Thursday, 30 December 2010

humbling humility

The official holiday of Christmas has officially passed. The 25th of December has come and gone, again. The decorations are being put away, one by one. The leftover sweets of the season are being eaten, one by one. The lights are going out, one by one. Sorry folks, no more jolly tunes or rockin' around the tree until next winter. If you missed your chance under the mistletoe, I'm afraid you have about fifty weeks to wait. Farewell Frosty the Snowman and adios Santa Claus. Poinsettias, it was nice seeing you all, but have a good break. Cadbury Chocolate, you have delighted our taste-buds once again, but please, I beg you, leave us alone while we make our New Year's resolutions to not eat you after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The happy holiday high is over for many. The glitz n glam is gone. Hey, it was fun while it lasted. Right? Now, it's back to work/back to school. Those rosy cheeks have paled. That sparkle in your eye has disappeared. Those cheery spirits have dropped... low. The shops have successfully sucked you in and spat you out, and now you're just waiting for a New Year's drink, or two, or three.

Regardless of how one may feel at this present time, there is hope. Very real and certain hope. His name is Jesus Christ. Christmas comes every year to remind us about how He came, and why He came into this world. And this ain't just a nice story, folks. Neither is it a tall tale or a Christmas carol. It is the truth. The most humbling and hopeful truth of all time/for all time.

The how is humbling.
"Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave, and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross." {Philippians}

In other words, God left His golden throne for a wooden manger. He left the constant praise of angels for the cries of cattle in a crowded barn. Later on, that wood made a cruel cross on which He hung for hours, and those cries in the barn became cries on a hill called Calvary, mocking cries from proud people, jeering at the humble Messiah. From adored king, to suffering servant. From Creator, to Saviour.

The why is hope.
"And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." {Matthew 1:21}

"When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation." {Romans)

"He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." {Isaiah 53:5}

In other words, Jesus Messiah came to die, so that we might live. He conquered death, so that we might live. He was wounded, so that we might be healed (of the disease of our sin). He paid the debt and printed the receipt that God's justice demanded. Through our humble repentance and trust in His perfect sacrifice on our behalf, a holy God becomes a faithful Father. In a sentence, He came to rescue us from our sin and restore us to a relationship with the great God of the universe.

Humble yourself, because He humbled Himself. Then, and only then, will you have joy and peace that will last you all year-round.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

a wet, wild wonder

I've always loved rain, but now I love it even more after reading this.

The Great Work of God: Rain
A Thanksgiving Meditation

November 19, 1998 | by John Piper

"But as for me, I would seek God, And I would place my cause before God; Who does great and unsearchable things, Wonders without number. He gives rain on the earth, And sends water on the fields." {Job 5:8-10}

If you said to someone: "My God does great and unsearchable things; He does wonders without number," and they responded, "Really? Like what?" would you say, "Rain"?

When I read these verses recently I felt like I did when I heard the lyrics to a Sonny and Cher song in 1969: "I'd live for you. I'd die for you. I'd even climb the mountain high for you." Even? I would die for you. I would even climb a high mountain for you? The song was good for a joke. Or a good illustration of bad poetry. Not much else.

But Job is not joking. "God does great and unsearchable things, wonders without number." He gives rain on the earth." In Job's mind, rain really is one of the great, unsearchable wonders that God does. So when I read this a few weeks ago, I resolved not to treat it as meaningless pop musical lyrics. I decided to have a conversation with myself (= meditation).

Is rain a great and unsearchable wonder wrought by God? Picture yourself as a farmer in the Near East, far from any lake or stream. A few wells keep the family and animals supplied with water. But if the crops are to grow and the family is to be fed from month to month, water has to come on the fields from another source. From where?

Well, the sky. The sky? Water will come out of the clear blue sky? Well, not exactly. Water will have to be carried in the sky from the Mediterranean Sea, over several hundred miles and then be poured out from the sky onto the fields. Carried? How much does it weigh? Well, if one inch of rain falls on one square mile of farmland during the night, that would be 27,878,400 cubic feet of water, which is 206,300,160 gallons, which is 1,650,501,280 pounds of water.

That's heavy. So how does it get up in the sky and stay up there if it's so heavy? Well, it gets up there by evaporation. Really? That's a nice word. What's it mean? It means that the water sort of stops being water for a while so it can go up and not down. I see. Then how does it get down? Well, condensation happens. What's that? The water starts becoming water again by gathering around little dust particles between .00001 and .0001 centimeters wide. That's small.

What about the salt? Salt? Yes, the Mediterranean Sea is salt water. That would kill the crops. What about the salt? Well, the salt has to be taken out. Oh. So the sky picks up a billion pounds of water from the sea and takes out the salt and then carries it for three hundred miles and then dumps it on the farm?

Well it doesn't dump it. If it dumped a billion pounds of water on the farm, the wheat would be crushed. So the sky dribbles the billion pounds water down in little drops. And they have to be big enough to fall for one mile or so without evaporating, and small enough to keep from crushing the wheat stalks.

How do all these microscopic specks of water that weigh a billion pounds get heavy enough to fall (if that's the way to ask the question)? Well, it's called coalescence. What's that? It means the specks of water start bumping into each other and join up and get bigger. And when they are big enough, they fall. Just like that? Well, not exactly, because they would just bounce off each other instead of joining up, if there were no electric field present. What? Never mind. Take my word for it.

I think, instead, I will just take Job's word for it. I still don't see why drops ever get to the ground, because if they start falling as soon as they are heavier than air, they would be too small not to evaporate on the way down, but if they wait to come down, what holds them up till they are big enough not to evaporate? Yes, I am sure there is a name for that too. But I am satisfied now that, by any name, this is a great and unsearchable thing that God has done. I think I should be thankful - lots more thankful than I am.

Grateful to God for the wonder of rain,

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

an alliteration of hope

He redeems.
"He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion."
psalm 103:4

He restores.
"He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."
psalm 23:3

He renews.
"those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength."
isaiah 40:31

He refreshes.
"come to Me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you."
matthew 11:28

four great truths starting with the same letter. fancy that!

Saturday, 9 October 2010

never underestimate

The disciples didn't know what to do with the large hungry crowd. There were just too many people, and too little food. Not to mention, it had been a very long day. "Let's just send them home," they decided.

They had forgotten Who they were with, though. Five loaves and two small fish don't pose a problem to God incarnate. In fact, this lack of food proposes a grand opportunity for Him to showcase His deity through a marvelous act of power and compassion. Jesus cannot and will not be intimidated. He is God. The God Who had made absolutely everything out of nothing, could surely make something great out of something small. The God Who filled their lungs with air, was also going to fill their stomachs.

So, Jesus vetoes His disciples' decision to send the hungry people home hungry. That will just not do. "Bring them here to Me," He says. God in Christ had yet.another.miracle up His sleeve. He takes the five loaves and two fish, and makes a feast of it. So much so, that every single person was satisfied.

A very dismal dinnertime beginning had a happy ending, after all. That, my friends, is how God works. "He does immeasurably more than all we can imagine."

Don't you think the faithless twelve felt ashamed about their initial lack of faith as they gathered up the baskets of l e f t o v e r s ?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

life is a lot like music

Just like music, life's got rhythm. Sometimes it's steady; other times it's syncopated. Just like music, life's got its major, and minor notes too. There is dissonance and harmony, played just a few notes apart. Just like music, life's got times for a solo, and other times for a duet. And just like music, life's got different tempos. Some measures are adagio, others presto.

Everybody talks about life being bittersweet. Bitter and sweet. Sweet and bitter. The older I get, the more real this reality becomes, the more personal it gets. There certainly are major and minor notes 'played in the same measures' of life that sober me up and bring me to His throne of grace, where there is always a song to sing.

These words from the Valley of Vision are perfect. They speak of that which causes the sad heart to sing, and the happy heart to sing some more, and that is His grace.

"O Lord, forever will Thy free forgiveness live
that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain
it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven,

its love and virtue knowing no end.

I have a longing for the world above
where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love
the dust of earth.

Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor,
I shall go on singing Calvary's anthem.
May I always know
that a clean heart full of goodness
is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night
and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide
at Calvary.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

adopted for life, forever

Meet the Smith family. They once described themselves to me as the three flavours of Neapolitan ice cream. Isn't that sweet? It's Mr. Vanilla (TJ), Mrs. Strawberry (Karen), and Miss Chocolate (Chaya). Just like the ice cream, they are each great on their own, but even better together.

Beautiful little Chaya is from India, and just recently became an official part of the Smith trio. After many long months of court-dates and confusion, prayers and paperwork, Chaya's adoption has finally been finalized. Love never gave up, and perseverance has paid off! Chaya was once an orphan, but is now a child... the daughter, of two wonderful parents, who will provide for her, love her, and lead her well in this life.

I have come to love this photo below because of what it represents. See the trust that Chaya has, because her father's hands are ready for her. See the gladness of her soul, all over her face. See how carefree she is. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what it looks like to be a beloved child.

All of this is but a depiction of the most glorious adoption of all... into God's international family, for eternal life.

How marvelous to know that because of Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, I have God as my Father today and every tomorrow to come... straight into eternity. Today, I am happy at the thought of so secure an adoption. Today, I am humble at the thought of so undeserved an adoption. And every day my Father reminds me that this adoption ought to change how I live every day. Little old rebellious me, adopted by big, kind, exalted He.
Thank You, Jesus.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

the best 'but' in the Bible

To my great delight, I have discovered that my old friend, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, had a wife, Susannah Spurgeon. And she wrote beautifully, just like he did. And she prayed fervently, just like he did. And she made much of her Saviour, just like he did. (They are hands-down my favourite couple in history.)

This prayer of her's dates back to the 1800's. Yet, all these centuries later, it is my up-to-date plea. And I am comforted, because He heard her then, and He hears me now.

"Not that we loved God, BUT that He loved us."
- 1 John 4:10
"As precious balm, so came these blessed words into my dull and aching heart. Dear Lord, I thank You for them; You have taken them from Your own Book, and spoken them to me with Your living, loving voice, and they have quickened me.

I have brought to You, with shame and sorrow, a hard and insensible heart; I could only groan out before You my utter lack of both faith and feeling. The very desire to love you seemed to lie fettered ad powerless within me, only an occasional struggle revealing its bare existence. Then, Lord, while I knelt in Your presence, with bowed head and troubled spirit - tears and sighs my only prayers - You whispered those sweet words in my ear and they brought light and liberty to my captive soul. Blessed be Your dear Name for this glorious deliverance! It is not my poor, cold, half-hearted love that is to satisfy and comfort me; but Your love great and full, and free, and eternal as Yourself! Surely, I had known this before, Lord; but I had shut myself up in unbelief till, in Your sweet mercy, You spoke the word that released me from my chains, opened my prison doors, and let me out into the sunshine of true peace in believing.

'Not that we loved God.' No, and that is the sad wonder and mystery of the unrenewed life, Dearest Master. Not to have loved you, is our greatest guilt and shame. It is even worse than this with us, for we were enemies, by wicked works, to Him who claimed the most ardent and grateful love of our souls; we had put ourselves in an attitude of defiance against our Best Friend; or if not openly defiant, we were totally forgetful of Him to whom our heart's allegiance was justly due. "Not that we loved God." Ah, dearest Lord, you know how deeply, sadly true this was of me, and how I mourn over the years spent without love to You, and at a distance from You. O hard heart, O blind eyes, O poor dull sluggish soul, that could be unmindful of the strivings of God's Spirit, could deliberately neglect the pleadings of a Saviour's love, and see no beauty in One who is 'altogether lovely'!

'But that He loved us.'
Here is a blessed contrast, here is the antidote for sin's sting, here is light after darkness, hope after despair, life after death! Lord, my soul flings itself on this glorious fact, this saving truth as a drowning man seizes upon a life-belt thrown to him in the surging sea. If You do not love me and lift me, I must perish forever. But there is no question of sinking when Jesus saves, no fear of losing life when He loves.

O my Lord, how I thank You for this precious word upon which You have caused me to hope! Now all the day long, my heart shall sing over the safety and blessedness of being freely loved, instead of fretting about the sad lack of my poor love to You. 'Not that we loved God' is darkness and bitterness, 'but that He loved us' is light and pardon, peace and everlasting life."
Amen, in Jesus' name.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

how many times can you say 'sun' in one sentence?

some 'food for thought' that i've been chewing since the sunday sermon feast in the book of ecclesiastes...

you can't live 'under the sun' without knowing the God 'above the sun' through Jesus who came 'under the sun' to make this necessary relationship possible.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

when you just don't feel like it

... do it, anyways.

let's be honest, my generation, myself included, suffers from a serious epidemic of laziness. it's a dangerous little devil, disguising itself as procrastination, and showing up inconveniently at home, school, and work. his partner in crime is poor work ethic. they go everywhere together. but they always have an excuse, the most popular being: "i just don't feel like it/or i just don't feel up to it." does that get them off the hook? are they excused? i don't thinks so!

frankly, 'how we feel' doesn't matter all the time. we're not always going to want do what we have to do or ought to do. for that reason, we can't live based on our feelings.

it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to figure out that responsibility doesn't always equal pleasure. but it always does equal privilege. think about it. having a family, having a job, having an education, having... anything for that matter, is a privilege. things given to us. things we don't deserve.

granted, responsibility isn't always the most exciting thing in the world. the average person doesn't exclaim, "yippeeeee! it's time to do my homework. i've been craving some textbook reading since the moment i woke up." or "man, i just can't wait to pay my bills!" or "phew, just home from a long day at work, but i can hardly wait to get started on my household chores."

so, what are we to do when doing the dishes and finishing our homework don't give us the thrills? or when serving our families, helping our friends, and ministering to people takes time and energy, both of which are in scarce supply? here's what we are to do - do the dishes, finish our homework, serve our families, help our friends, and minister, anyways!

frankly, all of these things don't require your emotional cooperation to be done. it's called obedience to God. it's called good old-fashioned perseverance. it's called "all things are possible through Christ".

now before you think, i'm advocating a joyless, dutiful, forget-your-dreams, grin-and-bear-it sort of living, i am not. (far from it!) life is a wonderful gift from God, and in Christ, we live it as a beautiful act of sweet surrender and joyful service to Him, Who makes even the mundane meaningful and the impossible, possible. but what i am saying, is that life, these post-fall days, is bound to be monotonous at points. sorry to break it to you, but the alarm clock will not be our most favourite noise, nor the commute to work our favourite ride, nor the ministry easy. some days, you'll feel up to it; other days you won't.

regardless, He calls us to a routine faithfulness, and will provide the ability for the calling. so, let's get going, and get to it in a spirit of prayer. and heed the wise c.s. lewis. "don't bother much about your feelings," or we'll not do much of anything.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

morning meditations

school has begun again. and we all know what that means. early mornings, busy days, late nights.

i love to think this though, that our God never sleeps a wink. never ever, ever. He is forever strong and tremendously tireless, always sitting up on His heavenly throne, watching our 'lying down' and 'getting up' and 'going out' on earth.

how about you meditate on that as you gulp down your cuppa caffeine! He is mighty and His well of strength is bottomless. draw from it early in the morning, and it will last you until you return to your pillow, however many hours later.

and the good news, this well of His never runs dry. it is always full up to the top. His brand-new mercies meet us the moment our alarm clock sounds.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

dying for a sweetie

I've been on a serious C.S. Lewis kick as of recent, and I predict that it won't be soon over. My nose has been buried in a book of his all week, and let me tell you, the pristine clarity, the profound insight, and the downright truth of the pages 'smell' so good. (No doubt because he derives it from God.)

Yesterday I suddenly wanted to watch Chronicles of Narnia again. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Yes, it was a Friday night. Yes, I am twenty-one. And no, I don't think that was a bad way to spend my one free night of the week. I pretended to be a child, seeing it for the very first time (...which isn't exactly hard to do, considering my degree in teacher education, and an afternoon spent in the children's section at Borders).

Now, I could go on about the Gospel truths so cleverly woven throughout the one hundred and thirty five minutes of sheer imaginative genius that is the world of Narnia; however, I will choose just one line that wedged itself into my memory.

..."for sweeties."

Picture it: The terribly wicked 'queen' has hungry wee Edmund trapped in her icy, dark palace. While he was expecting a room of Turkish delights, he finds himself in a dark, dismal prison with a stale piece of bread. Turns out, she had lied and he was stuck. Edmund was in brutal bondage, for sweeties. He had betrayed his family and all the good in Narnia, all for a box of temporary Turkish delights that weren't even real. Drawn to the dark side by greed; lust proved fatal. And the title of this blog becomes literal.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, it does. Every day, people on earth are forfeiting life eternal in Christ, for silly, sinful trivialities. Gaining nothing, losing everything. They are 'dying' for a sweetie, when really - the sweetest thing is Christ.

Friday, 3 September 2010

every day this week, on my way to school, i've been listening to a wonderful mix of music. i tell ya, nothing to wake you up and get your day going like a few good songs!

this week i've made a morning tradition of listening to this old hymn, possessing poetry to stir your soul and truths to make you weep.

come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
full of pity, love and pow’r.

i will arise and go to Jesus,
in the arms of my dear Savior,
oh, there are ten thousand charms.

come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God’s free bounty glorify;
true belief and true repentance,
every grace that brings you nigh.

come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
lost and ruined by the fall;
if you tarry till you’re better,
you will never come at all.

view Him prostrate in the garden;
on the ground your Maker lies;
on the bloody tree behold Him;
sinner, will this not suffice?

lo! th’ incarnate God ascended,
pleads the merit of His blood:
venture on Him, venture wholly,
let no other trust intrude.

let not conscience make you linger,
not of fitness fondly dream;
all the fitness He requireth
is to feel your need of Him.

{written by joseph hart, 1759)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

sweet serendipity

Encouraged by a recent sermon, called Slow Down, You Move Too Fast, I've been wanting to take the advice to "smell the roses" seriously. My opportunity came today, at the perfect timing. On my walk, I decided to take a new route. Little did I know that clusters and clusters of delicate white roses were a few steps ahead of me, lining a part of the path. I happened upon them, smiled at the surprise, let my nose do its thing, and remembered something Jesus said.

"See how the flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Now, if that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Oh fellow pilgrim on His path, I pass on this to you... smell the roses, and know that He is God.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

reality check

today i sat at a pretty park,
and prayed,
"dear Lord,
make me a content with a little,
because even a little is a lot,
when what i deserve is nothing.
in Jesus' name, amen."

Sunday, 29 August 2010

dry up or drink up / it's up to you

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to start your imagination engines. On the count of three! One… two… three…

Think of a desolate land. A barren wasteland. A lonely plateau of cracked, dry, neglected earth. Of thirsty, dirty dirt. There is nothing for miles. Nothing, but one pitiful, little, laughable shrub, which has been long dead from dehydration. Its bare branches stand tangled in a mess, its roots forever choked.

Now, switch gears. Banish that horrible scene from your mind, and invite one much more pleasing to replace it. Behold a marvelous tree… a tall, tall tree. Its bark is a perfect brown, its leaves a lush green, and it produces every kind of fruit known to mankind. Delicious, ripe, flawless fruit hang heavily from every branch. Now, don’t forget… all this magic begins underground… down, deep, deep. Its roots run to the rushing river, source of its continual refreshment that keeps all its leaves green, and fruit healthy. Ah, satisfied soil! Thirst quenched forever. Not even Mr. Sun, at his worst, can threaten this tree’s contentment and growth. Now, that is one happy tree, if there ever was one.

Ok, so why this imagination assignment? Well, the idea is straight from the Genius Himself. See Jeremiah 17:5-8. I have been so struck with the imagery in these verses that I can't get the stark contrast between these two scenes out of my head. The frightful former represents the man who trusts in man and who relies on himself, and the lovely latter symbolizes the man who trusts in the Lord and puts his hope in Him.

We have two choices, people. Choose wisely.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Life is strange, sometimes. It doesn't always go how we thought it would, or think it should. On some blue days, like today, all you can say is Thou knowest.

One thing is sure, though - God sits on His throne in majesty, in power, in peace; and He rules in sovereign love. He has recently caused me to sit at His feet, and it's a nice place to be. Oh, what would I do if I had not the comfort/the sanity/the privilege of being His child?

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

first day of class

I am embarking on a brand-new adventure this year - a new school, a new group of friends, new professors, new information, new experiences. And so far, so good. (Hopeful final destination: a multiple subjects teaching credential!) Today in class, we had to write a personal poem (inspired by a children's book, of course). I am happy with how mine came together, and was always taught that it's nice to share. So, here you go.

The important thing about teaching is the people. There are parents and principals, students and supervisors, custodians and cooks. Hallways and classrooms and playgrounds are packed, packed, packed with people.
Teachers are learning and teaching, and teaching and learning. Students are stretching and growing, and going to new heights. Yet, it all takes time, time, time. There are lessons to learn, subjects to conquer, projects to plan, and homework to grade. There are problems to solve, brains to expand, and character to build. There are rules to keep and requirements to meet. All of this, and more to do; only seven hours in a school day.
But, the important thing about teaching is the people.

Okay, now YOU should write one of your own. I'm telling you, do it. It's easy! Not to mention, it very well might be be your ten-minute miracle because of how it helps you simplify the complicated. A few short lines like these organize your thoughts and direct your attention to the priority. All you need to do is start and end the poem with - The important thing about... {insert your word of choice}. It could be your occupation, a certain person, a personal goal... etc. {Whatever you please.} And then fill in the middle.
Happy writing, my friends!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

advice from heaven

"O, Angela, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with Him is full redemption."

Psalm 130:7

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

look & live.

It was a typical English winter morning, and a young boy, called Charles, found himself caught in the Sunday snowstorm. In an attempt to escape it, he happened upon a tiny church down a side road. Anything to get out off the cold! he thought.

He entered the old building to find a dozen people and no pastor. You see, the snow had many people stuck at home. So, the resident shoe-maker of the group volunteered, last-minute, to fill the vacant pulpit. Unprepared, and simple as ever, the man read Isaiah 45:22 - Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Then he directed this plea at the young boy with ears, "Young man, you're in trouble! Look to Jesus Christ! Look! Look! Look!" And so it was that day, that the Lord saved Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Think of it, he walked into the church that morning, a dead boy; and left it alive, [alive because of a living God!].

Notice though, there was no eloquent speaker. Neither was there an extravagant show. But there was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the crucified and risen Lord, preached [plain and simple]. That was all, and that was enough; for the boy looked to the Sufficient Sacrifice, and was rescued forever. You see, we don't need anything but the Saviour Himself. Empty chairs aren't a problem, when Jesus is present... and a feeble speaker will do, as long as the Holy Spirit is in attendance... and not even a dreary dull morning can pose a threat, for the Light and warmth of the Father is stronger than it all.

So, stop looking at all the fuss and fame around us. Enough with the fancy frills. And please, no more 'in-style' distractions. Don't miss the Bright and Morning Star because of a few cheap spot-lights. What you and I need is Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Oh human with a soul, don't dare die again; be born again. Repent and believe; look, Look, LOOK to Him, and breathe for the first time.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

He hath a beauty

The best time for me to think is at night. Everybody is asleep, and the house is quiet. All that’s audible is the faint tick tock of the clock in the hall. I crawl halfway under my covers, and turn on the lamp by my bedside. Its soft glow fills the room. I find the Book, and begin to read.

Lately I have been loving the thought of God on His throne, high and exalted, and the train of His robe filling the temple. I envision His angels around Him and His international choir at His feet, admiring and celebrating His perfection. What a glorious imagination this is! The splendour is far beyond even my most wonderful thought.

The other night I found the chapter (Isaiah 6) where that phenomenal scene is described. I read on this time, though, to discover Isaiah’s response to such a sight. He cried, "Woe is me!" What a perfectly normal declaration. In light of the holiness of God, we are all wretches; aren't we? As Shakespeare put so well, He hath a beauty that makes me ugly.

That is why I'm so grateful for Jesus. Because Jesus is my perfection, I can come into His courts with thanksgiving in my heart. My ugly sin is forgiven, and I'm free to do what I was created to do... to gaze upon His beauty... and in so doing be beautiful myself... the unfading kind of beautiful described in first Peter three, verses four and five... the kind of beautiful that He gets all the glory.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

dominican days

Hola amigos! I am home, and happy to report that my eight weeks in the Dominican Republic were full of God’s power and provisions. Sincere thanks to those who prayed. What an encouragement it was for me to know that many of you were on your knees this summer. Let us rejoice… for God answered your prayers and did marvelous things in and around me.

Now, I wish that I could sit down with each of you and tell you all about how God was working this summer, however since that isn’t exactly possible, we will just have to pretend… won’t we? So, imagine this… you and I are sitting on a couch together, cups of tea in hand (or coffee if you prefer), and this conversation unfolding…

You ask, “What memories from your trip will you take home with you?”
:::: Well, it has been almost two months now since I met that beautiful island. And now as I’m home, it is funny to reflect back to my first impressions of the Dominican Republic. I remember the initial embrace being hot humidity. That to say, it was a warm welcome indeed. From the moment our plane touched down, sweating became as natural as blinking and swallowing. By the end of the eight weeks, I barely even noticed that we are all pretty wet, all of the time. :::: Another initial memory of this island was beholding Dominican transportation for the first time. I vividly remember feeling simultaneously shocked and impressed when I crammed into my very first gua gua (small bus), and when I say cram, I mean cram. Let me tell you… all space is utilized, including the floor. Every nook and cranny is occupied with someone or something. A space that would usually seat one, seats two, or maybe even three. In other words, you know that whole American concept of one’s personal space… well it doesn’t exist here. The more the merrier, they say. But that’s not all! Lest you think that a gua gua just for human transportation, I report that I sat beside a man and his chicken, and another man and his parrot. By the end of the trip however, I was no longer shocked when we would pull to the side of the road to squeeze in one more person and their basket of bananas, but I admit to still being very impressed. How the four tires survive the weight, remains a great mystery to me. :::: On a more serious note though, I came to enjoy and appreciate the country very much, its little quirks are all. I found the slow pace of life wonderful, the fruit delicious, the nature diverse, the community strong, and the people friendly. I enjoyed many beautiful skies, painted the colours of sunset. The heavens certainly do declare the glory of God there! And I saw a few powerful tropical storms, with more rain at once than I ever thought possible. Most of all though, I fell in love with the simplicity of life in that place, where people genuinely enjoy each other and appreciate a good meal of rice, beans, and chicken. On a number of occasions, I was the recipient of kind hospitality from strangers, for which I am grateful. I left the Dominican Republic with new friends and sweet memories. :::: Best of all though, I left the Dominican Republic with a bigger view of God and His family. Amidst the difficult poverty of the country, He showed Himself to be the true treasure… which is precisely why the ministry of Makarios is so exciting! It was an absolute pleasure and privilege serving in the school, seeking to provide an education for children who would otherwise not to be educated, and in so doing sharing the Gospel in word and deed. Honestly, I cannot even begin to recount the lessons I collected working alongside the staff there. Some of these lessons include: the priority of love, the sufficiency of God, the motivation and implications of the Gospel, and viewing discipline and structure as a way of loving the students. In sum, sharing Life (pun intended – physically and spiritually, He is life!) was what He had called us to do there with those people. And now that I’m home, His call remains the same. I am to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength here, and my neighbours in the States as myself. ::::

You ask, “What are you glad that you didn’t know before you went?”
:::: They say ignorance is bliss, and in some regards, it is. Thinking back to some specific instances in which ignorance was indeed bliss… well, it is probably a good thing I was unaware of the many insect species I would come in contact with on the island. Actually, it is definitely a good thing that I didn’t know about cohabitating with cockroaches and banana spiders, or else I might have allowed my bug phobia to deter my going. Thankfully, my fear was overcome by an intense desire to see the bugs dead. My friends joked with me that I turned into another person, a crazy, bloodthirsty killer to be exact, from the moment I spotted the unwanted guest until it was smashed dead by my trusty shoe. Who knew that I had the exterminator gene in me? I certainly didn’t. I suppose it took living in the D.R. to find out that fear in the face of the enemy serves as adrenaline to fight… to fight to the death. Let’s just say that eight weeks on an island forces one to overcome big silly fears of small silly things. ::::

You ask, “What did a normal day look like?” :::: In one word – busy! It would look like waking up very early to the ‘cock-a-doodle-do’ of the neighbourhoods’ roosters. (They are very persistent alarm-clocks! might I add.) Then after a quick breakfast and group prayer time, it was off to the Makarios school. The morning routine entailed singing and praying with the students and feeding them breakfast. After everybody was well fed, let the learning begin! For the next few hours, I helped the teachers teach math skills, reading skills, science lessons, art projects, and Bible stories. And FYI, this was all done without air-conditioning, technology, and electricity. The rest of the day entailed serving lunch and helping with soccer camps and VBS activities. Around six-o-clock I would head back to where I lived, help cook dinner with my team from The Master’s College and the other dozen missionaries, and then gladly sit down for a wonderful community-style meal. After some great food and fellowship, we would spend the remaining few hours of light visiting with each other and our neighbours. Before we would know it, it was time to hit the sack and recharge for the next full day.

You ask, “What Scripture passages became significant to you while you were there?”
:::: It is funny how the Lord works sometimes. Allow me to explain one such instance, which caused me to chuckle at His delightful sovereignty. The first two weeks of my trip, I remember feeling a mixture of strong emotions. I was overwhelmed at the poverty and confused as what to do, and where even to start. In the midst of dire conditions and desperate people, my heart responded in fear and despair. Little did I know that the Lord had the perfect verse in store for me at the perfect time. I was visiting a missionary friend's house, only to discover exactly what I needed to read scribbled on a piece of paper on her wall. It read, "We do not know what to do but our eyes are on You." That is verse twelve from 2 Chronicles twenty. God was reminding me to look to Him. He caught me distracted by all the issues around me, and lifted my eyes away from it all to Him. That verse became the cry of my heart, and later on, the entire chapter became a precious passage to me, for it speaks of the power of God in contrast to our weakness. It reminds me to be courageous in the face of challenges, because God is with me (verse seventeen), and to be grateful in all circumstances because His love endures forever (verse twenty-one). I can exclaim, ‘Hallelujah!’ with Jehoshaphat’s army, because the same good God of their day in Israel reigns today in the Dominican Republic and the United States (and worldwide)! :::: Another verse that God highlighted for me was Matthew 18:3, when Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Holy Spirit had me think through… what can I learn from children about how I am to be, according to Christ? Well, children are curious, easily- molded, teachable, excitable, completely dependent, forgiving, vulnerable, eager, and trusting. Am I that those things before God? I better be, because Jesus requires such childlike faith. Let’s just say, as a teacher, I was learning a lot from my students in regards to this topic! ::::

You ask, “What impact will this trip have on your choices for life back in the States?” :::: I remember a conversation between one of the missionaries there and myself. She was telling me that oftentimes when Dominicans find out that she is a full time teacher in a small Christian school, receiving no paycheck, and working overtime, they are stunned. They just cannot believe that she would leave the luxuries of America to live amidst their poverty in order to teach a couple of poor, crazy kids. They think that she is crazy! That is because they do not know the Gospel. What is far more ‘crazy’ is the Gospel! This conversation caused me to consider the wonderful absurdity of Jesus’ incarnational ministry, that He would leave His throne in heaven to come to this sin-stained world, to love a group of rebel orphans is beyond my comprehension. His incarnation is a completely humbling thought that should leave us awestruck and speechless. We, children of God, should be stunned to an even greater degree, than Dominicans are stunned at Americans coming to their country. David Livingston says it best... "People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa... I have never made a sacrifice. We ought not to talk of 'sacrifice' when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us!" All that to say, this trip has got me to thinking about some sort of ‘incarnational ministry’ for my future, whether that be abroad or down the street in the inner city. I can think of no more exciting way to live out the Gospel. We shall see where God will lead. ::::

Well, thanks for taking the time to chat! That was a lovely cup of tea… wasn’t it? … and there is nothing better than talking about the great things that the Lord has done. Psalm 126:3

I hope that each of you had a great summer as well. How about another cuppa and we talk about what the Lord did in your life this summer?

Thursday, 27 May 2010

to Him who is able... do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine!
Ephesians 3:20

Team Dominican Republic
May 28 - July 23

Some things that you could join us in lifting before our Lord are:
- that God's great glory would be our motivation for service
- that His love would unite us
- that we would walk by faith and not by sight!
- that the joy of the Lord would be our strength
- that He would assist our tongues in Spanish
- that we would be an encouragement to the believers there
- that the lost would come to know God
- that God would give us great creativity as we work with children
- that He would bless the ministry of Makarios (check it out!)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

C.S. Lewis said some very true things in his lifetime. These two things stand out in particular tonight, as I have come to wholeheartedly agree with him in my lifetime.

He said, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” And, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” {amen, brother. amen.}

These past few days have provided the time to enjoy both such luxuries. Even now, I’m sitting on the couch, with a cuppa to my left, and books to my right. Saturday is almost over, but certainly I can squeeze in a few more sips and a few more pages before the midnight hour strikes. So, I better write quickly.

Recently I have had my head buried in a children's Bible. but not just any children's Bible. noooo, no. It is, in fact, the best children's Bible ever. Period. Entitled: the Jesus Storybook Bible (Every story whispers His name). It is written, as well as illustrated, beautifully. I tell you... Sally Lloyd Jones and Jago make a phenomenal team. They both bring their unique, God-given talents to the book, Sally with her words, and Jago with her drawings. I love their combined creativity, and think you will to.

Going back to what C.S. Lewis said, the genius behind this children's Bible is that it is just as much an interesting and enlightening read for a twenty-one year old like myself. The back of it says Ages 4 & up. Yes, that would be correct... right on up to ages twenty, and thirty, and forty... etc. Its simplicity is refreshing, and it has done profound things for my soul. Page after colourful page, I am being reminded of God's very involved hand in history. To be honest, I feel like a child again in some ways. Excited and amazed afresh. The exodus and the incarnation have got me praising God anew, again! Great things He hath done.

Don't ever be fooled... Bible stories are not just for kids. They are for everybody. For interwoven through their plots is God's powerful and outstretched and gracious hand. Through and through. That is precisely what compels me to recommend it to you, dear reader. Whoever you are, get a copy. And see God's great story of salvation in every story.

Ah well, back to reading. Should I put another pot on?

Monday, 17 May 2010

ribbon roads

I present to you one of the sweetest, most romantic songs I know. I remember hearing it live a few years ago, and it has remained one of my favourite songs ever since. It speaks of the beautiful paths through Northern Ireland's emerald hills, where Keith and Kristyn would walk for miles.


wisdom in wrinkles

Billy and Betty are two of the most wonderful people I know. You met them a few posts ago. Remember? … that couple from Belfast, the ones that put the grand in grandparents. Well, they were here visiting my family for a few weeks. Those 'few weeks' were too short though, as usual, but definitely sweet, as usual... especially because they were here to celebrate my college graduation. It made the occasion all the more special, for sure.

Anyways, they are worth getting to know.

Ladies first…. I’m convinced that the chorus of When Irish Eyes Are Smiling was written about my grandmother. And I’m pretty sure that the tea industry has stayed in business all these years because of her too. She is the type of person whose presence lights up an entire room, and whose sense of humour gets along with everybody. You’re guaranteed a good laugh when Betty is around; there’s no doubt about that. The Bible says that a cheerful heart is good medicine. Well, let me tell you… if you could put Betty De Courcy in a bottle, a lot of sad people would be cured instantly.

Another thing I love about her is her collection of scarves. I imagine she has a whole wardrobe full of them, silky ones in a wide array of fantastic colours. And be sure, each one was a good bargain, for the lady knows how to shop a sale. She also knows how to tell a story, and has plenty of them, up both sleeves.

Betty lives life to the full, even in her seventies. Just the other day, we caught the train into Los Angeles for an afternoon at Olvera Street. Music was in the air as we walked from shop to shop. I decided to run over to the ‘churro stand’ to treat my grandparents to their first Mexican treat. The next thing I know, I look over to find a Mexican man in his sombrero, strumming his guitar, and my grannie clicking her heels and swaying her arms to his song. There she was, dancing and twirling in the middle of the street, for all the world to see. People passed by, smiled, clapped, and cheered on the dynamic duo. That is precisely why I love her dear-old-silly- self, for she is not embarrassed easily, and knows how to laugh at herself. The sooner one learns those traits, the better.

Her light-hearted approach to life is coupled with a serious side though, which has been wrought by life experience. I know, from her stories, that the Lord has a bottle of her tears collected. However, He deemed these tears necessary for her growth. And so they were. It was through those heartaches and hurdles that Betty became the woman that she is today, a woman who has learned to trust her great God. She wrote me this in my graduation card – “Like Abraham, you are going into unchartered waters, but fear not for God has been already there.” Wisdom like that, from a woman who has gone through her fair share of unchartered waters, is invaluable. I am the grateful recipient of such wisdom.

Now, meet my grandfather… Never in my life have I known somebody to enjoy music so much. I tell you, the man thrives on a good song or composition. He eats, sleeps, and breathes music. He’s near turning eighty years of age, and I believe that music has played a role in keeping him so well for so long. His taste is broad and interesting, and he is more than eager to share his findings with any pair of ears willing to listen.

Billy is well-traveled and reads extensively. His favourite country is Germany; his favourite book, Pilgrim’s Progress; his favourite writer, good ole C.H. Spurgeon. No wonder he is so insightful. He would eat Chinese food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if he could, and appreciates good chocolate, especially European chocolate. He has lived most of his life on the rough side of town, which the Lord has used to chisel and mold him into the strong man of conviction that he is. He has a work ethic that is hard to match, and a laugh that cannot be rivaled. It bellows deep from within, and has come to be one of my favourite laughs in the world. It is unusual and contagious. Best of all, he has been a dependable servant of the Lord since his twenties, when the Lord saved and transformed his life. He faithfully attends and serves at the tiny neighbourhood church, weekly.

To encapsulate Billy in one word, I would say, loyal. He is a loyal follower of God. He has been loyal to God’s church. He has been loyal to his wife and children. He has been loyal to his employers, and loyal to his friends. That quality is rare these days; loyal people are hard to come by. So, I am grateful for my grandfather. I appreciate that he is a man of few words, because he is busy walking the walk. I admire that he doesn’t have to be the center of attention. In fact, he would much rather sit back, listen, and learn. And I love that he makes God look great in the quiet way that he trusts Him, day in and day out.

God has put these two in my life to help me, and help me, they have. I think of the hymn written by Keith and Kristyn Getty, which speaks of “saints of old still line the way, retelling triumphs of His grace.” Billy and Betty are two such saints of old. They have heeded God and told the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, His power, and the wonders He has done.
(Psalm 78:4)

I'm glad that God's people are multi-generational. I have so much still to learn.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

daily prayer

“Lord, break the chains that hold me to myself; free me to be Your happy slave – that is, to be the happy foot-washer of anyone today who needs his feet washed, his supper cooked, his faults overlooked, his work commended, his failure forgiven, his grief consoled, or his button sewed on. Let me not imagine that my love for You is very great if I am unwilling to do for a human-being something very small.
- Elisabeth Elliot

Monday, 3 May 2010

God moments

A friend of mine has been encouraging me to look for special ways in which God ministers to me during the day. He calls them God moments. They happen all the time, because God is always up to something, as my dad says. It’s just a matter of whether we notice them or not.

This morning I woke up tired, like most college students during exam week. Lord knows how many times I hit the snooze button. When I finally mustered up the energy to roll out of bed, I landed both feet on the floor grudgingly. The window was open and the birds were singing their same sweet song, but I didn’t feel like joining them. Bible verses deck my room walls, but all I could see was today’s intimidating to-do list, and I wasn’t excited. In fact, I was downright miserable. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and hide under the warm covers. But everything was about to change on my way to the bathroom, toothbrush in hand…

There was a beautiful big sunflower smiling at me, outside my door. It stood there, tall and confident, looking at me with its usual cheerful boldness. I could not help but return the smile, and laugh to myself. “Seriously, of all flowers, and of all days, it just had to be a sunflower today!” Here’s why. Just recently I learned (from another friend) that sunflowers are phototropic and heliotropic, meaning that they reach for the sun and that their movements pursue the sun. Put simply – their face follows the sun as it moves across the sky, hence its name, the sunflower. Go figure, huh?

So what does all that mumbo jumbo have to do with my morning? Well, it had everything to do with my morning. The sunflower was a timely reminder from God teaching me to look to Jesus. Then the Spirit brought to mind one of my favourite verses.

Those who look to Him are radiant.
Psalm 34:5

Meeting Mr. Sunflower (whose middle name is Radiant, I suspect) has been the best part of my day today... my God moment of the morning, if you will. Although the to-do list hasn’t disappeared (yet!) and I’m still feeling tired, I am encouraged. While the situation hasn’t changed, my focus has… praise the Lord! I resolved then and there to face this last week of school, facing towards the Son. Oh, there is great joy and strength in looking to Jesus.

Thank God, for your God moment today.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Meet Billy and Betty, from Belfast. This is them on their wedding day.
(March 22, 1958)

They put the grand in grandparents; and they put a smile on my face.

I could not be more excited that they are here for my graduation.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

God does not ask us to leap by the Spirit, or sprint by the Spirit. He asks us to walk by the Spirit. Walking is a moment to moment thing, which is why I love this particular translation: let us keep in step with the Spirit, whether they be big or little steps.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

stop supposin'

It's funny how it's the little stories that are most helpful, most of the time. It's the simple stories that contain the most profound advice. And it's ordinary people, just like you and me, that God uses in great ways. For me, the anonymous woman of this story, who was just an ordinary woman of her time, has blessed me in extraordinary ways at this time; and she doesn't even know it. Praise the Lord for how He is using her legacy to teach me to trust Him now.

I once met a poor woman, who earned a precarious living by hard daily labour; but who was a joyous triumphant Christian. "Ah, Nancy," said a gloomy Christian lady to her one day, "It is well enough to be happy now; but I should think the thoughts of your future would sober you. Only suppose, for instance, you should have a spell of sickness, and be unable to work; or suppose your present employers should move away, and no one else should give you anything to do; or suppose...”
“Stop!!” cried Nancy, “I never supposes. De Lord is my Shepherd, and I knows I shall not want. And, Honey,” she added to her gloomy friend, “It’s all dem supposes as is makin’ you so miserable. You’d better give dem all up, and just trust de Lord.

Friday, 23 April 2010

looking unto Jesus

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, 'Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.' All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that 'Christ is all in all.' Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by 'looking unto Jesus.' Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.”

I cannot tell you how these words of Spurgeon ministered to my soul tonight, except to say, praise the Lord! praise the Lord!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


I am so glad that God invented colours. Aren’t you? They make the world so beautiful.

Today, I found a new favourite, in a bunch of roses. It was sort of like fuchsia, but brighter, almost like magenta, but better. Honestly, I can’t really describe it; you just have to take my word for it.

it.was.absolutely.incredible. Actually, it was so vibrant that I stopped right then and there, and celebrated God for His creativity.

Have you celebrated Him lately?

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

joyful surrender

"As I read Job 12:10 again, 'In His hand is the life of every living thing,' I recognized that all I am and have is the Almighty's. Job is a lesson in acceptance, not of blind resignation, but of believing acceptance, that what God does is well done. So, Father, with happy committal I give you my life again this morning - not for anything special, simply to let you know that I regard it as Your's. Do with it as it pleases You, only give me great grace to do for the glory of Christ Jesus whatever comes to me."

I'm reading Shadow of the Almighty. It's a collection of Jim Elliot's journals, and I can't get enough. It's funny to me that these thoughts from decades ago ring just as true today. And this prayer is just as relevant now, as it was then.

Monday, 19 April 2010

no worries, mate!

The birds just keep on singing these days,
their same sweet song,
reminding me
that I've got nothing to worry about,
nothing at all.

His eye is on the sparrow,
and I know He watches me.

Really, I should be singing along with the birds.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

follow Me,

and My goodness will follow you, promises God.

I had high hopes for this afternoon; at least half of my to-do list was going to get done. However, that goal went right out the window, the moment I looked out the window. I grabbed my Bible and ventured outside.

A butterfly kept me company on my walk. In fact, it wouldn’t leave me alone. It was nice though, watching its vibrant orange wings dance around me, rising and falling with the breeze.

I thought of something a friend of mine once said to me, and it hasn't escaped me yet, and that is – it’s powerful to be out in God’s general revelation (His creation) reading His special revelation (His Word). Yes. Yes, it is.

And today, as I enjoyed that powerful combination, the Holy Spirit was ministering something mighty to my soul. With graduation just around the corner, the whole thought of ‘after college’ is on my mind. And even when I try and forget it, I can count on getting asked that question. You know the one. “So, how are you feeling about graduation?”

Well, now I feel great, because today the Lord quieted me with Psalm 23:6 in a very special way. “How do I feel?” you ask. Well, “surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me; so I feel good.” Who knows, I might even break out in that James Brown song of one these times. Whoa-oa-oa! I feel good, I knew that I would, now I feel good, I knew that I would. So good, so good, I got... and here I would make a lyrical change... I got Him!

I am happy to have that promise.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

psalm 31:15a

my times are in Your hands.

It's amazing how drastically different life is, when I put on the glasses of God's sovereignty. People and places become exciting because I see that God has purposed these specific things for this particular time. There's no desire to fiddle with His clock, when I believe that its hands are positioned by His hand in the correct place. There's no reason to worry, when God assures me that this season is timely and good. There's no wearisome striving for something, other than this moment, because this moment is chosen for me by God. My prayer is to use it, and to see every day (wherever I may be and whomever I am with) as a God-ordained gift. With God in the picture, nothing is ever a waste, and nothing is ever random.

That is exhilarating.

So, no more of this nail-biting, knee-knocking, or twiddling of the thumbs. It's time to enjoy and employ the moment. Here I go.

Friday, 16 April 2010

laughs at words

Steadfast is a beautiful word, perhaps one of the most beautiful. (definitely on my top-ten list of favourite adjectives!) So, my handy-dandy thesaurus came up with these words to describe this word. loyal. steady. faithful. firm. stable. dependable. unfailing. Still, all of this vocabulary cannot communicate what it really means, for it is deeper than we can comprehend, and so different from what we know on this earth.

This word belongs to God alone, for only He is truly steadfast. {Yet it is something I endeavour to be, because it reflects well my God.}

I find it interesting that steadfast nearly always accompanies love in the Psalms, and in so doing describes what God’s love is like.

And the realization of this kind of love causes such emotions to well up in my soul that there are no words worthy to explain it. As Amy Carmichael so well put, “Can words tell the joy buried deep within? Mine cannot. It laughs at words."

enough said.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

mind your manners

My parents take the whole idea of gratitude very seriously, and I’m glad they do. From the time I was just a wee girl in Northern Ireland, they have instilled in me the importance of expressing thanks to both God and people. I remember always thanking God for our food. And, I remember the infamous question that was inevitable upon leaving somebody’s house, “Now, what do you say, Angela?” As I got older, instead of asking me the question, they would just give me the eyes, which did the trick just fine. I remember, on birthdays and at Christmastime, receiving nice gifts from people. As I tore into these presents, paper in a flurry, my mum would be sitting with a pen in hand, keeping a list of what gift was from which person, so that I could properly thank them.

Before I knew it, saying thank you was routine (automatic, if you will). It wasn’t an empty habit though, nor did it feel like a duty. It wasn’t done for manners’ sake, and my parents certainly were not in the business of creating polite robots. Rather, they showed me that gratitude should be the way of life for the Christian. (This is the Lord’s grace, for sure.)

Now I’m twenty-one years of age, and becoming more and more independent with each passing year. I no longer have my parents reminding me to say thank you; it’s up to me now. And I want to continue in this grateful way of life – not because that’s how I was raised, not because it’s the nice thing to do, not even because it’s the right thing to do – but because of God. I cannot realize the magnitude of His blessings, and not respond in thanks. Doesn’t the Psalmist say, “How can I repay the LORD for all His goodness to me?” A few verses later, he says, “I will sacrifice a thank offering to You.” Psalm 116

When is the last time that you, or I, thanked the custodian? the cafeteria worker? the gardener? a pastor? a friend? a family member? and really meant it?

Thanksgiving should be a year-round holiday for the child of God, starting with today. Let’s appreciate people more, and God the most. Let’s get those two little words back into our daily vocabulary again. Let’s not underestimate the blessing of a sincere thank you.

for more on gratitude, see:

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

we need piloting

My brother, Spurgeon, had a way with words. That's obvious. But that's not why I love his writings. I love them so much because they contain precious gems of truth about my God. Every sentence is inspired by Scripture. This one especially, the Lord has used time and time again, to return my soul to its rest.

“When my heart is overwhelmed,
lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”
Psalm 61:2

"Most of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart. Discoveries of inward corruption will do this, if the Lord permits the great deep of our depravity to become troubled and cast up mire and dirt. Disappointments and heart-breaks will do this when billow after billow falls over us, and we are like a broken shell hurled to and fro by the surf. Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not without an all-sufficient solace, our God is the harbour of weather-beaten sails, the hospice of forlorn pilgrims. Higher than we are, is He, His mercy higher than our sins, His love higher than our thoughts. It is pitiful to see men putting their trust in something lower than themselves; but our confidence is fixed upon an exceeding higher and glorious Lord. A Rock He is since He changes not, and a high Rock, because the tempests which overwhelm us roll far beneath at His feet; He is not disturbed by them, but rules them at His will. If we get under the shelter of this lofty Rock we may defy the hurricane; all is calm under the lee of that towering cliff. Alas! Such is the confusion in which the troubled mind is often cast, that we need piloting to this Divine Shelter.
Hence the prayer of the text. O Lord, our God, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach us the way of faith, lead us into Thy rest. The wind blows us out to sea, the helm answers not to our puny hand; Thou, Thou alone can steer us over the bar between yon sunken rocks, safe into the fair haven.
How dependent we are upon Thee – we need Thee to bring us to Thee.
To be wisely directed and steered into safety and peace is Thy gift, and Thine alone."

Monday, 5 April 2010


Car rides at nighttime are the best. especially in the rain. especially with friends. Conversation is bound to be good in those conditions.

Tonight a friend and I chatted about loving Jesus. We talked about what it looks like to dream big for Him, but be faithful in the small things of today. We spoke about accomplishing things for Him, not for us. And all the while, I think He was speaking to us both, reminding us that we are alive for the joyful purpose of loving Him. Dreams, and service, and accomplishments are just meant to be the natural overflow of that. Jesus first.

We want to be about truth and love. not one at the expense of the other. not one without the other. But, both. Because Jesus Himself was and is both - perfect truth and perfect love.

God help us!

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Oh, the selfless love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today at our Good Friday service at church, my dad spoke on one of Jesus' cries from the cross. However, it wasn't the typical favourite, "It is finished!" cry that we talked about today. Nor was it the next-most-popular "Father, forgive them" one. To be honest, I was a bit surprised at his choice, but pleasantly so. It turns out I needed it, badly.

"When Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to his mother, 'Dear woman, behold your son,' and to the disciple, 'Behold your mother.' From that time on, this disciple took her into his home."

Time out! Jesus was in complete agony at this point, beyond my imagination. Yet still, He took thought of the welfare of Mary, telling the disciple to take care of her?!?! The answer is clear. Yes.

During the biggest event of history, planned from eternity past, Jesus wasn't too busy to consider something so seemingly small, as Mary's physical and emotional well-being. At the same time, He was taking care of her greatest need, which was spiritual, the payment of her sins.

Jesus was thoughtful of others in the middle of dying. And I can hardly think of others in the middle of living. That's why I need His redemption. I need Him to change me from a selfish idolater, to God-fearing, Christ adoring, Spirit-empowered servant.

The last thing Christians should be is selfish.

Friday, 26 March 2010


I have always loved stories.

Perhaps it’s because I come from a line of good story-tellers. My grandparents, on both sides, are master story-tellers. Professionals, if you will. Some of my most cherished memories involve the whole family sitting in the living room, listening to Granda or Grannie (whoever happens to be center stage at the time) share a particular memory, sometimes so moving that you can’t sleep that night for thinking about it, and other times so hilarious that you’re laughing well into the night.

Anyways, my favourite stories are the ones that are true, and usually the ones that are serious. Because life is a serious thing. Those are the sorts of stories that are unforgettable, that mean something, that teach us something.

During spring break, my mum lent me a book entitled Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan. Its pages contain the stories behind certain beloved hymns. I was instantly fascinated. You know, I’ve sung many of these hymns in church, in the car, in the shower. But I’ve never known their stories. I’ve wondered, but never thought to look up their history. Sure, the names appear at the bottom of the page in my hymnal, but that’s it, just a bunch of consonants and vowels. I mean… who were they? where did they come from? and most of all, what fueled their lyrics?

Well, I didn’t have to wonder any longer. I went straight to the index, scrolling down the lists for some of my favourites. Here’s what I found. (excerpts from the book)

I Need Thee Every Hour was written by a stay-at-home mother in Brooklyn, New York. Annie Sherwood tell us her story. “One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words, I Need Thee Every Hour, were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me.” She later said, “It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of great loss of my husband, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.”

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go was written by George Matheson. He lost his eyesight during his teenage years, which caused his fiancĂ©e to break their engagement, as she refused to marry a blind man. He later came to learn of his sister’s engagement. Although he rejoiced with her, his mind went back to his own heartache. He consoled himself in thinking of God’s love which is never limited, never conditional, never withdrawn, and never uncertain. Out of this experience it is said he wrote the hymn, O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go, on June 6, 1882.

His Eye is on the Sparrow
was written by Civilla Durfee Martin. Here is her account of her song, “Early in the spring of 1905, my husband and I were sojourning in Elmira, New York. We contracted a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle – true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nigh twenty years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheel chair. Despite their afflictions, they lived happy Christian lives, bringing inspiration and comfort to all who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittle’s, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle’s reply was simple: “His eye is on the sparrow; and I know He watches me.” The beauty of this simple expression of boundless faith gripped the hearts and fired the imagination of Dr. Martin and me. The hymn His Eye Is on the Sparrow was the outcome of that experience.

Knowing these stories has made these songs all the richer.

Friday, 12 March 2010

expect great things

You know the old song by Frank Sinatra, The Best Is Yet To Come? Well, it’s true… for the Christian.

I spent the afternoon with some of the older ladies from my church. They may be old, but I tell ya, they have more life about them than most teenagers I know. Young people could do with a good dose of Christian old people, if ya ask me. These women, in particular, sure knew how to have a good laugh. And they sure knew how to cook. My time with them passed by quickly, as I listened to them recount memory after memory. I learned about their late husbands, their children, and their careers. Their eyes sparkled as they reminisced about the good times. And their lips curled into a certain smile, as they remembered the bad times... with an appreciation, wrought by firsthand experience that “God does work all things together for the good of those who love Him.” One lady told me twice in the course of one conversation, “There is a reason for everything.” I listened and listened, collecting golden nuggets of wisdom.

Anyways, my dad and mum were both there as well, just as busy collecting their own nuggets, I’m sure. When it was nearly time to go, my dad shared a short devotion to encourage these dear women. Although, I’m secretly convinced God had custom-tailored this devotion for me. My dad quoted Psalm 27:13, I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! and Psalm 23:6, Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. Notice the expectancy in these verses. David is absolutely certain that God’s goodness is paving the path for his future steps. He goes to bed at night, expecting God’s mercies to meet him in the morning. He expects God to be tomorrow, what He has been yesterday and today.

My dad reminded us all today to remember that the best is always ahead for the child of God. That does not mean that everything will be just peachy. Of course not. But our good God will remain His same-good-self.

Let’s not forget 1 Peter 1:3, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It’s time we wake up again to the joy and peace of this living hope. Let’s face it -just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean you’re living.

To really be alive, you must know Jesus. And when you know Jesus, you’ve got a lot to look forward to! As an old man in Northern Ireland used to pray, Lord, keep me alive until I'm dead.

Hopefully some day, if God lets me live so long, I will be just like these sweet and seasoned women of the Lord. It starts now, though. It means trusting God, while I'm just twenty-one-years-old. It means expecting God to be faithful every.single.tomorrow, from here-on-out. It means living with hope.

Monday, 8 March 2010

counting my blessings

You know it’s a good week when...
... you catch the sunrise and the sunset, on the same day.
... you go a walk in the rain with your mum, without an umbrella.
... your rejoicing in the Lord overflows into dance.
... you can say “There is no one like Jesus!”
... your friends (including Pandora, who, might I add, is becoming a good friend)introduce you to new music.
... a thoughtful card awaits you in your mailbox.
... you enjoy a cuppa organic earl grey tea with a friend.
... you have fresh flowers in your bedroom.
... this is the view from your window...

Thanks, Lord!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

one need

“Not relief from pain,
not relief from the weariness that follows,
not anything of that sort at all,
is my chief need.
Thou, O Lord my God, art my need.
Thy courage, Thy patience, Thy fortitude.
And very much I need a quickened gratitude
for the countless helps given every day.”
- Amy Carmichael

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Everybody should have an elephant tea-pot.
And to go with it,
fresh flowers
that are positioned in close proximity to the nose,
so they can do what they do best,
which is to smell good.
Ah, what a sweet aroma,
is filling the air.
Thanks mum for visiting,
and for your thoughtfulness.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

double take

Two of the most delightful things in life are letters and fresh fruit.

P.S. This set-up was a complete accident. I :)ed when I noticed it.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

friends. really?

The moon is glowing
The moon is showing
Its silver beams are bright
The light it’s casting
Is sure long-lasting
White light throughout the night

Did you know that the moon appeared bigger and brighter this past weekend, than it will for the rest of the year? The first full moon of the year is known as: Wolf Moon. Its name is hundreds of years old, and is derived from the hungry wolf packs that used to howl at the moon near Native American villages. Interesting, huh? And the reason why it appears fuller and wider right now is because in each orbit, the moon reaches this closest point to us, called perigee. Fascinating, eh? But really, you don’t need to know any of that to enjoy it. And enjoy it, I have. Last night, I enjoyed it with a friend over a walk. And tonight, I enjoyed it from a car window, while cruising with some friends on the freeways of California. And I wondered, like a child, about that age-old question, why it seems to follow me home. Anyways, it was dominating the sky, and demanding my attention. I couldn’t stop looking at it.

Creation gets me thinking about the Creator (as God intended it to). And I was struck with this thought – I am friends with the Maker of the moon. I, little-old-undeserving-me, enjoy fellowship with the One Who is currently fueling and suspending that ball of light, in the dark night sky. I am friends with Him, only because of Jesus, the Son of God, Who has reconciled me to God.

Nothing(!) is more awe-some than that!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


The sun finally decided to come out and say hello today, and I have to say, it was nice to see him. Even now, I am enjoying his presence through my open window. Everything around me is all pretty and golden, and my back is being warmed nicely.

On my way to class today, I ate a delicious apple, which hasn't happened in a while. Lately, I've been disappointed with the kind that appear good, only to discover a soggy inside; but this one today did not disappoint. It was red, as red could be, and juicy as ever. You know what I'm talking about. The kind that you're convinced came straight out of the movie, Snow White. The kind that probably populated the Garden of Eden, before the fall. That kind. And so you bite and bite and bite, until there is nothing left but the core. yum. Speaking of apples, that makes for a smooth transition into what I actually wanted to write about today, which is the fruit of the Spirit. Imagine that.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Galatians 5:22-26

I am silly and arrogant enough to try and produce this fruit by myself sometimes, even though it is blatantly the work of the Spirit. Hence the phrase... the fruit of the Spirit. Couldn't be any clearer, huh? Still though, I try to love people, and be joyful, and live peacefully, and be kind, and show goodness, and remain faithful, and be gentle, and practice self-control in my own strength. These attempts are pathetic though, and result in - defeat, disappointment, and guilt, (and usually in that order). In other words, I fail miserably when I try to do these things on my own. My tree is bare and fruitless. I look like winter.

But that is not how God intended it. No, rather He, in His grace, gave me His Spirit when He saved me. And it is His Spirit at work in me that produces the fruit. It is nothing in me or about me that can do it. It is the Spirit, that raised Jesus from the dead, residing within me, that can do it. I am so glad God has shown this to me lately. I can breathe a hUGE sigh of relief. To rely on the power of God, and to keep in step with the Spirit, that is what I am called to... and then, and only then, I can watch the fruit grow and multiply into beautiful orchards. It looks like summer, and God gets all the glory.

P.S. That is why verse twenty-six tells not to be conceited or envious of one-another. I used to think that that verse was sort-of awkwardly tagged onto the end of this chapter. I mean... really? c'mon! How is that relevant to the fruit of the Spirit. Well, come to see, it is totally relevant. The reason we can avoid conceit and envy is precisely because it is the fruit of the Spirit. How can we be proud when we realize that we have nothing to do with the fruit, because it is the Spirit of God who produces it? And how can we be jealous of another, when it is the Spirit working in another's life to make them more like Christ? Conclusion: we should be humble (and not think of ourselves more highly than we ought), and excited (giving thanks to God for another's faith).

Saturday, 23 January 2010

I pretend to see little patches of Ireland. It's not exactly 40 shades of green. But, I'll take what I can get.

It's a nice thing
to go a walk in the rain,
without an umbrella,
and just get plain-old wet.
You should try it sometime.

(view from my dorm room window) Now you know why my blinds are always up.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

dear sky - you are so interesting

These past few days, a storm has been passing through California. This means that I walk through a maze of colourful umbrellas in the hallway to get to my room. It means that my sock drawer is almost empty, which means that my laundry bin is quite full. It means that the raindrops drumming on my window have been my music, and the sky, my entertainment.

I have been doing a lot of looking out the window lately, because of the storm.
The clouds are shifting
The clouds are sifting
The sky through their grey shapes
Their shadows dancing
Their patterns prancing
Until some light escapes

And then I thought today of the latter half of James 1:17 - "with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." I am glad that God is not like the sky that I have been watching. Rather, He is unchanging, and dependable, and consistent, and steadfast. That fact affords me great sanity and peace.

Monday, 18 January 2010

(not so) sunny california

The storm has arrived and the elements are fierce. It's bucketing, as we would say in Northern Ireland. The roads have turned into rivers, and the sky into one massive cloud. There are puddles in my shoes, and my trousers and wet and heavy. My umbrella almost took me for a ride in the sky. I've just made it to my room, drenched though I may be. You know you're soaking when you actually have to ring out your trousers. The heat is on and my shoes are drying. The blinds are up and I have a panoramic view of a very wet world. Waves of rain batters against my window, each drop like a tiny pellet. I'm enjoying its random rhythm. The wind is mighty, so that the trees are swaying violently; each tree branch is threatened with each gust.

Ah, I love a good storm.