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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

IMG_4462An early morning drive to take my son to his weekend job at a camp out of town was such a gift as the weekend began, and the previous week came to a close.

As I returned home yesterday, under the cobalt blue sky, as I absorbed the serenity of the silence in the vehicle, as I reflected on the week, I realized how many times I had experienced something like kisses blown from heaven, and was completely unaware.

When the week began I had a plan of self preservation, to ensure that I would not be working on empty. Within hours of deciding on my plan, it became apparent that my plan was thwarted before I even gave it breath.

Isn’t that a common human experience?

Don’t we all have days, times, situations
when our plans for good are halted?

Don’t such times
just make us throw our hands up
to the heavens in frustration? defeat?

The rest of the week passed … a week of  living for the weekend.

(don’t tell me you’ve never had one of those)

It wasn’t until I was contentedly driving home alone, until I whispered one sentence …

I so needed this drive full of visual beauty …

And, like a light being turned on in a dark room, pushing all that hindered full sight of what the room contained, the blessings of the week came into full view.

  • the end of the horrible, awful, terrible cold early in the week
  • the celebration of our son’s birthday with he and his friend
  • the laughter in the kitchen one night as our daughter regaled us with a spider story
  • attending the birthday party of a long since graduated student
  • the words of affirmation and thanks from another long since graduated student
  • a forecast of sun, sun, sun
  • the warmest greetings from a mom I barely know, whose daughter graduated with ours
  • an unsigned, cheery postcard in the mail

Each event, as I reflected, were like lightly placed kisses on ones forehead. The kind that  are more about adoration than passion, more about giving than taking, sometimes barely felt at all … yet they build up, are more intimate and last longer than any other.

Though we can interpret each of these events as simply just individual events, just the happenstance of life, there is more benefit from them, more purpose and life-giving in them if we can see them as (I believe with everything in my being) the gestures of love from a very loving God, who desires that we see his love and care for us as constant, as abundant.

And so, I look back at the events of this week and I can see the love my heavenly father has for me.

May I prompt you to also look back at your week, and see if you too were so busy living life that your missed the kisses blown from heaven into your week.

“For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah 3:17

 

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Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 6.54.35 AM.pngIn Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving this coming weekend.

It is my most favourite holiday of the year, for it is always good to be reminded to give thanks … and there is always something to be thankful for.

Over the past number of weeks I have encountered, in a handful of places and ways, St. Ignatius’ prayer of Examen, and I find it to be a good outline for sincerely thankful prayer.

Ignatius of Loyola was born, in Spain, in the late fourteen hundreds and lived into the mid fifteen hundreds. He was a Catholic Priest who founded the Jesuits. The Prayer of Examen is from his book The Spiritual Exercises.

The Prayer of Examen is not rote but is reflective and personal/intimate.

The steps and order of prayer are as follows (from http://www.ignatianspirituality.com):

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
5. Look toward tomorrow.

Basically one starts out seeking God’s presence. Really this is more about us entering consciously, into his presence, then it is he entering into ours, for he is always with us … we simply are not always aware of this fact.

Then you look over your day, noticing all in it that you are thankful for.

Though we Christians do not normally put much stock into our emotions, and many would even say to not trust them. Yet God can speak to us in our feelings of joy, sorrow, melancholy, fear and anger. He may even awaken us, through the noting of our emotions of the day, to act in some way.

Then, choose one specific part of the day, it will come to you, to specifically pray about. Perhaps it will prompt to make an apology, a confession, a dinner for a friend in need.

Finally, pray for the day to come. For strength, for courage, for wisdom.

(click here for more details on how to pray the Examen).

Basically such reflective, personal prayer can not only be relevant when praying, but throughout the day, as our reflections begin to make us aware of God’s presence in all of our days. We can become sensitive to God’s presence in our life, in our days, not just when our head is bowed, or hands lifted in praise but when we are paying the bills, running kids to soccer and dance, standing in line at the grocery store.

It can convert us to followers of God who are intimately aware of his presence in every part of our day,  not just the times we bow our heads.

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They are with us from birth to death, from morning to night.

Tears. The overflowing of moisture from the eyes which originate in their very own ducts, prompted to release and overflow in the presence of pain, or joy, or sorrow, or strong scents or strong emotions.

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Increases in the hormone estrogen can encourage their release, and an increase of progesterone can dry them up.

The Bible speaks, numerous times of tears in relation to Jesus.

From the prophesy in Isaiah 53:3, we know that well before his birth, Jesus the Messiah was to be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief”. Tears were in the cards for him, right from the beginning.

Interesting, though, that in Revelation, it is not the tears of Jesus that are spoken of, but those of us, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

The shortest verse in the Bible has to do with tears … and Jesus. John 11:35 tells us that “Jesus wept.” Short and to the point, those two words remind us of Christ’s humanity, and of our being like him in our weeping.

When Jesus wept, he did so upon entering the home of Lazarus and finding him to be dead. Though he knew that he could and would raise Lazarus from the dead, facing his friends sorrow, over the corpse of their mutual friend … a corpse is always the symbol of a world in need of a bloody Saviour. So, he wept. He wept for the women there, for Lazarus dead before him, for sin that had swept, uninvited, into the world, for humanity whose only chance was a redeemer. And he wept.

That is not the end of our tear-jerking moments in the Bible, for our tears are of great importance to our God, for he not only sees and hears our cries, but, You (He) keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8).

tears

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

 

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As I walk through the high school I work in I pass dozens (hundreds) of faces each day. When I am cognizant, when I am not so wrapped up in my own thoughts, I see the faces more clearly.

I see the big smiles, the laughter, I see the eyes that resist making contact, the faces that are hidden by their downward stare, the eyes that look right through me …

and I wonder, what is their story? what are they dealing with?

During these times when I am alert to those who pass by in the hallways, I am reminded of how significant the insignificant can be, for those who might have a story that is hard, heavy.

To step aside, so they can pass, to hold a door, to smile, to say good morning, to pick up the pencil that fell from their laden arms …

these are the wordless ways we can whisper to another,

you matter

someone cares

someone notices

someone has empathy for you

In Romans 12:15, Paul reminds of a profound teaching, that we are all expected to practise:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep” 

We are to not just co-exist with one another, but we are to share life together. We are not just to share life together, but we are to experience, to feel the joys and struggles of each other.

empathy

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Screen Shot 2018-09-22 at 4.52.03 PMThe leaves are changing, falling.

The sun struggles to come up, rushes to go back down.

The birds fly, no longer lazily on their own, but determinedly with others.

Air is not longer stifling, motionless, but moving and with a chill.

The season of harvest is coming to an end.

Autumn has fallen onto our laps.

It is a season of change.

About a year ago I sat in a coffee shop, sipping a warm drink with a woman of great character, reputation and heart. We shared stories of our children, our hubbies, ourselves. We listened, we laughed, we shared what God was teaching us.

It was then that I shared a secret that I felt that God had been whispering to me. I told her of how for days, weeks really, I had a sense of change in the air. Not just change, but a sense of foreboding, that what might be coming might also not be desired, good, or pleasant. That was not all, I also had the most unexpected sense of peace.

Change, whether in the form of seasons of the year, or seasons of life, is inevitable and carries with it both anticipation and dread. Change means our normal is no longer our normal.

There is something interesting in the falling of leaves. Their falling is ultimately caused by lack of daylight, which signals change to the trees. The minerals in the leaves travel to the branches. Eventually the leaves change color, then fall, leaving the tree naked and lifeless … just what it needs to be as it enters the dormant winter season. Then, as winter comes to an end, those stored minerals do their work, and buds form on the branches, heralding new life, a new season.

Changes in our lives can also seem to usher us into dark, lifeless, or dormant seasons. Yet, we can be assured that there is always a spring that follows the darkness, the cold of winter.

“For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.”
Psalm 66:10

 

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Early Sunday morning I read the quote (above) by Saint John Chrysostrom. Hours later, as I lifted the communion cup to my lips, his words remerged in my mind.

do I see Christ in the beggar at the door? in the homeless in the park? in the addict standing in front of me?

Typically I would say yes.

I am one who has given money, smiles and run to the store for a bag of food for the beggar, the homeless, the addict. I have included and encouraged our kids to do the same. I have felt a peace that passes all human understanding as one of our daughters has worked with women in addiction and is now on a committee in her community regarding the opiod epidemic.

I am not saying all of this to pat myself on the back, for what I am about to share with you I do so with head bowed low, humbled by my inactions, paralysis of body, mind and … soul.

It was just over a year ago that I was on the Lower East Side of Vancouver. An area rich in the history of Vancouver, BC, and poor in almost every other way. It is a community of contrasts with tourist shops galore, trendy and expensive shops, and tasty eateries alongside the homeless, the beggars, prostitutes, and addicts shooting up right before your eyes on the sidewalks.

As I walked on the sidewalks that day I chatted with a homeless man about his gorgeous, well brushed dog, a toothless woman with a generous smile and a man who I made eye contact with, who said, “God bless you” to me. For balance I also said “sorry, I just gave away my last coin” to a man who was begging, who told me to “F–K off.”

Gotta love when people are real.

It has always been easy for me to see people … all people … as children of the King of Kings.

Then, late in the hot afternoon, walking down the crowded sidewalk, I came face to face with her. She was a bit shorter than my five foot, three inch height, with wild and unkempt hair. She was wearing a romper with spaghetti strap strings draping it over her skeletal frame.

As my eyes met hers …

I repelled.

It was as if something deep inside of me recoiled. It wasn’t fear, for I think that if I had blown a whiff of air towards her she might have collapsed. It wasn’t disgust, or pity, or even sadness.

When I looked into her lifeless eyes I saw a lack of life looking back at me, it was as though I was looking into the eyes of death, but what caused me to repel was my own reaction to our ever so brief meeting … for I did nothing, I felt nothing for her.

I did not see her soul … and I recognized no Christ within her. Something in that moment kept me from seeing her a who she is … a child of God, and I still ache for the missed opportunity to whisper hope in words, or a smile, or …

After we continued to walk in opposite directions, I looked back, wondering if I should seek her out, offer to buy her a sandwich, a bottle of water … inspired by my guilt for feeling no life connection with her. But she was gone, as if she vaporized into thin air.

Over a year later, and I am still agonizing over that brief interaction (lack of interaction) with the woman. I have found myself wondering if God placed her in my path, for some greater purpose, to teach me something.

That interaction has taught me something about myself … that my heart is not yet soft enough, that I do not love everyone, that I am not full of compassion … that I do not, naturally, see everyone as a child of God.

But, what I have also learned is that one poor interaction has caused me to lift that woman up to God, begging that she might find peace from her addiction. I have also learned that I now see her as that chalice cup, contained within her the blood of Christ which gives eternal life.

And, because of her, my communion will never be the same again.

“ … in your journey you will meet broken people, hateful people and people who have lost the sight for their glory. And the beauty of it all is this: I will tell you to love them, to love them deeply and show them how some of us still care. Never give up on them, for to give up on them is to destroy a reflection of ourselves.”
Robert M. Drake, Black Butterfly

Those who give to the poor
will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them
receive many curses.”
Proverbs 28:27

 

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As our children grow we are constantly reminded of our own experiences and choices from when we were their age. Their life can be like a mirror into our past, illuminating all that has been good, bad and ugly in our lives.

Sometimes as I watch or listen I am reminded of the choices that I wish I had, or hadn’t, made when I was their age(s). I am reminded of attitudes I had, ways I dealt with people and of my priorities.

It all kind of makes one wish they could redo their past with the knowledge of the present. It also makes one with they could force their children to learn from our own mistakes.

Life doesn’t work that way.

The knowledge we have now has been learned, primarily, through the experience of living, making decisions (good and bad) and living with the consequences. We could not have the knowledge we do now, had we not had the freedom to error, the freedom to choose and our children are no different.

This includes our walk with God. Much of my relationship is sweet because of what he has loved me through … the sins, the lack of love for his word, the incorrigible attitudes, the heartbreaks. He has proved his love for me in how he has loved me despite my mistakes.

As parents the letting go of our children begins the moment we give birth, followed by a million small and big releases of our grip on our children, so that they can lead the lives that we have prepared them to live.

The lives they live, as adults, are out of our hands and that is the way it supposed to be, for we do not bring children into the world to be our clones, but to be individuals, experiencing all that life has to offer, with the hope that they will return to us and share what they have see and experienced.

In the many wedding ceremonies my hubby performed, I always heard him read these words,

“You are giving your children to life’s adventure, and not merely away from yourselves. This is what you raise your children for, to let them go their way. And in their going they come back again to share their discoveries and joys with you.”

I feel it is like our relationship with God. He loves us into existence, then he lets us choose whether or not we follow the guidelines he has established for us. It is in our choosing his way, his love, that we get to experience real living. It is though the freedom, he gives, to choose to love him that we learn what love is.

As parents we are left to stand by, helpless, for we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who whispers our hearts cries. This is our job, as parents of adult children, and what a privilege it is to lift them up to their heavenly Father, who loves them even more than we do.

“It is possible to give away
and become richer!
It is also possible to hold on too tightly
and lose everything.”
Proverbs 11:24 TLB

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