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Archive for August, 2020

As I opened the bedroom door I was temporarily blinded by the light shining through my office window, illuminating that room and the hallway.

A bit startled by the abrupt visual awakening at such an early morning hour (due to the need of the Wonderdog to go out), I squinted, raised my hand to shield my eyes.

Once the startling awakening subsided, I was able to take joy in this fleeting gift of light beauty to start my day. What a lovely way to start the day … walking into the light.

That dazzling early morning moment stayed with me all day long, bringing a smile to my face as I remembered the joy of my entrance into a new day.

It was startling, unexpected, overwhelming, heart-stopping.

All words that also fit those moments in our life when we are walking with God, our very own sunshine-maker … and we know it. Moments that are gifts to us, that keep us spiritually afloat when the waves of life rise threateningly.

These are the moments that linger … like that gleaming morning light that greeted me one morning.

In Deuteronomy 6:12, Moses tells the Israelites,

“be careful that you do not forget the LORD,
who brought you out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery.”

This warning is valid, because we humans are quick to forget the blessings, the gifts, the good times and where they come from. When times get tough we are often quick to pull out the woe is me complaint.

In the Bible, memorials (usually with stones) were created so that people would not forget the faithfulness of God in a difficult time or situation. These memorials are also a testimony to others, showing evidence of the presence of God in our lives.

I just took a picture, saved it on my phone, then told my sunshine story here to you … and you.

Be careful that you do not forget …

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end; they are new  every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

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Carlie Mackesy

It arrived!

I opened the door to see that familiar brown cardboard box, wrapped in black tape, at my doorstep.

Just two days earlier I had ordered a little gift … just for me. A simple hardcover book, filled with few words, simple sketches, yet the images and words had been boosting my mood all summer long on the Instagram account of the author.

The book title, sounding more like a children’s picture book … The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, is like taking a meandering walk with a young child, still inquisitive about absolutely everything, still unguarded, willing to ask the tough questions … willing to share their deepest thoughts.

It is pure delight!

I think what drew my attention to the work of this man was that it’s message is simple, vulnerable, positive … real.

I think too that it was like a mirage in the desert … for this summer, this year has been dark, depressing filled with hate.

It is too easy to sit on the dung pile too long.

Eventually, we all need a ray of sunshine, a light at the end of the tunnel … a little positivity to shine a light in the news of a dark world.

Through the beautiful simplicity of real and vulnerable words, my heart was lightened, hope restored.

“My dear, In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love. In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm. I realized, through it all, that…In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back. Truly yours, Albert Camus”

“They dare to be vulnerable,
which makes them closer.”

Charlie Mackesy

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Don’t fight fire with fire

Live by the sword, die by the sword

or, my personal favorite,

Don’t feed the monster

These idioms are all variations of one of the easiest Proverbs (for me) to say, but doing it, living it’s wisdom is so … unnatural.

A gentle answer turns away rage,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1

Why is it so hard to just be quiet? To speak gently?

Why is it so easy to respond quickly and harshly?

Our tongue, it’s sharp! Sharp like a sword!

Proverbs 12:18 reminds us, “there is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Man, when you look at the power we have through our words as either wounding or healing … I kinda shake in my boots, because I don’t want to wound … I just … forget to pause before speaking, or I retaliate when another’s words have hurt me, or … I just don’t take my words captive and so they allow me to implicate myself.

There is such responsibility in our words!

Matthew 12:36-37 tells us, ” … on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Though I have so not mastered this (ask my family, they will confirm the practise I still need to apply), I think it’s all about pausing before we speak. For, even when daggers are thrown our way, our responsibility is for how we respond, what we say … not what is said to us.

Respond gently … motto of the day (week, month … life).

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Do you bear the burdens of others? Do you hear the stories, the struggles and the heartaches of others and wear them like a heavy coat? When the conversation ends, do you walk to your car carrying the substance of the conversation with a friend or family member, like carrying the weight of a massive suitcase? Does your mind whisper groans to heaven … interceding for others? Do you awaken the next day exhausted, for wrestling with thoughts overburdened by another’s … burden?

Are you a burden-bearer?

That has been my week … or so. My heart so full of the stories of others that focus on my daily tasks resembles that of the animation of the speed of the Road Runner escaping Wile E. Coyote.

To process my heavy heart for one individual, I began to write them a letter. Then I realized that it could be written to all of them, for the hopes and prayers, the groans and the whispers are so similar, because when downcast hope is what we need most.

So, this is my burden bearer perspective, for those whose story is hard, from someone who is sharing your load.

I hope you know that I listened, to every single word, every pause, every tremor in your voice. I heard it all, felt it all. My heart has been living outside of my chest, beating in time to yours. When we parted I took your story home with me, carried it while I drove, while I cleaned my house, on my walk that evening, then I took it to bed … the only time I let it go was when I put it in the arms of Jesus … over, and over and over again. I want to do something to fix your story … to erase, re-write, to intervene … but I, in my human state can’t do that, I can only help you carry it … carry it to Him.

Here is what I know about Him …

He knows. He knows what is going on in your life. He knows the loss, the loneliness, the feeling of being lost. He knows your story and he knows how you got to this chapter … the mistakes made, the injuries inflicted, the dark valley you are walking through. He also knows how this story can end, how it will end.

He’s not going anywhere. He will never leave you (even though he will never force you to love him back). He is right beside you, ensuring that you are never alone. Yes, you might feel alone at times (right now), but he’s with you, closer than a a sister or brother.

He has a purpose for your life. It begins with each breath inhaled, exhaled … repeat. Some days just getting yourself out of bed is so hard, just breath through it. Some days it can seem that you are making one step forward, then two back … Put one foot in front of the other, inhale … exhale … repeat.

He loves. That is what he is, the personification of love … limitless, unconditional, always within reach. He loves you. Just as you are, in the middle of your story, as you sit on your dung heap … he loves you.

St. Augustine has said of the Psalms, “if the psalm prays, you pray; if it laments, you lament; if it exults, you rejoice; if it hopes, you hope; if it fears, you fear. Everything written here is a mirror for us.”

Weary, lonely, burdened one, with so much load to carry … know that you are not carrying it all alone. There are those who love you and who are bearing your burden with you and there is a God, the creator of heaven and earth and everything in them, who wants you to know how very loved you are … right this moment.

inhale. exhale. repeat.

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Anyone out there a fixer?

When something is broken, you want to jump in and repair it? When you hear of a need, you want to meet it? When a problem is presented, you immediately want to find a solution?

People like that drive me nuts! Probably because I am one of those people.

A few months back, I had a problem which I presented to my hubby. When I started, he interrupted and asked,

do you want me to help find a solution or just listen?

I just wanted him to listen …

so I poured out the story for him, but I was mentally distracted, for his question caused me to question the help I offer to my friends, family … to him. Because, like him, I am a fixer, and fixers fix … listening isn’t really part of our natural response system.

Last week I fixed something in our home that had been irritating to me for years. This fix took maybe a total of five minutes. There is a frame with various pictures of our family in it. The picture of our son was too narrow for the slot it was in, so there was white emptiness on either side of it. The other day I took it off the wall, cut a piece of black card stock to fit the opening, attached the picture in the center and hung it back up. Now there is no glaring white lines to pull my eye to it as I walk by … problem solved.

But …

those white lines … they drew my eye to that picture, like a magnet, reminding me of the imperfect fit of the picture to the opening … but also drawing my eye to the image of my son, reminding me to pray for him.

This story of the imperfect picture that reminded me to pray and the one of hubby asking if I wanted a solution of to just listen … they niggle at my ‘fixer’ instincts. They remind me that sometimes we need to not just see a problem to fix, but also a purpose in the problem … a learning in the midst of the problem … a creativity born out of the broken.

We live in a world full of problems, brokenness, heartaches, struggles … and we cannot fix them all … but we can always listen, we can always pray.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding.”

Proverbs 3:5

Beth Moore

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Lord, use me in your will for my life in this world.

I long to be used by God. To be his hands and feet in my small corner of the world. I don’t need his pat on my back, I just long to be used … needed.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.” Matthew 5:16

When you don’t know how God wants to use you and you so desperately want to be needed. When you feel certain that you have something to offer but you’re not exactly sure what it is, why doors aren’t opening and just feel useless.

Walking with God, being in his will, in his purpose for life and breath is simply heaven on Earth. It is what gets us up out of bed each day.

But we (I say ‘we’ but, let me tell you, I am preaching this one right back at ‘me’) are always walking with God, when we choose to rely on him, on his provision of opportunity to shine for him.

Being in his will, being used of the God of creation doesn’t mean we are always walking in a surreal, sweet-smelling rose garden. It doesn’t mean that our every more (or word) is flawless. Doesn’t mean that we ‘feel’ good about what we are doing all. the. time. It doesn’t mean that we ‘know’ we are doing God’s work.

Micah 6:8 reminds us of what God’s will actually is for each of us … what he requires of us all:

He has shown you,
O mortal,
what is good.
And what does the Lord 
require of you?

To act justly 
and to love mercy
and to walk humbly 
with your God.

Spurgeon writes (of this scripture), “it was a spiritual worship that the Lord required; not externals, not outward gifts, but the heart. If thou wilt bring an offering, bring thyself; there is no other gift that the Lord so much desires. The prophet mentions three things that the Lord required of his people: “To do justly:” here are the equities of life. “To love mercy here are the kindnesses of life, which are to be rendered cheerfully. The prophet does not say, “to do mercy,” but to “love” it, to take a delight in it, to find great pleasure in the forgiveness of injuries, in the helping of the poor, in the cheering of the sick, in the teaching of the ignorant, in the winning back of sinners to the ways of God. “And to walk humbly with thy God.” These are the things which please him; and when we are in Christ, and he becomes our righteousness, these are the sacrifices with which God is well pleased; they make an offering of a sweet smell, a holy incense which we may present before him. Talk no more of your outward ordinances, your will-worship, with abundance of music, or human eloquence and learning, and what not. These things delight not the Lord; no offering is acceptable unless the outward conduct shows that the heart is right with him.”

And so we walk today, in his will.

Not because of something we are doing for him, but by allowing him to do a great work in us.

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One of the things that drew me to the church we now call home is the time in the service when a person emerges before the congregation and offer up the prayers of the people.

Prayers are offered for our immediate church family as well as the church worldwide, the community in which we live as well as the global community. For ministries in our church, the people who perform the ministries as well as those who benefit from them. Thanks for who God is, for the life we have been given, for the opportunities to be his hands and feet are spoken. Acknowledgement of our need of him, his wisdom, his eyes, his grace.

I am so thankful for the importance placed on corporate prayer that covers people, places and happenings both near and far.

The other day I felt like I had lived a day of prayers of the people.

There was beauty and appreciation for the life I have been so fortunate to live. The people who have added to my life, the activities, the work, the world in which I live.

Then there were the joys of others, prayers answered in the most spectacular of ways. Events that enfolded in a such a way that one could not help but acknowledge that God had his hand in the the details.

There were tears too, for hurts and struggles and disappointments in the lives of others. People who were experiencing fear, loneliness, heartache … pain. People who I could only help by laying their burdens at the feet of the only wise God.

Lord, hear my prayer …

These words are often prayed in corporate prayer and I have begun to use them as I pray.

We see these words at the start of Psalm 143, one of the penitential psalms.

It is not a demand, but a question, a request.

These four words remind us that it is we who are the ones asking to be heard, asking for help, for mercy.

The Matthew Henry Commentary, for this verse says,

“We have no righteousness of our own to plead, therefore must plead God’s righteousness, and the word of promise which he has freely given us, and caused us to hope in.”

We are never enough on our own, but through the blood of Jesus we can speak to the God of the universe, making our supplications to Him. It is an act that is an honor and a responsibility.

When we lift up our prayers to God nothing is news to him, for he is all knowing. Yet we lift them up as an offering, as an act of complete trust … trust that he can and will oversee the cries of our heart, trust in the process that he chooses.

Lord, hear our prayer.

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In the New Testament the word beloved mostly refers to a love of God toward his son, Jesus, to his people and a love between fellow Christ-followers. It is intimate, deep and unifying.

Matthew 3:17 might be the most familiar use of the word beloved, in all of the Scriptures:

“And a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved Son, with him I am well pleased.”

We read those words and yearn for them.

I believe it is part of our inherent human nature, I believe it is the magnetic force that draws us to our Father God.

CS Lewis has said,

“And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved”

We seem to know, instinctively, we need to hear, to feel that in the eyes of God, we too are his beloved.

For some it is in our experience of being beloved of our earthly father that we come easily to understand how deeply loved we are by our heavenly Father.

For many others, it is the absence of being beloved by our human father (or mother) which pulls us away from God … for if our own flesh and blood reject us, how can the God of the universe call us his beloved?

Yet, he does. He does so in word and in deed. His declaration of pleasure with his son is the reminder to us of the sacrifice he made … for you and for me … that we should be called children of God … beloved children of God.

“And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved”

“You called me (be)loved
You called me (be)loved
By the blood of the Lamb, of Your Son
Comes to me, sweet salvation”

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Apparently, when one is applying to the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, not only does one need to provide proof of academic success, references and an application fee, but also a couple of essays.

One of those essays is to answer the question, why Stanford? That is a pretty predictable essay subject, but the second is a bit more unique …

what matters most to you, and why?

Their website says they want applicants to “write from the heart”.

It got me to thinking, what does matter most … to me?

It would be easy to speak of my life because of my acceptance of God’s love in my life, for where would I be otherwise?

I could speak of my (just about) thirty one year marriage to my husband, his love and constant support of me and my crazy ideas.

My three adult kids … my greatest creations.

The love and continuity of my parents.

Or the entertainment value provided by my brothers.

My job is satisfying and challenging.

Friends are the sugar and spice of daily life.

But then there are the flowers that provide beauty, the sunrises that give hope of a new day, the sound of the waves crashing at the shore, the relaxation and comfort found in the wet nose of an animal companion, the joy of a good story (in written or video form), clean sheets, the sound of a soft summer rain, warmth of the sun on your skin, the smell of the first coffee of the day …

It is almost more satisfying to write the list that to come to a conclusion. To write such a list is to realize that it has no end … for to write what matters most reminds us that our lives are worth living, that we love and are thankful for so many gracious gifts in our lives.

Go ahead, try it … begin to consider what matters most.

I think you will see that we have been given much to be thankful for in our life … from the giver of good gifts.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows.”

James 1:17

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Just love.

I knew the response as clearly and confidently as if I had heard with words spoken, verbally … but they weren’t.

I have been praying over a specific person and situation for quite awhile now. Each time I bring this one to the creator of all, I ask, what do you want me to do? to say? Each time, I hear, not with my ears, but my heart,

just love

It doesn’t feel like it is enough, most days. It doesn’t even feel like I am doing anything. How can I claim this one, this situation, for God, if my words never speak his name, never direct to him?

Yet …

God is love.

That’s what his word tells us (1 John 4:16). His existence is the definition of love.

That passage doesn’t just stop there.

“God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

So, as I abide … as I stick to love, living and dwelling in love, I am dwelling or living with God …

and his love dwells in me …

His message, the Gospel, or Good News message of salvation and redemption … it is told when I love others. In doing so I am sharing his Good News.

just love … there is no more important thing to do.

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