Thursday, October 31, 2013

Undivided

"Is Christ divided?"  1 Corinthians 1:13a

Growing up I was never certain which church I'd be attending each Sunday.  With my dad "filling the gap" when Pastors were ill or on vacation, we traveled together as a family and that found us here, there and everywhere.  The denomination might change, but not the message of salvation.

At a very young age I learned about the "body of Christ".  Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am not a "denominational" girl.  If God's complete Word is being taught without apology, then I can feel at home in a variety of congregations.  That's why what I heard recently made me so happy.

Our church building is bursting at the seams.  During our summer Vacation Bible School all our rooms fill and fire regulations dictate attendance. On Tuesday nights our Kids Clubs are met with the same room restriction.  Women's Bible Studies are meeting in small groups scattered throughout the building.  Every nook and cranny is utilized.  Space is a lost commodity.

Recently it has come to my attention that our "overflow" is meeting in churches across the street from our location.  We are situated on "church corner" for lack of a better description.  Baptist, Wesleyan Methodist, Alliance and United Pentecostal mark each direction.  The need for more room was shared and doors were opened.  I can't tell you how this blesses my heart.  This his how it should be!

With Jesus Christ the Head of the church, as believers we are His body...singular. To see and hear us all working together in unity speaks volumes about our relationship with the Lord, as well as declares to a watching world that in Jesus we can all serve beside one another in love.

Christ is not divided, and neither should we be.


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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "Again" of God

"...'I will bring them home again,' says the LORD."  Hosea 11:11

Lord, there is still time to intervene.

This morning my heart is with precious friends.  Their 21-year old daughter will be moving out today, deciding to live with her boyfriend.  How did it happen?  When did her heart begin to turn?  She loved Jesus as a little girl.

Another single mom shared yesterday that it was her daughter's 18th birthday.  She hasn't seen her in two years.  The young girl moved out at 16, and in tears this dear mom shared that she has no idea where her daughter is living right now.

A couple in their late 60's continue to cry and pray for the son that wandered from the Lord many years ago.  He is living a life of sin, yet was raised in a Christian home where God was the center.  What caused him to walk away?

My words are few today.  Let's get on our knees and pray.  I'm sure everyone reading this has either heard a similar story, or you've living the painful scenario right now.  Please, let's not stand in a place of judgement over these dear ones...the children or the parents.  We have all fallen.  We all have the same potential to fail.  The same enemy is watching our weaknesses.  The same arrow stands ready to shoot and our armor had better be in place.

Wounded soldiers need help.  Bearing another's burdens means standing with them in the mess.  Let's get in the trenches, providing the safety they need of a listening ear and a heart and tongue that doesn't condemn.

And, dear ones who are weary in this walk, you don't have to carry it alone.  Allow the family of God opportunity to minister to you.  Please, in the comments today, either just write "Praying" or leave the first name of someone who has wandered from the Lord and let's pray for one another.  God is able.  His Word says, "I will bring them home again."

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Unrequited Love

I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I was both stunned and heart-sick at the same time.

The Pastor had just challenged us from God's Word to love one another.  The new commandment had raised the bar.  This was a different measure of love.   It was no longer just enough to love others as we love ourselves (Romans 13:9), but now we are called to love as Christ loved (John 13:34).  This is radical, intentional, sacrificial love.

Drawing the sermon to a close, as an immediate response and act of love, we were asked to stand, reach out and take hold of the hand of the person standing on either side of us while the Pastor closed in prayer.  All across the sanctuary the body of Christ was coming together as one.  Brothers and sisters were uniting in the bond of love.  Until...

In the row ahead of me a precious lady reached out to take hold of the hand of the one beside her.  She was met with a wall.  Not only was a receptive hand not extended in response, but this one to her right, stood untouched, both by human contact and God's Word.  Resistance was written across the body language.  The hand extended was not acknowledged or accepted.

With a pitiful, "I don't know what to do" look, this sweet lady glanced back at me.  She tried again.  Nothing.  At this point I wish I could have grown a third hand.  The Pastor began to pray, and quite honestly I couldn't tell you what he said.  My heart was broken.  Shattered for the dear one who tried applying God's Word, and aching for the one denying His Word.

If seconds after hearing truth, while still sitting in church pews we can remain unaffected, how on earth can we live out God's Word in the world?  How are others going to see Christ's love if we can't even extend His love to those in the body of Christ?  You know what hurts too?  I know both these people.  It was so hard for my mind to wrap around what I was watching take place in front of me.  Have some of us become so set in our ways that even God Himself couldn't penetrate our stubborn hearts?

In absolute stunned silence, I prayed the Lord would take the hand of the one met with unrequited love.   Jesus knows exactly how she felt.  His nail-scarred hands reached out on the cross to take the hand of a lost world.  His hand still reaches out today.  I'm reaching back in response.  How about you?

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Celebrating Mom!

"Let's celebrate together!"  Matthew 25:21,23

It's a day of celebration.  My precious mother turns 88 years of age today.

When I think of my mom, so many words come to mind.  Loving.  Prayerful.  Disciplined.  Faithful.  Devoted.  Caring.  Giving.  Self-sacrificing.  Gracious.  Hospitable.  Tender-hearted.  Gentle.  Encouraging.  Supportive.  Godly.

Her life has changed a lot in the past year.  She has gone from taking care of her house with her precious husband for just shy of 70 years, to selling the family home, moving into a long-term care facility and the passing of her Prince Charming.  She has done so with a strength that has been incredible to all walking with her.  A strength that will continue to carry her into this next year of living.  A strength that only comes through her personal Lord and Savior.

Shortly after daddy passed away she declared to me one day, "I am not going to sit here, shrivel up and die."  No, mom has no intention of fading into the background.  She has prayed that the Lord would make her "faithful in the land of her affliction" and is living, as my sister would say, in A.W.E. - "aging with enthusiasm"!

Mom attends exercise classes, Senior Saint luncheons, monthly Mission Circle meetings, as well as most recently registering for 2 hours of weekly Conversational French Lessons.  In addition to all of this, we have joked that the nursing home could retire a few of it's full-time staff since mom's arrival.  She sweetly encourages others who have lost their appetite, to eat.  She looks after some of the lesser needs of the ladies on her floor.  She spends time with those who don't receive visitors.  She often has some small treats that bring a smile to those going through a difficult day. She always shares Jesus in Word and deed.

With the simple act of hiding her face in her hands, daily mom enters her "prayer closet".  Her life may be reduced to one-room living, but from her chair, with eyes closed, she prays for the needs of many, including her own.  Mom has always been a prayer warrior.  As long as I can remember, mom has been rising each morning by 4:00am to spend time with her Lord, studying His Word and lifting her family and loved ones to Him in prayer.  Her days begin and end with prayer.  Unable to kneel, her heart still bows before His throne each day.  It's our heart posture the Lord is most concerned about anyway.

Today will bring mixed feelings and emotion.  Mom's first birthday since the passing of daddy.  A difficult day for us all.  Dad always made every day special and his presence will be missed, but we are thankful for so many memories. Daddy would most often surprise mom on her birthday by scheduling the day off work and taking her out to some grand place for breakfast, then a day of shopping at one of her favourite out-of-town malls.  Although I would never have called my dad a shopper, he adored my mom and enjoyed being with her, even if that meant spending time in and out of stores.  Both my parents are expert window shoppers and holding hands they would spend millions of dollars, mostly on others, as they enjoyed imagining how they would bless friends and family should they have the resources.  Yes, daddy would have made today special.

So, it's up to us daughters!  Keeping up tradition, mom will indeed head out for breakfast and then we will see how she would like to spend the remainder of her day.  No doubt some cake will be involved.  I will celebrate the gift of my precious mom today.

For those of you reading this who are blessed to still have your mom living, as a gift to my mom, will  you contact you mom today and just tell her you love her?  Then, come back here and let us know you did. I will share that blessing with my mom.  If your mom has passed away, would you leave a comment of blessing for my mom today?  She will receive it in honour and representative for the precious life your mom lived.  I know it's not Mother's Day, but let's celebrate moms today!


My sister Japhia is to the left, then mom, my sister Sharon and me.

PS.  I have to share one more thing.  After writing this, I opened up the Devotional Journal I use daily and the heading for today was "The Blessings of Aging".  No one can ever convince me that God is not 100% aware of every moment of every day!  That is not a coincidence!  Can't wait to share that with my mom :-)

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Guide Us With Your Grace

Well, a little change of pace today.  First, if you haven't read yesterday's incredible story about a little girl named Grace and our amazing God, click here: "Saving Grace"  It's too great a story to miss.  Do you need a miracle?  God is still doing miracles today!

Friday night my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  The actual date was almost two weeks ago, but our tickets for the Josh Groban concert were this weekend.  We had such a wonderful evening out together.


I have always enjoyed Josh Groban's voice, even when I can't understand one word he's singing.  Italian is such a romantic language. 

Just in case you aren't familiar with Josh, enjoy the video below. Josh and Celine sing a duet of "The Prayer", written by Canadian composer, David Foster, the man who first "discovered" Josh at the age of 17.  Enjoy!



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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Saving Grace

"If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven."  Matthew 18:19

It was less than a month ago I received the first email.  A friend had forwarded a prayer request regarding a precious little girl named Grace.  Only 7 years of age and diagnosed with a malignant form of cancer called "Ewings Sarcoma".  Only 1 in 2,000,000 people develop this type of cancer.  By the time Doctors were able to confirm her condition it had already metastasized to various areas in her body, including her clavicle (collar bone), ankle, heel, toes, and under her left arm, as well as some other potential places.

The message contained a request to help cheer up Gracie.  "She loves rainbows and dolphins, friends and family, special cards, glittery girl things, and the colour pink.  She also loves Jesus with all her heart."

Folks responded from all around the world.  There was an outpouring of gifts, cards, letters, emails, phone calls and prayers.The support and encouragement received was a testament of God's love.  Although feeling total devastation at times, and running on very little sleep, the Lord was holding this dear family as they walked this difficult road.

This past Monday I received an update that more biopsy results would be read at the end of the week.  Grace's mom was encouraged by a friend to pray the tumors down and out.  Believing in a God who answers us when we call to Him, we were all asked to stand with this family, asking God for a miracle for Gracie.

Many began calling on the Lord to remove the tumors and restore health, that the Lord may be glorified through His healing of this little child.  Grace's parents recognized that the healing might mean heaven, but they were confident God would heal Grace.

Last night I received an email from my friend who knows this family personally and has been forwarding the updates to me.  All she wrote in her message to me was: "Well Joy, you will enjoy this!"  I knew instantly!

With enthusiasm and a heart already thanking and praising the Lord I began to read evidence of what my heart already knew.  This precious family had just received a phone call from the pathologist at Sick Kids Hospital.  They had the most recent biopsy results and all were NEGATIVE of any cancer!!!  In fact, as Grace's mom writes, the pathologist "cannot detect the problem at all.  PRAISE THE LORD!!!"

Grace's mom then continued to share how just recently she and her husband had been called to take some very radical steps of obedience to follow Jesus.  She describes both she and her husband as having been "intellectual Christians", studying God's Word with their minds, but not applying it to their hearts.  In April the Lord deeply convicted Grace's mom to quit attending law school and stay home full-time with her children.  Next came a move from the United States to Canada.  She and her husband began studying God's Word, repenting and obeying Him in radical ways.  Does God honour obedience?  Most definitely.

Skeptics may say that Grace never had cancer at all.  Some may claim the original test results were wrong.  Friends, this was a little girl who less than a month ago couldn't walk normally because of a large tumor on her ankle.  A little girl unable to swim because of the golf-ball sized tumor on her clavicle.  Today...Grace is running!!  Praise the Lord!  This is a miracle.  God's healing in Gracie's life.

I cannot say it any better than Grace's mom:

"We have seen many children in severe health situations while we were at the hospital.  We also have family members who are experiencing life-threatening disease, and we have friends, and friends of friends who are experiencing life-threatening cancers and disease.  Dear friends and family - by no means are we beneficiaries of a 'special' grace from God, and others are not.  We believe all prayers of healing are answered.  We believe that some prayers are answered right away, some take time, and others will happen on resurrection day.  However, everyone who prays for healing in His name will experience it at a time appointed by God alone.  We cannot even begin to understand His almighty works and ways, and why He does things, but what we CAN do is glorify Him in our lives, every day, all day!

Just like with the children of Israel that wandered through the desert and from time to time turned away from His statutes and His commandments, and worshipped Baal, etc., let us remember that they had to TURN AWAY from the idols in their lives, and follow Him, to experience temporal and eternal blessings!  The promised-land for them was Canaan, and the promised-land for us is Heaven.  So today, whatever is blocking us from a deep and true relationship with God, let us turn away, and follow Him!  Let us take up our cross, and follow Him!  Let us also be burden-bearers and help those around us!"

To anyone who wants to explain this away, here's the answer: God answers prayer!  Miracles happen!  God is alive!  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Grace may have been 1 in 2,000,000 but we have a God who denies statistics and I thank Him for His saving grace.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

Forgotten Treasure

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Turning into the driveway, instantly she noticed.  The side-door to her home stood ajar.  That's strange.  Had she left in such a hurry that she forgot to lock it?  No, she could almost feel the key in her hand as she had turned the deadbolt, securing the door.  Was that today?  Did the memory return just from repetition?  Maybe she had forgotten this one time.  Certainly she had enough things on her mind these days.

Running up the steps, swinging open the screen door she hollered in, "Hello".  Habit birthed the cheery welcome, because truly she did not expect or want a reply.  Her eyes suddenly fell to the lock laying on the tile at the feet.  Lifting her view higher, the splintered door took her attention.  Before another thought crossed her mind she was back down the steps and locked in her car.  Someone had been in her home.  Maybe they were still in there.

Summoning her husband home first, her next call went to 911.  The operator asked a series of questions.  The police were on their way.

Fearing the intruder might still be in her home and possibly watching her, a shiver ran up her spine.  She drove and parked in the neighbour's driveway.  Distance provided a buffer, but also a blindfold.  Her view of the house was blocked by the garage.  Oh well, at least she felt safer.

When the police arrived the canine unit was dispatched and a thorough investigation of her home was conducted.  Whoever had been there moments before had left, most likely after she drove next door.  There were things that gave the police evidence to believe that the intruder had been in her home when her cheerful greeting echoed through the halls.

The rooms on a whole didn't appear much different.  Drawers were open.  Lid off the cookie jar.  Boxes emptied of contents.  Mattress uncovered and moved.  Although much more damage could have been done, the unwelcomed visitor had left with all her jewelry, a small amount of cash and a camera.  The jewelry box also contained precious treasures.  Old photographs.  Newspaper clippings.  Irreplaceable value, yet no doubt tossed away thoughtlessly by one who didn't appreciate their worth.

Friends, we have been given a treasure worth far more than gold.  How careless are you with God's Word?  I will always remember a seminar on different religions that I attended.  The speaker shared the importance the Muslim's place on the Koran.  When not being read it is respectfully placed on a high shelf of importance.  The speaker said that Muslim people are astonished at the way Christians handle their Bibles.  We place them on the floor.  We toss them into our cars.  We might even set a cup of coffee on the cover to keep from marking a table.  Not only that, but if we truly believe it to be God's Word, how do we go from day to day without touching it...reading it?  Where is our reverence and longing for God's Word?

I'm not suggesting we idolize our Bible, but do we treasure it?  Have you ever seen someone who receives their first copy of the Scriptures?  When it's placed in their hands, they realize the pearl of great price that has been handed to them.  It's not the Book so much that causes the enamoured response or the tender hold, but the Author.

What defines riches to you?  This burglar departed with perishable trinkets while leaving priceless treasures.  I'm not saying this home is filled with items of great monetary value, but what this intruder really needed was left behind.  A Bible in almost every room.  The wealth that could have changed a heart forever.  The promise of mansions, streets of gold, salvation, forgiveness, acceptance, love and one day living with the King of Kings.

The thief last week no doubt wanted gold and cash.  Quick commodities.  Material items of no eternal significance.  Although it has left my sister and her family shaken, they are secure in Christ.  We are all now praying for the one who's life has been reduced to theft.  Reminded of the thieves who were crucified with Jesus.  Reminded of eternal treasures.  Reminded of the priceless value of God's Word.  Reminded that only in the Lord do we find security and safety.  There is no greater joy than knowing Jesus, and once He is believed and received, He is a Treasure that cannot be stolen.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Claiming Faith

Kneeling beside me she exclaimed excitedly, "You know how you're always talking about having faith and trusting God for something big?  Well I am!  I'm trusting God for something big!"

Immediately she had my attention.  I love a good God-story.  This gal has often stood in a place of amazement, listening to the stories of others, yet longing to experience God herself.  We can't live with hand-me-downs in God's economy.  All ears, I was listening.

She went on to say she had booked a vacation.  Confused, I sat silently waiting to hear the rest of the story.

No, that was it.  She had booked a vacation.  It was all paid for and she'd be travelling again shortly.  Her faith came in needing a babysitter for her children who will be remaining behind.  Then, as she stood to hurry off and meet her family, she expressed that she hoped God wanted her to travel.

Whooooaaah!  This illustrates so often the way we approach God.  We desire for Him to bless our decisions.  We go ahead making plans, then spiritualize our efforts.  Here's an example of faith vocabulary for vacation gain.  Faith is not waiting on God to magically provide when we've run ahead and done things on our own.  I'm not saying God won't supply a babysitter, but maybe inquiry as to whether another trip right now was on His calendar might have been a better move first.

What if a babysitter doesn't materialize?  Will God be blamed?  Will she feel the fault lies in her lack of faith?  Too often God is accused at the expense of something we've excused.  Where was prayer?  Just because financially we are able to do something doesn't mean we should.  Just because it's our desire doesn't mean it's His desire for us.  Asking God for direction before moving ahead is always the best idea.

As disciples, we are called to follow, not lead.  Yes, God calls us to have faith and take steps we can't see, but steps along a path He views clearly.  He stands in our unknown, but we have to walk His way.  Taking a step of faith is like holding God's hand while walking blindfolded. His Hand is safe to hold.  We're trusting and walking without always having the certainty of the ground before us, but of the Guide beside us.

I really do hope things will work out for this gal, but even more I pray that we will not use faith vocabulary for personal gain.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Faith Filled Laughter

"Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'"  Genesis 17:17

"So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?'" Genesis 18:12

Am I the only one who didn't notice before that both Abraham and Sarah laughed in response to the news of a promised child?  I was very familiar with both Sarah's laugh, and her reprimand, but I didn't recall Abraham laughing.  That has caused me to ponder.  Was their a difference in their laughter?  Why did Sarah receive rebuke while Abraham did not?

I think we'd all agree that we laugh for different reasons.  Sometimes we laugh from embarrassment. Often we give a slight chuckle as an answer when we're at a loss for words.  Stress can trigger laughter.  Fear can cause us to act in a giddy manner.  Laughter can spill over uncontrollably when we're overtired.  So what was the root of Abraham and Sarah's laughter?

At first glance it may appear that they were both laughing from a similar cause.  The announcement might have sparked the laughter, but their acknowledgement of it is quite different.  I believe Sarah laughed in impossible disbelief, while Abraham laughed in incredible belief.

God saw the laughter rising.  Sarah's birthed in doubtful suspicion.  Abraham's pregnant with delighted surprise.  One thought, 'this is preposterous', the other 'this is too glorious'.

Why do I feel they differentiated? First, Abraham fell facedown.  A beautiful act of worship.  Overcome by the magnitude of the promise he bows before the Lord.  Then, speaking of Abraham in Romans 4:20-21, I read, "He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform."

Yes, I believe Abraham's laughter pulverizes impossible while Sarah's magnifies doubt.

How do you respond when God speaks a Word to your heart?  Do you laugh unconsciously?  Does it spring from an overflow of trust or trepidation?  If God say's it, it's true.  Fall facedown and adore Him, letting any laughter that reaches heavenly ears sound glorious.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Today is "Someday"

Are you like me?  Do you ever hear an amazing message, feel challenged by a wonderful thought, think you're called to begin a new habit or finish reading the last page of a book and think, 'I should do that', but that's as far as your response goes?

Too many times in the past I have walked away too quickly from a Word the Lord has impressed on my heart.  There's a moment when everything within me is sensing His Spirit exciting me to action, but I console myself with 'someday'.  I trick myself into believing that 'someday' is acceptable when God is saying 'now'.

About 10 days ago I read my dear friend Sharon Glasgow's blog post.  It was entitled, "He Rolled Out the Red Carpet for Our Guests".  She shared a story around the theme of hospitality.  Sharon and Dale readily open their home to guests, I know as I've had the delight of being one of them.  On this occasion however, the carefully planned meal went to the dogs...literally...as her four-legged family member got to the filet mignons before she did.  Now what was she to do?  Instead of the special meal she had planned, she prayed that the Lord would lavish their guests with His presence while she quickly pulled a prepared frozen casserole from her freezer.  As Sharon says, Jesus rolled out the red carpet that night, bringing them to His banqueting table and enveloping all at the table in His love.

At the close of her blog post she asked: "What hinders you from inviting guests for dinner?"  Ugh, intersect God's timing.  I had just had this conversation with a friend.  I was at my church earlier and saw the sign-up sheet to host missionaries for a meal during our Global Outreach Conference.  Immediately my heart longed to respond.  My parents had always opened their home to visiting missionaries and it just stirred so many precious memories.  But...(did you know a 'but' was coming?)...I always feel so inadequate in the kitchen.  I wish so much I had a "go to" meal that NEVER fails that I could haul out on such occasion.  I am so intimidated by meal preparation.  I never know what to serve.  My fear of what to cook and how it will turn out, keeps me from extending invitations.  I LOVE having people in for dessert and coffee.  That I can handle, but the whole meal thing puts me in a panic.

After reading Sharon's post I knew the Holy Spirit was nudging me to open my home to a missionary couple.  I began praying for a recipe and for courage.

Well, last night was that dinner.  I'm thrilled to let you know that the roast beef, complete with Yorkshire Pudding and all the fixin's turned out marvelously! :-) (Yes, I had to add a *smile*!)  I set the table with Fall decor and it all looked lovely.  The Lord kindly answered my prayer for everything  finish cooking at the same time, and the right time.  It was all delicious (and we have leftovers).  However, the greater blessing was the time shared with this sweet couple.  The missionaries who came to our home are young.  They are working for DayStar on Manitoulin Island ministering to First Nations native people.  It was wonderful to hear how God is moving, working and using them for His glory.  What a blessing we would have missed had fear, pride etc...kept me from following the Spirit's prompting.

Has the Lord been calling you to action?  Have you heard or read something recently and you thought you should do that "someday".  What has hindered you?  Why not start today?  What good is it agreeing that an idea sounds good without applying it?  It's pretty useless if it hasn't brought about change.  A great idea heard, but not heeded, remains wishful thinking.


I wish I had taken more pictures, but I did remember to quickly take a picture right before our new friends left.  May the Lord continue to use you, Anthony and Barbara, as you serve in His Name.

Closing with a verse I heard repeated often by my mother as a child: "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." (Proverbs 15:17)

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Filling the Gap

"I looked for a man to stand in the gap, but found none." Ezekiel 22:30

I saw my husband Gord talking to Bob as I was fastening the buttons on my coat.  The church service had concluded moments earlier and we had been visiting with friends sitting near us in the pews.  Suddenly Gord caught my eye and motioned me closer.  Apparently the couple scheduled as "Greeters" for the next service were unable to come.  Would we fill in and welcome those who would be arriving shortly?  Without hesitation I began to take my coat off.  We'd be staying for awhile.

Not on the "official" greeting team, Gord and I have filled in at different times and it's always fun to see who attends the "other" church.  Being "regulars" at the early service, we don't often see those who come to the later gathering.

It was lovely to have this opportunity to serve with my husband.  Side by side.  Extending the right hand of Christian fellowship.  Some faces were familiar, but many I had never seen before.  A variety of cultures, sizes, handshakes and responses.  Most seem pleased to connect.  A few avoided us.  Many children appeared shy, yet smiled as they tentatively reached out their hands.  I even got to hug the mom of a sweet friend who was here visiting her daughter.

Time was going by quickly when Bob returned.  Pulling something out of his pocket he presented Gord and I with a gift card to a local coffee shop.  Despite our refusal, he insisted.  It was his way of saying 'thank you' to us for stepping in at the last moment.

Gord was content to hand the card over to me to enjoy in the future, but I suggested we go right then.  Gord and I almost always come straight home after church, but yesterday we made a detour.  I was so excited! We are not ones to pick up coffee often so this was a real treat!  Coffee and orange cruller. It was so delightful because it was so unexpected.

I think the coffee tasted extra good because it really was from God.  We had no idea when we headed to church yesterday morning that we would be presented with a call to serve.  We immediately responded favorably to the invitation and filled in with enthusiasm.  We thought our reward was the blessing we received from meeting so many wonderful friends in the family of God. The Lord put the icing on the cake by giving us a "bonus" as He moved on Bob's heart to shower us with His "immeasurably more".  A coffee card, not worth much in the eyes of the world, but a special gift from the One whom we were really serving.  His way of saying, "I saw you fill the gap today so willingly, and I thank you."

How can you stand in the gap today?

** This is extra special to me because my daddy lived by this verse.  His ministry was one of standing in the gap.  You can read about it here: "Standing in the Gap".

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Mary Moments

"...thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart."  Jeremiah 15:16

Since dusting off the small, leather-bound devotional book in January, it has become a treasured part of my daily time with the Lord this year.  Given to me by a retired missionary who I affectionately called "Uncle Harry", I was 14 years old when I first committed to reading God's Word every day.  Having packed this book away long ago, finding it and reading it again all these years later has been a delight.

This devotional book was printed in 1966 and originally given to Uncle Harry's "darling wife Maude on her 83rd birthday" in May of 1972, according to the hand-written inscription.  I received it four years later after her calling home to Heaven.  Each day has a morning and evening reading that is filled with God's Word alone.  No additional side notes or applications.  The Holy Spirit is Commentator, Communicator and Interpreter. It is written entirely from the King James Version and even the old English has brought back sweet memories of childhood Bible readings and memorization.

What has thrilled my heart is finding comments, reflections and prayers in the margin that I wrote as a young girl when I first read this book.  It's so touching to see the penmanship of my younger days.  Expressions of wonder and awe.  Comments of confusion.  I smiled as I found a short prayer for Barry Manilow's salvation, no doubt coming from a heart once infatuated with teenage love.  Many pages crinkled with words blurred and blotted from tears.  Prayers offered.

Friends, God's Word speaks through every stage of life.  Each morning it's my time with Him that gets me out of bed early, anticipating what He will say to me that day.  Sometimes it's a Word of conviction. Often it's an answer to a specific prayer. Many times it's a new revelation. At other moments He speaks through a quiet whisper revealing more of His nature to me or sharing a divine secret.  Other days, like this morning, He speaks so much I can hardly keep up and the clock dictates the end of our set-aside time together, not a true sense of completion. (I'll share today's teachings through future blog posts, Lord willing.)

Is He ever silent? Yes, there are days when my journal only contains the date with a sentence or two, but those mornings are special still.  God and I enjoy the comfortable quiet that isn't awkward between best friends.  A sweet knowing that we are just there...together.  Our relationship is such that He knows He can trust me with His silence.  We share a history.  Over 40 years. A lot of memories.  A lot of blessed Mary moments, sitting at the Master's feet.

Thank You Lord for Your Word.  I'd love to hear what He spoke to your heart today.  That assumes you've spent time in His Word, and you've listened.  My heart would be so encouraged to know you've given Him time today.  It's really the only reason I write.  Lord, use these often faulty words to draw someone's heart closer to You.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Reflect or Respond


"Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." Matthew 19:29

I read the verse from Matthew for the second time in less than 14 hours, and 7 of those hours I was sleeping!  Ugh...I knew what I had to do.

Recently I was approached about speaking at a ladies weekend retreat.  I've never spoken at an entire weekend event before.  Although it makes me a little nervous, it's also very exciting!  At the moment the coordinator is also considering another speaker, but she had called me making inquiries and we have talked on the phone as well as emailed back and forth.

Last weekend while my son was home for Thanksgiving, he mentioned that sometime in February the Sinfonia, of which he is an orchestra member, will be performing.  As faithful and devoted parents we try to make all the activities when Chris participates.  From pre-school to university we have applauded, cheered, laughed and cried through talent shows, soccer play-offs, piano recitals, band performances, volleyball tournaments etc...  We love supporting his involvement, and win or lose we have been there, short of an unexpected emergency and things beyond our control.

Presented now with this vague date, I wondered what to do.  You see, this isn't just 'another' concert.  At this performance the orchestra will be playing a composition Chris has written.  He is the composer!

Last evening I wrote an email to the lady coordinating the weekend retreat.  I told her should the date of the concert fall on the same weekend as her event in February, I would not be available on the Friday evening.  I thought to myself, surely she will understand.  She has children.  She will be able to empathize with my situation.  Maybe they could plan something else Friday night and I could still speak the remainder of the weekend.  I mean, after all, it's just one session.

Interject God.  *smile*  As I opened a book to read before going to bed last night, there it was - a passage on the cost of discipleship.  Immediately my thoughts turned to the email I had sent.  I read the verse from Matthew again.  Stink...does it really include "children" in that list?  Yes.

As David Platt writes in his book "Radical", discipleship is costly, but nondiscipleship comes at an even greater price.  God doesn't want us only reflecting on His Word, He desires our response.  Am I going to obey?  Saying I'm willing is wonderful, but it needs follow-through.  Turning off the light I prayed the Lord would help me make His choice.

This morning I got up early as I always do to have my quiet time in God's Word, and guess what the very first verse was that I read.  Do I really need to write it out here again?

I'm heading to my email account right now to share with the event coordinator what the Lord has spoken to my heart regarding this retreat and my relinquishment.  I have no idea if I'll be the speaker finally chosen for this event.  I also don't know the exact date of the orchestra performance.  They could involve completely different weekends.  But, this I know, I am learning to surrender all to follow Jesus.

(**Just want to add a side note.  I realize that had the word "children" not been included in that verse, the call to follow would have been no less.  I smile at the Lord allowing His Word to be so specific to this circumstance, but the message is to respond to His call whatever the cost.)
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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Judas Cloak

"Judas bore the cloak of religion, but never knew the heart of Christ."  Max Lucado

After completing my Bible reading this morning, the commentary on the passage included the above quote.  Whenever I read about Judas' betrayal it moves me to tears.

Too often I think we read of the "heroes" and "villains" in God's Word and regard them more as action figures about to take the stage in the next big theater release.  We picture them as felt characters on Sunday School boards or little singing vegetables teaching a lesson with a happy ending.  No, Judas was real...and he could have so easily been me.

I think what I find so sad concerning Judas is that He so often walked in Christ's presence.  He was right there.  He ate with Him, saw the miracles, heard the plan of salvation presented countless times, yet he missed it.  Oh I think he obviously had some "form of godliness".  He must have been outwardly doing many of the "right" things as even the night of his betrayal the other disciples weren't pointing a finger at Judas saying, "It must be him".  No, they were questioning who it could possibly be.  Had he so deceived others and himself into thinking he truly was a disciple of Jesus Christ?  Jesus wasn't deceived, and He won't be fooled by the cloak of religion we wear either.

I think of a gal who recently shared with me how delighted she is that her husband accompanies her to church most Sunday's, but as yet he has not made a personal decision to receive the Lord as his own personal Savior. He's there hearing the Word presented clearly, but not responding.  He's not pretending to be a follower. He's seeking.

My thoughts turn to those who actually take the name "Christian" whether because they attend church most Sundays, read their Bible, consider themselves to be fairly "good", maybe even attend a Bible Study, tithe, and are generous in reaching out to the needs of others, yet their hearts are really no closer to the Lord than the one sleeping in Sunday morning completely unaware of a need.  They might have even repeated a prayer some time ago.  A ticket to heaven.  Fire insurance.  It's not enough friends.  A prayer for salvation is the beginning, not the end.

I know only the Lord can reveal Himself and remove the blinders, but let's examine our own lives.

First, have you had a personal encounter with the Lord? Was there a point in time when a decision was made to follow the Lord...not just in word, but in an act of repentance and surrender?  Did you acknowledge that you are a sinner?  Did you confess your sins?  Did you ask for forgiveness? Did you repent and turn away from past sinful behavior or are you still living doing basically the same things?  What has changed, or what is changing? Did you receive the Lord's forgiveness through the sacrifice Christ made on the cross? Are you walking in obedience to God's Word?  Do you pick and choose Scripture that validates your desires or do you let the Lord run a fine-tooth comb through your life removing any of the tangled mess that still remains?  Are you clinging to old habits, thoughts, language, feelings? How do you spend your time?  Is God a priority?  Are you daily in His Word and in prayer? Is your longing for Him growing?  Have you been filled with the Holy Spirit? Are you baptized?  Do you more than just believe there is a God, but know Him intimately as your personal Heavenly Father?  Do you speak to Him?  Does He speak to you? Is your walk more than words?

Oh I have so many more questions. I'm so concerned for those I see who are living deceived. How do I know?  Not standing in a place of judgement, but God's Word says our fruit will give evidence that we are children of God.  And, it's not just some fruit, but ever increasing fruit.  A tree that bears more and more every year because the roots are going deeper into the rich soil of God's Word.  Too many hearts have been betrayed by the evil one. Their minds are receiving lies, their thoughts accusing or excusing them. God does not accuse or condemn, but convict.  God does not excuse, but will pardon.  It's His desire that none perish, but we need to come to Him and surrender all.

________ bore the cloak of religion, but never knew the heart of Christ.

Precious friend...do you know His heart?  Please...please...know His heart.

I'd love to hear from you today. Please leave a comment and if you need prayer, I'd love to pray with you and for you.



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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Waiting At the Door

Earlier this morning I read a friend's blog post.  In it she shared a sweet story about an outing with her son.  As the young boy made sure their dog was safely inside their home, his mom, my friend, decided to drive the car closer to the door for easier access.  To do so, she had to first reverse the car.  The little boy saw his mom backing out of the driveway and became worried.  He thought his mom might be leaving without him.  Upon entering the vehicle and receiving her reprimand, she reassured him that she was not leaving him.  She said, "Although it looked like it was a bad thing for you, I was really just getting in a better position to pick you up at the door".

She continued then to write a personal, spiritual parallel.  I could identify.  I  jump to conclusions too quickly based on what appears.  If it looks that way, it must be so.  Many times what I perceive with my sight I receive to be right.  I often decide what God is doing based on what I see, but His ways are not my ways, or my thoughts His thoughts.  The Lord is working out His plan for me and times it might look like He's "backing up" and I wonder where He is, He's really just preparing to "pick me up at the door".

This illustration was such an encouragement to me.  It reminded me of an extended family member.  We cannot understand his recent move to California.  We see him running away, "putting his car in reverse" so to speak.  However, as I read this, I thought of God's plans and possibilities.  Maybe he HAS to go to California because there is someone there who will be instrumental in bringing him Home (yes...turning his heart back to his Heavenly Home).  What appears to be running may be for his returning.  Even the "famous" Prodigal son left his father's home for a far away country.  It was in the foreign land he began to see all he had taken for granted and his longing turned him towards home.

Yesterday I was asking God about a lot of things.  We have many in our family right now, and our circle of friends, who really need a miracle, whether it be physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, mental etc...  I never doubt that God could just think the thought and the healing would come.  I know He could.   But sometimes the immediate restoration isn't for our best.  It's so often the journey that brings more joy than instant recovery. It's in the journey we take God's Hand and abide in Him.

I'm blessed by thoughts that have turned to deeper trust this morning.  I'm so thankful the Lord is in control and I can rest between His sovereignty and His love while I wait for Him to "pick me up at the door".  May He find me there peacefully waiting.
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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Honest Struggle

"...as with any long-term companion - even a cruel one - saying good-bye is difficult."

Carol Kent wrote the above quote in reference to saying goodbye to fear.  Goodbye's are always hard.  This year already I've had to say some major goodbye's and the thought of each one still dissolves me in tears. Life sometimes seems to be made up of a series of goodbyes.

I say goodbye to my husband every morning at 5:45am as he heads off to work.  I kiss my son goodbye and send him back to University after each visit home.  I pray over my Bible study girls weekly and wave goodbye as they go their separate ways.  I pay for my groceries and say goodbye to finances.  I have a friend over for coffee and hug her goodbye when she leaves.  These are all, Lord willing, temporary goodbye's.  I pray my husband will be home for supper.  My son most likely will return at Reading Break.  Bible study is scheduled to happen again next week.  A paycheck will hopefully replace depleting funds.  I'll make plans to see my friend again.

What about permanent goodbye's?  The ones you can't change.  The ones that leave a lifetime impact.  The ones God initiates.  Not quite so easy.

I think of times when God has called me to depart.  Two specific leavings come to mind. Both times His Word was clear.

"Depart, depart, this is not your place of rest." Micah 2:10

"Depart! Depart!  Go out from there, touch no unclean thing; Go out from the midst of her.  Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the LORD." Isaiah 53:11

I can't deny the direction, but the doing has been difficult. Both called for a release.  One from complacency and one from compromise.  One from a church fellowship, the other from a close friendship. So, why do they both still bring such heartache?  Shouldn't the assurance of knowing God's will and walking in obedience bring delight?

Following the Lord isn't easy.  Heartstrings get woven into relationships and when ties are cut, frayed ends unravel often leaving our emotions threadbare.  I write as one who is speaking from experience.

Mix this with the temporary goodbye to my daddy just three months ago.  Yes, he is permanently gone from this earth, but I have the promise of eternity.  That is one goodbye that waits a glorious hello.  And, isn't that what all goodbye's do?  Goodbye's make room for new hello's.

In her Bible study "No Other Gods", Kelly Minter writes, “The real travesty is going through all the pain of a goodbye but never enjoying the fulfillment of a new hello.  There is a finality that must be faced. Yet there are some surrenders that are purely necessary for life to blossom. Certain things - and I won't name them, because you already know them in your soul - choke us, wound us, and bind us in ways that keep us from moving forward. They deserve a farewell. Still we cling because the painful familiar is often more comfortable than the foreign amazing."

Although my heart knows the above to be true, I'm struggling with letting go.  Memories hold my thoughts captive.  I'm in bondage to longings and relationships that ended before I was ready to set them free.  There had been so much good...so much good.  Who knows...maybe these present goodbye's will return in another season.  Maybe they too are for a time.  Maybe they are part of a test for the Lord to see, will I really surrender all to follow Him?  Will I leave what I love and treasure on earth for Who I truly long to love and treasure most?  Can He ask anything of me and I will obey?

"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also". Matthew 6:21

Lord, my heart is still clinging to what You have called me to leave.  Father, remove the desire. I still want so badly what You've required me to "depart".  Change my wants.  I hate the hold still over me.  I am doing all I can to remove myself, but it remains a daily struggle.  I can't do this.  The hurt has cemented itself to my heart.  Only You can give me strength to press on.  Heal my hurt and the ache I feel for the hurt in others my leaving caused.  It's still hard Lord, and I need Your help.  I desire more than my actions to speak obedience.  Turn my heart towards home.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Then and Now

Twenty-Five years ago today:



This picture brings tears to my eyes.  I miss you daddy.

Presenting, Mr. and Mrs. Gordon Brown

"The" kiss.

Love this picture of dad welcoming Gord to the family.

Mom, dad and I.

Gord with his parents.

This has always been one of my favourite pictures from our wedding day.

The "Brown's" today.

Twenty-five years of love.
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Monday, October 14, 2013

The Eve of Forever

The rehearsal had gone well, or at least she thought all had flowed smoothly.  Really, how would she know?  This was her first, and Lord willing, her last.  She believed marriage to be a lifetime commitment and now it was the eve of forever.

Tomorrow she would walk up the aisle on the arm of the one who had been her "best man" for the past 26 years.  Daddy had loved well and mom had taught her how to love well.  Tomorrow she would pledge her heart to another. Tomorrow her name would change, as would her life.  But that was tomorrow.  She still had tonight.

After time with her parents, giggling with her sister, and sharing excitement over all that would happen the following day, she slipped into her room, the room that had been hers for most of her life.

Without turning on the light, dropping to her knees she began to pray.  Emotions quickly surfaced.  This was it.  The last time she would come before God's throne in this room - beside this bed.  So many memories spilled into her conversation with God that night.  So much for which to give thanks.  Childhood dreams were on the threshold of reality.

Lord is this what You planned for me?  Is this who You planned for me?  In an act of final surrender she prayed, "Father, I feel You have led and directed me.  You have guided and provided for every detail tomorrow.  I kneel here tonight hours away from becoming Mrs. Gordon Brown.  Father, if I am moving outside Your perfect will for me, I don't care what You have to do to stop my wedding tomorrow - do it.  As much as I love Gord, I love You more.  Although my heart would break should You say 'no', I long to remain in the center of Your will for me.  I lay Gord on the altar of sacrifice, desiring only Your best for both of us.  Unbelievable that I could be Your best for Gord.  Oh, how I pray I am.  Father, teach me how to be the wife to Gord that he needs.  Be our foundation, our focus and our future."

Not certain how long I stayed on my knees praying that night, but the next day I did indeed walk down the aisle while the pipe organ proclaimed, "Praise my soul the King of heaven."

Tomorrow, October 15th, Gord and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary.  God returned the gift I offered in open hands.  He confirmed His pleasure with the ceremony proceeding.  He now holds us in His hands as one.

Knowing God's benediction has not meant perfection, but dedication.  We've made mistakes, yet I've always had the assurance of knowing my marriage was not one of them. Committed, devoted, cherishing, forgiving and faithful we continue to seek God's will and thank Him for our love for a lifetime.

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Comings and Goings

"...where have you come from, and where are you going?" Genesis 16:8

Twice today the Lord directed me to Genesis 16.  It's the story of Abram and Sarai, Hagar and Ishmael. Abram and Sarai became impatient waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise to them of a child and now Sarai's method of childbearing has her maidservant Hagar pregnant by Abram. Despised by Sarai, who only moments before thought this was such a great idea, Hagar is on the run.

The angel of the LORD finds Hagar near a spring in the desert and asks her, "where have you come from, and where are you going?"

I believe it is God Himself who has found Hagar.  He always sees His children on the run.  Remember Jonah?  What about the prodigal son? He had His eye on Elijah running from Jezebel and David running from Saul.  They all had their reasons for fleeing, but God continued seeing.

The question He presented to Hagar, today He is speaking to me.  Joy, where have you come from, and where are you going?

I think of some recent "coming froms".  Coming from a place of fear...battling cancer...a hard obedience...a departure...desperate grief...the loss of my dad.  What's on the immediate path ahead? Release. Health. Peace. Treasured memories. Trust. Uncertainties.

I love what Beth Moore writes regarding Hagar.  The LORD found her near a spring in the desert, and then became her Spring in the desert.  Isn't that thought beautiful.

God always couples a "from" with a "to".  Take a few moments today and ponder where you are coming from and where you are going. Is God in the plan? Is He the One guiding you into your goings?  As He saw Hagar, He sees you and is waiting near the spring in the desert, sitting in a place of hope, ready to take your hand and lead you to your promised land.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

God said...

"So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people.  And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying: " Acts 21:40

That's exactly how Acts, Chapter 21 concludes.  In the reading plan I'm using this year for my time in God's Word, that's where it ended today.  The previous verses speak warnings of arrest and Paul has just been given permission to speak.  Now I'm left wondering, what's he going to say?

Maybe it's a good place to stop this morning, as much as I would love to continue reading. A place of not knowing the outcome.  Life isn't very often nicely wrapped up in 30 minutes, as most sitcoms would have us believe.  Chapters of our lives don't always conclude quickly.  Often they are open-ended for awhile, maybe even until eternity.  We don't have all the solutions and rarely do we fully understand all the answers.

Earlier this week I was watching Season 4, Episode 3 of "Downton Abby", (yes, I'm a fan), and it left me on the edge of my seat wondering what's going to happen next.  The expectation has me anxious for the continuation of the story.  Do I anticipate the next step the Lord has for me with such eagerness?  Am I at very least equally excited? Am I hungry for His next Word to me?

God longs to speak to us daily.  I love what it says regarding Paul.  "When there was a great silence, he spoke.."  Maybe the Lord is waiting for us to be silent long enough that He can speak and share His heart with us.

Sssshhh.  Quiet.  He's clearing His voice to speak, saying....

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Friday, October 11, 2013

An "a-ah" Moment

"Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." Genesis 15:6

You know, sometimes I think for those of us who grew up in the church since birth, we can sadly become too accustomed to hearing familiar Bible verses or passages.  Listening to the same story since nursery days, we sit back comfortably when we recognize the telling of a tale we have often heard repeated.  We almost check that one off in our head, yep, heard that before, and then check out our mind from fully concentrating this time around.  But here's the thing, if you're anything like me, regardless of how many times you've heard a story repeated, God can breathe a new Word because of a new work He is doing in your life.

Sitting in my Bible study class last night that's exactly what happened to me. We were looking at Genesis 15.  Here we read about God's covenant to Abram.  Though Abram's wife of many years still remains barren, God promises descendants more numerous than the stars in the heavens.  Here's where the oft quoted verse appeared: "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness."

What was counted as righteousness?  Abram's belief.  I know that's pretty straight forward, but stay with me for a second.  Before you too brush this off casually, do you realize what this means?  God remembers the times we believe Him, not the times our faith falters.  He is not keeping records of failures.  He's not tallying the times we lose sight, but the times we choose right!  Whenever we make a faith choice to believe God, He sees and acknowledges that we are trusting Him.

OK, so some may be saying, "well, that was just for Abram"...oh, but wait.  I was hoping you'd say that (*smile*).  In Romans 4:23-24, Paul writes, "The words 'it was credited to him' were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him..." (italics mine).  WOW!

It's made me really stop and think.  Where have I chosen faith?  I mean really chosen faith?  Faith that goes beyond the "I can" to "God must".  Fear so often is the enemy that keeps me from all the Lord is longing to show me.  I think of what might even appear as small trusts that would demonstrate huge faith.  Those areas of struggle that others could easily obey or surrender, but they attack as personal strongholds.  Don't calculate your faith steps by comparison.  God designs steps of faith individually.  David's sling.  Moses staff. Abraham's sacrifice.  Peter's sea-legs.  :-)

What has God spoken to you lately that you are struggling to receive?  BELIEVE!  God will credit it to you as righteousness. Even now He is uncapping His pen and opening His book of remembrance.  I wonder how many volumes we could fill with faith stories before He calls us home.  

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Compelled

"...Paul was compelled by the Spirit..." Acts 18:5

Only God could place the word "compelled" in my daily reading today.  Monday I registered for "COMPEL, Words that Move People", an avenue of writer's training through Proverbs 31 Ministries.  Seeing a form of the word "compel" in my Bible reading I sense a confirmation that I am walking in obedience to His Spirit that also compelled me.

The word itself intrigues me.  I looked it up in the dictionary.  It means driven to a course of action; have a powerful, irresistible effect; influence; force to submit.  The word is made up of "com", meaning "together" and "pellere", meaning "to drive".  The original is translated as "to drive together".

I like that.  To drive together.  Not going solo, there's a togetherness, a unity, a partnership.  As I begin this on-line writing training, I'm so glad I'm not venturing out alone.  The Lord is with me. I also like to think of my words not only moving people, but as I journey with the Author of The Word may He alone drive my thoughts.  May He travel me down paths of ideas, avenues of insight and streets of emotion that grip the hearts of readers causing them to desire more of Him.  Yes, words that move people, not just causing feelings to stir, but focus to shift.  Lord, use me to move others closer to You.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Five Dollar Blessing

 "...those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed."  Proverbs 11:25

With plant in hand my sister and I entered the doors of the nursing home.  A familiar lobby greeted us.  We have been coming here almost daily since January.  First it was to visit our dad who needed added care after my mom broke her back. Then it was to visit both parents as mom became a resident in February.  After daddy's passing in July our trips, although not daily, are still frequent, but today we had come to visit someone new.

A week ago Monday the nursing home hosted a memorial service to remember several of the residents who had passed away over the summer months.  The auditorium became a Chapel for an hour and many family and friends quietly came to share stories of senior saints.

At the conclusion of the service one precious lady came and stood near my sister and I.  She was fascinated that we are twins.  She shared with us that she had twin boys, but one of them had passed away at a young age.  She spoke kindly of our dad and said how much she missed seeing him.  Her eyes filled as she recalled others she had known who's health had failed and now these friends too were gone.

After leaving that day I felt strongly urged to pick up a small plant and return to visit this dear lady.  I'm sad to say I could not remember her name.  Actually, I'm not even certain she had shared it with us.  My sister and I made special trips twice last week in hopes of finding her, but both times we walked out with plant still in hand.

Walking through the lobby today, my sister and I headed over to "sign in", a required procedure for all visitors.  As we began to walk toward the elevators, we saw her.  She was heading out the front door to catch a breath of fresh air. Turning on our heals we retraced our steps, meeting up with her as she was exiting the building.  Uncertain of her name I just held out the pink, blossomed plant and said, "We brought this for you".

I wish I could find words to adequately describe the next few moments.  Silent tears began to fall, as back and forth, one at a time, we were each held in her embrace.  In broken English, from Slovakian descent, she kept repeating, "I love you girls, I love you girls, I love you girls".

We didn't have much time to visit today, but the moments we spent with her were such a treasure.  We saw pictures of her family. She told us of coming to Canada in 1960, expressing the struggles and losses along the way. She now has only one surviving family member...a son. I recognized his name.  He works with my husband.  Who but God could have orchestrated that added detail!  She had to quickly take us to see her room so we would know where to find her next time.  She began planning where we might go for tea when we visit her again.  Passing a nurse on the walk to her room, her face just lit up as she proclaimed, "I have visitors today!"

I don't know about you, but I could weep still at the thought of her happiness.  It was such a simple, small act of kindness. A five dollar plant and 30 minutes of time.  What a blessed gift I would have missed today if I had given up after the first try to find her.

May the Lord allow us to see another's unspoken need.  Then, go beyond.  Don't just see the need, be the answer.  I guarantee you, your heart will be so full you just might burst with the delight of being used by God to share His love with a treasured new friend.
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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Returning Stronger to Strengthen

"I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Luke 22:32

My heart overflows with thankfulness when I read that verse.  Jesus prays for us.  Simon wasn't just a one-time case.  Romans 8:34 tells us that Jesus sits at the right hand of God interceding for all the saints.  I'm part of that "all".

That needs a Selah moment.  A pause.  Jesus prays for me.  Jesus prays for you.  The Son of God knows us by name, knows exactly what to pray and how to pray and He is remembering us.  I could stop writing right there.  It's almost too much for my heart to comprehend.  But there's more.

He prays that our faith will not fail.  What might that involve?  Praying we will remain strong.  Praying that we will hold on to truth and not waver.  Praying that when tempted we will resist.  Praying we will overcome doubt.  Praying that when we are placed in the pressure-cooker of life we will not abandon, walk away, regret or deny our relationship with Him.

It's the next phrase of the verse that silently speaks volumes.  "And when you have turned back..."  WHAT?  Turned back?  That statement assumes a turning away.  You mean even with Jesus praying for me my faith will fail?  The Lord knows we will stray, even though He prays.

I can't tell you how much this verse has spoken to me over the past year.  I made some faith failing choices.  When I had opportunity to take a stand, I remained silent.  When I should have said 'no', I participated. When His Spirit was giving clear direction I ignored His prompting.  I was too concerned about satisfying my own desires.  Often now my mind returns to Romans 6:21, "What benefit did you get from doing those things which you are now ashamed of?"

"When you have turned back" also presumes a welcoming back. Repentance offered.  Forgiveness given.  Relationship restored.  Acceptance received.  And then the commission, "strengthen your brothers".

You might ask, how can we strengthen others by our failing faith? Weakness speaks louder than perfection.  Share your story.  Let others learn from your mistakes.  Be vulnerable. Reveal the subtleties of Satan that lured you away. Open up God's Word.  What was the turning point, both the one that led you astray and the one that called you back?  You have returned stronger from the lessons learned. Don't waste your wandering.

Simon was not the first disciple who faltered in his faith, and he won't be the last.  Let's encourage one another by sharing what the Lord has taught us through times of faith failure.  God may use each story to help another avoid the same mistake, and when a similar temptation faces us again may the Lord's prayers for us strengthen our resolve for obedience.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

God Answers

Alright, this is NOT the post I was starting to write earlier, but sometimes God interrupts our thoughts and plans with Himself.

After writing "Looking for Answers" yesterday on the blog, this morning I opened my devotional book and this is the VERY FIRST verse I read: "The meek will he teach his way." Psalm 25:9

Honestly, it took my breath away.  Then He continued.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (John 16:13)

Oh, His personal Word to me is so precious.  Yesterday I came to Him questioning and looking for answers.  Today He is promising to teach, liberally give wisdom and guide me into all truth.  I love that He doesn't view my searching with contempt or reproach.  He sees the honest longing of my heart that desires to know Him.

What do I have to do? I need to come humbly, under submission and with gentleness.  I need to ask God to give me understanding.  I need to allow His Spirit to direct my thoughts and teach me.

Oh Lord, I come to You hungry.  Hungry to know You above all.  Thank You for Your Word to me today.  May I be like those in Berea who "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so". (Acts 17:11)

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Looking for Answers

"And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.'  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question."  Acts 15: 1-2

No small dissension and dispute.  Is that the polite way of saying a riot was breaking out among the people?  Oh, how I hate controversy.  I have a friend who told me recently that she feels she has the gift of arguing.  I'm not exactly certain where that gift is listed as one of the benefits of the Holy Spirit, but while she stands with fists clenched for fight, I'm fearfully running in flight....unless...I feel the Lord prompting me to take a stand.

In the past I've found that I'm more inclined to involve myself in a controversial discussion if another's honour is at stake.  When accusations are being made based on ignorance of full disclosure, I maybe can't add specifics because of confidentiality, but I can stand in a place of defense or agreement, showing support.

Another area that calls me to raise my voice is when I know God's Word speaks on the issue at hand.  Truth revealing truth.  Not my words, but His.

Recently I've been searching Scripture concerning two thoughts that have confronted me after reading a blog post.  Although I didn't take issue with what was written, others have had "no small dissension and dispute" over them.  So, today I throw caution to the wind and ask you, my reader, to share your thoughts.  I have one stipulation: whatever you share in response must include Scripture.  What I'm really looking for is what God says, not personal opinion.

OK, so here goes...

The first involves healing.  I 100% believe that God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, is still doing miracles of healing.  Sometimes He uses Doctor's and medicine to bring about restoration, while other times, in response to prayer and the powerful work of His Spirit, the Lord chooses to heal in a momentary graced gift without explanation.  Here's where the discussion has arisen.  In the example I am thinking about right now, a wife commanded life back into her husband:  "In the Name of Jesus Christ I command you to live".  The use of the word "command" has raised eyebrows and cautioned hearts.  Was she commanding God to act, or in a desperate moment as she stood watching the one she loved slipping away, was she commanding her husband to breathe in Jesus Name?  Is there a difference?  Was a line crossed?  Her husband did begin breathing again.

In Acts 3:6 we find Peter's encounter with the lame man.  This is his response: "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."  Peter took him by the hand and immediately the man's feet and ankle bones received strength.

Paul in Acts 16:18, annoyed by a girl possessed with a spirit, turned and said, "'I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.' And he came out that very hour."

I see both past and modern day disciple believing and living John 14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."  Do we believe the Lord for His "greater things"?  How easily we sing chorus's that say, "Do it Lord, Do it, that Your glory may be seen". Are those lyrics commanding God?  Just asking.

The second question finds me wondering whether we, through God's power and the Holy Spirit, can rebuke Satan.  I know we are told we can "resist Satan" and he will flee (James 4:7), but can we rebuke Satan?  Rebuke is defined as reprimand, scold, express disapproval of, strongly warn.

I think of Matthew 17:18-21, "Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.  Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, 'Why couldn't we drive it out?'  He replied, 'Because you have so little faith.  Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there', and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.'"  Jesus does not say that they cannot rebuke the demon, but that their faith is too small.  He goes on to encourage them that they can command even a mountain to move and that nothing is impossible for those who have faith.  Does that mean it will always happen?  No.  But it is possible if it is His will.

My mind goes to a similar passage in Mark 9 where Jesus rebukes an unclean spirit in a young boy and then responds to his disciples by saying: "This kind can only come out by prayer".  (Some manuscripts "prayer and fasting".)  He does not tell His disciples they can't do it, but adds an explanation.

I've had one person say to me in response to these questions that I need to understand that there are things that only God can do, suggesting examples of turning water into wine and walking on water.  My answer to that would be what about Peter?  Was he not empowered to walk on water?  On our own we can do nothing, but anything is possible with God if it can be used for our good and His glory. I do understand that there are things that only God can do, but through His Son and the power of His Spirit, He can do them through us if we are abiding in Him and available. It is still God doing only what He can do, yet it is so incredibly amazing that He would chose to work through His weak, willing servants.

If we are truly Christ's disciples in this generation then His Word is spoken to us as well.  I also want to clarify that both these suggested 'commanding' and 'rebuking' were spoken in the Name of Jesus and human recognition wasn't given or praised.  The family themselves haven't been remembered or you would all know them and people would be flocking to their home for healing.  No, God was magnified and worshiped and others came to know the Lord through the demonstration of His power.

For me it's the conclusion of the story that needs the most attention, not the wording that has caused discussion.  "I thank the Lord that He saved his life....Glory be to God!"  Declaration is given that only God intervened and spared a life and it was all for His glory.  Personal credit was not received.

I don't profess to be a great theologian, and I long to remain humbly teachable.  If you have further insights into God's Word in these areas I'd love to hear from you.


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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Meeting God on Garth Street

With only a few minutes drive, but a good hour walk back to the campus, the bus, filled with university students coming home from church, suddenly rolled to a stop. The driver had no idea what had happened.  The bus was in good working order, or should have been.  Checking under the hood, while the students exited the vehicle to help push it out of the way, the driver saw no apparent mechanical reason why the engine refused to run.

With it being Sunday, service would take awhile. Several students immediately began walking back to the university, (those who were in a hurry and couldn't wait for God), while others continued praying for that bus to start up again.  I mean, wouldn't that have been the easiest fix.  The Lord could miraculously repair the fault, the driver would turn the key, and off they'd go.  Instead the Lord showed these students His care and provision in another way.

In about five minutes another school bus rolled along.  Did you get that...five minutes!  The other amazing thing...it was empty!  EMPTY!  And remember, this bus had been completely full.  Also, it's Sunday!  You just don't see empty school buses driving around on Sunday.  Only the Lord could have inspired this driver to come down this exact residential street at this exact time, minutes after a recognized need.

This driver slowed her bus down and hollered out, "Do you need help?  Where are you going?  Can I drive you?"  She didn't ignore the need.  She didn't just say she'd call for help.  She went out of her way to take a bus full of university students back "home", and in the process these young people saw a God who hears and answers prayer.

A sweet Samaritan prompted by a loving God.  I don't know if this rescuing bus driver knew the Lord personally or not, but the Lord used her to minister to a group of students.  He wanted them to see that He cares about every detail of their lives.  He desired them to experience a God who provides.  He longed for them to recognize that His Word is true when He says, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me." Psalm 50:15

How do I know the Lord was glorified through this story?  I Skyped with my son last night.  He was one of the university students on the bus.  It was with great enthusiasm and delight he shared this story, tinged with a hint of pleasure as he spoke of riding by and waving to those who had given up on God's provision too soon. (OK...maybe that was bad, but come on, you would have found some delight in that too!)  Actually, this shows the heart of the bus driver.  She pulled over and stopped, giving these students a second chance.  Again...how like God.  Even when we don't wait for Him in some of the choices we make, He is still our Redeemer and quick to forgive, stopping to pick us up along the way. Grace extended to the undeserving.

God longs to show Himself to us and He can use broken buses to draw our hearts to recognize Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides.

Lord, thank You for caring for my guy while he's away from home.  Thank You for giving him personal God-stories that strengthen his faith and deepen his walk with You.  May he never view these divine interventions as chance or coincidence.  Lord may this stir his heart to trust You even more and long to know You and love You with all his heart.

PS. Turned out the bus had a faulty gas gauge. It was registering enough gas, while in actual fact the tank was empty.  Probably another lesson there *smile*.  How often do we keep our emptiness hidden by a "faulty gas gauge"...but that's a post for another day.
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Friday, October 4, 2013

The God of Compassion

"Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love." Lamentations 3:32

Visiting with a dear friend today, we were talking about what the Lord has been teaching us lately. As I shared with her where I most need to experience His power right now, I realized something.  Although He may ask us to walk a difficult path, He blesses our obedience along the way with His mercy.

Lately I've had to make very deliberate, intentional decisions in order to remain faithful to His Word.  They have not been easy.  Following the Lord isn't always easy.  Yet, as I've surrendered to Him, making choices that have been extremely hard, with each relinquishing of my will in exchange for His, God has confirmed my steps and brought sweet moments of compassion.

Compassion is defined as expressing deep sympathy for another to alleviate suffering.  The power of sharing the feelings of another.  Who but the Lord could have the power to fully share in our feelings of grief, desiring to lessen our load and make it easier to bear.  He knows the way is often hard to understand, yet when we choose obedience I know it must delight His heart.

What births His compassion?  His great, unfailing love.  When suffering settles over our heart, His love breaks through our tears and doubts and we meet the God of compassion.

Father, when Your way demands uncompromising, perplexing plans and I don't understand the 'why', thank You for seeing the struggle and grief that continues in my heart and offering tenderness.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

No Small Stir


"Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among the soldiers about what had become of Peter." Acts 12:18

I LOVED reading that yesterday morning and my mind is still returning to the thought of "no small stir".  Peter had just been miraculously released from prison and I'm sure when the soldiers awoke and found their captive freed, it did create quite a commotion.

I want the Lord working in me to create a "stir".  Of course I looked "stir" up in the dictionary and I embraced all the spiritual application that can easily be taken.  Stir is defined as: a movement that mixes thoroughly; a disturbance, agitation, activity, widespread notice and discussion; impression; to bring into notice; disturb the quiet; rouse to activity; to call forth; and evoke strong feelings in.  Whether used as a verb or a noun, there is action involved.

I get excited just reading those descriptions again.  I want that!!!  I want my life to create "no small stir", not because of me, but because of Christ in me.  My own natural ability to generate a stir would no doubt only result in embarrassment, but if I have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifest in me, and He is always doing amazing things!

Oh how I pray it would be said of me, "Then, as soon as it was day, there was no small stir among others about what has become of Joy."

Father, You are stirring my heart, and for the next 31 days I pray You will speak to me and through me as I take up this challenge from "The Nester" to write for Your glory.

Lord, may You in me be obvious and draw those around me to see and desire You, creating no small stir.
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