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Saturday, 18 October 2014

THE POWER OF SPEAKING BLESSINGS-by Heidi McLaughlin


Someone sneezes and we quickly respond with a vague “God bless you”. We sign our e-mails and greetings cards with “Blessings” and it sounds nice and Christian and friendly. When we don’t know the full power and potential of this age old cliché, we throw it around like a meaningless penny.But I came to realize that speaking blessings has unparalleled power.
 I discovered this power of blessings two years ago when I was privileged to write devotionals for “THE STORY” for Scripture Union Canada.  I was given the task of writing in Genesis and one of the first eye opening and starting revelations about blessings was the story of Jacob and Esau. “When (Esau) heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, ‘Bless me-me too, my father! “(Genesis 27:34 NIV). Why was a blessing so powerful that a mother and son would conspire to manipulate and steal a blessing from its rightful owner? I set out to find out why.
I discovered that when we speak blessings into each other’s lives, we are, by faith, imparting God’s image into their being. Blessing is God’s primary mechanism of imparting deep into the heart of a person His image...to help that person understand his identity (Who am I?) and purpose (Why am I here?).
The Hebrew word to “bless” is “baruch”, which means to kneel. So picture this: When you and I bless someone, we kneel before them in humility, speak God’s words over them and literally empower that person to prosper. If you and I bless our children, we empower them to prosper in every area of their lives-spiritual life with God, physical health, emotional well-being, marriage, children, finances, careers, ministry... every area. And when I read this last part: “Children who were blessed by their parents tend to prosper in their adult lives, and children who were never blessed by their parents tend to languish and not prosper”…it stopped me dead in my tracks.
I had never done this with my own children, but I had a plan for all of our grandchildren.  As Jack and I were preparing for a family reunion in the summer of 2012, we orchestrated a family “Blessing Evening.” To begin writing a blessing for each grandchild, we started with the meaning of their name.  For example: Mya meant “Great One” and Breanna meant “Strong, virtuous and honourable”. From the meaning of their names we saw how God had already prepared their character through their names. Then we began to list all their beautiful qualities, gifts and strengths and ended the blessing with a bible verse and prayer.  It went something like this:
It is said that the name MYA means “great one.”  You have already shown your family and friends what “great” things you can do…..
You are one of God’s great little girls. He sent you down from Heaven just at the right time to bring so much joy into this family. God has great plans for you Mya. He has given you beauty, a radiant smile, a loving heart, a creative mind, a tender but bold and courageous spirit.  God has wrapped many wonderful things up in a great and package called “Mya.”
There is nothing more beautiful than a girl that knows she is loved. Mya…you are Loved! God has blessed you with a family that loves and adores you. May God’s love always strengthen you and give you courage.  God has great plans for you and let Him help you discover all that life has for you on this earth. Do not be afraid!  Even in your young years may you learn to trust God in such a way that you know that there is nothing in this world that can stop you from fulfilling the purposes God has called you to.  You are great…and you are greatly loved. We bless you in the name of Jesus”.
 “For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need” (Phil. 4:13 NLT).
We wrote a blessing for each of our nine grandchildren and read it to them on the evening of our family “Blessing Night.”  There was not a dry eye on family deck that beautiful summer evening.  As we heard the words of blessings spoken it evoked and stirred our souls in their most vulnerable and deepest places; those places of longing that only God’s words can fill.
I have actually seen the power of God’s blessings at work, and I can never again say, ‘Bless you” with a cavalier attitude.  I know that when we speak God’s words over our lives, it changes is from the inside out and causes our souls to prosper. 
In the name of Jesus, I bless YOU! 
 Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her husband and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca
  



Friday, 17 October 2014

Could the Parable of the Sower be key to Reviews? SUSAN HARRIS


We've known them exclusively as responses to the gospel. Ground and fruit. Soil and words.

Words can fall on many kinds of soil (or lack of soil). In Matthew 13, Jesus identifies four types of ground on which seeds can fall. By the way side refers to hard ground that prevents the seed from even taking roots. Birds swoop and eat the seeds before anything can happen. Stony ground provides a tiny bit of soil that actually allows the seeds to germinate and begin to grow, but because the roots cannot penetrate the stones to get into the earth they wither and die. The thorny ground allows the seed to grow, but the thorns choke the life out of the little plants. Finally, there is the good ground. The conditions for germination are rich and present, and a harvest is predicted. The seed grow into plants that produce much fruit.

Yet is there a connection between sowing seeds of the gospel and sowing seeds through your writing?

Could the hard ground be the reader who hears about your work, does not understand the content but  chooses to plaster 1-star reviews complete with atrocious and defamatory claims? Like Satan who plucks the message away from the could-be-believer, keeping the heart unenlightened and discouraging others who may benefit from the book from reading it?

What if the stony ground portrays the avid reader who delights in words, but she pledges no allegiance to your authorship and when negative remarks comes to the fore, her so-called love for your work rapidly evaporates?

The thorny ground may be the audience that receive your books, but whose minds are full of other distractions and pleasures. Not that they dislike your work, but their attention is elsewhere and thus have no time for your words. (How many books can a person read during the time she takes to browse social media?)

The good ground depicts the one who buys, borrows, reads, receives and is affected positively by your words. Your writing changes his life and he is on a high with rave reviews and enthusiastic accolades. His words ringing out to the world bear much fruit - draw more readers and 4-star and 5-star reviews. The reader described by the “good ground” is the only one of the four types who is truly supportive of your work, because as with the gospel, the proof is fruit.

In Matthew 13:9, Jesus remarks, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" A person's reception of God’s Word is determined by the condition of his heart. A reader's reception of your words is determined by the state of his heart. Your prayer can shape the heart. Be blessed today.


Find Susan at:

http://susanharris.ca

https://www.facebook.com/SusanHarrisCanadianAuthor

https://twitter.com/SusanHarris20


http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Harris/e/B007XMP4QS/


BIO: Susan Harris is a speaker and former teacher, and the author of Golden Apples in Silver Settings, Remarkably Ordinary, Little Copper Pennies and Little Copper Pennies for Kids. Her first submission to Chicken Soup for the Soul is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Did What? edition as Smokey's Lockout, and was released August 19, 2014. Remarkably Ordinary will be released in print on November 1, 2014. Her upcoming children's picture book, Alphabet on The Farm will be released in both English and French. Susan was born in exotic Trinidad but now lives on the Saskatchewan prairies with her husband, daughter and the gregarious cats.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Thanks Giving—Carolyn R. Wilker





When was the last time you were told to give thanks? Could you do it when you’re going through some challenging times?
            I’ve struggled with this countless times, because, being human, I can always think of the negative and struggle to find the positive.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, I read, “Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances.”  I struggle with that, even when there’s good stuff happening in the middle of overwhelming tension, and I anticipate and await the outcome or the next big thing, just as in our recent experience.
Recently, my husband had surgery in Toronto. It’s not my favourite place to drive. There are so many cars and people to watch for. Streetcars picking up and letting off passengers.  Construction and too many one-way streets. Driving in a city often does make it more familiar, not that I want to do it frequently. Then the interweaving of highways to get there that my husband calls ‘spaghetti junctions.’ He couldn’t have phrased it better.
One needs to have wits about them to drive there. A carefully programmed GPS helps a great deal. My head filled with directions and I still had to pay heed to everything around me. Focus, focus. It’s just like my mother often said of parenting young children, “You need eyes in the back of your head.” I agree.
We made it, with the help of our GPS, Matilda, and my husband checked in for his surgery the next morning, with me there holding the bag of items he would need after surgery. The wait during surgery seemed long, and fortunately, with no undue surprises—always longer because it’s waiting time. And it’s not just the bag of stuff I was carrying; it was also the collection of hopes and concerns of how the surgery would help.
Post-surgery, my husband faced discomfort of grafts, stitches and swelling, and for me, it included anticipating the healing and the arms-length of instructions and details for recovery—read, high maintenance—for the next week.
Having made it through the surgery, two drives there and back in a short week and a half, and in spite of anxiety, there were good things: plenty of prayers, my trusty GPS to guide me safely through the maze of highways that surprisingly was now becoming more familiar, not meaning I want to drive it often.
Because this is Thanksgiving weekend, I will offer my thanks in the middle of all this commotion and the medical procedures.
For a large hospital, with a solid record
For medical specialists, whose education is used to heal and help, and the assurance that we’re in the best of hands
For nurses with a sense of humour as they go about their work
For the taxi driver who cared about what’s happened in my day
For the bed and breakfast owner who cared about our journey and provided a hearty breakfast for me
For a safe place to lay my head at night, even when my sleep is restless
For conversation with others who are also waiting while a loved one is in surgery
For such things as a GPS that helps us to get safely from one place to another
For a progressing recovery and antibiotics that support healing
For innovations that help patients to better handle conditions

And here I give thanks for the gifts God gives to us: friends and family, grace, forgiveness and the chance to start over each new day because of our hope in Jesus, our Saviour.

 Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving, or at least a grateful one in whatever you face today.


Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox

www.carolynwilker.ca


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Eyes to See -HIRD


By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

Recently my eye surgeon Dr. Kirker had me lie face down for three days.  I had just had laser eye surgery for a microscopic macular hole.  This condition was not noticeable until I was out at UBC reading tiny 19th century print.  Upon going to an eye specialist, I discovered that I did not have either  lense correction, cataracts, glaucoma, retinal detachment or macular degeneration.  Over time, the gel or vitreous in our eyes shrink and detaches from the retina.  In rare cases, it sticks and causes a microscopic hole.  Before 1970, they could not do anything about this.  After laser surgery, the surgeon filled my right eye with gas which temporarily held everything in place.  In order for the gas to do its job, I had to be vertical for 90% of the time.  Fortunately I was able to rent a massage desk and full-body massage pillow.  Sleeping facedown for four nights was a brand new experience for me.   My wife Janice said that I didn’t snore at all.  I never hear myself snore. 

Lying face down prohibited me from watching TV or checking my computer.  Because our North Vancouver Library system has a large assortment of talking books, I was able listen to John Grisham, Louis Lamour, and Elie Wiesel.  All three authors were passionate about justice.  Grisham sought justice in the court room.  Lamour sought justice at the end of a gun.  Elie Wiesel sought justice from God and neighbour.
Lying on my face enabled me to listen to Elie Wiesel’s trilogy: Night, Dawn, and Day. Each of the trilogy was deeply moving and disturbing.  Like my successful laser surgery, Elie’s trilogy gave me eyes to see what I had been previously somewhat blinded to.  As a holocaust survivor, Wiesel has written over 50 books interpreting the meaning of the Holocaust for our modern age.  Wiesel miraculously survived the Concentration camps when so many of his family and friends ended in Hitler’s ovens.  In his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, they said of Wiesel: “From the abyss of the death camps, he has come as a messenger to humanity – not with a message of hate and revenge but with one of brotherhood and atonement.” 

Too many people in our culture have either never heard of or hardened their hearts to the message of the Holocaust.  It seems to some like water under the bridge, as ancient history.  Wiesel’s book help us to enter into the story of the Holocaust as if for the first time.  As a vivid story teller, Wiesel makes you feel that you were right there in the midst of the great tragedy.  Would it be possible for Wiesel’s books to be included in our school systems as a way of reducing hatred and anti-Semitism?  It could give our young people new eyes to see what it is liked to be bullied and rejected.

It is too easy to scapegoat other people and blame them for the problems in our lives.  Racism seems to be deep in many of our cultures.  It dies a hard death.  Without regular self-examination and repentance, racism can easily slip back into our hearts.  Anti-Semitism has proven in the past century to be one of the deadliest forms of racism.  Jewish people have suffered deeply again and again through pogroms, inquisitions, and job discrimination.  When conflict arises in the world, anti-Semitism and racism seem to spike.  What would it take for us to truly forgive and love those who offend us, those who are different? 

Chronic and acute anxiety push us in the direction of requiring that everyone act and smell just like us.  Elie Wiesel’s writings encourage us to celebrate differences and uniquenesses of other neighbours.  Jesus quoted Leviticus in commanding us to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Love is always the answer.  Love gives us eyes to see when we are blind.  Love is an expression of amazing grace, where I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.  My prayer for those reading this article is that God will give us eyes to see that other neighbours are just as human, as valuable and as sacred as we are. 

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector
St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Mission in Canada

-Ed’s brand-new sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available inpaperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback andebook ), Amazon France (paperback andebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

-In order to obtain a copy of the prequel book

‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘ED HIRD’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPALusing the e-mailed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada




Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Neuroscience tried wholly embracing Darwin's horrid doubt - but then the brain got away - Denyse O'Leary

Is there a good reason to believe that the human mind is and must be a fully natural object? Note: The Science Fictions – human evolution series is here.The cosmology series is here, and the origin of life series here.    

  Science-Fictions-square.gif Darwin’s “horrid doubt”: The mind: Late in life, Darwin wrote,
But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man's mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?
Ironically, while Darwin may have doubted the fully naturalized mind and felt horrid about it, most of his latter-day supporters believe and feel good. And, on its own terms, their faith cannot be disconfirmed. They propose a variety of fully natural (material) explanations of the mind, that most immaterial of entities, the mind; for example:
  • The brain randomly generates illusions that self-organize as a "mind." Behavior is thus better accounted for by the study of neurons (neuroscience) than the study of the illusory "mind."
  • Our hominoid ancestors passed on hypothetical genes via natural selection acting on random mutation. These claimed (not demonstrated) genes result in our attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior -- mistakenly seen as the outcome of thought processes (evolutionary psychology).
While their explanations can rarely be disconfirmed when using the naturalists' own rules,  as we shall see, they can, of course, be dissected, falsified, and sometimes just plain sent up on the basis of evidence and reason, as here and throughout the series this fall.

  Science-Fictions-square.gif Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away
Both the United States and the European Union are throwing billions of dollars at new projects to map the human brain. Yet many neuroscientists worry that more is promised than can be performed. For one thing, fMRI (brain imaging) shows which brain areas have high oxygen levels when a person is thinking something. It simply cannot tell us what people are thinking, because many brain centers are active and those that are active may be activated for many reasons. Each brain is unique so data from studies must be averaged. But thoughts are not averaged; they belong to the individual.
Two hundred and fifty scientists are protesting the European Human Brain Project on the grounds that a proposed computer simulation isn't realistic for understanding brain function. Indeed, the main practical effect of more and better neuroscience has been -- not to cement -- but to blow up conventional neuroscience assumptions and pop legends: More.
Note: The Science Fictions – human evolution series is here.The cosmology series is here, and the origin of life series here. O’Leary for News

Friday, 3 October 2014

Forgiveness: A Gift We Give Ourselves by Rose McCormick Brandon

 
 My friend arrived at the airport early for her flight from Toronto to London. She piled her bags on a cart and headed to a coffee shop for lunch. A woman came up behind her and asked for directions. A kind person, my friend tried to help. During the exchange her handbag was snatched from the cart. Her passport, credit cards, cash, everything she needed for her vacation was missing.
 Authorities explained that she'd been played. As she'd turned to look at the woman asking for help, another woman had stolen her purse. She felt devastated. Several phone calls later helpful airline staff had her on the plane. "Don't let this ruin your plans. Go and enjoy yourself," her husband said. But as she settled into her seat on the plane, a knot of despair lodged in her chest. How could I be so stupid? Why didn't I have my purse looped over my shoulder? I must look naive, that's why these thieves picked on me. This is the story of my life, always getting picked on. Ugly, self-accusing thoughts rolled through her mind.
            She leaned back on the headrest. God, help me, she prayed. A thought, quiet but firm, came into her mind - you need to forgive yourself. She prayed again, "I do Lord, I do forgive myself. I recognize that anyone can be taken advantage of." Immediately, self-accusing thoughts stopped, her shame vanished.
            A stolen purse may rank low on the list of things we need to forgive ourselves for but the despair my friend felt wasn't much different than the despair we feel over bigger issues. She hadn’t sinned; a sin was committed against her. Often it isn’t sin that causes us to accuse ourselves but perceived failures, unwise decisions, missed opportunities, lack of confidence, unsophisticated social skills and dozens of other human frailties.
An important step toward forgiving ourselves is acceptance. We can work on our weaknesses and emphasize our strengths but we can’t change our personality. Years ago I read a few Christian books on the four basic temperaments. I found these helpful but not as much as when I later discovered the more refined Myers-Briggs personality analysis. Results pegged me as a true introvert. This fact alone settled many anxieties for me. Understanding our temperament can help us develop a healthy self-respect. It also gives us an appreciation for other personalities.
Too many Christians spend too much energy trying to live someone else’s life. “I’ve tried to be quiet and gentle,” a close friend said, “but it’s just not me. I couldn’t keep it up.” As a new Christian, she had looked around the church and concluded that the best Christians were the quiet, gentle ones. She tried on a few personalities before she realized that God had changed her from a sinner into a saint but He hadn’t turned her into a completely different personality.
A devoted Christian of more than thirty years recently confided, “I've tried to be someone other than me as far back as I can remember, thinking maybe if I was like so and so, I’d be a better me. The other day, I told God I couldn't do it anymore. He told me He liked the real me.”  God-moments like this produce inner changes that free people to develop deep, personal relationships with Him. Replicating someone else’s personality is not only dishonest but exhausting.
Another obstacle stands in the way of self-forgiveness. It’s revealed in this question - “Why do we hold ourselves to a higher standard than we hold others?”  The same believers, who accept major flaws in others, often deride themselves for minor infractions. Reasons vary. A personality with a strong tendency toward perfectionism, being first-born in a large family, taking responsibilities at a young age and pride are possible answers.  God helps each person to answer this question. (The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman, a Christian author and speaker, has helped many first-borns understand their tendency to hold themselves to higher standards.)
Harsh preaching causes sensitive believers to imagine God’s disapproval. Most people possess an enormous capacity to make themselves miserable without any help from judgmental, condemning sermons. God enjoys His creation. He takes pleasure in all of it but especially in the people who are redeemed by the sacrificed life of His own precious Son. We delight Him, imperfections and all. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin but once that sin is confessed there’s no further condemnation. We’re loved (and liked) by a God who rejoices over us and doesn’t accuse us. (Zephaniah 3:17). We serve a kind Lord, One aware of our frailties and full of compassion.
When my friend with the stolen purse prayed, she received immediate release from self-accusing thoughts. God helps us, not only to forgive others, but ourselves.
****
Rose McCormick Brandon is the author of Promises of Home - Stories of Canada's British Home Children. Visit her website at: http://writingfromtheheart.webs.com. Her blogs: Listening to my Hair Grow and Promises of Home.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Coffee Clash - Eleanor Shepherd

   
 
 How many people have the opportunity to pastor the congregation where their own faith was nurtured?  I am fortunate to find myself in that situation today.
  In the years between, our congregation has gone through a significant journey, with times of difficulty and loss and times of growth and rebirth.  Yet through it all the light of God’s love has continued to shine through those who compose it.
This month our congregation will celebrate the new beginning that we are experiencing as we have recently moved from the rented facility where we spent the last seven years to a newly renovated multi-purpose building where we can invite the community to be a part of what is happening.
For our dedication and opening ceremonies at Thanksgiving, many people who have been a part of our congregation in the past are coming home to be with us and join us in seeing the new things that God is doing among us.
This occasion has presented the opportunity for many of us to reflect on our memories about why this church is so dear to us.  We are collecting the stories to share with each other.  This prompted me to do my own reflecting.
I came to Montreal as a university student, with my parents, when my Dad was named as the regional director for The Salvation Army in Quebec  and Eastern Ontario.  In The Salvation Army Montreal Citadel congregation I soon found my place as a member of a group that met on Sunday mornings for lively discussion and debate.  We called it the Coffee Clash.
The leaders of the group were a married couple with young children.  They prepared coffee for us and made a few introductory comments on a particular subject.  Then they gave us the opportunity to express our thoughts and opinions on the subject.  It was a great way to bring out the questions that we had about our faith and whether it was relevant to our current experiences.
The group consisted of young adults who were finishing high school or starting university or a career.  We were leaving behind many of the assumptions that we had made as children and young adolescents and were testing which ones we could hold on to as we moved into maturity.
What we discovered as we thought through some of the questions raised was that the answers were more complex than we imagined.  Things were not black and white but there were many shades of grey and many values conflicts that had to be resolved.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this experience for me was to discover that the adult leaders who encouraged us to think through questions of faith admitted to us that at their stage in life they did not have all the answers.  They were still learning and growing.  It was at this time, that I began to realize that faith is a journey.
I had always thought that adults had their faith all figured out into neatly packaged answers for every question.  It seemed impossible to me that I would ever live long enough to arrive at that point.  Now I found that I did not have to.  By the authenticity of a couple who were genuine about their own adult faith, I learned that I could spend the rest of my life seeking and learning and growing.  That is what keeps faith fresh and relevant.  With each new question that comes my way today, I remember this primary lesson from Coffee Clash and I am grateful for leaders and peers who taught me as we shared together.
Word Guild Award
2009
Word Guild Award
2011