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Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Continuing Story

Brone's life was full of misery. He was bitter and resentful. Over the years he found himself acting in ways that he despised, instead of being kind to those weaker than himself he was often impatient and harsh. He began to loathe himself.  After Brone met Joshua things began to change. Brone began to think "what if?" That small thought was like a slit in a curtain that had covered his heart for a long time. Now, when Brone was in the market he often heard the name Joshua and began to listen to what people were saying. Once Brone heard, "Joshua rescued that old lady" and another time, "Joshua helped my neighbour pay her debts". Once Brone heard someone say "they say that Joshua helps anyone who asks, he never turns anyone away." The rent in the curtain of despair grew. Brone started to keep his eyes open for Joshua. 
The day that Brone finally came upon Joshua was particularly dark. Jacob had berated him for something that he'd forgotten to do and Brone in return had shouted at a young one. He went to the market that day feeling depressed and hateful. As he turned away from the fish stall he came face to face with Joshua.
"Hello Brone"
Brone did not look at Joshua's face as he replied "Hi."
"How have you been since we last met?"
Brone replied "I've been wretched!"
"Are you ready to trust me and come with me?"
"Why do you even want me? I'm not what you think I am."
"Believe me when I tell you that I know you."
Brone struggled within himself, "how do I know that you aren't lying to me?"
"You've heard others speak of me. What do they say?"
"They say that you are a good man, that you help people."
"It is up to you. You can turn away, go back into the dark or you can trust me and leave it behind."
Brone took a deep breath, grabbed hold of the little courage he had and said "okay, I'll go."
So Brone walked away beside Joshua with his back to the shadows and his face to the sun.
They did not go far before they came to a trim little house. It was not unlike it's neighbours except that it was freshly painted a pale yellow and the curtains were open. 
Joshua said, "this will be your new home." 
They entered a neat living room and went through to the kitchen where a man was at the sink with his back to them. 
"Hello, Michael. I want to introduce you to your new housemate. His name is Brone"
Michael, turned, wiped his hands on his apron and said, "glad to meet you Brone."
"Michael, I'd like you to show Brone around, help him get settled in and show him the ropes."
"Sure thing Joshua, no problem"
"Well then, I'm on my way. Be well Brone."
Joshua left Brone standing in the kitchen with Michael "Come with me and I'll show you around."
Michael took Brone on a tour of the house and brought him to the room that he would be sharing with another young man. 
"Where is everyone Michael?"
"They are all out working."
Brone's heart sank when he heard this.
"We all have work to do. But don't worry it is fair and well suited to each person's talents. You'll be given your assignment in the morning."
"I don't think I have any talents."
"Joshua has a way of knowing what will suit each person. He will give you something that will be both a joy and a challenge."
Brone went to sleep that night in a warm, comfortable bed. For the first time in a long time he slept well and woke up refreshed.
As Michael said Brone was given a job to do and he was happy in it.  His new life was good. He and his housemates shared their responsibilities equally. Twice a week they would gather with others for a community meal. At these meals some would serve while others ate and then those that had eaten first would serve. While they lived, worked and ate together Joshua would visit often. He would teach them and take them out on "rescue missions" to find other lost souls. Sometimes small squabbles would break out but they were short lived, Joshua's teachings were about grace and forgiveness.
One day Brone was serving at the community meal when he saw Jacob enter the room. Alarmed and angry, Brone thought "what is that monster doing here?" He rushed to find Joshua and warn him of his old enemy's presence. "Joshua! Jacob is here! What should I do?"
"Go and serve him, Brone."
"What! Do you know what that man did to me? Do you know how despicable and untrustworthy he is?"
"I know him just as I know you."
"But he is so much worse than I ever was!"
"Jacob has left his old way of life and all who are willing to leave the old and embrace the new are welcome here. Trust me."
Brone went and served Jacob his meal but he could not look at him. Jacob said thank you and Brone did not reply.
After the meal Brone stayed behind to talk to Joshua.
"I don't understand why you made me serve that man."
"Because you need to let go of old grievances in order to heal. If you don't let go the old blackness will overtake you and you will be lost again."
"But I don't know how."
"You started tonight when you served Jacob. Continue to bless Jacob and one day you will find that love has replaced hatred."
Joshua paused then said, "Now I'm going to tell you something. Do you remember the conversation we had long ago? I told you that all children start in a place like Kadera and that some leave before they are ready?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Brone you were a child of nine when you were lead away. Jacob was barely four. The only life he's known has been one of cruelty and injustice. We must be patient with him so that he can learn to live a life of justice and mercy. Will you agree to help me in this?"
Brone, humbled by Joshua's words agreed. It wasn't an easy or short road but little by little he found that he was able to let go of pain and anger. Brone began to love Jacob and in the end learned to love himself.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Once upon a time

Zack lived in the land of Kadera. His life was pain free and easy. In the mornings he would bounce out of bed with a song. Kadera was a land of light. In winter the snow sparkled and was perfect for tobogganing and constructing snow people and houses. In spring the rain was clear and warm, the children would dance, sing and splash in the puddles. The summers were long and green and they swam and played games till dusk. They had naps under leafy elms and oaks, drank pink lemonade and ate sweet berries.  They played games among the branches of trees, swinging from branch to branch. As the days grew shorter the trees put on vibrant coats of gold, saffron, auburn and carmine. Hills were a challenge to conquer. they would run or cycle up them and then soar back down. It was not possible to be unhappy in Kadera. If a child fell and scraped a knee the injury healed quickly and left no scar. Zack was blissfully free, he ran like the wind was carrying him, scurried up trees like a squirrel, laughed heartily and sang without constraint.
The only thing that disturbed the peace of Kadera was that once in a while a child would disappear. Some one would be there in the evening and then in the morning they would be gone. The children would talk for a while about where their friend could be but then the snow or rain would begin to fall or some one would spy a rabbit and they'd be off to new adventures.
Zack was playing in the woods one clear summer day. He was high in a tree when he spied a stranger.  Curious, Jack scurried down and landed at the strangers feet. The stranger was unlike anyone Zack had ever met, he had to tilt his head back to see his face. There was a dark shadow on the stranger's face and it appeared to be growing out of his skin.
 "Whoa, you're tall!"
The stranger cleared his throat, held out his hand and replied, "I'm Jacob and who are you?"
"My name's Zack"
The stranger smiled and said "very glad to meet you Zack, I have come to open your eyes."
"But my eyes are open, I can see. You are standing right before me, the leaves on the trees are green and the sun is shining. What else is there?"
"Ah Zack, the things you don't know could fill an ocean and I can teach about them."
"Well then lets get on with it."
Zack and the stranger sat down with their backs against the tree and talked until the world around them grew pink and gold and Zack grew sleepy.
Jacob, seeing the his young friend's eyes droop said. "That's enough for one day. Meet me here tomorrow and we'll continue but don't tell anyone. This must remain secret or you will never see me again."
Zack agreed to keep the secret and ran home to a good meal and a soft bed. He slept soundly, his dreams were full of wonder.
He returned the next day, and many days following.
One day Jacob said to him, "I cannot tell you anymore, it is time to show you. You need to come with me and experience these things."
"I'm not sure. This place is good, I'm happy."
"Oh but you are missing out. There is a whole world out there to see. Spectacles you can't imagine."
Zack thought about it. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave his golden land.
"If you stay here you will never know what is beyond this place and I will not come here again."
Zack was beguiled. He wanted to see and experience the things Jacob had told him about.
"Let me go home, say good-bye to my friends and tell them that I am going away to have adventures."
"No Zack. You must come now or not at all. You're not afraid are you?"
Zack was unsure, torn.
"I'll look after you and show you the world. I won't let any harm come your way."
"Okay. But promise me that I can come back if I miss this place."
"I will never keep you from happiness."
So Zack and Jacob left the woods with their backs to the sun. They walked for days. As they traveled the world became barren. Zack began to worry that things may not be as Jacob had promised but he did not know his way home, he was lost. After a while they came to a drab place full of concrete and dingy buildings. He asked "what is this place?"
Jacob replied, "it is a city"
Zack was astounded, this place was grey, it stank and the noise was appalling. It did not look like the gleaming, joyous, exciting place Jacob had told him about. They came to a unadorned, unpainted house and entered.
Jacob said "Here is your new home."
Zack stared at the worn furniture, the grimy windows and scuffed floors. He felt tears behind his eyes and then his face was wet. "I want to go home."
"I don't think so. I have paid your way, for rooms and three meals a day. Now it is time for you to pay me back."
Jacob brought him to a room upstairs, shoved him in and locked the door. The room was filled with unhappy looking children. He stood there with tears running down his face, unable to look up. He found a corner, slumped down and fell asleep.
Zack's waking hours were filled with dull work and his sleep with terror. When Jacob was displeased with him he would beat him.
Zack dragged himself out of bed each morning. He no longer looked anyone in the face, he felt foolish, ashamed. Joy was gone. There were no more songs, games or stories. His old life was a fantasy. He learned to make himself small, keep his head down and speak in a low voice. Jacob renamed him Brone.
After many years Brone met a man in the market place named Joshua who struck up a conversation with him. Brone told the man about his life and Josh offered him a way to freedom. Brone said he just wanted to go back to his land of Kadera. The man told him that he couldn't go back. "Once a person leaves Kadera they can never return. All people start in a place like Kadera but no one stays there, sooner or later they must leave. Some leave at a young age, before they are ready. Others stay until they mature. For the young ones, like you were, it is an alarming experience that marks them for a long time. But there is a way. A new place, a new life." Brone listened politely but could not accept the man's words. He had been betrayed before, lead away by sweet words and glorious but empty promises.
Brone bid Joshua good-bye and went back to his dreary life.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Good News!

 "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Phil 1:27.This was the bible verse for day two of 40 days in the word.

As I was pondering this verse the phrase "worthy of the gospel of Christ" popped out at me. How can I "conduct" myself in a manner that is "worthy" of it? I started by thinking about being well-behaved but then my mind took a different turn. I began to think about the gospel of Christ and what it is. The gospel is often referred to as "good news." If the gospel of Christ is news what is that news and what makes it good? It is the news that Christ died on the cross and rose again. It is good because it is about forgiveness, reconciliation, grace and love.  We have been separated from God but he loves us and has made a plan for our return to him. It is the news that we don't need to try to gain his favour by our actions he has given it to us. I have done nothing to merit my status as child of God. It was done for me by him. He took the insults, the scorn, the nails and thorns. He died in my place.
I believe what the Lord is telling me isn't that I am to be "better behaved" than others but that I have been granted a great gift which I did not earn. I need to be aware of that. My inner attitude and outer conduct toward others needs to be humble, gracious, forgiving and loving no matter what.  I have "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) I live in His grace daily. I still sin, he is working on me from the inside out. Not everyone can tell that "I am a new creation" all the time, in all situations.

The other aspect of the "gospel of Christ" is self-sacrifice. Too often, in too many situations my attitude is one of self-preservation. I must look after my own interests first. I must make sure that I win at all costs. This attitude has done real harm in the past. I fight tooth and nail for My rights, for My position. I have been insulted, My pride has been hurt. The craziness is that too often while fighting for my own I actually lose something. I throw darts and wound those who are closest to me, and I lose a little bit of their trust.  In my lack of humility I abase the gospel of Christ.

For me Phil 1:27 echoes Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

I believe the only way that I can achieve these things is to keep close to him, depend on him. I can't do this alone, I've failed a lot trying. Day three's verse says this "God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (Phil 2:13) and what pleases him?--->Micah 6:8
I know that I will fail to live up to this at times but the gospel of Christ means that I need to confess, accept forgiveness, forgive myself, pick myself up and carry on.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My list of honour

Last Thursday was International Women's day, our local paper printed a list of women leaders in the community and the editorial featured the names of some of the prominent leaders of our region. I thought that I would write up my own list of women whose lives have inspired me over my lifetime.

Biblical women of note:

Ruth-as a widow she left the security of family and homeland to accompany her widowed mother-in-law back to her land. She gave her word that she would not leave her mother-in-law saying to her "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." Ruth kept that word. She cared for her mother-in-law, she went out into the fields and picked up the grain that was left behind so that they could eat. She inspires me to be loyal and keep the promises that I've made.

Deborah- she led Israel as a judge, people came to her for decisions about all kinds of things. She went out to battle with Israel. She inspires me to believe that God calls both men and women into ministry.

Anna- was a fixture at the temple "worshiping day and night," she was a widow and a prophetess. At 84 she witnessed the dedication of Jesus and recognized hem for who he was. Then she went and told everyone about it. She inspires me to remember that the physical world is not the only world and to let others know about Christ.

Famous women

Rosa Parks-She inspires me with her courage in the face of incredible opposition.

Mother Theresa-Inspires me with her self-sacrifice, her willingness to answer the call from God and spend her days taking care of the lowest of the lowest. She makes me remember that there is no such thing as the lowest of the lowest. In Gods eyes we are all precious. She is one of my all time biggest heroes. 

Everyday women who are anything but:

These women all raised their children and then returned to work. They have inspired me to believe that it is never too late to start something new:

Aunt Elizabeth- went to seminary and became a Presbyterian minister.
Aunt Margaret- went back to university after raising 8 children and became a teacher.
Anita Teeninga- went to college and received a diploma as a speech therapy technician. She had to leave her home for a year and live in a city about an hours drive away(more during rush hour).
Mary Blake- Took courses online and became a library reference technician.

These women are a large part of the reason that I have returned to school, without their example I may not have done it.

The following women have taught me that seemingly small acts of kindness can make a huge difference

Shirley Evans- she gave her time to me when I was a young mother with 5 small children. She came and visited, chatted and folded laundry. She brought me soup and picked up groceries and medicine for me when I was stuck in the house with a bunch of sick kids. She baby-sat for me when my mother-in-law passed away and then again so that I could go to counselling sessions.

Barb Buldyke- a woman who has often blessed me with prepared meals during times of difficulty. She has also done some child minding for me.

Val Penney- Blessed me with encouragement, friendship and many meals. When my mother died 4 years ago she and her husband drove the 3 hours to Stratford to attend the funeral.

Aunt Mimi-left her home and family to follow my father to Canada as she promised she would. She is a soft spoken, kind woman. She inspires me to loyalty and gentleness.

My favourite professional woman:

Amy Caughlin-my boss-  Took over as the CEO of our local library and saw us through a major renovation project. She has made the library  welcoming to people of all ages and a great place to work and study. She initiated programs for all ages. Our library now has programs for preschoolers, school aged children, teens and adults. The library has become a happening place because of this focused and accomplished woman.

The women nearest and dearest to me:

My Mother-Helen Neil Walton de Wever- She raised 5 children, went through many sad  and difficult times and never let them embitter her. She was welcoming and nonjudgmental.  Her strength came from the one who is strength, her peace from the one who is peace and her love from the source of all love. She has inspired me to seek out the Lord at all times.

My daughters- Tina, Anna and Grace- these three women inspire me with their strength, determination, creativity and devotion to a relationship with Christ. They cause me to marvel at the diversity of personalities in one family. 
They inspire me to actively pursue my relationship with the Lord.

Well this is my personal list, what does yours look like?