Friday, December 31, 2010

Siesta Memory Verse


Verse Number One:

And provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:3

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflections on 2010 and Dreams for 2011

I can't quite believe that it is already the end of 2010 and time to reflect on the past year. Yet, it is.

Last January I wrote that my word for 2010 was CONNECT. I think that in general I have reflected that well. We did make the move and that transition has required many, many connections. We have connected with a new church and a new house group that is a total blessing. We have connected with friends coming to stay with us and with other friends around the Thanksgiving table. We have connected with Chinese students by sharing our home and our Christmas with them. We have definitely taken more blessing than we could ever give as God gives us people with whom to share. I have helped Jewel and Flower connect to new friends and a new piano teacher. We will soon be connecting with a new home education group. I have not found a ladies bible study, but my goal is to find or start one soon.

As I wrote of the hope of connections in 2010, I had little contemplation for the disconnections that would have to come as well. We had to disconnect from beloved friends and a house group that was integral to our ministry. We found the courage and ability to disconnect from some hurtful relationships and from the hold of memory and tradition. We disconnected from a home we loved, to connect with another home only to be forced to disconnect again. It has been a difficult year of disconnecting, and I'm not sorry to see that part end.

Of course, when I wrote those plans in January I had no way of knowing that I would say good-bye to my mother in February. Disconnecting and reconnecting and finding new connections in the saying good-bye, seeing family at the funeral and adjusting in the months that have followed have re-defined the goal of connection this year. Yet I am finding the connection. Mom had boxes of family genealogy that she had done nothing with for years. Entering that research and finding the family roots have given a new connection in the time of loss.

So a year of connection comes to an end, but the connecting will continue. We look forward to 2011 of opening our home to ministry and seeing where God leads. But what else in 2011? Throughout Advent, I was drawn again and again to Luke 2:19

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

I believe that the words that God is giving me this year are PONDER and TREASURE. I see the new year of treasuring the blessing that bestowed, of rejoicing that He truly does bring beauty from ashes and that beauty must be treasured. I find more and more a need to ponder the glory of God and his amazing word. I want 2011 to be another year of Bible Memorization and study. I have missed being a part of a small group of ladies to study, and hope to seek that out this year. Our house group is centered on solid Bible Study, and the foundation of the new church is the Preaching and Teaching from the pulpit, so there is much to ponder. But one of my goals is to not have the pondering be limited to a cerebral exercise. I want it to be active and to be changing my actions as well as my thoughts.

So there are my dreams for 2011 in a nutshell--to treasure all God brings into my life and to ponder all he teaches me to move me to action. Thank you for being a part of my year of Connection in 2010. I pray that you have found a connection to the Saviour in these mere words I type each week. You are such a blessing to me!

Happy New Year 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In Other Words--Take Courage!


“Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened,
and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9 ESV

Earlier this month, Jewel was writing a school report on courage inspired by a book she was reading. I asked her, as part of her report to define what courage was. She was to use a quote from the book to help her come up with her definition. Eventually, this is what she wrote:

Courage is doing what has to be done even when you are afraid.

Fear is a healthy reaction. Fear often keeps us from venturing into things that would be too dangerous for us to handle. It is our bodies natural defense to ask us to be on guard. The problem occurs when we allow the natural instinct to make the final decision, instead of adding rational reason to the decision-making. When we allow the emotion of fear to cripple our decisions and our moving forward, then we need to address a problem.

Courage says, "I see a reason to be afraid, and I will heed the warning, but I will move forward." Courage is hearing the sirens of alarm and using them to arm ourselves with understanding and awareness, but still going forward to accomplish what we need to do.

I have claimed this verse for the past two years of uncertainty with ministry, work and housing. They have brought immense encouragement in times of crippling fear. These verses remind me that I am commanded to move with courage not stand with fear.  I am sure I will claim them again and again as God continues to lead us into unknown areas of ministry.  I pray that even when I am afraid, I will find the courage to do what needs to be done.

Patricia at Typing One-Handed is today's hostess. Please go and visit the ladies who will be writing on today's verse and be blessed at how God is conquering fear and giving courage to his people.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Arrival at Advent


Luke 2:1-20

We have arrived. It is Christmas morning. Just as Joseph and Mary had arrived in Bethlehem and were shown the stable. Just as Jesus arrived and was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Just as the shepherds arrived to give him honour. Just as the magi arrived to bring their gifts. We, too, have arrived.

But what do we do now that we are here? Do we forget the journey in the midst of tinsel and wrapping. Do we pack away Advent with the Christmas decorations only to bring it out again next year?

Or do we do what Mary did? Do we "treasure all these things and ponder them in [our] heart?" That is what I hope to do.

This journey has been about clearing out things that block the relationship. It has been about remembering the prophecy, and the message and the plan. But mostly it has been about changing my heart to be more available for the King to enter. And he doesn't just enter on Christmas morning. He enters every single moment of every single day.

2011 will be a year of "pondering and treasuring" for me. Holding fast to the truths he is revealing. I pray that you, too, have moments of pondering and treasuring.

Thank you for Journeying with Me.
Thank you for arriving at the manger with me.

May you and yours have the most Blessed of Days as we Celebrate the Coming of our King!

Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Twenty-four


John 1:1-14

My Old Testament professor called this passage the theologians Christmas story. I prefer to think of it as the writer's Christmas story. A writer is immersed (or is it obsessed) with words. It is how we express ourselves. Words capture emotion, drama, fact and subtlety.

We know that God spoke the creation into being. His creativity flowed through his words. And then, that WORD, that creative force, became flesh. It became like humanity, only without sin. God's creative power became like me. Amazing!

Father, as I use my creativity to put words to paper and screen, may they reflect a little of your immense creativity. Thank you for your WORD. Help my words point people to your WORD. Amen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Twenty-three


Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11 The Visitors from the East

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

The visitors that came to the manger and to the home of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to celebrate his birth all tell us something about the inclusiveness of this Saviour that is born. The shepherds speak to the inclusion of the poor and those who live on the fringes of society. The visitors from the East, the wise men, show us the inclusion of the Gentiles. They show that we, non-Jews, will be welcomed by the Messiah.

Maybe it is that reason alone that the Eastern visitors are my favourite characters in the unfolding drama of Jesus’ birth.

But who were these visitors and would we see them as favourites if they showed up in our churches today? They were, in fact, star gazers. We would call them astrologers, or more derisively say that they were horoscope watchers/readers/believers. They watched for signs of major events and celebrated those events. When they saw the star they were not looking for a Messiah. They were watching for the celebrity happening of the time. They saw the sign and they loaded up their gifts and high-tailed it in the direction of the event. The star that was seen was interpreted to mean that a king had been born. The gifts were representative of what a king’s family would find acceptable. These stargazers were not looking for The King they were looking for a king. They were not excited about meeting a baby that would change history. No they thought that this moment was the event. They had no clue about a Messiah. This was all about importance of an earthly family. So, to answer the question, we probably would not be so excited to see them in our churches today. After all, they believe in the power of the stars and are looking to meet power and celebrity. We (okay I) would most likely look down our(my) nose and believe that they were not really sincere about Jesus.

It is at this point that the story gets the most interesting. They show up at the palace looking for the newborn king. Of course, there is no new born king at the palace. So inquiries are made. Finally an answer is obtained, “scripture says Bethlehem” the scribes announce. Now at this stage of the story I would think that those scribes, those people who knew the Jewish Scripture and who were, supposedly, looking forward to the day of the Messiah, would be getting excited. I would think that they would say “let’s go and see this thing that has happened.” But, that is not what happens. Instead they just send the Eastern visitors and King Herod says “bring me back a report.” So the Eastern visitors go, find Jesus and somehow in the midst of all of this recognize that this is bigger than just an earthly king being born. They bow and they worship him. They don’t just give him honour, they worship. And when the angel tells them not to go back to Herod, they recognize the message of God and heed it. Meanwhile, those scribes and advisers back at the palace remain clueless.

I wonder sometimes if we truly see the irony in this situation. The “star-readers” (say it with the derision we would feel) see the hand of God and honour Him. The “scribes” (say it with the reverence they would demand) miss that God is moving at all. Why is it that way? Why were the scribes blind to the truth and why did the Eastern visitors see it? I believe that some of it had to do with their willingness to see outside the box. The Eastern visitors were looking for new and wonderful and were willing to go to great lengths to find it. They had flexibility in their view to see a bigger or a different picture. But the scribes were narrow in their view. They understood what tradition said and therefore how the Messiah was supposed to look. They expected a conquering hero not a baby, and no matter how much the baby fit the profile of Scripture it did not fit the profile of tradition. Trusting tradition instead of trusting God caused them to miss the coming of the Messiah completely.

This holiday season, let’s not be so dependent upon tradition that we miss the wonder God may be showing us. Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to a broader view. We may even catch a glimpse of the Messiah that we’ve never seen before.

Father, help me to not to miss you in the midst of tradition. Open my eyes to see you in new ways. Amen.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Twenty-two


Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph is the most intriguing figure at the Nativity to me. He didn't even get a personal angel visit--he only got a dream. But, that was enough for him to trust. Instead of a quiet divorce he accepted fatherhood. How that one dream changed all his dreams for his future! Yet, he accepted it all.

Michael Card, as he reflects on Joseph's thoughts in Joseph's Song, writes,
How can it be this baby in my arms
sleeping now, so peacefully.
The son of God, the angel said
how can it be?
Lord, I know he's not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone
Still Father let this baby be
The Son of my love.

Joseph demonstrates the righteousness that set him apart to be chosen to raise the Son of God as his earthly son. Chosen. Just as Mary was chosen. He demonstrates that righteousness in how he treated Mary and how he must have cared for Jesus, the Son of his love. He allowed his dreams to be altered by a dream.

Father, give me the courage when you change my dreams to accept the new path. Merge my dreams into yours. Amen.

In Other Words--Heritage


My mother had boxes of genealogy research that she boxed away in the early 80s when she became ill. These boxes are part of the heritage I inherited this year. German and I have been entering the information into the computer. At the same time we are exploring the research of his family that his aunt had given us. Using a popular search engine, we are amazed at the information we can receive. One of our favourite things to find is World War I Draft Registration cards because it gives height, build, eye colour and hair colour. We laugh at how the men on one side of my family all seem to have been "short" and "stocky" where his side seems to have all the red heads. Things we see in the current generations as well. We get a good sense of our physical heritage looking at these records.

But when we get more excited is when we get glimpses of the spiritual heritage. In German's family it is easier to trace--his Mennonite ancestors escaped Prussia looking for religious freedom. Yet somewhere along the way, the strength of faith faded. His grandfather and his father drifted from that heritage. The foundation was strong and in German found a way back home. I have taken for granted that faith is a part of my family's life. But recently I learned that my great grandfather, who I credit with being the foundation of faith, was actually disowned by his atheist father when he chose the church. Now I am even more curious. Who led him? What drew him? From where did the roots sprout?

As I learn of my physical heritage, I am inspired to search more for my spiritual heritage. It is also a reminder that I need to be teaching the spiritual heritage to my girls, so they know where their foundations were laid.

"It is important we don't get so caught up in our earthly suit that we miss our eternal heritage."
Wayne Corderio
For more thoughts on this incredible quote, visit Karen at In Love W.I.T.H. Jesus.

Journey to Advent--Day Twenty-one


Hebrews 1:1-14

We are almost there. The day will soon arrive. All around us we are continually asking, "are you ready for Christmas?"

This passage asks us to instead inquire, "How is our perspective on Christmas?"

Are we focusing on the snow (dreaming of white) or focusing on the creator of snow?
Are we adoring the angels or the one they announced and bowed to in adoration?

We are reminded Jesus is above creation. He is superior to the angels. He is the begotten Son.

We must not lose the perspective.

Father, amidst the decorations and the dreams of the holiday, help me keep the perspective. Because of your sacrifice, Amen.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Twenty


Psalm 96 A New Song for the Journey

I took my first journey to the cross via the manger thirty-five years ago. With thirty-five years practice, you would think that the journey to the manger would be easy. The songs I sing along the way, I should do by rote. The path should be memorized. But it's not. I still need to read the map of the gospels each time I take the journey. I still need a guide in the Holy Spirit to get me there. Leaders still point me in the right direction. I am still surprised by God all along the way. And He still teaches me new songs to sing.

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day."
~Psalm 96:1-2~
The psalmist does not advise us to sing last year's song or follow last year's path or do what is traditional. He does not make suggestions that perhaps it would be nice to do something new. Instead he commands that we are to sing a new song. A new song about the current journey. A new song celebrating the salvation that God is bringing into our lives now. A new offering of worship to Almighty God. Why a new song? Because we are new people. God is the only constant. We change. Our circumstances change. The specific blessings that God pours out into our lives evolve with what we need. We should not be standing in the same place we were standing a year ago. So the song of praise we could sing a year ago should not be the same song that we are singing now.

"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all the people." (v 3)

As we grow in Christ we should be developing a deeper and deeper understanding of Him. We should be able to describe him in richer tones. The symphony of the song should grow from year to year as we add the layers of new understanding upon the old foundations. A new song that is our offering of worship in thanksgiving for what the Lord is doing in our lives.

"Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness; tremble before Him, all the earth." (v 7-9)

I am grateful that I am not the same person I was when I started this journey thirty-five years ago. I am thankful that those first notes of praise are now fuller with the experiences of the journey. My song is richer than it was. But I am more grateful that the song is not finished. God is still adding lyrics. He continues to deepen the tones. And, by His grace, the song I sing next year (or five or ten or twenty years or as many years as He allows) will be new again.

This advent season, praise God for your new song...and sing it!!!

Father thank you for the lyrics to my song you added this year. Your provision, your protection and your love have sustained in ways that my heart cannot even articulate. The roots are so deep than cannot be voiced. Keep my heart open to receive the newest lyrics as they come. Amen.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Nineteen


Luke 1:46-56

Everyone needs an Elizabeth in their life. Someone who has walked the path with God longer, who is able to give praise to God for what happens in their life and who is encouraging. Mary receives the word from Gabriel that Elizabeth is going to have a baby--so she sets off to visit her. Perhaps, Mary believes that Elizabeth will shield her from some of the scorn she is likely to encounter.

As soon as she arrives at Elizabeth's home, before she can even tell Elizabeth all that the angel said, she is greeted with acceptance. "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." Elizabeth knew. And she knew it was truly a miracle. What relief Mary must have felt.

That acceptance and that relief releases Mary to allow the Holy Spirit to pour through her. She prophecies. And she gives praise to God for the amazing things he is doing in her life for all of his people.

I am thankful that Mary had Elizabeth--and we get to see the result of that acceptance. I know that I have had times in the past when I knew God was calling me to some task, but it was only after someone else came alongside and verified that they saw the hand of God that I allowed myself to fully embrace the call. I have had my Elizabeths for whom I am grateful. I pray that I can also be the encourager in some one's life. I wonder if there is a Mary to whom I am called to be an Elizabeth? I wonder who needs my acceptance and encouragement. Praying for eyes to see and opportunities to encourage.

Father thank you for sending people alongside me in my journey to encourage me. Thank you for those who have accepted the ministries I have pursued and cheered me on. Give me eyes to see you at work in others. Loose my tongue to encourage those who need encouragement. Give me an accepting spirit of things you are doing in others. Amen.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Eighteen


Luke 1:26-38

I think back to when I first suspected I was pregnant. I was excited and thrilled, but I was also apprehensive. What would German say? Were we ready? Did I have any idea how much our lives were about to change? But for all the apprehension, I had the security of a loving husband and a family who would be thrilled and a church that would support us.

Mary had none of that. She had Joseph, who was likely to be anything but thrilled that his betrothed was pregnant. She had a family that would most likely be scandalized. She had a community that would probably make her the subject of all the gossip for months and years to come. She had every reason to say "no way" and run off.

But she didn't. She stayed. She asked the most reasonable question she could ask, "how will this happen--I'm a virgin?" Then she agreed to be used by God, no matter the difficulties that would accompany the blessing.

I want to be that willing. I want to not focus on the "what ifs" and focus on God. That is my prayer this last week of Advent.

God make me willing to do whatever you call me to do and to go wherever you call me to go. I want a heart that is tender to your call. I want to be willing. Amen.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Seventeen


Hebrews 10:11-25

I don't really understand the culture of a priests and daily sacrifices. I don't understand bringing my gift for someone else to take to the altar and offer it for me. I don't understand needing a human intermediary between me and God.

I don't understand that culture because Jesus changed it.

He came and upset the prevailing routine of sin-sacrifice-atonement-sin again-repeat. He made one sacrifice that was complete for all time. And then he said, that each of us who believe are covered by that sacrifice. All we have to do is come to him. If that isn't something to celebrate this Advent, I don't know what is!

This passage also reminds us that because we have the sacrifice we should encourage one another and assemble together. Not just for worship, but to help one another live lives worthy of the sacrifice. Who do you need to join with today and encourage them in their walk? Don't neglect it or put it off.

Father, thank you for giving your son to be the sacrifice. Thank you that no matter how many times I confess the same sin, the sacrifice is still complete. Thank you for looking at me through the blood of Jesus and not my own unworthiness. Help me to be an encourager to those I assemble with that we may all live lives worthy of you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Sixteen


Isaiah 2:1-5 Peace Comes to the Fields

“What do you think peace looks like?” Zeke asked unexpectedly.

“I don’t know,” Josh replied. “Sure doesn’t look like this.”

The boys sat on the wall. They were old enough to be men in the society they lived, but deep down they were still boys that wanted to run, joke with their friends and just play. Their childhoods were robbed of them. All they had really ever known was vigilance and ever-present danger. Even now, their spears were nearby, just in case. Enemy attacks were increasing. Their country’s little piece of land was situated in between much bigger political powers. They were the rope in the tug-of-war and people were tired and scared, but mainly they were just disheartened.

Zeke agreed. “Granddad tells of times of peace. When he and his friends would skip stones across the creek. He even tells stories of playing in the fields at night! I sure can’t imagine that.”

“Playing in the fields? You’re kidding. Those fields are so dangerous. You never know when you’ll come upon a spy camping out there. They are always watching you know.”

“Wonder what the fields looked like in Granddad’s day?”

“Dunno. Full of wheat or barley I’d guess.” Josh sighed. “Wouldn’t it be great to have just one field of wheat or barley? Why we could feed the whole town with that!”

They sat and mulled that thought a while longer. Neither of them had ever seen the fields ripe for harvest. Their lifetime had been one of scarcity. Too many risks to be out in the fields. Besides, all of the country’s resources were used for mere survival. Suddenly Josh sat up again. “Do you think we will ever see it, Zeke? Peace, I mean. Do you think that it will come to us? I really want something to believe in!” His hopeful look and wistful tone betrayed how deeply he needed to believe.

“I don’t know Josh. I don’t know. But that crazy prophet says that someday it will come. I sure hope he is right.”

“Me, too. Me, too.”

He'll settle things fairly between nations.
He'll make things right between many peoples.
They'll turn their swords into shovels,
their spears into hoes.
No more will nation fight nation;
they won't play war anymore.
Come, family of Jacob,
let's live in the light of God. Isaiah 2:3-5 (The Message)

Come and be the peace in my life Father God. Make me a conduit of your peace to others. Amen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Fifteen


We will soon encounter New Year's celebrations where will join hands and sing "Auld Lang Syne"

We'll take a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.

A cup of kindness for old times sake. Sounds wonderful when so often we encounter a world that is anything but kind. In fact, we are often confronted by downright mean attitudes.

But we don't have to wait for New Year for kindness and we don't have to settle for a cup. We have something better.
But when the kindness of God, our Saviour, and his love toward man appeared... (verse 4)

Jesus is the personification of God's kindness. He is the epitome of what kindness is. We receive this kindness not out of merit, but because of God's mercy. Because we receive it, we should also share it. When confronted by less than kind, let us pour out more than could ever be merited. Let us become a reflection of the personification of kindness.

Father, thank you that you do not limit me to a cup of kindness, but you gave it all in the form of Jesus. Help me to pass that kindness to others. Amen.

Journey to Advent--Day Fourteen


Titus 2:11-15

"Live sobery and righteously and godly in this present world."
This is a great passage to remind us what our daily lives should display. It is a challenge throughout the year, one that is only accomplished with the Spirit's help. But this time of year it is even more of a struggle. Everything around us calls for excess--in food & drink, in spending, and in activity. We must heed the call to curtail the excess and live soberly and wisely. We have tremendous opportunities this time of year to display godlinesss and make a different impression. How we respond to the harried salesperson, to our stressed colleagues and to those who are hurting will demonstrate the love of God.

May our actions this Advent set us apart as sober & wise, righteous and godly.

Father, help us to live without excess this holiday. Help me to make wise decisions. Set apart my life as different that others may see you. Amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Thirteen


Zephaniah 3:14-20 God's Song of Rejoicing

I remember clearly the first time that I read this passage that it had any real meaning. I was in my second year at University, in the middle of exams and tired. Although I would have never admitted it to my parents, what I really wanted was the comforts of home. But I was 400 miles from home and that was not a realistic option. As I visited with a friend about how to cope with the struggles of school, he read this passage to me. "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you. He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (verse 17) Somewhere in the midst of this passage I found the comforts of home. I did not need my childhood room or my parents or any of the other things that sounded so appealing at the time to be at peace, I only needed my heavenly father.

I was reminded of this same concept in the first few months of Jewel's life. She had difficult afternoons of colic where nothing would really satisfy her. But she would calm, if only temporarily, if I sang quietly into her ear. We would run through the gamut of every hymn I could remember as I tried to reassure her. And somewhere in the midst of her earthly parent's singing, she would find the comfort she needed to calm. I am sure at the same time my heavenly parent was singing to me to keep my heart calm to pass that on to her. What a beautiful reinforcement of his love!

In this passage, the prophet is actually pointing to the coming of the Messiah. It is a reminder that the time is coming when the Messiah will right the wrongs of the world. And it clearly shows the balance of God's character. Not only is he a mighty warrior, but he is also a loving father singing lullabies to his children. He not only comes to save us but to delight in us. And because of his coming we have no reason to fear.

As we are preparing our hearts to celebrate the Messiah's coming, let us not forget the loving character that he displays. Rejoice that he comes to save us! Rejoice that he comes to love us as well. I am sure, if we listen very quietly, we will hear him singing to us as we sing our praises to him this advent season.

Father thank you that you not only save me but you delight in who I am. Thank you for the way you sing lullabies to me in scripture and through others who love you. Quiet me this Advent so I can hear your song. Amen.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Twelve


Luke 3:7-18

John watched the multitudes coming to be baptized and he knew that many of them came wanting a quick fix to escape wrath, but no real desire to change. He challenged them. He told them of the hard work they would need to do to change their actions and their motives. He told them to share their abundance with the poor. He told them not to cheat one another. He told them to not use violence. He told them to not depend on their ethnic heritage to protect them.

The days was coming when Jesus was going to come. He was going to separate the wheat from the chaff. He was going to separate pure from selfish motive. He was going to judge the heart.

That day is still coming.

I may not use violence to get my way, but do I use any form of intimidation or threat? It will be judged. Do I skimp in mercy with others? It will be judged. Am I generous in my abundance? It will be judged. Am I depending on the faith of my parents or a prayer said as a child and not on a day-by-day renewing faith? It will be judged. God sees the heart and it will be judged.

Am I ready?

Father, as we near the manger, continue to clear away the stubble in my heart. Take away the feelings of entitlement or superiority. Take away the selfishness. Remind me daily to depend on you for everything. Give me opportunities to be generous in my sharing of you this holiday season. Amen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Eleven


Isaiah 7:10-17

Ahaz is in trouble. Despite his obvious disobedience, God longs to rescue him and his people. God send the prophet to tell Ahaz to ask for a sign from God to show that he is with Ahaz. But Ahaz is not only disobedient, his is arrogant as well. And he refuses. Even as he claims that he "would not test God" that is indeed what he is doing.

The prophet is exasperated. But God gives a sign anyway. A sign of hope in the future. "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (v 14) But it was also the foretelling of the destruction of Ahaz's kingdom before that time.

God offered a sign, but in arrogance Ahaz refused. God gave the sign anyway. We shake our heads in amazement that someone would refuse a sign from God. But... I wonder if I do not do the same.

God speaks to me in the Scripture, I close my Bible and do something else rather than hear him. He displays his glory in all creation and I rush past hardly giving it a glance. How many signs have I missed because of my busyness, my apathy and yes even my arrogance? I wonder...

Father God, help me to have eyes that see the signs of you all around me. As you prepare my heart of the coming of your son this Christmas, take away the arrogance that clouds my vision. Give me clear vision to see you. Amen.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Ten


Isaiah 52:7-10 God Tidings

GOD Tidings to You!

What started out as a misspelling in my notes soon became the message that God was speaking to my heart. The prophet Isaiah in this passage is bringing more than good news, he is bringing God tidings. The message was clear. The Messiah was coming! The people would see Him with their own eyes. The nations would see His power. They would find salvation. There would be peace.

Good news indeed. And it was news that only God could bring. Peace. Salvation. They had heard the promises from kings and leaders who would forge alliances with would-be enemies and show off their power and wealth, only to fail or be conquered when the “friendships” waned. Worldly alliances don’t bring peace. The people had watched kings come and kings die, and they still found no peace. And, they had heard the prophet say that more captivity was to come. Yet this same prophet also spoke of the One to come who would bring them peace---God would reign and that meant peace. This message, this God tiding, must have been music to their ears.

Did you know that you, too, can bring God tidings? We live in a world that craves for peace. We hear the politicians make promises. We watch as the media report on this alliance or that peace accord, and then report of the failure of those alliances and accords. But where do we need to look to find peace? There is only one place to look, and that is to Jesus. He, the promised Messiah in Isaiah’s passage, came to conquer sin and make peace. He shows us His power in our lives by giving us peace even as the world rages on in despair. He is PEACE. And the world needs the message. We need to be sharing the message of peace. Who have you told today?

Share the GOD Tidings!

Father I pray that today you will bring one person into my life with whom I can share your God tidings, your good news. Give me eyes to recognize them and courage to speak. Thank you Jesus for being our Good News. Amen.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Nine


Amos 6:1-7 Complacent Danger

This passage give me pause. I am often guilty of depending upon my life of ease. Difficult times for me are still times of comparative ease to many others throughout the world. It is easy to become complacent.

The warning is that complacency puts us in danger of depending on ourselves and ignoring God. That is what the rich of Amos' day had done. It is what happens in "rich" countries of the Western world in our time. It is what can happen in my life.

This Advent, let us heed the warning not to be complacent about our need for God.

Father God, thank you for the blessings in my life. Help me to never forget that they come from you. Keep my focus on you, the giver of the gift, and not on the gift itself. Drive the complacency of this world out of my heart. Amen.

In Other Words--Prayer Changes Perspective


“Prayer invites us to rest in the fact that God is in control, and the world’s problems are ultimately God’s, not ours. If I spend enough time with God, I will inevitably begin to look at the world from the point of view that more resembles God’s own. What is faith, after all but believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
~Philip Yancey~
~From "Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?"~
I remember distinctly lying in bed about eighteen months ago, with the crushing realisation that things were not going to change and we were not going to be able to continue to worship with the congregation that we had been with for over eight years. I remember singing Matt Redman's chorus "you give and take away" and through tears asking God to at least allow it to make sense someday. Those months of disillusionment and pain as theology and practicality divided were months spent on my knees more than any other time in my life. I so wanted to be in control of my destiny, and I had absolutely no control.

Now, looking in reverse, I see how much I learned about prayer during that time. My prayer "just allow it to make sense" has been answered but not how I expected. I have not received any lightening bolt revelations. Instead, I see day-by-day as we now worship with a different congregation how that experience changed my perspective. This congregation faced many of the same decisions that the old congregation faced. I'd venture to say that the same kind of divide was plausible here. But they made their choices from a platform of a different foundation--a platform of unquestioning love for one another. I see it, and I appreciate it in a way that I would not have at the beginning of this journey. When we ask questions that are fueled by our past experience, I hear answers that are fused with the new perspective I need. God is demonstrating to me that those months of crying out were used to re-focus the lenses of my heart to see his work in a new way.

I would have preferred to get here without the pain. But it was in the pain of the journey that I was able to yield the control to him and learn to trust him even more. Looking in reverse, the pain is not as crippling as I perceived it and had a purpose. So it is worth it.

Looking forward to 2011, I am sure there are things that are going to challenge my desire to control in my life. But the lessons learned in prayer during 2009 and 2010 have laid a foundation. I am certain that through prayer, my understanding of 2011 will be more and more through the eyes of the one who holds it is his hands. That is reason enough to persevere with prayer.

Father, thank you for using the pain of the past several months to change my perspective.  Thank you for allowing me to see glimplses of your work through your eyes. Continue to focus my heart to have spiritual eyes into the situations at hand. Amen.

Our wonderful hostess for this week is Debbie at Heart Choices.  You will be blessed if you visit.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Eight


Isaiah 43:14-21 A New Thing

God through the prophet reminds us of his character. He reminds us of the deeds that he has accomplished in the past. He is the creator of all things. He is the one who destroyed Egypt's chariots in the river. There is no doubt of his mightiness of the past.

But the past is just that...the past. In verse 19 he tells us he is going to do a new thing. The things that were to come (a Messiah)were so great that the things of the past would pale.

We do well to remember this. Although it is good to think of the great things God has done in the past, we must not limit God to what he has done in the past. God is always doing new things. If we are too dependent on tradition of how God has already moved, we often miss how he is moving in the present. Prepare yourself to see God's new things.

Heavenly Father, prepare me this Advent for new things. Thank you for how you have moved in my past. I look forward to how you will move in my today and my future. Give me eyes to see you at work.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Seven


Malachi 3:1-4  Cleansing and Refining

The prophet Malachi once again reminds us that we must prepare the way for God to come to us. That is the purpose of Advent--to clear away the things which clutter our relationship with him.

As we give a careful look at what clutters our path, we often find that it is our disobedience (sin) that keeps us from being ready. The problem is that we have no way to clear up our own sin. That is where Jesus comes in. He comes with the tools, his life, to cleanse us and to make us ready. Then, he does not stop with cleansing. He does not leave us in our raw form. Instead, he sits at the fire and burns away the dross, refining us to be of the highest value. How wonderful that he brings out our value. Are you ready to be made worthy for your King?

Father, clear away the sin and obstacles out of my life. Purify me. Cleanse me. I give myself to your refining fire. Bring about my value for you. Amen.

Marriage Monday--Joy for Two at Christmas

It is Marriage Monday again! This month we are focusing on keeping joy and celebration as a couple in the midst of the busy season. I have chosen the topic

12 Gifts (German) Loves that Don't Cost Extra Money

1. Unquestioning support
2. Hugs & Kisses
3. Respect and praise in front of my friends
4. Looking my best (especially at his company functions)
5. Doing the shopping without insisting on him going with me
6. Favourite meals scattered through the holidays
7. Chocolate Chip Treasure cookies (with a plate set aside just for him)
8. An uncluttered house
9. Time to listen
10. An extra game of pool after the kids have gone to bed
11. Quiet time of just being in the same space together
12. My initiative (ahem)

What no-extra-cost gifts can you give this year?

Join the fun today at Chrysalis to see what others are saying about Joy for Two in the Holidays.

Just an added note that Marriage Monday is taking a break in January and will return the first Monday of February.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Six


Jeremiah 33:14-16 Prophecy is Still Valid Today

Jeremiah prophecies while confined in the court of the guard. The city of Jerusalem will soon be captured and people will go into exile. However, this message demonstrates hope. He states that the promise made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah will be fulfilled: A King is coming with justice and peace will reign. How wonderful that must have sounded! Peace. Jerusalem would be safe. It was not at the moment. Nevertheless, safety would come.

The King did come, but not as they expected. King Jesus arrived as a baby. He conquered the enemy not with the sword but with His own death. Their safety and peace was not always physical, but spiritual.

What are we to make of this prophecy? We have the advantage of not only looking forward in Advent 2010 but also looking back to the birth of the King. We know the continuation of the story. We have Scripture to fill in missing details. So how does this speak to us this advent season? The first thing that I would note is to not miss to whom was the promise made. Although Jeremiah was speaking to the Southern kingdom, he made it clear that this was the promise to both Israel and Judah. It was for the whole of the then-divided kingdom. Advent is for the whole kingdom of God. None of us is beyond the promises that Jesus’ coming brings. Whether we are new believers or long-time followers of Christ, the promises are real for all of us. There was, and is, no discrimination in who can receive the promise.

Secondly, there is legitimacy of Jesus’ Kingship. To the Jewish audience of the time, the reference to David would emphasize his legitimate claim to rule. For us, I believe that it is a reminder that Jesus’ rule was ordained by God, long-before He came to earth. We live in a world of political pretenders vying for positions of leadership. Many have the legitimate desire to lead, but others are in the game for their own gain. Jesus’ claim to leadership was not for His gain. In fact, it cost Him everything to give us what we most needed—a means of getting to God. He has a legitimate claim to power, then and now.

Lastly, the promise of the prophecy is that the city of Jerusalem would live in safety. Living in safety is appealing. It is a scary world. Many things out there threaten our physical, emotional and psychological well-being. However, our ultimate safety is in the hands of the One who came! He cares for our needs in the here and now. However, the coming of the King was not for the temporal safety here on earth. He provided the way to have eternal safety in a new city. The blood of Jesus bought our safety. Therefore, we need not fear. Isaiah 43:1 tells us to “fear not for I [God] have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name and you are mine.” He will take care of His own.

Just as Jeremiah reminded the people of Judah that a King was coming to meet their needs and calm their fears, he reminds us of the same thing. The message is for us. His authority in our lives is legitimate and his sealing of our eternal safety is sure. What an amazing promise!

Father thank you that the message of hope spoken long ago is still a message of hope today. Thank you for being my King and preparing a place of safety for my future. Amen.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Five


Isaiah 5:1-7 What's Wrong with the Vineyard?

As we approach today's passage we once again are reminded of the judgment of God. In the allegorical story of a vineyard that is not producing the right kind of fruit, we see the vineyard owner removing protection and allowing the vineyard to be destroyed.

An interesting story to read until we realize that we are the vineyard. We are the one that God has planted, protected and provided care. Our response to this care is to produce the right kind of fruit. But instead, we often produce sour, wild fruit that is not fit for the owner. In our attempts to produce our own kind of fruit, sometimes we are left to the consequences of those actions outside the protection of God's walls. Our fruit production (or lack of) can lead to our own destruction.

As we near the end of our first week of Advent, pause with me to contemplate what kind of fruit we are producing and make confession for sour fruit. Let us today renew our desires to produce the right kind of fruit for our King.

For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
~Galatians 5:22-23~
Father, forgive the sour grapes and bitter fruit that I have so often produced. Prune away the things that keep me from producing good fruit. Please keep your protective walls around me and produce in me that which you desire to see. Amen.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Four


Joel 2:1-11

Today's passage is a strong reminder that Advent is not all cuddly sheep and sweet-smelling babies. True there were sheep present near the stable, cuddly or not and there was certainly a baby. But the thrust of Jesus' being born was not about his babyhood, but about the role he would play in our lives.

He came as our Saviour.

He also came as our Judge.

With dramatic images of total destruction, the prophet Joel reminds his listeners and us as we listen in that judgment is coming and it will be complete.

In our journey to Advent, let us not forget the purpose of Jesus' coming. Let us not wrap him up in cotton wool to the point that he becomes innocuous. Let us remember his legitimate role as our Judge. May we prepare ourselves for such judgment and be thankful that the evil of the world will too come to reckoning on that day.

Father God, help me to not lose your Mighty Righteousness in the scenes of Christmas tinsel. Help me to remain cognizant of your power in my life. Forgive me when I fail at that and clothe me in Jesus' righteousness. Amen.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Three


Ezekiel 2:1-7 A Rebellious Lot

Can you imagine the task set before Ezekiel? God said I'm sending you to a rebellious lot, and they may not listen to you but at least they will have had a prophet in their midst. Sounds like a joyous group to go before and speak.

Actually, it sounds a lot like our task today. We live in a world that often stubbornly opposes God's truth. The opposition is so great it is easier to say "Happy Holidays" and not "Merry Christmas" because the name of Christ might offend someone.

Yes, our world is a rebellious lot. It can be a daunting place to live out our faith.

But our job, just like Ezekiel's, is not to guarantee their response. Instead our call is to live and speak in such a way that our friends, co-workers and those with whom we interact will know that Christian has been among them. We need to live so they can see a difference.

Does anyone know that Christ has come among them when they speak with you?

Father, make me different so that others will knw tha you make the difference. May my life touch others with your love. Amen.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day Two


Isaiah 40:1-3

Make Way....

The whole point of Advent is to make way for Christ to enter into our hearts and into our holidays.

John the Baptist was the voice in the desert making way for the incarnate Christ to meet his people.

Isaiah foretold of this as he encouraged the people to take comfort in their sins being covered and prepare the way for the Messiah to come.

We, too, must make way in our lives. We, too, hear the good news that our sins are covered. We must set aside the second-guessing and guilt. We must set aside expectations and disappointments. We must set aside busyness and commercial pressure. We set aside the things that crowd our hearts and we make way to meet afresh a King born to redeem our sins.

Have you made way for your King?

Father clear away the mess I've collected over the year that clouds my vision of you. Forgive my mistrust and take away the things I put my trust in that are not you. Help me clear the way for my King. Amen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Journey to Advent--Day One


Isaiah 43:1-7

There are so many thing which can capture us in fear:
  • financial burdens
  • loneliness
  • health concerns
  • natural disasters

Fear abounds, but need not control. We as a people of faith and hope are commanded to not fear.

The thing about these verses is that the do not tell us to not fear because these things will not happen to us. Not at all. Instead it says, "when it happens" and "as you pass through it" to not fear. Why? Because He who has delivered entire nations will also deliver and protect us in our troubles.

On this first reading of Advent, join me in recognizing where fear has a grip. Surrender those things to the One who can manage them. Let us enter this Christmas season free from fear and filled with joy.

Father take away fear's grip on my life. Replace it with trust in you and fill my December with your joy. Amen.

An Advent Journey

You are invited to join me on an journey through Advent. Every year, one of my highlights of the year is to write a devotion to be included in the church's advent guide. This year, we are no longer at that church and I found myself missing the process. So, I have begun writing my own guide to Advent. Please join me, beginning tomorrow, to reflect on some of the passages that lead us to Christmas. May we journey together to prepare our hearts for His Coming.


photo purchased from

In Other Words--Choosing His Will


“There are two kinds of people:
those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says,
“All right, then, have it your way”.”

~C.S. Lewis~

We fell in love with the town of Portsmouth the moment we visited. I remember telling German that the first job that was available there, no matter what it was, he was to take it. I was only half-joking.

Then came the moment that a job was offered to German in Portsmouth. It was even a good job. Yet I clearly heard God in my spirit say "You can have what you think you want or you can trust me." As much as I love the South coast, I said to German that I did not think this was the move for us. He was relieved, because that was what he was feeling as well. We turned down the opportunity.

And we waited for the next opportunity. Which fell through.

And we waited for the next opportunity that brought us to where we are now.

I know for certain that where we are now is the place best suited to use our gifts. I do not for a moment believe that we would have been abandoned if we had accepted the other place. We would have been involved in a church, we would have loved God and He would still have loved us. I do believe that the fit would not have been as perfect. God would have said "have it your way" and stayed with us, but we would not have found the immediate peace that we have had here. Why? Because he truly does know the plans he has for us to prosper us.

When you say "Your will be done" you find the peace you desire. Praying that you find it today.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
~Jeremiah 29:11~

Father, thank you for directing our paths. Thank you that you do not abandon us when we choose our own path but wait patiently to draw us back. Help me to always be willing to say "have your way." Amen.

Our hostess this week is Esthermay at The Heart of a Pastor's Wife. Come and join us.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In Other Words--He Keeps the Light On


"Remember this. When people choose to withdraw far from a fire, the fire continues to give warmth, but they grow cold. When people choose to withdraw far from light, the light continues to be bright in itself but they are in darkness. This is also the case when people withdraw from God.”


I was watching a television program this week about the unsung heroes of the World War--the mothers who sent their boys away many to never see them again. It told of one young man who disappeared over the South Pacific. Of his mother the comment was made that she left a light on every night until her death, always believing that he would some day return. That light represented safety and security and welcome. Even though her son had gone into the darkness of war she was signaling where safety could be found.

When we get caught up in the chaos and darkness of the world, there is one thing for certain, our safety base does not change. The light and the warmth and the protection of the Father's arms remains the same, no matter how far away we roam. The light is still on, the Father is still watching and open arms are still there. We can find refuge, quiet, and light. We just have to go back.

So he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
~Luke 15:20

Have you moved out into the darkness and the cold? Are you feeling distant? Return to the Father, he keeps the lights on.

Father thank you for welcoming me back when I wander away. Thank you for the safety of your arms. Forgive our wandering spirits and draw us to you. For Jesus' sake, amen.
Our hostess today is Kathryn at Expectant Hearts. Please visit and be blessed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget...


Thank you for your sacrifice.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

In Other Words--Just a Few Words


Dull days, grumpy kids who have not been able to get out in the garden, and the continuing healing from emotionally difficult year (or two) was conspiring against me. I wasn't really sure where/how/if I was accomplishing anything.

"I really love your new site design," came by email reminding me that the someone is reading. Although the change was mainly made to reflect my growing contentment, it made someone else smile. And that made me more content.

I spent the day talking to the wall instead of to the child I am supposed to be homeschooling. No one seems to listen when I speak.

"I actually read your site today," comes the words from someone that matters most. "It was good." Someone, somewhere hears.

I hold this dream of writing my book someday. When the children are older and less hands-on needy. When, when, when...

"I know some people who publish. Maybe they can give you some guidance as to where to take this." Someone who doesn't laugh at my dreams, but guides toward real advice.

Just a few words is all that were written or said. But they were manna to this weary soul.

What wonders a bit of encouragement can do! It’s one of the most awesome treasures God has given us – the ability to inspire, motivate, and reassure others.

~Barbara Johnson~

Father God, thank you for the encouragement you have sent through people's words in these weeks. Thank you for reminding me to hold those treasures close. Help me, in turn, to be an encourager to those who need to hear a word from you. Amen.

Deborah at Chocolate and Coffee is our hostess today. I pray you will be encouraged by the words of the participant writers. Please join the conversation!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In Other Words--Pray for the Harvest

Welcome! I'm so glad you joined us for In Other Words Tuesday! I pray you find something of comfort and blessing here. Please link to your own comments on the verse using the Linky Tool at the end of the post. And please visit the other amazing ladies who are participating.


Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Growing up on the farm, autumn meant harvest and harvest meant long hours with, sometimes, extra workers. I loved harvest time.

Our lives are called to the harvest. But sometimes I miss the significance of that we are both workers in the harvest and recruiters for the work. I was recently reminded of the command to pray for workers in this passage as I was reading David Platt's Radical. We are to be entreating God to send plenty of workers, but that does not exclude us from doing the work ourselves. We are to be doing both.

I can remember my Dad watching the crop and watching the weather and waiting for the best moment to start harvesting.  (Those things don't change. For the last couple of weeks our phone conversations were totally about how close the crop was and we haven't spoken in several days--a good indicator that the crop is ready and that they are reaping it.) Although he farmed a lot of acreage, it was done by himself, my grandfather and a couple of full-time workers. Most years, they could manage it. But there was the very occassional year when the timing of the crop ripening and the predicted weather did not converge with a broad enough window to get the crop harvested in time. It was those years that additional help was needed. It was in those years a traveling crew would be hired to work alongside the regular crew. I truly only remember an extra crew once or twice in my childhood. What I remember was the excitement of all the machines going at once, the lights going late into the night and the air filled with a sense of urgency.

The air filled with a sense of urgency. That is the scent of harvest.

In a farming community that comes not only when the weather is limiting, but also when health or circumstances is limiting. I remember neighbours encountering illness or tragedy just as harvest approached. I can imagine the prayers those God-fearing farmers breathed silently as they coped with what was happening. And I have many memories of seeing my community become the answers to someone's prayers for workers. Farmers leaving their own crops for a day to all join together and bring in a harvest for one who was unable. The harvest was great, and God provided the workers. The scent of urgency combined with the aroma of community.

In our spiritual lives we are to be out there sowing seeds of faith, discipling and watering those seeds and harvesting the results. Oftentimes we are able to harvest the crop we are tending on our own. But there is a vast field and we as individuals are not able to do it all. That is the point of praying for harvesters. It is not to sit and watch someone else do it. It is to ask for enough people to work alongside and bring in the harvest.  In order for us to feel the requirement to both tend to the harvest and to pray for co-workers, we need to get a sense of the urgency. We need to catch the scent of harvest--the urgency that the time is now. Although I first read Ann Voskamp's post Harverst Storm four years ago, I have it in my writing inspiration file and return to it again and again. She captures the urgency of harvest. Go and read it, you will be blessed and challenged. Once we smell the urgency of harvest then we can capture the need for workers. Then we can pray for them to come and as they come be blessed by the aroma of community. May you find your inspiration in the scents of the time of year.

Father God make me a faithful worker in your harvest. Help me not to lose the scent of urgency and may I seek the community of fellow workers in the task. Send me and send others into your fields I pray. Amen.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Marriage Monday--Financial Contentment in Marriage

German and I are a good balance of one another in terms of finances in our marriage. Neither of us are huge indiscriminant spenders--both having encountered getting into financial trouble before our marriage and having worked hard together to get out of it. So, I came to this month's four topics a little perplexed as to what to write. I've settled on speaking of
Our Christmas Spending Plan
which is simply Spend more Time than Money.

We both feel that Christmas gets way too commercialized and we decided early on that we did not want to focus on spending. Instead the girls each get three small gifts to open (a la the magi) and one of those gifts is always clothes. They also get a small gift of pj's to open on Christmas eve and a Father Christmas gift. For extended family and friends we send a family gift of either gift certificates to go out and spend time as a family or a family game they can enjoy together. My niece and nephew each get a gift.

We always say that we don't exchange gifts with each other--but somehow something small always finds its way under the tree. I can usually count on the latest celebrity cookbook, he can count on a new set of cufflinks. Small things we love but do not cost us much.

We always splurge on Pantomine tickets as a family. We have found that time laughing together to be some of our best memories.

The focus of the holiday however is time spent together. Time spent playing games or riding bikes or going for walks. Time spent going to the carol service and Christmas morning services at church. Time in the car looking for Christmas lights. Just time being. We have found that we do not have to break the bank in order to bank a ton of memories. And that keeps us content.

Join us at Chrysalis' home to follow the links to other great advice and stories about Financial Contentment in marriage.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hosting In Other Words--Pray for the Harvest

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Growing up on the farm, autumn meant harvest and harvest meant long hours with, often, extra workers. I loved harvest time.

Our lives are called to the harvest. But sometimes I miss the significance of that....

Come back on Tuesday and I will continue my thoughts on being part of the harvest. I have the incredible privilege of being the hostess for In Other Words and I've chosen the words of Jesus for us to reflect our thoughts. Please, write your own thoughts and come and link to us on Tuesday. If you are unable to write your thoughts, please come and encourage those who do.

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Other Words--What do I know?

It is easy to make God in our own image. We feel a need to create a picture of who God is that fits our needs and situation. We don't intend to do it, but it is the natural outflow of attempting to understand the "otherness" of God with the limitations of our vocabulary. (For a really good examination of some of these constructs, J.B. Phillip's book "Your God is Too Small" can be eye-opening but should also be read critically.)

This self-construction of God can lead to sweeping condemnation of that which is different from our understanding. It can be used to justify actions and opinions in such a way to shut down dialogue with those who think differently. It can also result in disappointment if God does not operate according to our user's manual.

There is often a point when the "rubber meets the road" and we our confronted with whether our beliefs are solid, or if we have added to or diminished our understanding of God. It is often in the moments of crisis that we are forced to weigh those decisions. Scripture uses the picture of a refiner's fire burning off the dross in our lives to bring out the precious treasure that lies underneath. (Malachai 3) I believe that moments of crisis are also a refiner's fire for our belief system. It serves as a moment of burning away the things that we have created, leaving us with more and more of the precious treasure of who God truly is that has been hidden in our construction of God.

I recently read an account of an event that many in evangelical circles are suspicious of legitimacy of the actions that happened. The person giving the account, someone known to me who I trust, was saying that if she had just read what had happened to her in a report she would have dismissed it, but she could not deny what had happened. She had experienced a moment (in my words) of having some of the dross of her belief system burned away to see more of God. That removal of extra explanation about our beliefs happens in different ways for different people. But it is always to give us a clear understanding of who God wants to be in our life. Then we will be able to hold onto those things with more intent.

“I know a lot less about God, but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more, for sure.”
~ Steven Curtis Chapman, on Larry King Live after the death of his 5-year-old daughter, Maria~

Father God, as you confront me with the things I have added to my understanding of you in an attempt to easily contain my knowledge, give me the courage to let you burn those things away. He me to know the things I know more certainly and to let go of things that I do not need to know. Let me know the precious treasure of you. Amen.

This week's hostess is Jen at Scraps and Snippets. Go, visit and read the posts. You may be challenged, you will be blessed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Thing

"Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert

and streams in the wasteland."

~Isaiah 43:18-19~

If Jesus is Lord....

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
~Colossians 2:6-7~
Recently our Minister to Youth and Children was preaching on the book of Colossians. He was reminding us of the cultural pressures the new believers at Colossae would have been facing. He made what was a seemingly obvious observation, but one that has hung with me for the weeks since:

"If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not."

By declaring that Jesus is Lord, the new believers were emphatically declaring their allegiance. And that allegiance was dangerous.

Those words continue to resound in my ears, "If Jesus is Lord, ______ is not." What fills in the blank in my life. What things do I need to be reminded are not Lord in my life?

If Jesus is Lord, blogging is not. Although a casual observer might not be too sure. The balance of time between reading my Bible/praying/spending time with Jesus and reading blogs/commenting on blogs/writing my blog is actually, often, way out of balance. I am working on keeping the ratio more acceptable. The funny thing is, when I prioritise time with God, I find I have more to say for my blog and it takes less time to say it. Imagine that!

If Jesus is Lord, homeschooling is not. Yes, educating my children is important and I believe that it is something that God has called us to do. But it is not more important than my spiritual wellbeing. And my childre will learn nothing of the love of God if all they see in me is hypocrisy. Again, getting the priority right is allowing school to become less of a struggle.

If Jesus is Lord, German and the girls are not. This one is often where the rubber meets the road. They are important. They are gifts from God. But they cannot and will not save me from my mess. Only Jesus can rescue me. I am amazed and grateful that he gives me these relationships to bring joy into my life, but I cannot depend upon relationships to make me feel good about myself.

I am grateful for the reminder that the declaration of "Jesus is Lord" is more than a glib statement that is made and then forgotten. It is a declaration of allegience. The choices I make and the priorities I set will demonstrate if that allegience is lip-service or heart-felt. I'm praying that I am found faithful to the declaration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Other Words--Grumbling


“The spirit of complaint is born out of an unwillingness to trust God with today. Like the Israelites, it means you are spending your time looking back toward Egypt or wishing for the future, all the while missing what God is doing right now.”
~Priscilla Shirer~
in “One in a Million”

Have you ever been around a grumbler? You know the type of person, nothing ever pleases them. The glass is neither too full or too empty, it is just wrong. That is the type of person I think of when I hear the phrase "spirit of complaint." It is a spirit that is totally unsatisfied.

In today's quote, then, satisfaction must come with trusting God with today. I understand the intent of the statement, and the statement is not wrong, but I think it is limited. I believe a grumbling attitude comes from not trusting God, period/full stop. If we are looking at the past and grumbling about how things did not turn out the way we wished, we are neglecting to trust that God knows our past and is in it. When we complain about the things that are or are not happening right now, we are neglecting to trust God with today. When we worry about things in the future that we cannot yet do anything about, we are neglecting to trust God already has the future in hand.

Neglecting to trust God leads to worry and anxiety. Worry and anxiety lead to irritability in word and spirit. Irritability leads to complaint and grumbling. It is a downward cycle that we all to easily can start down when we take our eyes off Jesus.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
~Psalm 55:22~

These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
~Jude 16-21~

Trust him...with your past, with your present and with your future. The result is less anxiety and no reason to grumble.

Father help me to trust you today and always. I don't want to be a faultfinder. Stop my tongue when I seek to grumble. Instead help me to praise you for your presence in my life, my plans and my future. Amen.

Today's hostess is Debbie at Heart Choices. I know that you will find a blessing there when you visit.

Strength Will Indeed Rise

A little over eighteen months ago, things went terribly pear-shaped in our worship community. After one particularly difficult encounter where really harsh judgment and punishment was dispensed toward us, we chose to make a drive and worship elsewhere. We visited a church in a nearby town where we know the tradition and worship would be so totally different than our usual experience, we felt we would be able to relax and reconnect with God.

It was there that I heard Chris Tomlin's "Everlasting God" (lyrics by Brenton Brown and Ken Riley) for the first time. I stood with tears running down my face as we sang the words "strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord." I was wondering if strength would ever rise again. At that moment I felt so weak and battered, that I had little hope.

Over the next months we practiced "waiting on the Lord." I had to daily, or more often hourly, choose to wait on him and to trust him in the situation. I continued to feel weak and unable, but he continued to give me just what I needed when I needed it. That waiting time would lead to a cross-country move and a lot of healing.

Recently we stood to sing worship with our new faith community. Once again the song was "Everlasting God" and once again the tears were flowing. This time, the tears were out of gratefulness that strength had indeed risen. The ironic truth is, however, that I am still weak. I'm just not defeated in my weakness.

It was never going to be my strength that would rise. It was always going to be his strength. As I trusted him, I learned to rely on his strength. My trust allowed his strength to pour out and manifest in me.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-10~

If you are struggling today, be encouraged. His strength will indeed rise and will be manifested in your weaknesses, if you trust him with those weaknesses.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Accepting the Rebuke

Still dwelling on the forgiveness/regret/conviction theme.  Feel free to move on if you aren't. ;-)

Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?
2 Samuel 12:7-9
This is one of those passages that has always intrigued me. The courage of Nathan to say to the king that he was wrong.  The willingness of David to see the truth in what Nathan was saying.  There are times that I have seen the need to be a Nathan in someone's life, and chickened out. And there have been times when a Nathan has showed up in my life, and I was less than gracious in accepting that. I'm not Nathan, and I'm not David.

Last night at house group the question was raised to choose characteristics of David that made him a good leader. One of the responses was "he was close enough to God that he was able to accept the rebuke." I love that thought. David was close enough to God that he was able to hear rebuke from others because he knew that God's acceptance of him was based on God's character not on his own. He was able to hold up the rebuke and see if it measured up to what God was saying. When it did, he was close enough to God to confess, knowing that God would hear the confession.

I know that the confidence in the relationship can make all the difference in how I hear a rebuke. I am much more willing to hear from German or from a few friends who have been granted access to inner sanctum of my life because I know that their rebuke is not the end of the relationship--it is because of the relationship.  My confidence in the sureness of relationship means I can hear correction. I trust it. On the other hand, the random person who chooses to give me their mind on my life without any reference of true relationship will not be heard. I'm not close enough to them to accept it.

That is what I loved so much about the statement made about David being "close enough to God to hear the rebuke." I want to be so sure in my relationship with God, that I am able to hear the rebuke when it is needed. I want to be drawn back to where I need to be without fear. I want the relationship to be so close that I hear the love in the rebuke.

Does that make sense to anyone else? Do you find that the closer you are to God the easier it is to hear convicting advice? Are you able to accept the rebuke?

Father, help me to walk in sureness of my relationship with you. When correction and rebuke is needed, help me to accept that as coming from a loving father who only wants my best. Help me be willing to change when you call me to make those changes. Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Real with Forgiveness

Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Proverbs 14:9-10

This week I was re-reading Ann Voskamp's amazing piece The Fish Principle and reflecting on rejection and forgiveness. I felt that familiar twinge in my spirit that there was more to this story. I wasn't quite sure where it was going, but I knew the lesson would be made clearer eventually.

I didn't expect is so soon. But then, I guess I often do not expect the hard lessons to come.

A reminder came of some trouble in someone's life. A really tough time being felt by this family. There is an urgent need of prayer. I clearly heard that small voice say, "are you going to pray?" Of course I said I would, and uttered a quick prayer asking God to be with them in their need. But the voice persisted, "I mean will you really pray? Will you seek blessings in their life from me?" Insert a heavy pregnant pause here. I know what the answer is, but I cannot say the words.

This is a person who has hurt me deeply. This is a person who shook my very core of security and abolished relationships with half-truths, innuendos and sometimes outright lies. It is also someone with whom I have known for some time that reconciliation needed to happen. I've even had church leaders assist in approaching this person about meeting to reconcile these differences--and have been turned down more than once. This person has shown no willingness to resolve our issues, so I have let it go.

Except. Except that I haven't. I still feel the pit in the bottom of my stomach when I hear this person's name. I still feel physically ill when I see them. And, as is glaringly apparent this week, it is someone that I would rather wish ill upon than seek God's blessing.

*UGH!* The truth is so ugly to confront. Reality is, this person does not care if we are reconciled. This person is willing for things to continue as they are. It exemplifies that my harbouring of ill feelings is not harming that person at all. But it is harming me. Because I*have*not*let*it*go. And when God confronts and says, "let me have it," I hold on for dear life because I am afraid that he will not handle it as well as I am. How silly is that! Paul reminds us,
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
but I would rather hold on be sure that the vengeance is what I would demand. I have become Jonah, sitting beside the destroyed plant stalk sulking.
I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2
The reminder to "really pray" for someone who has hurt me and to truly seek God's blessing is challenging. It is challenging because I know God's character and know that he may very well answer those kinds of prayers!

I would love, at this point in the saga, to happily report that I got my attitude straightened out and said the prayers with a pure heart. Truth is, it is not that simple. I've confessed my vindictive attitude, I've prayed for this person, I've prayed for me, I've argued with God and I've sulked a little more about it. The easy part is recognizing that God is calling me to a higher path than I've been on. The hard part is actually climbing the path and walking it.

I know that this is a path of higher calling. It is not something I do for that individual--as I have said they are not concerned with my forgiveness. This forgiveness has to do with me and my obedience to what God is calling. Obedience always requires a sacrifice. This time in order to obey I must relinquish my desire for fair retribution or for justification. I must trust that his ways make sense.

I doubt that I'm the only one out there that God is reminding about real forgiveness. Maybe you are walking right there beside me. If that is you, please be encouraged that you are not alone. I would love to pray for you. My email address is in my profile (or if you feel comfortable leave me a note in the comments). If you have already walked this road, I would be so encouraged if you would pray for me. Let's get real about forgiveness and allow God to heal.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...
Matthew 5:44

...And if you are so inclined, there is a hurting family that needs God's blessing. He knows the details.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Other Words--Words of Condemnation or Healing?


“When we are going through desperate, difficult times, the hardest thing can be hearing the voices of condemnation, rejection, and shame from others. The Enemy – the accuser of our brothers – loves to use people to kick us in the stomach when we’re down. The Enemy loves to use our sin to condemn us rather than allow us to hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit . . . Jesus silences the condemning voices and commands them to leave. Listen to the kindness in His voice as He says in John 8:10-11.”

~Beth Redman~
God Knows My Name:
Never Forgotten, Forever Loved

"A real Christian would never find herself in that position."
"If you only had enough faith, this would not have happened."
"He doesn't care about the details of your life!"
"Why would God rescue you? You made this bed, now you have to lie in it."

How I wish that those were all hypothetical statements! But they are not. They have all been heard by me in the midst of difficult times. They have all been spoken by well-meaning friends, wanting to help guide me to improvement. They all hurt, a lot.

Before I become sanctimonious that they were so wrong I must confess something. I, too, have said similar (if not worse) things to my friends when they were hurting. Under the guise of a helping word, I can unwittingly become part of Satan's plan to bruise and batter. Condemnation comes easy, especially when it is dressed up in the pretty clothes of advice. No matter the motivation behind the words, condemnation hurts.

Hear instead the words of love.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
~Isaiah 53:5-6~

But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
~Psalm 55:16-18, 22~

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
~Matthew 10:29-30~

They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
~Psalm 18:18-19~

Dear readers, let the truth of God's word seep into your souls. No matter what mistakes we make, no matter how far asunder we fall, He loves us more than we can ever imagine. His love draws us to himself and he will rescue us in our day of trouble. He has already taken on the condemnation of our sin and conquered it. We need to trust him to care for us the way he has promised.

Father forgive me when I doubt your care. Forgive me when I say unkind and unhelpful things to those who are hurting. Just as you are the rescuer in my life and you are poured into my life through others, help me to be the vessel used to rescue those trapped in condemnation. Let me be a tool for healing. Amen.

Loni is our lovely hostess this week. Please visit Writing Canvas and join the conversation.