Provoked

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“We pray, ‘Lord, change me.’ To answer that prayer, He will often allow circumstances or people to offend us. Our fleshly reaction spotlights the specific area where we need growth. Thus, the Lord initiates change by offending the area of our soul He seeks to transform. He does not expect us to merely survive this adversity but become Christlike in it.”
– Francis Frangipane

Out of the Box, Out of the Phone

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I remember my aunt’s Kodak box camera that required her to look in the top at just the right angle or she would decapitate the heads off her subjects in the image. She kept her brownie box camera long after others had moved on to other cameras that used colour film. Photos were precious in her time – and expensive and time-consuming to make. Making up her photo album required my aunt to mail the whole camera away to have the film extracted and developed and then sent back. Kodak obliged.

This past weekend, my young granddaughter used my phone camera to produce a video of her little cousins sliding down the curved stairs at my uncle’s house. The same day I posted it on Facebook and friends across the country commented on it.

Changes.

This article from Holy Soup  by Thom Schulz on “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment” fits with what I am sensing. Photography has taken off in the last few years. More people have better access (even on phones) and quality has improved enormously. It’s not left just to the professionals anymore. There is freedom to make mistakes and forgive ourselves by hitting delete or re-framing and re-lighting the experience with a photo editing program. It’s about seeing worth in the moment and making meaningful images we can enjoy and share in the future.

But Kodak missed it because it saw only one expression of photography. Nothing wrong with print. I still use Kodak paper but 99% of what I do is digital photography and artistic expressions using those photos on the computer now.

I feel something like this is happening to the church – something out-of-the-box is about to take off, improve in quality, be more accessible, offer greater grace to grow, and thrive in ways we never imagined, but we can miss it if we measure success in terms of sales of traditional product (aka bums in seats on Sunday morning.) I am meeting more and more people who love the Lord deeply but who are finding the current structures and expectations of the institutional denominational church-in-the-building are limiting their ability to pursue the desires God has placed in their hearts to know Christ, and to know who He created them to be, and to be placed in true family. There is more. I know it.

It’s about worshiping God, enjoying Him forever, making disciples – and loving one another.

I have not read the author’s books, nor have I seen his documentary (although I will probably be checking them out). We may disagree on what this out-of-the-box thing looks like. I don’t know. My attention was just grabbed by the comparison to Kodak and rather than feeling despair that church attendance is falling in North America, I am filled with hope that soon all the promises in Christ will become more accessible to the ordinary folks He loves – and they will know they are the church.

It Is Enough

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My faith has found a resting place,
Not in device or creed;
I trust the ever-living One,
His wounds for me shall plead.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.

I need no other argument,
I need no other plea,
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.

(Eliza E. Hewitt)

I love to explore the breadth, height, width, and depth of God’s love. I love to read and discuss deep theological ideas, to go beyond the basics of the faith as advised in Hebrews, to experience various expressions of worship, to listen to stories of divine healing and miraculous adventures in the Holy Spirit and of the heartaches and victories of those carrying the message of salvation around the world. There are some crazy adventures out there. God is amazing.

But all of these things are an exhausting distraction if we have not found our rest in Him. In seasons of stress and grief we realize the necessity of returning to a place of rest; we search for our center.

I find it interesting that so many profound truths found in great old hymns were written by women who held no office in any institutional church. They didn’t need to. Like many of Jesus’ female friends and disciples their credentials were established by their relationship with Christ and they expressed that in ways that didn’t involve a pulpit. Eliza Hewitt found that resting place that some with greater recognition have missed – Christ-centered Christianity.

Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose again – for me. Christ in me, the hope of glory. That’s all I need to know to enter His rest.

It is enough.

Bring Him Home

When I was a wee little girl I sat on my Daddy’s shoulders as he ran and my mother screamed. He had been a competitive sprinter and he didn’t hold back. I thought sitting up there was the greatest feeling in the world.

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Today I believe he knows freedom from an old man’s body and the chains of dementia and is again running as free as the wind.

His health was declining. He was becoming more child-like and he spent a lot of his time staring out the window, longing to see Jesus face to face and be reunited with Leah, the love of his life. But he told me he was afraid of pain and the process of transitioning beyond this physical place. Yesterday morning I was listening to a new recording by Josh Groban of the song “Bring Him Home” and turned it into a prayer that God would take my Daddy home, without pain, in his sleep.

My heavenly Father heard and answered, just the way he did when I prayed for Him to take Mom home. In the afternoon I got a call that when my sister-in-law went to check on him at noon she found he had passed away in his sleep. He had a recording of “How Great Thou Art” made at an anniversary party for him and Mom playing on repeat in the background.

God is good, full of mercy and very, very kind. Precious in His eyes is the death of one of His own.

I will miss him, and the conversations that never happened, but in the light of eternity, it will only be a short time before I see him again.

My Dad was a writer and a story-teller. A month ago I snapped photos of him telling one of his many tales of a Saskatchewan boyhood.

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Many people will remember him for his writing and story-telling in schools and theaters and old folks homes.

I will remember being carried on his shoulders, sitting higher and moving faster than anybody else in the crowd because my Daddy was the fastest, handsomest, greatest Daddy in the world.

Showers of Blessing, Seasons of Refreshing

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All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. (Ephesians 1:3 NLT)

The main character on the old TV show “Maude” had an expression: “God is going to get you for that.”

It was funny in the way death and taxes and old age jokes are funny, because behind a lot of humour there is a vault of anger and feelings of helplessness. Some people who want to be in the business of speaking for God must be taking Maude more seriously than she took herself, because there are a lot of God-is-gonna-get-you-for-that doom and gloom prophecies abounding on the internet lately. Lots of shoulds with no hows. Given the dire predictions that God is fed up with our behaviour (and voting patterns apparently) and is going to switch from showering us with blessings to dumping nasty judgments on us, I have to stop and ask, Is that God? What does the voice of God actually sound like?

Lately I was totally rattled when I heard the voice of condemnation saying, “You are not good enough… you are a disappointment… you have failed… who do you think you are…”

All those things were factual. I have failed and disappointed people.  I had not lived up to even my own standards. I felt shame (more than “I did something wrong,” but I am something wrong”) and I didn’t know how to fix it. I spiraled down rapidly. I stood on the precipice of depression again.

Then, in His kindness, the Lord brought words of correction into my life through a random podcast and when a page fell out of my journal He reminded me that this part of the journey is about learning to better discern His voice for myself.

“The fruit of the Spirit,” said the speaker, “characterizes the way the Holy Spirit speaks.” I understand that to mean that it’s His fruit, not something I have to conjure up on my own. It is His character. He is love. He is peace. When He speaks He speaks with the voice of love, of kindness, of the reassurance of His faithfulness in seeing me through and does not reject or condemn me. His tone is gentle, kind, patient and peaceful because that’s who He is.

A question: Even if it was firm, was the voice that told you that you are a failure gentle, patient, kind, joyful, inviting you to a deeper relationship? If not, it was not Him. Wrong voice. If God is asking you to change the way you think so that it shows up in your choices He gives you access to His patience and self-control. With every challenge that will help you grow there is a provision set aside – a spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms – that will enable you to change. You need to keep your eyes on Him to access it.

Of course we reap what we sow. That’s a universal principle so obvious that even toddlers get it. Pull the cat’s tail and there is a natural consequence. Act in a self-centered manner and there is a consequence. But the voice of God doesn’t condemn and leave us there. It goes beyond should to how – and the how is all about relationship and drawing closer to Him. His voice shows us how to hit the refresh button, to agree that we have been wrong and want to change the way we think, and to feel the joy of knowing we are forgiven and starting fresh.

Instead of “I am going to get you,”  He says, “Don’t worry. I’ve still got you – and I love you very, very much. I will strengthen you and help you. I began this work in you and I will complete it.”

Sometimes There Are No Words

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Did any of you parents ever hear your child wake from sleep with some panic fear and shriek the mother’s name through the darkness? Was not that a more powerful appeal than all words? And, depend upon it, that the soul which cries aloud on God, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” though it have “no language but a cry,” will never call in vain.
– Alexander MacLaren

My friend’s handsome young son is dead.

In a moment of hopeless despair he took his own life.

All I can do is cry out.

I have no more words than that.