Overflowing With Kindness

You’re kind and tenderhearted to those who don’t deserve it

    and very patient with people who fail you.

    Your love is like a flooding river overflowing its banks with kindness.

 God, everyone sees your goodness,

    for your tender love is blended into everything you do.

(Psalm 145:8,9 TPT)

When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister was not helping with the serving and doing what women were expected to do, he confronted her with this: “Martha! Your anxieties are distracting you from what is really important!”

Sometimes we are so anxious about what might happen we forget that when we invite him in, the Saviour is right here in our hearts. Even though we are anxious about tomorrow his goodness surrounds us today. When we set down our worries we can see beauty again.

Bring Your Melody

Spring snow

Let the entire universe erupt with praise to God.

    He spoke and created it all—from nothing to something.

 He established the cosmos to last forever,

    and he stands behind his commands

    so his orders will never be revoked.

 Let the earth join in with this parade of praise!

    You mighty creatures of the ocean’s depths,

    echo in exaltation!

 Lightning, hail, snow, clouds,

    and the stormy winds that fulfill his word—

 bring your melody, O mountains and hills;

    trees of the forest and field, harmonize your praise!

(Psalm 148:5-9 TPT)

When I find myself wanting to respond in anger to those who would call evil good and good evil, the Holy Spirit, who sees from the beginning to the end and back, reminds me to change my focus. He tells me to look up and bring my melody to join with the parade of praise creation sings every day.

It’s a matter of perspective. He’s not worried. He’s got this.

That Time They Tried to Cancel Jesus

The Garden

Cancel culture is not new and it is nearly always about the struggle over who has power and control.

When you get down to it, the struggle over who is in charge goes back to the beginning when the serpent asked Adam and Eve, “Did God really say…?”

The conspiracy to silence Jesus of Nazareth began as soon as he challenged people who wanted to maintain power. From the time he disregarded their rules by healing a man with a withered arm on a day defined by a tradition to trump mercy, the religious leaders started plotting how to cancel not only Jesus’ influence, but his existence.

It started with public criticism. Where John the Baptist was accused of being too somber, Jesus, according to his critics, was too easy-going. “A drunkard and glutton!” they said.  Then they began to intimidate anyone who associated with him by threatening to cancel their access to the synagogue. The parents of a man born blind were so afraid of the religious experts, they refused to say who was responsible for the stunning miracle that gave their son sight. “Ask him yourself,” they hedged, “He’s of age.”

Jesus continued healing the sick and talking about the Kingdom of God despite misinformation they tried to spread about him. “Don’t be fooled,” they warned. “He is doing this by the power of Beelzebub. This guy is a danger to our way of life. He habitually blasphemes, calling God his father. We have witnesses right here who can attest to the fact they heard him say,  ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’”

Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowd who hoped he would be the one to bring them health, wealth, and freedom from political oppression. The crowds that cheered became the crowds that jeered.

Mob mentality is a strange phenomenon. We’ve seen it at work on the streets, at concerts, and on media lately. Fans can turn alarmingly quickly when they don’t get what they want. When it appeared Jesus was not going to take down the government, they cried for revenge the way an embarrassed suitor can turn selfish “love” into revengeful hate when his plans are stymied. They somehow became convinced they should release a known criminal instead of Jesus.

Jesus knew about the plans to silence him and cancel him permanently. He knew what he was walking into. In the end the powers of hell influenced religious, political, and military authorities, as well as people in the streets to join the call to cancel The Messiah. As a line from the song Via Dolorosa reminds us: But he chose to walk that way out of his love for you and me.

God’s ways are not our ways. Only a God so humble that he would let humans do their worst to himself could prove his love for them in the most counterintuitive way. Only a God so wise would give them time to let that sink in.

All the powers of darkness cannot cancel The Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus conquered death to prove he is Love and the Light of the World.

He loves you. He loves you. He loves you.

Jesus: “How could I describe the people of this generation? You’re like children playing games on the playground, yelling at their playmates, ‘You don’t like it when we want to play Wedding! And you don’t like it when we want to play Funeral! You will neither dance nor mourn.’ Why is it that when John came to you, neither feasting nor drinking wine, you said, ‘He has a demon in him!’? Yet when the Son of Man came and went to feasts and drank wine, you said, ‘Look at this man! He is nothing but a glutton and a drunkard! He spends all his time with tax collectors and other sinners.’ But God’s wisdom will become visible by those who embrace it.” (Matthew 11:16-19 TPT)    

The Street

Immediately the Pharisees went out and started to scheme about how they would destroy him. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he left by another way. Massive crowds followed him from there, and he healed all who were sick. However, he sternly warned them not to tell others or disclose his real identity, in order to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah:

 Take a careful look at my servant, my chosen one.
    I love him dearly
    and I find all my delight in him.
    I will breathe my Spirit upon him
    and he will decree justice to the nations.
 He will not quarrel or raise his voice in public.
 He won’t brush aside the bruised and broken.
    He will be gentle with the weak and feeble,
    until his victory releases justice.
 And the fame of his name
    will birth hope among the people.
(Matthew 12:14-21 TPT)

Soul Movement

But as for me, I will call upon the Lord to save me, and I know he will!

 Every evening I will explain my need to him.

    Every morning I will move my soul toward him.

    Every waking hour I will worship only him,

    and he will hear and respond to my cry.

(Psalm 55:16-17 TPT)

Sometimes it is easier to worship faith than to worship the faithful One who gives us faith. The faith walk in real time means keeping our eyes upon Jesus and not whatever method we think prompted God to give us the desired responses to our requests last time.

By his life Jesus demonstrated that character matters more than comfort. Following Christ includes valley experiences where the fog obscures the view and disorients us, making us aware of our weakness. But here’s the thing: The Holy Spirit now walks through this before us, beside us, and behind us, and he is not worried. The path is familiar to him and he knows what lies on the other side.

My cry? That I might know Him.

Breathe Your Life Into Us: Strength to Trust After Disappointment

Sometimes the gap between a promise given and a promise fulfilled is excruciatingly long.

I grew up in a part of Canada where signs of spring could suddenly be buried under snowstorms riding on cold winds harsh enough to take your breath away. I see yearly disappointment has struck the prairie provinces again this week.

Last week we were told that churches could open at limited capacity for Easter. Many of my friends and our brave spiritual leaders, and worship team members eagerly made plans for a special time together after months of isolation. Today new announcements squashed that hope. Due to another increase in cases of the virus no indoor religious services will be permitted at all anywhere in this province larger than a lot of countries.

For several months I have had severe pain in my legs and have had trouble walking or sleeping. One day, my doctor phoned to say the latest scans revealed the cause and although I would need surgery, there was hope the problem could be fixed. He called back three weeks later to relay that the consulting surgeon recommended against surgery, for several reasons. There are some things I can try to lessen the pain, but it looks like I need to learn to adapt to disability.

Today I was aware that hope has been deferred for many of us for all sorts of reasons. I wonder if the way we process disappointment says a lot about the way we grow or fail to grow in faith.

Like a lot of people, I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a perpetual spring/not spring, forward/backward cha cha dance of hope almost fulfilled/hope definitely not fulfilled lately. Sometimes the dance is exhausting. I have been guilty of sitting down, not always to rest in the Lord, but to put myself into some sort of trance-like endurance plod that looks less like producing potential springtime buds of manifesting promise and instead settling apathetically under the snow for another stretch of dull dormancy.

David, the harassed young psalm writer, often composed verse about seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises snatched away. From the perspective of hundreds of years later it would be easy to skip the agonizing equivalent of some guy singing the blues and go directly to the ecstatic King dancing with such joy that his underwear showed. But the bit in between is important.

The bit in between is called process and that’s where God likes to meet us. It’s that liminal space neither here nor there where we don’t know if we should try something else to force the promise into fulfillment, or if we should just find a way to protect our hearts from the thing we most want to avoid – disappointment. It’s that place where we realize that change in us is more important than change in our circumstances.

This morning, I remembered today is the anniversary of the day our son-in-love was supposed to die. One of the doctors treating him said, “If that guy lives it will be the biggest miracle I have ever seen.” After a week of seeing amazing answers to prayer it looked like it was all over, but God stepped in and reversed the natural order of things. Bruce lived. The creator breathed new life into his ravaged body. The miracle wasn’t instantaneous, but his extremely critical condition from sepsis and multiple organ failure changed direction and proceeded toward full healing much more rapidly than any professional medical expert could have predicted. The doctor had to admit it was a miracle. All this occurred as thousands praying for him dared to trust God in the face of disappointment and in defiance of the odds.

That, I believe, was the real miracle. People across the country and around the world dared to trust again and look for God’s intervention. They chose hope.

Psalm 13

I’m hurting, Lord—will you forget me forever?
    How much longer, Lord?
    Will you look the other way when I’m in need?
 How much longer must I cling to this constant grief?
    I’ve endured this shaking of my soul.
    So how much longer will my enemy have the upper hand?

 Take a good look at me, Yahweh, my God, and answer me!
    Breathe your life into my spirit.
    Bring light to my eyes in this pitch-black darkness
    or I will sleep the sleep of death
.
 Don’t let my enemy proclaim, “I’ve prevailed over him.”
    For all my adversaries will celebrate when I fall.

 I have always trusted in your kindness, so answer me.
    I will spin in a circle of joy
    when your salvation lifts me up.

 I will sing my song of joy to you, Yahweh,
    for in all of this you have strengthened my soul.
    My enemies say that I have no Savior,
    but I know that I have one in you!

We are hurting, but our dancing day is coming. In the meantime, we are learning to lean on the One who loves us so much He gave everything to see us stand on wobbly legs and hear us sing in a wobbly voice, “I trust You, Lord. I know You are strengthening my soul. I trust Your timing. You are and always have been good. Breathe Your life into us.”

Planting

And don’t allow yourselves to be weary or disheartened in planting good seeds, for the season of reaping the wonderful harvest you’ve planted is coming! 

Take advantage of every opportunity to be a blessing to others, especially to our brothers and sisters in the family of faith!

Galatians 6:9 TPT

When I gathered scarlet runner bean pods from the garden as I cleaned up in the autumn, I tossed the seeds in a little blue plastic bowl. I set the bowl on a glass-top table. The pink colour and the way the light shone through the bowl appealed to me, so I snapped a photo with my phone. Today I noticed it again as I searched for something else. It caught my attention and reminded me of the scripture above.

I don’t know about you, but I am getting very tired of inconsistent guidelines around controlling the spread of the virus. People are sharing more about the negative consequences of lockdowns. Beyond the stresses of lost businesses and separation from friends and family are very real and very serious health consequences. I know people who have lost children to despair, overdose, and suicide. I know people whose friends or family members have died because of untreated depression and delayed diagnosis and treatment of other serious illnesses like cancer. A different disease has been prioritized. At least that is what it looked like to me as I fretted over more heart-breaking news this week.

This week I went on an all-day rant. What I have discovered is that when I focus on the negative, I open the floodgates to more negativity, both from myself and others who cross my path. Peace was missing. Don’t hear what I am not saying. I take the virus seriously and I mourn with those who have lost loved ones to it. I’m not denying that reality, but in the process of venting my frustration I was losing focus on another higher reality. I don’t have an answer, but I know that when we reach the end of our ability to fix things, God is there waiting for us to turn around and cry out to him.

He reminds us not to grow weary of talking about and demonstrating his goodness. Seeds of anger and frustration at unfairness lead to crops of more ire and jealousy of those who don’t seem to be suffering as we are. Seeds of kindness, reminders of God’s lovingkindness, in contrast to the desire of the enemy of our souls to promote pain and chaos and division, sprout into growth that reaps a harvest of fruit.

Paul wrote to the Galatians to be careful what they planted. He talked about fruits produced by selfish interest. They included anger and jealousy. In contrast, those who are Christ-centered and led by the Holy Spirit plant seeds that produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I lost it (and thankfully deleted most of the rant before posting in a public place). I was tired and angry and reacting instead of responding. There’s a difference between tiredness that comes from caring deeply about other’s pain and helping to carry their burdens and emotional exhaustion because caring is an inconvenient infringement upon my personal peace and prosperity. I was angry because I didn’t want to have to deal with the pain and sorrow of injustice. In his gentleness, the Lord reminded me that as righteous as the outburst may feel, “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

We do have a choice (and this is a message to myself). Don’t allow yourself to be weary or disheartened by taking your eyes off the Saviour. Keep planting love, joy, peace…

Arise, My Soul

Awake, O my soul, with the music of his splendor-song!
Arise, my soul, and sing his praises!
My worship will awaken the dawn,
greeting the daybreak with my songs of praise!

Wherever I go I will thank you, my God.

Among all the nations they will hear my praise songs to you.

Your love is so extravagant it reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness so astonishing it stretches to the sky!

Lord God, be exalted as you soar throughout the heavens.
May your shining glory be shown in the skies!
Let it be seen high above all the earth!

-King David in Psalm 57 TPT

Look

I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom,’

    and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’

They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures

    and on hills that were previously bare.

(Isaiah 49:9 NLB)

Sometimes we are not aware of how dark things have become until the light breaks through. Just as our eyes adjust to the darkness, our souls can start to accept a dim view of things as normal life. “It is what it is,” some say. When the light first shines we turn our heads because it hurts. We no longer have the capacity to accept the brightness of Jesus’ face. It frightens us. It requires adjustment.

God sent his Son to set the captives free. Dare to lift your eyes. There is abundant life and freedom in the light of his glory and grace.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Refrain:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conqu’rors we are!

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

-Helen H Lemmel

Walk With Me

Can I be honest? I’ve been feeling down lately. It’s not just flesh and blood loved ones I miss in this current bout of voluntary house arrest, I miss the sights, sounds, and scents of being out in nature. Because of two very messed up, very painful knees I haven’t been able to go for a walk for almost a year. Being out in the forests and mountains, talking with the God I love, has always refreshed my soul. I’m mourning the loss of hours enjoyed walking in this wonderful place.

A prophetic artist, knowing nothing about my situation, said she had a picture for me. She said she saw me walking out in nature, receiving healing for my soul, and the Lord told her, “It’s not over yet.”

If you feel a nudge and like you may have a word of encouragement for someone, don’t hold back. You have no idea how much it may mean to someone who is struggling.

I’m not able to get out yet, although I finally received a diagnosis on Monday and have some hope that healing is on its way, with or without medical intervention. In the meantime I decided to imagine one of the spots I love and quickly painted it. I can still hear the Lord’s invitation to walk with him in the secret place.

I’ll get back outside someday. A God who created such beauty around us surely has plans for beauty in our future. He hasn’t abandoned us.

My lovely friend and neighbour moved to the other side of the continent for work this week. I’ll miss her and the chats we have had from a distance across the road. I gave her the painting so she can take a little bit of this corner of the world with her with my love and appreciation. T

There will be more.

I look up to the mountains and hills, longing for God’s help.
But then I realize that our true help and protection
come only from the Lord,
our Creator who made the heavens and the earth.
He will guard and guide me, never letting me stumble or fall.

-Psalm 121:1-3 TPT