Wednesday, 16 August 2017

I Am Filled With Joy, John 17:13 by Susan L.

"But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves." NKJV
 "Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy." JCB

  These are the words of Jesus as He spoke to His Father in prayer for His disciples. This was right before He was betrayed and arrested.
  I find the word choices between the two different versions thought provoking.
  In the Jesus Centred Bible, it has been translated as an action, that we be filled with the joy of the Lord. It implies that being filled with joy is an ongoing process.
  In the New King James Version, having the joy of Jesus fulfilled means it is a done deal. It is complete, achieved and finished.
  So, which is it?
  Maybe I need to think about what exactly Jesus' joy consists of...
  And here is where I stumble because it is hard for a mortal in this world to grasp even a fraction of the peace and joy Jesus had within.

  Thank You, Lord for having me read further in the chapter because when Jesus prays to His Father for all believers He says, "I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one." Jn 17:22 JCB
  There it is. A joy that outweighs the lies of the enemy. A joy that surpasses all trials, troubles and wrong roads. A joy that is firmly anchored in an unmovable foundation.
  All because I made the choice to believe Jesus is mine, forever.

  Lord, You know me better than anyone. You know my struggles. I confess that the sound of the crickets chirping their requiem for summer has triggered an avalanche of conflicting emotions. None of them are joy because the sound has filled me with sadness and haunting memories of the dark days on the Black River.  
  I thought these things were finished because the sound hasn't triggered these reactions or bothered me for a couple of years. Why is this year different...

  I have been reminded that Jesus was with me then. He is with me now. And I understand that I can be sorrowful yet still have joy. Sorrow will end. Trials will end. Troubles will end.
  Joy never will.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Waiting Vessel by Susan L.

  I am filled with the knowledge of His will. Colossians 1:9
  "For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding." NKJV
  "So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding." JCB

  My pastor approached me about doing some sort of illustrations to dress up the church website. I am meeting with him this afternoon to discuss options and to find out exactly what he is looking for. It's amazing how quickly my creativity gets flowing. Being asked to do this and by simply looking through the website as it is created an avalanche of ideas.
  I have complete faith in God, the author of my creativity. My daughter's wedding bench was a reminder about Who has everything well in hand.
  He has taught me well.
  Art is where my walk began so long ago. He filled my soul with a longing to draw and paint so I sat down at the drafting table and waited. To free a hand and mind that had been stifled for so long, I first put on some classical music and painted what the music inspired. After this, a candle in the darkness emerged and other faith symbols took shape on paper.
  After several paintings of rather stereotypical Christian imagery, I said to Him, "Okay, that's enough. Please, give me something bigger, deeper."
  He gave me the Armor of God from Ephesians. This is the book my walk with the Lord started in. I needed to know how stand firm and tall in my new found faith. And I am a visual learner. (No surprise there.)
  Rising to the challenge of doing one of the biggest pieces I'd ever done, my enthusiasm drove me  to get it finished as quickly as possible.
  It didn't turn out very well. The kneeling figure looked like it was cowering in fear. The armor looked dull and not very solid. The colours in the background looked like the darkness was closing in around it; like the darkness was winning.
  Thankfully, God is a God of grace. "Do it again."
  This time I took my time. I spent many moments quietly contemplating what was taking shape. I painted the armor according to God's vision, not mine. I was able to utilize some of the elements from the first picture. It wasn't completely off base. Using tracing paper I adjusted the figure's position without having to draw the entire thing over again. (Nothing we do is ever wasted.)
  Besides changing the figure's pose, the helmet of salvation was the biggest difference. The second version was completely solid. There was no place for the wearer to see out of. Instead, the helmet of our salvation will enable us to see the world as God sees it.
  I have kept the two pictures safe in a portfolio all these years because they were the birthplace of my prayer life. The best part of all is that even though I took control of the process in the beginning, God is kind enough, loving enough, to give second chances and third and fourth chances to get it right.
  A screwed up painting filled me with a longing for wisdom, clarity, and understanding about what the Christian life is meant to be. It shaped my heart's desire to know God's will in and for my life.
  I am so thankful He keeps giving me the gift of chances and opportunities to learn and grow yet quickly forgives me when I miss the boat.
  I think I am up to at least a thousand second chances.

Monday, 14 August 2017

I am Filled... by Susan L.

...with the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23
  "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law!" NKJV
  "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" JCB

  I don't know about anyone else, but if someone tells me I can't have a chocolate chip cookie, it quickly becomes an obsession, something I absolutely have to have! Daydreams fill my mind about the cookie. My taste buds yearn for the crunchy sweetness. I imagine the chocolate chips melting in my mouth. The cupboards get searched even though I know there are no cookies hidden in some forgotten corner. There's only about four corners in my tiny kitchen so the search doesn't take too long. Opening and closing the cupboard door doesn't make cookies magically appear either! Darn it!
  The next time a trip to the grocery store becomes a necessity, I stand in the cookie section, practically drooling over the gourmet chocolate chip cookies. Especially over the ones with added roasted pecans. Yummy!
  I reach for the bag...(If the blog had a sound track, I'd add the scary, shark theme from Jaws here.)
  I pick it up, studying the picture, weighing my allotted grocery allowance against the ridiculous cost of a dozen cookies.
  Then I think about all the weight I've lost.
  Nope. Better stick to fruit. There were ripe pears, peaches, new apples, and strawberries in the produce section at a fraction of the price of a skimpy bag of cookies. Sprinkling cut up fruit with cinnamon makes for a fool-the-mind-there's-sugar-here treat.
  And I am rewarded by achieving victory. Peace fills my heart the moment the cookie bag is returned to the shelf. The cravings slink back into the shadows from where they came. In its place, my body longs for good and wholesome foods.
  There isn't a law against cookies. It was fully my choice to indulge or not. Sin is a choice.
  (Long pause.)

  Sigh. Sometimes the cookies win. That's okay. The Lord helps me start over again in my ongoing fight against sugary treats.
  Lord, let me recognize the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life. Fill me with patience and kindness when the cookies prevail and I come down hard on myself for failing. Show me how to be more patient and kind with the people who are in my life. Give me life speaking words. Help me be more like You. In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Philippians 1:11 by Susan L.

  Affirmation #99: I am filled with the fruit of righteousness.
  "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." NKJV
  "May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation--the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ--for this will bring much glory and praise to God." JCB

  The tomatoes are coming along nicely. I've already been blessed with two, vine ripened, delicious fruit that tastes above and beyond anything bought in a produce department. There is one ready to pick, one that will be in a couple of days, and one with a slight rosy blush that means it, too, will soon be ready. The rest are green but growing in size every day.
  Most of the leaves have been removed to allow the plant to spend its energy on the fruit while leaving enough for the vine to survive. I've also stopped it from growing any taller than it is by nipping the new growth at the top because there are plenty of tomatoes on the vine for just one person. Pruning also lets the sun shine uninterrupted on the fruit to speed up the ripening process which begins at the bottom with the oldest fruit ripening first. The top of the plant has little, green, berry sized tomatoes that have a long way to go before they can be served at the table. I don't know if we'll have enough summer for that to happen.
  In years past, I've had to uproot a vine full of green tomatoes before the frost hits it. Hanging it upside down in the basement lets most of the larger fruit ripen, utilizing the last bits of energy from the vine.
  What are the fruits of righteousness?
  Salvation, love, knowledge, discernment, excellence, freedom, confidence, deliverance, abundance, unity, fearlessness, humility, generosity, service, peace, perseverance, determination, blameless, harmless, gladness, citizenship, and most of all, joy in the Lord.
  I might have missed some. The list came from a very quick read-through of Philippians. got missed. Living out the fruits of righteousness couldn't happen without it.
  Which leads me back to thinking about tomatoes and grace. I couldn't be a gardener without grace.
  I know the calling with which I've been called, to love others just as Jesus loves me. I know I fall short. Often. I also know the Lord has made a garden of my soul. He's done a lot of weeding and pruning. He's done a lot of sowing. He's done a lot of fertilizing by pouring His love over me.
  I fall short of being His image bearer often, but there's one thing for sure, the little fruits of righteousness growing within will ripen.
  If I let them. If I give them time. If I am patient.
  My part is to let go and let grow. My part is to allow the Son to shine in the deepest, darkest corners of my soul where undiscovered fruit lay hidden in the shadows.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Filled to the Brim by Susan L.

  I am filled to the fullness of God. Colossians 2:9-10
  "For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily: and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." NKJV
  "For Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you are also complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority." JCB

  Only, how come it doesn't feel like it? What is stopping me from walking in this most wonderful truth?

  (Long pause.)

  (An even longer pause as I lift up the current events in my life to the Lord.)

  I am starving for connection to the One who raises me up, Who sustains me in trials and in good times, too.
  I need to include worship music in my day.
  Missing blog posts isn't good either. Missing a daily affirmation isn't good. It leaves me vulnerable to the one whose sole purpose is to suck life and joy from us. Somehow, I need to include blogs in my day even if it isn't in the morning. Lord, I ask for opportunities to do just that, to have the time to explore Your Word, Your truths, Your revelations.
  This is even more important because my church attendance will be sporadic as events I have no control over unfold. I'll be missing a lot of fellowship with my small group as well once it starts up in September.
  To be filled is to surrender. All the time. In all things.
  Lord, help my day be filled with prayer and a dialogue with You. Help me see Your hand in things as they unfold.
  I will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will take refuge under His wings.
  In Jesus most precious name.

Friday, 11 August 2017

I am Filled. Acts 2:4 by Susan L.

  "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." NKJV
  "And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability." JCB

  I was able to accomplish a lot following Wednesday's abbreviated post. The car needed new licence plates because the old ones were peeling. It was in ticket territory because the front one was almost unreadable. Thankfully, we have the least busiest Department of Motor Vehicles around so in a matter of about ten minutes, the old plates were off, the new plates were on and I was on my way.
  Then the garden. Ah, yes, weed haven. Coated in mosquito repellent, I tackled the sorely neglected beds. Two wheelbarrows full of weeds left me with a deep sense of satisfaction. There's still a bit more to do but the weeds aren't as obvious. Those are my "organic" gardens.
  The black currants are ready, too, so I started picking. Now this isn't hard work at all. I pull up a chair to the bushes, set up a table to hold the currant container and leisurely pick while basking in the sunshine. They are fussy things, needing the flower end to be pinched off as well or the jam could have a bitter aftertaste. This year there's enough, hopefully, to make a couple batches of jam. It's one of my favorites and well worth the work. The berries are residing in the freezer until the short season has run its course.
  This short list of accomplishments has me thinking about all the "languages" I know. There's many an acronym in government offices. Had I written DMV for Department of Motor Vehicles, it probably would have been something someone from another country wouldn't understand. Different countries have their own names for such places.
  It's the same with gardening. There is a whole whack of words totally relating to this particular hobby. Cooking, knitting, woodworking and even my job all come with their own lingo. Mine is entirely in English although many French words have worked their way into some familiar (to me)expressions. Globally, everyday language has its own personal, cultural context. Many Bible passages have worked their way into the fabric of Canadian idioms.
  I can't imagine how amazed the listeners were when the disciples began speaking in all the different languages. That means the slang, the shortened forms for words, the acronyms, context and influences...everything was directed personally to the listeners so they could fully understand the message of Jesus. It's even more amazing to think that God knew who was in the area and the Holy Spirit revealed the Lord to them in their native tongue.
  I know that many churches today tend to gloss over this gift. Some even condemn it or go out of their way to discredit what happened in the upper room.
  It's a morning for going out on a limb.
  This gift is alive and well. As is the gift of translation and interpretation.
  I've heard people say that those who speak through the Holy Spirit are only making it up. When the prayers go on for would be impossible to continue making up an imaginary language for that long a stretch.
  I watched a show a long time ago where a Catholic nun had electrodes hooked up to her head as she spoke in her prayer language. The words didn't come from the speech and language section of her brain like the people doing the test thought it would. It came from somewhere else.
  I love when science proves the existence of God.
  I think we struggle with this so much because it's so hard for us to let go of control to the extent that the Holy Spirit can use our tongues and bodies to proclaim God's truth. But the best part, if we want a gift like this, all we need to do is ask. God will find a way.
  Lord? I want all the gifts you have in store for Your children. Help me let go of control so that my body, mind, heart and soul are fully in Your service. In Jesus' name I pray. AMEN!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

I am a Fellow Worker, Colossians 4:11 by Susan L.

  "And Jesus who is called Justus. (This finishes a list of a few brothers in Christ from the previous verse.) These are my only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are of the circumcision; they have proved to be a comfort to me." NKJV
  "Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!" JCB

  The post is going nowhere this morning. I am having a hard time staying focused on the writing because of gazillion other things keep interrupting my train of thought. Rather than getting even more frustrated, I think I'll call it quits and take care of the most urgent things that need doing like getting new licence plates for the car. The old ones are in ticket territory because the colour has peeled off.
  Tomorrow is another day.
  God bless.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Citizenship by Susan L.

  I am a fellow citizen with the saints. Ephesians 2:19
  "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." NKJV
  "So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God's holy people. You are members of God's family." JCB

  A belonging longing. It's a fundamental piece of what being human means. We are engineered for community and relationships with each other as well as our Father in Heaven. This desire, planted into our DNA before the dawn of time, shapes our behaviours and guides our choices.
  Sometimes those choices aren't the best. I am an expert on making wrong choices. Many of them were simply so I'd be accepted by those around me. Guess what? It backfired every time. Instead of acceptance, rejection reared its ugly head.
  Hmmmm, I am being corrected. The choices I made weren't completely wrong, not all of them anyways. It's not a black and white world. They were the only choices I could have made with the tools I had at the time. At the time I didn't have Jesus to lead me, encourage me and guide me.
  I'm not so quick to sell myself down the river in an effort to gain the illusion of acceptance any more. I am not so quick to toe the party line so I am "one of the crowd". I am not so quick to squash what makes me uniquely me in order to be like "everyone else".
  Now there's an interesting thought. What does "everyone else" look like? This is something we talk about in some of the recovery oriented programs I've taken like WRAP. It's called mind reading. But, it's really projecting our own experiences, understandings, motivations and prejudices onto others. It's making the assumption they think like we do.
  It's really no surprise that they don't.
  It's Canada's 150th birthday this year. As I travelled to PEI for my daughter's wedding, I came into contact with all sorts of different people, in all colours, faiths, and languages. This was only a third of my own country.
  God's country is the universe.
  And we belong to Him. All of us. Even if we don't know it yet.
  My belonging longing has found a home. It's not completely gone, though. A persistent, unquenchable hunger for relationship with my heavenly Father makes me dig deeper into uncovering the riches of His world, His heart and His family.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

I am Favoured, Job 10:12 by Susan L.

  "You have granted me life and favor, And Your care has preserved my spirit." NKJV
  "You gave me life and showed me your unfailing love. My life was preserved by your care." JCB

  I have to share about the bench my daughter asked me to make. That was all she asked. "Could you make a bench as a wedding gift? One that guests could sign on the top as a permanent reminder of this day?" No details. No hint at what it should look like.
  Here's the miracle of God's hand revealing itself.
  The baskets I chose to go underneath had rope handles. I'd chosen another type but ended up putting them back on the shelf before making this choice. The piece of trim my friend gave me was shaped to look like twisted rope. It was exactly the same size as the rope on the baskets.
  Here's the really amazing thing: part of the wedding ceremony included my daughter and her betrothed tying a fisherman's knot using two pieces of satin rope. It's one of the simplest yet most secure knots ever invented to join two pieces of rope together. It is incredibly strong. It was a symbol of the bonds of marriage between them. I don't think there was a dry eye in the audience as they did this. Myself included.
  Her slim wedding band was in the form of a rope. His also had a rope motif.
  I knew nothing of this.
  So here's the thing. God did. His hand guided my hand in basket choosing. His creativity guided my creativity as the bench began to take shape in my mind. His timing put me in position to get a single piece of trim that was going to be discarded, that had no purpose. Actually, it did. They had hung onto it for years until the last moment because God knew I would need it.
  Lord, thank You for blessing me with such favour. Thank You for reminding me that benches and sparrows are the same. Thank You for reminding me that I am safe and secure in Your love in everything I do.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Affirmation #93 by Susan L.

  I am far from oppression, Isaiah 54:14
  "In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you." NKJV
  The title of the entire chapter is "A Perpetual Covenant of Peace."
  All I can think of is those silver marbles hanging from a frame, a simple perpetual motion machine. The impetus of one striking the row of marbles makes the marble on the other end swing out then return to strike the row. Back and forth they go. Click, click, click, click. Despite its label, it doesn't last because air causes friction making the marble's swing gradually lose strength.
  Action and reaction.
  "For you shall not fear." Click. "You shall be far from oppression." Click.
  I confess I've got a long way to go to live without any fear. It's a gazillion times better than it was but fear still creeps in on a regular basis. Fear of what? It's mostly personal stuff like feeling inadequate in social situations.
  Although, I went deep sea fishing earlier this week. It was a three hour trip for mackerel and cod. There was no need for Jesus to lead us to the fish, the captain had an electronic fish finder that pretty much guaranteed we'd catch something. It was a blast. I caught about thirty mackerel that kicked up a fight making them extra fun to catch.
  There was a single man beside me around my age. I didn't ask his name, nor did he ask for mine. We chatted about this and that, about how wonderful it was to be on the water watching the sea gulls and gannets dive bomb for the remains of the fish being cleaned by one of the boat crew. (My kind of fishing. They even took the fish off the line for me!)
  Despite the language barrier, he was a French-Canadian whose English was far better than my French; despite the noise of the wind rushing by and the powerful motors on the boat, we ended up getting to know one another quiet well. We shared our common love of the outdoors; about our grandchildren and families. We talked about trips we'd like to take. He shared he was a teacher.
  I don't know if he will ever know how blessed I was by him. His quiet manner, his kind but sorrowful eyes and gentle smile made him a man I wasn't afraid to talk to.
  Thank You, Lord, for this gift. Click. And another layer of healing falls into place.