June 30, 2008
I watched an interesting movie the other night called August Rush. It’s a story about an orphaned boy who is a musical prodigy. He believes that if he follows the music he hears all around him it will lead him to his parents. As he realizes he can make music, he believes that his parents will hear it and they’ll find him. So he sets out to follow the music he hears and to use the gift he was given. He wanders the streets of the city and is taken in, (in more ways than one), by a street musician (Robin Williams) who sees the boy as a ticket to fortune.
After watching the DVD we clicked on some of the deleted scenes. One in particular struck me. Robin Williams, the street musician who is exploiting the boy’s talent, cries out in anguish as he admits, “I can’t hear it – the music – I can’t hear it anymore. But you can – so play! Play!
The scene moved me because I believe we have all, to one degree or another, lost the ability to hear, the ability to see, the ability to feel in the way God intends. I believe the premise of the movie is right – if we hear, see and feel what God has put before us, and use our gift to express it, it will lead us to where we are supposed to be. But the corruption of the world has robbed us of the ability. Our own corruption prevents it.
The good news is that it can be redeemed. We can come alive again through the power of Jesus Christ. We can learn to hear His voice in the very air around us, to see His face in the creation He has given us, and to feel with compassion and grace as he created us to do. And we can continually find ways to express it by honing our talent and skill.
As writers who are Christian I believe this is essential. And it’s something we have to work at. The corruption around us and even in us will do its worst to prevent that connection with God that will lead us to Him. It will prevent us from using the gift He gave us, the gift that will lead those who need to hear our words, to us and to our work.
The good news is that God always wins. His purposes will be fulfilled and He will be glorified. As we listen to His voice, see his glory in the world around us, and express it in our work, His purposes for our lives will be fulfilled. We will be fulfilled in the truest sense of the word.
The street musician in that movie was a tragic character – one who has lost what he was given, through his own sin and the sin of those around him. May we guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. May we all have ears to hear and eyes to see.
"You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes... but blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear." (Matthew 13:14-16).
June 27, 2008
There wasn't much to do in our little town. During the summer, I tagged along with my brothers doing whatever they did. That usually amounted to hanging around the drug store, playing baseball, or swimming in the river. In the winter, we donned skates or snowshoes. I tried to imitate Dave, Danny, Frank and Jimmy, but since I was the youngest, some activities earned me the "wait until you are older" thing.
The local undersized hockey team bore the oversized name of The Temagami Timber Wolves. Dad and I went to just about every practice and all the games. Archrivals, Latchford and Haileybury, killed us on the ice, but nobody beat us at cheering.
I first met Mr. Bonikowski at the rink. He was an old man then. Of course. everyone is old when you are eight. He'd worked in the bush for most of his life, cutting trees and hauling logs. Now he did odd jobs at the arena; changing light bulbs, repairing the wooden benches we warmed, and picking up Juicy Fruit wrappers and empty Coke cans.
When Dad couldn't come with me to watch my brothers play, Mr. B. would often come and sit down beside me. Neither of us said much, but somehow he seemed to know how much I wanted to be on the ice playing, not just watching and cheering.
Then when I turned ten, I got my big break. The Temagami Timber Wolves ran out of players. Like I said, Temagami is a REALLY small town. The season had just begun and the team's right-winger took a check into the boards and broke his wrist, Neither the coach nor the rest of the kids were too happy about letting me try out. However, faced with the possibility of losing the entire season and the long-awaited chance at revenge on the teams from the neighbouring towns, they swallowed their objections. Mom imagined my broken body carried out of the arena on a stretcher. Even Dad was doubtful.
But I made it. All those street hockey games with my brothers were paying off.
I was to start in Saturday's game against The Haileybury Hurricanes. I was thrilled—and suddenly terrified.
On Friday afternoon, I walked over to the rink. Mr. Bonikowski was there. He was throwing sand around the front entrance. The snow had melted and then frozen again, and it was slippery.
"Gonna play tomorrow, eh?"
Was it that obvious? I had grabbed my star and now didn't know exactly what to do with it.
"Everyone thinks I'll mess up."
"How do you know?"
"Gotta have faith."
I went to Sunday School, but God's interest in hockey had never been mentioned. I figured he was more concerned with Saturday night baths—you know, "cleanliness is next to godliness"—than he was in Hockey Night in Canada on TV.
"Sure. Faith in God is good. Faith in you, too."
"Do you have faith in me?"
He sensed my doubts, so he added: "You'll see tomorrow."
The next night I waddled to the rink behind my brothers. I'd put my gear on at home. The boards thumped underneath my skates as I made my way past the dressing room.
Then I saw it.
To the left of the dressing room there had been a broom closet. The buckets, brooms, and cleaning cloths were gone, leaving behind a wooden bench and a peg nailed to the wall. The sign Cleaning Supplies was gone. In its place, carefully carved on a piece of two-by-four, was Helen's Dressing Room.
Joe had proven his faith in me and had planted the seeds of mine. The first girl to play juvenile hockey was here to stay, and I had a real-life, heaven-sent hero.
June 25, 2008
To share and experience,
Is all about you Jesus,
The message of love and grace
To bestow without measure,
Is all about you Jesus.
The intricate handiwork
Of all creation,
Is all about you Jesus,
The power to hold the heavens in place,
And the gentle provisions of inner peace,
Is all about you Jesus.
The long and narrow road
And the traveled beaten path,
Is all about you Jesus,
The heavy cross that
Carved the rugged grooves
Is all about you Jesus.
The majestic splendor of heaven
And our eternal rewards,
Is all about you Jesus,
To live a holy life and
Love our neighbors as ourselves,
Is all about you Jesus.
The songs of praise we sing,
The souls that seek your face
Is all about you Jesus,
The prayers that are answered,
The redemption we await
Is all about you Jesus!
Copyright Jan Keats
June 20, 2008
“I’d like to, but I’m just too busy. . . .”
Life is like a smorgasbord: so many activities to pick from, many look too good to pass up. My plate fills up so quickly and time, like my tummy, has a way of getting stuffed before the plate is empty. It takes careful planning to finish the choices before the end of each day. Even with the best of scheduling, interruptions or health problems or a host of other things can leave me with a pile of “leftovers.”
Sometimes I chide myself with the fact I have just as many hours as the President of the United States . . . and look at all he accomplishes. But my husband brings me back to earth with, “You have the same hours, dear, but not the same staff!”
Because we are made in the image of God and because we function best when living like it, some of the best secrets of time management are found by looking at His use of time. Aside from the fact that He created and controls it, He also stepped into it, in the person of Jesus Christ. We have a record of only three years of His life, yet in that three years, He made an impact on the world that no man has made before or since. I’m sure His use of time had something to do with it.
Before anyone protests “but He is God . . . ,” He was also fully human. He became tired, thirsty and hungry, just as we do. Not only that, His days only had twenty-four hours - just the same as ours.
A GOOD START: Perhaps the greatest secret of His time management was that Jesus “rose up before it was yet morning, to pray.”
The older I get the less I enjoy the ringing of my alarm clock. However, Jesus knew that the strength received from His heavenly Father would outlast any benefits of extra time snoozing. Isaiah 40 says “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” not “they that sleep as much as possible . . . ”
NO PROCRASTINATION: The Gospel of Mark uses the word “immediately” over and over as it describes Christ in action. He was not a procrastinator. He never made excuses, stalled, or hesitated in uncertainty. He did not put off until tomorrow what could and should be done right now.
Time management specialists confirm this principle. Number your priorities and then do them, one after the other, preferable the most difficult first, eliminating not only the chore but the stress of even thinking about it.
TRUST THE FATHER WITH INTERRUPTIONS: Jesus also saw interruptions as heaven-sent and was not flustered by them. Instead, He responded as if they were on His list from the beginning.
This is where I often falter. My tendency is to let the interruption ruin my attitude and even my day’s work. Realizing God sovereignly controls my life has helped me be more polite to door-to-door salesmen and telephone survey-takers.
PURPOSEFUL R AND R: Jesus was not lazy but He did take time to rest. “Jesus, being wearied from His journey, sat by the well” (John 4).
Laziness is resting because I don’t want to work. Recreation is resting because if I don’t rest I won’t have the energy to work. Taking time to be refueled is not necessarily selfish indulgence. Jesus even used His resting time to reach out to others.
JOB SELECTION: Jesus did not accept any task outside of His Father’s will. His early morning time alone was not wasted time. When He began His day, He knew where to go, what to do, and what was important for eternity. He kept His focus on the priorities laid down for Him.
What a waste to spend a day (or a whole life) on things that have no eternal value. But for those who belong to Him, Christ makes every minute count. After all, unlike the vast assortment of choices there are to fill it, a minute of time leaves no leftovers. Used wisely or wasted, when it is over, it is gone forever.
© Elsie Montgomery
I wrote this about fifteen years ago while in college—as a grandmother—and where I really needed to practice what I preached!
June 17, 2008
As I am writing this, I am sitting outside the office at the Guelph Bible Conference office and it is approximately six o’clock in the morning. Yes, I am at the Write!Canada conference and no, I haven’t run out of energy yet. (I may change my mind about that by three o’clock this afternoon)
Around me the trees and grass have taken on that emerald tone that only comes early in the morning or after a violent thunderstorm. It is a peaceful time and renews me as much as the sleep that I am missing would. Why have I come to this gathering of writers? Why have I chosen to give up my comfy bed at night and bump shoulders with roughly 200 other people?
Too often writers underestimate the value of a writers’ conference. We think of the money we can’t afford to spend, the time we can’t sacrifice and the effort it takes to get there and get all our “stuff” put together. And all for what? So we can bump shoulders and have a bad sleep? Not even close.
Aside from the irreplaceable blessing of putting faces to those elusive names attached to the messages in my list serve email box, I get a chance to network. Ever heard the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, in writing, it’s both. Far too often, I’ve written a good quality non-fiction work that had the potential to affect a wide readership for the better only to have to wait and watch as someone better known beat me to the punch line with something similar. I’ve been left with a redundant article and a feeling of frustration. It didn’t take me too long to realize that I was missing a key piece of the writing puzzle—one that I found at Write!Canada last year.
This is my second conference and I’ve made connections with people here from a variety of publishing medium—Word Alive Press, The Christian Herald, Maranatha News, Beyond Ordinary Living, and so many others. In the past year, because of those connections, I’ve gotten another book published that more readers are enjoying. I’ve received reviews for that book because I knew where to look for them. And I’ve published an article to a wider audience that shared God’s grace and love. I’ve made friends with fellow writers, brain stormed ideas with them, listened to the wisdom and knowledge of those farther along the road than I, and gleaned details from editors, publishers and marketers. All things I couldn’t have done without Write!Canada.
Is the conference money, time and effort worth it? You bet!
June 11, 2008
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 16:1-13
TO CHEW ON: "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." 2 Chronicles 16:9
When Asa had been king for a long time, Baasha the King of Israel blocked the border between Israel and Judah.
1. The last time King Asa was faced with a problem (2 Chronicles 14:11) he had: (choose the correct answer):
a] asked for help from Egypt.
b] asked for help from God.
2. This time he (2 Chronicles 16:2):
a] asked for help from Ben Hadad of Aram
b] asked for help from God.
Shortly after that, the prophet Hanani came to him and asked, “Why did you make your own plan instead of asking for God’s help? Didn’t God help you in your fight against Cush? God is always looking out to help anyone who depends on Him. What you did was foolish. From now on you’ll always be at war.”
What Hanani said made Asa so angry, he put Hanani in prison.
After that Asa stubbornly refused to ask for God’s help with anything. A few years later when he got a disease in his feet, he only went to doctors. He ignored God completely.
Why did Asa, who started out so well, end like this? Perhaps he thought that with all his experience he no longer needed God’s help. Or maybe he just wanted to do his own thing instead of listen to God.
Let’s not become like the old Asa, who stopped trusting God. Instead, let’s ask for His help with everything all our lives long.
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to depend on You now and through all my life. Amen.
SUPERSIZE IT: I Couldn’t Bother God with That!
Which times could you ask for God’s help?
- When someone is bullying you.
- When you are sick
- When you don’t understand something in school
- When you want to make the team.
- When your parents aren’t getting along.
Did you pick them all? God can help in all these times and with all these things and much more.
Nothing is too small for God. He is interested in everything about you from the biggest thing to the tiniest detail. What will you ask him to help you with today?
The above is yesterday's devotion posted on my kids' devotional blog Bible Drive-Thru. It has now been online for almost six months. We're working our way through the last days of Judah, as well as dipping into the major and minor prophets.
Every week on Monday I put seven to ten more devotions into scheduled mode, ready for blogger to publish at the appointed time. I don't know if anyone else is getting blessed by these daily readings (very few comments or emails), but I know that I enjoy Mondays more than ever because all day I'm handling the word of God.
It's gratifying to study the sitemeter stats and see that though Bible Drive-Thru doesn't get high traffic, the numbers are gradually increasing and the blog is getting visitors not only from the U.S. and Canada but from Australia, Italy, Wales, Slovenia, Germany, Indonesia, Belgium, Malaysia, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, Israel, India, Bulgaria, Netherlands, and Japan.
It's my way of casting bread upon the waters (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Blessings to all of you who, in your way, are doing that too.
June 09, 2008
Somebody to confront the mightiest and most powerful King on earth, Pharaoh Amenhotep, and challenge him with a display of the greatest God, Yahweh.
Public speech experience: not necessary
Confidence: it gets in the way
Muscle: you really think you can out run Pharoah’s army?
Wealth: just the clothes on your back
Obedience: Absolute necessity
A nervous, stuttering sheep-herder who proclaims Yahweh as the only true God will do just fine
Somebody bold enough to confront the Persian King, Ahasuerus, without permission, to seek protection for the Jewish people
Dancing ability: Will learn on the job
Experience Hosting Royalty: You’ll get lots of that here
Beauty: Nothing six months of soaking in oil and myrrh can’t fix
Wealth: you’ll be lying on golden couches sipping royal wine; leave your faux pearls at home
Obedience: Can’t do without
Prayer and fasting might help too
A young orphan girl who trusts in her God would be ideal
Somebody to confront the Power of Darkness, the Prince of this World, to demand the release of souls for eternal freedom
Power: Actually, weakness is what I’m looking for
Confidence: I prefer to start with brokenness
Spiritual gifts: First I ask for obedience.
Training in conflict resolution: If it starts on your knees
Goal-setting ability: I’m thinking perseverance
Good-looking: On the inside only
A child is really what I could use right now, or anybody who realizes how small they are and how big I am.
Lonely and dark at times
Surrender of reputation, possessions, time, and your highly trained self
Pay: Joy that finds no bottom, peace that carries you through every difficulty, and an investment that is guaranteed to grow in spite of market fluctuations
I get lots of applications with long resumes listing their training, and demands for high pay. I understand; it is after all a daunting task to take on the Power of Darkness. However at this time I need only two words on your application: “Yes, Lord.”
Please drop your applications off at the intersection of Greed and Surrender and leave them with my Son. He keeps me posted.
One more thing, if you find the demands of the job overwhelming, remember that I will be your business partner. I will give you all the training you need, and I’ll be working side by side with you. If you have any concerns, ask Moses or Esther.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28, 29, 30).
June 03, 2008
I’m still trying to grasp the simplicity—but liberating power—of Christ in me, my hope of glory. The Bible promises that in Him we have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).
The Holy Spirit lives in me, and the Spirit is all I need for life and godliness—if I’ll let Him influence how I live.
The Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). My natural spirit is selfish, and none of these good things.
I used to think the fruit of the Spirit were attributes God would develop in me. I’d become more patient, for example. But wouldn’t that be like expecting oranges to develop on an apple tree? I am more patient than I was, and that’s His doing, as I learn to walk His way a bit. But that’s not my natural spirit, that’s me getting used to His and letting Him shape my responses.
The Holy Spirit hasn’t been grafted onto me to grow—I’ve been grafted onto Him. So I’ll grow as I draw my strength and nourishment from Him. But the thing I come back to is this: He’s already there, invited in and received by faith, even though so rarely seen. So when there’s a stimulus, I can choose how to respond—if I’m submitted to Him and not being selfish.
Think of a standard doorway from a room. Two full-sized people can’t exit side by side; one must go first. LORD, please help me to hold back, to let Your Spirit go out first. Not only does He deserve first place, but His presence will change things in a good way.
This makes me see what Paul says to the Galatians in a different light. Galatians 3:3 says, “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (NIV) He’s talking about the goal of righteousness and salvation, and about them beginning with faith but now trying to hedge their bets by observing the law. But the verse also speaks to me about righteousness and godly living.
Am I trying to do it by human effort? No wonder it’s not working too well. The Spirit isn’t going to take me over and push His way out. Like Anne Graham Lotz says, God is a gentleman. He has manners. I have to choose to let Him out.
© Janet Sketchley, 2008
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.