December 30, 2009

Why I Must Write - Payne

In order to feel “fulfilled” I know that I must write. Reading is great and I really do love it. But, it doesn’t offer the same release. Gardening and tending to the house, again feel good, and I like to check off things from my “to do” list, but they still leave me wanting more. Walking makes me feel good, but it doesn’t help me to empty myself so I can be filled again. Only writing.

Nothing purges my soul like writing. Nothing fills the well like writing. I can go about my day, finish a million tasks, have a sparkling house and tend to gardens, but the only thing that feeds me back is writing.

It’s theory until I write about it and only then does it become practice. The stuff I take in does not solidify until I regurgitate it back on paper. I think best when I write. All these thoughts that are swimming around in my mind are usable once put on paper. All my questions get cleared away and answered. I don’t feel like I can tackle the day until my thoughts are in order. And my thoughts are not put into order until I write.

I write much better than I talk. My ideas are clearer. I’m able to come up with solutions. What feels like questions, ideas and words floating freely in my mind are channelled and organized out of this free-flowing sphere to be built up, piece by piece.

My ideas are like puzzle pieces loosely scattered within a small box. When I write, I take one piece out at a time, examine it, touch it, look at it and find its place in the big picture. Once I write it down, it’s no longer free-floating but instead adding to a much more beautiful scene.

Once those loose pieces have found their place on paper, my mind conjures up new ideas, a new creation. This is how I learn. This is how I grow. This is why I must write.

Can you relate?

December 23, 2009

The Angels' Message for 2010 - Martha Toews Anderson

Night had settled on the Judean hillside outside the little town of Bethlehem. The sheep had bedded down together, each one facing toward the last rays of the setting sun as is customary with sheep. As the darkness deepened, the shepherds may have been relaxing, lying on the ground or leaning against a rock, yet always alert, lest a predator should sneak up.

Suddenly they were brought to full alertness by the appearance of an angel of the Lord enshrined in heavenly light. Fear gripped their hearts, but the angel spoke reassuringly.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

As suddenly as the first angel had appeared, a multitude of heavenly beings burst through the dark skies in a blaze of glory, praising and exulting God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace among those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 translated from the Greek)

This does not imply that God’s peace is given to those who have good will, but who are recipients of the good will or favor that He is offering to them. It was for this that the Savior had come to earth as the Prince of Peace. No tidings could have given more cause for jubilation to those who were anticipating the coming of the promised Redeemer than these words spoken by the angels.

When the angels had returned to heaven, darkness once more enveloped the Judean hillside. But greater yet was the darkness of sin that hung over the world, blinding the hearts and minds to the reality of greatest event of all time. The Savior of the world had come, but man failed to recognize Him.

Jesus was born into a world that had turned to worshipping false gods. In man’s mad race for wealth and power, human life had lost its value. The rulers cared little how many people lived or died. The populace lived in fear, hatred, and greed. To such a world as this, the angels brought the glorious message from God that the promised Rescuer had come. To a world that knew no peace, God sent the Prince of Peace.

Two thousand years later, the world is still entrenched in wars and destruction. The drive for power, wealth, and fame continues to rule human thinking. For half a century men have talked of world peace, but we are no closer to achieving it. Man has made tremendous strides in sciences, technology, and in developing every means of destruction imaginable, but despite endless negotiations and peace talks, he is not one iota closer to living in harmony the world over than the people were the night the angels broke through the skies with the glorious news of the birth of the Prince of Peace.

That should be enough to make us realize that it can’t be done. How did man get entrapped in a mess that he can’t undo? For the answer we have to go back to the beginning of Time. God prepared a beautiful world with vegetation and stocked with animals. When all was in readiness, He made man in His own likeness, possessing a soul and spirit, and the ability to communicate with his Creator. To this human pair God gave the responsibility of caring for the earth and all living things.

Man chose rather to take control in his own hands by doing the one thing God told them not to do, to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. By this act of rebellion man indicated his desire to be his own boss. Human nature has not changed. Man is still trying to abolish God and achieve a perfect world on his own.

As we enter the new year, why not take to heart the message of the angels, and give God the honor due Him by turning to Him in repentance and submission and experience the peace for which each human heart yearns. That is the reason Jesus came to earth so long ago.

December 20, 2009

A Christmas Family Tradition - Janice Keats

The cheerful shout echoed as dad was strutting his way upstairs, “Everybody up! Santa was just here!” All kids made record time getting up out of bed. There was no line up for the washroom, just a quick “get out of my way” as all 8 kids raced their way downstairs. What a wonderful sight to see a gathering of kids crowded in and around the Christmas tree half way under with just their bottoms sticking out grasping for their gifts. It was as if they were summoned to find that pot of gold under the tree; each child wanted to be the first to find it.

Soon a field of Christmas paper was strewn across the living room. No one cared about the mess, even if it was 2:30 in the morning. Not Dad, not Mom, not even Grandma who delightfully watched the excitement from her rocking chair with her feet obscured from the sea of paper. The air filled with excitement as the gifts were revealed. “I got a Barbie voyager!” Glenda shouted.
“I got my hockey skates!” Lorne added. Eleanor’s dream came true as her gift was being opened. She cried when she discovered that she had a brand new guitar. Filled with emotion she could barely speak. Mom and dad were so happy that everyone was satisfied with Santa’s choices. When all the unwrapping was completed, Dad got up and said, “I’m going to bed now. Make sure all the lights are turned off when you kids go back to bed.”

There was no sleep left in anyone’s eyes except Dad’s. As he exited the living room and slowly made his way upstairs to bed, the mountain of paper was moved out of the way as each one took possession of their new toys.

Janice Keats

December 18, 2009

A Puzzling Tradition -- Brenda Leyland

I like to put together Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles during the month of December. 

One puzzle I really like working on is "A Peanuts Christmas" by Springbok. It's funny how it's become a favourite; as a child I never really warmed to the Christmas special on TV. We'd watch it every year, and I'd always feel sad about Charlie Brown and his poor little tree.

But then years later, I saw the TV special again, and I realized that I'd forgotten the story does not end with Charlie staying sad and alone. Do you remember when he wails, Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? And, Linus, so sweetly and confidently, takes center stage and begins to recite those beautiful, poignant words taken from the old King James version of Luke 2:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and they were sore afraid. And the angel of the Lord said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord...."
This year, I brought this puzzle out again. It's become a favourite. During the weeks of Advent, the pieces sit on a table in the family room opposite the fireplace. As I go about my day, I'll often stop and puzzle a few pieces into place; usually by Christmas Eve, it's done.

Many things may change through the years, but the true meaning of Christmas remains the same. All the traditions of decorating, baking, card sending, singing, present wrapping, eating, and visiting are part of the joyous celebration of honouring the Child Emmanuel... God with Us.

Thanks, Linus, for the sweet reminder! Happy Christmas, and God bless us everyone!



December 16, 2009

Good Things Come in Small Packages - Pam Mytroen

My Grade Four Teacher, much to the delight of my parents, wrote on my report card that good things come in small packages. Though I was the smallest of my peers that year, weighing in at a scrawny 47 pounds, I was at the top of my class in spelling.

A girl in Mexico city received a shoe-box four years ago. She felt that the world had forgotten her. But when she opened her box and found simple gifts tucked inside, it sparked an undying hope in her. She is now preparing to become a doctor. She wants to give back to others. Operation Christmas Child began because one man in England prepared a few shoe-box gifts for child victims of war in Bosnia. Since then it has grown to over eight million shoe-boxes annually. Good things come in small packages!

In 1843 Charles Dickens, needing money for their soon to be born child, wrote a simple story originally called “Carol”, paid to have it published, and in under six days the publishers Chapman and Hall of London dispensed 6000 copies. Though it was only a short story it has endured for two centuries through print and theatre. His little ‘package’ impacted English culture. The next Christmas, December 1844 began a tradition that has continued for decades. All factories and businesses in England and North America closed their doors Christmas Eve and didn’t re-open until Boxing Day so that Tiny Tim and others like him could celebrate Christ’s birth. Good things come in small packages!

In 1940 a man sat in his hotel room waiting. He had a few minutes of spare time. He scrawled out the words and melody to a Christmas tune. It’s become the most popular Christmas song ever recorded. We’ve all sung it, hummed it, or enjoyed it at some time during the season: “White Christmas” by Irving Berlin. Good things come in small packages!

This Christmas we have the opportunity to impact our culture around us. We may choose to give a small gift, say a few short words, or help out in some small way at a charity. But those tiny gifts of our time, like a spark, can become a blazing lamp of hope in the darkness.

One of the smallest, most un-noticed gifts came on a cold winter night in a humble shelter when Jesus, a small package, was delivered to earth. The Word, the complete and final statement of God, arrived as a whisper. Today he continues to speak in a still small voice, yet his voice has the power to calm the storm and raise the dead. God knows that the very best things come in small packages!

Though your words be few and your gifts be simple, know that they have the power to last forever.

~ Pam Mytroen

December 14, 2009

Christmas Cake - Nesdoly



November or early December is the time
to start on this year’s Christmas cake
 
Pour several cups of sweet anticipation into a large bowl
    - the first snowfall when we hauled out the Christmas records
    - all the dolls in the Sear's catalogue
    - paint smells from the basement
cut in a pound of cold reality
    - the year I worked nights and slept through
    - the first Christmas without Daddy
    - the one I broke my wrist
and cream these two ingredients
 
When blended and smooth 
stir in – 1 cup at a time
the plans, ideas, long wish lists, 
credit cards and shopping trips, 
decorating, light's a'blinking, 
CDs spinning, here we come a-caroling -- 
keep on stirring
 
Fold in the surprises next
    - a perfect tiny poinsettia for the coffee table
    - a leisurely lunch on the Starlight Dinner Train
    - room on a standby flight Christmas Eve
 
Finally toss in 
    - a teaspoon of worry (surely I've forgotten something)
    - and a pinch of pride (the house glows by candlelight 
while we sip our eggnog Christmas Eve)
 
Give it the final flourish 
– signed! the last (late) card of the season
and bake in a turkey-fragrant oven.
You know it’s done 
when the last chocolate is eaten
all the tinsel is vacuumed
and the house is New Year tidy once more.
 
(Guaranteed to never turn out the same)
© 2004 - Violet Nesdoly
********************************


Web: http://violetnesdoly.com
Blog: promptings
Poetry portfolio: Violet Nesdoly / poems
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

December 09, 2009

My Friends are Getting Published - Janet Sketchley

As well as being a member of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, I also belong to The Word Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers (yes, I'm Canadian!). And I’m privileged to be part of an amazing online critique and encouragement group as well as one that's face-to-face. It’s a fine way to meet fellow writers, keep up with news, and stay encouraged.

Lots of writing friends—this is great. We understand and support one another like non-writers can’t. We’ve cheered one another on, we know how hard the journey is, and when one of them gets published, I think it’s almost as exciting as if it were my manuscript being accepted.

I can honestly say my first response is happiness for the new contract. I cheer and punch the air, and send a sincerely gleeful congratulatory email—364 days of the year.

The other 24 hours tend to spread out in small increments across the year. I’m still glad for whoever’s book will now be published and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them, but will it ever be my turn? Why is it happening for everyone else instead?

I had one of “those” hours not long ago and the Lord reminded me of Jesus telling Peter in effect, “If I want John to stay alive until I come back, that’s My business. You tend to yours.

I had to choose to accept it, and to repeat it to myself regularly for the next while, but the message was clear: He has a plan for each writer, and the only plan that concerns me is mine. If he wants others to be published and not me, that’s His call. He’s the Shepherd, the chief Author.

And I can rest in the knowledge that if He’s preparing me for a publishing contract, it will happen—in His way and time. All I have to do is keep working so I’ll be ready. In the mean time He’s given me lots of friends to enjoy—both real and imaginary :-)

PS I do have a Christmas short story online this month in this month's Christian Fiction Online magazine in Dee Stewart's Multicultural Fiction column. It’s called “Too Much to Ask?” and is written under the pen name of Joanna Mallory.

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
--------
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

December 07, 2009

Shopping for Trouble - Glynis Belec

(A chapter from my book: Help I Need a New Fig Leaf!)



People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in His arms and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16


The long awaited weekend finally arrived. Shopping in the city with my delightful children promised to be filled with fun, frivolity and pleasurable purchases. I had two children, two hands, a full tank of gas and money to spend; all was well with the world.

The half hour drive to the city gave me an opportunity to proffer wisdom and reminders about honoring and obeying. I was certain God was pleased with my approach. Both little darlings nodded in agreement at my instruction and vowed to get along and listen.
Our shopping expedition was underway. As we strolled near a ladies’ wear store, a rack of marvelous sale merchandise beckoned me to take a peek. I took the bait and began fumbling through the fine array of fashionable styles.

There had to be more inside, I deduced. We entered the trendy store and I whispered clear directives to my tagalong twosome about staying close and keeping hands off the merchandise. I headed to a rack of shimmering dresses. “Mommy…I need to go to the bathroom badly!’ a little voice soon called out.

Sharply dressed sales clerks stared at me, no doubt wondering what I would do. The old bathroom excuse was my son’s finest tactic for getting me to hurry up, but it wasn’t going to work this time. I needed a few more minutes to look around. “You’ll have to wait…” I whispered and resumed my browsing.
Moments later I saw my smiling son come strolling out of an employees only door. “See. There is a restroom, Mommy.” I reiterated my earlier command to join his sister on the bench outside the fitting rooms.

A sales clerk with a pasted on smile handed me a number and, clutching two stunning outfits, I entered a fitting room close to the bench where my fidgeting pair sat.

I had barely struggled to get out of my clothes when the flimsy door burst open. “I wanna’ see, too!” My son’s voice bounced off the walls of the posh store. I inadvertently let out a scream. There I stood, red-faced in my underwear. All heads turned my way. I hauled the culprit into the now cramped change room and with gritted teeth strongly advised him to NEVER do that again.

After a difficult struggle in the tiny cubicle (complete with son) I managed to try on one of the outfits. I stepped outside the room to see if the mirror did me any justice. “They look like pajamas!” my daughter laughed. “Ssshhh!” I hissed noticing eyes upon me again. I nipped back into the room with son in tow.

It was my daughter’s turn to get restless. She had spotted a circular revolving rack heavily laden with ‘just in’ designer clothing. I walked out of the fitting room in time to see the entire rack whiz around and fall to the floor. Fancy apparel flew in every direction. I could have screamed. My daughter did.

A thousand apologies later and short of placing sin offerings at the feet of the fuming sales clerks, I left - without frock or finery. I now had the undivided attention of the partners in crime and they could tell momma bear was not happy. “D’we hafta’ go home now?” a sheepish voice sensed the impending doom.

As I contemplated the purchase of two collars and one short leash, my heart softened. How many times had I gone to God with a sheepish voice and how many times had He forgiven me? Too often, I have embarrassed God with thoughtless words and foolish choices. Yet, He still loves me despite my imperfections and foibles.

In Psalm 127:3 we are reminded that children are a heritage from the Lord and are to be counted as blessings not burdens.

So I counted my blessings for the rest of the shopping trip. Relief was written on the faces of my dynamic duo and I was especially happy when we read the sign in the next window - CHILDREN WELCOME. I’m sure they’ll have that same sign on the gates of heaven!



November 30, 2009

A Matter of Timing - Marcia Lee Laycock

Last week I watched two full grown geese land on a small pond across from my home. It was quite funny to watch, because the pond was frozen. The geese gracefully flapped their wings and extended their feet, anticipating the landing, but when they touched down they skidded sideways and plopped down unceremoniously on their bottoms. When they recovered they stomped about, seeming indignant.

When I saw them stomping around on the ice it made me think of those times when I’ve been impatient with God’s timing. It often seems that He isn’t in sync. with my estimation of when things should happen. Give me patience, Lord. Right now!

But His timing is always perfect. When my new novel, One Smooth Stone won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award, I was thrilled that it would soon be in print. Then I discovered that the word, ‘soon’ is relative. There was a delay because the publisher wanted a certain editor to work with me, and she was busy with other projects. Then there was a bit of miscommunication and I was waiting for her while she was waiting for me to get in touch. Then, when it was finally begun, the editing process took time. But finally my publisher told me the books were ready to ship. I waited - impatiently - for them to arrive on my doorstep. The book launch was to be held on the first night of a writers’ conference and, of course, I wanted the books in hand for that event. I was thankful when they arrived, safe and sound, a few days before the scheduled launch.

I remember lifting the first book out of the box. I knew exactly where it was going. I gave it to my friend – I’ll call her Barb.

Barb has had a hard life – her husband left her with four small children to raise and no resources. The family struggled through. Then one of Barb’s daughters, I’ll call her Lucy, was raped when she was a teenager. Though Barb managed to hold on to her faith in Christ, Lucy has been bitter and angry with God ever since. The day after my books arrived, Barb gave that copy of One Smooth Stone to Lucy. A few days later she got a phone call.

Lucy told her that she had had no intention of reading the book – she’d thought, oh yeah, there goes Mom with the religious stuff again. But that next day she got the flu and the only thing she had in the house to read was my book. So she picked it up and started to read. She said she couldn’t put it down. When she called her mom she was in tears because she said that after reading the book, she finally believed God does still love her, in spite of everything.

The timing was perfect. God’s timing. Not mine. Next time I get impatient I’ll try and remember how ridiculous those geese looked, stomping around on solid ice.

November 29, 2009

Faith Like A Rock




A co-worker continually enters my office for a brief chat about life, family issues, health concerns etc. He has had brain surgery several years ago, and suffers from seizures periodically. He’s been having complications due to differing medical prescriptions that doctors prescribe to get the seizures under control. What’s so amazingly funny is that each visit there is a different bruise located somewhere on his body.

On one occasion he had a fall and he came in my office with a bruised eye, a large lump on his head and a badly scraped knee. I asked what happened and he replied, “Oh I had a seizure and just fell while walking down the street.” Another day he came in and his eye was badly bruised and his glasses were all scratched up. I faced him and laughed because he was so nonchalant about it. He had taken another fall.

This scene repeated itself over and over in my office. It was as though he was preparing for a spot in a movie and each time getting more make-up on for a crash scene. Even though Jimmy was seriously ill, he appeared to be healthy and strong. Without a doubt he had strong faith. Among our conversations was a discussion about his faith in God. Even if he were to die sitting in my office chair he said that he was ready to go and he showed no fear. His confidence in God’s promises was reassuring.

Suddenly, I was taken away from the sight of the bruises and bumps and scrapes, I saw a man who was as steady as a rock. According to the Bible, this rock is Jesus.

Jesus is referred to many names in the Bible. In Isaiah 26:4, he is named the “Rock Eternal” The verse reads: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the rock eternal.”

When I think about Jesus as being the rock, I think about Him as being firm, steadfast, secure, powerful, solid, unswerving and true. When I think of Jesus as being the “rock eternal,” I think about Him as being true to His promises, certain of who He is.

He promises life abundantly, peace and security in the midst of trouble, and a secured place in heaven if the decision is made to follow Him and trust Him and believe his promises. We are held up by His mighty power and He is the rock of all ages.

Psalm 139: 7 – 10 David says: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there; If I ride on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me fast.”

Yes, He is worthy of our praise, faith and love and expectations of answered prayers. The Bible says to be thankful in all circumstances of life. Who feels like praising God when we find ourselves in the heavy trials of life? Very few perhaps but our faith allows us to trust no matter what the circumstances are and since Jesus promised that he will never leave us or forsake us, we can learn to rely on Him for strength and guidance. We learn to trust and acquire faith; we learn to lean on the solid rock!

May we all learn to place our trust in Him in all circumstances of life!

Jan Keats

November 27, 2009

25 Things Challenge - Kimberley Payne

I am a member of Facebook and recently received an interesting challenge:

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

At first, I thought “no problem!” But as I got to number 16 I started to slow down the pace. I’ve decided to share my 25 things here and put the challenge out to all you.


1. I still have two baby teeth without permanent teeth following.

2. I’ve never had wisdom teeth…I don’t believe I need them, I’m wise enough (haha)

3. I don’t mind the smell of skunk.

4. I’ve traveled to the Netherlands four times.

5. I have a recurring nightmare where I’m trapped in a run-away elevator.

6. I’m reading the Bible for the 3rd time, and believe it to be all truth.

7. I’ve written 6 books: a health & fitness workbook, 3 devotionals, a novel and a children’s book.

8. I’m working on another children’s book.

9. Like my three brothers, I have the uncanny ability to find typos everywhere.

10. I’ve been in two major car accidents.

11. I’ve never filled out my own income tax (although I’ve taught accounting at the college level).

12. I’ve worked as a personal trainer, career counselor, professor of accounting, waitress, photocopy jockey, and door-to-door salesperson.

13. I’ve met Ron McLean in a bar in Calgary.

14. I’m a laughter junkie.

15. I looked forward to turning 30, but dreaded turning 40!

16. My husband introduced me to snowmobiling…and I like it!

17. I’ve gone skinny-dipping before (shhh, don’t tell anyone).

18. I’m not afraid of dying – I look forward to spending eternity in heaven.

19. I once wanted to have triplets. I now have two children and am quite relieved they weren’t twins!

20. I had a Keeshond dog named Kasey when I was a kid. He was afraid of water.

21. My favourite Bible verse is Philippians 4:6-7.

22. I’ve started my own blog on health & fitness.

23. I won 2nd and 3rd prize in grade school Science Fairs – one project was on the eyeball, the other on mould.

24. I went White Water Rafting 3 times one summer. The last time I went I got tossed from the raft (thus the reason it was the last time!)

25. I had the chicken pox, mumps and poison ivy (but not all at the same time).

Tag – you’re it…how well do you know yourself?

Kimberley Payne


November 23, 2009

THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM - Martha Anderson

The snow that fell a few days ago is a reminder that Christmas is approaching. Along the halls in our building, decorations are appearing on apartment doors. I am determined to do a thorough cleaning of our apartment before I unpack Christmas decorations. Besides, many ideas for articles are dancing around in my head, crying to get onto paper. Upmost in my thoughts right now are the events connected with the Nativity.

To think that back in the beginning of Time when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, He already had laid His plan for redemption. He promised a Redeemer would come through the Seed of the woman. Over the centuries this promise was repeated with more clarity.

Four thousand years later, among the few who were actively looking for the Messiah, were a group of astronomers, presumably three in number, who diligently anticipated His coming. Spotting an unusually bright star, they believed in their hearts that this was God’s sign that the time had come for their hopes to be fulfilled. Accordingly, they made arrangements at once to strike out across the dessert to pay homage to the great King.

I clicked on the television one day and heard a priest proclaiming that the stories of the Nativity and the Resurrection are really fables from which we can draw spiritual lessons. To back up his argument, he asked, “Do you really believe that God dragged a star across the sky slow enough that the wise men could follow it across the desert to Jerusalem?”

No, I don’t believe that. Neither did Matthew, the apostle who recorded the Magi’s visit to the Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Nowhere does Scripture state that the Wise men followed a star across the desert.

Mathew wrote, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him (Matthew 2:1,2).

In his book, Born in Bethlehem, H.W. Van Der Vaart Smit explained well the appearance of the star.

“An astronomical event, which explains the references in Matthew and helps and helps fix the birth year of Jesus, actually did occur in history, namely the major conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn…
Astronomy, is the most exact of all sciences; it is pure mathematics, and it’s calculations can be relied upon... The double star in the Near East was visible on any clear night for nine months from the beginning of April, and could be observed sometimes before and sometimes after midnight, and at times throughout the entire night.”

These astronomers knew the Christ was to be born in the land of Judea.
Naturally, they would assume the promised king would be born in the palace in Jerusalem. The visit to Jerusalem was not a mistake, however, but part of God’s plan for the message of Messiah’s birth to reach the leaders, both political and religious. Sadly, we have no record that anyone of them even went to investigate the truth for himself.

After receiving a cold reception in Jerusalem, the visitors may have had some conflicting questions tumbling around in their minds. Why were these Jewish scribes and teachers not excited at the birth of their King?

In any case, they set out that same night for the little village of Bethlehem. To their surprise and joy as the travelers made their ascend to Bethlehem, the star they had seen in the east appeared just above the crest of one of the two hills on which Bethlehem is situated. Any doubts that may have risen in their minds were erased by this confirmation from God that the Messiah indeed was born in this place. Through this star God spoke into their hearts the assurance that they were about to see the long-awaited Savior and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

The conjunction of the two planets could be seen three times that year. So this would have been the second conjunction. Coincidence? Mere chance? Or Divine arrangement?

Jesus is referred to in Scripture as “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world.” In other words, before God brought the world into existence, plans were laid for Christ to descend to this planet in human form to die for man’s sin. Could He not schedule the movements of the planets in their orbits so that this conjunction of the two planets would occur at just the precise time He wanted to inform the Wise Men when to start on their journey and again nine months later, to confirm that they had reached their destination?

The incarnation of the Son of God was of such significance that God could have arranged the laws of nature 4000 years before to join in announcing the great event. Indeed God makes the forces of nature to display His power and purpose. This phenomena of the meeting of Saturn and Jupiter did not occur again until 1981 and is not expected to happen again until 2238.

When God speaks, every detail carries significance. As we look forward to the Christmas season, I intend to continue checking out the Scriptural account to learn more about the significance of the details mentioned in connection with the advent story that have so often been skipped over or misinterpreted.

November 18, 2009

A Peek Into My Daybook - Brenda Leyland



From Brenda's Daybook

For Today -- Nov 18th





Outside my window... Blue skies mottled with fluffy grayish clouds, leafless treetops barely moving in the breeze, a bluejay piercing the calm with his screech.

I am thinking... What is it we actually mean when we wish someone, Have a great day?

Now that you've asked... I guess what I'm wishing for is that the individual could truly enjoy their day and not have anything spoil it. That they could be free from sickness and pain. That any broken and difficult relationships could be mended, that bad hair days don't affect their cheerful frame of mind, that work situations would be fulfilling and interesting. I would wish that God make their path smooth and that things would be pleasant, even when they're in the 5 o'clock grocery store lineup.

I am thankful for... experiences that remind me that walking in the Royal Law of Love toward every living creature is really what makes life beautiful.

Pondering these words... Give and it shall be given. I'm beginning to grasp the idea that this seems to be a universal law that is meant to touch absolutely every area of our lives, not just our finances. Whatever I want and hope to enjoy, I must first plant a seed if I hope for a harvest in that area. If I wish friendship, I must offer it to others. If I wish to be treated with kindness, I must ensure I offer kindness to others. If I wish blessing to come to me, I must bless others. If I wish for favour, I must offer it to others as well.

Around the house... The sun is shining through the front window. I love how it makes the room feel cozy and comfortable.

One of my favourite things... the Yankee Candle sitting on my desk with the fragrance "Autumn Wreath". I've had the candle for a couple of seasons, and still I'll often catch a whiff of its autumny fragrance. Kind of a mix of spicy pumpkin pie, apple cider, and cinnamon. I love the surprise of how it releases its scent when I'm not expecting it.

Here's wishing you a great day, and all that it means to you!


Brenda blogs at It's A Beautiful Life



November 16, 2009

Rescued


by Pam Mytroen

I still remember the rescue. My sister and I along with my sister-in-law decided to wander off the path of Vancouver’s Lynn Canyon. Rays of sunshine fell short of penetrating the river snaking far below the suspension bridge but the shadowed blue ribbon beckoned us to a foolish dip in its cool embrace.

An innocent trickle plummeted off the cliff beside me as I leaped. Cold greedy water pulled me under and mocked me in its rebuke: “Don’t you know better?” It forgave me, though, as it tossed me back up, but I’ll never forget its icy slap. It let me swim to the next cliff and jump again. But this time mercy shook its head. When I dove I slipped and landed short of my aim. Rocks under the dark water sliced into my knee.

Numb, I swam to shore and collapsed when I tried to stand. I gazed up at the suspension bridge as a line-up of tiny-specked people began to form. The fire department held them back from crossing the bridge. A police siren echoed throughout the canyon walls. And finally, a team of paramedics rapelled their way down to me.

Onlookers from the cliffs shouted down encouragement. One generous guy threw down his t-shirt to wrap my knee. White bone protruded through my skin. Warm red blood soaked the shirt. My brother, who had stayed behind us ‘silly girls’ now joined me. I felt guilty for putting the rest of my family in danger as they had to continue jumping off the cliffs until they could reach the bottom of the canyon where a path would lead them out.

However, I was grateful for the harness and the paramedic who made a pathway for me up the steep rocky side of the mountain.

For several days after the rescue I shivered whenever I thought of what I had been saved from. The shock of icy water and the smash of my skull against granite filled my dreams. Death left an aftertaste of fear.

The Vancouver team showed great compassion and care in their rescue efforts but that was several years ago now and I seldom think of them anymore.

However, I should never forget my rescuer Jesus. Paul reminds us that He “rescued us from this evil world in which we live” (Galatians 1:4b).

How often do I think of the grip of sin that Jesus plucked me from? Do I shiver when I remember the icy-depths of selfishness that threatened to drown me? When was the last time I woke up damp with fear?

Maybe God needs to open my eyes to the darkness around me, and my ears to the cries of others who are drowning, so that I will appreciate my Savior.

Thank you Lord Jesus that you rescued me from the cold winter of greed, from the bitterness of pleasure, and from the darkness of death. You rescued me unto light, freedom and life. May I ever be mindful of your strong Hands around me, and of your selfless saving act. Touch me with the sting of sin that I appreciate the spring of new life. Amen.

November 13, 2009

Cleaning House (part 2) - Nesdoly



The story so far: Arlene has done a thorough cleaning of her house.  But now she can’t find a copy of her husband’s will, or the passwords to all her online accounts. Will her new start be sabotaged by her need for security from stuff?

*************
Part 2

            
All day Arlene battled anxiety. Besides all the money-related papers she’d thrown out, she’d surely also been too hasty about tossing things she needed only once in a while, and the spares, and the craft and hobby supplies, and the old clothes which could have been made into quilts, and the old Reader’s Digests she’d never got around to reading… What should she do?  If only Dave were here to tell her. Frantically she grabbed a pencil and scrap of paper, and began making a list of all the things she’d have to replace.
           
When she couldn’t think of anything more for the list, she turned on the TV to get her mind off the whole fiasco. But as she clicked from channel to channel and glimpsed first a young couple in sober conversation with their insurance agent, then a woman loading her shopping cart, and another dusting her well-appointed house, she felt worse, not better, until a nice young man telling a story on the Christian Channel caught her attention.

He told about a seventy-year-old Mozambican pastor he’d met. One Friday afternoon at work the elderly African man had heard God tell him to go to South Africa and plant churches among the tribal people who worked in the mines. “And so he went home,” the young man said, “and told his wife, ‘Tomorrow we’re leaving for South Africa.’
           
“On their way out of the country, a Mozambican immigration officer met them at the border. He asked them where they were going, and could he see their passports.
           
“’We’re on our way to South Africa,’ the old pastor told him, ‘and we don’t have passports.’
           
“’How will you get in?’ the officer asked.
           
“’God will help us,’ the pastor replied.

“The officer let the man and his wife enter no-man’s land between Mozambique and South Africa. Before they got to the border, someone noticed them, thought they were tardy bus passengers, and motioned them onto a bus, which took them directly into the country.
           
“Once there, the miracles continued. At one point, though they were stopped by soldiers and asked again for papers, not only were they allowed go to on, but a soldier gave them money.
           
“The pastor didn’t have a passport. He didn’t have any papers. But he just got up the morning after God called him and left obediently with what he had. In the last ten years,” the man concluded, “he’s planted twenty churches…”
           
Arlene turned off the TV, stunned. This was the kind of unhampered faith and obedience she’d imagined the day she’d begun cleaning the house. And to think that just now she’d almost forfeited it by looking again to things for security and purpose.

She had just spent a month doing the best she could to obey the first part of Jesus’ command, “Sell whatsoever thou hast.” Who knew what His “Come ... follow me,” would mean for her? She could see herself mothering an orphanage of kids in Africa, cooking at camp all summer, doing hospital visits or – even volunteering at the church office.
           
She took the list she’d written, crumpled it in a ball, and laughed out loud as she threw it across the room. She wouldn’t be needing it after all.


Web: http://violetnesdoly.com
Blog: promptings
Poetry portfolio: Violet Nesdoly / poems
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

November 09, 2009

Works in Progress - Janet Sketchley

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
1 Peter 1:18-19, NIV*

“You were redeemed from the empty way of life...”

These words caught me today. They’re a promise we can rely on when we’re tempted to despair of ever changing and growing in our new life with God.

He has redeemed us, rescued us from the empty way of life. No, He didn’t zap us into instant holiness or godliness, but we can be sure that if we cooperate with His Spirit’s work in our lives and choose to turn from the old empty, self-centred ways, we will change.

He has a lot to do in our lives, and it won’t happen overnight, but the transaction has been done. Ownership of our “house” has changed, and we really are in the “renovation” stage.

God is good.

*New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
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For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

November 04, 2009

A Matter of Perspective - Gwen Mathieu

I just finished reading an interesting novel, The Noticer. It is a story about an old man, Jones, who notices things that other people overlook; things that are in plain sight. Jones claims people lack perspective. They don’t see the big picture.

It makes me ask myself, do I lack perspective? Do I see the half empty cup instead of the half full one? Do I dwell on the thunder and lightning and miss the rainbow. Do I begrudge all the laundry instead of being thankful I have family to serve.

Take LOL for another example. For a long time I thought it meant Lots of Love, only to find out it means Laugh out loud .I had the wrong perspective.

Back in the 60’s, I asked my father if he believed in God. His reply, “Everyone has their own utopia. The Indians have their happy hunting grounds.” That didn’t give me much of an answer back then but it got him off the hook from telling me what he believed.

It was in the early 70’s, when he had but a few months to live, that he surrendered his life to Christ. God gave him a new perspective on his need. He was waiting for someone to talk to him about his spiritual condition. His eventual passing gave him life, not death.

Paul said in Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Paul had a right perspective.

I pray God will give me wisdom and the right perspective, helping me to notice things that are in plain sight; things that can change my life to be more like Him.

October 30, 2009

LOL by Kimberley Payne

Laughing Out Loud

My list of favourite authors keeps growing as I open myself to read across genres in both fiction and non-fiction. However, my all-time favourites remain those who can make me laugh out loud including Erma Bombeck, Phil Callaway, Stephen Leacock and John Mortimer.

In an attempt to emulate these greats, I’ve added such how-to books as Comedy Writing Secrets – the best-selling book on how to think funny, write funny, act funny, and get paid for it by Mel Helitzer with Mark Shatz, and How to Write Funny –Add humor to every kind of writing edited by John B. Kachuba.

But, as I suspected, writing humour is more difficult than I had hoped. My novel is a contemporary story about a separated mother dealing with her daughter’s recent disclosed secret. The tone is serious and contemplative. The subject is dark and ugly. Because of this it was difficult to add in laughter.

I reworked my protagonist so her thoughts reflected a sense of humour. I tried to add humour in my descriptions of characters (She looked like a tackle box), and in unlikely places like church signs (Don’t let worries kill you. Let the church help)

It’s a tough job to add humour to a serious story. You can read my novel Tooth for Tooth online and let me know if I succeeded in my attempts.

Kimberley Payne

October 26, 2009

ONE CONSTANT IN A CHANGING WORLD - Martha Anderson

"You know, God doesn't know anything more now than He did before He created the world," I commented to my husband Eilif as we were driving home one day. While Eilif took a few moments to ponder that statement I continued, "And when this world, as we know it now, comes to an end God will know no more than He does now."

"Did you come up with that deduction just now?" he asked.

"No, I read it somewhere a few days ago," I told him, "And I've been mulling it over in my mind ever since."

The more I pondered that thought the more evident the conclusion became. Because everything operates on the principle of cause and effect, we can assume there is a cause behind all matter. The Power that flung the stars in space has to be greater than anything it created. For the galaxies to be brought into existence would have required a plan of infinite knowledge and wisdom. That Force, therefore, would not only have to be all-powerful, but would also possess a personality with all-knowledge and all-wisdom.

A Being that already knows everything could not learn anything new. Such a Being would have to be God.

To be God He would have to possess all godlike attributes. Holiness, love, justice, truth, goodness, fairness, faithfulness, mercy, consistency, and compassion would constitute his personality. Above that, He would have the ability to be everywhere present, as well as holding all knowledge and power. This being the case, we can only conclude that God is changeless.

For God to improve would be impossible for He is already perfect. To become less than He is would likewise be impossible. He would then no longer be God. God cannot change from within and nothing can change Him from without because His power is supreme.

Because God knows all things He can learn nothing. Being eternal, God existed when there was nothing else. He knew before He brought anything else into existence what He was going to do, how he would do it, and how it would all end. He sees the past, present, and future at the same time. With Him there is no past tense or future tense. He is not the God that once was or the God who will be, for He is always in the present. The God who created all things and kept the galaxies in their orbits throughout the ages is the same God who still holds all His creation in His hands. He is the Great I AM.

In contrast, our life span is extremely limited. The Apostle Peter wrote 2,000 years ago:

All flesh is like grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and its flower falls away (I Peter 1:24 New King James Version)

Grass dries up, blossoms lose their petals; so our time on earth and any fame or fortune we attain is soon gone. But God continues.
In the Bible the Psalmist King David describes God this way:

You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those
Who call upon You... There is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works
Like Your works... For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God
(Psalm 86:5,8,10 NKJV).

In the confusion of constant fluctuation, in a society where change for change sake has become a god in itself, how good to know that there is One Constant Factor in the equation of life.
Moses, the man who led God's people in ancient times, addressed God in this way:

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and The world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Psalm 90:2 NKJV).

Another Psalm says:
Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting And His truth endures to all generations (Psalm 100:3,5 NKJV).

The unchanging God is always present with us and knows us individually. He is the God who loves us.

October 23, 2009

How is Your Faith?

Sometimes along the Christian Journey all kinds of negative thoughts and turmoil may interfere with walking in peace and harmony with the Master.
There are ways to determine whether or not the view of the narrow road is still visible and known. Study the following questions and test for yourself to see if you’re lined up with God’s expectations in living a fruitful Christian life.

When you are standing among a crowd does your light still shine?
Do you still possess the joy of the Lord?
Do you feel that you are somehow distanced between you and your God?
Is His message of love still in your heart?
Have you experienced God’s forgiveness?
Are you still able to openly declare that you belong to Jesus?
Do you secretly pass judgement on fellow Christians?
Do you miss His loving touch? His presence near you?
Do you possess the fruits of the Spirit?
How is your prayer life? Have you been neglecting to meet with God?

Be honest. It may be difficult to admit that we are not up to His standards even when legitimate circumstances interfere with our relationship with God. God still knows those who are His. Despite our shortcomings and weaknesses in any of these 10 thought provoking questions, God still waits for us to come alongside Him. He will still pull up that chair and sit beside us when we come to Him in faith. When we fail Him, we must remember that he will not forsake us. When we praise Him we must remember how we please Him.

If we don’t lose heart during the discouraged moments then we have overcome the same temptations that Jesus Himself suffered. How do we then keep forging ahead? Just remember when we fall back, come back! Don’t even entertain the idea of falling back and staying back. Jesus didn’t remain in the garden when He was perhaps at His weakest moment. He prayed to the Father and proceeded to follow His Father’s Will; yes, even death on a cross. Each of God’s children has the opportunity to pray and continue in the journey. That’s where peace is! That’s where joy is! That’s where we belong; in the everlasting arms of the Father!

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
(I Corinthians 10:13NIV)

Keep strong in the Lord! He will light your path along the journey!

Jan Keats

October 16, 2009

Cleaning House (part 1) - Nesdoly


It all began the afternoon Arlene decided to file a few bills during the commercials in “American Justice.” When she couldn’t squeeze the water bill into the “Utilities” folder, she pulled the folder out. But with the bill inside, it wouldn’t fit back into the drawer.

She’d have to do something about this – maybe take out the Ts to Zs and transfer them to the second drawer, or pack the overflow files into a cardboard file box.
           
When she opened the other drawers, they too were full to bursting. And where was there room for a box? The floor and desk were already littered with stacks of papers, flyers, catalogues, phone books and slovenly mounds of Reader’s Digests and Guideposts. Jars of pens, paper clips, and other office supplies filled up the bookshelves, and a row of flashlights guarded the set of encyclopedias. Things were double-parked everywhere. The time had come for serious action. Besides, tackling this glut of paper would fill up the lonely hours. So that afternoon she turned off the TV,  cleared a spot on the desk, and began weeding papers from the top drawer.
    
She had never done anything like this before.  Record-keeping had always been Dave’s department. Now, she found, it was a tricky business. Did one need all these car receipts from the 60s, the statement showing one had paid one’s life insurance in 1982, and documents detailing Dave’s projected pension income year by year – especially now he was six months gone?

To complicate her decisions, she kept hearing his voice: “The minute it’s gone, you’ll need it,” and “The taxman cometh.”  Cometh for what?  To do an audit? She was sure many of these folders hadn’t been consulted in years. And wasn’t there some law the taxman could only go back in your records five years, or seven?

There was another thing. Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler had always fascinated her: “Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast and come ... follow me.”  Having the freedom to follow God with nothing to tie you down sounded impractical, yet exciting. She’d often felt the weight of the things they’d collected – especially when those things filled every available space. Here was her chance to escape just a little from the grip of “whatsoever thou hast” and experience a taste of the risk she heard in Jesus’ command. She decided to be ruthless in her culling.
           
She missed the six o’clock news and “Wheel of Fortune” to finish the drawer. When she was done all that remained in it were nearly empty folders, sagging like flab on a once-obese person. The sight of the plump yellow recycle bag made her feel good.
           
So good, in fact, the next day found her at the desk again missing “Judge Judy” to work on the second drawer, and the third, and the fourth. By then a recklessness had come over her. She decided to carry on through the rest of this room, the kitchen, indeed the whole house!
           
The job took a month. It became such an obsession she forgot all about turning on “Oprah” and lost track of what was happening on “Coronation Street.” When she closed her eyes at night she saw jars, plastic tubs, old clothes, shoes, books, magazines and bags and bags and bags.

But finally the day came when she had tidied the last closet. She resolved to finish the job by giving the house a final and thorough cleaning.
           
When she opened her cleaning supplies cabinet, though, she hardly recognized her meager supply caddy – but that’s right, she’d thrown out most of her solutions and powders in favor of the magic micro-cloth that was all the rage.

She went to put on her cleaning music – an old CD her kids had discarded a generation ago – but couldn’t find it anywhere either. Different music would have to suffice today. On channel twenty four she found Diane Bish playing a Bach concert and soon pipe organ Preludes, Fugues, and Toccatas were echoing through the house as she dusted, scrubbed, and polished.

When at last she stood to admire her efforts (favoring her aching knees as she’d had to wash the floor by hand because the mop too had disappeared), she had to admit, though the immaculate house did look as stark as the day after taking down Christmas decorations, it was wonderful – swept clean and put in order.
           
The next day she was turning on her computer to pay her overdue bills when the phone rang. It was a man from the trust company. He had an urgent question about Dave’s will.
           
“Just a minute,” she answered. She went to the file cabinet, opened the drawer, pulled out the folder marked “Wills” – but it was empty.
           
“Give me your number please, and I’ll get back to you,” she said to the trust company man and hung up, shaken. Had she perhaps been a tad too thorough? Oh well, there was bound to be a copy in their safety deposit box in the bank.
           
To get into that, though, she needed the combination. Good thing she knew where it was.
           
Or where it used to be. For she couldn’t find the combination or her internet log-in number for the bank, as it appeared she’d also trashed the book containing both of them. Dave’s old warnings began replaying in her head and her sense of satisfaction was replaced with misgiving. What had she done?

To be concluded ...


Web: http://violetnesdoly.com
Blog: promptings
Poetry portfolio: Violet Nesdoly / poems
Daily devotions for kids: Bible Drive-Thru
Twitter: @vnesdoly

October 12, 2009

Experiencing Joy in the Home






2 Timothy 2: 14-26

What makes a happy home? It is a home where Jesus and His love is known. It is a home where the fruits of the Spirit are observable and evident. The dwelling place ought to shine for God’s glory so that everyone can see the good works that God has chosen for us to do.

What about the home of the mind, body and soul? In order for our homes to be happy we need a pure heart, a pure mind, body and soul. Our personal closets need to be purified to be a worker approved by God. The Bible tells us to “pursue righteousness, faith and love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

God expects his workers to be cleansed. “All who cleanse themselves will become special utensils, dedicated and useful to the owner of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21) The Scriptures tell us that in order to prepare ourselves for good work, we are to be clean, dedicated, useful and ready. Then we will become special utensils.

God’s word also tells us that not all workers are alike. “In a large house there are utensils not only of gold or silver but also of wood and clay, some for special use and some for ordinary.” (2Timothy 2:20) God does not expect us to work beyond our capabilities, however. There is a different work for every different utensil. And we know that each utensil is special.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10, lists our different gifts. Some are given gifts of wisdom, knowledge, healing, prophecy and discernment. God understands and knows our talents but there is one gift that we all possess and that is the gift of love. We are told in 1 Corinthians 13, whatever the gifts we are given, if we try to use them without love we are nothing. “If we have faith but do not have love, we are nothing. Love bears all things, believes all things, and endures all things.”

Let us be good workers approved by God by using the gifts we have. Verse 15 says: “Do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed rightly explaining the word of truth.” Do all to the glory of God! Amen!

Thought: Are you content with the gift or gifts that God has given to you, whether great or small?

Jan Keats

Expectant Living -- Janet Sketchley



The Message describes Joseph of Arimathea as “one who lived expectantly, on the lookout for the kingdom of God.” (Mark 15:43, MSG)

What does it mean to live expectantly? Joseph wasn’t expecting his will, he was waiting and watching for the kingdom of God—for God’s rule to be restored.

He wasn’t mired down in daily life thinking that was all there was. Instead, he probably examined what went on, looking to see God working.

Father, help me not get so bogged down in the now that I lose the bigger picture of Your Kingdom. Help me live alert, give me eyes to see and a heart to understand. Help me live expecting You to be at work—because You are. Protect me from false expectations, and help me to expect only You.

© Janet Sketchley, 2009
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For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

October 07, 2009

Without Excuse but not Without Remedy, by Elsie Montgomery

In response to those who justify their lifestyle by pointing to the animal kingdom, and to those who shout “it’s not natural” in condemnation of that lifestyle, may I remind both that neither human nature nor the animal kingdom is what their Creator intended.

Appealing to “nature” to incriminate a homosexual lifestyle does not work. If “nature” is the norm, then it would be acceptable for women to eat their lovers, or parents to feast on their children. In nature, one species can kill another because it is part of the food chain, and both genders can be unfaithful to their mates. Even stealing is fine — if you are a magpie!

Our standard for morality has lost all moorings. It used to be Scripture and our conscience, but Scripture rightly explains how sin ruins everything. We cannot even discern right from wrong, never mind agree where to find out which is which.

Human nature has gone far from what God intended, yet Romans 8 says the “entire creation groans waiting for the redemption” of humanity. That’s why we cannot use “nature” as the norm. Sin ruined nature too, putting it under the “curse of sin.”

Sin wrecks everything. God made people in His likeness (Genesis 1 & 2) but sin marred that likeness. God made a world He called “good” but sin continues to mar that world and affects everything in it.

God describes sin several ways. One is “breaking His laws.” Another is “falling short of His glory.” At the root is an attitude: “everyone has turned to his own way.” This sad state of selfish independence from God and His laws is reflected by commerce’s greed, Hollywood’s vanity, society’s divorce rate, and the lies children tell on a playground. If we reflect any goodness at all, it is because our Maker’s image occasionally glimmers through.

Going back to nature, Scripture says all creation is not as God originally created it. For instance, animals and people did not eat each other in Eden; God provided plants for their food. It was only after sin entered the world that violence entered the food chain.

Some folks acknowledge this and become vegetarians, yet this does not fix or reverse the effects of sin. In fact, God says “all foods are acceptable if received with thanksgiving.” No matter what we eat, we still sin.

Some use nature to justify their sin. “Birds and bees do it . . .  and some animals display lustful tendencies, so that makes it natural . . .  therefore I can do what I want.”

A determination to go our own way looks for someone or something going the same way, a line of thinking that demonstrates how sin affects our judgment.

Others reason that sin is natural in that “I am who I am . . .  I was born this way.” The same could be said of many alcoholics, yet they are not allowed such an excuse.

The reality is that all of us are “born that way.” We came into the world with a tendency to sin. No child has to be taught selfishness. We could offer our excuses to God, but He anticipated this and planned a counter offer before the world began. Jesus gave it when He said, “You must be born again,” offering us a spiritual rebirth, a new nature, and forgiveness to wash away the marred mess of sin.

People often refuse God’s offer by saying things like “religion is responsible for wars” or “the church is full of hypocrites” but these arguments miss the target; the real problem is not religion or the church but sin. Sin is why people fight, including Christians. Sin is why people pretend to be something they are not, also including Christians. War and hypocrisy is not the fault of religion or the church; sin makes liars lie and cheaters cheat, and ruins the godly life God intended.

As if our sin is not enough, when we realize we are guilty we harden our hearts, and refuse to take responsibility. Instead, we rationalize. The New Testament calls it “futility” and says “they are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Blindness to the things of God happens to anyone who refuses or neglects to hold to biblical thoughts, even Christians. Without reading the Book, no one can know how the Lord wants us to live. We might recognize sin in others and get upset about it, but if we are not paying close attention to sin in our own lives, our judgments will fall short of how God wants to deal with sin in both ourselves and that other person.

We too easily forget that in the mind of God, my sin is no less than your sin because both have the same effect: our sin separates us from Him (and each other). God deeply longs to mend that rift so we can fellowship with each other and with Him. He wants to bless us, to reverse the curse of sin.

We cannot make that happen but we can open the door for it by refusing to rationalize our sin and admit to God that we have fallen far short of His intention for us. At that point we can begin making progress toward recovery, not because we can use plants and animals to prove we are right, or because we have a twelve-step program, but because we have a God who is able to make us whole.


(I wrote this years ago in response to the excuses that were current at the time. The writing could be much softer, yet could not be any more true!)

September 30, 2009

Goals & Ambitions - Kimberley Payne

My writer’s group, the Writer’s Crucible, asked a simple question, “What are your goals and ambitions regarding writing?”

My goals seem very different now than they ever have been. My past ideas for books seem a distant memory. I wanted to become a famous author, writing at my beautiful retreat on the lake, travelling across the country with my family to attend booksignings and give presentations. I wanted to be well known with my name on the spine of many books.

But now, the honeymoon is over. The thought of building a platform, giving interviews, and writing to meet deadlines just leaves me with shivers. And not good ones.

I cringe when I think of the number of books an author like Jan Karon or Karen Kingsbury pumps out. I moan at the idea of travelling to unknown places with unknown people. I tire at the thought of pumping out weekly, biweekly and monthly articles. I shudder at the idea of maintaining a daily blog and website.

What started out as excitement, enthusiasm and energy to become what God called me to be has dropped to disappointment, despondency and drudgery.

But that is where the problem originated – in my thinking that God had called me to be a writer. He did not. In further reflection, I remember His call to me; “Write to bring others closer to me.”

He didn’t say, “Write to be famous.” He didn’t say, “Write to build a platform.” He didn’t say, “Write a blog, a website, articles, columns, books and novels.”

Although His call may have included those mediums, they themselves were not the ends. They would merely be a means to an end – His end.

So what are my goals and ambitions regarding writing?

I have written a novel about a mother faced with such crushing betrayal that her only hope for peace is to rely on the love of the One who first loved her. It was written to bring women closer to God through the example of the main character in this fiction. You can read it here.

I have written devotionals explaining God’s character and all I have learned along my journey as a new Christian. They were written to share my experiences with a loving God in every day life, with my family and with my health. They were written to bring new Christians and unchurched readers closer to God through the example of my own life. You can read excerpts here

I have written a fitness book that chronicles my experience of bringing God into the forefront of my health and fitness regime. It was written to show new believers and mature Christians that God can and should be part of our every day life – even in fitness. You can sign up to receive a free monthly newsletter. Follow this link to join today!

I believe that my original intentions to “write to bring other’s closer to God” started out with the right motive, but somewhere I changed it to “write to become a writer.” My focus moved onto me and away from God.

I am reminded to write letters. Oh, how exciting to put pen to paper, to fold a note into an envelope and seal the letter with a stamp.

I am reminded to write emails. Emails to encourage and enlighten.

I am reminded to write cards. Cards to celebrate, to congratulate and to console.

Yes, I write but that does not mean that I need to make a career of being a writer. I simply need to answer God’s call to write to bring others closer to Him – in any way He sees fit.

What are your goals and ambitions?

September 25, 2009

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Martha Anderson

When my elder brother, Julius, was in his teens and I was half his age, I noticed that whenever he was speaking to our father, he’d say, “Dad,” both at the beginning and end of every sentence.

“Dad, are we going to stook the oat sheaves today, Dad?”
“Dad, I’ve finished cleaning out the barn, Dad.”

One day the two of them had just left the house for morning chores, when I mentioned this habit of Julius’s to my mother.

“Yes, he doesn’t find it hard to say, Dad. I’m glad our sons have no problem with saying, Dad,” she replied. “They’re always saying Dad.” She spoke with such feeling that made me wonder why she felt so emotional about the matter. I had only found it amusing. After all, why would that be too hard for them to say. Dad was a simple enough word to pronounce, and after all, he was their Dad so why not call him that?

I learned in later many teenagers do have difficulty addressing their father in as respectful manner. To too many of them their dad is “the old man” or worse.

On one occasion I read through the Bible books that tell about the life of Jesus, I underlined every name that referred to Jesus. I noticed that the names by which Jesus was addressed always reflected the opinion of the speaker. His followers called Him Master. Those who sought him out for healing often addressed him as Son of David, Rabbbi, or Lord. Jesus often referred to himself as the Son of God, which I understand to be a contraction of The Son-of-God-become-Man.

To his enemies Jesus was an unnamed identity. They refused to give him the respect of even calling him by any name or title of dignity. Instead they spoke with distain of “this fellow,” which would be equivalent scoundrel.

When Jesus came close the end of his public ministry, he turned to his disciples to ask them, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

They answered, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Then Jesus asked the same question of his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?”

Then Simon Peter boldly declared what he had come to realize: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

I am so glad that this truth about who Jesus was has been passed on to us. Because of who Jesus was He was able to take on himself the punishment for all our sin so that I can now be free to address God as our beloved Father.

Martha Anderson

September 24, 2009

Frozen Thoughts -- Brenda Leyland

When it comes to writing something that's been assigned or has a more formal tone, my thoughts start to freeze like icicles on a mid-winter day.

Yet, I can sit down and dash off a note to a friend, no problem. Letters to friends and my own blog posts have a personal, conversational style -- I feel free to write what comes up from my heart.

But, when it comes time for me to write here on this writers' blog, every idea for a possible post seems to freeze. Nothing flows.

I asked myself some questions. Why do I feel this way? Why do wonderful encouragements flow so easily from my heart to my pen in letters and notes? Why is it easier to express myself on my blogs or in e-mails, but more difficult to craft a more formal article, e.g. an article for a writer's blog? Or an article in a magazine like FellowScript.

In my pondering, two reasons are uncovered....

One. I start to feel more tense when I think about writing something that's on assignment, whereas I feel relaxed when I write to friends either personally or on my blog. An article for a magazine or a writers' blog needs to be more structured, maybe a little more academic. Which I now recognize, makes me feel tense, a little nervous. Perhaps because I now feel there's some expectation for something I might not be able to deliver. That I 'should' write to purposely teach and encourage the reader or to write something with a more lofty and noble purpose. We all know what 'should' makes us do -- it cuts off the spontaneity and our creative right brain shuts down and goes into hiding.

Two. Childhood negative writing experiences still hold sway after all these years. As I write, I suddenly I see myself sitting in a school room filled with squirming classmates where we're told to get out a sheet of paper, we're going to write an essay. I intensely disliked writing essays.

First, they were boring, yes, don't forget b-o-r-i-n-g, because I was seldom interested in any of the topics available for discussion. There was the list... now choose something that I had little knowledge of and no heart for it. Blech!

Second, essay writing in school was always a nervous time for me. I could never figure out what I wanted to say; my classmates' pencils were scribbling across lined pages and there I would be still chewing my pencil eraser, panicking on the inside because time was running out and the teacher will call me up to read my piece and my page will still be blank. I felt stupid. And, on top of that, as I sat there with a blank slate in my head, I was well aware of the fact that there would be Mrs. Teacher grading this with her sharpened red pencil to tell me everything I did wrong.

No wonder my thoughts still freeze. I can feel the angst as I type. It would seem that my unconscious memories, and more importantly, old beliefs attached to those school writing experiences have me sitting here 'trembling'... what will Mr. or Miss Reader have to say about this little posting? Will it bring a good response? Or will there be a 'sniff' at the impertinence of said writer?

Well then... the bottom line of this little online pondering is that if we are to thaw frozen thoughts so we can begin writing with more ease and flow, we need to uncover what it is that is causing the flash-freezing in the first place.  For me, operating under the fears and beliefs of old school days has held me back. But, thankfully, we don't need to stay there.

I'm very grateful for today's blog assignment. Time for renewing the mind and moving forward.


Post rewritten February 2015



September 18, 2009

Salmah's Shame

One more battle. One more chance. Salmah stood atop a hill overlooking a broad green valley lavished with purple orchids, yellow lilies and wild onion blossoms covering the battlefield like the promise of victory. But the victory that Salmah prayed for was not to conquor King Og and his vast army but to conquor and lay to rest the burden of shame he’d carried all his life.

He plucked an arrow from his leather quiver and ran his hand down its length. Pointing it to the lush valley, he checked the alignment. Straight. It should be, it was his father's and never used. The shame sickened his stomach. He rubbed the bronze tip on the end, sharp and heavy. "Nahshon, son of Amminadab, of Judah," the engraving read. His father had been the commander of the tribe of Judah - the biggest and most powerful of the 12 tribes of Habiru. But when the Lord Shaddai set the land of Promise before them, his father advised against taking the land.

'Listen to the spies,' he had said. 'The giants are as tall as watchtowers. A thousand of our arrows would bounce off one shield. They’ll slay us and take our women and children captive.'

But it was his father and the entire army of the Habiru that died instead. The Lord sent them back to the desert to die in cowardice and fear. And Salmah's friends never let him forget.

Now that Salmah was twenty he was old enough to lead the tribe and the taunts had increased.

"Another day of heat and wind, thanks to your father, Salmah. We could be sitting under an oak tree in the land of promise if he hadn’t been such a coward."

Everyday after practice they raised their hands to him in mock salute. "Salmah,son of Nahshon the brave."

"Nahshon, commander of the greatest war never fought."

Every evening Salmah came in alone from practice, the last one to finish, and over their meal of manna the tirade continued. "It's your father's cowardice that forced us back to the desert and this tiresome manna day after day. If he faced the giants we’d be toasting you with wine!”

They raised their bowls of manna to each other and laughed, and then dipped their heads together against this young man who awaited his rightful position as captain of the tribe of Judah.

And everyday Salmah's spirit steeled a little more against the shards of shame they hurled at him. He turned his face like flint towards the threats of the Kinahu. He would not tremble in fear at the base of their fortified cities or turn and run from the giants, the Rephaim of the land, unlike his father, Nahshon.

Salmah gazed westward into the land of the Kinahu. The river Yarden glowed in the rising sun like a golden sword protecting its fertile nation. Its lush green valley shamelessly tempted conquorers and invited their courage only to be humiliated by its city walls that grazed the heavens. Its olives and grapes had been crushed and sampled by every known nation in the world.

And soon it would be his turn. He would conquor it. Today he would prove that he was ready. He must.

A shadow fell across the view and Salmah knew without turning around that Barak, captain of the tribe of Judah towered over him. He trembled under the vibration of his massive chest as it rose and fell, and he felt Barak’s hot breath on the top of his head.

Salmah prepared for the usual insult. Barak always had a sneer in his voice that never failed to pierce the steel of Salmah's spirit.

"Salmah, we’ve been talking.”

They were always talking, Barak and his boys. Barak was the one who taught them how to aim their arrows and sink their barbs into Salmah's tender soul.

He brought his fist down on Salmah’s shoulder and shook him, as if to test his balance.

“You’ve fought all winter and your courage hasn’t failed. By this time next year we’ll be burning those filthy goats of the Kinahu” He jerked his black beard to the west and spit.

“We’ll need a captain to take us in there.” He jiggled Salmah’s quiver on his back and pushed him towards the waiting army. “You’ll fight with me today.”

Salmah did not respond, but waited, sure that Barak was preparing choice words to shame him again. But Barak was silent. Salmah shoved his sword back into the bronze sheath around his waist, and let its clang echo through the valley like a victory shout.

He turned around and faced the chest of Barak, captain of the tribe of Judah. In the glint of his chain mail, Salmah caught his own reflection. His long brown hair blew in the breeze, and his mother’s blue eyes appeared na├»ve and over anxious. He dropped the smile.

"Yes my lord. I will fight beside you today," said Salmah, bowing his head before his captain. "I will not retreat from your side nor from the enemy at the front."

"And tonight, you’ll clean your sword beside me at the fire," said Barak.

Salmah raised his eyes to meet Barak's and nodded at the rare complement. Although Barak smiled under his beard, his eyes remained hard.

"May the Almighty be our shield," said Salmah, searching Barak's eyes and sensing the flick of a viper under the commander's tongue.

by Pam Mytroen

September 16, 2009

Exposed - Nesdoly


Exposed


Through the summer night and day
Spider spins her life away,
Weaving gossamer entrapments
For her unsuspecting prey.
Threads from clothes upon the line,
Between my beans upon the vine
And when I go through my front door,
I break more threads ticklish and fine.

Until one frosty day in fall
From tiny shrubs to pine tree tall
Each lacy trap in white is sketched.
The frost has come, exposing all!

© 2002 by V. Nesdoly 
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This poem came true again a few days ago - only it wasn't frost that exposed the spider webs this time, but dew. Luckily I was there with camera in hand to record the event.

Other kinds of hidden things are also revealed when conditions are right. Yesterday was the memorial service of my good friend and neighbor of 24 years. During an open mic session, a young woman came to the podium and began, "I was Pam's cashier at Costco..." She went on to say that on their weekly trip to Costco, my friend and her husband always chose to come to her cash register no matter how long the line. She told how much she appreciated their friendship and especially their kindness in the middle of what could be a thankless day.

That little memory made me wonder, could anyone tell a story like that about me at my funeral? What about you? Let's weave webs of kindness, thoughtfulness and other good stuff into our lives, so that on the day that all is exposed, the revelations will be good! 

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