Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2018

IMG_3350

I enjoyed taking pics of various plants in my garden on Friday, as the warm spring sun shone brightly in the sky. I am certain that my garden never looked better!

Then it rained. It rained Saturday, and it is raining again today.

As I growled under my breath to no one in particular (because all others in the house were still sleeping) about the grey skies and the rain, I scrolled, aimlessly, through my social media feeds.

“It takes both rain and sunshine to grow a garden”

The words (above) caught my attention. Immediately I recalled the images from just two days prior, when the sun was shining.

As a gardener (very much in experimental practise) I could not deny the truth of those words, for, on Friday, I had to water a patch of new grass that appeared quite parched. I watered, knowing that my action was not a bad one, but one that was needed for my garden, and what I had planted there.

So, as a gardener who takes joy in the warm sun, and who understands the need for water for my plants to grow well, why do I fret and sigh and complain when it rains …

why do I fret when there are (metaphoric) rainy days in the various seasons of my life?

I know the gardener, and I trust that he will do what is best for my growth … or do I?

My only job is to grow. He will provide all that I need to accomplish that growth.

May I accept that rain as I do the sunshine.

(PS: the sun just came out)

 

 

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 9.41.09 PM

It is a tale as old as time, but without the Beauty or the Beast.

The one who walks away from all that they have, all that they know, all that is safe … for unknown places of possible dangers, heartbreaks and big mistakes. So much is out there that could go wrong, could destroy. Those who love them, who are left to stand on the sidelines, left with only prayer as their protection from the perils of choice. The greatest prayer being that they come back, returning to their home, family, faith.

Whether we are familiar with the lessons within the cover of the Bible, the common term for such a person who leaves what they have learned behind them and moves to unchartered territories, only to eventually return, is that of the prodigal.

We all have prodigals in our lives.

Though the famous biblical story is about a prodigal son, prodigals come in all ages, genders and backgrounds. Their lives are a vast array of how they live, or carry out, their prodigal stories.

The common scenario is that of the teen or young adult, walking away from the life they were born into. After they have tasted of all of the pleasures of humanity, recognize that those pleasures have left them hungry for something more filling, something more familiar. So, tail between their legs, then return to the safe haven from which they originally fled.

The story that Jesus told can be found in Luke 15:11-32.

The story tells of the son’s return (verses 20-24):

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

There was no waiting to hear why the son was returning home. There was no opportunity for apology, no words admitting his folly, there was no time for any words. The father did not run to meet him because he had rejected his poor choices, he ran to his son for he was his father … and he loved this son, simply because he was his.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”

Humility … that most difficult of characteristics to muster, for any creature of flesh. This is where we see the acknowledgement of error, fault, sin.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

And then we have the only reply appropriate, when one acknowledges their wrong to the one who they most sinned against.

There is so much more to this story … an older son, inheritance lost and more. It is a story that I have not always appreciated, yet, the older I get, the more I see how this is a deeply personal story for me … for us all.

You see, from our very beginnings, God, the one who gave us life, also gave us choice. We were born into the richest of families, not rich in wealth, but rich in love. The inheritance he has amassed for us is endless eternity, in his presence. It is our birthright, not because of what we do or who we are, but because of who we are in him. Though it is rightfully ours, we must choose to accept it. Many (most) of us, consciously or not, at some point in our lives, take the shiny bits of our inheritance (the earthly blessings) and walk away from our good, good father …

… and he lets us go, because he desires that we choose him, rather than he tell us what to do, rather than he force us to stay with him. He wanted us to choose … him.

And so we go away from him, partying it up on the things of life that are … temporal, temporary. We find pleasure in our bodies, our senses, our forms of escapism. Until, one day, we recognize that our belly full of pleasures has left us malnourished, dying from the inside out.

And so we go home, tail between our legs, chin on our chests, ready to dish out heaping helpings of humble pie.

Then, when we are almost home, we hear something in the distance …

“I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Though those words were God’s pursuit of Israel, they have also become God’s words to all of humanity, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

And we are embraced and kissed and welcomed home.

And our tears of shame fall on our cheeks, our chests heaving with shock, with humility, with the acknowledgement that our father loves us, not because of what we have done,

but in spite of our actions.

We apologize, we beg forgiveness, humility pouring from every pore.

And the father … he doesn’t ask for the details of our misery … he plans a party … for,

in the father’s mind, in the father’s heart …

his son, his daughter was lost and is found.

“And I couldn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it,
still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending,
reckless love of God”
Cory Asbury

 

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-20 at 6.33.40 AM

Recently students were discussing roller coaster rides they had been on, and one talked about a ride that took you out, over a body of water … and paused. Then, with no hint at what was coming it went from zero to fifty in the blink of an eye, quickly pulling them backwards, and they could not see where they were going.

One of the students exclaimed,

“that must have been so frightening to not know where you were going?”

To which the other replied,

“Nope! If I saw where I was going, I would have been much more scared.”

Her response got me to thinking …

maybe it is better to not know what is coming in our futures?

Then I remembered a verse, from 1 Corinthians 13:12:

 

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. “(this is such a visual! Haven’t we all been walking driving through thick fog that had all but blinded us? Can’t we all recall, or maybe currently going through a time when the circumstances leave us blinded to what might be ahead for us?)

“But it won’t be long” (it won’t be long! Don’t we all feel the seconds tick by when life is a struggle? This reminder will come to an end) “before the weather clears and the sun shines bright!” (yes! the sun is what we need to focus on … the sun in the sky, and the son who sets us free. It WON’T be long! The fog WILL lift!). 

“We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!”

Man, when I look back over different periods of time in my life, I could not have imagined the twists and turns, the joys and sorrows, the triumphs and trials that were about to come … or how they would play out in the greater story of my life.

And so we do not see what is to come, how the problems and struggles end, how the difficult road leads to completion, how the blessings become curses, and the curses become blessings.

Our vision is impaired, as though we are in a fog, or going backwards on a carnival ride. But the fog will lift, and from the reversing ride, we can see how vast the image of life appears, and how pieces have fit together.

But we are not called to just sit there and let it all happen, either. For verse 13 gives us our marching orders:

“But for right now, until that completeness,
we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation:
Trust steadily in God,
hope unswervingly,
love extravagantly.
And the best of the three is love.”

Read Full Post »

starry

As I drove down the street, preparing to drive up my driveway, I noticed two bunnies hopping across my neighbour’s green grass … and smiled.

After parking, after getting out of my vehicle, I heard the song of the spring frogs, echoing in night air. Their song drew me out of the garage,  and my eyes lifted to the indigo sky, so clear.

Moments of creation calling my soul, slowing down my mind, soothing my rapidly beating heart.

The day of blood, sweat and tears was coming to an end, but not without succour from nature, from Creation, the Creator.

It was as though all of Creation was reminding me, teaching me that life will go on, that the God who painted the sky like a mood ring, who gave voice to the frogs, who put a hop in the steps of the bunnies … loves and cares for me, who cleans up my blood, cleans the sweat from my brow and wipes away my tears.

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
    the moon and the stars you set in place—
what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
    human beings that you should care for them?
Yet you made them only a little lower than God
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything you made,
    putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
    and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
    and everything that swims the ocean currents.

O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
Psalm 8:3-9

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.53.50 AMEver wonder if someone is cursed? Maybe even yourself.

The story might go something like this: a person is born into a bad situation, lives their childhood with a parent or parents who do not care for or model love and care. They might end up homeless, abused and neglected.

How on Earth can they ever turn their situation, their life around, when it seems that everything and everyone in their life has gone wrong and they have been done wrong by people. One would think that this person has been cursed from the beginning.

Such might seem to be the case of Ieshia Champs.

This young woman, whose dad was deceased, and mom drug addicted dreamed a dream that was so far from her reality. She has experienced homelessness, teen pregnancy, dropped out of high school, experienced loss of a job, loss of her children’s dad to cancer, her home to fire and was near to the point of giving up on life itself.

Anyone who knew her, she herself, must have wondered if she was cursed.

Then a woman stepped in, her pastor, who told her to go back to school (that meant starting with her, unfinished, high school diploma), and study to become the lawyer she had dreamed of becoming when she was just a child.

And now she is set to graduate from law school.

There is so much more to this story.

This story is one of a woman being prompted, encouraged to fulfill what God had whispered into her heart, as a child, by one who did not just see possibility in her, but spoke it.

This story is one of a woman who has worked so hard, been determined, to reach her goal.

This story is one of a family of five young children, who helped their mamma with flash cards, being a mock jury, and her oldest son who would look after his little siblings needs, as his momma would cry tears of struggle for the process. (you’ve gotta see the beautiful images of her grad photos with her five children … please click and watch the video).

This story is also of faith, for Ieshia would seem to have a strong faith in God.

On her Facebook page is Jeremiah 1:5:

“The Lord who formed us,
knows for what particular services and purposes
he intended for us!”

This verse, part of the commissioning of young Jeremiah, by God, Ieshia has lived, herself. She understands that God has had his hand on her life and a plan for her life, even before she was born. She knows God, and she is purposing to follow him through it all.

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 11.49.51 AM

In an effort to reduce what we need to pack and cart to a new home, I have determined to use up the products in our home, rather than keep purchasing more.

Into the recesses of my bathroom cabinet was solid bars of hand soap that has been gathering dust, simply because liquid hand soap is so much more convenient. easier. This act of stewardship has resulted in my realization that I actually love using the solid soap. It is more tactile, lasts longer and you never use more than you need.Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 11.56.50 AM

This realization reminded me of words by CS Lewis (to the right).

I found myself reflecting on how liquid soap (comfort) is often how I live my life, as a mom. I want to help my kids to find what looks like the easier life (comfort). Yet, it is often the harder, effort-filled, negative-consequence-experienced reality (truth) where they (we) learn the best and most lasting lessons.

If they make mistakes and I rush in to ‘save’ them, to make their lives more comfortable, they will not have the opportunity to learn the truth found in, and through those mistakes.

After all the truth will set you free!  And that freedom is greater than any comfort that exists.

 

Read Full Post »

cloud

“I can see your heart in everything you’ve made”
Hillsong

The words caught my attention as I drove to work one morning, sun peeking through the heavy clouds, opening up a segments of the mountains for my view.

Sign …

That’s my soul language … the amazing nature of creation.

If I feel heavy with the struggles of life …

the light of a sunrise or sunset can catch my breath,

spring flowers can bring a smile to my face,

a surprise path-crossing with a coyote can make my heart sing,

a ladybug holding tightly to a rose bush can give me child-like glee,

or (like last night) the song of an owl late into my sleepless night,

can remind me that I have a heart within me created by the same one who spoke life into all creatures, who set the Earth on it’s axis.

“For once you have spoken,
all nature and science follow the sound of your voice”

For me it is God’s beautiful, amazing and wonder-filled creation that reminds me that, no matter the weight on my shoulders, no matter the sadness in our world, no matter that I do not have the answers, He does. He’s got it. He is big enough for whatever I am not.

Not only does creation realign my mind, heart and soul, it also reminds me that my calling, like the rest of creation, is to praise the creator.

“If creation sings your praises, so will I”

This is my father’s world, and it teaches me about the one who created it, and the pride he has taken in each and every part of it. Through what he created I come to know his heart, he attention to detail (just look at a bee under a magnifying lens), his vastness (just look up at the stars on a clear night, or the changing moon), his miraculous ways (the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly), his redemption (just look at how a dead seed, planted and watered, comes alive again), his love (just look in the mirror).

“This is my father’s world
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres
This is my father’s world
The birds their carols raise
The morning light, the lily white
Declare their maker’s praise
This is my father’s world
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas
His hand the wonders wrought
This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet
This is my father’s world
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring

God reigns, let the earth be glad”

 

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-09 at 8.40.17 AMWe all have inner voices, voices from our childhood, or younger years, that speak to us still. They sometimes speak louder than the voices of our adult years, as though imprinted permanently onto our brains.

In the mid 1970s, when I was just a child, I remember the voice of Elton John singing,

“… sorry seems to be the hardest word”.
Those words imprinted themselves within me. I grew up determined to say that hardest word. I am not always wise enough or strong enough to do this, but it is goal, reminded to me by that memory from childhood).
I also struggle to understand why it is so hard for some to say. I struggle to understand why we would allow ourselves to be so weak as to not speak that word that gives strength, both to the one speaking it, and the one hearing it.
Like this song message, I also have another, associated, memory that goes with this message. So many times I remember, as a child, having wronged one of my younger brothers, and my parents instructing forcing me to apologize, to say sorry. Many times my apology was just an act of going through the motions, with little to no apology coming from my heart. Though it is easy to look at that method of discipline as being meaningless, because of my frequent insincerity, I do think something longer-term was accomplished. Even today, when I do something that I know is wrong or hurtful, I hear my mom’s voice telling me that I need to say apologize.
Ever notice how rare it is for nations, for leaders in many fields, to make apologies to individuals, or groups of people, wronged in the past? Part of that not happening is often due to the legal and financial ramifications of saying sorry … for saying we are sorry says that we are responsible, and being responsible for doing someone wrong might mean that we owe compensation.
Imagine the mistakes and hurts in our world that might be moved toward resolution, reconciliation if people, leaders, would say that hardest of words?
“Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word”
Elton John

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-04-07 at 7.30.45 AM

A good story teller, a good poet, will always include visuals for our brains to hold onto, so that, though we may forget their words, we will not forget their story, their message.

I have always believed that the best story-teller, the best and most creative writer of the poetry and stories of our lives is God, the creator, father, redeemer.

His story is even grander than the Grand Canyon.

Recently an old hymn (about one hundred years) has been playing in my head, but I didn’t hear it until the other morning.

… actually, I heard it, but I wasn’t listening

As I awoke Saturday, with the morning sky still awaiting to break, with the rains pouring down, I began to listen and hear the words, the message,

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
  And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
  And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
  Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
  Though stretched from sky to sky.

The words began to form images in my mind, that kept me from thinking of anything else (perhaps that was the intent of God, who had a message).

The evening before my mind was full of a good message on the phone, a bad message on social media and a most frustrating message via email. I was too inwardly focused to even pray, so I did all that I knew to do, and asked that sweet handful of trusted friends to pray.

My early morning alone, became a reminder that joy comes in the morning … after the storm, after the storming down of heaven’s gates by faithful friends. After my eyes were refocused … off of myself.

Those words from the hymn, The Love of God. The first two verses and chorus written by Frederick Martin Lehman, but the third (above) goes back much further into history.

The words of the third verse were found, inscribed on the wall in a room of an insane asylum, after the patient died. It was later discovered that those words were written by  Jewish poet, Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, in 1050, and can be found in Rabbi Hertz’ “Book of Jewish Thought” for the synagogue Pentecost celebrations.

Perhaps it is because the Hebrew language is a spoken one, stories and poems told, over and over again, from generation to generation. Those which have survived the ultimate test of time, often the ones which create visuals in the minds of hearers. The word pictures searing eternity onto the minds and hearts of those who heard.

The longevity of those words, perfectly inserted into a song about the vastness of the love of God.

Words, written just a millennium after the death of Christ … the greatest imagery of the promise of redemption, of love, used in the prophesy of the Old Testament.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

Refrain:
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

 

 

Read Full Post »

cris bdayIt was a trying time, when I was in my years of having babies … dreaming of … praying for babies.

You were the seventh confirmed pregnancy … I knew better than to imagine your future, my future with you, your future with your one older sister, your dad and I. It was always a tentative dance between excitement and frailty.

Sure enough, there was nothing confirmed about your future through all nine, nail-biting, knees bent in prayer months. Even your first breath was delayed … eternity in those moments.

Your first two years were like a smash dance of smooth public appearances mixed with screamo music coming from your lungs deep into every night. You had a voice, and you were not afraid to use it … when you chose to.

Then, you turned two and life with you went from,

a time to weep to a time to laugh
(Ecclesiastes 3:4a)

And your laughter was endless, rockus … and like your cries, it was loud and very much self-determined.

I recently looked back on pictures from the years of childhood of you three siblings, of your childhood, and I was astounded by how many I have of you dancing. You, mid-spin, in the midst of movement, of expression, of dancing.

And, my dear, life itself is a dance.

I did a little investigation in dance.

There is little known about the origins of dance, as it need only involve one’s body, mind and soul … no tutus have been unearthed in archeological digs of the middle east. Certainly there have been paintings in caves that show how dance was used in rituals, religions, cultures and events in early Egypt, Olympia and in early Hindu temples.

But dance, movement of one’s body, incorporating our souls (as in that naked dance before God, performed by David the King), is something that words cannot describe. It is an event, an experience that is innate, what we are made to do, as an expression, as a reaction to having been given breath, life.

As with David, it is an expression of truly getting it … understanding that to dance, like that, is what we were created for, with and by.

To dance, with abandon, is:

  • the butterfly, emerging from it’s cocoon, stretching it’s wings
  • those videos of cows, released from the barns in the spring
  • the baby (maybe delayed) but stretching out it’s lungs for that first breath
  • the little girl, or boy, twirling in circles … moving without a care in the world

I want this for you. This no-care-in-the-world freedom.

The thing is, life is made up of two parts, freedom and survival.

In the midst of life we need to strive for our very survival. We need to work, and struggle and sometimes it is just hard, it just hurts. We want the unabashed, joyful movement of being free indeed.

They go together … freedom and survival, tripping over ones feet and twirling on our toes, holding our breath and breathing, standing still and dancing with wild abandon. The parallelism from those contrasting verses of Ecclesiastes (3:1-8) reminds we mortals that we were created to do it all … in the right time, but also that we do not walk either contrasting life experience without the ability of joy … without the ability of dancing through it all …

for it is what we were created for,

for it is how my mourning was turned to dancing (v. 4b),

in your delayed first breath, eternity in that moment.

So dance, birthday girl.

“I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance”
I Hope You Dance

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

JustPene

Behind every strong woman, are all the other women that came before!

What Are You Thinking?

Theology is life. Learn to live well.

itsawonderfilledlife

looking for wonder in everyday life

Sixth Seal Ministries

Life and Times Through the Lens of Bible Prophecy

Amazing Tangled Grace

A blog about my spiritual journey in the Lord Jesus Christ.

FisherofMen

Giving a unique view and input on information to help individuals establish a concrete perspective on terms, words, topics and the world around them.

Following the Son

One man's spiritual journey

Fortnite Fatherhood

A father's digital age journey with his family and his faith

Frijdom

encouraging space to think deeply

Life- All over the map

A family journey through childhood cancer and around the world

A L!fe Lived

seeking the full life that only Jesus offers

J. A. Allen

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins

The Mustard Seed Kingdom

A Blog of the Evangelical Anabaptist Partners