Friday, July 22, 2016

Hope is Kindled

The news lately is full of reports of racial violence, terrorist attacks and political turmoil all over the world. As footage of snipers shooting police officers played, with furrowed brow, our granddaughter Tippy asked us, "Do you think that now they'll look at changing the gun laws?" A rhetorical question.

I explained what I believe--that there is more going on than laws that need to be changed. Something is seriously broken in humanity, and there are spiritual forces at work all over our world. An apostle named Paul wrote about it in a letter to the people in a church in Ephesus, 2000 years ago (Ephesians 6:12.) These forces can't be battled with guns or argument, but with prayers behind which is God's power to demolish strongholds. (2 Corinthians 10.4)

Coincidentally, yesterday, Tippy, another young friend, and I, watched, The Twin Towers--the second in a movie series based on the trilogy, Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. When the wise wizard Gandalph frees Theoden from spiritual captivity by the evil Saruman,the portrayal of the actual physical transformation he undergoes as he is released is brilliant cinematography. When the spiritual battle has been won, Gandalph exhorts Theoden to, "Breath the free air!

Another spiritual breakthrough is depicted in one of my all time favourite movies, based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple.

In a scene that always moves me deeply, Shugg, a who is estranged from her preacher father, is drawn irresistably by a song in the air, coming from the nearby church. Not only she, but others, including her friend Celie's cruel husband "Mister," and Shugg's father, respond to a force that moves them all to acts of grace--undoing in an instant all the cruelty and sin that the human heart is prone to.

The scene reminds me of a story told to me by a dear old friend who was in Newfoundland during the early part of the 20th century. She described people being so anxious to get to the altar that they climbed over the pews. Someone must have been praying...

...As Gandalph says, all he has is "a fool's hope," but when he sees the beacons on the mountains set ablaze to call for help, he adds, "Hope is kindled."

There is hope, because our God is The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Yes, I am so grateful, hope is kindled.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

On Holding Back Less

I blurted it out, shocking myself more, I think, than the person I said it to.  In all their unadorned honesty the words were out, like marbles rolling across the floor--I had asked my friend why she couldn't, "Just be grateful." 

The evening was wrapping itself around us like a cloak as we drove back to my home, where her car was parked. She has had a lot to deal with over a prolonged period of time but I knew that her sense of  hopelessness was compounded by seeing things at the moment through a lens darkened by weariness. The words had popped out--starkly. I tried to explain what I really meant. "What you focus on, grows," I said, "gratitude is a powerful focus."

I thought of a book that I thought would be helpful, its focus on thankfulness in spite of circumstances--One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. Before she drove off into the dark night, I promised to get a copy to her. But still I felt dismayed at what I'd said and that I was a crummy friend. I ordered a copy of the book to be delivered to her home--a belated birthday present.

It was a week later that she texted me (text shared with her permission):
It's starting--I'm starting to live "eucheristeo" (a Greek word meaning thanksgiving, to be thankful) I was THANKFUL to be given the day with my best friend and I told her all about Ann Voskamp and that thankfulness is the KEY to abundant life, true joy and witnessing miracles. . Dearest, I can't STOP breathing "thank you, Father" !!! I had a lovely thought that I would promise Him that I would tell as many people about eucharisteo as I had things to be thankful for...I don't think I will be able to, but I can try...Thank you for my birthday present...did you realize that you were giving me my life back (and better) when you clicked the "buy" button on Amazon???
To say I was grateful is an understatement. God can use even a graceless blurt it seems. But I've been thinking about how often we hold back from saying something that might be helpful, out of politeness, or fear, or not wanting to rock the boat--and what is then lost.

Our 18 year old granddaughter Tippy is staying with us for the summer and it's kind of like having a mirror held up to our lives. Sometimes it's hilarious, sometimes embarrassing--but I am grateful for her unfiltered insights. 

Paul and I were having a discussion recently when Tippy happened to be present, and her eyes widened as she perceived where it was going. "Why don't you just ask him?" she laughed at me, as it was obvious to her that I was making my point indirectly, but our wires were getting crossed. And then she shook her head, her eyes dancing with merriment. "You guys are like teenagers," she said. We are in our sixties, with a teenage life-coach! 

But her gentle, unintentional rebuke, made me think, and I was grateful. I know I can get better at communicating.

Whatever we say should be kind and loving and I'm not suggesting that "Why can't you just be grateful?" fits into that category. But I think that we need more from one another than we sometimes get in terms of challenge. The verse below puts it well in what it has to say about a wise friend's timely reprimand. Check it out--and I'd love to hear your thoughts too.  

Proverbs 25:12, The Message (MSG)

Saturday, July 02, 2016

The Whisperer

So grateful for the intimacy of relationship with God--his Spirit speaking to mine on a level that is softer than a whisper, but as sure as a shout...sweet communion.

As I quiet myself--embracing silence, God speaks.

As I still myself--creating space, God enters with his presence.

Acts 17:27b says that God is not far from any one of us.

Revelation 3:20 speaks of God standing at the door and knocking, with a promise that where he is welcomed as a guest, he will come in.

Daily I face a battleground populated by forces opposing quiet and stillness. My own undisciplined impulses and natural bents populate the field. My waking thought is to reach for the electronic device under my pillow to check the time. My next reflexive action is to check in with the world of social media. Before I know it, I can have frittered away my first waking half hour or more. Time gone forever from a finite day.

Late already, I battle procrastination--"I will start this task first--and then..."Too often the end of that promise--is broken.

I declare my own weakness to God and ask for his help daily in doing what I know is worth more than all the action in the world, simply waiting in his presence to hear from him. When I do, I find myself lifted from the dust of the day, into a sphere above it. I hear his voice.

I hear HIS voice.

And I wonder, why is there a battle? Maybe it's because there are battles I know nothing of that will be won or lost based on the choices that I make daily, that seem so insignificant. Choices as simple as leaving Facebook for later, and putting the care of my soul, first.

Because I want to hear from the Whisperer, who speaks in the silence...