Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Stop Sign

Have you ever stopped to reflect on the importance and purpose of stop signs?

Stop signs are placed at strategic locations along our streets and highways and hardly a day goes by that they do not interrupt our daily excursions, but we pay them little attention.
I don’t remember ever having had an animated conversation about a stop sign.
None of us believe that the stop signs are there to make life difficult for us, we appreciate that they are there to stand guard, ensuring our safety on the roads.

Have you ever considered your choices when you approach a stop sign?

You could:
1> stop , look to the right and the left and then continue on your way
2> stop, and change direction
3> stop , wait for traffic right of way and proceed when it is safe
4> ignore the stop sign and just keep on going.
5> stop, and sit there for the rest of the day contemplating the misfortune of having a stop sign interrupt your journey.

You probably know where I am going ....
As we travel along life’s journey, we are sometimes confronted by a ‘stop sign’. And while I am sure you smiled at the absurd 5th choice in the above list …. in life’s journey I think we choose that one more often than not.

Sometimes we forget that this life is a journey. We would just as soon stay here and camp in a nice comfortable spot.
But as Christians we need to remember that we - just like Abraham - are not citizens of this world, but are simply traveling through…”By faith he sojourned …as in a strange country …For he looked for a city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God..” ( Heb. 11:9,10)

Sometimes God’s stop sign is something that catches our attention… a sermon, a book , a riviting thought, or something someone says- that impresses us , alerting us to the fact that we have become careless, maybe going too fast , focused on the wrong things , …. we need to stop and look both ways, checking our ‘road map’, the Word of God to make sure we are ‘safe’

Sometimes the stop signs of God are there to indicate directional change.
It may be an inconvenience, it may be an accident, it may be a death, it may be the loss of a job, or a disappointment. We may be traveling along perfectly happy , and suddenly we are pulled up short. Something happens that we did not expect nor want and we are unprepared !
Suddenly, we find that instead of continuing as we had planned - straight ahead- we find ourselves facing in a totally new direction. It may be a relatively minor directional change that only affects our plans for one day, maybe we need to reconnect with someone or mend a broken relationship, or lend someone a helping hand instead of pursuing our plans to go shopping.
Or it may be something larger like a disaster, an accident, the death of a loved one, or a job change.
I know someone who lost his wife recently, and then a couple of months later unexpectantly learned that the company he had worked for all his life, was declaring bankruptcy. He faces a monumental directional change in his life.
As upsetting as a directional change is in our lives , it is an invitation to draw close to the One who has promised never to leave us comfortless or alone.

Other times the stop signs God puts into our path are there for our safety, to make us wait for the ‘right-of-way’ and then proceed.
We have all heard about the ‘stop signs’ that saved many lives on 9/11 (September 11,2001).
Little things , annoyances that just made that day start out all wrong , putting people in a bad mood were life-saving ‘stop signs’.
Robert Herzog was late for work because he dropped off some laundry and when he wanted to take an express commuter train to make up for lost time, the door literally slammed in his face just as he was going to board. It was his own office that took the direct hit of the first plane but he wasn’t there. A Stop Sign saved his life.
Another man’s stop sign was a blister he developed from his new shoes and he stopped to pick up a bandaid at the drugstore, making him late for work. One man stopped to pick up doughnuts for his office, one woman spilled juice on her outfit and had to change, one was stuck on the NJ Turnpike because of an accident.
All annoying stop signs that were placed in their path to protect them from certain death !
Next time something happens that would normally annoy you… stop and thank God for His protection over you.

Though we know better, there are times we ignore the stop sign and just keep on going. We know what is right to do, we know God’s commandments…. but we are stubborn or bent on going our own way, following our own inclinations. We rationalize, we justify, we think it won’t matter, we think ‘what harm just this once?’ One lie, one burst of anger , one selfish thought or deed…. but we do so at our own peril and not only do we hurt ourselves but we also put others at risk. When we sin , it does not affect only us , it involves others who are often pulled into the painful consequences.
How much better to live life in the safety of obedience to God’s road signs.

Then , there are the stop signs in our life that take our focus completely off the road and we sit , unable or unwilling to proceed. Maybe we suffered an injustice, or we are overlooked for a job promotion, or someone wounded us so deeply we cannot forgive, or our life circumstances are beyond our control and keep us from doing what we want to do. The list is endless, but we all come across ‘stop signs’ in our life that make us feel the burden is too great , we cannot go on. And so we sit , staring at the stop sign.
If we sit because of our anger or unforgiveness we need to repent , restart our engines and resume our journey… we are blocking traffic !!
If it is because of something outside of our control, like a handicap or illness or circumstance of life we need to realize that God has already made allowances for the difficulties that come into our life and they do not hinder His purposes in and through us but actually can help us !! I remember when I first became ill, and realized that I was going to have to deal with some degree of life disability and unknown future , my first thought was regret that I could no longer do the things that I felt were God’s will in my life… but then I rejoiced knowing that God was not limited by my limitations…I would just have to live closer to Him … because now , not being sure of my own way … I would have to be even more dependant on Him as my all-wise Guide.

I found this poem recently and I would like to share it with you… it is so true.

The Easy Roads are Crowded
The easy roads are crowded,
And the level roads are jammed;
The pleasant little rivers
With the drifting folds are crammed

But off yonder where it’s rocky,
Where you get a better view,
You will find the ranks are thinning
And the travelers are few.

Where the going’s smooth and pleasant
You will always find the throng,
For the many, - mores the pity,
Seem to like to drift along.

But the steps that call for courage
And the task that’s hard to do,
In the end results in glory
For the never-wavering few.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Faith to Walk on Water

It had been a long day spent teaching and feeding the multitudes. Jesus was tired. He knew what He needed to renew His soul was to spend time alone with His Father.

Calling His disciples to Himself, Jesus asked them to take the ship and cross over to the other side of the lake while He stayed behind to send the multitude of people away.
His disciples objected ; Jesus' plan made no sense to them. I’m sure they appealed to Jesus’ logic saying… “But what is the point of us going to the other side of the lake if you aren’t coming? We’ll just have to come back to get you anyway ! Why can’t we just stay here and help you disperse the crowds and then wait until you are ready to go too?”
But Jesus had other plans, and in the end constrained them to do as He asked.

When finally He had persuaded all the people to return home, Jesus went up into the mountain, alone, so that He could pray .

Meanwhile , the disciples were out on the sea , having rowed about halfway across the lake. A violent wind arose and the sea became very rough, tossing them to and fro.
I’m sure they must have regretted following Jesus’ command to cross the lake….if only they had stayed on land where they were safe they would not be in this predicament now.
I suppose that they did not make much headway rowing against the wind because they were still there between 3:00 and 6:00 am the next morning.

Then one of them spotted a strange apparition coming toward them in the early mist of morning, and pointed it out to the others. In their terror, they shouted “It is a spirit!”
But then a familiar voice sounded over the howling wind and crashing waves, calming their fears… It was Jesus and He called out, “Be of good cheer ; it is I; be not afraid.”

Peter , always the impulsive one, his emotions thrown into reverse when he realized it was Jesus and not a ghost blurted out, “Well, Lord, if it really is You , then tell me to come walk on the water with You!”
Jesus called cheerfully, “Come!”
And Peter , I’m sure with the other disciples watching him with their mouths open, stepped out of the boat and took several steps on the water.
But then very quickly his bravado melted, he realized what he was doing and looking down saw the wind whipping up boisterous waves and he began to sink
And he cried, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately , Jesus reached out His hand and pulled him up out of the water with a gentle rebuke.. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
As soon as Jesus and Peter stepped into the ship, the wind ceased.
The disciples recognized that they had just had a supernatural experience and they were in awe of this Jesus who they saw was no ordinary man. They acknowleged that surely He must be the Son of God.

I believe that it was not a co-incident , but rather a ‘God-incident’ that the disciples were caught in the storm. They had been ‘set up’ to witness the miracle power of Jesus.
Doesn’t God do the same thing in our lives? Sometimes the things that cause us to cry out in fear “Why?” are things that God has sent into our lives so that He can show Himself powerful on our behalf, and to teach us that truly He is worthy of our trust no matter what befalls us.

Sometimes what God asks us to do does not make sense to us… we feel that we have a much more logical plan. But God’s ways are so much higher than ours, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. ( Isaiah 55:9) When will we learn that God’s plan is always better than ours, and if we follow His instructions we will never be where His love cannot reach us..

We are all like Peter , aren’t we? We can do the Christian talk fluently…. but then when we are confronted with acting it out , suddenly our bravado melts and we feel we are drowning. But isn’t it reassuring that Jesus ‘IMMEDIATELY’ was there to grasp hold of Peter before he sank?

When we are walking through our days…. and we look down…. we are immediately in trouble.
(Isn’t it interesting how this truth is reflected in our common language? We say ‘we are down’ when we feel depressed or sad, we say ‘things are looking up’ when our day is going well. )

When we look down we see our problems, when we look up we see our answers.
When we look down we see only ourselves, when we look up we see Jesus.
When we look down our view is very limited , when we look up the sky of possibilities opens before us.
When we look down we see our weakness, when we look up we see His strength.

When Jesus spoke to reassure the disciples that it was He, He spoke to them in the midst of the storm. He did not immediately still the storm as He of course could have. But He waited to give the disciples the opportunity to trust Him IN the storm.
And His words were , “Be of good cheer !” Why? because He was bigger than the storm…. He held power over it, to protect in the midst of it as well as to still it…. there was nothing to fear.
So also in our storms of life… we may be still in the throes of our distress… with no answers in sight…. but Jesus says, “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world .” (John 16:33)
There is no storm of life that He does not hold in His hand.

Are we like Peter , we begin to trust and then falter? Or are we strong in our faith, believing that “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in time of trouble” ( Ps. 46:1) … and "He has delivered us and will deliver us !” (II Cor. 1:10)

Walking on the water of life… holding Jesus' hand…. what joy, what blessing !!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Handicap or Advantage?

Yesterday morning, turning on the TV, I happened upon The Hour of Power to see a close up view of Robert Schuler interviewing a guest.
I was immediately impressed by the guest’s young handsome face and engaging smile . Then I was drawn by his sincere words of love praising God for his life.
When the camera pulled back to show the larger picture I realized that this young man had no limbs – no arms , no legs , just one appendage he laughingly calls a chicken foot dangling from the bottom of his trunk.

The young man’s name is Nick Vujicic and he is 24 years old. He was born without limbs, a birth defect for which there still is no medical explanation.. His mother’s first words when she saw him were, “Take him away!”
Not only were his parents Christians, his father was a pastor and they worked through their initial shock and grief and accepted the challenge that God had literally laid in their laps.
At first they did not expect Nick to live long, but then they realized he was a healthy baby boy, the only thing wrong was that he was missing a few limbs.
I cannot imagine the difficulties, the pain, the questions they faced trying to make life anything close to normal for themselves and their son.
Australia, his home country, did not allow children with disabilities to attend regular schools, but Nick's mother fought for her son’s rights and won, the result being that he was the first disabled child to attend school with ‘normal’ children.
He graduated from university with a double degree in accounting and financial planning.

He is honest about his emotional struggles , the physical obstacles that have confronted him and the agony of facing life being ‘different’. Growing up he felt that there was no hope or purpose in his life. But then as a teenager he grasped the truth of Jer. 20:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil to give you an expected end.”
He began to believe that God had not turned away from him, that he was not a mistake, but that God had a plan and a purpose for his life.
Nick has a special concern to reach out to teens who feel life is so futile that they are considering suicide.

It is so easy to look at Nick and think that life with his disabilities would not be worth living. If we judge by the world’s standards of what is important and necessary to make life full and rich , then success without limbs would be impossible.
But if we consider that the highest purpose of this life is an opportunity to praise and glorify God , then Nick has a decided advantage. When he speaks of God’s love and power in his life he has a captive audience. People cannot help but recognize that this young man is ‘different’, not because he has no limbs but because he has found a depth of joy and peace and meaning in life that has escaped most people. He is an inspiration and encouragement where ever he goes and a wonderful example of obedience to Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

One of his comments when he was talking with Robert Schuler yesterday morning, was “You cannot compare sufferings.” His point was that everyone has suffered in their life and each person’s suffering is real and deep.
We can always look at someone else and feel that we could not bear their load , and then are surprised when they feel they could not bear someone else’s. I think the answer is in
I Cor. 10:13 “There has no temptation taken you but such as in common to man but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able..but will with the temptation also make a way to escape that ye many be able to bear it.”
What God has promised is that He will always give you the strength to bear what He gives you to carry.
I know that has always been true in my life.

Observing someone like Nick has a way of adjusting our focus away from our own problems and onto the many things for which we can be so thankful, not the least of which is having an opportunity to observe what God can do with a life surrendered to Him.
Nick's example encourages us not to look at our ‘handicaps’ as something that prevents us from doing life – but that given to God they can be our enablers.
God truly makes no mistakes…and “all things do work out for good to them that love God and are called according to His purposes.” (Rom. 8:28)

(Nick has a website called 'Life without Limbs')

Sunday, February 25, 2007

On the Palms of His Hands

I love the word pictures God uses to convey His messages to His children but some of them have lost their depth of meaning for us because they are based on long forgotten customs.

One example is found in Isaiah 49:16 where God says,
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.”

In ancient times the dread of every mother’s heart became reality the day that her beloved son was called to go to the battle field. She was well aware that her good-by to him could well be the last time she would ever see him alive.
How she studied his face for the last time trying to imprint his features upon her mind, how she yearned to hold him close to her heart as she had done when he was an infant, how she ached to hold him tightly in the safety of her embrace. But he was now a grown man and was leaving her. She feared the memory of his face would fade and she had no picture to remind her, how she longed for something of his to be constantly before her eyes.

What she would do is write his name on the palms of her hands so that all day long no matter what she was doing , every time she turned up her hand , there would be his name and she knew she would never forget him. Every time she saw his name , she prayed God would bring him back to her again.

Isn’t it amazing that God would use the word picture of this custom to communicate His emotion toward His children? The people of Isaiah’s time instantly understood the intensity of emotion conveyed through this expression. The message is that God cherishes you so much he has engraved a constant reminder upon His hands – He will not forget you any more than the mother could forget her beloved son.
The heart broken mother had only the name of her beloved son to hold on to …but God says “your walls” are continually before Him. You are not out of His sight - His eyes are always upon you as He covers you with His loving care.

But then God goes even further ….. If we take this picture and project it onto the cross we see that our name on the palms of his hands is where the nails were driven in to fasten Him to the cross. It was our name that condemned Him and in His agape love, He took our deserved punishment upon Himself.
Now, not only is your name written on His palms but the scar signifying your forgiveness is imprinted over your name. Every time God looks at your name on His palm He also sees that the price for your forgiveness has been paid !!

I never tire of the words of that well known hymn,

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song.

An interesting note – The hymn was writen by Fredrich M. Lehman in 1917 , but the beautiful word picture in middle section that I never tire of singing – about the love of God being writen across the parchment of the sky with the ocean ink - was taken from a long Jewish poem called “Hadamut” writen in 1096 by Rabbi Mayer, in the Aramaic language.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In Honor of my Husband

Today is my husband’s 70th birthday and since it is a milestone, I thought I would dedicate this post to him !
I can’t believe he is 70! My husband has never ‘acted his age’ and I hope he never will. People who know him know what I mean. He is fit, trim and full of energy.
Vic’s earthly passion is mountain hiking, as you can see in the recent photo. (Mt. Frosty,2006) I’ve lost count of how many mountains he has summitted and many of them numerous times. His name is in the little metal box that rests on the peak of Mt. Baker. He has been assigned the nick name ‘Mountain Goat’ for obvious reasons. He surpasses most young men in energy and agility and when they are groaning the next day , sore from the exertion of trying to keep up with him on a strenuous mountain trail, he is up and ready to go again. He also loves snow shoeing, cross country skiing and playing tennis.
His favorite line is – “We can’t just sit here! What do you want to do?”
I’ve long given up hoping that maybe one day he would say, “You know what? let’s just have a nice quiet day at home, curled up in front of the fire with our books !!”
But that’s OK. I only had one thing on my list of ‘what to look for in a prospective husband’, and that was that I did not want to be bored. In our 42 years of marriage (this August) I can tell you I have been many things, but never bored!!

Much as he enjoys the outdoors, his greatest love is for God. He loves to read his bible and spends much time in prayer. He cares deeply about people’s spiritual state and agonizes over those he knows have fallen away from walking with the Lord. He has had many deep experiences with the Lord , and values every one of them. He is very discerning regarding the things of the Lord, and feels very strongly about the truth. He desires everyone to grow to maturity in the Lord and to serve Him, and he strives to be a faithful example.

Vic was born in the Ukraine in a Mennonite village, but World War II shattered the life the village had known for hundreds of years. The men were taken to Siberia, Vic’s father included, and the women and children and a few spared men had to flee for their lives with wagons and horses. That is a story in itself, but eventually, after living two years in the Netherlands , Vic with his mother and two younger brothers came to Canada in 1948 and has lived in B.C. all his life.
He met me when he was 26 and I was 15 - I mention that because our marriage has survived in spite of the odds. We were married four days after my eighteenth birthday. Has our marriage been perfect? No, we have had our rough spots, our ups and down, our struggles and pain and disappointments and all the things that go into building a life-time marriage relationship. We have also become strong together because divorce was never an option, and our love for each other not in question.

Vic has a quick mind and has a keen interest in science and astromomy and also loves music. He has a beautiful singing voice and I love to stand beside him in church and listen to him sing.
Vic is a very ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of person. He says what he thinks and shows what he feels.
He is always ready to help anyone in trouble or needing help.
He is deeply compassionate…especially to someone who is hurting or ill.
He is a ‘jack of all trades’ and is often called on , even though he is officially retired, to fix this or build that. He is not the kind of person to retire to a life of ease , he has to keep moving and working part time helps use up some of that stored up energy. I tell him he should just bottle some of it and we could sell it and get rich !!
He is very family oriented and loves to spend time with our kids and grandkids and also extended family. He will often say, “Did you talk to the kids today?” or “Let’s go see your Mom and Dad.”
He is very handy to have around the house, and also very willing to do whatever I think I want, whether it is an addition to my kitchen cupboards or shelves in the storage room or a bigger window in my dining room
He is not one to show up with flowers and chocolate on Valentines Day but he does other things like never having to be told to take out the garbage and my toweling is always magically replaced when it is almost used up and he is happy to do the vacuuming . He scrapes the car’s windshield if I need to go out or turns the car around for me, or picks up something I need from the store and sometimes surprises me with something for no reason at all other than the fact that he loves me.
He is affectionate and while his hugs and kisses are freely given to his family, he is slow to be the first to offer a hug to others , preferring a manly handshake.

He is paranoid about germs and is fastidious about making sure that no invitation is left lying around anywhere for them to multiply.
His cure-all for any ailment is onions – eating them raw or applying the juice topically.
My daughter and family when they watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding laughed so hard at the father who ran around spraying everything with Windex. They said they needed to get Vic an empty Windex bottle that he could fill it with onion juice!!
A funny thing is that our youngest granddaughter was born with his abhorrence of germs and recently when her older sister came down with a cold, she said to her mother, “Mom, lets spray onion juice on everything!”

So , Vic, I just want to say for all the world to hear -
“Happy Birthday, and I love you !”
I can’t imagine my life without you !

Friday, February 23, 2007

Returning to Old Paths

I have a love of home and familiar things and I love things that have a story to tell, or that were valued by someone long ago.
I have a tablecloth that belonged to my husband’s grandmother who got it from her mother, so that puts it back to about 1870. It is in perfect condition, as you can see from the photo.
I think we value things that are old because we live in such a fast paced world where things are so constantly changing we have no sense of stability any more… and we desire something that will last !! We look back and recognize that the price we have paid to live in an instant gratification society has been a high one.

But I think perhaps the fascination with things that are old has a deeper significance. God has put into our hearts trigger points that alert us when something is wrong.
When a society turns away from God, people sense an emptiness… they know that something vital is missing and tend often to fill that emptiness with anything BUT God.
God knows that the only answer is for His people to return to a God who does not change and to go back to walking in His ways.
The Lord speaks to this in Jeremiah 6:16 . He says, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (There is a sad epitaph that He adds when addressing His people living in Jeremiah’s time, “but they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’.”)

I love old books and years ago when I became dissatisfied with the shallow content of many of the books I found in the Christian bookstores, began to seek out and read books written by man and women who lived decades or hundreds of years ago. I was quickly hooked… but what unconsciously happened was that in immersing myself in old literature my standards changed and when I picked up current books I was shocked at the frivolousness of our modern mind set and how far we had strayed in our expression of Christianity both in life and word.

God knew that the tendency of man is always to regress so God warned us to check to see if we were still on the right path… or have we strayed from the ‘old paths’ because new ones held more alluring promises.

The label “Christian” has become almost a generic term, to the extreme of being the default if you aren’t anything else.
I once read a quote that really hit home, “When you take the name of Christian, God puts His reputation on the line.”
Isn’t that riveting? And what responsibility it calls us to -- to ‘live’ our profession , if we don’t , it is God’s reputation that suffers!!
As He says, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through YOU!”
(Rom. 2:24)
So how important is it that we are diligent to guard the name of Christ if we profess to be Christians?

I re-read a section of one of my books that was written almost 2,000 years ago, (no, it wasn’t my bible) The author was a man we know very little about other than the fact that he called himself Mathetes and he was an early Christian , who may have been a disciple of St. Paul or one of the apostle’s co-workers. He writes with the same spirit. The article I have was written in 130 AD.

I present part of it here- for you to read for yourself how Mathetes describes the Christians of his time - and ask yourself whether Christians today still have that same reputation, or have we digressed somewhat…..( and remember he was not speaking about a few individuals , he was speaking of Christians as a whole.)

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country , nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries , but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their faith as a land of strangers.
They marry, as do all others, they beget children, but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. they are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. they pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishounored, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word – what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world. The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible.
The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures, the world also hates the Christians, though in no wise injured, because they abjure pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and loves also the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body, and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible bodies, looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better, in like manner , the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number. God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake !

Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians could be spoken of in the same way today ?? Would the world be a different place?
What is the point I am trying to make? To exhort you and me to recognize that how the people in our own little spheres of influence speak about Christ is determined by how we personally represent Him. To check our ‘road map’ to make sure we are still on the ‘old paths’, and to strive to make ( John 1:6) a reality in our daily walk.
“He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself so to walk, even as He walked.”
and not to forget that our strength to do so lies simply in ‘abiding in him’….
“And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He shall appear , we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at his coming.”
I John 2:18

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trick or Treat

The King of Syria is in a council meeting discussing strategy on how to best defeat the Israeli army. He discloses plans for setting up camp from where he will spring a surprise attack in the morning.
Behind the scenes, God whisperes to Elisha the details of where the Syrian army will be waiting to attack. Elisha immediately sends a messenger to the King of Israel providing him with the inside information , thereby enabling the Israeli army to simply vanish in the night leaving the Syrians facing an exclusively one sided battle!
Though the puzzled King of Syria tightens security during his counsel meetings, and speaks his plans in hushed whispers - again and again the Israeli King receives prior warning from Elisha as to where the Syrian army is going to be and so continues to elude their attack.
Finally , the frustrated King of Syria is left with only one explanation for why the Israeli army always has foreknowledge of his plans. Obviously , there is an informer within his trusted circle. And so he demands to know , who is the traitor in their midst?
Finally, one servant has the courage to speak up and he says, “None, my lord, O king, but Elisha the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (II Kings 6:12)
Instead of the Syrian King recognizing that perhaps he is engaging a formidable foe, his enraged ego demands that this prophet be taken care of and orders go out for him to be ferreted out of his hiding place.
When he is told that Elisha has been discovered in Dothan, he sends horses and chariots and a great army to go find the prophet and bring him in.They encircle the city by night and wait for morning to take him prisioner.
Elisha , it seems, is not an early riser-- but his newly acquired young servant is and he slips quietly outside the next morning.
To his horror, he sees that they are surrounded by armies of horses and chariots!. Filled with fear, he runs back inside to awaken Elisha , crying out … “Alas, my master !! What shall we do ?”
In the natural , there was nothing they could do… they had obviously fallen into the hands of the enemy, they were cornered with no avenue of escape.
Elisha responds to his servant’s upsetting news with no more anxiety than if he had been told there was a bug in the tent ! He calmly takes note of his servant’s distress and tries to put him at ease, “Don’t worry about it, we have more on our side than they do on theirs!”
I’m sure his answer sounded incredulous in the young man’s ears. He counted Elisha and himself - that made two ! How could they possibly defend themselves against a powerful army of horses and chariots!!
But the young man was about to learn about Divine Intervention.
Elisha recognized that here was a teaching opportunity and he prayed, asking God to open the young man’s eyes so that he would be able to see the reality of the invisible world around them.

God answered his prayer and to the young man’s amazement , he sees the whole mountain full of horses and chariots - not of flesh and iron - but of fire !!
I would have loved to hear the young man’s whoop of delight as his fear melted into euphoria! I’m sure he thought he was about to see the battle of all battles!

The Syrian army , oblivious in their delusion, were confident that this would be a very easy capture – without doubt they would be on their way home in no time.
Elisha stands and calmly watches the army come down toward him, then he prays “Lord, strike them blind!”
And the Lord strikes them all with blindness.
Elisha watches them stumble about for awhile and then he advises them, “You are lost , this is not the way into the city….but just follow me and I will take you to the man that you are looking for.”
He leads the blind men straight into Samaria and lines them up before the King of Israel.
When he has them all in position Elisha prays again…. and ‘blind man’s bluff’ is over !!
The Syrians see that they have been tricked…they have been personally delivered into the hands of their enemy. I’m sure their hearts melted for fear, especially when they heard the King of Israel , rubbing his hands in glee, ask eagerly , “My Father, can I kill them now? can I kill them ?”
Elisha gives him an unexpected answer. He says, “No, they are your guests, treat them well, give them food and water and then send them back to their master."
I’m not sure what the King’s private reaction was but he obeyed Elisha and, to his credit, spread a great feast before the enemy army.
I wonder how much the Syrian soldiers enjoyed their banquet – I’m sure they wondered if it was a condemned man’s last meal! But when they had eaten their fill, they were allowed to go back home.
They must have been very grateful to escape with their lives because they never came back!

I once told this story to my wide eyed Primary S.S. children and when the story was over, I asked them what they had learned from the story. I was expecting answers to do with how big God was and that He could conquer any army , but one little six year old boy offered something different.
When I acknowledged his little hand waving in the air, he said, “We should be polite?” I was taken aback for a moment , then I realized that in my telling of the story I had put words in Elisha’s mouth in his response to the King of Israel - that killing the enemy would not be a nice thing to do .
So yes, this story teaches us to be polite!! To ‘kill’ our enemies with kindness !

But that is not the point I wanted to make here.
Think of the exchange between Elisha and his frightened servant …. In your mind’s eye, see the physical army encamped around them, and then envision, super imposed above them, the fiery armies of God, dwarfing the Syrian horses and chariots into toys!
And hear Elisha proclaim , “Do not fear , for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then read the parallel words in I John 4:4 , “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”
We have quoted that verse many times and given it mental assent, but doesn’t the picture of the old testament story inflame the words with 3D, High Definition meaning and depth and drive the truth of it deep within your heart?
Truly the enemy in the world, no matter what he may bring against us , is a defeated foe!!
We need not fear ! as God’s children we have the armies of heaven surrounding us. We can truly have the peace and calm of Elisha and meet the enemy head on , no matter what form he takes in our life.
The God in us is truly greater by far… than the god of this world!!!
In fact, he has only one weapon that is effective against us… fear! but we have the power to refuse to let him use it. If we, like Elisha and his servant, have seen the power of God’s glorious heavenly army sent out on our behalf, what shall we fear ?!?!?

The words of Jesus , “In the world you will have tribulation,
but be of good cheer!! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A "You" Shaped Spot in God's Heart

What makes you feel closest to God?

Is it when you are praying? when you are listening to music? when you are caring for someone who is sick? when you are walking alone in the woods? when you are reading your bible? listening to an inspiring message or story ? when you are sharing your faith with someone?
Maybe you have never considered this question …but if you do and you discover the answer it could revolutionize your walk with the Lord .
Finding that special place where you feel closest to God – is where you draw your strength and then you take that strength into all other areas of your life. To use a rather crude parallel it is like you need the gas station to fill your car with gas so that it can take you where ever you want to go. Ignore the gas stations, you will be in trouble… no longer able to drive in comfort , you would have to walk in your own strength.

We can look at other people and see what their relationship with God looks like on the outside. There have been people in my life that have made me want what they have … but I could not have ‘theirs’. I had to find my own , as do you ! God is sooooo neat ! He has no cookie cutter people …family resemblances to His Son, yes – but each child of God is unique and has a special place close to His heart so distinctly ‘you-shaped’ that no one else will ever fit there.
I love the song, “I come to the garden alone…” It speaks of this intimate place where no one else can experience what you experience there with God.

For me , nothing makes me feel as close to the Lord as when I discover a new truth or a fresh understanding from God’s word. It makes me feel as though I am sitting as His feet and looking up into His face , eager to hear His every word. And second is to have the opportunity to share that truth , either in print or in word, with someone else.
I will confess something …. even though I have discovered my secret place with God… the distractions of this world and human weakness…. have over and over again pulled me away… until I suddenly recognize that I am no longer as victorious or happy in my relationship with God and I have to return to being faithful in my special place with Him. I see the picture in Revelation where Jesus is standing outside of our heart’s door , knocking. We think it was rude to leave Peter standing outside knocking …. but how often are we guilty of busying ourselves with the cares of life and we don’t even hear Jesus knocking on our heart’s door asking to come back in. I know I have been guilty .
But when I am faithful to draw my strength from my secret communion with God… my whole life is affected because it is then impossible to do anything and not be aware of Him close by.

I am so enjoying writing for this blog ! and I am very aware that only what is of God will be blessed !
But sometimes I run ahead, and I think.. Oh I should do a post on that ! and I try to write it out ..and it doesn’t flow.. I try something else and that doesn’t come together either. Then I realize what I am doing … praying the common prayer of today , “Lord, I am going to do this, and that … and go here and there… and I want you to bless it !!”
No, it does not work that way !
I need to become quiet and pray, “Lord , you give me the thoughts and ideas and help me to express them to the best of my ability !”
And I am amazed how quickly He answers that prayer. This post is an example. I had just finished publishing my last post and was on my way upstairs to have some tea with my husband before I went to go lie down – (someone gifted me with their ‘cold germs’) -- and as I climbed the stairs I asked , Lord what shall I write about next ? and instantly the thoughts I am expressing here came to mind and I couldn’t wait to come back to my computer to write them out before they melted into all the other thoughts swirling around in my head !!

We short change God in so many ways… often not consciously , but thoughtlessly. We think of God having human limitations – He is too big and holy to understand the mundane details of my life – I’m not important enough for Him to care about my day – my little troubles or cares are too small for Him to bother with .
No !! a thousand times No!!
Our God is sooo big He has the time for 24/7, one-on-one with each of His children. Isn’t that amazing? He wants to be a part of our day , our smallest activities , our every thought ! And spending time in our own special place with Him gives us the assurance and confidence that He does indeed walk close beside us.
(Just to clarify here…I am talking about having the kind of closeness with God that the bible characters had.. like Enoch , who walked with God, or Moses who spoke face to face with God, or Abraham who was his friend…. I am not going anywhere near the silly extremes that we hear about, such as the lady I heard of last week who does not get out of bed in the morning until God tells her to. God does not unplug our brain when He comes into our life, nor are we to stop discerning and checking what we hear or believe, testing everything against His written word which He will never contradict! )
But I do believe that God is interested in the details of our life and we can talk to Him about them, in the same way we would if He were physically walking beside us.

I ask God for help or advice in so many little everyday things and He always has an answer. The more you listen to His voice , the more familiar it becomes !
I think the greatest deterrent to ‘walking with God’ is the noise that we have in our life. There is so much that distracts us, the TV, the radio, the MP3 players, iPods or cell phones , stereo systems , computers, lap tops, hand held computer games - we are continually surrounded by noise. I know our younger generation, especially , seems addicted to noise…. what a clever ploy of the enemy to scream so loud in our ears so that we are distracted from hearing God.
We need to shut it all off more often and rediscover the joy of stillness, hearing ourselves think and listening for the still small voice of God.

So back to my original question… I challenge you to find your special place if you have never thought about it before in quite this way…. don’t try to be like someone else… God created you ‘one of a kind’ ! and His fellowship with you will be exclusive. We see God’s incredible diversity in nature…( did you know there are 16,000 different species of bees?) What has made us think that He wants us all to be the same?
To have countless Christians all reflecting the image of Christ – but each in his/her own unique personal expression will be the glory of God through all eternity !!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Prison Escape

Too often we read the bible stories simply as recorded history….And so they are !
But they are in the bible for a much more important reason.
They are there to encourage us and teach us how to think and act and believe.
Each story has a message for us today that is as relevant as it was when the original story happened!!

I love the story in Acts 12.
The story background concerns King Herod's evil intentions against the early church. Not only did he harass them but he had gone as far as to order the apostle James killed and seeing that it pleased the Jews saw an opportunity to ingratiate himself further with the people.
King Herod put his finger on Peter to have him killed as well but - because it was the days of Unleavened Bread, a sacred holiday when all political activities were put on hold- he had him arrested and thrown into prison to hold him until after Passover.
The story doesn’t tell us how Peter felt but I’m sure he thought his life was over. There was obviously no hope of escape for King Herod had ordered 16 soldiers to guard him. Certainly sounds like overkill but it confirms to us how feared the early Christians were.
Peter was chained between two soldiers , and the other 14 soldiers were ordered to stand guard.

And what is Peter doing when we look in on him? Sleeping !
I don’t know that I would be sleeping…first of all, it wasn’t comfortable sleeping on the hard , cold prison floor- no modern prison luxury here! Adding to his discomfort were the heavy, painful chains and the emotional tension of knowing he faced certain torture and death.
I don’t know if the soldiers chained to him were asleep. I would guess that they were probably wishing they could be at home in their comfortable beds and I’m sure they wondered at this man who could sleep so peacefully with the threat of death hanging over his head.
Little did they guess it was their lives that were in danger and not his!!

Passover came and went and it was to be Peter’s last night in prison before King Herod brought him out to kill him.
An anxious prayer meeting was going on in a house within walking distance of the prison, with many Christians in attendance.
Meanwhile, an angel suddenly appeared in the prison lighting up the darkness.
He struck Peter on the side and told him to get up. Perhaps he struck Peter to break the chains holding him because when he stood up , the chains fell off. The angel further instructed Peter to put on his sandals and his garment and to follow him. The story tells us that Peter thought he was seeing a vision, not just because the experience was surreal but I’m sure because he observed the 16 soldiers not indicating in any way that they saw Peter getting up and getting dressed! And they did not even blink when the chains rattled to the floor. The angel escourted Peter past the first and second set of guards and through the prison gate that on heavenly cue opened by itself.
It was only when the angel left Peter standing alone on the street that Peter realized he had just experienced a supernatural prison break-out. I can’t imagine his emotions , he must have been elated. His first thought was of the church , to tell them he was free ! He knew where they were – I’m sure he himself had been part of other such night prayer vigils - and went to knock on the door.
A servant girl named Rhoda came to ask who was there. When she heard Peter’s voice, in her excitement forgot to let him in and ran back to interrupt the prayer meeting to tell them that Peter was at the gate !!
I always find it such a human reaction that they didn’t believe her . They were praying , I’m sure for a miracle, begging God to set Peter free… then they are told he is at the door and they tell Rhoda that she is beside herself! Or it is his angel – perhaps he is already dead.
I try to imagine how Peter felt ! Here he is, bursting to tell someone of his miraculous experience and no one will even open the door !!! So he keeps pounding !!
Finally , they come to the door and are amazed to see him standing there- grinning - in the flesh ! In fact, they are so jubilant that Peter has to tell them to be quiet… they will awaken the neighbourhood .
Peter stayed a short while and then slipped away to an undisclosed location for safety.

Can you imagine the scene in the prison when daylight reveals the two soldiers still lying on the floor with two severed chains between them ?? And the expressions on the soldiers' faces when the realization dawns that their prisoner has escaped? They must have been incredulous!
There must have been panic in the prison and angry blaming words, if not blows, hurled at one another, not just because the prisoner had miraculously disappeared but the guards knew they themselves were now condemned… the punishment for letting your prisoner escape was execution. (I would be curious to know if there was a soldier meant to be one of Peter's guards and was substituted at the last minute ? - I feel sorry sometimes for the soldiers, but God knew their hearts)

There are several things this incredible story teaches us.
1> God hears and answers prayers ! But we see reflected in this story our own blind spot. How often do we pray and then not recognize the answer when it comes?? Do we not expect God to answer our prayers? Do we not believe that we are coming to our heavenly Father who has promised to answer our need even before we ask? That He has promised to do abundantly more than we can think or ask? The Christians praying for Peter had James’ recent martyrdom fresh in their minds and they feared the worst. We do the same , don’t we? We become discouraged by what we see happening around us and we lose faith.
“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” ( Matt. 21:22)

2> There is no obstacle big enough to prevent God from doing His will! Herod thought he had secured Peter so tight that no one and nothing could free him. But how easily God accomplished the escape. Sometimes we pray and we feel our situation is just too difficult and complicated for God to set it right ! We can’t see any way that God could possibly make things right. But we serve a great God!
“ Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?" (Jer. 32:27)

3> When we fear for our life or safety we can learn from Peter. He slept in the midst of a most terrifying experience. And we have that same assurance in God. Nothing will hinder His plan or purpose for our life. We are safe in Him.
“He will not allow your foot to be moved. He who keeps you will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3)

4> I think one lesson is often missed , the fact that Peter did not question his instructions. We take for granted that we would all do what an angel of God told us to do, but do we not often allow our reason to stand between us and obedience? Peter could have argued with the angel and said, “It is impossible for us to get past all the guards… Maybe you can pass unnoticed but they will for sure see me !!” But Peter’s automatic response was to do what he was told, even if it was illogical and contrary to his natural mind.
He had learned this lesson earlier - as we see in his response when he was brought before authorities in a previous experience, “We ought to obey God rather than men” ( Acts 5:29)

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by how eager God is to make His ways known unto us. He does not intend that we should flounder in the dark trying to understand Him, He has made Himself clear to us in so many ways, and one of the best is through the real life stories that He made sure were preserved for us thousands of years after they happened.
Isn’t that a miracle in itself?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Fruit - Real or Plastic?

Is the fruit in the bowl real or plastic?

A little hard to tell just by looking, right?
I’ll give you a hint….the bowl is 100 years old and the fruit is 50 years old,
so if you said plastic , you are right.
Plastic fruit has a long shelf life and is low maintenance , requiring nothing other than a quick wash now and again.
While it is decorative and appealing to the eye, plastic fruit cannot be eaten, it has no life and gives nothing of itself.

In contrast, real fruit takes a long time to grow, conditions must be right and the tree on which it grows must be healthy.
The fruit must be picked when it is ripe and eaten when it is fresh.
Real fruit has life in itself and it offers life to others.

Which kind of fruit – plastic or real- do you have in the basket of your heart?

As Christians we are called to bear fruit but we sometimes confuse the real with the plastic imitation.
There may not be much visible difference when we are casually observed but the test is in the ‘eating’ ….when people look to us for nourishment for their soul do they find our fruit to be real or plastic? Is it life-giving or superficial?

To have healthy fruit…we must first have a healthy tree. Jesus says that He is the vine and we are the branches. There is no doubt the Divine Vine is healthy, so our responsibility lies with drawing our sustenance from Him to keep our branch alive and life giving.
If we have His Spirit life in us then our fruit will be real but if we are a dead or dying branch our fruit may be of the plastic variety.

Galatians 5:22,23 lists the fruit of the Spirit : love, joy, peace, long suffering, goodness, gentleness, self-control, meekness, faith

How can we tell if we have the real or the plastic, the true or the carnal??

Plastic love is self-focused….loving only that which is lovely, loving only where it is loved in return – plastic love is concerned with self protection.
Real love… is about self-sacrifice, loving the unlovely and the unlovable, willing to go where others turn away.

Plastic joy responds to the moment, is dependant on circumstances , expressed with feelings of happiness for something gained or enjoyed.
Real joy is a reservoir deep within that comes from being in the presence of God….it cannot be suppressed because it rejoices in thanksgiving to God in all circumstances.

Plastic peace is simply the absence of chaos or calamity, it exists only where nothing frightens or disturbs.
Real peace is the security of knowing the Prince of Peace who rules over every stormy gale , it is finding in Him a shelter from the turmoil of life.

Plastic long suffering will suffer only for promised gain, or fame or wealth.
Real long suffering is willing to carry someone else’s burden, to pay another’s debt, to bear ridicule or shame that is undeserved.

Plastic goodness looks for praise and acclaim and recompense, it is careful with valued possessions
Real goodness is watchful not to inflict pain or offence , it looks for opportunity to do kind deeds and loves to do them in secret.

Plastic faith is mind over matter, manipulating to get it’s own way, believing because it feels right.
Real faith is childlike trust in God, believing in His goodness and mercy, resting in His word.

Plastic self-control considers the ramifications of letting loose with words or actions , it considers personal cost.
Real self-control results from desiring to honor Christ in word and deed.

Plastic meekness focuses on self-lack, it is patient when there is no threat of loss , no interruption of it’s own agenda.
Real meekness honors others and does not see itself at all, it quietly walks along side to help and support and encourage and is willing to wait .

Plastic kindness gives to receive again, its deeds calculated for personal benefit.
Real kindness finds expression in tender love for another, it is compassionate and caring, responding to need.

Real fruit – “against such there is not law.” (Gal. 5:23b)
Let’s examine the fruit in our heart basket, take it out one by one…. is it real? or plastic? or real with plastic spots?

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit “! ( Gal. 5:25)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

An Unusual Find

In a corner of the attic in the Smithsonian Museum lay an old Havana cigar box waiting to reveal a secret clue that that would lead to an amazing discovery.

How long it lay there, I don’t know, but in the spring of 1960 a young man by the name of Kjell Sandved arrived to conduct research for his encyclopedia on animal behavior.
One day he was standing on top of a high ladder looking at stacked boxes and drawers containing butterflies and moths and he discovered the old , long forgotten, cigar box.
Opening it , he found it was full of exotic butterflies and moths. To his utter amazement what caught his eye was a silvery letter ‘F’ woven into the tapestry of one of the top butterfly’s wings.
Realizing that he had found a piece of a puzzle he shared his excitement with his assistant, Barbara Bedette. They reasoned that if there was one letter on one butterfly’s wings then surely there would be others.
Abandoning their original research at the Smithsonian Institute, they dedicated themselves to search for the rest of the alphabet. Because of the delicacy of the butterflies’ wings they could not be handled without destroying them, therefore, all the pictures had to be taken of live butterflies in their natural surroundings.
They traveled the world for the next 20 years to complete their search for all the letters and numerals of the alphabet.

Is it by accident that all the letters of our English language are inscribed on the butterfly wings? Or is it by design… to delight and amaze us at how detailed and careful God has been to leave His signature in hidden places.

Why the English alphabet? and not other languages?
I think because……………
God used the Romans to build an infrastructure of highways that connected the then known world populations. These roads were the means by which the gospel was spread to all peoples, allowing the early church to grow!
So also….
God knew that the universal language would one day be English - not just for international business but also to spread His word. We have some friends teaching English in China and they use the bible to do it !

Doesn’t it give you a sense of security to know how in control God is of everything that happens? Knowing that English would one day be the accepted universal language , he foretold it by inscribing it’s alphabet on butterfly wings!
Perhaps to say, “See, I knew it all along!”
Proof that He is indeed All-Knowing - not just the past but the future also!!
In a world that is more and more moving away from faith in an infinite and all-knowing God, He has left proof for those who seek Him.

”For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory , for ever! Amen!!”

Friday, February 16, 2007

From Garbage to Gold

When you are envious of someone’s accomplishment or read of their life adventures, did you ever stop to think that except for some tragedy or obstacle in their life they would not have had a story to tell?

Almost everything in our life that is worthwhile comes forth out of being tried in the fire.
Think about the people you admire, past and present , who have inspiring stories to tell, are not the best ones about men and women who overcame great difficulties in their lives?

We have so many examples in the bible…many of whose stories are our favorites.
Daniel in the lion’s den… We love the adventure and delight in God’s miraculous intervention. Yet, his story came out of tragedy and terrible circumstances. He was ruthlessly snatched away from his childhood home and security , his manhood stolen from him and he was sentenced to the life of a eunuch slave. Because he refused to deny God, he was condemned to be thrown into a den of hungry lions. I wonder how many nights Daniel lay awake agonizing over the pain in his life.
Joseph was mistreated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused, thrown into prison , betrayed over and over by those he trusted. We love the irony of him being made second to Pharaoh and a ruler over Egypt. We love how he saved his people from starvation and how he tested his brothers. But his glory did not come without pain.

We are so spoiled in lives of comparative affluence that we want everything to be easy. God did not promise us an easy life. In fact , Jesus promised that we would have tribulation !
Why? because He wants us to struggle and be unhappy? No, a thousand times no !
It is because out of darkness the light shines brightest, out of despair comes the joy of hope realized, out of sickness comes healing, out of devastation comes a miracle ! Without a problem you can have no solution ! Without a prayer , there can come no answer.

I have learned to look expectantly to my Father when something goes ‘wrong’ in my life…. knowing that here is an opportunity for God to intervene… here is an opening for a miracle. It is not that I am a masochist – far from it – I would like to avoid all the pitfalls in life as much as anyone…but when things do go awry , whether it is an irritant or a major catastrophe I look to see what God will do !
It is amazing what His creative hands can do with the things we would love to throw away!
If you and I had been given a calendar listing all the events of our life and we were given a black pen to cross out anything we would prefer to eliminate, I know that we would have indicated all of the things that in hindsight had the most value.
Think back on your life…. did you not grow the most spiritually in your darkest times? Are not some of your most precious memories when God delivered you out of a hopeless situation? The apostle Paul in II Tim. 3:11 talks about the things he endured… persecutions and afflictions … but you can almost hear the jubilation in his voice when he shouts….”and out of them ALL the Lord delivered me !!

As we mature in our Christian walk, we learn to recognize that the trials of our life bring forth the best fruit and that we can trust God in the most difficult situations…..but I think few of us have learned that God wants us to give Him the little things too. The small irritants and things that go wrong in any given day. If we give them to God and ask Him to turn them into gold…He will. It is amazing how our days change if our first response when something goes wrong is to look up and ask God what He can do with it.

I remember one hair appointment I had with a new hair dresser. As I was waiting I picked up one of the shop magazines and flipped through. One article caught my eye that said you should never let a hair stylist work on your hair if she was upset. Interesting , I thought. When my hair was washed and the stylist began to cut , we got into a casual conversation and then she started to tell me about her dad and his new wife. As she went on some of the details began to sound a little familiar and on a whim, I asked if her father’s wife’s name was Darlene.
She stopped , scissors in hand and demanded, “How do you know?”
I replied that Darlene was my best friend. She became extremely agitated and upset…the words tumbling over one another about this horrible woman her dad had married.
The advice in the article flashed into my mind, and I was strongly tempted to get up and leave, but I knew this was no co-incidence, that God had ordered this encounter.
I tried to calm her as I prayed for insight. She really was not willing to listen to any other viewpoint than her own and we changed the subject.
When I got to the car , I thought my hair felt funny and when I looked into the mirror , one side was a good 4” shorter than the other side. I did not have easy hair to manage and a good cut was very important. I struggled with my emotions all the way home and was determined to go somewhere else to try to have the damage repaired. But the Lord softly told me to go back to the same girl.
I resisted , fearing she would only make the damage worse. But, in the end, I called the shop, asked to speak to her and explained my problem. She was very defensive and denied that she could possible have done anything wrong. I made another appointment ….and having prayed earnestly for God to help me reach out to her and help her if I could….I went back to the shop. She was not very friendly at first but I joked about the mistake and told her about the article I had read just before she cut my hair, laughingly taking full responsibility for the bad hair cut.
She began to relax and we had a good conversation. Over the next few visits we talked about a lot of the things she was struggling with…..and she was willing to listen to me when I talked about the Lord. My ruined hair was a small price to pay. It grew back!

One day when my 4 year old creative granddaughter was leaving, after a visit at our house, she turned back and remarked, “Nanna, if you have any garbage , give it to me because I can make something with it.”

God knows how to take your ‘garbage’ and make something with it!
All He asks is that you give it to Him and watch Him work it all into gold!

Life Stories

I am writing this post from a very full heart.
We just came back from our bible study where we watched a video of Eduard Klassen playing his harp and telling his story.

Moved as I was by his story , what filled my heart was an emotional insight of how immensely important each of our life stories are.
As artistic and creative God is in nature- making sure not even two snowflakes are ever the same- it pales in comparison to how infinitely more creative God is in weaving each individual life story.
We are so prone to comparing ourselves with one another, so eager to make sure we fit ourselves into what we perceive to be the ‘socially accepted’ mold.. But in doing so, we diminish or devalue that very things that make us unique , the very things that God made ‘different’ in our life on purpose. Each of us has the incredible privilege of having our own story to live that will proclaim God’s grace and goodness throughout all eternity .
If you are reading this – please know that this message is for you !
God wants you to know that His life in you will bring glory to His name in a way that can not be duplicated. God has a perfect script that He wrote only for you – no one but you can play the lead role !
If you do not live it , the story will never be told !!

I had not heard of Eduard Klassen until tonight.
His story began in 1927 when 1,600 German speaking Mennonites moved from Winnipeg to Paraguay to preserve their freedom to teach their children in German.
From the cold -42’ Canadian winters , they moved to 52’ summers in Paraguay. They were allowed to settle in a wilderness area that was over 500 km. from the nearest city. Life was very difficult and they lived in extreme poverty. Even by the time Eduard was born in 1960, things had not improved much. His parents worked hard to provide the bare necessities for life. Their home had mud walls and floor and a grass roof, they slept on grass mattresses filled with cockroaches and leeches. He was 15 before he saw a paved road.
Musical instruments and singing in harmony was forbidden in their churches, but when he was seven years old his father brought home a shiny box that he excitedly told his six boys was a radio. Eduard said it was the most amazing thing he had ever heard, the music and the German preaching they heard that night. It changed their lives. To a little seven year old boy who had grown up in the jungle, the idea of little people singing and talking in the shiny box was magical. Then, later, missionaries came who confirmed the gospel they had heard on the radio and they encouraged the children to go to the city to be educated.
When Eduard was 20 he told his parents that he had had enough and was leaving to go to the city. He had heard of some of the amazing things that were part of city life but had never seen or experienced them. Knowing nothing but the primitive life in the jungle he had much to learn. He could barely read or write and had to learn Spanish in a hurry.
He spend 6 years studying in the theological seminary where he majored in music, learning to play the Paraguayan Harp – a beautifully ornate harp that is much lighter than the classic harp and has the strings very close together.
When he was 25 he flew to Germany at the invitation of an evangelist that had heard him play in Paraguay. He, along with two other students, tried to absorb the culture shock. When they first went into a washroom in Germany , they realized that water was supposed to come out of the pipe thing sticking out over the sink but there was no handle. They decided to look up into the pipe to see what was there – it was a motion activated tap and of course they got soaked for sticking their heads under it !!
Eduard is a warm , humble man who is in love with the Lord and has given his life to proclaim what God has done in his life. He is wonderfully gifted musically and his love for God comes from his heart !
He travels full time around the world with his harp, his testimony and his Canadian born wife and their two little sons.
He says that never in his wildest dreams could he have ever believed the plan that God had for his life , and it is his greatest joy to praise Him for it !

We are blessed by stories like Eduard’s … and praise God for what He did in and through his life – but instead of taking it as encouragement that our life also has significance and purpose in God’s eternal plan - we pull back and think… I can’t do that !
Of course you can’t !!! It’s not your script.

I read a moving account of another life story.
A man who owned a little shop on a street in England, became a Christian later in life . He wanted to do something for the kingdom of God and not knowing what else he could do , he promised God that he would witness to at least one person every day for the rest of his life. Every day he went out of his shop into the street and laying a hand on a shoulder or an arm would ask,
“If you were to die tonight, do you know where you are going?” and he would press a tract into their hand. Most people brushed him aside , ignored him or threw the tract on the ground. For over 30 years, rain or shine, he never failed in his promise – even though it seemed he was totally wasting his time, not one person ever came back to thank him for his witness. He died , knowing only that he had been faithful to his promise.
A traveling evangelist was holding meetings across the country and across the sea in Australia and other countries. Again and again he heard the stories of men and women who got up in the meetings to tell of how their lives had changed after an encounter with a little old man on _____ St. in England.

Is not this man’s faithfulness, day after day for so many years, not worthy of perhaps even higher praise than the one who is recognized in this life??
So judge not until the end of your story is known, perhaps your life is one where the best will not be seen until God reveals in eternity your life story.
Live each day the best that you can, focusing on what is before you to do , do it for the glory of God…and leave the script to God.
But know for an absolute fact that your story is important … and either in this life or in the one to come your life story will take center stage!
- and then you can take your crowns and throw them at Jesus feet, saying,
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour….” ( Rev. 4:10,11)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Lofty View

Who has watched an eagle in flight against a blue cloudless sky and not wished that they could float so effortlessly above the earth?
Man’s inherent desire to fly has been expressed in so many ways – not just in attempts (that go back as far as 2200 B.C) to make his own wings but also metaphorically in art , poetry and legends. It has, as well, found expression in our every day language. If we are excited about something , we say we are flying high, if we are unrealistic we are said to have our heads in the clouds, if we grasp at something unattainable we call it pie in the sky, if we dare to dream dreams we call it reaching for the stars.
While many of our modern inventions appeared on our retail shelves before we knew we needed them, the desire to fly was probably there since the time of Adam and yet that desire was not realized until our own recent history with man’s first powered aircraft in 1902 by Richard Pearse.

I am not a world traveler and have only flown twice in my life… so I would say that my feet are fairly firmly planted on the ground and yet the desire to fly like a bird is one of my secret longings.

My brother, James, recently earned his pilot’s license and bought his own little Beechcraft Musketeer airplane. It took him awhile to persuade me to fly with him – not because I did not trust his piloting ability but rather because I was not sure whether I could trust him not to make me sick with spins and dives! He finally convinced me he would behave and so one beautiful, sunny August day I went flying with him. Sitting beside the pilot in a small plane gave me much more a sense of flying like a bird than a larger plane ever could. We lost sense of time and had a wonderful flight, landing safely to find my worried husband who was sure we had crashed somewhere!

Considering that the desire to fly seems to be a universal and ancient desire, I wonder if perhaps it is not a God-given desire. God’s angels have wings and fly so there is evidence that it is a heavenly activity.
In thinking about my flying experience , and knowing that God loves to teach us spiritual truths through the physical things we understand , I thought of several things that flying taught me.

Flying is the only thing that even partially releases man from the grasp of earth’s gravity.
I remember one line of a song we sang in church when I was a child, “Von die Erde reiss mich los”. ( from the earth tear me away) Did God give us the desire to fly to encourage us to look to His heavenly kingdom rather than our earthly one?
Only when we fly can we experience a sense of ‘disconnect’ as we look down on the earth. Much as we love the world we live in and the life we have here, we know that there must be something better to come and we long to be free from the things that bind us, hinder us, and cause us to stumble. We desire to fly away from sorrow and pain and the horror of evil. We yearn to be free where we can soar in the presence of God forever!

Flying makes me feel physically closer to God . The language in scripture gives us to understand that God’s throne is in the heavens as David declares in Ps. 123:1, “Unto Thee lift I up mine eyes – O Thou that dwellest in the heavens !” The pull of the earth broken, I can float among the soft , billowy clouds and identify with a sense of being ‘seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus’. (Eph 2:6)
When God promised never again to destroy the earth by water he sealed his promise with a rainbow in the sky. When Jesus left this earth He disappeared into the clouds and we are told to ‘look up’ and watch for Him to reappear. (Luke 21:28)
God draws us upward as a physical reminder to seek Him above all else.

Flying high above the earth gave me a new world view. Gone were the familiar landmarks by which we find our earthly bearings. They disappeared into a mosaic of field and stream and mountain tops with ribbons of connecting roads.
In the same way we are called to superimpose over our carnal view of the world, a spiritual view from God’s perspective, renewing our minds to see through His eyes , to discern what is important in His kingdom and what is not. Flying in the clouds gives us the emotional feel of what it means to be ‘in the world but not of the world’ (John 17:15,16) - living our life on earth but remembering that we are but temporary travelers , on our way home – we are ‘citizens of a heavenly kingdom’. ( Phil. 3:20)

I loved looking down from lofty heights and seeing everything in miniature. I saw how small and insignificant the things of the world really are - the things that would threaten or frighten me were far below and too tiny to hurt me. Isn’t that God’s view of our world ? The things that loom larger than life, that strike terror into our hearts, that make us worry and fret are so tiny to Him ! How easily He can reach down to make thing right or lift us up into His arms where we are safe..

What was amazing to me looking down from my lofty view was that there was nothing ugly… all the unsightly areas , the run-down parts of town, peoples’ uncared for homes or property, the excavation sites, the garbage dumps, were all magically brushed over to become part of a perfectly ordered landscape , divided into flawless squares of varied hues of color.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we allowed all the irritants and disappointments and frustrations of each day simply to come under God’s brush of ‘all things work together for good’? ( Rom. 8:28) If we could only remember the big picture when we interact with the people that walk through our day, if we could look for the beauty in every moment instead of focusing on the things that offend us, if we could step outside of our own self-centered view and consider God’s view - how unflawed and beautiful our days would be.

I’ll give the last word to John Gillespie Magee, Jr. through his expressive poem……

High Flight !

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

What a perfect day to obey God’s commandment to “love one another !”
Valentine’s Day – a day when all around the world people are thinking about LOVE ! Would the world not be a better place if it were Valentine’s Day every day of the year ?
But as Christians serving the God of Love – every day IS a day to celebrate love - His love for us and our love for Him and one another.

I did a bit of research involving the origin of St. Valentine’s Day and while there are some legends and contradictions surrounding the day I found the following to be fairly reliable information.
St. Valentine died in 270 AD, his birth date is not known .
He lived in Rome under the rule of the emperor Claudius II, who was also known as Claudius the Cruel. Involved in many bloody and unpopular crusades, Claudius had difficulty in recruiting enough men to join his armies. Deciding it was because men did not want to leave their wives and children, he simply outlawed marriage .
St. Valentine, a devote Christian , felt the injustice of the decree and dared to continue marrying people, performing the ceremonies in secret. He also aided the Christian martyrs who suffered under Claudius’ rule.
His kind deeds attracted the attention of Claudius the Cruel who had him arrested, tortured and because he refused to deny his faith sentenced him to death.
In prison, Valentine befriended and fell in love with the jailor’s daughter and on the eve of his execution he wrote her a note signed , ‘from your Valentine’.
He was executed on February the 14th.
In ancient Rome, February 14th was a holiday to honour Juno who was the Queen of the Roman Gods and Goddesses. The Romans also knew her as the Goddess of women and marriage.
The Christian pastors in Rome tried to do away with this pagan custom and in 496 AD , February 14th was set aside to honor St. Valentine.
Valentine cards were commercialized in the 1800’s and sending cards on Feb. 14th has become a well established tradition along with chocolate , flowers and gifts.

On the subject of love from the Book of Books………

The very first time ‘love’ is mentioned in the Bible is in the love story of Jacob and Rachael. Jacob , having fallen in love with his boss’s daughter, Rachael, asked her father to give her to him as his wife. He served Laban for 7 years for her hand in marriage, then when Laban tricked him into marrying Leah, had to work another seven for Rachael. But the scripture says that these seven years “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love that he had for her.” ( Gen. 29:20)
Would Rachael not have loved that declaration in a Valentine’s card?

There is an example of extraordinary love in Ex. 21:5. When a man was sold into slavery to a Hebrew, the law was that after six years he had to be given his freedom. If he entered his service as a single man , he went out single , which meant that if his master had given him a wife who bore him children, the wife and children remained the property of the master. But if the slave loved his wife and children more than he did his freedom, he could declare his love before a judge and his master would pierce his ear as a sign that henceforth he was serving his master not out of duty but out of love .

Romans 13:8 tells us that LOVE is a debt we owe to each other. We are admonished to owe no man anything --- except love --- a debt, which we will never be able to pay in full !!!

And who does not love John 3:16 , the best love story of all !!!
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him , should not perish but have everlasting life.”

“Beloved, if God so loved us.. we ought to love one another!”

( I John 4:11)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Two Gifts

We have been created in God’s image so that we have the ability to relate to Him.
Even though God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours we can learn to understand Him because he has given us intellectual capacity to do so and we share His emotional traits… love, hate, joy, anger, peace, patience, sadness, longing.
But there are two ‘gifts’ that God has given to man that He Himself does not have…. sexuality and a sense of humor.

God Himself is not a sexual being , nor are His angels and the bible tells us that man too will have no need of this gift in the life to come.
Sex is a gift that God gave man for his earthly life - as an expression of the special intimacy between a man and a woman, the means by which man would proliferate and thirdly for a very special reason that Paul hints at it when he talks in Ephesians 5:32 about the mystery of a man and woman being one flesh. But then he adds …'the mystery I speak of concerns Christ and the church.' I believe that in our eternity there will be something extremely intimate and special between us and the Lord that is the heavenly translation of the sexual relationship between husband and wife. It is one of the ‘ above that we could think or imagine’ glories of the life to come.
I don’t think many would argue with the above statements, but I think it may be more difficult to convince many today that God does not have a sense of humor. I so often hear flippant remarks about God’s sense of humor, and I bite my tongue.
Why is it impossible that God has a sense of humor?
One reason is because God is holy and perfect and so all of His attributes can be stretched to the extreme and still remain pure. God’s love is infinite in scope… who can stand in the day of His wrath… His patience is far beyond human capacity…. but stretch a sense of humor even in human terms and it becomes ridiculous.
Think of someone who has a sense of humor so over-developed that he cannot be serious about anything. Is this a person you would go to if you needed comfort or understanding or advice? Studies have shown that some of the loneliest people are clowns – they spend their life making people laugh but they themselves are left empty, unable to develope meaningful relationships.

One of the best definitions of what makes us laugh is “We laugh at what is out of focus.” Isn’t that true? We laugh when something other than what we expected occurs…. that is why babies laugh when you play peek-a-boo with them.. They see you disappear and they expect you are gone… then suddenly you reappear and they laugh. A joke is funny only the first time you hear it.. once you know the punch line you are no longer moved to laughter. So , by this definition, what in the sight of an all-knowing God would ever be ‘out of focus’ or unexpected?
It is interesting that the bible does record God laughing… four scripture references in all …
(Ps. 59:8, Prov. 1:26, Ps. 2:4, Ps. 37:13) and in every one God laughs at the wicked. He will have the last laugh in the day of judgment when all their human wisdom will be brought to naught. Is evil not the only thing that would be ‘out of focus’ for God , in the sense that evil is the absence of God ?

So if God does not have a sense of humor, then why did He give it to man?
It has been said that when you laugh with someone you bring them to your level… how true that is. How comfortable we immediately are with someone we laugh with, even someone we have just met.
Can you imagine how difficult our life would be if we could never laugh? Without the ability to laugh at ourselves and with each other our life at times would be unbearable. Used in the right way, at the right time and for the right reason, humor lightens our load.
I remember a time when my RA was especially debilitating - I was standing in front of my mirror looking at my disheveled hair and was unable to grasp my brush, much less lift it to try to try to comb my hair. I called my husband and asked if he could please brush my hair. He came and was more than happy to comply…. but I will forever have the picture imprinted on my memory of him ever so awkwardly attempting to comb my hair. It struck me so hilariously funny I burst out laughing.. He said, “How can you laugh?” but he had to join in and the memory of that moment still brings a smile to my face.
“A merry heart doeth good like medicine!” ( Prov.17:22)

Can God use the gift of humor He gave us in His relationship with us ? I believe He does.

I once , years ago, was very upset by something – I can’t remember what it was – but I remember I was too distressed to go to bed even though my husband begged me to come. It was late, and finally he gave up and when to bed by himself. I took my bible and sat down in the living room to try to calm down. I flipped my bible open randomly and my eyes fell on the following verse in Ecc. 4:11 “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?”
It really felt like God had spoken audibly…. my tension melted, surprised laughter bubbled up in its place and I went to bed to tell my husband about my divine rebuke and we laughed together. You might ask, “Doesn’t that prove God has a sense of humor?” I would say no… but rather that it proves that God as my heavenly Father knows and understand me . Do we not sometimes do the same with our own children – make them laugh to help them be obedient?

Just as sex will have its true fulfillment in heaven , so also our gift of humor will translate into joy that will fill all eternity.
We see this joy spoken of in relation to Jesus, “For the joy set before Him , he endured the cross…” (Heb.12:2) and also “ …. in that hour he rejoiced in Spirit” ( Matt. 10:21)

It does not take much observation – in fact it is often difficult to keep our eyes averted - to see how Satan has taken these two gifts and twisted them into something ugly and perverted wherever man has given him space.
Let us rather, as God’s children, cherish and use these two gifts in the way that He intended – and always in a way that will honor Him. .