April 29, 2008

An Inconvenient Tooth

Time is short this week so I'm posting something lighter - printed in the Globe and Mail last August.

Saturday morning in Paris. My husband, Tim, and I chatted over breakfast. A fresh baguette, crusty and warm, café au lait (for him) and chocolat (for me.)

We organized our day – breakfast, then laundry and a few hours of free time before boarding the TGV to Avignon.

Tim took a bite out of the chewy baguette. Snap. We both heard it. And there embedded in the bread like a journalist in Afghanistan, was Tim’s front tooth. He looked like he’d been in a bad fight, root exposed, jagged tooth front and center. Rick Steves hadn’t prepared us for this event.

“There’s two weeks of vacation left. I don’t want to keep my mouth closed the entire time,” Tim said. He fished the tooth from the bread and wrapped it carefully in a napkin. “We’ll have to find someone to glue it back on.”

The concierge at the desk of our small hotel assured us that there was a dentist just around the corner. He made the call and the dental receptionist asked to speak with Tim.

“Does it hurt, Monsieur?” she asked.

Upon hearing that the pain was negligible she spoke firmly. “It’s Saturday morning and we’re full. The dentist leaves at noon. Au revoir, monsieur.”

Apologetically the concierge said he knew of no other dentist but that he would check the yellow pages. He searched the computer for possible dentists on the nearby Boulevard Voltaire and handed us a piece of paper with numbers, 29, 40, 56, 75 and so on.

Laundry and sightseeing plans discarded, Tim tucked his tooth into his pocket and we set out to find a dentist. While we walked, I formed French sentences in my head. I hadn’t thought to brush up on my medical vocabulary.

Imposing stone buildings line Boulevard Voltaire. Tall doors in glossy green, blue or black stood firmly closed. In front of #29 a woman swept the sidewalk.

“Ah, non,” she said. “C’est samedi.” The dentist isn’t in.

We crossed the street and walked down to #40. The sign said, “By appointment,” but we pushed the button anyway. A buzzer sounded and we entered. I was relieved that I didn’t have to explain over the intercom. And surely any dentist with heart, seeing Tim’s predicament, would help.

Up the stairs and down the hall we pushed open another door. Dr. Josserand came to the reception area when we walked through the door. He unwrapped Tim’s piece of tooth, held it up to the light and assured us that he could help if we would wait for about 30 minutes. He had another patient with him.

With high ceilings, gleaming white woodwork, a fireplace and pale, floral-upholstered bergere-style chairs, the waiting room was unlike any other I’d seen. We paged through current issues of Cote Sud and Cote Ouest and gazed out the window onto the street below.

“Maintenant, on voit le canadien.” He ushered us into his treatment room. “We’ll see the Canadian now.”

The room shone with cleanliness. It appeared that liners could be purchased for older rooms to provide surfaces to match modern ideas of sterility without ruining the old architecture. The liner started at the floor on one side of the room, went up and across the ceiling, then down the other side, like a square tube. And white was everywhere – white chair, white counters, white floor and white desk. Stainless steel instruments gleamed. A touch-screen computer for the dentist’s convenience stood alongside his tools. There were no cute posters with huge teeth holding toothbrushes, no television screen mounted in the corner, no soft music playing. It should have been forbidding, but wasn’t. On one polished white surface stood a tall, rectangular clear glass vase holding two greenish-blue hydrangea blossoms. It looked so…French.

When we left the office 30 minutes later and 95 Euros poorer, Tim had his tooth back in place. Dr. Josserand advised us that this was not a permanent fix – he would have preferred to do a root canal and cap the tooth, but since it was Saturday morning… He shrugged.

While we’d come to France as tourists, I felt like this unwelcome and unanticipated experience gave us a tiny glimpse of Paris from the inside. Merci, Docteur Josserand.

April 28, 2008

The Lynching - Bonnie Way

The rain drizzled down steadily from heavy grey clouds that showed no signs of breaking up. My hat dripped in front of my nose and raindrops ran down my plastic poncho with each step I took. Mom had stopped singing her rainy day songs and we were simply trudging along the trail, cold and wet and wishing we were at camp. That was when Dad decided to stop by the trail to cook lunch, rather than pressing on for the next campground.

We hiked for a bit further before the glad cry came that we’d found a stream by the trail. It was a short scramble down a slight incline, but there were also heavy spruce trees there to provide cover from the rain. In a minute my brothers and I had dropped our packs beside the trail. Dad sent Bob for water while he got out his cookset and we began manufacturing pizzas. My job was to open the cans while Dad mixed up the pizza dough.

As the first pizza went into the frying pan, decorated with mushrooms, pineapple, and meat to Will’s taste, a couple of teenagers hiked past. They just nodded to us, but the next group of three stopped to chat for a minute, explaining they were part of a youth group and were hiking into Berg Lake for the night. The group continued to trickle past in twos and threes; some stopped to talk and catch glimpses of the fresh pizzas coming out of the frying pan and being devoured by my brothers and I; others just kept walking, their heads down against the rain. They’d be cooking their ichiban noodles for supper once they got to Berg Lake.

Then one of the group leaders came along and recognized Dad. Dad introduced his family to his old acquaintance and they caught up on the news. They were hiking further than we were, so chances were that we wouldn’t meet them again. Then Dad’s friend headed on, the last of the youth group straggled past, and we finished our pizzas, packed up our “kitchen,” and hit the trail once again. With hot food in our stomachs, the rain no longer seemed such a problem—Dad had showed his usual skill in motivating his young hikers.

It was a couple days later that we were back at Kinney Lake campground, packing up after breakfast for our short, seven-kilometre hike to the trailhead. The same youth group began hiking through camp, in the same bunches of two and three, and Dad’s friend stopped in our cook shelter to say hi again.

“You know,” he mentioned to Dad just before he went after his group, “by making fresh pizzas on the trail like that, when those kids only had ichiban noodles to eat, you almost got lynched.”

April 25, 2008

When a Little is Enough - Lynda Schultz

Huge obstacles.

Impossible odds.

Overwhelming challenges.

Gideon was just a poor, frightened farmer, hiding his crops from the Midianites who had beaten his people into submission. Just to survive was challenge enough. Then God comes along, out of the blue, and calls him to run these bloodsuckers off the face of the planet. "The Lord turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you … I will be with you, and you will strike down the Midianites as if they were but one man'" (Judges 6:14, 16).

Understandably, Gideon is hesitant about volunteering, or being volunteered.

Can't do it, too weak, mutters Gideon under his breath. Unfortunately the man didn't have the benefit of Paul's writings in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 on the sufficiency of God's grace, the Almighty's power shown through human weakness, rejoicing in those weaknesses knowing that when a man is at his weakest, it is then that the Lord can really show His strength. No one felt less like celebrating his lack of possibilities than did Gideon.

If he'd had a high school yearbook, Gideon might have been listed as the "least-likely-to-succeed." Perhaps he would have penned in the words himself. It wasn't that he didn't know the stories of God's mighty acts passed down from generation to generation (Judges 6:13). He just hadn't experienced any of them himself, and without that personal touch, he wondered if God was really with Israel at all, or if all the stories were just fables embellished to entertain the kids at bedtime.

Gideon's problem was faith, believing in what he had never seen. It's a problem that dogs the steps of all of us.

God didn't make it easy for Gideon. He told the young farmer to go "in the strength" he had, even though Gideon feels his weakness to the core of his soul. God asked him to believe where he had no evidence. He sends a fearful farmer to become a courageous captain of what would turn out to be the essence of minimalist in the annals of the history of armies. He equips Gideon with lamps, pitchers and a promise: "I will be with you." I wonder if Gideon might have felt a twinge of concern as he looked out on the field of Midianites tents that night. I wonder if it crossed his mind to question what on earth a simple farmer was doing in this place, at this moment, with this humanly impossible mission to accomplish.

He went in the strength he had, as little as it was, and Gideon won the day.

Sometimes God doesn't bless us with great strength, or even great faith. He simply takes the little we have to offer Him and does great things with it. In the end it isn't the little that counts; it's the promise of a very big God that makes the difference.

April 21, 2008

Can God Use Me? -Jan Keats

Learning To Follow -

Have you ever asked yourself that question? In the very beginning of my journey with the Lord I struggled with those thoughts. “How can God possibly use me to benefit His Kingdom?” I began to study and reflect upon various stories in the Bible. Matthew chapter 4 gives a vivid description of the first disciples to be called by Jesus. Imagine yourself and a friend out fishing on a lake having a relaxing time and suddening when you reach back to the shore, you hear Jesus calling out to you saying, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Wow! Do you stand there frozen with the fishing gear still in your hand in awe of ‘who ‘ just called you? Or would you hastilly leave everything behind to join the Master?

Imagine what Simon and Andrew must have been thinking after they had walked a few miles and turned to see the shore in a far distance. They dropped everything to follow Jesus. Their gear may have been visible still. Fish may still be jumping in their buckets on the rocky shore. Do you suppose it was their last glimpse as life as they knew it? Perhaps it was.

Their lives were completely encompassed in the safe keeping of their Master. Life had taken on a new meaning and purpose for them. They travelled, they learned from their great teacher, and they shared with everyone the good news of eternal life. They were mission bound! It wasn’t all glory and dance though. The Gospels record many hardships and trials Jesus and the disciples and followers faced. There was one particular occasion along the journey where they stopped and wondered if the mission was too difficult for them to continue. Some complained that Jesus’ teachings were too difficult. Consequently, some departed.

Is that how Christians feel today? Has your life changed for the Gospel mission? Did you join the force wholeheartedly knowing that there would be some hardships? Did you look back with the yearning to go back? Did you hesitate along with the doubters who found the teachings too difficult to comprehend?

There was plenty of fish left to be caught, but not by the disciples. They had nothing to worry about, their catch was now men. They had a new path set before them. But it was with Jesus, the One who chose them to be the future spokesmen for the sake of the Kingdom of God. I believe they held firmly to the Gospel truth. Their faith proved worthy of all that Jesus had promised them.

May we never forget God’s promises of provision, protection, and guidance as we stand our ground for Him. May we firmly grasp His truths so that we will never be tempted to walk back to where we once were. But to continue in Him holding firmly to His hand. In this way, God will effectively use us to be His partner and friend in mission until the day of completion as He has declared!

Allow Him to use you for His glory!

Copyright Jan Keats

April 18, 2008

A Matter of Timing - M. Laycock

Last week I watched two full grown geese land on a small pond across from my home. It was quite funny to watch, because the pond was still frozen. The geese gracefully flapped their wings and extended their feet, anticipating the landing, but when they touched down they skidded sideways and plopped down unceremoniously on their bottoms. When they recovered they stomped about, seeming indignant.

When I saw them stomping around on the ice it made me think of those times when I’ve been impatient with God’s timing. It often seems that He isn’t in sync. with my estimation of when things should happen. Give me patience, Lord. Right now!

But His timing is always perfect. When my new novel, One Smooth Stone won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award, I was thrilled that it would soon be in print. Then I discovered that the word, ‘soon’ is relative. There was a delay because the publisher wanted a certain editor to work with me, and she was busy with other projects. Then there was a bit of miscommunication and I was waiting for her while she was waiting for me to get in touch. Then, when it was finally begun, the editing process took time. But finally my publisher told me the books were ready to ship. I waited - impatiently - for them to arrive on my doorstep. The book launch was to be held on the first night of Inscribe’s Fall Conference and, of course, I wanted the books in hand for that event. I was thankful when they arrived, safe and sound, a few days before the scheduled launch.

I remember lifting the first book out of the box. I knew exactly where it was going. I gave it to my friend – I’ll call her Barb.

Barb has had a hard life – her husband left her with four small kids to raise and no resources. The family struggled through. Then one of Barb’s daughters, I’ll call her Lucy, was raped. Though Barb managed to hold on to her faith in Christ, Lucy has been bitter and angry with God ever since. The day after my books arrived, Barb gave that copy to Lucy. A few days later she got a phone call.

Lucy told her that she had had no intention of reading the book – she’d thought, oh yeah, there goes mom with the religious stuff again. But that next day she got the flu and the only thing she had in the house to read was my book. So she picked it up and started to read. She said she couldn’t put it down. When she called her mom she was in tears because she said that after reading the book, she finally believed God does still love her, in spite of everything.

The timing was perfect. God’s timing. Not mine. Next time I get impatient I’ll try and remember how ridiculous those geese looked, stomping around on solid ice.

April 16, 2008

My Hiding Place

I read and watch too many mysteries. One morning this week while getting ready for the day, this thought crossed my mind, Where would I hide if someone broke into my house? Since I was in the walk-in closet, I wondered if anyone would find me if I stood behind the longer garments in the closet?

Soon after, I began my quiet time with the Lord and was directed by Ears from Harvested Sheaves to read this: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).

The night before we talked with friends about how easily we are distracted from trusting God, how just the smallest thing can be a slippery slope. My response to that was, “God knows our hearts. If we truly want to follow Him, whenever we slide off the course, He will bring us back.”

If my over-imaginative thoughts about the best place to hide from danger were the beginnings of a slide, God certainly proved true what I said as He reminds me today (almost humorously) about His protective care. Because I trust Him, I don’t need to think about hiding anywhere else. He is my refuge and He protects me from all harm.

My devotional reading for that day described this trust by focusing on the idea of a “secret place,” a place known only to those whom God, “with His own mysterious hand, opens up . . . a part in it, sets them down in it, and sweetly blesses them in it.” It is a place of fellowship and communion with God, but even more, it is being hand in hand with Him, having my cares taken from me. It is being God’s child—secure in my Father’s arms.

This is the place where God opens up to me the riches of His grace and mercy, where He communicates to me His love, power and wisdom. It is called a “secret” place because it is known only to those whom God brings there through faith in Jesus Christ. No one can get in, or even want to be in this place, until they acknowledge their need of salvation. Then God Himself fills them with a desire to be close to Him.

When we trust the Lord, this secret place may not be obvious to others, but in it, nothing can touch us unless God allows it. His care is more secure than having body guards or a home alarm system. It is more secure than any of my own efforts to protect myself.

I was told about a girl who was raised in a Christian home but decided to run from faith and her family. Her parents tried but could not bring her back home. They began to pray.

This girl linked up with an older girl and the two of them began attending music concerts. They knew if they presented themselves backstage after the concert, they could become special to the entertainers, even become involved in illicit relationships with them.

So they tried, but the first time they went through a backstage door, a much older woman was blocking the way. They explained that they were ‘fans’ and asked if they could meet the musicians. This doorkeeper looked at them, then let the older one pass. With eyes full of fear, she said to the young girl, “No, you cannot go back there. You must go home.”

Not long after that, this girl did go home, much to the delight of her praying parents. When their daughter told them what had happened, they asked if the woman had given a reason for not allowing her backstage. She told them that the woman said, “I cannot let you pass for I see angels all around you.”

Without her knowing it, her loving parents prayed this daughter into a secret place of refuge and protection. God then revealed it to one person and that doorkeeper, tough as she was, knew that she could not let anything harm this girl.

This story encourages me to pray for spiritual protection for those who have strayed from faith and family. Yet the deeper longing of my heart is that they willingly seek that secret place themselves. From my own experience, it is great to be protected, even when I don’t realize it. Yet how much better to know without any doubt that I am in that place of refuge, that strong tower. Then I know that Almighty God is there with me, and even more, I know that my hiding place is not really a place but God Himself.

© Elsie Montgomery

April 07, 2008

The Voice Behind You - Violet Nesdoly

Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it," whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.

- Isaiah 30:21 NKJV

I'm always wanting guidance - wanting to know what the next step is before I take it. This verse is interesting in that it implies God guides from behind: "Your ears will hear a word behind you..."? How does that work?

There are forks in the road. Do we go right or left? This verse seems to say we simply make a decision, take the steps and listen for the 'word behind us.' Seems like a good description of the life of faith.

I've experienced this. Sometimes I've taken on writing assignments for the simple fact that I've finished the last project and this one came along at just that time. There were no prophetic words, voices or holy thrills - not even a scripture verse on which to hang my hat. Not uncommonly I'll question whether I've made the right decision, especially when the writing gets tough or the piece gets turned down. Later, much later sometimes, I'll get confirmation that the project was a 'God thing' (it finally gets accepted, I get an email or note from someone saying it blessed them, it wins a prize, gets republished).

As far as I can see, this hearing the voice of confirmation behind us is the way we live our Christian lives most of the time.


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