November 29, 2018

Setbacks and Comebacks by Bob Jones

For every setback God will give you a greater comeback.

Our church leadership learned this lesson the hard way.

We cornered the market on setbacks. Or at least it felt that way in 2001. The process of relocating Central Tabernacle from an urban location in an iconic facility with a rich history of ministry, to a farmer’s field in Edmonton’s northwest frontier was rich with setbacks.

What was envisioned to last no longer than three years took over six.

We faced setback after setback after setback.

No money. No land. Negative momentum. Three strikes and you know what they say.

But, instead of being called “out” we found out about God’s provision in a way that only adversity and obstacles can reveal.

For each setback God gave us comeback. And the comeback was usually greater than the setback.

We found land at just the right time. We were able to purchase more than we needed and sold some to pay for what we kept. So, we got our land for free.

Now, 18 years later, North Pointe is a thriving come-as-you are community of 3,700 that exists to offer real hope, new life and lasting purpose.

Our setbacks taught us tenacious truths. Truths that we need now as we are facing a fresh set of setbacks. But that’s life.

Facing a setback? Here are somethings we learned that may help you.

14 Lessons We Learned

1. It’s always too soon to quit.

2. Never, ever, ever, ever quit.

3. The worst moments in our lives make us who we are.
 “…my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12

4. God’s delays are not denials.

5. When all hope seems lost hold on one day longer.

6. Following God’s will is a marathon not a sprint. You need endurance, stamina and perseverance. It’s a marathon of hope.

7. Perseverance is a long obedience in the same direction.

8. God has great things for us in all seasons of our lives.

9. God leads us in ways that we could never imagine as we follow him.

10. Stay gentle. Stay soft. Fight cynicism with curiosity. The curious are seldom cynical.

11. Faith is wavering between belief and unbelief, doubt and assurance, hope and despair, and finally, hesitantly, with your heart in your hands, acting on the belief part

12. There are three stages in most great tasks undertaken for God: Impossible…Difficult…Done.

13. Whenever you start to do anything for the Lord. It won’t be as easy as you think. The fact that you are doing it for the Lord seems to make no difference at all. 

14. God lets us struggle and sweat so that we learn to trust in Him at a deeper level than ever before.

God bless you in persevering and trusting Him to see you through. You will get through this.

I am a recovering perfectionist, who collects Coca-Cola memorabilia and drinks Iced Tea. My office walls are adorned with our sons’ framed football jerseys, and my library shelves, with soul food. I write to grow hope, inspire people to be real, forge an authentic faith in Jesus, and discover their life purpose.

Please follow my writing at Pointes Of View.

November 28, 2018

Precious silence - Bruce Atchison

"Silence is golden," means something different to me. For years, I searched for a quiet place to live and work. No matter where I moved in Edmonton, I ended up next door to noisy folks.

My quest for quietude began in 1993 when a new family moved next to my home.  These people often invited other children to their place to keep their boy company. You can imagine what the racket a yard full of boys sounded like.

Worse yet, they often left their dogs in the yard all day. I don't blame those animals for barking at strangers. That's just part of their nature. But when I asked my neighbours politely to take their dogs in during the evenings so I could study work-related courses, the husband flipped out. I won't repeat the language he used but he clearly didn't like anybody even asking him to do something he didn't want to.

Condo living seemed to be the answer to me. They have strict rules against noise and other distracting activities, or so I thought. The complex I moved into was noisier than the place I moved from. One obnoxious young man even fixed cars in the parking lot. I complained to the condo board but nothing was done.

I sold my condo and moved into a high rise apartment for adults with the hope that there'd be no party animals and other inconsiderate louts. Since the apartments were being sold off as condos, residents worked daily to redecorate them. The building acted like a tuning fork, amplifying every hammer blow and drill buzz. A tenant also was using a storage room next to my bedroom as his carpentry shop.

When I moved to the main floor suite of a house, I thought that God might finally answer my prayers for a quiet place. I was wrong again. The neighbours operated a tow truck service out of their home. I and some other neighbours complained repeatedly about the diesel fumes and noise from idling trucks parked in front but nobody listened.

Additionally, the neighbours figured they had a right to party. My complaints to them just caused them to rage at my polite requests to turn down the sound.

God seems slow to answer prayers but I finally received a quiet place to live and write in 2000. A real estate agent found me a quiet home in a tiny hamlet with everything I needed. Thanks to a government pay-out, I was able to put a substantial down payment on the house and I paid the rest off in only five years.

Like the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, my constant bombardment of heaven finally received an answer. Everything came together perfectly so I could finally have the quiet location I craved. Apart from the magpies in summer and the occasional coyote choir practice in the evenings, this place is like a permanent writing retreat. I give all the praise and thanks to our heavenly Father for this wonderful home.

November 26, 2018

My Lego Life - Marnie Pohlmann

This week, like many of you, I plan to set up some Christmas decorations.  I am most excited about building my Lego Christmas train, along with the Lego toy shop. And this year I have more Lego. Some winter village pieces to expand the display.

Building Lego takes time, and sometimes it's just not that exciting. There needs to be foundational bricks snapped together in order to provide the strength and form to a structure before the more visually pleasing pieces can be attached. The moving pieces that provide action must have parts, often hidden within the bricks where they cannot be seen, that need to be placed together correctly to enable the outside pieces to move smoothly and properly.

The joy I feel after playing... umm... working with Lego, makes building the boring parts worth the time. Paying attention to the details of the plan is sometimes nit-picky but when everything moves and lights up as they should, the excitement just needs to be shared.

Occasionally I find others who enjoy building with Lego. We connect to spending time finding the tiny pieces that inspire fresh ideas. My grandson likes me to play Lego with him, but I started by sorting the Lego.

"Gramma, when are we going to play with the Lego?"
"I am playing with Lego."
"No, you're cleaning."

Yes, sometimes that is what I do. I organize the bricks. I enjoy seeing the colours and sizes in piles. Sometimes, I like to run my hands through the bricks and while others hear the clatter of pieces, I hear the stirring of creativity.

When I get new Lego, I build the item described in the directions. After I am done, I will eventually take the bricks apart and dump them all into my Lego bin with all the other Lego projects.

Later, I can sift through the bright plastic to find pieces that will build, once again, what the directions say they are to be used for. Alternatively, I can pull out a variety of pieces from my bins and build a unique creation. My imagination combines moving parts, gears, and wheels to design action into my new world.

What does Lego have to do with writing?

Lego is fun, like writing.
Lego is not always easy, like writing.
Lego takes time and concentration, like writing.
More importantly, though, Lego teaches me many lessons. 
Lessons such as how to deal with the difficulties in writing - or for that matter, in life.

Lego bricks can be used for building walls. Difficulties, too, can build walls. These walls may block our way and our joy, but they may also provide strength. I have experienced those kinds of walls more than once in my life. Sometimes pieces have been missing and I needed to learn new ways to build. Other times I have not paid attention to God's directions that would produce what He designed for me, which resulted in the wrong action, or no action, and being unable to shine God's light.

However, like I do with Lego, eventually God has redesigned my broken pieces of difficulty into a new creation. As writers, we try to build characters and plots using the difficulties we have experienced in life or that we imagine for a character's world. Sharing these stories, real or imagined, provides strength not only to our characters but to ourselves, as we build our own difficulties into new action and light.

God speaks, in His own writing, of how He rebuilds our new life from our broken pieces. In Ezekiel 37:6 (Msg) God say He is able and willing "to put new flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. (God) will breathe into you, and you will come to life."

When we are faced with difficulties, we can ask God to use them to build newness in us. We may need to do the work of rebuilding a firm foundation of our relationship with God, but that relationship will allow Him to turn our mourning and despair to joyous blessing and festive praise. (Is 61:3 Msg) Only God can breathe into us those inner pieces that provide excitement and allow His light to shine.

Writing the difficult stories is a way we, as writers, share with others the excitement of our rebuilt world. The new life given to us by God through Jesus, who we celebrate at Christmas, causes joyful praise that we need to share.

As you set out your Christmas decorations, consider what they teach you about God. That’s what I’ll be doing as I decorate with Lego.

November 22, 2018

I Was The Obstacle In the Way - Alan Anderson

Psalm 71:12 “Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me.”

In similar fashion to my personal blog Scarred Joy located on WordPress, I make every effort to be genuine, authentic and transparent etc. in our InScribe blog. I have no reason to stray from this direction of my writing.

In using this month’s prompt as direction I am going to write about a time when I experienced a great obstacle and God opened a new opportunity for me through it. In this post I am giving readers a glimpse into my spiritual life as a Christian including a recent obstacle preventing me from moving forward.

At times I have experienced wandering through a dry and weary land, so to speak, in reference to life. There have been times where God seemed distant. A typical response from my Christian circle of believers is, “Well, God hasn’t moved, so you must have.” Regardless of who moved if anyone, I am being real about such a time in my life. I am not a new kid on the block when it comes to church life. I know being part of a church is an amazing part of life. As I once heard a speaker say, church can also be hazardous to one’s health.

Before I go any further I am being up front with you by saying I am the obstacle in the context of this blog post. As an obstacle I also infringed on my own spiritual growth. I became frustrated as a leader by having to review our church vision, or mission, or reason for being. I expressed this to my church elder partners. I’m not sure they heard me. Perhaps they didn’t care. More than likely they had a different perspective than me. I have no problem with difference of opinion.

I came to a point in life where I sensed something was missing in my life as a Christian. Things in church, of course, were busy; there was always ministry to do. To me, there still remained a missing piece. Being busy wasn’t and isn’t enough. Busy does not always mean fruitful ministry. At least that is how I see it.

After my third term on the church board I took a sabbatical. I needed a break, a rest from involvement that had become drudgery. A thought in my mind at the time, my obstacle, was “I don’t need this constant hamster wheel experience” of church life. It was a challenging time. It was a grueling period in my life. Like the psalmist my cry was, “Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me.” It is what loneliness feels like.

God was still there. He was present. He stood and walked beside my wife and I even when I thought He had left. The best way I know to describe it is, God gave us a spiritual makeover.

I don’t know how to explain it in the confines of this post. I can say we are now with a body of believers who are a well-defined community of Christians. We are learning an ancient contemplative liturgical way of worship so meaningful and beneficial to our souls.

I am no longer an obstacle to anyone, or myself as far as I know. Church is no longer drudgery and stressful. I now look forward to being with my church family. I can see light ahead with a church still on track with its original vision of family, community, worship and care for each other.


November 21, 2018

Lessons from Down Under ... by Jocelyn Faire

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anaïs Nin

The year was 2009. Over the previous months, I'd begun to realize that my marriage was likely to end up as a cold statistic of those that do not survive the loss of a child, never mind two. Plans for a move to Australia were shaping up. My sister asked me “Joc, what do you want to do?” I didn't know. I wanted my life to return to what it had been, but that was not to be. Death is rather irrevocable that way, but surely God wanted our marriage to survive as much as I did. I had always wanted to live in another country, but could I leave the one I'd spent my entire life in? My only daughter was returning to live in Africa. The next question Rita asked: “In five years time, which will be the bigger regret—to go or to stay?” How could I know the answer; but I thought the bigger regret would come from not trying. And what did I have to lose?

My scaled down belongings for my new life were packed into three suitcases, along with a large mix of uncertainty and anticipation. My new job location, the Mount Hospital was a private hospital in Perth with eleven operating theatres. Yes, they called them theatres.
The nursing recruitment team had arranged an airport limousine pickup, and a fruit basket was delivered to the hostel ... my only address at the time. I had almost two weeks to adjust to my new surroundings and find a place to live before my first day of work.

Western Australia has the perfect mix of aqua blue skies, sunshine, white pounding waves crashing along miles of uninhabited shore; the ideal spot from which a healing journey should take place. And I was ready for the going ... 
With trembling in my knees and thick with anticipation, I walked up to the private hospital on my first day. It was surprising to discover that the head nurse that interviewed me, had been let go the week before I arrived. But I had little time to focus on the political climate, as I was struggling to get my feet on the ground. I did not know a soul in this country, and no one knew mine.

I could understand why it was called the land down under, everything seemed opposite ... they drove on the wrong side of the road, you flipped the light switch up to turn it off and down to turn it on. This confused me on several occasions, but none as bad as when I turned the lights off in the middle of surgery. The Ozzie slang bears little resemblance to Canadian English. With every fiber of my being I concentrated to comprehend the surgeon's call for instruments ... it was a snap not a hemostat, a honey not a meniscus shaver. The nurses were called sisters, sistah. The Ozzies added r's to words that had no r's and words that ended with r's had them omitted. A good idea became a good idear, water became wattah. Some days were holy and religious days ... Jesus Christ was called upon so many times (in vain) I thought I should be baptized with the saline solutions that flushed our patient's knees. Some days were animal days with continual references to the Fox, (those little animals are not allowed in Canadian theatres) the surgeon was always asking what the fox is going on, or something to that nature ... it took me a week or two to understand that the fox was the Australian doctor swearing and me not understanding his accent. When I heard him talking about a fox, it was not as offensive as the swear. I had never experienced this amount of profanity in any OR I'd ever worked in. Operating rooms are stressful to begin with, but when your co-workers are not supportive, the stress increases. I had not realized when I arrived, new management was in place. (The reason the head nurse that I was interviewed by had been let go, and many staff were upset with the changes.) The environment became toxic and within months I realized I was unable to stay, but what was I to do. The nurse manager sounded threatening after a conversation in which I raised my concerns ... “you do realize that our hospital holds your immigration Visa?” she said to me. Without a job, I could not stay on in Australia. This was an incredibly difficult time ... what to do now? I'd left all behind in the hopes to make a new start here, and to take the time for healing. This was far from healing. Two things that helped: prayer and emotional support from my sisters in Canada, and the knowledge that I'd already been through some of the worst life case scenarios. God had taken care of me in the past, and I chose to believe he would again.
And what a burden lifted from me after I submitted my resignation. When I pondered “what was that all about?” My sister reminded me that the job offer was what I needed to get into the country. Since nurses were needed, the immigration officer granted me an extra year on my Visa in order to find a job. Australia turned out to be a wonderful place of healing. I met many wonderful people and learned a lot about myself. Through another nurse, I heard about Dr George O'Neil's Fresh Start clinic, a faith-based organization for people with addictions. The doors opened for me to get involved there. This was a huge learning opportunity with amazing staff. My life and moving on were bolstered by the amazing opportunity that lay in the midst of job loss.

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" Romans 8:15 The MSG

An update for those of you that were praying for Bella, the little girl transported emergently from N Africa ... she is out of the emergency phase, has begun a treatment program. The family will not return to N Africa for at least two years. Prayer support is still needed in this next adjustment phase. Thank-you for praying.


November 20, 2018

Finding the Words Through the Fog - Denise M. Ford

For the past eighteen months I have struggled to regain some remnant of myself. Like the woman of Proverbs 31:25-26 I have longed to simply stand in “strength and dignity,” to “laugh with no fear of the future,” to “speak forth with words of wisdom and kindness.”  Instead instability and awkwardness have been my surprising companions following a concussion, otherwise known as a traumatic brain injury. 

I tried to stay positive, using the term “surprising” and not “frustrating” to describe the annoying way that the resulting brain shut-down threw its heavy cloak over me. Oh surprise! Continuing my work as a church administrator brought on double vision and horrendous vertigo. Oh surprise! Grocery shopping required wearing dark glasses so I could hide amidst the aisles, pretending to find something while in fact I was lost in a fog of anxiety. Oh surprise! Concentrating on a conversation or pulling thoughts forward for reasonable discourse meant I needed to take a break to regain any sense of normalcy. 

Eventually I relinquished my job at the church to focus on my recovery.  I had to reimagine my life from one whose purpose entailed helping and encouraging others, to one who herself required support. Surprise! I had to struggle to find my way out of days in which my only goal seemed to be: what do I let go of today?

Pre-concussion, I had taught different Bible studies, writing devotions to give more meaningful interpretations of what we were studying. Now I found I could not handwrite or be on a computer for more than 30 minutes at a time. After that surprising mental workout, I needed to rest and regroup to allow my brain time to refocus itself.

Forward to this November, as I am finally regaining the endurance to provide encouragement to others. My fear of the future wavers between, “Oh what will the surprise be today?”  to “How will I provide meaningful joy to others?”  Like the woman of Proverbs 31, I have begun to laugh again. To set goals despite the obstacle of my brain trauma, and to trust in the wisdom and kindness that will guide word after word as I put pen to paper. This month as I determined to write again a new desire awakened inside of me.  I realized I still wanted to believe that God spoke clearly and loudly within me.  As I wrote I heard these words:

“Here, here I am giving you the thoughts, the ideas, the intricate way of processing life in beautiful metaphors.  Here I am placing it firmly within your grasp and waiting, waiting for you to trust me, to let go of your fears, to let go of your prescribed outline of what and where you should be and how you should be serving Me.  Here, here I am giving you the starting line.  Will you step over it?  Will you trust Me and walk on the path I have cleared for you?  Here I am giving you the courage, the perseverance you need to continue on the path.  Here I am providing everything, everything. Here this is where you begin.  Will you trust me, will you move forward? Will you let go and wholeheartedly let me lead you?”

My response, though still somewhat limited by indiscriminate avalanches of brain fog: “Lord, as You have called me to do, I stand firm in my faith and trust in You, as I seek the words you would have me speak.”

November 19, 2018

Behind the Cover by Eunice Matchett

Last Thanksgiving, I had the privilege of spending the weekend with my daughter, Cynde, in Cold Lake. I loved visiting with her and her family and helping her in her home decor store.  But this time a new experience for me presented itself. An estate sale.

As per normal, unaware of protocol, I shadowed Cynde–until I saw a bookshelf holding some aged books. Thoughts of looking for furniture my daughter could take to her shop and ‘shabby’ evaporated. I started at the top shelf and inspected the books one by one. The novels were all books I’d read and owned many of them myself. But I found a reference book I could not leave behind. It was a hard cover called “History of England by G.M. Trevelyan.” And the dust cover was in better shape than some I’ve seen in bookstores. Delight swept through me. I’d found a treasure and I hugged it tightly while my daughter made her purchases.  Because she bought several pieces of furniture, they gave me the book. I smiled. Double blessings in one day.

After I returned home, I curled up in my reading chair and opened my new book. Several pages of notes and English royalty family tree diagrams I hadn’t noticed at the estate were tucked between the cover and the first page. My toes curled back to my heels in glee.

As I sifted through the papers, something clicked in my ever-roaming brain and I paused to ponder what was lurking beyond the perimeter of my conscience. I’d found a book, and regardless of its age, it was in excellent shape. There was nothing out of the ordinary there. The title had grabbed my attention, making it something I wanted to acquire. Still nothing special about that. Then, it hit me, and my heart raced. Once I sat down to spend time with my new accusation, I found its real treasure.

My thoughts flew to the many times over the years new families had attended our church. I’d dutifully introduced myself and invited them to my home for coffee or to a community event. Most of the time, the people didn’t show up.  This I understood. Like me, they were shy. But what I hadn’t grasped was by giving them an open invite with no actual time  I’d put the responsibility of continuing interaction on them. My face burned.

If I had, like I had with my new book, lived in the moment, and invited them for brunch after the service that day, they would have more than likely accepted. But I had missed a beautiful opportunity to open communication and discover the treasures hidden between the pages of these families.

The realization left me humbled, but at the same time awed. Humbled, because I had neglected being a blessing to others and awed because God had used insignificant, unwanted book wedged between many others on an unwanted shelf to sharpen my dulled awareness.