One In the Spirit, One in the Lord

A song came to mind today. I remember linking arms with friends as we sang it around the campfire when I was young and naïve, and perhaps a little too trusting. The song is “We Are One In the Spirit.”

I believed in the ideals in the song. I still do. Fifty years later, having observed at least fifty demonstrations of decimating attacks on “each man’s dignity and each man’s pride,” and lots of opportunities to forgive, I still cling to the hope of the unity the Apostle Paul describes in Ephesians 4.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

It’s obvious we have some maturing to do. In the same chapter he writes:

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Are there good reasons for separating? Of course. Dangerous people who refuse to change remain dangerous. A parent who loves two children will move an aggressive bullying sibling away to another room protect the other. The object is protection for one and restoration for the other. We have far too many examples of situations where habitual abuse in churches was covered up using 1 Peter 4:8 “love covers over a multitude of sins,” as justification while ignoring Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” One is about extending grace for growing-pain type sins and the other is about not tolerating a pattern of serious sin with potential long-term consequences, whether for one person or for thousands.

One instruction has grace for the faults of immaturity while the other permits harmful, ungodly ideas and practices to become established. That discussion requires more time and space than this blog post allows today. I’m talking today about the chafing that occurs when we rub shoulders with fellow-believers who still have rough edges, in other words, all of us.

I saw these roses in the landscape patch between an apartment building and the sidewalk as I walked to the grocery store. I grabbed a photo on my phone because I liked the circle they formed. Usually, I edit out the flaws in my flower photos before I publish them. I tell people that if a photo of mine doesn’t have a time/date stamp on it, assume I have adjusted something. I did zap a couple of aphids on this one, but I left fading colour, browning edges and uneven pigment just the way it was. To me, the image represents a circle of unity with grace.

I heard a wedding sermon in which the officiant gave a pep talk to the bride and groom. He talked about the admonition to forgive and forbear. (Colossian 3:13)

“Who knew that forbearing the daily annoying stuff would be harder than forgiving the exceptional major stuff? he asked, speaking of his own experience.

I’ve noticed that one of the major reasons for splits in places where people once gathered with every intention of bearing with one another in love, are often triggered by the opposite character qualities of humble, gentle and patient. Instead, they jostled each other with arrogance, harshness, and impatience.

Sometimes we find ourselves side by side with prickly people Graham Cook calls “grace-growers” not realizing that their presence in our lives is not so that we can fix them (or develop protocols for their removal), but because the Lord is using their annoying qualities that continually rub us the wrong way to smooth our own rough edges.

Jesus said we would be recognized as his disciples, but not for our ability to shun the flawed and those who fail to fall in line with shunning practices, not for developing perfect theoretical doctrine, not for maintaining the pure DNA of our particular sect, not for either indulging sinful practices or condemning people still in process, and not for becoming successful by the world’s definition. He said his followers would be recognizable. You’ll know who they when you hear people say, “Look how they love one another!”

It’s like they are one in the Spirit or one in the Lord or something.

One in the Spirit by Joseph M. Martin

Pure Wisdom

The older I get, the more I pray for wisdom.

The older I get, the more I realize I need it. Oh God, how I need it.

The older I get, the more I realize that what passed for wisdom when I was younger and more trusting of “experts” has dire consequences years later if the trajectory was off even slightly when I took off running in a direction I believed was right. A good idea, tainted by the least bit of self-interest at the expense of others will eventually reveal itself to be a stupid idea.

The older I get, the more I realize how easy it is to either deny my own motives or be ignorant of them.

The older I get, the more experienced I have needed to become at making apologies instead of excuses.

The older I get, the more purity in thought, word and deed matters more than innocence. The loss of innocence means being reconciled to the reality of the long-term devastating consequences of sin and the reality that evil, even in tiny amounts, ruins everything. Innocence lost is lost, but God restores purity.

The older I get, the more “When I am weak You are strong,” means and the more beautiful forgiveness received and extended becomes.

The older I get, the more I want to be like Christ, and the more I realize that I am completely unable to accomplish even one step in that direction without his empowering grace and especially the wisdom that comes from above.

The older I get, the more I realize that when I pray with a teachable attitude for wisdom instead of vindication, God does answer. Treasuring and using wisdom he has already given means paying attention to that still, small voice that is easy to ignore.

The older I get, the more I love God’s holiness. His motives are utterly pure. His love is untainted by selfish motives. He gives and gives and gives because He is love. He is peace.

But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! Good seeds of wisdom’s fruit will be planted with peaceful acts by those who cherish making peace. (James 3:17 TPT)

Show Me the Fruit

It is not the job of the vine to hold up the trellis.

When religious institutions divert energy that should go toward producing fruit into maintaining their own structure, they are more a hindrance than a help.

Show me the fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV}


I needed signs of spring. I needed colour! As I write this, much of Canada is still snow covered and a blizzard is whiting out the prairies. Here in the Okanagan, spring arrives sooner than in most of the land, but even here it is late this year.

One of the first wild flowers to bloom in the drier parts of British Columbia is Balsam Root. I saw these bright yellow blossoms on a hill basking in the sun, but it was hard to get there. I went looking for some I could get closer to, but very few were blooming elsewhere yet. Instead I went to a garden shop and took photos of flowers that are too fragile to plant outside yet. They were very pretty, but there is something special about the wild ones.

Yesterday, as I drove in the rain, I saw a cluster of familiar blooms near the edge of the country road. I was hoping for bright sunny flowers on a bright sunny blue sky day, but as I checked out the images on my cell phone later, I was impressed by the contrast.

This is what they said to me: Sometimes you don’t fit in because you are not supposed to. Sometimes the brave, the bold, the courageous, and the strong ones who anticipate change embarrass the sheltered and subdued by bursting out in summer colour while winter still lingers on the edge of a dull cold day.

The first people to move into something new need to be strong. They need to know how get their approval from God because there are plenty of critics to point out what could go wrong. They need to be courageous because they face uncertainties without sure-footed examples to follow.

When someone says, “Be brave!” or “Have courage!” I must admit my first reaction is, “Why? Is this going to hurt? It’s going to hurt, isn’t it?”

Then I hear my Lord’s voice saying, “It’s not going to hurt as much as staying where you are, mired in discouragement like this.”

Someone I love told me she feels the Lord is telling her to “have courage.” Her reaction is much the same as mine was before the Lord took me on a roller coaster ride that ended brilliantly. The ride did require faith and some uncomfortable “illogical” standing out at times, but God certainly was with me in every twist and turn and rise and fall. He brought me safely through.

As we spoke, it also reminded me of the time God spoke to Joshua before he led a band of people who knew only the daily-ness of the same old same old. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous,” he said to the man who inherited Moses’ role. “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

The season is changing. Be strong. Be courageous. Don’t be afraid to stand out.


Sometimes I just want to sit on a bench, gaze up into the clouds, watch the birds fly overhead, and feel the contentment of a comfortable place in the sun. I don’t feel like moving.

Then again, sometimes a holy discontent stirs in my soul. I’ve had a taste of God’s glory. I want more.

I want more wisdom, more understanding, more ability to extend grace and love the people who disturb my comfort. Mostly I want a closer relationship with the Lover of my soul. I want to see the hearts of this next generation healed of disappointment and anxiety and deeply stirred by the profound reality of the power of the goodness of God.

But then I stop. I consider the cost. The act of saying yes to God in the past has led to exciting starts, wonderful endings, and utterly terrifying middles. It’s easier to pray that I might rise up and soar on the wind of the Holy Spirit before I remember my fear of heights.

It’s been ten years since our son-in-love was miraculously healed of flesh-eating disease and sepsis that caused the team of doctors treating him to privately admit he had a 0% chance of survival. One of them (the whiz guy, the Dr. House of the hospital) said “If that guy lives, it will be the biggest f____ing miracle I’ve ever seen.” As we learned later, that doctor shared, in his vernacular, his poor prognosis for our daughter’s beloved young husband with his colleagues. He got to see that miracle.

Our son-in-love lived. Last night we had dinner and celebrated the birthdays of our granddaughter, his mother, and my husband. It was the tenth anniversary of the party that was ruined when an ambulance raced him to the hospital.

We are all so grateful for the miracle that spared his limbs, organs, mind, and well, his life, really. Three little kids, one of them a new baby at the time, have known a good daddy. He’s been so precious to all of us and we’ve enjoyed every day of the past ten years with him in our lives. We learned so much about God’s faithfulness and the power of unified prayer and positioning ourselves in thankfulness. But there is a tinge of pain that lingers. We remember the tears and sleepless nights and exhaustion when everything looked so bad.

Last night we all joked and laughed together in the living room. Surrounded by birthday wrap and decorations I said, “If only we could have seen this day ten years ago! We would have sailed through those weeks much more easily.”

Before the events of those days, I heard a voice in a dream saying: “Those who are afraid to pray, ‘Thy will be done,’ do not comprehend my love.”

I also remember our son-in-law praying, “Whatever it takes,” and his willingness to lay his life down in the days before friends surrounding his comatose body prayed day and night. They inspired thousands of others on every continent (yes, including Antarctica) to pray for a man they didn’t even know to be healed and rise up. I remember God showing us this was how we are to pray for a critically ill body of believers in this country to be healed and rise up to be everything they are called to be.

You may have noticed, if you look around, we are not there yet. Moving forward means saying together, as one, “whatever it takes.” Moving forward means giving God our courageous yes.

Yes, Lord. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


I was thinking about images for this word on the list for creative Lenten meditations when I ran into a prime example in front of my own apartment building. Two large construction projects a block on either side of our building mean the road is frequently closed, but not usually at the same time. Today they were. One building going up is for commercial purposes. The other is a dense housing development. That’s not going to improve traffic around here. Another even bigger development a block to the northeast is expected to start within the year. Oh boy. I may never be able to turn left on Springfield. I had a moment of panic when I thought about more cars and more people blocking the roads and beeping construction vehicles in reverse interrupting our peaceful life. (Well, relatively peaceful. Noise is a constant when you live on one of the three blocks between two major arteries.) Then I got to thinking.

We moved to this location because we were planning ahead for the day when neither of us may be able to drive. At the time we purchased our condo, we hadn’t heard of “the fifteen minute city” but essentially, that is what we were looking for – a neighbourhood where all our most commonly needed services were accessible on foot. I can’t really complain about more people moving into an area called “City Central” when we moved in ourselves only eighteen months ago.

I was talking to a friend who was part of a rapidly growing – explosively growing—church after God started doing amazing things in their midst. Parking became hard to find, the bathrooms were overworked, cleaning staff was exhausted, and tithe-paying members of the congregation couldn’t find a seat even when they arrived an hour early. She said they noticed that people on the volunteer ministry teams had reserved parking, and that’s how they got into ministry. Step up or miss out. They stepped up and have been blessed by opportunities for growth ever since. They are still active in ministry.

Sometimes interruptions mess with our plans. Sometimes our plans need to be messed with. Anger is often the result of something being demanded or taken from us without our consent. People interrupted Jesus when he was on his way to do something important. He stopped and healed them on the way. The story of the woman with the issue of blood and the story of blind Bartimaeus and the story of mothers upsetting the disciples’ agenda by bringing their children to Jesus for blessing are examples of this. We know because their stories were important enough to be included in a record of Jesus’ life and times.

What if the reasons for these interruptions in the neighbourhood are signs, not of the place going downhill, but of the place rising up? What if, like the crowds following Jesus, we stopped and made a time and place for other people like us who arrived only 75 weeks ago? What if my response to “road closed” and “detour” was to happily make room for more locals instead of complaining about delays in my plans? What if blessing these construction projects is a better, less selfish response to sharing love in a community that sees beyond my own priorities and makes room for others?

Lord, teach me to see the big picture. Teach me to love the way you love.