April 30, 2011

Sufficient Grace by Ruth L. Snyder

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
-Annie J. Flint (Public Domain)

     I was driving one of my sons to Edmonton for some medical tests. The dark pre-dawn sky mirrored my emotions. My son had two long days of testing ahead of him. I wondered if he would cooperate and do his best. Behaviour issues and inconsistent achievement at school had convinced me to look for help for him. Would the people administering the tests be understanding and helpful? Or would my son and I be judged?
Ruth L. Snyder
     The soothing words of Annie Flint’s hymn streamed out of the stereo and poured over my troubled spirit. The sun began its ascent to proclaim the beginning of a glorious new day. It was as if God Himself wrapped me in His loving arms and whispered, “Peace. Be Still.” I reveled in His presence and understood that no matter what happened, He would be with me.
     There are times in life when we have to cling to the truth of God’s Word. All around us we see darkness. It feels like light doesn’t even exist. But God is there. The storms of life will come and go. But Jesus is the same – yesterday, today and forever. When we can’t go on, He will carry us. His grace is sufficient - always. (2 Cor. 12:9)

Check out Ruth’s education blog at http://www.trusteesnyder.blogspot.com/

April 28, 2011

A Little Guy Who Made A Big Impact - Bruce Atchison

Of all the noble characters in Scripture, Gideon is my favourite. I can relate to him since He wasn't strong like Samson, brave like joshua, or highly educated like the Apostle Paul. As he admitted to the angel who appeared to him, "O Lord, how may I be the saviour of Israel? See, my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house." I love the fact that once this unassuming man knew what he had to do, he went forth and liberated his nation from the Midianite invaders.

Since the biblical Gideon was a timid person who nevertheless caused his enemies to be defeated, I named one of my house rabbits in honour of him. He certainly was worthy of his name. He was a Himalayan bunny who behaved like a fur-clad Dennis the Menace.

Like that comic strip character, Gideon had the knack of getting into trouble. He once found his way past the boards that I placed around my bed and chewed up a leather suitcase, along with assorted cardboard boxes and papers. He snipped my phone line one morning, even though I wrapped it in aluminum foil and tucked it under the baseboards. To this day, I have blankets, sheets, and pillow cases that bear his dental autographs.

Even with all the mischief he caused, I loved that pint-sized rascal. I fondly remember the many pleasant evening hours we spent together as I lay on the floor and petted him. Whenever I sat down on the rug, he came bounding over for pets. He often loafed next to my desk for hours like a faithful dog as I wrote freelance articles.

Gideon also entertained me with his playful antics. During many mornings, he raced up and down the hallway in an attitude of pure enjoyment of being alive. I also let him shred cardboard boxes and phone books so he wouldn't ruin my furniture. He even learned how to hurl rolled up socks between his hind legs like a football quarterback. I loved watching him clearing them out from under the desk and pushing them with his forelegs as if he was digging a burrow.

I wrote a book about Gideon as well as the other loveable rogues that I adopted over an eight-year period. Through hilarious and poignant vignettes, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) describes how I discovered the true nature of these misunderstood animals by treating them like house pets rather than furry amusements. For more information regarding this memoir, as well as Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), please visit my InScribe page.

April 26, 2011

Preserving our Stories - Karen Toews

In less than three weeks my daughter, her husband and family are moving. Not across town or to the next one either, but back to Canada and to a location and lifestyle they anticipate to be simpler, allowing for less 'stuff'. Packing has been judiciously selective. But as my daughter related in her blog , a perk of the whole purging process has been "discovering treasures of your life's belongings". One of which for her, has been dusting off her Mom's memoir of short stories about pieces of our past.

The reminders of: the writing process (which took me forever); the pleasure of my daughter's appreciation; and the thrill of my grand-daughter declaring to her Mom, "there is just so much about you I don't know!" have been a direct prod.

It's time to do my own sorting - scrolling computer documents with opening paragraphs and sketchy outlines, skimming personal journals, thumbing through the "writing ideas" folder - and to once again start preserving. Without even looking I know those jotted notes include adventure, pain, love, loneliness, humour, thankfulness, uncertainties, challenges. Our narrative, with its joys and pathos, all buffered by our heritage and wrapped in relationship with our God.

Jotting ideas on paper scraps takes as little time and effort as the thoughts that inspired the action. Following through to the polished product, be it a short story or a manuscript, will be the test of my resolve and expression of my passion.

There's much work ahead. It won't get done unless I set time lines (as my best intentions are easily derailed without deadlines), schedule writing time, and begin to write. I'm ready for the challenge, the prompt is on my computer: stories left untold will be gifts I've neglected to give - to my family, to myself and to my God.

April 25, 2011

Notice, Remember, and Tell - Jack Popjes

We are pleased to have Jack Popjes guest post for us today.

I am rarely stuck for words, but this great-grandmother’s reply left me gaping like a dying codfish.

I had just finished leading a writers’ workshop based on Psalm 78:3-4 for several dozen retired people who wanted to leave a legacy of written “Family God-stories”. One elderly lady briefly told a fascinating story of how God had answered the prayers of her family during the beginning of the Great Depression.

She was just a small child but prayed earnestly for her Daddy to get a job. And he did, as a construction worker on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. When, after four and a half years, the bridge was opened on May 27, 1937, she and the rest of the family rode in the first motorcade to cross the bridge.

After the workshop I asked if she had already written that story. “No, I haven’t,” she replied, “this is the first time I have ever told this story to anyone.” Huh? Never?! The first time!? Codfish time for Jack.

I discovered she had not even told her late husband, or any of her kids, grandkids or great-grandkids. For 75 years, two generations of her family born after her had been driving across that huge orange bridge regularly, never realizing it symbolized God’s provision for their grandfather’s family during those dark, desperate depression years of the 1930s.

As I drove home that day I wondered how many thousands of other Christians are failing to tell God-stories such as these, and thus robbing Him of thousands of opportunities to receive glory and praise.

Throughout the Bible God commands people to remember—147 times in the Old Testament and 70 times in the New Testament. “. . . things we learned from our ancestors, and we will tell them to the next generation. We will not keep secret the glorious deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 78:3-4. When the Israelites stopped telling the God-stories, their descendants fell into sin, over and over again.

We live in chaotic times. It is hard to notice and then remember. We are overloaded with information and have no time to think. That is Satan’s work. Our work is to stop, think, pray, and note the answers to our prayers. Keeping a diary is a great tool to help us think, reflect and remember. The weakest ink lasts longer than the most powerful memory.

Then, we need to tell and retell the God-stories in our lives: the answers to prayer; the protection from harm; the amazing provision—all the things that God has obviously done for us. Our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids need to know these things.

If we don’t notice them, we will forget. If we don’t remember we can’t tell the next generation. Through our negligence we keep secret what God has done and rob Him of the glory and praise due to Him.

Who wants to do that?

Jack Popjes
originally posted on Jack's blog InSights and Outbursts

BEHOLD THE MAN – Martha Toews Anderson

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 his body was taken by train to his native Kentucky for burial. Along the route the train stopped at designated stations where thousands of mourners were lined up for miles waiting to get a glimpse of their beloved president.

At one point where the coffin was set in state, a black woman took her young child up in her arms and stepped close to the coffin.

“Son, I want you to take a look at this man,” she spoke through her tears. “Take a good long look at him. This is the man who died for you.”

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are not just another long weekend, but an opportunity for us to behold again the Man who died on the cross for us. We need to take a good, long look at the One who died in utter humiliation and torture to purchase our freedom.

Thank God, that is not the end of the story. He did not remain in the grave, but rose again never more to die. Before He ascended into Heaven He assured His followers with these words,

“In My Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you, I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also… I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:2,3,6 nkjv).

Because of His promise to us in Scripture we can know assuredly that when our sojourn here is ended our true self will go to live with Him in Heaven. When my husband passed from my side a month ago I knew his soul and spirit had gone to be with Jesus and some day I will join him there. That assurance is my greatest source of comfort.

April 24, 2011

Hallelujah! — Lynda Schultz

This weekend I watched the classic movie Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston and filmed in 1959. The only scene I really remembered about the movie was the famous clip, so often shown, of the chariot race between Ben Hur and his enemy, the Roman tribune. But though today's movie goers might prefer the body parts flying in all directions during the racing scene, and though the majority of us might find the acting of that era somewhat stilted, the epic tale still speaks volumes even more than fifty years after the movie was made.

We, the audience, never see the face of the actor playing the role of Christ. But we can tell by the look on Ben Hur's face that each encounter between the two men is incredibly significant. In fact, I don't think Ben Hur and the Lord ever actually exchange any words, just looks. But it is through the look that the real story is told.

As I was searching through an old hymnbook later that same day I came across a hymn that so perfectly wrapped up, for me at least, what the movie was intended to be about.

John Newton wrote these words, and I share them with you during this Easter season with the prayer that they will instill in you praise to God for that incredible gift that Christ provided for us on that cross and guaranteed through that empty tomb.

I saw One hanging on a tree,
In agony and blood;
He fixed His languid eyes on me,
As near His cross I stood.

O can it be, upon a tree,
The Saviour died for me?
My soul is thrilled, my heart is filled,
To think He died for me.

Sure never to my latest breath,
Can I forget that look;
It seemed to charge me with His death,
Tho' not a word He spoke.

My conscience felt and owned the guilt,
And plunged me in despair;
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
And helped to nail Him there.

A second look He gave, which said,
"I freely all forgive;
This blood is for thy ransom paid,
I die that thou may'st live."

This, while His death my sin displays
In all its blackest hue,
Such is the mystery of grace,
It seals my pardon too.

And it is in knowing, through a personal encounter with Christ, the forgiveness purchased on the cross, and through experiencing the new life gained through the empty tomb that our hearts are filled, today, tomorrow, and always, with heartfelt hallelujahs.

April 23, 2011

stop... and read - Dorothy Bentley

I have been so tired from doing many worthwhile things, that I have lost the creative fire that fuels my writing. I knew I needed to put on the brakes and take a time out.

So here I am, not working, not doing chores, not writing.

Not writing.

Yeah, but it's my blogging day, so here I am, explaining why I'm not writing!

I am on a road trip with my husband and young son. I promised myself I wouldn't write, but instead, I brought along a novel to read. The funny thing, is that it's a novel I already read, except the first time, I read it so fast I couldn't savour it.

This second time, I read Taling to the Dead, by Bonnie Grove much more slowly. I liked the book the first time. During this second time, while driving for hours and hours, through the Rockies with tumbling craggles of snowy spring flying by my window, my expert driver-husband calmly manouvering around hairpin bends, the book was fantastic! Bonnie is an excellent writer, and I thought back to hearing her at InScribe's conference a while back, and her comments about hearing God, but that she'd not tell people that or they'd think she was looney! So funny now, having enjoyed her book again, having gotten to know her character Kate on a deeper level.

Oh, how I've missed reading slowly, and tasting every morsel of prose. I can't wait to start the new novel I bought in Kamloops as we drive to Whistler in the moring. I wonder how long this new read will last?

In time, my own words will return. After I've rested, renewed, reveled in the words of other crafters.

Tumbling, slowly again into a make-believe world...

No more rushing.

I must keep the brakes of life on.

April 21, 2011

A Little Child Shall Lead Them - Sulo Moorthy

This morning, I was reading the Classic Writings of Billy Graham, where Mr.Graham had tried to explain, that despite how sincere we may be in our desire to serve Christ, that does not make us perfect nor fault-free. To simplify his point, he chose a letter written by a five-year-old to her dad, a Scottish preacher, who was away in New Zealand on a mission tour.

'Dear father, I wrote all this myself. I send you a kiss from Elsie.' the child wrote. The father did see the crooked strokes, his child's struggle to print large capitals, and the absence of a single properly formed letter. Yet, that didn't annoy him nor make him blame the child for her poor writing. Instead, he chose to treasure the letter like an art piece. He knew for sure it was the best his darling five-year-old could do to convey her love to him.  She had put her whole heart into the letter, sealed it with a kiss and sent it to him from far away. How could anything be more precious to him than that ?

As I was reading the story, my thoughts reeled back to the time when I wrote somewhat a similar letter to my father, whom I lovingly called Papa.  I would have probably been around the same age as the little girl in the story. That summer, my mother, two older sisters and I were holidaying at our aunt's house in the hilly countryside, skirted by cocoa and pepper plantations. Because of work, my father couldn't accompany us on this trip and that made me, the youngest of five, to miss him the most.

Whenever the postman brought my father's letters, I awaited eagerly on my mother's lap to hear her read the part where my father had inquired about me.  I made sure that in return, I would draw a picture or scribble something on a piece of paper and sent it along when my mom posted her letter to my father. Then, one day, I was playing in the backyard with my cousin, when my mother came and handed me an envelope addressed to me. A letter for me? I couldn't believe my eyes.  My chubby cheeks beamed when I saw the handwriting of my dear father on the envelope. The fact that he had written especially to me made me squeal and run around the house, showing the letter to everyone.

Today, I cannot recall what my father had written in that letter, but I do remember carrying the letter all day long in my frock pocket (yes, we did have cute pockets in our dresses) and reading it again and again.  In a day or two, I could easily recite the entire letter by heart. It became a pastime for my sisters and cousins to call upon me to recite the letter in front of others. Shy, I might have been by nature, but when it came to reciting my father's letter, I didn't shy away at all. My curly hair pinned up in two colorful barrettes, I stood there with my chin up and my eyes gleaming, and recited my father's letter for my onlookers amusement.

I wish I could say that I read my Heavenly Father's letter (God's Word) too with the same fervor and devotion. Maybe at times. But mostly, I do it because I ought to, rather than I love to. Life somehow interrupts and dampens the passion I long to have. But, that doesn't make my Heavenly Father to love me less nor restricts His grace towards me.  However, it's my sincere desire that I will regain my childlike trust and devotion, and make His Word alive in me for His delight

April 20, 2011

Thank You - Ruth Sakstad

I just want to say a quick thank you to all who have left comments on the blog I wrote yesterday.  I really appreciate the feedback.  Thank you all again.

April 19, 2011

Thomas - Ruth Sakstad

At the beginning of April, Brenda Leyland challenged us to think about who would be our favorite person involved in the Easter story.

Of course Jesus is the person whom the story revolves around and were it not for Him there would be no story.

But the person I most relate to is Thomas (or Doubting Thomas). I understand Thomas' reluctance to believe what the other disciples said about Jesus being alive. Some times I feel the same way. I want to see and touch Jesus to help me believe that He really is there and cares about me. I talk to other believers who have seen Jesus working in their lives and I feel jealous because it seems like He doesn't show Himself to me in similar ways.

Even though I don't see Jesus in the ways I think He should show Himself to me, I still want to say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!" Because that is who He is.

Be blessed this Easter season.

Ruth Sakstad

April 17, 2011

Wedding and Election Fever: by Bryan Norford

With expectations for a fairy tale wedding and a not so fairy tale election, it seems appropriate to share the following reflection with you. It comes from the marriage devotional Ann and I co-authored, Happy Together: Daily Insights for Families from Scripture, and published two years ago.
Eventually, we will get the government we choose, and therefore deserve. But we trust and pray that William and Kate will fare better than Will’s parents.
Politics and Cinderella
King David had to balance politics and love; he was king and husband and both positions had their challenges. The history of politics after all is a sordid tale—of the power hungry manipulating nations for their own benefit and adulation; of dictators forcing ruthless rule over exploited people; of conquest and war as a means of extending rulers’ influence.
In contrast to this, the first love Michal had for David and his remarkable relationship with God is closer to the love story of Cinderella and seems very different from the politics David needed to practise.
Yet there may be more of a common thread to both politics and our favourite love stories like Cinderella than it appears. Behind those stories lurks the idea that “Once upon a time . . . happily ever after,” reflects a perfection of love and living that our hearts yearn for and our best experiences imply.
Political theorist John von Heyking has written a book entitled, Augustine and Politics as Longing in the World. The title evokes a sense that, despite its excesses, even politics arises from the notion that there is an ideal to strive for beyond the ravages of earthly life—a thirsty longing that wrenches our hearts but is never fully satisfied. As maidens dream of perfect love, so men envision the ideal society and strive for it.
I’m sure most politicians start off with the desire to better their communities, but easily get caught up in the subterfuge, manipulation and compromise that ambition seems to require, which undermines their good intentions. If we could read the rest of the story of Cinderella and her prince, it seems probable we might find a degeneration of their love into self-serving manipulation.
But neither of these evidences of fallen human nature should blind us to the desire God has placed in our hearts for the perfection that is only to be found in Him. If the yearning of the human soul is only complete in God, then the best that marriage can provide is found in Him also.

April 15, 2011

Tracy Krauss - A Complex Simplicity

One week from today marks the day Christendom remembers the crucifixion. Three days later we celebrate Christ's resurrection, the very hub of our faith. It is this central event that drives everything we believe in, for without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our hope is nothing more than human indulgence at best, a pathetic farce at worst.

Of course we all know this. There is no question in the mind of a true believer that Jesus, as the incarnate God of the universe, chose to die and then came back to life again so that our sins might be atoned for. We read it, pray it, sing it. It is part of the very fabric of our faith.

But the philosopher in me likes to ponder these mysteries. . . likes to look at them from all angles. I wonder sometimes if we've become so accustomed to this TRUTH that we miss the amazing complexity of what God has done. Every event leading up to the resurrection - even as far back as the garden - was orchestrated toward this focal point. The complexities of God's plan as laid out in His word baffle the mind. It is beyond our human comprehension that the creator of all living things would be willing to sacrifice Himself for the sake of such a rebellious and stubborn creation. He could just as easily have wiped the slate clean and started over. Instead He chose to make a way where there was no way.

And it is in this thought that we also see the simplicity of it all. God's complex schematic for man's redemption has a very simple application. Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved. That's it.

Like a flower or a snowflake, the simple beauty of God's creation actually showcases the complexity of construction. So it is with the resurrection. Simple complexity. Complex simplicity. Whichever way you look at it, it remains the most most amazing and awe inspiring event of all time.

April 14, 2011

My National Park Legacy

I don’t know about the rest of you, but do you ever get down on yourself? I do. I’m sure we all have our reasons for dragging our chin.

Too often I make blunders, innocent mistakes perhaps, but I say things without realizing how un-tactful they are, only to realize later, much too late, the potency of their poison.

And then I check myself into solitary confinement and beat myself up. Can anybody else relate?

God’s been speaking to me about this. I laughed when I opened God’s word today. Here’s what He had to say today: “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him” (Mark 1:1b).

Ha ha. Wow. I’ve left more of a broken trail than a straight path. My words have hiccuped out like volcanic lava and have hardened into boulders. So much for a paved highway for the Lord to take. Instead, He had to negotiate a wounded landscape before he arrived in the dark, sunless valley of my soul. He rescued me and brought me out into the light.

But others are still coming after me and I’m leaving a crooked route for them. I worry about how I’ve hurt them, and how they need healing. The Lord has reminded me, though, that straight lanes are boring.

Think about those mountain top lakes. The only way in is on foot. There are no paved roads. Hikers must clamber over boulders left from landslides, or cross gaping cracks in glaciers. They encounter mud and slide around, or land on cactus and find themselves bleeding, but still, the only way to the top is through a catastrophe zone.

So I have to live and let it happen. Some days I’m a walking disaster and that’s all I can muster. But I’m trusting that God will take the tsunami of my bloopers and create a National Park. Others will come behind, trip on my words and tumble into the crevasses of my botch-ups. I hope they don’t turn around. If they keep searching for wholeness, they’ll find it at the end of my broken trail.

Someday they’ll stand with me on the outlook point and together we’ll drink in the magnificent colors of God’s grace.

Pam Mytroen

April 12, 2011

April: deathdays, birthdays - Nesdoly

An April cake for my eight-year-old. © V. Nesdoly
April 14, 2011

Spring. Pink blossoms
pile in boulevard drifts
float in rain rivers along gutters.
In the kitchen a cake
decorated with pastel eggs
and twenty-eight candles...
If, that April, twenty-nine years ago
I had been able to stop the cramps
the doctor to staunch the bleeding
the Doptone to hear
from its cold spot
on my burgeoning belly
a flutter of life
I wouldn't have sobbed
through Easter empty-wombed
but we also wouldn't be lighting
these candles today.

© 2011 by V. Nesdoly


April is a month of many family birthdays. Dad and Mom were born in April. So were four nieces, a sister-in-law, and my daughter.

I was thinking of my daughter's birthday (which is on the 14th) and remembering her actual birth day the other day. Then, for some reason, my thoughts went back even farther to the year before that when I was in hospital having a miscarriage in April. Pondering the juxtaposition of these two events made me see in a new way how painful and joyful things in our lives often dovetail. It's a bit like Good Friday and Easter.

On the road ahead may you find your deathdays also morph into birthdays as you experience the implications of Christendom's saddest event that changed into its most joyous victory.

April 11, 2011

See you in the morning - Stephen T Berg

I find myself listening to a 40 year old recording of my aunt Irma singing 'The Holy City' and remember the riots of mimicry and mocking, the operatic affectation we brats silently mouthed between the pews of the Baptist church; elbows on knees, heads swivelling, goading glances, snorts and giggles, up and down the row. And now, I am surprised at how well she sings, how good her voice sounds. It's not the Globe, but there is strength in her rising and falling, there is evocation in her tone, and she sings with conviction. I close my eyes.

Irma Emma Enga(cp)

L-R: Irma, Emma, my mother Enga

My aunt's coffin is outsized by a collection of tulips and lilies and yellow roses and a swath of bewildering red flowers sitting aloft. From my angle the arrangement crowds the pulpit.

The song leader, also a nephew, also one of the young satirists, now leads the hymns with appropriate gravitas. He to me, is unrecognizable, as I am to him. Unrecognizable in that way we timestamp our lives by people and places and are then mildly shocked by the passing of years. There’s been an inestimable number of cellular divisions since we made sport of aunt. Even now, as we sing, the cells carry us further along.

And what of the body resting within the casket? A century, take a month. A marvel, excepting time itself. My aunt, iron and wine lady.

Over the weekend, we congregate, view aunt Irma's body, sing about the afterlife, eat well, sit in groups, view ancient pictures, and stand around a rich mound of black Saskatchewan parkland earth piled beside a rectangular hole. The mound, lamentably covered by green indoor-outdoor carpet.

Not far off are other aunts, uncles—and people from town I was used to seeing in Matkowski's Cafe—and there is the still fresh grave of a cousin, and north of it, the grave of my father.

It's a cemetery I will no longer play hide-and-seek in; no longer will we ride our bikes here at dusk and slay ghosts, inhabit ghosts, lay motionless on graves, sit slowly up, make low ghastly throat sounds—our immortal efforts to terrify.

Today the sun is out; snow is receding around the stone markers, the smell of farm and barn manure is in the breeze. And I am beset by longing that I can't get to, and my camera hangs uselessly from my wrist.

Nothing is captured here except the moulded bones of a century's toil. Where do the stories go, the wonders and delights, the loves? Why, always, this impenetrable mystery? The weight of the invisible threatens to overwhelm at times.

Earlier, the description of heaven, by the earnest pastor, its location, structure, construction, the demarcation policies and rules of entrance, had left me longing for the smell of farm and animals and warm flesh and I had reached for the hand of my wife.

There is the apparent need, in evangelical churches, to make use of a funeral, make out of it a call for the salvation of the lost. The presence of a dead body being the ultimate backdrop for placing life on a particular set of scales. The memory, the presence of the dead, secondary, almost lost.

The service was saved by my brother Sam who brought aunt Irma back to us by story. And finally, the story of my aunt leaning over the coffined body of my father and her words, "Good night Jake, see you in the morning."

The longing for permanence is stamped in our bones. The longing itself pierces the invisible, tears a small hole in the curtain. Creates wonder, even expectation.

But what do I know? Except doubt enough about my own understanding to trust the Unknown with my life and my longings, errant and divine. Faith, like narrative, is navigated, even as we are navigated. The mystery remains as deep as ever. But for the rumour of, "see you in the morning."


April 10, 2011

Easter - Shirley S. Tye

As the snow melts revealing garbage that was hidden by the once white blanket of snow and muddy puddles appear where the gravel laden snow banks retreat, sunshine draws new life from the warming soil and gently soothes the winter weary soul. Lost treasures once hidden by snow and ice are revealed. Dark heavy winter coats are exchanged for brighter and lighter weight spring coats. Spring is a mixture of beauty and dirt.

Such is Easter. The gruesome death sentence of Jesus; the agony of His sacrifice is more than my guilty eyes can behold. But God's love penetrated my sin laden soul weary of life's struggles and drew me to Him. The dirt and garbage has been removed, and lost treasures are found. My yoke is lighter because Jesus is carrying the heavy end. I've been made beautiful with new life springing within me.

Easter is a mixture of gladness and weeping. I rejoice in the new life I have been given but yet I weep bitterly because my sins drove Jesus to the cross. There's nothing I can do to repay Him except love Him through tears. Although my eyes weep, my heart rejoices that Jesus rose again. Even in the dirt of this world, life is beautiful because my Lord reigns!

April 08, 2011

God's Unfailing Love -- Janet Sketchley

The NIV declares of God, “his love endures forever” 43 times. “Unfailing love” appears 40 times, always describing God’s love. These results are just from the Old Testament. The New Testament overflows with God’s love too, so I assume the writers used phrases that translate differently.

But Old Testament life seems to have a harsher edge to it than New Testament and into today. God was preparing the way, but the Messiah had not yet come. The Holy Spirit came to individuals but not to all. If God spoke to a person it was usually through a prophet or an angel.

God was preparing a people for Himself and there were a lot of growing pains. There still are, even now when we can rely on the Holy Spirit living in us, Christ in us, the hope of glory.

In the middle of the hardship of Old Testament life as God sculpted a reluctant people for Himself, when their actions often required correction in the form of invading armies and exile, His Holy Word proclaims His unfailing, forever-enduring love.

Whatever we face today, we can know and rely on God’s love God for us. There is hope.

© Janet Sketchley, 2011
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

April 06, 2011

Boot Camp Blues

Monday morning. It started out like any other week. I made my typical trek to Dad's house, making sure all was well. I filled his dosette medication box as usual and did a few other chores, including preparing his meal for later, making his bed and some other general, typical Monday morning duties.

Then Rosemary arrived. She came through the door with a grin on her face and stretchy clothes on her body.

"Are you ready?" she sheepishly asked.

"I think so," I replied looking at Dad and tugging at my less than flattering exercise clothes. Rosemary fed Dad's fish and did a few other things while she waited for me to gather my bag and my courage.

 "Let's go!

My bossy big sister ordered me to get set for Boot Camp at the local dance studio.  She's not usually bossy, but she saw it her duty to keep me motivated! We had signed up for exercise class and time was drawing near. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into. Of course, we should have guessed it wouldn't be a senior's program when we discovered the name of the class - Boot Camp!

Since my surgery and chemo I have packed on the pounds and do you think I can lose them? I remember each time I went to the cancer clinic for treatments they would say how good it was that I wasn't losing weight! I felt like flushing the steroids down the loo - but I didn't. I listened to their reasoning about how the weight at that point, was an okay thing. But here I am almost two and a half years since that last bit of taxol/carboplatin dripped into my vein. And I am still huffing and puffing my way around life.

The class was wonderful. The teacher - tremendous. Leonna had us stretching and doing things that I really thought impossible given my years and sedentary lifestyle! I love my job - writing and teaching. I count my blessings all the time as I consider how I am able to work out of my home and be flexible with my schedule. However, the drawback - most of my work consists of me on my derriere! And oh, how I was reminded about that at Boot Camp this past Monday. Rosemary and I never thought we would make it past the first 15minutes. But we did. We hung in there. We stopped watching the clock and praying for the black hour hand to whip by and started focussing on what Sergeant Leonna was saying! And we didn't have to call for EMS.

At one point, as I was jogging a mile a minute on the spot, I thought about God. I wondered if I was spending enough time in Boot Camp for the Lord. In between panting breaths I thought about how I need to remember that not only do I need to sweat to get rid of the excess weight, I need to do a little sweating about the sin in my life. Is there any excess baggage in my soul weighing me down and making me less of a disciple? Do I need to make some better choices about bitter attitudes?

So here I am...doggedly determined to get myself into some semblance of better shape on the outside. And I also am equally determined to show the same enthusiasm for God.

Now if only I could get rid of this thorn in my side...oh just a minute...that's a pain in my (wanna' be)abs! Bring on the Advil!

April 01, 2011

The Real Thrill - Marcia Lee Laycock

I’d been writing my devotional column, The Spur, for about ten years when the refrain began. Readers kept asking me to compile the pieces into a book they could give to family and friends. I began to investigate the markets and quickly discovered that devotionals, though in great demand for magazines, were very difficult to have published in book form unless you were well known or had a specific niche market. Since my column does not follow a specific theme it did not meet the requirements.

Then I met a man who represented a publishing company and after discussing the pros and cons, I decided to self-publish.
Then came the horror stories – writers who still had boxes of books in their basements and had wearied of the hard work of selling them. But the requests for a book seemed to have increased, and after much prayer, I concluded this was what God wanted. I knew my market would be small, mostly a local audience, so opted for a small run of 500 books. They arrived at the beginning of December, almost too late for the Christmas market, I discovered, since the tinsel and Santas had appeared in the stores in October. But I launched the book in a local library and began arranging book signings.

More horror stories. Writer friends began telling about sitting at a small table for hours while patrons skirted around them, refusing to make eye contact. More prayer and the courage came to persevere. My first attempt was in a moderately sized bookstore in a fairly large community. Lots of potential here, I thought. But I sat at my small table for most of the day, watching people skirt around me and my shiny new book.

Then a man approached, smiled in a hesitant way, and picked up a copy. He smiled again as he put it down and walked away. It was about half an hour before he came back and this time he started to talk. He told me his wife was going through a time of depression and needed something to encourage her. We talked for almost an hour. When he walked away it wasn’t the fact that he had a book in his hand that thrilled me, it was the fact that I was very much aware that God had just used me in that man’s life, to encourage him. I prayed He would work in the same way through my book.

My second book signing was in a tiny store in a small community. Not too much potential here, I thought. The day was almost half over before I had my first opportunity to speak to a customer. She was looking for something to send to a recently bereaved friend, something that would encourage her. We talked for some time and she went away with a copy in her hand and a smile on her face.

The pattern kept repeating itself. I might sell one or two books – four or five on a good day – but there was always that one person, the one God had arranged as a divine appointment.
The word encouragement became a refrain.

Then the letters and emails started arriving, with stories of how God was working in people’s lives, using the short devotionals in my book. I was amazed, humbled and tremendously thankful. My little self-published effort, with its poor cover and errors on the inside, was being used as a tool for ministry.

So I don’t tell horror stories, when someone asks about my venture into self-publishing. I talk about the lives touched and even changed. I tell stories of God’s grace and mercy. I talk about the thrill of ministry.

Marcia now has three books published and two more to be released this fall. Visit her website at http://www.vinemarc.com/