Thursday, 21 November 2019

One Important Lesson my Pup Taught me About the Good Shepherd

Meet Ollie our newest family member. Today Ollie taught me a little thing about shepherding. You see, Ollie is an Australian Shepherd and was born to herd animals. She has quickly become familiar with who her pack/herd/flock/whatever you want to call her family around here.

Today my son, Asher, and I took Ollie for one of her daily walks. About halfway through our walk Asher wasn’t feeling super, let’s just say that walking in snow pants and boots when you are only four years old tires out a guy pretty quickly! Rather than fight the boy’s need to sit every 5 steps, I decided to take a shortcut home. He was relieved to be out of his multiple layers of winter gear, I was relieved to be able to pick up the pace, and so I left him in the care of his two big sister to finish running the dog.

As we left our home for our walk-part-2 it became evident that Ollie was in distress. She kept pulling at her leash in the opposite direction to me. After much frustration, on both our parts, she sat down and refused to budge. I proceeded to ask her what was wrong, because, if you have pets, naturally you assume they will respond in english. “Well Sarah, I feel as though our vision for this outing is not currently compatible…oooo!! ooOO!!! KITTY!!” 

That’s not exactly how it went down, but she did jump at my legs and try to pull me towards home. Close enough, am I right?! I’m sure I broke every obedience training lesson in the book, but curiosity got the best of me and I’m glad it did! 

I let her lead ever so slightly to see where she would take me. She led me across the road, down the block, and right up our sidewalk. I opened the door and she ran in searching for Asher. When she found him she sat down beside him, look at me, and sighed with a huge sigh of contentment knowing she was right where she needed to be. Tail wags and a face wash for the boy followed.

Her shepherding instinct was so strong that after we dropped off Asher she recognized one of us was missing and she needed to find him and ensure we were all safely back together. Her desire to be with him outweighed her desire for a good walk. Together was better, whatever the cost.

As I thought of how diligently Ollie fought to turn back to get to Asher I thought of our own Good Shepherd. Not just once but twice do we get to hear the parable of the lost sheep, once in Matthew 18, and again in Luke 15. 

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. (Matt 18:12-14)

The fight that my young pup had to get back to her “lost sheep” was nothing compared to the fight from God for the lost. While my pup was willing to give up her precious walk to be together, the Good Shepherd was willing to give up his life. Together is better, whatever the cost. 

Today Ollie gave me a tiny dog-sized visual of the deep love our Father has for us, His sheep. Nothing and no one can distract Him from us, nothing and no one can persuade Him away from us, nothing and no one can use enough brute force to pull us away from Him. What hope we can have for our lost loved ones knowing that God is chasing down His missing sheep. What rest and comfort we can find in our own lives knowing we can lay down and be securely tucked away in the protection of God’s presence. Together is always better.


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

The Cost of Abundance

Luke 12:48

“I forgot why I don’t like shopping here,” she muttered as we stood at the checkout stand. “You have to bag your own groceries.”

I laughed, “Well, at least it isn’t Costco where we have to haul out heavy boxes.”

She chuckled then shook her head, “We are so privileged.”

She was right. We finished packing our bags and parted ways. I walked to my car thinking of the privilege it is to be able to buy giant boxfuls of food.

Opening the trunk to my car, I realized I had no space to put my food because I hadn’t taken the bags of clothes we had just cleaned out of our closets to Goodwill yet. A trunk full of too many clothes left me with no room for my shopping cart full of food. Quite the first world predicament.

I checked my grumpy attitude I’ve had the last few days as we’ve been working to declutter (why is getting rid of so much abundance so exhausting?) and thought about all this. God put me here, in Canada. I could have been born in a third world. I could have even been one of the less fortunate in my own city, but here I am staring at my car filled with surplus.

God says much will be required to those of us who have plenty. (Luke 12:48) Based on the space in my car I’m in the “plenty” group, and I'm fairly certain a car, empty or full, is enough to land me in this category. And yet, how many times have I missed an opportunity because I’ve been grumbling over what I have? Have I missed a conversation God needed me to have with the sales clerk because I was too busy bagging my surplus of food like it was some sort of hardship? Did I miss a chance with a stranger because I was in a hurry for my kids dance lesson forgetting that sports aren't a need in God's kingdom? Did I absentmindedly miss someone in need on the street corner because my gas tank was low and I was too busy comparing which stations had the cheapest gas rate? 

Have my privileges distracted me from God’s needs?

God needs us in the ordinary. He need us to look up from the plenty we have and notice those right in front of us. It is a privilege to buy groceries, to have our kids in sports, to drive cars (just to name a few). Those privileges perfectly take us to places where God needs us to be. He needs our mouths to be ready to speak for Him, our hands to be ready to help Him, our feet to be ready to move for Him, and our ears to listen attentively like He does for us. 

Today wasn’t just a reminder to be grateful for all that I’ve been given, it was a reminder to look up and to look around instead of falling prey to being stuck in the privileged routine of an ordinary first world life. It was a reminder that I have been given much at the hand of God, but that that requires much from me. There is joy far greater in serving God than in any earthly abundance anyway. 

Someone around you today needs you to stop fussing over the privileges and abundance of everyday life and bust into their world with words and actions like only God can do. Will you look up?


photo credit:

Thursday, 5 September 2019

The Weakest Terrain of the Believer

The Christian Mind

I have a weakness. I absolutely looooove, yes love with five “o’s”, cinnamon buns. I love their fluffy dough, the way the cinnamon, sugar, and butter mix together in a syrup of gooeyness. I love the way the cream cheese drips down the outside of the warm bun. I love the perfect middle swirl that I save for my last bite after it’s been soaking in all the richness of the cinnamony (pretty sure that's a made up word) tastiness. 

Some of your mouths may be watering right now and you may be considering Googling the closest Cinnzeo (Canadian code for ultra-yummy cinnamon buns) for a mid-day snack. Others of you might be wondering right about now what’s with all the hype over a bun? Though I don’t share your underwhelming attitude over the best dessert ever, it’s perfectly acceptable to not share in my same desire to fill your face with a tasty pastry (Can we even call it a pastry? I prefer paradise for your mouth). 

Here’s the thing, for me it’s the cinnamon bun, but for you maybe something else is your weakness, maybe you love the sound of a juicy steak sizzling on the grill. Perhaps you love the way a piece of chocolate melts in your mouth. Who’s getting hungry? (hint: me)

I realize that cinnamon buns are not the root of all evil (though whomever is forced to share a room with me later may disagree...yeah I went there...clearly I have no shame). Think for a moment what your weak spot is. Shopping? Food? Social media? Intellectual debates? Alcohol? Sex? None of these things on their own are evil, but certainly used the wrong way they can threaten to consume our minds.

James puts it this way:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:14-15 emphasis my own)

Enticed by your own desire. Your desire. Whatever that weak spot is (spoiler alert: we all have more than one weakness), is the place where your biggest battles will be fought. It's not likely that it's as simple as a weakness for buns, though it makes a fair point. Each of us will be drawn in a unique way to that one thing we think we must have. Lustful thinking, the need to be right, gluttony (food or otherwise), anger, selfish get the idea.

Notice that verse 14 starts with the word “but”. Let’s just back up a little and we will see why.

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (James 1:12-13 emphasis my own)

The trial that we all must face and be steadfast under is the trial for our mind. There is a battle for our minds and it comes from temptations. The "but" in verse 14 serves as a reminder that is not temptations given to us by God to test us, He doesn’t use evil to do his job. BUT, it is the temptations that come when we are “enticed by (our) own desires.” 

I have noticed in my own world the temptation to be anywhere other than the presence of God. To look anywhere other than the word of God. To spend time focused on anything but God. Anything but God. It’s the trial we face every second of every hour of every day, some days less, some days more. 

In 1746 during the Battle of Culloden, the Duke of Cumberland’s army pursued the ragtag army of Scottish clansmen until the two militant groups came to a head on head at Culloden. It was on this ground that the terrain became a weak spot for the clansmen’s military tactics. The war was over within an hour killing thousands of Scottish soldiers. 

It is in the arena of our own bodies that Paul warns us to take extra care to guard.

Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. (Ephesians 6:13)

Much like the terrain at Culloden, our minds are the weak terrain of our battlefield. Our battle, our trials, our temptations are whatever it is that is seeking to shift our focus away from the truth of God and turn our gaze towards our own indulgent behaviours that ultimately lead to the gate of death. Like mud on a battlefield, Temptation creates a slippery terrain where footings are easily lost. We are to not only to guard our bodies (and minds), but fight for them with the words of God as our weapon so our footing can remain on solid ground and our mind focused. 

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:4-8 emphasis my own)

Next time you find yourself in a moment of temptation (and yes, probably more than just the desire for a cinnamon bun) shift gaze away from your desire to indulge in your cravings and emotions and ask God to help you focus on these things...

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8)


photo credit: Ray Bilcliff @

Thursday, 23 May 2019

The Day My Pregnancy Was Terminated: A Message to Both Sides of the Debate

a message to both pro life and pro choice

Today is May 24th which for most of you it’s just an ordinary day. But for me, May 24th is a day of remembrance. On this day in 2005 my 8 week pregnancy was terminated and my heart beating baby was removed from my body. As I write this my heart is racing and my hands are trembling as I think back to the day that placed a weight in my heart that I will forever carry with me.

I can remember the day like yesterday. I had been bleeding throughout my pregnancy on and off. I was finally sent for an ultrasound early one morning after a visit to the ER the night before found my uterus was not as large as it should’ve been for 8 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound tech’s furrowed brow and the sharp pain of the probe she kept prodding me with told me something wasn't right. She left me alone, I assume to consult with the doctor, or radiologist, or whoever knows how to officially read the black smudges on the screen. I laid in the room listening to myself breath in the hopes of a welcoming distraction in the silence. Just a few days prior my mom and I had gone to the fabric store to buy fabric for the baby’s room- cowboy and farm print. My dreams for our family had been sweet, but the sinking feeling surrounding the day was causing them to fade in the most painful way possible.

The technician returned.

“Go home and wait by your phone,” was all she said.

Although my husband and I only lived 5 minutes from the clinic, by the time we opened the front door the phone was ringing. It was my family doctor.

“Sarah, your baby is alive and has a heartbeat, but is growing in your tube. I’m calling ahead to the hospital. You’ll be having surgery today to remove the child before your tube ruptures and you hemorrhage. You must go there right away.”

There was a hum in my ears as she spoke. The sounds of our home become muffled by the questions that had began to circle so furiously in my head, I could barely hear my husband speak to me. To this day, I have no idea what he said in that moment. I called my mom to tell her, though I don’t remember what I said, I do remember her saying something about meeting us at the hospital. 

We entered the ER for the second time in a 24 hour period, this time all hope of hearing the words I desperately needed to hear were gone. I was taken into a room and given a gown. There were swarms of nurses in and out of the room, the bustle never seemed to ease up. I was rushed for another ultrasound. They decided against a second one as quickly as they had wheeled me down the hall. I was taken back to the room where a team of nurses was waiting, one began to collect blood on one arm, another began to hook me up to an IV on the other arm. The IV didn’t work and within minutes my arm began to swell as fluid filled my arm. More nurses came pouring in. 

“I don’t feel well,” was all I could get out. Those words prompted more blood work to ensure I wasn’t turning septic. It had nothing to do with being septic. I was suffocating in the swirl of medical personnel. I was drowning in the chaos, but there was no time to come up for air. Down and down I went, further to the bottom of the sea of IVs, stretchers, hospital smells, and medical jargon. Down and down I went from the blissful anticipation of being a new mom, to a heartbroken mother grieving unexpected loss rather than the expected gain. I wouldn’t leave the hospital with a baby in my arms as I had envisioned. I would leave the hospital empty-handed. Vacant. Void of the life I had brought in with me.

I was taken up to what would become my post-op room and signed off on the surgical papers. You know the ones that warn you that you may never wake up. My life, my baby’s life, the preciousness of life was at a stand still. 

For the first time since the ultrasound that morning I was left in an empty room as we waited for the porter to come to take me into the surgical room. I lay there quietly rubbing my hand over the left side of my swollen abdomen where baby was peacefully nestled. 

“How do you tell the child you've never met that it will be ok?” I whispered into the quiet room. 

My husband stepped out to breath for a brief minute, and just Mom and I lingered in the room. Two mothers grieving for their children.

I pushed my hand deep into my belly and asked my mom to put her hand on top of mine, I was desperate for validation from someone else to recognize the budding human growing inside me. Only the surgeons would bear witness to the sacred life my eyes would never see. There we sat, quietly speaking to baby and praying to God.

The porter arrived. Every ounce of air from my lungs was instantly sucked from my body. This was it.

Laying on the stretcher outside the operating room the surgeons arrived, a husband and wife team. As the Mrs. washed her hands the Mr. stood beside me. 

“Will this hurt the baby?” I asked.

“It’s just group of cells, not a real baby. It won’t hurt anything.” His answer shocked me. This was my baby! The baby I had been speaking to for the last few weeks of my life.

“But my baby has a heartbeat,“ I pleaded.

“The heartbeat is only the result of electric pulses and nothing more.” His response was almost as sterile as the room that surrounded me.

The Mrs. overheard and made her way to the other side of the stretcher, her response was only slightly more comforting. 

“Your baby feeds on your blood supply and will be under anesthetic just like you. It won’t feel anything and I’ll leave it inside you until we are finished.”

With that I was wheeled into the OR. My body shivered in the cold, steel room. Tears streamed down as my face and a few breaths later I was asleep.

The room seemed painfully bright as I came to from the anesthetic. The room was still just as busy as when I had gone to sleep, but, this time, there was one less person present. The emptiness in my body was unbearable. 

One week later my family gathered for a memorial service of our little Finch. Early in the pregnancy I gave the baby a nickname, Finch, like a little baby bird. A tiny, fragile life growing in the shelter of my body- a shelter that couldn’t save my Finch. 

It has been 14 years since that day. I’ve had five more babies since then, though only 3 of them are living this side of Heaven. 

As I thought about sharing this with you, I realized I still have unanswered questions and my mind still gets the best of me sometimes. What if I had said no to the surgery? What if I was given more time to get answers? Did I murder my baby?

I can’t answer most of those questions. What I can do is share with you from the side of this pro-lifer. Even as I write “pro-lifer”, the nagging feeling of guilt still threatens to press upon my heart.  

I write this first to my fellow pro-life advocates... 

While my story falls in a rather odd category, you need to have heard my story. Most woman who have had an abortion feel the sharp pangs of your comments of “murderer”. She doesn’t roam the streets looking like a killer (whatever that looks like in your eyes). She looks like me. The girl next door. The lady you sit beside in church. The woman who is now a mother, grateful for the kids she has been given a second chance at. The woman with unseen hurt that she’s likely far too embarrassed to tell you about. This is her. Be gentle with her. 

God’s loving arms are gracious and full of mercy. His love is never-ending. As pro-life advocates we should never forget that pro-life includes all humans, not just the unborn. We are here to fight that all life should see their value and worth just as God has shown us. We are called to love our neighbours, called to reveal a God that offers forgiveness. 

Some of these women are unable to see their own worth let alone the worth of what is growing in the sacred depths of their bodies. They don’t understand the depth of our Father’s love. When we shout profanities, shake our fists in rage, and crush spirits how will they ever know why we value life with such passion if we don’t first show them we value their life too? Speaking truth is no doubt part of God’s love, but truth without kindness will only stir up more strife (Proverbs 15:1). Let’s be quick to remember Paul’s beautiful letter of what it looks like to love one another as God has established for his Church.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 emphasis my own)

To the woman who has had an abortion...

 I know your weight, your grief, your chains. I see you, I hear you. I know that while you’re trying to buy into the lie that you only removed a group of cells that in your heart you know the reality of the loss. There is hope for your burden, but it isn’t found in this world. It is found in God, the Father of both you, and of your child. 

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you...(Jeremiah 1:5a)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

We all make mistakes. We have all sinned, we have all missed the mark, and come up short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). But God is a God of grace and mercy and love. He doesn’t just possess love, He is the very existence of love (1 John 4:7-21).  Love doesn’t keep records of wrongdoings after the apology has been offered. Unlike you or I who struggle with forgiveness, God is perfect, and He does not struggle. You can find freedom in His presence because He broke your chains on the cross. No more condemnation, no more guilt. Just freedom to know you have been forgiven and can walk beside Him without the stain of blood on your hands. 

To the woman who is considering an abortion...

Know this. There is an unimaginable burden that follows the conscious choice to end a life. I can only assume, like my story, that the speed of what is happening around you is moving too quickly. Like a runaway train, you are desperate to just make it stop moving, whatever the cost. Unless you are hemorrhaging on the spot, you have time. Take it. Breath. Pray. Repeat. Even if it’s just for an hour, shut the terrifying words of the doctors out of your head. Close your ears to those around you who are persuading you that taking a life is what’s best. Be still, and know that there is a God who knows far more than any doctor, far more than any diagnostic testing, far more than anyone around you. He is worth trusting, even if you barely know him. The entire Bible is a story of God’s redemption of a world crushed by our poor choices. If he can redeem a world, he can redeem your story whatever it may be. Breath Him in. Call to Him. Trust Him. 

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. (Psalms 147:4-5)

If God knows the stars by their names, surely he has not forgotten you, nor your baby. He will not abandon you. You are not alone. I plead with you from the bottom of my heavy heart to reach out to a pregnancy support center. At least listen to a second opinion. You owe it not just to your baby, but to yourself to hear from someone who honestly wants to hear your fears and concerns, and who long to help you make choices that you won’t regret. Many of them have already been praying for women just like you. They already love you before you’ve even walked through their door. 

My story was and is complex. If I could go back, I would’ve done it differently. It really doesn’t matter though, the past is over and unchangeable. I grieve my loss often, as any mother who’s lost a child would. I hope and pray that someway, somehow, my sharing can change the outcome for someone else. I pray my voice can spare just one child. And, one day, when I make it to Heaven, I will kiss my beautiful Finch and tell my baby how we changed a life together.