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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And the winner is…

First of all, the “winners” for December’s “less”: less microscope, more telescope; less shadow, more body; less dagger, more sceptre.

Done! Last year’s One Word (“less”), was put to use more than any previous year–my chart shows 355 entries, so not very many days missed. And because it’s so easy to use these tables to “sort ascending”, I’m able to tell you that there were only about 130 repeats in the “less” column, and about 88 repeats in the “more” column.

In fact though, there were only 11 “actual” repeats in each column. For example, “God” may have been repeated three times, but each one was quite different in meaning: less equipment, more God; less hero, more God; less me, more God. As far as exact repeats (both words the same), there was one word in each column that was repeated, exactly, three times! And the winners are… less rule, more heart/love; less future, more present.

Lots of words were repeated twice, three times, and several words were repeated four and five times–all these paired with different words. In each column, there was one word repeated SEVEN times, still each with different matches! And the winners are… “less talk/talking” and “more joy” (those don’t go together… well, not in my chart anyway!)

Just skip this paragraph if you don’t want to know all seven matches for each of those words. :D Less talk/talking, more: stillness, conversation, care, action, singing, thinking, praying. And for the “more” column, more joy, less: cleaning, crying, pleasure, ungratefulness, fear, self, shallowness.

I was thinking of going through all the favourites that I picked out each month, and choose some final winners from those; but perhaps we could just go with the above paragraph. Although, repeats only mean that I was running out of ideas. I did remind myself each day, to not think about it too much. What did I learn from all this? Ummmm…. well, maybe that it’s possible to come up with some interesting and fun thoughts, without trying too hard. And, that it’s possible to stick to something all year, if you make it simple enough!

That’s why I’ve given up on complicated diets, exercise plans, etc. The simpler, the better.

NOW, for this year’s One Word. And the winner is…. FRUIT! As you may realize, that can be thought of in a lot of ways. In the most basic way, fruit is something I need to eat more often. Spiritually, “fruit” is mentioned quite often in Scripture: Jesus says he is the vine and we are the branches, and those who don’t bear fruit will be pruned away, “by their fruit you shall know them”, the fruit of the Spirit, etc. etc. I won’t be making a chart this year, but hopefully it will continue to make me blog once a month. ;)

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Letter Time!

It’s really quite amazing how quickly the Christmas Letter gets done these days. We remember when you had to start thinking about it weeks ahead of time! At the very beginning, we even had to leave time for taking it somewhere to copy. o-O Wow. And remember the few years that we did audio? That was fun!

The past few years, the struggle of thinking of what to say was because of everything being “out there already” through social media, etc. Nowadays, people (including ME) post or blog a lot less (hardly ever), so it’s getting a little easier. Things change!

However, the letter came together SO quickly this year, then printed right away and folded and stuffed, that maybe I wish I’d said things a little differently… Oh well, it’s done now! :D

Christmas Letter 2018

If you want to go back in time and check out our previous Christmas Letters, you can find them at interfree.ca.

And now to keep going on not blogging very much, this post shall include this month’s favourite “less” phrases for November: Less pride, more gratitude; less petting, more scratching…. (we do love our cat! :D )


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less less less!

Getting tired of this by this 10th time (and 298 daily lines in the chart!), but as I said elsewhere, no point in giving up now, when there are only two months left! In fact, I’ve enjoyed skimming over the previous favourites here.

SEPTEMBER faves:  less busy, more cat; less road, more trail; less line, more curl.

OCTOBER faves: less metal, more wood; less why, more who; less drama, more Word; less plush, more others.

Two months in one, because of how busy we’ve been this Fall.

  • Thanksgiving
  • Sam’s trip to Toronto
  • Rose’s wedding
  • Family Thanksgiving
  • shopping for gas stove
  • shopping for new stove hood to match
  • installing stove hood all-by-ourselves
  • complications re hooking up new stove
  • catching bad colds
  • sewing & crocheting various “necessities”
  • Fall cleaning (floors, etc.)
  • a few work trips to Quebec
  • two Community Group training sessions
  • Raking, raking, raking
  • Church member meeting
  • and now the Christmas baking has begun!

Finally getting some good sleeps and naps though (go away cold!), and feeling like things are getting done. Even though the New Gas Stove shall sit in the middle of our kitchen probably until next year, before it gets hooked up. We’ve accepted it! ;)


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You just need to know

All my posts for the year fit on one page! Of my Home page, that is. At least, they did until this post… we’ll see.

I have a feeling I’ve made posts about this before–the desire to say something to help, though you don’t because you know it won’t help. And, people are not always ready to hear it, no matter how true it might be!

In this case, I’m thinking about people who are suffering, and feeling like nothing is ever going to go right again. So many times, God allows things to get desperate, just to get people to realize they need Him. When they finally do (how often I’ve heard this testimony), life turns around in amazing ways.

However, bad things DO happen to “good people”, Job being the perfect example. This is the question that so many ask, and so many just can’t get by it. The various answers will sometimes help, but often they just don’t: we live in an imperfect world because of sin, trials help us grow, the view is beautiful after the climb, etc. etc. In fact, this question of God allowing suffering is the big question in the book of Job, in the Bible. And here’s the surprise: it doesn’t answer it! God does join the discussion, at the end of the book; but what He does is point out the myriad wonders in creation, mysteries unfathomable. In other words, He is saying that humans just have no idea… we are not able to understand (the word is “perspective”). But God does!

So, just now I’m checking over my “one words” for August, and yes, there are some that fit perfectly!

  • Less noise, more sound.
  • Less rumble, more thunder.
  • Less Earth, more Universe.
  • Less lips, more soul.

To me anyway, these speak of mightiness, purpose, depth. When you’re in blackness, sometimes you just need to know, to know–that God IS.


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less heat, more fire… or, less fire, more heat?

August is almost finished already! How about this for being so late with July’s “less”?

I’ve been trying to think of something else to talk about, besides just the One Word “discoveries”, and finally this has come to mind: it’s been a very long time since I’ve done sermon notes!

We have always been spoiled with such good sermons, and that hasn’t changed since we started going to The Met. But… this one from a couple of weeks ago was especially good, entitled “The Dark Side of Sin”.

Pastor Jonathan wanted us to think about four areas of biblical truth (along the lines of “sin”) that have to become bigger for us.

  1. We need to have a very big understanding of sin.
    1. Sometimes we diminish it, but we shouldn’t be too surprised to “find rot behind the drywall”; as it is mentioned in many places in the Bible, “the heart of man is deceitful beyond cure, who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Never look at someone who has been “caught” in what seems to us an especially ugly sin as if they’re an alien–“There but for the grace of God go I!” And the only difference between a Christ-follower and a nonbeliever, is that the Spirit causes us to feel it more–that constant battle within that Paul talks about.
  2. We need a big view of grace.
    1. It’s easy to rejoice in God’s forgiveness for the everyday sins of character (not being as joyful as we should, etc.), but when something “big” needs forgiveness (i.e. sexual sin,  etc.)…. a wonderful quote from Pastor Jonathan: “When the weight of sin comes crashing down on the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ, can the Grace of God hold, or will the structure collapse and the sinner come crashing through it; can the grace of God bear the weight when the stain of sin is deep and wide and ugly? Can the blood of Jesus cleanse it? …The answer is yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes…” (Of course, there must be full confession and genuine repentance.)
  3. We need a big view of the sovereignty of God.
    1. God’s plans do not suffer a setback by sinful/ugly/evil situations! Remember Joseph, and how the evil his brothers did, God planned for good, even if He wasn’t the source of the evil.
  4. We need a big view of the future.
    1. The evil and ugliness that happens often will force us to “grow out of love with the world”, and that’s when we repeat from Revelations “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” (I’ve often felt like that when I get tired of my own sinful self!) 1 John 3:2  This is what keeps Christ-followers going in the present, knowing that God’s purpose is ultimately working towards that Future Day that will be very wonderful!

(Sorry about the ‘A.s’, WordPress seems to insist!)

Oh right–Less! There are actually four favourites this time, albeit the last one is something I saw somewhere else (not mine): less drone, more chirp; less steam, more breeze; less heat, more fire; less bark, more wag!


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