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Monday, 24 August 2015

Take my yoke...

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading the newly published Harper Lee book, "Go Set a Watchman", and since then I have been thinking a lot about the following passage:
“I mean it takes a certain kind of maturity to live in the South these days. You don't have it yet, but you have a shadow of the beginnings of it. You haven't the humbleness of mind-" (Uncle Jack Finch)
"I thought the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom." (Jean Louise Finch--Scout)
"It's the same thing. Humility.” (Uncle Jack Finch)
I think that Harper Lee is saying many things in her conversation between Uncle Jack and Scout, but the thing that struck me on a personal level was the idea of humility.
 Reading this quote was like waking up one morning and seeing something that I had only ever seen in the dark. Suddenly what I thought I knew took on a new shape. Since then the idea of humility as essential in our relationships with God and with others has dogged me, and I know that it is a quality that I need.
I have begun to see that humility is the beginning of wisdom because those who have it start from the premise that they are fallible. Humble people listen carefully because they realize that if they do they may learn something. They remember that every single person has great worth.
Why does Uncle Jack tell "Scout" that she lacks maturity and humbleness of mind? He observes Jean Louise's behaviour when she realizes that her father and her friend believe something abhorrent. Jean Louise confronts them belligerently, and then goes "home" to pack in order to run back to New York. Scout's idol has crashed (her idealized version of her father), and she is going to take her ball and bat and go home. Uncle Jack calls Jean Louise a bigot because "a bigot cannot accept opinions or beliefs other than his own". He tells Scout that now is the time she needs to stay, because "the time your friends need you is when they're wrong."
Humble people do not shout down others, nor they do not back down and run away when confronted with opposition. Humble people do not always concede to other's opinions. They calmly and patiently hold their ground.
I know that I have reacted like "Scout" often, I have refused to accept opinions and beliefs other than my own, and I would say that I am not alone in doing this. It is something I see happen in the church.   We get upset because something is not to our liking, we make a big noise about it, or we stew silently. We make the church our god when we expect her to meet all our expectations and needs, to feed us, entertain us, comfort us, and agree with us. When she fails, we leave and find another church thinking that we've solved the problem; however, we carry ourselves with us, and people are people no matter what church we attend, so eventually problems arise again.
I believe that humility is lacking in our culture. I see its lack in my life every time I run rough shod over someone who is voicing an opinion that I disagree with, or when I stomp away in anger. I see its lack in the church when we quarrel, gossip, and look down on others.

I need to grow up. I know that I am blind to my own sin, and yet see other's faults with 20/20 vision.

I need to acknowledge with David,
'You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
 You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
I need to invite the Lord to
Search me... and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. (from Psalm 139)
I need to be like Mary, who sat at Jesus feet and listened to what he said,.
I need to do as Jesus instructed me to "take [his] yoke upon myself and learn from him, because he is gentle and humble of heart". Matthew 11:29
Taking Jesus yoke means that I am willing to learn to walk under his guidance, as he teaches me gentleness and humility of heart.

There are many lessons to learn; as long as I live, I hope to go on learning, and finding wisdom where ever the Lord leads me. 

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Colossian 3:12-14

Friday, 30 January 2015

Our Father's world

Today, I'm thinking about my responsibility to the earth--the air, the water, the trees, the grass, the birds, the fish, and land animals. In Genesis, God created the world, and then told Adam and Eve to rule over it saying: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. Gen 1:28-31

I admit that sometimes I take this world for granted, and sometimes I am careless in my treatment of the earth, but if I am truly serious about my commitment to Christ, then I need to realize that God has given mankind a great responsibility to use what he's created with care.  We may think that because God used the word dominion, that we have full authority to do what we like with this world; however, in Mathew 20, Jesus tells his disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

God's idea of ruling and human's idea of ruling are different. In God's kingdom, rulers are servants. I believe this is one reason that churches and governments called their leaders ministers in the first place. The Latin origin of the word minister is "one who serves" or "to perform a service", which is related to the Latin word minus meaning less. If we are to rule as God means us to rule, then we are to care for that which we rule.

In Sunday school this week, the children and I spoke about reducing, re-using, recycling, and composting. We sorted garbage together, and I realized that there is still much that doesn't fall into any of these categories. I bring reusable bags shopping, place items in the blue bin, scrape organic goods into the compost bucket, reuse plastic bags of various kinds, cut up old towels and t-shirts for rags, but I still find myself throwing away too much; consequently, I've begun thinking of ways I can re-use more things. So far, I don't have much, but one thing I decided to reuse are the resealable bags that frozen veggies come in, so I've begun washing them and putting them in the drain rack. If anyone has more ideas, please share them with me.

I also try to walk to and from work a couple of times a week; however, the weather has been putting me off lately. I was feeling justified in driving the other day because of the weather, but then I spoke to the young man who shelves books at our library, he'd just walked to work in the snow. This young man lives close to me, so no more excuses.

My small efforts, are just that--small, but what if we all did the small things?

My list of reusable items

Twist ties
Bread bag ties
Plastic containers
Frozen veggie bags
Produce bags

Please add to the list.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Journal Dec 14/14: What if?

From my journal Dec 14/14

Colossians 3:12-17

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Help me to listen carefully and attentively to others; help me to carefully weigh and consider what they are saying. Help me to hear the emotion behind the words. Give me empathy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience and humility. Help me remember that a life lived solely to gratify my own desires is not a life well lived, it does not make the world a better place, nor does it bring any glory to you. Help me to think carefully before answering. Help me to give respect to others; to remember that they are your creation, and that you love them dearly just as you love me and my own. Help me to consider other's needs and desires; to remember that they have pain and troubles, insecurities and fears just as do I.  Help me to see and consider other people's humanity. Help me to forgive as you forgive me, to extend grace as you extend grace to me, to love as you love me. Forgive me for answering quickly in anger too often, for defending my rights vehemently when what was needed was to listen with respect, empathy, gentleness, patience and kindness.

Lord, when I look at the world around me I see pain, turmoil, violence and tragedy. In the midst of it all I see humans acting with compassion and humility and I am reminded that we are all created in your image.

What if we all lived Colossians 3:12-17? What would our world look like?

Lord, I can only start with myself.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Deep Waters

I've written my incomplete, raw thoughts, and I struggled with whether to post them.

Much has been written about Robin Williams' death this week, as though hurt and depression were new. When someone rich, famous, funny, and talented commits suicide, we say, "such a waste" and "the world has lost a great talent", as though other suicides were not quite as wasteful, as though other lives were not so valuable. All of a sudden, the spotlight is on mental illness, and suicide, as though in a week, or a month it won't be relegated to a dim corner again. We become careful, and compassionate, as though by next year we won't be avoiding the eyes of someone we know suffers from depression because they make us uneasy. If mental illness makes us uncomfortable, we are no different from those who suffer; it makes them uncomfortable in their own skin.

I think the world's response to Robin Williams' death is understandable. We somehow feel as though we know Robin Williams, and so we are saddened by his loss. It's okay that the spotlight shines on this matter even if only for a short while because I believe with such exposure change happens. In previous eras if someone famous committed suicide, it was spoken of in almost hushed tones, or listed as accidental. There was a lot of shame attached to mental illness, and suicide, but thankfully things are slowly changing.

When I was younger, I overheard someone say of my brother, Paul "He's so weak!" "There is nothing to him--no backbone." I heard this or something like it more than once. I heard others imply that my parents failed. I guess because my brother was flawed. I felt shame, but I wanted to run at those people and scream. I didn't know what I'd scream; I did not have any words to describe what I felt. Today, I want to say, we are all flawed; we are all marked by a world of misdeeds.
Who of us has never felt small, or looked inward and cringed? Who has not lain awake at three am, sick with worry, or sick with regret? Who has never felt utterly alone at times? Who has never had moments of staving off words that tumble through our minds like water over a cataract, words like worthless, stupid, ugly, and useless? Imagine the loneliness lasting for weeks, months or years, and not being able to turn off those thoughts. Imagine your friends slowly disappearing. Imagine feeling like a burden to your family. Imagine, an inner ache so great you just want to take the surest way you know of to make it stop.

I understand not wanting to be around someone with a mental illness; it is no fun. Sometimes we feel as though we need to solve the "problem", but usually there isn't much we can do, except listen. Living with, or dealing with a friend or loved one who has a mental illness is exhausting. There are times when you just want that person to get better, and stop "whining". I've been there. When you feel exhausted, or overwhelmed there is no shame in taking a break. If you have a friend who is wearing you down, it is okay to ask them for a time-out. Caregivers, and friends need to take care of themselves too.

What about when the ache becomes so great that the person ends his or her own life? Suicide hurts. It smashes into you like a tidal wave, it knocks you off your feet, and you don't know which way is up. You come up grasping, gasping, and looking for somewhere solid to land only to find that someone has blotted out the sun. Those who offer warm arms, or even a warm handshake are islands of comfort, and scriptures like "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" are sparks of light.

O The deep, deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o'er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o'er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing, 'tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, 'tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!


Lost in an endless ocean.
Tired of treading water.
Waves whispering, give in.
Gulls screaming, give up.
Black clouds rumbling, get lost.
The deep calling out, find peace and rest.

My comfort is that he indeed found peace and rest deep in Jesus arms.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Mother`s Journal: an unexpected gift

A few years ago our church held small group Bible studies during Lent. I don't remember all the details of what we studied, but one thing that stuck with me is the practice of journaling. I started journaling during my morning devotions, and it revolutionized my prayer life.

Journaling gives my prayer time focus and keeps me consistent; additionally, I find scripture makes a deeper impression on me when I write it out. It becomes indelible. Once I have written out the scripture, I write out my responsive prayers. They are prayers of confession, thanksgiving and intercession, not always in that order.

The other day, I came to the end of a notebook and couldn't find another. Today, I woke determined to find a notebook. In my search I came across one of my mother`s notebooks; she was also a journaler. I discovered blank pages in the center of her notebook, and decided to start where she finished.
As I held my mother`s notebook in my hand I turned to the second page, and found a prayer she`d written for me. It must have been written years ago after the birth of one of my children because it is a prayer for me and my child.

Mother and Daughter

Lord I see them there
sleeping peacefully beside one another.
Keep them safe Father,
under the shadow of your wings,
my daughter and her child.

Thank you that you know
that they are yours.
I know the times may come 
when the going is rough.
May they always stay close to you Jesus
like the little lamb with the broken leg.
Help them not to wander astray,
but stay close to you Lord, the
Good Shepherd.
Lord hear my prayer. 

I thank God for a loving, and praying mother; she has blessed me over and over. Although my mother has been gone for six years her voice speaks to me because of her habit of jounaling. I am thankful for her prayers, they reach beyond her life to future generations. My mother left a wonderful gift, because her prayers continue to touch me and my loved ones. 

Snippets of scripture from my journal this month:

Lamentaion 3:22-23
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

 Psalm 62:1-2
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 50:9-12
I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
 If I were hungry I would not tell you,
    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

Snippets from Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 91:1-2
 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Monday, 17 March 2014

Hillsong United-Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) Lyric Video

Called by name

Since Pete was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, it has been a bumpier road than I anticipated. We thought it would be a simple matter of removing the lesion with surgery, but things don't always go the way we foresee them. We have attended doctor's appointments where we left feeling like we'd just been toppled by a tidal wave, then we've felt overwhelming relief, followed by being knocked over again.

Pete has squamous cell carcinoma of the vocal cords, which has spread to his lymph nodes. He also has a mass on his lung, and many spots. He's been tested for latent TB and Hep C and B; all those tests were negative. Last week I decided to look for some answers on the internet. It was a big mistake because as I read, fear gripped my heart, and wouldn't let go. I couldn't concentrate on anything, so I decided to tackle shoveling the driveway and walkways. After an hour and forty-five minutes, the driveway, and walkways were clear; however, I was still disturbed, so I cleaned the house and went to work. After work I distracted myself with TV for a bit, and went to bed. I woke at three am feeling like I had a knife in my chest. I prayed, O God help me, I can't let go of this fear. At about 3:30am, I decided to get up and read for a bit. I took my book and left the room thinking that I would lie on the couch till I fell asleep; instead I decided to go into the guest room and lie down in that bed. As I got into bed, I noticed a little devotional book that Anna had left behind called His Footsteps, My Pathway. I began to read, and this is what I read: "Jesus said to them, 'It is I do not be afraid.'" (John 6:20) Trust Him; "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for his sheep."(John 10:11); "I have summoned you by name; you are mine."(Isaiah 43:1); "He himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5); "The Lord holds your future". Peace flooded my soul. I let go of my fears and held everything up to Him who is "the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end"(Rev:22:13). As I prayed, I realized that these promises are not just true for me; they are true for Pete. The Lord is Pete's good shepherd; the Lord has called Pete by name and he belongs to the Him; the Lord will never leave nor forsake Pete; the Lord holds Pete's future. As much as I love my husband, the Lord loves him more, and will care for him. I was able to let go, because Pete is in the best possible hands. His Father is the Father of all fathers--completely trustworthy. When I finished praying I got up, went back to bed, put my arm around Pete, and quickly fell asleep.

Something interesting happened that day as well. My friend Reta came to the door, and I let her in. She asked me how I was doing, and I started crying and told her about my fears. She hugged me and told me she would pray. I know Reta went away and prayed. I believe it was her prayers that helped win a victory for me that night. I know that many other people are praying, and I thank everyone of you. When we pray, we battle the unseen and win victories.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12

I want to be there for Pete and help him through this, and the best way I can do that is to trust fully on my Lord.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;" Isaiah 43:1b&2a