in this world

One of the hardest things for me, in my Christian living (perhaps it could be called “my weakness”), is my enjoyment of sensual pleasure: eating, sleeping, photos & other things pleasant to look at, even the ones for the mind–puzzles, books, etc. The strong desire for comfort, and enjoyment. I’m always asking myself if I’m able to really sacrifice, and trying to do it and usually failing (think diet & exercise, for one example).

Perhaps just carrying out my daily duties when I don’t feel like it is a sacrifice, I say to myself. Or, it could be a cop-out. Jesus did comment on how hard it was for the rich young ruler (who had every comfort) to enter the Kingdom of God, though “all things are possible with God”.

But, aren’t we supposed to enjoy everything as God’s gifts, as Paul says? Within reason (meaning, according to God’s will), yes. However, it’s so easy to get distracted and simply forget that they are God’s gifts. This is one of the reasons that I wish I’d remember to say grace. It would also help during times of distress, help us to remember our blessings–which usually leads to the discovery that there are many wonderful, positive things to be thankful for in spite of the negatives.

Yet I keep coming back to the word sacrifice–“bearing your cross” and all that. Christmas is a time of so much delight and enjoyment, for me, it feels like I should balance that with a reminder about living sacrificially… thinking about the many who are not in very good circumstances for the season. Soooo…. here is my memory verse for this month, right from the mouth of Jesus:

“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain.

The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.” (John 12:24-25)

Yeah, don’t like that one at all. Not the best one for the Christmas season. But–Jesus’ own words! I destroy my own life by loving it. That comes through when you’re so very disappointed about something not going the way it should, robbing you of some comfort or enjoyment or whatever. But then it comes to me… “if it dies, it produces much grain.” Oh the joy in that “much grain”! Oh the joy of feeling better after being sick for awhile (small example); oh the joy of experiencing God’s provision of strength, wisdom, presence through the fire! There’s nothing wrong in looking forward to joy. The ultimate example is Jesus, “who for the joy set before him, endured the cross”.

Recently I’ve come across the truth that reminding myself of God’s presence within, will help me to endure, persevere in God’s will, resist temptation, etc. (the discipline aspect vs only the comfort aspect). It should help me not to “love my life”, so much that loving others (as Jesus loved) gets neglected.

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Hope is everywhere

If I post so soon again after the last one, maybe that will “catch me up”? Just have to follow up on that last post, because that word “hope” still keeps coming up these days! Last Sunday I had cause to remind myself of that lesson “things will not always be like this” (but will get better, though it may take awhile); because Sam had to miss church again, after about a month of missing… And then the scripture for the sermon had all those “hope” reminders–“…we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,” (Hebrews 6:18, 19)

Turned out, I didn’t even have to wait long… Sam’s cold is much better, and his work situation as well! (He even made it to church today.) I’ve also noticed that the verses I chose would have been better to start a verse before:

“But this I call to mind, and there fore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;” (Lamentations 3:21, 22)

So I think I’ll change my memory-work, since it seems the song just insists on being in my mind whenever I try the other reference (vs 22-24). Neat to see though, that Lamentations 3:21-24 is framed at either end with hope verses.

I’ve also come across quotations about fruit, so that’s still working. It’s way too early to think about next year’s One Word, and anyway “hope” is just too common/easy. It’s a great Christmas word though!

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Hope is always there

Time to post before another month goes by! Those were great verses about giving and God’s generosity, resulting in the fruit of praise, but I’ve certainly had trouble working on them… can’t even remember the reference. Oh well, this “habit” was only started up again because someone suggested that even if you don’t actually get the verses memorized, the “trying” to do it is a good activity.

Last month didn’t even seem that busy, but lately there’s more “excuse” for not blogging & memorizing, what with terrible colds, strep throat… starting way back with a wedding in Toronto, and trying to help Sam endure his busy work schedule (somehow, but of course, one can’t do it for him!)

I’ve sure been enjoying Lynn Austin’s historical fiction books. Even though she has a recurring theme of people/Christians being mad at God, and coming to grips with deep suffering, each story is quite different! Some centre on poor people, some on rich, from Bible times to WWII stories… from the perspectives of women in the work force, older Jewish men, even children’s perspectives sometimes, slaves, doctors… they all have a love story of course, but the last one I read focused more on the relationship between two very rich sisters.

I could go on and on about her writing… but to focus on the latest one I’m reading (While We’re Far Apart), a certain theme (one of the many in the book) has come up that was actually in my mind before/lately. That in spite of all the difficult things that happen, God always provides something to give you a spark of hope, even if it’s hard to notice sometimes. Sometimes, you have to forcefully look for those “sparks”. In the story it was the dog coming home after being lost, the children providing company for the older Jewish man, and other things like that.

I read somewhere else lately that God is always speaking to us, if we would only be open to see it, and this is something that I’ve generally been able to enjoy (unless things get very busy). Just recently, I’ve felt that God was saying that you can always look at things with the perspective of saying: “things will not always be like this” (hard). That gives hope. In fact, it’s also my experience, at my age, that things do change, no matter how long they seem to go on.

Of course, sometimes we don’t want things to change, and the key in that case, is to look for the thing that is better about the change, or how to make it better, even in some small way. (Like pretty thanksgiving plates, when you have a smaller number for dinner.) In these times, it’s so wonderful to remember that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”–even when it seems like He is not there, not loving, whatever, we can know that He IS there, and his love never ceases! That’s why I’ve decided to make the following verse my next one to memorize, even though I’ve mostly already memorized it from the song. :D

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:22-24)

It would be easy enough to “make” this fit for the theme of “fruit” (the fruit of God’s love is my hope?) But maybe I should just leave it alone… after all, I’ve even been failing at eating fruit, though I haven’t given up hope!

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Fruit: love, praise

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:16, 17)

Thinking about this verse… the “whatever you ask the Father” seems to be referring to the work of bearing fruit, that Jesus mentions just before. Just like Cheri told us to let her know what we need for our “work” of teaching the kids on Wednesday mornings.

We’re going to bear fruit that abides, because this work that He has called us into is HIS work, and (as just stated), he provides everything we need for it.

So… what does that last part have to do with the rest (“These things I command you, so that you will love one another”)? It hits me that Jesus said in another place, “they will know you are my followers by your love for one another”. Then my devil’s advocate asks: what about loving others, not just one another? (You often see the interpretation that Scripture seems to emphasize that Christians love other Christians.) And don’t other religions also have love for each other?

I think the key to the kind of love that will “bear fruit”/attract others, is to have the perspective that anyone has the potential to be in God’s Family—love them because of that. Also, love them because they are made in God’s image. Come to think of it, it is definitely the loving, all-inclusive, sacrificial response of Christians that seems to be a witness in times of crisis or disaster. Love that “produces fruit”.

Of course, loving other Christians is important in that we need to encourage each other, help each other grow, and support each other in our individual calling. That also would produce fruit, as we see the result of God working out his plan in our efforts.

Now for the next verse!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving—yes, time and talent, but also resources/money. That’s always the last thing people really want to give, and apparently this is a key area that shows how much we love God, and shows our faith in the fact that he has provided and will provide. It was an email from our church about giving that got me thinking, but these past few days I’ve also come across it in my regular morning reading:

“This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:10-11) See how God giving to us results in the fruit of us giving to others (and it’s a blessing to experience being able to give), which results in the fruit of praise back to God, which is the ultimate purpose for everything! Because praising God is a blessing in itself.

And of course, a verse about seed-time and harvest is perfect for September!

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Abide

Interesting twist on my One Word, “fruit”, and on me trying to eat more of it: someone who cannot eat fruit these days. That is sad for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that this is the season of fruit. (Note: read previous post, about suffering.)

Through all of this, I seem to keep getting this reminder: “Cathie, you know you’re not very patient about waiting. You’re always in a rush for things.” This is an encouragement that “it will come, it will just take time”. And you know what the Fruit of waiting is. Strength! (“Strength will come as we wait upon the Lord”… see Isa. 40:28. Or, does that mean strength will come FOR the waiting? Either way.)

Although I didn’t do very well at memorizing the current verse (about work, endurance, hope), it’s time for the next one. Not that I’m totally settled on which verses to memorize, from John 15:1-17… but many of these I’ve already memorized from years ago. The reason I’ve decided on this scripture, is because of a post I came across yesterday, that seems to fit so well for the “fruit” theme. And I already knew that I’d be thinking of these verses eventually, for it.

“…ask what you will, and it will be done for you…” This part of the reference is also good for this time!

These verses talk about having results, or “producing fruit”, so part of that has to do with asking for things according to God’s will revealed in scripture. The reason to have results, is to point to God, so more and more people will know they are loved by Him: “This is how my Father shows who he is”. Jesus says, “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.”

Sounds great!

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Hope & Suffering

You would think Hope doesn’t have much to do with “fruit” (my One Word), and the verse I’m choosing this month–somewhere titled “Work and Endurance How-to”–doesn’t have much to do with Hope. Which is why you need to “stay tuned”. ;)

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3) Now you can see the work-hope relation. As far as fruit, you actually don’t have to think far to realize that hope can produce fruit/results. This verse is talking about work prompted by love, but for those times when the feeling of love wears thin, hope in Christ will (hopefully :P) take over and helps us to keep on keeping on (“endurance”), with that work… that produces fruit.

What is “hope in the Lord Jesus Christ”, exactly? Some people tend to think of it as hope in the afterlife, of being in heaven when we die… and that’s it. We must endure all kinds of suffering on earth, but we can endure it because of the hope that suffering will be no more, in that Day of heaven. That is true, but there is SO much more to it!

I’ve been thinking lately, of the myriad things that we have hope for, because of following Christ:

  • that God hears our prayers, and knows our every groan
  • that He knows what’s best, and sometimes answers “no” because of that
  • that He has an ultimate plan, and is always working towards that plan; directing our lives and involving us in His purposes
  • that He is able to give us joy and peace, amidst the turmoil
  • that His resurrection power is able to conquer even our own inadequacies, no matter how long it takes, or how many times we have to keep asking for forgiveness
  • that His creation is always there to help us respond with worship
  • that His character is worthy of worship; He never changes
  • that His Word is able to inspire faith, and reveal truth, every time we read it

I could go on and on! Maybe I’ll keep coming back to add more…

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fruit, fruit, fruit

What I memorized last month was “But I say, if you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh… [skip a bunch of verses].. If we live by the Spirit, we should also keep in step with the Spirit. [or, walk by the Spirit].” (Galatians 5:16 and 25)

I kept wondering if this meant that I’m not walking/living by the Spirit because of how I so often give in to the temptation to have another cookie (or other such things–the “desires of the flesh”). But as I did the study of surrounding verses (the kind of study recommended by John Piper, that I talked about in my last post), the meaning that came across to me is a little different than that. (And remember that “desires of the flesh” simply means the desires of the “sinful nature”. So every desire of our “flesh”, speaking literally, isn’t necessarily sin.)

These chapters are the ones where Paul is railing about the “Judaisers” who are telling the Gentile Christians that they have to follow Jewish law and be circumcised, etc. He lists a bunch of terrible sins, saying those people will not be going to heaven, I think because these sins make it obvious that they don’t have the Spirit within, they haven’t accepted the plan of salvation in Christ. And then he talks about the “fruit of the Spirit”. He also talks about the law (like, being circumsized). I think he’s saying that people of the Spirit (Christians/Christ followers), don’t need the law, because their love for their Lord just naturally works itself out in those fruit, and in not doing those other “terrible sins” (my words). In other words, the Spirit within keeps reminding them of Jesus’ love and sacrifice for them, and also convicts them if they give in to temptation. (That last phrase means they’re not perfect of course, but “in training”. Even Paul talked about the “flesh”, or “sinful nature” always at war within himself/Christians (see verses 16-18 of this 5th chapter of Galatians). Remember that there wouldn’t be any struggle if the Spirit wasn’t there–we’d just give in.)

Now to speak to the verse about the fruit of the Spirit, since “fruit” IS my One Word for this year. There seem to be a couple of slightly different applications of this verse. Some people take the list (what is it, 9 of them?) and try to work on each one, or the ones that need improving for them. But at the end of this verse Paul says “against such things there is no law.” To me, “such things” means this list of fruit is not a comprehensive list–there are others. I think he may be saying here, that these fruits are the natural out-workings of the Holy Spirit, not something we have to “try hard” for. Someone has said they are not necessarily qualities, but gifts that the Spirit works in each of us.

But, I still wish I could lose weight–eat less and exercise more… though I’m kind of tired of trying, and almost giving up hope for that. This is perhaps my “thorn in the flesh”, that keeps me humble!

Next verse: “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.” Proverbs 18:20

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look and look and look

My verse for last month was: “But how can people call for help, if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust, if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear, if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it?” (Romans 10:14-15)

After I chose it, it kept coming up “everywhere”, so of course it made me wonder what God was trying to say to me. Although I certainly wish I could talk to my loved ones more about Christ, I think it was more to confirm the things I’m already doing–like Perspectives marking (which would be the “sending” part), as well as helping others learn more about Him (small group and Wednesday kids). Also, perhaps it’s a reminder about things I’d formerly determined to do but have slacked on lately: sharing scripture, using a photo to highlight scripture sometimes, etc. Although, it doesn’t really mean that much to people when they are not open to it (via the Holy Spirit). Maybe that’s not for me to decide, when/if people are open. I know it’s meant a lot to the odd person “here and there” before.

Next! My One Word for this year has been losing interest for me. This often happens when I determine to eat more “fruit”. It lasts for awhile, but then… Of course, my new “obsession” is partly to blame for it, and there’s been a temptation to actually change the One Word to “zero”, or “waste” or something. I’m not the only one! Apparently, that Marketplace episode got to a lot of people. Which is great, because hopefully we’ll start seeing some changes about single use plastic, etc.

But, God always comes through when I ask for guidance. Always! I’ve been reading John Piper’s book about how to read the Bible, and one thing he talks about is spending time looking at a passage vs going through it quickly. Of course, I’ve been doing that for years–reading a few verses over and over again each day, before going on to the next ones. But I’m not sure I wasn’t just enjoying the “turn of phrase”; or as he says, enjoying the “gems” vs seeing the “connections”. He describes how a student (a biology student, and in another case, art students) was instructed to look at something for hours, and as time goes by they see more and more than what they saw at first. In fact, I’ve done this before a few times, when waiting somewhere, or riding in a bus or something. Noting the detail on another passenger’s purse, what shoes they’re wearing, etc. It’s fun!

Now to try this on scripture! Of course, you have to make sure you’re not seeing things that aren’t there. John Piper says you need to ask questions, like “what does the author intend”, etc., and look closely at the grammar, etc. I already find that there’s soooo much wonderfulness in scripture, but this will be fun. And of course, to match my One Word, it has to be the verses about the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. You can’t just take one or two verses though, the whole context of verses must be considered. So I’m not sure yet exactly which ones will be for memorizing… maybe I’ll find a few!

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New things

It’s always exciting and fun to try something new. I mean like, changing your lifestyle, saying something like “from now on…”. Reducing our use of plastic has meant several exciting changes:

  • buying bakery bread (for toast) that is in a paper bag vs plastic bag;
  • using cloth mesh bags for produce;
  • bringing my own jars and tins to the bulk food store, and buying as much as possible there;
  • buying things in larger packages to reduce plastic use (like paper towells). We just had to find a place to store them!
  • Along the way, we discovered that plastic containers should not be used for heating/hot food, especially OLD stuff. The article said, “If it’s your Mom’s Tupperware from the 70’s, you should probably ditch it”… ummm, I’m the “Mom”, who bought lots of that stuff for her hope chest, way back in the 70’s; so, I get to buy new containers!

NEW change: we learned that tons of water and chemicals go into making toilet paper, and thinking how much toilet paper we go through, we’ve ended up discovering how lovely it is to have a bidet! The thought started because of the toilet paper coming wrapped in plastic.

EXCITING NEW CHANGE TO COME: making my own yogurt!! Sam told me when he bought the Instant Pot that I could make yogurt, but it didn’t seem worth it at the time. Now that I’m trying to send as little plastic to Thailand as possible (supposedly they recycle it, but apparently it just gets sent away), any margarine tubs and yogurt tubs should be washed and reused… but I’ve never liked the yogurt containers that I get. NOW I’m looking forward to making my own and storing in jars! And if there’s too much, I’m sure my Mom would love some! Before, I probably had memories of standing over the stove for long periods stirring milk, but it will be a cinch with the Instant Pot.

Other changes to come: cutting down on toilet paper usage has made me think of kleenix tissues, which I use a LOT of. So it’s time to cut up an old sheet and make hankies. I’ve also bought some nice tea towells to make into beeswax wraps, since I do have some leftover beeswax from the time of making my own creams. Making face cream I will do again, but I’ve found some simple recipes using coconut oil (which can be bought at the bulk food store, yay!)

And speaking of face cream, shampoo BARS work great! The one I have was bought in an expensive store, but there are also lots of recipes for that… we’ll see if they’re easy and work for my hair.

Soooo, perhaps my One Word for this year should have been “zero”! Oh well, here’s the “fruit” verse I read this morning: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love its use will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21) (Oy! Death and life as fruit? If you love to talk… )

I ended up taking that second verse mentioned in my last post, for this past month’s memory verse (“You were once darkness, but now you are light, live as children of the light. (For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth); and find out what pleases the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8-10) For this month, since I’m always thinking how much I’d like to convince people that they should believe in Jesus, it’ll be a verse from Romans. Stay tuned for next month’s post to see which one! ;)

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fruit of the light

So far, so good, as far as eating more fruit this year! Once a week, there’s a big job of cutting the shell off of the pineapple, and off the cantaloupe, washing the grapes, and shredding up the cabbage, or perhaps washing and peeling carrots to munch on… etc.

Hopefully eating more fruit doesn’t mean gaining more weight… since we recently had the depressing realization that some clothes are getting tighter. :(

I’ve also memorized my first scripture pretty good: “I will praise the Lord who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord; with him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:7-8 (Perfect! Except for some punctuation.) Not that I’ll remember it when the next one is done. However, this one seems like a good verse for a picture… I’ll have to work on that.

For the spiritual kind of fruit: our sermons lately (on Ephesians 4 and 5) have been about holiness–putting off the old self, being imitators of God, etc. We know the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians–peace, patience, kindness, self-control… etc. Someone mentioned once that these are fruits we enjoy within, as we know God better (through the Spirit). But last Sunday one of the verses talked about the “fruit of the light”, which was interesting. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10) As Pastor Jonathan pointed out, not “you once were *full* of darkness… you are *full* of light” etc., but “you *were* once darkenss… now you *are* light…”

The “find out” part refers to not only studying God’s Word, alone and with others, but actually putting it into practise; because that is part of how we learn/”find out”, of course, including failures and mistakes.

The rest of the sermon talked about living with focus, making the most of the time; and being filled with the Spirit, which entails worship (and worship includes a horizontal aspect, of reminding each other of God’s wonderfulness). Great stuff!

The “fruit” idea continues in the next verse: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph. 5:11) You expose them by not compromising your values, but living them in the midst of others, who will sometimes be offended because their “deeds of darkness” are being shown up. (That’s part of “being” light!) Continuing on, Paul also says that “everything that is illuminated becomes a light.” That would be those who respond positively instead.

A pretty good start to my One Word, “fruit”!

Now, for the next memory verse, hmmm, which one…. ?

OH, and another new thing we’ve started (as a result of watching a Market Place episode on plastic-wrapped groceries): working on “zero plastic”. There’s a trend towards “zero waste”, but we’re lucky if we can manage “zero plastic”. In fact, I’m not sure we ever will, entirely. But hopefully we can cut down more and more. It’s been a big job already, and we’re hoping to make quite a few changes, so we’ll see!


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