Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In The Stillness Of The Night...Part Four continued

The Glory of Loving Kindness

"And he said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee. Exodus 33:18

Moses' request was not idle curiosity but true adoration. But instead of coming in majesty and splendour in the way we might expect, He came in goodness and kindness. "And He said, I will make all My goodness pass before thee and will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee....And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."(34:6) This was not just one brief glimpse of who God was but a continuing thread throughout His walk with His people until He became flesh and lived among us. Some could not even recognize Him because they waited for a King clothed in splendour but He came in meekness: born in a shepherd's stable among the livestock; from a humble family; walked among common men-people of greed, adulterers, hypocrites, die on a cross. His might was seen in His walk as he performed miracles, not in power and majesty but done in love and service for us. Today He can be found in the weak, the poor, the lonely and the insignificant. In speaking of the Jesus who laid His hands on the children brought to Him, William Barclay writes:

" There is a loveliness on Jesus Christ that anyone can see. It is easy to think of these mothers in Palestine feeling that the touch of a man like that on their children's heads would bring a blessing, even if they did not understand why....Further, to Jesus no one was unimportant. Someone would say, "It's only a child; don't let him bother you." Jesus would never say that. No one was ever a nuisance to Jesus. He was never too tired, never too busy to give all of Himself to anyone who needed it."

A number of years ago, I asked the Lord why, when I was younger, I never heard His voice. I was very angry with Him for not helping me to follow a life consecrated in service to Him. Instead, I had wandered a great deal and wasted so much time. In my confusion, I came to Him late. He brought to my mind a memory I had long forgotten.

I grew up in a home where life was simple. We ate plainly, our weekly schedule seldom varied and our home was quiet with few visitors. One day my mother was minding the little boy who lived next door, David. That morning David and I played together. Across the street at the edge of town in a small group of houses where people often came and went, lived a little boy, Brian. Brian was to my mind, a gentle little person who rarely said much and let the more vocal children tell him what to do but he grinned a lot and I liked him. I didn't see him often but that day, he came to play with us. Near noon, my mother called us in for lunch. It was to be quite an event for me as we were to have hotdogs and chocolate milk which normally was reserved only for parties. Before I turned to go in, I looked at Brian and he shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "I am sorry too." In my little heart, I wanted so much to invite him but I was an anxious child and hesitated to ask my mother if Brian could come to lunch. When I arrived home, I managed to tell my mother that Brian had been playing with us too. She responded with,"Well why didn't you invite him?" I was thrilled and skipped out of the house to find him but he had gone. I remember walking down the driveway and stood staring at his house, hoping he would appear. Maybe I wasn't allowed to cross the road; I can't remember but as I turned to walk back, I remember feeling such disappointment that I had missed him. In the little heart of a five year old, I loved Brian and felt sorry for him.

As I thought about that memory, I grieved with tears over failing to invite that little boy to share our lunch. I know it must seem ridiculous and insignificant,and I too wondered why this memory should cause me such saddness and I asked the Lord to explain this to me. I felt God telling me, "I was there, in your heart as you longed for Brian to join you. I gave you your tender heart as mine is tender....and what you feel, I feel even more deeply. I was there then and I was there many more times as you walked your path."

"I was the lion," And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. "I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you." The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

God gives all of us many opportunities to be persuaded by His goodness. Search your minds for the times in your stories, His glory has been revealed in the tiniest details in your lives. We may sense God's presence, hear His voice, see Him in a symbolic object and in His beauty around us, but we cannot see Him face to face; except in the goodness of Christ. His glory comes to us each day. His mercies and goodness remain hourly each day.

His goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

Monday, November 24, 2008

In The Stillness Of The Night...Part Four

Mystery and Glory

"A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun. He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else could not see it. It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.....And of course he knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion's face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything.
The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared."

The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis.

Are you like me and hunger for the mysterious presence of God .... seeking some tangible presence of the unseen world...the lustre of His glory and the intimacy of His presence? We think of radiant light, deeply stirring music, warmth of colours, all the insignia of majesty, symbols that express what our words fail to express, and the presence of ancient days. It may be that you have never visited such a place but have gone to that Heavenly Court that exists in your mind....where the mysterious presence of God resides...where His glory resides. This was Moses's cry: "And he said, I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory."

Many years ago, in my early twenties, I spent many hours walking the streets of St. John's in Newfoundland. I loved exploring and studying its many oddly shaped and coloured buildings. I followed crooked streets which trailed down to the harbour where the fishing boats came from Spain, Portugal, France, Russia, the islands of St. Pierre and Michelon. Then I would walk up to Signal Hill past the Queen's battery which had guarded the harbour in days past and always finished my day of exploring at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist.

The basilica sat on a hill and from it one could see the colourful city spread out beneath it. Standing at the entrance to the basilica, under a huge granite arch supporting a marble statue of St. John the Baptist, one could look across the harbour to the narrows where many sailors had passed through over the years.

Coming to the massive doors of the sanctuary, one entered in. Out of a brightly lit sky, I came into a damp, darkened and what always felt like an ancient space. At the entrance, sitting in marble fonts was the Holy water. As you dipped your fingers into the water, your mind spoke, "I have come," and you placed the sign of the cross on your forehead. Sitting down, I would gaze at the images of saints- exquisitely carved from marble, touches of alabaster, candlesticks of bronze, the Greek monogram of Christ from the catacombs, and so many more adornments. Most of the images in the stained glass windows, I recognized from my childhood. As I continued to gaze at these magnificent windows, I could hear the gentle cooing of the pigeons outside. Making my way to the front alter, I would sometimes have to side step a bucket, placed there to catch the drips from a leaking roof. At the front of the high alter was the carving of "The Dead Christ." I always sighed as I sensed its mood of dignity and peace. Nearby, the lamp next to the tabernacle remained always lit. In one of the corners was a grouping of statues made of chromed and gilt plaster with the Virgin Mary at its centre. This had been a gift from the Portuguese White Fleet that had visited St. John's for 400 years. It is a touching tale of human perseverance as these men spent long days in their dories until sunset, when they were summoned to the mother ship where they would spend hours splitting, gutting and salting the day's catch. In the mid 1950's, 4000 Portuguese fishermen carried this statue of "our Lady of Fatima" up to the basilica and presented it as a treasured gift. In 1974, the last of the White Fleet, "the Novos Mares" left St. John's harbour for home. Many of the ships had already burned at sea while returning home over the years. But the "Lady of Fatima" remained, reminding not only the Portuguese fishermen but the Newfoundlanders of the union of humanity with God's son in the mother of Christ.

But the most precious sight for me was watching the people enter in. As I lingered, preparations for mass would begin, another mystery. People of all descriptions would come with weighty burdens and leave them in this sanctuary where many before them had left theirs....and they came, kneeling.... as if they were whispering into the very ear of the Lord himself... a place of mystery. The word basilica means royal hall, designating it as the dwelling place of the King of Kings. I wonder how many of those who stood at the door of the basilica believed they were entering into the glory of God.

I too stand at the entrance to the unseen world and sometimes hear myself whisper, "can this be real?" Can we measure the reality of our experience by the deepness of our longing for this external home. I sincerely believe that everything I have done in my life has been in one way or another, to search for this home. C.S. Lewis writes of this longing for the presence of glory much better than myself.

"In speaking of this desire for our own far-off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you- the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name."

Deep within us, placed there by our creator, is a longing for the eternal presence of the glory of God. The mystery of entering into His glory is not the sanctuary..... it is the call of Jesus in our hearts to enter into His eternal presence. From the unseen, He calls out to us, but inside this mystery lies another. We begin by yearning to be in His presence; yet are not content till we desire only His thoughts for our own. He speaks to us, "Tell me your sorrows." Tell me all. Learn to value that place and time you go to meet with Him, in your home, in your garden, in your car, while you walk.... in your mind. Be like Joshua; place yourself near His glory and remain there. Be like Moses and beseech God to show you His glory.

"Now show me your glory," Exodus 33:18 be continued.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

In The Stillness Of The Night...Part Three

"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.

As Shasta travelled in solitude that dark night, every breath he took, was filled with fear. How he saw himself and his life was to quickly and dramatically change with the spoken words: "I do not call you unfortunate." Like Shasta, how do we lift our gaze from our inner misery to consider the possibility that reality might be somthing different than what we suppose it to be.

First... consider that our ability to assess our present circumstances is affected by everything that has come before, in our lives: our relationships with our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers; our successes and failures; our physical attributes and so much more. The memories that we pull from the past, have been shaped by our limited reasoning ability and further coloured by engaging our imagination. We brood over these poor unfortunate circumstances from the past. For example, if you were poorly treated by a certain young man,you might believe that all young men are not to be trusted. When you were also young, you may have been teased and told that you were unattractive; you might never believe that you are the beautiful young woman that you have grown into. Missing the loving attention that you should have received from a mother or father,you might go through life searching vainly for that love but never feeling truly loved. So before you decide that life, fate, God has been unfair to you, know where you have come from and what rules your heart.

The second thing that possibly leads us to poorly assessing our unfortunate circumstances is that, while you are a unique individual, so are those around you. While we enjoy the companionship of those who share similar beliefs, habits, goals, interests, it is rare to really understand another human being, their innermost thoughts, because we are all so complex and have all travelled different roads.

My husband and I, despite our love for each other, find it challenging to travel together. We just returned from Nova Scotia where we took some time to see some of the countryside after attending a conference in Halifax. I loved exploring the musty old churches, visiting an old graveyard, going from one used book store to another and finding the restaurant that served the best Atlantic fish chowder; he enjoyed the Amercian destroyer in the harbour, searching out all the Subaru's in Halifax, studying the lines and riggings on the tall ships, and settling for ordinary fish and chips. At home, his pace moves him quickly through his day's agenda, a driven man. I, in contrast, spin in circles, pausing frequently to reflect. However when we travel, it is I who becomes purpose driven, packing as much of the new sights and sounds into my world incase I never come there again. He slows down, relaxes, unwinds. Neither of us venture too far from our zones of comfort. You get the point...we are different in some... many ways.

The point of true confusion arrived when we went for a drive down the coast and had to decide which road to travel on. I was desperately longing to wander along the coast exploring all the outports. He wanted to take the main road which sort of ran by the coast. Gazing out at the sea, takes my breath away and at times moves me to tears. Even though it has been many years since we have lived there, my memories of living by the sea remain vivid and meaningful to me. I had promised myself that I would take away new memories of the seascape and its way of life . Well.... we ended up taking the faster road and I intensely pouted, feeling wounded and my poor husband didn't quite understand the reason for my unhappiness. It was at this time, that God checked my attitude by suggesting to me that perhaps things were not as they seemed. He was right. My excessive feelings were not to be trusted. My husband apologized for not understanding and I moved on to just being with my husband and enjoying his company. And I think that was really what this time was suppose to be about. We enjoyed the rest of our time together there and my hope is that we gave each other something that counted, that will make a difference in our relationship. With his perspective and mine, hopefully we both saw a larger view. The point is that we do travel on different paths and it is difficult to know another person's thoughts, shaped by their memories, as it is difficult to know God's thoughts, His plans for our lives. We just may not see things as they really are. If God is God, we must be content to go where He leads.

This leads us into one more important thought about assessing our unfortunate circumstances and that is: his design for our lives is perfect and we have yet to see the completed workmanship. Ravi Zacharias, in his book, "Walking From East to West," remembers the exquisitely beautiful wedding saris he saw as a boy growing up in India. With vibrant coloured, gold and silver threads, patterns are woven into fabrics which would make one think "they came from the perfect mind and the perfect pair of hands." Listen to his description of meeting a master weaver.

"I walked into a building and then into a little side room. In typical Indian fashion, the surroundings leave very much to be desired, but the final product is nothing short of a work of art. Essentially, a father and son team makes each sari. The father sits on a raised platform with huge spools of brilliantly colored threads within his reach. The son sits on the floor in the lotus position. The team wears basic and simple clothing. Their fingers move nimbly, their hands work, and their eyes focus on the pattern emerging with each move of the shuttle.

Before my eyes, though it did not appear so at first, a grand design appears. The father gathers some threads in his hand, then nods, and the son moves the shuttle from one side to the other. A few more threads, another nod, and again the son responds by moving the shuttle. The process seems almost Sisyphus-like in its repetition, the silence broken only occasionally with a comment or by some visitor who interrupts to ask a question about the end design. The father smiles and tries in broken English to explain the picture he has in his mind, but compared to the magnificence of the final product, it is a mere lisp. I know that if I were to come back a few weeks later- in some instances a few months later- I would see the spools of the thread almost empty and a six yard long sari, breathtaking in all of its splendor.

Throughout the process, the son has had a much easier task. Most likely he has often felt bored. Perhaps his back has ached and his legs have gone to sleep. Perhaps he has wished for some other calling in life- something he might find more stimulating or fulfilling. He has but one task, namely, to move the shuttle as directed by the father's nod, hoping to learn, to think like the father so that he can carry on the business at the appropriate time.

Yet the whole time, the design has remained in the mind of the father as he held the threads. In a few days, this sari will make its way to a shop in Delhi or Bombay or Calcutta. A lovely young lady with her mother will note the saris on display. This one will catch her eye and she will exclaim, "Bohut badiya (how grand)! Khupsurat (what a beautiful face)!" A sari with a beautiful face, because a grand weaver has purposefully designed it. Before long, it will be draped around her, beautifying the lovely bride."

If we could only see ourselves and our circumstances through God's eyes, we may not call ourselves unfortunate because we are part of a beautiful plan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

In The Stillness Of The Night...Part Two

Walking In His Presence

There is an amazing transformation that takes place when we walk in His presence. We become startled with the depth of our feelings of love for Him. These new feelings are but the sublime inner response to HIS love, forgiveness, and kindness. With few or no words, he simply presses them into our hearts. From then on, there is no holding back. We willingly throw ourselves into His keeping. Deep inner convictions are spoken into our beings. Know and be humbled that He has searched the world over for those of us who will walk with Him. Bonds of loyalty are formed and "we know that we know that we know Him...." and faith is born. This is the heart beat of our walk with Him and upon this foundation, the road ahead will be built on....that first love.

As we walk on, we will learn to hear His voice as He guides, teaches, comforts, and inspires us. He even comes to tell us how we should pray to Him. Although He is never more than a heartbeat away, we sometimes are mystified by how he answers our requests. We might be left wondering if He has heard us but these times call for courage. His strength and goodness will never fail us. Press on in faith. We will begin to experience a growing strength of character as we give Him our complete trust . How he decides to answer our prayers may surprise us but they will bring us to a place of happiness that we have never known before. I know this to be true in my life.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
2Timothy 1:7

Each day as I walk to the barn, I pass by a small Sweet Gum tree that most people would not even notice as they approach our house. As all the trees on and surrounding our farm have finished displaying their colours, having lost their leaves, I have noticed that this little Sweet Gum tree has stubbornly hung onto its leaves. Its red and orange leaves catch my attention every day and I admire its tenacious spirit. And each day the little tree continues to hang onto its leaves, I ask God to give me such a courageous spirit to move on, within my life. May He do the same for you.

There is still more to come....

Monday, November 10, 2008

In The Stillness Of The Night...Part One

Winter is coming....or it's here. It's looking like snow and I am showing my age as I dread walking out to the barn in the wintery mornings and nights, serving up ice cold water out of the ground well to the sheep. There is much to do yet, but at least, they all have their winter coats...thank goodness!

Come every winter, I am aware of how the clock is ticking. How many more winters can I walk out to the barn and tend to the sheep, deworm them, trim their nails, carry the hay down from the loft...and mostly alone as my number one helper Charlotte, is so far away. The options for us to live, become fewer as we get older. Life becomes more difficult with physical challenges in some ways and yet much simpler. There are less places to go to, less people to talk to and we are careful to set goals that we know are important to us. This is a good time in our lives to fine tune our listening skills for God. It's not that we shouldn't have fine tuned them earlier in our lives; it's just that it's easier now.

Taking our options away, for whatever reason, is like traveling in the dark. We may have lost our youth, health, job, home, friends, self-who we once were, and in short, we are left to experience our vulnerabilities and in some measure...we are alone. And in the solitude of this darkness, we are forced to listen which is so essential if we are to continue on our journey with God. We have to be able to leave the atmosphere of praise and worship, the company of other spirit filled Christians, to go out into our homes, out into the world, where in all honesty, the spirit of God sometimes seems to evapourate. But you need to move past that...move on...move on! The Christian journey is a process and God expects us to move on with faith and not in fear. He wants us to know that he is always here with hope. But we must listen to his quiet voice or the convictions in our hearts.

I would like to finish this post with a favourite passage of mine from C.S Lewis's, "The Horse and His Boy." The scene is where little Shasta with no home, no friends at his side, fearing that he might run into the enemy, is lost.

And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.
What put a stop to all this was a sudden fright. Shasta discovered that someone or somebody was walking beside him. It was pitch dark and he could see nothing. And the Thing (or person) was going so quietly that he could hardly hear any footfalls. What he could hear was breathing. His invisible companion seemed to breathe on a very large scale, and Shasta got the impression that it was a very large creature. And he had come to notice this breathing so gradually that he really had no idea how long it had been there. It was a horrible shock.
It darted into his mind that he had heard long ago that there were giants in these Northern countries. He bit his lip in terror. But now that he really had something to cry about, he stopped crying.
The Thing (unless it was a Person) went on beside him so quietly that Shasta began to hope he had only imagined it. But just as he was becoming quite sure of it, there suddenly came a deep, rich sigh out of the darkness beside him. That couldn't be imagination! Anyway, he had felt the hot breath of that sigh on his chilly left hand.
If the horse had been any good- or if he had known how to get any good out of the horse-he would have risked everything on a breakaway and a wild gallop. But he knew he couldn't make that horse gallop. So he went on at a walking pace and the unseen companion walked and breathed beside him. At last he could bear it no longer.
"Who are you?" he said, scarcely above a whisper.
"One who has waited long for you to speak," said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
"Are you-are you a giant?" asked Shasta.
"You might call me a giant,"said the Large Voice. "But I am not like the creatures you call giants."
"I can't see you at all," said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, "You're not-not something dead, are you? Oh please-please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!"
Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. "There," it said, "that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrow."
Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and he had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beast howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.
"I do not call you unfortunate," said the Large Voice.
"Don't you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?" said Shasta.
"There was only one lion," said the Voice.
"What on earth do you mean? I've just told you there were at least two the first night, and -"
"There was only one; but he was swift of foot."
"How do you know?"
"I was the lion." And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued.
"I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you."
"Then it was you who wounded Aravis?"
"It was I."
"But what for?"
"Child," said the Voice, "I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own."
Who are you?" asked Shasta.
"Myself," said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again "Myself," loud and clear and gay; and then the third time "Myself," whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.
Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet, he felt glad too.
The mist was turning from black to gray and from gray to white. This must have begun to happen some time ago, but while he had been talking to the Thing, he had not been noticing anything else. Now, the whiteness around him became a shining whiteness; his eyes began to blink. Some where ahead he could hear birds singing. He knew the night was over at last. He could see the mane and ears and head of his horse quite easily now. A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun.
He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else he could not see it. It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful.
Luckily Shasta had lived all his life too far south in Calormen to have heard the tales that were whispered in Tashbaan about a dreadful Narnian demon that appeared in the form of a lion. And of course he knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion's face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn't say anything but then he didn't want to say anything, and he knew he needn't say anything.
The High King above all kings stooped toward him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all around him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.

To be continued...

Friday, November 7, 2008

Under A Starry Sky

When you are about sitting down to your supper, I am usually heading to the barn to do the evening chores. I start by bringing the sheep into the paddock next to the barn, distributing flakes of hay to every hungry sheep, filling the buckets with fresh water, closing up the gates... not forgetting to turn the power on the electric fence, and finally...light out!

Because I love this time of day in the barn, sometimes I linger longer than I need to. I always feel a sense of contentment and amusement as I stand in the midst of the sheep at feeding time. With mouths bulging with hay to overflowing, they glance up at me as if to say, "this is our favourite time of day too." Eyes soften, muscles relax and everyone begins to settle with a sigh. Some will shuffle over to me for a sniff or scratch.

As the sun's light disappears, the barn lights are turned on, pouring out of the windows and doors into the darkness, an image I love. Have you ever travelled in your car at night, starring into the windows of brightly lit houses? It's like peeking into people's lives. Are they watching television, doing homework, talking together? 'Oh look, that family is gathered around the table!' These are their homes where they are safe, cosy, warm and free to be themselves. It's not just that I'm nosy (well maybe just a little) but to me, these are glimpses into people's lives that remind me, that we are all travellers, needing to come home.

About 1700 years ago, a troubled young man, named Jacob, running to save his life, lay his head down on a stone rock, under a starry sky. In his dreams, he saw a ladder sitting upon the earth and reaching into heaven. As angels of God were ascending and descending on it, the Lord, God of Abraham, stood by his side and promised to give him a home and a future. Terrified, Jacob realized this was indeed a holy place as he said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Genesis 28:17) This was his father's house and Jacob had come home. God stood beside him and he was no longer just Abraham's God or Issac's God but from now on, He would be Jacob's God!

For many of us, there is no perfect home to come to. Today, we find ourselves too busy to sit down at the table and share a meal and the day's events. No longer do we finish our days with bed time stories and prayer times. Sunday mornings, going to church as a family has been replaced by Sunday hockey schedules. Sons become disappointed with fathers; daughters become disappointed with mothers. We don't look at each other when we talk. We decide that we can't trust our secrets with family members but we decide to share them with strangers on the internet...they will listen. The house fills up with unspoken dreams and worries and we sit staring at other people's lives on television.

But along comes Father God into your life and he stands beside you. It might be in your kitchen, your bedroom, the barn or out under the starry sky. You may not see but Jacob's gate is there. He comes in power to sort out your problems-no matter how big or small, to teach you things you barely understand, to listen-really listen to you, to heal your broken hearts, and to set you free from the things you can't seem to walk away from. He will pour His great strength out onto you until out of you will flow His goodness. Your mind will be expanded with His thoughts. You will become a kinder and gentler person but willing to run further, faster and harder for anything He asks. You will be a new person, if you lose yourself in Him. He is the gate to heaven, your home.

Stomach's full, the sheep begin to move out of the barn to lie down in the darkness, under the stars. They don't mind the darkness or even the coyotes calling in the distance, they remain still and quiet, starring out into the night. The worries of the day fade and they allow their bodies to rest. I wonder what they are thinking as they stare out into the night. Like my sheep, you need to "stare long and hard into the mysterious might" so that you will come to know the deep things of God.

I pause at the door of the barn before going out. Nothing is heard but the soft sounds of the night as I finally close the door. Good night sheep. Thank you Lord. Jacob's gate remains open.