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Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 10.36.09 AMOne would have to have been living under a rock to have not been aware of the royal wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle yesterday.

There was pomp and circumstance, movers and shakers in many arenas, delightful children being … children, spectacular music and decor, the exchange of rings and vows and even a rather evangelistic message of love and redemption.

The vows that were made were simple, traditional and sombre (serious). There were vows spoken by many before them, from the most prosperous to the lowest pauper. Perhaps that universality is what makes them as significant as the promises themselves, for the effort to keep such vows is as daunting for all, no matter their circumstance.

A vow is many things. It is a promise, but more than that it is a pledge, a commitment, a dedication, a pledge … a guarantee. When one makes such a vow, as one at a wedding, one is saying,

I will see this happens, until death.

Vows are not necessarily a mandatory custom of marriages all over the world. Nor are they legally binding. So, why say them?

Tradition is probably the main reason that many people still respond to or repeat in their wedding ceremonies. Yet, is that all that wedding vows are for those who repeat or speak them?

In the Bible, vows were addressed, by Moses,

“This is what the Lord commands:
When a man makes a vow to the Lord
or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge,
he must not break his word
but must do everything he said.”
Numbers 30:1-2

This message from God reminds us that the words we speak, whether to God or another promise or pledge, is a serious commitment, and must be honoured. Truly we could say that this scripture is the same message as the phrase, my word is my bond, which is “used to indicate that one will always do what one has promised to do” (Mirriam-Webster).

Our vows, spoken in a wedding ceremony, are not just words of tradition, but words of the will. We rise each day willing ourselves to fulfil them, in honour of our word.

May God grant Harry and Meghan, may God grant us all, strength and will to do what has been said … as long as they, as shall live.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 8.54.33 PMI bought a book recently. Not one off a bidding site, or Craigslist or at a thrift store. I bought this book, with not a hint of a bend in the spine. I even had to order and then wait over a week for it to arrive. It doesn’t smell dusty or musty. It was brand new …

So, why?

I had come across an article about a new book, by Barbara Brown Taylor. In here book, she says,

“this is not the life I planned …
and the central revelation in it for me –
that the call to serve God is first and last
the call to be fully human”

And so, the next day, I ordered the book.

And as I read a chapter, a page, a paragraph, a line … I sigh and groan, for I am reminded that I am a mere human, and that is all God has called me to be.

To be fully human is to feel fully all of the joys and sorrows of our human existence. It is to taste the sweet as well as the sour. It is to sometimes gain, and sometimes lose. As Brown-Taylor says, “loss is how we come to surrender our lives” … our fully human lives.

Her words remind me of the words of Jesus (Matthew 10:39):

“Whoever finds their life will lose it,
and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

In the Expositor, Plato quotes a paradox from a lost book of Euripides:

“Who knows if life be not death, and death life ?”

We live, each day, knowing that the reality of being fully human means that we are frail, with Earthly bodies, with an end hear on Earth. To acknowledge our mortality is to begin to live with purpose, to live his purpose for our lives.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 1:21

 

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Though NO ONE would ever want to hear me sing, I do so love to sing at church. Then, a couple of months ago, I found that I couldn’t sing at a church service.

It wasn’t that I was unfamiliar with the songs. It’s not that I had laryngitis or another such ailment. It’s that I couldn’t sing the words anymore. It was as though my voice refused to go through the motions.

The next week was worse. Not only could I not sing, but my throat got involved with a very hard lump … resting right in the middle of my throat.

The Sunday following was the height (or depth) of my non-worship ability, for this week my emotions joined in, along with my tear ducts. As soon as the worship began, as soon as I was on my feet, I knew I was in trouble. My knees weakened, lump lodged in throat, emotions accelerating my heartbeat, tear ducts filling and ready to flood down my red-hot cheeks.

I could not sing … I couldn’t even stay in the room.

So I left until I knew that singing was completed, until I had control over my voice, emotions, heart and tear ducts.

Driving to work, a few days later, I heard the lyrics of a song that filled me with guilt.

“how can I keep from singing Your praise”

Why do I share this? I mean … it’s kind of personal, right?

I was recently reminded of Psalm 13. This is David’s famous lament … this is David’s finest psalm/song (my opinion).

In this Psalm, David is not in a happy-clappy worship mood. He is, as Anne of Green Gables would say, in the depths of despair, and he is not hiding it from God. He actually accuses God of “forgetting him”. He demands, of God, “look at me”.

David is filled with sorrow, and not holding it’s reality back from God.

And that is what God desires of us, that we not hold back our sorrow from him. As Matthew Henry’s Commentary says,

“The bread of sorrow is sometimes the saint’s daily bread.
Our Master himself was a man of sorrows.”

God can hear our sorrows, despair and demands … he is one who knows sorrow all too well. He can empathize like no other.

When things go poorly in my life, I tend to respond well, optimistic and strong in the initial days and weeks of the struggle (I often think I would make a good first responder). But patience is not my strong point, and when the struggle drags on … I tend to loss hope, and need to, once again, cry out to God … to really cry out to God.

Those weeks of struggle to sing my praises to God … those were my season of silent lament to God. I got real with him … and God that is what God desires most.

And as I move through this season, I will, as did David, complete my lament with singing.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to
me.”
Psalm 13:5-6

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Attachment-1Though their flowers are delicate, the Magnolia is a very hardy tree. It is believed, the Magnolia existed before bees, as it is pollinated by beetles. This stately tree represents long life, beauty, innocence, joy and good health.

Years ago I received a magnolia tree from my kids, on the first Mother’s Day gift at our present house. At the time, it stood about four feet tall. Now, as the image (above) shows, it has grown to over twelve feet in it’s present location.

As I took time, a few days ago, to appreciate it’s physical and scented beauty, my mind drifted over my stages of mothering, since it was lowered into it’s present earthen home.

Fourteen years ago, our three children were eleven, seven and four. We moved into this house with three children, toys, bedtimes and dreams.

We snuggled on the couch to watch animated movies, read stories at bedtimes, kissed ‘owies‘ to make them feel better, swam in the pool all summer long and rode sleds on the steep driveway in winter.

Those were beautiful years of mothering, for whatever nasties arose during the day were gone by bedtime. Of course they were also draining years, as the demand for mom was a constant (what mom has not marvelled at how her children can be seated with dad, yet they will yell to mom that they are hungry?).

Those beautiful years were followed by the years of increasing homework, school and community sports and clubs, sleep-overs, friendship stretches and struggles, playing kick the can in the streets and memorable family vacations.

Those were the years of two steps out and one back, growing into the local communities of neighbourhood, school and church, looking for affirmation from peers, yet still a strong need to return, to be held, to non-verbally ask to be reminded of their value in their mom’s eyes.

Then came the teen years into the twenties. These were (are) the independent years of becoming their own selves,  individuals, separate from their place and people of origin. Everything from relationships, to music, to clothing, to future plans screamed ‘I am an autonomous human being’ .

During these independent years their dad and I wondered if we might sever our tongues for biting them so frequently. They have also been the years when sometimes my job was just to listen (no advice sought, just a safe, listening ear). Sometimes I have also had to give a boost … like when they were still littles and needed a boost to start sledding down the snow-covered driveway. Sometimes the boost is just that age-old mom cheer of ‘you can do it‘. Sometimes the boost is one to say, ‘move on, from where you are’.

My beautiful magnolia tree, that gift from those who call me mom, mum, momma, has grown strong and tall, like my once littles. It has grown alongside my creations. And like it, they will continue to grow … their roots reaching into new soil. My prayer is that they would grow toward the light of life.

 

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A beautiful spring Saturday, and I was completely unaware of what I was missing outside, as I wrapped and packed framed photos. It took far longer to pack up these personal items, for each image took my mind back to a time gone by. I kept hearing the words “packing up the dreams” (Michael W. Smith) playing over and over in my mind.

In a number of weeks I will go through this all over again, in reverse.

Times of life transition are like my picture-packing experience. We look ahead with excitement and fear, we look back with longing and thankfulness. We look ahead, and feel that life is moving too slow, we look back and feel life has moved too fast.

The words of Hebrew 13:8 have been echoing in my mind and heart over these past months of numerous life transitions:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”

These are not just nice, fluffy words, they are a promise to humanity for all time.

The yesterday is not just twenty-four hours ago, but every yesterday that has ever passed. Jesus Christ has always been, as he is.

The forever spoken of is just that, every day from this point forward.

He was, is and will always be the same, and he was, is and will always be with us. No changing, no transitions … just the same.

Though I am a lover of, an adrenaline junky for change, knowing that Christ was, is and will forever be the same gives me more comfort and peace than could any other.

And so, as I pack up these dream that God planted, I do so with the assurance that Christ, who lives in me, is the same no matter where I am going.

That should comfort all who are in the season of transition.

 

 

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I was feeling let down, disappointed, upset … irritated to my core.

The situation was irritating myself and those who I love most (who may or may not know what it was that was causing the irritation) … and it was that, the irritation of those I love, that was really getting under my skin. I was full of why questions, and tempted to pick up the phone and take matters into my own hands.

and then someone did a devotion on pearls.

Pearls are my most favourite precious gems. I have more (faux) pearls than any other gem, stone or metal. I love that they can be worn with everything from the most formal of gowns to a pair of jeans. I love their uniform uniqueness. I love the gentle way they catch ones eye.

To me, pearls are the perfect gem.

But, their beauty did not come easily.

According to the American Museum of Natural History  “a pearl forms when an irritant such as a wayward food particle becomes trapped in the mollusk. The animal senses the object and coats it with layers of aragonite (“ah-RAG-uh-nite”) and conchiolin ( “KON-kee-uh-lin”). These two materials are the same substances the animal uses to build its shell.”

So, I guess we could say that the oyster gets something irritating under it’s skin shell, and, rather than just fuming about it, the oyster takes that irritant and focuses it’s energies on converting the irritant into something … less irritating (and more beautiful).

Beauty from irritation …

We like to think that our lives are “blessed” if we are healthy and happy. Yet wisdom does not come from a life experience of “easy street”, it comes from the hard stuff, the tough stuff … a life’s experiences with irritants. It is that which makes us uncomfortable, saddened and heartbroken that polishes our sharp edges, that makes us beautiful in wisdom.

“the price of wisdom is above pearls.”
Job 28:18

 

 

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Walking the hallways of my workplace, one might confuse the high school for a hunting, fishing and camping warehouse store. The theme of this particular dress-up day was camouflage.

The purpose of camouflage wear is to … camouflage oneself into the outdoors environment. It can allow a person to not be visible to others. Camouflage can hide a person from the creature one is hunting.

Reflective wear is different. It is worn to alert others to one’s presence. It is to keep the wearer safe and visible. When one wears reflective wear while hunting it is to alert other hunters to their presence.

Later I thought about camo and reflective wear in terms of our Christian walk. One being to help us blend in and the other to help us stand out. The thing is, as followers of Christ, we have not been called to blend in, but to stand out.

“Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind …”

This transformation process is like the metamorphosis that a caterpillar goes though to emerge as a butterfly … no longer who or what it once was. The transformation is complete, and it is a new creature who emerges. So too, accepting the love of God into our lives changes us, transforming us into someone who 1 Peter 2:9 (some versions) calls peculiar.

This transformation is life changing. It affects every part of our who we are. It is something that happens instantaneously and day by day, all at the same time.

God does not call us to be his own, yet to blend in so well that he is not visible. We are to reflect the one who made us his own.

 

 

 

 

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