February 28, 2014

Safely Home

The best part of a bad dream is when you open your eyes, and you're home--safe and snug in your bed, untouched by the perils you dreamt of. Whew! I had a particularly harrowing ride in the wee hours the other morning. I hung on to the side of a monstrously big truck, squeezing by, scraping through, narrowly missing…on my way to some unknown drop-off point where I needed still to find my car (and my keys) and get myself home…And then I opened my eyes. Ah—I'm home already! Whew!

I'm often lost in my dreams--on convoluted highways trying to choose the right exits to get me safely home. Or down long hallways of doors, none of which opens to my room. Or on elevators which go not only up and down but also sideways—very confusing. [I think this nightmare harks from my short and troubled career as a candy-striper in a big hospital—charged with collecting blood and urine samples from every possible department and getting them to the lab in a timely fashion… and then sorting and delivering the internal mail. I would gladly have stayed in the mailroom forever sorting and popping mail in slots. How I disliked those meandering halls and elevators.]

I am a homebody at heart, never so at rest as when I'm home with familiar walls around me and mundane predictable tasks to accomplish. Even an empty nest is a cozy place to be.

Likely that's why so often my dreams, and my prayers, are about someone finding the way home—safely.

I pray this for my Dad who is lost in the ever worsening confusion of Alzheimer's still. How long Lord, before you rescue him from this dysfunctional body and bear him safely home?

I remember the day my Grandma (his mom) died—and the comforting relief that came with the thought that now she was safely home beyond the reach of harm, beyond the confines of an aging body. She was the classic farm Grandma--the indispensable family hub we wished could stay forever. She collected eggs, kept the cookie tins full, hosted family picnics and well, she worried about all of us. This was her besetting weakness. But it seemed legitimate, the grandmotherly thing to do. She loved us, right? So whenever our family was away she would sit up late in her rocker, watching the road that ran by down at the foot of the farmhouse lawn. She would wait for us to pass. Then she'd know we'd made it safely home from our travels and she could go to bed…

Are such traits inheritable? Or is this just part of the human condition? Was my relief at her death for her benefit, or for mine in no longer needing to worry what might befall her?

I pray too for black sheep, or if you prefer, lost sheep, wishing them safely home—family and friends who have somehow lost their way and distrusted the wooing voice of the Good Shepherd. In shunning hypocrisy they have missed the reality of life in Christ altogether.

An uncle lives on the streets of a cold city this winter without even a birth certificate to call his own, or a homeless shelter's welcome. Somehow he was derailed from the Kingdom in his youth despite his God-fearing parents' devotion. We long for him to be brought safely Home.

Question: When are we safe this side of eternity?

When our children are young we hover and protect, thinking we can keep them safe. As they grow we train and warn, hoping they will play it safe with life. When they are 'all grown up' we watch and hold our breaths. But when do we get to breathe again? When is there nothing to worry about? When are we safe this side of eternity? Is there a magic age or stage that we reach and then it's smooth coasting, no worries?

What a nonsense phrase 'No worries' is! Who are we trying to kid? There is always something that can be worried about. And who better to do it than a mother?!

"I wouldn't worry about it", the husband says.

The wife's retort: "That's why I have to!"

But it occurs to me that in my longing for all I love to be 'safely home' I am left with a dilemma not resolvable till death! Ridiculous. My refusal to rest from anxiety till each is 'safely home' is little more than a death wish. For as long as there is life there will be uncertainty of circumstance. Risk. Danger. And even bad dreams that won't go away. In this lifetime there is ample reason to fear for their well-being, if I'm dependent on worry and faithless prayers to see them through!

What is the value of a faith that doesn't dispel such fears and live at peace?

Home is our destination, but it's the walk of faith that takes us there. And in this life we will always be sojourners, never having quite arrived. Thus the need for faith—that assures us of things hoped for but not yet seen (Heb.11:1).

This week's Sunday sermon challenged us to consider how our lives give evidence of such faith. The proverbial chair that we say we believe will hold us up, is sitting there. Will we sit down in it? Or do we stand idly by boasting of the faith we possess but unwilling to put it to the test? James wrote: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." He demonstrated that 'faith apart from works is useless' (James 2:20) by citing the life of Abraham.

I went back again this week to Abraham's story noting the things he did by faith.

He left with God the responsibilities that were God's. But he paid close attention to each thing God required of him in the process of fulfilling His purposes for Abraham.

So, what did Abraham actually do to be commended for his faith?

First and last, he listened to God's voice, with a heart willing to do whatever He said. In the middle, he obeyed and waited.

Contrary to some popular teaching, listening to God isn't a matter of just tuning in to a voice that's always speaking and immediately responsive to our every inquiry. But God does speak in ways we can hear. After all, He designed us to commune with Him. And in Christ that fellowship is restored so that by His Spirit living in the believer, He speaks.

The question is, how am I at listening? Am I 'slow of heart' (Lk.24:25) to believe what He says? I know I can be hard-hearted, resistant to trusting God's direction, preferring my 'tried and true' solutions sometimes. Ideally we will have soft hearts that purr with 'Yes, God, anything You say I will do. I trust You completely. All your ways are good.' Abraham had this kind of heart. He believed God. And God spoke to Him.

God said out of the blue: "Go, to a land I'll show you." (Gen.12) Abraham could have responded with: 'Who are You, anyway?' or 'Why?' or "No, I'm happy here." But he didn't. He got up and went, leaving his comfortable life and home behind to spend the rest of his life living in tents. [Question: Was he living in tents before this time? I don't know.] He went, listening all the while for where to go and when to stop! He trusted God.

Little by little God's plan for him unfolded. Little by little he obeyed. There were questions: How will I have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky if I have no children? Will my servant be my heir? But when God answered, Abraham believed Him and set his heart to wait for the fulfillment of God's purposes. That's the second thing I noticed that Abraham DID to give evidence of His faith. He waited.

He only got into trouble when he gave in to fear ('She's my sister'—Gen.12) or when he listened to Sarah's voice rather than God's (Gen.16). She had such an innovative plan for accomplishing God's will! (We women can be good at coming up with these!) Wrong plan. Wrong heir.

No, a big part of Abraham's obedience was waiting God's timing. He was 75 when he packed his bags to live the rest of his life in tents in a strange land. Eleven years  passed before Ishmael was born! Now he was 86. Then there was silence for another THIRTEEN years while he and Sarah just got older and older…increasing the impossibility of fertility even further! Sometimes waiting on God is the very best way to show that we believe.

Then came another opportunity to act. God said: Circumcise all the males in your household. And Abraham did it 'that very day' (Gen.17). He was NINETY-NINE by then. But no dawdling. He was a 'doer of the Word' (James 1:22) if ever there was one.

Shortly thereafter came the big announcement, and another opportunity for Abraham to take action. God said: This time next year your wife will have a son. (Gen.18:14) Here was a part for Abraham to play—making love to his ninety year old wife—yet another step of obedience in the fulfillment of God's purposes.

You get the idea, there were actions Abraham took because he had faith. He moved. He waited. He circumcised the males in his household. And he had sex with his wife. But the fulfillment of the seemingly impossible promises was entirely up to God.

"Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Gen.18:14)

Andrew Murray puts it this way, in his reflections on Psalm 37:
"Do what God asks you to do; God will do more than you can ask Him to do." (Waiting on God, p.65)

God doesn't ask us to do the impossible, only to believe that He can and will in His good time. We show we believe by doing the things He asks of us on the way to fulfilling His purposes.

As I studied this story again this week I prayed, "Lord, let me not be a Sarah, figuring out ways to make things happen that you have promised." I can be like that, chafing that I'm not 'doing anything' to make things change or to bring about what I perceive to be God's will.

If it's up to me to make things happen, when am I ever 'doing enough'?

I can even use prayer in this way—like a juggling feat—as if the success or failure of those I pray for is contingent on my keeping the oranges up in the air…If I don't pray enough, they're doomed. Yes, intercession is important, but it must be Spirit-driven and empowered by the faith that He supplies! A false sense of my indispensability, even in prayer, is a case of misguided significance at best, arrogance at worst! Faith trusts God to direct even my prayers. It leaves with Him the means by which He will accomplish all that is in His heart.

Meanwhile faith waits with a ready posture, humbly willing to obey. It neither rushes ahead to do things my way, nor lags behind overcome with disabling doubt.

"I am God ALMIGHTY—walk before me and be blameless"

This was God's call to Abraham (Gen.17:1). Isn't this what He has called all believers too? We too are sojourners in a world not made to be our home. We walk through it by faith in our God to guide our going and our staying, our acting and our waiting, and ultimately to grant us our last breath and take us safely home. For all this we can trust Him.

The ultimate test Abraham is known for was his willingness to give up his only son, his promised heir, as an offering to God. He trusted God could raise him from the dead if necessary. Perhaps in a lesser way, this is the test of every parent—to yield our offspring up to God's purposes, for Him to care for, discipline, and direct through their life's journey. Their destinies are in His hands, not ours.

But richer still is the true symbolism shown in Abraham's offering up of Isaac, that is, God sacrificing His own Son for the life of us all. And yes, He did raise Him from the dead as Abraham supposed he could! He was "delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Rom.4:25) Think on that. What more is there?

And just as Abraham was declared righteous because he was 'fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised' (Rom.4:21) so are we who believe that God raised Jesus from the dead on our behalf. It's all pre-figured in the life of Abraham and precious to consider again. In light of such a testimony of faith, my anxieties for those I wish to see 'safely home' are laid to rest, again. The God of Abraham is my God. My destiny and that of those I care most about is with Him. He's not asking that I accomplish their rescue but that I trust Him to do it while I listen for His directives…

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died--more than that, who was raised--who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Rom. 8:32-34 ESV

But getting back to an answer to the sermon's question: How does my life give evidence of saving faith?

--By my willingness to sit down in the chair of God's provision, and to rest there without fear or nightmare of how we all shall get 'safely home'. I will trust Him to do it while I listen for His bidding, ready to obey.


"You were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." I Pet.2:25

[May] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I Thess. 5:23

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Ps.107:30,31

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
II Tim. 4:18 ESV

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24,25 ESV

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…to bring about the obedience of faith-- to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Rom. 16:25-27 ESV


P.S. May I urge you to sit and enjoy Abraham's story for yourself? Watch for the voice of God and the response of Abraham—Gen.12-25; Rom.4; Heb.11).

--And if you have a prodigal, consider Abraham Piper’s own story and suggestions here.

February 21, 2014

Finding the Right One

Returning home on the ferry this week I picked up a copy of a local paper. I usually enjoy the friendly smattering of local interest stories. Being the Valentine's Day edition this one featured a couple of 'fairy tale' romances…

Fairy tales with a twist I suppose. Aren't fairy tales supposed to end with 'happily ever after'? Whose happiness? As I read these stories I couldn't help but glimpse the wretched realities masked between the lines--the other halves discarded along the road to finding the right one, again. And the offspring left to muddle through the ensuing chaos. What does this have to do with love?

"If you can find that person, the rest is 'just stuff'…"

Is finding someone to quell my loneliness and make me happy really the only thing that matters? Is the rest 'just stuff''?
Broken relationships. Abandoned commitments. Children losing their parents to lovers. Just 'stuff'? Just the cost of pursuing true love?

How is this a happy Valentine's Day story? There is so little 'happily ever after'. Granted, they've stuck with each other now for going-on-twenty years. And yes, they've had 'so much fun'. But what happened to the kids when Mom left Dad for someone that she 'couldn't breathe without'? I suppose they are now embarking on life, wondering if marriage is worth it? Wondering why bother? Wondering what love really looks like and how they'll know they've found 'the right one'.

The second feature was a heart-warming 'love story' of childhood sweethearts. But alas, they went their separate ways and 'married other people'. Ooops. Never mind that detail. Thirty-one years later they looked each other up and 'knew [they] still loved each other'. The real spouses fade into oblivion at this point, lost somewhere between lines of newsprint. They are irrelevant in the face of 'real' love. The long-lost sweethearts marry and start over. Happy Valentine's Day(?!)

Now, I suppose these 'other people' to whom they've each pledged their lives might now be dead…maybe, which would make this indeed a heart-warming story. But the absence of any mention of them troubles the waters of this otherwise endearing tale. And I wonder, are we so hard up for true love stories? Or have we just re-written the definition of love?

When the first of these stories was actually happening (twenty years ago), it was a scandal that rocked the political world. As prominent leaders they were forced to abandon their careers. Now that the news headlines have gathered dust with the passing of years, it is touted as a fairy-tale romance. What changed?

Once upon a time love meant to lay down your life for the well-being of another. Love meant bearing with and forgiving. It had everything to do with living for the benefit of another person, being committed to their well-being through thick and thin, sickness and health, happiness and misery. It wasn't about filling my lonely quotient or having fun, though these might well be side-effects of a committed love relationship!

So, with all this pent up objection why haven't I written a letter to the Editor? Why instead am I blogging my complaints into obscurity? Good question.

My righteous indignation upon reading the article was tempered as I looked at the faces in print and it dawned on me, I had met these very people earlier this month, in their home. I was looking to buy a good used piano. They were selling. Suddenly these names took on friendly faces for me, and I began to see them as people, fallen people like myself. The difference is they may not yet have found the 'right One', the only One who can make them whole. How would my outraged letter to the editor help?

The acapella group GLAD sang a song back in the 90's: That's what the lonely is for. It describes our hearts as containing a room that is hollow by design. It says the loneliness we feel is there to tell us that there is something more-- more than the 'thin fire of romance' can ever adequately warm. The song only alludes to the 'more' that is missing.

The common response to our heart's cry is to go seeking that more in human form, from one relationship to another till we find the 'right one'. But there is only one Right One. No human, not even the greatest of spouses can fill that place. We will sap them dry before that happens. No one can love like God loves. No one knows our hearts like He does.

The next track on GLAD's album is: "Make us shine like stars in the Universe…holding out the Word of Life". To a desperate and confused generation searching for answers within itself, the lyrics remind that we are given the role of holding out the Word of Life.

My inclination to denounce evil must somehow also include a lifting of the condemned to see the 'more' they were made for--their Saviour. It's the classic conundrum of being called to love the sinner without condoning their sin. I haven't gotten this one figured out.

It's easy to just throw stones, more difficult to extend grace wisely.

The song goes on to celebrate:
"But your persistent love has found us. Though we stood condemned our lives have been redeemed."

And these days, I find that my awareness of God's grace toward me, softens my heart's harsh reactions toward others who have not yet found His love. So for today I have no letter to the Editor, only this reflection on the awesome Love that has found me and offers to be all I need to fill my lonely heart and make me whole.

And in this context, of God reaching to man, giving Himself for us, a quote from the article at last makes sense: "In the end love conquered all but love also had a cost…" Love always costs the Giver. And no one knows better the cost of love than God Himself. We can trust Him with our love lives. He is our forever Valentine.


In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. I Jn. 4:9-12 ESV

"So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him." I Jn.4:16

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her…and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Eph.5:25,33

"Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:6-8 ESV

Quotations are taken from the Feb.,2014 edition of Powell River Living article titled: “A Made-in-BC Love Story”


That’s what the lonely is for [Click for complete lyrics]
When I get lonely ah, that's only a sign
Some room is empty, and that room is there by design
If I feel hollow - that's just my proof that there's more
For me to follow - that's what the lonely is for

-- David Wilcox

February 14, 2014

I love the story of Joseph

I sat next to my 4 1/2 year old grandson in church while the story was being read… “Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more…”  (Gen.37). Even a child is drawn to this story.

It is the story of God overlooking immaturity, using immaturity, making even  sinners serve His purpose…. Keeping,  maturing,  and humbling a favored and cocky son, and then positioning him to preserve not only his family but ultimately an entire nation!

It all started with a dream.  Not Joseph’s, but the dream in the heart of God—the making and redeeming of a nation.  At first it was just a family of flawed people.  Rival mothers. Parents choosing favorites.  Siblings jostling for position.  A dysfunctional mess!  But God saw in this family the seed of a nation that would showcase His brilliance to the world!

I love that!  It’s not about our perfections but about His. Our weaknesses and even our sins make  God’s greatness shine all the more. Who else could take such a mess and fashion such a story of redemption?!

So, one morning while we waited for their Mama to make a gourmet breakfast I put on a dramatized reading of Joseph’s story (Gen.37-47) and we listened together, the kids and I, to the whole epic unfold in the words of Scripture.  Incredible.  We listened as Joseph’s dreams came true in the end—Who would have believed it?!  All his big brothers did indeed bow down to him--these brothers who had been livid at his cocky boasting. Who did this 17 year old think he was anyway?! 

They had seethed in jealousy over his designer coat, the symbol of their father’s favoritism.  And now he was positioned to save their lives.  God had brought it about.  What his brothers meant for harm God turned to good.  It was not about Joseph at all.

God’s intentions extended far beyond Joseph’s wildest dreams.  But in the interim there were the humbling and refining years—the rejection and abandonment, the enslavement in Egypt, the unjust imprisonment.  God used it all to refine and prepare Joseph for his crucial role of leadership in a time of crisis.

He was in the end exalted to greatness in Egypt and his brothers would indeed bow to him. But by this time he was more than an immature dreamer imagining great things for himself.  He was willing to bow to God’s purposes and forgive his brothers the evil they had done him because he saw it all as part of God’s plan for him for the saving of many souls (Gen.50:20). 

God’s dreams are bigger than ours.  They go beyond us.  His plans for us and for our kin are not bound by our faults and failures, our sin and dysfunction.  Think of Joseph’s father through all those years of mourning the perceived loss of his son. What a shame--Joseph was not dead at all!  And all the while God was steadily at work preparing a great future and hope for Jacob and his descendants (and ultimately for us!).  A great redemption was in the making.  He just could not see it.

Our perspectives can be so earth-bound, so based in what we see and hear.  No wonder God invites us to set our minds on things above not on things that are on earth (Col.3:2), to walk by faith, to endure for the joy set before us,  to keep an eye to the hope of our calling…

And as we roam about visiting our kids and grandkids--enjoying our progeny, the story of Joseph reminds me to keep the long view of things and to celebrate what God is doing behind the scenes in all our lives for His own glory.


Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love! Ps.44:26

“…for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.” Ps.44:3

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him , because he cares for you…” I Pet.5:5-7

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Cor.12:10

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:37


P.S. Looking for an audio Bible?

Check out BibleGateway.com for online audio readings of any passage of Scripture you wish (in various versions, including a dramatized reading from the NIV).  It’s free and super easy to use--an effortless way to accomplish your Bible Reading plan!

February 8, 2014

Making Memories

This is a week for making grandmothering memories—for reading books and baking chocolate chip cookies (and eating dough and licking spatulas).  It is not a week for ponderings and writing.  That will come later.  In the meantime, there are babies to hold, games of hide-and-seek to play, and first reading lessons with Hop on Pop

So, my apologies if you’ve checked in here for fresh devotional fodder…

Lord willing, I’ll be back  next week with current ponderings.  Thanks for your patience ( :   Lots of little people on  my mind…


The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.  Blessed is the [family] whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage. Ps.33:11,12

“[May] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know… what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…” Eph.1:17,18