Sunday, December 15, 2013

FRAGRANCE

     Anyone who has wakened Christmas morning to the heavy aroma of turkey roasting cannot forget it. How early would our moms be downstairs stuffing that bird and getting it into the oven to be ready for dinner at noon while the rest of the family slept in warm beds?

     We associate fragrances with foods, special occasions, people, growing things. The scent of candles burning and evergreen boughs on Christmas Eve stir memories of worshipping together on that special night when the love of God and family was tangible.

     A fragrance is an unseen something around us that we become aware of. We detect it. It affects us. We choose to be attracted or repelled. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says believers in Christ diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge. Verses 15 and 16 explain that to one desiring Truth, a Christian is "the aroma of life leading to life." (NKJV)

     Negative words concerning the environment, politics, health concerns, finances, relationships - all of these abound. Ones who absorb the positive influence of God's Word can release a positive fragrance, the fragrance of hope. God is not perplexed over any condition that troubles mankind. He speaks, "Shalom", a term with a wealth of meaning and a delightful fragrance. It speaks of well-being in every sense - physical, emotional, spiritual.

     The turkey at Christmas, the rose in summer - some fragrances are tied to a season. Our words have power to entice and encourage at any time of year. We can bless and be blessed by their fragrance.

 Photo courtesy of Eleanor Joy McDonald

Sunday, December 1, 2013

MORE THAN THE SPARROWS

     A detour because of bridge repair took me into a valley where Herefords were feeding by the river. The farmer had delivered hay to the snow-covered pasture. I'm fairly sure the cattle took for granted he would show up with food. Can't imagine them stewing. That's not a favourite word in the vocabulary of beef cattle, but you know what I mean - in a dither - about what to do if dinner did not arrive.

     We can learn from those Herefords. David said, "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (Psalm 145:16 NIV) You and I are living so that every must include us. More than the most loving parent on earth, Father God cares, provides and desires to see His children succeed.

     Friends gave me a lovely azalea just beginning to bloom and loaded with buds. When I realized it needed more water than the other plants on the window sills, its healthy green buds had turned brown. With a little water each morning, life inside them prevailed. One by one the flowers are pushing aside the dry brown outer layer and opening.

     In Luke 12 Jesus reminds us growing things and birds have everything they need. He asks, "Of how much more value are you than the birds?" (Luke 12:24 NKJV) Believers are strengthened by the Holy Spirit within us and all His presence affords, the Lord Jesus interceding for us, and Father God longing to see us victorious.

     Remember the chorus we sang as children? "God sees the little sparrow fall. It meets His tender view. If God so loves the little birds, I know He loves me too!" At seven or seventy we can know we are in His loving care.

Friday, November 15, 2013

AT THE CROSSROADS

     "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths." (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV) Remembrance Day ceremonies draw us into times past. Cold wind and rain seem appropriate as we hear the names of those from the village who gave their lives for our freedom.

     Another day a stream of pleasant memories flows when I dig out the recipe for Minnie Ziegler's light fruit cake. I think of foods prepared only at Christmas, family gatherings and holiday customs. Aunt Alison went to the commons on the far side of the river to cut evergreen boughs for wreaths and swags. She decorated them with papier mache silver bells that, as a child, I was sure were the very bells in the song on the radio.

     We're encouraged to remember. Deuteronomy 32:7 says, "Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. (NIV) There's comfort in the memories of happy times with loved ones and a joy that comes with carrying on their traditions. We benefit from the lessons of the past, but I love the "NOWS" in God's Word. A favourite is Hebrews 11:1, "NOW faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV)

     In Ephesians 3:20 Paul writes, "NOW" to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" (NIV)

     We stand in Christ at the crossroads reflecting on things past, thankful for His present help, and anticipating His guidance into blessings of the future.

Friday, November 1, 2013

HIDE AND WATCH

     Mr. Whisker's ability to find a hiding place, be still and watch amazes me. When something of interest to him is happening, he snuggles into a spot and hunkers down. He keeps his eyes on whatever has intrigued him and does not move.

     At times we are absorbed with some problem. Instead of searching out the solution God's Word offers, we can be scatter-brained thinking of possible fixes and ridiculous "what ifs". When the Holy Spirit captures our attention long enough to nudge us toward a verse, we see a change we can make, a promise to stand on... but... if the answer doesn't happen right away, often we return to our same old ways and become discouraged.

     In Romans 8:25 Paul says, "if we hope for what we do not see [yet], we eagerly wait for it with perseverance." (NKJV -brackets mine) Hope is powerful. We have the Word of God and we can trust it. What He says He will do. We need to see the answer in our hearts before we see it in the natural realm and we can't give up.

     King David claimed God as his hiding place. (Psalm 32:7) And Father God is the safe refuge for every believer. He provides a place of trust and rest until the difficulty is resolved. To hide in the sense of passive withdrawal from our troubles is self-defeating. To rest in confident trust that God is moving on our behalf is victory.

     If my furry buddy can focus, control himself, and persevere until the thing he's waiting for transpires, surely, by God's grace and with the Holy Spirit, the most capable Helper, I too can hunker down in quiet assurance.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CREEPERS

     Have you noticed that plants which creep in voluntarily are seldom a welcome addition? The vine that has wound itself around the grape vine on the dog yard fence is barely noticeable during spring and early summer. In the autumn, securely established and bearing fruit, it displays its scarlet foliage in plain view. I remember Mom pointing out the difference between its poisonous berries and the grapes. Over the years we've pulled out yards of that vine, but still have not succeeded in eradicating it.

     In John 15:1 Jesus identified Himself as the true vine. In John 14:6 He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (NKJV) Without seeking them, suggestions of other paths to truth are presented to us. The One who is truth will not barge in uninvited. We read in Jeremiah 29:13, "you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." (NKJV) 

     In my search, John 7:17 got me on track. People in Jesus' day wanted to know, as we do, what was true. He gave them a way to test His teaching. If they chose to do God's will, they would know what was of God. It made no sense, but I cried out to God, "I don't know what Your will is, but I'm willing to do it and I want to know what is true." Since that time understanding of God and His ways has continued to be unfolded to me. He is true to His Word.

     Like the vine that crept in among the grapes, other teachings may seem attractive but are not able to nourish. To seek out the true life-giving Vine is more than worth the effort.    

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

TIME TO GATHER

     Orchardists look forward to an abundant apple harvest this year. They've gathered early varieties and watch later favourites to pick them when they're just right. To achieve the best results they have pruned the trees and done everything possible to protect the blossoms and fruit from anything that attacks or hinders their growth.

     In this area apple harvest coincides with Thanksgiving celebrations and the gathering together of family. A dear lady who now sits at a splendid table spread by her heavenly Father, prepared delicious feasts for her family of seven. When they married and had children she could not accommodate them all at once so she invited two or three families on different days. No matter how many she expected, if one gave some reason for not attending she'd be on the phone insisting they come. Each one was so special and loved, she needed them all.

      That mother's heart is not unlike the heart of Father God. He may delay the date of His Son's return to gather the family if one cannot make the feast. He desires every child to come home. Many could adjust their agendas and get on track with His. It makes no sense for people who are starving for love to choose to decline the invitation that would satisfy their need.

     When the apples are at their best, the crop will be lost if the fruit isn't picked. Jesus said, "Look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest," speaking of individuals hungry for truth. (John 4:35 NIV) A day comes when it's time to accept the loving invitation and gather with the family around God's table - no excuses.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

FORGET ABOUT THE DONKEYS

     In view of the brevity of our lives, determining what matters most is kind of important. We have oodles of opportunities to get side-tracked. The detours may be beneficial in the big plan as long as we do only what is necessary and get back on our main route.

     The donkeys of Kish, the father of Saul who was destined to be the first king of Israel, were missing. (I Samuel 9:3) Kish asked Saul to take a servant and search for the missing livestock. After three days with no success they consulted the prophet, Samuel, who told them the donkeys had been found. God's purpose for their journey was for Samuel to anoint Saul as king, but that's another lesson.

     Before they returned home, Kish was worried about his son's well-being. (I Samuel 10:2) The donkeys were back, but they were no longer as important. Where was his son?

     Like the lost donkeys, our natural concerns cannot be ignored. Kish needed those animals to do what donkeys did in his time. We need our electronic gizmos, large and small, to do what they are supposed to do. Many things we depend on, tangible and intangible, can be likened to his animals.

     When anything in our lives is out of kilter, it takes determination to keep the problem in perspective. If our top priority is to love and serve God, perhaps the condition which could steal our focus will be resolved by some means we hadn't considered.

     Father God's top priority is His family. He loves His children. Our spiritual welfare is crucial, but he cares about and meets our natural needs as well. While my eyes aren't closed to this world's realities, I know there is more than what I see before me.

     Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and they are life." (John 6:63 NKJV) Compared to the things of God, the things of this world are zero. Seems like it's probably wise to stick close to the Father and worry less about the donkeys. Quite possibly, at the perfect time, they too will be looked after.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

BEAUTY IN EVERY SEASON

     Those of us who live where there are distinct seasons may have mixed feelings as one season draws to a close and another begins. Each has aspects we want to hold on to, but we must let them go to enjoy what we look forward to in the next season. Change has its pros and cons in much of life.

     In winter the ground rests and is replenished by the snow. Farmers look forward to the fields being ready for tilling and planting. They watch the corn sprout, grow and produce cobs which they harvest to feed livestock.

     In Ecclesiastes 3:1 we read, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven." (KJV) In nature and in humanity, there is birth, maturation, fulfillment of purpose and rest.

     The same One who inspired the writer of Ecclesiastes prompted the prophet Jeremiah to write, "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 NIV) 

     Sorrows and joys may tumble together as we cope with change in our lives, but when we choose to move forward in the unique plan He designed, we can know what He has for each one is good. With "Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8 KJV) there is beauty in every season of our lives. 


Photo courtesy of Eleanor Joy McDonald
http://mcdonaldart.com

Thursday, August 15, 2013

NEVER GIVE UP

     A stranger handed me this card showing a frog in the bill of some sort of waterfowl. His head and body already gripped in the bird's jaws, it looks like the frog's life is about over, but check out his front legs. He's choking his captor! Love it!

     In 2 Corinthians 4:8,9 Paul declares, "We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down but not destroyed.: (NKJV)

     We are well able to see the problems and troubles we face. Our five senses and intellect reveal exactly how bad things are. If we choose to trust Father God we can draw on faith, a powerful sixth sense, that brings a complete other dimension to the picture.

     In 2 Kings 6:15-17 when Elisha's servant saw the Syrian army surrounding them he saw and knew the two of them were a tad outnumbered. His master, however, saw and knew, by faith, that a greater force was present in the spiritual ralm to defend them, and Elisha did not fear.

     Tough circumstances come against us and it is easy to give up. I saw a beetle stuck in what looked like a giant dust bunny. On his back, his legs pushed against the white web tangled around his body. It looked like a battle he could not win. A short while later I saw him right side up, making his way to shelter!

     If a tiny creature refuses to give up when he's all but done for, Father, help me to seize the thing that's come against me and fight in faith knowing this. Even if not apparent to my five senses, Your power to meet every need is far greater than any opposing force my natural senses can perceive.    

Thursday, August 1, 2013

SLEEP DISRUPTED, YET...

     Things going thump and bump wakened me. I waited expecting to hear a crash of something breaking. The contestants duked it out in open space - no damage. Fully awake, I realized Mr. Whiskers was after the bat I'd seen earlier in the month.

     When I mustered the courage to investigate, my fearless buddy had his opponent boxed in behind the radiator in the front hall. In his attempts to ferret the bat out, he had unearthed several toys previously squished under the rad. Checking each side, reaching underneath, even standing on hind legs, Whiskers could not get at the little creature clinging to the back side of the metal heater.

     I put Whiskers out; closed doors to other rooms; opened the door to the outside and shut off the lights hoping the bat would fly out. He did not and Mr. Whiskers came back in. The bat outlasted me. What if another decided to come looking for him? I shut the door and went back to bed.

     I don't pretend to have any great affection for bats. I appreciate them decimating mosquitoes in their legitimate domain, but have zero desire to share mine with them. No question, the one that came in wanted out even more than I wanted him gone. He could not know that I was trying to help him. He assumed my intentions lined up with those of my buddy.

       Had he any way of realizing I wanted to set him free, that bat and I could have co-operated to make it happen. I wonder how often Father God desires to take us from a dark place. Unlike my unwelcome guest, we have the ability to understand that God loves us and truly desires our best. It's a no-brainer. We can let go, give up the struggle, surrender to His goodness and love and receive every benefit He wants us to have.

     Day school is my preference, but even when a night's sleep is disturbed, I can learn something.

Friday, July 19, 2013

AN OUTSTANDING GUIDE

     I'm home after a grand week's vacation on Canada's east coast. We toured parts of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island with others "from away" -Canadians, Americans, New Zealanders and Irish. In the days together we shared bits about life where we live, especially with those we broke bread with - all interesting and enjoyable folk - but, Olive, our guide, had lots to do with the holiday's success.

     A resident of Halifax, this lady is graced with people skills, a gift for story-telling, and an abundance of knowledge of the history, people and places of the Maritimes. She's tops in administration and organization as well, marshalling her brood on time to wherever they need to be. Popular with entrepreneurs of all sorts of enterprises, as her group we felt welcome wherever we went. We saw places and things we'd have missed without Olive.

     Travellers weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a tour versus going on their own. In human terms one or the other works best depending on circumstances. In the realm of the spirit, the guided tour wins hands down. When the One who knows the end from the beginning promises to instruct me and teach me in the way I should go (Psalm 32:8), why would I flounder around on my own? Why chance missing the awesome things God has for me?

     The great thing is our Guide is available 24/7. He cares about every minute detail and concern in our lives and has knowledge of events and times we humans cannot know. One day I found myself praying the right holiday, the right time, the right price. I hadn't even been thinking of a holiday! That morning I received an email from a special friend who was thinking of a holiday and praying about a travel companion. The Holy Spirit spoke my name to her. Our loving Guide made the connection and we had fun days together.

     Among tour guides for the eastern provinces, Olive stands out. For everyday living, wherever we are, the precious Holy Spirit is willing to be our guide for the entire journey, right through eternity. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT

     Aunt Frances' lemon loaf is a family favourite. You beat two eggs and blend 1/2 cup of softened butter and one cup of white sugar with the eggs. Gradually sift 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, one teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the batter alternately with 1/2 cup of milk, adding contents of the sifter first and last. Stir in the grated rind of one lemon and bake it in a loaf pan at 350 degrees for one hour. When you take the hot loaf from the oven, drizzle over the top 1/4 cup of white sugar dissolved in the juice on one lemon.

     The sweet and sour combination is yummy and every ingredient is needed, but if you skip the baking powder you will have a flat, tough loaf. The baking powder gives it life. It makes it rise. 

     I'm thinking that faith is to life what baking powder is to that loaf. In Ephesians 6:14-17 Paul lists what we need to have victory. He cites salvation, God's Word, truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, but the one he stresses as most essential is faith. Faith gives life to all the promises. In Hebrews 11:6 he says it's impossible to please God without faith. So we can know about salvation, deliverance, healing, peace, joy, strength for each day... all the good things God has provided for us, but we need these to be real in our lives.

     It's as simple as W. B. Leggett's children's chorus: "Faith is just believing what God says He will do." And Father God not only gives the gifts but the faith to receive them. In order to rise to experience the promises, stir in faith and each and every one of them is ours for the taking.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SHOVE OVER

     From June 12 to 15 writers from across Canada have converged on Guelph, Ontario for the Write! Canada conference. The opportunity to learn more about their craft from gifted teachers and from each other draws them together. Friends reunite. New friendships are forged. It's a celebration of creativity with words by like-minded individuals.

     My feline buddy and I extend the celebration beyond the conference schedule to after-hours visiting with friends who stay over. At the beginning of the week Mr. Whiskers was sleeping off his early morning shift on the gold chair in the master bedroom... and I was thinking that the door to that room might very well be closed keeping him out once our guests arrived. 

     When we've given the other rooms to our friends, the bunk we sleep on is a single. Mr. Whiskers is large and, sure enough, the first night we moved into that room, there he was plunked smack dab in the middle of the bed. He had no need of words to communicate his message... What? You plan on sleeping here too?

     Special friends are welcome. It is not a hardship to shift things around to accommodate them, but how about people I don't know or ones cut from a different mould? If I shift the focus to my church home, am I willing to relinquish my comfort zone to ones who are not familiar with my worship culture? Will I be selective about whom I welcome?

     The religious folk of Jesus' day did not welcome people who were outside of their code of acceptance. Matthew the tax collector did not make their guest list. Neither did Zacchaeus who was willing to execute an undignified scramble up into the branches of a sycamore so he could check out Jesus. The lady who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair and poured perfume on them had not been invited to the home of the Pharisee where Jesus was having dinner.

     Jesus had no problem with any of them. He preferred their genuine desire to know Him and be with Him, to the proper adherence to rituals and rules of the "in crowd". He never fudged on what was okay with his Father. He loved each individual, told them the truth and extended mercy.

     Should a lady of dubious background dare to enter uninvited will I have a heart that embraces her? If an eager Zacchaeus pushing to the front means I'm denied access to my favourite chair will I gladly shove over to make room? Father, give me Your love for the dear ones who are intrigued with what they know of Christ. May they feel so welcome that they will choose to stay over.     

Saturday, June 1, 2013

FRAGRANT CONNECTIONS

     What fragrance entices you? Not, I suspect, the pungent aroma emitted by those furry black critters with the white stripe during the first spring nights mild enough to leave the bedroom windows open. But sweet ones like that of the Lily-of-the-valley have treasured connections.

     Even in her nineties, when the Lily-of-the-valley bloomed by the walk, Mom picked a few stems on her way to the car. Especially if they were a bit wet after a shower she loved to flick them under my nose as we drove to Alma for lunch. When Pat brought a plate of "Mrs. Waind's special chicken" to her place, Mom would hand the sweet stems over to her server/friend to enjoy.

     Bouquets of fresh lilacs graced each window in the church at Hanna and Steve's wedding. Bushes loaded with lilac blooms line the hiking trails and roadsides just now. Along the river banks the breeze carries the perfume of Dame's Rocket and Honeysuckle.

     The distinct smell of wet sand, laundry dried in the sunshine, burgers on the barbecue, bread fresh from the oven... these and many others trigger associations.

     In 1881 Charles W. Fry wrote of the Lord Jesus, "He's the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star. He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul." The Apostle Paul said followers of Christ spread the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. (2 Corinthians 2:14 NIV) The response of the person touched by association with the believer determines whether the fragrance attracts or repels. I want my life to give off a fragrance that draws others to Christ, not a scent that sends them running like those unwelcome visitors that have us jumping out of bed to shut the windows on a warm night.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ADVANCING FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

     In spite of sporadic signs of reluctance in this part of the world, spring is settling in. Between lovely days of shrubs vibrant with colour, we've had snow, cold winds, hail... Nevertheless new lambs are munching with their mothers in green pastures, and everything that has life is growing.

     Often new life is not without struggle. A few years ago dedicated volunteers planted daffodils along two sides of the Centre for the Arts property. For each gorgeous bloom in that parade of yellow, a bulb was buried in the soil. It drew moisture and nutrients from the earth until conditions were right to produce a shoot that would grow up into the light, develop a green stem, leaves, a bud and finally a flower.

     The dark time when no progress can be seen is a crucial part of the process. Our dark times may be ones of uncertainty. Coping with unexpected changes or with unknown factors that will affect our circumstances is difficult. En route to the achievement of a goal there may be a long stretch of hard work with no significant results. Whatever we face, the period prior to stepping out into the sunlight of the desired outcome cannot be sidestepped any more than the bulb can bypass winter.

     Hope through times of darkness is like the core life of the flower hidden in the bulb. While hope is alive within us it can sprout and grow until we are encouraged and motivated to persevere. The Apostle Paul spoke of hoping for what we do not see. (Romans 8:25) In Romans 15:13 he said, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NKJV) Spring is a season of hope. The amazing new life and beauty of nature delight and inspire us to press forward. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A LESSON FROM A SPRUCE CONE

     My breath caught as I glanced out the window to spot a mouse on the driveway a few days ago. My brain received the impression transmitted to it by my eyes and concluded, "It's a mouse!" Then the head talk: "No, it can't be. Check it again. Oh, it's a cone."

     Some things are obvious; no room for argument. The first dandelion is what it is. Others could stand some prayerful consideration. Especially in the area of relationships what we think we know may or may not be true. If Lucifer has retained any significant strength, it is in deception. Jesus declared, "He is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44 NIV)

     If it were possible to untangle the web of a broken relationship back to its source how often would we discover some subtle suggestion he's made to one person against another? An outright lie or a half-truth, either has the potential to create suspicion that one has been wronged. From his innuendos in Eden to the present day, Satan has introduced thoughts to divide and destroy. The most crucial are those directed against man's relationship with God. Anything he can inject to dispel our trust and awareness of God's love delights the enemy. We can safely assume that a thought leading in that direction originated with him.
 
     A huge hunk of life's difficulties might be avoided if we applied the precept we've know since childhood, "In everything do to others what you would have them do to you." (Matthew 7:12 NIV) Every one of us would prefer that others take a second look before assuming that some accusation is true. If that spruce cone had a mind, even it might wish to be recognized for what it is rather than being mistaken for a rodent.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

CROSSED WIRES

     The "crossed wires" I'm thinking of aren't precisely the type most commonly connected with this idiom. With a tad of poetic license I'm applying them to the mixed messages nature has been sending out in this region. For several mornings the opening stanzas of "the time of the singing of birds" (Song of Solomon 2:12 KJV) rang out very early. We still look forward to the full-fledged chorus when the finches, chickadees, cardinals and robins all join in concert, but the robins were already in amazing voice before sunrise and at dusk. Then came a rude interruption orchestrated by a weather system from the south west.

     Strong winds and freezing rain closed down the performance of the most stalwart songsters. Snowdrops, scillas, crocuses, even one brave hellebore, my lone Christmas rose, were encased in ice. Ice and wind also brought down tree branches which literally crossed wires and shut off electricity for many hydro customers.

     Once again I realized for sure I have no desire to live in pioneer mode. I highly value all the conveniences electricity affords. This recent episode put nature's expected program on hold, but the concert has resumed. In spite of the disruption, as Solomon declared, flowers do appear on the earth and the time of the singing of birds has come. 

Robin photo courtesy of Eleanor McDonald
http://mcdonaldart.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

     For the past week I've been watching these brave little scillas grow and begin to bloom. Squished between the house wall and the cement patio, how they find enough earth to nourish them always amazes me. Yet these particular ones produce their dainty star-shaped flowers earlier than their brothers growing in good soil in the garden every spring. They draw warmth that the limestone and cement capture from the morning sunshine and they just cannot wait for the others to bloom.

     The strength and determination of the scillas' bulbs to grow in this difficult spot inspires me. When their glossy leaves first appear I expect to see blue flowers open soon. They are hopeful wee things, sweet symbols of this season of atonement and resurrection life.

     At times we may find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations. We smack into a stone wall as we attempt an escape in one direction. Concrete opposition blocks another hoped-for solution. When circumstances look so impossible that either way we lose, we need to look up. The psalmist said, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." (Psalm 43:5 NKJV)

     Access to the One who is able to meet our need is not blocked. We can choose to reach up to Him. We can choose to respond to the warmth of His love. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV)
 

Monday, March 18, 2013

IT'S MELTING

     When C. S. Lewis wrote that winter would never end while Narnia was controlled by evil, he immediately engaged the sympathy of every reader living where there are four seasons. Winter has its beauty and benefits. A deep layer of snow just before daytime temperatures begin to rise helps to produce more sap in the maples for syrup. Crops need the moisture from snow on the fields, and skiers and snowboarders love the white stuff. But the time comes, when it's enough... enough cold, enough snow, enough winter.

     Bulbs begin to sprout around the edge of the snow heaped on the gardens. Puddles replace icy patches on driveways and sidewalks. Water flows in open patches of streams and rivers. When a puddle makes me happy, I know I've had enough winter.

     ...in every way. I want what's happening in nature to take place within me as well. I want the warmth of God's love to melt away all the hardness of unbelief. I want to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18, NIV) Like the transformation that happened when Aslan came to Narnia and the power of evil was broken, we have so much to look forward to in this next season. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

SHELTERED BY THE ROCK

     Sunshine, blue skies, fresh snow... on February 18 my friend, Bet, her canine neighbour, Henry, and I had a perfect day to hike to the cascade and low bridge in the conservation area along the Grand River. Other hikers and skiers had been on the trail. It was packed but uneven. Can't say it was easy walking. I was the caboose in the adventure bringing up the rear the whole way. A two hour jaunt in another season stretched into almost three. Bet and Henry probably walk it in less than two hours often.

     Prime opportunity for thinking comes with trudging along on your own. One scripture that came to mind was Matthew 11:30, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light." (NKJV) What a blessing to be yoked together with One who is never without strength. When I was huffing and puffing climbing uphill over snow-covered tree roots or rocky steps His energy enabled me. Bare ground was visible under the shelter of the overhang and I thought of those favourite verses in Psalm 91:1-2, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.'" (NKJV)

     Exercise is part of my weekday morning routine, but my companions are in way better shape. All of it was just fun for Henry who is very young. At about the same age, taking dog years into consideration, I probably would have had the zip to goof around in the snow at the cascade too rather than taking pictures of his antics. Whatever our level of physical fitness, whatever our age, when the going is rough there is One who is willing to walk beside us. In times of storm we may take shelter under the shadow of the Almighty. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

WEATHERING THE STORM

     We've had very little snow this winter so perhaps the weather systems tried to play catch-up on the 7th and 8th of this month. It snowed and it didn't stop until it was about a foot deep in the back yard. It was a doosey. The branches of the juniper were weighed down to the ground.

     Troubles may try to do that to us as well. Sometimes a bundle of them seem to come along together. When our prospects look dark discouragement attacks, or, if we take a step or two away from the centre of God's will, guilt and condemnation try to move in.

     The storms are real. We experience opposition and challenges with our five senses. When we're in the thick of the storm, it's all we see. But God... how wonderful that there is another dimension beyond the natural where victory is assured to the believer. The Apostle Paul encourages us not to lose heart because "the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18b NKJV) We can be sure that the storm will pass and that the God we trust will be with us through it all.

     When the enemy tries to paint a dark picture with his lies, the promises in God's Word dispel his gloomy message with truth we can depend on. If we choose to venture out into the blizzard, away from the shelter of His best, all that is necessary is sincere repentance, and precious peace is restored.

     With Christ, there is no question. The storm will pass. Skies will clear and the sun will shine again. "Whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." (Proverbs 29:25b NKJV)    

Friday, February 1, 2013

WHAT MAKES YOU PURR?

     What flips the switch on your purring machine? For Mr. Whiskers one strong trigger is bare dry cement to roll on. He would prefer the cement to be warm. In Ontario in winter that is not the norm. One day in January when it was bare and dry he was in his glory in spite of the cold.
     
     A plate filled with yummy food at Marj's Village Kitchen sets our older brother off. We give each other a nudge when Paul starts humming between bites.
    
      I must confess this foodie is not far behind him. When my church's First Fruits Fast begins each January, I choose to rein in my appetite for meats and sweets for twenty-one days and concentrate on a better source of satisfaction.

     Jesus told the people, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life." (John 6:27 NKJV) He declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger." (John 6:35 NKJV)

     David, the psalmist said, "Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live... My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods." (Psalm 63:3-5 NIV)

     I was especially nourished during our fast by the apostle Paul's words in Romans. One special verse was in chapter 15, verse 13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NKJV) Extra time in prayer and God's Word proved to be a great way to start off this new year. Still, I can't deny, a purr sneaks up on the inside as I enjoy foods that were set aside for those few days.    

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

FOCUS

     When yucky weather squelches Mr. Whiskers' interest in outdoor activities, he directs his energies to toys he's tossed aside on better days. One cold wet afternoon I discovered him stuck by the basement door. He'd gathered a small collection and there he sat, apparently trying to solve the dilemma of which one to tackle. Instead of choosing and making use of one, he parked and did nothing. Eventually he walked away from all of them.

     I can't entirely fault my ginger puss. I have such a bunch of things I want to do. I need to chuck some for another time and focus on one or two projects. It's a struggle when each of them is calling, "Do me, do me!"

     Unlike my buddy I do not choose to walk away from intriguing possibilities. The neat thing is God knows all that's coming ahead on the road we are travelling. The last bit of Hebrews 12:1 says, 'let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (NIV) The other afternoon I came down the street by the church as the sun was setting. The signs marking whichway to go on the round-about caught the light. We benefit; we're kept safe when we follow those directions. Better still, we benefit when we ask God to guide us in our decisions and stay on the course He's chosen as best for each individual.

     The next verse, Hebrews 12:2 starts off, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith." (NIV) The high spires on traditional church buildings were designed to point to the heavens and to God. We can be inspired and guided in our doings as we focus on Him.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

COURSE CORRECTION

     Mr. Whiskers and I have kept a close watch on the clock as it ticked toward the beginning of 2013. Even though the morning of January 1st is no different than any other, it feels like a fresh opportunity to start off again. Psalm 84:5 says, "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage." A pilgrim has a destination.

     Everyone who starts off on a journey intends to complete the trip. No one plans to stop off somewhere along the route for a bit and then return home. It's important that we fulfill our God-given goals. We can look back on the way we've come and see adjustments that will get us back on track if we've veered off a tad.

     We all have multiple areas in which we want to improve in the new year relating to work as well as spiritual and physical well-being. Those special desserts ensconced in our family's Christmas traditions were as effective as ever in adding unwanted numerals on the scale. In that department I need more than a course correction. For a few weeks the second course and I have to part company. Of all the good things the Holy Spirit provides, it's the fruit of self-control I need to munch on the most. (Galatians 5:22,23) My ginger puss has made some changes in his diet too. He's into African violet blooms, a cat's equivalent of salad greens for humans?

     In Christ we have all we need to embark on this new segment of our journey. I pray we'll be sensitive to know when He's nudging us to stay on the best course He's set for each one this new year.