Sunday, 27 December 2015

A Very, Merry Easter!

I remember standing a few steps away from where all the excitement was and I was smiling. I couldn't get the most ridiculous and silly grin off my face. She - my wife - got most of the attention, and I was the 'coat rack'...and that was just fine with me. Guests would come into our room, shake our hands, (I mean...mostly her hands), maybe leave a gift, balloons, or flowers, and then leave. Smiles. Hugs. Tears. Pictures. Stories. And more stories. I've had the utmost pleasure of experiencing these moments twice...at the births of our three children. These brief encounters with joy and happiness usually went on for several days and then life would go back 'to normal'. Or not.

Actually, as I recall, life never returned to 'normal'. Unannounced visitors stopped coming by. The phone was quiet. Cards and flowers stopped arriving. It was a stark contrast to the rush of excitement that was so palpable just days before. As new parents, we were vacillating between joyful anticipation and terrifying fear. When the last of the visitors left, I recall looking at my wife, who then was gently rocking two babies in unison, and saying, "Now what are we supposed to do?" The lives of our son and daughter that were hidden 'skin-deep' for nine months were now an actuality, and our lives have never resembled anything close to that of pre-parenthood. Life again would change dramatically, although with more predictability, with the birth of our third child, a daughter, just three short years later.

With all these changes came a few constants - smiles and tears, laughing and crying, controlled chaos and serene calm. We learned quickly enough that the crying will stop - eventually. Temper tantrums will become hugs and cuddles - eventually. And the occasional "I wish you were more like..." will become "I'm so thankful you are..." - eventually. Parenthood is like a roller coaster with near vertical drops without any warning, and twists and turns so sudden and unexpected. But I know that in a few minutes I'll be getting off the ride, walking down the steps toward the exit, and I'll look back at the ride and say, "Let's do it again!" And, like a kid, I'll run back to be first in line.

This Christmas, I wondered if God smiled proudly when the shepherds and wise men visited Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Was he taking in all that he could? Was he listening to Mary recount the story of not being able to find a place to sleep? I know Joseph must have...but did God? We know the angels rejoiced, but what did God do? With my finite i.e. human understanding of God's majesty and omnipotence I wondered if God wept when Jesus was born? Did he cry knowing that his son would endure the slings and arrows of humankind? Did he mourn knowing that his only son would endure hell and agony for three days? Was he anxious to get the whole crucifixion and resurrection thing over and done with knowing that the day would be here before 'he knew it'? I don't know.

I know one thing...Jesus' heavenly father never said, "Lets do it again."

About thirty-three years later, somewhere on a hill outside of Jerusalem, the Father, through his Son, declared, "It is finished."
 
Merry Easter to all, and to all a good night!
 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

One of my favourite words


Before you start guessing all sorts of possibilities of what my favourite word is, let me just say that...no...it's not 'hamburgers', 'fries', or even 'chocolate' - contrary to what you think you may know about me! It has nothing to do with the savoury delights that tease the tongue for brief moments at a time. Ask me around my usual 'feeding-time' and I might change my mind. Might. #Might.

For me, this favourite four-letter word packs a punch; and I was reminded of its power again during a Christmas open house, which was held at my Mom's retirement home last week. Every year, the staff at the Village Manor of Waterdown, hold a special evening where residents can share memories of Christmas' past, sing a favourite Christmas carol, or read an amusing story. One of this year's contributors was a 90 year old resident who sang "Have Yourself a Very, Merry Christmas" followed by "Silent Night". It wasn't this lady's singing that caused my throat to tighten, and my eyes to moisten, it was because my Mom was singing quietly along. She wasn't struggling to say the words. She sang them with ease. I understood her fully...and it brought me HOPE.

It brought me HOPE of the things to come because my Mom hasn't been able to speak clearly for almost 20 years due to a debilitating stroke she suffered in 1996. For some reason, that I don't pretend to understand, my Mom can sing more clearly than she can speak. Mom's inability to speak clearly has had such a profound impact on her life that, unfortunately, none of us can truly appreciate - except those who suffer from the same restriction. Nevertheless, on that evening, I strained to tune out the singer on the stage so I could focus on my Mom's words. On that night, my hope was renewed - my hope for a new world, when Jesus will make all things new, and when my Mom can carry on a conversation without any struggle or frustration.

You see - it's not like a wish. I wish for snow on Christmas Day, I wish that the Leafs would make the playoffs (you have to start somewhere!), or I wish that a new career might come sooner than later. All these things happening would be nice and very welcomed. No, this was hope. This was the kind of hope we read about in Hebrews 11:1 - where faith is described as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. When I hear Mom singing with ease, I have a confident expectation that Mom's speech will return one day because these glimpses into the future give me the assurance and conviction that Jesus' return WILL happen.
 
Two days later, we lit the second purple candle of Advent called the Candle of Hope, which represents the hope of Christ coming. As the candle was lit, I could hear again my Mom softly singing,
 
"Silent Night, Holy Night,
all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother, and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace."
 
And I prayed for Mom. I prayed that one day I  would hear her speak without frustration and without pain. On that day of Christ's return, I will hear her speak as she did when I was younger. It's my firm hope...not a wish.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Canada didn't flinch then and it shouldn't now

I only had to re-read a few stories written by family members about the first few days in Canada to be reminded of the sacrifices made by their sponsors. A name here, a reference there - all but a mere mention of the men and women who laid down their self interests to sponsor immigrants 'fleeing' from a country. My grandparents, like many of the 100,000 or so Dutch immigrants who made their way to Canada in the early 1950's, in a sense, fled a country where opportunity and hope for a better future were practically non-existent in post WWII Europe. Theirs wasn't a flight from death and despair like today's Syrian refugees, theirs was a flight toward a brighter future - they were in a broader sense: economic refugees. Their home had suffered the ravages of war and oppression; brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles had died at the hands of the Nazi regime; they experienced starvation and deprivation; and their cities and villages were erased from the face of this world by a madman who believed in a Third Reich. After the dust had settled and victory won, the survivors needed sponsors to make a fresh start in strange home on a new continent.

On board 'The Veendam' (1952) -
 my Dad is on the far right.
We don't think of the sponsors as heroes. Unfortunately, they are the forgotten. The memories of sponsors continue to evaporate with every immigrant's death. Yet - it was the sponsorship of immigrants that made it possible for new beginnings to take root. Without sponsors, my grandfather's dream of owning his own farm would not have been fulfilled. Without sponsors, hundreds of thousands of immigrants in generations past could not have made a new start. Like it or not, I'm willing to suggest many of my readers have benefitted one way or another from the sponsorship of strangers.

So, why are many Canadians raising red flags about refugee settlement? Have we learned nothing from history? Are we embracing protectionism and fanning the flames of xenophobia? The likelihood of bringing a terrorist among the refugees is similar to the risk of bringing in Nazi sympathizers, and those guilty of committing atrocities against the Jewish people. It did happen - ex-Nazi soldiers and those who denied the Holocaust were among the boatloads of economic refugees. But, Canada didn't flinch. While it's true that not all sponsorship stories are lined with butterfly kisses many stories do reflect the unselfishness that most of the sponsors possessed.

If we choose to ignore the political or economic refugee, we choose to hoard our wealth. We are hoarding the wealth of Canada that the sponsors of our immigrant families chose to share, if we deny the same to the Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, or Sudanese refugee. Look back in history, and to more recent times, to the refugees from Hungary, Vietnam, Serbia, Croatia, Kosovo, and Somalia. Have all these people committed atrocities or perpetrated violence in their new homes? I'm willing to go out on a limb and say no more so than the 'natural-born' Canadian.

If the children of immigrants who made Canada their home deny entry to political refugees by choosing not to sponsor, we forsake those who welcomed our 'parents'. We forsake the sponsors who lined up along the ports of Halifax, who met the 'refugees' at the end of Pier 21, and who waited for the immigrants to clear customs and security.

But, it's much more than forsaking the memory of our sponsors. If you believe that you were rescued from slavery into a land flowing with milk and honey i.e. slavery from death and sin into eternal life, then welcoming the foreigner, stranger, and alien within our collective walls isn't an option. It's a command. In fact, if your truly believe that you were rescued from sin and are now alive in Christ, love for the foreigner, alien, and refugee will be a natural outpouring of your gratitude for God's free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Remember - God's love didn't end with simply sponsorship. He met us at the cross, picked us up, and paid the ultimate price so we could live.

Ours is a nation flowing with milk and honey...wine and cheese...beer and wings. Share the wealth and don't flinch now, Canada!

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Waiting for the sun to rise - #comequicklylordjesus

Just a short time ago when cutting flowers this fall, I frequently found myself looking eastward for the rising of the sun - especially on days when the morning dew had fallen more heavily on the plants, and when temperatures hovered a few degrees above freezing. Slowly, and with predictable precision, the sun would rise above the row of pine trees along my field's perimeter; and finally I would feel its promised warmth on my back...and on my hands. Aching hands that from the cold and dew resembled more like claws frozen in time (think of an eagle's talons on the wall of a taxidermist) than that of dexterous and flexible appendages they were made to be! It never took too long - once the sun rose above the trees and its warmth penetrated my gloves - for my hands to return once again to full usefulness. And, it could never happen soon enough.
 

I was reminded of these cold mornings spent in the flower field during a recent meeting. The facilitator read aloud Psalm 130 as a prelude to our round-table discussion. And, when he read verse 6, "I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning", it made me wonder if my longing for the autumn sun to rise in my field was similar to the author's 'waiting' for the morning. Did his body ache from 'waiting' as my hands ached to be relieved from the cold? Much like the sun being the only salve to my discomfort, was he racked with an internal longing like a homesickness that only a mother's touch can relieve?

I wonder. I wonder, too, if my childhood minister's prayerful plea, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus", had a tinge of homesickness and bodily ache like that I imagine of the psalmist. It was the prayer that I recall causing me - a pre-ten year old boy - to recoil with fear. Each time he prayed it, I had the same thoughts - Jesus, don't come yet, because I have so much to do. (With all the singing I heard they do in heaven it didn't sound to appealing to a pre-teenaged boy!) But Sunday after Sunday, no matter how much internal pleading went on inside my head for him not to, Reverend Zantingh would say those words in his prayer, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus". It was a plea, and, sometimes to my horror, he even said it twice.

Strange though, how almost 40 years later, my pastor's plea for Jesus to return quickly has become my plea. It feels like a yearning - like frozen hands aching for the sun to rise. It feels like the separation anxiety that a young boy experienced during his first days of kindergarten. It feels like the homesickness of an 11 year old boy that longed to be in the comfort of his own home. I know...I was that boy.

If you're waiting for the sun to rise,
for floods to recede,
for hearts to thaw,
for heartaches to heal,
for loneliness to dispel, 
for forgiveness to fall,
for peace to endure,
for laughter to ensue,
for tears to dry,
then wait, wait for the Jesus' return.

Like God's promise found in the presence of a rainbow, I know of no greater hope and promise for the future of humankind than Jesus' return.

#comequicklylordjesus #comequicklylordjesus

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Hanging up my boots

Today is the day.

Much like Pierre Elliot Trudeau's "long walk in the snow" on February 29, 1984 during which time he decided to retire after 15 years of being Prime Minister of Canada - I, too, after hours of driving to Quebec City and home again this past weekend, have decided to officially announce...to the world, "I'm hanging up my boots". Okay...it's not quite the same as PET's dramatic and stunning announcement, but it's up there! No? Just humour me, ok!

But, how do I announce to the world (the world that I'm a part of) I'm selling the cut flower business, which my wife and I spent the last 9 years toiling to build by tooth and claw? How do I tell my loyal customers that I won't be calling on them next summer? How do I say thank you to Glenna W., Mona S., Dan L., Mike T., Terry M., Justin W., and Michelle S., to name a few? How do I say good-bye to the soil? How do I say farewell to working shoulder-to-shoulder with my wife and three children? Since it will take a small book to tell my full story and convey my gratitude to all of my supporters I've opted for a few paragraphs to start.

When I first started nine years ago the mantra I repeated often to myself was: "Failure is not an option." To me, selling or losing my business never entered my mind. Come hell or high water I was determined to make this a go. I didn't own a tractor, any equipment, a storage facility, or a delivery vehicle. The only things I had were some very, very perishable dahlia tubers, a small customer list, some very wise advice from my mentor, Mr. John VanWissen, a dream, and what I like to call 'raw courage'. Some might have called it insanity, if not borderline! As a good friend of mine told me frequently I was "living the dream"!

However, God has other plans and it's apparent that Horizon Flower Farm won't be my final stop. In his marvellous way he has caused me to rely on him more fully. I thought through my hard work and sheer will power Horizon Flower Farm was going to succeed and go on 'forever'. Although I knew God's presence I never fully accepted or acknowledged his provisional hand. God is persistent, though. A flood here, a drought there, a windstorm, a hailstorm, a crop failure - have all caused me to know where my help comes from.

Last week, while harvesting my tubers for the last time with my son, I asked him if he knew what I was really going to miss. He took a few 'stabs' at it. "Your customers? The flowers? Being your own boss?" Squeezing the soil with my hand and letting the clump fall to the ground I said, "Yeah - all those. But not as much as this soil. I'm going to miss the soil." It's the soil that provides the necessity of life for my flowers. It's the soil that provides the stability and a place for roots to anchor. It's the soil that draws the worms inside for shelter, nutrition and life.

But more than the soil - I'm going to miss working with my family. Smiles and laughter were not always present - but hard work and dedication were never in short supply. From the bottom of my heart I say, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for allowing me to 'live the dream' even for a short while."

Above all this, I give thanks to God for being my rock...and my soil.

 
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
 
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

"I wonder God if you'll take my hand"

"Mother buries 3 children and her father following a week-end crash."
     Because I live, you also will live.
 
"A mother to four young girls succumbs to cancer."
     Because I live, you also will live.
 
"A sister in Christ shares her testimony about her terminal illness."
     Because I live, you also will live.
 
Three sentences.
Seven deaths.
Countless tears.
One promise.
 
In the span of two days, I read the tragic headline about the mother burying her children; heard the news about the death of an old friend's wife through another friend; and listened to a testimony of a dying sister in Christ shared with us by her husband. Sometimes when we hear tragic news we hardly give it a second thought. At other times news like this can shake our foundations and we ask questions about life and its meaning.
 
So what are we supposed to do with this? Why does a mom have to bury not just one but all three of her children plus her father? How is a father to raise four young girls without their mommy? Why is a godly man asked to live out his retirement years with out his dearly loved wife of 27 years. I ask lots of questions...but receive few, if any, answers.
 
But amidst all the deafening questions that are screaming for answers we hear Jesus' voice rise above the noise and whisper his promise, "Do not let your hearts be troubled...Because I live, you also will live" (John 14) and we remember that our life on earth is but a blink of an eye compared to the eternity we will spend in Heaven. When we remember this promise from Jesus - death's sting is less painful, and its finality less dreadful if we have placed our trust and faith in the only person who died and was raised victoriously.
 
If I believed that all there is to life is a few short years and then we die, I would find no consolation, no reasonable cause for hope, and no ultimate purpose to carry on.
 
However, it is becoming more and more apparent as I get older, that time is slipping away and the need to share the saving new of Christ is more urgent than ever. Too much time is wasted on 'getting ahead', crossing off 'bucket list' items, feeding destructive habits, reopening old wounds, and not letting go of the past.  The source of our only hope and comfort in life and in death is Jesus Christ. Without him, there is no hope for you and I. This message of hope doesn't get any clearer!
 
Frances Angermeyer, a WWII soldier, wrote this dramatic poem of his own conversion in 1942.

Lord God, I have never spoken to you,
but now I want to say how do you do?
 
You see God they told me you didn't exist
and like a fool I believed all this.
 
Last night from a shell hole I saw your sky,
I figured right then they had told me a lie.
 
Had I taken time to see the things you made,
I would have know they weren't calling a spade a spade.
 
I wonder God if you'll take my hand,
somehow I feel that you'll understand.
 
Funny how I had come to this hellish place,
before I had time to see your face.
 
I guess there really isn't much more to say,
but I'm sure glad God that I met you today.
 
I guess zero hour will soon be here,
But I'm not afraid since I know you're near.
 
The signal, well God I'll have to go,
I like you lots, I want you to know.
 
Look now this will be a horrible fight,
who knows I may come to your house tonight.
 
Though I wasn't friendly to you before,
I wonder God if you'd wait at my door.
 
Look I'm crying, I'm shedding tears,
I'll have to go now, God, good-bye.
 
Strange now since I met you,
I'm not afraid to die.
 
If you live because Jesus lives in you; if your peace within comes from knowing Christ as your Saviour; if you believe that death does not have the final say, don't wait to share it. Someone's life depends on it.
 
If you want to know more about this faith I have in Christ, if you want to be convinced of Christ's authenticity, then I urge you check out Lee Strobel's, a former legal journalist for The Chicago Tribune and one-time atheist, compelling argument: "The Case for Christ: Evidence for the Resurrection".
 


Sunday, 27 September 2015

He really said that?

"She said that?"
"And then what'd she say?"
"No way!"
"And then what?"
"K. Tell me more when we hang out together."

If my teen children ever spoke on the phone with their friends, I'm sure that's what I'd be hearing on my end...or something like that. I'm sure though that their texts to each other bear resemblance to phone conversations my sisters would have with their friends when I'd occasionally (read: rarely) eavesdrop on them. (C'mon...like you never did that! Unfortunately, only those who had multiple phones on a single land line know what I'm talking about.)

But that's how it would go in my home when I was growing up in the '70's and '80's. The black rotary phone would ring - 2 shorts and 1 long because it was a party line - and usually 2 or 3 pairs of legs would run spastically to answer. Each pair's owner yelling progressively louder "It's mine. I got it. I got it." And finally, in an equal mixture of shame and disgust, the triumphant answerer would embarrassingly hand it over and whisper with disappointment. "It's for you" and slowly walk away. And, if you were in ear shot, or if you could pick up the upstairs phone without the distinctive 'click', you would hear a conversation very similar to the above one-sided dialogue.

Anticipation. Excitement. Thrill. Eagerness. You pick the appropriate descriptor. That's how these phone conversations always - well, usually - started. We didn't know who was going to be on the phone and we wanted to be the first to answer, especially if we were waiting for some news. Body checks. Hip checks. Tripping. Pushing. Shoving. It was a free-for-all. It was a roller derby sans the skates, pads, and helmets...and track!

Anticipation. Excitement. Thrill. Eagerness. What if that's how we went to church on Sundays? What if we would race (not speed!) to get a front row seat to hear what God has to say to us? What if, when we were seated, we would be so out of breath because we ran to hear the voice of God? What if everyone came and was seated thirty minutes early because they didn't want to miss a thing? What if there was a silent, restless hush while we all thought about the impending greeting from God? What if?

That's what I was questioning last week while reflecting on the current series on Leviticus that our pastor has begun. Last Sunday, he opened the series with an explanation, almost apologetically, (I say almost) because he knew that many listeners would be less than eager to hear about God's instructions to the Levites. He knew that ancient directions on sacrificial giving, temple building, and clerical dressing would have a high propensity to fall on disinterested ears. And, it saddened me to hear it. Not because he felt he had to give reasons why he chose to preach on a book that is difficult to draw parallels to today's world - but because I, too, was one of those who quietly said, "Leviticus. Really?"

So, why don't we race to church or impatiently grab for the Bible? Why don't we repeatedly say to a fellow worshipper, "What'd he say? What'd God say?" "Really? Tell me more when we hang out together." I suspect that's what the travelers to Emmaus felt when Jesus explained to them the past events after his resurrection in Luke 24:13-35. I suspect that's how Phillip's guest felt when he was invited into Phillip's chariot to hear more on the words of Isaiah in Acts 8:26-40. I wonder if that's how the thief who was promised eternal life by Jesus felt as he hung on the cross awaiting his own physical death in Luke 23:43. Might he have pleaded with Jesus..."Tell me more Jesus, tell me more. What else did God say? I only have a few more minutes left before I meet him face to face. Is he really as gracious, loving, and forgiving as you say?"

The Bible is God's holy word - in printed form - from Genesis to Revelation. It's not just inspired. It has life and breath as if he was sitting next to you. Don't wait any longer. Find out what he has to say to you. He just might be saying, "Today, you will be with me in Paradise."

Watch out! Get out of my way! I'll trip over anyone, anytime, anyplace just to hear those words spoken to me! 'Cause that's what I'm praying for...eagerness, hunger, and anticipation for his word.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Her raspberry stained face gave me a glimpse into heaven

From a distance I saw her canopied stroller parked near my neighbour's bountiful and mouth watering garden. The chair was turned so her face was hidden from me. But as I got nearer I could tell the stroller's occupant was straining her neck to see me atop my tractor. Finally, I was in her full view and when I waved she returned my wave with such enthusiasm that I felt compelled to stop, dismount and say 'hi'. I was surprised when I got closer - her face was covered in raspberry juice! Her two tiny teeth were fully exposed as she smiled and welcomed me with her eyes. She had been eating berries as she watched her 'grandmother' harvest the patch's bounty.  There was a peace - a certain contentment - that flowed from her eyes. And she was only a toddler.
 
This little girl is my temporary neighbour - she is in the foster care of a couple who have been given special appointment by God to nurture and love her while a permanent home can be found. Lydia (not her real name) arrived as an infant at the home of this couple, (whose children are now adults and living away from home), and is being raised as one of their own. While under their care affection is rendered and correction doled out in ways any parent would give their child if he or she were one of their own. Lydia isn't their first child whom they are fostering - she is one of many that have been blessed within the walls of her 'Oma and Opa's' (Dutch for Grandma and Grandpa) century old farm house.
 
Content to sit and watch while Oma picked berries; she patiently waited for a berry (or five) from Oma's outstretched hand. Eagerly, she shoved them into her mouth and savoured their sweet taste while waiting for just one more. Without a worry in the world, Lydia was enjoying a feast of berries under the watchful eyes and protective hands of one who loves her unconditionally. It was Lydia's messy, smiling face - her nose, lips, and chin smeared with raspberry juice - combined with the loving foster care provided by her substitutionary Oma that gave me a glimpse of what I imagine heaven to be like.
 
Here's why. Leviticus 23 records seven feasts, such as the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of First Fruits, and the Feast of Tabernacles. David writes, in Psalm 23:5, about God preparing a table or feast for us. Jesus uses the occasion of a feast at a wedding to perform his first miracle in John 2. In fact, the Bible has 170 references to feasts - 140 in the Old Testament and 30 in the New Testament! And, the Apostle Paul refers to our being adopted as sons and daughters to God through Jesus many times in his letters, such as in Ephesians 1:5. Two important and recurring themes - feasts and adoption by God through Christ - run unmistakably clear the Bible.
 
So, the next time you need to wipe your face after eating a rack of ribs, a juicy watermelon, a melting ice cream cone, or even when you have to wipe a child's face, remember the feast we'll enjoy for eternity in heaven. Together, you and I as adopted brothers and sisters fostered with God's infinite love, our brother Jesus, and God - our adoptive father - we'll eat an unending course of raspberries, pineapples, grapes, and nectarines! Just hold the cantaloupe (or musk melon). I can't imagine that it will taste better... even if it's on heaven's menu!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

I regret to inform you, but I have a...

cartoonMan cold. Or that's what my lovely wife of almost 21 years calls it! It doesn't matter that I sneezed what felt like a thousand times in a row, or that the section between my upper lip and nose, in other words: the philtrum or the infranasal depression is a rosy pink, or that every time I swallow I'm convinced that a razor blade has taken up residence in my throat. Nope. I have a man cold and my Mom's phone number has been mysteriously added to our speed dial list!
 
So...it got me to think. If I have a man cold, what's a woman cold? And, more importantly, can a man have a woman cold? Can a woman get a man cold? Or, when a woman gets a cold, is it just a cold? I mean, with equality and such, I think I'm entitled to have a woman cold from time to time, too. Like I said, after almost 21 years of marriage, I'm feeling bold enough to take a shot at describing a woman cold! If you can say yes to at least 3 of these items, then in my estimation you have a woman cold (or just plain cold): you have a life threatening fever, your body's two primary exits have been conspiring together against you for at least 48 hours, it feels like your head is lodged in a bench vice, you're in desperate need of an iron lung, and all the tea in China won't make your throat feel better! Anything less than 3 of these items - I'm sorry to say - you have a man cold - as defined by a woman.
 
sick catI don't know where in history colds became defined by gender. Maybe, 'man cold' was coined when Alexander the Great delayed his trek into Syria in 333 BC due to illness...as in "Poor Alex. He's got a man cold. Syria can wait." Or, maybe it was because Napoleon was unwell on the day of the Battle of Waterloo and that's why he lost. (Some historians even claim possible hemorrhoids!) Even more likely, it was Winston Churchill's pneumonia in 1943 while leading and inspiring the Allied invasion that the term man cold was coined. But... then I imagine it was used with a very complimentary tone - no sarcasm inferred! But, society, in its twisted fashion, has changed the meaning of the word. Just like the words - sick, bad, and gay have changed meanings over time. I think if you had a man cold pre-1945, you could hang with the likes of Alex the Great, the Little General, and The British Bulldog. Now, if your wife explains your absence using the descriptor man cold, she gets sympathetic nods from her female compatriots and shameful, blank stares from those of the male persuasion.
 
I don't know about you - and by 'you' I mean my male readership - but, if ever my cold is described as a man cold by my wife, I'll envision myself among the ranks of the greatest leaders of all time. There I'll be: Alex, Napoleon on my right, and Winston on my left. Ahh...misery loves company.
 
Psst...pass the Kleenex...ACHCHOO...I'm going to bed. Oh, and where's the Vics Vapour Rub?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Hold on to these words

"The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. Psalm 103:15, 16

With arms slightly out stretched, he harbored himself between two symbols that time can never erase...and today it only seemed even more appropriate. His left hand was on the baptismal font and his right hand rested on the pulpit that holds a carving of a cross. His back was turned to the congregation as he sang the words to "10,000 Reasons" that were printed on the screen at the front of the church. On one occasion, I noticed he reached into his pocket for a cloth to wipe away what I can only imagine to be tears. I don't know if this was his usual stance with  his arms extended outwards resting on symbols of Christian sacraments as if to give him support. But on this occasion - his farewell sermon - Pastor Paul anchored himself to two undying truths: the cleansing water of baptism and the saving blood of the cross.

As a visitor at this morning's service at Dundas Calvin Christian Reformed Church (the church of my youth and teenage years), I was blessed to hear Pastor Paul Vanden Brink's plea to "remember the cross". After 10 years of service, and probably close to delivering 1000 messages, all filled with equal measures of urgency and passion I'm sure, he implored his 'flock' to remember Christ's sacrifice for you and me; to remember the cross. We were reminded that at the end of our earthly days, the cross is the only thing that matters in life - not your job, career, family, house - or anything that you take pride in. It's not how religious you are, how faithful you've been to your spouse, how good of a parent you are to your children, how 'vice-less' you are, or how you never cheat the tax man. If you don't know the bitter taste of the cross, you'll never savour its sweet message of hope. If you haven't heard your own voice accusing Jesus as he hung on Calvary's cross, you'll never hear his welcome, "Well done, good and faithful servant". Christ's death equally and without prejudice atoned the sins of the repentant hooker and the pious 'habit' wearing nun. This - Christ's death and resurrection - is the ONLY thing that lasts forever. Forget everything else.

It's this matter of 'passing things' that's been on my mind lately. Like the verse from Psalm 103 above, we're reminded that we are here for only a short time. Yesterday, on my birthday, God in his mercy blessed me with another year. I think it's only natural that as we get older we start looking back and evaluating our life. Do I have unfulfilled dreams? What will my legacy be? Have I been the son, brother, husband and father that God wants me to be? All these questions inevitably and invariably end with feelings of regret and failure. Because, after I die, and my great-grand children's grand children are nipping at the heels of their parents, no one will either think of or remember me..or you. That's true for 99.99% of the population. I hope this isn't a revelation to anyone! Really.

So, I can spend lots of time trying to create a 'perfect life'. I can buy the latest toys, live in the nicest home, create precious moments by the vacations I take. I can build an irresistible online profile that everyone would admire, have a high powered career, or even be a devoted homemaker. But it's like the flower - here today and gone tomorrow. Poof. Gone. Finished. What then?

It's the 'what then' question that was still floating in my thoughts this morning as I prepared myself for worship. And in a moment what felt like divine providence I saw the symbols that Pastor Paul positioned himself between. The refreshing, cleansing water of the font where I was baptised as an infant and the empty cross where my Jesus once hung. That's all I have...and that's all I really need.

"But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—" Psalm 103:17

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Oh, the great plans I had for my new pet fish

"Call me Ishmael." For I was optimistic and full of hope!

It was 1980 something. And, as any teenage boy worth his salt I drove my Mom crazy by 'hanging around'. It wasn't so much as 'hanging around', but I suffered from the common affliction what was then known as being #bored (without the #). It wasn't so much as being bored, but it was problem of finding something that would hold my attention for longer than 2.5 seconds. Today, psychologists might label me as being mildly ADD with a slant towards 'inattentiveness'. Back then, however, my Mom would just say I was being 'vervelend', which is the Dutch word to describe someone who is causing an irritation or an annoyance! I didn't exactly know what the word meant then, but I knew that when she used it I wasn't being very lovable.

So, with a grand - and rare - idea conjured up, I jumped on my metallic red, Canadian Tire 'Super-Cycle' and rode the 3km trek to Waterdown's one and only pet store to buy a gold fish and a bowl. (To this day I'm not exactly sure why I thought this would hold my attention, but I was going with it and I wasn't going to argue with myself!) After selecting the fish with the perfect shade of orange, and locating a glass bowl that looked like...well...'just like home' from a fish's perspective, I made the precarious trip to our Robson Road address. With a fish - in a bag of water - in one hand, and my new fish's home in the other, I was thankful that long before I learned to steer my bike and its curved handle bars with my knees. Step 1 was complete.

Step 2: Transferring the fish and its water from the bag to the bowl went exceedingly well. I executed flawlessly - neither did I spill a drop nor cause a near death experience to my unnamed fish. In good fish fashion I like to think he raised his gill as if to pump a fist and say 'thanks' for rescuing him from being the next dinner item for the neighbouring Tetra fish.

The moment I had been waiting for was soon to arrive. I would place Nemo, (not his real name) and his new glassy confines on my dresser in my bedroom, which was located on the second floor of my home. The only barriers in my way to a state of bliss were a flight of stairs...a tight corner to navigate...a slight elevation of the bowl to the top of the dresser...and I was all set to be entertained for the rest of my life. Or, so I thought. I cautiously cruised up the 13 stairs that separated my known worlds of the awake and of the asleep. With only 5 feet to go and my dresser in sight I cut the corner too tight at the top of the stairs; my shoulder brushed up against the wall...and...crash. My bowl and its proud occupant slammed onto the floor triggering a small tsunami as shards of glass flew this way and that. And, there on cold floor, with a glass spear impaling him through his tiny abdomen, Nemo looked at me with mournful eyes as if to say 'Et tu Brute?" Then his gills no longer gilled and his fins finned no more.

With all my great planning I didn't account for the phenomenon known as condensation. Somewhere between transferring Nemo from the bag to the bowl and placing Nemo's home on its final resting place, a layer of condensation formed on the exterior of the glass. As I walked carefully through my home, my hands were releasing their tight grip and I could feel the bowl being heavily influenced by gravity. My enemy was time...and I ran out. Nemo paid the price. I've never owned a fish since that fateful day!

All this gets me to the abbreviation: D.V., which we would see printed in our church's bulletin every now and again. No, it didn't refer to my Dad's or my brother's initials as we chuckled about whenever we saw it printed. It was the abbreviated form of "Deo Volente" translated as 'God willing' based on the teaching in James 4:13-15. In the early 1900's and later in the century, D.V. would often follow a publication of wedding banns or other official announcements and when you saw it you would know that it meant: "We plan these things, and if it's God's will, then they'll take place."

So, I have two questions - A: was it God's will that Nemo didn't swim to see another day, and B: can James' statement be directed at teenaged boys transporting fish? A: I really don't know. B. I highly doubt it! But, I do know, that if we think we can do anything on our own power and steam without acknowledging Him as the author and finisher of all things, then all our plans are for nothing - broken, shattered, and impaled forever to a world of emptiness and loneliness. As Proverbs 16:1 says, "We make our plans, but God has the last word."

Sunday, 2 August 2015

One of the reasons why I'm assured that faith, hope, and love will always remain

We received this card from an unknown
 flower customer in the dead of winter.
I could go on a rant about the absurd #justiceforCecil petition going around in comparison to ISIS' crimes against humanity. Or, I could write an exposĂ© on the bare breasted rally in support of women's right to go topless held in Waterloo, ON; or, even have an over inflated discussion of Tom Brady's 4 game NFL suspension for allegedly deflating footballs in what is known as 'deflategate'. But, it's a long week-end in Ontario and I'm going light on words, heavy on substance, and hope to generate a few smiles!

This may not come as a surprise to you, but writing this blog is strictly volunteer! I do it because I love to share my life and faith through the wonder of a pen, or pixels in the case of the Internet. So, in order to "put bread (and the occasional steak) on the table", my wife and I own and operate a small, cut flower farm in southern Ontario. In addition to selling cut flowers (mainly dahlias) to wholesale florists we also set up a self-serve flower cart on most days during the growing season. Being a seasonal, self employed 'farmer' (I use that term loosely) who relies on a 3 month window to earn a wage that's supposed to last for 12 months, I've really come to appreciate the phrase 'cash is king'! The grocery money that comes from the cash box is usually well received and well timed! Good will and good intent are nice ideas, but the bank doesn't accept them in lieu of money. Head scratcher.

Sometimes, it's not the money in the box that causes us to smile and breath a sigh of relief. It's the occasional note from our regular customers.

Like this note that arrived this past Thursday:

"I.O.U. 15 cents. I will be back"

We sell our flower bunches for $5 each and, on most days, the dollar amount in the box matches the total number of flower bunches sold. Like I said - most days!

Many times, we've been asked by customers if most people are honest, and if we've ever had money stolen. I can say categorically YES...and....NO respectively! We're of the opinion and belief that if someone went through the hassle and risk of removing the cash box, then they probably need the money more than we do. And, if they wanted a free bunch of flowers for their table, or give to their girlfriend, then hopefully they'll enjoy them a little less than if they had been paid for!

Then on Friday (the following day), we were welcomed by this note:

"I'm back. Only have 25 cents so Y.O.M. 10 cents. Just kidding. I love the flowers and look forward to seeing them at the end of your driveway each year. Thank you for having faith in people's honesty."

These notes are rare, but very much appreciated! This person took the time to prepare a hand written note and meticulously wrap it around a quarter so that it would fit in the coin slot of the money box.

Would we have noticed if this person didn't pay the 15 cents owing? Truthfully - no. And, it certainly wouldn't have deterred us from selling flowers at the end of our driveway.

It made me think though - our intention was not to show that we have faith in people's honesty by having a self serve stand. (It's really because we can't afford to pay someone to attend the road side stand full time!) But, by having a self serve stand, someone felt honored and respected that we would place our trust in them, a stranger.

In today's society, suspicion, anxiety, and fear rule our lives. We encounter security cameras, armed patrol officers, drug smelling dogs, drones, and other invasive 'eyes in the sky' on a regular basis. Unfortunately, this is the norm and it goes mostly unnoticed. Occasionally though, small things are pointed out like this kind note from a stranger and we smiled. And, we're refreshed knowing that in the end, God reigns. And, because we know we've been made in God's image we're assured that things like faith, hope, and love will always remain. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Words of hope and promise for parents dealing with guilt


You left this morning without -
making your bed,
putting your clothes away,
picking up your toys.

You left this morning without -
locking the door,
putting gas in the car,
cutting the grass.

You left this morning without -
feeding the cat,
walking the dog,
putting the garbage out.

You left this morning without -
checking the mail,
watering the plants,
picking up the newspaper.

For all these things you didn't do, I shook my head and cursed.

I didn't love you perfectly.
When you were small -
I didn't always walk slow enough, bend down far enough, or give you my full attention.

I didn't love you perfectly.
When you were a child -
I didn't always wipe away your tears when you were sad, hug you enough when you felt deserted, or sit with you when you were lonely.

I didn't love you perfectly.
When you were a teenager -
I didn't always enjoy taking you to the movies, watching you play ball in the rain, or picking you up from the mall.

I didn't love you perfectly. And, now that you're all grown up...

You left this morning without -
saying "Good-bye".

For this one last thing you didn't do, I hung my head and cried.

And, in that moment of despair, I heard someone whisper my name. You know the one, don't you? Jesus? He reminded me that though my love for you may have been imperfect, his love is perfect. Welcome him into your life, and he'll never ask you to say, "Good bye". He'll stop when you say, "Wait for me". He'll bend down when you say, 'I have something to tell you". He'll be your friend when you say, "I'm lonely". He'll cry when you cry, and laugh when you laugh. He will be a father, a friend, a brother like you've never had! For all my broken promises and more, you can hang your hat on this because he's my friend, too. He won't let you down.

 
 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A God-moment never to be forgotten

Picture courtesy of Heather DH (Burlington CRC)
This one's tough. Not because I don't know what to say...I don't know how to say it and give it the justice it deserves. (I'm also hesitant to label what I'm about to write as a 'God moment', because I think it limits God! God's complete omnipresence and omniscience is foundational to my Christian belief. However, I think most readers will understand what is meant by a God moment...so I'm sticking with it!)

What I witnessed at this past Wednesday's worship service was proof positive that the postmodern 'God is Dead Movement' is dead wrong. He is alive and he was present among the 47 youth who came to Burlington this past week on a Youth Unlimited SERVE mission trip. Through their personal testimonies, these teens, hailing from parts of the US Midwest and Ontario, confirmed God's faithfulness to his promise of sending his Holy Spirit to believers and to their children and to all who are far off (Acts 2:39). Picture many of the 47 teens singing loudly, clapping, and dancing to 'Days of Elijah'; doing a jig to the bridge 'There's no God like Jehovah'; followed by a soulful and equally moving 'When Peace like a River/It is Well with my Soul. The first written in 1994 and the second in 1876! Penned more than a century apart, these songs were used to praise and worship God by teens in 2015 - most of whom were born around Y2K!

I'm one of those guys who experienced my teenage years in the 1980's. If you happened to be a member of a Reformed, or another conservative, Protestant church at that time, then it was fairly typical to look at those who raised their hands in worship, or say 'AMEN' aloud, with a crooked brow and question their brand of Christianity. I don't know when and why it happened, but somehow raising arms and clapping hands in worship to God became unacceptable. Kneeling was also frowned upon...perhaps it smacked of too much 'Catholicity'. I'm afraid that in the zeal of our Protestant forefathers and mothers, they threw 'the baby out with the bathwater.' Makes me think what are we going to do in Heaven?

Music was sacrosanct - much like it is today. Apparently, the organ and the occasional trumpet and French horn were the only instruments allowed in the Holy of Holies. I think that's what the psalmist really meant when he said "Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings (guitars?) and flutes"! (Psalm 150:4) As a teen, the only acceptable Christian songs, that were not in a Christian hymnal, were Kum Bayah, We are One in the Spirit, and Michael Row Your Boat Ashore. We were cautioned to handle musicians such as Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith with care and a modicum of suspicion, while Christian metal bands like Stryper were scorned and condemned for being to AC/DC 'ish.

Today, it's usually the older songs that I learned as a child, or heard my parents sing, that speak in louder volumes and are more spiritually meaningful to me than the newer music - with a few exceptions. And, the conservative styles of worship that are loved by older and younger generations alike have both equally beautiful and God honouring elements. I can't emphasize the importance of quiet, reflective, and reverend worship enough. But, participating with these teens as they sang both old and new, praise and worship songs with equal enthusiasm and passion for our Lord brought me to silence. I couldn't sing. So, lifting my hands in praise and adoration, I could only pray and thank God for granting me the joy to watch and experience almost 50 youth singing and praising his name.

If only there was a kneeling bench!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A man and his tattered toy elephant

Ever see an adult clutching a stuffed toy or holding a blanket close to his or her face? I did last Sunday; and admittedly - I had to look twice, because it's not something you see everyday. I saw an adult man holding a stuffed toy very close to his chest. Accompanied by his caregiver/guide, this man, with apparent special needs, was a visitor in our church so I don't know his story. However, this scene of a man holding his tattered toy elephant got me to think...and smile.

What if we carried around with us a special blanket, a piece of cloth, or a stuffed animal? And, when we were upset or nervous we would hold it up close to our face and the world would return to its peaceful state? Imagine if that was the norm. We would get ready for work and run a checklist through our head - wallet ... yup .... keys ... yup ... lunch ... yup ... teddy bear ... yup. What if you didn't like to carry 'things' but liked to suck your thumb, pinky finger, or even a plastic soother? In today's culture, you'd be looked upon as quirky, in need of professional help...or needed simply to be left alone!

If you think about it, it's really not far-fetched. The truth is many of us carry around items, or engage in habits that we've adopted as adults to give us the 'comfort' we need; and we've become chained to them. We've exchanged our blankets and chew toys for cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. We've traded our thumbs for the casino, fast cars, and the latest pair of shoes. Food. Fashion. Alcohol. Cars. Houses. Hollywood. These things, in and of themselves of are not bad, but we can pour ourselves into them in hopes they'll bring us happiness...and the comfort that internally we all crave and seek to secure. Subtlety, our comforts become our chains and what once provided self-security becomes our jail keeper.

I've been sucked in, too. As a university student, I started engaging in excessive behaviors in search for my own comfort. Wracked by what was undiagnosed anxiety at the time, unknowingly I turned to harmful substances as a way to cope. Instead of turning to the faith preciously handed to me from my parents, schools, and church, I turned to the 'Porcelain God' and became an eager 'Bedside Believer'.

However, on a bed, tucked away at the back of a house in Eastown, Grand Rapids, MI, I remember  praying to God and saying these exact words, "Please God, whatever faith I still have in you, do not let me lose it! Please don't let me go." I knew that what I was doing was counter to God's will. You see - I still believed there was evil in the world.  And, since I believed there was such a thing as evil, then rationally I had to believe that holiness and righteousness were also present. So, whenever I remembered to do so I prayed that prayer.

This year - 2015 - marks twenty five years since graduating university. My life has changed radically. I'm no longer held by chains that were masterfully disguised as comfort. I'm thankful that God has released me from 'servitude' to things into 'service' to Him. Has it been easy? No. But, God met me where I was - he had been with me all along and was waiting patiently. He has truly become...my only comfort in life, and in death. He is neither fake nor imaginary...he is real, and you'll never have to re-sew any toy limbs that have fallen off from too much lovin'!


Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 1

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?
 
A. That I am not my own,1
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—2
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.3

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,4
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.5
He also watches over me in such a way6
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;7
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.8

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life9
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.10

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Never found a friend quite like him again

I hadn't seen him in quite awhile. Slightly older, a little greyer, but my Dad's friend still had the same gentle voice as I had remembered. Time seemed to stop as we talked outside the front of the hardware store. We were only steps away from the same lumber yard where years earlier - before I was of school age - my Dad and I would visit almost every Tuesday, where he would catch up with his friends.

It didn't take long for us to start reflecting on things past...and the one person we had in common - my Dad. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but I felt tears welling up when he said, "I still miss Don. He was 12 years older than me, but I've never found a friend quite like him again." Sixteen years after my dad died and I had just learned something special about him! I thought the bank containing memories of my Dad was as full as it was ever going to be.

I had never heard someone describe my Dad in that way - as a person whose friendship he's "never been able to find again". Dad and I were just starting to become friends when God called him home so suddenly and unexpectedly on April 30, 1999. So, I got a sense of what this man was saying as he described their friendship. He continued to tell me how they were always on the 'same page'. They looked at life through the same lens, and they were able to identify with one another. I saw, in that moment, the gift of friendship that this man had received through the knowing of my Dad...one that I have never been able to fully know.

I saw Jesus that day. I saw him weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. I saw him moved and troubled by the sorrow that was being expressed by Lazarus' friends. Jesus' humanity allowed him to feel the brokenness of this world that sin has caused, and he felt the impact of death's cold hand upon their lives. I heard him call to his friend, "Lazarus, come out." And, I heard him command, "Unbind him and let him go." John 11:1-45. And, death released his friend.

As life goes on, and death steals our loved ones away, we may never find the same type of friendships again here on earth. But Jesus has been there. He knows what it means to lose a friend. He has cried and I believe he cries with us when we mourn lost friendships. And, when we find new friends and laugh together, I believe Jesus laughs and smiles like proud parents would smile as they watch their children laugh and play with new found friends.

This morning, while getting ready to attend our worship service, I was singing, "What a friend we have in Jesus." Unknowingly, I would again hear this same song quoted by our pastor as he described how John Scriven, the author of this song, penned the words after losing not one, but two fiancĂ©es just days prior to the weddings. After losing two special people in his life, he was still able to say:

"Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer."

If you've ever lost a friend whose friendship you feel you've been unable to replace, know that Jesus' friendship is greater than any earthly friendship will ever be. Take comfort, we'll be separated from our friends who have died in Christ for only a short time. Our separation is not permanent.

And, one day when Jesus returns, I'll hear him say to my Dad, "Don, come out. Unbind him and let him go." And, we'll be able to catch up...I'll ask him to take me to his favourite lumber yard...and we'll hang out...maybe go out for a chocolate dipped DQ style ice cream cone. 'Cause I'm sure if ice cream cones had been invented when John wrote Revelation, he would have included it in his description of The Golden City, The New Jerusalem!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Excuse me while I laugh nervously

I'm guilty. I was one of those who laughed nervously pretending to be sanctimonious and self-righteous.

At our church service this morning, I was hoping to be granted clemency - ex cathedra if you will, of my sanctimonious and self-righteous views on sexual equality, rights, etc. Well, I did receive clemency, but not the way I had envisioned. I wanted to see a finger appear on the wall writing... "MENE, MENE, TEKEL and UPHARSIN" as it appeared in Daniel 5 with the addition of "THE SECOND ACT" in parentheses. And, then we could all look at each other smugly and say, "See, even God is angry with them! All those people who promote gay pride and homosexual marriage...SHAME!!" We'd sit back and wait for that huge thunderbolt to strike them all dead, wipe our hands, impatiently wait for the minister to say 'AMEN', go down to the fellowship hall, have a coffee, maybe go for a smoke, utter a mildly offensive joke, and complain to our fellow parishioner that there're too many people on welfare and that they are all bums, (or something similar). And, nervously we might laugh hoping the Right Reverend, Pastor, or Father didn't hear our conversation.

The fact is: many Christians (and, too often myself) are pretty good at pointing out the trespasses and missteps of others and refuse to acknowledge the existence of damning sins in our own lives. Jokingly, we make homophobic comments about how God sent a rainstorm to dampen the gay pride parade, but don't mind watching Modern Family. We ignore racial slurs made by fellow Christians against the Jewish community - ignoring that Jesus and the early church were of Jewish descent. Under aged drinking, while prohibited by law, is condoned by many Christian parents, but at the same time we acknowledge that God places government in authority and commands subordination. For other well intentioned Christians, working on Sunday is discouraged, but we become impatient and intolerant when the internet and cable service is interrupted during our 'day of rest'. I don't need to go on...I hope you get the point.

Sadly, we've all heard the accusation that the church is full of hypocrites. And, regrettably, I can't say I disagree - even when I look at my own life I see areas of blatant hypocrisy. Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Think about that for a while. Is your brother or sister's spec materialism, or immodesty? Is your plank  greed, envy, or alcoholism? It's a sobering reminder that we ALL have fallen short of the glory of God.

So, before we get on our high horse and shout, "Thank you God that I'm glad I'm not like that guy who is dancing provocatively in the pride parade", we better practice honest repentance and clean out our own closet of skeletons. Isn't it true that it hurts less to point out the perceived faults of others than look truthfully at our own condition?

Am I suggesting that Christians should stay quiet on issues that we feel are contrary to living a life as Jesus did/would? No. However, in a world where actions and pictures speak louder than words, be careful that in your zeal to defend Christianity from the slings and arrows of so-called liberalism, you are not wounding Jesus simultaneously. To quote Ravi Zacharias, "There is no greater apologetic to win others to Christ than through the visible actions of your own life." At the same time, there is no greater way to turn people away from Christ than through your actions.

I didn't witness any writing on the wall this morning. I didn't hear the minister make bold statements on sexual morality. I did see something else on the wall of our sanctuary though - the empty cross. It reminded me of my own clemency. It reminded me that no matter what you or I have done - if you've been married 6 times, aborted a baby, been wasted 100, a 1000 times, stolen a million dollars, known the depths of pornographic addiction - whatever it is/was - if you believe in Jesus and his saving grace and have turned to him in repentance, know that you've been forgiven and He expects nothing in return.

I pray that this would be true for you. If it is, I promise - you won't see a smug smile, or hear any nervous laughter of embarrassment from me, but only humble tears and a joyful cry of thanks to our faithful savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Praying for fins and webbed feet after the rain comes

After today's (6/14/2015) rain at
Horizon Flower Farm
I'm a little embarrassed, and a lot more ashamed. Every year, for the past 8 years and going on 9, I go through the same see-saw battle. Too dry...too wet. Too cool...too hot. Too windy...too calm. (Yes...it can be too calm!) When it comes to our weather, growers have to be among the most cynical!

This past May, weather prognosticators were calling for the driest spring on record in the Greater Niagara region of Southern Ontario. To quote an article from last month in The Hamilton Spectator - "Tys Theysmeyer, head of natural lands at Royal Botanical Gardens, calls the situation "unbelievable."" Now, this June could go on record for being one of the wettest.

And, here I am...feeling like an Israelite in the Wilderness of Sin! Do you remember or know that story in the Bible? In Exodus 16, God had provided the Israelites with manna and quail after the people complained that they were better off in Egypt where food was plentiful. Then, in Exodus 17, the Israelites complained they didn't have any water to wash down their food! (Exodus 17: 3 But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”)


I remember hearing these Bible stories when I was younger, and even more recently, and thinking - "Won't you believe?" How many times does God provide for you and you still don't trust? They're so stubborn! I'd never do that." But, I'm just as guilty, obstinate, and ungrateful (and every other adjective you can conjure up to describe 'dissatisfaction'). Over the past week, when people have asked me if we had enough rain over the past few weeks, I found myself mumbling - more like grumbling - "Yes, but make it stop. Now it's too wet."

God answered our prayers by sending rain. While California is going through a four year-drought, I'm now secretly praying for fins and webbed feet!

How many times does God provide when we think we're going to 'die of famine or thirst'? A new customer comes calling to buy most of my unsold peony crop; an unknown man from Ottawa sends a cheque for a piece of equipment when cash flow is tight; a neighbor presents his barn as a rental option when I outgrow my place; a relative lends a piece of needed equipment at a crucial planting time; a violent summer hail storm skirts our highly sensitive dahlia crop as we pray for a protective umbrella. Shall I go on? Shall I continue to remind myself of God's goodness?

In my family's short experience on Horizon Flower Farm, there is enough evidence to know...and believe...that NOTHING happens without reason or purpose. And, if God reroutes our paths toward a different vocation, he'll be there too - that we can depend on.

Still, my lack of trust gnaws at my soul. I can't help but feel ashamed for doubting; for asking for more proof of his providence; for more evidence that he cares. But I know he has patience...and for that I'm grateful!