Bring it!

Wow. That sermon on Sunday was so good, it made me feel like I want suffering–like he said at the end, “Bring it!”

Of course, one knows that feeling will quickly disappear. However, the words I picked out were: “Make up your mind right now, that you won’t be afraid.” That you won’t be afraid (for yourself or those you love) of suffering, afraid of how long it might last, of the unknown, etc. I know I WILL be afraid, for the first few minutes; but I also know from experience that I’ll be able, with God’s help, to train my focus to the Resurrected One, the One who has suffered all-even-death-and-come-back-to-life, knowing:

  • that God has an overall, far-reaching plan;
  • that his purpose will prevail, no matter how long it seems to take, no matter what it looks like to my finite perspective, and whether or not I ever get to see the completion of it in this life;
  • in other words, that my little corner is only a tiny piece of the puzzle, as valuable as it may be to the overall picture;
  • and there is more to life than this life (suffering will NOT last forever);
  • and that every little trial is in preparation and training–for other things in this life (like learning to rely totally on God, learning not to care what man thinks), AND for life hereafter.

So if you suffer a lot/often, just imagine how beautiful Heaven is going to be!

I can see your pain and poverty–constant pain, dire poverty–but I also see your wealth.” (Revelation 2:9)

May those who are suffering right now, be filled with the confidence that You do see.

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Ottawa is not my home?

Lyn. Her name is Lyn, and she seemed to think it was a little strange, that I wanted to know the name of my grocery cashier. I’ve decided to spell it with one ‘n’, because she said it was very simple, and that I shouldn’t think too much about it (my excuse was “when I think of the cheerful cashier during the week, what name should I give her?”) But she quickly went back to her chatty, cheerful self.

My list of things to do for #40acts is growing! For example, picking up litter may have to wait until the snow is gone; and the person I was going to surprise with a piece of my birthday cake was away last week.

The other one I’m going to get caught up on today, merges a little with the sermon we listened to a couple of days ago. The words that jumped out at me were: “Ottawa is not your home.” Hahaha–just when I’m still trying to get used to the idea that Ottawa IS my new home!! Of course, he was referring to the fact that our citizenship as Christians is in heaven/with God; that everything on this earth is temporal.

Which brings me to the #40acts activity: take inventory of the things you need to hold on to a little more lightly, things you “love”, but should be willing to let go of (and think if there’s something you can give away or use for God). Here goes:

  • My new home! Which I would LOVE to use for Small Group more, maybe eventually.
  • My comfortable chair. I’m not crazy-insistent on my particular furniture, but I would really miss something comfortable to sit on.
  • My home-made things; i.e. things I crochet with colours I particularly “love”–yes, would be hard to give up. Also, home-made things that others have given me, like that herb-picture my Mom made.
  • Photos, speaking of “home-made” things, there are an awful lot of photos/collages I’ve fixed up. Is that really a “thing” though? They can’t be given away, because you still keep copies…. and if anything ever happened that I lost them all, others could always give me back copies.
  • Puzzles, books, etc., meaning something recreational to do. Besides looking at photos. ;) I do admit that it’s been hard to want to even lend one particular puzzle: a beautiful winter scene that glows in the dark (and that reminds me–I could “NEVER” give up my Christmas puzzles!) But I have actually been thinking of letting someone else do that puzzle, before putting it together for the last time and making it “glued down” so that I can put it on the wall.

I’m surprised that there aren’t that many “things” I would hold with a tight fist. However, I may have forgotten some.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:20-21)

Draw our focus to what’s truly important.

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Memories are made of this.

This photo was cropped to put here, and then later in the day I completely forgot, and couldn’t figure out what in the world it was doing there on my desktop beside the one fixed up to fit my facebook cover.

See how old I’m getting! Fifty-eight yesterday! Now I remember that I wanted to tell you about the Winter Party at my brother’s place, which was so. much. fun. The weather could not have been more perfect. Exhilarating!

So my brother & his fiance have this beautiful place in the woods, right next to a provincial park where you can go cross-country skiing. This is what we did first, some of us for only the first or second time. A couple of us stayed inside, “keeping the home fires burning”. The ski trail was perfect (hmmm… I’ll probably use that word a lot here!) The groomed trail was on a section of road that is closed to traffic in the winter, so it was nice and wide; the hills were so long and sloping that you didn’t notice how hard you were working going up, but able to get a good slide coming down.

For people like me, that “easy” trail was still quite a hard workout! I was very surprised that my muscles weren’t all sore the next day, which was probably because I did do stretches when I got back. And because I went in the hot tub.

ski birthday bonfire hot tubIt was such a great workout, that I was soooooo tired, I didn’t even feel hungry–however, I DID partake of a little of all the great food that everyone brought (lasagna, mac cass, salad, homemade rolls, etc.)

This brother is the one who is the athlete, and his fiance is too. They both were very patient with the rest of us! And the best way to make your company welcome, is to enjoy it, which was obvious with both of them.

Wow, my brother did so much for people, to make sure they enjoyed his party!

  • had a fire ready to light in the fireplace, for those staying behind;
  • helped us up when we fell (which more than one of us did, not being used to skis);
  • stayed back with slower ones, to keep them company;
  • helped the tired ones off with the skis at the end, even loading them up in the truck;
  • called ahead to have the hot chocolate warming up for when we got back;
  • was ready to go snow-shoeing around his place with some later arrivals;
  • his fiance skate-skiied back and forth to check on us, and also went snow-shoeing;
  • he went ahead with the snow shoes to make a path so that it was easier for the others;
  • had the bonfire outside ready to enjoy while a few of us were in the hot tub;
  • asked my cousin (who bravely tried skiing for the first time), to make one of her fabulous cakes for my birthday, since it was the next day!

I probably forgot something. All the while, both Randy & MJ were obviously, like I said, thoroughly enjoying it all!

 

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inside out intentions

Well, that didn’t work out quite the way it was supposed to!

If you saw my status yesterday, you’d know that I was inspired by the author of the second day of #40acts, who knew the names of all the cashiers she sees regularly. Since it happened to be my grocery-shopping day, I determined to speak to my own cashiers by name, as my own “adapted” challenge for the second day. Sooooo….

One cashier told me I was “looking great” first off, and the other one pulled out a family photo to show me. In other words, they blessed me, before I hardly had a chance!

The first lady was not wearing a name tag. Yes, I was planning on this “cheat” right from the beginning; so I kind of backed off when I couldn’t plainly see her name. But I did “chinwag” with her quite a bit (well, she’s actually one who ALWAYS loves to talk–another “cheat point”), and told her how lovely her haircut was, etc. The second lady did have a nametag (which I did use); but as I say, she started into it before I had a chance to be the initiator. However, I’m determined to do better at this one next week!

Today’s challenge is about being generous to the environment, and all the suggestions are things I do anyway. However, my cousin’s daughter actually has set up a whole website and facebook page about picking up litter. She has a challenge on about picking up 10 pieces every day, which I have not joined, in case I get too busy. But maybe today while I’m on my walk, I could look for litter to pick up. The mounds of snow out there is probably covering most of it, although since today is cardboard-collection day, there might indeed be some stuff flying around in the wind!

“You shall love the stranger.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)

I pray for those two ladies, that they would know how much You love them.

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#40acts

“Setting the mood” is important for me, and so there are lots of things that I like to do for the season of Lent, the days leading up to Easter (40 of them, not including Sundays). I try to make it like part of my worship. It’s like a reminder of:

  • the suffering that Christ went through,
  • the difference the crucifixion makes in your life when you accept it as payment for your own debt to God,
  • the difference the cross and resurrection makes in the world,
  • the joy of going from death to life–when Easter comes and you celebrate with feasting, flowers everywhere, etc.

So I do things like taking down the winter decorations, giving up certain indulgences, giving up a little extra time for personal reflection, etc. And usually, I try to think of a special theme for blogging. All this gets planned out a few days before; but even as I tried to fall asleep last night, I still couldn’t think of what to blog about.

After awhile, you seem to use up all the things that you could say, all the themes that are out there. And sometimes, you just get tired of it!

However, just before I fell asleep, I came across something on Facebook (isn’t that what you do when you can’t sleep–check Facebook?) It was shared by a trusted friend, so I clicked and signed up right away, to be looked over in the morning. It looks like a great idea!

“40 Acts” is run by an organization called Stewardship, who exist to help lots of different churches figure out their stewardship–sounds wonderful already. Anyway, the idea is that you do something generous every day for 40 days. An email each day includes a devotional, and then three different suggestions–easy, medium, more challenging. Today’s medium suggestion: journal about it! :)

I’m supposed to keep a list of all the people I’d like to bless, and document all the things I learn over the 40 days. Well, I’d really like to bless everyone I come in contact with… but perhaps it would be a good idea to just choose a few. Will I really be able to do things any different than I usually do? We’ll see!

This could also, maybe, be tagged with my One Word for the year (“serve”).

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’” (Isaiah 46:10)

Cause that Light to go on in our heads, and rise in our hearts, as we near the season of Easter.

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The worst crime

God has often been disappointed in people for fasting and praying, doing all kinds of “religious rites”, programs, programs, programs–but neglecting the poor, like widows and orphans.

We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot.

It’s easy to look at mounting bills, expenses, etc., and say “we can’t”; it’s hard to look at that comfortable chair one sits in every day, the good food in the fridge, the high number on the weigh-scales, and say “we can’t”.

We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot.

Yes, I repeated that, on purpose. The quote continues:

Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer, ‘Tomorrow.’ His name is ‘Today.’

This is from the Compassion blog that I receive in my inbox. If you’re looking for a way to help the poor and widows, Compassion is an excellent organization (see my link over there on the right). They rank way up there as far as financial integrity, as well as the ratings for simply doing things well. Even the blog is very well written; and I love the daily prayer email that I get from them, which is just a short, specific prayer request, with a perfectly matched scripture verse.

Giving a regular amount that comes out of your bank account automatically is a great way to place priority on that giving, to my way of thinking: it means you’re looking after the poor FIRST, before other things that come up. And sponsoring a child not only helps that child, but his/her family as well, AND the community they live in.

“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

Make our love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone…

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Don’t forget Date Night with the One Who loves you the most.

Glancing over a few recent posts, I just saw one from the end of January where I was “hoping for more snow”…! The snow banks beside our driveway are now to the point where it’s really an effort to lift a shovel up that high. I’m not complaining thoughtoo much. We are into that annual discussion about not shovelling any more, instead just packing it down. As Rej says, if we keep letting it build up on the driveway, maybe we’ll be able to reach the top of the snow banks again… :P  I’m thinking we should perhaps wait until March at least, before we stop shovelling.

Anyway, we’re looking forward to a “Winter Fun” weekend at my brother’s this coming Sunday. (Thank goodness it’s supposed to be a bit warmer.) He lives right beside Gatineau Park, where there’s some pretty nice cross-country ski trails. Some might do snow-shoeing. Others will just stay inside where it’s warm! Of course, there’s hot chocolate and hot food in the plans as well.

OK, now that I’ve started with some “regular talk”, I can switch to yesterday’s sermon. Pastor Jay was in fine form, as usual. I’m pretty sure he didn’t purposely call his new series “The Bride”, because it started on Valentine’s weekend. The series is about the letters to the seven churches (from Revelation).

I can’t remember how it fit in to the sermon (but it did fit for Valentine’s), but there was a moment where he said something that you could just feel it “touch deep” into people. Specifically, female people, especially teenagers. In fact, he said it was an aside for ladies. Because ladies are always more concerned about their appearance than men, and society is constantly constraining them to be so. I don’t have his exact words in my mind (though I felt at the time that I would want to find them again on the website), but he tried to say it very clearly and forcefully: “You. are. beautiful!” There was spontaneous applause.

Of course, I’ve suggested that was mostly for teenage girls (remember those days of worrying about every pimple?), but even when you get to my age, you still think about your appearance a fair bit (my hair is too thin); even my Mom likes to look beautiful. It’s a woman-thing, but it’s highly expected/encouraged!

Anyway, back to the main point of the sermon, which was based on the first letter, to the church at Ephesus (Revelation chapter 2). These Christians were praised for their hard work, persistence, and for sticking to the truth of God’s Word. BUT–they had “lost their first love” (how fitting, AGAIN, for Valentine’s Day).

As Pastor Jay said, it’s hard to truly keep up that passion that you have at first though. But what it means is that the actual work–programs, etc.–has become more important than your relationship. And what’s critical to relationship? Spending time together. We so easily forget the importance of just sitting and spending time with God. In other words, doing has become more important than being (“personal devotions”).

The meaning of “first love”, is to love God vs loving the work. All your praying should start with worship, with recognizing/reminding yourself, who God is (see Revelation chapter 1). While you’re loving God, you’re sensing his love for you–voila: you’re spending time together. (And don’t forget to use scripture both for the praying/your part, and the listening/God’s part.)

“I’m A to Z. I’m the God Who Is, The God Who Was, and The God About to Arrive. I’m the Sovereign-Strong.” (Revelation 1:8)

Urge us often, to remember these simple things.

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love

Gotta make a post, just in case anyone wants to come and see my heart-curtain background. Same as last year though. Not that this post will have much to do with Valentine’s Day, unless you consider some love for persecuted believers…

Anyway, I want to copy this here in order to use my mouse-hover thingy to see the references (“Reftagger”, a great tool, and free). Come to that, it fits right in with what came before (the previous post)!

I don’t even remember how I got to this website, but kept the tab open so I could go back to it regularly. It starts with suggestions on how to pray from scripture, for persecuted believers, and then includes a list for practical needs as well.

Because the New Testament was written to persecuted believers, it is filled with examples of how to pray for our brothers and sisters under attack.

Here are 5 examples from Ephesians:

  • Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:8).
  • Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)
  • Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).

Praying for practical needs:

  • Please pray persecuted believers would have access to a Bible.

  • Pray they have the courage to remain in their homeland.

  • Please pray for believers who have been rejected by family and friends. Pray that God would surround them with a new Christian “family” who loves them and supports them emotionally and physically.

  • Pray for God to be an advocate for women who are socially vulnerable or have lost the custody of their children because of their faith.

  • Please pray that God would provide persecuted believers with jobs and safe places to live.

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One Father, one Spirit…

Heeeyy, the sun was coming up at 6:30 this morning! But it’s a cold, cold sun here today, with a wind chill of minus 37 Celsius (that’s around minus 25 F)! We’ve been having quite the Real Winter, with lots of snow and cold–lots of opportunities to both ski, and stay inside by the fire! I just noticed though, that the temps are going up a bit next week. Warmer weather WILL come eventually. In fact, nothing can stop Spring from coming, then Summer, etc.

Last night at Small Group, we were missing our leaders, so the plan was just to spend some time in prayer rather than do the study questions. A few of us weren’t sure what to think of that, but it turned out to be an amazing evening!

  • We got to know one couple better, since we met in their home. Turns out they live about 7 minutes away from us.
  • The lady of the house had actually laid out a plan for the prayer time, which involved practising one of the suggestions from Sunday’s sermon: pray scripture. This is where you take a verse or two, and personalize it for your own, and actually pray it. Most of us had not tried this before, and it was a wonderful “hands on” learning experience. It was also a way to include “both wings of the airplane”: prayer and scripture.
  • There were one or two Brand New Christians there last night, and they helped to set such a fantastic atmosphere of transparency and acceptance!
  • As we heard of some of the backgrounds of people (referred to simply in passing conversation), your heart could break… and yet there was an obvious sense of peace, and even joy, in spite of that. (Add in here a mix of wisdom and sensitivity.)
  • How wonderful that we, being so diverse in background, found such a solid connection with each other! That’s what Jesus does.

The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.” (Matthew 6:7-8)  In other words, it doesn’t matter how you talk to him/what you say–he understands!

(Of course, the “formulas” and “advice” we received in the sermon, were just suggestions to help us keep focused when we pray.)

Help us to start by recognizing who You really are–Father, Saviour…

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schedule, focus

All these people making a regular show of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do:

  • Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.
  • Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.
  • The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.

I didn’t say that, Jesus did. In Matthew 6:5-6. Instead of my “sermon words” this week, I wrote down a scripture reference, because after all, therein are the BEST words!

It was a great sermon as usual though, and I appreciated Pastor Jay pointing out that when it says “Pray without ceasing”, it means that we should not give up on “regular, scheduled, prayer”. Which is kinda the opposite of what many people think–that it means to just pray a sentence here and there throughout the day.

(When I wrote about a “gift” of prayer the other day, I didn’t mean the actual praying part–anyone can do that, since it doesn’t matter how you say things to God. The gift is in having the time to do extra/lots of it.)

But as far as that last bullet point in the scripture, about our focus. When we get embroiled in difficult things in our personal lives, or in our corporate lives as a church (like having to search for a new pastor), that’s simply a ploy of the Enemy. HE (that Enemy) doesn’t want us to focus on God, but on ourselves and our own problems.

How often have you noticed: when you begin to think about helping someone else, your own problem diminishes. It works even better if you begin to be aware of God’s calling you to do that helping.

May people be more and more open to being aware of You.

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