May 29, 2009

Whadda We Gonna Do Now, Lippy? by Brenda Leyland

"Now thanks be to God who ALWAYS leads us in triumph in Christ..." 2 Corinthians 2:14

If you are old enough, you may recall the 1960's Hanna-Barbera cartoon series with the larger than life Lippy the Lion and his sidekick, Hardy Har Har, the pessimistic non-laughing hyena. I loved watching that old cartoon.

Optimistic Lippy, who was never stuck for a great idea, was forever arranging some kind of new adventure for the pair of them, which caused Hardy no end of grief and distress. In his dreary, monotone voice, Hardy would always lament, "Oh me, oh my! Whadda we gonna do now, Lippy?"

"Oh no! What are we going to do now?" Have you ever said that in your lifetime? Or heard the enemy of your soul whispering in your ears, "Whatcha going to do now, eh? There's no way God can help you out of this mess."

We all know from experience that troubles will come, but when it does, we always have a choice: we can join Hardy's Pessimistic Club and wring our hands in dismay and fear. Or, we can respond, like the confident Lippy, who always knew there was a way out of their predicament, with our own overcoming confidence that with God nothing shall be impossible.

Lippy always found an answer to their dilemma, which meant that he and Hardy could come back to entertain us another day. The places and times where I have previously experienced God's faithful promises in my life always come back to remind me that 'this present darkness' is just another opportunity to believe God's word and to prove He is still faithful and His word still works. Every time!

So, what are you going to do now, Lippy?

Brenda Leyland lives in Alberta with her husband and their sweet tortoiseshell cat, Miss Kitty. When Brenda's not watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places, she's probably writing about them on her blog It's A Beautiful Life.

May 27, 2009

I am a Writer - Payne

My name is Kimberley Payne and I am a writer.

I won my first award for writing as a grade 4 student. I had entered the Legion’s poetry contest and won second prize. I remember having to stand in front of a small audience to read my poem – it was both freeing and frightening.

I kept a journal of all my trips camping with my family and my two-week stint in Quebec during a student exchange in grade ten. I still have these journals.

I also uncovered a romance story that I had written to amuse my girlfriend in high school. Each week, I wrote a new chapter with a new adventure. They are so embarrassing to read now as an adult!

In my dark days, I wrote poetry. I have kept many of these poems – mainly as reminders of how difficult life is as a teenager. Many speak on suicide and my continuous battle with depression.

Pen pals were seen as lifelines. I would write up to ten pages detailing my life and couldn’t wait to receive a new letter in the mail from around the world. I especially liked to read about my cousin’s life in the Netherlands.

I wrote for the school newspaper but focused mainly on creating fun things like word jumbles and crossword puzzles.

I wrote poems for special events like birthdays and weddings and anniversaries. My mom kept some of these, but I wish that I had kept my own.

But writing was seen as a hobby; something done for fun. I attended Wilfrid Laurier University and graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration. I’m certain that my essays in philosophy helped my overall grade-point average. Some friends questioned why I didn’t major in Philosophy or Psychology instead of Business!

Upon graduation, I worked many temporary jobs until I landed work as a Career Counsellor. Again, my writing was helpful when working on case notes for my clients.

After six years, I was laid off, moved and started a new life. This included a new job – self-employment as a personal fitness trainer. I loved developing my advertising and marketing plans for the business and coming up with fun names for some of my workshops.

But still, writing was part of all my other jobs…not a job in itself. Not until I moved once again, left my business, my family and friends and went to Orillia, Ontario where I found God and found my true call in life. I remember the tear-filled afternoon in 2001 when the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart that I am a writer.

It was in Orillia that I attended my first workshop on writing, by the Canadian Author’s Association, called, “So you wanna be a writer” held at the Stephen Leacock museum. I was again in tears when I had to admit in front of a group that I was a writer. It was freeing and frightening.

Looking at your own history, are you a writer?

May 25, 2009

A Sermon Just for Me by M.Laycock

Last Sunday, as I settled in my chair at church I prayed a quick prayer. “Talk to me, Lord.”

My husband tends to be a spontaneous person and I’ve gotten used to him doing unexpected things. Sometimes. But last Sunday he surprised me by announcing that I was going to give my testimony that morning, in 3 minutes or less. He hadn’t warned me about this, probably because he didn’t know he was going to do it until that very moment.

As I walked up to the front I was thinking, Good thing I’m good at public speaking. The testimony part is a breeze, but in 3 minutes? No doubt he gave me a time limit because he knows my tendency to go on and on. He did have a sermon to preach that morning. So I did what he asked and all went well. As I expected it would.

Then my husband got up to preach. The sermon was on Mark 12:41-44 – a short passage of scripture that seemed straightforward as he read it out loud. The widow gave all she had. She was extremely generous. She put the religious leaders to shame. But my husband, bless him, took a different tack when he said, this little bit of scripture is really about pride and humility. Huh?

I felt God tapping me on the shoulder. I was feeling quite self-satisfied, having just given my testimony clearly, with just the right emphasis. In fact I was thinking, ‘I really am good at that.’ The more my favourite preacher spoke the more I felt like crawling under my chair. I knew that what had just happened was no coincidence.

God was talking to me but I wasn’t particularly happy to hear it.

Then my favourite preacher started talking about generosity. Okay, that’s better. I sat up a bit. Then he said, “the core of generosity is humility.” Oh. And he gave Haddon Robinson’s definition – “humility is confidence properly placed.” Oh dear.

When Proverbs 29:23 appeared in big bold letters on the screen I had to grin just a little. “Pride brings you low.” Right. I really should remember that.

I was encouraged, when my husband acknowledged that he, and everyone else in the room, all struggle with pride. It’s a big part of the human condition. The trick is to catch ourselves at it, repent of it, and put ourselves back in the place where we all need to be, at the feet of Jesus. Confidence properly placed. Right.

I definitely have to remember that.

BTW, if you want to hear the sermon, go here

May 20, 2009

Allowing The Holy Spirit To Stir His Children To Pray and Believe

We all know that God answers prayer. All Christians ought to have an experience of answered prayer. But do we, His children, come together often enough to “share” together in prayer? Do we encourage one another by sharing answers to our personal prayers?

Every Tuesday morning a prayer meeting is held in our church. About 20 people come together to share various needs and concerns or intercede on behalf of others. Once a hearty list is detailed, we begin to intercede on account of those individual needs. Through praise and prayer, we lift up the names by those who have activated their faith and uttered the requests.
What then? We close our eyes in prayer and we hardly realize there is a person sitting next to us. Are we really sharing together? Is there power in numbers in a prayer meeting? Are we really agreeing together or do we simply mouth our needs to the Lord?

Sundays is also another specific allocated time and place for prayer. Before the church service begins God’s people are praying for a stirring and a mighty outpouring of His love. What then? Do we believe that God is going to do something? Do we believe that God will actually convict the sinners to come to repentance? Do we labour and wait upon the Lord? Or do we sit at leisure and wonder if God heeded our prayers?

Are these moments of prayer time producing encouragement to continually seek God in times of deepest need? Maybe we are forgetting something. If God is an answering prayer God why doesn’t someone say something. Perhaps we need to implement various ideas and approaches to prayer to keep our faith stimulated and active. There are various ways of enlightening prayer meetings. During one Tuesday morning prayer, I felt strongly to restructure the format just a little. We began by sharing the concerns followed by a prayer time and singing the appropriate songs in between. Then we had a personal sharing time of reflection. The group began to share openly about their initial encounter with Jesus.

The sharing time proved to be very positive and uplifting. One by one people began to open up and express their answered prayers. It was somewhat reminiscent and it brought about a fresh flood of wonderful memories of God’s wonder working power. The love of God saturated the very hearts of those that spoke and listened. It was so good to hear each other’s “faith” stories. It was good that the knowledge and grace of God was shared. Many times following the initial conversion the first love somehow fades away for a time. Christians who have been serving the Lord for years need to reflect upon His love and leadings of life. We ought to keep our faith firm and fresh. As a result, prayer, praise and “answers” will all complement each other.

The strength is not only in the praying but also in the answers and the willingness to share the Gospel message of hope fearlessly. When we accomplish God’s will, others will see that God is truth and life. An honest openness and acknowledgement of sharing and speaking about the leadings of the Holy Spirit in ones’ Christian walk gives encouragement and increases the faith of the body of Christ. May the beauty of Jesus be seen in each of us!

Jan Keats

May 17, 2009

How about Sunday School?

“Our church doesn’t have Sunday school.”

“What do you do with Jackie?”

“Oh, he sits with me in church.”

I was dismayed, at least at first. Then I remembered the origin of Sunday school. It began because a man wanted to teach the Bible to orphans. Thinking through the roster in our church (that has a Sunday school) I could not recall that we have any orphans in attendance.

Sunday school is a good thing. Adults and children learn in classes geared to their interests and ability to learn. However, the Bible does not mention this type of teaching, segregated classes or otherwise. Is it really so bad to not have Sunday school?

In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 God gives His people the first great commandment to love Him with all their heart, soul and strength, then says, “These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children . . .”

As I read this and other passages, I see that parents are to model obedience to God’s Word, teach it through Scripture placed everywhere as reminders, and through rituals and festivals that would prompt teachable moments. They were also to intentionally seize opportunities as to teach when they sat at home, walked along the road, when lying down or getting up. In other words, be there with them.

Children were taught to fear the Lord and to obey their parents, and a multitude of truths that would help them grow up to be men and women of faith who loved and obeyed God, and who lived in the power of the Holy Spirit.

All sorts of ideas run through my head. Children get their concept of God largely from their parents. Children understand authority largely from their relationship with their parents. Children learn trust from parents who are true. Children experience security and a sense of God’s care from the way they are cared for by their parents. The larger lessons of life are not learned from a worksheet but from parental models and the child-parent relationship.

Does this negate Sunday school? Not at all, but if parents think Sunday school is theology school for their children, they may have unwittingly taught a lesson that they did not intend: that you don’t go to your Father for the most important things; someone else will do just fine.

Thoughts after a conversation with a friend,
by Elsie Montgomery

May 13, 2009

Meet Oswald Chambers - Nesdoly

(First published on my blog in June 2005.)

Despite the many unread books stacked beside my bed, because of a new habit I’ve fallen into, that stack is getting smaller more slowly than quickly. Each Sunday after church I feel tugged toward the church library. Yesterday I found a book I never even knew existed: Oswald Chambers: Abandoned To God – The Life Story of the Author of My Utmost for His Highest, by David McCasland. As someone whose several-year-old copy of My Utmost is looking more worn by the day and yellow-highlighted to the ridiculous, this is a find indeed. I spent yesterday’s rainy afternoon becoming acquainted with one of my heroes.

I never knew, for example, that it was Chambers’ original intention to pursue a career in art, and that all his life he was a great supporter of reading widely and across the disciplines.

When (Major John ) Skidmore found himself in a mental cul de sac, emptied by his role of continually giving the truth out to others, he shared his dilemma with Chambers.

"What do you read?" Oswald asked.

"Only the Bible and books directly associated with it," Skidmore told him.

"That’s the trouble," Chambers replied. "You have allowed part of your brain to stagnate for want of use."

Within a few minutes, Oswald had scribbled out a list of more than fifty books – philosophical, psychological, and theological, dealing with every phase of current thought. In a follow-up letter to Skidmore, Oswald said: "My strong advice to you is to soak, soak, soak in philosophy and psychology, until you know more of these subjects than ever you need consciously to think. It is ignorance of these subjects on the part of ministers and workers that has brought our evangelical theology to such a sorry plight." (Page 156 & 157)

McCasland had access to original documents to write the book. The story he tells is enriched by Chambers’ own unique take on things in excerpts from letters, diaries and prayer journals. Here’s another bit on books, something Chambers wrote to his sister Florence on April 7, 1907:
I have been having a reveling few days. My box has arrived. My books! I cannot tell you what they are to me– silent, wealthy, loyal lovers. To look at them, to handle them, and to re-read them! I do thank God for my books with every fibre of my being. Friends that are ever true, and ever your own.... Plato, Wordsworth, Myers, Bradley, Halyburton, St. Augustine, Browning Tennyson, Amiel, etc. I know them, I wish you could see how they look at me, a quiet calm look of certain acquaintance. (Page 109)

Chambers also wrote poetry. Here’s a poem he wrote at the age of 22 (this was before he felt the call to become a minister)

(Perth [Scotland], August 23, 1986)

O the wonder
Of that music in my ear!
How it touches–pains those fibres
Of my soul-life which I fear!
Fear because they wake emotions,
Whispers from another sphere.

Slow subdued a tender minor,
Constant, deep and wonder-ful;
Not a grief but something finer,
Something pure and spirit-ful
Underlies a great, strong yearning,
Weirdly strange yet power-ful,
Passionate, yet purely burning,
Disciplined, and prayer-ful. (Page 62)

And of course, there are the letter and journal snippets, which hearken so closely to the kind of thing one finds in My Utmost For His Highest, like this bit from a letter written on February 16, 1907:
I want to tell you a growing conviction with me, and that is that as we obey the leadings of the Spirit of God, we enable God to answer the prayers of other people. I mean that our lives, my life, is the answer to someone’s prayer, prayed perhaps centuries ago.

It is more and more impossible to me to have programmes and plans because God alone has the plan, and our plans are only apt to hinder Him, and make it necessary for Him to break them up. I have the unspeakable knowledge that my life is the answer to prayers, and that God is blessing me and making me a blessing entirely of His sovereign grace and nothing to do with my merits, saving as I am bold enough to trust His leading and not the dictates of my own wisdom and common sense... (Page 107)

A complete review of Abandoned to God with lots more about Oswald Chambers' life is here.


Blog: promptings
Writerly Blog: Line upon line
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru

May 11, 2009

Morning News - Pamela Mytroen

Morning sun warmed Rachab’s toes as if nothing had ever changed. She sat up quickly and pushed herself away from the reed mat. She never enjoyed the pleasure. Instead, she brushed away the stain from her arms, her face. No matter how she hid behind her veil, though, she still felt the tatoo of lust and shame burning on her skin. On that reed mat, behind the patched red curtain, she gave and gave and gave beyond empty every day, always waiting for love to return.

She kicked the greed-worn mat and walked to the shuttered windows. It was the one place she felt hope in this prison. The window where she had escaped last year to find love. He would be back. Tumaini had promised her that night when the guards had ripped her away from him and forced her by sword-point back to the city.

She hung on to the window like she clung to hope. He lives. He'll return. It’s what she lived for, it was the opium that blurred her guilt and pain and that awakened her each moring to hope again.

“Rachab! You have a guest!” hollered Abigail her servant girl.

Rachab pounded the stone wall with her first. So early in the morning? Usually they come after their supper beer.

"Rachab?" repeated Abigail in her sing-song voice.

“Abigail,” called Rachab, “Instruct Sophia to handle the drunken jackal."

A pause. The flip-flop of Abigail’s sandals echoed up the stone stairway. She folded her thick round arms to her ample chest and bowed. “My lady, he insists on your pleasure. He won’t even darken the lintel unless I promise him the company of Rachab, the King's favourite."

Rachab exhaled. She had been hoping for a walk in the orchards today. The olives would be harvested soon and she liked the sound of the children jumping in the oil press. Their giggles, though they stabbed her heart with longing, always cheered her spirit. And most of them only stared. Some even smiled at her wave. Only occasionally they ran to their mothers when they saw her. It was the one place she could walk and enjoy the fresh air without chick peas being hurled at the back of her legs, or insults flung at her tender heart.

“I’ll bring you pomegranate tea,” said Abigail, as if reading her thoughts. Not all people of Yerach were unkind. Why Abigail wanted to leave her adoring parents and serve Rachab, she would never know, but she thanked the heavens every day.

Rachab opened her cedar chest, a present from a wealthy ship owner. He had delivered it just as he promised, after Rachab had delivered herself to him. The cedar fragrance soothed her. This was one gift for her alone, not the King. There were a few hidden gifts already, a set of gold anklets from the Black Land, which she never wore because the engraving on it reminded her too much of her love, Tumaini. “Gem of the Kinahu,” it read. And she had been given perfume in a blue alabaster from Cyprus, and a purple robe from Shinar. But they did not fill the longing in her heart to be held.

Oh, she was held often enough, but not merely held. Ravaged, licked, consumed. She wondered if she would have anything left for Tumaini when he returned. If he returned.

The armed soldier had escorted him to the desert. She hadn't seen the sword on its return. Was it blood stained? She shivered, though the early morning sun already warmed her room. She must remember that some soldiers knew mercy. Her brother Yacob was one of them. A smile lifted her spirit. Perhaps it was her brother Yacob who had escorted Tumaini away. Maybe someday he would bring secret news of Tumaini's escape.

Today she would close her eyes and while her guest enjoyed her, she would remember Tumaini's words: "Wait for me, Rachab.”

Until then she would serve the King with secrets. Hunger never left her alone for long. She must entertain this guest today to keep the King’s tray of fruit and grain on her doorstep. Perhaps this mysterious morning customer would have an exotic morsel to pass on to the King. Of course, she would have to lure it from him. So, she pulled a clean red robe from the chest and sat facing the window, facing hope, as Abigail fastened the robe at her neck and brushed her long black hair. The pomegranate tea soothed her restless thoughts.

The red curtain parted and Abigail ushered in her next guest. Rachab gripped the rough limestone around her window and focused on the hills to the west. That is where her love left and where he would certainly return. She heard the man behind her kick off his sandals, and toss his outer robe on her reed chair. Large hands squeezed her waist and slid up her back. When his calloused fingers stroked the back of her neck, she tensed. It was time to get to work.

She turned to face him and didn’t know if she should sing praises to the gods or throw her tea at him. Her brother, her own dear brother Yacob, raised his eyebrows and wove his teasing laughter into hers.

Pam Mytroen
a scene from the middle of a someday-I'll-finish-it-novel

May 08, 2009

PRESS ON by Lynda Schultz

Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:3)

I don’t remember ever having read this verse before, though surely I must have. This morning it speaks clearly, like a rainbow on the edge of a storm. I long for revival. The closer I come to Him the more I realize how much more I want, and need, of Him in my own life. As I weep for myself, I weep for the church and pray that the people who are called by God’s name will seek Him, will make Him THE priority on every level.

As I reflected on the verse, I decided to look up the word “acknowledge.” The results of my search were appropriate to Hosea’s message to Israel and our need today:

1. admit, accept, grant, allow, concede, accede to, confess, own, recognize.
2. greet, salute, address; nod to, wave to, raise one's hat to, say hello to.
3. express gratitude for, show appreciation for, thank someone for.
answer, reply to, respond to.

The attitudes expressed by these words should characterize our relationship to God. They give weight to what Solomon says in Proverbs 3:6: “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” To ignore God is to suffer the dangers inherent in walking crooked paths.

Hosea tells us to “press on,” to keep insisting in this acknowledgment of God, even when the situation seems desperate. In Hosea’s world, Israel was thriving materially, but had wandered far, far away from God. His own life became an illustration of the unfaithfulness of God’s people. He was called upon to take the unusual step of marrying a woman who would not keep her marriage vows. In the end, Hosea had to buy her back out of a local slave market. He must have had many moments when he wept over his relationship with his wife, and despaired over Israel’s relationship with her God. Some have called Hosea “the prophet with the broken heart.”

However, Hosea’s own life also illustrates the heart and hope encapsulated in this verse. Just as he rescued and forgave his wife and kept his part of their marriage covenant, so God would do the same for His people. Hosea’s faith shines through as he insists on acknowledging the Lord despite the bleakness of the circumstances. He urges his listeners to “press on” in their relationship to God. He knows that just as he went to Gomer’s aid and offered her incredible love and forgiveness, so God would come and show those same mercies to Israel.

This promise remains current. Many in the Northern Hemisphere are enjoying the renewal of life as spring comes once again. Just as the spring rains herald renewal in the physical world, so God will come and bring revival, restoration, and renewal, to our spiritual world.

Don’t despair. Acknowledge Him. Press on in worship and intercessory prayer. Like the sunrise, He will come.

May 06, 2009

Time With God - Janet Sketchley

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:10, NIV”

When we first choose to trust God, it’s like falling in love. We want to spend time with Him, get to know Him. He’s all we can think about, no matter what we’re doing.

Getting to know Him means reading His Book, talking with others and discovering what they know about Him, spending time alone with Him in prayer.

Over time, there’s a tendency to take Him for granted, not seize special moments with Him, talk more about ourselves than about Him.

God does want us to talk about ourselves, invites us to bring our needs and concerns to Him. I think His intent is “Let’s look at this together, and I’ll show you how I see it. Then let Me deal with it. It’s too big for you, and you don’t see all the pieces.”

What He doesn’t want is for us to natter at Him nonstop, rehashing the same grievance and telling Him yet again how He should solve it. (The humans we love don’t want that either!)

I love it that Jesus invites us to persistent prayer, but I need to combine that with the Apostle Paul’s instruction to “present our petitions with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:6) so I don’t end up being a nag.

Most of all, I need to remember the intent of prayer is to bring me to God. I come with needs, requests, confessions, praise and thanksgiving, but the point is that I come to the God of the universe, who loves me.

When I finally run out of words, He wants me to stay with Him. To love Him, rest in Him, abide in His presence.

Father, please forgive me for the times I get more caught up in “prayer requests” than in Your presence. Please still my soul to know and love You. Thank You that You meet my needs. Thank You even more for who You are.

A good prayer for the week is the song “Give Me Jesus,” written by Peter Shambrook, sung here by Jeremy Camp.

*New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

May 04, 2009

Spring Cleaning Prepares the Way by Brenda Leyland

Would you be surprised to learn that God takes an active interest in your Spring cleaning rituals?

Spring cleaning, you ask? Of course, we know that our Heavenly Dad cares about all the details of our lives, but surely not how we clean out the corners of our winter-emerging homes?

Well, I believe He does care. Not only because He knows all that concerns us, but more widely, because everything we do, or don't do, impacts our destiny and, being as inter-connected as we are with one another, the destinies of others.

Each one of us has a greater calling and purpose, one that reaches past our temporal lives into future generations, into eternity. And whether or not we are able to take advantage of the God-given opportunities when they arise will partly depend on how prepared we are -- which includes how we keep our lives and homes in order.

We all know it takes a lot of time and effort to maintain our physical lives. We have our homes, yards, and vehicles, plus all our accumulated stuff. The more material possessions we have, the more time it takes to look after them. And, you've probably noticed, the more stuff that's piled up and out of order in our lives -- in the garage, in the basement, the office, barn, attic, and wherever else, the more effort is needed to maintain and find it when we're looking for something that's 'got to be around here somewhere'.

Which means that the more time we spend on these maintenance activities, the less time we have for our Father's Kingdom business, for writing, for instance. We all know time is at a premium. Our personal clocks are ticking, as is this old world's. We aren't eager to spend all our days consumed with only temporal activities, looking after that which will eventually end up on an ash heap.

Over the years, I have felt His gentle promptings to simplify my life more and more, to let go of those things in my life that take up space, time, effort, energy and emotion, yet give little value in return. More recently, I feel that prompting again, as He's encouraged me to keep on top of my homemaking activities. I'm to set my house in order, so that I will be in that place of readiness.

I don't want to be the caretaker of the wrong details. So, for me, that's what spring cleaning is all about. It's clearing out the junk, bringing order to my corners of chaos, and clearing the way for me to focus on the right details, those details that matter to the plans God has for me.

And in all this, I am ever mindful of the words Jesus spoke when He said that without Him we can do nothing. When it comes to clearing out my bookshelves, sorting out wardrobes, culling accumulated gadgets, tools and what-nots, I invite Him to be my Seer and Helper. After all, He sees and knows exactly what I'll need and enjoy in the future, and what truly is excess and clutter.

So, are you inspired to get to your Spring Cleaning? What if the opportunity you've waited for all your life arrives this summer? Will you be ready?

Brenda lives in Alberta with her husband and their sweet tortoiseshell cat, Miss Kitty. When Brenda's not watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places, she's probably writing about them on her blog It's A Beautiful Life.