An hour away

Photo: looking north

(Click on photo for larger version)

The far mountains in this photo are about an hour away.

We tend to measure distance in terms of time in this vast country. It will take an hour to drive to the village at the base of those farthest mountains. In one hour the time will be here and the place will be now –and the details will be much clearer.

We live in the present but have an awareness of the future lying just one step further ahead on this journey. God is present-future. When he forgives our past, it is forgiven.  He sees who we will become as clearly as if it were today. He knows the plans he has for us and calls us by our future name. He desires us to see ourselves from his viewpoint so we will have the courage to walk in our new identity.

He remembers the future. He shows it to us by his words and allows us to say, “This is a picture of me when I was older.”

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2)

So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

Punching through

Photo: the tunnel

(click for larger version)

Punching through

I’ve done a lot of things I am not qualified to do –at least not on paper. People who live in isolated parts of this vast country are less concerned with how many hoops you have jumped through to obtain a stamp of approval from institutions with stamps of approval from other institutions, than they are with whether you are available, willing to step into a gap, and know something they don’t, or are at least willing to learn.

I heard a story of some highly-paid expert consultant-types, some of them engineers, who were trapped in a burning building. While they waited for outside response to frantic cell-phone calls it was the cleaning guy with an intimate knowledge of the building and his collection of mop and broom handles who punched through the wall and led them to safety. He was instantly promoted to leader.

An expert is anyone with access to pertinent knowledge and the right tools –and in an emergency the “proper” gender, educational accomplishments, political affiliations, physical fitness and impressive resumes can be like cell phones in an area without service.

Someone from another part of the world was trying to convince me to drive to meetings on a weekly basis in Vancouver. She had looked at a map and assumed we were close. Well, by freeway-traversed flatland standards, yes, perhaps, but darling, there are a few mountains in the way here. It takes a while to go around them (like twelve hours if there is no snow or avalanches or construction delays). I sometimes wonder how long it took First Nations peoples to discover the passes on foot.

I was driving home from Alberta recently, hurtling down the highway at a 100 clicks, toward what looked like a solid wall of rock. Logic said there’s a road here, so it’s got to go through somewhere, but I wonder if I had been alone on foot before the road was built if I would have succumbed to fear and despair. It would have looked overwhelming.

Trust doesn’t come easily to me. Fear is always hiding behind a bush or a rock ready to sneak up and tell me I am not competent to handle this situation, that there are too many unknowns, too many factors I can’t control, that I’ve failed before and will probably fail again, that I am not qualified. Fear is such a nag. Sometimes I want to give in just so it will shut up.

I read something interesting lately. God agrees. I am not qualified.

I am not qualified to listen to that voice. I no longer work for that boss. He’s a liar and a cheat and a thief set on destroying the people my heavenly Fathers loves (and then blaming Him for it) and definitely not trustworthy.

This is what God says, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the Lord, our Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, and you fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy?” (Isaiah 51:12)

It’s like he is saying to me, “Who do you think you are that you can ignore what I just told you, to go off and listen to the guy who has publicly stated it is his goal to pull down everything I created? Do you not think I will back you up with all my resources if I have asked you to do something? No, you are not qualified to do this without my help, don’t even try, but if I didn’t think you were the person for the job I would have asked somebody else. Now quit taking your instructions from the wrong side.”

I am not an expert, but I have access to the source of all knowledge and wisdom and He has given me tools, simple though they may appear. As I go about my humble chores I gain experience that allows me to be available and step into the gap and get the job done when necessary.

I’ve been through this valley before. I know where there is a hole in the massive stone wall. I can say with confidence to you, than when his beloved children face impossible opposition, that God provides a way where it looks like there is no way.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

     and rivers in the desert.

(Isaiah 43:19)

God is good.

Sanctuary

Photo: A sojourner at the bird sanctuary

There is a bird sanctuary on the edge of town. Many migrating birds stop there. Sojourners.

As I strolled around the lake I thought about sanctuary. I remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame crying, “Sanctuary! Sanctuary!” in the old black and white movie. For him it was a place of freedom from persecution.

Sanctuary means a holy place, a place set apart for a dedicated purpose. The world’s greed and ugliness cannot harass or even dare to enter sanctuary, but those who do not rely on their own strength are welcome. For those who trust in the Lord, His throne has been set apart as a sanctuary.

A glorious throne set on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. (Jeremiah 17:12)

As the much-loved bride of Christ who depends entirely on His mercy we can boldly approach the throne and know that the King of the universe holds out his scepter to us. He offers us sanctuary.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

God is good.

Sanctus!

Photo: Looking up

I listened to a recording of Jessye Norman singing Sanctus by Gounod tonight. My heart was full.

Translation:

Holy! Holy! Holy!

Lord God of Hosts!

Heaven and earth are full of your glory!

Hosanna in the highest!

Such power in the voice, the music and the lyrics.

Turn up the volume for this one.

Suitable, I think, for my 100th post.

As a mother

Photo: Preciousbaby's  foot charis

Mother’s Day can be horribly painful for some people.

I held more than one sobbing child in the big rocking chair during the darkest nights of their little lives. More than once I heard, “Why doesn’t my mommy love me?”

As a foster parent my own heart was torn up by the pain of little ones whose mothers chose alcohol or drugs over their kids, and with one exception all of the 24 children who arrived on our doorstep were there because their mothers’ own pain left them with nothing left to give. In the midst of drowning fear and emptiness they forgot their kids. It was hard to forgive them sometimes, but I realized that a person can’t give what they have never received, and these moms needed to be loved themselves.

God understands that too.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,

    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget,

    yet I will not forget you. (Isaiah 49:15)

None of us were parented perfectly. Even the most outstanding mother in the world has moments when her own deficits get in the way. That’s when Abba–Daddy-Father God, our Mother, can fill in. The Bible speaks of his gentle nurturing motherliness –something beyond gender.

For thus says the Lord:

“Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river,

    and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip,

    and bounced upon her knees.

As one whom his mother comforts,

    so I will comfort you;

    you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

You shall see, and your heart shall rejoice;

     your bones shall flourish like the grass;

and the hand of the Lord shall be known to his servants,

    and he shall show his indignation against his enemies. (Isaiah 66: 12-14)

More than a foster parent he adopts us and makes us full heirs. This is why I love adoption. It is a picture of being chosen and of lives redeemed by a perfect parent –without age limit.

Sometimes he also uses someone else with skin on to be an agent of this grace.

Paul wrote: For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness.   Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.  (1 Thessalonians 23: 5-8)

A few years ago I wrote a hymn for Mother’s Day recognizing God as a mother and thanking him for all the “mothers” –biological, fostering, adopting, step-parenting, hosting, caring and mentoring (regardless of gender) he has put in our lives who have nurtured us in some way.

As a Mother

As a mother, on whose bosom,

rests a child in total trust,

so, oh Lord, You love and comfort

‘til our earth-bound fears are hushed.

As a mother guides and teaches

little children to obey

so, oh Lord, you firmly tell us,

“Listen child to what I say.”

As a mother waits with weeping

for a child who’s gone astray,

so, oh Lord, You wait with longing

‘til we find our homeward way.

As a mother who rejoices

when her child says, “I love you,”

so, oh Lord, Your heart rejoices

when we sing, “We love You too.”

We, your children, come before You

to give honour and to praise.

Thank you for the precious “mothers”

who have shown Your loving ways.

Help us, Lord, to love and nurture

those entrusted to our care,

‘til as one united family

we will live together there.

(suggested tune setting: The Welsh folksong, “Suo-Gan” )

God is good.

Hearts open wide

Photo: bleeding hearts in my garden

Yesterday, in the wee hours, I was rushed to the hospital with a medical crisis. The hospital staff was wonderful and within minutes an I.V. dripped relief into my arm. I won’t deny that I was in a lot of pain -excruciating pain. I was moaning and writhing and praying but I wasn’t afraid. I knew what caused the pain. I had experienced this scenario before and since capable people moved quickly to help and I knew we wouldn’t be hit with a big medical  bill (oh God, thank you for Canadian healthcare!) I could patiently (or semi-patiently) endure.

By evening I was home and still a little stoned on morphine, but doing quite all right. I debated about whether I really needed to swallow the pain meds I was given before I went to bed, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to get some sleep, so I did.

When I awoke I had a horrendous headache, my hands and face and throat were swollen and I felt like I couldn’t get enough oxygen.

I was afraid.

It’s one thing to trust and patiently endure pain when you are fairly certain of a positive outcome eventually. It’s another when you have no idea what’s happening. This is not the time to introduce yourself to God or to re-new acquaintances. This is a moment when all you can do is squeeze out a “HELP!!” kind of prayer.

Obviously I’m OK now. I’m sitting here listening to Fernando Ortega, drinking Earl Grey tea, and posting a photo I took this afternoon of some of some bleeding heart flowers by my window. Their hearts open wide to sing his praise. God is good.

And if I had been sitting in heaven drinking tea with Jesus instead, he would still be good. My heart opens wide to sing his praise. Allelu.

Let us who are afraid find refuge in Christ and redemption assured in His name.

By day and by night we delight in His love and forever His words will remain.

Sing allelu, we rejoice in Your love Most High…

Fernando Ortega sings “Allelu” from The Odes Project -from the oldest collection of  hymns of the early church set to new music: