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Monday, December 27, 2010

God With Us


Of all the images that surface this time of year, my favourite is the nativity. I love nativity scenes, and the Christmas Story. I love thinking about that time, when Mary gave birth to Jesus; she knew He was special and not just any baby. The angel had come to her and explained what His role would be:“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.” (Luke 1:31-32)
Mary’s husband Joseph also had an angelic visitation, in a dream. The angel spoke to reassure him that he should proceed with his marriage to Mary:“She will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 2: 21)
The prophet Isaiah spoke also of Jesus, foretelling His birth: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (God with us)” Isaiah 7:14
Imagine, God coming to us in the form of a tiny baby! But the story does not end at that stable in Bethlehem. We love to gaze on that scene, on baby Jesus, so sweet and helpless. But that babe grew up; a man, yet fully God. He walked with humankind, and experienced life as they did. He was Almighty God, yet left the glory of that position to show us what God is like. Not only that, but He gave His own life in payment for the sins of the world.

We love the warm fuzzies we get when we decorate, hang pretty lights, and listen to Christmas Carols. But there is so much more to the Christmas Story than the babe and the shepherds and the wise men. That baby became a man, died for us, and is now alive in Heaven. He was born, not to give us a reason for a Christmas season, but to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. So when you see him there in the manger, fast forward to our ultimate cause for celebration, God’s great love gift to us: He came to die, so that we might have life.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Places of Worship


For the past several years, my husband and I have been "browsing" the internet in search of a new home. We have been doing so in a semi-serious kind of way, kind of waiting for the "perfect" price, place, and timing. Hasn't happened yet.

Today while I was having a quick peek at the MLS site we frequent, I noticed that they have some new tools added to the mapping feature. You can highlight schools, stores, etc. that are in the area of each particular property. One of the tools stood out for me; it was labeled "Places of Worship".

I haven't been "attending a church" for over two and a half years, and during that time have done a huge shift in regards to my understanding of church, worship, and being a Christian. So this label just struck me as being somewhat strange.

Last night, hubbie and I watched an episode of a sitcom. In it, a couple attended church, a Catholic mass, somewhat reluctantly. They filed in with the rest of the congregants, and dutifully stood, sat, knelt, and prayed as instructed. I was reminded of my days in the Catholic church, and also the time I spent in Evangelical churches. I was reminded of the many times I was there reluctantly, only going because it was the right and acceptable thing to do. I thought of the millions of folks who attend church, maybe weekly, or monthly, or only at Christmas and Easter, and consider that because they spent time in the building, they have "worshipped" God.

It's crazy, isn't it, to think that we need buildings, and services, and clergy, and worship teams, to worship God? That He expects us to construct and support and pour time, money and energy into systems and programs and buildings in a frenzy of religious activity and bureaucracy? That we have to leave our homes, get dressed up and drive to a special building and listen to a special man speak in order to fulfill His command to "not forsake the assembling together" of ourselves? Didn't Jesus tell the Samaratin woman (John 4) that a time was coming when they would neither worship at a certain city or mountain, but that God wanted those who would worship "in Spirit and in truth"?

In Romans Chapter Twelve, verse one, Paul instructs: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." He meant that our entire lives, all that we do, is to be done as a sacrifice of worship to God. That our "raison d'etre" is to live by and for God. Every motive and action is for His sake, acknowledging our dependence and need of Him for all things. For His glory. Twenty four/seven. Not for a couple of hours each week, standing or sitting mutely in a pew, following an order of service. That is not the worship that God desires.

I so wish that I could say that my heart is in an attitude of obedience and worship all the time. That won't happen until I get to heaven, because I am still a fallen sinner. But I thank God that He has set me free to worship Him wherever I am. That I am not still held captive by the lie that if I miss Mass on a Sunday, or Christmas Day, that it is a Mortal Sin and I will go to Hell if I don't confess it to a priest at Confession. That I don't have to be at every "service" that my church offers in an effort to prove to God, or others, how much I love Him. That I now meet with brothers and sisters in our homes to share our hearts, to edify one another, and to each give a personal testimony of praise to the One Who does not live in a building, but in each of our hearts.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Moveable Mess, or, In the Meantime......

Nine years ago my hubbie and I downsized to a tidy little two bedroom bungalow. The kids had grown and gone, so we thought it was time to find something smaller with less upkeep. It was a good idea, but we now find ourselves a bit cramped.

Our former house had a finished attic which hubbie used as his art studio. There were three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor, then kitchen, living room, den, family room and bathroom on the main floor. The basement was unfinished, but great for hiding "stuff" and doing laundry. There was also a single car garage which we usually kept full of more "stuff".

Now we have kitchen, living room, dining room, two small bedrooms, bathroom and a family room addition which hubbie has marked as "his territory". (I get to sit in there sometimes; it is the best room in the house, lots of natural light). The basement is unfinished, and there is also a garage. One of the bedrooms has a bunk bed (double bed on the bottom, single on the top) which is great for when grandkids sleep over. The room is about ten by ten, which doesn't leave much space left over. It is the room that I keep trying to make "mine" where I can sew, write, read, make jewellry, and fill with all my own personal "stuff", like books and yarn and fabric etc. etc. Although the picture above isn't of my room, it does bear a striking resemblance.

I keep trying to find that space where I can roost, with all my stuff around me, and create, or just be. It hasn't happened. My home is dotted with piles of books, papers, fabric, yarn, cd's and tapes. Whenever I have company, the dining room table gets cleared off and my piles get relocated into the spare room. I call it my "moveable mess".

Today, I am having another go at the spare room. Hubbie is going to move the filing cabinet there from the basement, and once again, I will try to get myself organized. I might even set my sewing machine up on the little desk in there. I'll have to deal with a couple of bins full of papers etc. first. There is also a computer in there, and I hope to purchase a new printer to go along with it.

Hubbie has promised to make me a room in the basement. But I don't know when this might actually occur, so in the meantime, I'm doing the best I can with what I have. My new little room will be (God willing) bright and warm and cozy, and will have shelves and a work table and I will be able to leave things set up there. We have also tossed around the idea of finishing our little attic, and have spent many hours on the Internet MLS site, looking for our perfect house in the country. But all must be in God's timing.

It's like that for us believers, I think. As "aliens" here on earth, we have to "make do" with the fallen world we live in, and the fallen selves that we are. Our made alive spirits yearn for that perfect place, and that perfect, sin free self that is promised at our final glorification. In the meantime, we endure temptation, frustration, and a heavenly homesickness that cannot be described, only experienced. We so look forward to the day when we will finally be "home", forever with our Lord, and living that perfect, eternal life that we were created for.

For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:22,23)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Loaf of Bread, A Bottle of Wine.....

Last night I went to my work Christmas Dinner. It was at a very nice restaurant, and the menu was excellent. I had potato leek soup, then the prime rib with Yorkshire pudding. Delicious. There were also some mouth watering home made rolls. Had a couple of those too. As is often the case when we women get together, there was much talk about what foods we enjoyed preparing and eating. The rolls got us to talking about how much we love bread. We came to the conclusion that a very satisfying repast would be simple: a loaf of delicious home made bread, some good cheese, and a bottle of wine. Not an original thought, I realize. But a tried and true idea, nonetheless.

Tonight I met with my home church group for a meal and fellowship. We had tacos, and a rice and bean salad. Simple fare, but much enjoyed. I have noticed that whenever we get together, and no matter what we eat, the whole experience is inevitably rich. It is a fellowship meal, and the simple act of sharing food somehow becomes elevated to a spiritual experience. Which is entirely Biblical.

Recently, I have been listening to a teaching series on "Communion" by Beresford Job. This morning I listened while busy in the kitchen. He talked about how the Lord's Supper is not merely about our relationship with God, but also our relationship with one another. We eat from the same loaf, and drink from the same cup, and are of one body, the Body of Christ. Our fellowship is in Him, and with one another. When our relationship with any of our brothers and sisters is blocked by sin or unforgiveness, then our relationship with God is also blocked. When our relationships are pure and unhindered by sin, then the fellowship and meal is sweet indeed. In my experience, it becomes sweeter all the time.

While Jesus was eating His last supper with the disciples, He said He would not drink of the fruit of the vine until the day when He drank it with them in His Father's kingdom. Ah, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Now that will be a feast of all feasts. How sweet will be the fellowship then, and the meal beyond description. But if there will be only bread, and cheese, and wine......it will still be the best meal ever. And I can hardly wait. In the meantime, I thank God for the fellowship we can have around the Lamb of God, every time we get together.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Person or a Building?

Quite an impressive edifice, is it not? Likely to inspire reverential behaviour once one steps inside and views soaring ceilings, elaborate altars and sacred icons. Surely God must be in this place? Not necessarily.

I heard a piece on the radio (Christian station) this morning. It seems a family, including a teenage daughter and son, were attending a church service. Now this particular church had a "no technology" rule, where attendees were to turn off all electronic devices during the service. Apparently this family hadn't heard the rule, or were simply ignoring it. The son was engaged with texting messages on his cell phone throughout the service, while the daughter sat listening to her iPod. Neither one was paying the least bit of attention to the sermon; it was obvious that they did not want to even be there, and quite a number of people were aware of their being "plugged in", but not to what was going on around them. After the service, the family was told, gently and with respect, about the rule. Now the pastor and church are burdened because the family has not been back since.

After this story was told, the two radio announcers had a dialogue about it. Should they have been reminded about the rule? Should there even be a rule? Would it not be better for some kids, even if they have to be dragged there, to allow them their toys, because at least they would be in the building? Even if they don't hear the message (sermon), they might just somehow get something out of the setting, if only hearing bits and pieces of hymns, etc. Now I ask you, is that not a pathetic premise?

What have we, as Christ's body, evolved to, that we think we have to bring people into a "church" building to hear the gospel? Do we think that once through the doors, certain mystical forces will take over and they will somehow "absorb" truth, or God's love, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit? Do we need to drag people into a religious building, to the "experts" (pastors etc.) to learn about God? How sad.

I went to a church service yesterday, first one in two and a half years. I went with my home church group to support a granddaughter of one of the couples in the group. We stayed for the "worship" portion (it was the granddaughter's first time on the worship team) and announcements, then left to go and have our home meeting and fellowship meal. One of the announcements was about a movie night coming up at the church. It was an outreach event, apparently a "no pressure" thing, and all were welcome. There was to be no "bait and switch." It was simply an opportunity to bring people from the community to the building, a welcoming gesture. Another item was addressed to parents of the younger children. They were asked to accompany them to their class, where they would be instructed and encouraged in how to be teaching and discipling their children at home.

I am saddened to see that we have reduced being Christ's body on earth to needing buildings, and programs, and paid professionals to fulfill the mandate of being ambassadors of reconciliation and makers of disciples. That we have worship teams to "lead" us into singing hymns and choruses on a Sunday morning, and consider that our duty done in the worshipping of God department. That we judge one another according to which denomination we belong to, and consider those who don't attend many services, or become involved in church "ministry" to be as "spiritual" as others who do. That we can't train our children up in the fear of the Lord with only God's word and the Holy Spirit to help us. That we can't simply BE Jesus to those around us; our neighbours, family, friends and co-workers.

God no longer resides in a building. He has dwelt in a tent, a pillar of cloud and fire, a temple, and in His Son here on earth. Now He lives in His people!!!! In human beings!!! We carry Jesus with us wherever we go. We have His mind, His Spirit, and His power available to us. We are vessels of His mercy and grace, and our reasonable worship (service) is to present our entire bodies, our entire lives, to Him for His use. Yes, every one of us will agree to these truths, but we have tried to live them out through programs, and traditions, and legalism. In essence, we have made feeble substitutions for them when there is no need to. Blinded and numbed by centuries of tradition and religion, we have morphed into a worldly "institution" instead of a living, breathing body that is functioning by the power of the Holy Spirit, and joined (effectively) to its Head.

I don't intend to put people down in these comments. I was part of the Christian "system" too. For years I tried to do all the right things, and ended up in such a conflict of heart that I had to walk away from all things "institutional". But there is something terribly wrong with how we go about being Christ's church in this part of the world. When He said He would build it, He wasn't referring to a structure made with actual physical materials. He was referring to people, to souls, to an army of believers that He could live in and through. Let's give Him back His church, and let go of our "Christian" props and scripts. Let's be real, and let Christ be real in us.

Jesus, we are Your people, a people for Your own possession, to show forth Your glory here on earth. Lead us back to the place where You can live through us. Cut away every artificial aspect and man made tradition that quenches Your Spirit in us. We are sheep that need a Shepherd, a strong hand to guide. For your Name's sake. Amen.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Keep It Simple

" O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. " Psalm 131:1-2

Do you sometimes find yourself overwhelmed? Not just with busyness, but by the world today. Television, for instance. It brings SO much information into your living room. About everything. More than you need to know. But then, how do you decided what you need or don't need to pay attention to? From the latest discoveries in the world of medicine, to the current natural disasters, to the realities of war in far off places. So much to consider.

A hundred years ago, people dealt with only a fraction of the details and decisions that we are faced with today. Even grocery shopping is a mundane chore made into a complicated mission to pick the right products from toothpaste (whitening, for sensetive teeth, cavity fighting, breath freshening) to yogurt (pro biotic, low fat, anti oxidant, sugar free), and trying to get the best price on top of it all. Nothing wearies me like shopping! Oh how I long for the simple life!

I used to struggle quite a bit with the "things of the Lord". That is, concerning doctrine. Which denomination was right? Which interpretation of scripture was the most precise? Should I be pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib? Dispensationalist, Covenant or New Covenant? Calvinist or Arminian? These things weighed me down, and I was desperate to be in the right "camp". And if I thought I was, I was desperate to convince anyone who disagreed. But not any more. I know what I believe about the "essentials" of the faith, and I trust God to bring other truth to me as He sees fit. Instead of focusing on "being right", I am more likely to simply focus on Jesus, and be content to learn whatever the Holy Spirit brings to my attention. It's a beautiful thing, this kind of rest.

I think the verse above says it all. What a priviledge we have to be in Christ, to have any enlightenment at all! Not that we shouldn't be always learning, but if we make knowing doctrine more important than a living, personal relationship with it's Author, we will be the poorer for it, no matter how "right" we think we are.

Thank you Father for teaching your children. Thank you that there are no exams to pass, or need to prove anything to anyone. Thank you that we can be confident that you will give us all the revelation that we need, when we need it. Help us to be patient with others, and with ourselves, as we grow in grace and knowledge of you.

Nest of Grace


We can become so good at the game of hiding ourselves. From behind a wall of what we think we ought to be, we sit and observe. We weigh and measure each response, every lifted eyebrow, and adjust accordingly. Behind the scenes, we continually re-write our script, always searching for that one right way to be. Yet we are unable to calm our anxious hearts, for we know full well that we will never be truly “right”. We are made this way, and have grown this way, however bent and gnarled we may be.

But we are no surprise to You. You knew us from our mother's womb. Foreknown by you, we were saved. Even our struggles, our hearts' straining to know truth, You foreknew. “All things” can only mean all things. So even in our weakness, our groans, our stumbling, You work out Your purpose for Your glory. Even in our constant turnings, worries over what we've said and done, You stand guard over us.


We huddle within You, like newly hatched sparrows in their nest. We feebly lift our upturned faces to You, eyes still dim, our mouth opens, straining to be filled with understanding, with knowledge of You. For this is our food and drink, this knowing of You. We know that this Truth is the answer to all of our searching. We can take it and hold it up against every thought, every situation. It lines everything up in order. It casts away the dross, and makes more brightly shine the gold. It polishes and chips away, even at us.

Lord we are safe in You, in this nest of grace. Within it we can take new steps, even the wrong ones. Our searching after You is done with our whole heart, and You will guide our eventual end. You oversee every thought and action, and even in our wrongness, You gently lead us to Truth. Up ahead is so dark, like a gloomy forest at dusk. But Your light shines before us, one step at a time. God, if only You can see our hearts, if only You can know us through and through, it is enough, it is become even our great hope. For even though knowing us, You still love us with an everlasting love. This is our resting place.


"How priceless is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings!" (Psalm 36:7)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good To Me



I called You "Daddy" yesterday
As so quickly I did pray
In thanks for all You do for me.
My heart was full! There had to be
Some kind of letting out


Of all that joy accumulated
Grace on grace,I calculated
From before I was yet born.
Blessings rich upon me poured
Beyond what I can count.


It just leapt out so naturally;
"Thank you Daddy!". Could it be
My heart is melting ever slowly
As You look on me, so lowly;
Yet precious in your sight!


Why are You so good to me?
I don't deserve it, can't you see?
I've gone for years with head bowed low;
For surely all the world must know
How far I am from right.

But You have lifted up my head!
And now I need no longer dread
The present, past or what's to come
I'm in You now, forever home
Content to simply be.

Thank you Father, from my heart
My life is Yours, in every part
Your goodness flows beyond all measure
Lord you are my dearest treasure;
You are so good to me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seasons

harvest home

I love the Fall. To me, it is the "middle age" of seasons. It comes after the newness of spring, when shoots of plants struggle upwards like a child standing up to take those first tentative steps. The sunshine and warm temperatures call those things that were dormant, or hibernating, or had migrated south, to reappear, ready to begin another cycle of life.

Summer arrives, and plants come into their fullness of bloom and fruition. From spring until September, we reap their harvest and drink in the beauty of vast varieties and shades of flowers. This is the "adult" of the seasons, when maturity comes to those furry and feathered babies born in the spring, and they are weaned from their mother's milk, or nudged out of their nests, to strike out on their own.

Then comes Autumn. The changing leaves seem to be shouting a last "hurrah" before letting go and dancing prettily to the ground. Scooped and bagged, now more of a nuisance than anything, they wait by the curb, or blown by the wind they gather in ditches, slowly making their way back to the soil that first brought them forth. Farmer's fields become barren landscapes of dried up corn stalks and shriveled plants, all their bounty now gone, depleted of the new life that once made heavy their vines and branches.

I feel I am in that "mid life" season. I look behind and see the Spring and Summer of my life, now gone past. I gaze with longing on the energy and promise they held, knowing I can't bring them back. Still, this is a good season. For it can bring contentment; a sense of not needing to peddle so fast as in younger days. The frantic pace of child rearing is behind, leaving grandchildren as its rich harvest.

I'm not ready for the rocking chair yet, however, and God willing, I've got a few last "hurrahs" left to shout. The best part is that I've got Him to show me how, where and when. And even as the Autumn of life fades into winter, where this life ends, the next is waiting, full of more promise and joy than this one could ever offer

Which season are you in? Are you content where you are? Have you considered what life’s next season might hold for you? Have you considered Him who made those seasons, and offers one of everlasting life?

“and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:17)

Maureen Breakspear
Published in Millbrook Times 19/11/10

Thursday, November 18, 2010

COME AND SEE


Stranger.
Talks to me!
Asks me for a drink.

Eyes that see beyond plain sight.
Knows those things I’ve hid from light.
I’m exposed.

Thirsty.
Every day
Brings me to this place

Tells of water ever flowing,
Prophet, this, who is all knowing.
Kind to me.

Master.
Speaks of God
Just as if he knew Him

Is this the Messiah here?
Holds me with his gaze so near;
I must tell them!

Running.
Leave my pot;
Quick before he goes

Hurry fast it’s not that far
Have to find them; there they are
“Come and see!”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Prodigal Returns


Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel of Luke begins with Jesus telling the parable of the Lost Sheep, then the parable of the Lost Coin, and finally the parable of the Prodigal Son. All three focus on the joy of finding that which was lost, and more specifically, the rejoicing in Heaven over each sinner who repents.

As I read the story of the Prodigal Son, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own journey toward my Heavenly Father. I suppose each and every child of God can do the same. Reading this Parable brought to mind the months before I placed my faith in Christ. Our stories are similar. Like the younger son in the story, I took for granted all that I had been given. Just as he left his home and family, thinking that with his share of the family fortune he could find happiness in a distant land, I walked away from my home and family, searching for that elusive “something” that would give me the peace and joy that I longed for.

The Prodigal thought that all he needed was money to make his dreams come true. Off he went, searching for those greener pastures that he believed would satisfy his heart’s desires. Aren’t we all the same? Doesn’t mankind come up with countless ways to try and fill that God shaped vacuum that we are all born with? God gives each of us life and breath, opportunities and countless blessings. Yet in our blind, spiritually dead condition, so many of us end up in the swine pen, having failed to arrive at that place of promise, being led there by selfish motives and ignorance of the truth.

In my own swine pen experience, I awoke one day to realize what I had thrown away. The reality of my loneliness was like a cold lump in my gut. I staggered under an overwhelming sense of shame and regret, realizing the foolishness of my decisions, and the conviction that I was a sinner without hope. I can relate to that wayward son, as he sat in the muck, impoverished of body and spirit. He had thrown away what was good, and spent all he had, only to end up with nothing, no one, and nowhere to go.

And like the Prodigal, I too had a change of heart, a turning away from the selfish, foolish path that I was on, toward the outstretched arms of my Heavenly Father. For both that wayward son and myself, there was a happy ending; a homecoming where we were welcomed into an embrace of mercy and forgiveness. But it didn’t have to turn out that way. For countless others, their swine pen experience is only another step on the road to perdition. Instead of realizing their folly, being humbled and seeking forgiveness, they become bitter, or desperate, or further deluded to the true nature of their situation. Their hearts, instead of softening toward God, become hardened. Their final destination is not an eternity in glory, but one of never ending separation from the grace they shunned.

Only the work of the Holy Spirit can bring us “to ourselves”; that is, to see our true state as lost sheep in need of a shepherd. Had God not intervened and awakened me from my death stupor, I would have carried on, blindly stumbling toward a lost eternity. Instead of a worldly sorrow, however, the Holy Spirit brought true conviction for my sin. His work in a heart brings one low, so low that you lose every shred of pride. Like the Prodigal, you are ready to confess all, admit that all is due to your own folly, and come begging for mercy, even to be as a hired hand in your own father’s house.

Repentance leaves no room for pride. It casts it out as the stumbling block to salvation that it is. When we, like that lost son, are brought to our senses, we know that our only hope is the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ. Like that boy, we bow the knee, admit our sin, and seek to be brought into the Father’s favor.

And like the father in the story, our Father is quick to embrace, quick to forgive, and quick to rejoice in our newly found, newly saved state. We were, after all, dead. Dead in our trespasses, without hope. But now we are made alive in Christ, and clothed with His robe of righteousness which covers all of our sin stains. That muck of sin and despair, like the muck that the Prodigal wallowed in, filled with grief and regret, is washed away by the blood of the Lamb.

Thank God for His marvelous grace! Thank Him for his kindness that leads us to repentance! If you are His, thank Him that He did not leave you to continue down a path of destruction, but like the Prodigal, He brought you to your senses, and welcomed you home with joy and celebration. Pray for those that you know who have yet to be brought to life, who continue blindly down that broad path to eternal death. Pray for God’s grace to stop them in their tracks, and send them into the safety of His welcoming embrace.

But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luke 15: 22-24)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Giving Thanks



Yesterday was the day that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. Where I live, the the weather was beautiful. In fact, the whole weekend was the epitome of autumn perfection. My family came for dinner, and even though it was a lot of work for dear old gramma (that's me), it was well worth it.

I don't really mind the work of a big meal, if it means having my family gathered around the dining room table. Those are the moments I am most thankful for. Watching them all digging in, and listening to the varied conversations and laughter, I was content. Truly I am blessed. So many things to thank God for. The list is endless.

Yesterday I also received an email from a friend whose wife is seriously ill, and has been for a long time. I have been encouraged by this couple who, even in the midst of their sruggle, have taken the time to encourage others and pray for my family. I know they are thankful for their blessings also, though in their current situation, I know it must be difficult to focus on anything positive. There are things, though, that I know they will always be quick to give thanks for. Some of these are:
  • the grace of God in their lives, in the midst of trials
  • the shed blood of Jesus Christ for their souls
  • the promise of their heavenly inheritance, an eternity with Christ
  • the love and presence of God, though not always felt, that is always there and never failing
  • the mercy shown to them in God's gift of salvation.

I know they are, and always will be, thankful for these things, because they are the things that all of God's people are thankful for. They are the things that carry us, and override every other situation in our lives. As I was reminded of today, no matter what we go though in this life, good or bad, at the end of the day, there is only JESUS.

If you want to know more about this couple's struggle, click on this link:

http://bloodtippedears.blogspot.com/2010/09/help-and-prayer-for-my-mother-carol.html

(For Ike and Carol, with love)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Church of the Firstborn




You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. (Hebrews 3:13).

We talk about our motives, and we say, Our motive was right! We talk about our conscientiousness, we talk about our intentions; but you and I do not know what lies behind what we call our good motives. There is a deceitfulness about this human heart that defies our greatest attempt at tracking it down, and we shall never do it... Here is where the church has become such a confused thing, and such a tragedy; for the prevailing idea is that if you give yourself over to God He will take you up and use you: "Bring over your humanity and consecrate it to the Lord! Consecrate your old man to the Lord, and go out and serve the Lord, with a consecrated old man!" it is utterly contrary to the teaching of God’s Word. The result is that in the work of God all the world over you have people serving the Lord in the energy of the flesh, in the reasoning of the flesh, in the emotions of the flesh. Meet them, counter them, frustrate them, and you meet something evil; you meet with a fight, a division, a schism, a scattering, and wholesale resignations.

Do you see what a havoc the enemy can make in that which is called the church, because people with best intentions, purest motives have come to serve the Lord with all their own intelligence, their own strength, and their own emotion? They have not seen that God has closed the door to the old creation, and that God’s attitude is this: "The only thing that can satisfy Me, that can serve Me is My Son, and if you are going to come into My service, He has to be the energy of everything, the Life of everything, the Wisdom of everything!" He has to be the governing, ruling reality in everything. It is not to be a matter of your impulses, but of His urgings and leadings by the Holy Spirit; not your sitting down to reason out what it would be good to do for the Lord, what ought to be done, what needs to be done, but what He shows you, nothing more... You and I must not bring over our old creation and give it to God, expecting God to use it. God begins with birth. The church of the firstborn is something quite new, and it comes out of a death. That death is the death of an old creation, and the resurrection is of something that is not the resuscitation of an old creation, but the resurrection of something wholly of God.

T.Austin Sparks
From: The Church of the Firstborn - Chapter 1
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Family

I went to a family reunion yesterday. (Above picture is not them, I borrowed it from "Photobucket") It was my dad's side of the family; folks I don't see very often. Every year they get together on Saturday of Labor Day weekend. This year it was held at my cousin Carl's house. My sister Bernie and I went, along with her granddaughter Celci, Celci's half brother Nate, and my son Jess.

Meeting with folks you don't know very well, and may only see every year or two, can feel a bit awkward. That is how I felt yesterday, at first. I suppose everyone feels that way. It's not that you don't want to be friendly, or get to know people. But somehow, you don't know where to start.

I thought we would stay only for an hour or two, but two hours stretched into six. As the day progressed, I think we all began to relax. Two babes in arms and three toddlers gave us all something to share; everyone loves babies. We fussed over the littler ones, four and six months, and were entertained by the toddlers.
I wish I had taken a picture as the youngest was held up close to Uncle Nick, who turned 90 this year. What a beautiful image it made; the family patriarch greeting this youngest family member.
My son Jess, who is a musician, had never met this side of our family. What a nice surprise to discover that cousin Carl played guitar! Jess had brought his along, so the two of them got together for a little jam session. Amy, married to cousin David's son Jonathan, joined in on the piano for a bit. We sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" and "Leavin' on a Jet Plane" and a few other oldies but goodies. Carl was kind to play "Crazy" by Patsy Cline for me, and I tried valiantly to croon out the vocals. Patsy is in no danger from me, that's for sure.

Our gracious hosts, Carl and Janis, laid out a beautiful meal for us. Hamburgers, hot dogs and salads were enjoyed, and I even managed to stay away from the butter tarts for a change, though I hear they were quite yummy.
By the end of the day I felt so relaxed and at home. I wish we got together more often. I wish cousin Tony, and others who couldn't make it, had been there. I wish I knew each one better than I do, and I wish I had the time to get to know them. My dad and his only sibling are gone, and these lovely people are part of him somehow for me. As Janis and I were saying, family is so important. The older you get, the more important they become. Other things in life mean less than they used to, and we look at our families with growing love and appreciation. Maybe it's seeing the generations come and go before our eyes that helps us to realize how precious life is, how precious people are. They are gifts, like the beautifully breezy day we had yesterday, the delightful antics of kids and Jake, the dog, the delicious food, great music, rich snippets of conversation, and safe travel to and from.
Thank you Lord for family. Thank you for how you fashioned each one of us, and how you continue giving life through each generation. Thank you for blessing with babies, husbands, wives, inlaws and pets. I pray you will give more opportunities for us to get to know each other better. Help us to realize your grace in our lives each day.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Blog

I want to introduce a new kid on the blogging block. Her name is Michele. I met her at a writer's conference in June, and she is a delightful lady. I know the Lord will bless many through her blog. Please visit her when you can. You will find her at http://atheartlevel.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cut The Strings


Where Is God When Your Daughter Leaves Home?
I hoped I would never have to ask that question even though I already knew the answer. He’s right there with you. As a mother of three daughters, I prayed they would stay rooted in their Christian faith throughout their lives. When our youngest daughter chose to turn her back on her faith and walk away from God, my husband and I faced one of the most difficult and painful times of our lives.

Questions plagued us. What had we done wrong? How had we failed our daughter? Had we treated her differently as the youngest? What would become of her as she deliberately pursued a dangerous and addictive lifestyle? Would our prodigal daughter be able to hear God’s voice as she wandered far from the One who loves her with an everlasting love?

I’ve been a Christian for many years and have learned from experience that God is always with us no matter what circumstances we are going through. During these years when my heart was broken time and time again, His Word became my anchor in the raging storm. Spending time in His presence strengthened my faith and brought peace to my heart.

When I asked my questions He reminded me of His unfailing love for our daughter and assured me that He was at work in her life. Even when I pray and see nothing happening or things get worse? I asked. Yes, even then, He whispered.

Several years later, God impressed me to share our story as an encouragement to the many hurting parents who are sitting in our pews. When I mentioned it to my daughter, she told me she felt God urging her to do the same. Together we prayed that God would use this story for His glory. Our prayer is for parents and teens to read this story of forgiveness, grace and redemption together and be strengthened in their faith.

CUT THE STRINGS is the true story of a mother who experienced the agony of watching her daughter walk away from everything right and good, ending up in a life of degradation and shame while each of them lived in their own reality.

It is also the story of a daughter’s desperate search for a life of fulfillment and acceptance who found herself instead chained in a prison of emptiness, addictions and despair.

Best of all, it is a story about GOD, the one who relentlessly pursued a willful young woman, protected her life, and sustained a family through it all.


CUT THE STRINGS is now available at Chapters and at Emmaus Family Books.

Book signings:

Emmaus Family Books, Peterborough, Ontario
Saturday September 11th 1-3 pm

Chapters, Peterborough, Ontario
Saturday October 16th 1-3 pm


Sharon Cavers


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Higher and Higher...............

It's Sunday again! This morning with my church group we had a wonderful discussion around trees, plants, and other living things. We talked about how God gives life to even the tiniest seeds, and provides the soil, sun and rain that they require to grow up out of the ground, and bear fruit and flowers.

Bill and Ethel talked about how they had found a quaint motel on their weekend getaway last week. It was located on the water, and on that Sunday morning they had sat looking out over the water, at the horizon in the distance. In the forest that was there, they noticed one tree that stood out from the rest, due to its great height. Ethel remarked how it seemed to be reaching up to the sky, and how all plant life did the same. It's as though they reach up to heaven, knowing that is where their life comes from.

Bill mentioned how some seeds even remain dormant for many years, till just the right time when they spring to life. I then mentioned how I had just seen a portion of a film the day before that explained how in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth, there is still rainfall that causes new life to cover ground that was formerly parched and barren. And in that place, seeds that have been dead for 20 or 30 years will sprout with the rainfall, resulting in beautiful foliage.

We talked about how like dormant, dead seeds our hearts are, until the Holy Spirit comes and waters them, and brings them to life. They are dead in trespasses and sins, unable to grow in grace or holiness, or bear fruit for God. But once Holy Spirit regenerates us, we are just like those plants growing up from seeds, and those mighty oaks that devlop from tiny acorns. Just as they reach up to the sky, toward the sun and the rain, we reach out to our Saviour, our Father, and the Holy Spirit. We are fed and watered, and grow deep roots, being rooted and grounded in love and grace.

The Christian life is one of looking up. We fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, and keep looking up for our redemption that is drawing near. Our hearts turn away from sin and self, and toward God, just as plants turn to face the sun, needing its warmth and bright rays to grow. Increasingly, we think less of our own selves, and more of Christ. He has become to us "wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30b) We have been blessed "with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." (Eph. 1:3) Knowing that we are citizens of Heaven, and that we are strangers, aliens here on earth, we realize more and more that our lives here are but for an instant, compared to the eternity we will spend in Glory.

Nature displays God's amazing creativity, and we can draw many lessons from the wide variety of species with whom we co-exist. I never grow weary of meditating on God's providential care for all of His creation, and how He is made known through it to all of mankind. May He speak to you through His handiwork today!

Monday, August 2, 2010

God's Next Move (?)

Today I spent a couple of hours at Value Village. It's like a "Goodwill" Store, and sells every kind of second hand clothing and household items that you could imagine. It's not hard to lose total track of time there, as you wander from aisle to aisle, seeking those bargain prices. My friend Deb calls it being "sucked into the Value Village Vortex." (She is a fellow VV Boutique Junkie.)

As I usually do when I am in there, I perused the used books for a while. One that I particularly noticed was titled "The Next Move of God." It seemed a fairly presumptuous title to me. Kind of sounded as if the author imagined that he had an inside scoop on what God might be up to next. To be fair, I should have at least leafed through it before making any judgements regarding its content. But we do often hear writers and preachers speak of God's "next" or "new" move. And today, after seeing that book title, I began to think about the idea that God was making certain "moves", new or otherwise.

Hasn't God always been "moving", from the beginning, from the time He created the heavens and the earth, and His Spirit "was moving over the surface of the waters?" (Genesis 1:2) He is continually working out His plans and purposes, dealing with mankind in judgement, or mercy, always according to His holy, all wise nature. Always moving, always sovereignly in charge, He never slumbers or sleeps.

Does He ever do a "new" thing? I suppose He does things that we haven't personally seen or experienced before. But I wonder, is it just our modern day thirst for something "new and improved" that makes us think that God is always planning some new, amazing "thing" that He has never done before? Preachers, writers, speakers are often predicting the next thing He might do, or explaining what He is currently doing. But is He really doing anything "new"? Does He need to? What He has been doing, all along, has been effective, more effective than we will know in this life. Maybe the difference is that, from time to time, people are simply responding to Him in a greater way.

We seem to love change. We love to label "movements", even within the Church: the Charismatic movement, the Shepherding movement, the House Church movement...the list goes on. Certainly God may be involved in these things, but isn't He simply acting according the continuum of the plans He has made from eternity? He calls, He saves, He leads, He enables. He stirs our hearts to love Him, and gives us a vision of His own heart. He is the Maestro, the Master Planner, our Great Teacher, wooing us along, bending our will to His own. Is He on the move? Always. Can we predict what He might do next? I think for the most part, He chooses to reveal just enough to us to allow us to take that one next step, leaving the results up to Him.

My hope and prayer is that I will stay close enough to hear His whispers, follow His leading, and stay in step with what He might be doing in the world around me. I'm so thankful that even when we are lagging behind, He will continue to work, to move in our hearts, completing that good work that He started.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cut The Strings - Book Review

God is faithful! This message comes through loud and clear as we watch Sharon Cavers, her husband and family, and daughter Amy Jackson navigate through the storms of teenage rebellion. Second to that, we see how Sharon and her husband Bill have their faith tested; and it comes through as pure gold. And third, we are caught up with them in their longing to see their youngest daughter wake up to the realization of the dangerous path she is on, and come running into the waiting arms of her Heavenly Father.

Sharon and Bill are parents to three daughters. Things go along fairly smoothly for them, as they raise the girls in the fear of the Lord, with the support of a loving church family. Until Amy, as a young teenager, begins to step outside of Christian boundaries of behaviour and lifestyle into a world that is scripturally forbidden for all, and certainly not allowed for anyone raised to know and obey God.

Sharon and Amy take turns in the writing, each speaking in the first person. Having both made journal entries over the period of time when the story takes place, they are able to give us a glimpse into each of their thoughts and hearts. Sharon faces each challenge brought by Amy's increasingly rebellious lifestyle with a mixture of emotions. As a worried parent anguishing over her daughter's life and soul, she experiences fear, doubt, and finally finds peace in remembering just Who her God is. He is her rock, her strength, her wisdom, and her hope. The journal entries are her emotions spilled onto the page; all of her heart is poured out to her God, with nothing held back.

As I read through the book (in two evenings), I was almost praying along with Sharon and her husband, praying that Amy would take that one step toward her Saviour, and be rescued from the darkness she was in. She endures a pain-filled journey over several years, sinking into the clutches of drugs and alcohol, trying to prove to the world that she can handle anything. But all the while, inside she is a frightened young girl, longing to be "home", but not sure where that is or how to get there.

I applaud both Sharon and Amy for their courage in telling their story. I know that they have both prayed that God will use it, and I know He will As I said in a previous post, real life stories are my favourite. Of course, knowing both the authors of this book made it even more "real" to me. However, I know that just about anyone who is a parent or a teen to grown up child will be able to relate.

You will find it hard to put this book down, and you will find your own faith strengthened as you read this beautiful story of faith and redemption.

Find out how to order a copy for yourself by visiting http://www.gardenpathinspirations.com/book.htm

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Clean


It was such a glorious day today! Not only was it Sunday, the day I meet with my home church, but it was also sunny and breezy and beautiful outside. I hung out two loads of laundry before I left this morning, and it was dry when I returned home in mid-afternoon. I washed two more loads and got them on the line; I knew they would dry quickly with the beautiful breeze and warm sunshine we were enjoying.

Days like today make me want to wash every sheet, blanket and curtain in the house. I love the smell of them when they come off the line. If I fold them soon enough, they will still be warm from the sun's rays. I did that today. Folding a big, fluffy white towel, I couldn't resist burying my face in it, and inhaling that wonderfully fresh, clean fragrance that only time spent on a clothesline in the breeze can create. Strangely enough, as I was doing so, a line from Psalm 19 came to my mind. I'll highlight it below:

"The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgement of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether."
(Psalm 19:7-9)

I love this Psalm, and these verses are my favourite from it. I love these words:
perfect, sure, right, pure, clean. Don't ask me what the exact connection is between these verses and the scent of my towel today. Perhaps because just drinking in that delightful smell rejoices my heart in some way. Perhaps because, in such an ordinary, everyday thing as doing laundry, I find contentment, knowing that I am blessed to be able to do so, when so many others haven't the resources or ability to, if they live in a third world country or are homeless in this one. Perhaps because the smell seems so pure to me, as if it has taken on a part of nature, having hung in the sunshine and flapped in the breeze that a kind and loving God has created. Perhaps just enjoying that simple pleasure reminds my heart that it is just one of the countless blessings that I receive from Him, every day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Great Read


Last night I attended a Book Launch. The book is written by Sharon Cavers and her daughter Amy Jackson. Sharon is a member of my writing group, and she and her daughter have written a story of struggle, hope and redemption. Most of all it is about the faithfulness of God. You can check it out here http://www.gardenpathinspirations.com/book.htm

I haven't started to read the book yet, because I know that when I do, I won't be able to put it down.Sharon has shared with our group as she and Amy worked on this project, so I know the story line, and have read excerpts. Real life stories are a magnet for me. Real life beats fiction any day, in my opinion. Maybe that's why there are so many "Reality" television shows today. We do have a fascination for having a glimpse into someone else's life. For some reader's of Sharon and Amy's book, it will be something like having a blanket of reassurance tucked in around them, as they see a family press on through situations that most of us wouldn't want the rest of the world to know about. Particularly the "Christian" world.

I know that God will use this book, and I praise Him for giving the authors the grace and courage to put their story out there. It will bring hope and healing to many families. Best of all, it will show yet another example of the faithfulness of our loving Father, and His presence in the midst of every situation. All to His glory.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Fresh Wind

This morning there was a sweet breeze coming through my kitchen window. Nothing stupendous in itself, but made a main event because of the hot, humid weather we have had lately. I so welcomed it! Every day seems to have threatened rain, and I would have been thankful it if it had rained for a day and a night, and lifted the oppression of the muggy weather. So to realize today that we had a repreive was a blessing.

As I stood by my kitchen sink, enjoying this little breath of fresh air, I thought how like the weather our lives can be. Oppression can creep up on us, whether caused by mood or circumstance. All of life's little details can drag us down and drain us of our energy. Like the humidity, feelings of being overwhelmed can bring us to a state of inertia, and we feel stifled and held captive by a sense of hopelessness and a fear of failure. All the negativity that we see and hear every day, from televison and newspapers and the next door neighbour can grind down our intentions to put our best foot forward and trust that God has a purpose in everthing.

Sometimes we wish that something, or Someone, bigger than ourselves would come along and whisk away all these things, and help us to make a fresh start. That's where the Holy Spirit comes in. Like the wind, He goes where He pleases. He can't be contained or controlled. We can't see Him, but we can see where He has been, because He always brings change. So we turn to Him, and seek His touch, His activity in our hearts and lives. He can bring refreshment, and a renewed sense of purpose for our day and our lives. He will speak to us in God's Word, or in circumstances, or in that still small voice, that Spirit to spirit witness that only He can produce. He is our Helper, just as Jesus promised. Breath of God, breathe on us!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Winding Down (?)

Now that the G8/G20 and World Soccer Series are over, we are hearing more about the Gulf Oil Spill. Good timing, since yesterday they installed a new cap over the leak. Will it hold? That is the question of the hour. Taking nearly three days to install, it is certainly hoped that it will, finally, staunch the incredible flow of oil that has been surging into the water for almost three months.

It seems incredible to me that the leak has gone on this long. Hearing the statistics on how many gallons per day etc. have been leaking, it seems as though there is no end to it. But it must have an end somewhere. I can't help but compare it to a human body that is losing blood quickly, and every effort is being made to staunch the flow. It's as though the earth is "bleeding out", with this main "artery" having a ruptured "aneurysm".

I wonder how many are praying that this will be a success. I wonder how many "chiefs" from British Petroleum are resorting to begging God to let it work. Seems we always do all we can do in our own strength first, and leave Him as a last resort. Just another disaster that took us by surprise, reminding us that we aren't as big and powerful as we thought we were.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Encouragement For Troubled Times

"Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil." -- Proverbs 1:33
Divine love is rendered conspicuous when it shines in the midst of judgments. Fair is that lone star which smiles through the rifts of thethunder clouds; bright is the oasis which blooms in the wilderness ofsand; so fair and so bright is love in the midst of wrath.
When the Israelites provoked the Most High by their continued idolatry, he punished them by withholding both dew and rain, so that their land was visited by a sore famine; but while he did this, he took care that his own chosen ones should be secure.
If all other brooks are dry, yet shall there be one reserved for Elijah; and when that fails, God shall still preserve for him a place of sustenance; nay, not only so, the Lord had not simply one "Elijah," but he had a remnant according to the election of grace, who were hidden by fifties in a cave, and though the whole land was subject to famine, yet these fifties in the cave were fed, and fed from Ahab's table too by His faithful, God-fearing steward, Obadiah.
Let us from this draw the inference, that come what may, God's people are safe. Let convulsions shake the solid earth, let the skies themselves be rent in twain, yet amid the wreck of worlds the believer shall be as secure as in the calmest hour of rest. If God cannot save his people under heaven, he will save them in heaven. If the world becomes too hot to hold them, then heaven shall be the place of their reception and their safety.
Be ye then confident, when ye hear of wars, and rumours of wars. Let no agitation distress you, but be quiet from fear of evil. Whatsoever cometh upon the earth, you, beneath the broad wings of Jehovah, shall be secure. Stay yourself upon his promise; rest in his faithfulness, and bid defiance to the blackest future, for there is nothing in it direful for you. Your sole concern should be to show forth to the world the blessedness of hearkening to the voice of wisdom.
C.H. Spurgeon

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Imitation = Limitation

I went to a writer's conference two weeks ago. It was an amazing time. Two hundred and fifty followers of Jesus who write for Him, coming together to learn, encourage and be encouraged. I certainly was encouraged. Along the way I met some great people, including two fellow bloggers. Ann is one. You can find her blog here: http://www.aholyexperience.com/. Ann taught a workshop on how to have a successful blog. It was nothing like I expected. She is a lovely woman, and her heart for Jesus is on her sleeve. Instead of giving hints to create more traffic or comments, she talked about how she doesn't allow comments, and doesn't have a site meter on her blog. This is to keep her from getting caught up in how many people are following her posts. Her talk was all about releasing what the Lord was doing in her heart into daily posts, and letting Him take care of the results. It was truly inspiring and encouraging. Please check out her blog; it is beautiful, both visually and in spirit. Another lady I met was Belinda. You can find her blog here http://http//whateverhesays.blogspot.com/ . She is another sweet sister in the Lord, and it was a treasure to meet her and spend time chatting.

These two ladies so impressed me with their sincerity, humility and love for God that I came away thinking I should start a new blog. One that would be more like theirs. So I did. I started a blog on Wordpress.com, and put one post on it. Then I tried to think about what else I could write, that would be less like what I usually did, and more like what these ladies wrote. I was planning to just leave "One Day At A Time", and redirect people to my new, "improved" blog. But, as you can probably guess, I got stuck. I eventually realized how ridiculous it would be to try and imitate these two women in my writing. Transparency, sincerity and humility are not things that you can copy. (Oh, I guess you could try, but there is a name for that. Starts with "hy" and ends with "sy", with "pocri" in the middle.) So I deleted my new blog, and came back here. Then for almost a week, the Lord gave me something to post each day. (I took that to mean I had made the right move.)

Have you ever looked at other Christians, and wished you could be more like them? It's a common trap that we can all fall into. Constantly measuring ourselves against seemingly more spiritual people. We see the fruit in their lives, and decide that ours is lacking. We want to somehow have what they have, write like they write, speak like they speak. But that is wrong. God created us all as individuals, and He uses our personalities, everything about us, in His work of renovation.

In my Sunday meeting this morning, I read from Ephesians 2, about being God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works that He has prepared beforehand. In my mind, I see God taking us as we are, a lump of clay, or playdough that has bits of different colors all mixed in. Each messy batch He takes and molds according to His unique plan, working even those bits of color, that used to appear as mistakes, into the design, creating a masterpiece.

In writing, we are told that we need to find our own "voice." I think it is not so much a matter of finding it, as simply using it. If God has called you to write, or speak, or preach, or teach (and He calls us all to do these, in one way or another), then He will place those things on your heart that you will be burdened for. He will give you the courage to do or say or write of them, to proclaim them, to protect them. He doesn't want you to duplicate what He has given to someone else. He has good works that He has prepared for YOU and you alone.

When God created us, He didn't use a cookie cutter approach. Don't try to follow in another's path; use the brain and heart and gifts He has given to you. To try and be like another will bear no fruit. Abide in Him, and trust that He will live and speak through you.

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sing A New Song!
















Speaking of worship............isn't it something the power that music has? I remember the first time I heard Christmas Carols after I came to faith in Jesus. I wept. I couldn't believe the richness and beauty of the words. It was like hearing them for the first time. All those truths, set to such beautiful music. How had I missed it before?

Since then, I have gone through many "stages" of what kind of "Christian" music I enjoy. Gospel quartet, hymns, contemporary worship music, classical (such as Bach's St. Matthew's Passion), choruses, I like them all. But music doesn't have to be intentionally "Christian" to move my heart toward Him. A lot of classical music does that, simply in its beauty and complexity. Sitting at a concert by a very talented Spanish guitar player, I made up words (in my head) as I listened to the guitar; they were praise songs to God. The music was so beautiful, that I was inspired by it to do so.

Music is a wonderful element of praise and worship. How blessed we are to have it so available to us every day. I can listen to the radio, pop in a tape or cd, or bring along my MP3 player as I go for a walk, exercise, or do housework. It can lift my spirits when I am discouraged, and focus my heart and mind on the beauty of Christ. Truly it is a gift from Him!

But it's not only sounds made by man made instruments that can be praise to God. Something my granddaughter said once has stayed with me. As we walked along on a sunny morning, I remarked to her how happy the birds sounded. The air was filled with their song. "Maybe they are singing songs to God," she replied. "Yes", I said. "I'm sure they are." And in my heart, I am. They may not have the capacity to know God in the way that we can know Him, but I wonder if God has not somehow placed a "knowing" in them that means their songs can be a response to that instinctive knowledge. And what about the sound of the wind through the trees as you walk along a forest path? Or the sound of waves gently lapping against the rocks along a river's edge? Can't all of these things be understood as nature giving praise to God?

We were created to worship, to worship God. Sin entered, and ruptured our relationship with Him, and our natural desire to worship Him became warped. So we ever will worship other people and things, until that relationship is restored by the blood of the Lamb. And then He gives us a new song, a new desire, and new ways to worship.

"Sing to Him a new song;
Play skillfully with a shout of joy." (Psalm 33:3)

There is so much in the world, and in our everyday lives, that can distract us from the realities of "things above." I love this verse; it can be a remedy to all the noise and chaos that we are often confronted with:

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:15)

I hope you are singing in your heart today, knowing the true Word, and letting Who He is inspire you to praise Him. Precious Jesus.



"Then" Is "Now" !!

I've been doing it again. The old "if only" game. "If only" I didn't have to work. "If only" I had more time. THEN I would do all these great and marvelous things. Like write a book, sew up a storm, have a huge garden and make preserves, visit all my friends, spend more time with my grandchildren..............the list goes on.

So, after wallowing around in the "if only" puddle for a while, I move on to the "then" game. OK, so I can't retire just yet. Won't likely be moving to that little house in the country for a few years. But when I retire, "then" I will begin to do those wonderful things. "Then" I will be content. "Then" I will accomplish great things for God. Right now, I can't. Oh really? Right now, I just don't have the time or the energy. Is that so? I will just have to tough it out, grit my teeth and plough through. I will just have to "sacrifice" my time to my job, knowing that it's only when I retire that I can get anything of value accomplished. "Then" it will all happen. Right?

The next stage in the process is this: I start listening to my thoughts, and taking a gander at my attitude, and say to myself, hold it. Wait a minute. Who do you think you are? God has all your days arranged for you. You were placed here for His glory. Don't you think He can squeeze some good, some lasting results out of each day, even when you aren't "living the dream" up in Bancroft? This is the point where I chide myself for ingratitude, and for questioning God's plan for my life. Why do I think that all should go according to my plans? How could I imagine that God is not present in everything, each day, and is at work, even though I can't see it?
I want to have an attitude of gratitude. I want to wake up every day, expecting great things of God, exited about what He might have in store for me. I don't want to waste precious time longing for something that might not even come to pass. I don't know the future. Only He does. My place, and your place, is to wait on Him, and be faithful, in the moment. In the "now", because the "then" might not show up. All we have is now, and He is in it.
Dear Lord, teach me to wait on You, to learn contentment. You have the wisest plan, and I am like an impatient child. Help me to see Your hand in the stuff of everyday, and remember that to you, a thousand years is like a day, and a day is like a thousand years. My times are in Your hand.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Worship Practice?

I have been thinking about worship a lot these days. Having been "away" from "church" for two years, I don't often get the opportunity to be with a large group of people, singing hymns and worship choruses. This past weekend, however, I was at Write Canada, a national conference for Christian Writers. We did have a time of prayer and "worship" each of the two mornings that I was there. It was a beautiful experience, singing those songs of praise with a guitar or piano accompanying.

Have you ever heard this description of a worship cd: "You will be ushered into the presence of God"? I have heard it, and others that claim to be the "most powerful worship music you have ever heard." We call church buildings "houses of worship". If you ask someone how the church service was, they might say "the message was powerful, but the worship wasn't very good." Once or twice a week, many "worship" bands and leaders get together to "practice" worship. Hmmm. Are we missing the point here?

Of course, we will all agree that worship isn't just about singing on a Sunday morning in a building. And I realize that musicians have to get together to practice their musical gifts, and be prepared for when they have to play in public. And yes, some songs or hymns, by their words and music, do help us to focus more intently on God, and affect our emotions so that we seem to "feel" His presence more. But oh, that can't be all there is to worshipping God!

Brother Lawrence was a monk in the 1600's who wrote a book titled "Practice of the Presence of God." In it he gives instructions and examples of how to have a continual realization and experience of God's presence. He knew that we are always in God's presence, and God is present in His children. He is so right in that. We don't have to conjure God's presence up. If He chooses to manifest His presence to us, then we are doubly blessed. But we have the opportunity, every moment of every day, to be intentionally mindful of God's presence. He is a whisper, a thought, a word away. He knows our every thought, and communicating with Him can be so natural, so real, when we simply believe that He is listening.

We don't have to wait for a Sunday service, we don't have to get the latest and greatest worship cd. Just sit quietly with your Bible open to the Psalms, or any one of hundreds of scriptures that can cause your heart to fill with adoration for our awesome God and Savior. Or when you are laying in bed at night, consider the many ways He has blessed and protected you that day. How He has caused the earth to keep turning for yet another day, breathed life into countless new babies, human and animal, and supported the whole universe, while billions of people were unaware.

We cheat ourselves, and we cheat God, if we limit our times of worship to those regularly scheduled events. Take some time today to be mindful of His presence, and find new ways to offer up a sacrifice of praise to Him.

"My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre;
I will awaken the dawn!
I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the peoples,
And I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great above the heavens,
And Your truth reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
And Your glory above all the earth."
Psalm 108:1-5

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Scraps of Life

I love to sew. I started when I was thirteen, and made all kinds of clothes. I made my wedding dress, and maternity clothes when I was expecting. When my kids were growing up, I sewed for them. Little rompers and jumpers, then shorts and Halloween costumes. I don't have much time to sew now, but just looking at this picture makes me want to get out my patterns and fabric.

Whenever I do have a sewing project, I keep the scraps that are left after cutting out the pattern. I always hate to throw them out. You never know when they will come in handy to make a little apron, or a rag doll, or that "someday" quilt I will make when I retire. I have heard of people making "memory quilts", where they use scraps from different items of clothing that they have worn or a loved one has owned. It's a lovely idea, isn't it?

For years I bought fabric at a store in my city called "The Uptown Silk Shop". It's gone now. I really miss it. Their third floor was filled with "remnants", those pieces of fabric that were too small to leave on a bolt. A couple of times a year they would mark them down to 75% off. Boy, did I have a good time then! I still have stacks of fabric from years ago. Of course I won't get rid of it. You never know when it will come in handy.

I love to knit as well. So naturally, I have bits and balls of leftover yarn. All colors, all weights. I would hate to throw something out that could be turned into a pair of mittens or a scarf. It would be such a waste.

There is just something about taking leftover scraps, even from the refrigerator, and creating something beautiful and useful. Bits and pieces that might otherwise end up in the garbage can become something to keep you warm, or dress you up, or fill your stomach. I guess I have a frugal streak in me, though I can waste other things, like money and time.

When it comes to our lives, we all have scraps, pieces that we cut out or off, bits that didn't turn out or seem needed at the time. Things that we would rather not keep around, but the memory of them remains. Sad things, shameful things, regrets and mistakes. Some things aren't bad, we just wish we had made a different decision, or gone in another direction. To us, these scraps are wasted. But in God's economy, they never are. I think of Him keeping a neat little "scrap pile" for each of us. He takes those odds and ends of our lives and turns them into things we would never have imagined. He sews and knits them together and back into our lives, creating that perfect tapestry that contains the designs of His purposes for us.

So next time you are tempted to despair and discouragement, to regret and remorse, take that bit of your life that looks like a useless scrap, and hand it over to Him. If it is dirty, He will cleanse it with His blood. And He will keep it until He can use it for good. You see, He never wastes a thing.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What Would You Do?

I went to the grocery store today. As I pulled into a parking spot, a young man approached my car and knocked on the driver's side window. As I rolled down the window, he began to assure me that he wasn't some nut, he was in some trouble and needed help. I listened as he told me his story. He was from out of town, and had come into the city for a dentist appointment. He showed me his prescription that he had just picked up for antibiotics. His manner was that of desperation. Explaining that he was a single dad with a young daughter, he then told me that his daughter would be at that time getting off the school bus, expecting him to pick her up. He had tried to reach a neighbour to see to his daughter, but was unable to.

His main problem was that he was going to take a cab home, as he had missed his ride, and the cab company insisted on having the fare upfront. He had money at home, but did not have enough on him at the time. As he continued to reassure me that it was all up front, I told him it was ok, I would help him.

His relief was obvious. I believed him. I didn't see any reason not to. He got in the car and we drove to a bank machine, where I took out the money that he needed. He promised to repay the money, and I gave him my name and address so he could mail a cheque. I gave him a card with my name, email and blog address. He was in obvious pain from the dentist visit, and explained that his tooth was infected and he would have to wait until the infection cleared, and then he could have it pulled. I asked if he had anything for pain, but he explained that he was a recovering drug addict and did not take any pain meds, even plain tylenol. As we waited for a red light, I asked him if I could pray for him. He agreed without hesitation.The right side of his face was quite swollen, and I gently placed my hand on it and asked Jesus to please heal him and take away his pain.

I dropped him off where he could catch his taxi, and he again thanked me profusely. Now, I know that many people would think I had taken a terrible risk, but I did not hesitate to help him. His plight was real, and my heart went out to him, a single dad trying to make it after escaping a life of drug addiction. Later I wished that I had driven him home myself.

So Adam, if you read this, please let me know how you made out. I hope your daughter was ok. Leave a comment, or send me an email. I will be praying for you, and it was a pleasure to meet you and give you a helping hand.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Being Joined to Christ


(T.Austin Sparks)

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. (John 15:5).

I have not been the least of those who have striven, and agonised, and strained, and pressed and reached out for all that the Lord would have, all that is possible. It is possible to wear yourself right out, and kill yourself in a spiritual quest, and the Lord at last says to our hearts: "If you only know Me, things will happen; it will all come to pass without any of your strain, struggle and agony. I am going to bear this fruit. I will bear it through you by way of union and fellowship. Remember that the holy, blessed secret of fellowship is just resting in Me, abiding in Me."

If you saw all the branches of the vine every day groaning and agonising, and writhing in order to bear their fruit, you would see something which is altogether unnatural. As a matter of fact you will see nothing of the kind. You will see them abiding there and bearing fruit. It is what we often speak of as the rest of faith. What is behind the rest of faith? It is not bringing yourself to a passive state, when you inwardly sink down and say, I am just going to rest. It is knowing the Lord, God in Christ; for the way in which God has joined Himself to us is in Christ, not apart, and the way in which we have been joined to God is in Christ, not apart. The answer to every need is knowing Him in this way.
From: Knowing God in Christ - Chapter 1

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Be Still..................

"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God.

The holy dwelling places of the most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.

'Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'

The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold."
(Psalm 46)

I love this Psalm. It paints such a powerful picture of God, explaining His works, and His sovereign activity in the earth. He has "wrought desolations", ended wars, and His voice melted the earth.

And this one statement that He makes, telling us to "cease striving" (or "be still" in other versions) is like a reassurance from Him. As though He is saying, "don't worry, I am God Almighty. Be assured of this, there is no other, there is none like Me. I do all these things and more, and every nation in the earth will come to acknowledge Me."

I have to say that the more I learn of Him, both in His word and in personal experience of Him, the more I am feeling like this little girl (my grand daughter) in the picture. She sleeps so sweetly, oblivious to all the activity around her. Not a worry or a care, she trusts me enough and knows me enough to settle on my lap and let sleep overtake her. She knows I am much bigger, older and stronger than she is. She depends on me for all kinds of things, and believes I will give her all the protection and care that she needs. This is not unlike my trust in God.

There is one difference, however. As she grows and matures, my grand daughter will come to realize that I have limitations. She will see me make mistakes, be afraid, and disappoint her. Not so with our Father. The longer we know Him, the more we will see His power and perfections. He is limitless in all His attritubtes, so far above our way of thinking and comprehension. We never have to worry that one day we will realize He has abandoned us, or lied to us, or forgotten a promise.

In my Bible (NASV), in the sidebar is written "let go, relax" as an alternate translation for "cease striving". Be still. Don't worry about anything, just know and trust that I am Who I say I am. I will do all that I have said I will do.

If we are His, we have the greatest refuge, the deepest comfort, the sweetest rest. Though all powerful and all sovereign, He cares for us with the attention of a loving father. I hope you will rest in Him today!