Rejoice, God Has the Last Word!

When I was visiting in Tucson, a stranger walked up to me and said “Hi, what are you doing here?” At first I was totally puzzled. Who was this? Then she called me by name and said she was from Bethany, Ontario, my home at the time. Of course, I said. I didn’t recognize you. I guess I didn’t expect to see anyone from home here.

I think it must have been like that for Mary that Easter morning. She went to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’ body. When it was gone, she was sure his body had been stolen. That was her expectation. When she saw him in the garden, she still wasn’t ready to believe. Only when he called her by name did she recognize him.

When, like Mary we are faced with tragedy, we too struggle to believe that all is not over. God can bring new life out of the loss of  our job, the end of a marriage, even the death of a loved one. Easter reminds us that God will never be defeated. Jesus said,  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

It’s not always tragedy that blinds us to God’s new life. Sometimes we’re so caught in what has always been, “we’ve always done it that way”, that  we haven’t room in our minds for something totally new.  God calls us by name and reminds us that with God, we can have the courage to step into something new.  This Easter, open your eyes and ears to the life God is offering you. Remember the past, not even death has the last word. God does.

 

Young children sometimes make poor choices. They run across the road without looking. They follow their curiosity down to the lake without supervision.  Sometimes, they just plain defy us by picking up a china knick knack they’ve been told not to touch, or a crayon and scribbling on the wall. Occasionally, they throw temper tantrums, screaming and hitting, Whether the misdeed is done by mistake or on purpose, once it’s revealed, our children come to us seeking and expecting forgiveness. Because we love our child, most of the time we have that forgiveness ready even before our child requests it.

With adults forgiveness isn’t quite so easy. We hold grudges. We judge and sometimes even crucify. The person we find hardest to forgive is ourselves.  It’s good that God is wiser, stronger and more loving than we can ever be.

Good Friday, the name we use to describe the day Jesus was crucified, gives us an amazing illustration of God’s forgiveness. Hanging on the cross, in excruciating pain, the human Jesus says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34), because he knows we need forgiveness. And hanging on the cross, Jesus, God with us, offers that forgiveness, freely and with love.

Of course, we identify that sad day as “Good”. It’s the day we see and hear God’s forgiveness for our intentional and unintentional, individual and communal misdeeds. Each year, we tell that horrible story of Jesus’ crucifixion because we need to be reminded that God loves us even at our very worst.

We are called to receive God’s forgiveness and offer it to others not because anyone deserves or has earned forgiveness, but because we are all God’s precious children. God, the parent and lover of all, has forgiveness ready as a free gift even before we request it. This is “Good News”.

 

Help!

I’m late! I’m late!

Our little holiday beckoned us to hurry,  Already we were late for our appointment in Toronto. I eased my aching body into the car seat and felt the stress slide away. From here on, the travelling was out of my control. Tom was driving. My back relaxed somewhat. The pain receded to a manageable level. Stress, I thought, makes my back hurt even more. How can I decrease the stress in my life?

On this particular day, I knew the source.

  1. Guilt – Thanks to my recent back injury, Tom had to do all the packing. I tried, It had taken me a half hour just to put a few things into my suitcase. I kept needing to stop and rest. I’d get up and put two or three things in the suitcase and have to sit back down.
  2. I really wasn’t well enough to travel.
  3. We were late leaving.

Once in the car, there was nothing I could do or should be doing. The relief was amazing. I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that we were finally on the road. I asked for safe travel, and opened my devotional book to do my morning meditation. The writer introduced Psalm 27: “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” Immediately, my mind slowed down. Of course, God is with us, I thought. Instead of fretting, I should have gotten this out when I first got up as I do every morning. Start your day with God has been my mantra for nearly thirty years. Now is not the time to change that pattern.

When stress seems to be running your life, I offer this solution:

  1. Identify the source.
  2. Discuss your problems with God,
  3. Read your favourite scriptures

Your faith may not change your life situation but it will change your attitude. Focusing on God’s strength and care helps us face our lives with patience and confidence.

Scripture:  “God is my strength and my salvation whom shall I fear.” (Psalm 27: 1)

 

Life Happens!

Oops!

On January 30th I slipped on a pool of water in my kitchen. Although no bones were broken, I was sidelined for more than a month with soft tissue injury in my back. I’m still not 100% healed. God did not cause me to fall, but has certainly used the accident to teach me a great deal.

  • Good health is vital. Without it my life is severely limited. I must care for my body with plenty of rest, good food and exercise.
  • I read Brian McLaren’s latest book in which he gives a sound theological basis for my belief that learning about other faiths can strengthen my Christianity.
  •  I had hours to spend working on my next book and learned that I can make it a priority in my life.

I don’t like being limited. Impatience and frustration often overwhelm me Yet, as I lay confined to my zero gravity lawn chair, I didn’t waste my time. God enabled me to use it creatively. It seems to me that’s the way God would like us to look at all the difficult, even tragic disruptions in our lives.

Some say these difficult things are God’s punishments for our wrongdoing. I don’t believe that God causes them at all. I do believe that when these things happen, God is right there with us, holding us, and helping us, bringing healing and offering us learning. Our job is to accept God’s healing and support. God offers us creative learning from the experience so that we can do more than just survive. We can begin to live a new life. I’m sure that with God’s help I’ll have a long list of learnings before my body is totally healed and I’m out dancing comfortably again. I can trust in God and I am grateful.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not un your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 3: 5-6 NIV)

 

A Light In The Darkness

 

One of the characteristics of small local newspapers is their ability to give us the “good news” of our community. In our Millbrook Times, we learn about local fundraisers and church events. We read about children, teens, adults making positive contributions locally and in the wider world. We have an opportunity to express our views and our appreciation in the letters to the editor. When our steady diet of news is horror and violence, our local papers offer us “goodness”. They are a breath of fresh air.

A young friend of mine had her first art show. The night she opened the show, my house was full of company. Snow was falling. It would have been easy to stay home, but I wanted to support my friend and see her work. At age eighteen, she already has a track record of bringing goodness into this world. Her willingness to help others and her work with children in our church family has brought joy to so many. As I gazed at her paintings and sculptures, I was overcome by the goodness that confronted me – the joy of a mother with her baby, the beauty of the forest represented in black and white, a portrait of her dad, his eyes dancing with mischief and more. The sculpture of the earth, held by hands and slowly dripping away into a glass spoke to me of my role in the pollution in the world and challenged me to use my hands to make a difference.

We do feel battered with stories of murders, greed and war, most of which happen far away and outside our span of control, but we are not helpless. Regardless of our faith, or lack of it, we can overcome evil with good. Just as this newspaper and this young woman can bring light to the world, we too can speak and act in love. Each action, no matter how small, counts.

St. Paultells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)