November 30, 2011

Advent Sunday

I would like to begin an installment of advent posts, one for each Sunday before Christmas (though I am a little late getting this one out!). It is my hope that focusing on one aspect of God’s redemptive plan each week will prepare my heart (and yours too if you like!) for this coming Christmas season. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle. I am finding, this year more than ever, that I desire to focus more and more on the 'unseen' gifts of the season - joy in relationships, love, salvation, and less on the 'stuff' of the season - the crazy retail market etc.  This week my focus is Hope, the hope of a saviour and the joy of promises fulfilled.

Week 1 ~ Hope

“The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
‘Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come…
he will come to save you.’”
Isaiah 35:1-4

Threads of hope are woven throughout the Old Testament. God’s everlasting plan of redemption for mankind calls through the centuries.

His redemption plan came forth in spite of disobedience and failings. It was not due to our own merit, not for deeds or mighty conquest. Not for anything we have done.

Out of grace redemption comes. Out of God’s unfailing love redemption comes.

For thousands of years, God prepared His people for a Messiah. One who would forgive their sin and bring them from death to eternal life in Him. His redeeming love spoke through Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and many others, calling people to repentance and obedience. Many waited and watched, yearning for a savior. For a time, all was silent.

Suddenly in Luke 1:11, an angel bursts onto the scene and delivers a perplexing message to Zechariah, a priest in the temple of the Lord. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were righteous in the sight of the Lord (v.6) but they remained childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive and they were both advanced in years (v.7). An angel, (Gabriel) appears to Zechariah, saying;

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
And he will go on in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:13-18

After all this time, the Messiah is coming. It is no longer thousands or even hundreds of years off, it is now.

Yet, (being completely human and reasoning with human understanding), Zechariah asks how this child who will prepare the way for the Lord could possibly be. After all, they are well along in years, how could they conceive?

God faithfully demonstrates that His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. The angel tells Zechariah as much. It will be because God has said it will be (v.19).  Despite Zechariah’s disbelief, and the consequences thereof (v. 20-22), Elizabeth does conceive and responds,

“The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people”
Luke 1:25

Hope thunders again when Elizabeth is six months into her pregnancy;

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her,

‘Do not be afraid Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.’”
Luke 1:26-33

Jesus. The hope of nations. Everlasting Prince of Peace. He is coming.

Mary asks the angel,   “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34, foretold in Isaiah 7:14)

If there was ever a reason to doubt your ability to become pregnant, Mary had it, in the most obvious of ways.  Yet nothing is impossible with God,

“The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’

‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered, ‘ May your word to me be fulfilled.’”
Luke 1:35-38

Mary believes the words spoken to her. Events are set in motion to fulfill the hopes of all who have longed for the Messiah, the Son of God, who will conquer sin and death.

Jesus, who will bridge the gap between God and mankind forever.

Dwell on hope this week. Hope when all seems impossible, for nothing is impossible with God. Prepare your heart to rejoice with the coming of the King, the promise of God to redeem all people.

Like John, may your heart cry in the wilderness;

“Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.”
Isaiah 40:3-5 and Luke 3:4-6

Have hope. He has come.

Feathered Friends

Caught these little friends with the telephoto lens one sunny white wintery day.




Happy Winter!

November 22, 2011

Treasures of Joy in John


Pure treasure. This is how I feel about the whole Word of God, and in particular, this special find on a recent antiquing-expedition.


This 150 yr old copy calls itself an 'expository' Bible, so it has a wealth of interesting commentary to go with every chapter from Genesis to Revelation. My mom happened to pick it up as we were perusing through row upon row of antique and vintage books (one of my favorite past-times!) And, oh, what a gift to find it nestled there on the far side of a shelf. 


One part of antique-book hunting gives me a particular thrill...

finding and reading inscriptions inside the covers!

So imagine my excitement when I opened this copy and saw;


"To my brother John - a new year's gift for 1861 - Thomas (?Thospert) Blackwell
John 5:39 & 3:36"
(unless that '&' is a 'D' - but I looked up both Daniel 3:36 and Deuteronomy 3:36 and there is no verse 36 in Chpt 3 for either of them...)

This inscription prompted me to look up the verses mentioned (you can too - I'm not going to give it away...) :) and continue reading in John. 

Have you ever been reading and are suddenly hit with the weight and beautiful significance of a certain passage or verse? When I read through John 16, these particular verses dove straight into my heart,

You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 

Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples that His time on earth is short, but He will be seen again and there will be rejoicing and pure joy. A joy that no-one and nothing can take away.

This past year, I feel I have been taught a few things about joy (in particular, joy through loss). Joy does not simply equal fleeting 'happy' feelings, though often mentioned with happiness, joy seems to run deeper. 

Joy is a constant abiding in the character of God. 
Joy is rooted in gratitude, not for what you have but for Who has given it.
Joy is rooted in the eternal, and in the unseen.
The joy of the Lord can be your strength. (Nehimiah 8:10)
Joy can triumph over trial.
Our trials can be considered as joy, as God is developing maturity and growing our faith. (James 1:2)
Joy can remain, and even grow, despite loss.

I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 

And I must admit, I am kind of 'in' to things which cannot be taken away right now. The things which remain when all else fades away. Mostly intangible, treasured in the heart. 

I'm thankful that through so many years, and so many attacks, His word remains just as He promised. It goes forth, and does not return to Him empty. I'm thankful that He continues to speak to hearts, save and redeem lives, and give fulfillment and direction. All we need is an open heart.

You make known to me the path of life;
   you will fill me with joy in your presence,
Psalm 16:11

Yes, joy is in Your presence.


November 19, 2011

Wedding Fun

I love my family! I also love it when the entire family gets together, especially when celebrating special occasions. Our gathering this year was to celebrate the marriage of my dashing brother and his beautiful fiancee. So I now have a sister-in-law! Here are a few snapshots from the day;




It was a sparkly, black and white winter wedding, modern and classy!


Mom made the cake (as she did for my wedding) and it tasted as good as it looks,


My brother is quite the car nut, and both love Disney flicks, hence the "Cars" tribute as a cake topper!


The reception was a blast, my cousin did an amazing job as Best Man,  even crooning out to 'Sweet Caroline' as part of his toast to the groom :) We all twirled and bopped around the dance floor afterwards, and spent hours catching up and visiting with far-flung family we don't get to see so often.


Neal was also dashing in a new suit...


And what else to do at wee hours when your camera is in hand and you are all dressed up but to take silly pictures in your hotel room...


Ok cousins - better get on it - we need another wedding next year!

November 17, 2011

Exodus

(Seems to be getting a little poetic around here - hope no-one minds! Just wanted to share some thoughts I'm processing on direction and guidance after reading in Exodus and thinking about my present circumstances and a mighty God...)

You broke my chains
to free me

You led me to this sea
after wandering in the desert
mourning comforts of captivity.

With wavering faith I followed
though through cloud and fire I could see
Yet filled with doubt
I stumbled about
until You led me to this sea.

Here I stand, with staff in hand
an army surrounding me
oh won’t You part these waters
these waters in front of me.

If I could see ahead, even just a little, how it would help the wavering fears in my heart. This time is so uncertain and yet, beyond all human reason, I can trust God and His plans for this time. I cycle through doubt, faith, question, doubt and faith again in this relationship I have with the Author of my life.

Through this dark night I raise my hands
for I know You speak to me
Before the dawn
the water is gone

and Yes,
You parted this sea.

“Even when you can’t see where you are going, even when nothing in your life makes sense, you can entrust yourself to your majestic God, knowing that in His unfailing love He will lead the people He has redeemed.” (Donna Partow)

November 8, 2011

a poem


Frost frames the thickening pond,
silver grass slips
beneath my feet,
feet tread on frozen time


as I slide and glide,
slide and glide...


November 2, 2011

Dear Slave Lake,

or {walking wounded}

This week has brought unsettling news, “Slave Lake Wildfire Becomes Arson Investigation”. So many thoughts race through my mind,

How could someone? Was it really human-caused? Wait, is this investigation valid? You mean I could blame a person for all this suffering? Was it intentional??

Reactions trickle in on Facebook and news article commentary – many in dismay and disbelief, many questioning, most just sick over it, some jumping to lynching and ‘justice’.

I’ll admit, I’ve had all those thoughts run through my own mind. A great sadness pervades;

Even if you could blame someone – it won’t change any of it. None of us can go back and change any of it.

As if on cue, anger rears its ugly head;

Who cares how it started anyway!! Why were we not protected and evacuated earlier? I believed faulty information at risk to my own life! It cost me the lives of much-loved pets…

Like a movie ending you hate, yet your eyes are glued to the screen, the events of that weekend begin to roll. Replaying, then desperately sidetracking to what could have been done differently – my mind absolutely determined to re-write the events of that Sunday afternoon.

I would love to say,

I’m over it! I’ve moved on!

Truth is – I’m walking wounded.

Reading the varied comments and reactions of others, I know I am not alone. Fear and Anger are fierce allies, motives shouting between words. Perhaps you are walking wounded too.

I have spent many years reacting first and thinking later – it does not turn out so well. Going on a witch hunt is not going to make any of us feel any better. Laying blame is not going to make any of us feel any better (though it is oh-so tempting…). So what will?

Well, I have witnessed beauty and strength as wounded people pull together. Not to pull one another down, but to help each other up. Quilts, shoes, benefit concerts, a hug from a friend, that person ahead of you at Timmy’s who paid for your coffee, sharing insurance frustrations and knowing you are not alone…

Keep extending those hands, there may just be healing in them.

We cannot change what has passed. All the investigations in the world will not take the ache away. All we can do is walk forward and heal together (regardless of where we may be scattered). It is my heartfelt belief that we can get through this. There ARE better days ahead.

"Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy"
~John 16:22~

Much love,