Out of the Box

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He’s not quite twelve but our grandson is showing some talent as a magician. Our family gathering this past week was a marvelous opportunity for him to show off his newly acquired skills to his younger cousins who were amazed at his ability to find coins behind their ears and make them disappear again. The three-year old followed him around, enthralled by her big cousin from High River. The four year old wanted him to do it again. And again. The five-year old wants to be just like him when he grows up. The six year old was open-mouth amazed. The seven-year old hounded him to tell her his secrets.

Some of his tricks, especially the ones involving cards, are works in progress, but still he is very entertaining. He sat beside me on the couch and showed me clips of illusionists he admired on YouTube and told me about plans for scenarios of his own.

“Okay, Grandma, imagine this,” he said. “You are in a metal box. It is cube-shaped and barely high enough to stand up in. You can feel the seams where it has been welded shut. There is no opening above you, below you, or on any side. No one can hear you shouting or banging the walls. How are you going to get out?”

I made a few suggestions. He explained why they would not work. Now I’ve got a bit of claustrophobia and I began to feel like a Robertson Davies character who “felt the weight of the mountain on his chest” as he was stuck in a narrow downward sloping tunnel on his way to a hidden cavern. I gave up.

“Use your imagination,” he said.
“I’ve been trying, honey. I don’t have any more ideas.”
“No, Grandma. I mean use your imagination. I said ‘Imagine this,’” he laughed. “Your imagination put you in the box. It’s not real! Imagine something else and you’re out of the box.”

How incredibly simple!

Oh, I heard God’s voice in this as I drove home later. Sometimes I find my thoughts hemmed in all around. What will I do if this situation happens? I can see no solutions. This is a dilemma. I cry out for help but no one seems to hear me. I begin to panic. Then I hear the Lord gently chide me.

Your fearful imagination put you in this box. Now use your sanctified imagination to think something else. Imagine your way out of the box. Have another thought. Think wide, think high, think deep. Think My thoughts. In Me there are no limitations.


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Be still.

Be patient.

Expect the Eternal to arrive and set things right.

Don’t get upset when you see the worldly ones rising up the ladder.
Don’t be bothered by those who are anchored in wicked ways.

So turn from anger.

Don’t rage,
and don’t worry—these ways frame the doorway to evil.

Besides, those who act from evil motives will be cut off from the land; but those who wait, hoping in the Eternal, will enjoy its riches.

(Psalm 37:7-9 The Voice)

These patiently waiting dogs caught my attention. I didn’t catch theirs though. There was only one person they looked to -the Master.

Rest Stop


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The Lord is my Fierce Protector and my Pastor.

I always have more than enough.

He offers a resting place for me

In His luxurious love.

His tracks take me to an oasis of peace,

The quiet brook of bliss.

(Psalm 23:1-2 The Passion Translation)


“Pastor” means shepherd. This translation of the beloved twenty third psalm made me think about the Good Shepherd who is, of course, the The Good Pastor.He is the model for ministry.

Until his  retirement we were blessed by one of the best pastors I have ever known. He didn’t draw attention to himself, but rather always pointed to the Lord. He worked hard to create a peaceful, safe place for those in his care to rest, to be comforted, nurtured, healed and to grow in the luxurious grace and love of Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Ron.

I hear you

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I decided to re-post a poem I wrote several years ago. The day I wrote it I was sitting outside writing a letter to God. I couldn’t quite talk to him yet, but I was daring to write down my feelings and mail them to the fireplace. My page was full of angry accusations. In places my pen tore right through the paper. While I was crying a sudden squall blew in. I was so utterly at the end of my rope I didn’t bother moving. It felt like the storm raging in me was now raging around me.

The sun broke through while it was still raining. When the shower stopped I picked up my strewn papers and my wet Bible. It fell open to Psalm 18 where David writes about God wrapping himself in storm clouds on his way to deliver justice to his child. “Wrapped and hidden in the thick-cloud darkness, his thunder-tabernacle surrounding him, he hid himself in mystery-darkness; the dense rain clouds were his garments. Suddenly the brilliance of his presence breaks through...” (The Passion translation) And verse 19 “His love broke open the way.”

I’m publishing this again because this week I’ve read several excellent blogs by people younger than I who ably describe their frustration with church experience that involved competition, consumerism, hypocrisy, political manipulation, performance-oriented faith with impossibly high standards, dogmatic theoretical faith without power, and lack of demonstrations of love.

Yes, I know the saying that you get out of church what you put in, but change means admitting there are things that are not working for everyone. Many people are happy where they are, but there are also a lot of hurting people out there who feel no one hears them. They are expressing their disappointment with their feet. To those young people who are walking away I want to say, I hear you.

I think the largest “mission field” in North America is among those who have known spiritual abuse, from mild coercion to dastardly deeds worthy of criminal charges. I define spiritual abuse as the act of exploiting a vulnerable person’s longing for connection with their Creator for the purposes of acquiring  personal power -usually by a person with some degree of authority or responsibility for nurturing them. It is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit. Repentance means to change the way we think. And we do need to repent. All of us.

The first step toward healing involves admitting there is a problem. If you have been a victim, express your pain, but don’t park there. Keep searching for the God who loves you as you are. He is not disappointed in you because he understands human frailty. He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to show you what he is really like. He never expected you to be good enough to earn his love. He is the One who heals our wounded hearts and showers our lives with loving kindness.

We are incapable of loving God until we know his love. When you know you are loved and forgiven you can afford to take your hands off the throats of those who owe you. That’s when the world will know we are Christians – by our love.



I cry, Oh God! Oh Christ! Oh Jesus!

Where are you when the ones who say
they speak for you –those who squeeze us,
press in on every side, demand
that we respect authority,
obey their rules, come (cash in hand)
to hear their words, as only they
have got the regulations straight at last?
Where are you when the weak are hurt,
aggrieved and stumbled in your name?

Don’t you see what they have passed?

I sit entangled with the chords
of bitterness around my feet.
A plant blows over on the boards
that fence me off from outside world.
The petals scatter on the grass
and now the gust of wind that swirled
their frail wings in electric air
becomes a greater blast of rage
that showers ashes in my hair.

Flash tears the sky –breath rent apart,
and splits the veil of one who mourns,
with lightning striking to the heart.
Deep groaning rolls across the vale
from craggy peak to worn down ridge
and rains pours down –beats down in hail.

The sun withdraws beneath a cloud.
and saplings hang their weeping heads
as thunder rails against the proud,
who dare to claim the earth their own,
–and in the woods from hill to hill
creation echoes back the moan.

My tears obscure the sky from view.
Oh God! I cry. God! Where are you?

My child, I hear.  I weep with you.

(written during the struggle)

Tuned to His Glory

Everyone everywhere, lift up your joyful shout to God!

Sing your songs tuned to His glory!


Tell the world how wonderful he is

For he’s the awe-inspiring God,

Great and glorious in power!

We’ve never seen anything like him!

Mighty in miracles,

you cause your enemies to tremble.

No wonder they all surrender and bow before you!

All the earth will bow down to worship;

All the earth will sing your glories forever!

(Psalm 66 The Passion Translation)

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The Ugly Season

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It’s not winter and it’s not spring and in the valley the fields are pretty ugly (oxymoron intended).

Signs of spring are few; some crabgrass is getting a head start on the gardeners, a few little crocus pop up close to the house, and tiny tiny yellow buttercups bloom in the meadow. I take my camera and go out looking for evidence of change, but to be honest, in this shoulder season, it’s very drab out there.

The deer like our garden in the winter. They come late at night and bed down under the bare plum tree. You can tell this is a favourite place because when the snow melts the brown grass harbours dozens of piles of deer poop. (I’ll spare you the photo.)

Brown rotten leaves that I never got around to raking, or that fell after the first snows made raking pointless, gather in the hollows. They lodge between grey branches and add to the dullness of barren bushes and empty flower beds.

Shrinking piles of snow in the corners of parking lots in town look like speckled black slag heaps from old movies about miserable coal miners. The accumulated garbage of a season once blanketed by pristine white snow emerges on the boulevard like guilty memories of  junk food binges after you realize your jeans are too tight.

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Don’t get me wrong. I see hope. There is nothing finer than the first afternoon  warm enough to sit in the sun and enjoy a good cup of coffee. But the reality of once hidden things that need to be dealt with is hard to ignore, especially the day the ground in the stockyards thaws out.

It’s an ugly season, but it too is a season of grace.

Sometimes God sends us a gift we are not sure that we want after a while. A revealing season is one of them. Sometimes he melts the blanket of lovely white snow that has been covering a lot of nastiness. He reveals what has been hiding under there all along. Transitions can be ugly.

Sometimes he sends people (and attached circumstances) who seem to promise great things. When they come into our lives we welcome them eagerly only to discover that the great things are not so great – at least not yet. Their purpose (of which they are probably totally unaware) may merely be to reveal debris and garbage and piles of poop in our lives that need to be cleaned up so they don’t distract from the great things when they do happen. They may just be part of the unwitting transition team.

My friend and I were praying for a ministry which was having an important meeting. We prayed that God would move mightily. He did. The meeting fell into shouting-match chaos when old resentments and bitterness were revealed like piles of poop that had been under the cover of cool politeness for years. It got ugly. They could not move on until things were cleared up. The board members, being thoroughly humbled, set about to do that.

dead leaves broken pail IMG_0746We don’t always appreciate that a promising new boss, who turns out to be more difficult to work with than the last one, or a new political leader, who seems to be more inept than the former office-holder, may actually be in our lives for a reason. Their whole purpose (of which they are probably totally unaware) may be to be the agent that reveals the garbage we need to deal with and the brokenness that God wants to heal next. They may also be a part of an unwitting transition team.

It can be an ugly season when unpleasant stuff is revealed, but we don’t need to lose hope. In time the valley will bloom again. Watch for the signs.

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