Saturday, October 31, 2009

Two Kingdoms

Not far from where we live is a beautiful cattle ranch. Rolling green pastures with views of mountains in the near distance. Shade trees are grouped conveniently for the cattle to find shelter from sun or rain. In the photo you can see the cattle gathered at the clean, new feeding station where treats complement their grass diet. A fresh running stream runs through the pasture providing the cattle with a clean water source. I looked at the farm... looked at the happy cows and thought .. yes.. they have a wonderful life !


Adjoining this ranch is another farm! This farm too has the same views , the same potential the cattle next door enjoy, but there the similarity ends.

This cattle farm is a feed lot, the feeding stations old and hardly adequate. There is no grass, and the watering hole and surrounding area is mud. I felt sorry for these cattle .. I wondered how often they looked longingly over to the neighbouring farm and envied the cows that had the 'greener grass on the other side of the fence'. But there was no way for them to cross over, they were locked into a dreary existence day after day in crowded conditions awaiting their end.

The contrast between these two farms was startling. Surely if the cows had been given a choice the barren farm would have been deserted.

Perhaps cattle are wiser than men.

I thought about how these two farms picture for us the two choices that lay before every man.

Unlike the cattle, we DO have a choice.
There lies before every one of us the choice of two kingdoms... they lie side-by-side but there the similarity ends.

One is lorded over by Satan...... the other is Shepherded by Lord Jesus.

Satan rules with hatred, spreading deception, confusion and fear. His laws are cruel and enforced with hatred. His goal and purpose is to destroy the lives of his subjects. He has no compassion for their vulnerability or pain. In fact he rejoices in it. He holds his 'children' in bondage and leads them to eternal death.

Jesus' kingdom is ruled by righteousness, goodness and peace. He knows and cares for the needs of every one of His citizens. He is their protector and guide. His laws speak truth, and comfort and correction. He is the Good Shepherd who watches over his sheep with love, guiding them to life eternal.

"They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom and talk of Your power,
to make known to the sons of men His might acts
and the glorious majesty of His kingdom,
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord upholds all who fall
and raises up all those who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look expectantly to You,
and You give them their food in due season.
You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing....
The Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works"
(Psalm 145:13-16 NKJV)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

To God be the Glory

If anyone can look at the beauty of God's creation and say there is no God, he must surely be blind!!

On Monday of this week we saw that our local mountains were all dusted with snow, and it being a warm day .. cloudy with bursts of sunshine, we could not stay indoors. We started off with a walk , then decided to take a quick drive. ! The splendor of fall colors against snow topped mountains was indeed breathtaking.
The following photos show some of the beautiful scenes we enjoyed

I know the photos give but a hint of the real, but may they lift your soul in praise to the One who said rightly of His creation "It is good!"

The Woolly Bear caterpillar on my plant sports a broad red belt. According to folklore, that indicates a mild winter coming.
The early mountain snows seem to indicate otherwise.

From my kitchen window.

Walking up the berm beside our house.

We then turned back and went for a drive.

God's golden carpet.

see the wisp of a cloud lingering on the mountainside?

a beautiful hillside farm

see the heavy snowfall on the mountain to the right?
These cows all gathered to serenade me in true bellow fashion

aren't the best views of life along the narrow way?

Talk about a perch! See the house way at the top?

They would have an incredible view of the valleys and
surrounding mountains.

a gorgeous valley, that was for sale.... hmmm .. wonder how much?
the photo was free.

The above a close up view of the snow dusted mountain

against a momentary blue sky.

a waterfall beside the road - almost home again

Psa 71:8 "Let my mouth be filled with Your praise And with Your glory all the day."


Friday, October 23, 2009

Because My Battery Pack Died

All of us at times encounter a seemingly insurmountable boulder of circumstance that presents itself on our life path.
I watched a lesson unfold yesterday enacted by a little child ,that I would have missed, except that my battery pack died. God uses whatever He can to get us into His classroom and often it is by the very things that annoy us!

My husband and I drove to the Cheam Wetlands yesterday afternoon to take photos of the beautiful fall colours reflected on the water. I had taken quite a few photos when my battery pack died and since I could no longer capture any images, I went to sit in the car waiting for Vic to finish his last shots. I'm so glad I did because the following picture lesson unfolded before my eyes.

My attention was drawn to a family lingering not far from our car. Grandparents, their daughter and two little grandsons. The youngest, who could not have been more than two was a tiny bundle of all-boy energy.

Placed along the perimeter of the parking lot were large boulders that immediately attracted the little boy's adventurous spirit and he began climbing them, his older quieter brother watching and following his lead.

Then he spotted this boulder... a little bigger than all the rest !

His eyes lit up with the challenge of the climb and he rushed up to it and tried to climb its almost smooth face. The boulder is about 30" high and if he stretched to his full stretch he could just reach up to the top of the boulder but the round surface had no finger holds and there was no notch to place his feet. He struggled, calling for help to his mom and grandparents but all he got was an ignoring smile. His three or four year old brother standing on the other side of the boulder reached over to grab his hands and pulled but that did not even lift his tiny feet off the ground. He gave it a valiant effort but had to finally give up.

He started to walk (run) away but gave one reluctant glance back over his shoulder. Immediately his body language changed when he realized that this boulder had another side to it .... this one !!

Here was provided a convenient step . Reaching his leg as high as it would go , he could just barely catch onto this step and pull himself up to the top of the boulder. It took him but a second and he was sitting at the top ! I heard the exuberance in his words... "I made it !! I made it !! It's amazing !! It's amazing !!! "

I saw the lesson immediately. How often we only look at the 'boulder' circumstances of our life from one side... if we walk around to God's side of it , we find that He has already provided a step, a way to conquer it , to climb to the top and experience the exuberance of victory ! The accomplishment of overcoming to where our view is through God's eyes and not our own is where we see His purposes and from where our joyous victory song can be heard by all who are watching !! "I made it! God is amazing!"

1Co 15:57 "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Sequel, For What Gain?

Not every book grabs an audience as “The Same Kind of Difference as Me” did. It is a beautiful love story between a woman and God, between a woman and a man and the unlikely love of friendship between two very different men.

The temptation, when a book takes the reading audience by storm, is to write a sequel. For Ron Hall, a salesman by talent and experience, that temptation was too great to resist.
His sequel “What Difference do it Make?” is on the store shelves but I could wish the book had remained unwritten.

I do not mean to minimize the accounts of people whose lives were impacted and changed by Debbie’s story . They are inspiring to read. Nor do I minimize Denver’s childlike faith and wisdom that breaks through on the pages.

What bothered me about the book was the fact that a large part of the book is about Ron Hall working through his relationship with his father and that not in an insightful way. I was rather embarrassed for him. While he realizes that forgiveness needed to be extended to his father for being less than the father he would have wished for, never throughout the book did Ron convince me that his faith in God is deep or even real. And because of that, the book did not fall into pleasant places, and I put it down keenly disappointed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trompe l'oeil

Trompe l'oeil is French for 'trick the eye'.
It came into popular use in home decorating several years ago and I love the effect when well done.

I'm not an artist but I tried my hand at it in our ensuite.... the photo shows my attempt to create 'a hole in the wall' that isn't there.

I was looking at it the other day and thought how much of the things that pass into our minds through our eyes and ears on a daily basis are Trompe l'oeil.

I, along with countless others, held my breath when we were shown the hot air balloon that had broken its tether and drifted into the sky presumably carrying a six year old child. After several hours, and much money spent in an effort to bring the child down safely we were informed that the child had been safe at home the whole time, and they parents are now charged with creating a hoax.

We see and hear sooo much that is outside our little circle where verification is possible. We have no way of telling what news stories are true, which are partly true and which are not true at all.

Where, at one time communication with each other was 'face to face',we have now added cell phones, e-mails, chat rooms, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter , blogs . All of these require that we 'believe' that which we cannot see.

It used to be said that a picture does not lie... but now we have photoshop software that can alter a photo in many ways that are not discernable to the naked eye.

How often have you bought into something and then had your hopes dashed? How often have you been disappointed because something/someone didn't live up to your expectations?

In the final analysis, there is really only one thing in our world that is immune to Trompe l'oeil and that is God's Word.

Down through the centuries and millenia, science has yet to prove it wrong, man has yet to find God's promises untrue, time has yet to prove it outdated.

Yet, I wonder...... Christians everywhere give mental assent to the eternal wisdom of God's Word but they spend so little time meditating on it to absorb its truth into their daily lives.

If there was a book that guaranteed effortless weight loss or a fool proof get rich quick scheme or the secrets to an eternal fountain of youth these books would fly off the bookshelves and be poured over until every word was memorized.

Yet even though God's Word promises not only success in this life, but in the life to come - though it holds the secrets to relationship with God and lays out the only path to heaven, Christians barely spend any time searching its pages. Statistics claim that less than 1% of self-proclaimed born-again Christians read their bible every day.

I don't know where you fit into that statistic ... but may I challenge you to think about reading your bible more? You need never fear that the words you read will disappoint you with Trompe l'oeil. Every word is sure and true and forever established!

Does your heart echo Psalmist's words?

Psa 119:162 "I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Be Thankful!

It is Thanksgiving Day week-end in Canada. Families everywhere will be giving thanks around a thanksgiving dinner table. We all have so much to be thankful for ; a list flows from most lips without much effort!

It was a beautiful day today, and we enjoyed a drive admiring farms set in rolling hills with the mountains as a backdrop. Just as I snapped the above photo, an older lady stopped beside us and said, "I am from Switzerland and you will not find a more beautiful picture than that in Switzerland !"
I know I live in a beautifully photogenic part of the world and to see God's beauty around me every day is something I am deeply grateful for.

Thankful ! We all know what it means , right ? Maybe not...

I was reading Col 3:15 "And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." and was curious about the Greek word for 'thankful'. What I found was very interesting.

A word study on the Greek word translated 'thankful' in this verse, revealed that it contained within its meaning much more than expressed thanks for the things we appreciate.

The word encompasses a lifestyle that flows out of thankfulness. It describes a person who is attentive, watching for things that promote thankfulness, not just in his own life but in the lives of others. He never misses an opportunity to do something pleasant or grant a favor. He can be counted on to be there in time of need or a moment of crisis. He is described as someone who is kind, benevolent and a gracious giver. He is also someone who is quick to grant forgiveness, overlooking the other's faults. His life is so full of thankfulness and gratitude that it overflows with generosity to others in every way. Restoring relationships is something close to his heart, as is offering his help to deliver someone in trouble.

Who would not love to have this kind of friend? Are WE this kind of friend? Our Greek word reveals that being grateful can be measured more by our actions and interactions with others than it can be by our words.

May we all prove our thankfulness, not just by our words, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day. Let us begin each day with a thankful heart to the Lord who has given us soo much and then , as we have received, give with selflessness to others.

Matt. 10:8b "Freely you have received, freely give" out of a thankful heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stranded on the River of Life

Our pastor, on Sunday morning, told of his experience this past week. He and his wife had gone out for a day’s excursion down a beautiful local river with their motor boat and kayaks along with some friends who brought their speed boat.
Late afternoon they pulled into a pretty spot along the river bank. They stayed too long, the fall sunset comes early and they realized they would probably not make it back before dark.
They travelled together for a time, then their friends in the speed boat declared that since it was a school night they needed to get back and with a quick farewell , stepped on the gas pedal and roared out of sight.
Not two minutes later, our pastor’s boat stalled and refused to start. Were they out of fuel? Or the boat not in good repair? To make their predicament more serious, their cell phone showed no reception. It was now dark. What could they do, other than spend an uncomfortable night camped on the shore? They thought fast and came up with the plan that if the pastor’s wife and the friend that was with them tied the two kayaks to the boat they might be able to pull the boat with the pastor helping to row . This they did and after struggling a short distance down the river found that they now had cell phone connection.

It was short lived, however; only long enough to shout, “We are stranded, send help!” Did the message get through? They did not know.

Finally, a couple of hours later, they saw the welcome sight of Search and Rescue coming toward them. Helping them into the rescue boat, the officers reminded them to put on their life jackets. Ignoring safety rules, they had not been wearing them and the pastor’s life jacket was no where to be found, along with one of the kayaks.
They were brought to safety, their river trip a little more exciting than they had anticipated !

As I thought about their experience, I realized it lent itself as a perfect analogy of the Christian’s life .

Christians travel down the river of life toward their eternal destination – home with Jesus.
As they travel along, their attention is at times diverted by the things of this world lining the banks of the river.
At times they head for shore and pull up their boat to enjoy the pleasures the world has to offer.
Sometimes they stay too long and find that darkness is overtaking them. Some have speed boats and they rush back to safety.
But others have not been so diligent in keeping themselves ‘fuelled up’ or their ‘boat’ in good repair, and suddenly they find that they are stranded – their boat dead in the water. Have they ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit in their lives? Are they ‘empty’ of His power ?

Fearful of the danger they find themselves in, they call out to the Lord. But their ‘connection’ is not good… they have also neglected their times of fellowship with the Lord and now when they are in need of it, connection cannot be found.

Now, suddenly they make the effort, willing themselves back into a place where they can find the Lord. For a minute, they see heaven open and they cry out! But then darkness again closes around their soul and they wonder. Was it enough? Had He heard? Would He answer?
The darkness around them is frightening, they long for the comfort of the assurance that they are not alone, that the Lord is with them. Then, they see in the distance that help is on its way. God did hear and God heard and sent ‘search and rescue’ to find them. But where are their life jackets? God’s Word left lying unopened in the bottom of the 'boat'? Or worse – lost somewhere?
What relief floods their soul… what gratitude to the Lord for His care. Will it make them more careful next time to avoid the dangers of the ‘river journey’ ?

Jud 1:21 "keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

“Dear Lord, we thank you for the river of life that you have placed us on with the sure hope of our destination. Thank you for the safely of the ‘boat’ of your love. May we remember to stay full of the Holy Spirit that ‘fuels’ us and keeps us moving forward. May we keep ourselves in prayer and in Your Word to keep us safe and strong! May we not be distracted by the worldly pleasures that pull us away from you. May we keep our eyes on You and on our goal! Amen”

Monday, October 5, 2009

Do You Need to Refocus?

Sometimes our lives are not fulfilling or satisfying because we are focusing our attention on the wrong things.
That is the foundation on which Marcus Buckingham built his teaching.
When I first picked up his book, “ Find your Strongest Life” , I had two thoughts… one – what does a man know about how a woman works? And two … maybe I’m at the wrong end of my life to get anything out of this book.
By the time I finished the book I was ready to concede that maybe my initial reserve was perhaps - at least somewhat - premature.

While Buckingham does slant his book toward women, the principles he expounds are not gender specific except in the examples he uses. And while it is not a ‘Christian’ book I found it easy to parallel many of his thoughts and arguments on biblical principles.

He starts off his book by debunking 10 myths about women.
A couple of them really caught my attention.
How often do we hear that women are great at multitasking while men do one thing at a time. Buckingham says that it is simply not true. He says neither women nor men can multitask and still maintain a high level of productivity. Multitasking is working on the level you would if you had gone without a night’s sleep. Plain and simple – multitasking is ‘divided attention’ and not only that, scientific research has proven that when we attempt to give our attention to several things at the same time the part of our brain that controls memory and learning actually shuts down.
Another myth was that women are happier with more choices available to them. With growing equality in the work force and increasing options available in balancing home and career, women expected to finally be ‘happy’. But what research has shown is that women are much more unhappy today than they were in the 60’s. What is wrong?
Buckingham contends that with so many choices open to women they simply shut down, or continually question the choices they have made.

The fact that women are unhappy is what inspired Buckingham to write his book advising how we can find that illusive ‘satisfaction’ missing from our lives.

He contends that our default is to attempt to fix what is wrong, but he points the reader in the opposite direction . Find out what is RIGHT and build on that. Find the ‘strengths’ that you have, discern the ‘moments’ that give you a sense of joy and then find ways of taking every area of your life and making your decisions based on what is uniquely YOUR strength.

A couple of criticisms. The book started off slow and took too long to grab my full attention. Then , secondly, the book leans toward the ‘driven’ woman, especially in the personal life examples given. This could leave you feeling the book is not for you. However, if you separate the principles from the author's application, it is a worthwhile read that gives you something to grow on, principles that can lead you to a ‘stronger life’ no matter where you find yourself today!