In Expectation

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You know every step I will take,
Before my journey even begins!

(from Psalm 139, The Passion Translation)

I don’t like nasty surprises. I like to be prepared for every possible contingency. That’s probably why I pack too much when we travel. Preparation for potential disaster requires imagining oneself in a place of desperate need and thinking about the provisions one might lack.

The problem is that for some of us it is easy to go there first and remain in the potential gloom of life in Mudville Flats. We expect multiple failures that require multiple back-ups.

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I am realizing I need to prepare for hope fulfilled as well. When my friend was healed of stage four cancer she was suddenly faced with the need to find employment. She was well. She didn’t need to be on assistance anymore. She could work. Hope fulfilled caught her a bit unprepared. A happy problem, but a problem nevertheless.

When I heard that surgery to remove the malignant mass in my abdomen was scheduled for mid-October I started mourning. When I had major surgery in February I couldn’t walk very far for weeks afterward. About twenty years ago I spent six weeks in a hospital and missed the autumn season entirely. I accepted the patient’s paper I.D. bracelet on a warm summer day and when I was released I walked out into a harsh winter blizzard. I lost a season. I didn’t want that to happen again.

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I love autumn in the Rockies. I love the gold and bronze and scarlet colours and the crisp cool lavender skies. I am enthralled by shimmering trembling aspen leaves responding to the breeze with a nervous rustling paper-sounding twitter. The first whiter than white snowfall on the mountain peaks always surprises me with its brilliance even though I’ve seen that glimpse of glory many times.

As we drove toward the big city hospital in Alberta I feared I was going to lose autumn again.

We stopped to eat lunch in the park by the Elk River in Fernie, British Columbia. I went for a walk with my camera while my husband rested in the car. After a while he became concerned. I had still not returned. I didn’t want to leave. I walked and walked – in the opposite direction of the parking lot.

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I really didn’t want to leave.

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The river walk was painfully beautiful. I was honestly afraid I would never see such beauty again. What if this day was my last glimpse of the season I love so much? What if I never kissed my precious grandchildren again or spent another evening around the table with my adult kids and their spouses, laughing until we couldn’t breathe? What if the dear man who is the love of my life had to return to an empty house alone? What if this was the beginning of the end?

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I didn’t want to get in the car and go check into the impersonal hospital with its equipment-cluttered halls and other people’s lives’ all-night noises. I wanted to turn around and go back and walk the road I’ve been on all these years, only this time fix all the blunders and stupidity and hurtful ways with the hard-earned wisdom I lacked the first time.

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I kicked a pile of gold leaves and heard my Lord speak in a voice softer than a whisper.

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“What if it’s not?”
“Not what?”
“What if this is not the end? What if this is a new beginning? What if I am awakening in you the dreams you abandoned by the side of the road when life became heavy? You’ve prepared for hope deferred. What preparations will you need to make to prepare for hope fulfilled?”

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Fear of disappointment is our greatest fear. Here, surrounded by beauty, I felt overwhelmed by the fear of lack of provision of beauty in my life. I was confronted by the lover of my soul and urged to look at a lurking belief that God could cut off the flow of his goodness.

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The showering leaves created a path that looked like street of gold at my feet. Even if I die His goodness will not end. Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us, a place where we could be with him, always and forever. If I stay, there is more beauty to behold. If I pass on to the next stage of eternity, he, the Creator of the Universe, is preparing even greater beauty to surround my heart.

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I’m home now. It’s been twelve days since I donated those nasty tumours to the pathology lab. I walked out (unassisted) into the warm sun only three days later. We drove home to B.C. through a howling gale the next day. A week later I took a short walk around my neighbourhood.

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Ten days later I walked around my favourite little lake at the foot of the towering snow topped mountains. I absorbed the wonderful autumn colours reflected in the lake, the warm scented breeze, the sunlight playing with the trembling aspens and I thanked God for his goodness.

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Yesterday I met a friend walking his dog in the green belt by the creek. I was on my way home from an hour and a half walk and taking photos, following the light like I love to do. I had just gone down a steep hill taking a route I hadn’t planned to take because I didn’t know I could.

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We spoke about our pain and disappointment at the loss of a mutual young friend who died of cancer on Monday. In response to prayer we had seen him defy all the predictions. He walked away from the suggestion of hospice care to recover and go back to work over a year and a half ago. We saw a miracle! We believed he was being healed. Then suddenly he became very ill again. We don’t understand.

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We spoke about my surprisingly rapid progress in getting back on my feet. He seemed surprised to learn that I had part of the small bowel, mesentery, and half a colon removed less than two weeks ago. When he asked about my prognosis, I told him the surgeon warned me the cancer can return, in an even more dangerous form next time, and that chemo doesn’t usually work for this kind.

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I also told him that an internal medicine specialist said, “I think you’ve had this for a very long time. It is so difficult to diagnose. You are accustomed to adjusting to poor health. Neuroendocrine tumours put off hormones and chemicals that mess with every system in your body. I think there is a chance, that when you have recovered from surgery, you will feel better than you have in years. You may have to adjust to having good health.”

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He prayed for me as we walked together. In the midst of our sorrow for the loss of our friend (who we realize is truly reaping the reward Christ earned by living fully in God’s presence) John declared, “We expect God’s goodness. We choose hope.”

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And that, right there, was an example of God caching a provision in advance that I would need on a path I hadn’t known I was going to take.

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But He did. He’s good that way.

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The journey continues.

Beauty and Time

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We’ve been overwhelmed with grief;
Come now and overwhelm us with gladness!
Replace our years of trouble with decades of delight!
Let us see your miracles again, and let the rising generation
See the glorious wonders you’re famous for.
Oh Lord our God, let your sweet beauty rest upon us, and give us favor.
Come work with us, and then our works will endure,
And give us success in all we do!
(Psalm 90:15-17 TPT)

Can I be honest? This has been a tough year for a lot of us. The details are not necessary. I find that listing them often leads to a you-think-that’s-bad kind of discussion, and your challenges are much more real to you than mine are. Let’s just say that for months I have not been able to get outside as much as I like to.  This week, in a lull between storms, I am making an effort to go to the places around our valley that refresh my soul.

Autumn is my favourite season in the mountains. I feel a bittersweet urgency to soak up as much colour as I can before the snow arrives. Yesterday beside the quiet turquoise water of a local lake I wanted to cry for the overwhelming beauty and the overwhelming sense that this time will soon pass — sooner for me since I face another surgery and hospitalization in two weeks and will be inside again.

The circumstances of my life this past year have made me aware of entropy and mortality and that most precious of entities – time. This week two events in which we were blessed with the gift of more time caught my attention.

One, which you may not be aware of (which is just as well) was another prediction of the end of time, supposedly on September 23rd.  It failed to materialize – or dematerialize depending on your eschatology. It would appear we have more time.

The other began with a phone call from my brother. His son was in an accident. My nephew’s neck was broken. Badly broken. Please pray. We prayed. Many people prayed.

I don’t know how my nephew managed to pull himself out of the wreckage with a shattered C7 vertebra without damaging his spinal cord and becoming a quadriplegic. I think that was the first miracle. I do know that I am deeply grateful to skilled surgeons and medical engineers, and the God who placed talent and drive in them to find solutions. They replaced his broken vertebra with an artificial titanium model, stabilized his neck with a plate, and twelve hours later he was walking. To me, that was the next miracle. He was given more time. He has grown up hearing the stories of what God can do, supernaturally and through people with skills. Now this young man of the next generation has seen them for himself.

Years ago, my uncle was teaching his fiancée to drive when they ended up in a similar roll-over. His neck was also broken. He died. My mother was a young teen at the time. Since she had no mother and her father was an alcoholic, her brother was one who cared for her. Her grief at his loss lasted a life-time. Knowing what could have been makes the gift of time for my nephew all the more wonderful.

I’ve seen miracles and I’ve seen tragedies. I’ve seen amazing fulfillment of promises and I’ve seen heart-breaking disappointment. I’ve seen the big C Church rise up in unity to be what she was called to be, and I’ve seen it drop down in petty conflicts and compromise with the world’s way of doing things to lose its influence for good. But I have seen enough to know there is more.

When I see miracles like my nephew walking or my friend’s marriage restored or lives changed when people realize how much God loves them, I know there is more. The church is not yet the glorious spotless bride of Christ ready for the wedding feast. I sense time passing and feel an urgency to be more than we have been.

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My prayer today is the same as the psalmist’s.

Let us see your miracles again, and let the rising generation
See the glorious wonders you’re famous for.
Oh Lord our God, let your sweet beauty rest upon us, and give us favor.

 

 

 

 

Making Disciples

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Stealth Mission

“Grandma! Come play with us! Come on! There’s room!” said my little grandson.
“What are you playing?”
“Super guys!” said his cousin. “Look! We climb up onto the roof like this then we jump to the other building like this.” He demonstrated by jumping from the bed to an upholstered bench against the wall.
“Grandma doesn’t jump from roof tops as well as she used to, honey.”
“You can do it, Grandma!” shouted the oldest. He could gain remarkable height jumping on that bed.
“No, sweetie. I’ll just watch you.”
“You can do it!” chimed in the younger one, the cape on his superman jammies flying behind him as he too leapt across the gorge.
“Here. We’ll help you.”

Apparently superhero powers are transferable. My two adorable progeny jumped off the bench, put their hands on my arm and my tummy and imparted the super-anointing so I could join them on the top of the building. Who knew it was that easy?

“Okay, now you’re Supergrandma!!”

They climbed back up on the king sized bed, pulled me up with them, and helped me stand there above the city streets on the top of the building. I felt their mighty little steadying hands on my butt, encouraging it to rise higher as well. I didn’t try to leap to the next building when they next took flight, but I did do a a couple of knee bend warm-up bounces as my contribution to saving the world. Give me a minute. I’ll get there.

Later that day my mentors took me on a stealth mission through the dormant lilac grove in the park. We were a dynamic trio, we were. I felt tremendously honoured to be included.

Now as I understand it, the common standard for superhero status requires that one must have a unique super power, something extremely rare instigated by a highly unusual accident or spontaneous mutation of DNA in the hopeful monster sense. I have always assumed superheros are, for that reason, lone stars.

Nay, not so, according to my grandsons. Give them time for a ten second impartation service and you can receive the same abilities they have received and join them in the fight against the evil foe.

I’ve met and read about some people who I consider to be heroes of the faith. Some of them have followed the same path as the disciples of Jesus when he told them, “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”

My grandmother used to take me to revival meetings where a traveling evangelist (often dressed with flare) stood on a stage and told astonishing stories about how God used him in Africa or Asia or South America or a town in the southern States we had never heard of. The deaf heard, the bent straightened and angels with swords of fire stood guard outside their guest hut. Sometimes these men gave us ample opportunity to support their “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” ministries, but you know, I can’t recall any one of those guys offering to support the missions or giftedness of lovers of Jesus in the audience.

Since I was merely a girl no one ever suggested that Jesus would call me to do anything special. (Although one did suggest I should aspire to becoming a pastor’s wife someday. He actually told me which seminaries he thought provided the best hunting grounds for women seeking that position. Apparently job competition details are not usually announced in Christian Classifieds.)

I’ve noticed a change lately. In the past few years I have met a few people who remind me of my little grandsons’ demonstration of encouragement. You won’t find this new breed in TV studios or on platforms or making available slick promotional pamphlets with detachable donation envelopes. You will find them in the check-out line at Walmart, in the seat beside you on the plane, in the ice cream shop, on a beach in California, working in the back of an ambulance, or walking anonymously down main street. They are obeying the Lord with both boldness and stealth.

The reason they remind me of my grandsons is because not only are they using the gifts God gave them to tell people about God’s love and to make new disciples, they encourage others in the Body of Christ to come on up and leap tall buildings with them.

Making disciples -it’s not just for professionals anymore.

Neither is being one.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:6,7)

Leaning

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The nurse reminded me to keep my head above my heart when she handed me the page of post-surgical instructions. I chuckled. People have been trying unsuccessfully to convince me to do that for years.

“I’m serious. You could hit the floor if you bend over to pick fluff off the carpet. It takes a while for the anaesthesia to wear off. Take it easy for a couple of days.”

So, armed with the excuse to avoid work I put my feet up and watched a live-streamed event from Los Angeles all day on Saturday. What I saw caused my heart to rise well above my head.

I can’t explain it. When I saw a delegation from Korea pour out their hearts in prayer for America, I wept. When I saw First Nations people forgive white men for horrors brought upon them and join with Jewish people to drum and blow shofars I was undone.

Yes! Yes! There is something about honouring roots that will heal this land. I don’t know how I know, I just do. My spirit leaps at the sight of Aboriginal people dancing in praise to the Creator – perhaps because the Algonquin people rescued my great grandmother when she was a child. They raised her and taught her how to live off the land while loving and respecting it. I am so grateful. My heart also wants to stand up and honour people who have survived hundreds of years persecution by misled religious people to discover the real Messiah.

I wept with the representatives of African American people from troubled cities who offered forgiveness and I travailed with Black women who cried out for their children. I was amazed at the sight of Armenians and Turks with their long history of hatred making efforts to reconcile. I saw steps toward unity when Roman Catholics and Protestants embraced each other and the shards of many splinter groups recognized one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

What impressed me the most was tens of thousands of people under the age of thirty who stood in line at 4 a.m. and then stood in the rain for fifteen hours, and stood shoe-less with footwear held in the air as a demonstration of their dedication to go to the streets to demonstrate the goodness of God beyond the walls of the church. They have a desperate need to turn away from division and strife and powerless Christianity with mere theoretical grace and toward love and hope and demonstrations of the real thing. So do I.

 

As I sometimes do when I am watching a video or listening to a podcast, I doodled. I planned to try painting in watercolours since I haven’t done that for a while. I started a simple sketch as a basis for a painting, but I kept adding to it. I didn’t have a theme in mind, and I have never drawn a depiction of Jesus – mostly because I don’t like relying on any artist’s interpretation, so why should I add mine, but that’s the way the drawing went. In the end I decided to leave it as a pencil drawing.

I guess I was thinking about John the disciple, who referred to himself as one who Jesus loved, leaning on his Master at the last supper, because there he was in the drawing. In my mind he was just a young man with a wannabe beard. He had no idea what lay ahead. None of them did. All John knew was that Jesus loved him, and he was safe.

That’s all he needed to know.

I watched the crowds of young adults at the Los Angeles Coliseum respond to worship and make commitments with nothing more to go on than the knowledge that Jesus loves them. But that’s all they need to know. Secure in that knowledge they can move mountains.

Like John and the ten remaining disciples and the other people who were transformed when the Holy Spirit came in power, I do believe this generation will change the world.

My head may try to stay above my heart, but it can’t. My heart tells my head to get into alignment with God’s purposes because the drums are beating, the shofar is sounding, the wind is blowing and the fire is falling. The world will know that Jesus didn’t come to condemn them, but rather through him they can be saved. God loved us enough to send his only son so that whoever believes in him will have life -eternal life, abundant life. We can lean on him and be safe.

An old song just came to mind:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
.
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning,
Safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning,
Leaning on the everlasting arms

Tuned to His Glory

Everyone everywhere, lift up your joyful shout to God!

Sing your songs tuned to His glory!

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Tell the world how wonderful he is

For he’s the awe-inspiring God,

Great and glorious in power!

We’ve never seen anything like him!

Mighty in miracles,

you cause your enemies to tremble.

No wonder they all surrender and bow before you!

All the earth will bow down to worship;

All the earth will sing your glories forever!

(Psalm 66 The Passion Translation)

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