteen year old Dutch girl brushed back the shiny, dark brown hair from her blue-gray, almond shaped eyes as they widened in fear. Storms frightened her.
But it was no passing storm that my mother heard as a young girl. It was the sound of bombing and the drone of planes--the start of the invasion of Holland by the Nazis. The bombing started in the morning and an ultimatum was given to surrender by 5:00 p.m. or the Germans would flatten the city of Rotterdam where she lived.
The children were sent home from school, "Until the war was over."
Mum said to her friend, "The last war lasted four years--imagine if we don't have to go back to school for that long!"
But it was to be five years before the Nazis were driven out and no life was left untouched by their reign of terror. While the children of Holland adjusted their lives to a changed reality, they were largely unaware of the terrible battle that raged around them--and the price being paid for their freedom--a price paid in rivers of blood.
How easy it is to get lost in the minutia of life and forget the reality that while we can be individually free through the blood of Christ, we are still living in a world at war--until he returns.
Genesis 3:15 (Amplified Bible)
15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
32 ...Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in him. They stumbled over the great rock in their path.
Our son Peter is a theologian at heart. That means that long and interesting conversations are par for the course whenever we connect and since he is also the father of four of our six dear grandchildren--our conversations are usually interspersed with interesting sounds and admonitions.
Yesterday evening little Emily, almost one, was trying out her voice as we spoke--"Hmm, hmm, hmm," she sang happily on her daddy's shoulder as we talked.
Our words wove in and around Emily's singing and somewhere along the way I grabbed my pen and started taking notes--I wanted to capture the thoughts.
We were talking about the move to "principle based" ways of operating in the business world--that out of a set of values, workers would be responsible to conduct themselves in an appropriate way. This is in contrast to being prescriptive and rules based, the result of which is having to apply more and more rules to different situations--and it being impossible to keep up.
"Exactly, "I said, "That's like the Pharisees. They had a rule for every situation, and somewhere along the way they forgot the reason for the rules and the rules themselves became their focus."
Peter said, "Yes. Jesus said, I'm not giving you the law, I'm giving you my character and my values and helping you see the truth from my perspective."
Then he started talking about coat racks. He said that Jesus gave them a new coat rack. The way you organize the coats is different to the way you used to--you're still looking at the same coats, but viewing them differently. If Peter is reading this he's probably groaning at how I've muddled his analogy, but I hope some of the insight comes through in spite of that.
Prayer: Lord I thank you for the law that revealed our need of a Saviour--and I thank you for planning all along to be the answer to our need. Thank you for Jesus and thank you for "new coat racks"!
Friday, January 12, 2007
The Word Became Flesh
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word of God is like...
- A richly woven cloth, of fascinating, skillful design. A theme repeats and echoes consistently and with perfection. From beginning to end, woven through all is the scarlet thread, the blood of Christ.
- A Rembrandt painting--light and dark--the play of shadows hiding secrets that are revealed to one whose eye gazes long enough. Henri Nouwen once sat for long hours before Rembrandt's painting The Return of the Prodigal Son, in The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia. Out of his time gazing at the painting came his book by the same title. The Word of God is like that in its beauty and depth.
- The garment worn by Jesus...He lives within it--and those who take hold of it like the woman who touched the hem of his garment--will find healing for soul and spirit.
Treasure it, taste it, feel it--eat it--his word is life, light and truth. It is the revelation--the revealer--of God.
Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version)
12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
"Spiritual Sore Spots," I have a few! The good news is that the ones I have today are not the same as the ones I had six years ago.
I had a struggle with getting forgiveness from my head to my heart six years ago. I know, because I just read my journal.
Back then there were people in my life who had really alienated me--to the point that if I never saw them again that would have been perfect! The trouble was that they were in a certain circle in my life and I inevitably bumped into them from time to time.
And then there were all of those scripture verses about forgiveness. I believed them and agreed with them--in theory--but the application to these people was a stretch my heart found hard to make.
I am laughing at the words I wrote back then. I said that I saw them as judgemental and self righteous. There is irony and humour in that!
I told God that I knew he had a better solution than simply avoiding them and invited him into that area of my heart. I told him that I was anticipating a great miracle.
Somewhere, between then and now, when I wasn't even watching--that miracle took place. My heart is clear and free. I just wanted to share that and say--Yeay God!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
There is a whole sub-culture in " blogdom." It's like running for an election and waiting to see who votes. We all have one thing in common--we have something to say--but is there anybody out there who wants to listen? Some people don't seem to care--they say it anyway. Blogs are platforms for thoughts and ideas--an ideal form of community for readers and writers.
Many blogs, including my own, have a "site-meter" that tracks the number of visitors as well as details such as the general area visitors are from. When one becomes a "regular," checking in every day or every few days, they are almost like an unseen friend. It's a strange relationship--two sided--the writer and the reader--with nothing in between--unless they leave a comment.
When a regular visitor suddenly stops checking in, I wonder...did they go on vacation?...are they in the hospital?...or did I fail to maintain their interest? If they suddenly come back, I've been known to shout out loud, "Welcome back, Beaumont, Texas!" (or where-ever the visitor is from.) I've prayed for my "blog-ees"--that they would be blessed--(and at this point they are probably thinking that they should be praying for me).
My friend emailed me with the exciting news about his surge in visitors so that I could share in the joy of the moment. He knew I'd understand--and I did. But it's hard sometimes to remember that my worth doesn't rise or fall on the visits to my blog!
For me, writing is part of a daily challenge to hear God's voice, listening for what he wants me to say--then framing ideas and thoughts in words that engage and honour the reader, as they have honoured me by taking time to read. And above all else, I want to honour God.
Psalm 19:14 (New International Version)
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The LORD has done great things for them."
We were gathered at the altar after communion--when those having a need for prayer are invited to come forward. I saw her--a older woman who had been struggling with deep depression--and I knew--I was supposed to pray with her. I can't explain it, but I had such faith that God was able to lift the depression and restore her mental health. As I began to mentally form the words I would pray for her, I felt, rather than heard, God's voice saying to me, "You don't need to say anything--I am able to touch her by my power alone."
A few of us laid our hands gently on her and began to pray. I was praying in tongues--a prayer language through which God can flow--and as I did, I knew that God was powerfully doing something in her.
Sobbing came from deep within me as I prayed, and then, as if from a hidden well-- joy poured out in joyful laughter--deep, cleansing, healing laughter. I realized that she too, was laughing, and the man next to us was also laughing--snorting with laughter in fact.
It felt so good and I felt like saying to the people who were by then milling around and leaving as it was the end of the service, "Don't you realize? God is here in power."
I'd never experienced this before. I've always been open to whatever God wanted to do in me, but am not given to spiritual experiences of the powerful physical type--although there have been at least two others occasions in my life when something like that happened. I can only say that it felt like we were laughing with God--sharing his deep joy--one with him, and outside the realm of time--in fact for those moments it felt as though time no longer had significance .
I wish I could say that the woman was healed of her depression. She wasn't. But experiencing that tiny droplet--that taste of his Presence, made me aware of the deep joy that awaits us when we are fully with him one day.
Psalm 84:1-2 (New Living Translation)
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Monday, January 08, 2007
It was the teachers of religious law who drew the anger of Jesus over and over again. He said, "How terrible it will be for you experts in religious law! For you hide the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom and you prevent others from entering." Luke 11:52 NLT
But I've been reading Romans lately--at the same time as reading the book of Numbers in the Old Testament--the law and the fullfilment of the law--Jesus. All of the answers are there--our inability to keep the law through human effort--but a higher law, the law of love--resulting in One without sin becoming the sacrifice that the law demanded. And the result--a people freed but choosing to be slaves--because of love. Love accomplished what the law never could, but the cost was everything the Father had to give. That's something worthy of gratitude and celebration.
Romans 7:6 (New Living Translation)
6 But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Childhood; you would think it would be a carefree time--a time of play, exploration, and dreams--a happy time of innocence and wonder. That's what God intended it to be--and although for a fortunate few it is, all too often it is much harder than that. So many people can't even remember a lot of their childhood.
She thought for a moment, and her words were casual as she shared a memory that came back suddenly, relatively recently--a glimmer in the fog of forgetfulness that was her childhood. She told me how she remembered going to Sunday School as a child--but it was what she did afterwards that she wanted to tell me about. After coming home she would slip downstairs into the basement as soon as she could, without being seen. Down in the cold unfinished space with the cement floor and cement block walls, she would line up her dolls and teach them the lesson she had just learned, mimicking the teacher. She did this in secret, too insecure and afraid of being laughed at to let anyone see what she was doing.
"I grew up in a normal home," she said, "It was really called survival. I taught the dolls in secret--it was not a confidence building home."
Funny how a few words can have such an impact--as these did on me. I thought of a little girl who had a gift, a God given passion to teach, but whose home was not a safe place to reveal who she was.
I thought of the fact that God places his own image within each human being and that he designs and forms each one of us personally, into unique gifts to the world. And I thought about an adversary who is bent on actively opposing everything God intends for a life.
Here's to unwrapping "the gift" that we are meant to be. Here's to recognizing that there are two agendas for our lives and choosing God's! And here's to never crushing the gift in anyone else.
Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)
by Eugene H. Peterson
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me in my mother's womb.
I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I'd even lived one day.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
She'd set sail from Canada for what was then known as the Congo, full of excitement and anticipation, following the call of God. In her teens she had felt called to go to China at a time when there were rumours of missionaries were being boiled in oil. She made up her mind to go--a streak of Scottish grit--combined with a determination to follow Christ--was stronger than her fears, but the door to China stayed firmly shut and a boat bound for Africa via England, was where she found herself.
After weeks of travel by boat and then by sedan chair, carried into the jungle, she found herself in another world. The African children called her Mama Macadoni, but some fifty years later, I knew her as Agnes MacDonald, my friend.
She had another friend back in the jungle, a young missionary named Frances. Frances was as spunky as Agnes, with a head of glorious red hair. The missionaries often fell prey to tropical diseases and there was a burial ground high on a hill. All of them kept wooden coffins, prepared for use if suddenly needed--in the heat of Africa, quick burial was essential.
Agnes had joked with Frances that if she were to die, she did not want to be buried far away in the missionary burial ground; "Make sure they bury me under that tree by the cook-house, she had said to Frances, little knowing that before long she would be critically ill with malaria.
Not expected to live, Agnes sank into a coma. She couldn't move or speak, but she could hear everything said in her room. She heard Frances and she was arguing with someone--insisting that if Agnes died, she was going to be buried under the tree by the cook-house.
Agnes looked forward to dying and seeing Jesus. She had just received word of her beloved mother's death back in Canada. There was nothing to go home for anymore and she felt so very ill.
Then she heard him praying, calling on God to heal her. When she heard his prayer she knew she wasn't going to die. She wanted to tell the man in her room to stop, he was interfering with her plans, but she couldn't get the words out.
Agnes did recover from that crisis, but having malaria meant that she had to leave Africa and go home. She left behind Frances and someone else very special whom she loved. Her first love had died in the first world war and now she could never be a missionary wife in Africa. Agnes never married--she came back to Canada and worked at the Pentecostal Assembies of Canada head office for many years before I met her, an old lady by that time.
The paths that a life takes are sometimes hard to understand. I have no idea why the door to China remained shut--although I'm glad it did, or Agnes may have ended up in a cooking pot--and I have no idea why a willing heart and pair of hands, were sent back from the Congo--but I do know that if I hadn't met Agnes, I would have missed part of who I became through knowing her.
Friday, January 05, 2007
Eugene H. Peterson
11-15"I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.
From a place of trust the words come out, unfiltered, tumbling with abandon, expressing the shape of a heart, the set of a mind. With anyone else the words would be more guarded-- weighed, measured--but with a friend, words can dance free.
Words--sound-symbols for things and thoughts--they need to be out in the light to live--to stretch their wings--to be tested. Held close to the chest or closed within, they lie dormant, unheard, unchallenged, untried--stunted in growth or in mutated form.
But out in the rarified air of friendship they become tools for the shaping of minds; the developing of philosophies, the forming of positions.
Through passionate, intense conversations we learn what we really think--and we shape and are shaped, sometimes painfully and with hard won honesty.
What kind of a Creator would make beings with the capacity for this kind of friendship?
One who will be that kind of friend to any open heart.
Proverbs 27:17 (New Living Translation)
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
2 May my prayer be set before you like incense;
may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
Prayer--it takes many forms and shapes. I awoke this morning as I always do, with an awareness of God's Presence. It was natural to slip from Presence to prayer in my first thoughts and words.
While prayer can be as automatic as breathing, there is also a more intentional kind of prayer on behalf of someone else. This is an area of ebb and flow for me, with the exception of a specific few people for whom I pray regularly. Prayer needs fly in the Christian community as thick and fast as a Denver snowstorm in winter--and sometimes I feel stuck in a snow-drift!
So I had an idea. I wrote all the needs that I know of for prayer on little slips of paper. I put them into a wicker basket that sits on the coffee table in the room where I meditate, read and pray.
Each morning, I reach into the basket, trusting God to lead me to the needs that I am to pray for that day. I can take them with me to work and I'm carrying blank slips with me to write on when I promise to pray for a need that someone mentions during the day.
The part I'm looking forward to is this--on the reverse of the slips I'm going to write the answers to prayer and place them in a basket of thanksgiving!
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
3 he restores my soul...
We met up in the hallway outside my office door, the three of us. They had emerged from a two hour meeting elsewhere in the building and I had been working alone at a part of my job I find challenging. We were spent!
I'd started the day bright and chipper. "Happy Wednesday!"--I had saluted my team in an early morning email. But as the day wore on, as I focused on paper and spreadsheets and lines and columns of figures, my eyes began to tire and I felt as if sawdust had blown into them. The muscles in my back tightened and it felt weary but I forced myself to persevere, determined to do as much as I could before leaving. I love working with people, but examining the intricate details of nineteen separate budgets is a necessary task, not my passion.
When my two colleagues met up outside my door, I emerged to greet them and we all as one decided to call it a day--we almost needed to prop one another up for support! Then someone glanced up at the window and said, "Oh look at that!" Through the slats of the window blinds a brilliant glow was visible--the sun was setting in a sky awash with deep raspberry glory.
Like schoolchildren at recess we ran outside, I grabbing my camera as I ran. Envigoratingly cool fresh air met us, caressing our faces and soothing away the tiredness in an instant. Suddenly we were re-energized; tomorrow is another day.
I gathered my bags and coat and locked the office door behind me. I looked up into the sky that was blushing deeply still, faced toward home and thanked God that he is the One that specializes in restoring our souls.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Sometimes my mind takes me in strange directions and recently I was thinking about the point at which we come into existence within the span of time. Peter, our son, existed for just over two years before our daughter Brenda was born and it is hard to imagine her not being part of our lives back then. She does though know about our lives before she came along, from photographs and what we've told her.
It's the same with history. We know about it two ways; we know about the part we experienced because we were there, and we know what others tell us or what we read, about the part we didn't experience personally.
There is a spiritual parallel. We are born once into the world and at some point we will know about God through what we read, or what someone tells us. We can even study theology and know all about him; however, being in relationship with him--experiencing him for ourselves, is as different to knowing about him as Brenda's knowledge of our life before she was born is from what she has experienced since.
That is why the point at which we enter into that relationship, is called a second birth--we are born spiritually into the Kingdom of God and begin to experience life and relationship with him. If someone happens to be reading this and hasn't been reborn spiritually yet--I hope this is the moment that you will step from the realm of knowledge to the realm of experience. And if that happens, let me know. I would love to be praying for you.
John 4:24 (New International Version)
24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
Monday, January 01, 2007
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
The winter is different this year--the snow being delayed in Denver. The landscape, normally brilliant--sparkly snow-white by now, displays another kind of beauty. A walk through the forest, feet crunching in the little snow that there is, reveals a carpet of springy russet pine needles, with a layer of coppery leaves strewn randomly around on top of them. Golden maple keys hang from branches as if they are laundry pegged out to dry on a miniature washing line. The mere dusting of snow contrasts with the chestnut, gold, buff and copper of the leaves and the fresh bright green growth of pine needles. The cold, crisp air is invigorating and the wind sings, high in the tree tops, deepening to a sound like a soft drum roll as it picks up speed high above our heads.
My digital camera is with me on my walk in the woods--ready to store the myriad of tiny details that capture my attention and slow me down. Brenda walks on ahead with Molson the golden retriever who frolics in the leaves and snow and does what God made him to do--retrieving--whatever he can find. My walk in the woods is more of a stop-run--stop-run--than a walk.
Recently I passed by some bull rushes at the side of the road while driving to a meeting. They had gone to seed and looked like surreal flags in the early morning light. I wanted to photograph them but the car behind me seemed in a hurry and I had to press on to the meeting anyway. As I looked back in my mirror I knew I'd missed the photo opportunity. The rushes would be there later, but the light would be different. The best time for photographs is early or late in the day when the play of light and shadow add depth and interest. In the bright sun of noon the subject is the same but it looks different.
Life's like that too--any given situation can be seen in more than one light. We even have a choice about the light we see things in. Some of us are by nature prone to see things in a negative light. I tend to see things positively. The fact is though that neither one is ideal. While facts can be seen in different lights, in themselves they are simply facts. I try now to look for the facts and see them as clearly as I can--not in any particular light. I've also learnt that God's view on a situation is the one to seek. It's all in the light--but he who is The Light shines on the path ahead of us.
Revelation 21:23 (New International Version)
23The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.