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Archive for November, 2017

maryThe Royal announcement of the engagement of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle this week has captured the attention of people world-wide. The images and interview of the couple have been endearing and sweet.

As I listened to the couple speak of their love story, as I enjoyed their lovely glances at each other, as they spoke about the media scrutiny that they have endured so far, I found myself thinking about duty, service and about another young woman, in love, and standing at the edge of life change.

As a matter-of-fact, it was something that Prince Harry said, that took my attention completely away from the interview of the young lovers,

“the fact that I fell in love with Meghan so incredibly quickly was conformation to me that all the stars were aligned, everything was just perfect.”

… all the stars were aligned … an idiom referring to something unexpected and rare that happens, out of nowhere, or by the direct hand of God.

The book of Luke (verses 26-38) reads of the meeting of the young, engaged, virgin Mary to the heavenly angel, Gabriel … the stars were aligning.

Though Gabriel initiated the conversation with affirming words, he scared her out of her skin! Then, to assure her (?) he tells her that God has a surprise for her … she’s about to become pregnant … with the son of God!

There was no ring, no slow start, no polite interview, just a declaration that she was to about to physically house the Messiah!

He then goes on (and this was supposed to relax her?) to tell her about just how great her progeny would be.

But Mary gets down to practical business, stating something to the effect of, um, I have never been with a man … you know, like never!

I expect that Gabriel was finally understanding the emotional and mental whiplash that he had inflicted upon Mary. So he then explained that her conception was an other-worldly one (as if the stars were aligned) and that she was not the only pregnant lady in her family, for Elizabeth was also in the family way. Gabriel stated, “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” 

That statement seemed to cinch the deal for Mary, who replied,

Yes, I see it all now:
    I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
    just as you say.”

She understood that her role, for the rest of her life, was one of service to her king, that she was not main event, but that she was to be the vessel, through which greatness was to pass, and that her role was simply to be willing, to be ready to serve.

What came after this royal proclamation of her involvement with the royal family of all time was nothing to do with crowns, gowns and a life of ease. Instead it was one of shame, hardship and a sword that would pierce her heart.

The stars were aligned, and Mary was about to step into a life of  service born, not out of endearing and sweet feelings of love, but out of dedication to the king.

Luke 1:26-38

“God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,
    be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
    the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
    no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
    the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
    will be called Holy, Son of God.

“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,

Yes, I see it all now:
    I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
    just as you say.

Then the angel left her.”

 

 

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Quick Fixes

Quick fix. Keyboard

When I was a kid, growing up in my parents home, my dad had two quick fixes to fix things … WD40 and nails. My mom had a regular quick fixes as well … cornstarch.

For myself it’s water and baking soda. When I, or anyone around me isn’t feeling well, I ask if water consumption has been good that day. And baking soda is my most used cleaning product … nothing cuts grease and softens baked on food or stains like baking soda (and it softens skin too).

There are other quick fixes, or defaults, in life:

  • chocolate
  • alcohol
  • music
  • shopping
  • gaming
  • reading
  • talking to friends
  • hobbies
  • time in a beautiful place

and so many more!

These are the materials, the activities and the habits that we tend to fall into doing and using when something has gone awry. Most often the reason that we go to them is that they have proven themselves to be what can get the job done, over and over.

The key is to find and utilize quick fixes that are life-giving, and not destructive.

I will never claim to have chosen the life-giving quick fixes every time. As a matter-of-fact I have often chosen that which was easy, as opposed to that which was life-giving.

Our quick fixes are part of our lifestyle habits. The word habit means to hold on to. We would do well to remember that these defaults are to be the things that we ‘go to’, not things that have a hold on, to us.

“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!”
1 Thessalonians 23-24

 

 

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Hopes not Fears

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Lately I have been pondering fears.

Though I have a bushel-full of my own fears, lately they have become especially apparent to me in others. Perhaps it is always easier to see fears in the lives of others than in ourselves.

It is, of course, wise to use caution as we live our lives, but it is easy for caution to also prevent us from being open to opportunities for learning and for life.

Last week I was assisting a student in his memorizing of Psalm 23. I have learned that, when students work to memorize it is good to give them ‘hints’ that are funny or shocking, for when they get stuck.

For instance, if a student is stuck before verse 5, which says, “you anoint my head with oil”, I will give them the hint, greasy hair.

The particular student I was assisting last week was struggling to get the following verses mastered:

“Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me”

Finally I said to him, if you were in a dark valley, how might you feel? To which he responded, “scared”. Then I asked how he would feel if he knew that God was with him, to which he said, “not scared”.

Dark valleys, traveling to new places, starting a new job, going to a new school, moving to a new community, and trying new foods are just a few of the ‘dark and twisty’, fear-invoking experiences in life. But we can never forget that we do not enter into those experiences alone …  for you (God) are with me.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.”
Psalm 23

 

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I feel so honoured when people ask me to pray for them. It is as though they are drawing me into an intimate trust relationship. Most often, when someone does ask me to pray I start whispering intercession immediately from my heart to the heart of God (partially because I have a short memory and I don’t want to forget).

Recently I had a day … a dark and stormy day (and night … and day … on repeat). One of those days we all have once in a while, when everything seems to go wrong, fall apart and weigh fully on our shoulders.

I was really down, and knew I did not want to stay in the mire of that day. So I did what I usually struggle to do … I contacted a handful of friends, told them of my dark and story countenance, and asked if they would pray.

It was still dark and stormy, there were still things that went wrong, that fell apart, but the load was lighter … because the load was lighter.

Praying for each other is drawing each other into an intimate trust relationship, it is sharing the load … the load of real life, that we were never intended to carry alone.

As I drove to work, the next day, the clouds parted (literally), showing the bright light of the sun and the clear blue of the sky. It was as if creation was reminding me of how the dark clouds had parted the evening before, when I swallowed my pride and asked for prayer.

“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.”
Ephesians 6:18

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phil

There have been days, months, even years when I might have wished for a redo of some part of life, my decisions, words or actions. These times have left me feeling the weight of  regret, disappointment and feelings of failure.

As time passes, though, I am beginning to see that the mistakes, failures and disappointments have actually become something other than regrets.

Life, real life, is about moving from sweet to sour, hot to cold, smooth to prickly. Every stage teaching, stretching and introducing us to parts of ourselves we would never know otherwise.

The other thing I have come to know about my failures and regrets is that they are yesterday’s news. None of us can undo what has been done … to us or by us. But we can recognize that what is done, is done. It is in the past, and all we can do, from a forward-moving position, is to choose how to respond.

Those regretful choices, actions and behaviours in our lives can be opportunities to awaken each day with the God-given gift of a fresh start. But we do need to leave the past in the past, facing forward to the future to the now.

“I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past
and looking forward to what lies ahead.”
Philippians 3:13

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New-Command

This morning I get to speak at our church, and so my post today is the ‘guts’ of that message.

Though out of season from the traditional church calendar, today I am going to take us back to Passover, specifically the Passover surrounding the final days of Jesus.

The message today comes out of the account of the Final Supper, is told from the perspective of John, and is recorded only in the gospel (the good news) of John.

Here is the setting:

Jesus is having a meal with his 12. And he decides that his dirty dozen need their feet to be washed.

Then there is Judas, who had all that Jesus offered to all of the disciples, but then the bread is dipped into the wine, and Jesus holds it out to Judas …

Can you imagine being Judas? Imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus, and choosing to take the bread, fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Testament, records of the Psalms and Zechariah. He CHOSE to take the bread. And, as soon as did, as soon as he made the choice, verse 27 tells us that “Satan entered into him.” So, Judas leaves to do Satan’s work.

Jesus is aware that the clock is ticking in regards to his human life. He is now with his 11 disciples, whom he is counting on to spread the news of who Jesus is, and who will give accounts of his arrest, his trial, his death, his rising from the dead and ascension into heaven. He knows that whatever he says may be the last of his words that these men hear.

He is about to share with them, his magnum opus … his greatest work yet. It is a testament or sermon, common in Jewish culture. 

This reminds me of an annual practise in our household when our children were in elementary school. Each September we would get a notice from school … the earthquake preparedness notice. We would be instructed to put together, in a Ziploc bag a list of items (large garbage bag, nutritious snack bars, a deck of cards, a small toy, a water bottle, and a note).

That note … it made my heart stop every year. I would fill the plastic bag, ticking off every item on the list, leaving the note to last. And finally, after going to bed, after the house was dark and still, my quickened heart beat will force me out of bed, and I would boil the water, and stick a tea bag into it, then I would sit at the dining table, with paper and pen, and write what might be my final message to each of my children. And the tears would flow like the water in a spring brook … without choice, just flowing from a place higher up, that removed personal choice, from the action.

It was in the writing of those letters that what is really important, became really important to say.

Dear Cris,

I wish I was with you right now, but I am so glad that you can be with your school friends and your teachers who will look after you so well.

We are so proud of you. You have a heart for other people, and you do not care who they are, what they wear, how old they are … you just love people. Keep doing that, for that is what you were created for.

Be brave, like we know you are, my sweet girl, your daddy’s Red Rocket.

We are going to do all that we can to get to you, just as soon as possible.

Keep answering this question … you know the answer.

Mommy and Daddy love you, but who loves you the most?

It’s Jesus … don’t forget that. It is always Jesus who loves the most.

Do you hear our song? …

A, you’re adorable, B, you’re so beautiful, C, you’re a cutie full of charms …

Love you, to the moon and back,

Momma and Daddy

In John 13:33-35 (The Message), Jesus gave a new command to his followers (aka. those who would be the early Christian/Christ-following, yet imperfect) church:

“My children (he starts with “my children” … he is coming from a parental perspective, a perspective of limitless love, care and concern,  just like my earthquake notes to my children), I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. Let me give you a new command (here it is, what is most important becomes the only message when it might be the last): Love one another.  Now repeat after me Love one another.  In the same way I loved you, you love one another ponder those words … now look around this room of believers … he, the Christ, who died for you, and me, is calling his disciples, is calling us (his church), to love each other as he loved … his love was self-sacrifice, it was his death.

Then he finishes his last testament with these words:

This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

You know what I am hearing right now?

“We are one in the spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity
May one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love”

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples
—when they see the love you have for :

 

  • The poor?
  • The unborn?
  • The drug addict?

 

No, when they see the love you have for … one another, each other.”

The Matthew Henry Commentary speaks to that verse:

“if the followers of Christ do not show love one to another, they give reason to suspect their sincerity.

When the world outside of our church doors sees and hears of divisions within the relationships of Christ-followers, it makes the world doubtful of our authenticity, doubtful of the difference that Christ can make in the world. Jesus knew that this would be the case, and this is why he reminded his followers, all of his followers, in the form of a new commandment … love one another.

If we cannot get this one commandment right, the world will never fully see that we are followers of Christ, no matter how much we do for the poor, the unborn, the addict or any other person of need.

It is important that all members, like the disciples, who were the first followers of Christ,   love one another. This speaks to the world more loudly than whether or not we are members, if we have ever taken part in communion or how we were baptized.

By loving each other we mirror the way Jesus lived, we show his unique, sacrificial, undeniable Christ-like love to the world. If we do not show love to one another … are we truly His followers, His church?

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Holy Thurs- Last Supper 1

” … dipping the piece of bread, he (Jesus) gave it to Judas,the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.” John 13:26-27

I’ve read it before, probably dozens of times, and accepted it as a historical event. As with most historical events, I did not consider the the account as more than a moment in time, I did not consider it as an intimate, emotion-filled, relational moment in time.

When, at the Last Supper, Jesus offered the wine-soaked bread to Judas, he knew that he was holding out his body, broken and blood-soaked, to the one who, would betray him. He knew it because shortly before he said, “this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me'” (v. 18) and “after he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me” (v. 21).

Jesus is having a meal with his 12. And he decides that his dirty dozen need their feet to be washed. “my concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene.”

Then there is Judas. Judas had all that Jesus offered to all of the disciples.

Jesus came for the chosen, no longer just the Jew, but the Gentile as well. Being chosen was no longer a result of cultural blood, but of acceptance of sacrificial blood, spilt for us all. His blood is what binds us all together, and his blood came not from his cultural ancestors, but from love.

And then the bread is dipped into the wine, and Jesus holds it out to Judas …

He offered up the broken bread, and he offered up his broken body.

Can you imagine being Judas? Imagine looking into the eyes of Jesus, and choosing to take the bread, fulfilling the prophesies of the Old Testament, records of the Psalms and Zechariah. He CHOSE to take the bread.

And, as soon as did, as soon as he made the choice, verse 27 tells us that “Satan entered into him.”

So, Judas leaves to do Satan’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

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As I bent to look into the oven, I closed my eyes, and whispered, prayerfully, “please let them at least look like Yorkshire Pudding” 

and they did!

Only twenty-eight plus years into our marriage, I finally made a roast beef dinner to write home about (and not with laughing emojis, either).

To make a roast beef dinner has always been an anxiety-ridden attempt for me.

First, because is is hubby’s most favourite meal … ever!

Second, because I did not grow up eating roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.

Third, because hubby has taken me to homes where the perfection of the roast beef dinner would make Julia Child weep like a baby. I mean how can a woman possibly compete with the culinary expertise of women with wrinkles, calloused hands and support hose?

It’s not that I am a novice in the kitchen. As a matter of fact, my turkey dinners are pretty amazing (if I do say so, myself), complete with stuffing that makes even the most disciplined diner, undo the bottom on their pants), I make a chicken curry that makes one’s taste buds sing in Eastern dialects, and I can create the most tasty hamburgers themed Mexican, traditional, Greek and Italian.

But roast beef success had failed to be mine.

This weekend I so wanted to make his taste buds dance. I knew that the only way to this man’s heart is beef gravy poured into stiff, well-raised Yorkshire Puddings, so I determined to win this man’s full attention with a culinary miracle.

I did what any (desperate) woman would do in my place … I Googled:

“melt in your mouth roast beef”
“Yorkshire Pudding for dummies”

And I did exactly what they told me to do.

And it worked!

Those Yorkshire Puddings stood more than an inch over the rim of the muffin tins (in the past they were never even visible at the rim). The beef so tender and juicy. The gravy  was the icing on the … Pudding.

Ah, now I can fully and confidently walk, with my head held high, on the arm of my well-fed hubby.

 

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remembrance day

Dear Sir (who I never met, and whose name I will never know),

It is that time of year again, as a fellow Canadian citizen, to be thankful and to remember those (such as yourself) who gave their lives, so that I could live my life in freedom.

I have a good life.

I am married, and have three grown children. My youngest just turned eighteen (eighteen … if my son were to have been eighteen in the early 1940s …), and two daughters who are twenty and twenty-five (you might have had a girlfriend, a wife?).

I work in a high school, assisting students to do the best work they can on their assignments and tests (if you had not gone to war, would you have worked a trade? gone to university?).

My husband and I own our home, on which we often spend our time, cleaning or fixing up each spring and summer (did you help your parents on chores around your home growing up?).

My husband coaches community football to young men who are sixteen to eighteen (I wonder, did you play football, or other sports).

I love to garden, and read, and write (what did you like to do in your spare time?).

We are involved in our church …

did you attend church?

did you know the one who gave his life for yours?

the one whose sacrifice of great love mirrored your own.

I need to be honest with you, sir, I live a pretty ordinary life. I have never saved the life of another. I have not invented or discovered a cure for a life-threatening disease. I can be apathetic, sarcastic and down-right lazy at time. I have been known to spend far too much time on frivolous time-wasters like social media and Sudoko.

Was it worth it? You giving your life, so that I could live my days taking your sacrifice for granted?

I am thankful, sir. I am thankful when I hear or read of one, a kindred spirit of yours, who died a hero, stepping in, stepping up to give their life for another. I am thankful when this November 11 day rolls around each year, when the familiar, pin on that red poppy pokes at my arm, when the planes fly over, the songs are sung, the guns fired, the prayers offered and the silence …

Sir, please accept this letter of thanks. Please receive it as a love letter, from one who is undeserving of your sacrifice.

Your friend,

 

 

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Screen_Shot_2017-03-02_at_07.53.10

“He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

… we say amen, but we pray that his power will not have to be made perfect in our weakness.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

… we smile outwardly, while inwardly praying that it will just be a quiz.

” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).

… we squirm, wanting to shout “but I cannot handle the trouble I already have!”

Sometimes the promises in the Bible sound more like curses, than blessings. Maybe they are both. Maybe they go together … one a reality of living in a sin-filled world, and the other a salve to soothe that reality.

Or maybe the tough realities of living this life bring us to confront what only God can give,

peace.

Peace is not just freedom from conflict. As a matter of fact, the peace that Christ offers is a peace during conflict, and struggle and pain.

It is “God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand (Philipians 4:7). His peace is other-worldly, not attainable from any other source.

As he was preparing his disciples for his death and departure from them, he comforted them with his peace, which is still available to us today:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).

In the Matthew Henry Commentary, it reminds us:

The legacy that is here bequeathed Peace, my peace.

  • Peace for all that is really and truly good
  • Peace for reconciliation and love
  • Peace with God,
  • Peace with one another
  • Peace within ourselves
  • A tranquillity of mind arising from a sense of our justification before God
  • It is the counterpart of our pardons
  • It is the composure of our minds
  • This Christ calls his peace, for he is himself our peace
  • It is the peace he purchased for us and preached to us, and on which the angels congratulated men at his birth.

May we reach out for that source of peace … the peace that is available to we mere mortals, beyond anything we could ever imagine.

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