Seeing the Unseen…a post by Joy

About a month ago, my eyeglass frames with progressive lenses broke. Knowing it was time to get a check-up I scheduled an appointment instead of getting my glasses repaired right away. Unfortunately, I had to wait another week to see the eye doctor. Thank goodness for another set of glasses that I use for computer work and reading music at the piano.

When the time came, the check-up revealed that my eyes would require a change on my lenses so I would need to wait about 7-10 days for the new glasses to arrive. In the mean while, we were traveling during that time. One morning, we required the services of an Uber driver. Once the transaction was complete, the driver drove away, and I walked into the house wearing my prescription sunglasses. As I began to look for my computer/piano glasses, I realized they were not in my purse and panicked realizing they had been left in the car of the Uber driver. My husband and my son discovered the info necessary to touch base with the driver. He delivered my glasses within 10 minutes. Once I walked into the house with them, I burst into tears thanking the Lord that they had been returned by the driver.   I felt very vulnerable not having those glasses and not being able to read anything without them. We still had 6 days to be away on the trip.

Later that same day, several of us accompanied our grandson to the aquarium for his 3rd birthday. When we arrived, as I began to climb out of the car, the left temple of my prescription sunglasses fell off. It surprised me and of course, I began looking for the tiny screw to repair it. It was not to be found.

With this saga that happened within one month to all 3 pairs of my prescription eyeglasses I immediately asked this question.  “Lord, what is it that you want me to see or change about the way that I am seeing or perceiving things in life?”

“What was so necessary to transform in me at this place in my life that you had to catch my attention by allowing all 3 pairs of my prescription eyeglasses to go through brokenness, delay of repair, and displacement?” My eyes, the “window of my soul” can only see what they are given to see at the appropriate time my soul is willing to see the truth about myself or another in my relational life.

I feel vulnerable with my “broken” eyes knowing that I can only see clearly when I use the eyeglasses with prescriptions designed just for my eyes. Yet, I also feel thankful for these wonderful tools that transform my sight from brokenness to clarity. I feel vulnerable with the brokenness within my soul yet thankful for the transformation that comes with the presence of the Holy Spirit through Scripture, through the community of other believers, and through the practice of Christian spiritual disciplines.

When it comes to the tool of this saga that I have experienced, I sense that Christ is reminding me that He is constantly providing for me even when I can’t see things clearly and even when I can’t see the whole picture of what He is allowing to happen to me in my every day life. I have once again been given the opportunity to trust God in all things even when I feel very vulnerable about my weaknesses. It has also been a lesson in patience with myself and with God’s timing. Part of seeing how Christ was working in me through all of this was to not be seeing through my own eyes in order to “open my eyes” to what He wanted me to “see”. The tools that Christ uses for our individual journeys of spiritual transformation may not always be the great sermon that we just heard or the Scripture passage that we just read. It may also be the most common and ordinary events of life that God is using to call us to pay attention to see what we can see through His eyes.

Thank God for God in you…a post by Tom

This Sunday kicks off the first week of advent.   It seems like we just downed the last of the leftover turkey and now we are wading into Christmastide! This holiday season there are ample opportunities to be thankful. We can be thankful for all kinds of things such as material possessions, health, relationships, and the simple pleasures of life. However, the Apostle Paul begins his letter with a hearty thanks for God’s operative work of grace in the lives of those he cares about in Corinth. Paul is thankful for the God he sees at work in his loved ones.  In an oppressive and negative world, thankfully God is at work in others enriching them with Christ. When I see Christ in you then I can better experience the Christ in me! What else is there? Thank God for people like you who make Christ real and incarnate.

 

1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

Giver of Gifts…a post by Joy

As far as the eye can see, people across the world are experiencing the Advent Season as a time of waiting. Waiting in line for seasonal cups of coffee, waiting in the check -out lane with the newest toy or electronic gadget, waiting for gifts to arrive in the mail on time, and waiting for the beautiful Christmas Eve service that ushers in the dawn of another Christmas day celebration.

It seems that “waiting” is just as much a part of the Christmas season as all the other events. In fact, maybe having to wait is actually a gift to many of us. It gives us time to ponder about the people that we want to bless with our gifts because we love them. Reflections of Christ being the greatest gift ever given and meditating on what that means to each of us personally is also experienced during the Advent season of waiting.

For some, the Christmas season brings about anxiety and sadness because of past memories or present circumstances in life. In some cases, there may be those who “can’t wait until Christmas is over!”

During my “waiting season” this Advent, I have been reminded repeatedly that Christmas is also about celebrating the GIVER of GIFTS. When we receive gifts from our loved ones, we enjoy being “en-gifted” by them, yet we know that we love them more than the gift they have given to us. Christ is the gift to us all and He is also the Giver by giving Himself freely to pay for our penalty of sin. In one sense, we don’t have to choose to love the Giver more because He is both/and: the GIFT AND THE GIVER!

May we all be blessed and mindful of how Christ is continuing to work in us as we wait.

60 Years Gratitude and Thanksgiving…a post by Jim

This past weekend was as special time for me and my family. My son and his wife and son (my grandson!) as well as daughter came home for Thanksgiving. It was a wonderful day together. But the weekend also included another very special occasion. My wife celebrated her birthday for the 60th time! Consequently, there was another special meal with lots of cake!

Besides the obvious reasons for expressing thanksgiving motivated by a sense of deep gratitude I was reminded of God’s faithfulness through the years. Specifically, my birthday gift to Joy was a slide presentation of her 60 years (550 pictures them to be exact). Starting with a picture of her mother (when she was 18) followed by a picture of her dad as a young man and then their wedding, the slide presentation reviewed Joy’s life from a newborn until a few days ago.

Looking at the pictures made it clear again of God’s gracious blessings on her and our lives. It reminded me of the gift of memory and specific memories. At every stage in life God’s presence was clear, at least when looking back on things.

The Psychology of Gratitude (Robert Emmons) is the premier ‘scientific’ study on the role and benefits of gratitude. Gratitude, the author says as a result of many studies, leads away from criticism, cynicism, despondency, and depression. It leads toward a sense of thanksgiving, fulfillment, appreciation, and the capacity to be present. But the Scripture made this clear many years ago!

My encouragement to you as we begin the Advent season is to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and express it with lots of thanksgiving. We honor God when we do that. And we make things a lot better for ourselves and others as well.

“Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

A Thanksgiving Invitation…by Tom and Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the requisite gatherings with family and friends, or not. These spaces of holiday gatherings can be either interesting or disinteresting.  The usual suspects arrive and tell the usual stories with the usual chatter.  What could make these interactions different or interesting?  The following poem leads us in a beautiful invitation to have an interesting holiday with whomever we are with and most importantly ourself. 

The Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Give Thanks!…a post by Joy

As the Thanksgiving season comes closer, our thoughts turn toward the gathering of family and friends, the turkey and dressing that will be served, the “Turkey Bowl” to be played, and the music to be sung.

For many years, I’ve heard the phrase, “Give Thanks” when referring to a prayer over a meal. The “thank you” is what we mostly focus on which is important for sure. Yet, what about the “giving” part of the phrase.

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to give thanks in ALL things.

It’s easy to give thanks when all is well. Yet, when the struggles of life come, Christ encourages us to expand our Thanks-giving season from one week-end in November to the season of “in all things give thanks.” (Eph. 5:20)

True giving of thanks to someone for something that has been received, can be an act of humility, love, and praise. Psalm 50:14, 23 states: “I don’t need the bulls you sacrifice….What I want instead is your TRUE thanks to God.”  “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.”

 

Psalm 100: 4-5

Enter His gates with thanksgiving;

Go into His courts with praise.

Give thanks to Him and bless His name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and His faithfulness continues to each generation.

Forgiveness…a post by Tom

This past Sunday was the fourth week of the Lenten journey. One of the readings was from Psalm 32. Consider these words from David…

Psalm 32:1–2 (ESV)

        Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

        Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

This man knows about forgiveness. This man knows about mercy. He knows that true happiness is possible for the one who has been forgiven…much. In a grief recovery group we cover the topic of forgiveness. We discuss how forgiveness involves giving up the hope for a different yesterday or better past. We discuss how forgiveness involves letting go of resentment towards another person or situation over an injury. We discuss how forgiveness is really for our benefit and not the other. We are the ones punishing ourselves with anger when we harbor an unforgiving attitude. The dictionary entry for forgiveness is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone over a fault. If God has forgiven us then He has released us from our past. If God has forgiven us then He harbors no resentment or anger towards us. If God has forgiven us then we are indeed blessed.  So are we happy?

Right now what is your view of God? Is He angry with you over your sin? Is He resentful toward you over your past history? If that is the case then you are probably not a happy person and nor is your spirituality healthy.  If that is the case then your view of God is not very forgiving or Biblical.

No More Tears

This past Sunday marked the last week of the church calendar year. Beginning with Advent (starting next Sunday) the calendar traces the progression of the life and work of Christ. The year ends with the celebration of the ‘Reign of Christ’ Sunday.

Continue Reading