Sunday, November 17, 2019

Looking for JOY in All the Wrong Places by SUSAN HARRIS

 The pursuit of joy has dominated the headlines in recent years. Books, television shows,  blogs, and speakers have claimed passage on the train of joy, with lucrative rewards and unending buzz. Woeful closets of clothing and garages full of d├ęcor and whatnots abound in the elusive attempt to capture joy by de-cluttering. Struggling to capture what money can’t buy. Using the wrong methods, looking in the wrong places.

For true joy has already been paid for; it finds its roots at the Cross. The Scripture tells us that joy is the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit who came after Christ ascended to Heaven works in us to produce the character of God, of which joy is one such characteristic. 

Galatians 5:22-23 points us to the origin of joy - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (NASB, caps added).

Joy is God’s divine nature and character. In Genesis God spoke and viola, joy appeared in tangible abundance – singing birds, frisking animals, babbling brooks, fluttering leaves, blooming flowers, shining sun! 

Could it be that instead of stuffy closets the expression of nature is where we find joy? 

With God’s spirit in us we radiate joy. We become contented with little. 
The Oxford dictionary defines greed as “Intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” In Luke 12:15 Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 

1 Corinthians 6:10 endorses that thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. Could it be that the sin of greed confronting us wear down our souls and de-cluttering is an attempt to remove that sin? (Although truly sin can only be removed through repentance - an acknowledgement of sin and turning around from the behavior.)

The need to hoard and cram our spaces runs deeper than most like to admit, and unless a light is shone in those dark spaces, television shows, books, blogs and speakers will be futile. People may show us how to keep house better, how to organize, how to apply common sense to daily living, but they cannot claim joy because they do not own joy. 

Joy does not originate in writers of books and producers of TV programs.  They cannot spark joy because joy is not theirs to spark. Only the originator of joy can spark it and light it aflame in your life.

Joy and happiness are often mixed up terms. The root word of happy is “hap”, which means “chance”. This leads me to believe that  happiness is a temporary (chance) state. 

Happiness is also an emotion. Ecclesiastes 3:4 identifies that there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” The words “a time” suggests specific periods rather than permanence, or an emotional state all the time. 

Joy on the other hand can be achieved alongside the downs of life, for the Holy Spirit is with us at all times to produce it. While God wants us to experience happy times His greater desire is that we have unconditional joy. Jesus said His joy would be filled in us and remain in us. We will overflow. (John 15:11).

How can we be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit? Acts 2:38 gives the solution:  “‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ ” 
De-cluttering and downsizing are practical methods of organizing, providing opportunity to give away the things one has in excess to those in need.
But to say it sparks joy or lights a joy-fire is pathetic. 

It feels good to help others. It feels great to have a neat place to live in (especially  for social media pictures). But it does not produce joy. It may produce happiness, yes, but it cannot produce joy.

The Bible commands us to live joyfully.  Philippians 4:4 mandates: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”


Jesus is the source of our joy. He was born both divine and human, died, and was buried. He rose alive having taken our sins in exchange for His life.

If you would like to invite Jesus into your life, this prayer sincerely spoken will do it: Dear Jesus, I have sinned and I need your forgiveness. I invite you to be my Saviour and Lord. Make me the kind of person you want me to be. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and for giving me eternal life. Amen. 

I encourage you to join a Bible-believing group where the Holy Spirit is taught and grow into your new life in God. Find joy in the right place. 



Susan Harris is the author of several books and host of ETERNITY on Access7 television. Her passion is to lead people to Jesus so they can live with God the Father in Eternity. 

Her newest book Touched By Eternity: A True Story of Heaven, Healing, and Angels is available anywhere books are sold. 
ISBN:978-0-9949869-4-8 (pbk)
ISBN:978-0-9949869- 6-2 (ebook
 www.susanharris.ca

Monday, November 11, 2019

Snow! What fun!

Raking leaves ...



then later the snow


I was already outdoors cleaning snow off our car when our grandson arrived with his mom. His eyes were bright with excitment seeing all that snow on the ground and watching more coming down. He slipped on the driveway and fell down a couple of times as he made his way up, for it was already slippery underfoot. He cried a little because it hurt, but a hug from his mom and the tears were soon gone.

When one is two and a half, one does not necessarily remember the winter before. He’d helped his dad rake leaves days before, as only a toddler can do, and now there was this white stuff. Heaps of it. He scurried off to the side of the house and chose a shovel. Nolan is tall for his age, and the shovel was meant for an adult, but it did not matter. He proceeded to do his version of snow clearing.

Bundled up in warm winter coat, hat, boots and a neck warmer, he started pushing snow around. I would have loved to get a video of him eagerly pushing and pulling shovelfuls of snow from one side of the driveway to the other, around the car, across the grass, but you’ll have to imagine the scene. It was play and he was loving it.

When I cleaned the car off a little more, he said, “Gamma, shovel.” Meaning, I want you to do it too. And so I joined him in making his rabbit trails around the driveway. At one point, he’d had enough and declared he was ready to go in. “Snack,” he said. It was clear that all the energy he’d used meant a refuel was needed.

After awhile indoors and watching a short cartoon, I said, “Time to go for a walk.” I told him my friend lives far away and we’d put a card in the mailbox for her. At first he didn’t want to go, but then neither did he want to be left behind, even with his Papa, so he decided to come out again.

We had our trek down the street to mail the card. I lifted him up so he could deposit the envelope in the big red box. Then on the way home, he found a stick that he trailed along in the snow. We saw rabbit tracks in the snow and maybe tracks of a dog being walked. Then we shovelled again.

I marvelled at my grandson’s exuberance, and his love of this new weather. When I mentioned snowballs, he was eager to try it out, even if it was just a tiny ball. To him, there was nothing scary about handling a big shovel and trying to dump the snow he’d collected, although he was quite tired by nap time.

We never did get the whole driveway cleared, and if our neighbour had looked out his front window, he would have seen a toddler making a single path past his house and enjoying the task.

We, as adults, may be weighed down by many cares, but, oh, how fun to see a new experience through a toddler’s eyes. May we, too, approach our days with such enthusiasm.

Saturday, November 09, 2019

‘POW’ Tom Gains His Freedom

True Story: WWII had ended. And yet . . . for about thirty years afterwards Tom, haunted by the ugly scenes that he’d witnessed when engaged in the theatre of war, agonized deeplytortured especially by the fact that he’d killed fellow human beings. He eventually sank into the dark dungeon of depression and despair. 

One day in the mid-1970s, while alone in his house, he took his shotgun and, in a suicide attempt, blew off a large portion of his face. Amazingly, help reached him in time, and he survived. 
I don't have Tom's photo.
Pictured here is my late father-in-law.
Following the Normandy Invasion he 
was assigned to the British Liberation
Army, and was the only one of four 
school buddies to return home alive. 
He didn't like to talk about it.
 

After much reconstructive surgery, including the fashioning of a new jawbone from another bone and graft tissue from elsewhere in his body, Tom was on the road to physical recovery. Yet the emotional wounds persistently pained him. Until . . . 
Until the psychological and spiritual prisons that led to his committing that desperate act were broken open and demolished. 
A neighbour of Tom’sa pastor friend of minevisited with him and gently encouraged him during his long journey towards physical recovery, sharing faith and hope in the love of Jesus. Other Christian folk also came by. Tom, like a prisoner of war and hungry for relief was finally heart-ready to be set free from the shackles that held him bound; ready to find the peace that had eluded him all those years.
Tom opened up his life to God and received Jesus Christ as his Saviour. He experienced a palpable sense of forgiveness and release, peace and wholeness. It was for real! Hungry for more of this grace, he and his wife began attending a supportive Christian fellowship. 

I shared many a conversation with Tom, for I also became his neighbour, during his continuing journey of healing and faith.
Quite some years ago I wrote about Tom, and suggested that until He received the healing presence of Jesus into his life he’d remained, in effect, a 'POW' prisoner of war, although the war had long before been fought and won.
Many people live like POWs, even though, through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ won our war against the forces of evil and the sinful nature that are at enmity against the goodness, grace and will of God. 
Do you remain imprisoned within yourselfbound up in chains of sorrow, anger, unforgiveness, guilt, unfounded fear and wounded pride, and more? Is your heart broken, in a state of perpetual fragmentation, because you’ve been unwilling to let Jesus heal it?
May God grant this year’s Remembrance Day season to be one in which you are released from any prison cells of the soul that have too long held you in spiritual chains. It will be a Remembrance Day season well worth remembering.
A Prayer:
Dear God our Heavenly Father, I thank You for the gift of Your Son, who shed His blood on the ‘battlefield’ of the Cross to secure my pardon. I claim Your forgiveness of all my sins. Cleanse me, renew my spirit and mind, and lead me in Your way everlasting. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
~~+~~
Peter is a retired pastor  well, sort of retired – as he is currently engaged as an associate volunteer pastor. He lives in Southwestern Ontario with his wife, May, and writes a weekly inspirational newspaper column and occasional magazine articles. Peter is author of two books: "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press) and "Raise Your Gaze . . . Mindful Musings of a Grateful Heart" (Angel Hope Publishing). He and May are also engaged in leading nursing home / residential chapel services, pulpit supply and music. ~+~

Thursday, November 07, 2019

What's behind plant worship? "Forgive me, Gourd, for I have sinned..." - Denyse O'Leary

Recent findings show that plants can "think," like animals (not that they are gods, but - as you will see- that won't deter some):

---

In an interview with Suzanne Simard, a forestry prof at the University of British Columbia, science writer Brandon Keim explores the way mother trees, other trees, and a dense network of fungi in forests stay in constant communication. In many ways, it’s strikingly like animal intelligence.



Keim asked her whether she thought plants had a sense of “self”:

Probably the best evidence we have—and keep in mind that scientists have looked at humans and animals a lot longer than plants—is kin recognition between trees and seedlings that are their own kin. Those old trees can tell which seedlings are of their own seed. We don’t completely understand how they do it, but we know there are very sophisticated actions going on between fungi associated with those particular trees. We know these old trees are changing their behavior in ways that give advantages to their own kin. Then the kin responds in sophisticated ways by growing better or having better chemistry. A parent tree will even kill off its own offspring if they’re not in a good place to grow.
Brandon Keim, "Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees" at Nautilus

 That’s more than we expected to learn about trees. But, assuming the research is replicated, it doesn’t quite add up to a sense of self. Recognizing chemical signals (or not), without any conscious awareness, would suffice.

Keim went on to ask, “Can a mother tree choose whether or not to provide care, and then at some level does she know this?”:

 We have done what we call choice experiments, in which we have a mother tree, a kin seedling, and a stranger seedling. The mother tree can choose which one to provide for. We found that she’ll provide for her own kin over something that’s not her kin. Another experiment is where a mother tree is ill and providing resources for strangers versus kin. There’s differentiation there, too. As she’s ill and dying, she provides more for her kin.
We’ve done lots of experiments where we adjust the health of the donor—the mother tree—versus the health of the recipient, the seedling, by altering levels of shade or nitrogen or water. It matters what condition each of them is in; they can perceive each other, and those decisions are made depending on conditions. If we suppress the health of the recipient seedling, the mother tree will provide more resources than if we don’t.
Brandon Keim, "Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees" at Nautilus
Again, research suggests that the world of trees is vastly more complex than we have supposed and Simard is right to see that we neglect it at our peril. But she does not demonstrate that the tree is doing any thinking. Pest insects and deadly bacteria can communicate and change their environment (often the environment is the human body) just as well as plants. But we are less apt to endow them with romantic qualities.

A philosopher like Steve Meyer would say that there is an intelligence beyond nature which did a lot of thinking to make all these complex interactions possible. But that intelligence, assuming you accept its existence, does not reside in the tree or insect.


A recent discovery showed that plants use glutamate neurotransmitters, as mammals do, to shape their environment, emit clouds of warning chemicals, etc. However, the further claims we now hear that plants are conscious or have a sense of purpose, etc., are a product of the human imagination. They are reminiscent of claims decades ago that dolphins speak a human-like language, "Dolphinese." The program did not provide much insight and was harmful to the dolphins.

From time immemorial, we have endowed what we find in nature with our own characteristics. That is called mythology. The people who think that salad is murder or beg plants to forgive their sins are not helping the environment; they are incorporating a mythology into their lives:

Union Theological Seminary (UTS), a progressive-identifying school located in New York City, which is affiliated with nearby Columbia University, tweeted out a picture and message on Tuesday from a chapel meeting where students gathered around various plants as an “offering” to the “beings who sustain us but whose gift we too often fail to honor.” The tweet asked the question, “What do you confess to the plants in your life?”
In subsequent tweets following the initial announcement, the school continued to refer to plants as “beings,” and acknowledged they were “worshiping,” and “speaking directly in repentance.”
Michael Marcavage, "Seminary Students Repent to Plants, ‘Confess’ and ‘Sorrow in Prayer’ to Vegetation in Chapel Ceremony" at Christian News

“Forgive me, Gourd, for I have sinned?” Any relationship between this nonsense and science or stewardship of our environment is, alas, incidental.

What we are learning today is that the ability to exchange information is very widespread among life forms but rational thought is unique to humans. So a fellow human might “forgive” the Union seminarians for forgetting to water the garden; the garden can’t. But decades of accepted claims that the human mind is simply an accidentally overdeveloped animal mind has robbed many of the ability to make such common-sense distinctions.

---

Further reading on plant communications: Scientists: Plants Are NOT Conscious! No, but why do serious plant scientists even need to make that clear? What has happened? Quite simply, the need to see humans as equivalent to animals has now spread to the need to see us as equivalent to plants.

Can plants be as smart as animals? Seeking to thrive and grow, plants communicate extensively, without a mind or a brain

Is salad murder? If we think plants are “equal organisms” with respect to humans, it’s not clear whether salad is or isn’t murder. Or whether murder is even a serious ethical problem.


Researchers: Yes, plants have nervous systems too. Not only that but, like mammals, they use glutamate to speed transmission





Sunday, November 03, 2019

The Simple Act of Prayer by Rose McCormick Brandon

Jesus stood by the tomb. 
He wept. 
Lazarus, his good friend, had been dead for four days. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, and a crowd of mourners waited to see what Jesus would do.
Jesus prayed. "Father, thank you that you have heard me" (John 10:41). Then He did the impossible. He called Lazarus back to life.
Earlier Jesus had taught a simple lesson - when you pray the Father will reward you. Why? Because He hears you pray. Religious teachings often complicate the simple act of prayer. For example, I have a booklet that tells how to pray perfect prayers - each of the nine points it offers begin with the letter "P." The insinuation is if you follow this plan God will answer your prayers.
Jesus taught the simplicity of prayer. We see this in the first few verses of Matthew 6. His teaching boils down to three simple things:
God sees us
God hears us
God answers us
     We don't need the "right" words. We don't need a team of pray-ers. We don't need to be "somebody" in the religious world. We can pray as simply as Jesus did - "Father, I know that you hear me."
Nobody has God's ear more than you do.
Talk to the Father from your heart. He hears you. And nothing is impossible to Him.

Rose McCormick Brandon writes books and articles, teaches Bible studies and writing classes, speaks at churches, libraries, historical societies and museums. Visit her website. Contact her at: rosembrandon@yahoo.ca. Visit her blog on Canada’s British Home Children.


Friday, November 01, 2019

THE INTERRUPTED LIFE X - A GENERATION OF WOUNDED HEALERS by Eleanor Shepherd

            In 2004, I had the opportunity to meet with young adults from seven sub-Saharan African countries who were a part of the African School of Youth Leadership. Most of these young adults had been touched personally by the AIDS epidemic that was sweeping through Africa at the time. 

            I was impressed how these young people, many of whom had become orphans by losing their parents to AIDS were reaching out and helping children in other communities whose parents were sick, and dying or were already orphans also. Onesmus Mutuku was one of them and I was deeply touched when he told me his story.  

            Onesmus was the eldest of the eight children in the family. When his father died in 1994, he was 13 and the youngest child in the family was only a year old. He felt a huge responsibility hoisted on his shoulders by the departure of his father and was greatly relieved when his Uncle Philip offered to help with the education of the children, but knew that it was still going to be a struggle trying to manage for the care and feeding of all the children. Fears loomed that his brothers would feel pressured into a lifestyle of stealing to get what the family needed or his sisters would see no other alternative but to sell their bodies as so many women were doing to try to meet basic needs.  These were the things he wanted to avoid, and felt education was their hope of doing so. 

            Friends and family played a vital role in the survivial of the family, and helped Onesmus to hang on to hope during these dark day. Julius, his friend from school would realize that the family had no food for dinner and would share his meal with Onesmus at school during lunch time. When school closed and Onesmus did not have money to pay the bus fare to get home, Julius would pay it for him. 

            In order to help with the meagre family income, one of Onesmus’ younger brothers was able to get a part time job with a butcher. However, the situation became disastrous when Ben was arrested on a false accusation of mismanagement and placed in a jail cell. Once again Julius came to the rescue and was able to put up the bail in order to get him out. The bail demanded was 20,000 Kenya shillings which works out to about $250 American dollars. There was no way that the family would have been able to pay this.  

            As was often the case with AIDS, the death of the parents was slow and agonizing and
although Onesemus must have known it was coming, he could do litle to prepare. He tells how for the last year before his father died, not only did the children have to miss school to care for ailing parents, they also had to find ways to pay the bills for treatment with no income coming in from working parents.

            Onesmus was so grateful that his Aunt Martha adopted into her care his three younger sisters who desperately needed the example and attention of a female mentor who would help them to find their way as they grew. She moved in and helped them in every way she could. 

            With the help of his church family Onesmus tells how he and his siblings were able to find solace during those difficult years. More than that, they helped the children to get their heads together, as they grew and rethink their destiny and their future. You see, before AIDS interrupted their lives this was a family that Onesmus describes as having a good sense of authentic care, though not driven by material things, as their parents were peasant farmers. He says, “We were happy with what we had and were sure of a bright future together.”

            
Onesmus was able to use his negative experiences redeptively and instead of dwelling on what he lost, he looked outward to see what he could do to make the world a better place, not only for his siblings, but also for many others. As an adult, he has become an encourager as he learned from those who believed in him, when he did not have the stamina to believe in himself. He demonstrates this in practical ways through The Salvation Army Health, Healing and Reconciliation Ministries.

            
Today Onesmus and his wife Catherine are not only raising their own little ones, Claire and Ian. Catherine with encouragement from Onesmus has also assumed a mothering role with the rest of the siblings of the Mutuku family.

Word Guild Award
2011

Word Guild Award
2009
Word Guild Award
2018
Eleanor Shepherd from Pointe Claire, Quebec has more than 100 articles published in Canada, France, the U.S.A., Belgium, Switzerland and New Zealand. Thirty years with The Salvation Army in Canada and France including ministry in Africa, Europe, Haiti and the Caribbean furnished material for her Award winning book, More Questions than Answers, Sharing Faith by Listening as well as her Award winning stories in Hot Apple Cider and Christmas with Hot Apple Cider. She co-authored with her husband Glen the Bible Study book Why? Families. As well as writing, she conducts workshops on listening skills and prayer. Eleanor recently retired from being the pastor of an English speaking congregation in Montreal with The Salvaton Army. She is currently pursuing studies to become a Prayer Companion.

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