Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Long Lonely Road

I made a discovery this past weekend. There are not many people on the highways of northern Saskatchewan on a Sunday morning. My husband and I attended a conference in Melfort SK. and unfortunately he took ill on Saturday night so rather than attend the church service as planned, we decided to run for home. The Flu, or food poisoning had high-jacked our plans. It’s an eight hour drive so we left as soon as we were able Sunday morning.

I don’t usually like driving for that length of time; I have a hard time staying awake after three to four hours. I knew my husband would sleep most of the way, and I can’t drink regular coffee so I started praying that the Lord would keep me alert. I knew there would not be much to look at as we drove. Or so I thought.

It’s a rather melancholy time to drive the prairies. Everything is a pale tawny brown – no shoots of life showing yet. We saw a small group of pronghorn antelope – just in time to slow down and avoid hitting one of them. They were the colour of the prairie but for their distinctive white markings. The skies were the colour of lead and a faint haze often sprayed the windshield. The last of the snow had melted that week, leaving large pools of water on the surface of the ground. Birds were everywhere. We saw flocks of Canada geese, hundreds of ducks and large graceful white swans flying high on their way north.

As our vehicle sped across the prairie I thought of how tiny we would seem to those birds looking down from such a height. Compared to their fragility, I tended to think of us as the stronger entity, but then I thought of how they would see us. Our vehicle probably looked like a dinky toy, its noise muffled or perhaps even muted by the distance. To those birds, we were probably quite insignificant as they set about their purpose in migration. We weren’t even a small distraction to them.

Then I pondered how God sees us from on high. We aren’t a distraction to Him, either. We are his focus. How astounding to realize that! God’s eyes are continually on each of us, whether we are sitting in our living room, in a church sanctuary, or speeding across a lonely prairie at 100 kilometers an hour. He knows where we are, He’s watching out for us, and He cares where we are going.

King David’s psalm 121 states this plainly. He tells the people of Israel – “… the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Ps.121:8).

The Lord did keep me awake and alert on that lonely drive across the prairie. He gave me lots to see and lots to think about. Wherever we are, He is there - above us, before us, behind us and beside us. With us always. What a comfort!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Shovel on the Highway

Driving the highway between my home and a near-by city is something that has become a regular and rather boring experience. I usually read when my husband drives but when I have to do the driving I keep myself awake by watching for anything interesting on the side of the road.

One day I saw something that made me chuckle. A snow shovel was stuck upright out of a rather high snow bank. We’d had a lot of snow that week, but there was no sign that a vehicle had been stuck in the ditch. Seeing the shovel made me wonder what happened to the person who owned it. And what was he trying to do with it? The idea of trying to shovel the highway with such a small tool was ludicrous. I began to picture someone attempting such a feat, becoming overwhelmed and exhausted and in frustration abandoning the shovel in the bank.

Whatever had happened, that shovel kept my mind occupied all the way to the city. It made me think of how we, in our own strength try to do the Lord’s work. So many of us are attempting what is comparable to clearing a highway with a snow shovel! There is no way we can do it.

The Lord cautioned his disciples about this after his resurrection. He told them – “… wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Sprirt” (Acts 1:4,5). Jesus knew they could never accomplish the things he was about to ask of them unless they had the Holy Spirit to help them. He said – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Trying to clear a highway with a snow shovel is an impossible task. “But with God, all things are possible” (Matt.19:26). With God, we can do what seems impossible, without becoming overwhelmed or exhausted. The key is to rely on His Spirit, His strength and to tune in to what God is doing. When we see and recognize His hand at work, our load is instantly lighter and we are energized to go on. When we allow the Spirit to work through us we are encouraged by what He does and revitalized for the work.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Grand Spectacle

At a certain time of day, early in the evening, I make sure the curtains on the windows in our living room are open. I don’t want to miss the spectacle. Yes, right here in Ponoka, there’s a grand spectacle every evening. It’s a spectacle of promise.

We are fortunate enough to live on a street that is one-sided. There are houses on the east side, but not on the west. That side is still an undeveloped bush, full of birds, squirrels and deer. It’s there that the spectacle of promise happens. As the sun begins to drop, the light slants, hitting thousands of small catkins hanging from the trees. When the sun hits them, they glow, making the entire bush light up. It’s the promise of spring; the promise of new growth; the promise of the colour green.

As I have watched the glow become more and more intense day by day, I have been reminded of all the promises God has given us. They, too, are promises of new growth, rebirth and second chances. They are filled with words of love and protection, encouragement and comfort. They confirm the power of all believers to accomplish God’s purposes. They speak about God’s faithfulness, mercy and forgiveness and His desire for a continuing relationship with us. They outline the path to peace and everlasting life.

None of God’s promises are hidden. He has made a spectacle of them, displaying them for all to see. They glow like the catkins on the trees across from my house. They are promises that will never be broken.

The Apostle Paul knew this when he addressed the people of Corinth – “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2Corinthians 1:20

There is no duplicity in God. Just as we know those catkins will develop and bloom into bright green leaves, we can know that God is saying “yes,” to us. “Yes, I am here. Yes, I love you more than you can comprehend. Yes, I want you to get to know me. And yes, soon, very soon, we will be together.”

One promise that sums up all the others can be found in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” All the promises, all the trials, all the events of our lives, are meant to culminate in what is good. For the believer, there is no doubt it will happen.

As spring creeps to its fulfillment, as we watch the earth bursting into new life around us. we can be confident that the same kind of life is growing in us. The same kind of renewal is possible. God is saying “Yes!”

May we all shout “Amen!”

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Once Again

There's a song by Matt Redman that says -

"Once again I look upon the cross where You died.
I'm humbled by Your mercy and I'm broken inside.
Once again I thank You, once again I pour out my life."

While in Israel we visited a heritage village. It was much like the heritage villages here in North America that portray past history in tableau, with real actors and working artifacts. This village was in Nazareth and was laid out to represent the town as it would have been in the time of Jesus.

The day we visited, it was raining - pouring rain, in fact - so we were the only people there. Most of the actors seemed to be keeping inside the small shelters, which didn't really keep them dry because the roofs were made of thatch and far from water-proof. We moved from one scene to the next - the potter's, the weaver's, the wine press, and finally the carpenter's shop.

It was here the fact that this was a representation of Jesus' home hit me. I looked at the tools, the kind of rough wood he would have worked with, and Jesus became more real to me.

Perhaps that's why one of the tableaus we saw next had such an impact. The figure at the centre was made of rough wood too, and was draped with a simple cloth. The lighting was subdued, flickering with small oil lamps, their tiny flames leaning toward the focal point of the display. The cross. The cross of Christ.

As the song says, once again I was struck by what Jesus suffered, what he endured for me. I was struck not just by the physical pain he was subjected to, but by the torture of having the sin of the world put upon His shoulders, the agony of knowing His Father was turning His face away.

And once again I became aware that there is nothing I can do to make it up to Him. No remorse, no penance, no acts of kindness. Nothing I do can repay that debt. And once again that act of pure mercy stuns me. The unconditional gift of love and forgiveness causes my heart to break. And that, I realize once again, is the only thing Jesus wants of me. A heart broken wide enough for Him to enter in.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. Once again thousands all over the world will gather to recognize that act of mercy and love - the death of Jesus on that cross. I pray that thousands of hearts will break wide enough.

"So they took Jesus and led him away. Carrying the cross by himself, Jesus went to the place called Skull Hill (in Hebrew, Golgotha). There they crucified him" (John 19:16-18, NLT).