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Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Back in the spring a neighbor planted sunflower seeds in the gardens of many of the neighbors. They have grown tall and provided smiles throughout the summer.

Now it is fall …

Though still very tall, their stalks thick and strong, their heads are hanging, heavy with seeds that birds have begun to pick. Their petals drying into a crepey texture. The florets, who cover the seeds and provide the yellow or brown center color drying into weightlessness and blown into the air by the autumn winds.

Gotta say, as I stood looking at one the other day I found myself relating to this green giant in so many ways.

I decided to cut one down, for it was done in every way.

Though its florets had already all blown away, though it’s petals were a dry crepey mess, though it’s leaves were faded and sagging and, over all, it had seen better days …

it was heavy with seeds.

what possibility …

Those two words came to mind as I lifted the flower head from the ground.

Even now, in the autumn of a sunflower’s life, life remains in the seeds.

Within all of us are seeds that we sprinkle throughout our life. Some get planted, others blown away, other stolen by birds, some packed away in the dark. Yet, we all have the seeds to share, and we can share them right up until our final breath.

That is our only task, to share the seeds that give hope, possibility.

It is only God … ONLY God, who can make them grow.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

1 Corinthians 3:7

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That is how it is written, in Sharpie, on my stainless steal refrigerator.

when i … then he

I wrote it on my cool appliance months ago, when I was (to quote Anne of Green Gables) in the depths of despair.

It had been a rough day (and we all have those to walk through). I had had an interaction with a professional that left me feeling misinterpreted, unheard and as though I was a system user. You could say it was a personal worst case scenario and I was feeling it all the way down to my bones.

So, I did what came natural … I sobbed my eyes out. Felt the depths of hurt with each sob that racked my body.

Finally, I had to do something else, for, though the tears falling were availing a sense of release, they were doing nothing for the tension I was feeling from my head to my toes.

So I went for a walk.

Now, if you were to see me walking that day, what you would have seen was a woman on a mission. I marched fast, each step landing on the sidewalk with great force. Eyes straight ahead, wide open, yet unable to really see anything, anyone else … for they were completely turned inward, focused on the pain I felt.

I remember trying to pray, but realizing that if God was to hear my heart, it would have to be through my inner groans, for my brain could not form the words, until …

I remember in my frustration to pray thinking I just needed something to repeat, to focus on … to get the focus off this agony, off … me.

when i … then he

Four words popped into my muddled mind and I began to recite them, over and over, for the remainder of my determined walk. I walked hard and fast and I spoke them the same, over and over. It was not the words, but their meaning, that propelled me, that, eventually, slowed my mind, my heartbeat, my pace. Those four words and my chosen humility in speaking their truth, not just with my tongue, but with my heart, my mind … brought me home (figuratively and physically).

The words I spoke, I rewrote into my circumstance, were words of faith. These were the words of the Apostle Paul. Paul was speaking of that thorn in his flesh, the issue that he had prayed and prayed and prayed that God would take away … but God did not take it away. Paul’s response is this:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me. That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

So, I may have done a re-write here on scripture, my chant

when i … then he

written in scripture is actually

when i … then i

The thing is … I was chanting the words in faith, not in sight. Paul had been praying, and growing, and stretching in this area of a thorn, for years (possibly his entire life).

I was in the moment, feeling ever so weak, simply praying, in faith that God would be my strength, that he would carry me, would flood my body and mind with the Spirit of peace, that he would be my advocate of strength.

and He did.

I love how Matthew Henry speaks to this passage (this experience with God in our weakness) :

When God does not take away our troubles and temptations, yet, if he gives grace enough for us, we have no reason to complain. Grace signifies the good-will of God towards us, and that is enough to enlighten and enliven us, sufficient to strengthen and comfort in all afflictions and distresses. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. Thus his grace is manifested and magnified. When we are weak in ourselves, then we are strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; when we feel that we are weak in ourselves, then we go to Christ, receive strength from him, and enjoy most the supplies of Divine strength and grace.

Matthew Henry Commentary

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Produce is ripening. The days are dry and hot. The sun still high in the sky … but we now begin to really notice it is setting earlier in the evening.

This mid summer, this quarter season signifies the beginning of harvesting.

Harvesting … the taking or bringing in of the fruits of our labor.

I have begun harvesting my tomatoes daily. Little cherry tomatoes, ripe and round and delicious for salads. The Romas, a perfect balance of sweet taste, firmness and more flesh than seeds. I am anticipating thick slices atop mayo on artisan wheat bread … maybe even today.

For weeks, months even, I have anticipated the harvest of these fruits. Gardening in our newer, smaller digs, in pots, has not been as successful as gardening in the past. Yet, these plants are full of growing, healthy, ripening fruit for weeks to come.

I think that mid summer harvesting is a plot of God. I think this is his way of reminding us to keep our eyes on the prize of the present. While we are harvesting and tasting the fruits ripening before our eyes we are present in this very moment. This is what it is to not just be content, but know it too.

Pause for a moment.

Close your eyes.

Breath in deeply, slowly.

Exhale, slowly and completely.

Now, let your mind search for fruit in your life. The fullness of seeds which have been planted deep into the dark of the soil. Seeds that have been watered, fed, cared for. Dry, lifeless seeds that have sprouted, grown tall, with leaves, flowers and now the fruit is ripening … the fruit of your labor … the fruit of faithfulness to the Master Gardener.

What is he showing you?

What is he reminding you?

He is faithful. The seeds planted in him will grow.

they. will. grow.

See that fruit!

Don’t get discouraged, dear soul, when the ground seems dry and absent of life. He is in the dark, dry places with you. This midsummer harvest, today, is to encourage you in the winter times, when the days are dark and lifeless. For today bask in the sunshine of the harvest, let it’s delights seep into your soul, know the joy of this contentment.

“And another angel … cried … Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”
-Revelation 14:18

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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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No one is an island, so says … someone.

Though it is easy to think of ourselves as independent of anyone else, our human race is diversely interconnected. Our lives are the products of those who have gone before us, of those who we do not even know.

I recently read something titled Ancestral Mathematics :

In order to be born, you needed:

  • 2 parents
  • 4 grandparents
  • 8 great-grandparents
  • 16 second great-grandparents
  • 32 third great-grandparents
  • 64 fourth great-grandparents
  • 128 fifth great-grandparents
  • 256 sixth great-grandparents
  • 512 seventh great-grandparents
  • 1,024 eighth great-grandparents
  • 2,048 ninth great-grandparents

For you to be born today from 12 previous generations, you needed a total sum of 4,094 ancestors over the last 400 years.

— Lyrical Zen

Obviously this is just simply the mathematics, the biological numbers that our physical existence is dependent upon. This list says nothing of those who stepped up, or stepped in, who had no familial DNA. Thus increasing the numbers not just to be born, but to survive and even thrive.

What is fascinating about these numbers, to me, is that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves … read that again …

we are all part of something bigger than ourselves

Think of your own ancestral mathematics … how many can you name? As I asked the same of myself, I could only name thirteen!

In Hebrews 11 we read of the heros of the Bible. It is the hall of fame of faithful to God.

The chapter opens with a definition of faith :

“Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.”

Then, an explanation of what faith does for us in our lives:

“By faith
we understand that the world has been created 
by the word of God
so that what is seen 
has not been made out of things that are visible.”
(v. 3)

We are what is seen. Those who came before us are the unseen, the invisible. Though they no longer walk this Earth, their contribution, if nothing else, is our very existence. We are what comes after the equal sign. And, we will contribute to the existence to others, eventually becoming the unseen.

Think for a moment – How many struggles? How many battles? How many difficulties? How much sadness? How much happiness? How many love stories? How many expressions of hope for the future? – did your ancestors have to undergo for you to exist in this present moment…

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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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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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Who saves us?

Who redeems us?

That ‘ol Sunday School answer, of Jesus, is, of course the answer. Yet … in all practicality, we often do not live as if that were true. We strive, and move and posture in such ways as to show far more reliance on self than on the Savior.

We often put our faith in us … in our prayers, our giving, our acts of kindness or hours spent doing the work of the church … but our actions offer little if they are what we are counting on to save us. They are little more than rituals, outward adornments to show the world the state of our souls.

Of course that summation is rather dismal, rather over-simplified.

A friend recently introduced me to a poem by Christina Rossetti that I had not remembered reading before, called A Better Resurrection :

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

In reading this, one might read the mood of Rossetti to be terrible sad, even depressed. It is a lonely, meaningless, hopeless reading … at first glance. But, there is very much life as well and Rossetti is looking in the right direction for that life, that meaning, that purpose.

O Jesus, quicken me

O Jesus, rise in me

O Jesus, drink of me

There is constant acknowledgement of the human condition, of our helpless state … yet each verse returns to petition for life, meaning and hope from the only one who can provide. The resurrected one, who can resurrect you and me.

It it toward the end of the second verse, where I think true hope is expressed for our lives :

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

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