Tuesday, November 24, 2009

He leads me beside the still waters...


We had a stormy week on the west coast with high winds and high tides wreaking havoc in many places. There was major flooding in some communities on Vancouver Island - prompting the government to impose a state of emergency in at least one community - and there were lots of power outages as trees were blown down. Logs littered the beaches in many areas as log booms were broken up strewn every which way by the waves.

While visiting my son (the photographer who took the photo above) and grandson on the northern Sunshine Coast last weekend, I spent the nights in a warm cozy bed in the loft in my son's beachfront cabin. The ceiling was just a few feet above me and it curved around the bed like a cocoon. It was awesome to listen to the sounds of the surf as great waves were hurled against the shore, and of the wind as it whipped through the trees and pushed against the walls of the cabin. One night I lay there trying to imagine what it must be like for the birds and the squirrels who live in the trees that were being tossed and shaken by the winds just a few feet from my bed. I felt so grateful that I could rest safe and warm and secure in my bed inside the loft - so secure that I was able to peacefully drift off to sleep while the tempest raged all around me.

I realized that this was a perfect illustration of what it means to be "in Christ". Though storms rage and terror reigns (H1N1 is the current scare) and the forces of death and destruction wreak havoc in the world all around us, in Christ we are safe and protected; cocooned in a peace that allows us to lay down our heads and sleep - secure in the knowledge that we live and move and have our being in the One through whom all things were created. We can rest in the Saviour, the Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who has all authority in heaven and here on earth. This realization gave me great comfort and it has continued to help me to enter into the rest of God whenever the tempest that rages around me threatens to overwhelm me. He is my fortress, my God in whom I trust.

Thank You Lord for Your love, Your peace, and Your protection. Help me to remain in Your love always.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I'D LEAVE 99...(An article I wrote for my church's newsletter on the theme of homecoming.)

When I think of homecoming what comes to mind is sitting in my pastor's office for the first time nine years ago. I had begun to attend his church a few months before but usually slipped out before the service was over to avoid having to talk to anyone, so we'd never really spoken. At the time I was still filled with fear and shame; I felt that if people knew what my life was like they would not want me sitting on the pew with them. But on this day, the pastor had made a beeline for me before the service ended, asking if I would like to meet with him in his office. He'd probably noticed me weeping in the pew during the service as I did every time I attended a service. I didn't offer him much to go on that day. I wasn't ready to share the details, just that I was in recovery and had come back to church because I was working Step Two (Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity) in my program. I had attended church as a little girl and had loved Jesus and longed to know God like Joan of Arc and Saint Bernadette did, but I lost my faith and turned away from God when my father left our family for a woman he worked with - in spite of my fervent prayers. So as I was "coming to believe" I decided to go back to church since that was where I had known God as a child. As we sat in his office, my pastor began to prayerfully leaf through the used Study Bible he had offered to give me to take home. Then he stopped and began to read the passage from John 4 about the woman at the well in Samaria. He had no idea that what he was reading was a powerful word of knowledge for me. It was more than that, actually, I was stunned because the story of that woman was the story of my life. I didn't get the part about "living water" etc., at the time it was over my head spiritually, but as he continued to read I felt God saying to my heart, "Finally, you've come home!" In that moment I knew that I was where I was supposed to be, although it would be a while before I invited Jesus to come into my life. August 30 is the anniversary of the day that I was born again. I'm so grateful for God's infinite patience and loving compassion towards me. Like the Good Shepherd, Jesus came and rescued this lost lamb and carried me home. And I will forever love and serve Him.

He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9b

WHEN YOU SEEK ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. (2 Peter 1:3 MSG)


 

In the Old Testament times, the people of God needed the services of a priest to go to God on their behalf, and to hear from God for them as well. The first priest was Moses. When God invited the Israelites to come up the mountain to meet Him, they were too afraid; they were sure they would die. So they sent Moses instead. During the times of the tabernacle and the temple there was a room called The Holy of Holies where God's presence dwelled. It was hidden and protected by a thick curtain, and anyone who entered into that room was in danger of losing their lives; the manifest holiness of God would strike them dead because sin cannot stand in the presence of God's holiness. That's why on only one day each year, the high priest of Israel would enter the Holy of Holies to go before God and atone for the sins of all the people. Before he dared to enter, however, he would carefully perform several cleansing rituals and perform many different sacrifices and offerings in order to cleanse himself of his own sin. Then he had to perform more of the same for the sins of the people. If there was even a residue "uncleanness" left in him or on him, he would most surely die when he entered the Holy of Holies. That's why the other priests would tie a rope to his ankle, that way they could pull him out without risking their own lives to go in and retrieve his body.

Now, because of Jesus' death on the Cross, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and confesses Him as Lord and Saviour can enter into the presence of God. That's because Jesus was the "once and for all" sacrifice for the sins of everyone in the world. By His death on the Cross He has made us all clean, His blood has washed away all of our sin – if we believe in Him – and we can now enter into the Holy of Holies without fear. That's why the great veil that curtained off the Holy of Holies in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two the moment Jesus died. His death opened a way to the Father for everyone who believes.

Now we no longer need a priest to be our go-between, we can draw close to God and have a personal and intimate relationship with Him ourselves. While we still need leaders and mentors in our lives to teach and guide us, we cannot rely on someone else to bring us closer to God or to do the work of cultivating our relationship with God for us. We must take responsibility and take the time to do whatever it takes to draw closer to Him. If we take even just one baby step towards Him, God will make ten giant strides towards us. We may struggle, not knowing how to draw close, but if we ask for His help God will show us the way. If we don't know how to pray, we can ask Jesus just as the disciples did, and He will teach us. Everything we need to have an intimate and personal relationship with God is within our grasp, in fact, God is just waiting to give it, if we would only ask.

The ways that we approach God are: reading our Bibles; prayer (including listening for Him to speak); praising and worshipping Him by reciting a psalm or singing a hymn or a praise song; and sitting in silence expectantly waiting for Him. As we do these things with hearts that long to draw close to Him, He promises He will draw close to us.

The Message puts it beautifully:

So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he'll be there in no time. Quit dabbling in sin. Purify your inner life. Quit playing the field. Hit bottom, and cry your eyes out. The fun and games are over. Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet. (James 4:7-10)

God is waiting for you to seek Him. There is so much He longs to give you and to show you! You will never regret turning your will and your life over to His care.



PRAYER

Thank You, Jesus, that You died on the Cross so that I can enter into the Holy of Holies and experience the manifest presence of God. And thank You that because of You I have all I need to live a life that is pleasing to God. Lord, I want to know You more. Please open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Teach me how to seek You, how to pray to You and how to listen and hear Your voice as You speak to me. I commit my life to You now, in Jesus' Name.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

HIS LOVE NEVER WEARIES

There are moments throughout each day when our minds get carried away with the busy-ness and the circumstances of our lives and our thoughts are not on God. But no matter how often we forget Him, He never forgets or neglects us.




How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.Psalm 139:17-18

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary…Isaiah 40:28



We cannot weary God’s love. The Bible tells us that God’s love endures forever, that it is changeless and infinite, and that nothing can separate us from His love – nothing! Although there are times when we may grieve His heart, His love never is never failing. Our Father in Heaven longs for us to turn to Him and know His love. His hands are full of blessings that He would so love to pour out on us.

We talk so often with others throughout the day, but so often we forget that God is longing to hear our voice. He has so much to tell us, if we would only listen. God is not a remote impervious power. He is a Person with feelings, and He desires intimacy with us. He made us in His own image, and so our own need and desire for intimacy and relationship is a characteristic we inherited from Him!

So often we trust only in those things we can see, but we should not allow the worldly mind set of “I’ll believe it when I see it” keep us from the heart knowledge of who God truly is - a Person who desires to be known by us. If we would only seek Him with all our hearts, and love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, we would discover that He is as tangible to us as Jesus was to Thomas the day He appeared and said, “"Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.”

Jesus did not grow weary of Thomas and his doubts. Instead He invited Him to discover the truth, that He was truly alive! Jesus said to Thomas, “Do not disbelieve, but believe." And during those times when God seems distant and aloof and our faith in His love begins to flag, God does not chastise us or abandon us. Instead He invites us to a deeper intimacy with Him. He longs for us to “taste and see” just how good and faithful He is. There are no limits to how much He loves us. The question is, will we open our hearts to Him and allow Him to show us?

I'm thankful that I have had several experiences of knowing God's love in a real and tangible way. One of them came during a time of great temptation for me. Jesus told me that He could hold me just the way I wanted to be held on a day when I almost sacrificed purity for affection and intimacy. I argued with Him because I had barriers of unbelief and skepticism that prevented me from just running into His arms. True to Himself and His character, Jesus was patient with me and invited me to give it a try, just as He did with Thomas. I will never forget what happened when I allowed Him to hold me as He said He would. It was one of the most intimate and excruciatingly beautiful moments I have had with anyone in all my life. Taste and see; the Lord IS good!

Lord, thank You for the reminders throughout Scripture that You love us with a passionate and everlasting love. Help us to remember that there is absolutely nothing that can separate us from Your love. And if we have any barriers in our lives or in our hearts that keep us from knowing the fullness of Your love and experiencing Your blessings, would You gently show us what they are so that we can offer them up to You and be free from everything that would hinder us from running into Your open arms. Help us to remember to show our love for you throughout each day, and teach us how we can bless your heart.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Changing the blog's name

I've been reluctant to post items about my ministry with Partners in Hope and at the Fraser Valley Institution because the stories I want to tell involve real people whose anonymity is at stake. This ethical dilemna has caused me to neglect posting to my blog on a regular basis, and so I have decided to change its focus from what God is doing in the lives of other people to one that is more focused on what God, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is teaching or showing me. If I keep it personal then the only person whose anonymity is at stake is myself.

God is doing amazing things around us every day, and I hope that He will remind and inspire me to share more of what I see Him doing around me in this forum.

May He bless you abundantly today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hope for the Hopeless

This is an article I wrote recently for the St. Simon's Newsletter on the subject of the "Power of the Holy Spirit"

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AT WORK

I see the power of God at work through the Holy Spirit as I allow Him to place me strategically where He wants me to be. Recently while I was at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women (ACCW) with a group of W2 volunteers, I found myself with time left over before we were to leave. My self-focussed wish was to head out to my car and rest and listen to praise music while I waited for the other volunteers to finish; it had been a long day. Instead, I decided to offer myself and my time to God for His purposes and began to walk around the grounds praying and asking God to show me if there was someone He wanted me to reach out to. It often happens that women who are broken and searching will feel drawn to one or more of us and ask how they can arrange to have a W2 visitor too. These are almost always “divine appointments”!

So as I circled the prison grounds and prayed, a woman who was standing alone in a gazebo far from the main activity of the prison called out and asked me what we were doing there at ACCW. I stopped and told her that we visit women every other week and talk and listen and sometimes pray with them. She told me she wanted to sign up for a visitor so I explained how; then I told her that I had some time left if she wanted to have a visit right now. We sat down on the benches in the gazebo and she told me a little about herself. She told me that she was struggling with being back in jail this time and was dreading her sentencing hearing, which was coming up in a couple of days. She was afraid that she was going to be given a long sentence because of the charge that she was facing.

She told me that she felt ready, finally, to get clean and sober and live her life differently; she wants to be involved in her children’s lives again. I told her that God cared about her and about her relationship with her children, and that most of the women I meet at ACCW see their incarceration as God’s rescue from themselves and from their addictions. I suggested that perhaps God had rescued her too and had a plan to save her and help her to change her life around. She agreed; she told me that she had decided to sign up for some of the programs that are offered at ACCW like Emotions Management and addiction related courses. I shared a little bit about what God has done in my life and asked if I could pray for her. We spent time together in prayer for all of the things that were on her heart, and all that the Holy Spirit gave me to pray for her. She wept. I believe that God heard the cry of that woman’s broken heart that night, and that by the power and the leading of the Holy Spirit, He sent me to respond – only because I made myself available - so that He could minister His love to her.

I expect to hear the story of how He moved in answer to our prayers the next time I see her. It happens all the time; I’ve heard many women share with breathless excitement how God responded to our prayers during my last visit – He is good and He wants to demonstrate His love and His care to them. I pray that this desperate woman who’s found herself at the end of her own strength will apply to have a W2 visitor – maybe me - who can help to shine the light of hope and of God’s love into her life. I know that God will provide for her needs if she looks to Him. What an awesome privilege it is to be a small part of this God-given ministry of reconciliation through the work of M2W2.

In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.
2 Corinthians 5:19-20


For more information about the ministry of M2W2 click on the link to the right or go to http://www.m2w2.com/

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Hope and the Promise of Easter

Easter has a personal meaning for me that goes beyond its significance as a Holy Season of the church. Nine years ago on Palm Sunday I crossed the threshold of St. John’s Anglican Church in Duncan seeking to “come to believe” in that power greater than myself that could restore me to sanity and free me from the hold that addiction had on my life. I had known and loved the Lord as a child but that day my spirit was bankrupt and my heart was broken and despairing. I had no other hope, everything I had tried failed to bring healing or change.

I had hoped to slip into the church service unnoticed that morning, and to leave that way too, but the joyful Palm Sunday celebration was in full swing. I had a palm frond slapped into my hands and was instructed to go outside again and “process” into the church with the others, waving the palm frond and proclaiming, “Hosannah in the highest!” Amazingly, I did not drop the palm frond and run! Instead, like the rest of the people gathered, I waited out in the spring sunshine and then processed into the church as I was told.

I didn’t fully understand the religious significance of the procession at that time, but looking back I can see that this was actually a prophetic act for me. I didn’t know it that day, but I was returning home! I had begun the journey to the Cross; the journey from darkness into light; from despair to hope; from sin to righteousness; from death to life; and from shame to glory. Jesus’ mighty victory over the grave set me free from sin and death forever four months later when I invited Him into my heart and my life, and now I too am victorious over the grave. Jesus was willing to die for me! He loves me that much! “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.”(Psalm 139:6) I am humbled and filled with awe and wonder every time I think of it and I can’t think of it without weeping tears of gratitude. Thank You, Jesus!

I recently heard a beautiful, heart rending song called “The Day Before You,” by a young man named Matthew West. The words speak so simply and beautifully of the change that happened in my life nine years ago. I close with a couple of lines from the chorus: I can't wait, to wake up tomorrow, and find out this promise is true, I will never have to go back to, the day before you.

PS: The stunning picture was shot by my son, Jeremy - a very gifted photographer. Can you see the Cross?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Renewal

An article for the St. Simon's NV Renewal Mission Newsletter

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV

Because I became a Christian quite late in life I understand the transformation that happens “by the renewal of your mind”. Along my seeker’s journey I investigated many spiritual paths and philosophies, and accumulated many thoughts and beliefs that were not in line with God’s will for my life. In the early days of my walk with Christ I was not willing to lay down some of these beliefs, even when they were questioned by my spiritual elders. They made sense to me. However, as the life Christ grew within me - and especially after being baptized in the Holy Spirit - my thoughts and beliefs began to come more into alignment the Word of God. Not because of any argument or debate with members of my church, but because I was continually surrendering my life to God and being counselled by the Holy Spirit.

Seeking the renewal of the mind is crucial for every Christian whether we’ve grown up in the church or not. As sadly evidenced in the Anglican/Episcopal Church in North America, believers can be influenced and even led astray by ideas and beliefs that are not in line with God’s Word. Renewal is the work of the Holy Spirit who wants to continually come in and fill us up with the life of Christ, renewing our minds and giving us God’s perspective on life. Renewal enables us to discern the “good and acceptable and perfect” will of God so that we cannot be easily led astray by worldly ideas and ungodly philosophies. When we are truly aligned with God’s will and our thoughts line up with His Word, we no longer live in a way that conforms to the world. Our lives and relationships demonstrate that we are different, and the transformation is apparent to those around us. We become more concerned about the needs and lives of others and we become “fishers of men,” concerned with catching human fish for the Kingdom of God because we have and know God’s heart and God’s thoughts toward people. As the Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:9, it is God’s desire that none should perish, but that all people should turn to Him.

I pray that St. Simon’s Renewal Mission 2009 will be a time of seeking the renewal of the mind that God, through the Holy Spirit, wants to bring. I pray that our hearts will be set ablaze with the love and the compassion of God’s own heart and that we would passionately seek opportunities to bring others into His presence so they may know His love. May we be transformed as individuals, and as a church, and may our hearts and attitudes become the same as Christ’s.

(I will happily forward the brochure for the upcoming Renewal Mission March 20-22, 2009 at St. Simon's Church NV and Harvest City Church to anyone who is interested. Just send me an email to request it.)