Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Christmas Pruning

There’s a commercial that has just appeared on T.V. in time for Christmas. A dad drags a nice looking Christmas tree into his living room and sets it up in front of his two kids, who are watching with arms loaded with decorations. They smile as the tree is set straight in its holder. But then the dad reaches for a pruning tool. He proceeds to trim the entire bottom half of the tree, leaving only a foot or so of greenery. The look on the children’s faces turns from joy and anticipation to shock and dismay. The little boy looks like he’s about to burst into tears, but the father does not give any explanation. In fact, he doesn’t even acknowledge the children’s presence. He simply walks away.

Then the scene shifts to Christmas morning. The kids lean over a banister and stare down in wonder. The living room is full of wrapped gifts, piled right up to the edge of that last foot left on the top of the tree. They bound down and dance for joy in front of it.

Sometimes God acts just like that father, and we act just like those children. Sometimes God has to prune things from our lives. It may be painful and seem even cruel. It may leave us in shock and dismay, because God does not always explain Himself.

That’s when having a relationship with God stands us in good stead. When we know the God who is at work in our lives, we will trust Him to do what is right and best for us, even when there is pain and loss involved, even when we are bewildered and in dismay.
Then, one day, we will recognize that we have been showered with gifts – the gifts of faith and forgiveness, of grace and mercy and the most precious gift of all - salvation.

All of us must go through times of pruning. But when we know the child who came to earth so long ago, we know that He has the best plan laid out for us. As He said to the people in the days of Jeremiah – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

We may suffer the pruning, but, by faith, one day we will dance for joy before the Lord.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

I'm Not Ready

Wow! December already?! Has it crept up on you? I'm not ready.

Things often catch us off guard. We get wrapped up in day to day living and time slips by. Suddenly we arrive at a point we may not be prepared to face.

My eldest will celebrate her twenty-fourth birthday tomorrow. Twenty-four! A few years ago I wrote a similar piece when she turned eighteen. That was a milestone I had a hard time facing and now we’ve arrived at another – she is going to be married in July.

I’ve been expecting this for some time, but somehow I don’t think I really was prepared for those words, “Mom, I’m getting married!” I admit I'm not ready. My daughter is planning her wedding and her first day of kindergarten seems like yesterday. There are so many things I wanted to do with her, things I wanted to teach her, things I wanted to say, but now there just isn't enough time. She's an adult launching into the world to live her own life, and that's as it should be.

But I can't help wishing she were only turning sixteen or fourteen. I can’t help wishing that she was still a little girl under our roof. That would give me time to get used to the idea that some day she'd be leaving. That would give me time to prepare ... or would it? Somehow I suspect the day would still be a surprise, no matter how much it was delayed.

There is a day that has been delayed for centuries, according to scripture. When Jesus predicted his death, he also predicted his return. He tried to prepare his friends for his leaving, and tried to tell them to prepare for the day when he would come back. The words didn't sink in. When Jesus was arrested, they fled in terror. For hundreds of years since, preparations for his return have been sadly lacking.

In Matthew 24:44-51, Jesus tells a story about a master who leaves his house in the charge of a servant. He asks: "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household, to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns."

Who is that servant? It's you. It's me. Part of the preparation for the return of Christ is to care for those around us, both physically and spiritually. We will be accountable when Jesus returns. He ends his story with a warning: "But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'my master is staying away a long time,' and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

The day will be a surprise, to all of us. It could be tomorrow. Are you ready?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Red on Grey

Woke up a bit late this morning and scurried to get ready to drive my daughter to school, so I didn't notice what was happening outside until I stepped out the door. Then that wonderful silence hit me as large fluffy flakes fluttered from the sky. The world had become white overnight, the grey trees across the road draped and bent under the weight of snow. As we drove to the end of our street, my eye was caught by a flash of red. I caught my breath. There, only a couple of feet from our window, was a large woodpecker with a scarlet crown. We only had a few moments to pause and enjoy the sight, but as we carried on I was aware of how much that flash of red brightened our morning. It was like a gem suddenly unearthed, a spot of colour shining through the dark.
God's word is so often like that for me, too. A gem that shines and brightens my life.
Like this -
"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you."

God is so good! :)M

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thirty Minutes to Ruin

I’d been watching the progress of the building each week. It stood across the field from our church, so watching the huge home being built became a Sunday morning distraction as I pulled into the parking lot. Last Sunday I noticed there was a large orange tarp draped over the north side. They’re probably working on the exterior finishing, I thought, as I entered the church to prepare for my Sunday school class.

There’s a little boy who lives across the other field. He’s a watcher too. As soon as he sees a vehicle arrive at the church he knows the doors will be open and over he runs. When he arrived this past Sunday, he had a question.

“Where’s all that smoke coming from?”

“Smoke?” I said.

“Yeah, over there.” Nick pointed in the direction of the newly constructed home.

I looked out the window, then ran to the phone to dial 9-1-1. The smoke was thick and black and the flames were already shooting up on the north side. By the time the fire trucks arrived all they could do was stop the traffic to prevent anyone from getting too close. It took only thirty minutes for that house to become a raging ball of fire – thirty minutes to go from a solid permanent-looking construction, to a charred ruin.

As I watched it happen I was reminded that nothing in this world is permanent. Even those things that look like they will last forever are destined to crumble. But there is something that will stand forever. The Psalmist, David, said it – “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations” (Ps.33:11).
So did the prophet Isaiah – “The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever” (Is.40:7).

I remember as a young girl standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Superior. I was so overwhelmed with the raw power of that landscape’s beauty that I thought to myself, this will last forever. But even that will pass away. Jesus himself said it – “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

What then should we cling to? Homes that can burn in thirty minutes? Jobs that can disappear overnight? Finances that can vanish like the wind? Friends that can betray us in a breath?

The answer is obvious. The only one to cling to is Christ. They call Him the rock for a reason.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Invitation to a Banquet

I have a confession to make. I love banquets and pot-luck dinners. We'll be having one in our church this week and I'm looking forward to the feast. We call this one our Thank Offering Supper. It's meant to be a celebration of the provision of God, as, in this rural community, the harvest is complete.

I know what to expect. There will be a pan of Pastor Hogman's famous chicken, at least one of Dayna's amazing desserts, a huge bowl filled with one of Karen's great salads, another of Elsie's yummy speckled buns and of course, platters loaded with an abundance of Alberta beef. How could it get any better? Everyone in our church is invited to this feast and it's hard to imagine why anyone would stay away. But some probably will, for whatever reason. Some will be busy with other things, some might feel they can't contribute and stay away from embarrassment, others might feel uncomfortable because they don't know many people yet, and still others will simply forget the feast is happening. Some may simply refuse to come. They may be angry with someone, angry with God, so, as my mother used to say, they will "cut off their nose to spite their face."

There's a banquet prepared for all of us that is more important than any feast of physical food. It's a banquet prepared by God for all those who would come and eat. David, one of the writers of the Psalms, knew about it. He said - "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies" (Psalm 23:5). Solomon, the writer of Song of Songs knew about it too - he said - "He has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love." (Song of Songs 2:4).

The banquet God has prepared for us is far more satisfying than any physical banquet could be. God's banquet is everlasting, nourishing not just the body but the soul. On that table is spread every spiritual gift we could ever need, every morsel of grace and mercy God could wring from Himself. His banquet is available to everyone. He invited us to the feast on the day His Son Jesus died. His death opened wide the door to the banquet hall. All we have to do is show up.

But too often we refuse. We're too busy, too embarrassed, too self-conscious, too angry. Or maybe we've just forgotten the table has been spread for us. Maybe we've just ignored the invitation for so long, we've forgotten all about it.The good news is, the invitation stands forever. The door will always be open. So come. Come to the feast. Sit at God's banquet table and be forever satisfied.

Friday, November 03, 2006

House of Prayer

CBC's The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos took an insightful look at Ottawa's National House of Prayer recently. See the show on his website.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Devotional book on sale now

In honour of our Canadian Thanksgiving, I'm offering my seasonal devotional book, Focused Reflections for the low price of 13.00 to anyone who e-mails to say they have read my last two posts.
Blessings to you all.

A Dance of Falling Leaves

I drove my daughter to school early this morning in the glow of that special light that comes only during the Fall season. The vehicle ahead of us stirred up a dance of yellow leaves and many more were falling from the trees as we passed under them. I marveled at the contrast of what bears the ugliness of death yet is so beautiful.

And I stand in awe as I think of one of the primary laws of science – matter cannot be created nor destroyed but only transformed. Those falling leaves will add to the nourishment of the land and allow new growth in the spring. No-one in the modern world would dispute that scientific fact. This is, as all others are, not just a law of science but it is God’s law – our bodies will shrivel and die just as the leaves of fall do, but we will not die. Our spirit will live on, either in glory with our Father in heaven, or in torment with his nemesis in hell.

Unlike the universal willingness to believe the physical scientific laws of matter and energy, there are a lot of people who refuse to believe God’s law. They don’t want to think about hell and they can’t seem to grasp the idea of heaven. Perhaps the reason for their doubt is the fact that both heaven and hell are unseen. We can watch the leaves fall and rake them into a pile that we know will turn to compost. That compost will feed the vegetables in our gardens which in turn nourishes us. We see evidence of the scientific laws around us all the time. But the laws of heaven require faith.

Many who spoke with Jesus and listened to His teaching refused to believe He was the Son of God. Indeed, even some of his disciples had a hard time believing, even when He rose from the dead and stood before them. Thomas has become infamous for his doubt. He was a tactile learner. So Jesus said, “touch me.” When Thomas did, his response was, “My Lord and My God.” Jesus replied – “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:26-29).

In that last verse, Jesus is talking about the many men and women of his day who would only hear about his resurrection, yet would believe. He is also talking about us. None of us have seen Jesus in physical form on this earth. Yet, like those laws of matter and energy, we have seen the evidence of His existence.

Life without faith is like watching leaves fall and seeing only death. When we recognize the beauty, our lives are enriched, our hearts encouraged. We see there is pattern and purpose and it gives us hope. Faith, the gift of God, is indeed a blessing. God calls many of us to it every day. All we have to do is yield to His calling, open our eyes and see.

Then we will understand that the dance of death is also a beautiful dance of falling leaves.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thanksgiving and a Good Motto

As our Canadian Thanksgiving approaches, I was thinking of something that happened to me years ago when I lived in the north. The story below is from The Spur, my e-mailed devotional column.

A number of years ago I was asked to speak at a women's retreat in Alaska. The church I was attending at the time was tiny - the congregation consisted of about thirty people on a good day. I expected that would be about the size of the group in Alaska. So when I walked into the school where the retreat was being held, I was shocked to find well over two hundred women there. My knees started shaking immediately.

I was scheduled to speak in front of this whole group on the first evening. It was an experience I have never forgotten for many reasons, chief among them the amazing stories I heard from other women that night. A large number of them were native women from small villages scattered throughout the State and into the Yukon Territory. One woman's story has
stayed with me over the years.

I don't remember her name, though I can still see her face. It was round and full of life. Her large dark eyes were earnest, but her smile was broad. She was from a large family, she explained, and she was the sole survivor. Everyone else - her parents, her brothers, her sisters, even a few aunts and uncles, had died of Tuberculosis. When she began showing signs of the disease, she was sent to the sanitarium. She was terrified because in her mind, if you
went there, you did not come out alive.

As her disease progressed, she became too weak to get out of bed alone. The doctors told her she had a severely damaged lung and needed surgery. Everything was scheduled. The night before the operation, she decided to pray. She had been told that God loved her and that He healed the sick. Her prayer was short and to the point. She said she was staring out the window
at big fluffy clouds when God told her, "Give thanks before you receive."

It seemed a strange request. She was bitter about the loss of her family and other things that had happened in her life, but she knew she needed to do what God had said. She began thanking him for everything she could think of - the family she had known so briefly, the people who had taken her in, the doctors and nurses who cared for her now. She fell asleep thanking God.

The next morning she got out of bed to use the washroom. She didn't realize what she had done until the nurse came and chided her for doing it. She realized she was not short of breath. She had no pain. In fact, she felt better than she ever had in her life. She told the nurse she didn't want the surgery. The nurse got the doctor. The doctor took x-rays. Then he took them again. Then he told her the surgery had been cancelled. Her lungs were perfectly healthy.

Give thanks before you receive. A good motto for us all, no matter whether we are healthy or ill; it's a good motto to live by. ===================================================
If you would like to join this list, and receive The Spur each week,
Please do so at http://hundred-acre-woods.com/magic-list/Spur/

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Master Surgeon

I woke up about 4:00 a.m this morning - something that seems to be happening fairly often lately - and remembered the dream I was having. Someone was doing brain surgery on me - I guess I've been watching too much T.V. - and they were expaining what was happening. My brain was a large crystal sphere, they said, and they could see the cross imbedded in it. It was a dim shape deep inside. They were going to chip away at the foggy, unusable part until the cross was clearly visible. They said it would have to be done by the master surgeon.
Quite an image to wake up to!
Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'm Back

Well I finally did it – this morning at 8:30 I got back to what had been a regular routine and went to our local Curves. It’s been quite a while. I’ve had good intentions all summer – ‘next week,’ I’d tell myself, ‘next week I’ll go.’ But ‘next week’ came and went and I still had not managed to do it. All my good intentions did nothing to give me the satisfaction and the improved health that comes with being in the regular habit of exercising.

I had lots of excuses. My schedule was already quite full when, well, you might say all heaven broke loose and I was named the Best Canadian Christian Author. That meant my novel was going to be published and that meant I had lots of work to do before sending it off to the editor. And it was a busy summer in other ways, with home renovations, a visit from my mother-in-law, and then there were holidays.

When September arrived I thought the old routines will fall back into place. Not so. It wasn’t easy to finally make it happen. I had to use my will power to get out bed this morning and go to Curves. Why did it take me so long to do it? And will I be able to maintain it? Will simple will power be enough?

Why is it so hard to maintain other good habits, like reading my Bible, memorizing scripture and writing this column consistently? I know these are habits that will improve my spiritual health. So why is it so hard to do them?

The apostle Paul once expressed his frustration at not doing what he knew he should do. In fact he admitted he often did the very thing he knew he should not do. I’m so glad that passage (Romans 7:14-24) is included in scripture. And I’m so glad he asked and answered a vital question after admitting his weakness – “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (v.24-25).

Paul knew he could not conquer his own nature by himself. He needed the spirit of God to enable him. As do we all. None of us can be good without God. None of us can maintain good spiritual habits simply by will power. We need God to help us because our own nature is against us and there is an enemy of our souls who will put every barrier in our way to prevent it from happening.

We need God. We need to rely on his strength to accomplish the things he wants us to do. Like Paul, we must admit that we are weak, unable to make life work on our own. And as Paul said, “thanks be to God” – we have a saviour who is eager to help us once we admit that weakness. All it takes is a little humility.

I’m back at Curves, back writing this column. Praise God that with his help I can continue.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Neil Gaiman and a Sense of Permanence

I just came across this quote by Neil Gaiman -
"I like the stars. It's the illusion of permanence, I think. I mean, they're always flaring up and caving in and going out. But from here, I can pretend... I can pretend that things last. I can pretend that lives last longer than moments. Gods come, and gods go. Mortals flicker and flash and fade. Worlds don't last; and stars and galaxies are transient, fleeting things that twinkle like fireflies and vanish into cold and dust. But I can pretend."

I used to think like this. When I was a teenager one of my favourite places to go was a high cliff on Lake Superior. I went there often because it gave me that sense of permanence that Gaiman refers too. It was an illusion, because, as solid and formidable as those rock cliffs and vast body of water were, they will some day be gone.

Then one day I found out that God is alive and very permanent. Not only will He always exist, He never changes. The scriptures tell us He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Neil Gaiman is a good writer, but he's missing something - he's missing the assurance we can have in an eternal, loving God who will not fade away. It's sad that Gaiman has to pretend "that lives last longer than moments."

As a Christian I know that, because of Jesus, eternal life is mine. It can be his too. I hope some day someone tells him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What He has Done

This past sunday Spence talked briefly about the time when Jesus wept drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. We had an interesting discussion about that once with a fellow in Papua New Guinea. He said it always bothered him that people assumed that Jesus cried out to His father because he was afraid and weak. Ken suggested that was not the case at all, but the thing he was overwhelmed with was that he would soon be cut off from His Father and was already feeling the weight of the sin of the world.
On Sunday it struck me again what Jesus did - His incredible love for us - His incredible mercy. Perhaps part of the reason every knee will someday bow will be because we will all finally grasp the reality of what he has done for us.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A Perfect Delight

OC says - "The spirit that comes in is not that of doing anything for Jesus, but of being a perfect delight to Him."
I learned this lesson in PNG when I came down with a strange virus that incapacitated me for a few months. While everyone else was working hard for the Lord I was lying in a bed or, at best, sitting in a chair unable to move. Yet the Lord said, "Let me love you for who you are, not what you do." How hard it is sometimes to believe that we could in any way be a perfect delight to Him. And what an amazing God we serve!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Be Ye Holy

Oswald Chambers says - "The Atonement means that God can put me back into perfect union with Himself, without a shadow between, through the Death of Jesus Christ."
This is astounding and I confess, knowing the state of the world and my own heart, I doubt it. I tend to believe there is 'a shadow between' because that is, mostly, the reality I live in. I tend to believe the shadow will only disappear when I die, when I am face to face with Him. And perhaps that is the problem. I don't live in the reality of the cross.

It was what happened on the cross that removed the shadow of sin, as Oswald says, and put the shadow of Christ in its place so that His Father does not see our sin when he looks on us, but sees Jesus. Perhaps I have managed to step into that shadow once or twice. But live there? I don't think that is possible on this earth. Perhaps that too is my sin. Though I accept and recognize the sacrifice of Christ, I live in a fallen world and still struggle with a fallen nature. In standing, I am holy before God but in experience I am far from that place.
God's mercy is all the more remarkable.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Just some random words on our road trip to B.C. -
wild flowers on the roadsides - puffs of white, spikes of purple, yellow buttons on long stems
the shock of water's deep tourquoise, the scarred rock faces, the blur of land where rock has fallen away.
straight pale trunks of poplar, spruce like spikes pointing to the sky.

It was a restful week, and that was what it was intended to be. Spence started getting restless only 3 days in, but I managed to stave him off leaving until Friday. Spent the weekend with his mom in Calgary. She was so delighted to see us! A good time.
God is good.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

On a Sunday Morning

It's Sunday morning. I woke as my husband was crawling out of bed to get ready to leave for his first service in a small town south of here. I woke with an image in my mind of one of the powerpoint slides for his sermon. Then my eyes popped open as I realized I hadn't added the animation to the slides - that's the tool that makes each line pop up on the screen, rather than the whole shooting match all at once.

I scrambled up and as Spence went to get coffee at Tim's I headed for the church. It only took me a few minutes to add the animation to the slides, then we enjoyed our coffee and bagels together. I thanked the Lord for bringing my error of omission to my mind.

So this morning I've had time to post some things to my blogs - just put one up at my blog for writers and it sparked a thought. All over the world people will meet today to worship the Lord. Some, if not all, of that worship will glorify Him and I wondered about the cumulative effect of that. It makes me wonder about the end of our days as we know them - that last day when the Lord will say, "enough" and return.

We so often think it will be the cumulative effect of evil that will herald His coming. But I wonder. Could it be that it will be the cummulation of praise that will finally be enough? Could it be that when Christ is finally glorified to the extent that He is due, He will reveal Himself to us?
I wonder. And I am struck with awe at how glorious that day will be. The whole earth will indeed know and bow the knee to Him as he returns in that blaze of glory.
Oh come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Few Words on Self-Esteem

We hear a lot about self-esteem in our modern age. Psychologists and Psychiatrists have probably made millions by advertising that they could build it up or rejuvenate it or even originate it. Self esteem is something we all know we all need in order to feel good about ourselves and function well in our society. There are a lot of ways to build it up. Some of them even work. But at the end of the day self esteem is never enough.

A man named Simon discovered that. From all accounts he was the kind of guy everyone would suspect of low self-esteem. He always tried too hard. Always was too quick to answer, too quick to act, too quick to declare his undying allegiance. And he could never follow through. He was a failure and everyone knew it. People probably smiled indulgently when he spoke, shook their heads when he made his outrageous claims, maybe even laughed out loud when he did things like jump out of boats in the middle of deep water.

Simon himself knew he was a failure. But his self-esteem got a boost, once. His teacher asked him a question and for once his quick answer was right on the money. He answered the most crucial question any of us has to deal with. Jesus asked, “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?” Simon answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16).

That’s when Jesus told him who he really was. He called him Peter, the rock, and told him he had a great future building the kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps, just for a moment, Peter believed it. But it didn’t take long before he was acting like the same old Simon. And then came that day when he proved himself not only a failure, but a coward. Though he now bore the name Peter, his self esteem could never have been lower when he denied knowing the one he called The Christ. All the self-esteem he’d been building up as one of the leaders on Jesus’ team did him no good. The darkness that fell over the earth when Jesus died probably matched the darkness in Peter’s heart and soul at that point.

If Jesus had been any other man, any other God, Peter would probably have ended up on the skids after that. He knew he was the biggest fool in the bunch. But he also knew this Jesus. There was still a spark of hope inside Peter, so when the women came and told him Jesus was alive he ran to the tomb, ran for his life. And when Jesus walked with him and asked him another vital question, three times, Peter no doubt did not miss the significance. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked. And Peter’s answer was not so quick, not so self-assured, not so based on his built-up self-esteem. His answer, “Yes Lord, yes Lord,” and finally, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:15-17). His answer was based on the relationship he had with the one who asked the question. His answer was based on an understanding of who Jesus was and who he was in relationship to Him.

Peter had finally understood that he was not the one who could summon up great faith and courage. He was not the one who would have all the right answers and all the power to do miracles. He was not the one who would build God’s church. He finally understood. It was not about self-esteem or prestige or power. It was not about him at all. It was all about Jesus.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friends who Bring Flowers

I hosted our readers' group tonight but it was a little different than the usual. Joanne arrived first, with a cheese ball, crackers and bottle of sparkling (non-alcoholic) grape juice. Then Karen came and I thought I heard them whispering when I was in the kitchen. Karen had brought food too. Finally Terrie arrived. I was in the kitchen again when she came up the stairs so I didn't notice the flowers at first. We chatted in the kitchen for a while until Joanne got impatient and told us to sit down so we could start. Then the flowers (24 long-stemmed roses!) came out and the hand-made card, andTerrie popped the cork and I got out the wine glasses. They toasted me and my book and wished me much success.
How blessed I am to have such friends! :)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Last Sunday

Beginnings. We like to celebrate them. We mark birthdays and break out the cake and ice cream each year. We recognize anniversaries and send cards and well wishes. And of course, we party hearty on Canada Day in this country and today, the 4th of July, in the U.S. Beginnings are important and it’s good that we take time to think back to when our countries first began. They both had founding fathers who were concerned about the spiritual needs of their new countries. We see it in the constitutions they drew up and in the songs they picked as their nation’s anthems. Our heritage is a spiritual one. Unfortunately, that emphasis has been forgotten.

A young man came to our church as a guest soloist this past Sunday. We had just celebrated Canada Day and, in our town, it’s all wrapped up in the Stampede. Fire works on the first were a little anti-climactic since they’d been booming into the skies for a few nights already. The excitement of the rodeo overshadows the Canada Day events in this town. But this young man had been the singer/preacher at Cowboy Church, held at the stampede grounds earlier that morning and had been asked to come and sing for our congregation. He has a rich, booming voice and his first song caught our attention. Then he said he was going to sing O Canada, our national anthem. I thought, well, okay, I guess that’s appropriate in a way. Then he said that he had discovered that our national anthem was actually a prayer. That got my attention.
As he started to sing the congregation rose to its feet and joined in. Then, after the well-known chorus, our voices faded away as Trevor continued alone singing words that stunned me. They are, indeed, a prayer -
Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,Hold our dominion within thy loving care;Help us to find, O God, in theeA lasting, rich reward,As waiting for the Better Day,We ever stand on guard.
When the song, originally written in French, became our national anthem, this and other references to God were left out. Over the years, the original intent of the song has been completely lost.

How sad. How tragic. Though the song had been sung since 1880 it became official as our anthem in 1980. It took only one hundred years for God to be left out. How frightening. As Trevor finished singing on Sunday morning, he gave a warning that our country is a long way from what it should be, spiritually. He encouraged us to pray.

Perhaps it would be fitting to sing the anthem every day – as it was originally written. After all, it is a prayer.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Me by Laura

This is a photo of me taken by my daughter, Laura shortly after she returned from Bangladesh last month.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

So Blessed

Praise God. My daughter is home from Bangladesh, safe and sound. It was a delight to meet her in Toronto. As we sat on the subway I marvelled at this girl - young woman rather - who has moved so smoothly from the rickshaw clogged streets of Dhaka to the underground of Toronto, and now to the quiet avenues of small town Alberta, all with a smile and laughter.

How did I get to be so blessed as to have such beautiful, talented, savvy daughters?

Thursday, May 04, 2006

An Invitation

An Invitation
By Marcia Lee Laycock

I received an invitation in the mail yesterday. It’s one of the home-made kind, with a border of stamped flowers around the edge. The card is really just a courtesy since I have been asked to be the speaker at the event, so I did not look at it very closely at first. It wasn’t until I was relaxing after supper that I noticed something seemed missing in the design. In the center of the card is a single flower and just to its right there is an insect. I stared at it for a moment, then realized what it was – a butterfly with no wings. I know it may seem odd, but that made me smile. You see, the topic I’d been thinking of for the event, a mother/daughter banquet to celebrate Mother’s Day, is “Giving Your Daughters Wings.”

I’ve been thinking about that poor little butterfly – how sad it is that she has no way to fly, no way to find the flowers that will give her nourishment. There are a lot of wingless butterflies in the world. I’ve had a personal experience with one recently. She moved into a house we own a few months ago and we recently had to ask her to leave. She did, and took everything that wasn’t nailed down with her – a coffee table, the vacuum cleaner, the lawnmower, even the garbage cans. I suspect the sale of all of those things will feed her drug habit. That young woman is a butterfly with no wings, crawling instead of flying, living a life she wasn’t designed to live. Proverbs 29:15 says – “…a child left to itself disgraces his mother.” Too many children have been left to themselves in this world.

As a mother, I’ve sometimes wondered if my actions have clipped my children’s wings, or strengthened them. (I think it was Dr. James Dobson who said motherhood is the most guilt ridden profession on earth!) Was I too permissive or too strict? Did I crush their dreams? Did I make them feel that they were loved enough or did I give the impression I had no time for them in my busy schedule? Did I show them where to find the flowers that would nourish their bodies, minds and most of all, spirits? It is a mother’s responsibility to do that – to lead, to correct, to nurture.

The good news is that even if I have messed up, and since I’m human I know I have, there is still hope. Even a wingless butterfly can have hope. God’s grace is available to everyone. It can make wings grow and strengthen those that are too weak to fly. God’s forgiveness can teach a butterfly how to soar. His word can lead it right to the sweetest of nectars. His spirit can put wind under its wings and blow it to a place of sunlight and peace.

The good news is that God invites us to be part of that process. He invites us to tell people about Him, show them by how we live, what it means to have wings, and then issue an invitation to accept the forgiveness that will make them into complete butterflies.
Maybe you know one or two who are crawling on the ground instead of flying. Maybe you need to extend an invitation. I know I do.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Abridged Version

I just showed a video to my grade four class called The Easter Story. It was a cartoon version, abridged and modified for a young audience. I almost showed them a clip from the Jesus video which is much more realistic, but decided to leave that for next year. They’ll be a whole year older then, more able to understand and handle the truth.

But I wonder. Did I do the right thing? Is it ever a good thing to abridge the gospel, to paint it in colours that aren’t quite so stark, so difficult? The story is a difficult one. Torture is never pretty and we know that Jesus suffered under the Roman torturers. Betrayal is never easy to take and we know Jesus was betrayed even by those closest to Him. But most difficult of all is the struggle to grasp what it all means. Did this man, Jesus, really take on all the sin of the world in those final moments? Was it really a victory for all of us? Maybe we should tone it all down just a notch. He was a good man, after all. We can all agree on that. Isn’t that enough?

God’s word says no. God’s word says he was the Son of God, meant to suffer torture and death for us. God’s word says He did indeed die for the sins of mankind and then rose again to be the first among the resurrected. These are truths that cannot, that must not, be abridged. It is God’s truth after all. No mere mortal will ever destroy it, though they continue to try. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that when he said – “The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

It was the word of God that Jesus succeeded in fulfilling. It was the word that laid out in fine detail the beginnings of mankind, his fall and his subsequent history of struggle and pain. It was the word that detailed, too, the profound plan of redemption and proclaimed the good news of God’s victory.

It is the word that we can proclaim now, this Easter season. Say it to one another, say it to strangers. Shout it from the rooftops – He is risen. He is risen indeed!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Getting Ready

Getting Ready
By Marcia Lee Laycock

It seems the word anticipation is an appropriate one for this time of year. The snow is melting rapidly and the bushes are showing that faint red tint that tells us life is pouring back into them after the long sleep of winter.

That word is also appropriate for my life right now. In a few weeks I’ll be packing to go to a women’s retreat. It’s a yearly event, one I plan for and look forward to well ahead of the date. Another few weeks after that, I’ll be packing again, this time in preparation for a trip east to meet my daughter when she returns from Bangladesh. You can imagine the growing anticipation for that trip! Let’s just say I’m already counting the days.

We are also anticipating another event at this time of year. Some of us have already been preparing for it. I attended a party a short time ago where a huge chocolate cake sat in the middle of the table as we ate supper and laughed with the ‘birthday boy.’ Then the baker of the cake, the hostess of the party, distributed evenly sliced pieces all round. But she did not cut a piece for herself. She had given up sweets as an observance of Lent and I admired her restraint as she sat and watched the rest of us indulge. She, needless to say, is anticipating the day when her fast will be broken.

We do different things to prepare for special occasions. We pack for trips, we count the days, we even abstain from things we delight in. It is all meant to make that special time more significant and more meaningful. It is all done to prepare our hearts and minds for what is to come.

As Jesus walked resolutely toward the cross, we are told in the scriptures that He prepared Himself and those around Him. He began to talk about what was to happen. He gave the disciples clear instructions about the last meal they were to have together. He took time to be by Himself to pray and, as the hour drew near, He gathered His friends around Him and asked them to pray for Him. They were terribly inadequate in that task, but even as Jesus shook beneath the weight of what was to come, He prayed for them and moved resolutely forward. It was all steeped in anticipation. Jesus knew the torture He would endure, yet “…for the joy set before him, endured the cross …”

As we draw close to Good Friday, perhaps we should be getting ready. Perhaps we should talk about what is going to happen, even have a special meal with friends and gather them around us to pray. Perhaps we should pack the suitcases of our hearts with the things we will need to truly appreciate what happened on that day long ago. Perhaps we need to be filled once again with anticipation.

Then, when the day arrives, we will be able, with Jesus to say, “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28).

Free Shipping to all blog readers if you order Focused Reflections before Easter! Just post a comment and I'll e-mail the details.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hard Questions

It seemed fitting that the sky hung heavy and low. It seemed right that the wind was bitter, howling with the fierce shriek of winter around a tiny country cemetery. There was a very small hole in the ground and a very tiny casket to be put into it. It seemed appropriate that we all stood numbed by the cold of that day.

A friend of mine once wrote a poem about Adam, Eve and God in the Garden of Eden. It was a good poem, well constructed with a strong rhythm and powerful images. One of those images often comes to mind when bad things happen to good people. It’s an image of God curled into a fetal position, and the wailing sound of His weeping.

Sometimes we ask hard questions. Why did that baby have to die, God? Why is my friend suffering with a painful cancer? Why are those people in Africa starving? We don’t usually get a good answer to those questions. They leave us numb and they leave us wondering if God is there.

But then there is that image and that sound. In my friend’s poem God mourned the first disobedience, the first break in His relationship with the creatures He put on the earth.
The picture my friend painted with his words was of a God who cares, a God who feels our pain, a God who mourns with us, especially at the graves of tiny babies.

He is also a God who will answer. He is a God who acted to redeem all that was broken in our world. His is a God who continues to do so. The redemption was accomplished on the cross of Calvary, but it is not yet complete. As the writer of the book of Hebrews said, God “… waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:13).

The process is sometimes painful, but the world will one day be made entirely new, entirely redeemed. The scriptures talk about creation groaning as we wait for that day. The groans do not fall on deaf ears, nor will they remain unanswered forever. One day that tiny baby will rise, whole and perfect as God intended him to be.

God’s plan is unfolding. What then, should we do in those times when we groan and feel there is no answer? Again, scripture tells us – “To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Humility before God bows the knee and continues to believe. Humility before God acknowledges His sovereignty and calls Him good. Even when babies die and the pain of this world overwhelms, humility before God says, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Trace of Irish Brogue And the Genetic Code

It was my first visit to a new doctor. I was pregnant with my third child, so he wanted to know my medical history. As I recited the litany of childhood diseases, the rare occasions I had been hospitalized and the details of my other pregnancies, the doctor took notes. Then he asked,
“Where are you from, originally?”
“Ontario,” I admitted.
“And your parents?”
“The Ottawa Valley.”
“What about your grandparents?”
I was beginning to wonder what this had to do with my medical history, but answered. “I think my grandfather was born in Ireland, but I’m not sure. It may have been my great-grandfather.”
The doctor smiled. “I knew it,” he said. "I could hear it in your voice.”
I was amazed. Those roots went back three generations or more and I considered my self an un-hyphenated Canadian, so it was a surprise to know there was still something that tied me so strongly to my origins.
Recently scientists announced a discovery that astonished the world. They had succeeded in mapping the genetic code, unraveling the secrets of the blueprint of human kind. They were stunned to discover the genetic code of all humans is incredibly similar. In fact, they stated that it appeared all humankind had descended from the same source. We are all, indeed, brothers and sisters.
Of course, we already knew that. At least, those who have read the book of Genesis knew it. Genesis 1:27 says – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
That is our ancestry, our beginning point. The rest of Genesis, indeed, the rest of the Bible, is our history. We can take it personally. The pattern of life laid out in its pages, the heroism and the villainy, the glory and the debauchery, the victory and the defeat, all of it is part of who we are. And it shows. There is something in us, something as subtle as the faint tinge of Irish brogue the doctor heard in my voice, connecting us to our origins. We feel the pull of it now and then. We’ve know the truth of it, even if we have never read Genesis. We know who we are. We know who our Father is.
Why, then do we deny it? Why have we tried so hard to invent an alternate history? The answer, again, is in Genesis. Adam and Eve disobeyed their Father. They hid from Him and He was forced to remove them from their protected environment. Sin had invaded mankind’s history, and our rejection of God became a common theme.
But there is more, there is hope. “… just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.@ (Romans 5:18). Jesus, our ancestor, our brother, was also our Saviour.
The truth is in us. Why deny it?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Drive to Discover

We all remember that little rhyme, memorized in grade school - 'In fourteen hundred and ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.' What we could not perhaps understand, as we recited that rhyme as children, was that Columbus was not just setting off on an adventure at sea as many others did before him. He was setting off under a completely new banner of faith.

Columbus believed that he would, in fact, not fall off the earth, as was commonly believed at the time. He believed there was more beyond and he was driven to discover it. We all know the outcome. Columbus and his crew survived, discovered a new land and returned to tell about it. I thought about Columbus and the many other explorers the other day, as I watched a video produced by a secular organization. The scientists on the video, who spoke about what they were discovering in the solar system, were in some ways, just like Columbus. They were driven to discover what lay beyond.

The video, called The Privileged Planet, explains how, for many centuries, man believed the earth was unique in the universe. But, as exploration of the stars moved from a pastime to a science, it began to seem that the earth was, in fact, only a small dot like billions of others. Laymen and scientists alike began to believe there had to be millions more out there, just like earth. They began listening to the stars, hoping to hear something that would tell them there was life out there. They studied solar systems and black holes and stars that appear like tiny pinpricks to the human eye. They sent exploratory devices to land on far-away planets, looking for evidence of life. They have discovered much that has been useful.

They discovered, much to their astonishment, that the earth, in fact, does appear to be one of a kind. None other is placed within a solar system in such a way that it can sustain life. As the astronomers began to understand the finely-tuned balance of the system and our planet's place in it, they deduced that the chances of another planet like earth existing are astronomically remote. Their deductions begged a series of questions. The question, why, is perhaps the most obvious. Why is our planet so unique? Why is it situated so perfectly that it can sustain life? Why is it situated so perfectly that the living creatures on its surface can observe and marvel at the universe around them?

Why, indeed.The Apostle Paul enlightens us in Romans - "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

God has done it all so that we might recognize Him and glorify Him. Our drive to discover, to learn, to understand the world around us and the world within us, originates in God's desire to be glorified and to be known.

Look at the stars tonight, if you can. Or look at the snow falling from the clouds above, or the rain pouring down. Think about the incredible patterns that make those normal yet awesome natural occurrences possible. Think about our round globe, unique in the universe. And ask yourself, Why?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Snow days

Whew we have a pile of snow here now - after the majority of the winter passing with none, it's wonderful to see the landscape covered with the thick gleaming white and the trees decorated with rounded shawls and scarves. Driving, on the other hand, isn't much fun - I had to take my daughter's friend home this morning and the long road to her country home made me grip the steering wheel pretty tightly. But our little Neon takes to it quite well - ploughing through the drifts and navigating the ruts without getting stuck - PTL!

Meg and I went to Red Deer after dropping her off, and had a good time together. I've been feeling like we've been kind of neglecting her lately so it was great to be able to have some car time to talk and shopping time to spend money - hers and mine - and story time on the way back to share what we've been writing. She has started another fantasy story - book length, she thinks. She has a great imagination and the twists and turns in her stories are quite intriguing.

Speaking of books ... I'm wanting to get back at mine but have had a lot on my plate lately and it's not going to let up for a while. I'm about to start another online devotional course so that will take some effort, and then the AGC conference is at the end of the month and I'm coordinating the women's part. Maybe in April ...

And then it will be May and Laura will be home. Yahoo! And the short list for the two contests I entered will be out - oh my! And my 55th birthday will come and go- oh dear!

Time zooms. Life is good. God is great.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Visiting Mom

I have just left my mother in a nursing home on the other side of this country. As the plane carrying me back to Alberta scribed a straight line across the top of Lakes Huron and Superior, then angled slightly across Manitoba and Saskatchewan, her eyes haunted me. They are sunken because she has no appetite anymore. They are old because she is almost 87. And they are bewildered because she has Alzheimer's disease.
"There is something wrong with my brain," she told me the morning I went to say good-bye. I try to distract her by asking if she has seen any birds in the tree outside her window. She stares for several long minutes before she shrugs. She picks up my second book that I brought to show her, remembering her excitement over my first. "Is this yours?" she asks. When I say yes, she tries to give it back. "No, Mom, it's okay, I tell her, I brought it for you." She stares at the first page for half an hour, while my sister and I chat, our eyes often darting to her bowed head. It's been more than a year since she attempted to read anything.
I try to engage her in conversation again, tell her I'm leaving today, going home.
"Where am I living now?" She asks. When I tell her, she says she doesn't like it here. "But the care is good, I'll give you that, the care is very good here." She stops for a moment, then tries to continue, but she has lost the thread of the thought. She drops her head and stares at the open book in her hand. "Is this yours?" she asks.
Just as we leave, she says again, "There's something terribly wrong. I felt it at breakfast."
My sister says she will stop in again that night, but that does not seem to help. She opens her mouth but says nothing more as we move from the room.

I pray that she will hang on long enough to have a bit of a visit with my brother when he goes to see her in March, and my daughter, when she arrives in May. But I'm not sure that prayer will be answered. Some day soon, another prayer will be - some day soon she will wake with complete understanding and the twinkle that has always been in her eyes will become a beacon of light, reflecting the light of her Saviour. Perhaps that is the prayer I should whisper now, as her eyes continue to haunt me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Be Mine

Be Mine
By Marcia Lee Laycock

I ripped the cellophane wrapping off the small package with delight. The cards my mother had bought that morning were perfect. They were bright red with hearts all over them and short funny sayings appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I spent all that evening addressing the envelopes and signing my name to all the cards. All, that is, but one.

There was one card in the package that was larger than the rest. It said, “Be Mine,” and the verse inside was not funny. In fact, to me, it was so serious that my heart beat faster. This card was going to someone I thought was deserving of something so special. His name was Darryl. I was ten years old and I was “in love.”

I did not sign my name to the card addressed to Darryl because I was afraid. I did not want to admit my feelings for fear of being rejected. What if he just laughed? What if he threw the card in the trash and someone else saw that it was from me? What if he left it behind on an empty desk for anyone to see? No. I would not put my name on that card, but I would pray that Darryl would know who it was from.

Giving your love and affection to someone is a risk. You become vulnerable to being hurt, to rejection, perhaps even to ridicule. Jesus knew all about that when He agreed to be born as a tiny babe on earth. He knew that many would spurn His love. Many would scorn his affection. Many would just laugh. And then a mob would demand His death. No one would understand. None of it would look like a fairy-tale and the ending was anything but happy. It would look like defeat and it would stink of death.

But it was the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Christ gave up the glories of heaven, took on the physical limitations of a human body and then allowed that body to be tortured and killed. He did it all so that we would be able to live in the presence of His Father’s love eternally. He did it with an anguished cry of, “Be Mine!”

Jesus was neither afraid nor embarrassed to sign his name on the card that revealed His love for us. His card was a cross erected on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. He signed it with His own blood and when it was delivered to the world at the moment he died, all the barriers between us and God were torn down. Forgiveness was ours for the asking and hope became a reality.

It was therefore true when the apostle Paul said to the people in Rome – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

That is a Valentine worth cherishing.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Most Excellent

It must have looked like this was an important prisoner. He was guarded by two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen. They had heard there were men who wanted him dead, so they had taken measures to assure his safety. He was, after all, a Roman citizen. When they arrived without incident at their destination, the man was handed over to the Roman governor of the province. His trial lasted only long enough for two witnesses to make their statements and for the prisoner himself to plead his innocence. There really was not enough evidence to imprison the man, but the governor, the “most excellent Felix” (Acts 24:3), put the prisoner, the apostle Paul, under house arrest.

From time to time Felix would have Paul brought before him and the apostle would tell him about “righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). Many times he talked with Felix about faith in Jesus Christ. Felix heard Paul’s story, listened to his discourse. At times he was afraid and sent him away. But he kept calling him back. He kept calling him back over a period of two years!

As I read this story in the book of Acts, I wondered about the battle that must have been going on in that Roman governor’s mind and soul. He heard the words of truth, but, sadly, there was something else of more importance to him. Verse 26 says – “At the same time he was hoping that Paul would offer him a bribe, so he sent for him frequently and talked with him.”

Felix was so focused on what he wanted that he missed what he really needed. His greed blinded him to the most costly gift God could offer, and though it was offered for free, he did not receive it. Then he was replaced as governor and the opportunity, as far as we know, was lost.

I wonder how often we do the same. We too are sometimes so focused on our wants that we miss the one thing we really need – a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The pursuit of prosperity and happiness too often supercedes the pursuit of our spiritual well-being. We should all heed Paul’s words, those he no doubt spoke to Felix as he did to the people in a place called Corinth – “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

Opportunities to receive God’s gifts are offered to us every day. Grace, forgiveness and righteousness are available for free. They were purchased for us by the Son of God. All we have to do is receive them.

A Winning Sites Contest

Katie Hart is hosting this -
Christian Novels: Marcia Laycock - A Winning Sites Contest

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

We'll See

“We’ll see,” I said, and heard my daughter sigh. She knew what that meant, just as I knew when my mother said it to me when I was her age. It meant the answer was probably “no.” It meant my mother didn’t want to come right out and say that word, but was leaning strongly in that direction. It meant she had some serious doubts about letting me do whatever it was I had requested. It meant she’d talk it over with my dad and then have the added weight and authority of his ‘no’ to back her up. When my mother said, “We’ll see,” it meant we wouldn’t.

Sometimes it feels like God is doing that. He won’t give a direct answer, but we can tell we are not going to like it when He does. Sometimes, as we wait for the answer, we have little hope that things will turn out the way we would like them to. We are reluctant to believe that God wants to say, “yes.” We see him as a parent whose lips are permanently shaped in the form of the ‘n’ word.

But God’s letter to us, the letter that was written down thousands of years ago, tells us differently. The Scriptures tell us that God sings over us and delights in us. He longs to give us good things. He tried to convince His disciples of this when he walked and talked with them while he was on earth. Jesus said – “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

“Well, then, you ask, why isn’t there a Porsche sitting in my drive way?”

There would be, if a Porsche was what was needed to help others and bring glory to God.

Look at the next verse in Matthew 9 – “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (v.12). Suddenly the focus is not on the one asking for gifts, but on others around him who should be receiving them from his hands. Jesus is saying, look to the needs of others and your needs will be taken care of. He always taught us to have an outward view – look to others before looking to ourselves. In that way He is honoured and we are blessed. He will never fail to give us whatever we need to accomplish that purpose, because it is His purpose.

Perhaps, then, when we think we are hearing God say, “We’ll see,” we are hearing Him say, “examine your motives.” Perhaps then, we should ask ourselves that bottom line question – will this bring glory to God, or glory to me?

Focused Reflections is now available - order your copy now - email Marcia@vinemarc.com

Monday, February 06, 2006

Laura and Bengali girls

Just wanted to share this photo Laura sent from Bangladesh

It's so good to see her smiling face! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Just a dash

Sometimes it amazes me how the same things keep popping up - God trying to tell me something and knowing it takes several tries to break through! A while ago it was the theme of living wholeheartedly for Him. Now it's about the often recurring doubt that what I'm doing as a writer has any impact at all - I posted on this on my blog this morning -(www.writer-lee.blogspot.com). Then clicked into the blog Dave linked to today and on to her reveiw of Anne Lamott's latest book.

And there it was again - this wonderful quote -“Holiness has most often been revealed to me in the exquisite pun of the first syllable, in holes—in not enough help, in brokenness, mess. . . .In holes and lostness I can pick up the light of small ordinary progress, newly made moments flecked like pepper into the slog and the disruptions.” (p 6, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith)

It's the pepper flecks that count - the one tiny speck of hope we throw out every time we write in Christ's name, every time we whisper a prayer, every time we turn our faces to God.

So I am encouraged - to keep on keeping on.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Colour on a Grey Day

The sun was out today, for the first time in quite a while here. It's been a very grey world - coated in hoar frost with nothing to burn it off. But today the sun did shine and it was lovely.

I watched the kids coming out of my daughter's school and thought of how we Canadians dress so drab in winter - no colour, all blacks and dark greens. I remember how I became so aware of that when we came home from Papua New Guinea that December of '96. I was so used to all the colour of the tropics - the bright reds, oranges, purples - but what was the first thing I did? - bought a dark green coat!

Maybe it's the chameleon syndrome - we all want to fit in so desperately. We mimic our surroundings. Like the day I went to Whitehorse, into my favourite second hand store, and told the salesgirl I needed something "churchy." I'd just become a Christian and didn't own a dress or anything but jeans. No-one told me I should buy new clothes. I just wanted to fit in, so I bought a long blue skirt (dark of course) and a white long-sleeved blouse. It did the job.

I just read a woman's article on how she bought a bright red purse once, knowing she probably would never use it. She didn't want to stand out. But then she decided one day that she really loved that purse - it said something about her that she wanted to say. So she was determined to use it, as a symbol that she was going to be who she was, not the person everyone else wanted to see. It reminded me of a bright orange sweater I have in my closet. I've never worn it. It would make me stand out.

Life is too short for that. And I think God wants us to be who we are. After all, He made us this way. So maybe tomorrow I'll wear the orange sweater. I think it will go quite well on the backdrop of all this grey.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Yes it was almost enough to make me believe in the Friday the 13th enigma.
Nothing, and I mean nothing went right at work today, from the very first attempt to do something constructive. It actually got to the point where I was almost laughing - or crying.
It made me wonder about the whole spiritual realm thing. It sure felt like somebody was trying his best to mess things up and get me to lose it. But I didn't, so there!

I was very glad to finally see the day end, however. And tomorrow is a new day. I love the verses in the Bible that talk about that - His mercies are new every morning. Praise the Lord! And have a Wonderful, Fabulous, Very good, Very Right Day tomorrow!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Popping Corn Reflex

I taught a religious ed. class today, to a group of grade five kids in a public school. Yes, we can still do that here in Alberta. Praise the Lord! I was in the middle of having a great time when the teacher (a substitute) suddenly broke in and told the kids they couldn't just all jump up and answer the questions whenever they wanted. They had to put their hands up. Now, I understand why she did that. It was getting a little loud. But it was such a hoot to see these kids popping up like kernels of corn that just couldn't not pop!

As I drove home I wondered, how do we lose that? How does it happen that from grade four to grade eight the kids suddenly are bored with life and learning? Maybe it's because too many teachers have told them they had to put their hands up.

And I wondered how is it that we lose our enthusiasm for God? We all do, along the way. We all need to be revived now and then. Maybe it's because too many of us have sqashed our own popping corn reflex. Don't get too excited, now, it might not be a real miracle. Don't put all your prayers in one basket, just in case. Don't be too disappointed if that prayer isn't answered. Don't take any risks and you won't lose any faith. (that last one is definitely a killer and totally untrue).

Maybe the scripture isn't metaphorical when it says we must become like little children - little children whose popping corn reflex is still too hot to handle. :)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Field Tests

Blind Spots. We all have them. As an optometric assistant one of my duties is to test patients for peripheral vision. The "Fields" test requires the patient to click a small trigger every time he/she sees a flash of light on a screen. The flashes are arranged in a circular pattern, and record the intensity numerically. The test is recorded and then printed on paper for the doctors to read. Any flashes the patient was unable to see, because of cataracts for instance, will appear dark on the print-out.

The interesting thing is that there is always a small dark spot on the print-out. Everyone, it seems, has a blind spot. We are, of course, unaware of that. Our brain tells us we are seeing just fine, thank you very much.

Our brain seems to do something similar in other areas too. An article appeared in our local paper this week that illustrates the point. A local minister, who is of a decided liberal persuasion, wrote quite a diatribe on "fundamentalists" who are so very very intolerant. Of course he and his wife, also a minister in the same church, take every opportunity to kick at others in the community who are not of their particular stripe.

Perhaps they should read Matthew 7:3-5

Perhaps we all should.


Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Year's Res.

My husband mentioned something the other day that made me smile. In fact, it has made me smile many times since it happened.

We were on our way back to the Yukon with our two daughters - driving back, in a very small Toyota Corolla, after spending a year at college in Saskatchewan. I learned what the word claustrophobic meant on that trip. And I learned something else.

We'd been admiring the scenery all the way - the soaring scenery of mountains that takes your breath away after living on the prairie for a year. When we reached our destination, Dawson City, my daughter, Katie, then six, paused as we ferried across the Yukon River, then pointed at the sheer cliffs rising from the water. "Look, Dad," she said, "we're coming close to the incredibles!"

I guess we'd used that word a time or two.

I learned then that kids will imitate us, no matter what words we use. They don't know any better. They are learning about how to function in the world, and their only resource is the people around them. Since we are, in effect, stuck in a small vehicle known as a family, it is inevitable that our kids will pick up and use whatever words we allow a presence within that capsule. They not only pick them up, they learn how to use them.

How crucial it is, then, to speak words of peace, love, contentment, joy - words that heal instead of words that destroy. How else will our children learn about such crucial words if we do not speak them?

Now that I and my children are much older, I carry a certain amount of guilt about the many words I have not spoken. The other child in that car on its way to the Yukon, Laura, once said that she only learned about me when strangers came to our house and we started telling stories. "Why don't you tell us those stories?" she asked. Why indeed.

What fear keeps us from sharing the stories of our hearts with those closest to us? Why do we keep silent, keep the crucial words hidden inside? I suppose we too have learned, as we've journeyed through the small capsule of our lives, that it is safer to keep things hidden. Safer in the silence. But we all lose in that silence.

So at the beginning of this New Year, I call a challenge into this shared capsule - speak. Let the words of life and love flow out, into the air, onto the pages, onto the monitor screens and into cyber-space.

Let us all speak!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dreams of Dinner

My daughter e-mailed today to tell me she dreamed about me - that I was visiting her there in Bangladesh and we went out to dinner together - she even described what we ate! :0
It makes me long to be with her - to sit across a table and watch her laugh, and eat! But that won't happen for several more months so I have to be content with the details of her dreams.

That's a lot like what we are experiencing now, on this earth. We are experiencing a dream-like existence that seems real. I can't wait to finally get "beyond the veil" and see, face to face, the One who has created it all. And to sit at His banquet table and watch Him laugh - and eat! Well, maybe.

Some day we shall see.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Stealing My Husband's Thunder Or ...

Three Rs for 2006

My husband preached a sermon from Malachi last Sunday. It was a message for the New Year that gave us all a theme to think on as we launch into 2006. The theme consists of three admonitions (it was a good three point sermon, complete with alliteration! J )

The three are – Remember the Law, Restore the Heart, and Renew Righteousness.
The first point was a caution against relying on the law to change anything – just like the laws of our country, God’s laws cannot change us, they only show us where our sin lies. We must remember the laws of God so that we can avoid the death-traps of sin. It is up to us, and God’s Spirit working in us, to make the changes necessary to live our lives in harmony with those laws.

The second point, restore the heart, led us to consider the hearts of those whom God loved – people like Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, David, and others on through history. These were men and women who failed, yet always turned back to God for mercy and grace. They always restored their love for God and restored their relationship with Him.

The third point, renew righteousness, helped us to remember that our righteousness does not come from the good works we do, but from the sacrifice of God’s only Son. It is His righteousness, freely offered to us, that holds us in God’s hand and always will. But we can renew our relationship with Him every day, just as we do with friends and family, by communicating with Him. Pray. Worship. Seek His guidance. Listen for His voice and look for those circumstances that point us to Him.

These three tenants are worthy of a poster on our walls, worthy of the time taken to consider them and the effort needed to apply them to our lives. Malachi knew the time would come when there would be no more time to consider and act upon these things – a time when everything will change, justice will be fully accomplished and Jesus will return. “Surely the day is coming,” Malachi said (Malachi 4:1).

It could be today, or any day in 2006. Are you ready? Remember the Law. Restore the Heart. Renew Righteousness.