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Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

What or who do we rely on?

Our human existence is one of reliance.

We are born helpless, crying out for someone to meet our every need from food, to protection, to direction. As we grow into independence, what we really do is transfer our reliance from mother/caregiver to friends and lovers, spouses and even to our own children. In later years many revert to their newly born state of helpless reliance …

human life is the ultimate chiastic structure, where the beginning and ending mirror each other, both symmetrically moving to and from the mid point with similar characteristics

For any human to think that independence is actually possible, is fooled.

As a newborn, our dependence is based on the choice and will of another. Often this is similar as we age toward the end of our earthly existence. In the realm of cause and effect, so much of life can be shaped by on whom this dependence, this reliance falls. Into adulthood we choose on whom to rely and we must rely cautiously, as these individuals are also powerful in influencing our life to come.

In the book called Letters to an American Lady, CS Lewis wrote:

“… the thing is to rely only on God …

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble,” says the Psalmist (46:1).

Jeremiah (29:11) tells us that “he has plans for us.”

Moses tells us in Exodus (14:14) that “he will fight for us.”

Isaiah (41:13) reminds us that “he is the one who helps.”

Again the Psalmist (118:8) says, “it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”

God is our constant. The one who is with us even before the wool has been cast on the needles of our pre-birth existence. It is he who is right beside us, all the days of our life. It is he, whose face will see when the breath of our life has exhaled it’s last. On him we can rely.

CS Lewis continues:

” … the trouble is that relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done …”

God has always been, will always be right at our sides, yet our reliance on him is like our human reliance on water. It is said that depending on a few factors (such as age, gender, health, etc.) a human can live only about three days without water. Our very life is dependent on it. For the sake of our very life, we must have water.

Our reliance on God is similar. We must rely on him daily, newly every day. Not relying on our connection to him yesterday to live our life today, but deeply connected, consciously rooted to him each day.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8

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The clock glowed 5:00 in the dark bedroom. Not a sound from hubby beside me, or the Wonderdog in his bed at the foot of our bed. Yet, my heart’s beat was pounding in my ears. The sleep cycle of my day was done, whether I wanted it to be or not.

As expected, the change in my breathing from slumber to awake alerted the dog that it must be time to start the day, so as I exited the room, my shadow followed closely behind me.

Dark.

The house was dark, even in the familiar descent down the stairs all that was familiar was covered in almost complete blackness.

We walked outside into the cold air, my skin immediately contracting from the chill, the Wonderdog immediately in need of just the right slice of grass to let loose his waterworks.

Coffee was brewed, the dish on the floor filled with kibble, we ascended the stairs to the cozy chair, the light box turned on and laptop in my hands, to tap out the wonderings in my early morning mind.

Immersed in my tapping until suddenly I turned towards the window. Sure enough the blackness was fading, lightening the sky with ombre blues.

I smiled.

Though it is lovely to see the sun setting later in the day, it is it’s earlier rising that thrills my solar-powered self the most. This morning light fuels me with a foundation of light for whatever the rest of the day might hold.

It is the foundation of hope that returns, day after day, year after year. Yet, it is in spring that we are reminded of the hope that rises early, like the sun in spring.

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: 
The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, 
Fresh as the morning,
as sure as the sunrise.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

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I love the image of the sign (left). The more I look at it, the more I nod in agreement with what it is communicating,

It makes me think of the story of Job, his friends and God.

Job’s love and commitment to God was exemplary. As a matter of fact, the text says he was blameless. God offered him up to Satan himself, as one whose inner love for his God would not be swayed by outer devastation.

gotta say, this premise always make me feel such angst

So, Job lost everything … children, livestock, crops, health. All he was left with was his wife, his friends and God (who seemed to be silent).

As Job sat on his dung pile, scraping the sores of his skin with clay shards, weeping, agonizing, listening for the voice of God … the only sound was that of his wife (who suggested he curse God and die) and his friends.

Now his friends had probably been with him all of his life. It was in Uz (possibly in the area of modern day Syria or Jordan) where they had probably played as boys. These friends had watched Job grow up. They knew that he was a good man, who treated people respectfully, who had conducted business fairly, who was truly blameless. They knew him.

This background may have built the foundation for false assumptions. Assumptions such as God blessed Job because Job was blameless. They undoubtedly had developed the misconception that God blesses the good, and therefore, curses the bad.

And that was their point of attack. Rather than lament with Job, they blame him.

The three accused Job of some type of sin that he needed to admit and repent of so that he would again receive God’s blessing. They believed (as so many of us do at times in our lives) that there is a formula for success and if Job was in the midst of curses, there must be something in his life that is wrong/sinful.

Once they have spoken their encouragement to Job, then God speaks to Job … and I am pretty sure that God is wagging his finger at him, but then he addresses Job’s friends and their judging of how God decides who is blessed and who is cursed:

“After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me” (Job 42:7)

Our job, as was Job’s, is to be faithful with what God has given to us, be it people, possessions, passions or power. Our job is to love God, to love others. God will look after judgements, blessings and curses.

He will sort’em out later.

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There is simply nothing better, more delightful than when someone lets you know that they are or have been thinking of you. That declaration can keep one going for days and days. There is something almost mystic about it. Possibly the significance of such a statement is because we did nothing to deserve another’s attention. It just happened … as if the stars fell into place, as if God himself whispered your name into the heart of another.

The older I get, the more such happenings I have been the recipient of, the more I am encouraged to do the same … send a note, a card, an email, a text … whatever it takes to communicate that one’s name has been mysteriously on my heart, in my mind and I wanted them to know.

A number of days ago I was feeling in the dumps (as we all do at times … such is part of our human condition). Then I remembered a photo I had taken quickly, but never looked at afterwards. I scrolled through my photos and located the image I remembered being wowed at … the sun was rising from behind the mountains and a beam of light was shining through the clouds. That image had brought a smile when I saw it … that morning, but also this grey day (inside and out).

I remember that day because I remember smiling, then speaking out loud, “thanks God.”

Moments of natural beauty, for me, are like whispers of God, saying,

I am thinking of you

You are on my mind

I am here with you

They are manna from heaven that satiates the hunger pains in my soul.

My phone is full of such photos. Their quality is not great, but they are like the stones that the Israelite tribes gathered from the middle of the Jordan as they passed through the river (Joshua 4:1-7). They carried them to the bank on the other side, leaving them as a reminder to future generations of God’s faithfulness … that God was thinking of them.

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How is it that emotions, so deep they are hidden by a smile and surface contentment …

And an object, a word, a deed …

meet at an unforeseen intersection, and that which has been hidden, deep …

rises with a cloudburst, pouring from one’s eyes, one’s soul?

I was contented, not melancholy, when I began reading,

Psalm 90

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.

(v. 1-2)

And like that, the invisible clouds on a sunny day burst forth a deluge down my cheeks.

I read it again, cheeks wet still.

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been my home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.

The tears were not easy to understand, to interpret. They simply brought something to the surface, something deep from within.

I read it again,

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been my home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.

Over and over and over again, I read … seeking cues in the pathways of my heart.

The words on the page brought comfort.

Stability, assurance, hope.

The trinity of comfort.

This is what a life’s walk with one’s God brings. And now I have walked long enough to see his hand, his footprints along the way. Always right beside me.

I see the Good Shepherd,

staff at the ready to protect me

cloak right there to shield me

presence always beside me.

The unexpected emotions, tears … they were Him, whispering words of love.

Lord, through all the generations
    you have been my home!
Before the mountains were born,
    before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
    from beginning to end, you are God.

Amen

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Here in our Pacific Northwest corner of the Canadian world, we celebrated Family Day yesterday.

It’s a holiday when schools and businesses are closed. It is on the calendar right between the end of the Christmas break and start of the Spring one. In our pre-pandemic life people might have prepared a weekend away, activities to do as families, or a meal together.

For many, everyday has been family day since about mid-March, 2020, when so much of what was normal closed, cancelled or became restricted. Family homes became hubs of every area of life, from meals, to work, to school, to entertainment and sports and the arts.

But there have been other families for whom family day would have different reflections of the past year. The inability to physically be near, to hug, to hold the hand of an older parent or grandparent, or spouse. The restrictions on travel, or border crossing that have prevented families at a distance from drawing near. The loss of the life of a loved one.

Yesterday, as I looked at our family photo, I looked at the faces of my family. Each one of those faces is an individual with different gifts, struggles and purposes. Each one of them hand-picked for our family, for each other. Sometimes we need a day to reflect and remember the gifts that are those who make up our family. It can be a day to connect (in person, or afar), a day to pray for each one, thanking God for them.

“What can you do to promote world peace?
Go home and love your family.”
Mother Teresa

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The day of love has arrived … so says our calendar.

Flowers, chocolates, lingerie, jewellery, cards and more are purchased as declarations of our love. Dinner reservations (or home deliveries) are made, candles are lit, chilled drinks poured into stemmed glasses … all to show and celebrate love for someone close to our hearts.

I’m kinda lucky, because my special guy got me freshly fallen snow … could there be a better Valentine’s gift?

The following three verses about love are probably the most frequently quoted love verses in the Bible.

1 Corinthians 13:13
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Matthew 22:37-39
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

John 13:34-35
A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”

The first, written by Paul to the Corinth church. He is instructing the believers in this community on what is important in how to live as followers of Christ.

The second are from the lips of Jesus. He reminds us that we are first to love God, then others. It is through our love of God that we have the capacity to love each other.

The third were the words of Jesus on the night before his death … after the foot washing, after Judas left the room. These were his closest followers, who would build his church on the foundation of these words.

The thing is the word love in each and every use in these verses, is the Greek word agape.

agape is the love to die for …

more specifically,

it’s the love that would die for you

Agape love is unconditional, self-sacrificing, never-ending. It is the highest form of love, the most difficult love to give, the most innately sought. As humans, I believe we were created longing for that love … it is in our DNA to seek it … for it is how our Creator-Father loves us.

Agape love costs nothing, and everything.

It takes no time, yet all of our time.

It requires that we just be ourselves, yet, in our own strength we cannot love like that.

It is the sum total of the reason for the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus … for his Father (He) loved the world so much that he gave so that we would live (John 3:16).

Agape love is to love as does not come natural for us, as humans, for it requires that we say and do things that we do not want to … because someone else needs to receive … and their need, seen through the eyes and heart of agape love (God’s eyes and heart) trump our own.

As we declare our love for those around us, today, may our words and deeds be in line with the unconditional, self-sacrificing, never-ending love that God has modelled for us.

love, as I have loved you

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I am a Christian, a Christ-follower, a disciple of Jesus, a child of the King of Creation … but …

I am not the one to follow

Though I have never killed anyone, I have the capacity to destroy another … with my actions, my words. I am human, in every good, bad and ugly way.

I have blown my top, been insensitive, laughed at jokes that I shouldn’t have, spoken of someone rudely in their absence, practised pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, and sloth … and these are just the things I am willing to admit publicly!

I have disappointed my share of people, from strangers to ones I say I love. I have broken hearts, been deceptive and vile, embarrassed myself and those I care about. I have misrepresented Christ …

so. many. times.

That is why you should not follow me on a good day … because I am far too fallible to follow.

I will disappoint you … because I have done that to others.

I will seem to be a hypocrite … because I done that too.

So if, on a good day, you think, wow! Now she is a good person, woman, Christian to follow …

DON’T DO IT!

Don’t follow me! For I am so lost too.

Often we hear of someone who has claimed the name of Christ(ian) but has lived a life that would seem to be contrary to what they say, how Jesus lived, what the Bible teaches. Or they might be quick to speak the name of Christ in public, while their private (real) life would indicate a den of lies. Or, perhaps they are a public or religious leader whose human sinning in the dark has had light shone on it, proving them to be a hypocrite.

We have all heard of such imposters. We have all heard, or said, in response, how could they? They should have known better. They are phoney, deceitful, hypocrites.

Such falls from grace can leave people running away from them, but also away from God.

I know that my heart, and soul, and intent, and tongue, and habits, and tendencies are so naturally sinful, ill-intended and imperfect. So we have to be careful when condemning they for …

there but for the grace of God go I.

Let me suggest who to follow?

All the nasty, disillusioning, mean-spirited, hypocritical, black-as-sin characteristics that are part of who I am … are as if they never happened … in the eyes of the God who I follow.

He has redeemed me, made me whole, clean. God sees me only through the sacrifice of his Son over me. My sin was absorbed in this sacrifice, granting me the availability of grace, mercy and forgiveness. Not because I deserve it, but because that was His gift of hope to us.

” … we have an advocate before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”
1 John 1-2

I desire to love my God, to imitate His life, to live my life as his follower, but I am frail, weak and so easily swayed.

I am not the one to follow

for I am lost too.

But I know who to follow!

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
Romans 12:3

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February … the month of love …

As I drove to work yesterday I voiced three voice texts, one to each of our adult kids. It has become a (mostly) weekly ritual, so that I am being intentional about connecting with them, wishing them a good week and reminding them they are loved.

As I finished the third voice-to-text, I laughed out loud. Our son’s text was longer than to our two daughter’s for it included, and don’t forget to clean your bathroom.

I love you and don’t forget to clean your bathroom …

This is the struggle of loving each other up close and personal, under the same roof. It is where my business is your business and love is often interpreted as putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher, making a B+ (or higher) grade meal (family joke), not letting the dog on the bed, spraying the bathroom before you leave it and don’t forget to clean your bathroom … because we have to cohabitate together.

Living together means love isn’t just heart-warming words, kisses in the moonlight or sharing an episode of the Mandalorian together … it is living out our love as respect and service to each other.

And that’s the tough where the rubber meets the road truth.

Loving words are important, are good to share. They can be the gas that keeps love on the road. But our daily deeds, done in love are the oil which reduces the friction of bumping up against each other everyday. No love vehicle can stay on the road without both.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18

… by the way, I came home to a sparkling clean bathroom

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As I opened the blinds the quarter moon shone clearly. A further glance and sure enough, the stars were shining brightly.

A clear moon and stars in this Pacific Northwest part of the Earth can only mean one thing … the temperatures are dropping.

The house feels the chill this early Sunday morning … yet, I cannot bring myself to turn my light therapy box (a great help these past two dark winters when SAD (seasonal affective disorder, better known as it’s dark outside and I am solar-powered … help!).

The light of the moon and the stars brightens my mood naturally.

Yet, this clear sky, it comes at a cost … it is cold outside. The meteorologists are predicting an arctic airflow coming from the North East … meaning bone-chilling cold as well as winds that deliver a chilly punch.

It reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3. The list of life’s opposite realities. This list of a time to … is a list created by the reality of living in our sin-filled world. This is the list that God did not create, was not the life that He designed, but the reality formed in the pit of sin. He did not create us to die, to war, to weep … yet these are the dark and stormy nights of life as we know it.

Verse 11 of that chapter reminds of his love for humanity,

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart …”

Which reminds me of Augustine’s well-known declaration, “O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In Longfellow’s poem, The Rainy Day, he describes (so very well … I think he must have lived it) the struggles of the cold, and dark, and dreary (day, how) it rains, and the wind is never weary. The final verse of his poem, though, reminds us of the reality of these dark cloud seasons :

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall


We may currently live in the dark and cold, but when these cold winds blow in, the moon and stars shine all the brighter … reminders to us of what is to come, of the hope that still exists.

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