The Couch

The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant. (NASB)

“Did you know the root word in Hebrew for secret can mean a couch?” the songwriter asked as she rummaged through her file looking for the draft of her new song.
Blogging at Ishshah’s Story this week.

Ishshah's Story

Karen's cottage ch

“The greatest freedom is having nothing to prove.” – R.T. Kendall

When I look at the big comfy couch and overstuffed armchair here in my living room, I think of open-hearted conversations with friends. I think of the times people have trusted me with their stories as we sat on sofas covered in white brocade, brown leather, floral print (like this one at Karen’s cottage) or, in student days, something that looked even worse than the army blanket covering it.

Many times friends gave me the chance to be unguarded as I offered them the same privilege. We laughed, cried, challenged and encouraged each other. I welcome unadorned truth from friends close enough to genuinely care and who can extend me the same grace they have received from the Lord. Other than the entryway, where the deepest conversations seem to be accompanied by one hand on the door knob, the…

View original post 899 more words

But Do You Love Me?

pink flower spring cool ch IMG_1293 light

I’m not a fan of a lot of the popular talent shows on TV. I downright hate programs where people are booted off the island or out of the house or eliminated from the list of contenders for the prize. It’s not the striving for excellence part that bothers me; it’s how easily people are rejected.

Sometimes fine folk are jettisoned, not because they lack talent, but because they don’t understand how the game is played. I had a student who tried out for a very popular talent show for singers. She had all the right stuff. Beauty, voice, flexibility, brains, charisma – that illusive “It” factor. This girl had her act together! She prepared a stunning audition piece, but she never even made the first cut. She was devastated, even after the judge told her the reason she was not accepted.

“You’re too good,” he confided. “This is a game show. This is entertainment. We are looking for people we can take credit for transforming from raw potential into a star. But thanks for playing. Next!”

She lost her faith in the contest system that day.

Can I admit that for years I harboured a secret fear of being rejected by God because I didn’t understand how the game was played? For a while I lost faith in his goodness. I had trouble believing he loved me. What if I reached the great day of judgment and faced elimination because I missed a clue as to what it takes to please him? Everything in my experience taught me that non-winners lose – and sometimes I lost because I didn’t understand the rules.

I still blow it. I charge right through warnings not to get involved in controversies without any insight but my own. I seek comfort in people, places, and things other than God’s provision. I give up on folks who are hard to love. Like the contest producers, I am also one who likes to collect friends who will make me look good.

When the Lord kindly points out areas in my life that are not working the old question pops up. “I’ve failed again, Lord. I know I don’t deserve it, but do you love me? Are you going to say, ‘Thanks for playing. Next!?’ Do I still have a place in your heart?”

This week I came across a verse in 2 Timothy 2 that I hadn’t noticed before. I did remember the verse before it that said if we deny God he will deny us. (The ability to love necessitates being given the ability to choose not to love and he honours our choice to reject him). But I hadn’t noticed this one before:

If we are unfaithful,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot deny who he is.

There is a difference between knowing who God is and choosing to dis-own him, and struggling with faith in his faithfulness – especially faith that he loves us and doesn’t play games. His love is not conditional on finding a use for us in a show that makes him look good. He desires relationship with “losers.”  He is willing to have his reputation tarnished by fragile people who do not have their act together.

Does God rely on your faith? No. He relies on his faithfulness and his inability to be anything other than what he is. He is faithfulness. He is love. Faith and love are gifts he gives you so that you have something to give back to him.

Faith and love originate with him. We don’t need (or have the ability) to conjure them up. We have a great high priest in Jesus Christ, who understands our weaknesses. In our earthly bodies we are more like delicate flowers than titanium blocks, but he chooses to contain his light in our fragility. He is not disappointed. He had no illusions about us in the first place. He loves because he loves.

His promise: He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.

He remains faithful because he is faithful – and he cannot deny who he is.





Conspiracy of Goodness

Munro Lake rain ch IMG_8359

The light was perfect on the little lake as I set up my camera. Then it started to rain. I muttered under my breath that everything seemed to be working against me that day.

Recently I heard someone say, “It feels like everything is conspiring against me.”

This past week I read dozens of social media posts from people who fear conspiracy in government, health, education, media, food production, even sports. I began to think about the word conspire.

Originally conspire meant to come into agreement, to breathe as one. Now it nearly always has a negative connotation. Now it involves people getting together to plan harm. An entire field of study on conspiracy theories has statistically-oriented people holed up in their academic cells pounding out dissertations on the subject at this very moment. Why do we reject legitimate warnings? Why do we believe far-fetched conjectures? Why does the motive of conspirators always seem to be to bring people down or control them?

Our son and daughter-in-law conspired to give their children something good. That summer, after snowmelt and unprecedented rain combined to flood their town, the kids watched as most of their possessions and big chunks of their home were tossed in a dumpster or piled on the street for large machinery to scoop up and haul away. Their Dad not only spent many hours working on his own home, but dedicated many more to shoveling muddy sewage out of other people’s homes and helping with a thousand other urgent matters as he was pastor of a church that owned one of the few public buildings in town that remained mostly dry.

Their parents told them that someone they knew was going on a trip to Disneyland and that they were driving to the airport to bring them their luggage. On the way their young son became sullen. As they pulled into the parking lot he could no longer contain himself.

“It’s not fair! Everybody else gets to do neat things! You always look after people and do good things for them like driving their suitcases to the airport, but a pastor doesn’t get to take his family on vacation. I hate your job!”

His parents quietly gave him a suitcase to pull to the terminal. Inside the door was a glass-covered poster advertising the thrill of Disneyland.

“Oh, look! There’s the family that is going on the trip!” Dad said, pointing to the display. Our granddaughter said she saw no family in the poster. Then she saw their own reflection in the glass. Her jaw dropped and she started jumping up and down in excitement. Our grandson refused to look. He didn’t get it. He was mad. It wasn’t until he was strapped in his seat on the plane that he accepted that it was his own family going on vacation and he broke out in a wide smile. He knew his parents had no money for a trip. It was just too hard for him to believe someone would give their family such a generous gift. He had to adjust to the idea of goodness and grace.

Sometimes conspiracies for good are about the joy of surprise. Sometimes they are for protection. We don’t tell children about events too soon in case plans change, or because they can’t understand timing. It’s not always wise to go public with business plans until everything is in place, lest the competition be given a heads-up. Sometimes people will make assumptions that steer their own preparations in the wrong direction if they know too much too soon.

We are actively trying to find the best living arrangement we can for my husband’s elderly mother. There is so much red tape and dealing with agencies who don’t seem to communicate with each other. And waiting. Waiting for appointments. Waiting for reports. Waiting for vacancies. Because her increasing memory problems make this process so confusing to her we have elected not to tell her the details. She knows we are doing something “behind her back.” Like our grandson looking resentfully at the luggage in the car, it is hard for her to believe we are not all in cahoots conspiring against her. It’s frustrating, and frankly somewhat painful. Her sons are both men of outstanding character who may be two of the most responsible, reliable, honest (to a fault) people on the planet. Sadly the disease has stolen that fact. She can’t remember who is trustworthy and who is not.

The Lord reminded me that I also have a tendency to assume he is conspiring against us.

“When, Lord?” I asked.

“When you complain that situations are hopeless, when you whine that answers take too long, when you blame me for messes of your own making but don’t ask me for help. You accuse me of conspiring against you when you forget my character and that I am good.”

Oops. Sorry.

Here’s the thing: if we believe the lie that our heavenly Father is an angry, controlling, megalomaniac in the sky who demands that we love him or he will make our lives a living hell, we will see all his plans as conspiracies of harsh punishment against us. If we remember his past goodness to us and his faithful loving character shown through Jesus Christ, who gave his life for us, we will see his plans as conspiracies of goodness – conspiracies for us.

One night I heard in a dream, “If I tell you where I am going with this it will remove the element of faith.”

Sometimes God doesn’t tell us all the details of his plans, for his own very good reasons. Sometimes he is giving us an entire renovation and all we see is our precious old stuff landing in the dumpster. Sometimes all we see is that everybody else is getting a trip to Disneyland. Sometimes all we see is one darn heavy suitcase after another that we have to carry for somebody else when he is giving us weight-lifting exercises so we will be prepared and strong enough to walk in a higher level of faith and authority.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always breathe together in perfect unity. They are conspiring – for our good.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

All Truth is God’s Truth


IMG_7232 hosmer mountain bw warm

Sometimes an old truth gains new life when we see it through a fresh lens.

The  brilliant colour of seasonal change on the mountains can distract from the fact that this mountain has stood without change for many many many centuries. The season, the time of day, the weather conditions all change the appearance and either hide or highlight different planes of the mountain’s story. Sometimes shadows can deceive us into seeing something that is not actually there and those willing to take the risk of changing their vantage point will often be surprised when their assumptions vanish in the light of a new day.

Sometimes seeing an old truth from a different  perspective allows us to  let go of ideas we held fast that turned out to be merely  misleading shadows. Sometimes changing our vantage point allows us to see another aspect of truth we never noticed before -but it is still an ancient truth.

The good news of the gospel of Christ is expressed in many ways by many streams. It may appear to be different from different perspectives, but it is the same truth established from the foundation of the earth. God’s character and His plans are evident from Genesis to Revelation and all of it is the gospel truth.

All truth is God’s truth.


Doubting It

IMG_1126 boy walk forest path ch alone

“Doubt is not always a sign that a man is wrong; it may be a sign that he is thinking.”
— Oswald Chambers

I’ve met lovely, honest people who tell me that they wish they could believe in a loving God of grace, but it is a struggle for them. I’ve also met people who believe in God but are not sure that Jesus Christ is the only way to make contact with him. I’ve met people who believe that Jesus is real and He was willing to lay down his life for them, but they don’t want to get close to an angry Father God. Others think God is great but they have trouble with the whole history of “Christian” behaviour thing.

Others believe in Christ and do all the expected life-style things, but are skeptical that he talks to people today or heals them or miraculously intervenes in their lives because, after 40 years of doing church, they have never seen it.

Some of us journey on this road doing the best we can with the doubts that make us feel too small for the task. When we read expressions like “man or woman of God” or “giants of the faith” we know that it is not referring to us.

Sometimes it’s a matter of needing our hearts healed or enlarged until we can receive. A child whose birth dad left on her second birthday is going to find it hard to believe that a heavenly father promises to stay involved in her life. A boy whose parents were impossible to please will likewise assume that God is angry and disappointed in him. A person who was betrayed by a so-called Christian, especially an older brother, or worse a clergyman, will wonder where this so-called loving self-sacrificing Jesus disappeared to when the going got rough, and if this a set-up to be used again. A person who has been lied to will not buy every story they are told, and if believing every ancient account of events in the Bible is a requirement for a relationship with God they have a large fence to climb.

Here’s the thing. Walking by faith does not require truckloads of faith. Faith is exercised; that’s how it grows. It starts with baby steps. As we take risks and find that God is not like authority figures who berated,  beguiled and betrayed,  we can take another step. When we give up trying to appease an angry God, and he doesn’t smite us, we take another step. When we see an important lesson in one of Jesus’ stories we take another step. When we dare to pray to him to find lost car keys and have a picture in our minds of them lying under a shrub by the back door, and there they are, we take another step. When we trust another person on this road and are nakedly open about our own scarred story of pain and they treat it like a precious privilege to be protected, we take another step. We are healed inside bit by bit and enlarge our capacity to think and feel differently.

Paul, the guy who distrusted the stories about this Jesus of Nazareth character so much that he had his followers dragged off to prison, later wrote that his prayer  was that people, who were like he once was and who have huge doubts, would be strengthened with Jesus’ power in their inner being enough to have the capacity to be able to start to be able to comprehend his love. Our wounds have left holes in our hearts that love just pours through. We all need him to move first. So he did.

Jesus understands and is relentlessly kind. He is not shocked by our doubts, and understands the barriers religious people have left in the way in attempts to protect themselves from their own doubts.

If all you have is one tiny little speck of faith it’s all you need to start this journey. Eventually it will move mountains.