A SEASON OF CONTRAST
It is a cold evening as I make my way to the barn. The ground is covered with snow. Long gone are the magnificent colours of autumn days; winter is upon us. The water in the rabbit's cages begins to freeze before I have even left the barn and already three frozen ice buckets have cracked. I can just barely see the outlines of the sheep in the outside pen. Choosing to lie down on the icy cold frozen ground, their heads turn as they silently watch me enter into the barn. Maybe they are hoping they won't have to get up.
Once inside the barn, the sheep get up and stumble in as they realize that it may just be worth the effort. I offer up some icy cold water from the well but their eyes tell me this isn't what they had hoped for. Feeling guilty, I throw them a few flakes of hay to munch on.
Snack finished, the sheep move back outside and once again prepare to lie down on the frozen ground. It is more than just a skilful process but a moment to enjoy, watching as they drop to their knees, sliding each slender leg under their expansive bellies. Snuggling under their long fleece coats, they settle. "Sorry to have disturbed you."
Winter is a season of sharp contrasts. We hate it; yet it comes as an old friend with wonderful memories. Nothing escapes its impact. Despite its harshness, each new snowfall softens everything it touches, hiding the greys and browns of this time of year. On and around the farm, in the woods, the animals are warmed by their timely thickened coats. Its bleakness imposes times of warmth and comfort as family and friends gather around fires with hot chocolates, steaming cups of coffee, gentle conversations, gift giving...much like walking through cold uncomfortable times in our lives forces us to become intimate with the saviour. There is not a cold bleak place we can go where He has not been and felt also the paradox of winter. He came as a baby in a manger but reigns as a king. His words were simple but His message magnificent. He gave us a priceless gift in exchange for our simple hearts.
Like the surprises that lie hidden in the barren landscape of winter, God brings light into the darkness of our world, into our lives for those who patiently wait. His gentle loving presence will warm our hearts in the mid bleak winter of our lives. Through this bleakness, we see what is of true value. We will set aside that which we once loved. What we thought was of no value, becomes priceless- His presence, His comfort, His promises. He comes into our midst to bring us peace. Thank you Lord.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
They seemed energized by the new snowfall as dogs chased cats, cats chased rabbits. All was well until I spotted my barn cat Danny, crouched motionless beside a bush and on the other side of the bush, a rabbit quietly sat. I anticipated at any moment Danny would pounce and the struggle would begin. Danny is our favourite barn cat although we choose to ignore his passion for killing. Hoping to prevent this all being played out before my eyes, I yelled his name, sending Hank, my border collie, bounding out to investigate. I was able to get to the rabbit and realized he had already been victimized. On his cheek, the flesh was torn with blood spilling out onto the snow. As Danny had obviously missed in the first struggle, I believe his strategy was now to wait until the rabbit had weakened before proceeding. I swept up bunny to bring him inside, once again thinking how unfortunate...'another distraction in an already busy day.' I could see that I was going to have to rearrange my day. But was it really a distraction? Sometimes what we think are distractions, are purposeful events in our day, chosen for us to learn from and what we think is the inevitable: our obligations, schedules, things that consume us, are merely distractions.
I like what Cheryl from Transparent Shepherding says: Day to day thoughts and happenings often fall by the way-side untouched to reasoning behind it all. The book of Ecclesiastes says "...there is a time and purpose for everything under Heaven." To me this means nothing, NOTHING goes unnoticed by our Heavenly Father, no matter how large or small we may think it is. With this in mind, how much more should we consider (and reconsider) our every thought, action, reaction etc.
It does not matter as much whether all the thoughts and events of our day are God ordained but how we choose to deal with them. How do we decide what are the distractions in our day? I wish I could tell you but I do know that just that morning, the Lord had been impressing upon me to order my steps wisely. According to C.S. Lewis, when we choose to become a Christian, some of the things we want to do, turn out to be what we call wrong and we must give them up. Some of the things our self does not want to do, turns out to be right and we need to do them. So when all the demands have been met of this new life, we are hoping that the poor 'natural self' will still have some choices and time to get on with our life. It will always be a dilemma which causes us concern, uneasiness and guilt each day when we approach it this way. (Mere Christianity) However, Christ says to hand over that 'natural self' and He will give you a new self. Dare we give Him our whole self with all our wishes and desires?
That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply to shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind." Mere Christianity
When things, people, ideas unexpectedly come our way as we happen upon our journey, and we see these as great interruptions to our lives; we have probably taken the new day we have placed in God's hands away from Him. He is no longer in charge and we are apt to get distracted.
There are times when the distractions in life are more than just annoying but place themselves squarely in our path as we attempt to go God's way. Feeling the call of God to the Lisu people of China, Isobel Kuhn pours her heart out to J.O. Fraser because her parents will not let her enter the mission field. He began by telling her how lonely the life of a missionary can be.
After he finished, she told him about her mother's determination to keep her at home, and he heard her out in silence. When it seemed that he wasn't going to say anything more, she ventured to ask if he would underline a verse in her bible to take along when she went to bible school-if the Lord opened the way. He turned to 1 Peter, chapter 5. Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. Whom resist- He underlined the last words twice, then stared out across the ocean.
Finally he said, "Miss Miller, I have sensed that Satan is opposing you and working through your mother and your brother. We are taught "whom resist" when it comes to obstacles produced by the Devil. I think that this should be your stand. I have a prayer that I often use when I run into problems; If this obstacle be from Thee, Lord, I accept it; but if it be from Satan, I refuse him and all his works in the name of Calvary."
(Nothing Daunted. The Story of Isobel Kuhn)
Isobel was to remember this advise and it served her well at crucial times on the mission field to the Lisu people.
Well, my day was reordered, bunny was cared for, and Danny was...sigh...Danny disappeared into the woods to hunt yet again. I will feed him an extra large supper in hopes that he won't want rabbit for breakfast tomorrow. I had planned for three more blogs before Christmas but this one sneaked out- hoping that it was not a distraction.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Mr. Boberg was a Swedish pastor, editor and a member of the Swedish Parliament. One day while he was enjoying a walk, a sudden thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere. When the storm subsided, he looked out at the clear sky over the bay. Hearing a church bell in the distance, the words began to form in his heart:
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Through the peace following this fierce storm, God spoke into his heart, the words of this hymn which continues to speak to us today.
Several days after this story, I was travelling to church as I prayed for my friend and her unbelieving husband. The words of a hymn that I sang in my childhood came to me. It was a hymn I hadn't sung for many years and I had some difficulty remembering all the words. Finally after piecing them together, I remembered it to be, "My Faith Looks Up To Thee" by Ray Palmer (1808-1887)
My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou lamb of Calvary, Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day, be wholly Thine!
May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!
When life's dark maze I tread,
And griefs around me spread, be Thou my guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, wipe sorrow's tears away,
Nor let me ever stray from Thee aside.
When ends life's transient dream,
When death's cold sullen stream over me roll;
Blest Saviour, then in love, fear and distrust remove;
O bear me safe above, a ransomed soul!
Almost immediately, yet another memory came to me. When I was a child, in my home, on the top shelf in my front hall closet, was a beautifully patterned old cloth bag and inside this bag was a dozen worn and tattered blue hymnals. I was always drawn to this bag and when my mother wasn't home, I would climb to the top shelf and open it, examining these little blue hymnals with the tiny print. At intervals, the Women's Missionary Society would meet at our house. To prepare for this meeting, the house was scrubbed and polished until spotless; a white cloth perfectly ironed, was brought out; and the dining room table was set with the best teapot and an assortment of brightly patterned teacups, all carefully arranged. My mother's best baking was brought out at the last minute. Just before the ladies of the Missionary Society began to arrive, my father, sister and I were banished to the basement for the duration of the meeting. My sister and I monitored the progress of the meeting by the muted sounds coming down through the heat ducts. But our best moment came when the women opened those blue hymnals and began to sing loudly the hymns my sister and I knew well. That was our cue to giggle uncontrollably throughout each hymn selection. When the last of the singers left, my job was to pick up the hymnals and return them to the bag which I placed on the top shelf of the closet.
Shortly after, through a series of events, a letter came into my possession, written by Mr. Palmer, dated November 26th, 1870 and written from 49 Biblehouse, New York. In this letter, Mr. Palmer writes, " I had no thought of writing a hymn for others. It was born of my own soul-an experience of my profound feelings and finished I remember with tears at the time and I do not remember that any person ever saw it till two years later....I will only add that more than one instance has it come to my knowledge in which while reading this hymn, a soul has first received its redeemer and a very great number in which it has been the dying song of holy souls. For which all glory be to the dying Lamb himself who is the substance and charm of the piece."
A story, within a story, within a story and what is the common thread throughout? Today, God continues to speak through these words born out of solitude. Out of a thirsty heart longing, flows something powerful...feelings of love, words of love, deeds of love. The story has always been about one moment of honesty, one thirsty heart, one saviour, and one drop of blood. We see such a moment as Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross: "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke23:43) Longing was met with longing: one was of faith and the other of love.
My mother didn't share with me in words how she thirsted after God. Instead, as a child I remember how perfectly she prepared for these missionary meetings. I remember how she faithfully took us to church every week. I remember our family's commitment to God. I may have begun my search for God through my mother's faith but only alone could I have met him and then truly said:
My faith looks up to Thee,
O Lamb of Calvary, Saviour Divine!
Now hear me while I pray, Take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly thine!
For those loved ones that have yet to meet the Saviour... alone, in one honest moment, I pour my heart out in prayer that they would thirst after Him, that they would come to Him, that they would know His love. Amen.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
I would soon trudge out to the barn through the mud to feed my sheep. I sometimes wonder why I love my life in the country with my animals. There is something satisfying for me about pulling on my smelly barn clothes and going out to the barn on what might look like a cold miserable December day...it isn't that at all. It is a secret...it is my secret. The sheep look up at me, waiting...waiting for me. They know me and I know them well. I study their stunning coats made of various colours and textures. I make sure to run my fingers through some of their coats as they pass by me. I stay to listen to hear the rustling as they pull apart their flakes of hay. I watch how after testing the water with their noses several times, they drink deeply and the water level in the bucket goes down surprisingly fast. I am deeply thankful to observe these what you might think, small and insignificant events in my day. It is all very simple stuff, isn't it?
Our Christian walk can seem anything but simple at times...so many bible verses and which one do I use for this time. Is God really listening and what does he want me to do? Yet, it is simple. The ancient editors of the "Book of Psalms," chose a rather simple Psalm to begin.
Happy is the man who has not walked in the wicked's counsel,
nor in the way of offenders has stood,
nor in the session of scoffers has sat.
But the Lord's teaching is his desire,
and His teaching he murmurs day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water,
that bears its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither-
and in all that he does he prospers.
Not so the wicked,
but like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand up in judgment,
nor offenders in the band of the righteous.
For the Lord embraces the way of the righteous,
and the way of the wicked is lost.
The imagery is simple but touching. The man, he walks...he stands...he sits, always choosing to simply follow God's teachings. It is a thoughtful life...a simple life despite its distractions. He murmurs as he goes "which is what one does in a culture where there is no silent reading." We meditate. Again, such a simple thing. How will we prosper? Will it be with wealthy possessions? It will be the rich knowledge that we awake to at dawn's first light, that we know who we are and place our new day in His hands, receiving all He has to give us. He "embraces" us. The Hebrew translation is to "know." He knows you. He really and truly knows you and that is getting close to, if not, the meaning of life...the meaning of this new day. HE KNOWS YOU. Simple!
MY kitty, Golda, runs to the door every morning to go out. It is her thrill, her duty. This morning as usual, she went out into this bleak December day. Shortly after, I glanced at her and gave her the option of returning into her(MY) warm, cozy living room by the fire. But no, she continues to sit on the front porch step, watching..... She just might miss something on this bleak December day. She is happy. "Happy the man" as he walks...stands...sits.
Blessings to you on this bleak December day. Pam
Sunday, December 7, 2008
What Can I Make of Christ?
The things He says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, "This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go," but He says, "I am the truth, and the Way, and the Life." He says, "No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved." He says, "If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from Me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last. Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out. I can do that. I am Rebirth, I am Life. Eat Me, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole universe." C.S. Lewis, The Grand Miracle.
WAS IT ALL A DREAM? WONDERED Shasta. But it couldn't have been a dream for there in the grass before him he saw the deep. large print of the Lion's front right paw. It took one's breath away to think of the weight that could make a footprint like that. But there was something more remarkable than the size about it. As he looked at it, water had already filled the bottom of it. Soon it was full to the brim, and then overflowing, and a little stream was running downhill past him, over the grass.
Shasta stopped and drank-a very long drink-and then dipped his face in and splashed his head. It was extremely cold, and clear as glass, and refreshed him very much. After that he stood up, shaking the water out of this ears and flinging the wet hair back from his forehead, and began to take stock of his surroundings.
The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis
Only some will hear His call and answer. There is no doubt that sometimes it takes one special person, in one special place with just the perfect word. Whatever word or group of words that catches our attention, there has to be that seed of love already in our hearts. As we choose, the seed will grow and it will totally change us as it totally changed the lives of the disciples. People love either the light or the darkness and this love controls their actions.(John 3:16-19) Those who love the light become sons of light. We are invited to stand in the light, breathe in His life, eat of His bread, drink of His water. It is a new rest, a new vine, a new life. Drink deeply, dip your face in and refresh yourself as Shasta did for the Voice provided. From the fullness of His grace, we have received one blessing after another.(John 1:16) Like Abraham, other men of faith such as George Muller and Hudson Taylor cried out to Jehovah Jireh and He met their needs. They placed everything they had on the promise of God, the Lord will provide. As Paul said, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him."(Rom. 8:32) His blessings, one after another remind us, He is real...not a dream. He will be more real than life itself.
But again, some of those who choose the light will fall away in time, returning to the things of this world. The temporary things of this world, sometimes seem to be all we need. However in time, colours fade, paths diverge, things lose their lustre and we are left alone. Understand that we don't immediately "forsake all and follow Him." It takes time to learn to be His disciples. Slowly we will learn to trust Him as we feel His power in our lives. The way of faith,as it was for Abraham, continues to be no easy option but a conscious bending of our will.
Let Your Actions speak
When my little friend came down the corridor to go home, very few words were said. Her thoughts were implicit in her actions. She simply acted. She knew a mother and father were waiting for her. As we go our way, it is not just about what we believe but what we do. We believe to act and in acting, our belief grows. Jesus did not enter into our lives to have us just believe in Him. Instead He speaks: "Come and see"(John 1:39); "Come and drink!"(John 7:37); "Come and dine!"(John 21:12) Come and enter in. Come and walk with me. Spend time in my word and in my teachings. You must enter in with everything you are. Hold nothing back.
C.S. Lewis writes,"What are we to make of Christ? There is no question of what we can make of Him. It is entirely a question of what He intends to make of us. You must accept or reject the story." He has invited you to become like Him-What will you do?
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Abraham said, "I and the lad will go...we will worship...we will come back." With each painful step up that mountain, Abraham, man of faith, faced a time of decision, testing and maturing. He waited for his God, Jehovah jireh as he and Isaac walked together. When God provided the sacrificial ram, there is no record of what Abraham said but he must have felt the Father's love in his heart.
Where is God?
I am sure that most people would agree that we humans strive to know God. Throughout history, man has repeatedly asked, "Where is God?" Answering to a call of god to sacrifice his beloved son, Abraham and his son slowly climbed the mountain. As they went, the only thing that sustained him was a promise deposited into his heart: "through Isaac your descendants will be named."(Gen.21:2) The stone alter was built, the wood arranged, the sacrifice bound and yet there was only this pressing inner conviction that God would provide. The words echoed out from Isaac's mouth, into their empty and lonely place, as it has through time, "WHERE IS THE LAMB?" Yet despite this, He remains an enigma, a mystery....and I ask myself why, as many continue to search. We are a worshiping people. It is our nature. And when we don't know who that god is, we turn our gaze inward.
From the moment we are born, a struggle begins within us as thoughts of self dominate our lives: thoughts of pride in our achievements and possessions; our earthly passions; our goals and plans. We become lost in ourselves, worshiping ourselves. The dilemma is that we were created to worship Him, the one true god, our creator. This is our sin and with it, we can never know the Father as we were meant to...knowing His love.
The essence of God is revealed to us throughout nature, in His colours, textures, odours and sounds but we cannot inhale, see, touch and hear enough of His beauty around us to be satisfied.(Rom.1:20) His goodness is played out for us in history but it is only in the presence of Jesus Christ that the image of the invisible God is unfolded for us to see...to follow.(Col.1:15) He gave us His perfect and holy son to walk among us, teaching us how to love. We learn of the Father through Him as He is in the Father and the Father is in Him. "He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father."(John 14:9) If we can grasp that we are His children and reach out for His forgiveness by believing in His son, we will establish a new identity for ourselves. In Him we learn of ourselves. As we lean on Him in our weakness, He makes us strong. He knows our sins but can also see deep inside to our heart's desire. He calls us beautiful. He is our loving father. This rich identity deposited into us, grows as we continue to walk with Him. His goodness is daily. As His spirit speaks to us through His word, in our hearts. He continues to call to us.
A Tender Heart Hears
I think back to when I worked on the northern coast of Newfoundland and Labrador for the Grenfell Association. Our hospital was situated in St. Anthony, a small harbour town at the tip of the northern peninsula. Life was simple there. The fog was a common occurrence as it flowed inland into narrows along the coast and back out again. Our lives were ordered by its coming and going. It affected the day to day running of the hospital as the small sea planes carried patients back and forth between their outport homes and the hospital. Sometimes patients were forced to remain in hospital for days until the fog moved out to sea.
Working night shifts in the children's ward at the hospital, I spent many mornings watching the sun rise over this quiet little harbour town. Just before dawn, the fishermen would start there outboard motors, making ready to head out to check their nets at sea. We would watch out the window as long as we could until the harbour and the surrounding houses became visible before beginning our morning duties.
One early morning, the hospital lay quiet as the sun had just begun to rise. We had several little children who had been waiting for the fog to clear so they could return to their homes. Just as I was about to begin my work, I heard a "SWISH...SWISH...SWISH" and coming down the corridor was a little girl, no more than five years old that was scheduled to leave on the plane that morning to return to her home. At dawn's first light, she had gotten up and taken her outerwear; dressed herself in her jacket, pants, hat, boots; and to her mind, began her journey home to her mother and her father. In tears she was taken to her room to be washed, redressed and fed. That night she again lay her outer clothing by her bed as the fog had stubbornly refused to leave. Many tears were shed and we tried our best to console her. I wish I could return to that morning and looking into that little girl's eyes and with a much gentler heart received from life's journey, I would tell her that she would go home. Her tender heart's desire was to return to the call of love in her heart.
One thing do I ask of the Lord,
it is this that I seek-
that I dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to behold the Lord's sweetness
and to gaze on His palace.
To be continued...