Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Stark Contrast

Saturday night we were invited by special invitation to a 'black tie' concert/dinner in Vancouver. It was a concert featuring world renown tenor, Ben Heppner, along with the MEI children's choir and concert choir with orchestra.

The evening was a mix of " Songs from the Heart" , but here is a snippet of my favorite song of the evening .. "How Great Thou Art" recorded on my camera.

The concert was a display of the beauty of God-given talent and man's diligence in perfecting the gift.

We had never been in the Wall Center where the concert was held in the Grand Ballroom. It was overwhelmingly huge... obviously no money spared in design , construction or staffing.

The hundreds of people who came dressed as befitting a black-tie event.... were expressive of what the world can offer in luxury and affluence - a blessing if managed in a godly way. Not all people blessed with this world's goods do.

By 11:30 the dinner was over and people were beginning to leave. Vic and I slipped out as well to try to find our way back through a confusion of floors, corridors, elevators, escalators, twists and turns. Surprisingly, we did find our way back to our car through the maze of underground parking and drove back out onto the streets of Vancouver ... only to encounter the other extreme of society.

The homeless had taken over the night streets in the part of Vancouver we had to drive through.

It was overload for me..

I looked … and looked at the many people who were drunk or high on drugs or propositioning… or trying to find a spot on the sidewalk to sit… among discarded junk or possessions …or loitering in a corner park - no where else to go... claiming a bench for the night. The ‘darkness’ was sooo real you could feel it .. and the street lights did nothing to dispel it.

How people can live like that is so beyond me… I can’t understand… My heart breaks and I am so repelled at the same time. The filth, the sin, the depredation, the poverty … the absolute ‘lostness’ of their souls and lives… how can it be??
Who am I to judge ? and yet .. why ? they live in a country of choice and freedom and opportunity … where and when did they begin the spiral into a literal hell ?

One girl in particular is imprinted on my mind.

She was walking along the sidewalk.. I first caught sight of her from the back…. (we were stopped at a red light) And I feared for her safely walking among the street people sitting or leaning… in groups or by one or two .. against the stores, or buildings. I hoped the policeman we had just passed talking to a group of men sitting on the sidewalk was not too far away.

She passed two men… and I watched to make sure she would pass safely .. then they said something to her.. she turned back , walked over to them and grasped their hands. It was then I looked into her face and saw she was high on drugs. She was soo out of it that I’m sure she did not know what planet she was on.. Her head movements were so unnatural… her facial expressions soo strange - why is she caught in this lifestyle ?

I wondered if I could walk among these people and witness to them of the love of God.. and I had to admit that I could not. My voice is not the one they would relate to or hear. It is not my calling .. but my heart broke and I wished that they had made better choices, that life circumstances had treated them more kindly. I prayed that God would send someone to tell them there is a God who can forgive them and make them whole.

There was such a stark contrast between the ‘black tie’ people dining in a luxurious banquet hall…. and the dirty, drug-dazed people on the street.

I was happy to come back home and step back into my world .. which is neither of the extremes I had witnessed.
I am indeed blessed … I love where God has put me.. and I am so thankful that I am rich and secure in Him instead of lost in the darkness this world offers - but my heart lingers on the thought .. how can I hide in my 'bubble' when the world is full of lost and needy souls?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Power of Perspective

"A new book hits the store shelves today!"

What determines the success of your life? No, it isn’t your birthright, nor is it in the abundance of privileges you are granted, nor the circumstances that happened to be in your favour! It is something much more simple than that and something that we all have power over – perspective !

Andy Andrews, a motivational speaker/author, plays the various themes of ‘perspective’ in the lives of his characters in "The Noticer”. Though this new book is a work of fiction…yet it is not fiction, in so far as the personal experiences that shaped the author’s own life are woven into his story.
A main character, Jones, moving phantom-like through the life-stories, personifies the wisdom that comes to all of us. It is our choice whether or not we - listen and apply the wisdom given us through the ‘noticers’ in our life – people who come alongside to encourage and motivate us.

There is an insightful principle tucked into each chapter that will make you think. One that stood out to me was the statement that it is not our own experience that is the best teacher but the experience of others. It is up to us to be willing to listen or read and apply!
I appreciated Andrews emphasis on thankfulness. He says “the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart!”

We hear a lot today about how a friend accepts us just the way we are. Andrews points out that a best friend is not willing to turn a passive eye – but rather has the courage to tell us the truth in order to motivate us to be our very best.
A thought-provoking definition offered for ‘wisdom’ is “the ability to see into the future the consequences of your choices in the present”.
The author also presents a unique insight on how to know if the one you are dating is the ‘one you will love to spend your life with’.
Though the book espouses godly principles, I was disappointed that God was not clearly revealed as the Source of all Wisdom.

The author’s intent in writing this book was to encourage and motivate the reader to reach out and take the time to encourage someone in their life – to share the right perspective that will empower them to turn in the right direction.

The book is a light, enjoyable read with deposits of depth.
It would make a meaningful gift to that special graduate in your life!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Halted at The Gate

Tuesday my friend, Micheline and I made plans to celebrate her birthday. We decided to make a day of it – lunch, a walk along the river and maybe some shopping. In our telephone conversation, Micheline mentioned that the place we were going for lunch could get quite busy so why didn’t we meet early, like 11:15 . I readily agreed, “That will be fine. I’m going to the clubhouse for our weekly morning coffee time, but I’ll slip out at 11:15 and meet you at the gate!”
We’ve met there before - the gate is just down from the clubhouse and Micheline can just pick my up on her way.

At 11:14 I slip out of the clubhouse and walk down to the agreed upon spot.
She’s nowhere in sight .. so I wait… and wait… and wait.. The time passes . Its not like her to be late.. but unexpected things do happen – so I continue to wait. Why does time seem so long when you are just standing, waiting ??
Finally, after a good half hour, I decide there must have been some emergency and I walk back up through the complex to my house.
I just walk in the door to my husband’s surprised, “what happened ??” when the phone rings. Its Micheline. She says, “Did you forget?”
I reply “NO ! I’ve been standing at the gate waiting for a half hour!”
She says… “OH NO ! I thought you meant MY gate..I thought you were coming to my back yard gate, and we’d just go together - I’ve been waiting for YOU !! I couldn’t think what could have happened!”
I never considered that she might think ‘her gate’ … she never considered that I meant ‘my gate’ ! And so we both stood waiting – while our day’s plans were on hold – ‘halted’.

Later, thinking about the lack of communication and our two gates - I thought of a verse in 1Ki ngs 18:21 that says….. “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long will you halt between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

Suddenly, the familiar verse took on a very literal meaning !
Wavering or hesitating, as the newer versions translate the KJV 'halt', between two opinions paralyzes us. We are ‘halted’ from pursuing the highest and the best…. We are missing out !!

How does this look in practical terms ??

Has someone wronged you? betrayed you? stabbed you in the back? Are you angry and nursing a grudge?
As long as we are ‘halted’ between forgiving or not forgiving … God cannot forgive us….and our prayers are hindered. (Mark 11:25)

Is there something that you know you should do, but you have just been putting it off? Who of us has not been guilty of this? Look what it says in Jas 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Halted between doing good and not doing it… what blessing are we keeping ourselves from receiving ?

Are you caught with one foot in the world and one in God’s kingdom? Torn between the world’s standards and God’s ? Desiring the things this world has to offer ? Trying to find a 'compromise' ?
You are ‘halted’ … from growing … from becoming all that God has planned for you to be. (Matt. 6:33)

I have been thinking about how often I balance two opinions or attitudes or choices … and considering the fact that hesitating between the two can actually ‘halt’ me in my faith walk has given me a new perspective that I know will motivate me not to stand ‘waiting’ at the wrong gate.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

One Puzzle Piece

I dropped in to see my parents the other day and Mom showed me the puzzle she was working on. She commented on it being a very difficult one and expressed her frustration at not being able – after considerable concentrated effort- to connect the last pieces of the side borders and there were no more edge pieces.
I sat down and looked at them….exchanged the position of a few pieces and voila! The borders were intact. Mom expressed her relief at seeing the pieces correctly fitted together, enabling her to keep building, her focus shifting to the other pieces that could now find their places.
One puzzle piece .. missing or misplaced… no matter how small or insignificant in itself... can stop, hinder, or confuse the whole puzzling process .

I just finished a book (review coming) in which the author made a comment in the last pages .. He said.. “ No one has ever lived the same life as you and that is one of the things that makes your ‘puzzle piece’ extraordinary."

You are a valuable piece, created to be one piece in God’s puzzle of His divine purposes. You cannot be replaced.

You are uniquely gifted , positioned by divine direction, and enabled to fulfill your pre-designed purpose!
But how often do you wonder, as do I , “Me ? what can I do that would ever make a difference?”

In the photo above, which piece did you notice ? The Yellow one? Why?
Did you stop to realize that that piece is just as mundane , just as ordinary as all the other pieces? It is just one of many that would be lost in the shuffle..except for the fact that it stands out!!
What made it stand out? It was purposely turned to catch the light .. and the reflected light turned it to gold !

We may not be able to change where we are put in life’s shuffle but we CAN turn so that we reflect the Light of the world.

It is, as we allow Jesus in us, to shine through us that we stand out and cause even the mundane duties of ordinary days to be something special in the hand and purposes of God.

Mat 13:43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

(photo courtesy SFB579's photostream )

Monday, April 13, 2009

Your Heart is Showing

photo courtesy by aussiegall

Some years ago, I brought some rolls of change into my bank. The teller shook the rolls out of the bag and looking down at them, glanced up at me asking ... "Did you used to work in a bank?"
I laughed and answered.. "No, why do you ask?"

And she replied.. "Your change is so professionally rolled!"

I offered an explanation. "For years when I was growing up my dad was the SS Superintendent and it was his duty to count and roll all the change. Every Sunday after lunch had been cleared away, it was our family ritual to sit around the table and sort and count and roll until all the change was taken care of!"

Where we have been, what we have done, and also what we allow to occupy our thoughts is all recorded in our heart.
And according to Matt. 12:34, "What the heart is full of" shows!!
-in our speech, in our actions, in our attitudes.

The disciple of Jesus, Peter, was observed and the conclusion drawn ..."You too were with Him!"

As we go through our day, what does our heart show?

Does it show that we have spent time in bitterness, in self-centered thinking, in self-serving pursuits?

or does the overflow of our heart show that.... we have been with Him ?

Do our words echo His Truth ?

Do our actions show that we are His disciple?

Does our life reveal a heart that is yielded to the Lord, obedient and humble?
Be careful what you store in your heart.
You cannot help your heart 'showing' ... but you CAN help what it shows.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Promised Joy out of Sorrow

The beauty of pink blossoms.... after the death of winter.... pictures for us the JOY that comes out of suffering... ....
Jesus - Who for the promise of JOY … endured suffering…..
(Heb 12:2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.)

Good Friday is almost here… the day we remember the suffering of Christ. Jesus, we are told, endured the suffering because of the 'promised' JOY ! What JOY ?? The joy of knowing that because of His death YOU and I could be saved from eternal punishment - the JOY of victory over sin and victory over DEATH.

Because of our instant gratification modern mind set, we have turned away from recognizing sorrow as a good thing in our life. We do all we can to avoid it and to minimize it – in whatever way we can -- even though we, at some level, laughingly admit "no pain, no gain" !
I’m not advocating seeking it nor self-inflicting it.. but sorrow (in some form or another) does come to all of us. In fact we are told that we WILL suffer if we are joint heirs with Christ, BUT we are also promised that we will be glorified together with Him as an end result!
Rom 8:17 “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”

We see a true-life experience in Job.. the man known for his ‘suffering.
In his own words, Job tells of how, before his suffering,, he only knew about God through what he had HEARD about Him... but afterwards he knew Him because he had SEEN him with his eyes. (Job 42:5)

There is something revealing in Job’s name.
His Hebrew name is Iyob. Yob…means ‘persecuted’ with an Arabic root meaning ‘return, repentant’. The first letter of Job's name is I, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet - Aleph. It is the letter that represents the Oneness of God. It is a silent letter speaking of the mystery of God and God's name “LORD” is derived from the name of this letter. Jesus , of course refers to Himself as the ‘first’..the first letter of the alphabet. (Rev.22:13)

Putting it all together.. we see the story of Job revealed in his name. In his persecution, God was the source - the first, who carefully watched over the degree of suffering allowed to come upon him. Job's suffering brought about a 'turning' in his life, a repenting, which took him to a higher place of relationship with God.
We know that the end result of Job's suffering was indeed JOY -- the joy of restoration of all he had lost with added blessing… and the comfort of friends who came bearing gifts!

I remember times in my life that have been heavily laded with sorrow. Of course, my reflex emotion or desire was to escape as quickly as possible. But then…finding no way out, I turned to find God…..and I found the secret.
God is in our pain. Our sorrow opens the door into a very sweet place close to His heart. Just like a sobbing child runs for the comfort of its mother’s arms and ‘enjoys’ the security and tender love it finds there, so I too have learned to know the Father’s arms.
And also in that place we learn patience.... trust.... we learn submission,… we learn to KNOW God – personally.

A dear friend, Tammie, gave me gave me a quote this week that I thought was so insightful...
"The difference between shallow happiness and a deep, sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain. Joy , on the other hand, rises from sorrow and therefore can withstand all grief. Joy - by the grace of God, is the transfiguration of suffering into endurance, and of endurance into character and of character into hope – and the hope that has become our joy does not (as happiness must for those who depend upon it ) disappoint us.” (Walter Wangerin, Jr. - Reliving the Passion)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Knock, Knock! Who's There??

This is Robin. He lives in my backyard.
Robin is not just any robin doing what robins do – eat worms. No, he is Robin on a mission.
Robin is being territorial – he is protecting his ‘turf’ (quite literally) from any intruder – that is - any other robin that might have designs to steal or destroy what is his!

Robin knows exactly where his enemy is … he is lurking just on the other side of my downstairs windows… and Robin’s daily duty is to chase him away – Every day … from 7:30 in the morning ….He has been at his post faithfully for three weeks!

I filmed him at his work…… (sorry, I forgot that you can’t turn the camera when videoing .. but you’ll get the idea)

Watching him .. and smiling at his insistent ‘knock, knock, knock’, thoughts filtered through my mind….
Foolish Robin? Maybe… how about foolish us ?

There is a verse … that is a critical look at human nature, coupled with a dire warning.
Rom 2:3 “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

Robin is convinced there is an enemy that must be dealt with… never realizing that it is his own reflection in the window that he sees.
How often do we look into the ‘glass’ and see an enemy …. little realizing that we are really looking at our own reflection.

I feel sorry for Robin wasting his time chasing away a non-existent intruder.
Yet, how often do we --- instead of taking ownership of our own sin and failings-- blame others and circumstances - wasting our time accusing and growing bitter.

I can’t believe that Robin doesn’t have a splitting headache by now – with all that pecking against the hard glass. How much of our pain is caused by our unforgiveness, our inability to let something go , by our insistence on claiming our rights !!

I look at my windows --- they are filthy dirty from all of Robin’s protesting
. That is all his efforts have accomplished --- a muddying of the glass and obscuring my view!
When we lay blame elsewhere, refusing to admit that the problem lies within us, we accomplish little in our life except a muddied smudged up 'window'. We obscure not only our own view but also the view of others. Our attitudes, our choices never affect us alone, but the ‘dirt’ from our fleshly reactions, also affects those whose lives we touch.

Next time we are tempted to shift blame, indulge our flesh in self-justification , point fingers…. Lets remember Robin and learn from his example the futility of it …. And lets rather open our bibles and find God’s answers to our life situations.

Psa 119:37 "Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way. "

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My World this Spring Morning

This was my world on Tues.....

This is my world today ....... April 2nd.

God giveth the blue sky and God giveth the snow.... all is good !!

It Started with a Hug

Have you ever considered that one hug could redirect your life?
That is the personal testimony of author Dr. Earl Henslin who starts his book, "This is Your Brain on Joy", with an account of how a hug gave him a new world view.

If you are interested in how your brain works but are daunted by technical medical terms you cannot pronounce , much less remember, then welcome Dr. Henslin to the rescue. He takes the complicated and reduces it to layman's terms with a sense of fun in making science intelligible to the average person.
He speaks of the different parts of the brain in terms of a house with two stories and a basement, fitting the functions of the brain to the use of the different areas of the house. For example the Basal Ganglia resides in the basement where we find all our terrifying fears!

He explains how the brain is affected by scents, music, exercise , humour and beauty.
Our brains are enriched by reading books, controlling our thought life, relaxing, praying and getting enough rest. It is not only our bodies that need nutrition but also our brains. Dr. Henslin explains the kind of foods and supplements our brains require to function, along with exercise and when appropriate , medication.

Suffering from ADD himself, the author gives helpful information regarding this affliction and also addresses OCD.

Dr. Henslin believes that a healthy brain brings joy - and that is the purpose of his book - to educate his readers in understanding what that means and how to attain it!

I do have a couple of criticisms.. One ... I appreciate that the author is a Christian and brought scripture into his book.. but I found that the scripture references were weak, as though inserted as an afterthought.
The other criticism I have is that Henslin seems to put an unbalanced emphasis on the value of SPECT brain imaging based on his belief that there is no such thing as a normal brain.
He believes that many of our `sins' (pg12) are really due to a knock on the head that we received during our childhood.
He suggests that most everyone should have their brain imaged to see if there is lingering damage from some forgotten fall.

"This is Your Brain on Joy" presents a lot of good, helpful information in a very understandable format ... but personally I would recommend "Who Switched off My Brain" by Dr. Caroline Leaf as a more scientific study of our brain as the control center of our emotional and mental health.