Like a River Glorious

Shuswap River

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully, all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

– Frances Havergal, 1876

 

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Taking Refuge

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In the front of the little white Bible my parents gave me, when I was old enough to keep it mostly white, was an inscription. I found it recently. In my mother’s delicate handwriting on the page inside the cover, I saw “Our prayer for you. Psalm 91.”

Am I the only one who doesn’t remember numbers or scripture references and who seldom takes the time to look them up? I have to admit that unless it is a very common reference like John 3:16, I nod and move on when a card is signed,
Best wishes on your birthday!
1 Samuel 21:14

“Thank you for your kind thoughts,” I say, and set it on the shelf until enough time has passed to drop it in the recycling bin without insulting anyone.

In the process of paring down our book collection a few years ago, I found my old Bible and read the flyleaf. At the time I felt the Lord was asking me to read Psalm 91 over and over, for weeks, because I wasn’t getting it. Somehow I knew it was important to get it.

I didn’t think it was meant for me. Such promises must have been written to a king, or maybe the Messiah. It felt presumptuous in a pathologically narcissistic way to think that I could take a passage of scripture written in another time for someone else and apply it to myself.

“Its too good for the likes of me,” I thought.

Psalm 91 kept showing up, though, in songs, in stories, in podcasts, sermons and accidental openings to that page.

Does Psalm 91 apply to everyone?” I asked the Lord. The answer is in the first verse. Who is this for? No. It’s not for everyone. It’s for those who take refuge in the shelter of the Most High.

Taking shelter is an action. It means choosing to run to God and not away from him. It means abiding in him, dwelling with him, staying close to him in the secret place in my spirit where we meet and spend time together. It means taking shelter under his wings instead of demanding explanations or running off to fix things myself. It’s believing there is something greater than my own understanding. It’s submitting by letting him help me. It’s admitting that God is God and I am not.

I don’t think baby birds can see much when they’re under Mama bird’s wings. It’s dark in there. I’m sure they are curious about what is going on outside where lights are flashing and siren voices screaming in alarm.

I don’t understand what is going on out in the world right now. What I am getting is a lot of reminders of Psalm 91. This is a time to run under his wings and submit to the one who offers protection.

I get it now.

Psalm 91

He who takes refuge in the shelter of the Most High
will be safe in the shadow of the Almighty.
He will say to the Eternal, “My shelter, my mighty fortress,
my God, I place all my trust in You.”
For He will rescue you from the snares set by your enemies who entrap you
and from deadly plagues.

Like a bird protecting its young, God will cover you with His feathers,
will protect you under His great wings;

You will not dread the terrors that haunt the night
or enemy arrows that fly in the day
or the plagues that lurk in darkness
or the disasters that wreak havoc at noon.

A thousand may fall on your left,
ten thousand may die on your right,
but these horrors won’t come near you.
Only your eyes will witness
the punishment that awaits the evil,
but you will not suffer because of it.
For you made the Eternal refuge,
the Most High your only home.
No evil will come to you;
plagues will be turned away at your door.

He will command His heavenly messengers to guard you,
to keep you safe in every way.
They will hold you up in their hands
so that you will not crash, or fall, or even graze your foot on a stone.
You will walk on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the lion and the serpent underfoot.

“Because he clings to Me in love,
I will rescue him from harm;
I will set him above danger.
Because he has known Me by name,
He will call on Me, and I will answer.
I’ll be with him through hard times;
I’ll rescue him and grant him honor.
I’ll reward him with many good years on this earth
and let him witness My salvation.”

-The Passion Translation

Marty Goetz sings a beautiful version:

 

 

For Such a Time As This: Esther in Ephesians

The Jewish celebration of Purim starts at sundown this evening. Purim marks the story told in the book of Esther when the Jewish people were saved from the intentions of an evil royal advisor named Haman. He was hung on the gallows he prepared for someone else.
This morning this passage from the Psalms came up in my reading for the day. In it the psalmist David, who has been harassed endlessly by those who were out to kill him. King Saul was motivated, as was Haman, by jealousy.

“‘We have devised the perfect plan!’
Yes, the human heart and mind are cunning.
But God himself will shoot them with his arrows,
suddenly striking them down.
Their own tongues will ruin them,
and all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.
Then everyone will be afraid;
they will proclaim the mighty acts of God
and realize all the amazing things he does.
The godly will rejoice in the LORD
and find shelter in him.
And those who do what is right
will praise him.”
(Psalm 64:4-10 NIV)

This was written generations before the time of Esther and thousands of years before our own time. I do believe that God, in his goodness, sometimes says, “Time’s up!” and moves to protect the innocent. Are we in such a time?
Esther’s story has become important to me since receiving a dramatic dream. I wrote about it here. I think it’s time for a re-blog.

Charis: Subject to Change

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Yesterday I heard a friend talk about Esther. He reminded us of the preparation she went through to bring her to a unique position of influence. I’ve been fascinated by the life of the orphan queen ever since I had a dream involving Esther.

The story is told in the Bible of a young parent-less Jewish woman, adopted by her cousin, who rose from obscurity to the position of queen in the land where her people lived in exile. She dared to defy protocol and approached the king in the throne room without first having been summoned by him. As her cousin, Mordecai, reasoned, it looked like God arranged for her to be there to help her people in a time of crisis. It’s great story, the kind that is made into Hollywood movies. But, if you take time to read it, you will notice that the story is not…

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Ain’t No Grave

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A song has captured my attention. It’s not even my style. It reminds me of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” style of dancin’ and stompin’ or “The Beverley Hillbillies” theme song style of pickin’ and grinnin’. I’m from a different culture. But I keep listening to it because I hear an essential satisfying message that sits well in my soul.

There’s more than one way to be dead. There’s John-Brown’s-body-lies-a-mouldering-in-the-grave captive to physical weakness dead. There’s I-owe-my-soul-to-the-company-store captive to hopelessness dead. There’s nobody-knows-the-trouble-I-seen (or caused) captive to shame dead.

Molly Skaggs sings, “Shame is a prison, as cool as a grave. Shame is a robber and he’s come to take my name.”  She also sings, “Love is a resurrection,” and “Love is my redeemer, lifting me up from the ground.”

Telling a person their messed up choices are going to kill them, or shame is robbing them of their potential and they need to repent and come to Jesus is like telling a mummy in a sealed tomb to unwrap themselves and step out of the sarcophagus. If you could see him, the mummy would be rolling his eyes, if he had them. He would if he could, but he is not able. He’s kind of tied up right now.

Jesus came to set the captives free and to give new life. It’s his kindness that leads us to change. The ability to change is a gift of empowering grace that comes from God’s love which is greater than our greatest weakness, the most hopeless situation we find ourselves in, or the most shameful thing we have done.

Some well-meaning Christians believe they’ve got to convince people that something is a sin so they can repent, clean up their act, and come to Jesus. John the Beloved told us Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved. When we focus on sin we assume the sinner is unaware of his or her sin. Even a child knows the difference between right and wrong and understands regret. Only the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin without burying us deeper in condemnation.

We forget many people are coping as best they can within the limits of the size the graves of shame, hopelessness and loss of true identity restrict them to. Demanding repentance is demanding they pull themselves out of that hole. They would if they could but they are not able. Bootstrap transformation has never succeeded in the long run. This is what Paul called being dead in transgressions and sin.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ… (Ephesians 2:4-6a NIV)

Jesus went through hell for you. He said he’d rather die than live without you. So he did. Then he walked right up to the devil, and said, “I’ll take those now,” as he grabbed the keys to death and hell. He conquered death just to show how much he loves you.

Jesus said, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelations 1:18)

He came to set the captives free – by his grace. It’s the gift of God offered to those who accept it. It’s his kindness that leads us to change.

Jesus, if you walked out of the grave I’m a-walkin’ too!

Okay, now I’m stompin’.

Laughter in the Rain

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The Lord alone is our radiant hope
and we trust in him with all our hearts.
His wrap-around presence will strengthen us.
 
As we trust, we rejoice with an uncontained joy
flowing from Yahweh!
 
Let your love and steadfast kindness overshadow us
continually, for we trust and we wait upon you!

Psalm 33:20-22 TPT

I’ve woken to the same song playing in my head for about three weeks. The Lord speaks to me through songs and I’ve learned to pay attention. (I wrote about hearing God’s voice through music here.) This phrase in particular, from a song from the seventies by Neil Sedaka, keeps repeating:  I hear laughter in the rain.

This morning I read my Facebook and Twitter feed and felt the despair of so many people in my home province of Alberta as well as across the nation. The questions arise. Who can you trust? Who is telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth? What is the motive behind actions that seem to intentionally divide and disempower? For that matter, what is the motive behind the motive behind that motive?

Ideas have consequences and what is in a person’s heart will eventually play out in actions. In the meantime we pray for the truth to be exposed and guard our hearts against loss of hope.

I do believe we are headed into a storm. It seems strange to be singing about joy in perilous times, yet the One who sees from a higher perspective is not in despair. In Him there is joy. Can I admit my own first reaction to that statement was, “Are you kidding me?”

Upon reflection, I realized that He is not kidding me. God is not in despair. He is full of joy.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi demonstrates what it means to respond to God’s heart instead of reacting to frustration. This is coming in the opposite spirit of whatever the enemy of our souls is trying to convince us to absorb.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

I hear the Voice of the Source of love and kindness invite me to enjoy the rainy day and walk hand in hand with the One I love.

He’s got this.

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When God Intervenes

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I’ve seen it. I’ve seen God intervene in “hopeless” situations. I’ve seen families, ours included, told to prepare for a loved one’s imminent death. I’ve seen that person get up out of their hospital bed in the ICU and go home. I’ve seen it more than once, and on this last day of the year, the day for counting blessings, I thank God that this year he allowed me to see it again.

I’ll leave the telling of details and the giving of evidence to my friend when she is ready. I have also learned that people who believe God no longer intervenes in our lives with healing miracles tend to dismiss the documented proof anyway. Even when our daughter and son-in-law included the testimony of a doctor who was involved in his case in their book (While He Lay Dying), some people disregarded it, thinking there must be another explanation.

One person said, “Okay, he got better this time, but who’s to say he won’t get hit by a bus tomorrow?” Another, who couldn’t handle the truth because of her own disappointment, said, “Sometimes I think we give God too much credit. Sometimes these things just happen.”

Believe it. Don’t believe it. It’s not my job to convince you. It’s my job to give God the glory and to thank and praise him for his goodness.

I hadn’t seen this friend for at least three years. When we attended the same church, she gave me a ride home from another city where we had both been visiting family. We had a great time. I knew she wanted children and we prayed about that. Life changes resulted in moves and being in different circles, but I saw the occasional Facebook post. I was happy to see God granted their prayer for children.

The day I saw her post asking for prayer for their little boy I knew somehow that God was going to answer again. I think sometimes he gives us a gift of faith for a specific person. The basic facts were these: the child’s body was overwhelmed with a lung infection and then sepsis, treatment had been unsuccessful, his heart stopped for four minutes during last ditch surgical intervention, the parents were told to say goodbye, they were on the other side of the world in the same country where I support a child whose dream is to someday live in a house that has a real cement floor.

I remember a friend who is a physician telling me that one of the hardest parts of practising medicine in an isolated area is knowing that the advanced technology that could have saved a patient is far away in a teaching hospital in a big city. She told me about the time her patient with a severe case of the flu was saved with a heart/lung machine that was not available in most places. When our son-in-law was at his lowest and we were told to say goodbye, he was too fragile to be transported to a city with such technology. But God intervened anyway and miraculously saved his life.

At first, I prayed for an ECMO machine for my friend’s child, then stopped because I let the limits of my logic get in the way. I didn’t think a bypass machine would be an option in a less developed country. If small cities in Canada didn’t have them, I thought they probably didn’t have one where this family lived now. I kept praying for a miracle and invited my Facebook friends to join. Bless them, many did, and kept up with bulletins.

This is where my ignorant assumptions needed an adjustment. A hospital on the other side of this huge city not only had an ECMO machine, they had one that was portable. They were going to attempt to use it and transfer the little guy to the larger university hospital. It was a risky mission. The mom told us that vehicles in this city were not in the habit of letting ambulances pass them. Traffic is a major problem. (I’ve seen the videos. Yikes!)

They needed to move quickly. One of my Facebook friends (who I’ve never met in person and who lives on the other side of Canada) said that while she prayed for the child, she had an image of angels parting traffic ahead of them to get him there. We prayed for rapid transit.

The next morning, I checked Facebook on my phone as soon as I woke up. My jaw dropped and tears came to my eyes when I saw a video Mom  filmed from the front seat of the ambulance. Traffic, which was extremely heavy, parted like the Red Sea ahead of them and the road was clear. They made it in record time.

The little boy recovered much more rapidly than anyone thought possible. He awoke from the coma without any brain damage and was soon home riding his favourite toy.

The beauty of many people joining to pray is that no one person can take credit. I am so thankful for advances in medicine and don’t believe a healing using modern medical methods is a second-class healing, but medical people face limitations all the time. It must be so hard when they have to say, “I’m sorry. There is nothing more we can do.”

In the end, all healing is from the Designer of these bodies.

Sometimes he intervenes in a totally miraculous way, sometimes he speeds ups the healing process, sometimes he becomes people’s keeping power through pain and testing and, I believe, sometimes he sets people free from suffering by allowing them to step out of their broken bodies and into his presence.

I don’t know why some people are healed by miraculous intervention and some are not. I only know that those who pursue the healing Jesus’ stripes bought us see a lot more miracles than those who comfort themselves with a self-protecting theology formed by disappointment. No matter the outcome, when we continue to draw closer to the One who loves perfectly, our relationship deepens.

On this last day of the year, when it would be so easy to look back and count losses as I adjusted to limitations of a body that is not yet healed, I choose instead to say I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living with my own eyes. To God be all the glory!

I trust you, Lord! More, please!

As Different as Chalk and Cheese

Sometimes I wonder if one of the greatest miracles Jesus performed was to keep the disciples from killing each other. This week, as I watched another political/religious family feud break out on social media I remembered that Jesus, born into a time of political high tension, took both a collaborator and a resistance fighter on a road trip. It’s time to re-blog this.

Charis: Subject to Change

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I grew up in a family where teasing was a form of affection. Wrestling, practical jokes, funny stories that revealed weaknesses in each other? All normal (to us). To those not accustomed to this way of relating, such play appeared intimidating and offensive. Most of the time we knew where the line was, but in the background, we often heard someone warning, “You had better stop now before someone gets hurt!”

And then someone got hurt. A line was crossed. For one of the participants the action wasn’t fun anymore. Teasing became bullying (to them). Fights ensued.

Like many parents, we discovered our children’s individuality early. One liked to cuddle. The one who had to move-it move-it move-it resented the restraint of adult arms. One cried easily, one bounced back like an inflatable clown punching bag, one treasured solitude, and one was happiest when surrounded by 27 of her closest…

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