Friday, April 29, 2011

Rehearsal for Heaven - Eleanor Shepherd


Walking into the sanctuary of our church on Sunday mornings reminds me that I am living in a global village. It really begins at the coat rack, where I quickly put my coat on a hanger so I can give a hand to my new friend, Natasha from Moldova as she tries to removes her snow suit of her wriggling little three year old, Elizabeth, whom she calls Lissa. As we walk through the door of the chapel Stephen from Nigeria greets us. Heading to my accustomed spot to drop off my bag and my Bible, I just have to stop to greet Siphe from Zimbabwe with her two darling little girls. I cannot believe how the oldest one has grown so tall. Her red glasses give her the look of a real scholar.

Although there is still ten minutes for us to greet one another before the service starts, the announcements are already scrolling on the screen in both English and Spanish. About a third of the congregation has their origins in Latin America. Colombians, Venezuelans, Mexicans and Cubans all join me at the translation equipment table, where we go to pick up the headphones. These enable our friends to understand all that is happening by hearing it in their own language. Since I am trying to learn Spanish, this service provides a great opportunity for me to listen to how it should sound.

Meanwhile the ushers are distributing the Bibles in English and Spanish, according to the choice of the worshipper. In addition, announcements in the weekly bulletin are also given in both of these languages. We want our Hispanic friends to know that this is their church.

Just as I am heading back to my seat, with the headphones, I spot my friends Asher and Suha arriving, along with Ramesh and Hema and their two little girls Suhanna and Nyanna. They find a place to sit, just behind Raj and Sushma with their two children. The Indian singing group is going to participate in the service today so the women in their blue and red flowing saris and the men in their colourful costumes add to the richness of the cultural mosaic.

When children’s’ time comes, in the middle of the service, all of the children gather at the front of the church and the scene resembles a playground at the United Nations. Action songs give all the children a chance to participate, where gestures fill in gaps in their understanding, so words are not always necessary. The important thing for the children and indeed for all of us to understand is that here is a place where we are loved and accepted, no matter what our origins or customs. We are learning to appreciate each other and the richness of what each one brings. As I watch the children, words from an old Sunday School song run through my mind.

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world. “

The children that I sang about in that song, as a child, existed mainly in storybooks that I read. I saw very few in my church that were not just like I was. Now that has all changed and the song has become more real for me.

While some things have changed significantly, there are other parts of our worship that remain consistent. Just as in our youth, we enjoyed the lively music of the brass band as we marched down the street; we still enjoy that toe tapping rhythm, not so much outside now, but certainly as we enjoy times of praise and worship, and as accompaniment to the old hymns.

As well as the many new friends who have joined us we continue to nurture friendships with those who have been there for us during the good days and the challenges that have come our way. Worship has become a unique blend of the comfortably familiar and the stimulation of innovation and new ideas propelled by the infusion of those from other cultures.

Who knew that as one of the senior members of the congregation I could learn to appreciate samosas? Gone are the days of the church chicken dinners. A highlight of our church year for me recently was the fellowship that we enjoyed a couple of weeks ago at our international potluck dinner. My shepherd’s pie and my friend’s scalloped potatoes were as novel to some of our friends as the tortillas and rice dishes were to us. Each of us brought something that we enjoyed eating from our own cultural background and we had the chance to try some dishes we had never tasted before. Those of us working in the kitchen had to ask instructions about what to reheat and how from those who brought many dishes we knew nothing about. It was a unique dining experience!

Why do I find such joy in this multicultural setting? I think it is because every week when I go to church I am reminded of Heaven. There we will join in celebration with our brothers and sisters from every country and every language. I feel like I have the privilege of participating in a weekly rehearsal for that.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Attack Ads - Black




Political attack advertisements are designed to present a political opponent to the world in the worst light possible. They sometimes have a harsh and hurtful, cruel edge, and are demeaning to those portrayed. This sort of thing turns me right off. I don’t like them. They insult my intelligence and offend my sensibilities. They grate on me viscerally, as I suspect they do for the majority of thoughtful people of good will and who have a healthy respect for others. It’s a small wonder that voter turn-out is so low. Duh!


And yet, despite such negative reactions, political war-room moguls claim that they persist in producing these ads because they work. It’s a matter of throwing enough mud often enough and over time some of it will stick.


What about drumming up a mass boycott of the voting booths in order to make a point, in hope that the leaders and their parties will get the message that we expect them to conduct themselves in a manner more worthy of the calling they’ve espoused?


I thought of this the last number of times a federal election was called, but didn’t follow through. And why? Because the privilege of voting was gained for me at great cost by a host of people of previous generations, some even giving their lives to the death. And also, because I don’t wish to shirk my responsibility towards the nation and those who, in good faith, put themselves on the line, setting aside other employment or business interests, in order to run for office in hope of making a positive difference in the lives of Canadians. They risk the emotional disappointment of non-election and of having to pick up the frayed ends of life that they cut themselves from in order to at least make a run for office.


So far, it might not appear that my writing motto is Writing to Raise the Gaze, since you could be pretty-well downcast by now with what I’ve written already. But that is deliberate. To illustrate: As a kid I had a knack for finding coins on the ground. At three-and-a-half feet I was closer to the ground, then! One day I found an expensive watch sticking out from under a man’s shoe in a crowded open-air market. I handed it in and later received a reward from the claimant, who travelled miles to retrieve it.



Let us look down to see what treasure’s under our feet and find cause to look up and see where we’re going, for we walk on free democratic ground because others paved the way. People are dying for that privilege right now, elsewhere in the world.


We’ve just celebrated Good Friday and Easter – the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He too was attacked and slandered by jealous, power-hungry civil and religious leaders. A howling mob was stirred up to cast their vote for His death. They demanded, “Away with him. Crucify him!” It worked, the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, caved, and the rest is history.


Despite all that evil, the Divine Will was done: Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. The price of redemption was paid (see Romans 5:1-10).
By accepting and applying to our lives what was accomplished, we can be reconciled to God and have a place in the Kingdom of Heaven, even while living here on earth.

~~+~~
© Peter A. Black. This article will be published in the Watford Guide-Advocate – April 28, 2011
Black is the weekly inspirational columnist at the Guide, and the author of “Parables from the Pond” (Word Alive Press; ISBN 1897373-21-X).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Week – Lawrence


We have just emerged from the intensity of Holy Week, the bewilderment of Good Friday, and the amazement of the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday. All through this week of Easter we keep coming back to the wonder of all that has happened.

As in a near death of a family member and his or her miraculous recovery we keep coming back to that person and saying, I can hardly believe this is real; I’m so glad you’re all right; you gave us all such a scare, so the disciples, in the first days and weeks following Christ’s death and resurrection, must have been full of wonder and, at the same time, absolute amazing disbelief, each time they saw their Master.

Jesus Christ proved on Good Friday and Easter Sunday that God loves us totally, by sacrificing his only Son on the cross for our sins.

"We can’t believe that we’re loved with nothing in exchange, absolutely nothing. Our real value depends on what we are and not on what we do. We continually try to be good people, whatever that means. In reality we are not always good, but we are holy. Being good is something that we earn or acquire or achieve, but we’re holy because we came forth from God." Simplicity by Richard Rohr, P. 93.

During Lent we remembered, once more, our sinful ways; now, in Easter-tide, we are reminded again of God’s love for us and his gift to us of holiness.

[Coming soon: Non-fiction Book:
Highway of Holiness: Soul Journey
by Judith Lawrence]

Monday, April 25, 2011

Honouring the past in our present - Mann

Have you ever been the recipient of what I have come to know as ‘not them, but me?’ What I mean by this is a common statement that's often used whenever you change direction in your life. This might be a doctor, music teacher, church, political party or garden designer where you might hear words something like, “What you have been doing/getting/eating/voting/planting is really not right for you in this situation. You should be thinking/talking/speaking or digging this way.”



Why can’t we just stay positive and add to what has already been done. If we don’t think previous treatment or advice has been adequate, rather than dismissing it, could we not just add to it to make it relevant? My friend recently changed doctors and lo and behold, her new doctor shamed her previous treatment. Another friend purchased some plants for a shady spot in her garden and then the local florist said that truly wouldn’t work, dig them out and buy the ones that he’d suggested. Surely, there would be room for both plants.


In listening to the ongoing political conversation that breaks news each day, it seems that some people take great delight in dismissing another’s contribution rather than adding to it. We in the church are even guilty of this. It would seem that some love to discount all previous religious or relationship experience except the very moment of stepping on the proverbial church doorstep on which they are at the present time. This always seems to me as if we miss the point of the Apostle Paul's words, "I planted, Apollos watered and God gave the growth."



Recently my husband and I moved from a large farmhouse to a small house in town. We’ve lived in a number of places in thirty years of serving the church and in each place we’ve learned valuable lessons, never to discount any particular one.


The image I want to leave with you in this blog is one of a bridge. In every illustration I named above, there has been a bridge from and to, each piece of journey giving a valuable message. The bridge in Salem, Ontario gives you a definite to and from picture. When you look over one side of the bridge, you see a tranquil river. At this time of the year the water pushes the grassy banks and appears like a mirror reflecting the sky hanging over like a canopy.


From the other side of the bridge, you see the same river conceding to a high waterfall where the Elora Gorge begins. Locals call it the top of the rocks. I like that – the beginning of something totally and refreshingly new, yet coming from yet, another place. Perhaps we can consider that most change ends up from one extreme to another. May your waterfall be refreshing and may the river, from which you came, continue to nurture you.



Blessings,

Donna Mann


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tyranny of the Urgent - Belec

"I just don't have enough hours in a day!"

Thus the familiar woeful moan echoes in my mind once again. So much to do. So little time.
Sometimes I look at my fellow prolific writers and I wonder how they do it. I try not to, but when I read and hear about their list of accomplishments, envy rears its ugly head. The pity party commences.

Thank goodness, though, God keeps a close thumb on me and He reminds me often how blessed I really am. Today, as I sit waiting (what a waste of time) I notice the brilliant sun shining through the clinic skylights, lighting up the room. Then I think about the Son who lights up my heart. The envy slips away and I begin to count blessings:

1.  I am upright, breathing and my hair has grown back.
2.  I am a wife, a mom, a grandmom, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a cousin and my family still loves me.
3.  God forgave me because I said sorry [and He promises to do it again if needs be]
4.  I teach and I love it.
5.  I write and I love it.
6.  I get paid to teach and to write as a profession and I get to do it out of my own home. And my hours  
     are flexible.
7.  My friends love me - warts and all
8.  I get to attend five book signings in May just because I had a short story published in a Second Cup of
     Hot Apple Cider
9.  98 people wished me Happy Birthday on Facebook. 2 wished me a Belated Happy Birthday (on
     Facebook)
10.  Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour  (How much more blessed can I be?)

Psalm 90:12-17 
Oh, teach us to live well Teach us to live wisely and well! Surprise us with love at daybreak; then we´ll skip and dance all the day long. And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh yes, Affirm the work that we do! AMEN

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Compassion - den Boer

“Get over it,” I would say.

“Suck it up.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

“God will make it better.”

“What’s the worse thing that could happen? You die and go to heaven—doesn’t sound like a bad plan.”

Compassion—I had very little.

Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy for another’s suffering or misfortune. Jesus had compassion. He healed people and fed people because he had compassion on them. He really cared about people. I wanted to care with that Jesus all-encompassing love that feels another’s pain and can actually help the situation.

So when our study group at church came to the question, “What would you like to leave in this room and not have to deal with again?” I answered, “lack of compassion.”

As a group, we prayed asking the Lord why I lacked compassion. He showed me a brick wall which stood in my way. I was hiding behind the brick wall because I was afraid. I was afraid to be compassionate because God might give me something to do. I feared I would not be able to do whatever it was. Feed the hungry. Care for the sick.

Why couldn’t I do these things? I believed I didn’t have the abilities.

I offered the Lord my fear and reluctance and asked Him what He would give me. He said He would give me gold. The gold could be used as pavement to enter the His kingdom where all things are possible.

I took Him up on the offer. I walked right into His kingdom after I forgave my brothers for helping me believe it was not good to be soft and compassionate.

If you see my eyes water when you tell me your story of hardship or pain, it’s because I have accepted His compassion.

Marian den Boer is the author of Blooming, This Pilgrim's Progressa devotional like none other.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rosing From The Dead - Martin

Paul Willis is an English professor at Westmount College in Santa Barbara, California. Besides writing poetry, he has published essays such as those in his book Bright Shoots of Everlastingness (WordFarm); he also has a novel forthcoming.

A dominant influence on his life and writing has been being a mountaineer. He grew up in Oregon, close to the Cascade Mountains, where he was wholly “summit bound”. He and his brother recklessly sought to climb every peek in their state, and were “very nearly obliterated” doing it. In one attempt to climb Alaska’s Mount McKinley, Paul’s brother lost his hands and feet to frostbite, while Paul was hallucinating — still 800 feet from the top.

Mountaineering has also drawn him towards the work of pioneer naturalist John Muir, and inspired him to pursue ecological issues. The following is the title poem from his most-recent poetry collection.

Rosing from the Dead

We are on our way home
from Good Friday service.
It is dark. It is silent.
“Sunday,” says Hanna,
“Jesus will be rosing
from the dead.”

It must have been like that.
A white blossom, or maybe
a red one, pulsing
from the floor of the tomb, reaching
round the Easter stone
and levering it aside
with pliant thorns.

The soldiers overcome
with the fragrance,
and Mary at sunrise
mistaking the dawn-dewed
Rose of Sharon
for the untameable Gardener.

(Posted with permission of the poet)

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca

This is this week's post from: Kingdom Poets Follow this link to see dozens more, including some of the world's most celebrated poets, as well as some lesser known treasures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

When God Puts You in the Sidecar - Laycock



My husband is a motorcycle enthusiast. So far he hasn’t gone out and bought one, but whenever he sees one he likes on the road he’ll point it out and say, “Nice bike,” then look at me to gauge my reaction. We were sitting at a stoplight not long ago and a shiny motorcycle pulled up beside us. It had a sidecar attached.

“There we go,” Spence said.

I laughed, imagining what it would be like to ride in such a little appendage. “I think I’d rather be on the bike with you,” I said, “or better yet, on one of my own.” Sidecars are for kids, I thought. You don’t have any control in a sidecar; you just have to hang on and try to enjoy the ride.

It seems God has put me in a sidecar for a time. I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and suddenly my life is not mine to control. Doctors are telling me what will happen, when and where I will go. I don’t really want to experience any of what they’re telling me I will go through. But I have no choice. All I can do is hang on and find ways to cope with the ride.

In the book of John, Jesus tells the apostle Peter about a time when the same thing would happen to him. “I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18-19)

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead for me. I’m hopeful that this cancer can be eradicated and I’ll go on with my life. I’m praying my time in the sidecar will be short. But perhaps God has another plan. In the meantime, I take encouragement from those few words, “by which Peter would glorify God.” What happened to him was not in vain. It had a purpose. The events of our lives all have purpose and are meant to bring glory to God. We have agency in that, by his grace and mercy, and that fruit will be a blessing not just to others but to us as we journey down that road.

I’m spurred on too, by the next words Jesus spoke. “Follow me!” That’s a path Peter tried hard to take, one that changed him into a man of God, a leader of men. It’s a path that leads to “a spacious place,” (Ps. 18:19), where God’s presence is evident, to the joy that comes in understanding God’s undying love and the peace that makes us lean into the wind and relish every moment on this earth – even moments in the sidecar.

“but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:18-19).


Marcia's devotionals have been widely published and endorsed by Mark Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Sigmund Brouwer. Visit her website - www.vinemarc.com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April: deathdays, birthdays - Nesdoly

An April cake for my eight-year-old. © V. Nesdoly
April 14, 2011

Spring. Pink blossoms
pile in boulevard drifts
float in rain rivers along gutters.
In the kitchen a cake
decorated with pastel eggs
and twenty-eight candles...
If, that April, twenty-nine years ago
I had been able to stop the cramps
the doctor to staunch the bleeding
the Doptone to hear
from its cold spot
on my burgeoning belly
a flutter of life
I wouldn't have sobbed
through Easter empty-wombed
but we also wouldn't be lighting
these candles today.

© 2011 by V. Nesdoly

******************

April is a month of many family birthdays. My Dad and Mom were born in April. So were four nieces, a sister-in-law, and my daughter.

I was thinking of my daughter's birthday (which happens to be today) and remembering her actual birth day the other day. Then, for some reason, my thoughts went back even farther to the year before that when I was in hospital, having a miscarriage in April. Pondering the juxtaposition of these two events made me see in a new way how painful and joyful things in our lives often dovetail. It's a bit like Good Friday and Easter.

On the road ahead may you find your deathdays also morph into birthdays as you experience the implications of Christendom's saddest event that changed into its most joyous victory.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Satan's a Goner - Arends

My most recent CT column has gone online -- I'd love to know how it hits you.

Satan's a Goner
A lesson from a headless snake.
As a kid, I loved Mission Sundays, when missionaries on furlough brought special reports in place of a sermon. Sometimes they wore exotic, foreign clothing; they almost always showed a tray of slides documenting their adventures. If they were from a dangerous enough land, the youth in our congregation would emerge from our Sunday stupor and listen intently.
There is one visit I've never forgotten. The missionaries were a married couple stationed in what appeared to be a particularly steamy jungle. I'm sure they gave a full report on churches planted or commitments made or translations begun. I don't remember much of that. What has always stayed with me is the story they shared about a snake.
One day, they told us, an enormous snake—much longer than a man—slithered its way right through their front door and into the kitchen of their simple home. Terrified, they ran outside and searched frantically for a local who might know what to do. A machete-wielding neighbor came to the rescue, calmly marching into their house and decapitating the snake with one clean chop.
The neighbor reemerged triumphant and assured the missionaries that the reptile had been defeated. But there was a catch, he warned: It was going to take a while for the snake to realize it was dead.
A snake's neurology and blood flow are such that it can take considerable time for it to stop moving even after decapitation. For the next several hours, the missionaries were forced to wait outside while the snake thrashed about, smashing furniture and flailing against walls and windows, wreaking havoc until its body finally understood that it no longer had a head.
Sweating in the heat, they had felt frustrated and a little sickened but also grateful that the snake's rampage wouldn't last forever. And at some point in their waiting, they told us, they had a mutual epiphany.
I leaned in with the rest of the congregation, queasy and fascinated. "Do you see it?" asked the husband. "Satan is a lot like that big old snake. He's already been defeated. He just doesn't know it yet. In the meantime, he's going to do some damage. But never forget that he's a goner."
The story captured our imaginations then because it was graphic and gory—a stark contrast to the normally genteel sermonizing we were used to receiving. But the story haunts me because I have come to believe it is an accurate picture of the universe. We are in the thrashing time, a season characterized by our pervasive capacity to do violence to each other and ourselves. The temptation is to despair. We have to remember, though, that it won't last forever. Jesus has already crushed the serpent's head.
Recently I heard a message from theologian Gary Deddo that got me thinking about that snake. Deddo challenges the tendency many of us have to be dualists—imagining God and Satan as equal foes deadlocked in mortal combat. To be certain, Deddo acknowledges, there is an immeasurable amount of evil in our world. But compared with God's love and power, all the evil in the universe doesn't cover the head of a pin. Love wins. Satan doesn't stand a chance.
Thus, though we wrestle with the brokenness that plagues the world, and ourselves, we do so not with grim resignation but with hopeful defiance. We face both our addictions and afflictions not with a faint, white-knuckled hope that someday we will be healed, but rather with an assurance that we are living slowly but surely into the healing already obtained on the Cross. There is still a waiting. In some cases the healing may not come in fullness until we are face-to-face with our Victor—but come it will. Guaranteed.
I've been trying to figure out what all of this means with respect to the way we deal with evil and injustice in our world. In linear, human time, perhaps the safest thing to do is batten down the hatches and wait somewhere secure till the thrashing is over. But one of the mysteries of living in God's time rather than our own is that, although the end of the story has already been determined, somehow he is still using us to write it. Because Jesus lives in us through his Spirit, we are called not just to anticipate the overcoming but also to be part of bringing it to fruition.
And so we are called to fight poverty, oppression, greed, and malice—in the world and in our own spirits. We are invited to live in light of the reality that greater by far is the living God who is within us than the dead snake thrashing about in this world.
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.



www.carolynarends.com
www.feedthelake.com

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Not Whining But Thankful - Derksen



Spring has sprung, to quote a long oft quoted poet, and my heart sings in anticipation of how God will reveal Himself this summer. Oh I know He lives when I see the green haze of new growth on farmer's fields. He makes each day a new day for us to pick up where we left off the day before or...begin anew...whatever is needed so we can walk as His Holy children.

At a recent weekend event, we were challenged to go seven entire days without complaining. Have you ever tried to last through one whole day, never mind seven, with no whining, no complaining? This is hard. We are perpetual complainers, aren't we?

We whine when we have a pain in our leg, forgetting to thank God that we have a leg to complain about. We whine that our hot lunch is cold when so many people in the world are lucky to get lunch at all. Our complaints extend to how tired we are after a productive day of writing when we should be thankful that the words flowed so well.

The Bible asks us in many places to encourage one another with our words but instead we complain that our glasses are scratched or our shoes have a hole in them. I don't know about you but someone who spends their time expressing the misery in their life, but nothing else, soon loses my attention.  I listen for the words that say they are content with their lot in life, thankful that they have glasses or shoes, but...they complain that their oatmeal was cold that morning.

I recently read a story to my grandchildren about a family of rabbits who lived through Jesus' death and resurrection. Not once did Jesus complain about the way he was treated. Not one word of whining was heard as the soldiers lashed Him with that cat of nine tails. When they demanded He be crucified, He never objected. When they pounded those rusty nails through His innocent hands, He asked His Father to forgive them.

I don't know about you but Jesus is my example for gracious living, for enjoying the benefits of getting up in the morning and looking out my window to the absence of snow. He sets the tone for how I will receive my neighbour who only wants to talk when I have a writing deadline to meet. His example makes seven days of no whining possible.

I challenge you. Try not whining...and you will be surprised how often you do...for seven whole days. If you catch yourself, you start again at day 1. Pretty soon you will discover that you've got a glass that's half full instead of half empty. You will find that your day shines brighter and that love fills your heart more often than hate or discontent. Have a great day, for the next seven days' and then seven days after that. Not whining but thankful.


Barbara Ann Derksen is about to release Fear No, the third in a murder mystery series,t and Chaps, Devotions about God's Armor, her fourth devotional. er website is under construction but by the end of May both books will be available for purchase at www.barbaraannderksen.com

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Holiness of Love - Reynolds


(The following meditation is a quotation from my book, Reading the Bible for the Love of God.)

“In our present era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action” (Dag Hammarskj√∂ld).

“What we are all more or less lacking at this moment is a new definition of holiness” (Teilhard de Chardin).

In the Hebrew, the word for “holy” is qadhosh. It comes from a root meaning “to cut, to separate.” In Hebrew understanding, and common to human religions, that which is holy is cut off, separated from common usage for sacred purposes.

In the Christian church we speak of the holy Bible, or the holy sacraments, or holy baptism, and even the holy church. We consecrate a place for worship that is set apart from common use. We divide life into the sacred and the secular, those things that are “holy” and those things that are common. In traditional terms, the road to holiness was found in turning from the world and things of the world, in taking the path of asceticism, of prayer and contemplation. It is perhaps understandable that, amid the corruption of the late Roman Empire, the early church believed that to achieve holiness it was necessary to cut one’s self off from the world, to go to the desert to seek perfection in a life of prayer, or to live with a small group of like-minded people a life of rigorous spiritual discipline.

This is the way the monastic movement began, and some traditions of the Christian church still divide their priesthood into “the secular” who serve the church in parishes (in the world), and “the religious” or “the perfect” who withdraw from the world to a life of contemplation and prayer, a life of holiness.

The Protestant Reformation, with its return to the Scriptures, brought a different understanding. The call of God to holiness did not mean withdrawal from the world, but serving God in the world. There were no Protestant monasteries. Much of the ornamentation used to denote the holiness of God was cast off—images and art works in churches, elaborate vestments for the clergy, incense and esoteric practices in the liturgy. The altar, symbolizing the presence of God, was moved from the chancel (from which the people were separated by a wall or a fence) to become the communion table, symbolizing the presence of God in the midst of the people. The elements for the communion service were to be the bread and drink of their common life, and the people were to receive both.

We seem to have two understandings of holiness. The first might be called “the holiness of the Law,” attained by means of separation from all that is unclean (a cutting off, as in the Hebrew word quadhosh). It means following the guidelines, the customs, the laws that set people apart, separating them from that which is sinful and unclean. It is a righteousness that we might conceivably approximate. By keeping the commandments, even proximately, I can pat myself on the back. “God, I thank you that I am not like other people” (Luke 18:9–14.) But this kind of holiness can maintain itself only by its very rigidity, and so lacks the qualities of mercy, forgiveness, and grace, which Nicholas Berdyaev called “the morality beyond morality,” the necessary corollary of love.

In Jesus Christ we see a second and different kind of holiness. In the New Testament, the understanding of holiness is a holiness of love—not a separation from but an involvement in, not a drawing back from sinners and sinful situations because my purity might be sullied, but a “going into all the world” and being involved in the business of living, in commerce and labor and politics.

The holiness of love can be fulfilled only in relationship with God and others. It is a holiness of right relationships, for love is necessarily a relationship. We cannot be righteous in ourselves, no matter how many things we do or do not do. This holiness is dependent upon our relations with others, upon justice and mercy. It is a higher holiness, a righteousness that “exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees”—not self-righteousness, but righteousness of relationships.

This is the holiness we see in the life and ministry of Jesus, who was derided as a “friend of publicans and sinners” and denounced as a glutton and a drunkard. He spoke harsh words to those who tried so hard to prove themselves righteous but in their legalism neglected justice and mercy. They would tithe the tiny seeds of herbs, one in ten for God, but they would not help the man who fell among thieves as he lay groaning in the ditch—because such contact might render them impure.

This is the kind of holiness we see in the incarnation, the holiness of God. Too long have we thought of God up in heaven, a God whose holiness must be satisfied if we are ever to be acceptable in his sight. Because God is holy, he cannot get involved in the dirty, sinful things of this world.

But the Bible tells us that “God so loved the world” (John 3:16) that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). In fact, the very heart of the gospel is that God does get involved:

Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. (Philippians 2:5–8, Phillips translation)

Dag Hammarskj√∂ld, a Swedish statesman who became Secretary General of the United Nations, died in 1961 in a plane crash in the Congo on a mission of peace. He left behind a diary revealing the pilgrimage of a deeply religious man. One of his statements is almost shocking in its simplicity—“In our present era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.”

The call to life in the Spirit of Jesus Christ cannot be a call to leave the world or any part of the world in a self-seeking quest for holiness. Christian holiness is a call to get involved in the world that God loves—that scarred, sinning, corrupt, hurting world that in its anxiety and self-concern has turned from God. It is a call to action, to get involved, and to take risks. It is a call to go into those places where there is hurt and confusion, where there may be immorality and injustice. In the words of George MacLeod of
Iona:

I simply argue that the Cross be raised again at the centre of the market place as well as on the steeple of the Church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a Cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves, on the town garbage heap, on a crossroads so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew, Latin and Greek . . .; at the kind of place where cynics talked smut, and thieves cursed, and soldiers gambled. Because that is where He died and that is what He died about, that is where Church people should be and what Church people should be about.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

New Vision - Austin

I had everything ready for this post before the phone call. I'd even saved the draft copy on the blogsite. Vi was a special family friend. With her husband, a crusty old many with a heart of gold, she babysat our girls when they were small. More than babysat, she loved them.


Vi delighted in dancing as a younger woman. But she has walked with difficulty and pain all the years I have known her. I wonder if she's dancing now?


I cried a bit this afternoon, rather glad for a load of firewood that needed stacking -- something to occupy me while my mind savoured special memories. I hope I can share a tribute at her funeral, or better yet, have one of my daughters share a tribute.


Vi never accomplished the things our world labels as greatness. A stay-at-home wife and mother, she fostored more than 100 children. She called them her kids. They called her "Mom." It's a little word, but it speaks volumes. We came on the scene in later years, but she still had measureless love to give to young children. She never accomplised the things our world thinks are great, but is there a better investment anywhere, than in loving children? I can't measure her impact on our family, and I've met only a few of the children she fostered. But I have a hunch there is a lineup in heaven, waiting to welcome her, thanking her, celebrating a life that has earned God's applause.


Vi needed a Giant Print Bible years ago, but found the bulk and weight almost too much to handle. She delighted in pictures of our grandchildren, although we never know how much she could actually see. I wonder what she sees today?


... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...


Yellow crocuses will be blooming any day in our flower beds, although the snow has not yet given up. Daffodils will follow them very shortly. I can turn from this computer screen and watch birds in a pair of blue-spruce that now reach 30 feet high, though I carried them home in small pots and planted them many years ago. A pair of robins nest in one of those trees most years. A soft maple spreads branches with buds just beginning to swell. Pale blue seeps through the thin cloud cover. Jet contrails often etch that sky, although none show at the moment. In the past week I have seen and hugged every one of my grandchildren, one of them still scabbed from a recent bout with chicken-pox. Vision -- eyesight -- do any of us grasp the wonder, the blessing?





Years of progressive vision loss force the imagination to try to wrestle with the possibilities of blindness -- try to prepare emotionally. But I have too much vision still to enter fully into the mind of the blind. Recent improvements have given hope. So what insights can I bring to the story of someone like Bartimeous of biblical note?



When the prospect of pending blindness has been pushed back -- not fully removed, but somehow bathed in light and coloured with hope, maybe that's a good time to wrestle with Bartimeous' story. This is a poem I've worked at off and on for years. When hope began to rise a bit stronger, I was finally able to bring something new to it.



How does someone born blind even imagine the colours of a rainbow? How many times have most of us looked, marveled a little bit, but gone on as if it was less than a true wonder?



Can you imagine a life of blindness -- interrupted by the first sight ever -- the face of Jesus? I wonder if our first glimpse of eternity will be something like that?




Bartimeous




Blindness -- they call it a curse.

But they don't hear a bird's song like I do.

They scarcely know the whisper of wind in the treetops;

the soft kiss of a summer shower.



Ah, there is much in their world that I cannot see.

Yet they, with eyes wide open rush blindly through.



Blindness -- they call it a curse.

Much I've missed. Much they take for granted.

I've never gazed on an infant's face,

never seen the veins in a fallen leaf,

the blush of a flower.

But can they plumb the depths of the smell of an orange blossom?

Can they number the nestlings from the chirps

where that sparrow nests -- just over there?



I hear the whisper of a falling leaf.

I know the footfall of each who makes this village their home.



Blindness -- they call it a curse -- God's judgment.

But is God so petty?

He gave other senses, more alive than any around me.

Were this His curse would He have so blessed in other ways?



Many the ills He's been blamed for.

Those who too often tip the bottle or roll the dice

rage at God when hunger draws cries from their little ones.

Are they, who rob the very children God has blessed them with

less cursed than me?



Blindness -- they call it a curse.

It leaves a man almost helpless in this world;

begging a crust

that these stumbling feet should find their dark pathway for one more day.



But -- there is a teacher, a wonder-worker some say.

Impossible, the things He's done.

Lepers clean? Cripples walking?

Dare I believe it so?



Even -- hard to imagine -- Nay, I will not speak it.

What kind of world to we live in, if the dead get up and walk?

What world when cripples dance and deaf men hear?

When the dumb speak?



What kind of world do we live in

when the leper is made fresh and clean as a child?

What can even a blind beggar depend on

if the graves give up their dead?



The priest who "blesses" me each morning with a kick,

reminding me of God's "righteous judgment,"

has no use for such a world.

He scorns this healer; scorns to share alms with me,

yet willingly shares his hatred.



His world I understand.

His the message of all my years.

But this healer? Who is He?

Dare I hope for His touch?



A crowd approaches.

I hear the noise, smell the dust.

And. . .

I hear the Name.

His -- Name.



From the shadows I've cried all my years,

begged a few coins while avoiding tramping feet.

But today let me come before Him.

For that I'll dare anything.



What will it mean?

What are the colours of a rainbow?



He calls?

Truly?

For me?



Knees in the dirt? For once if feels. . . right.



"Lord,

that I might receive my sight."



Copyright Brian C. Austin

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Fan of Twitter - Meyer

So… my next foray into the great unexplored vistas of social media is… Twitter.

Now, the trick with this form of communication is to keep it short – very short! 140 characters – including spaces!

Those of you who know me even a little, will know how difficult this is! Even at book-signings, I can never just sign my name on the inside cover. I want to write something personal, something meaningful, something memorable. Come to think of it, the number of characters that I typically add to my signature would likely top the 140 count!

Another thing that is a real challenge for me is the Internet language, acronyms and symbols. Some of this is simply a lack of familiarity. AKA, ASAP and FAQ have been around for quite a while. Christians have used PTL (praise the Lord) and writers POV (point of view) for decades. I’m getting used to LOL, FYI and BFF. Acronyms like B4 and L8R, I can figure out okay. But WIBAMU (Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!) or ne14kfc (anyone for KFC?) leave me ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing)!

This is likely also why I can’t seem to get a handle on texting. I don’t want to just send a link to an event and then write, “r u goin” but instead write something like, “Hi Jan. I heard about this event that you might be interested in attending. I’m going to be in town on that date. Maybe we could meet for coffee first…” Right about that time, my thumbs are starting to get muscle cramp!

Anyway, back to Twitter. For those of you who haven’t signed up yet, it’s easy. Just go to http://www.twitter.com/. Pick a user name that no one else has already chosen (one of the few occasions when I am thankful for the unusual spelling of my name: Dorene). Then you search for interests and/or friends to “follow.” This means that you can read their tweets when they post them. It’s different than Facebook because they don’t have to accept you as a friend and there doesn’t seem to be a limit on “followers” as there is on “friends” (you can’t be a “friend” to Jerry Jenkins, for example, but you can be a “follower” of Steven Harper).

I was able to find (and ultimately follow) some fellow authors: Sheila Wray Gregoire, Grace Fox and N. J. Lindquist; my favorite radio show: The Drew Marshall Show; McNally Robinson Booksellers; Christian Week newspaper; and the aforementioned, Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper.

Social media is making it possible for us to connect in ways that we never could have before. I recently chatted with someone on Facebook who was from India! It’s so awesome to meet people from the other side of the globe – brothers and sisters whom we might not otherwise have met until we got to heaven! I hope to twitter and tweet with some of you soon! My user name is DoreneMeyer and there’s only one of me so I'm easy to find!

TNT (Till next time),

Dorene Meyer http://www.dorenemeyer.com/ Author of Lewis, Jasmine, The Little Ones and Deep Waters
Now in book stores across Canada Distributed by Word Alive Press http://www.wordalivepress.ca/. Available online and as ebook on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/ (key in title of book and publisher: Word Alive Press).

Please join us for the Manitoba Launch of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider: http://www.mcnallyrobinson.com/event-10330/Dorene-Meyer

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival - Boge


Have you ever been to a film festival?

Last year I had the privilege of attending Sundance where God put in on my heart:

“What if we had a festival in Winnipeg?”

And so a year ago our church started planning a film festival. We called it (not that the title of the article gives it away) the Winnipeg Real to Reel Film Festival and I was super curious what would happen. We had way more entries than I expected.

But were in for plenty more surprises.

A week before the festival began I got an email from one of the producers of one of the films saying that the actress who is the lead in the film in the festival just happens to be in Winnipeg shooting a movie the same weekend as the festival and could she come to the festival?

I was truly speechless. Not that you normally speak in response to an email, still all the same I was blown away.

My nieces just happened to be paying their dad a visit at the office and so they were the first to hear the news:

“Hey Guys! You know Kim Rhodes who plays the mom on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody?”

They nod.

“Well, she’s going to be at the festival next week!”

Insert image of two pre-teen girls with their mouths completely open and their eyes wide.

It’s not every day that Winnipeg gets a Disney star to come to a festival.

Kim Rhodes is simply incredible. Talented, fun, down to earth. So down to earth that she asked if she could bring her director, producer and fellow actors to the festival.

Still speechless. Yes, she asked in email form, but I was still speechless.

And so they came. All of them. Including Robert Picardo - the Doctor from Star Trek. To our festival. Which I had hoped would draw a crowd of 500. In the end we had a gate attendance of approximately 1,500.

Five loaves and two small fish.

Kids were lined up down the entire foyer to greet Kim. She signed autographs for every single kid.

But for me, one of the best moments, was after all the excitement was done and every, yes every, single kid got a picture and an autograph, a physically handicapped girl from our congregation approached Kim with her mother.

And when Kim turned around to see her I saw what I think was one of the most compassionate examples of love I have ever seen.

Kim greeted her. Smiled. Talked with her. Signed her autograph. Took a picture with her and then spoke some more with her.

This of course on Kim’s day off from shooting a Universal feature film.

I could go on for hours about the festival. Like about the movie “Billy” which is beyond brilliant as were the other films at the festival. But suffice it to say that we were beyond honored that Hollywood came to our festival.

Thanks Kim. You’re excellent.

And as a brief reminder for us all, when you hear God calling – just go for it.

You never know the great things he has in store for those who trust him.

Paul H. Boge

P.S. If you haven’t guessed, that’s Kim in the picture above.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Awards and Rewards by Ruth Smith Meyer


Everyone likes awards. My children must have taken after me, for although they loved sports and physical activities, they didn’t excel enough to capture any awards or anything near to it. It wasn’t for lack of trying.


Our son was born with a curved spine that cut off the strength and feeling when he put his weight on his left foot. We sought attention when he was small but were told we were over-protective parents and he would grow out of it. By the time his real problem was discovered at eleven or twelve, it had seriously affected his coordination. When his school class was given skating lessons one winter, he was far behind in every lap across the rink because he was restricted to pumping with one leg only. Instead of giving up, he asked me to make a slow-moving vehicle sign to hang on his back. He had others laughing with him instead of at him.

I always remember one of my daughters who set cross-country running as a goal for herself. She practiced faithfully in her attempts to prepare herself for the big race. I was there to cheer for her as she crossed the line in something like 45th place. I readied myself to console her and praise her for trying. I couldn’t have been more proud of her when she came panting to me, excitement and satisfaction in her tone, saying, “Mom that’s a lot better than I did last time!” Even though neither had received an award, they both obtained rewards.

When we design our resume or bio, we note our educational degrees, our accomplishments and awards in an attempt to prove our competence and that we are worthy of what we seek. It’s nice, as writers, to be recognized for our writing. We often hear how much it helps to sell books if we have one of those Award Winning stickers to put on the covers of our books. If we want to continue writing, those can be helpful, for it is necessary to sell books, especially if we want to earn our bread and butter that way.

That’s the way it is with awards.

Rewards perhaps share some of the same qualities, but there is a depth to rewards that go so much further than awards. As writers who are Christian, we are humbled and deeply thankful when we are used in helping others to find their way in life’s tests or to find God faithful in trials.

To hear that someone remembers a line or an experience about which you wrote and that it has changed their outlook or helped in challenges they face, isn’t something you can put in a resume or bio, but it is certainly rewarding. To know that your writing has changed a person from grumbling at their lot in life to being thankful for their blessings doesn’t sell a dozen books but it is a real bonus. To be told that a book has helped someone find their Rock in Jesus Christ, maybe doesn’t bring in the dollars, but is infinitely rewarding.

Just recently, when I was facing a personal challenge, someone quoted a line from one of my own books to encourage me! I had to smile, even while I took it to heart. It really did give clarity to my situation!

This week I received an email from a person who read an article I had published last spring. It had touched a heart long after I had expected to get any feedback, and I felt again, a sense of calling to share my stories—even those that make me vulnerable and are a little difficult to share—so that someone else can be comforted and encouraged. I felt rewarded and challenged at the same time.

Maybe that is the difference in rewards—they confirm our calling and urge us on in our ministry. “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn,” says Romans 11:29 NLT or as the Message puts it, “God's gifts and God's call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.”

So write on!

Cambridge philosopher sees shift toward the idea that values are real - Denyse O'Leary

"Philosophers are finding fresh meanings in truth, beauty and goodness", John Cottingham tells us (The Times, June 17, 2006):
ARE VALUES (for example moral values) grounded in something real and objective or are they just a way of talking about whatever we may personally happen to approve of? There has been a remarkable shift in philosophical views about this since I was an undergraduate. Back in the Sixties, when we were all still under the shadow of logical positivism, moral beliefs (“value judgments”, as we often pejoratively called them) were dismissed as subjective — mere expressions of emotion, mere grunts of approval or disapproval. Notions such as goodness were no more than pseudo-properties, masking our personal desires and preferences. Later on, with the rise of postmodernism, even truth became suspect, and was downgraded to no more than an honorific label that a given culture bestows on its favoured assertions.

But it is very striking how the popularity of these subjectivist creeds has faded in more recent times. Relativistic views of truth turned out to be self- defeating; while in ethics, subjectivism ran into a host of logical difficulties and is now on the wane, eclipsed by a growing number of neo-objectivist theories. To everyone’s surprise, the increasing consensus among philosophers today is that some kind of objectivism of truth and of value is correct.
Let me offer a reflection, based on a true incident, on the - as Cottingham thinks, fading - notion that right and wrong are mere preferences, and truth is merely propaganda. Let's see it tested:

Friday, April 01, 2011

Go Forward on Your Knees - Rose McCormick Brandon

“The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available – dynamic in its working.” James 5:16 (The Amplified Bible)

Missionaries Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth arrived in China in March 1888. Their assignment to open a new field in the northern section of Honan province was a daunting one. The young couple struggled to learn the language, adjust to the climate and raise a large family in less than desirable surroundings. They met many discouraging challenges, including the death of a child. One day a letter arrived from Hudson Taylor, then a pioneer with China Inland Missions.

He wrote: “We understand North Honan is to be your field; we, as a mission, have tried for ten years to enter that province from the south, and have only just succeeded. It is one of the most anti-foreign provinces in China . . . Brother, if you would enter that province, you must go forward on your knees.”

The Goforths took Taylor’s advice. They prayed with persistence and gained many prayer supporters back home in Canada. In time, they mastered the language. People began responding to the gospel. A female convert showed outstanding gifts for learning and teaching the scriptures. She became Rosalind Goforth’s assistant Bible teacher for women. Years later in How I Know God Answers Prayer, Rosalind wrote of miracles of revival, guidance, healing and comfort. Through the Boxer Rebellion and many other life threatening events, the Goforths proceeded on their knees.

Prayer packs a punch. It sends tremors down the enemy’s spine. It puts courage in the weak-kneed and takes the whine and worry out of life. It resurrects the fallen and revives the discouraged. Only God can open impenetrable doors. Only He can give us courage to face impossible situations. His ear is always tilted toward earth, ready to hear our petitions.

For years, family members fasted and prayed for my father’s salvation but his resistance to the gospel was strong. When he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s we thought his was an impossible situation. We didn’t know that God planned to use the illness to weaken Dad’s opposition. He became childlike and passive. A year and a half before his death he confessed his faith in Jesus. God clears our paths of obstacles in unexpected ways when we press forward on our knees.

Go forward on your knees is good advice, not just for missionaries on foreign fields but for ordinary people like you and me.

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