Keep looking down

Keep looking down.

IMG_0953 radium lookout

You’re seated with Christ in heavenly places.

There’s something about seeking Jesus that changes our perspective.  Often when we pray we try to explain the problem to God. When we don’t receive relief from unpleasant circumstances in the time and manner which seems logical to us we are tempted to go back to God and detail the problem again and beg for help. Perhaps we worry he is unaware of the seriousness of the situation and think that we can enlighten him.

I have been guilty of worrying at God, and then labeling it “my prayer time.” Apparently He is not all that impressed by my dramatic prognostications. “If this doesn’t happen soon, then that will happen and we’ll have an even bigger mess, so please answer right now, Lord.” I am slowly learning that as I spend time worshiping him he lifts me up to his perspective.

I read a quote by Ashley Brilliant that said, “Praise the Lord! But remember the Lord knows the difference between praise and flattery.”

I used to wonder why God needed praise. Was his ego so fragile he needed people to constantly boost him up? Was it to remind us of what lowly worms we were in comparison to Him? I’m embarrassed to admit my efforts at praise bore close resemblance to my efforts to butter my Daddy up before asking him for money when I was a kid.

One day after praying and thanking the Lord (quite genuinely this time) for miraculous ways he had intervened in my life even though I certainly didn’t deserve it, I put music on, closed my eyes and just listened. I had a vision of seeing the world from the viewpoint of an eagle. I felt like I was riding on the back of the eagle’s spread wings, soaring over incredibly rich forests, sparkling rivers and light-drenched coastlines in the warm low evening sun. I can’t describe the beauty.

Worship takes our eyes off ourselves, off our problems, and lets him take us up to a different perspective. He doesn’t need our validation to know who he is;  we need his to know who we are, and worship turns our eyes toward him.

But God, with the unfathomable richness of His love and mercy focused on us, united us with the Anointed One and infused our lifeless souls with life—even though we were buried under mountains of sin—and saved us by His grace. He raised us up with Him and seated us in the heavenly realms with our beloved Jesus the Anointed, the Liberating King. He did this for a reason: so that for all eternity we will stand as a living testimony to the incredible riches of His grace and kindness that He freely gives to us by uniting us with Jesus the Anointed. For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazing. For we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago. (Ephesians 2:4-10 The Voice)

When we pray we can join with his plans, his solutions, from his perspective. Our current “impossible” circumstance may very well be the character-builder that leads to rich blessings for a future generation. Or it could be a ripe opportunity to see another aspect of God’s love and goodness that we have never seen before. It’s just hard to see the bigger picture when we are smack up against a fence that is 4 inches higher than our eyeballs.

“I don’t get it!” I cry. “I can’t see any way around this problem!”

“So come back up here,” Jesus offers.

“How do I get there again?” I ask.

“Enter my gates with thanksgiving in your heart. Enter my courts with praise. I am the one who lifts you up. This is where you belong.”IMG_0970


“Spirit wings,

You lift me over all the earthbound things

and like a bird my heart is flying free

I’m soaring on the song Your Spirit brings

O Lord of all You let me see a vision of Your majesty.

You lift me up, you carry me on your Spirit wings.”

(Claire Coninger and Michael Foster based on a poem by Madame Guyon)


jars of clay

I saw these clay pots tossed in a wooden bin under the counter in a shop catering to tourists in Jerusalem. The good ones stood decently and in order on a clean glass shelf. These were chipped and dust-laden, but nevertheless not discarded.  They spoke to me.

I am often bewildered and have so many questions. I keep getting to take the same tests over and over and I still haven’t got it right. I have chips and dents and scars from the poor choices I have made in times of challenge, but it absolutely amazes me that God chooses to use cracked pots like me. Unlike many organizations which worry about public image He doesn’t discard the wounded. It’s broken-ness that proves God’s goodness, because if I had any power in myself, believe me I am the first person I would fix. His grace amazes and humbles me.

But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.  We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair.  We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

Fort Steele: Alive, but Dead

Fort Steele
Fort Steele Cottage

The town has only one problem. It’s dead.

Every day its streets bustle with activity, but as the sun sets the tinker lays down his tools, the blacksmith’s forge goes cold, Miss Bailey balances her bell and pointer and dunce cap on the stool in the corner. The Northwest Mounted Police recruit drops his British accent and hangs his red serge on the costume rack. The inhabitants of Fort Steele leave via the employees exit to the parking lot and carpool home to the next town, because no one actually inhabits in this one.

It’s dead.


Tinsmith Shop Window, fort Steele
Tinsmith Shop Window, Fort Steele


When pioneers built the livery and school and churches and hotel and shops Fort Steele glistened with the promise of wealth. Since gold had been discovered in the nearby Wildhorse Creek all sorts of adventurous trail-blazing men streamed in, and after a tense situation with the first dwellers in the area was settled without violence, the abundant beauty and riches of the valley convinced them to invite their wives and children to join them.

The town of Fort Steele, named in honour of Superintendent Sam Steele of the Northwest Mounted Police who settled the uprising, basked in potential. Second sons and peasant entrepreneurs who left Europe behind prospered. But prosperity has a way of being usurped and the man who represented the town’s interests in parliament, retired British army officer Colonel Baker, had a way of also representing his own interests. The promised railway changed course. The station was built on Colonel Baker’s property instead, too far away to serve a town in horse and buggy days. Eventually people started moving to be closer to the railroad life-line. Eventually shopkeepers and trades people followed.

The result was an abandoned ghost town turned living history museum fifty years later.

Fort Steele after the tourists go home
Fort Steele after the tourists go home

When we first moved to this area, when our children were young, we often visited the town. We warned the kids not to barge into the house in the photo at the top because someone still lived there. Now no one lives there.

This week I was reading in the book of Revelation about the church of Sardis.

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. “

This reminded me of Fort Steele and the fun events we attend there, going to marvelous concerts in the old theatre, sharing potlucks around a pot-bellied stove in the NWMP barracks in the deep cold of winter, attending weddings seated around the huge gazebo in the hot summer sun, celebrating Thanksgiving in the garden produce-bedecked Presbyterian Church followed by a groaning table feast in the hotel. The place is full of activity –but no one lives there. It’s all an act.

No one is born there, or moves there, or grows up there, or grows old there.

This is the rest of the message to the church at Sardis: Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Fort Steele Presbyterian Church
Fort Steele Presbyterian Church

I wonder if it isn’t easier, when we are in churches that have become monuments to past moves of God, churches whose congregations are dwindling, to either practise willful blindness toward creeping death or abandon them to follow the newest thing. The church in Sardis was not given either option. They were not told to pick up and move to Philadelphia where the church was living love. They were told to wake up, strengthen what remained, hold fast, turn from deadly thinking and change. A remnant –an uncompromised scrap of the fabric that once made up this church remained to help them.

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

When folks in the big C church at large choose to pronounce death before the Lord does (and He does do this when a group is so far gone it becomes toxic) they could be cutting off those few who still walk in victory, who faithfully live worthy of their callings right where they are, without denying the seriousness of conditions of those around them. They are beacons of hope, worthy of our prayers and support. Revival is about breathing life into that which once was thriving, but is now dying.

God is still able to revive and restore. Our part is to let go of our reputations and change our ways to match His.  Jesus knows all about resurrection.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:6)