March 31, 2008


As many of you know I have been sick for a few weeks with a mysterious illness. I was laying in bed Monday night and the Lord reminded me of this story I had read a few years ago. It gave me great comfort and I was able to sleep. The next day, Tuesday, I shared it with my friend and remarked to her how I ‘just needed to trust the Lord’. It’s so easy to say but I didn’t realize how difficult it would become. The next day, Wednesday, my left hand and leg went numb. This true story has taken on greater meaning since then. I know somebody was praying for me at the moment God reminded me of this remarkable story. Thank you for your prayers.

His ship was called “Endurance” for good reason. Sir Ernest Shackleton never gave up. He brought home his crew of 28 men despite mountainous challenges. He had been commissioned to cross Antarctica with the British Flag in 1914. His ship was trapped and its rudder sliced open by pack ice within a few months. The crew survived living on ice floes for six months until one of the floes split, nearly drowning a crew member. They headed in life boats to Elephant Island with its abusive wind and high tides. Soon all the seals migrated north for winter and there was nothing left to eat. Shackleton knew he must go at once for help, though it meant crossing the most treacherous sea in the world, in the dead of winter. He took five shipmates and challenged 800 miles of open waters in a 22 foot lifeboat. Sixty foot waves drenched their cramped living quarters every three or four minutes. Salt infiltrated their fresh water.

They were aiming for South Georgia Island where there was a whaling station. They made it there in sixteen days but because of a hurricane they were unable to land on the side of civilization. They would be forced to march across the island. The island had never been crossed. The furthest anybody had ever made it was one mile inland. But Shackleton was determined to save his men. He took two of his crew members and set out on foot.

As they hiked in the moonlight they came to a string of five ice-covered mountains. On the other side lay the whaling station. The only way to find help was to cross these mountains. They ascended the first pass which looked “deceptively easy”. At the top they stared down into a sheer drop with a crevasse-littered valley. They tried the next two passes with the same discouraging results. Finally, as the sun was going down they crested the fourth and final pass. Straddling the steep point at the mountain top they again looked down into a dark icy canyon.

Shackleton drew aside to think. To retreat over the crevasses they had already climbed would mean certain death in these shadows. To camp overnight on the mountain would mean death by freezing. Their only choice was to slide down the steep shadowed face.

If they were killed, at least they would have done everything to save their crew, he reasoned. “We’ll slide,” he said. His shipmates were astounded at his decision. In these shadows they could hit a rock or slip into a crevasse; however they realized they had little choice.

The three of them sat down and linked together as one man. Worsley, the book’s author, remembers it like this:

“Shackleton kicked off. We seemed to shoot into space. For a moment my hair fairly stood on end. Then quite suddenly I felt a glow, and knew that I was grinning! I was actually enjoying it. It was most exhilarating. We were shooting down the side of an almost precipitous mountain at nearly a mile a minute. I yelled with excitement, and found that Shackleton and Crean were yelling too. It seemed ridiculously safe.”

At the bottom they all stood up, brushed off their clothes, and stared at the three-thousand foot cliff they had slid down. They couldn’t speak a word. The only sound was their gasp and the slap of their reindeer gloves as they solemnly shook hands, but they all asked themselves the same question: Where was the fourth man? They had sensed him on the hair-raising slide. Later they would share with each other that they had all felt the presence of another man through the entire crossing of South Georgia, as testified to in Worsley’s journal.

I am at the top of a steep mountain with a choice to make. I have tried the other passes and they failed me. Those passes are fear, control, and man. Fear is certainly not curing me of this illness, and neither is my strong desire to control it. I cannot control this sickness. It has set its own course. Man and medicine, though inspired by the Creator, will ultimately disappoint. I only have one choice as I look down into a dark valley. Trust.

I need to let go of my control and trust God to guide me down. I don’t know what dangers or despairs I will encounter along the way. I don’t know if I will make it safely to the bottom but I do know, I MUST believe, that He is with me. I must hang on to him and ride.

We all have treasures that we need to let go, whether it is our health, our children, our possessions, or our future. Does anyone care to join me in the ride? When we get where we’re going we’ll shake hands all around and marvel at what God has brought us through.

He alone is my rock and my salvation and I shall not be greatly moved (from Psalm 62).

(Quotes from Endurance (W.W. Norton & Co. New York: 1931)

March 21, 2008

Good Friday -- Janet Sketchley

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8, NIV*

I have a friend who resists accepting God because of the Cross. How could a loving Father send His own Son to such a cruel death? Why would He arrange it that way?

Short answer: because there was no other way. A loving Father would have chosen any other way, grasped at any straw. But nothing else had the power to break the power of sin and restore humanity to a God both loving and holy. As long as we stood steeped in evil, we couldn’t stand with Him.
And let’s admit it, there’s not one of us who has never sinned. One sin is all it takes. That’s not hardline legalism, that’s a fact of life. Purity and filth can’t coexist.

That doesn’t mean we’re all dirty, rotten scoundrels, just that we’re not pure. What a love, Who would endure torture and death to restore us!

Let’s be very clear: Jesus was not a victim. He knew what was coming, knew the cost before He stepped out of Heaven. Theologians debate whether He understood it from the Nativity, but we can be sure He knew it that night in the garden. But He chose to go ahead because there was no other way.

Thank You, Jesus, for laying aside Heaven’s splendour to walk in human flesh and show us the Father. And to suffer and die so that we could have eternal life with Father, Son and Spirit.

One of the ways I’ll observe His sacrifice for me is to listen to Todd Agnew’s “Blood is on My Hands” (Reflections of Something, 2007). I invite you to take 5 minutes to visit (Click here or go to YouTube and search by title). The visuals are difficult in places, but you can close your eyes and listen.

Because of Jesus,
Joanna Mallory

PS: If you feel inclined, please lift a prayer for K. God is a patient suitor.

*(New International Version Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. To read this passage in context, see

© Janet Sketchley, 2008
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

March 19, 2008

Beyond Imagining

Late afternoon. The market ladies were starting to close up shop when I drove up with a van full of Canadian visitors wanting to replenish their produce supply. We unloaded the baskets from the back and just as I started off towards the vegetable stand, a friend appeared.

"Give your keys to John. There's been an accident. Travis was hit by a car. He'll be fine, but you need to come with me now." Lance tried to hurry me along but I was more concerned with getting my weekly quota of vegetables and made sure the folks had my list as I handed over the keys.

The next hours were a whirlwind. When I got to the hospital I found ten-year-old Travis moaning in semi-consciousness as the staff cut away his shorts and t-shirt, took X-rays and did tests. My husband, Tim, the hospital administrator, lay white-faced on a bench outside the X-ray room.

Someone told me later that when he received word, he began running to the accident scene, nearly beating the ambulance to reach Travis.

We were living in a small jungle town on the eastern edge of the Andes mountains. Travis had been playing with his sisters and friends, celebrating Carnival (Mardi Gras) in the typical Ecuadorian way by throwing water balloons at cars, pedestrians and anyone within range. A careless road crossing resulted in a hit and run accident, with Travis tossed and thrown across the road. His older sister, Cristal, just 12, rushed to his side and held his head while an Ecuadorian friend gave him artifical respiration. Cristal then ran for help.

"Travis has a head injury. We don't know how serious it is and since our hospital doesn't have a CT Scan, you need to fly to Quito," Dr. Steve Nelson had been our family doctor for 12 years and spoke gently.

Everything was done for us. Cristal and our youngest child, Ashley, helped friends pack bags for us. Arrangements were made for the flight and for an ambulance to meet us at the Quito airport. We signed papers and answered questions in a daze.

During the one-hour flight to Quito I sat in the back of the small plane, behind the nurse who accompanied Travis. Tim sat in the front beside the pilot. I could rest my hand on Travis' leg and speak to him, but that was all. He seemed to respond to my voice, calming somewhat as he struggled against the darkness. My prayers were wordless, my thoughts swirling.

Another ambulance, more tests, a CT scan and friends awaited us in Quito. By 11 pm Travis was settled in the Intensive Care Unit, the gashes over his eye and on his scalp stitched. The prognosis - unknown.

"It's a matter of time," the specialist told us. "He doesn't need surgery and he should wake up tomorrow."

We walked. We waited. We prayed. We cried. Four long days passed. The heart monitor blipped steadily while Travis lay white and still, sinking deeper into his coma each day. The physicians looked more concerned each day that passed.

Finally, on the fifth day, Travis responded to my voice. It was feeble and weak, but we were elated!

"Recovery can take a long time. He may need to learn to walk again or talk. His emotions might be altered. We know so little about head injuries," we were told. "He might be fine, but one thing is pretty certain. He won't be doing calculus."

We laughed, just relieved to have Travis alive and conscious. Who cared about higher mathematics? Let's get him through grade 5!

Recovery was slow and long. Travis had to work harder in school. He struggled with learning new physical activities. We found we had to break things down into individual steps in order to teach him new skills. But after about two years, the casual observer would notice nothing different about Travis. We were so grateful to God.

Fast forward fourteen years. Travis is 24. On Saturday, he participated in the Iron Ring Ceremony - strictly for engineers. He's finishing up his degree in computer engineering...and calculus is his best subject, one in which he achieves straight A's.


Travis standing outside the engineering building at the University of Victoria.


This little iron ring symbolizes an engineer's obligation to an ethical moral profession. But to me, it symbolizes the greatness of our God, who accomplishes far beyond what I can ever imagine.
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March 14, 2008

My Dad is Bigger Than Your Dad

"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. 'Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?' the servant said. 'Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.'" (2 Kings 6:15, 16)

There is a famous story told about two little boys who weren't getting along very well. They could't seem to resolve the "issues" between them, and neither could get an advantage over the other. So one boy came up with what he thought would be the perfect way to frighten his adversary into submission. The next time they met and began their usual argument about who should be the "top dog" in the schoolyard, the one boy said to the other: "You'd better be careful. If you touch me, I'll call me father!" To which the other boy replied: "Go ahead, call your father. It won't do you any good, 'cause my dad is bigger than your dad!"

We laugh at the scene, but in truth we live out this same experience every day of our lives. We are surrounded by threats to our physical security, our financial security, our emotional security and our spiritual security. Someone, or something, is always out to "get us," and we often enter into the same panic as Elisha's servant did in 2 Kings 16.

The servant saw "the other guy's dad," but Elisha looked beyond that and saw his own Father. With the greatest of confidence he told his terrified helper not to be afraid because his Father was a whole lot bigger than that other guy's dad.

But Elisha went one step further. He showed his servant the army of the Lord which stood protecting them from the enemy (2 Kings 6:17). We don't always see the angels who surround us, demonstrating to the world that our Father is bigger than anyone else's, but that doesn't mean they aren't there. To live in faith is to live with the confidence that no matter who, or what, threatens us, our Father is bigger. He will protect us.

Walk with your head held high; the angels have your back covered.

Lynda Schultz

March 09, 2008

The Gospel Song

How about a little poetry in song? I wrote this when I first started attending church some years ago. I loved the choruses and songs we used to sing. So, I decided to write it in this form. I took a line from here and there from a song and attempted to make it into a storyline.

The Gospel Song

I want to tell you what the Lord has done
What the Lord has done for me,
It happened at Calvary,
'Twas there Jesus died for me!

And my sins were paid in full
By the blood of the Lamb,
And I will serve thee, because I love thee
And now I've got glory in my soul!

Touching Jesus is all that matters,
He is someone to care and someone to share,
He had compassion on me,
Thanks to Calvary!

Yes, it was at the cross
Where I first saw the light,
And someday I'm going up, there's no doubt,
And that will be glory for me!

When we all get to heaven
We're going to drink at the fountain,
Have you counted the cost
If your soul should be lost?

Don't say, Oh someday I'm going to
Lay down all my burdens,
Let the Lord have His way,
All that you need is a miracle!

Only believe, and reach out
And touch the Lord,
You don't have to be shackled
By a heavy burden!

Tell it to Jesus, all you have to do
Is trust and obey,
What will the answer be? Yes, Oh yes,
Out of love and compassion for me!

And now you can say,
I'm a new creation,
I have the blessed assurance
That Jesus is mine!

All because He touched me,
And I have everything I need
to make me happy!

Copyright Janice Keats

March 07, 2008

Confessions of a Proverbs 31 Dropout - Glynis Belec

I often used to wonder why God did not include an instruction booklet when he blessed us with children. People would often say things like, "But God did...the Bible is the only instruction book that you will ever need..." or "The Word of God is sufficient for thee, Glynis..." or "follow your heart and listen for that still, small Voice..." Many other pearls of wisdom were tossed my way. And I heeded them and acknowledged them and smiled my nice, Christian smile and went on my merry way.

But in my heart I wasn’t buying it. What I really wanted was a step-by-step idiot’s guide to parenting. I wanted to do it right. I wanted to see immediate fruits and receive affirmation from the world that I rocked as a mother. So I plodded along over the years dragging my junior offspring along for the ride.

Perhaps if I tried to become the Proverbs 31 picture of perfection, then I would become the perfect momma bear with the perfect cubs. So I tried. After all, those virtuous woman instructions were pretty well spelled out in the Bible. I tried not to eat the bread of idleness [in hopes that my children learn by example and then would rise up and call me blessed!] I home schooled my children. I worked willingly with my hands and even sometimes rose up while it was yet night. But many times I was tired and grumpy and grumbled and groaned about how busy I was. I wanted results. I wanted them the easy way and I wanted them now. I pestered God to get cracking but looking back now, I realize I forgot one thing. Life is all about His will, His timing and His plan – not mine.

But, as always, God didn’t disappoint me. One day, he gave me a wake-up call. It was a small sample of fruit but it was a mighty eye-opener for this Proverbs 31 dropout.
We were browsing in one of our favourite hotspots at the time – the local thrift store. I loved the good deals on books and we would sometimes meander on over to the clothing rack in search of bargains. This one particular day I had my nose stuck between the covers of a 50-cent classic and I felt a tap on my shoulder. Trevor, my almost teen junior offspring, had come across a pair of stylish brand named jeans. They fit nicely into his budget and the size was right. As he held up the jeans for me to see, he somehow stuck his hand into one of the pockets and to his surprise and my shock, pulled out a crisp $5 bill. We smiled at each other and he immediately said, “Who do I give it to?”

I tucked the jeans under my arm and Trevor clutched his lucky find. We headed to the front counter and Trevor told the lady who served us about the money in the pocket. She commented on his honesty and thanked him immensely. (She also knocked a dollar of the price of the jeans!)
On our drive home I asked Trevor if, for one moment, he had thought about keeping the money. “Uh-uh…no way. That’s not right.”

Then it occurred to me. I was concerning myself wondering if values were being instilled or if a lesson on morality ever sank in. But judging by what I witnessed that day, I knew the foundation was there. And when I think back over the years there have been many, many different fruits evidenced in the lives of my children. In my vain attempt at ‘doing everything right’ I was missing them. I soon discovered that all this fruit growing was not my doing. I was merely a vessel being used by God. My job was not to become super mom. It was to let go and let God take over.

I learned some important lessons that day at the thrift store. Fruits of our labours are not always immediate so I had better clothe myself in patience. Affirmation from the world is not something I should seek so I had better realize that my motivation should purely be a God thing and not my thing. And I also learned that the only way to ‘rock’ as a mother is to look to the Rock and to offer up my children to the throne of God [and leave them there.]

So I’ve been making an effort. I’ve fumbled along and I’ve tried to listen to that still small Voice. There were times over the years when my spiritual deafness was evident. There were times when I went back to the throne and tried to take my children back, but I soon realized the futility of that notion.

My children are grown now and starting families of their own. I presented Trevor with a nice, crisp $5 bill and a new pair of stylish brand named jeans at his wedding two years ago, but little did he know that on that special day I was publicly applauding more than his honesty. I was inwardly thanking him for helping me realize that God is in control and that elusive parental instruction booklet is really a matter of the heart.

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30

March 06, 2008

Delayed Reaction

Delayed Reaction - M. Laycock

I’m a delayed reaction kind of person. I seem to take things in all in one swoop, but it takes a while before anything comes back out. It’s often weeks before my will, emotions, and brain kick in and something results. This was particularly frustrating when I was in school and the quick-witted would make fun of me or maliciously attack. The words that would come days later were equal to the enemy both in cynicism and cruelty. I’m glad, now, that they were never uttered.

This delayed reaction thing is also frustrating as a writer. I have just spent ten days traveling to Greece and Israel, touring sites from Mars Hill to the Temple Mount. The days were full of stunning sites and moments that literally caused me to gasp. There were also some moments that caused me to moan. But as I sit down to write about them, there seems to be a block. It's like the photo I've posted here - the thoughts and feelings are there but when I reach for them there are things in the way. The experience hasn't settled deeply enough yet. I know it will take time and I must be patient. Rushing into it will result in writing that is half-baked and shallow. Yet if I wait too long, the power and punch will be gone. Timing is everything.

And that’s where I have to rely on God. I ask Him to give me the words, and to nudge me at the right moment, when those words are ready to be put on a page. In the meantime I content myself with jottings as the images come back and the emotions are resurrected. I sort my photos and skim my journal. And wait.

March 03, 2008

Fill my cup — keep it right side up!

Bernie was a new Christian. He was excited to serve God in the church he attended, so he approached one of the pastors. The pastor asked him a few questions and Bernie had to admit that he did not have a good relationship with his wife. The pastor told him that God’s priority was a close marriage relationship. Church work came second.

When Bernie heard that, his eyes fell. He muttered, “How am I supposed to do that?” He’d been married nearly ten years and it seemed to him that nothing he did worked out right. A good marriage seemed impossible. He dreaded hearing another hopeless to-do list, but the pastor’s answer surprised him.

“Bernie, does your wife work at her relationship with God?” Bernie had to admit that she did. “Then your part is easy; you simply need to also work on your relationship with God.”

Bernie asked how that would help. The pastor made a triangle with his fingers and explained, “God invented marriage and He places Himself over it at the top corner. The man and wife are the other two corners on the bottom. What happens to them as they move up the sides of the triangle closer to God?”

Bernie quickly saw that as the two moved closer to God, they also moved closer to each other. He was intrigued, but wondered out loud, “How can I move closer to God?”

The pastor offered another illustration. He held up his coffee cup and said, “You are like this cup. As a believer in Christ, you are open to the ministry of God who daily pours Himself into your life, just like we pour coffee into a cup. Most of the time, you gladly receive His ministry, but what happens if you sin?”

Bernie thought for a minute. “I fall over . . . I turn from God. And everything inside gets dumped out.”

The pastor laughed as he tipped the empty cup. “Yes, that’s about it. The openness to God is gone too. You can’t receive from Him anymore . . . at least until you get right-side-up again. Do you know how to do that, how to get back under the blessings of God?”

Bernie thought for a minute. He was a new Christian, but he knew that if he “confessed his sins, God was faithful and just to forgive his sins and cleanse him from all unrighteousness.” He learned that verse from 1 John in adult Sunday School. He recited the verse to the pastor.

The pastor said, “Right on, Bernie!” and turned the cup upright again. “You also realize, Bernie, that you will go through life like this . . . ” and he tipped the cup and up righted it several times. He added, “The best you can do is shorten the down time and lengthen the upright time.”

Bernie smiled. He was new at this but he already found out that God could give him new ideas and attitudes. He was joyful when he used to be sad, patient when he used to be agitated, loving when he used to be resentful. He could easily see how being right-side-up applied to an improved marriage.

Today, Bernie is still working at keeping his cup upright before the Lord. In the meantime, his marriage amazes him with the depth of its intimacy and its strength. He now is quick to tell others if you want a deeper relationship with someone, first get right with God!

(true story, names changed)
© 2002 by Elsie Montgomery

March 01, 2008

Sulfa-denial Pills - Donna Dawson

Growing up in a family of six meant mealtimes tended to be a bit of a case of survival of the fittest. My parents did their best to put food on the table and I don’t ever remember going hungry. While unknown to us at the time they sometimes found themselves without a meal we children certainly had no shortage. And even still we had a ‘me first’ attitude right from our youngest years. I remember my father talking about a need for medicine for it and by the time I was four even I knew what was coming.

“Yup. You kids need a pill. A sulfa-denial pill.”

We’d groan at the cheesy humour but it was usually enough to make us step back and think about our actions.

Too bad self-denial didn’t really come in pill form. It would be so convenient. Just think. Christmas dinner. You have a banquet laid out before you but you know the doctor wants you to lose weight. Oh it’s so hard! You grab your bottle of pills out of your coat pocket, pop one quickly and presto! Self-denial kicks in and you don’t eat all those yummy things that are bad for you.

Or you sit in your car outside that store. You know you shouldn’t go in. There are products and books in that store that aren’t fit for human eyes. It’s a place where Jesus wouldn’t want you to go. The pill slips down your throat and you shift the car into gear and drive off.

Maybe it’s one of those days when your kids are driving you batty and nothing would please you more than to scream at the top of your lungs until you collapse with the stress relief that shouting brings. There goes that self-denial pill again and suddenly you’re the perfect parent—calm, patient and eager to spend the extra time playing with those little darlings of yours.

Life’s not that simple though. I wish it was. I’d have my cupboards stacked with bottles of self-denial pills. Pills that would help me keep my cool when the people in my world aren’t doing exactly what I’d like them to do. Pills that would keep me from dipping into the refrigerator unnecessarily or out of the clothing store (or the tack shops in my case). Pills that would erase my complacencies. Pills that would take my mind off that last task that calls to me with a voice as loud as the one that my heavenly Father uses when He wants moments with me. Pills that would calm me when I read the news and discover that yet another heinous crime has been committed and the perpetrator has walked away with a slapped wrist. Wait a minute! Pills like that would clean up our justice system. Our world.

But they don’t exist. And so it is up to us to practice the art of self-denial. When we view something we shouldn’t look at or read something we shouldn’t allow into our minds, it is our responsibility to turn the channel or close the book. When we look temptation in the face it is our job to say ‘You cannot have me! I won’t be taken!’ When we put our work before God—or our loved ones—it is our place to recognize and set aside those things that would build those walls.

As we write, let us always remember the sulfa-denial pill. In all we do, as believers, with God’s help, we must strive to sacrifice self for the sake of Christ’s work. If that means not writing a piece, then it is up to us to pass it by. If it means putting to pen words that may not be warm and fuzzy then that is our calling and self must not interfere. If it means sitting back and assessing our writing perspective and our priorities then self had better not get in the way.

Who knows, some day, the medical world may come up with a self-denial pill. Until then it is up to us.

~ Donna Dawson