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 http://makariosinternational.org/ 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?