As Song

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I wouldn’t have done it that way. It looked like a disaster. Facts and figures and previous experience all added up to a negative number.

Then I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the night. “This one is like a Chinese finger puzzle. The more you fight and try to free yourself from circumstances, the tighter they will get.

I trusted him. He took me through a tough, tough time and answered in a miraculous way mere logic could never duplicate.

Resting in God when everything around me says, “you need to do something!!” brings back memories of growing up in a house with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles who seldom agreed and who all gave me different instructions. No matter what I did someone would be mad. Which voice did I choose to listen to?

Now here I am again. So many angry voices. So many urgent opinions. So much distracting pain. So many dire consequences marching across the screen of unsanctified imagination.

Oh God, what should I do? What should I do?

Remember the source of your strength. Remember my promise to never leave you. Be thankful. Rest.

The Eternal is the source of my strength and the shield that guards me.
When I learn to rest and truly trust Him,
He sends His help. This is why my heart is singing!
I open my mouth to praise Him, and thankfulness rises as song.

(Psalm 28:7 The Voice)

 

 

Reaping in Joy

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I heard an old man tell the story of when he was a young man. He remembers coming back to his village in Eastern Europe after an army of invaders destroyed property and took sacks of wheat for themselves. They had a few precious hidden sacks left, but not enough to feed themselves and plant a crop for the next year without great hardship.

“We cried over every seed we sowed,” he said. “What if the crop failed? What if the soldiers came back? Would the sacrifice be worth it?”

When this same ethnic group came to Canada they were in the habit of sacrificing their own comfort to invest in the future of their children. They had learned to sow in faith. Sometimes they sowed financially and gave money to care for others when it hurt to do so. Sometimes they stood up for honesty and doing the right thing when it was not to their immediate advantage. Sometimes they chose to plant kindness when they were misunderstood and thrown into the category of enemy by new neighbours who assumed if they spoke the same language as Hitler they must be Nazis. (Meanwhile, in the Old Country Hitler’s troops were killing their former friends and neighbours.)

I don’t know that I could have continued to be kind under such circumstances. Certainly not everyone in that community did, but some pressed on. When elderly friends told me about being harassed as children during the second world war they recalled the advice, “Turn and walk away. They do not yet know who you are. Don’t let them push you into becoming who they think you are.”

This week I have been thinking about the scripture, “They who sow in tears will reap in joy.” I have a new understanding of the verse. The tears are not about weeping over the pain a situation causes. The tears are about the personal struggle to take that tiny bit of love and kindness I have and be willing to bury it in the dirt where it will not be seen or appreciated and may not grow the way I plan. The tears are about denying my “rights,” choosing to not take the easy short-sighted way but rather to have faith that in the long-term God will raise up something greater. A harvest of love. A storehouse filled by righteousness and kindness.

Can I admit that I find it much easier to defend myself with a sharp defensive retort than a  determination to go about quietly doing what I believe God has shown me is right? When I’m judged, and condemned, and tarred with the same brush as “them” on the “them and us” scale I long to be understood by people who have no intention of listening. That’s when I want to harden my heart, give them a name (usually ending with “ist”), and write them out of my life.

Today I hear the wisdom of those who have suffered much worse than a few insults, and who developed character that demonstrated the ability to forgive and to show love. If I know who I am in Christ I will not need the approval of loud people with microphones or Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Don’t let anyone push you into becoming what they accuse you of being. Sow with a view to righteousness. Reap with kindness.

I said, ‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
for now is the time to seek the LORD,
that he may come
and shower righteousness upon you.’

(Hosea 10:12 NLT)

Trickle Down Word

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“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

“The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

    You will live in joy and peace.
    The mountains and hills will burst into song,
    and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”

(Isaiah 55:8-12 NLT)

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Winds of Change

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My grandson was showing me photos he had done for school when I saw the light change outside on the snowy lawn in my peripheral vision. I checked the sky.

“Grab your camera!” I said. “And your boots and jacket. Let’s go.”
A strong wind resisted our efforts to open the front door.

“Where is the closest open field?” I asked him when he got in the car.
He took me there. This is the result.

Chinook arch at sunset in Alberta.

I grew up in Calgary. I knew what an arch of clouds in the sky coming from the mountains in the west meant. It meant a break in the weather. It meant sudden unseasonably warm days right in the middle of winter.

To some weather-sensitive people chinook winds bring changes in barometric pressure that provoke migraines and achy knees, to some they create a mess of melting show and piles of slush on the road, but as a child I knew they brought streams in the gutter to sail our clothespin boats, the ability to run around outside without a hat or scarf or sometimes even a jacket and a sense of profound unexpected positive change.

I was able to visit Calgary this week. The purpose of the trip was not a thrilling one; I had to see a team of medical specialists at the hospital who debated the best next course of action in treating a resistant condition. That part wasn’t fun, although I was amazed and impressed by the efficiency of the system. My doctor referred me on Thursday, I was given an appointment on Friday and by Tuesday I was shlepping around from the exam room to the labs to the consultation room. I am so appreciative of good medical treatment. I thought of my grandmother and how much things have changed since she died at 42 because the family didn’t have money for an operation, and of my son who is still waiting for OR time for his surgery.

But the other part of the story is that the tests were not pleasant, every treatment offered comes with risks and side-effects and the prospect of more pain and recovery time on the couch, and there is no clear advantage of one over the other so the decision is up to me.

When my husband and I walked out to the parking lot I realized I didn’t need my hat, or mittens or my jacket. It was one of those southern Alberta miracle days after a chinook blew in and raised the temperature to sunny spring day levels. It was a break from the expectations of January weather in Canada.

I think the Lord breaks up the heaviness of praying for situations that weigh on our hearts with moments of unexpected fulfillment of promises ahead of time. It’s like the finger of God poking through. Moments of the manifestation of the Kingdom of heaven on earth. Yes. It exists. Here. Now. In this moment. But someday this warm sunlight will not be an occasional thing. It will be the norm.

We have hope, therefore we can sing, “To God be the glory for the things he has done.”

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Breathe

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The devil is a terrorist.

My friend, Jeff, pointed out yesterday that while the motivating force behind heaven’s actions is love, the motivating force the powers of evil try to sell us is fear. The world is saturated in fear and constantly trying to manipulate with fear. All stress is fear based and includes “What if [insert nightmare here].”

Graham Cooke points out that fear and intimidation is a low-budget item for the enemy of our souls.  But God’s love? Love is costly. And He was willing to pay the price.

This week we have again been hit with fear bombs, the ill wind of dire predictions, and a feeling of being corralled by lack of options. The devil is nasty. Terror is custom-made; it hits where you are most vulnerable. Many friends, some of my family and myself have had these kind of sneak attacks happening lately.

Jeff pointed out that those who have turned to Christ learn to thrive by breathing the joyful, peaceful atmosphere of heaven. If you panic and pull your mask off you will immediately breathe in the poisonous atmosphere of fear.

When we keep focusing on Christ we build a relationship with him through thanksgiving for what he has already done, by praising him for his character and attributes and by taking time to breathe the cleansing pneuma of the Holy Spirit.

When we cry. “Abba! Father!” and rest our weary heads on the chest of the One who loves us most the atmosphere changes and grows from the kind offered via oxygen mask that falls down in emergencies to entire bio-domes where the Kingdom of heaven is being established in a community and where Christ’s love is at the center of all our actions. Love casts out fear.

At the moment I am conscious of the need to firmly hold that mask of thanksgiving and praise and trust close to my face and to reject clouds of toxic fear swirling in the atmosphere. The joy of the Lord is my strength because I am loved by the Creator of the universe. I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.

No matter which way the storm winds blow I am a much loved child of God and if you want to attack me, you’re going to have to go through Him.

John, the disciple who knew he was loved, wrote:

Delight yourselves in God, yes, find your joy in him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord.

Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.

 

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