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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

As I write this post it is Tuesday evening.

I am sitting at a long ‘staff’ meal table, looking down on the lake, watching someone doing periodic flips in the air from the back of a boat, the sun setting in the smokey  (forest fire) skies, and I am listening to nearly one hundred teens play a bonding game for the prize of a table of candy (see pic, below, of the eight foot long table).

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I am back at the camp that has been the soul home of our son for eleven summers. Today I got to meet another ‘camp’ mom, whose son is completing his tenth season (and they just ‘happen’ to be co-counselling a cabin of teen boys).

She and I shared similar memories, similar stories told to each of us by our sons, similar responses and feelings about the impact this place and it’s people have had on our sons.

But we shared more than just mutual blessings that our sons reaped.

We shared the pride of being asked by a fifteen year old guy if there was any way he could help out … while on his break from work crew.

We observed an insecure teen grow in stature as another teen reached out and befriended him.

We heard the most sincere prayer for a meal by a male teen, whose confidence comes, not from his outward appearance, but from a knowledge that he is unconditionally accepted by this community.

We heard a volunteer who drives the boat for tubing and other water sports, tell of his long-term involvement at this camp with no end in sight.

We spent a day with a well-retired, still hand-holding couple volunteering in the August-hot kitchen, because they just love teens and want to give.

We spent the day with each other … working, observing, listening, absorbing the blessing that is summer camp.

As I reflected on the joys of being a mom who got to be in this place, and saw teens being encouraged, supported, taught and loved in a way that moms dream their children might receive in this life …

As I looked at that table covered with sugary candy …

I was reminded of a story that Jesus told. He was around a Sabbath table with religious scholars and one of the top leaders of the Pharisees (whose eyes were closely on him, waiting for Jesus to slip up and break a law). These were the crème de la crème of Jewish society.

The story comes part way through Luke 14, and I love how it is told in the Message (the title starts it well):

Invite the Misfits

He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table … if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

This is what summer camp is, or can be … a dinner of misfits.

Sure there are those who come every year, know everything there is to know about the camp and it’s people. There are those who come with their people, their besties. There are those who come with confidence in any situation. But there are also the … misfits. The ones who come alone. The ones who didn’t want to come. The ones that come because an individual or fundraiser supported their attendance.

They arrive, maybe excited, maybe scared, maybe angry. They may arrive and look around at others with their familiarity with the camp, with their people, their confidence. They may look around and feel dressed wrong, feel financially inferior, feel like … a misfit.

What I have observed is that if someone works or volunteers at a summer camp, they are the ones who have learned that “if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself”. You’ll become a blessing to others … to the misfits.

And they do.

Not every child or teen comes from a home with the means to attend a summer camp.

As a matter of fact, I was one of those misfits. Thanks to a Grandmother who had the means, and the generosity to go with it, I got to go to summer camp and be blessed by the experience of being encouraged, supported, taught and loved.

Today I am reminded that if I have the means, I need to provide the means for others to attend summer camp. Maybe I even need to make this a monthly plan … maybe you do too?

“They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!”

 

 

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While watching the news, a few days ago, I learned of a man who died. It was not his age of ninety-six that caught my attention, or that he was a speaker to organizations and to youth for thirty years, or that he came to find home in Newfoundland in 1946.

What caught my attention was something he had said,

“Don’t you ever hate anybody.
By love, you conquer the world.
By hate, you’ll only destroy the world
and you destroy yourself,”

More than platitudes, these were the real-life, words of Philip Riteman … a Jew born in Poland, captured by the Nazis, imprisoned in Auschwitz, Birkenau and Dachau. In 1945 he was liberated, freed by American forces, weighing only seventy-five pounds. In 1946 he found “humanity” in Newfoundland, and in 1979 made his home in Halifax, after expanding his import business there.

One would think that, if anyone does, he had good reason to hate (having lost all of his immediate and over eighteen of his extended family to the Nazis). But, this man who was so dramatically affected, in every conceivable way, by hatred, spent (at least) his final thirty years teaching people to conquer the world with love.

Love is a powerful force, but to have the ability, as a victim of brutality, to choose love?

Mr. Riteman knew that his survival, after his liberation, was because he chose to focus on something stronger, something more beneficial to himself, something that could indeed conquer a world of hatred.

He, of course, is not the only one in history to know about the power of love over hatred.

The Apostle Paul, in 1 John 2:9-12, also speaks of love and hate, in terms of light and darkness:

“Anyone who claims to live in God’s light and hates a brother or sister is still in the dark. It’s the person who loves brother and sister who dwells in God’s light and doesn’t block the light from others. But whoever hates is still in the dark, stumbles around in the dark, doesn’t know which end is up, blinded by the darkness.

I remind you, my dear children: Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name.” 

He gives us the comparison of hatred to the dark, love to light. And, like Mr. Riteman, Paul understood the force of hatred, for, in his previous life, he had lived in the darkness of hatred, killing the followers of Christ with the hope of eradicating the Earth of them … like the Nazi’s who did the same to the Jews. But, like Riteman, he learned that it is not hatred, but love that can conquer the world.

In his commentary, Matthew Henry said of Paul’s experiential learning, “it is the Lord Jesus that is the great Master of love: it is his school (his own church) that is the school of love. His disciples are the disciples of love, and his family must be the family of love.”

May we walk in the light of love, and enlighten our world to how it can keep us from destroying ourselves with hatred.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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FullSizeRenderIt is an age old question …

Does prayer, does praying, make a difference?

I heard a line in the movie Shadowlands, many years ago, that has become my own understanding and belief for why I pray:

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”

Though I cannot find evidence of CS Lewis actually saying those words, Lewis does lead us to a model for prayer: “for most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model.”

It was in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed “my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). His  request, offered up, to his God and Father, was offered up three times, and was denied. This reality of God not answering Jesus prayerful request, is a reality that we must remember, for if God would deny Jesus … we too will sometimes be denied.

Lewis also reminds us, “prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted.”

At Gethsemane, Jesus also gives us an example of how to make such a request to God in saying “if it is possible” and “not as I will, but as I will but as you will.” I believe that this is what the author of Philippians is referring to when he wrote,  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). We need to seek to have the mind of God as we pray, acknowledging that he is the author of life, that his plan is sovereign.

Even those things that we pray that we think could have only a ‘yes’ response, for it to be the ‘godly’ outcome. I remember laying on a hospital bed, awaiting just one more sonogram. I remember praying that God would allow us to see that heart beat, to show his power, to allow us to praise him for a miracle. The following day, recovering from surgery to remove that heart that remained still on the sonogram, as I looked up to the sky, I tried to gripe and complain to him … about his denial of my request, but all I could say were the same words from Gethsemane … “not my will, but yours”.

I can think of recent times when it seemed as though God was silent in response to my crying out to him. Yet, in the days and weeks and months that past, my prayers were indeed being answered, by other people, who God has used as vessels for encouragement, to meet real needs, to cheer on and to be the hands and feet of him. These people, being our Aaron, holding us up to God, so that the enemy would not have the victory.

God’s mind, his will, is never for the enemy to be victorious.

Prayer makes a difference.

It causes us to acknowledge God’s sovereignty.

It is request … and we have to accept that the response to a request is in the hands of the one we ask.

It is submission to the answer.

Prayer of others, for us, is the support that keeps us from failing, that keeps the enemy from victory.

It is an evolution of our human minds to God’s own mind.

I pray to change me, to change my heart and mind and will, but not change the unchangeable God.

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SnapseedAs I climbed into bed, with only the sweet sounds of hubby’s breath, and the waves breaking on the beach outside our window, I whispered a prayer …

“Thank-you God, for this peace after the storm
(pause)
or is this the peace before the storm?”

As I lay there, my thoughts drowning out the sweet sounds of moments ago, I became keenly aware that,

on either side of peace is always a storm
on either side of a storm is always peace

These are realities in life. Like peanut butter and jam, like waves coming in and going out, times of peace and times of storms are realities in our lives, flowing from one to the other unexpected and predictable at the same time.

The one (storms) for all people.

The other (peace) for those who accept it, from the hand of God … always held out to us, never taken away. It can either be accepted or rejected, but it is always offered.

Jesus came to provide that peace in the midst of the storms, the troubles of this world and life. He came to die, so that the hand of God can offer this peace that surpasses our human understanding.

The storms of life come, sometimes like an unexpected flood, sometimes like a dripping faucet. Both bring us to our knees in forfeit, begging for mercy, for saving … for peace.

God offers that peace. Hand stretched out, always in our direction, always within reach. Sometimes even right in the midst of the storm, when the water is creeping to our chins, when it seems that it might just take up down.

“I have told you these things,
so that in me you may have peace.
In this world you will have trouble (storms).
But take heart!
I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Or, (Carole version):

“Take the peace I am holding out to you.
There will be storms in your life,
but I offer the peace that passes understanding,
so that you do not drown in the storms.”

 

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FullSizeRenderAs I sat writing (when I should have been preparing for our road trip to our favourite place) the words, “come away with me” kept wafting through my mind.

When they finally took root, I pondered their origin, and remembered they were spoken in the Song of Solomon :

“My beloved calls to me, “Arise, my darling. Come away with me, my beautiful one.” SOS 2:10

It is a most intimate invitation, a seduction of the Beloved to the Lover, it is intended to draw another away to a secluded place, away from the rest of the world, away from the everyday demands on life. It was an invitation to renewal.

But, it is more.

In Mark 6:31, Jesus says to his disciples :

“Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.”

This too was an intimate invitation, in that it was personal, yet spoken to a group of individuals. It was intended to draw them to a secluded place, where they could enjoy rest, refreshment and renewal.

Though it is good to be busy, doing the work that we have been gifted to do, it is also imperative that we go away. Go away to a vacation spot, a retreat, a secluded field, to your door-locked bathroom in a tub full of bubbles. And go with those, with one, closest to you, who you need to reconnect with, rest, refresh, renew and recreate together.

It is in the times when we answer the call to come away with me that we can remember the beauty of together, shared with the God who first called you to come away, with him.

This is his gift of refreshment to us, if only we would hear and answer his call.

 

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Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 6.50.07 AMWe have all heard a story similar to this one:

A flood has happened and a man is on his roof, awaiting saving.

A boat comes by and tells him to climb on, but the man yells, “God is gonna save me.”

Then a helicopter drops a rope for him to grab, but the man yells, “God is gonna save me.”

When he, eventually, drowns and gets to heaven, he says to God, “I guess it was my time to die.”

God replies, “you’re not supposed to be here. I sent a boat and a helicopter.”

This and other similar stories highlight two messages we often hear about the will of God; that he will take care of our needs, and that he has given us the resources to take care of ourselves.

Often, when I am confronted with a difficult decision to make,  or working through a struggle of some sort, I tend to throw my hands up in the air, look up to the sky (or ceiling) and say, “I give up. You deal with this.”

Sometimes that is exactly what I needed to do, for I might have been trying to make that decision or solve a problem completely on my own steam.

Then there are other times, when I tend to freeze, and hope and pray that he will make all of my decisions, and that all I need is to have faith.

I have come to realize that the right response is somewhere in between, for God will take care of all of our needs and he has provided for, and within us, resources to make our decisions and to do what must be done.

James 2:17 reminds us, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

God’s desire is that we put our faith in him, for all things. At the same time, he has gifted us with knowledge and ability to do for ourselves, to do for others.

We need to use the gifts and resources (from within and out) that God has given us, from our hands, to our minds, to our backs, to our hearts, to the hand offered by another person.

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For nearly nine months, I had experienced circumstances-redundant, joy. I had known that peace that passes all human understanding. I had been filled with contentment in the midst of want.

So, what was missing during those months of living in the grace-filled waste lands … in the valley of dry bones, in the valley of the shadows?

On a warm Sunday in July, with chaos all around, with unfamiliar worship songs being sung and less than comfortable seating underneath, I knew in my heart that it was good to be in the house of God.

This was not a good feeling, due to a choice to see things as good, but one that felt good from the soul out.

Though this experience may not indicate that we have found our church home, it did remind me that we need one, and that it can truly be good to go to church. It was the truth that David spoke (Psalm 122:1):

“I was glad when they said unto me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.”

Recently I came across words of Spurgeon:

“The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections. Christ loved his church, and let us do the same. I have no doubt that the Lord can see more fault in his church than I can; and I have equal confidence that he sees no fault at all. Because he covers her faults with his own love—that love which covers a multitude of sins; and he removes all her defilement with that precious blood which washes away all the transgressions of his people.”

Can I hear an amen, to Spurgeon’s statement, “the church is not perfect”? But, I also must say amen to the rest of that sentence, “but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections.”

Ephesians 5:25 reminds us of how very much Christ loves the church, in his sacrifice for her:

“Husbands, love your wives,
as Christ loved the church
and gave himself up for her”

It is his act of love for the church which makes our commitment to church mandatory … not because it or they are good, but because we are his, and he gave up his son for us, not only as individuals, but as the household of god.

 

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