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Archive for August, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 6.55.56 AMAt ten in the evening I was exhausted and ready for bed, and by eleven o’clock I was hunting down Melatonin to help me get to sleep. At around one in the morning (and again at five thirty) I was awakened by the Wonderdog, as he paced and moaned beside my bed. Half an hour later I let him outside to relieve his suffering with gastric distress.

My return to sleep seemed to take forever.

Such is often the way a night goes before returning to work after a break.

There is the fine mix of excitement and dread. Excitement to reconnect with the work community and dread that the first day might be filled with extrovert-friendly get-to-know-you games.

I have a routine each year that the evening before the first day back to work, I go to a movie. This year my movie choice was Christopher Robin.

It was truly a wonder-filled story, with redemption a strong theme.

As might be expected, Winnie the Pooh had the best quotes.

As I reflected on the words of Pooh, I found my own goals for this school year, which I hope I can learn, practice and teach to the students whose lives intersect with mine.

“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.”

To pursue our goals we need to be willing to move away from our comfort zones. There is no such thing as growth without leaving where we are.

“I’m playing say what you see.”

Pooh, while sitting on the train played this game which was simply to name what he say … tree, stone, house, etc. I need to keep my eyes opened, to keep my head lifted up so that I don’t miss anything. I may even need to name what (who) I see, using their names, because we humans benefit from hearing our names.

“Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

It is okay to do nothing, to leave margin in our days with no plans. Not ‘nothing’ time with our phones, folding laundry or surfing Netflix, but time to sit outside at night, eyes focused above in anticipation of a falling star, or time to walk out your door, and just walk, with no goal or destination in mind, Perhaps it could become the catalyst for creativity, for growth, new adventures and dreams.

These are not the goals of our society today. Though they do not guarantee financial or career growth and success, I think they may just challenge and inspire us to be ready for change, acknowledge those around us and take a break each day.

Not bad advice from a silly old bear.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 9.26.58 PM   My most favourite, most challenging story in the Bible, that I come back to again, and again and again, is known as the binding of Isaac. This is the story of when God tells Abraham to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering.

There are two important factors in this story:

  1. Isaac was God’s promised heir to Abraham, given, miraculously, when Abraham was a very old man.
  2. Abraham was prepared to do as God asked of him.

This account in Genesis 22:1-19, challenges me greatly, for I do not know that I would pass such a test.

It also reminds me of the great verses in the middle of Lamentations:

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing:
The Lord‘s unfailing love and mercy still continue,
Fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise.
 The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope.”

It is the final line (above) that speaks to me as fitting with the binding of Isaac account …

The Lord is all I have, and so in him I put my hope

That line is the It is well with my Soul parallel. It is the affirmation that if God is all I have, I can be satisfied, I can even have hope.

Sounds good, yes?

Okay, but what if, we were to define things that we might not have, yet still proclaim that if the Lord is all I have, in him I put my hope?

So, how about not getting accepted into the trade or school program you have always dreamed? Or having a medical diagnosis that will change your future planning? Or your child dying? Or finding out you cannot have children? Or someone else getting the promotion you so wanted? Or losing your job? Or your spouse having an affair? Or your spouse dying? Or, or, or?

Can we still say if the Lord is all I have, in him I put my hope?

This is not just an Old Testament teaching either, as Jesus reiterated where God should rate in our lives, when he was being tempted by the devil (Luke 4:8):

Jesus answered,
“It is written:
‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

I admit it is uncomfortable, yet, could you (could I) bind up that which we value most in this life, and lay it on an alter in obedience and willingness to pass the test, to show that we fear God more than we love that thing, that dream, that person?

Could we pass such a test?

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Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 10.15.07 AMThough I do not know the sound of God’s voice, I know when he is trying to get my attention.

Such was the case as I was driving down the highway last week.

All of a sudden, quite out of nowhere, a portion of 1 John 2:1 came to mind:

“we have an advocate with the Father …”

It was the word advocate that drew my attention.

An advocate is one who intercedes, who speaks for, who pleads a case to a higher authority. We do not have to argue our case for justice, because an advocate will speak on our behalf, will fight the fight for us.

Who is our advocate? “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One,” (1 John 2:1b).

Jesus, the righteous, sinless, virtuous, good. He is our advocate, it is his spilled blood that has corrected us so that we can stand before the God of this universe as righteous, sinless, virtuous and good. In a sense his blood is the rose-colored glasses through which God sees us.

Jesus who, as Charles Spurgeon said:

“Jesus.” Ah! then he is an advocate such as I want, for he loves me and takes an interest in me. Jesus is the name of one who became man for my sake. He knows what sore temptations mean; he understands what trials mean, what afflictions mean. I am glad I have one who will be interested in my welfare, and will plead for me as a friend for a friend, and as a brother for a brother.”

No better advocate can be found than one who loves us, who is interested in us, who understands what it is to experience human temptations, trials and afflictions. Not only that, but he is one who will argue our case … to death, to his own death.

That is how much he believes in us! How much he loves us.

We have an advocate, and his name is Jesus.

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IMG_4194How are you, really?

This is not a question that can be answered with that four-letter F-word (fine).

Really, how are you?

Got some worries? Got fears? How about disappointments? discouragements? … heartbreaks?

Is your mind cluttered with a never-ending to do list? To pay list? People whose needs need to be met list?

Is your prayer list filled with ill health? more bills than money? loneliness? job searches? broken relationships? home searches? sadness?

Jesus understands the tough stuff of life, and much of his message, when he was on this earth, was instruction on how to give our anxieties, our sorrows, our frustrations to him.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28)

“Come to me,” he says, “cast your anxieties on me for I care for you” (1 Peter 5:7)

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)

I do not have answers for life’s difficult days, but I know who does.

More than that, I know that even though I do not have the answers, even though I do not see the big picture, even though I do not understand human suffering, “I have the God of hope that fills me with unexpected joy and peace, as I trust in him” (Romans 15:13). That hope is available to all who trust in him, who had the keys of our lives over to him.

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Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 8.39.50 AMWho do you think you are?

A question I remember being asked as a child and teen. I bet I am not the only one who, after making a stupid decision, speaking arrogantly, or treating someone in a hurtful manner.

This question doesn’t have to be one that comes from arrogance, stupidity or failure. I can also be a question that brings us to remember who we are … in spite of our arrogance, stupidity or failure.

So, who do you and I think we are?

I think that in the darkest moments, when we are are along with our thoughts, we focus on our failures, we hang our heads in shame.

Though I think we can most certainly learn by reflecting on our mistakes and failures, to perseverate on them does no one any good, ourselves included.

Here’s the thing, in John 8:36, Jesus is talking to Jewish leaders who were beginning to believe that he was, indeed, the Messiah (v. 31). He is explains to them that if they follow him and what he is is teaching, they will be free. But if they do not, they will be living lives of slavery.

“The Son has an established position,
the run of the house.
So if the Son sets you free,
you are free through and through.”

Though you and I may not think of ourselves as slaves, we are indeed slaves to our sin when we turn our backs on the truth that is Jesus. He our emancipator, leading us to the most valuable experience … freedom.

While singing a song in church last Sunday, I was struck by the question, “who do you think you are?” So many negative traits and behaviours ran through my head, as I sang “Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?”

Then came these lines:

“I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am”

Who do I think I am?

I am who You say I am …

The theme of the song is from John 8 which is you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Jesus says, ‘who the son sets free, is free indeed.’ It’s a real declaration of identity. When I introduced this song into our church I read John 8, the scripture this song is based on. It talks about how a slave has no place in the family, but once we’ve been brought into the family then we have this identity as part of God’s family and that identity is an identity of freedom.” – Hillsong Worship

Who You Say I Am
Who am I that the highest King

Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin
Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me

Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am

I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

 

 

 

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Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 9.11.14 AM

As I sat in a boat, being shown the lake in it’s entirety I was intrigued by how beautiful yet asymmetrical were the mountains surrounding it. As a lover of symmetry, I kept thinking how perfect they were in their imperfection.

Our daughter has been painting mountains this summer (@rangaart) and I love how in each painting it is the colours of the lower ranges that accentuate the grandeur of the mountain’s heights.

The mountain tops are beautiful because of
the lower ranges and the valleys below them.

I know from experiences hiking up mountains, that I need to climb with my eyes focused   either on where I am presently (ie. focused on each step) or where I am going. My eyes do not look back down the mountain until I reach the destination, the summit. It is then that I can look down and appreciate from where I have come, the efforts to get where I am and breath in the accomplishment of my efforts.

Psalm 121 is one of the Songs of Ascent in the Bible. It was written to be sung as one were to climb to Jerusalem.

Like my own hiking experience, it begins with the words “I lift my eyes to the mountains.” The Psalmist had obviously climbed to a summit before, for he knew that he needed to focus on where he was going.

The passage continues with “where does my help come from?” Not only did he know where he was heading, but why … his eyes were not on the destination, but on who would help him make it to his destination.

Our lives are made up of hills and valleys, and, like the mountain ranges, no two are the same. As we pursue these times in our lives we need to keep our eyes focused on the one, on God, who will will keep our steps steady, who watches over us, who protects us.

As the phrase says, keep your eyes on the prize … but the prize is not the destination, the prize is the help for the journey.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.”

 

 

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As I write this post it is Tuesday evening.

I am sitting at a long ‘staff’ meal table, looking down on the lake, watching someone doing periodic flips in the air from the back of a boat, the sun setting in the smokey  (forest fire) skies, and I am listening to nearly one hundred teens play a bonding game for the prize of a table of candy (see pic, below, of the eight foot long table).

IMG_4204.jpg

I am back at the camp that has been the soul home of our son for eleven summers. Today I got to meet another ‘camp’ mom, whose son is completing his tenth season (and they just ‘happen’ to be co-counselling a cabin of teen boys).

She and I shared similar memories, similar stories told to each of us by our sons, similar responses and feelings about the impact this place and it’s people have had on our sons.

But we shared more than just mutual blessings that our sons reaped.

We shared the pride of being asked by a fifteen year old guy if there was any way he could help out … while on his break from work crew.

We observed an insecure teen grow in stature as another teen reached out and befriended him.

We heard the most sincere prayer for a meal by a male teen, whose confidence comes, not from his outward appearance, but from a knowledge that he is unconditionally accepted by this community.

We heard a volunteer who drives the boat for tubing and other water sports, tell of his long-term involvement at this camp with no end in sight.

We spent a day with a well-retired, still hand-holding couple volunteering in the August-hot kitchen, because they just love teens and want to give.

We spent the day with each other … working, observing, listening, absorbing the blessing that is summer camp.

As I reflected on the joys of being a mom who got to be in this place, and saw teens being encouraged, supported, taught and loved in a way that moms dream their children might receive in this life …

As I looked at that table covered with sugary candy …

I was reminded of a story that Jesus told. He was around a Sabbath table with religious scholars and one of the top leaders of the Pharisees (whose eyes were closely on him, waiting for Jesus to slip up and break a law). These were the crème de la crème of Jewish society.

The story comes part way through Luke 14, and I love how it is told in the Message (the title starts it well):

Invite the Misfits

He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table … if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

This is what summer camp is, or can be … a dinner of misfits.

Sure there are those who come every year, know everything there is to know about the camp and it’s people. There are those who come with their people, their besties. There are those who come with confidence in any situation. But there are also the … misfits. The ones who come alone. The ones who didn’t want to come. The ones that come because an individual or fundraiser supported their attendance.

They arrive, maybe excited, maybe scared, maybe angry. They may arrive and look around at others with their familiarity with the camp, with their people, their confidence. They may look around and feel dressed wrong, feel financially inferior, feel like … a misfit.

What I have observed is that if someone works or volunteers at a summer camp, they are the ones who have learned that “if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself”. You’ll become a blessing to others … to the misfits.

And they do.

Not every child or teen comes from a home with the means to attend a summer camp.

As a matter of fact, I was one of those misfits. Thanks to a Grandmother who had the means, and the generosity to go with it, I got to go to summer camp and be blessed by the experience of being encouraged, supported, taught and loved.

Today I am reminded that if I have the means, I need to provide the means for others to attend summer camp. Maybe I even need to make this a monthly plan … maybe you do too?

“They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

 

 

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