Friday, December 23, 2011

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

Wrapping presents is one of the most enjoyable parts of Christmas for me this year. There's the anticipation of watching a loved one opening each gift, and the fun of making a creative package that reflects a bit of the recipient's personality, as well as my own style. I loved the simplicity of using brown paper for wrapping... not to mention it brings that wonderful Sound of Music tune to mind... ;)

Here are a few of the packages that are now sitting under our tree, waiting to be opened... (my brother and I were experimenting with a homemade light-box tonight - we decided we needed more light... and a better box :P)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

 Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

Merry Christmas Adam! (Hey, Adam came before Eve, right?) Sorry for my lame humour. :P

Have a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reflections of Reality

A thrill runs through you when, amidst the fog of false illusion, you catch a glimpse of the reflection, clearly outlined in colour against a background of gray. For only a moment it remains visible before the image fades, but this unimaginable reality remains etched upon your soul as if you have suddenly been awoken from a lifetime of death. That single beam of light, caught for a moment, is enough to convey purpose, eternity, reality - where they never before existed.

The star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Matt 2:9-10)

How could pain or mourning ever shake us again? We have partaken of the water our souls were born thirsting for, and one day we will see the Light our eyes hunger for, for this Light has been born in us. Now that our eyes have once beheld it, we begin to see the Light reflecting on the surface of the lake at sunset. We see it falling dappled on the ground through leafy canopies. It is reflected in the pain-filled eyes of the little boy who speaks of love, of Jesus, while he lies helplessly trapped within a web of IV tubes and monitors. It is in the sublime simplicity of a child's heartfelt prayer. We receive a glimpse of the Light that came, but this is not satisfaction - it is longing, a joyful longing perfected by unassailable hope.

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. (John 8:12)

How dreadful to look once and soon forget, but how marvelous to see and remember - to savor and anticipate the culmination of what is promised us forever. And this brings humility, because we realize that we do not see as He sees. we do not see all things, but God has promised to one day reveal all things to us, for He has given His son - the manifestation of his glory.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:4-5) 

And yet we have been chosen to see Him who is the radiance of His glory, all because He came to us.  How can we understand this, when we have not yet seen Him in the flesh? How can we fathom it? How can we know it to be true?

We have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. (1 Cor 2:12)

The unseen has been revealed, because the Spirit of Christ, God himself, lives in us!

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6)

This Christmas, in each heart who has been reborn, may every reflection of His glory cause us to long for the day in which we see Him. Jesus, who came to this world as Light wrapped in human flesh, is our salvation and our eternal ambition. No mirror reflects an image unless the light is present. May His Light ever shine within us. Look for Him, and rejoice in Him!

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." (1 Cor 13:12)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Encouraging Video - Proverbs 31

Just ran across this today... a bit of encouragement and a challenge for the young men and women of today. Let's think about and pursue what really has value.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I've been really wanting to evaluate why I do what I do. Lately, I've been thinking on whether my purpose and meaning are found in the right things. I want each area of my life to honour my King - thought and action, word and deed. I know that there will continually be areas in which the Lord molds and convicts. It certainly brings humility to realize that at no one time in this life will I have it all together or achieve perfection. Truly, I must be realizing that more and more everyday - but the amazing part is that God accepts me, a sinner, because of Jesus' spilled blood.

I've just been asking myself why I blog. Certainly, the answer is complicated. I know there aren't a lot of people reading this, but I want those who do so to be pointed to Christ above anything else. There are a lot of great blogs out there, and it's really easy to compare myself and feel pretty pathetic, or jealous, or just plain boring... :P How horrible that trap can be! Personally, I want my little space on the net to be a place where I can share what I'm thinking about, what God is teaching me, a bit of my everyday life, and hopefully edify those who stop by. Never do I want to be a slave to anything of this world, least of all my blog.

Still, I love to write. While there are things that can't be put into words and some which simply don't need to be, within that jumble of hodge-podge thoughts and emotions, we have a desire for expression. It's difficult to formulate sometimes, but I know how cleansing it can be to write out thoughts and ideas, instead of having them bounce around unnamed in the vapours of cognizance. Even here, however, there is tension between word and intent, thought and action. Sure, expression is all well and good, but there are still the questions of what and why. And the answer should never be "because that's what I think, and that's the way I like it," but seeking what God thinks, and expressing it in a way that glorifies Him. Oh, I certainly have not achieved that, but I want to make it my goal.

Yes, I do believe that is the summary of what I want my life to be - seeking to know my God more, and to glorify Him in all things. And in writing all this out (you should get a prize if you read this far :P) I think it's more solidified in my mind.

And again I am reminded of these wonderful verses in Colossians 1:9b-10:

"We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."

That is the prayer I have for my own life, and for all who have been raised to life in Christ. May we walk in a manner worthy of Him, by His grace.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fresh Air and Family

Just thought I'd share some shots of this beautiful day. :) As I've mentioned before, I love those days when I don't have to run anywhere. My brother Nelson, a budding photographer with a new camera, wanted to go to a nearby park this morning to get some shots of this gorgeous, clear day. Getting some fresh air and exercise - and photography time to boot - sounded like a good plan, so my mom and I tagged along too. It certainly brought back memories, as we would often walk to this same park growing up.

I have so much to be thankful for - a wonderful, supportive family, a loving Saviour, godly friends, a beautiful place to live, a Christ-centered church, freedom to worship... and the list goes on! Canadian Thanksgiving was way back in October, and American Thanksgiving was last week, but I want to have a thankful heart every day, and in every season. I think on the many blessings that have been given to us in this land, and I realize how rich I am compared to so many. I shake my head when I see the crowds lining streets and filling parks in their Occupy campaigns... we are in no place to complain.  I pray that this generation would awaken - that we would learn to work hard and to give generously instead of succumbing to greed and envy.

My apologies - I digress.  Back to today... a trip to the park, and down memory lane. Ah, yes, my little brother Nelson. Not so little anymore.

The playground set has changed, but I remember swinging here overlooking the pond,
feeding the ducks, getting hissed at by the scary geese, and having the occasional picnic.

picture by nelson

The air was so fresh today after the rain - crisp, but not terribly cold. 
Those little moments of beauty - so perfect.

These little berries were so pretty...
What an incredible Artist!
I love seeing His fingerprints.

picture by nelson

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

As the Seasons Change

These weeks of mid-November hover between autumn and winter.  The leaves that so vibrantly lit the trees and carpeted the ground have now all fallen and been beaten by torrents of rain into the unidentifiable sludge that fills the gutters.  Over all this falls the pure, white loveliness of the first snow.  It blankets the ground, muffles the sounds of a busy world.  You watch as your breath forms clouds of steam in the chilly air, see the mountains' splendor, and reminisce on cozy, candle-lit evenings.

Seasons change. I'd far rather view that change as beautiful and dynamic instead of sitting back and watching it inevitably happening around me.  I want to be a participant, not just an observer.  I don't want to languish as I watch life go by, but embrace every moment of beauty, to stand strong in the face of the most devastating storm.

Sometimes I find myself asking, "How?"  How do I abide in such a way that I am assured of my purpose and find joy in every situation? These past weeks, as I've marveled at the red-gold leaves and the snow-dusted mountain peaks, as I've trudged through the rain, and watched it melt away the snow, I've been thinking of these things.

Even today, there has been a spirit of discouragement as I feel overwhelmed by future plans. The future is so wide, so unknown, and I have little sense of what my place in it may be. I've been reminded again of Paul's prayer in Colossians 1:9-12, which identifies that the will of God is to "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." These things are His will for me now and forever. They hold secure promises of the Father's faithfulness, and reminders of His incredible salvation.  As I continue to make decisions, I must remember to keep walking forward while keeping these things as most important - to do all things as unto the Lord, in His power, giving thanks to Him in everything.

There is a peace in this. When I look at the many grand dreams that may soon break through to reality, I feel so unqualified, so inadequate.  But oh - if I only remember that God himself has qualified me to "share in the inheritance of the saints in Light." As I embrace this unfathomable truth, I know that I need never fear failure, because my identity is tied up in Christ. There will be days of rain and times of darkness, and my world may fall around me, but I will not be shaken.

Oh how I struggle! But may I continually cling to my Rock. To do this I must release all else - all fear, all pride, which paralyzes me from moving to Him. May I never be so caught up in the "what if's" and worrying that I fail to see the indescribably beautiful moments that each season brings - as I move forward in the strength of His power.

Monday, November 14, 2011


The persecuted church and the issue of abortion have been on my heart lately.  Maybe they seem unrelated to you, but they are linked as issues on which the church must stand, even in this dark and fallen world, to lift up the downtrodden and relieve the oppressed. If you haven't seen the documentary 180, a film by Living Waters that compares abortion with the holocaust, I'd highly recommend watching it. As I've been studying the holocaust lately, I'm horrified by the atrocities that were sanctioned by society. True, the holocaust happened 60 years ago, but it is sobering to realize that my grandparents were alive at the time, and likely knew little about it. The parallels between the age we now live in, and the world around the time of Hitler are seen in almost every way - socially, religiously, morally. The church in Germany had become merely a social institution, rather than the body of Christ. And I can't help but wonder, what has become of the church today? Still, there were some then, and there are some now, who shine even brighter in the midst of this darkness. The international day of prayer for the persecuted church was this past Sunday - let's remember to keep these brothers and sisters continually lifted in prayer.

I want to share a few quotes with you today - may the Holy Spirit use His Word and the words of these wise men to awaken our hearts and minds to action - to care for the widow, the orphan, the unborn child, and our persecuted brothers and sisters, in the name and power of Christ. God is alive! May we prove this by our lives.

+ + +

"Where the world despises other members of the Christian family, Christians will love and serve them. If the world does violence to them, Christians will help them and provide them relief. Where the world subjects them to dishonor and insult, Christians will sacrifice their own honor in exchange for their disgrace. Where the world seeks gain, Christianity will renounce it; where it exploits, they will let go; where it oppresses, they will stoop down and lift up the oppressed. Where the world denies justice, Christians will practice compassion; where it hides behind lies, they will speak out for those who cannot speak, and testify for the truth." - Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"I am concerned that there is no outcry. I can well understand that there are people who are led to starve children to death because they think that they are doing something right for society or are following a principle of Hegel that is utilitarian for society. But I cannot understand why the other people, and I know that there are many, don't cry out. I am concerned about this because when the first 273,000 German aged, infirm, and retarded were killed in gas chambers there was no outcry from that medical profession either, and it was not far from there to Auschwitz." - C. Everett Koop, M.D.

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed upon this nascent life, to raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue.  The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life and that is nothing but murder.” - Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one and in some the other." - Malcolm Muggeridge

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." (Prov. 31:8)

"We forget that man stands alone before the ultimate authority and that anyone who lays violent hands on man here is infringing eternal laws and taking upon himself superhuman authority which will eventually crush him; the eternal law that the individual stands alone before God takes fearful vengeance where it is attacked and distorted.... Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God." - The Fuhrer Principle by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

"Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body." (Hebrews 13:3)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random Thoughts of the Day...

Yes indeedy.

Well, let's see...

To be honest, everything's feeling just a little bit monotonous. And also rather unpredictable. Which would at first seem like they aren't compatible, but that's just how life is right now. I'm in a season of life where change is pretty inevitable, but my brain is kind of stuck with the opinion that nothing is going to change. My other brain knows better, however.  Really, it's all a bit muddled, but God's plans are beautiful, and He can even sort out my muddled thoughts, and make the mundane meaningful.

It's been a dark day, what with the rain and the time change making the sun set earlier... maybe that has something to do with not feeling 100% today.

An unexplained lack of motivation has me staring at my *almost finished* essay for hours, hoping for a lightning-bolt of inspiration. I desperately want to spend some time doing something with my hands - I have many potential sewing projects lurking in the dark recesses of my imagination. It's been one of those days when energy is zapped and you look back and wonder if anything got done. Still, I can't say it's been a bad day, just a rather sleepy one.

Hmmm... *smiles* I've been humming, whistling, and giving incredible operatic renditions of Christmas carols all day. Be glad you didn't hear me. (sorry mom! ;) I've been playing Christmas songs for a couple weeks now, preparing to play at a craft fair... it's getting me in a roasting-chestnuts-o'er-an-open-fire kind of mood. Although I've never roasted chestnuts in my life, nor do we have an open fire. Ah well. Jack frost is beginning to nip at my nose at least.

Wonder... that's how I would describe what I've been feeling lately - seeing more of who God is, what He has done.  And oh how I want to share that joy, that wonder, that deep, deep assurance that God has placed in my heart, with so many who are without the joy and salvation of the Lord. I am humbled that even despite my many failings and stumblings into sin, He is my strength and my hope forever.

I loved the sermon on Sunday - one of my favorite passages in the Bible, where Jesus walks on water.  I so identify with Peter in that account. What a beautiful parallel of the greatness of God in the midst of the storms of life - may we truly learn to trust Him and look to Him! I came across this beautiful song by Downhere last night that illustrates the same story. I think I've listened to it at least 20 times since then.

...The end of a random day....

God bless you, my friends!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Consider the lilies...

Would you believe I took these pictures only last week?
They're still out there blooming in the garden, despite the frosty nights. :)
It was a perfect evening to take the camera out,
capturing the resilient, transient beauty.
The nasturtiums bejeweled by afternoon showers...

A perfect little fairy mirror...

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecc 3:11a)

"The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (Isa 40:8)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I'm making friends with dead people....

This has nothing to do with Halloween or necromancing, in case you're worried. ;)

It all started in the frozen food section at Costco this summer. Amongst the herds of people gathered around the sample stations, my eye randomly fell upon a girl who was holding a book in her arms. In a glance I took in the front cover. It was nothing extraordinary - just a black and white photo of a bespectacled man. Something about the title seemed familiar though. Bonhoeffer... hmm, where have I seen that name before?

Suffice it to say that my steps soon led me to the book section, where I picked up a biography on a man of whom I had barely heard. Not one to make hasty purchases on anything over $5, I nonetheless was enticed to purchase the book, lured on by my current obsession with WWII. Anyhow, $9.99 could be easily justified if it turned out to be half-decent.

It did.

I just started reading Eric Metaxas' biography of Bonhoeffer last week, and it has been incredibly fascinating.  I've really been getting into biographies/journals lately, which isn't really typical for me, but I've been so encouraged by them.  As Brett and Alex Harris say, I've been "making friends with dead people".  These accounts remind me of the "great cloud of witnesses" that Hebrews 12:1 speaks of, and the hall of faith in Hebrews 11, which lists many examples of faithful men and women who lived their lives in obedience to God.

This is the same type of life I discovered as I began to research the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man who searched for truth and was found by God, and ultimately paid the ultimate price for his obedience when he was hanged by the gestapo.  I won't go into the details of his life here, but you can watch a 1/2 hour summary by Eric Metaxas here. (It starts slowly - if you want to skip the intro, go to 8:00) One of the things I have been most struck by so far is just how similar the world of Bonhoeffer's time was to the world of today, especially in terms of culture, philosophy, religion, and the church. I want to share a few quotes that really hit me. I pray that this generation of believers would be inspired by these words from the past, and empowered by the Spirit to seek and live the truth of God's Word.

"The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one's bread, on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least understand and concede this if they call themselves Christian."

"Humanism and mysticism, the seemingly most beautiful blossoms put forth by the Christian religion, extolled today as the highest ideals of the human spirit; indeed often as the crown itself of the Christian idea - [but] it is precisely the Christian idea itself that must reject them as an apotheosis of the creature and as such a challenge to the honor belonging to God alone."

"In New York they preach about virtually everything; only one thing is not addressed, or is addressed so rarely that I have as yet been unable to hear it, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the cross, sin and forgiveness, death and life."

"Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic... Do not defend God's Word, but testify to it... Trust to the Word."

Sunday, October 23, 2011


This is a post that has been a long time in coming. Partly because it's going to talk about some things I'm not so excited to bring up. But at the same time, God is using them to transform my heart, and yes, I am excited about that.  In case you're wondering, this is kind of a book review, but more what God has been teaching me through His Word, as well as through Francis Chan's book, "Erasing Hell".

I am so overwhelmed by who God is - so in awe, though not fully comprehending; so in love, though without His grace I could not love.  I just finished reading "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan last week.  The last chapters broke through to me so clearly with the message that I do not worship a God who is created or confined to an image in my imagination, or even who submits to what I see as right and wrong.  Once again, the Holy Spirit is lifting me beyond my comfortable patterns of thinking about and relating to God.

Take the doctrine of Hell.  I have always believed it existed, always taken the scriptures to mean what they say... tacked it on as a part of my truth paradigm... But somehow it has always remained one of those half-dead doctrines that make up academic knowledge but isn't wrestled with enough to set ablaze the fire of awe and worship of the King.  Reading "Erasing Hell" helped me finally move beyond that as I came to the realization that hell and judgment are aspects of the real, personal God I love and adore.

If you are expecting a detailed, exhaustive look at the subject of hell, this isn't going to be that book.  If, however, you are interested in gaining a basic understanding of the biblical and contextual arguments for the main viewpoints that are floating around nowadays, this will give a brief and thoughtful overview. The first several chapters address the main approaches to judgment among Christians, comparing each view with scripture and historical Jewish context. One point I found interesting was the dispelling of the myth that "Gehenna" was the town garbage dump. The final chapters were the most impacting to me, as Francis Chan humbly confessed his own conflict in coming to grips with the theology of hell and shared again the image of the Potter and the clay. I was led to pure worship of the God I can't measure or contain.  God is God.

But you see, I don't understand. I really don't. And this highlights a huge problem in today's church - we tend to sweep what we can't understand or explain under the rug - whether it's the doctrine of the trinity, or predestination, or hell. This must not be. Personally, I know that it's when I pull out those questions and dig into what the Bible really has to say, wrestling with the things my mind rebels at and allowing myself to seek the answers to hard questions, that I truly grow deeper in my dependence upon God. While there are things I may never fully understand, I am able to accept them because of my relationship with the Creator. As Christians, our view of God is magnified when we are able to see his indescribable attributes and simply trust and worship him in the midst of our veiled humanity. I don't know what it was exactly, but somehow this recent reminder of God's greatness as displayed by His wrath and compassion enlarged my view of God in a way that touched my heart and magnified my worship, not just as something to be mentally computed and put aside.

Out of this, I've been feeling such a beautiful juxtaposition of joy and sorrow - overwhelming joy in the knowledge and worship of God, and a greater sorrow and urgency for those who run blindly into judgment.  Just as I am spurred on by a longing for heaven, I should be spurred on by this knowledge of hell.  I am so guilty of living as if I did not believe, frozen by fear. You see, I want to live firmly in reality - not what this world sees, but what He sees and who He is.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Downhere Kind of Day

It's a beautiful day today. A turkey-sandwich-and-chocolate-milk kind of day. Peanut butter chocolate chip cookie for dessert? Sure, why not!  I'm looking out my window as the green turns to orange in the trees and the wispy blue sky continues to turn above me.  I love these stay-at-home days.  I just bought Downhere's album "The Altar of Love" and I'm listening to it as I'm researching my History essay. Good stuff. It's a Downhere kind of day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Giving Thanks

Today was Thanksgiving here in Canada.  God has given so many things to be thankful for! On Sunday, my family and I went out for a hike.  It was so beautiful.  The leaves were beginning to fall from the trees, but many of them were still green, translucent with the sun filtering softly through them.

{the beauty of creation}
{changing seasons}
{breathing lungfuls of clean, crisp air}
{the happy ache of tired muscles}
{love - 1 Jn 4:19}
{a warm and happy home}
{food... even though I'm too stuffed right now}
{chocolate - yes in a different category than food :P}
{the body of Christ}
{the Word of God}
"Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done!"
(1 Chronicles 16:8-12a)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome, October

I can't believe we're well into October already! I must say, I love this time of year.  There is something so invigorating about the chill that begins to put an edge in the air, causing the scarves and sweaters to find their way into wardrobes once again. Oh, and yes, in case you're wondering, I did just edit my blog design a little bit. I was getting tired of the blue, and I'm liking the neutral thing for fall. :)

October always brings a sort of rhythm to routine.  The textbooks, so exciting when opened for the first time, have finally showed their true colours, be it for good or ill.  This school year has felt different in some ways, but I'm still with the same school, working with the same teachers, so it hasn't quite registered that I graduated in June (though it's not official until I finish this extra course).  Honestly, I'm happy to still be studying - I'm finding my History course pretty fascinating... though I am beginning to look forward to finishing and moving on to university. :)

I'm thankful my schedule isn't too crazy this year, because even though I always end up busier than I expected, I have some extra time for studying my Bible and reading books that have been on my list for a while.  Like Francis Chan's "Erasing Hell" - more on that coming soon. You see, I don't want to become dead to things that are difficult to understand - even though it's so much easier to ignore them.  I've been reading a number of books recently that have expounded on topics I agree with, but don't necessarily like to dwell on.  They've brought up the big questions in life - things like, "why would a loving God send people to hell?" and, "why does God choose some and not others?" Again and again, I am brought face to face with old realities that I am only slowly coming to embrace with my heart and life.  Oh how I want to go beyond academic acknowledgement and lay my all down for a God who is greater than I can fathom.

God has given so many blessings - times of rest and reassurance, and the continually growing knowledge that the Lord is my shepherd. For those of us in Canada, Thanksgiving is this weekend. I have so much to be thankful for. Truly. May I never lose sight of the precious gospel in the midst of this abundance - I need nothing else.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Contentment: The Heart That Gives

Continuing to think on the track of the last post, I just wanted to share some scriptures that stuck out to me when I was looking up contentment. Compared to how the world thinks, these things are revolutionary - just as they were in the world Jesus and the apostles taught in.

I was just recalling the parable in Luke 12 today, about the rich man who planned to build bigger barns for his harvest. To him, God said, "'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." Often, our attitude towards wealth includes the notion of storing it up, accumulating it, counting our pennies.  Though we can do this with money, the point is that we cannot do the same with the days of our life. There is no such thing as putting our days in a savings account, or buying stocks in life-lengthener.

Paul wrote similarly in 1 Tim 6:6-10,

"But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Going back a bit farther in time, to the ministry of John the Baptist, I found it interesting to see what the forerunner of Jesus had to say to those who questioned him about the proper response in light of the coming wrath.

"'The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.' And some tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, 'Teacher, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Collect no more than what you have been ordered to.' Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, 'And what about us, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.'" (Luke 3:11-14)

How incredible! Before this, John had been proclaiming the coming judgment of God upon unbelievers, telling them that "the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." Unlike many doom-sayers of today, John warned the people not to hoard their possessions, but, in essence, to count it as nothing.  The ability to do this requires the grace of God which leads to repentance and enables the believer to forsake themselves.

This all sounds very biblical and theological, but the real test comes in asking, "what does this really mean for me to obey?"  Looking at how John directly and specifically addressed the crowds and the tax collectors and the soldiers, it can be seen that this is not something to be understood and then passed over.  There are two questions that I need to ask myself: "What do I habitually take or hoard for myself?" and "What do I have to give?" This is so convicting to me, as I know that there are many things which I have not fully abandoned for the sake of Jesus. For everyone, there will be different answers. In my life, I know a big one is time. I need to be rethinking "me-time" and focusing on how I can best use it to grow in my relationship with God and be a blessing to others. Another one is my reputation - my status in the eyes of others. So often I fear the judgment or rejection of others. Am I willing to sacrifice and step out of my comfort zone for the name of Jesus? There are countless other ways in which this applies to my life. These are really hard things, although they are often accomplished in small steps... like giving an extra coat away, or encouraging a hurting friend.

I realize that I've been mainly focusing on fruit in this post, but it's so important to realize that none of it can be achieved without a transformed heart that has been ransomed by the blood of Christ and fully given over to Him. When we hoard time and resources, we are merely feeding the flesh and displaying carelessness toward our eternal fate. Eternally, anything we gain will be that which we have given for the glory of Christ.  I love Jim Elliot's quote, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." Oh that I would truly be able to forsake myself and live for the honour of my King!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Contentment: The Heart God Fills

During my quiet time the other day, I was simply given one word.


I looked it up in the little concordance at the back of my Bible.  Honestly, I was surprised at how the verses I found spoke to my heart and tied together a lot of things the Lord has been teaching me recently... I was amazed at just how strong and true and pure and right these things are as I begin to realize their fullness.  This contentment that Jesus talked about transcends all the pale, thin counterfeits seen by the imagination or drawn up by the words of men.

This contentment is not the pleasure of being surrounded by beautiful things, being filled by a warm meal, or being held by human arms; nor is it the state of simply being resigned to one's lot.  How could I describe what this contentment is if my listener does not know the Spirit who grants it?  It cannot be born without the stripping away of every other desire, every other thing from which we seek satisfaction.

Contentment means to cease chasing after the wind and at last drink from the Fount.  Contentment means to leave all else behind and follow the Master.  Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."  The satisfaction Paul spoke of had nothing whatsoever to do with his circumstances, but with Christ who gives strength and hope.  Whether we are filled or hungry, we can be satisfied by the Bread of Life.

After moving to a different church several years ago, and being distanced from many of my closest friends, God began to teach me these things in a practical way.  I had never realized just how much my dependence was on friendships until that time. I experienced times of loneliness and times when I battled with feeling accepted.  There came a point when I realized that God was using these things I was going through to bring me to a deeper dependence and a greater intimacy with Him.  As I expressed to Him my longings for a confidante, I began to experience what it truly means for God himself to be my friend and to find peace in surrender to His will.  Since that time, the Lord has brought many dear friends into my life who love the Savior and have been a great encouragement to me, but I pray that I will remember the lesson He taught me in that season.  I love John Piper's quote: "This is God's universal purpose for all Christian suffering: more contentment in God and less satisfaction in the world."

My prayer is that I will be able to face every joy and trial with the knowledge that Christ is my strength, to surrender every thought and circumstance to Him, knowing that He "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rom 8:28)  Contentment is not merely a state of the mind, but of the heart.  God fills the heart that has been emptied.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Two children are playing outside on this lazy summer morning.  The colours are hazy, the grandeur of the mountains slightly faded by the warm smog rolling in from the city.  The older of the pair, an eight-year-old girl, laughs as she holds up her thumb and squints with one eye in the direction of her younger brother.  "Ha! I can't see your head anymore, it's gone!"

"Hey..." the little boy retaliates, trying this trick of perspective for himself.  He pinches thumb and forefinger until they nearly touch. "You're only this big!" Turning their attention to the car in the driveway, the mountains in the distance, the sun in the sky, they measure the astonishing smallness of these familiar objects, laughing at the absurdity of the game.

~ ~ ~
Absurd? Truly? In our world, most have worshiped the game until it has become a prison; a fatal, self-inflicted blindness.  The philosophies of this world puff up the influence, greatness, and potential of humanity. Our lives are not a linear progression between birth and death, but a web, extending outward, perhaps even heavenward.  Each thought, each word, each step, affecting the lives walking beside and coming after. The headiness of wisdom, the immortal, unquenchable, immutable human spirit has intoxicated the great minds of countless philosophers and sages.

What does it mean to be human? It is a question that has been asked time and again, and has never been satisfactorily answered by science or philosophy.  In the end, man is his own creation, made in the image of the mirage we set before us.  But what if the mirage is emptiness and the image becomes brokenness?

 "All that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart was pleased because of all my labor and this was my reward for all my labor. Thus I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun." (Ecc 2:10-11)

meaningless. meaningless.

The oppressiveness of what we understand, but which does not fill; what we seek to know, but cannot find - these things are death to us!  Oh that eyes would be opened to see!  For at last, at the moment of hopelessness, when the prison tower crumbles, there is hope.

This is humanity.  This dash between two dates, this life with its vast web of human connection; of love and hate and dreams; of failure and achievement...  All of it, nothing more than a pin prick in the hand of the Almighty Creator, the Sovereign Judge.  (Dan 4:35)  "Ah," we think with relief, "so small that He would never notice."


drove the nails through the hands

How foreign, how strange, how disturbing this is to a world that is gorged with self-love.  How astonishing God's words are, that we, being nothing, could be such an offense to Him that He would give Everything to ransom us.  What beauty!  What love beyond compare! 

"O Lord God, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as Yours?" (Deut 3:24)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grace of the Commonplace

I was laying in bed late last night, thinking and praying... examining my own heart.  I was able to do some reading on our trip, having bought "Crazy Love" and "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan in Lyndon.  I read "Crazy Love" while we were on the road, and my mom would occasionally read a chapter from "Erasing Hell" or an entry from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost For His Highest".  For those of you who have read these books, you know that they do not contain easy things.  My heart was changed and convicted as I again realized the greatness of my God, my great inadequacy, and the cost and beauty of my calling. There is no way I could ever change myself - to somehow live up to the perfection of who Christ is. If I see myself as able to stand, I am gravely mistaken. I am swept away in the flood, on my face before a holy God, who gave His life to make me His child.  And so I am continually learning, growing in understanding, in the knowledge of my Saviour, and to this there will be no end.  But with each new insight, I pray that I will not merely hear, but that my life would be transformed.  These past few days, I've been thinking a lot about self-consciousness, insecurity, and pride.  All of those go hand in hand, and I struggle with each one.

Last night I was thinking of how I can so often separate myself from the life of Christ in me.  I realized that the things which I see as being to my account are in reality discounted.  As soon as I do something to which I associate a reward, I have begun to rely on myself and give in to pride. I had to ask myself, "Am I the judge of how effective I am as a Christian, or is God?"  Am I rewarded based on the knowledge that I somehow blessed the life of so-and-so?  If that were true, I would have already received my reward in full. 

During our holiday, Mom would often read a devotion from Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost for His Highest".  The August 21st entry really spoke to my heart on this issue.  I have copied it below.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit." Matthew 5:3

The New Testament notices things which from our standards do not seem to count. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," literally - Blessed are the paupers - an exceedingly commonplace thing! The preaching of to-day is apt to emphasize strength of will, beauty of character - the things that are easily noticed. The phrase we hear so often, Decide for Christ, is an emphasis on something Our Lord never trusted. He never asks us to decide for Him, but to yield to Him - a very different thing. At the basis of Jesus Christ's Kingdom is the unaffected loveliness of the commonplace. The thing I am blessed in is my poverty. If I know I have no strength of will, no nobility of disposition, then Jesus says - Blessed are you, because it is through this poverty that I enter His Kingdom. I cannot enter His Kingdom as a good man or woman, I can only enter it as a complete pauper.

The true character of the loveliness that tells for God is always unconscious. Conscious influence is priggish and un-Christian. If I say - I wonder if I am of any use - I instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord. "He that believeth in me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water." If I examine the outflow, I lose the touch of the Lord.

Which are the people who have influenced us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us. In the Christian life the implicit is never conscious, if it is conscious it ceases to have this unaffected loveliness which is the characteristic of the touch of Jesus. We always know when Jesus is at work because He produces in the commonplace something that is inspiring.

A quote from the previous day sums this up well, "Christ-consciousness will take the place of self-consciousness. Wherever Jesus comes He establishes rest, the rest of the perfection of activity that is never conscious of itself."  If it is God who judges and rewards, I will be eternally blessed, not by deeds consciously done in my own strength, but by things done in the unconscious life of the Spirit of God, of which God alone knows the effects and the rewards.

In the end, it comes down to pride. Isn't it such a struggle? I have heard many of you express the difficulties of the battle - but I am so encouraged knowing that we are fighting it, facing it.  And yet, you see, this too poses a problem in my mind.  If we think we can beat pride by simply mustering up the strength to fight it, we will only find ourselves entrenched more deeply.  When we feel that we have become less proud, that is when we are most proud.  As Oswald Chambers alluded to, the only true humility is "unconscious" humility.  If I begin to focus on the overflow, rather than the Fount, it becomes mine rather than His, polluted and worthless.  Jesus said in John 4:14, "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”  Who will seek this water but the one who recognizes their thirst?  Likewise, we must remember always that it is God who is at work in us - it is the overflow of His grace that proclaims His glory. 

As 1 Corinthians 13 shows, love is ultimately self-less.  It is love that we must walk in, for love "does not seek its own."  Galatians 5:6 says that the only thing that is of any value is "faith expressing itself through love." (NIV)

"If anyone supposes that he knows anything,
he has not yet known as he ought to know;
but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him."
(1 Cor 8:2-3) 

"For it is not he who commends himself that is approved,
but he whom the Lord commends." (2 Cor 10:18) 

"For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this,
that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, 
so that they who live might no longer live for themselves,
but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." 
(2 Cor 5:14-15)

There is a mysterious and beautiful complexity to the surrender we are called to.  While dying, we live - not by the merit of our death, but His life.  May it be that we would never attempt to commend ourselves to the Lord, but instead be overwhelmed by the Savior's love, longing to serve Him with true devotion.  It is the Lord God who has approved us in Christ, so that we would be controlled by the love of Christ. He knows us! Incredibly, He chooses to use our lives for His purposes, but we must realize the truth that He is not dependent on us, or even on our obedience. Yet, by Him, we live, and are empowered by the Spirit to no longer live for ourselves! This is the work of God alone, and is deserving of our praise. It is my prayer that we would grow in the knowledge of this great Saviour, to the praise of His grace. "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Family Vacation Part 3 - Seaside

Port Townsend...
 A seaside tourist town...
mexican food
old buildings

To the lighthouse and fort at Dungeness Point later that afternoon.
So beautiful there...

A goofy game of golf in the evening...

last day...
hiking along the bluffs
at the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

 the ocean below
gnawing at the base of the cliffs
barely visible through the fog

 the sandy grasses
like brave sentinels
piercing the salty air

a beautiful conclusion
to a refreshing holiday

Monday, August 22, 2011

Family Vacation Part 2 - Travel and Olympic National Park

On Tuesday morning we left Ferndale and took a ferry to the Olympic Peninsula.  The fresh sea air was so refreshing. On our first day in Sequim, we decided to do some exploring, and made our way up to Olympic National Park for some hiking.  The air was so clear and refreshing up there, with breathtaking views.

This deer was right beside the path outside the visitor center.  They seem quite used to people.  Such beautiful and graceful creatures!
wildflower meadows...
We decided to take a different path on the way back, but right when we were almost in view of the parking lot, we hit a danger zone.  It was slippery and steep, but we survived. :P It was neat to be hiking in snow in the middle of August.
I feel so blessed to have been able to have that time up on the mountains, looking at things so delicate as wildflowers and butterflies and fauns, at the mighty mountains and the vast ocean in the distance.  "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom 1:20)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Family Vacation Part 1 - Food and the Fair

I just returned with my family on Saturday from a week-long camping trip in Washington.  I suppose some would say it's not truly camping because we borrowed my grandparents fifth-wheel trailer, but what's wrong with luxury camping once in a while? ;)  Our first two nights were in Ferndale, and we took in the North West Washington Fair on Monday. Before we went to the fair, we stopped at a beautiful park in Lyndon to eat our picnic lunch.

I'd have to say the highlight of the fair was the food... although we by no means went crazy with it.
Our family motto is "all things taste better shared".  So we bought two plates of Pofferjes to share, four 50cent cartons of milk, and one moo-wich.

It was interesting trying to share that, but apparently you can cut things with spoon handles.  Just for the record, it did taste better shared... ;)
Besides waiting in endless concession lines, we wandered around the various booths and exhibits, lego collections, painted masterpieces by 9-year-old Picassos... that sort of thing.  We were hoping for a free show (I was hoping horse), but being Monday there wasn't much going on.  Still, it was fun to absorb the carnival atmosphere.
We did have a campfire that night - sadly, our only one of the trip, but with wood costing $5 a bundle and us all being so tired at the end of the day, we didn't feel like we missed out too badly.

So that is a summary of our first couple days of family vacation! More to come tomorrow. :)