Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Dead of Winter and the Spirit's Fire

It's the dead of winter, the coldest time of the year. My back is aching. A pandemic is raging. Nerves are frayed. Patience has collapsed in a heap of ruin. And it's the best time to praise God. Yes, you read that correctly. It's the best time to lay aside our troubles and worries, and praise our Creator. Praising God in good times, for good times, is easy. Praising God in hard times requires more afore thought—more raw determination. Perhaps it's the best measure of our faith.

Stone arch bridge, Perth, ON

The apostle Paul challenges us with this admonition: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, NIV). My Bible breaks the statement above into four separate verses and then tosses "Do not quench the Spirit" into an entirely new paragraph. But in the original Greek, there are no verse numbers, or indented paragraphs. These four statements all flowed together as one.

The Spirit's fire is stoked or quenched by our rejoicing, our prayer and our thanksgiving. None of these responses—our rejoicing, prayer and thanksgiving—should be driven by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our circumstances may vary, but God's love for us is constant.

Paul and Silas perfectly illustrated the presence of God's Spirit in their lives as they prayed and sang hymns after being severely flogged and imprisoned in Philippi. See Acts 16:16-40. Did their physical pain and circumstances inhibit their rejoicing? Apparently not. They refused to quench the Spirit's fire. Instead, they stoked it.

Do not quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19).

Is your fire going out? Can you still find some glowing embers among the ashes? Then take some action. Add some fuel. Throw on a few splinters of rejoicing. Log on some prayer time. Top it all with some heartfelt thanksgiving. In the dead of winter, at the coldest time of year, in defiance of a pandemic, let's build the warmest fire.

David Kitz is the chair of The Word Guild. His most recent book series is Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

In Our Time

  It's cold in our part of the world today, mind you not as cold as Calgary last week at -44, but still colder than we've had for a bit. We've had a lot of mild weather for early January in southwestern Ontario, so perhaps we're not ready for it.

 It seemed appropriate to refresh a post I put up early in our pandemic, because even if we're not exactly sheltering in place, many of us are staying close to home— except for those who have chosen this time to travel again, once the borders opened up again. 

We're getting tired of this world-wide spread of a virus that's changed our lives. I offer this message in hope.

May 2020

In a Sunday message recently, I heard a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien and The Fellowship of the Ring that expresses what many of us are thinking about now as we “shelter in place.”


“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I," said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.”


To be clear, I have not seen the whole Lord of the Ring series. I’ve only read the first Tolkien book, so I can only imagine the trouble they face. Frodo and Gandalf are perplexed about what they ought to do next, just as we are. And perhaps they are also afraid. Already they have faced the unfamiliar and terrifying and now there’s more.


            While heeding best medical and leader’s advice, we wish this would be over, and that we didn’t need to contemplate further news of the Covid-19 pandemic. Experts have compared it to other times in history, perhaps trying to give us historical evidence and hope that one day this difficulty too will pass. 


Tolkien continues, “But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”


And that’s where we find ourselves too. Yet we know, as Christians, “who” we have in our corner, as our hope. We know who sees all, understands all and knows all. 


We can be honest about where this situation leads our thoughts and emotions, especially when people are out of work and perhaps with a limited budget, and teaching their children at home. 


I’ve been hearing stories not just about our front-line workers in health care and food services, but also of others striving to make the best of a difficult time. A fellow author shops for groceries for frail seniors in her community; children tape their artwork in the windows of their home to bring cheer to those who pass by; people have porch-to-sidewalk conversations with neighbours, family, and friends. Other individuals are sending positive messages on Twitter and Facebook. 


Maybe this is the best we can do for now. That and offering hope to those who have none, and praying for those who need our prayers, as we stay safe and strive to remain healthy. Until we gather again, take care of yourselves.   



Back to today: 


What I say to you this day is to offer hope, to smile when you  go out, for you don't know how it might help one person today. My check-out girl at the grocery store today who smiled ( I could see her crinkled eyes around her mask) and smiled at me. And I smiled back and we chatted a couple of minutes as she passed my items past the scanner. It was good to see her after so long. 

 Maybe smiling at someone else I meet but have never spoken to before. Someone with a small antsy child to whom I might offer my place in line, because that child is tired and hungry and just wants to go home ( as does her mother or father, as the case may be). And imagine Jesus standing in line with you, helping you through the day. How would that feel?


Monday, January 03, 2022

Repairing Broken Doors: Setting the Tone for a New Year by Rose McCormick Brandon

 Young King Hezekiah, devout and earnest, ascended to Israel’s throne after the death of his wicked and idolatrous father, Ahaz. The citizens rejoiced because the new king had the heart of his ancestor, David, and not that of his father.

        The first thing Hezekiah did was open the temple and repair its doors. This act set the tone for his reign. God would have His rightful place. 

In the very first month of the first year of his reign, Hezekiah reopened the doors of the temple of the Lord and repaired them. 2 Chronicles 29:3 

Hezekiah led the citizens of Israel to repent of their sins and vow to follow the Lord. That meant tearing down all the idols his father had erected. It meant declaring they would love the Lord their God wholeheartedly, with all their soul and strength (Deut. 6:4).

What a beginning! Repairing the doors to the temple and opening them for worship brought healing to the nation. By this act the people said no to sin and all ungodliness and yes to living a holy life and giving God first place.

After Hezekiah repaired the temple doors, revival swept across Israel. Leaders who had followed the previous king into idol worship confessed their sins, rid their homes of false gods and committed to living in obedience to God.

        Are the doors of your life in disrepair? Has Bible reading and prayer lost first place in your schedule? It’s time to repair these doors, set them solidly on the hinges of your life. It’s time to get familiar with the squeak of the prayer closet door. That door determines the future.

My happiest moments are when I am worshipping God, really adoring the Lord Jesus Christ. In that worship I forget the cares of the church and everything else. To me it is the nearest approach to what it will be in Heaven. Charles Spurgeon

Response: Lord, today I commit to giving you first place in my life. I will make worshipping you my primary occupation. 

Saturday, January 01, 2022

A STRANGE TRANSITION by Eleanor Shepherd

 2021 is finally over. It was such a disappointment in so many ways. We hoped that it would herald the end of the pandemic and a return to normal life, but as the year wore on and wave after wave of Covid-19 variants arrived, despite the rapid development of a vaccination against the virus. Globally we seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

While the number of cases decreased and restrictions were lifted in some countries, at the same time they were spiraling in other countries. No matter what strategy was applied, the disease still managed to force people to surrender to the dictates it imposed.

The atmosphere of fear engendered by this stubborn enemy, was exacerbated by disastrous climatic events like raging wild fires and home and income destroying floods. In addition, there arose doubts about our ability to practice justice, highlighted in headlines about racial profiling and inhumane treatment of minorities, revelations of the manner in which we failed to provide adequately for the needs of our aging population and the heartbreaking discovery of unmarked graves of children who had lost their lives in the attempts to alter their identities through cruel indoctrination called education. The world of social justice and freedom for all seemed to dissipate before our eyes and we began to have serious questions about the meaning of our lives.
Acts of kindness gave us courage to not totally lose heart in the midst of this maelstrom of misery. In spite of all that was happening there were people who were taking seriously their responsibilities, particularly in the health care field and they became the heroes. I saw evidence of their steady and heartwarming dedication to duty as I personally had occasion to visit hospital emergency rooms in both Winnipeg and Montreal.

When at the height of the pandemic, I found myself alone in the waiting room of an Emergency unit in a Winnipeg hospital, I watched in amazement as at least once every hour a nurse (often male) would walk through the waiting room, stopping to talk to each person. He would ask if their condition had become any worse in the last hour. If necessary, he would take vital signs. If the patient was thirsty, he offered them water and if they were hungry would provide a snack. If they were cold, he would bring a blanket for them.

These nurses reminded me of the folks that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25 who cared for those in need, without realizing that in so doing, they were serving Jesus. I realized that evening that in all that was going on in our world, God was right in the centre of it all.
My hunch was confirmed when in late autumn and early winter, I had further occasions to visit the Emergency Unit at a large Montreal hospital. On one of the visits as my husband, Glen and I sat waiting for my turn to see the doctor, Glen noticed that one of the people who was at the triage desk was speaking to a woman who had been treated and was ready to go home. She was alone and elderly and seemed a little confused by the environment. It was late in the evening and she had no idea where to find a taxi or a bus to get home. The employee asked his colleague to look after things for a few minutes, then he accompanied the woman to the place where the taxis were available outside the hospital. It took five or ten minutes for him to be able to get the lady into a taxi and safely on her way home. When he returned, Glen went over to his desk and he expressed his appreciation for the way that this employee had gone above and beyond duty to care for the lady in this way. Again, we observed the kindness in the midst of chaos and confusion provided by someone who cared.
Google Images

On another visit to the same Emergency Room, I watched as one of the nurses caring for the patients attended to a woman who was brought in by ambulance. Her distraught cries revealed loneliness and fear of her unknown fate. A nurse quietly stood by her stretcher, listening. Then, in a gentle voice, he assured her she would be cared for and he was there for her. She seemed to sense a peace coming from him and settled down, quietly awaiting the treatment she needed. I had seen this same nurse use that same gentle tone with other patients. It was a gift to have someone like that in such a place.

These folks reminded me that although 2021 was a difficult year in so many ways, we were not forsaken. God was present and acting through the lives of kind people and He will not desert us. We can enter 2022 confident He will be with us. 
    I would like to offer you a Happy New Year and with it give you a song sung by our daughter, a five times Juno nominated jazz singer. Enjoy! Here is the link:  The Blessing

Word Guild Award
 Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award

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