Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Can't Complain?

"Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2: 14-15

Its cold today! I mean really cold! For a southern town that doesn't see much of winter, its got us in its clutches & won't let go. After the beautiful day last Friday, I knew that snow & cold were in our forecast but it still seems unexpected. But we are breaking the records today with our cold. Especially when there is wind. The wind chill factor makes the temperature more than double what the thermometer says. And I can feel it chill me to my bones. And I'm grumbling about it.

Got to work today & the heaters in our office just aren't keeping up with the cold outside of the office. The floor is cold, my desk is cold, my hands are cold. So I'm grumbling about that too!

We found an extra heater, the type you plug in, to help take the chill off the air & it started to warm things up, until it flipped the breaker. So we had to unplug it...and I grumbled some more.

If you're anything like me, sometimes you get comfortable with your discomfort. Grumbling & complaining feels good. Somebody hear me! Somebody sympathize with me! Don't solve it, just feel sorry for me! What an attitude! Its amazing the gentle way God reminds us to smarten up! My husband phoned to tell me he was about to go to work on a rooftop unit outside in the wind. *ouch* My grumbling suddenly seemed petty.

View from my living room window at lunch today

And then I started to think, what do I have to complain about really? At least I'm clothed & sheltered. When many are dying on the streets due to the extreme cold, I'm complaining because I'm a little chilly. When many are out of a job, I have one that pays me well enough to live in a house that also keeps me warm. I live in one of the warmest climates in all of Canada, what would those living in the north think of my grumbling? What would those desperate to find a job think of my grumbling? What does GOD think of my grumbling? He tells us in Philippians 2:14 to "do all things without complaining..." and reminds us in Philippians 4:4 to "Rejoice in the Lord always". Oh where is my rejoicing today!

Thank you Lord for those gentle reminders to stop complaining!

And thanks to those of you that have left comments on my blog so far. Its very encouraging!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The End is Near...or is it?

"You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever." Psalm 104:5

Southern British Columbia, to me, is one of the most beautiful places to live on the planet. I've seen some beautiful places in my travels but this will always be my top choice for the beauty of nature. Friday was no exception. It was a clear sunny morning, probably the last of its kind for November, and I was desperate to get outside with my camera.

I had the day off work so being out felt even more special, like playing hooky or something. I called up my friend Barb & we headed down to Hayne's Point for a photo outing. It was a great time & I captured some beautiful images in that little park. We felt so priveleged to be out in the glorious sunshine appreciating the beauty around us before the grips of winter covers up our blue sky. And it was comforting to know that we were in a protected park so that these beauties we were enjoying would be preserved.

Natural resource preservation is such a hot topic in this day & age. Conservation. Reversing the cycle before its too late. Stop Global Warming. Save the Planet. With all the reports & statistics out there, the predictions of global destruction are getting more and more prominant. Protect this! Save that! Reduce, reuse, recycle. Everything is pointing to the doom of our planet because of the way we have treated it in the last millenium. It seems inevitable that we are in a downward spiral to the end of the world.

Psalm 104 is one of my most favourite books of the Bible because of the way it beautifully describes our Creator and how the whole earth responds to Him. "He causes the grass to grow for the cattle" vs.14 "He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down" vs.19 "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their food from God." vs.21 "Oh Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your possessions." vs.24

Are we at risk of losing or destroying the wonders that God has created for us? I believe we aren't. Though the earth has suffered & will continue to suffer from all we put it through, God doesn't create second rate stuff! And there are several verses in the Bible that guarantee this like Psalm 104:5 "You who laid the foundations of the earth, so that it should not be moved forever." and Ecclesiastes 1:4 "One generation passes away and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever." Psalm 78:69 "...like the earth which He has established forever."

I got these references on the earth's endurance from a program my husband & I enjoy on prophecy by Jack Van Impe that we watch on line. Weekly, Jack & his wife, collect & share various world news & explain how it relates to prophecies in the Bible & the second coming. With all the wars & nuclear warnings happening in our world right now, its easy for many to believe that the end of the world is near. We believe the Second Coming is near. If you are interested in Biblical prophecies & end times stuff, I recommend tuning in to his website at www.jvim.com or watching their weekly program.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Rock That Is Higher

"From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
Psalm 61:2

Knees shaking, fingers trembling, arms reaching, looking up. Rock Climbing is a great sport. I'm just a newbie to it in the grand scheme of things but from the first time I tried it I loved it. There is a great feeling of personal achievement when clinging to the side of a rock. There is a goal that you're looking at (usually its the top) and you need to find the route to get to it. Sometimes, the route is very obvious, but sometimes its nearly impossible.

I only have learned to do climbing with a top rope so far. You definitely have to trust the person on the ground belaying you. Your very life can be in their hands if you slip. If you have complete trust then you have some level of security that allows you to take a few risks when you're on a top rope because you know that they won't let you fall.

You also have to have some trust in the rock you are climbing on. Not all rock is good for this sport. Some rock is like shale, it easily will break off in your hands making it too dangerous to climb. Other rock is too smooth, and then it is too difficult to find hand holds or foot holds. And then there is the good hard rock, rough & bumpy, with cracks & crevices, perfect for climbers. You will believe that this rock will not give way on you.

I often think of that verse while climbing "lead me to the rock that is higher than I". In some ways it can be a metaphor. Going through troubles in life, you may look to God to lift you up, to protect you and to bring you through them. You may be reminded also that God is the rock that you can lean on during these times, he is unchanging & unmoving. Many times in the Bible God is referred to as our rock like in Psalm 62: 6-7 "...He only is my rock and my salvation...the rock of my strength and my refuge..."

For me, the verse was even more true than just metaphorically, because the first time I tried rock climbing, my heart was in a bad place, it was overwhelmed with things in life & I was lacking self-esteem & confidence. Encouraged to give it a try, I went rock climbing with my brother, his wife & a friend. What an amazing feeling to be clinging to rock that was 'higher' than I was, trusting in myself to hang on & trusting in someone else to not let me fall. Adrenaline rush? Definitely? But an exercise in trust & self-confidence, even more! I loved it & knew I wanted to do more of it! .

Of course rock climbing wasn't the only thing to pull me out of my tough time but it was a new found passion that came alive & little by little the other things about me came back to life too. And sometimes now, when I'm climbing something a little more difficult, can't find a hand hold or feeling like giving up & climbing back down, I think of that verse & am reminded that God, my rock, will give me the strength to climb to the rock a little higher than I am!

Photo is of my friend Janine who climbed with us in the summer.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I Lift My Eyes Up

Yesterday was the most beautiful November day I can ever remember. There was not a cloud in the sky, the wind was fairly calm and the sun was warm. After several days of dull & grey, the blue skies & warm sunshine were a very welcome change. I think the people I work with, including myself, had been feeling some 'cabin fever' this week, cooped up in our tiny little office space. We all needed to get outside! So we decided, rather unofficially, to do our company photo shoot up on a lookout over the valley for our Christmas card. (a little late this year but better late than never) So I whipped up there a couple minutes early in order to get a few moments in the fresh great outdoors & take a handful of photos of the valley. It was breathtaking! I did NOT want to go back to work after that.

As I looked down across the valley thru my viewfinder, one particular verse kept playing over in my head. "I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth." Psalm 121: 1-2

As a nature lover, I find strength & rejuvination in the great outdoors. I feel refreshed, calmed & alive. It is also a place where I find I have the best communion with God. Nothing to distract me that hasn't been created by Him. The sounds of the birds are His, as is the voice of the wind. Standing on a mountain gazing down on a valley below, I find my strength in His creations and I find my peace.
I lift my eyes up to the mountains
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from You, maker of heaven
Creator of the earth.
Oh how I need you Lord, You are my only hope
You're my only prayer
And so I wait for you to come and rescue me
To come & give me life
~Brian Doerksen

Monday, November 13, 2006

On The Fringe of Winter

One of the things I love about living in Southern British Columbia is the climate. Our summers are long & hot, winters are short & mild. They arrive late in the year & graciously bow out for early springs. This time of year, we are often treated to a valley view that show the nearby hills covered in an icing-sugar-frosting of snow. As the warmer weather holds out, I realize that we are waiting on the fringe of winter. Soon enough, the snow will be here down in the valley & we will be hunkering down for the short winter.

Some people seem to come alive when the snow starts to fly. These are the snowmobilers, skiers, snowboarders, tobagganers and more. There is no shortage of things to do in the winter if you are a snow enthusiast. Others tend to go into a hibernation-like mode for the colder months of the year. All outdoor activities cease and they hole up in their homes, anxiously awaiting spring once more.

But, like a squirrel, I see the snow is nearing & it means I have to get busy. Get the leaves raked & bagged, get the gardens pulled & turned, get the patio furniture tidied up & get the warm sweaters out of storage. And winter tires! I breathe a sigh of relief each morning that passes because i have not had time to buy the new winter tires yet this year.

Recently, my husband & I bought an old house & right now our backyard is full of old appliances of every kind. I feel like a true red-neck with all that sitting out there, an old junky freezer full of cardboard, the world's oldest fridge leaned over & a ripped apart harvest gold stove lying in pieces...maybe it would make a good planter next spring. NO! Before the snow is on the ground, those metal beasts will be seeing a journey to the dump and all the cardboard boxes from unpacking will be sent to recycling. Only then will I look at the sky & say "I'm ready".

Forced to spend more times indoor in the winter is a bit freeing for me also. As soon as the snow recedes in February, I want to be outside, taking it all in. But come November, my indoor life returns. My scrapbooks come back out, I take more time to read & hopefully it will mean more time on the computer to process the photos I took the rest of the year. And I'm getting ready for my most favourite season: Christmas!

So, as I wait on the fringe of winter, enjoying the last few golden days of fall, preparing for the snow & anxious for the Christmas season, I am reminded that this is not time for the winter of my soul and that with determination, I will not let it go back into hibernation but strive to keep it fresh and alive, through the cold & gray winter days, renewed like the coming of spring.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 NIV

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16 NIV

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Shadows of Life

What is a shadow? Webster first defines it as "partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body". Though a wordy definition, we all understand & have probably experienced this sort of shadow, especially on sunny days.

Other Webster definitions for shadow are "shelter from danger or observation", "an area near an object" and "small degree or portion". So, depending on the way you use the word, it can refer to many different things. Using the definitions like these, we will find that the word shadow is mentioned in 77 verses in the Bible (in the King James Version according to Bible.com)

Often it is referred to as a place of shelter, shelter from the heat & sun or a place of safety, usually provided by God. A place for us to find refuge under the shadow of His wings. "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of Thy wings" Psalm 17:8 "in the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge" Psalm 57:1. I imagine a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings to protect & shield them & how much more the protection of God's wings would be for his children.

19 times, it is used as shadow of death. I think this refers to being near death, or being in the presence of death. Especially in the book of Job. "Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death" Job 10:21 "For the morning is to them even as the shadow of death: if one know them, they are in the terrors of the shadow of death." Job 24:17 Job was certainly a man who was placed in the presence of death or near death during his many trials & tribulations, his faith in God bringing him through each one. One of the most famous passages in the Bible comes from Psalm 23:4 "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me."

One of the best verses that contains the word shadow is in James & uses the third definition "small degree or portion" This verse defines the best thing about God's character: unchanging. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."James 1:17 There isn't even a hint of change, not even in the smallest degree, to God's great character.

Have you ever felt yourself in the shadow of death? Remember at those times that you are also in the shadow of His wings and that He will be with you because there is no shadow of turning with God!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Fresh Start

During the brown & dying days of Fall, sometimes its hard to think of things that are new, things fresh. I think of this time in my life as a fresh start, a renewal, perhaps even a rejuvination. Not so much in my every day life, but a renewing in my soul. Like something is coming alive again that has been laying dormant, after a long winter. I see the green shoots of the coming of spring & an excitement is building.

These past few years have been a drawn out period of self discovery & exploration. Escaping to the wilds & wonders of Africa, I ran away from a lot of things in order to find myself. As wonderful as the experience was, I realized that "finding me", meant being back where I belonged, back around the people I loved & loved me. The future was exciting, full of love & happiness, adventure and a new start with a man I loved & who loved me back.

But as my independence & contentment grew, my soul fell silent. Like I began to no longer feel a need to communicate with God. Things were good, no, things were great, so slowly & casually, I began to leave Him out. I moved to a new town & forgot the desire to go to a church. My Bible lay at the bottom of a trunk, out of sight & often out of mind. I no longer prayed. I no longer worshipped. I just ignored it & let it go dormant. I quieted my soul in such a way that I stifled it into silence.

But God will not be silenced!

He's there! He always has been! I know He always will be!

For the past few months He's been reminding me of His presence, His desire to communicate with me & that burning desire in my soul that needs to be filled with Him once more. I see it now! Its a renewal that comes softly. Like a whisper in the darkness. The more I dwell on it, the louder the whisper becomes. And the more obvious. He keeps putting things in front of me, reasons for me to no longer ignore it. And now, its a thunder! I feel Him, I need Him. My heart is singing even though I have not yet found my voice. Its coming. Like the refreshing green of spring. The path is there and my feet have found it. Its time to step forward & reach up.