From my kitchen window, I saw the foxglove plant my sweet friend Diana gave me. It was still on the deck with a collection of other bedding plants waiting for the weather to warm up enough to plant it. The low evening sun lit its petals with fire. I just had to hobble out there with my camera to capture it. I joke that I need a sign on the back of my car that says, “This vehicle brakes for lighting conditions.”
Sometimes backlight turns objects into dark silhouettes and sometimes, when the subject is transparent, more is revealed than we could see before. This time I was fascinated by the little spots like a cobblestone path leading deeper into the heart of the flower. I snapped the photo, then covered the flats of bedding plants with a plastic tarp.
I haven’t planted them in the garden yet for two reasons. 1) It’s been unseasonably cold with frost appearing in unexpected areas the last few nights and 2) because a few days ago, while attempting to cover up the few snapdragons I did plant last week, I fell and undid a lot of physiotherapy on my legs and back.
I only meant to slip outside quickly and put a sheet over the snapdragons and pansies before going to bed. Not wanting the taller flowers to be bent by the covering, I tried to push a stick into the soil for the sheet to rest on. The stick broke and I lost my balance. When the shock wore off, I assessed the situation. I had twisted every joint and muscle on my left side in an attempt to avoid impaling myself on the broken stake as I went down. I knew instantly I had torn more cartilage in my already damaged knees and it felt like I had sprained an ankle. It was dark and cold. I had no jacket or sweater. The walker I know I should keep nearby for balance because of my knee problems was inside. I was lying like a beached whale in a muddy flower bed with only crushed snapdragons for support. I couldn’t get up. My husband was inside, in his office with the door shut, and my neighbours’ lights had been turned off for the night. No one could see me or hear me.
I prayed my most frequently used go-to prayer. “Oh God!”
Eventually I rolled out and somehow got up on the lesser damaged leg. I yelled again and my husband heard me while turning off lights before retiring. He managed to help me up the three impossible stairs to the hallway where I could ride the rest of the way seated on the walker. I couldn’t put any weight on one leg at all for a couple of days. The rest of my body reminded me of the indignity it had suffered as well. I felt so stupid.
For the past few days I’ve been showing up like a silhouette in the sun to most people, which is easy to do when we are still mostly on lockdown. What injury? Nothin’ to see here. I am definitely not looking for sympathy, but neither have I admitted why I haven’t left the house lately. So here is my transparency. You may notice I’ve got spots.
Sometimes I need help and it’s hard to admit. I want to be the one who helps others, not the one who needs someone to pull me out of the mud, but the Lord reminds me that mutual submission means saying both “Let me help you,” and “I need your help.” It may be more blessed to give than receive, but only those who know how to receive learn how to humbly give in a way that lifts people up and doesn’t put them down for the absence of judgment that got them into a mess.
Some people say that talking about an illness or injury is somehow showing a lack of faith or being negative. My response to that is, “It will be interesting to see how God uses this experience.” Faith in real time means talking about real problems and real answers to prayer. By the way, I can now put some weight on my leg and maneuver around one level of the house and, most importantly, get to the bathroom on my own. (Praise God!) Healing is happening.
To friends who prayed, washed my muddy floor, and asked if I wanted more snapdragons, thank you. To my husband who is always there (as long as he hears me) I love you. To my physiotherapist who has been working hard these past weeks to get me moving, sorry about that.
At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.
-Psalm 3:5 TPT
The tree in our front yard that failed to bloom for the past two years is loaded with abundant blossoms this morning. I was afraid it was dying and would never bloom again, but its glory has been restored.
Sometimes I am disappointed with people. More often I am disappointed with myself. Patience and perseverance are character qualities that don’t come easily. This morning the plum tree, thick with flowers and glowing in the morning light speaks to me of a new day, a new season, a fresh vision.
Lord, I lay out the pieces of my heart, the successes, the failures, the disappointments and the dreams. I wait again for your fire to fall on my heart and renew a right spirit within me.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes,
he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in his faithfulness.
Psalm 96:11-13 NIV
Rejoicing seems counterintuitive in a world where nothing seems certain, where everything is changing, where good is called evil and evil good. The darker things become, the more people fear the unfamiliarity of light.
John the Beloved wrote in the introduction of his book about the life of Jesus Christ on earth, that Jesus was the Light. He also wrote that, faced with the light, many people preferred darkness, because they clung to their false comforts, self-serving actions, and mindsets that didn’t include God.
Rejoicing, giving thanks, and worshipping the Creator turns our eyes on the One who loves perfectly, the One who is faithful and gives grace extravagantly.
We often think judgment means only condemnation. Of evil, yes, but judgment also means assessment, reward and/or redirection. Christ came to bring life, abundant life, and to re-set our fear-filled mindsets to peace and joy in restored relationship with our heavenly Father.
I saw the sun shining through a flowering bush in my garden that has suddenly woken to life in this new season. My soul rejoices in the God of creation who makes all things new. He comes to show us a better way, a brighter way, a beautiful way.
It’s a new day. It’s a new era. Can you see it?
“And though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” ( from This is My Father’s World by M.D. Babcock)
A friend asked this question of those of us who have not been able to attend in-person church services for months at a time due to restrictions imposed by pandemic protocols: What have you missed about church attendance if you have been a regular church attender?
Note: I’m not addressing arguments against either the potential misuse of political power in church closures or the potential lack of consideration for the vulnerable in defiant church openers right now. That discussion tends produce more heat than light when many people in church leadership are doing the best they can with information that is still changing.
This is what I miss about attending local church on a Sunday morning. I miss seeing people who are not on the internet. Some people cannot or choose not to participate on Zoom or other media meetings. Sadly we are losing touch.
I miss corporate worship that includes children and young adults and, well, everybody together in the same place.
I miss celebrating the sacraments together.
I miss hugs and kind touches on the shoulder.
But thinking about my response to this question has made me realize something. Quite a while ago I learned that if I wanted to go deeper in knowing the Lord I could not depend on once a week attendance in a pulpit-centered church in a dedicated building no matter how much I liked the pastor/s. We have moved and been moved several times throughout the years. Every group seems to specialize in favourite doctrines and passages of scripture after a while. Many pastors teach at a level that new believers will understand. Steak dinners are rare. Easily digested blender-processed food is more plentiful. It’s risky to address mystery and pursue what it means to know God at a deeper level without appearing elitist or annoyingly holier-than-thou. I learned to appreciate what was offered and seek more through books, podcasts, webinars, courses, and conferences myself.
Some popular churches focus all their efforts into looking after God’s P.R. and continuing to do what they do best. I admire them, but eventually, something always seems to be missing. Although I’ve gone kicking and screaming, the Lord seem to arrange circumstances that kick me out of the nest if I get too comfortable in places like this. Sometimes, it’s the drive to know Him that pushes me out of the box.
I’ve taken courses from all sorts of lovers of Jesus who are outside the local church and outside my usual tribes. I’ve been involved in both online and face-to-face “parachurch” ministries for quite a while. I now realize that, for me, parachurch organizations have often been a healthier example of being the church than the pulpit and pew crew. The causes parachurch groups support may be different, but they have this in common. Participants are passionately involved and have actual relationships that are the result of working together in hard-won unity. They go beyond “fellowshipping” with the back of someone’s head. The ones that aided spiritual growth the most realize the necessity of prayer and worship and acknowledge the problems of being limited to denominational-style distinctives and limited forms of expressing praise. They recognize diversity and that people flourish in an environment where creativity is honoured and lay people can offer their best.
The question I am tempted to ask now, instead of what do you miss about church services, is this: What do you miss when church means only in-person attendance at a traditional time and place? If your local church has been closed or has switched to online services, has this time of being the church out of the brick and mortar box revealed anything to you? In what ways are you seeing signs of new growth? What has blossomed in your life?
There is a divine mystery—a secret surprise that has been concealed from the world for generations, but now it’s being revealed, unfolded and manifested for every holy believer to experience.Living within you is the Christ who floods you with the expectation of glory! This mystery of Christ, embedded within us, becomes a heavenly treasure chest of hope filled with the riches of glory for his people, and God wants everyone to know it! (Colossians 1:26,27 TPT)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.”