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Archive for January, 2017

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Waiting is not something that many of us enjoy.

There is little that we have to actually wait for anymore in our daily lives.

Thanks to computer technology alone, we can read a book, bank at all hours, order dinner, purchase items, make contact with people in our lives, and complete a degree … all wearing our pjs, from our sofa, while watching an entire season of our favourite TV show, from our computers!

Waiting is not something expected in our lives today.

Yet, waiting is still part of the human experience.

We still have to wait nine months for a baby to be fully developed, we still have to wait for the vegetables in our gardens to grow before we reap a harvest, we still have to wait until we are a certain age to drive a vehicle and we still have to wait for our prayers to be answered.

The later is often the longest wait.

Just this past weekend, a woman in our church shared of a dreadfully long wait for her hubby to see a health care specialist. It seemed that each day was too long leading up to the awaited appointment. Each ‘what if’ that could be dreamed was considered. They were certain that if hubby’s health didn’t kill him, waiting to see the specialist would.

Then they finally got to the appointed day. And appointed it was! She shared of how there was connection with this doctor, right down to his office decor. To top it all off, her hubby was given a clean bill of health … the best news they could have imagined.

She shared that, though they felt the waiting would cause further deterioration of his health, in reality the time waiting allowed healing and restoration of his body that only time can heal.

Waiting is hard, and not a chosen venue for any of us, yet there can be blessing in the process of waiting.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, “for everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth.”

Though the time spent in the waiting room of yet to be answered prayers can be tiring, frustrating and difficult, it may just be that this waiting has purpose. God’s answers are always on time.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14

 

 

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Whatever we put our faith in, we must put it into practise to prove it is real.

I have faith in my vehicle, therefore I drive it to the places I need to go.

I have faith in my bank, therefore I keep my money in my bank account (ok, so there really isn’t much in there).

I have faith in the bridge on the road, therefore I drive on it with confidence.

I have faith in God, therefore I …

Faith is to have confidence, to have belief in, to trust.

Hebrews 11 gives us the academy award winners of those who lived by faith in such a way that God himself took note.

By faith Abel …

By faith Enoch …

By faith Noah …

By faith Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab …

My most favourite of the faithful is Abraham. The man who not only believed, but gave feet to his faith. This is particularly the case when God led Abraham to make a blood offering, and the only sacrifice that God seemed to provide was his son, Isaac. In this story Abraham had to take one step in front of the next, each step an action, each step an act of faith.

I can only imagine Abraham whispering under his breath, with each step,

“God will provide a lamb” over and over again. Yet, he kept stepping forward.

James 2, in the Message, reminds us of Abe’s faithful action:

“You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

May we give our faith feet this day.

 

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Dog Tired

Ever been dog tired? Bone weary?

I cannot even find a reason, other than a couple of poorer nights rest, for this fatigue that can creep into me. 

It begins as a tired day, and gradually increases each day, like the movement of a virus that is ignoring your attempts to head it off before it takes over your body.

I awake tired, I yawn throughout the day, then I fall, lifeless, into bed at night, willing tomorrow to be filled with pep.

There was a time when I would fight it, now, like the flu season virus, I just let it run its course, while making efforts to pamper myself with nutritious foods, herbal teas, and a reasonable amount of sleep.

I whisper, over and over (Matthew 11:28), “come to me all of you who are weary and I will give you rest.”

Then, I recently rediscovered Isaiah 40:28,

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”
My/our creator does not grow weary … EVER! 

The is what I will meditate on. Not that he will give me rest, but that he, who never grows weary, is in control, of everything.

That reminder, all alone, gives me hope that this virus-like fatigue is known and understood by the greatest of physicians.

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I admit, I am a bit (understatement) of a cynic when it comes to politicians, activists, and celebrities. So, for me, the news and social media have been a satirical gag-fest lately.

Whenever I hear any of the aforementioned groups share their message, I methodically pick apart every word. I do not have it within me to believe that those groups speak truth, or that they care or understand what I need or want.

I chalk my cynicism up to having frequently seen, heard and experienced the curse of money, stardom and power.

A few days ago I had reached the tipping point, after reading headlines of articles about the three groups I am cynical towards, and a phrase burst aloud from my lips:

“There is no one righteous, not even one …”

The words of the apostle, Paul (Romans 3:10), make me think that Paul may very well have been a kindred spirit.

Paul went on (Romans 3:11-18) to describe the depravity of all humankind:

“there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
 ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

I am very cognizant of the fact that I am jaded in my thoughts about people in the positions or groups mentioned, and that my negativity can keep me from remembering that those represented are worthy of and need my/our prayers.

Yet, to think that a politician, a celebrity or a march will make or break a nation, a generation or a movement is to put power in the hands of the wrong saviour.

” we know that there is only one God, the Father,
who created everything, and we live for him.
And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom
God made everything and through whom we have been given life.”
1 Corinthians 8:6

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“casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7

It was a day … a day of thinking, and worrying … a day of anxiety over something I had no control.

We all have those days.

Sometimes we share our worry with people around us, sometimes we lock it inside, as though it is precious to us (though, if anxiety is precious, we would hear it said from the lips of Gollum in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings).

We all know that the Bible tells us over, and over, and over again to not be anxious, not worry. We are reminded again, and again to pray, to give our concerns to God.

Yet, we worry and fret.

I found it interesting that, though I prayed frequently, that day, each time there was an interruption, or some sort of diversion away from my attempts to lay my worries at the feet of God. It was as though there were a force keeping me away from my intended act of prayer and submission.

I believe there was a force keeping me away from offering up my cares, my worries, to God. I believe it was (and always is) Satan.

James 4:7 has a powerful reminder:

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

I read the Matthew Henry Commentary for this verse and found great context … for the verse, but also for my interruptions to prayer:

“Submit to God (ver. 7). Submit your understanding to the truth of God; submit your wills to the will of his precept, the will of his providence. Submit yourselves to God, for he is ready to do you good. If we yield to temptations, the devil will continually follow us; but if we put on the whole armour of God, and stand out against him, he will leave us. Let sinners then submit to God, and seek his grace and favour; resisting the devil. All sin must be wept over; here, in godly sorrow, or, hereafter, in eternal misery. And the Lord will not refuse to comfort one who really mourns for sin, or to exalt one who humbles himself before him.

I love that this commentary reminds us of the empathy and comfort God provides (italics). For we are in great need of that when we are anxious. But he does not just offer us comfort and a warm embrace, he offers a solution.

The amor of God (Ephesians 6:14-17) includes the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (word of God).

For me, the ah-ha moment came when I read verses 10-18 (Ephesians) from the Message. I pray that you, too, will hold to this as a reminder of what to do when worry has got you like a weight on your shoulders.

10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

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As my son and I were going through his photos from childhood, this week, I became keenly aware that those pictures illicit different responses from each of us.

With each picture viewed, I smiled, or laughed or sighed.

With each picture that my son viewed, he asked questions, to fill in the void of memory of the people, the place or the situation depicted in the image.

It surprised me when he didn’t recognize the house we lived in up until he was four … until I realized he was only four when we moved.

Or the dear friends who threw a baby shower when he was born … until I remembered that he was not even one when his dad started working at another church, and the regular connection to those friends slowly diminished.

Or photo after photo with his sister, just two year his senior, and he commented that he didn’t remember that they had been such good friends.

Or the comment, “mom, you looked (past tense) so young” 😳

As we flipped through picture after picture, he asked questions, and I shared story after story. These were shared stories, yet he held only a snapshot, I held the mental recollections of of the past times and places and people.

In essence, though we shared the same history of his lifetime, I had a view of a bigger picture than what he could see. I could see the whole, whereas he could only recall the most recent parts.

Psalm 139:13-16 is probably one of the most known Psalms:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

I looked up this scripture in various translations, and love how The Message words verse 16 (underlined, above):

“Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you”

It is a reminder of who our Creator is, how very intimately he knows us and that he has always known us.

God holds the photo album of our life. He can see all that is past, and all that is to come.

We only hold a snapshot of our life. Maybe we need to get out the album of our lives, and ask God to remind us of the past, so that we can walk into the future on the foundation of his faithfulness to us in the past.

 

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Yesterday, the third Monday in January, has come to be known as Blue Monday

It is this day that is reportedly the saddest of the year. The holidays are over, credit card bills are in the mail, daylight is reduced and winter’s rains or snow in full force.

Though struggles with depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are very real and legitimate reasons for feeling blue, perhaps we humans also suffer because of our expectations of perfection from ourselves and our lives.

Over the Christmas break, hubby and I started watching the TV show “Call the Midwife”. Probably my favourite part of each episode are the narrations, at the end of each episode, by Vanessa Redgrave.

One such narration struck me :

“Perfection is not a polished thing.
It is often simply something that is sincerely meant.

Perfection is a job complete, praise given, a prayer heard, it can be kindness shown, thanks offered up.

Perfection is what we discover in each other- what we see reflected back …

And if perfection alludes us -that doesn’t matter for what we have within the moment is enough.”

Often, our view of, and desire for perfection, is the letter-of-the-law perfection … everything, always perfect.

Yet, human perfection is more grand, more personal, more subjective.

For most of us perfection can be a steaming hot cup of our favorite beverage, awakening to puppy licks or toddler babble or a soft kiss on your forehead. Perfection can be snowflakes falling softly, or the sound of rain outside your window, or a moon shining big and bright. It can be completing a report, leaving work exhausted but satisfied, cleaning a cluttered closet. Perfection is best seen in others when they whisper our name in prayer, or meet our eyes and smile.

We are our perfect best when we are real, when we duplicate kindnesses we see in others, when we work, pray, praise and are thankful. We are our perfect best when we breath in, and out, and recognize the perfection in each breath.

May we ponder, today, that which is truly perfect in our lives.

 

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I love the debates I have with my son, for we both share our opinions with conviction and passion, yet, because we are not of the same gender, we are able to walk away from such discussions with no bruises.

That said, we had such a debate recently, and after thoughtful consideration, he was wrong.

I was watching the movie, Young Victoria, and specifically her coronation. It was this scene which birthed a debate.

My son said, “she looks scared to death”

To which I replied, “she probably was, as this event diminished her human rights and replaced them with duty to her country, and all that went with that.”

Then he said, “it was a choice. All of life is about choice. Choice is what God gave us all.”

And I pondered (but kept quiet because I really wanted to watch the movie) his words for days after.

I have come to the conclusion that he is right, and wrong. And it is because of my mother-child relationship to and with him that I have found his words to be such.

For I am the woman who loved him from before he was born. I am that one who believes in him, who pushes him, who would die for him. I am bound to him through the experience and responsibility of motherhood. I am duty-bound, for though our relationship was born from love, I must often choose to put my care of him, above myself. That is my duty.

Though individual choice is a common-heard mantra, duty is bound to choice … every choice.

Though it may not be popular, our opinions and our expressions through our appearance are not our own in the workplace. While we are ‘on the clock’ we do not represent ourselves alone, we also represent the organization or business that is paying us. During work hours we are duty-bound to represent our employer. We can wear what we like, but we always need to keep our duty to our position in mind.

We have choice to accept the love of God. Though he pursues us for all of our lives, he does not force his love on us. Once we do receive what God offers to all, we are then duty-bound to him, and to his teachings. In Matthew 4:19, Jesus said, “come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” There are two steps to this commitment, following (accepting) him and then doing the task (duty) that goes with the commitment.

In keeping our duty to our workplace, our family, our God and community we become leaders … maybe not leaders by position or rank, but leaders in the hearts of the men and women around us.

Duty is part of choice,

“Leadership is not a rank.
Leadership is not a position.
Leadership is a decision.
Leadership is a choice.
It has nothing to do with your position in the organization.

If you decide to look after the person to the left of you, and to look after the person to the right of you, you have become a leader.”
Simon Sinek

It is not just our employers, our government and our family members who are duty-bound to work for the good of all. We are all bound, by duty, to diminish so that others might thrive alongside of us.

To do this may lessen stress and anxiety in our family members and co-workers, by giving them a safe and caring community.

To do this may decrease our focus on differences (race, religion, etc.) and bring people together to share in common human experiences.

To do this may result in senior citizens and those with special needs feeling part of the community that they live in, rather than feeling like (or being treated as) burdens on society.

To do this may result in less homelessness, abuse and substance abuse.

I realize, even reading my own words, that this sounds so pie-in-the-sky, Mr. Rodgers esque. And to do that, to look after those around us, is our duty as members of a workplace, a family, a community.

“The price of greatness is responsibility.”
Winston Churchill

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It had been a  L  O  N  G ,  non-stop, action-filled Monday, and I was just finishing a task and looking forward to even half an hour of reading my new book.

“Mom, can you help with my lines?”

I turned around to see my son entering the room, with his script, for the school play, stretched out towards me.

but I really wanted to have down time

he needs me

but I was so tired

this is his last school play

but my cup was almost dry

he graduates high school in June

I pause …

And so, for the next half hour, I read for Jo, Laurie and Mrs. March, as teenage son read the lines of the patriarch of the March family.

In less than six months, he (our youngest) will complete high school.

In less than nine months he plans to go to college.

This is the ending of a season, an era, and it causes me to pause.

As the months have been creeping by, I am noticing that I pause, often. I am asked for a drive to camp (an hour away), to watch a shared TV show, to wake him at an earlier hour, to study for a test, to go through lines for the school play, and I pause …

In that pause I can choose to say yes, or not now. But with each day that slips by, I am more aware that if not now, when?

We all have causes to pause. When we hear of the family whose child died in a house fire, we pause. When a co-worker’s spouse died after she left for work, we pause. When a friend is battling cancer, we pause. When a loved one’s career takes them far away, we pause.

And so yes is more often my, our, response, 

because we realize that soon the requests will be few, rare, gone forever.

Now is the time to pause.

 

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My Sunday evening was interrupted by Twitter:

“a beautiful speech shows great character in a man”

“Attractive, smart & so generous to his partner”

“was beautiful to acknowledge the sacrifice of others to follow your dream”

“Hey girl” has been officially replaced with “my lady”

 

I was hooked, and had to uncover why social media was so enamoured with the acceptance speech of Ryan Gosling at the Golden Globe awards.

“You don’t get to be up here without standing on the shoulders of a mountain of people … while I was singing and dancing and playing piano and having one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, on a film, my lady was raising our daughter, pregnant with our second and trying to help her brother fight his battle with cancer. If she hadn’t taken all that on so that I could have this experience, it would surely be someone else up here, other than me, today, so, sweetheart, thank-you.”

sigh …

swoon …

Then I pondered, what was really so exceptional about the words of Mr. Gosling? After all, all he did was acknowledge that his success was not his alone, but thanks to the efforts and commitment of his wife, to him, his success, their children, and her brother.

Isn’t what he did, what should be expected of us all?

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Perhaps, his words, his public deflection of his success being from his own merits, is exceptional because celebrities rarely stoop to such humility?

Or, perhaps, his words, deflecting his own honour, by honouring his partner in life, is exceptional because we humans, as a whole, rarely stoop to such humility?

Our world is one of individual goals, devices, efforts and successes. But our human race is created for community, mutuality, and inter-dependence. We need each other.

We need to honour each other, and our reliance on those around us, in all that we do.

This is not exceptional (or shouldn’t be), it’s expected of us all.

 

 

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