Friday, January 25, 2013

Patience

 
Over the years my Mom gave me a variety of angel decorations.  I suspect that was so I would never forget that what I see is only part of reality.
 
But this angel was bought for her.  Mom was in the hospital and we knew she was dying.  I figured it was time for her to have an angel so that she'd remember there was so much more to life than what she could see from a hospital bed.  As I came home from the store and walked through the front door of my home carrying this angel of patience, the phone rang.  My sister-in-law told me that Mom had died.  The timing just intensified the stab in my heart.  That was more than three years ago.
 
Now this angel sits in my kitchen reminding me of the most patient person I've ever had the honour of knowing.
 
But, it also reminds me of the importance of patience in every day.  Patience waiting on God.  Patience waiting for learning to actually stay in the old brain long enough to be used.  Patience when working with others.  The list could keep going for a long time.
 
But when life and people really starts to push and pressure me to hurry up--I remember that my Lord Jesus was never seen hurrying.  So it is good to slow down . . . and wait.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Potatoes & Friends


 
The potato came to us from South America: the New World.  But, then it moved to Europe where it became the building block for even the poorest of diets.
 
Some of my own relatives came to Canada from the potato famine in Ireland. 
 
Meat and potatoes.  We've grown up hearing this phrase.
 
All this to simply point out the fact that the potato is something I eat, I cook and am quite comfortable with.
 
 
 
Cold, boiled potatoes
+ Oil & Salt (Dipping Sauce)
Culture Shock
 
 
After the ESL Bible study, my hostess brought out a plate of cold, boiled potatoes for us to eat.  Along with the potatoes she had a small bowl of vegetable oil mixed with salt.  I tasted it.  I ate it.  The potato dipped in oil & salt was delicious.
 
But--
 
My face didn't know how to react.  Was I happy & willing to enjoy the food?  Or was I going to stay focused on my shock.  In my culture potatoes are eaten hot, unless they're in a salad.  The shock continued.  My face grimaced.  I tried to smile, but it was a tight uncertain smile.  Thankfully my friends didn't laugh at my ridiculous reaction.
 
We've also had a chance to laugh about it together since then.
 
p.s. Cold, boiled potatoes dipped in oil & salt really do make a delicious snack. (And it's probably more healthy than either potato chips or french fries.)


Monday, January 21, 2013

Sunshine

 
 

"You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away."

This is January in Canada.  True, this is one of the warmer parts of the country--but I was still astonished when I found these bits of sunshine hugging the ground in the park a few days after the January thaw.

The stems are so short, the flowers are actually floating in water to keep them fresh a little bit longer.

Thank You, Lord, that we get beauty & hope & the miracle of life from You--not just efficiency & hard work.

"You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey . . ."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Heart



The heart fascinates me.
 
When it is focused on God it is the most trustworthy guide there is.
 
When it is not focused on God--beware.


 
My heart has driven me to seminary.
My brain insists on knowing exactly how I'm going to use that schooling.
 
My heart draws me to sing of God & praise Him.
My brain is quick to point out my voice isn't good and I can't play an instrument well.
 
My heart drops me into the culture of another people.
My mind hits a blank wall not knowing what is said.
 
Lord, are You guiding my heart?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Peace, Love & Joy



This past Christmas almost got by without me even noticing it.  The decorations stayed in the boxes.  The presents almost didn't get bought.  And I wasn't even interested in making cards for family and friends.

It's been  almost two years since the church closed and my husband discovered Freedom 55 could be a reality.

My focus the past two years has been on preparing for the future.  Getting a pastoral internship done for school.  Immersing myself in the Karen community to learn to minister cross-culturally.  Being excited for my daughter going to school in BC for a year before coming home to attend college locally.  Hoping to see my husband find life inside Freedom 55.  Getting out for many long walks on a lovely country road with my walking sticks.

I thought peace, love & joy were firmly part of my life.

But Christmas has left me wondering.

Less than two weeks before Christmas I finally came up with a design for a card.  I got busy making them.  It's funny how I feel driven to get the project done & it got done.  But then all three of us got sick for a few days.

To all my family & friends who did NOT get a Christmas card, the photo above shows what you're missing.  I pray for all of you that peace, love & joy will be a part of your lives due to the Christ of Christmas.  Please pray the same for me.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

School Begins

Earlier this week I was driving to school with a smile that was trying to reach from one ear to the other ear.  It has been about two years since I have been attending class on a weekly basis.  Driving from London to Cambridge was a highlight.  (My mother could simply not understand my love of going to school so late in life--so we won't mention to her that she and Dad set the example by going to interest courses together at Durham college when it first opened.)

But the drive wasn't the only highlight.  It was good to be back in class with others preparing for whatever is next in life.  I am looking forward to learning what is ahead and it might even be an interesting challenge preaching to an all male audience!

A new adventure has begun.  It would seem I'm the only woman in the advanced preaching class  (Ashley, you are on the class list, but you weren't there--why?)--but I'm supply preaching these days in a little community not far from home and need all the help I can get.

Now to tackle all the homework--so that next Tuesday I can once again be smiling all the way to school!


A Woman After God's Own Heart


 . . . regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David . . .                    Romans 1:3 NIV

David was a man after God’s own heart for many reasons—but one of the most powerful reasons was because of a woman after God’s own heart who pursued God’s ways and God’s heart with an enthusiasm that drew other strong believers into the adventure with her.


Ruth was David’s great-grandmother.  But how she became his great-grandmother is a fascinating adventure of whole hearted fervour for God and an enthusiastic determination to care for the woman who had welcomed her into the family.   The stories about her determination to care for her mother-in-law, Naomi, were legendary long before David was born.  Ruth was a Moabitess married into a Jewish family living as refugees in Moab.  The story is very ordinary at first as the family looks for refuge from a famine back home.  Then the father died.  After the death of the father, the two brothers married two local girls and the family simply lived as any family would.  The refugees settled into life and a decade passed.  Then more emptiness arrived—both sons died.  Suddenly everything changed for the women in the household.

After the death of her father-in-law, her brother-in-law and her own husband, Ruth traveled with Naomi from the country Moab to the country Israel because the famine in Israel had ended and Naomi was ready to go home.  In the process she embraced Naomi and her God with a fervour that said I’m with you to stay for always.  They were now two childless widows in a time and place where childless widows were not simply overlooked but often mistreated.  So Ruth’s determination would be needed simply to put a roof over their heads and food on their table.

Once Naomi and Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Israel, Ruth went out to glean, that is she went to gather food left for the poor in the harvest fields.  But the quantity gathered in this way would have been insufficient to care for two childless widows for a year until the next harvest.  So Ruth was bold on behalf of Naomi  knowing that God himself demanded the widow and orphan be cared for and not overlooked or mistreated and requested permission to work among the landowner’s servants where the amount of grain available would be greater rather than that found back among the other gleaners.  This request went to Boaz and he considered the request.  It was more than the law demanded –but it was well within God’s mandate to care for the widows.  Boaz allowed her request and made sure that everyone knew she was to go home with plenty and without being mistreated in anyway.

So Ruth worked hard for the entire harvest and gathered much grain for food.

During this time Naomi revived from her sorrow and made plans to provide care for Ruth.  In this society women had no personal wealth so everything was measured through a husband and children.  A high secure status could be wiped out in an instant –as Naomi and Ruth discovered—when the husband and children die.  Together and unmarried Ruth and Naomi would always face sudden shifts in their well being and once Naomi died Ruth would be alone in a foreign country.  Naomi intended a marriage and a home for Ruth, but Ruth turned it around and also provided a son for Naomi.  Again Boaz faced a fresh idea presented by Ruth--& again it was an idea that would cost much more than the law required.  Naomi wanted Ruth married—but it would seem Ruth would agree only if the husband agreed that the first child would count as Naomi’s son to salvage the family inheritance.  Boaz agreed.  God provided the child.  Both widows were now provided for—one was no longer a widow since Ruth married Boaz and the other was no longer childless because Ruth and Boaz’s first child was counted as Naomi’s own son.

Ruth’s faith in God and her love (hesed, compassionate loyalty) for Naomi propelled her forward and this compassionate loyalty was lived out in her ongoing quest to care for Naomi.  Naomi and Boaz responded by becoming strong allies of hers.  God’s response was to provide Ruth and Boaz with a son to be raised as Naomi’s own.

Living by faith demands a willingness to embrace the unknown adventure and a willingness to invite others to come along as equal participants in the adventure.  Ruth didn’t say to Naomi’s plans “No, it is I who must care for you.”  Instead she accepted Naomi’s plans for the future and simply reworked them to provide an improved life for both of them.  But this life of faith was costly for each of them.  Ruth could have remained in Moab and left her mother-in-law on her own once she came up with the idea to return to her homeland.  Boaz could have told Ruth to glean with the other gleaners.  He then could have refused to help Naomi regain the family property since that cost him money that would be inherited by Naomi’s ‘son’. Naomi was facing life alone when she came up with a plan to get Ruth married and into a home of her own.  Each had strong reasons not to choose this wild walk of faith—and yet when they embraced the God of life and trusted Him, they each found life lived to the full.
 
References:
The Gospel of Ruth: Loving God Enough to Break the Rules, by Carolyn Custis James
 
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Walk By Faith


. . . the gospel he [God] promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures . . .  Romans 1:2 NIV

It is interesting the life of faith we are called to walk by since You are the God who tells us ahead of time some of what will be.  Before You came, Jesus, Your people walked with confidence concerning the Messiah to come and concerning the love You have for all of Your creation.  Now that You’ve come and gone the first time, we walk with confidence in a relationship with You, Lord, and with the knowledge You will return.

We are called to hear You speak.  Then we are called to live as though what You have spoken really will happen—not a might or a maybe, but a will.

Samuel was one called to such a life of faith.  He was placed into a situation where he had no official capacity since he was a non-Levite living and working at the tabernacle.  His mom promised him to God and so she followed through and gave him to God by simply leaving him at the tabernacle once he was old enough.  Once there, Samuel was accepted and put to work with Eli the priest.

God had a plan for a priest who would live by faith and Samuel always lived that way.

When God spoke—Samuel heard.  When God ordered—Samuel obeyed.  When God told him well before the predicted events became reality—Samuel carried on as though nothing was in question for waiting was simply part of trusting God.

When God spoke—Samuel heard.  The boy Samuel heard God calling during the night and he ran to Eli thinking that’s who had called him.  Each time it happened, Eli sent Samuel back to sleep.  Eventually Eli figured out the truth and Samuel was prepared to hear from God and so listened to every word God spoke to him.

When God ordered—Samuel obeyed.  Samuel went forth and anointed Saul to be king of Israel.  Samuel  later rebuked that same Saul even while Saul was king of Israel.  Then later Samuel anointed David long before David became king and Samuel tried no political manoeuvrings to make David king while Saul still retained his power.  Samuel obeyed his orders and then left the outcome with God.

When God appeared not to do what He said He would—Samuel simply waited on that point and allowed God to do all the arranging.  And God did arrange for David to become king of Israel after Saul.

A life of faith is a life of confidence—confidence that God will always follow through on what He plans.  This confidence shows through in listening to God, obeying God and waiting for God to act.