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Archive for July, 2021

By Ahuva Klein

Where I live, it is dry.

A heat dome (a new word for the local vernacular) last month resulted in over 800 heat-related deaths. If you walk around it will quickly become obvious that plants and trees have been dying in this heat in which they are not designed to survive.

Everything is dry!

There has been no rain in July, only 37mm in June … the first half of June.

It is dry.

With the heat dome and the dry conditions forest fire season is upon us. Every day I awaken to updates on the radio, the weather websites. Images of smokey skies, people in shelters and fire racing up tall trees and hillsides are the daily visuals.

The other day, while listening to a podcast about (ironically) Moses and the burning bush, it took on new significance in this hot, dry summer.

The story of Moses is told in Exodus.

Just the other day I wrote about the conditions into which he was born in the post, Hidden in Their Hearts. His destiny at birth, like all the other Hebrew babies, was a permanent water bath (drowning).

So, years later,

Moses,

born in love

given back to God in trust

was in a hard place.

He had been raised in the palace of the Pharaoh,

killed an Egyptian guard,

run away,

protected seven sisters from shepherds who hadn’t allowed them to water their flocks at a well (but … maybe he was the one who was really thirsty?)

was given one of those daughters, in marriage (a Midianite woman who thought he was an Egyptian … so maybe he was still struggling with his identity?),

and now he’s off wandering in the dessert with his (his father-in-laws) flock.

Though it would appear that he knew his location, I think Moses was lost. The identity he portrayed was not that of a Hebrew, but Egyptian. He held within him the unconscious memories of songs and messages and prayers of his mother who buried them into his lovingly nurtured heart.

I think Moses might have been as dry as much of the landscape of British Columbia is currently … ripe for fire to burn it to ashes, to dust. He was a man born to a purpose, one his mother knew was a purpose given by the God who saved him as a baby. Yet, here he was, tending sheep in the hot, dry desert.

“the angel of the Lord appeared to him (Moses) in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.” (Exodus 3:2)

Moses was seeing the impossible. A tree, on fire, yet the tree was not destroyed. That would catch my attention!

Then he said something that reminded Moses who he was,

“I am the God of your father, 

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” (v. 6)

“the God of your father” … in this statement and the following fathers of the Jews, God reminds Moses of his identity, of who he is, of the whispers of his mother, buried in his heart before he could understand. This is the beginning of his rebirth, the beginning of his life of really living. This is his holy ground moment.

As God tells Moses his plan to save the Israelites through him, Moses gets doubtful (the dry bones of doubt). And he says, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (v.11)

Now, if I were God, I would be rolling my eyes (like a parent) and saying, “did you hear me? were you listening? I just told you who you are!”

But God, still burning in that still full of life bush, is much more patient and compassionate (v.12).

“And God said, “I will be with you.””

And this is the God I serve. He reminds me who I am and then he reminds me that

He.

will.

not.

leave.

me.

alone.

Yet, Moses still has doubts …

I think what is happening here is fascinating because there’s a bush on fire, but it’s not destroyed. God is speaking to Moses, telling him who he is, that he will not be left alone and it is Moses who is brought to ash in the face of this fire.

His life so far has been one of confusion and feeling lost and lacking attachment to anything and anyone. There have always been whispers of identity within his soul, yet they have always been out of reach, a jumbled mess. Now, in the midst of an isolated desert, the God of his people, God himself is challenging him to abandon his fear. To make the faith of his fathers HIS OWN FAITH. He has a choice to make … the choice we all have to make … do we chose to live the life God has for us?

And who shall I tell them sent me? This is Moses last question and the answer, though perhaps odd and indefinite to us (and to him) is nothing short of definite,

“I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.”


I am … no beginning, no end. Reliant on nothing and no one.

This is the God who creates, who never leaves our side, and, later in this story of Moses being willing to follow and obey God, we get to hear God’s ultimate promise, to the Israelites and to us all …

I will redeem you

Redemption is the result of obedience, of trust. It is the result of our ashes being born into new life. Only God can make new things out of the rubble of our dry and thirsty lives.

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It is forest fire season where I live.

With this in mind, I thought it was interesting that the podcast I listened to on my walk the other day was about Moses and the burning bush.

The story of Moses and the burning bush is in Exodus 3, but the story of Moses begins in the previous chapter.

The life of Moses began with a mother who loved him. She knew what his destiny was, for Pharaoh had ordered that all Israelite babes to thrown into the Nile and drowned.

So, rather than do what every mother wants most to and hold him close, she chose to take her chances and let God determine his fate. She placed her newborn into a waterproof basket and set it in the Nile RIver.

Where other neighbor babies died a violent death, she chose to lovingly trust her God. She released her son from her hands and control to the only one that she knew who loved him more.

I think one could say that she gave him over to the river of life, by trusting her son to her God.

Her trust in her God resulted in her having him (temporarily) returned to her, to nurse him … with pay from the Pharaoh’s daughter!

Reminder:

God does not just give us what we need, he often gives extravagantly!

So, this mamma gets her son back, but she knows that it is temporary. She knows with every sunrise, every hungry cry, every coo and smile that her days are numbered with this child, this flesh and blood.

When we know that our time is limited, we do not waste our time!

What do you think she did with her son?

What do you think she spoke to him?

If it was me … if the son in my arms had been returned to me because of my God, who I had trusted …

I would tell him of God.

I would sing songs of worship.

I would pray over his future.

I would thank God.

And, I believe, that is what she did.

For her son was saved, his life was delivered from the cultural ‘sin’ of having been born into the race so despised in that time, that place.

God saved her son, so she would hide words of wisdom and love of God in his heart.

And that is the calling to all mothers,

To bury the word of God in the hearts of our children,

Then,

to release them

trusting the God who once placed them in our arms,

with them.

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It was an opportunity …

a gift …

one that we knew, but they did not.

It wasn’t huge, nor was it small …

it wasn’t a need, nor was it just a want …

but it would be helpful,

make life easier,

better.

Though we didn’t communicate this as a gift, we also did not, not communicate it.

The offer was in our wording, to be revealed if asked, if the one condition was met.

The one who could benefit from this offer, this gift, had only to meet one condition.

But,

that condition meant hard things …

patience.

humility.

sacrifice.

But,

for us to follow through, to give the gift, they had to take the next step.

The gift had a condition, a hoop to jump through.

I was frustrated as I realized that they were so focused one their goal, they were going to miss what was being offered. That they would miss out on the thing that would bring greater help and ease, long term, because they were so focused on the short term desires.

Then, it came to me …

that’s me.

I want what I want, when I want it. Often, my mind is so focused on my goal and my expediency to accomplish it that I miss out on the longer term goals, that can bring better results.

When I think of this sort of impatience, I often think of times of buyer’s remorse. When I have seen a shiny item that lights up my moment and have to have it! Often I spend too much, or spend money on something that truly has only momentary gain … at the cost of something of better quality, because I refused to wait.

God’s love for us is freely offered to all. It is a gift that satisfies us, not just today, but for always. There is nothing hindering our receipt of his love … except that we have to accept it, accept him as our one and only way to a better life, to redemption.

His word reminds us of what is offered to us, the opportunities and gifts that are ours if we would …

Even John 3:16, no doubt one of the most often verses quoted, has an if – then statement.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The eternal life that is offered to all of humanity is an offer with a condition … and conditions come with some sort of sacrifice. In this case the condition is to believe in God … sounds easy enough. But, when we are in the midst of why God moments … belief is a sacrifice … to our understanding, to our pride. It requires patience and humility. But, our understanding and pride are short term … this life that God offers is eternal. It is the long term goal, over the short term.

When we really take the time to understand the offer, we also have to realize that our sacrifice is nothing in comparison to the cost of it … that of the Son of God.

May our … my … eyes be open to what is being offered to me, every day. I pray my focus is on what lasts.

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Seaside Retreat
by
Fred Buchwitz

Who would have thought that sitting in a dentist’s chair would have been where God decided to speak clearly (though I am certain that many have called out to God from a dentist’s chair)?

I have sat in that chair, facing that painting for probably over twenty years. I have admired it while taking my seat in front of it (or was it in front of me?). I have yearned to be there, standing on that pathway bridge, taking in the waves crashing on shore, the eagle soaring out over the water, the light streaming down from beyond the clouds.

This day, as I walked into the room, I was only able to see one facet of the painting and I was in it.

Right there, standing on the smaller rock. On this rock, in the foreground, the waves crashing onto it and my feet. I could feel the icy cold of the water on my feet, ankles and lower legs. I could feel the cool air on my face. My back to the beach, I could see only the waves, the threat, as fear gripped me.

As I took my seat, chatted the same introductory conversation about work, children and the news of the day that we have had every six months for over twenty years, my mind’s attention was still in front of me. Finally, as our conversation was silenced by the work that needed to be accomplished, I could focus completely on my perilous situation, as the breakers crashed at my feet.

“you are not hopeless”

The words of a song I’d heard while driving to my appointment.

“I hear your SOS, your SOS”

More lyrics. Chill ran through me as the waves hit at me.

“you’re not defenseless”

As I sat there in the chair, my eyes continued to be focused on the painting … the painting that I had been somehow been transported into. Though I could no longer see the physical scene, for my position was now mostly fixed to the ceiling … to a place above and beyond my physical self. Now my inner gaze also drifted higher.

“I hear you whisper undernearth your breath
I hear you whisper you have nothing left”

In an instant my mind’s eye lifted from the waves, to the eagle, soaring effortlessly on the air thermals. To the light streaming down, those crepuscular sunbeams (sometimes called the “fingers of God”). The fear eliminated, dissolved.

“In the middle of the hardest fight, it’s true,
I will rescue you”

I was now standing above the water, on the other side of the cabin, facing the light pouring down from the clouds. I have no idea what the other side of the cabin looked like, for my back was to it, my face focused on the light.

The description of this painting, by Fred Buchwitz, writes:

“The morning sun bursts through the clouds, casting its warm glow in this remote
bay on the northwest coast. The crest of each wave is illuminated by the golden
rays of the sun. The crashing rhythm of the ocean and the cries of the gulls
provide the musical backdrop for this enchanted vista.”

“The crest of each wave is illuminated by the golden rays of the sun” … for me, that day, the threatening waves were illuminated by the reminder

that I,

that we,

have a rescuer,

a Saviour,

who will reach down and fight for us.

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So, what’s your main thing?

You know, the thing that you love above all else?

We all have a main thing, a love greater than all else.

Exodus 20:3 tells us:

“You shall have no other gods before me”

Are our main things like gods in our lives?

Are they the main things in our hearts?

What if they ceased to exist, to live? Could we carry on with just the love of God?

I ask myself these questions sometimes … wondering if the things, the ones, that I love most have become idols in my heart and mind. I wonder if I have elevated them above my reliance on the one who made me. I wonder if I love him above all else.

As I was pondering my God, my loves, my heart, I sought out what Jesus had to say about this first commandment, for, though he does not retract from the Old Testament commandments, he does provide further clarification (Mark 12:30)

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.

It would seem that whereas the OT commandment sounds very much like a rule, the NT version would seem to sound sound like an act of choice (can love ever be anything but a choice?). To love with heart, soul, mind and strength is to love with every part of us, who we are.

Love is a pretty big deal in the ministry of Jesus. After expressing the greatest commandment (above) he left us with one additional commandment,

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

They really go together, for in our choosing to love God, we seek to be like him and there is no greater expression of our love for him than to love others.

Now back to the beginning … our main thing?

I think I have come to realize that God has to be my main thing. That I have to love him above all else, not just as a security blanket that keeps me safe for all eternity, but because I cannot love anyone else well if I do not first dwell in my love for my Creator. For it is in loving him that I am able to love others.

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Progress,

From Latin …

pro – ‘forward’

gradi – ‘to walk’

progress … to walk forward.

We walk … forward

Taking in the sights, the smells, the sounds, the tastes, touches.

We take in as we walk forward.

But, to really walk forward is to pause with those senses,

to see as far as the eye can see,

to stop and smell the roses,

to be so quiet as to hear a pin drop,

to eat and know when it tastes like more,

to know the comfort of a soft touch.

Slowly walking forward,

to what lies ahead.

Not for grandiose destinations.

Not for

more,

bigger,

fame,

but simply to progress,

simply to be moving …

forward.

simply because walking forward is better.

better than moving back,

better than staying put.

progress is walking …

it is physical,

takes effort …

so. much. effort.

Sometimes it seems that we do not move forward, do not progress.

Yet, as our feet ache,

as our wheels spin,

our hard efforts propel us

when our feet cannot.

Progress …

tiny, sometime indiscernible, movements forward.

We can do this!

because we are making progress.

“Beautiful things take time. This is true for so many things.
Progress goes beyond what is easily noticeable or seen.
As sure as the tree bears fruit, stay in the light and be patient.

You will grow, too.”
Morgan Harper Nichols

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When one thinks of creative expressionists one does not think of ritual or routine. Impulsivity, openness, flexibility … those are more closely associated descriptors of creatives.

Yet, anyone doing creative work does so with routines that often go unnoticed by the casual observer, whose gaze is focused far more on the creation that the creator.

Maya Angelou would get a hotel room when she was writing. “I have a bedroom, with a bed, a table, and a bath. I have Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, and the Bible. Usually a deck of cards and some crossword puzzles.”

George Bernard Shaw had a writing hut constructed on a turntable, so as to follow the suns light as he wrote. It contained a typewrite, heater, food, a bed and a phone in case of emergency. (Roald Dahl and poet Dylan Thomas had writing sheds as well).

Virginia Woolf, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Charles Dickens, comic writer Stan Lee and Ernest Hemingway all wrote standing up.

JK Rowling wrote often in cafes.

Ann Voskamp writes in a 10-by10 foot cabin along a cornfield.

Jane Austen was the queen of simplicity, requiring only a desk, paper, quill and ink.

Though not all, it would appear that most of the aforementioned creatives seek or sought quiet, a solitary, silent place

where the audible and visual
noise of the world
could be eclipsed
by the voice inside.

Our human creativity originates in our DNA, for we create from the genetic material that we have inherited, from our Creator (father) God. Our creativity is an expression of his ability, his beauty, that we can be creative within the uniqueness of the creativity he placed within each one of us.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness”
-Genesis 1:26

As his creation, we are image-bearers of the God of creation. Within our creation we bear the image of God the father, but also the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit, for we are made in “our image, our likeness.” So when creativity flows from us our need to be still, be silent makes such sense.

Silence is the catalyst for hearing the Holy Spirit within us. When it is his voice we listen to, we create from the riches of our Creator, from the greatest story ever told.

“Everything that’s created comes out of silence. Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence. Your words come out of this void. Your very essence emerged from emptiness. All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer

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Isn’t it amazing how little things can take you off in search of something you didn’t even know you were looking for?

A simple social media post had me preoccupied and searching the other day … for over an hour.

The post is one I have seen a few times lately. An image of a person, in their garden, through a window, walking toward their house. What follows is a story, written by the adult child of that person, or their widow/widower. They share that the image is one taken by Google or Apple maps. These images are taken in the past, a year, or two or more ago. The person posting writes how they saved the image, for one day, they know, the address will be updated with a new image … and their loved one will not be in the updated image.

What they have saved is a live version,
of one who is no longer
in the window, the garden.

Well, my curiosity was peeked.

I started on my phone. Immediately finding an image of my childhood home, in summer, in the not too distant past. The care was still parked. The front garden full of growing activity.

Then I noticed the doors to the storage shed opened. I zoomed in for a closer look. The Rollator to the right of the doors. This was no longer a job for my phone. The laptop was opened, the search continued. I moved to look from different angles, zoomed in and out, checked out satellite views, even trying to peer into the back of the property from the street and through the houses behind.

Nothing.

I switched to another mapping website, to no avail.

Though I was not seeking, not needing to see my dad that day, the possibility of a live image of him had built up such a great hope of that possibility. After seeking unsuccessfully, I was rather disappointed. To only have had the opportunity to see him living again. To have had the joy of seeing him and smiling.

Deep down inside
we always seek
for our departed loved ones.
-Munia Khan

Then I remembered a video that I have, from my last visit home. He took my daughter and I to the maple sugar woods. Though I could not find the video, I could hear his voice, after tasting the syrup on the cold snow, “some good” with that characteristic sparkle in his eye.

I guess that once a loved one no longer lives and breathes life’s breath, those who loved are simply still seeking signs of life.

If I could only see you
And once more feel your touch.

Yes, you’ve just walked on ahead of me
Don’t worry I’ll be fine

But now and then I swear I feel
Your hand slip into mine.

-Joyce Grenfell

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It’s early … faint with infrequent songs from the birds.

The sun, though still hidden behind a structure, providing shadowy light.

Dampness … on the chairs, the table, the leaves of the plants and trees, from the early morning rains.

Early Sunday morning.

The Sabbath.

The day of rest.

Since the arrival of the Pandemic, Sundays have been different. Sabbath has been different.

Worship has, largely, not been experienced in church buildings, not with congregations, nor large worship bands, nor communion under one roof. The Sabbath has been Sunday mornings and Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. The Sabbath has been spent on the sofa with a cuppa, a pouch or two and pajamas. It has been spent on hikes in the mountains, over a book on the patio, making a puzzle on the table, listening to a podcast, talking to a long lost friend. Worship has been through the work of the hands of the Creator, in nature, or as we get to know our neighbors, or as we take someone a meal, or send money to an agency who brings His love to others, or share an online worship service with others who would not darken the door of a church.

We are the church.

We carry His message wherever we go.

Worship flows from us … like a the first morning …

the birds. the light. the rains.

All worshipping together …

because they just can’t not worship,

because we just can’t not worship.

Sunday morning has broken,

and just like that first morning, His creation (us included) are worshipping Him.

This is life.

This is Sabbath rest.

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
-Eleanor Farjeon

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It was overwhelming. Loving. Thoughtful. Lavish. Generous. Openhanded.

During a time of healing, my co-workers, colleagues, friends lavished love on my regularly. Each day I received texts with well wishes, updates on their lives, silly things, stories of students and queries as to how I was doing. Each week was a drop-off … flowers, meals, a puzzle, cards (even hand made ones), treats, soaps and more. They overwhelmed me with their thoughtfulness, their loving acts and hearts.

They lavished their love on me …

And that is our calling. Love is what we are … because we have been loved by the Father, we are to love others. My sweet friends showed this God-love so abundantly. They went so far beyond, beyond what I need, beyond what I deserve.

This is God-love … going beyond what we deserve.

His love exceeds expectation, it is extravagant.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:7, 19-21

What a model of God-love these amazing ladies have been to me. They have raised the bar of loving to such a height that I have a deeper understanding of the extravagant, lavish love of God.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

Our calling
is to love the world around us
in such a way
that they will know him.
CW

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