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Archive for February, 2019

When you are seeking … for something, anything.

When your ear wants to hear … but the sound is not yet there.

When your eyes are searching the horizon … but nothing appears.

When your heart just knows … knows that there is a message coming, that there is reason why the hair is standing on the back of your neck.

When your soul is … restless.

The experience that something visceral, felt deep within is about to happen.

I learned of a song I hadn’t heard, and sought out it’s story … for every song, every piece of art, every created thing has a story … behind it, within in, for the creator as well as the admirer.

Though the lyrics of the song do not contain these words, this scripture from Lamentations 3:28-30 (Message) was mentioned in the writer’s description of it’s formation:

“When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.”

Within a few short lines, such depth, such good advice, encouragement.

When life is heavy, we often go after advice and help through people, books, podcasts. Yet, this encouragement to enter the silence, to join with God in his silence and not ask why? when? don’t keep searching for answers, but just …

wait.

wait for hope

to appear.

He’s reminding us that he will answer, he will be there … he is there. We just need to bow in prayer, rest in him, wait for the hope that is only available through him.

The waiting has purpose.
The purpose is always hope,

if we wait with him.

Then that final reminder, “the worst is never the worst.”

Hope resides in the reminder that today’s worst is never the worst. Our heavenly father knows the worst, he gave his son up to save us from the worst. Our hope is in him.

The same week that I was seeking, listening, looking and my soul was restless, the same week that this song came to my ears, that that sunrise brightened my view, a friend lovingly shared a message about hope (coincidence? I think not).

If hope is what you are looking for from every fibre of your being, or if you are just restless … check out Hope is too Heavy Sometimes, by Abby Norman.

“I do not believe that we are meant to hope alone. Hope is often a burden best shared.” Abby Norman

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Next month is a … significant birthday. Significant birthdays tend to cause reflection, reassessment and sometimes even regret.

We look at where we are, who is in our circle, goals accomplished and those that are in the dust of yesterdays.

The question of if I could go back in time has been surfacing in my mind lately.

It is an interesting question to ask oneself, for it helps to focus in on what matters right now, where satisfaction lies and how we move forward into the future.

The family created from the choice to marry, at such a young age, is simply the gold in my life. For this circle of five has stretched, taught and enhanced my life every day … even on the worst of days.

The friends who have come and gone and stayed … each one a precious and personal teacher, mentor, supporter and guide through the hills and valleys of this life.

Though I do wish I had not stopped pursuing education, and the education I have attained would seem varied and unconnected. Yet, as I look at the work I am in and possible plans for the future, maybe it all just kind of fits in a weird and wonderful way … with not a smidgen of waste.

I love my job, it’s purpose, it’s form, the people. As I look back at what I had hoped to do, I have arrived exactly where I had dreamed … though the job, then didn’t even exist.

I could never have imagined that I would get the opportunity to live in three such unique Canadian provinces, spanning the East to West coasts. I have learned greatly from these communities, and though living away causes a longing for family, I don’t think I would want to do this life without the variety of places to call home.

If I could go back in time …

Sure there are choices made, paths taken and priorities made that could have been done differently, even better. Certainly I would not have chosen to have experienced the heartbreaks in my life (especially the ones that were caused by my decisions alone).

Yet …

Where would I be today without the whole package? The good, the bad and the ugly? Who would I be without the heartaches, the mistakes, even the regrets? So many of those regrets and mistakes have eventually brought amazing blessings days and years down the road … I just didn’t see it at the time.

1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us: 

“Now we see but a dim reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

A ‘dim reflection’, is translated from the Greek word, ainigmati , which means an enigma, a puzzle. When I look at things going on in my life today I may just see mistakes, regrets and heartaches that only seem bad, sad. Today is a dim reflection, it is a puzzle as to how today’s negative things can have purpose. But, looking back we can see them all fit together into a bigger, clearer picture.

Today I know in part; then I shall know fully, as the One by whom I am fully known.


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Bringing You Joy

Thrift shops all over North America are benefitting from the message of diminutive, soft-spoken, author and star of the ‘mess’-elimination Netflix program star, Marie Kondos.

Her Kon-Mari method of organizing has taken root, and people all over are embracing their belongings in search of whether or not they spark joy.

So what is joy?

Generally, joy is a feeling of pleasure, that seems to take us to a mental place of delight (our happy place).

Galatians speaks of joy, from a spiritual context:

” … the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

This tells us that there is a joy that is even beyond the feel-good experiences that come from our life’s delights. This joy is the fruit that can spark a desire for this joy as well.

Those of us who have accepted that we need the forgiveness of God, through the sacrifice of the blood of his son, have grafted within us the Spirit, and it is through the Spirit that we not only embrace, but exude joy that goes beyond our external circumstances.

Reorganizing and purging are necessary, not just in dealing with the physical ‘stuff’ of our lives but also in the quest for spiritual joy. We need to purge ourselves of our desire to be in control and reorganize the priorities of our lives to fit with a life lived for Christ. These are not easy things to do, but they do spark joy!


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So you ever want to tell your adult child what to do? what not to do?

Not me (insert sarcasm)! Of course I do! And sometimes I give in to the impulse and speak my wisdom for their not-listening ears to ignore.

The other day I wrote, in Parental Responsibilities, about how our job, as parents, is not to plan the lives of our kids.

Today, I am going to share an example from the Bible of one who did it right. By “did it right” I do not mean that pain and suffering were elevated, perfection was achieved by following a list of if thens or that they all lived happily ever after. So, right now you might be doubting this unnamed example … stick with me.

In Luke 15:12- :

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country … and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

A young man, in his infinite wisdom, decided that he was an autonomous adult, well-aware of the world, confident in his worldly ways, and he wanted to taste freedom.

In his premature eagerness to live independent of dear ‘ol dad, he went to his father and asked for his inheritance.

Lets look at what this father did. His son, who he loves, asks for his money (since it is his inheritance, this young man should not be receiving it from his father until his father has died) … and “he divided his property”. He just gave him the money!

I am a mom. I have wrestled with wanting to help my kids, to give wisdom when they won’t hear it, to encourage them to get out more, to stay in more, to call their mom more. I have wrestled with their not going to a church, and with what church they go to. I have wrestled with who their friends are, and aren’t. I have wrestled with what they are wearing (or what is missing from what they are wearing), what (and who) they are listening to and what they are saying.

And I have lay, motionless in bed, as they head out the door, praying that they will be safe, be with good reliable friends, be wise.

And I wonder (I really do), should I put my foot down and just say NO! No, you cannot go out at this hour! No, you cannot go there! No, you cannot do that!

So I come back to the story of the ‘model’ dad in the Bible … better known as the father of the prodigal son. This father must have known what his young son would do with the money. He must have known the dangers that awaited his naive man-child. Yet, he gave him the money … the money that, he knew, would make his son’s choices less wise and more danger-filled.

Why did he do it? What was he thinking? And why should he and his parenting be a model for us?

After his son had left he must have known what would befall this child of his as he arrived in the ‘big city’ with pockets full of money and brain still devoid of wisdom. This father must have tossed and turned more than slept.

We are told that, once in the new place, his son “squandered his wealth in wild living.” I don’t think that wild living then was any different than now. There were and are drugs, alcohol, crime, violence, gambling, people who would help him spend his money and the availability of the world’s oldest profession (and the sexually transmitted diseases that accompany such practices).

That father had to have known that this is exactly what would have occurred.

Yet, he agreed to give him the money …

model father?

This father, who loved his son(s) knew that his son(s) would only truly understand and love him, in return, if they chose it of their own. He had done the tasks of loving parenthood, of providing everything parental responsibility required, yet, he knew that they would only fully receive his love by choosing it of their own free will. He knew that this son was choosing a dangerous path, but he also knew the seeds that he had planted in him from birth, and had hope that they would haunt him like a hound.

The story goes on:

“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

And the hound was closing in.

And the seed, so long in the dry ground, began to germinate.

And the son, not out of love for his father, but out of his own physical need, turned towards home, towards his father.

“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 is much in those words. Parents who love their children not just read but feel what the father here felt. The love, the compassion, the relief … for the running away of the son culminated in the the run of the father, to his son.

For the child cannot outrun the love of the father, the mother.

He ran to his son, not repulsed by the son’s loss of his money, his ‘wild living’, his sins … but eager to receive him home, where the door is always open, where forgiveness always lives, where arms are outstretched … where the parents still run to the prodigal.

As CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “the great thing to remember is that … His (God’s) love for us … is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.”

One of my favourite poems is The Hound of Heaven, by Francis Thompson. Written over a hundred years ago, it tells of how Thompson viewed running away from God, and how, like a bloodthirsty hound on the moors, God perseveres, chases and pursues us until we surrender to Him.

John Stott, in his book Why I am a Christian,” confesses that he is a Christian not because of the influence of his parents and teachers, nor to his own personal decision, but to being relentlessly pursued by ‘the Hound of Heaven’, that is, Jesus Christ himself.”

So, this model father of the Bible, why is he a model?

Quite simply because this father of the prodigal son is God himself.

He, who said yes, to handing over our inheritance into our immature, naive and arrogant hands.

He, who loves us enough to allow us to choose to receive and accept his love.

He, who desires to redeem our brokenness, our sin, if only we would recognize that the hunger in the pit of our stomach cannot be filled by anything in the world.

He, who is always, always, waiting at the gate, searching the horizon, ready to run … not just after our children, but after us, as well.


“This won’t last, it’s not the end … it’s not the end”

Behold what manner of love
The Father has given unto us,
That we should be called the sons of God

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I want to be a good parent … don’t we all?

We want to be a soft landing, a steady hand, good council, a consistent voice and always pointing in the right direction. We want to be their reliable protector, their sure guide, their fair disciplinarian, their comfort.

In short, what we want is to do the tasks of parenting perfectly, so that they avoid mistakes, hurts and danger.

“Planning out my children’s lives isn’t my job. My best job as a mom is to be obedient to God. God’s job is everything else.”

As I agonized over a struggle in the life of one of our children, one day, I came across the quote (above, by Lisa Terkurst). It was as though God placed it right before my eyes, his finger pointing to it, as if to ensure my attention.

Our three are not children, not school-aged. Though two still live at home, though one is still (for eight more months) a teen, they are all societally, legally and self-actualized adults.

I am no longer responsible, in any way (except by my own choice) for their hygiene, their meals, their education, their housing, their transportation … the list goes on and on.

Never, ever, has it been my responsibility to plan out their lives. Not when they were children, not when they were teens, not now that they are adults. That is their responsibility, their freedom.

The Bible tells us, as parents that we are responsible for:

  • discipline and instruction (Ephesians 6:4)
  • training (Proverbs 22:6)
  • basic necessities for life (1 Timothy 5:8)
  • modelling the honouring of our mother and father (Ephesians 6:2)
  • blessing them (Proverbs 127:5)
  • encouragement (1 Timothy 5:1-2)
  • teaching them to love the Lord God (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
  • saving up for them (Proverbs 19:14)
  • showing compassion on them (Psalm 103:13)
  • teaching them to care for the Earth and living things (Genesis 1:28)
  • teaching restraint (1 Samuel 3:13)
  • teaching them to obey (Ephesians 6:1)

Nowhere does it say to plan their life for them.

So, who in the Bible is a model of good parenting?

More to come on Thursday, with a story about a parent who allowed their children to plan their own lives.

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It’s a story I had heard enough times that I could confidently re-tell it to completion. There is a difference, though, between telling a story and fully understanding it’s message.

As I listened attentively to the pastor tell the story of the prodigal son, my mind was illuminated to the details and meaning as never before.

I have never quite understood (or maybe I did) the reaction of the older brother as I did Sunday morning, listening to the pastor share the message … but it was not that which caught my attention, my heart’s attention, the most.

It was the return of the younger son.

He is off in the big city, not a hint of any money from what he had demanded from his father, starving as he watches pigs eat their fill. He decides he will go back home and offer himself as a servant to his father.

He plans what he will say:

“I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19).

Then he heads home.

Head bowed.
Shoulders slumped.
Moving at a snail’s pace.
Rumbling in his tummy.
Fear and dread in his soul.

Why fear and dread?

Where do you come from? I come from a small town … a very small town, that was still a village when I lived there and the population was under two thousand. Everyone knew everyone, and everything about everyone (at least they thought they did).

This young man, the prodigal son … he knew that returning to his father was the easy part (remember, his father willingly gave his son what he asked for … not what he was required or expected to do … not what was culturally acceptable to ask for). What he was fearing was his return to his village.

In Jewish society, to have left the village in such a shameful way, to go live with, spent his money on, slept with the unclean Gentiles … would all mean that he would face a kezazah (means “cutting off”) ceremony. He knew that as he arrived in the village, the people (older men) would greet him, breaking a large clay pot at his feet, as a public shaming of how he has cut himself off from his village, from his father.

This is what was in his son’s mind as he considered going home, as he took each step closer to the village.

His father knew of this ceremony too.

And the father knew his son.

So …

“ … while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son” (v. 20a).

Aristotle had said, “great men never run in public” and perhaps he knew of the societal norms within the Hebrew society at the time that Jesus told this parable.

It was okay for servants to run, even women were permitted to run (but just a bit), but a man, a patriarch … never. That would be unacceptable, disgraceful!

The father in the story (who we know to understand as representing God himself) saw his son “while he was still a long way off.” This father had to have been looking for his son, perhaps at the village gate. I think we can surmise that he was planning on circumnavigating the villagers and the custom of kezazah.

“(he) threw his arms around him and kissed him” (v. 20b).

The Return of the Prodigal
Pompeo Batoni, 1773

I love the image above, of an oil on canvas, by Pompeo Batoni. This painting, more than any other I have seen before, communicates the mercy that this father offers. Not only are his arms open wide, but see his right hand, grabbing onto his cloak, in an effort to wrap it around his son … in an effort to shield his son from the consequences that are due him.

It is then, in that moment of mercy when the father steps between the son (us) and the wages of sin, that the son abandons the speech he planned in his mind, for a confession born in his soul:

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (v. 21).

And when the father says let’s party, it is a celebration of the lost sheep.

“Behold what love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God–and we are!” (1 John 3:1)

Our heavenly father loves us so much that he waits at the gate of the village for our return, prepared to ensure that we will not be “cut off” from a life with him.

” When we find the insufficiency of creatures to make us happy, and have tried all other ways of relief for our poor souls in vain, then it is time to think of returning to God.” Matthew Henry Commentary

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Love Leads Us Home

“The things that we love tell us what we are.” So said St. Thomas Aquinas.

If that is true, what are we? what am I?

I love my God, my hubby, my kids, my family. I also love my Wonderdog, my job, teens, snow, Americanos, wit, math, writing and creating. So, what does that tell about me? Other than I use love in a variety of ways.

Recently, while watching a truly trashy, useless, hilarious comedy, I heard these words:

“Sometimes you love someone just because they feel like home”
(Bridget Jones)

Maybe, such simple words actually do speak to the truth of love. Whether it is romantic love (like with my hubby), parental love (with my kids), intellectual love (math), visual love (snow) or palatable (coffee) …

all of these different loves are both comfortable … and complicated.

Sometimes they make our heart soar, and sometimes they leave us with heartburn.

But, they are all loves that keep us coming back for more, that have created within us pathways back … like coming home at the end of the day.

They tell us what what we are through our need, our reliance and our daily choosing of them. They lead us home, they are our home.


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