Monday, August 26, 2013

" Struck Down, but Not Destroyed"

Some of us Mennonite Girls Can Cook, with our husbands,  enjoyed a very lovely dinner party last evening at Anneliese's lakeside cabin.
In the yard was a fruit tree that had been blown over by the forces of nature.  There were signs of healthier former days -- wood slats nailed to the truck to allow climbing the tree's heights , worn remnants of a rope tied to sturdy branches from which children once swung.
The tree no longer stood tall and proud.
Although the first thing noticed about the tree was that it was lying on its side , a closer look revealed that it was still bearing fruit !  Apples hung in abundance from its branches.
It was a tree that invited the photographer's eye  - it made for lovely staging  for a photo shoot.  The healthy, upright tree standing not far from it was hardly noticed.

The tree was a life picture.
Perhaps we once stood strong and tall, enjoying a wonderful life when  forces beyond our control blew us over!   It may have been the onset of an incurable disease, a handicap,  a permanent disability, crippling circumstances we cannot change.   Life never to be the same again .
Yet we have a choice, an opportunity.   We can still bear fruit !
We think of people like Nick Vujicic born without arms or legs who has been such a life changing inspiration to those who meet him. Or Joni Earekson Tada  who was 'blown down by a dive into a pool that crushed her body, paralysing it.  Though she is confined to a wheelchair, she is a household name , bearing much fruit as an author and in-demand speaker.  She bears much fruit.

We want to be with people like them, having our photos taken with them so we remember the way their story inspires us, the fruit of their lives becoming our comfort, our encouragement. We notice them, listening to their message in a way we never would if they were 'ordinary'. 

Have you ever noted  that when you read the stories of our bible heroes they bore 'fruit' through difficult life circumstances ?    

One of my favourite characters,  Joseph, suffered as a slave, was sold by his own brothers,  imprisoned and cruelly treated when he was falsely accused  -   yet thousands of years later we are enthralled by his story.  We love how he rose up BECAUSE of being 'blown down'  and became ruler of Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself. 
We could look at Hannah, or Ruth, or Moses, or King David - all of whom suffered circumstances of life that could have crushed them, but didn't !  Instead they became heroes of faith that drew others to stand in their shadow, learning from their example. 

It is easy to despair, to lose hope, to feel crushed, to focus on the fact that we have been 'blown over'  by life's circumstances we could not control.  But perhaps we can be like Anneliese's apple tree, like our favourites heroes of faith,  and let God  'use' our disability  to be what draws people near to hear the message we have to give. Our disabilities need not hinder our God-given purpose.
The choice is ours -  despair or carry on!   If we are rooted in Jesus, His  promise is that no matter what befalls us, our roots will hold.  He will make a way for us to "bear much fruit". (John 15:8) 

I love the passage in II Cor. 4:7-10 which says .....  
"We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed, 
we are perplexed but not in despair, 
persecuted but not forsaken, 
struck down but not destroyed
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus 
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body !! "

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

All Roads Lead to Rome

                                                                                       photo by Greenery ,Melanie Batemen

      The saying  "All roads lead to Rome"  is  historical  in origin.  At one time all roads DID lead to Rome.   At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome was the centre of the known world.  All roads were built leading directly to Rome or linking with a road that did. 

      As a saying, "All roads lead to Rome",  survived the Roman Empire itself. It is  commonly recognized and used today as an idiom  meaning that while there may be many ways to do something it will end up with the same result.  

I was reading Psalm 84 - a beautiful Psalm in which David extols the delights of dwelling in the house of the Lord.  
Verse 5 is especially insightful as the central thought of the psalm... it says  "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage."  
The Amp. bible as well as some other translations word it... "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways of Zion."   

Just like Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire,  so we also have a City in the Kingdom of God  - Zion or Heavenly Jerusalem.  Hebrews 12:22-24 speaks so beautifully of  the spiritual city to which we are all called to claim citizenship !   

One day, the city will be our physical reality on the new earth but until then our life is a journey - not just physically but more importantly, spiritually - a journey to an eternal  destination.

Our heart will determine whether or not we reach the destination we desire -- to spend eternity with God in joy and celebration and worship.

It is not enough to set up the 'city of God' as our destination -- we must build the highways of our heart leading to it.
As we travel through this physical life,  we are so often drawn aside in our journey to follow our own ways, seeking our own pleasures, trusting in the 'strength' or wisdom of this world and we build heart roads that twist in confusion leading nowhere.  
 Building highways is hard work -- but if our strength is in God , He Himself helps us and our pilgrimage will stay on course.   If we build all the highways of our heart to lead to God and His eternal city, then no matter what befalls us -  circumstances of pleasure  or tragedy,  life's joys or sorrows, success or failure -  the highways of our heart will always lead us back to God and to His word.  
We can never get 'lost'  if  our heart highways lead to the city in which He lives and where He desires us to dwell with Him.

Have you inspected your highway system lately?  Do you need to do some major heart highway construction or re-construction ? or does your heart pass inspection!

I pray with King David ...   "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties" (or faulty highways)  Ps. 139:23 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deep Calling Deep!

 One of my favourite places to be is Long Beach on our BC coast.
There is nothing that makes me feel as small and insignificant as the powerful, endless roar of the ocean waves as they come crashing onto the shore.

I was reading Psalm 42 today and was moved by the poetic words but even more by the message the words deposited into my mind and spirit.
This Psalm expresses  the agonizing cry of one overcome by life's  trouble and heartache.
"Deep calls unto deep" --  there is no help , only sorrow calling for more sorrow until the billowing waves pour over the sufferer  threatening to crush what is left of a fragile  life.
This Psalm is the WHY, O WHY ? cried by those who see their hopes and dreams lying dead at their feet.

Yet, no matter how deep the storm that rages,  no matter how powerful the emotional tsunami,  no matter how dark the horizon appears,  no matter how hopeless tomorrow looks ...  there is One who  is our Rock to cling to .
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  
Hope in God, 
for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."  
Ps. 42:5 
But that was not the verse that my heart focused on this morning.   Though I have read this Psalm many times I never really noticed the poignant sweetness of verse eight. 
It says .... 
"The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, 
and in the night His song shall be with me....  a prayer to the God of my life."    

When we are going through difficult trials of life, how often have we dreaded the coming night, knowing that fear and anxiety lurk there.  In the night when we are so aware of being alone, our troubled mind and aching heart keeps us awake. We see no answers to our need, find nothing to soothe our raging emotion. In the dark of night there is no light, only magnified shadows that terrify. 

But there is this ...  "In the night His song shall be with me... "

I find it significant that the Hebrew word for 'song'  here is in the feminine.   
Does that not immediately bring to the mind a mother singing to her infant?   
A child waking at night cries out and the listening mother, immediately  hears the cry and gathering the child to her bosom, she softly sings her lullaby.   The child's fears melt,   it nestles in the warmth of his mother's arms, comforted and safe.  What tender expression of love is the picture of a child being rocked to sleep by  his  mother's lullaby. 
That is what God is telling us here ...   No matter how dark our night, He is there to sing His lullaby over us - His lullaby becoming a prayer in our hearts,  birthing hope for the 'morrow!     All is well,  for He is our life!