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Archive for June, 2021

As I walked a couple of times in the last month, various lyrics from songs I was listening to penetrated into my mind.

Does this happen to you? You hear a song a couple, maybe a dozen times … you might even sing along to it, unconscious as to what you are singing? Then, all of a sudden, POOF! You hear the words, as though listening to for the first time.

It happens to me ALL THE TIME!

So, when I heard these words, I was aghast that I could have missed them up until now. Especially since they are the words that I would claim as the unplanned soundtrack of my life.

They are words that I sing when I am needing a reminder that no matter what else is going on in my life, in my world there is one assured constant,

the state of my soul is the same.

These words, lyrics, originate in the Horatio Spafford hymn, It Is Well (click link to read the story behind this hymn).

(Whatever my lot,
You have taught me to say)
It is well , it is well with my soul

Theses words have been the soundtrack of my life.

Since my teens years, when I first heard this hymn, they have appeared in my life

just. when. I. needed. them. most.

They have come to my consciousness while worshipping in church, listening in the radio in the car, sitting in a hospital bed, standing at graveyards, walking along the beach … walking not far from my home.

Those words have been present in that original song as well as numerous other songs with the same words, the same message of the reminder that, though so much can change and challenge in our lives, when God has control of our souls that does not change.

Below is the latest song which includes the reminder that “It is well with my soul” … this soundtrack of my life.

It has been the best, most powerful reminder of the reality of my state, in any situation.

Though mountains may tremble and sea billows roll
I’ll sing it is well with my soul
My God is still in control

And it is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

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Waiting … it’s the bane of my existence.

It’s not that I can’t wait, just that it often seems as though I am often waiting for others.

I have learned, though, that there are two types of waiting that are not conditional on the one I am waiting for so much as conditional on me.

The first is waiting and doing nothing but tapping my toe, twiddling my fingers all the while volcanic activity is growing in my mind. This type of waiting is what heart attacks, ulcers and relational breakdown are all about.

The second … shall we say, the better way … is to find something to do while in the waiting. Grab a book, write a story, play with your pet, water your flowers. Just do something, while you wait.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

This verse (above) is one of my favorite verses. It became personal to me while pregnant with our son. Pregnancies, for me, did not always have a happy ending. They were times of fear, times when hope was hard to hold on to, times of endless waiting.

It wasn’t until recently (while in a mood, twiddling my fingers, while waiting for someone else) that I really remembered that this verse begins talking about waiting for the Lord.

Numerous times in the Bible the phrase wait on the Lord is written. Of course, the passages may have different meanings for wait. It can be a passive wait (such as my moody twiddling fingers), or the active wait (do something in the waiting).

In this passage there is quite a bit of activity in the verse … renew, mount up, run, walk. This would lead me to think that, in this verse, we are to wait on or for the Lord (ie. wait for an answer to prayer, wait for peace to fill our hearts), but not just sit there … we need to still be doing things to contribute to the kingdom … in the waiting.

while we wait for his answers, his provisions, his return,

we are to pray, to love others, to feed the hungry, to do the work of healing and reconciliation.

Ellicott’s Commentary says that :
“The waiting implies, of course, the expectant attitude of faith.”

Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says :
“But they that wait upon the Lord – The word rendered ‘wait upon’ here (from קוה qâvâh), denotes properly to wait, in the sense of expecting. The phrase, ‘to wait on Yahweh,’ means to wait for his help; that is, to trust in him, to put our hope or confidence in him.”

Then (my favorite commentary) Matthew Henry tells us :
Let us watch against unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus.

As we all, wait on the Lord, may we keep doing the tasks God has given us, as our hope grows out of trust in him.

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So, you made it to Friday … after thinking it was Friday twice this week already.

You feel like you simply are doing your best to put one foot in front of the other, accomplishing each expectation upon you one slow step at a time.

You are living for the end to this day, this week … knowing within your soul that this is not satisfying, not life-giving … not what you were created for.

Bone tired … that is what you feel, what describes you best right now.

It is a weariness that zaps your energy, your joie de vivre (joy of living), drying up the body, mind and spirit.

Refreshment …

That is what you need. Like a cool lake on a sizzling hot day, a tall glass of water when utterly parched. You need to be refreshed, from the inside out.

come …

It is a beckoning, a pursuing, an invitation. A word that opens the door for one on the outside.

to me …

To Jesus, to God himself. He is the one giving the invitation. It is personal. Not an invitation delivered by another, but offered personally, physically.

all …

Not everyone except, not only a certain group, but all.

that labor and are heavy laden …

This covers the things that encompass our work (jobs, physical work) as well as the weight on our hearts and souls. Are you tired from your work and your heavy heart?

and I …

This is gonna be the promise, the commitment. And it comes from the Creator of heaven and Earth, and of us.

will give you rest.

This is the outcome of the promise. The result, the then of the if/then.

This is for you who are bone weary.

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Summer has only just begun.

The warmth that beckons shorts, tank tops and bare feet. The shift from indoor work to growing flowers and vegetables. Then there is the break from work, from school (from the pandemic).

It is a season of altered reality, with sometimes tropical temperatures, reshaped schedules, more sunlight, a hiatus from work and rest.

As I sat outside the other evening, after a day of record-breaking temperatures, I did … nothing. Though I’d brought a book and my computer outside to read or write, not one moment of producing, accomplishing was had.

I just sat.

I listened to the (few) cars pass by on a busy roadway, admired the cloudless sky, inhaled the varied scent of so many summer flowers, felt the heat of the air on my skin, like a comforting, weighted blanket. My neighbor was outside watering flowers with his preschooler, my dog snoring in the chair beside me.

I realized that I was relaxed, at ease. Body, mind and soul united with my surroundings. Simply put, I (just) was … and it was good.

As one who likes being in movement, is fueled by productivity, this was a unique and wonderful experience.

Though I was not accomplishing or producing, I felt my inactivity was producing something great … rest was refueling my body, my mind, my soul.

After feeding the five thousand, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” (Mark 6:31)

After a wild day of meeting the needs of others, Jesus taught (by word and example) that refreshment, rest was warranted.

After this past winter, as this pandemic response eases, after a season of restrictions, and challenges, and so little of the things that normally refresh us in the midst of work and routine … this summer is a perfect time for rest.

So, go off by yourselves, to a quiet place and listen to the birds, stop and smell the flowers, look up at the sky and feel the heat warm your skin … and be refreshed.

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Charlie Mackesy

Father’s Day can be difficult to celebrate … what to get dad? how to celebrate one who may shy away from celebration? dad may live far away? he may no longer be alive? he may have never been in your life? he may have failed you in a myriad of ways?

Father’s Day can also be difficult to be the focus of celebration … how does a giver joyfully receive? how does the one who is often the other parent adjust to the focus of everyone’s attention? how does one navigate this day where there are no children to father? how does a dad spend this day who has buried his child? how does a man navigate a father’s day full of regrets? how does he endure a day when the phone doesn’t ring, the door doesn’t open?

Father’s Day can be difficult to celebrate …

The Bible says much about fathers, fatherhood, being sons and daughters. Yet, for those for whom this day is more of a struggle, there is one verse that I think speaks to the struggle of Father’s Day (1 John 3:1) :


See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

For those who are the children who struggle with this day, I tell you that God is the father to the fatherless (physically, emotionally, spiritually). He is the good father, who will never leave. He sacrificed his best, his all for your eternity, both here in the is life, and the one to come. He will never let you down, he is always present.

For those who are dads who struggle with this day, God is your father too. He knows fatherly love, and sacrifice, and loss, and rejection. He knows the loneliness of the quiet of this day.

For all who struggle, whether as children or fathers, if we are children of the God of creation, if we have been given such love and grace from Him, may we bear his image in how we love and offer grace to those we call dad, son and daughter.

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As I sat outside, feeling the warm sun on my skin, I thought of how this feeling has always made me feel so good, so grounded in the time and space I was in. I then reflected on other constants in my life that have an expected joy response, when I encounter them:

Things I see:

A sunrise or sunset can catch my attention and take me off to a happy place immediately. A hint of one coming might have me angling, walking or driving to position myself for a better view to appreciate the glory of such a sight.

Things I feel:

Rose petals, cat fur, pussy willows. They are all silky soft, lush between my fingers. They create a sense of warmth and pleasure.

Things I hear:

The delight of the dawn chorus of birds can bring a smile to my face like little else. For years in a previous home we would often hear the local coyotes cries at night, though haunting, they also were a reminder that we lived in a world beyond ourselves. And I cannot talk about sounds without mentioning the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore.

Things I smell:

The scent of baking bread, rising from the oven, or lilacs in spring, or, perhaps best of all, in my estimation, the scent of wild roses. In an instant I am a child at my grandmother’s house, carefree and exploring. Salt air … to me that is the smell of growing up on the East Coast and when I arrived and inhale I know I have returned.

Things I taste:

Ah, that smell of the first, fresh coffee of the day. Folger’s had it right, when they said it is the best part of waking up. But, then the enjoyment of taking that first sip, the flavors awakening the taste buds.

Each of these sensory joys have memories connected, encouraging and delightful teleporters to other places and times. They bring a smile to my face, warmth to my heart. They are beyond the mind, the thinking that we humans love to spend our time on, they simply are reactions to stimulus that awaken a joy response.

The Bible uses the power of our senses to communicate His message to us frequently:

Psalm 34:8:
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!

Matthew 5:13:
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

Matthew 13:16:
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.

Ephesians 5:2
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

John 20:27
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.

Though our minds are fantastic, we were not simply created for what we produce, but we are also natural beings, created in the context of a world of senses. With these senses we can be reminded of joy, of delight and even of worship … not for what awakens our senses, but whom.

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As I walked, I glanced to the empty lot. Dirt and rocks, grass and weeds.

I became alert to the lyrics playing in my headphones,

“in the soil I now surrender, you are breaking new ground”

Then something caught my eye. Color in the middle of the dirt and mess. One solitary poppy, standing straight and tall, like an oasis in the midst of the desert.

The poppy, a symbol of peace, sleep, death. Growing in the midst of land in between what was and what will be.

I’ve walked that in between place, that liminal space. Knowing that what was is gone, what is to come is not yet announced itself.

I feel that with vaccines we are all planted in the dirt between what was and what will be. What is our new normal? Will it resemble our old normal? Do we want it to?

That beautiful flower, standing tall in a vacant place … reminding that life comes from death, that beauty can grow out of dirt and weeds, out of nothing.

“Break new ground. Plant righteousness, and harvest the fruit that your loyalty will produce for me.” It’s time to seek the LORD! When he comes, he will rain righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

surrender

new ground

We are required to surrender our today, to enjoy the fruit of the time to come. Though we humans are usually people of action, this is not a requirement through any effort, other than surrender. I love the Oxford dictionary definition of surrender, “cease resistance … and submit to their authority.” We people aren’t so fond of submitting either! Yet, that is the surrender that God requires. It is what can carry us from what is gone to what is to come.

Through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul.

John Keats

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As I stood in the kitchen a thought passed through my mind,

I need to sit.

So I walked to my sofa and I sat.

It was a simple, yet odd occasion.

I had a thought. A thought that originated in my body and mind. A thought communicated from my body to my mind. And, without pause, I responded immediately and physically. I gave in to what my body needed.

How is it that such a basic human need was met and yet, it is unique, worth reflecting on, worth writing about?

Our bodies deliver messages to us since our first days. As newborns we cry out our need of food, of discomfort. As children we fall asleep almost in motion, while sitting in our high chairs, car seats, in the sandbox. As teens we pass out while doing homework, we ravage the fridge when hungry. As adults we tend to ignore our needs. We ‘tune out’ the voice within, opting for the voices of could and should. We begin to fit a mold, as opposed to work as body and mind are designed.

Rest is a requirement of our bodies, minds and souls. It is a requirement for our lives. We attain rest not just in sleeping, but in coming away from our work, our mission even, to rest as God himself modelled on day seven of creation. When we seek rest, that rest needs to be rest that we find in God … for resting in Him is where we find complete refreshment.

Walter Kaiser quoted Gerhard Von Rad, in his observation of human rest :

“Among the many benefits of redemption offered to man by Holy Scripture, that of ‘rest’ has been almost overlooked in biblical theology….”


We can see the truth of this in Hebrews 4:1-13. Here’s a few excerpts :

Although God’s promise still stands—his promise that all may enter his place of rest—we ought to tremble with fear because some of you may be on the verge of failing to get there after all.  (his rest is a promise … but with a condtion)

For this wonderful news—the message that God wants to save us—has been given to us just as it was to those who lived in the time of Moses. But it didn’t do them any good because they didn’t believe it. They didn’t mix it with faith (faith is the condition).

For only we who believe God can enter into his place of rest. He has said, “I have sworn in my anger that those who don’t believe me will never get in,” even though he has been ready and waiting for them since the world began (belief is a choice we are freely given) …

“Today when you hear him calling, do not harden your hearts against him” (listen … and rest) …

there is a full complete rest still waiting for the people of God. Christ has already entered there. He is resting from his work, just as God did after the creation. Let us do our best to go into that place of rest (to go into is to make the choice, the choice to listen to that still small voice …).

To rest in God is always a choice. It is ours to make. Life does not get easier or better, the realities of life (good and bad, pleasant and horrible) still happen. But, in choosing to rest in God we choose what our bodies, minds and souls most need … are created for.

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There are areas in my understanding of biblical doctrine, or the teachings in the Bible, that I confess to not fully understand. There are parts that seem confusing, or grey, or I simply don’t like. Yet, I trust that the word of God I hold is the truth (in the form of directives, stories, poems, history, songs and letters) that God has, himself, provided.

Today, the healthy concept of deconstruction (or reading the Bible through the lens of, not only the writer, but the culture and time it was written) can become less about digging deeper and more about how its message makes us feel.

We, as Christ-followers sometimes (ok, often) fall into the deep, dark, dank hole of what we believe, over why we believe it. In doing so, we have lost the greatest of opportunities … that of sharing the difference that Jesus (who is the Word … the message and the messenger) has made in our lives.

In the Bible, there are many times when people spoke of Jesus to others. Certainly they shared with others what he said, what he did and who he said he was. But, they also spoke of what he did in their lives. If this were not so, we would not have the accounts of the healings he performed, the women he interacted with, the tax collector he dined with, the disciple who he gave care of his mother to, the man who he promised heaven to who was beside him on another cross.

In the Old Testament, the best example of this is after the test of Abraham. He had followed the direction of God, preparing to sacrifice his son, when a ram appeared, providing another sacrifice. It is said that Abraham called that very place, “The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14).

So, Christian, do you tell others what Jesus has done in your life? Do you tell the story of how Jesus redeemed you? Do you tell of when he met your need in the most unexpected and intimate way? Do you tell of his presence in times of loneliness? Do you speak your Truth?

Tell it.

“People can argue doctrine
but they can’t argue
what Jesus has done for you.
Tell it.”

-Mariela Rosario of She Speaks Fire Ministries

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It is high school graduation time again. The season of finals is upon us. Final classes, final assignments, final exams, final walks down the halls, final bells ringing in their ears.

Moms of grads don’t think of these endings, so much as the many beginnings in earlier years. The graduate’s birth, first steps, first days of kindergarten, grade one, first overnight away from home, first heartbreak, first performance (sport, arts etc.), first time behind the wheel, first day of high school.

I feel a bit like those moms.

I remember September of 2017. It was my first day in a new job, at a new high school. I was scheduled to start the day in a learning support class in another part of the school, along with my colleague. We walked in to a class of maybe six students, three in grade nine and three others … I really don’t remember them well. It was the ninth grade students who I remember, maybe because they were feeling all of the newness, stress and awkwardness that I was feeling.

Now they are graduating.

Working in learning support, I got to help these students to understand and complete their assignments, break them into smaller chunks, help them create a plan for completion, sometimes the job is to just sit in a seat, silently (or not so silently) and cheer them on.

But, I also got to hear about them, their lives, their families and friends, successes and struggles. There have been hours of research, and discussions, and paper-writing, and math problems, and laughter, and tears, and excitement, and discouragement shared together. I heard about their move to another house, the latest superhero movie, friend drama, fishing trips, first jobs, driving tests, vacations, pets, plans for the future.

And now they are graduating.

And more beginnings are ahead than what they have already experienced.

This class of 2021 is to experience yet another Covid graduation, filmed days ago, to be shown at a drive-in venue (in this particular high school). Nothing if not unique and memorable.

Because this grad class has experienced the past two years of high school while meandering through a pandemic, they have developed different skills and strengths than other grad classes. They have experienced forced group home school, followed by a final year with half-day classes, few field trips, post-phoned driving road tests, the wearing of masks (over mouth and nose (if I had a dime for every time I have made that reminder), no hugging of friends, eating lunch in a classroom, trying to sanitize your hands upon entering the school (while you are carrying books, lunch, a coffee and your car keys) and re-learning of hand washing skills.

Resilient … that is the word I think of when I think of these graduates. Often they have been more able to go with the flow than we ‘adults’ around them.

And if resilient is the word that signals the ending of high school, then it is also the word … the life-skill … that they take into their new beginnings.

When I think of this grad class of 2021, I think of 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

“We are hard pressed on every side, 
but not crushed;
perplexed, 
but not in despair
persecuted, 
but not abandoned
struck down,
but not destroyed.”

May they know the One who can give them strength, may they seek Him, may they hold tight to the only One who will never leave them, never abandon them, wherever they go.

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