Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Mark Twain said many things about politics, but it is his words (above) that have caught my attention these past few days.

One might think that I am referring to a scandal uncovered about a politician, or how dark politics is because there simply could not be an honest man involved in such a power-hungry sector of society.

This time, that quote seems to resonate in the memories of those who knew, knew of, or lived in the constituency which Canadian Member of Parliament, Mark Warawa served. For his fifteen years of federal and fourteen in municipal politics.

Last week it was announced that Mark, with his wife at his side, lost his brief battle with cancer … and gained an eternity with his Savior.

Though I struggle to believe the words of politicians, or believe that their intent is ever anything but political power-seeking or posturing, Mark was a politician who was different, whose integrity was a light in an area that can seem so dark.

As I listened to his colleagues (from all parties) speak their memorials in the House of Commons, there were qualities that kept coming up … kindness, welcoming, generous, strong faith, honest, humble. As I read comments online from his constituents I found them to be the same. These are not normally qualities listed of one who is a politician.

Every time we saw Mark (or Diane) in public, it was as though he was seeing an old friend. That is how he made everyone feel … valuable, worthy, intimate.

Just months ago, as hubby was struggling in illness, Mark invited him out for a coffee, for conversation … an opportunity that again reinforced value, worth and intimate friendship (and blessed the heart of this wife).

In his own farewell speech in the House (just over a month ago), Mark challenged his colleagues and friends to, above all else, love each other.

On his Facebook page, announcing the end to his earthly life, is written:

“Mark’s favourite verse was John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Within that verse is the willing sacrifice of service, performed with the greatest serving of love, which results in life eternal in the constituency of the souls of heaven, lead by a gracious and generous king. This is Mark’s new home.

Well done good and faithful servant.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Why did Jesus take his disciples into Gethsemane to pray?

He knew they did not understand the gravity of that night. He knew they did not understand the cross he was to bear (literally and figuratively). He knew they would not stay awake with him.

So why did he take them into the garden that night? And why was he so obviously disappointed when they did what was natural, after a long day, after a feast?

I expect that Jesus was, quite simply, so sorrowful … he knew that one of his own was to betray him, that his human body would be tortured and broken, that he would die, that his father would turn his face from him … all so that these men, and humankind thereafter, would have the freedom to choose to keep watch or sleep.

I expect that he also had a lesson in mind for them … for us.

The Gospels tell us of Jesus responses to their garden napping:

“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 4“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41

“Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 3Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Mark 14:37-38

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” Luke 22:46

As we read the commonalities of the three passages there are three things that stand out to me:

  1. When Jesus asks why they are sleeping (and not ‘with’ him), I wonder if Jesus is reminded of a night when he was sleeping, and his disciples were sorrowful? That night on the Sea of Galilee, when the waves were rocking their boat, their world. When they were certain of their demise. And Jesus strolled across the Sea of Galilee and the waves calmed. He had been awake when their very life was at stake.
  2. After finding them asleep Jesus directs them to watch and pray. This is the lifejacket of every follower of Jesus … keep your eyes open, don’t get lazy in looking around, in praying. We stay awake to pray, we also pray to stay awake. We are more than mortal beings who need physical rest, we also need spiritual rest, but that rest comes through connection to God.
  3. Jesus tells them the consequence of not watching and praying … temptation. This, Jesus knows, is the reality of being fully human … the temptation of the flesh over the good intent of the God-infused spirit. In Romans 7:25 we see that Paul laments this reality, when he states, “with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my flesh the law of sin.” Thankfully, for the disciples, as well as us, to follow Jesus is to live under his grace.

It is interesting that John’s account of this event did not mention those things. Instead, John reflects on the prayer of Jesus, for his disciples. This makes me wonder … were all asleep?

“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” John 17:13-19

Read Full Post »

Sanctuary

The news of the murder of forty-nine Muslim worshippers, in their sanctuary, makes the hearts of all worshippers break … for we all know the vulnerability of associating with a belief.

The fact that these people were attacked in their place of worship, their sanctuary, makes it seem an even greater violation on humanity and of hatred.

A sanctuary is a safe place, a place where those who feel they may be persecuted or harmed may go to be protected from the world and it’s laws (separation of church and state in a very practical way). I cannot hear the word sanctuary without hearing Quasimodo declaring it in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

For blood to be shed in a sanctuary is a particularly devastating and cruel violence.

In January, bombs were detonated at a Catholic church in Jolo, Philippines, killing twenty-three. Last fall almost a dozen Jewish worshippers were killed at their Pittsburgh synagogue. An article at www.nbcnews.com documents numerous such killings over the past decade.

Sanctuary is not just a place, it is also a state of being … one that is birthed in our faith, one that is borne out of shalom, a peace that passes understanding.

The freedom of a sanctuary, freedom of religion is a precious gift. Our faith ought to be a place of sanctuary … our sanctuaries places of worship to the one in whom we have put our faith.

Freedom of religion is a gift that we have in many, but not all, places in the world. Even where we have been given that gift, it can still be violated.

So, what do we do about such hatred, such violation, such violence? We go to our sanctuaries, we pray, we worship … we take advantage of this freedom that we have. And we remember those who are hurting, those whose lives have been turned upside-down by such horrors.

We pray for them, we pray for us.

“Worshipers never leave church…
we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer

Read Full Post »

So there was a day of frustration, of sorrow, of hopelessness. A day I didn’t know what to do. Prayers had been prayed, with white-knuckle faith, with peace beyond human understanding. Chin up, saying my amens expecting the (right) answers any moment.

Nothing.

No grand answer to prayer … not even a hint that anyone was listening.

Ever been there?

Ever had your chin so far up that the air seemed too thin to provide the oxygen needed to breathe in, breathe out? Ever had your hands folded in prayer ’til they were so white-knuckled that their white-washed bones were shining through your paper-thin skin?

In frustration, in exasperation, as hope and faith fade and we cry out:

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?”

Psalm 13:1-2

Then, from my pit, I reached out to others, sharing my story, my struggle.

In just a few days, change dawned one morning. Complete, beautiful, better-than-I-could-have-hoped-for answer to prayer.

So, why? Why did the many months of prayers in faith result only in silence? Why did answers only come when I shared what was weighing on my mind and soul with others?

For an answer, lets look to Moses (Exodus 17:8-16).

While the Israelites were still wandering, they were attacked by Amalekites. So Moses told Joshua to choose some men to fight, and that he would stand at the top of the hill, with the staff of God raised above his head.

This all sounds a bit weird, except that this staff is the staff that could be thrown down and transform into a snake. It is the staff that tapped a rock and water came from it. It is the staff that was used to bring on the plagues of Egypt. It is the staff that parted the Red Sea. It is the staff of God.

So, as the story goes, as the staff was raised, the Israelites were winning, but whenever the staff lowered they began to take losses. Battles do not end in minutes, but hours and days, and Moses could only hold his arms up for so long. So, along came Aaron and Hur and they sat Moses on a large rock, and they stayed at each of his sides, helping to keep his arms held high.

“As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.”

Now when Moses raised the staff in the air it provided at least two purposes. One was that of a visual encouragement to those in battle. The other was that of intersession to God.

That staff had been the symbol of the presence of God for these wandering Jews. Moses lifting it up was not a power that Moses had in his own strength, but with the help of Aaron and Hur. Together they were holding the symbol of God’s power acknowledging that they did not have any power without God.1

Matthew Henry’s Commentary speaks of this intersession, and of the help Moses received from Aaron and Hur:

“We should not be shy either of asking help from others or giving help to others, for we are members one of another.”

We have, at our very hands and sides, people who can and will hold us up when we get tired, when we are weak. Others who are willing to intercede on our behalf. That is the encouragement, the help that we need when in the thick of life’s battles.


Read Full Post »

Wood Pile by Robert Ammon

“when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile”

and it all made sense.

The teacher was reading a picture book to the high school class for devotions, because sometimes the best stories were written for children … children who never grow up.

It was a story I was familiar with, one that I had read many time to our three, one that our family loved.

I am so familiar with the story I could retell it almost word for word. Yet … those words ignited my imagination as though for the first time.

The story is called A Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt. It is written as a folktale about three trees, and the hopes and dreams that they each have for their futures.

One dreams of holding treasure, the second of being a strong sailing ship and the third just dreams of spending her life growing tall and pointing to heaven.

Their dreams are not fulfilled as they had imagined. The one is roughly crafted into a box. The second into a boat. The third was cut into strong timbers, then left on the woodpile.

What happened next is, what Paul Harvey would call “the rest of the story”.

The first tree, crafted into a box, became a feed manger for animals, then, one night he was re-imagined into a bed for a newborn baby.

The second tree, a small fishing boat, full of passengers, encountered a terrible storm, one that surely could have toppled it, until one of those in the boat stood and demanded peace on the waters, and all was still.

The third tree …

“when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile”

she had been left on a wood pile, dreams and all.

All of a sudden I saw the faces of dear people in my life whose dreams have been left, forgotten like beams on a woodpile.

The woman whose husband died too soon. The lady whose dreams of motherhood just keep getting dashed. The one who just wants someone to come  home to each night. The one who wants health and happiness for her children. The one who …

Many of us have had seasons when we, too, have felt that our dreams and lives have been forgotten, left for dust to gather and hopes to fade.

Not only does it seem that our dreams are gathering dust, but that they (we) have been forgotten by the one who first placed the dreams within us.

Like the third tree, left on the wood pile, there was and is a plan … just not always in the timing or the one that we imagine. 

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,”
says the LORD. “
And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”
Isaiah 55:8


Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-10-24 at 6.50.51 AMI grew up on the east coast of Canada, with rolling hills, spectacularly colourful autumn foliage and green, lush valleys.

It is my understanding of the east coast valley that has created for me the imagery of a valley in Psalm 23.

lush.

soft shadows.

cool.

life-giving.

Recently I came across an article about a valley between Jerusalem and Jericho. There are parts of this valley where the cliffs on either side are so high that the sun only reaches the bottom when it is at it’s noontime high. Most of the day it is

dark,

cold,

and every sound reverberates eerily throughout the valley.

This valley sounds more like the Valley of dry bones that Ezekiel wrote about after having a hum dinger of a dream.

I wonder which valley David was thinking of, when he penned the twenty-third Psalm?

Recently I realized that I am like a lifeguard. When a crises or emergency occurs, I become a person of calm, of peace. I think clearly, I speak wisely (ok, that might be a stretch), I care for those who are hurting, I do what needs to be done. Basically, I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death with ease and peace … as though I am being guided, confidently, through this death valley by the Shepherd himself.

Then, days, weeks or months after the crises or emergency I go from strolling through the lush valley with my Shepherd, to fearfully stumbling in the shadows, feeling lifeless, scared and so very alone.

I think that, like myself (like you?) David experienced both types of valleys. He experienced the shadows, and the presence of the sun. He walked through lush green growth, and the dry rocky paths. He heard nothing but the echoes of his own fear-filled heartbeat, and the comforting whispers of the Shepherd.

The thing is, the Shepherd (God) was and is present in both the valley of Ezekiel and the gentle ones I knew growing up.

In the one, Ezekiel is given a vision, by God, of dry bones in the desert. God told Ezekiel that these bones are his people, who say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely” (37:11). That’s a dark valley! A dark, shadowy, fear-filled valley. We have all walked through that valley! Then God instructs Ezekiel, to tell them to live. He told him to say, “I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live” (37:5).

Those dry bones might be quite representative of me when I am stumbling through the dark, shadowy valleys, feeling scared and so very alone. The thing is, though, that shadows are not really something to be fearful of, for a shadow cannot cause us harm, and a shadow is evidence that light is present, for shadows do not exist where there is no light.

In David’s valley there is not just an awareness of the presence of God, but of him leading  the way through the valley. For some that very direct leading can happen right in the midst of walking through the shadow of death. For others it is in retrospect, looking back on that time living under the shadow, that one sees that they were never alone, that they too, were being led by God himself.

The shepherd is there with us, deep in the valley of the shadow of death. He is gently guiding, whispering to us to inhale the breath that makes dry bones come alive. He never leaves us alone, whether we see the fertile lushness of our valley, or it is a mirage that leaves us confused. He is healing our souls … our broken, dusty souls, with his healing presence. He nourishes us, right in sight of our enemies, showing evil that good is being restored.

I wonder …

could it be that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

that our Shepherd whispers sleep into our minds,

and while we are sleeping

our souls receive his refreshment from him?

Maybe, while our reality is the dark and deep crevasse, his presence transforms our souls to a restful, peaceful valley, where we can be restored.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
  He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Read Full Post »

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 5.49.15 PM

Just a year ago, the phone rang, as I sat, cross-legged, on our sofa, writing away, enjoying the new delight of not having to go to work on a Pro D day.

That phone ring, and the ensuing conversation, changed the trajectory of our lives, resulting in loss of work, long term illness, a move and more.

It was as if the world stopped spinning, as I unwittingly overheard the conversation on speaker phone and I knew that life was about to change and that hubby was entering the valley of the shadow. I also knew that no one enters it alone.

A rock, when dropped into water will cause the water around it to displace, circles of water pushing outwards, one wave at a time until the ripples quiet like the water furthest away. Like that rock, every action, or inaction in our lives has a ripple effect into the lives of others around us.

The thing is, that while the one who dropped the rock into the water moves on down the shore, forgetting the effect of their action, the ripples continue to form and move outward, farther and farther from the place/person of initial impact.

We all have, or have had events in our lives with ripple effects. We have all caused ripple effects in the lives of others. These realities are part of the human experience, the human reality of living in community.

This is why, at court proceedings, there are often victim impact statements that are read, preceding the sentencing of the accused. This is so that the judge, jury, but especially the accused is made aware of how far-reaching their action has gone. It is the stories of hurt and loss and struggle experienced not just by the victim, but those surrounding them.

Ripples, once started in water, cannot be stopped. Eventually they will dissipate as they move further and further from their origin, but to try to stop them by external means, only creates new ripples. Truly, once the rock touches the water, the effect can never be stopped, or reversed.

Such is the case with everything we say, or do … or don’t say, or don’t do. We are the ones responsible for throwing that rock into the water, whether we stand by and watch the waves grow ever farther outward, or keep walking along the shore, unaware of the waves we started.

“I will call upon your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves”
Hillsong United

“We are none of us cast adrift, if we have faith.
In the cross, we find our anchor.”
Monica Joan Call the Midwife

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Amazing Tangled Grace

A blog about my spiritual journey in the Lord Jesus Christ.

FisherofMen

Cast The Net To Rescue Those In Need

Following the Son

One man's spiritual journey

Fortnite Fatherhood

A father's digital age journey with his family and his faith

Tribes of Love

Love, Fearlessly.

Frijdom

encouraging space to think deeply

His Wings Shadow

Trust ~ Delight ~ Commit ~ Rest

Perfect Chaos

God's Perfect Purpose in a Chaotic World

Life- All over the map

A family journey through childhood cancer and around the world

A L!fe Lived

seeking the full life that only Jesus offers

J. A. Allen

Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins

The Mustard Seed Kingdom

A Blog of the Evangelical Anabaptist Partners

Brittany Wheaton

reflections on living intentionality and soulfully in the midst of the grind

The Wild Heart of Life

"He was unheeded, happy, and near to the wild heart of life." ...James Joyce