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Archive for February, 2017

 

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Our dog is the best indicator that the doorbell is about to ring. Heck, some days, he is the best indicator that the doorbell of any house on our block is about to ring!

And so, our barking doorbell started as lights from a vehicle drifted into our living room.

When the door opened people poured in.

It was sometime mid evening, hubby had just gotten home after a day of church, meetings and a visit to the hospital … after a Saturday at meetings that were a source of stress and disappointment.

Aka, people pouring into the house were not the desired end to the weekend.

After they all sat down, they revealed their intent for coming to our house … they wanted to pray for us.

Five individuals who vary in age from seventeen to early thirties. Five peers of our own kids, who have attended youth group as a participant, or as a leader along with them. Five millennials (well, maybe except for the youngest) … aka the generation who gets the most grief for having grown up receiving participant ribbons.

I was floored!

We chatted for an hour or more, enjoying their companionship, laughter and sharing of their lives with us.

Then they said, lets pray.

And they did, and it was sweet and meaningful and powerful.

At the time, I didn’t have the words that evening to express my thanks, other than “thanks” because I was so shocked. Now I sit here and still have no words, except thanks.

I can tell you how I felt, simply wowed. Wowed that they would think to come to our house to pray for us. Wowed by their confidence to follow through. Wowed that they would come and spend time chatting with us. Wowed by their wisdom. Wowed by the maturity with which they prayed. Wowed by their offering to us. Wowed that they received a calling and they did it.

They will never know how humbled we feel, because of their offering to us.

We are blessed.

“(if) my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 The Message

 

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I awoke, this morning, to my world being coated with fresh fallen snow.

And I smiled.

Though I am a snow-lover, I am now ready for signs of spring, but snow never fails to raise the corners of my lips, to raise the shadows from within.

As I smiled my mind began reciting Matthew 28:20:

lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

The word, lo stayed in my mind, and I had to look it up. According to dictionary.com, lo means look, or see. It is delivered with excitement, importance.

And I looked out the window, and smiled, yet again.

The verse, above, is part of the Great Commission, when Jesus was instructing his disciples  on their job description as his followers, specifically after he was gone from them. Remember, this was the resurrected Jesus, so there was a bit of doubt … though, I bet they were riveted at the same time … you wouldn’t have to say LO (look) twice to me!

Through his Spirit, he is always near, all we need to do is look, open our eyes to see his presence in our days.

So simple, yet so complex at the same time.

“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely lo I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

 

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Have you got a person? You know, someone who seems to have ‘just happened’ into your life, and you are so glad that they did? Someone who you just know was hand-picked just for you?

I expect that most of us have a handful, a bouquet of those persons.

This week, walking down the hallways of school, I saw her out of the corner of my eye, and bee-lined it for her. We greeted one another with a warm embrace, a smile and a laugh. Small blessings that made my day better. We are a similar age (easier for me to say, because I am older by a year or two), have grown older with our sons, love to laugh and pray for each other.

Last weekend, upon entering the house of our friends, I was warmly embraced by my friend, who then introduced me to her mom, who said she was so glad that I was in her daughter’s life. This friend is younger than myself by a few years, and we live very different daily lives, yet a magnetic force seems to have brought us together and I am so glad for her.

A week ago I visited with friend who opened her door, and we reached out our arms for the other, in shared love, sorrow and delight. Though I am the same age as her daughter, she calls me friend. We spent an evening sharing life … tea, chocolate, laughter, stories, prayer and tears. I love her for her gentle strength, and her unconditional acceptance of me.

A woman who shares sisterly love for another woman is blessed beyond measure.

“A friend loves at all times”
Proverbs 17:17

 

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Groaning

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“We know that the whole creation has been groaning …
right up to the present time.”
Romans 8:22

The groans of creation are the result of the human fall in the garden of Eden.

Every bit of the world we live in, and all that is living in it, groan “as we wait eagerly for … the redemption of our bodies” (v.23).

I wonder if earthquakes, floods and droughts are the groans of our physical Earth?

I wonder if illness, injury and death are the groans of Earth’s living things?

I wonder if loneliness, hurt and worry are the groans of our human race?

But, then there are other groans:

“the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans”
Romans 8:26b

This groaning of the Spirit does not sound so much like the effects of the fall, so much as accommodation for them. This is the evidence of grace for the fallen. When we are weighted down by the myriad of hurts, sadness, loneliness and anxiety to the point where we have no words left, even for God, the Spirit steps in and wordlessly groans our thoughts and feelings to our Creator. He hears our heart’s cries, and interprets our sorrow to our father, interceding for us.

When your sorrow slaps it’s hand across your lips, groan from the deepest cavern in your heart, and the Spirit will whisper your hearts cry into the very ear of God.

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Are there any three words more delightful to hear than “I love you,” from someone who makes your heart skip a beat?

The best thing is when your ‘love’ knows you so well that he says it in ways that are definitely just for you. It is as though he is speaking your own unique language.

I had that happen earlier this week.

It was a typical Tuesday morning. I awoke at 6am, showered, dressed, and sprinted to the morning coffee. I grabbed a form of sustenance, climbed to my desk, and plunked away at the laptop for an hour. I then finished getting ready, kissed my love, and headed out the door.

I backed down our drive, feeling the ‘I love you’ in the fresh morning air filling my vehicle with the reminder of the gift in every new day.

Then, as I moved the vehicle from R to D, I looked up and faced the ‘I love you’ in the beauty of the sky … fog, moving to make way for peeking blue skies, telling me of the beautiful day to come.

I was awakened to His ‘I love you’s’, and began to anticipate what might be around the next corner …

… and as I turned that corner, the field, that I pass every day, was filled with fog, lightly laying within the confines of the fence that stretched around it, like roses confined to the safety of a vase … ‘I love you.’

I felt as though each corner would be another surprise, another expression of ‘I love you’ from my Creator … and He did not disappoint! More lifting fog, more revelations of hope of what was to come that day.

I smiled as I turned at that busy morning corner, whispering, ‘thank-you’ as I was sure that He had completed His ‘I love you’ message to me.

But, as I faced the tall trees framing the hill under it’s feet, the sky was shouting ‘I love you’ with that most constant symbol of love and hope … the prism of the skies …

‘I love you … with an everlasting love.’

“God’s glory is on tour in the skies,

    God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.

Madame Day holds classes every morning,

    Professor Night lectures each evening.

Their words aren’t heard,

    their voices aren’t recorded,

But their silence fills the earth:

    unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.

God makes a huge dome

    for the sun—a superdome!

The morning sun’s a new husband

    leaping from his honeymoon bed,

The daybreaking sun an athlete

    racing to the tape.

 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies

    from sunrise to sunset,

Melting ice, scorching deserts,

    warming hearts to faith.”

Psalm 19:1-6

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It’s that day … Valentine’s Day.

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The day of love, unspoken expectations, and loneliness … what a great conundrum of experiences!

While I understand that this day is one which some avoid, love is something which we should celebrate … but not just one day each year.

Here’s a few of my mature, though not necessarily Earth-shattering, thoughts of love:

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My most favourite experience, which I only share with my hubby, is weekend morning coffee, each in our own chairs, toes periodically touching, with books and computers around us, dog at our feet, few words spoken … priceless. Neither of us really drink coffee other than at this time of day, but it is the thing that, on the day one of us awakens without the other in our life, we will mourn this loss greatly, for it is ours.

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Now, of course, my hubby and I are never angry with each … and if you believe that, have I got a swamp to sell you! We are pretty passionate individuals, and when we are angry with each other, I’ll be the first to admit that my anger can make me feel like I am a living, ticking time bomb. But, we do still care for each other … hubby still looks after my vehicle, I still make dinner. This act of caring, in the midst of anger, is the foundation of self-sacrifice. Even though we may be angry and not like each other, we still care for, and love each other.

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When you first meet a soft touch, or even making eye contact can be the most thrilling of experiences. What we often forget is that those cheap thrills don’t have to be relegated to the past, and they can even be more delightful years later, when we frequently forget to simply admire, to softly touch or kiss in such common ways.

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Want to feel like a young couple again? Laugh over the stupid things you have done together. That old man/woman who you live with is the same person who you have a shared history of a multitude of ridiculous memories. Drag them out, like people in the past brought out the photo albums. Heck drag out the photo albums … they might be the best spark to remember your shared silliness. There is a little shack cabin, on a twisty road in Vermont, that can make us smile at each other knowingly, for we have a memory that only each other knows.

flat800x800070f All of us who have done life with another have a shared history. We know things about our other that make us beautiful, or ugly. But, guess what? We both have flaws, skeletons in our closets, make bad smells, and have obsessive compulsive behaviours (of course mine aren’t diagnosable, like someone … just joking).

I think that, just maybe, Bob Marley said it best:

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I remember vividly reading the verse (to the left) on a wall hanging at37e122fc49f1ec1dcfaa58700744f78b the grandmother’s house. It was something that I read so frequently that it became a game to see how much of it I could read (when I was just learning to read) to how much of it I could recite by memory. I read it every time I was sitting in her bathroom.

The words and images that we see as a child are burned into, not only our memories, but also our thinking. That is why it is so important that young children are nurtured with affirming, creative and educational messages, both directly and indirectly in their homes, schools and churches.

Lately a childhood song keeps echoing in my mind, at varying times in my days.

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see …
Oh be careful little ears what you hear …
Oh be careful little hands what you touch …
Oh be careful little feet where you go … 
Oh be careful little mouth what you say …”

A song to remind us think about what we allow ourselves to see, hear, touch, say and where we go, before we do the action.

The song reminds me of Ephesians 5:1-20, which starts with “follow God’s example … and walk in the way of love …” (v. 1), and ends with “so watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants” (v. 16-17).

In the middle are great reminders of how to think about the things we do, the places we go, the words we say and the people we are with, all through the lens of the light of God.

It kinda makes me wonder why this song has been in my thoughts lately. Maybe I need to evaluate how I am spending my time.

“Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!”
Ephesians 5:14

 

 

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It is early morning, and I am sitting in my cozy chair, with only the light from my deck, and my computer screen. I glance out the window to the beauty of the recent snowfalls. The rain is falling steadily, and the only other sound is my wonder dog, snoring in the chair beside me. I have just received notice that school/work is cancelled due to dangerous road conditions. I am at peace.

But, with the rain falling, I know that dark, wet, slushy storms are just around the corner.

In our neck of the Pacific Northwest woods, some would say that the rain is the signal that the storms are coming to an end. Snowfall amounts have been adding up to record-breaking totals for five days straight.

For me, the snow is not a storm, for I have learned to live with snow, to move with snow … which means to slow down and to embrace the snow.

But the rain … I still wrestle with the rain.

When the rains fall, day after day after day, there is a weight that begins to descend that leads me to a dark and soul-lamenting that I cannot choose to leave … I have to ride the storm, and wait for it to pass.

I have been learning, in the last few years, to approach this dreaded season differently, as I have been leaning in to lament.

Through this process, I have been learning not to fear the ‘wet and dark season’ but worshipping through it. In essence I have been practising what the author (Jeremiah?) of Lamentations has shared.

It is interesting that the Hebrew word for the book means “how” and the Greek translation of the title means “lament”. I, in my grand theological studies (tongue in cheek) like to think of the book of Lamentations as meaning, how to lament.

In this book, I see great lamenting, being very real before God (heck, he knows how we feel anyway, we might as well admit it when we feel we are defeated, crushed, in the pit). But, I also see hope (3:22-25):

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.”

Lamenting does not only happen in the book of Lamentations.

There are numerous Psalms (aka sacred songs) in which the author is lamenting, weeping, sorrow filled, and they are usually directed specifically to God. My favourite is Psalm 13, which begins with “How long, Lord?” and ends with “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

I recently saw this quote (below), which was like a thesis statement for me in my pursuit of understanding lamenting:

“The whole point of lamentation is you don’t use your pain as an excuse not to worship; you actually take your pain and you bring it with you before the alter, and you stand there with your pain and you say, “Though all this is true, yet I will rejoice in You!” It is the highest form of worship that exists.” Graham Cooke

And so, today, as I watch the rains fall, I will lament, and I will praise God, for he is faithful.

In practising praise in the midst of my lament of rain, I am growing a practise that I pray will hold me up when the greater storms of life descend, and my response will be to lean in to lament, and to continue to worship God, for he is faithful.

 

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I do not remember who said it, but I once heard something that resurfaces in my thoughts, and it went (somewhat) like this:

We need to remember that there are people around us, ones we work with, neighbours, families on your kid’s soccer team, the cashier at your grocery store, who are the future inhabitants of hell.

Quite a statement, indeed, and one that many of us might view as a rather extreme, and possibly even a negative way to look at those around us. And yet …

Recently, in a post called He May Never Know …, I shared about how a young man introduced our son to the love of God, and how he had greatly encouraged him, with his unconditional acceptance and love.

The spirit of God resides in us, but it is not for our benefit alone. The Spirit is the seed, our trust and faith in that seed is the soil, and how we live is the fruit.

It is the fruit of how we choose to live our lives, how we choose to treat others, that either entices or repels others to the seed (Spirit) within us.

Dr. Charles Stanley said,

” … all of us need to be encouragers because we live in a world full of people who are discouraged.”

And how do we encourage the discouraged? By allowing the seed of the Spirit to grow and ripen in our lives, until it bursts from us in the sweetest of fruits … in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (that last one is a struggle for me, in so many areas).

Though Christ can, and does, work in spite of us, I would suggest that if his Spirit is living within us, he purposes that we work with him in the pursuit of rescuing lost souls.

Perhaps I am wrong in my assertion, but what if I am right?

 

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As I walked down the grocery store aisle a young man caught my attention. He looked to be in his mid twenties, shopping with an attractive young woman. I knew, as soon as I saw him, who he was … for I could never forget him.

I met him almost ten years ago, at a place I’d never been, to leave my son, for a week, in the care of people who I had never met.

He was a friendly teen with a big smile and friendly eyes. He was so welcoming, so wordlessly comforting to this momma dealing with the pending separation anxiety.

Hubby and I bid farewell to our son, with big hugs and reminders that we would see him at the end of the week. Then we walked away from him, surrounded by his school friend, a handful of other boys, and his two, fearless leaders. We were both feeling hopeful and fearful all at once.

About six months earlier, the mom of our son’s friend called and asked if our son would like to go to summer camp. It was a church camp that their family had been attending for at least two generations. Though he would only be six years old, he was keen to spend five sleeps with his school buddy, so we decided to say “yes” and allow him his first week at summer camp.

The day we were to drop him off, I was so unsure.

Days later, we arrived to pick up son. He was filthy behind the ears, exhausted, and totally joy-filled. He gave his new friends high fives, hand-shakes and hugs good bye. But it was his farewell to this one cabin counsellor that tugged at my heart. There were few words said, yet communication that pierced the heart.

What this teen didn’t know (nor did I at that time) was that our son had been bullied at school for the two previous years. Having unconditional care and friendship from this cool teenager greatly encouraged our boy … rebuilding and repairing what had been torn away.

The following year, as we drove onto the camp grounds, this councillor greeted our son, by name. Our son had this young man as his camp counsellor again, and he was thrilled.

A few years later we saw him at a concert, and again, he greeted our boy by name.

There are few things I know, that I know, in this life, but this I know for sure, that young man introduced our son to Jesus, because he always made him feel welcomed here on Earth.

I stared, as inconspicuously as possible, to be completely certain it was him.

Soon I was close enough to be so bold as to greet him. Before I fully had the question “were you a counsellor at camp …” off my lips, he said, “you’re Ben’s mom” and I smiled, and nodded.

He told me that they follow each other on Instagram, that he planned to visit him this summer at camp … Ben’s tenth summer at camp … as a camper and as a counsellor.

This young man may never fully know, this side of heaven, that he had opened a door to eternity …

until, maybe, he has a child,

and he takes his child,

hopefully, fearfully,

to camp for the first time,

and some teenager welcomes his child

as though he were welcoming God himself.

 

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