Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

As a child I loved it when my mom would hand me what was once a tidy ball of yarn that had gotten loose in her knitting bag or scattered across the floor. She would ask me if I could untangle it for her. Or my grandmother would do the same with a necklace, whose chain had knots.

I would eagerly take on these problems, these messes and straighten out what was knotted. It was a game, a challenge for me where I usually had success and I loved it.

Problem solving has become my life. I have used this skill in my profession, helping students learn in unique and creative ways. In the running of a home, utilizing form and function. In childrearing … in so many ways. In helping in so many situations and circumstances.

Give me a problem, a puzzle, a challenge, a mystery. Invite me into your struggle, your situation, your sorrow. Let me untangle that knotted mess of yarn that is that part of our life.

What I am not good at is acknowledging when I cannot solve the problem, when the mess is tangled beyond my problem-solving capabilities.

Recently I ran into a snag … problems that I simply could not untangle. This failure of ability (for it was not a failure of desire to solve the puzzles) was getting to me. I looked at it from every side, tried to see if moving things would help. Yet, I was quickly faced with the reality that all problem solvers hate to face …

the tangled mess was out of my ability to straighten it out.

This self-acknowledgement wore on me, for that which I love to do and do well, I was powerless to accomplish.

Besides, I am a follower of Christ, a believer in the power of Christ in me … I mean doesn’t Matthew 7:7 say “ask and you will receive” … and Mark 11:24 says, “whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you”?

Of course I am taking those one-liners out of the context of the Word, as a whole … rubbing my Bible-Genie making my one wish. But, what I ask is so desired, so good, so sincere …

Then I saw an image. It was the one at the top of this page. It was the mess of the first screen that got me … as soon as I saw it, my eyes did not see a pile of letters, but a pile of yarn, twisted and knotted … a problem waiting to be solved.

That was the problem I was dealing with.

Then the reminder … the God-response … not the I love you, for I simply do not have the capacity to not know that God loves me, or others. It was the two words,

I know

He knows.

He knows the knotted, tangled, ugly messes of our human lives. He knows that situations that break our hearts, that mess with our confidence, that even make us question if we are still in his will.

He knows.

“Be still, and know that I am God”
Psalm 46:10

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I cannot wait to go back to the warehouse we call our church building, to see those who we call our church family, to sing, as a congregation our songs of praise and worship to God.

This is the yearning of many around the world, during this time of pandemic.

Last weekend I went shopping and found myself walking out of the store thinking the following :

my entire church family of hundreds of people would have been a safer group to be with than in that store of limited numbers. Why can’t the church be opened up?

It was my heart cry. Because the people I worship with, unlike the strangers in that store, love each other enough to keep our distance from each other.

I mulled over my experience and thoughts when listening to the news from around the world … it’s funny how hearing your own thoughts coming through the mouths of others can allow your ears and heart to where your thoughts are really coming from.

My desire, though sincere, was morphing into a perspective that I deserved to go back to church, that it is my right.

That set me on a search for truth and there is only one source of truth, God’s word. What does the Bible say about the church.

Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ Acts 7:48-50

(God’s house, the house of God is not made by human hands)

… you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

(The foundation of the church are the apostles, the cornerstone … what the entire church is constructed/depended on, is Jesus Christ. We are where the holy spirit lives)

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9

(we are the church)

But Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Hebrews 3:6

(we, the church, need to stay close, be faithful to him)

And then I found these words, from Charles Spurgeon,

“”What is a church? It is an assembly. And a Christian church is an assembly of faithful men (and women), of men (and women) who know the truth, believe it, affirm it, and adhere to it. The Greek word signifies an assembly summoned out of the whole population to exercise the right of citizenship. An ecclesia, or church, is not a mob, nor a disorderly gathering rushing together without end or purpose, but a regular assembly of persons called out by grace, and gathered together by the Holy Spirit. Those persons make up the assembly of the living God.” (What the Church Should Be Sermon #1436)

In this time of living in a pandemic, the church, anchored and built by God, made up of the people of God, has continued to assemble … in Spirit, as one. We have met online in conference, in church services, in small groups and on social media. We have been the hands and feet of God, doing his good work by committing our work in our jobs to him, by caring for the elderly, the sick, the poor and disenfranchised.

“Churches are essential.
That’s why they never closed.
Buildings may have,
but the church didn’t
The gospel will never be silenced.
It will always find a way to be told.”

Natalie Grant

What I found interesting was the timing of this line of thinking, for it began about the time in the church calendar when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus.

Acts 1 tells us of his ascension :

“They (the apostles) were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Let me paraphrase … the apostles, after forty days with the risen Christ, watch him ascend into the sky, the heavens. They are standing there, staring up, transfixed, when they hear a voice from two angelic beings standing with them saying,

People, what the heck are you doing here, staring at the sky? Did you not listen to Jesus at all? He’s gone, but he will be back. Now get to work! Do the work of the church, like he modelled to you! You do not need his physical presence anymore than you need a brick and mortar building. Go, spread the good news … in word and in deed.

“We are his temple. We do not turn in a certain directlon to pray. We are not bound by having to go into a building so that we can commune with God. There are no unique postures and times and limitations that restrict our access to God. My relationship with God is intimate and personal. The Christian does not go to the temple to worship. The Christian takes the temple with him or her. Jesus lifts us beyond the building and pays the human body the highest compliment by making it His dwelling place, the place where He meets with us. Even today He would overturn the tables of those who make it a marketplace for their own lust, greed, and wealth.” Ravi Zacharias

So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. Ephesians 3:10

It is not our right to go to church, we the church is a responsibility endowed by Jesus Christ.

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Why did I wait so long?

That was my question to my son, to the Wonder Dog, to the air in the room as we finished the final movie of the Harry Potter series. I was delighted with the story telling in this series.

It was way back when my oldest was in grade one or two that we read the first book in Rowling’s series together. Though I enjoyed it, I was not mesmerized as it seemed others were, so I did not continue reading them.

In the final film, Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows, Professor Dumbledore says something that caught my attention to the point I had to rewind to hear it again :

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”

Ahhhh! I love it when I not only hear a good quote, but it so resonates with me that it absorbs into my being.

Immediately I thought how this quote also resonates with what the word of God has to say about our words.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” (Proverbs 18:4)

“Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 )

“Evil words destroy one’s friends; wise discernment rescues the godly.” (Proverbs 11:9)

” … a person with good sense remains silent.” (Proverbs 11:12)

If only I had the good sense to remain silent at times … (do I hear an amen?).

Words, truly are magical. May we be wise as we use them, careful in how we throw them around.

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Do you know how to pray? Where does faith come in? What about doubt? Is it okay to pray for miracles?

When I encounter someone with a prayer request, I immediately offer to pray, then, when I begin to actually speak to God, when I enter consciously into his presence … I stutter with my words.

Perhaps it is because, in coming to him, I recognize how much I need him, how great he is, this one to whom I bow my head.

I have a friend who is struggling in a marriage of abuses and unresolved traumas of the past. When I pray for her, I long for marital healing, for a rebuilding of this broken relationship, for miracles.

Yet, I also have a friend who never received such miracles. Recently we re-connected and she caught me up on the end of that marriage. She said, of the separation, the struggles with that marriage, it is exceedingly more wholesome than the way it was. No miracles, no reconciliation … yet she now has peace.

My brother is now undergoing treatments for cancer. The prognosis with treatment is good … the effects of the treatments are horrific. When I pray for him, I long for miraculous healing, that the effects of the treatments would not cause the damage and pain anticipated.

How are we to pray? What do we say, what do we not say? Are miracles on the table? How about … selfish requests? Do I have enough faith? What about my doubts? Does God alter what the natural world, his plans because we pray?

do you know how to pray?

The Bible has a number of recommendations:

  • ask and be thankful (Philippians 4:6)
  • confess your sins, pray for each other (James 5:16)
  • God will hear our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12)
  • pray so you’re not tempted (Matthew 26:41)
  • call on his name and be saved (Acts 2:21)
  • forgive others (Mark 11:25)
  • pray in secret (Matthew 6:6)
  • confess sins (1 John 1:9)
  • devote yourself to prayer (Colossians 4:2)
  • be faithful in prayer (Romans 12:12)
  • believe and don’t doubt (James 1:6)
  • with confidence (Hebrews 4:16)
  • pray without ceasing, rejoice, give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Then we get thrown off by verses of such black-and-white absolutism …

“I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).

So … we ask and God gives?

Well … yes … and no.

It is blind hope to read this verse and see only the part we want … I will do whatever you ask in my name. What follows is really the main point … so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You see we do not pray to God, except that it comes through his Son. It is the blood of Jesus that has made us right with God, therefore it is through him that God hears our prayers.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Sure it is, until we pause to think about what we are praying for and through whom our prayers pass.

Ellicott’s Commentary speaks to this verse in a reckoning manner :

“The prayer of Gethsemane—“If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done,” should teach what prayer in the name and spirit of Christ means. We commonly attach to our prayers, “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We do not always bear in mind that this implies an absolute self-sacrifice, and is a prayer that our very prayers may not be answered except in so far as they are in accordance with the divine will.

When I think about prayer, really think about it, I come to one conclusion … I pray because it is the only ‘help’ I know. There is nothing I can do to change circumstances.

So I offer up my requests, in faith, along with my praise and thanks, trusting the only wise one will either change the circumstances I pray, or that he will change my heart to be more like his own.

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As I sit in my big comfy chair, my dog is at my feet scratching at his paws. He does this every time he comes home from the groomer. They feel different, irritating him so he scratches.

Everything he does is based on intuition, habit, response. I can take him to a trainer (it’s high on my to do list when Covid restrictions are lifted) and learn how to teach him new behavioral habits, but what he learns is rote … it is mechanical learning accomplished by repetition.

My dog does not have the capacity to choose to change his behaviors.

That choosing is something that is specific to humans. Certainly we can also benefit from rote training, in memorizing facts or processes, or in creating new muscle memory in areas such as physical rehabilitation or creating new pathways for better emotional health.

But we humans have at our disposal a most powerful ability in being able to make choices at will.

When we are hungry, we choose to eat, choose what to eat, choose how much to eat. When we are upset with another person, we choose how to respond to our feelings, how to respond to that person. When someone makes a mistake we have the power to respond with grace or with revenge.

At the end of the book (and life) of Joshua, he (Joshua) speaks to the people, challenging them with the story of their history and offering to make a covenant (agreement or vow between they and God) with them. He challenges them with a question,

“choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve?” (v. 15)

I love how poet Mary Oliver has asked a similar question, “tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

It is a question asked of us all, every day of our lives.

Years ago I found a beautiful keepsake on a beach. A shell, fixed hard and fast to a rock, as if clinging to a life source. It reminds me to choose to be attached to the rock, which is Christ.

It is a question of what we will choose … either we answer it with the God of creation, we answer it with myself, or we remain silent … but the rocks will testify to our unspoken choice.

“For the stone shall cry out of the wall,
and the beam out of the timber
shall answer it.”

Habakkuk 2:11

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Other than not being able to hug our daughters, the greatest loss I have felt during this time of self isolation is corporate worship. I miss the unity, the feeling of being part of something bigger, something shared.

I have to say it has caused a longing to be with the church like nothing and never before. Truly my soul aches to raise my voice, along with other redeemed sinners, to the

God who created me for this purpose … to worship him.

This ache reminds me of the story behind the worship song Heart of Worship. Matt Redman tells of his pastor’s concern for what worship had become … the style, the volume, the worship leader, the songs.

“People were becoming consumers, instead of bringing an offering (to worship).” Matt Redman

The pastor introduced a worship service that was different … no sound system, no instruments, no plan … just come, with your Bible and whatever you can offer to God.

Out of that season in his church Redman wrote the lyrics to the Heart of Worship.

The other day I read a blog post that had me nodding in agreement with my own experiences of attempts to worship, corporately, from home, while attending the worship service online.

Carolyn Arends writes, in her post Virtual Realities :

“There are barriers to singing corporately over the internet. Maybe that tells us something important. … Right alongside the invitation to innovate (in a season of quarantine) is an invitation to ache – to let absence rekindle a holy fondness in our hearts for the things we’ve taken for granted.”

It is an ache … this holy longing to raise our voices together, physically. Perhaps it is an ache that we have needed to feel … a longing for what might have been missing even before self isolation in this time of Covid 19 … a longing for that which, perhaps for far too long, we have taken for granted … the gift of worshipping our God together, in community.

I find myself longing for that first day that we can, once again, raise, not just our voices, but our hearts as well in worship … to share our unity of purpose.

It makes me think of the chorus of the song, When We All Get to Heaven, written well over a hundred years ago, by Eliza Hewitt :

“When we all get to heaven,
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus
we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

If I might be so bold as to re-write those words, for that first corporate worship experience that I (and others) are dreaming of :

When we all get back together
what a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we’re reunited with followers of Jesus
we’ll get a glimpse of eternity.”

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One of my favorite memories of our three from the days when they were still little is that of them wrapped in my arms … not sleeping, not even giggling … just laying in my arms, comfortable, as if they and I were appendages of each other. It felt natural, comfortable, content. It also felt something else …

it felt safe

They were me, me with they … as I held them safely and securely in my arms, close to my heart, I felt the safety that I was exuding to them … and it returned to calm me.

If there is anything about the days of little ones I miss, this is one of the top three experiences.

Years ago, it is said that the following story was told in a National Geographic, after a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park.

“A ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely
on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight,
he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny 
chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, 
keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base
of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing 
that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had 
refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, that those under the cover of her wings would 
live… “

Psalm 91:4, in the Message translation, tells us :

“His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;
    his arms fend off all harm.”

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I want to be a gold digger.

Not like … a real digger of gold, with a lamp on my head and a pick in my hand … though, maybe …

In my relationships, I want to seek the gold, the good in people. I want to dig further into them, to see the nuggets of the purest gold … that which has been refined through a life of both faithfulness and struggle.

This does not come natural, though. It requires intentional effort, for I am a selfish person, who is titillated by gossip and conspiracy-theories.

Thus, Proverbs 11:27,

anyone can find the dirt
in someone,
be the one who finds

Simple to say … not so simple to do.

But, I think that, if we make it a focus, if we are intentional about where we allow our minds, our thoughts about others to go … in other words, if we become gold diggers … we will reap priceless riches.

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This week’s random thoughts was at the top of a friends post on Facebook.

As I read the list of ten … let’s call them the week’s learnings during this time of self isolation in the shadows of Covid19, I heard a song from childhood …

count your blessings

Now, at the end of that week, feeling rather depleted from a week that had a fair number of downs that seem to overshadow the the ups, I am revisiting my friend’s post.

As I look back over the week, this post and two other memories pop out for me.

There is a family that I follow on Instagram. Their beautiful daughter (and their whole family) have been fighting cancer for almost fifteen years (she is about twenty now) … through one diagnosis and three relapses. After over a month of self isolation, they are naming something each day that they are each thankful for.

A sweet teen, who carpooled with me to school (and whose heart and soul I adore), dropped off a belated birthday gift. Part of it was “The One-Minute Gratitude Journal” with spaces to write what I am grateful for each day.

Hum …
I think NOT!

Saint Augustine (of the late 300s-early 400s) said,

“we are an Easter people
alleluia is our song.”

What he was saying is that as people (all people) who have been given the gift of Easter, the gift of the sacrifice of Christ, our song, or message (maybe even to ourselves) need always be praise to the Lord.

To offer thanks is to recognize from where our blessings come. To offer gratitude is to see what we have … even when we are in a place of many have-nots, of depletion, of lack.

And so, I wrote my list, of this week’s random thoughts … thanks. And, you know what, I have much to be thankful for … much for which to sing praises to my Lord … alleluia!

I encourage you to try this too … I’d love to hear from you … what are your random thoughts and thanks this week?

  1. Zoom visit with a dear friend
  2. Daily after work walks with our son
  3. A delivery of a belated birthday gift from the sweetest teenager I know
  4. Able to help my mom accomplish a level of technology
  5. A charcuterie board that looked and tasted wonderfully
  6. Discovering a great new TV series to enjoy with hubby
  7. Conferences with students who have the most amazing work ethics
  8. Sunny days
  9. A bunny hopping leisurely ahead of me while walking on a trail
  10. A church small group who is like oxygen

Count Your Blessings
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Who couldn’t use a little
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney
singing Irving Belin’s
Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep?

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I cannot imagine not being able to recognize someone who I love.

Yet, as we read the accounts of people who encountered the risen Jesus, it seems as though they were completely unaware as to who was standing before them.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You

Of course, each of these people, seemingly blinded to the obvious, were also in the depths of despair, sadness, confusion and grief … for the one they so loved had died in such an unfair and violent manner and with him, died their hopes of a Saviour for their people, for themselves, for redemption.

They were mourning and hopeless.

In a sense, their eyes were not yet opened to the fact that, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus :

“you do not grieve like the rest of mankind,
who have no hope”

(1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Because they had not yet seen the resurrected Christ … it was in the seeing … with their eyes and their hearts, that their hope was made real.

I love the story of the two walking along the road to Emmaus with Jesus. It says that the trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus is about seven miles. At some point along the way Jesus himself joins them in their walk. Jesus listens as they tell of the events of the past three days, with great sorrow and hopelessness. Jesus then challenges them, calling them foolish, saying,

“Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26).

Then, when they reached the village of Emmaus, they invited Jesus to spend the evening with them.

At the evening meal (how Jesus loved when people gathered around the bread and wine), a miracle occurred :

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31).

These were not his disciples who had experienced the first communion with Jesus at the last supper. Yet, through the breaking of the bread (his body), their eyes were opened to the truth of who they were dining with … their Savior, the very bread of heaven.

Saint Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century wrote the words to the beautiful hymn, Panis Angelicus … the words, in Latin and English below:

Panis angelicus
Fit panis hominum
Dat panis coelicus
Figuris terminum
O res mirabilis
Manducat dominum
Pauper, pauper
Servus et humilis
May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
The Bread of Heaven puts
All foreshadowings to an end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
The body of the Lord will nourish
the poor, the poor,
the servile, and the humble.

It is in the physical element of the bread, the symbol of the body of our Hope, our Redemption, that our eyes can be opened, so that we see with our hearts the truth of who he is … but we have to be willing to take that bread into us, our lives.

this is his body.

broken for you.



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