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Showing posts from February, 2007

Standing Up to Scrutiny 2

Proverbs 20:27 (New Living Translation)
27 The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit,
exposing every hidden motive.

Yesterday I wrote about the sometimes merciless scrutiny of teenagers, but I've been thinking about a different kind of scrutiny today--the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit. This evening's verses in the Daily Light on the Daily Path fit in with this so well (there is a link to the Daily Light online on Whateverhesays, where the verses can be read in full).

Far from merciless, the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit is gentle--but relentless. He probes the heart and opens our eyes--prodding, and convicting. How different from the condemnation that flows from human beings at times. Our judgement of one another--and ourselves is so harsh. God shows us his standard and the gulf that lies between us and it--but doesn't leave us there. He offers to shape the heart that is offered up to him, into a heart that loves the things that he loves.

He's working in a certain area …

Standing Up to Scrutiny

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (New Living Translation)

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.


I remember that awkward, painful, anguished time--adolescence. As flawed and fallible as my father was, I am sorry for the beating he took from me during those "growing up" years.

During my childhood he was the one who held a magic stick that would drag him to points on the living room floor like a branch in the hand of a water diviner. Sure enough, under the carpet, where the stick pointed, Robert my younger brother, and I, would find pennies mysteriously hidden. He also kept us spell-bound b…

Sparkle and Nonsense

Relationships are the most fascinating things on earth to observe in my opinion. Look at any set of friends--any couple--and you will see tongue and groove, hand and glove--puzzle pieces fitting each other almost perfectly. The differences remind me of the prickles on Velcro--they are what make us stick together. If we were all smooth, shiny and identical we would merely stand side by side with nothing to grip, stick, or lock on to. How boring that would be!

Of course those differences can sometimes--well--prickle. The qualities that drew us, caught our admiration and fascinated us with their "otherness," can, in the right set of circumstances, drive us absolutely crazy. Happiness lies in remembering that we were meant to be different--to complement one another.

I started thinking about all of this as I remembered a conversation that took place on one of our trips back to England to visit family and friends.

Paul and I have two dear friends in England who are like family to us.…

The Story Within the Story

Hosea 13:14 (New International Version)

14 "I will ransom them from the power of the grave;
I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
Where, O grave, is your destruction?

I love stories and the Bible is a book full of stories that are full of drama, mystery, intrigue, tragedy and triumph.The best thing is that every time a familiar story is read, there is another insight to be discovered--another perspective to be seen, like a Russian doll inside which is hidden another doll--and another inside that. Sometimes a dialogue lights up with meaning beyond the surface and sometimes I wonder about what isn't said.

There is a dramatic account written down by an eye witness named John of events that took place in the village of Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem.

Death had touched a family dear to Jesus and he arrived on the scene with his friends, to find the two sisters Mary and Martha, in mourning for their brother Lazarus who had died four days before. The h…

Re-call

This has been a week of winter! After imagining for so long that it would never come, there is no doubt that it's here. The fields around our house look like a frozen ocean, the snow forming choppy waves and ripples and interesting textures. This week as I drove home towards the end of one cold day with the bright sun sinking in the west; it shone over the fields, reflecting back light from the shiny surface that looked as if it were a thin, crisp coat of sugar icing. Brenda has taken Molson out for some long walks in the woods. He's getting into shape for a dog show and needs to lose a little weight, so extra running helps. He is in heaven in the woods, tracking the scent of deer, picking up sticks and tossing them and running free! This morning we sat around our big oak table after breakfast. The kitchen was warm and filled with bright sunlight and the fragrant aromas of coffee and pancakes. As we sipped our coffee, Brenda told me how she uses the runs in the wood to train hi…

Flying Blind

Isaiah 30:21 (New International Version)
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."

"Flying blind"--it's a phrase used to describe flying without seeing outside an aircraft. Am I the only one that finds that thought scary?

I once was in downtown Toronto, about to take the plunge and cross a busy intersection. Yes, I admit it--I'm one of those boring people who'll go out of my way to find lights to cross at if I can. I guess I'm not the greatest risk taker!

Something caught my eye in my peripheral vision and I turned to look. It was a couple, studiously listening to the sound of the traffic and they both carried canes. I froze. I didn't know what to do. They weren't asking for help--I didn't know the protocol--should I ask if they wanted help? But they didn't seem to be looking for it--I just remember feeling scared as they crossed the road, surrounded b…

Tiffany-Amber & Brenda

Sweetness

She was nine years old today--our first grandchild! Last night I wrapped the gifts that her mommy helped me pick out--perfect for this unique little girl. Tiffany-Amber--such a feminine name for a child who prefers dinasaurs to dolls. This morning as our presents for her lay waiting on our kitchen table, her granddad Paul asked, "Isn't she going to come upstairs?" I said I'd go down and ask. In the cosy downstairs apartment all was still morning quiet. Molson looked up, chew toy in his gentle golden retriever mouth. He carried on--went back to chewing. He doesn't get excited unnecessarily. "I love that dog," I thought to myself as I walked through the living room into their big front room. I found Tiffany-Amber on the couch watching television with her mom while her sister and dad slept on. "Happy birthday, darling!" I said, "Are you coming up to open your presents?" Her face lit up and with a questioning glance at her mom, who nodded,…

Ask!

Matthew 7:9-11 New Living Translation © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust

9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.


In the 1870s, according to children’s refined breeding, my British Grannie could only talk to her parents when invited to speak to them.
Ancient thoughts of prayer in the Sermon on the Mount seem, therefore, all the more remarkable. Regardless of social patterns, Jesus admits that when hungry children ask for bread (the staple of life, even for the poor)—or a fish—they are heard.
Jesus shows how human parents will meet the pangs of hunger rather than offer harm.
However, the rules of “being proper spiritually” often bind adult…

The God Who is "There".

"If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you," says the Lord. "Jeremiah 29:13 NLT

Our God is a God who is not far away. Whatever experience we have or whatever circumstance we find ourselves in, God is always there. If we look for him, (on his terms, of course - in earnest, with some effort expended) he promises that he will make sure we find him -- not looking down on us from afar somewhere, but right there, right in the midst of the experience - right with us. What a glorious promise. No matter how difficult the road we walk, how painful the wounds, how dark the tunnel, how hopeless the situation, how far we have fallen, how broken the relationship, God is there. If we've given our hearts to him, turned our lives over to him - he's always there.

"And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28: 20b NLT

In the Hands of the Master

There is a fluttering, thrumming sound as the bird's wings beat, lifting its body briefly from the ground, in aborted attempts at flight. Its bright eyes dart, full of anxiety, head turning in all directions in quick, staccato movements. Another flurry of feathers as it lifts from the ground and drops again, a tiny heart thuds rapidly in its chest.

A large pair of hands reaches down and enfolds the creature, gently but firmly. A familiar voice speaks calming words. All is well- she is safe in the hands of her master. Her heartbeat slows and her eye and head movements are no longer frantic...

As I face a day with multiple demands and deadlines, anxiety rises in my chest as I try to be still before the Lord. In spite of the quiet of these moments, my heart and mind take flight, captured by images of waiting tasks. Then I remember the verses from a devotion I read earlier this week, “Be silent all flesh before the Lord… ” Zechariah 2:13a KJV, and my anxiety is calmed. My Master holds m…

Stephen's Rules

The morning dawns sunny. It's Saturday and I've been up early to get a head start on the day. Our big oak table in the kitchen is set for ten--ready for pancakes with six grandchildren and our two children.

By 8.45 or so the pancakes are made, and a big pot of coffee for the adults--and soon the front door bursts open, wafting in a gust of the crisp, cold outside air and bringing in with it Stephen, Joshua and Katherine, while Emily follows in her daddy Peter's arms, looking slightly dazed and unsure at being out and about so early in the morning.

Upstairs come running Tiffany-Amber and Victoria to join their cousins, and Brenda too. Soon Paul comes down from our bedroom and we are ready for the most happily chaotic breakfast ever with English pancakes sprinkled with sugar and lemon juice, then rolled up like jelly rolls, and smaller "regular" pancakes too, with variations on the theme of sugar, syrup and lemon juice!

After breakfast there is a Cinderella 3 movie to…

A Space in Time

Be silent all flesh before the Lord… ” Zechariah 2:13a KJV

It was November 11th. The weather was unseasonably warm and my husband and I had ridden our bicycles the ten kilometres or so into town for a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast. We hadn’t forgotten it was Remembrance Day, but were still surprised when a waitress ran through the bustling restaurant calling out, “It’s 11 o’clock! We’ll have a moment of silence, please.” And then she stood there in the middle of the room, coffee pot in hand, while we put down our forks, ceased our conversation, and collectively considered the great sacrifice that was made on our behalf and the freedom we were enjoying that very day. It was a stirring moment, shared with a restaurant full of strangers – soon over, and then back to business as usual. We thanked the waitress later for leading us in that simple act of remembrance and respect.

This morning, as I was readying myself to approach God in prayer, I thought about that moment of silence las…

Fragrant Offering

John 12:3 (New International Version)
3Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

John 11:2 (New International Version)
2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair

The perfume of paradise lost
fills the house
Adoration,
total abandonment
Impulsive,
lavish demonstration
of devotion
Costly fragrance
perfuming the hair
of one
who shows us how to worship
Mary of Bethany


Ephesians 5:2 (New International Version)
2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

"Though nard is now rare on the shelves of the western perfumer, its name stood for centuries as an evocation of the perfume of the lost Garden of Eden,"
"Nard has intense, warm, fragrant, musky notes,"
"In Ancient times, almos…

Show, Don't Tell

Deuteronomy 15:4-6 (New International Version)
4 However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5 if only you fully obey the LORD your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.

This week I read an article on Christian Conflict Resolution. In fact I read it more than once as I had a specific need to be reminded of the principles.

One of the things that struck me was the advice to "act in the opposite spirit." The writer of the article said that if a person was stingy, to be generous to them. He said if someone was full of hate and anger--to show them love, and so on. In other words, the article was saying, we should be generous to others, and even more so to those who le…

An Instrument of Beauty

The spoon came from Rackhams, a department store that seemed very expensive and "classy" to me at sixteen, which is when I found it. I loved to catch the train into Birmingham from the nearby village of Alvechurch whenever I could, to visit the art gallery, or museum--or explore the shops. In England young girls didn't have "hope chests," we had "bottom drawers." The idea was to gather things in it for the day when we met our knight in shining armour and were swept off into the sunset on a white horse. At that moment we would say, "Hang on a minute, we've got to empty that drawer"--we would be prepared! I saw the serving spoon and loved it. It was simple and elegant and the lines of it pleased my eye and hand. Though only made of stainless steel, it was of very good quality and glowed softly as it caught the light, with a patina as lovely as that of silver--and I could just about afford it. Not too long after that I did meet Paul, my knigh…

How to Crash Through a Wall

“Quitting points” are the walls we hit in life that defeat us.

We can feel quite hopeless about the possibility of change when it comes to our areas of weakness. Often we accept the status quo. We may feel restless, a longing for something more. We may complain about our struggles--but we don’t really expect change. All too easily we accept these limitations as part of our identity and settle for what is, rather than daring to reach for what could be.

These “quitting points” come in many shapes and sizes. We may have allowed them to define us as having an addiction of some sort – overeating, spending or sex - or we might feel shy, or inferior to others. In reality though, walls that hold us back in life are only artificial--a construct of our own thoughts or beliefs. They might feel like they are impenetrable, made of solid brick, but we find they’re made out of tissue paper if only we have the courage to crash through them.

Of course there’s more to overcoming a barrier than simply cras…

My Day In Court.

"O God listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth I will cry to you for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me." Psalm 61: 1-3 NLT

This morning I stood in a Provincial Court of Justice. A very intimidating and scary place for the uninitiated and inexperienced. Enemies were all around me. Powerful enemies. And they weren't the people that were bringing the charge against me. Not the judge, not the police officer, not the crown counsel. My enemies were all within. The captain was "fear" and his army was called "the fear of man".

"State your name."

The judge looked at me from his lofty and imposing perch at the front of the courtroom. "Susan Stewart," I said, wondering as I spoke if my knees were going to hold me through these proceedings. I was standing there to speak to the charge of "speeding under the hig…

Things I Have Heard

I prefer listening to talking and often find myself reaching for a pen to write down something funny, or wise, or thought provoking, that someone has said. Our kids, Peter and Brenda, both have a quick wit and could keep me supplied forever with quotes if only I could write fast enough!

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to start the week with a smile by sharing a few things I have heard, mostly said at meetings and closing with a quote from the book of Luke that makes me laugh every time I read it--God has the best humour.

"We are all "under the gun"--in a very positive way, as far as guns go."

“Is everybody in the right place? My father once went to Miami when he meant to go to New York. He thought the flight was rather long.” (I appreciated this since I once joined the wrong meeting, which quickly became apparent when introductions were made and everyone was from a different field of work to me)

“I assume we’re not here to maintain status quo.” (I think that just str…

The Secret? Or The Way?

John 8:12 (New International Version)
12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

There was something disconcerting about the panel on the t.v.. They all wore perpetual broad smiles through the entire hour of the show, during which they were talking about something called, "The Secret." There was something about them that made me feel creepy, although I realize it sounds mean spirited to fault someone for smiling.

The basic premise of The Secret is that we are all energy--and positive energy attracts positive energy. We attract to ourselves the things we pay attention to.

It was interesting to observe the faces of the two women in the audience who had life problems they wanted to solve and to whom the panel preached their mantra. Even though they were on national television and the pressure must have been huge to conform and agree with the panel, I saw t…

Silent Tears

(Faith Girl’s Post of Tuesday, Tears from a Child, prompted me to share this)

The span of years between us wasn’t great—a mere ten years--but 14 seemed a lifetime away from 24, which is how old I was when I found myself teaching a class of 11 to 14 year old girls.

I can’t remember how I came to be their teacher. Probably a teacher was needed and I volunteered, willing to be used, even though teaching was way out of my comfort zone and not my area of gifting at all. God made up for my lack of teaching ability by giving me a love for those girls though. If I close my eyes I can see their faces now. It felt like a great privilege to have an opportunity to make a difference at an age that was so vulnerable—a time of transition from girlhood to womanhood.

Over the years that followed, one girl stayed in touch faithfully . She hadn’t fit the mould of the typical, pretty teenaged girl. Tall, large boned and awkward and a little rough around the edges—a bit of a misfit—the kind of kid I've a…

Answer Sharer

God of all creativity
Of answers yet to be discovered
We worship you
Thank you that our most perplexing situations
Are already resolved in your great mind
You must wait, and wonder,
"When will they turn to me?"
Forgive us for our independence,
our pride and our arrogance
Teach us how to be in each moment of our lives
Ears attuned to your whisper
Opening our spirits, hearts and minds
At the start of each new day--to yours
What possibilities await us
If we engage with you intentionally,
continually
The wonder is that you want us to do so
But you do--you do!

Feb 8 Daily Light on the Daily Path
Morning
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.”
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”—“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”—These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.—Hidden wisdom of God, whic…

Growing up Grace-ful

Titus 3:5-6 (New International Version)

5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

My mind swirled with birth images as I read the verses from the book of Titus this morning. That's the thing about reading God's Word--it is alive--and no two readings yield the same thoughts and insights.

So this morning as I read about rebirth, I saw a baby in my minds eye. For nine months she has lived in a comfortable dark world of muffled sound and perfect, warm temperature. There she has grown--the sound of her mother's heartbeat and voice her constant companions.

Then one day the sojourn in the womb is over, and without notice she is violently thrust from a world with no future, into another world. There is no drama to compare with that of birth--those incredibly emotional hours and minutes when mankind…

Tears from a Child

For the past 2 years I have taught a class of kindergarten aged children at a club run out of our church on Friday nights. I took over the class after a year of some difficult behaviour. I was placed there because I offered the firm, yet loving approach that they needed. It was successful. Two years later, the class has grown and the children - whom I have grown to love - have a structured and enjoyable environment to learn about God. They like the classes, and they like me.

But I wasn't happy, I wasn't where I wanted to be. I desperately wanted to teach the older group (grades 6 & 7), but that place was filled, and I couldn't find anyone who was willing to devote the time and energy to the kindergartners, so I was stuck. And God told me to stay and wait. Sometimes I really hate when He tells me to wait. But I did.

Two weeks ago, the leader of the older group had to quit for medical reasons and the only replacement we could find didn't want that class. She wanted to …

Moment by Moment

John 12:47-48 (New International Version)

47"As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day

Even Jesus did not judge those who heard his words but did not keep them. He said that he came to save, not condemn the world. However, to hear and reject will result in being judged on the last day--by those words not accepted--and condemned. I've always found these verses sobering.

A snippet from My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald J. Chambers (July 28th)

"If we realize that obedience is "the end" (not training or preparation for some future "end"), then each moment as it comes is precious."

This is how I want to think of each day--as a series of moments in which choices can be made. In my heart I want to be a hearer and "keeper…

How Could They...?

Romans 14:13 (New International Version)
13Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.

I caught myself at it this morning--looking down the prominent feature on my face, just below my eyes and above my lips. It's an unpleasant tendency that overtakes me periodically when I am dismayed at something that is inexplicable or reprehensible in someone else's behaviour. This time it was triggered by some research into some sad situations in the past. I found myself judging someone harshly when I really have no right.

I found myself asking God for forgiveness for all the times I've looked down my nose at someone--because he never does. I thought of Saul--who stood by as a man was stoned to death, Peter who ducked out when a friend needed him and Nicodemus, the synagogue leader who lacked the courage to visit Jesus except under cover of darkness. If they were my contemporaries I…

Saturday Serenade

Saturdays have got to be the best day of the whole week. I love them. First I get the coffee going, and as the steaming hot water plop-plops through the coffee, a fragrant aroma fills the house. I listen to Jeff Goodes and Fresh Air on CBC radio in the bathroom while getting ready for the day, then go back to the kitchen to start mixing the ingredients for buttermilk pancakes (Parker family recipe). I'm usually joined at this point by one or two granddaughters from downstairs, who love to crack eggs if they are up in time. After breakfast I have more coffee with Brenda and we usually move into the big sunny room that looks out onto the fields and maple forested hill that I love so much. Often our chat is broken by phone calls from Peter or from my mum in England, or friends. The whole morning is so relaxed. I've developed a great capacity for ignoring the many other things that lurk in the background, waiting to be done. Last Saturday's conversation was about the annual churc…

We Have This Moment

The snow came late this year--it had seemed that winter was never going to come, but like a latecomer to a party it did.

It was an ordinary Thursday when they got into their vehicles and set out. Ontarians are used to driving in winter, but the sudden snowstorm seemed to come out of nowhere and they found themselves on a major highway in snow that fell so thick and fast that the cars slowed to a crawl, barely able to see the vehicle in front of them. It was close to midday but time seemed strangely suspended. Back muscles tensed, white knuckled hands gripped steering wheels, radios were turned off so that drivers could concentrate better. Some lips whispered prayers and the name of Jesus was breathed.

Suddenly there was the sickening repeated thud and crash of metal on metal and adrenaline rushed through veins in panic, helplessness and vulnerability. Caught in the ripple effect of collisions as if part of some awful domino game, metal caved like pop cans being crunched. Flames leapt in…

Word Search

Psalm 1:6 (New International Version)
6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

I read a daily devotional book by Amy Carmichael and in today's reading she mentioned that Psalm 1 is the perfect psalm for the first day of the month because of the fact that it speaks of God knowing and watching over the way of the righteous.

Being a bit of a word detective, I hauled out my big Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and looked up the root words translated "way" and "righteous," in the Hebrew language.

Amy said that "way" in her Young's concordance meant "trodden path"-- that it is untrodden for us--but a Leader always goes before and so the path has already been trodden.

In Strong's I found that the root of "way" was "course of life," or "mode of action," "journey through--toward." I thought that was cool in the context of Psalm 1:6.

The Hebrew word translated "righteous,"…