Thursday, 13 December 2018

Free Downloadable Christmas Prints

Because giving is better than receiving I have created these downloadable Christmas prints for my lovely readers! Thank you for all your support this last year! 

These are all right click friendly, so right click and save for printing! Can't right click? Click here to directly download them from Google Drive. Happy early Christmas to all of you!

Love,
PS- The fine print: These are for personal use for printing, not for resale or altering as they are property of The Backyard Missionary. 



Printable Christmas Card Isaiah 9

The Backyard Missionary free giveaway


The Backyard Missionary- free Christmas cards

The Backyard Missionary- free Immanuel card

Monday, 10 December 2018

Your First Christmas After the Death of a Loved One


Blue Christmas

It was early November that Mom took her last breath. All to quickly the holiday season crept through the front door that year. Though still feeling the numbness of her absence we began to pick up speed through all our usual festivities. School concerts, church gatherings, family, and more family began to add weight to our already heavy hearts. Christmas night was my breaking point. Walking through the front door my legs gave way below my body and I collapsed on the couch with a weariness that penetrated the depths of my soul. My stomach still queasy from the rich feast I had stuffed down (more food than I had eaten in months), my chest heavy with agonizing grief. It was just.too.much. 

The first Christmas without our loved one is perhaps the most agonizing time of the year. A season usually filled with laughter, nearness of family, and joy loses its sparkle under the weight of grief. If I could go back in time I would give myself four pieces of advice, but since time travel is impossible I will share them with you instead in hopes of slightly easing the burden of the grief in your holiday season.

1. Allow yourself time to be sad.


Christmas is truly a season of joy as we remember the birth of our Redeemer, it is certainly a time to pause and celebrate! This year, let your gift to yourself be a gift of grace when the joy doesn't come as easily. Be patient, allowing yourself to be sad. Joy will return in small moments though maybe not through this holiday season, but one day. This also goes for the coming years. Grief is a rather odd emotion sneaking up when you least expect it. Be purposeful in taking moments to yourself or with someone you love to be sad and remember the person who has passed. One day you will smile a genuine smile again. One day you will laugh again. One day you will make it through Christmas and enjoy it once more, but until then be gracious with your heart.

2. Expect fatigue


My body was beyond exhausted by the time we made it to Christmas. We had gone from death to funeral to Christmas and both my physical and mental health were deplete. Christmas day I found a quiet space at my grandparent's home, where we were visiting, and excused myself to rest for 30 minutes. Go easy on yourself this year. Slow down the pace and don’t be afraid to say “no” to events and invites. You will be tired as you work to process your emotions and down time will be essential. Give yourself scheduled breaks to be able to rest even if you don’t sleep.

3. Find a way to remember your loved one


On the top of our tree we place an angel that my mom had given to me just before she got sick. Every year our angel finds her place atop our tree and everyone in our home knows the angel is our precious reminder of Mom/ Grammy. You could put out a photo or ornament, light a candle, recite their favourite Bible passage, play their favourite song, or leave an extra place setting at your table. Whatever it is, do something to remember them and remind you of the cherished memories you still carry even though they are gone. It is in those sweet memories that you will find the healing balm for your wounded heart.

4. Know that how you feel won’t last forever


Christmas is no longer what it once was. Every now and then I still find myself grieving over what use to be, but we have found a new normal. This is true whenever there are monumental changes in our lives be it a death, a move, divorce, a new baby, or anything that brings about newness good or bad. Our traditions have changed a little to adapt. Our new traditions are growing sweeter again as the holidays no longer sting like they once did. It is hard my sweet reader but the crushing pangs of grief will lift, don’t take my word for it, here’s what God has to say to you:

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance… (Ecclesiastes  3:1,4)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

Take heart. Know that God is near you, comforting you, and strengthening you as you rest.  

Love,









photo credits: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Monday, 3 December 2018

2 Truths to Hang Tightly to When Riding an Emotional Rollercoaster


2 things our feelings cannot do


Emotions are odd things. They can swell up unexpectedly whether the moment calls for them or not, or they can be oddly absent when we are expected to have a response. Often we can even find ourselves depending on our emotions to be the driving force behind decision making. 

Emotions are subjective, not objective. They are dependant on the person experiencing them, and the entirety of who they are and where they’ve been is what brings about an emotional response. Emotions are not to be shrugged off but dealt with, however, there are two objective truths as Christians we must cling tightly to as we wade through the sea of emotions in our lives.

1. Our emotions cannot separate us from God.


There is a new kind of legalism taking over the church. This legalism implies that we must be optimistic at all times or else our faith is in jeopardy. We smile big to prove we possess Abraham like faith never letting on what’s brewing below the surface for fear others may perceive in us a weakness of faith. 

After Jesus was resurrected, but prior to his ascension he made several appearances. One, in particular, is my favourite. Two men are walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus when Jesus shows up and starts walking alongside them. God makes the two men blind in their understanding of who Jesus is and they all begin to talk.

And he (Jesus) said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, Iooking sad. (Luke 24:17, parentheses mine, emphasis mine)

They proceed to tell Jesus in all their sadness what they had just witnessed during his crucifixion in Jerusalem. His death still fresh and lingering in their thoughts brought them to a devastating conclusion:

“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.” (Luke 24:21)

They “had hoped” past tense. Their hope was gone and they were sad, and yet walking alongside them was Jesus. In all their despair, the one who gives comfort was there all along! He walked with them talking as he went. At their home they invited Jesus in where he broke bread and blessed it at which point God revealed for the first time who their company really was. 

When we are blue, bitter, discouraged, frustrated we need to remember our emotions cannot separate us from God. In fact, as the two men found out, in their sadness and longing for a Redeemer he was closer than they recognized. What is important to note is that it is sin that causes separation from God not emotions, though emotions can lead us to sin if not kept in check. 

The two men experienced one last emotion that came with a very physical response.

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 emphasis mine)

God’s word, like Jesus’ presence to the men, is where we find the balm for our aching souls. We pour out our hearts like the Psalms of lament and allow God to comfort, redeem, correct our thinking when we’ve strayed, and walk beside us in all our emotions knowing that He already knows how we feel. In our honesty and surrender He can move in to begin to restore. 


2. Our emotions cannot not bind us to God.


Many of us have felt the euphoric rush of a good worship song, and no doubt the Holy Spirit can speak to us as we offer up our songs of praise and worship to God! It is an extraordinary feeling to be surrounded by God's presence! But long after the band's last song, when we go home to our ordinary lives, our prayers sometimes seem to fall flat. Sometimes we even experience extended seasons where the fullness of God’s presence seems absent in our lives. In these seasons we need to remember it is not our emotions that bond us to God, but the redeeming blood of our Saviour that justifies our eternal bond. 

When Jesus casts out Legion (found in Matthew 8 and Mark 5) even the demons had an emotional response to his presence.

Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. (Mark 5:6-10 emphasis mine)

These demons very clearly had an emotional response. We know that demons believe in God and shudder (James 2:19). They can have wildly emotional responses around God yet we know they are not saved. Because of this we can know that whether it was the shudder at the name of God or tears shed while speaking to him in prayer it is still not an indication that we are saved and bonded to Christ. We do not need to have an emotional response each and every time as much as we long to sense God's presence.

When we hang onto our moments of tearful euphoria as our hope for salvation, we ignore God’s other gift of logic and our minds. Though logic does not carry the warmth of an emotional experience, it is our anchor in seasons of drought. We can know that God is real because his word tells us so. We can know we are saved because his word also tells us without error that those who confess that Jesus is Lord, that he died for our sins, and who repent are adopted sons and daughters in God’s family. God is still present and working in our lives even we don't feel it. 

When our prayer life feels stagnant and dull we can certainly ask God’s Spirit to refresh our prayer lives. However, should we find ourselves in a quiet season of life, we can know in our mind, and hold tight to our faith that God is still there, and our salvation still stands, emotions notwithstanding. 

So take a deep breath. Thank God for giving us emotions as a way to express ourselves, but don’t cling so tightly to how you feel allowing your emotions to be your driving force. Know that your emotions cannot keep you from nor bind you to God. They will ebb and flow like they always do. Instead, hold fast to the word of God that provides us comfort and correction to soothe our aches and promises to anchor our thoughts knowing he is still walking alongside us. 

Love,

photo credit: Nick Demou @ Pexels.com


Monday, 12 November 2018

I'm Going to 'Helicopter Parent' Like a Crazy Mother

Crazy Parenting


I can remember walking around with the newness of life growing in my belly. I had a secret that very few knew about. There was something beautiful growing in the hidden away from the public eye. Aside from the fragile life in me something else was also beginning to bloom with a fierceness I had never felt before. There was an innate sense of my need to protect my baby. I would walk cautiously on the icy sidewalks, eat all the right foods, and do all those instinctive things we mothers-to-be do during our pregnancy. We know while we are carrying our children inside the safety of our bodies that we are to protect and offer a place of shelter while our tiny babes develop, but the moment they inhale their first breath the world begins to offer its councel. 

Sooner or later, and most likely the former over the latter, we are told to let go. To linger, to protect, to shelter, to do what we instinctively want to do is frowned upon. The same instinct that told us to eat healthy foods while pregnant is still at work to tell us to hang on, but we begin to doubt those feelings. Names like Helicopter Parent, Lawnmower parent, and over-protective begin to pop up, and we begin to think maaaayyybe, and perhaps against our better judgment, we could let go a little. So we loosen our grip a little more, and a little more.

Not today mamas! I am not taking the bait and eating the counterintuitive lies anymore. I am going to helicopter parent like a crazy mother and you can’t tell me otherwise. Here’s why...

There is a sacredness of parenthood that is being overlooked in our culture. God gave my children to my husband and I. They are not the ownership of the state (as some laws are attempting to imply), nor are they ownership of teachers, peers, or their community. He entrusted these tiny little souls into our hands as a most precious gift. It is up to us to train them, teach them, equip them, and encourage them. (Proverbs 22:6) It is up to me to be cautious, not paranoid, but cautious of who can influence them, and to be continually seeking the peace of God to guide me in this role.

We are raising arrows (Psalm 127:3-5), but let us not forget that as adults we are already on the battlefield. There is a battle that is ramping up for the ownership of our children and their budding young minds. I am not willing to drop my shield and allow my child to be swept away by a confused culture that is claiming to protect them one minute and parading the streets for the right to kill the unborn the next. I absolutely refuse to take the advise from a culture who calls evil good, and good evil.

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21)

I am to be an image bearer of the One who gave my children the very breath of life. The Creator of all things who knew my children have a role to play in his plans. How can I reflect God’s love if I am quick to push my children to someone else? How can I show my children that God is always there...ALWAYS...all we need to do is say “help”? Would Jesus have cried “Abba” if he doubted the nearness of his Father?

If my children fall I will reach for them, if they cry I will hold them, if they achieve I will be joyful for them. This is the call of the Church to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) How much more so should this be seen within God’s ordained family unit? 

It is my hand I want my children to reach for, not a stranger, because it is my job to take their outstretched hand and place it back firmly into the hand of God. I want them to see that I am here to reflect the outreached hand of their Heavenly Father. My hope is that they never underestimate the nearness of God’s love, protection, and provision for their lives because I failed in my position to show them the character of God in the best way an imperfect mother can.

Yes moms, you CAN shelter your kids. You can protect them while they build up their saltiness and their little lights become brighter. Not only can you, but you ought to before their little lights are snuffed out.

You have permission to hang on tightly to your kids, not because I said so, but because God said so.

And just in case you are afraid your kids may think you are smothering them I’ll leave you with this. I asked my oldest two if they felt either their daddy or I stick by too close. My beautiful nine year old replied like this: 

“No mom, I like that you’re close! I need you to be. It reminds me of the story of the disciples on the boat when they were scared from the storm. They cried for Jesus to help them, and He did. You’re like that.” 

Bingo! Now go helicopter!


Love,

Missionary Signature
photo credit: Gratisography @ Pexels.com



Monday, 1 October 2018

If God is so Loving Why is There a Penalty for Sin?


God of love


In the age of moral relativism, meaning everyone creates a truth that works for themselves, absolute truths have become a thing of the past. We are motoring, as a culture, towards a society that believes what is right for you and for me may be different, but nevertheless, we can both somehow be right. As perplexing as this notion is, it has no doubt muddied the lens through which we view God. If we are all to be tolerant of each others viewpoints, and live “inclusively”, as the catch word of the day points out, then shouldn’t the God who declares himself to be love in nature be more forgiving?

We desperately want to tell others about this God who loves us unconditionally, but when it comes to a judging God, it feels better to omit the parts where the Bible points out clearly that Hell is real (2 Thess 1:9, Rev 21:8) , sin is real (Romans 3:23, 1 John 1:8), and our separation from God is real (Isaiah 59:2, James 1:15, Matt 25:46). It doesn’t seem to sit well in the age of “tolerance”. If God is all loving and all powerful, then surely he should just be able to forgive and move on. 

We see all too often right now, when individual morals clash, the insertion of the Supreme Court, a court that has created societal absolutes (albeit even these truths are beginning to change, so “absolutes” here is a term used loosely). The issue at hand is presented before the courts and a verdict is made as to who is right according to law. Punishment is given and justice is served. 

Unlike our country where laws are made by men, and laws are changed by men, God is the maker of the unchanging Absolute Law. By laws, we could substitute for the word “commands” so we do not get hung up legalistically about abiding by every New and Old Testament Law. (For they record, they can all be summed up as love God, love your neighbour- Matt 22:36-40). 

When God created the world, he made perfect laws (commands) that he presented to us, based on his own flawless character. By nature, God is good and perfect, it is an impossibility for him to be anything else. Think about that for a moment. God not only will not lie or cheat, he is actually unable to react outside his holy nature. If it seems a stretch for our brain to comprehend, that’s because it is. We only know of people, people change their minds, and both act and react erratically. Not so with God. That is what makes him so perfect.

The laws he gave to us flow from his goodness and righteousness. They are not arbitrary, like the the rules our parents may have given us. They are not the rules that are followed with a, “because I said so, that’s why.” (hands up for those of us parents who have used this line! Guilty!) God’s laws are precise laws, to allow for goodness in our lives. They are followed with, “because I love you, and do not want to see you hurt.” There is reasoning behind God’s law, and the reasoning is love and protection. It is through his commands to us through his law that we know he is loving. Because God’s commands flow from his loving nature, we can and should trust them and abide by them. 

The other aspect of God’s love is that he created us to have free will. It would have been unloving for him to make us automatically love him and be obedient to him. He would have made us slaves if we did not have the choice in this matter. Unfortunately, because we have free will, we have, and often do make choices contradictory to God’s loving commands. This creates separation from us to God. He is holy, and perfect, and good. Our choice to sin (behave outside the laws of God) causes separation between us and God. Not because he is vengeful and full of wrath, but because we cannot live unholy lives and be in the presence of such a holy God, we cannot live beyond the boundaries he set in place to be near to him. 

Imagine, if you will, a moment in a court case when a murderer is on trial. The family of the murdered loved one is watching the case unfold as the judge proceeds with the verdict. In spite of all the evidence making it clear this person was the killer, the judge simply says, “I forgive you”, then walks out of the room. Justice would not have been served, outrage would ensue. 

God is no different. He sets the law and he must judge those who break the law, anything less would be unjust. We could all agree than injustice does not equate to love. We could even go as far as to say that injustice would be an indication of corruption. Since we know that God both is not and can not be corrupt, than it would be against his very nature to be unjust. That he serves punishment to those of us (all of us) for breaking His law points back to his consistent nature of love and goodness. Only that which is vindicated (justified) can be present with God.

This is where the stunning part of God’s love comes into play. The Bible states the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and by death we mean separation from God eternally. If we follow through that very same verse that speaks of death, we find this: “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) Opposite to separation from God (death), we find life. By life we mean not only eternity with God, but also nearness of his life to ours. 

God set the law based on what is good and right. We acted out of the law by sinning, and the punishment of death was given. Not death in the sense of ceasing to live, but death in the sense of eternally separated from God. The payment for breaking God’s law was separation. But then, God stepped down from his throne where he rules as Judge and payed our price. He sent Jesus, God in flesh, to die once and for all and satisfied the payment of our law-breaking actions. Upon acceptance of this gift of life, we receive our justification from God, not by anything we could have done, but by his amazing grace.
On one hand, God needs to judge the world or he would be unjust and thus unloving. On the other hand, knowing this, we can see just how much his heart was moved by compassion for humanity to help us in our inability to live up to his expectations for his commands. It is through God’s judgement that his gift of grace and abundance of love is seen a most humbling way. 

Love,







photo credit: Ian Froome @ Unsplash

Sunday, 19 August 2018

2 Reasons Why God Causes Separation Between Believers




There was a time, not so long ago, that I can remember pulling into our church’s parking lot Sunday morning and my stomach would instantly begin to churn. My husband and I would walk in, hear nothing, and leave empty, if not a little angry. The church was in the middle of a split and we were too close to those at the epicentre to not feel the impact of the rift. Our friends were pitted against each other and the oppressive hit of harsh words was shattering their hearts and long term bonds. From the sidelines our own hearts were broken as we witnessed the slow train-wreck in front of us. Eventually, Sunday mornings were too heavy to desire to walk through the front door. We left. 

For the longest time I wondered where God’s hand had been. This was HIS house! Why was he not working to keep his body of believers together? After some time away, and A LOT of digging into God’s word, I can finally look back and see God’s hand actually was on the circumstances. Along the way, I have found at least two reasons why God allows these events to unfold, painful as they may be. 

1. God separates to protect the humble, and humble the proud


During the time of the Judges, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25b) There were twelve tribes in Israel, and one tribe takes the stage in this example. Judges 19 tells a gruesome story of a Levite’s concubine being brutally raped, beaten, and left to die by men from the tribe of Benjamin. In retaliation the other tribes of Israel go to battle against the Benjamites. These tribes seem to be losing the battle against the ferocious Benjamin tribe until they stop to fast, pray, and offer sacrifices to the Lord. When their hearts are made right, God hands the Benjamites over the tribes and they are defeated. Out of 25,000 men in the tribe of Benjamin, only 600 manage to escape to the hills (Judges 20). If we look one more chapter over we see a key verse:

And the people had compassion on Benjamin because the Lord had made a breach in the tribes of Israel. (Judges 21:15 emphasis mine)

The word breach here means a gap. By the hand of God division was made among the body of his holy nation. In this case, God separated the humbled tribes who had made their hearts right with God, from the proud tribe who had chosen to live how they felt was right in their own eyes.

Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And the people of Israel inquired of the Lord (for the ark of the covenant of God was there in those days, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron, ministered before it in those days), saying, “Shall we go out once more to battle against our brothers, the people of Benjamin, or shall we cease?” And the Lord said, “Go up, for tomorrow I will give them into your hand.” (Judges 20:26-28)

God was protecting those who had chosen to be obedient to his commands, from those who were tarnishing his Holy Nation. There are times when God steps in to offer protection and it looks like a painful division. He is protecting those sheep who know his voice and desire to follow it. But, as the Good Shepherd, he is removing the wolves from the pack as he providentially works to maintain his body of believers. 

Should we find ourselves in this situation, let us first take the position of a humble bended knee as we seek Christ. May we pause long enough to hold out our hurt and anger to God and ask if it was us who made the offence. Is it possible we have wandered too far out of God’s earshot to know His commands? Has our pride blinded our judgements? If so, we repent, and ask God for forgiveness. If it was not us, then we seek God and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us.

There is hope in this circumstance regardless of which group you belong in. God did not completely destroy this tribe. His temporary breech in the tribes was for the purpose to humble the proud tribe who did what was right their eyes. Saul, a Benjamite, mentions this to Samuel when he says, "Am I not a Benjaminite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?" (1 Sam 9:21) God used the separation to protect the humble from those who hurt them, but also to teach the proud who has true authority.

In the case of this cause of separation, we pray for pure hearts in ourselves, making sure our own pride is not the reason for a separation; and for the hearts of those who have already strayed.

2. God separates for the multiplication of His Kingdom


 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

At first glance it appears as though two good friends have an argument and decide to part ways. If we dig in deeper to what happened we can see a different side to this split. 

Back in the day Paul (then Saul) was struck down and corrected by God. He is told to stop persecuting Christians and become a preacher to the Gentiles. When Paul lands in Jerusalem none of the disciples are comfortable letting this former murderer of Christians into their circle, except for Barnabas (Acts 9). So Barnabas, whose name means encourager (Act 4:36), becomes an encourager and exhorter to Paul. He spurs Paul on in his calling, and the two become travel companions as they preach the gospel message. 

For a time, a young man named Mark joins them along the journey. Mark departs the team (Acts 13:13), leaving a bad taste in Paul’s mouth. Barnabas, being an encourager by nature, wants to bring Mark alongside him once again (as Barnabas once did with Paul), but Paul is adamant Mark not join in. They are about to retrace their steps back to the cities they came from and Paul does not want the tagalong who left them once already to be brought with them. Thus, the two men part ways via a sharp disagreement. What we do see is that Paul takes Silas and goes back to Syria and Cilicia, while Barnabas takes Mark and goes back to Cyprus. 

We learn later in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians that he speaks lovingly of his friend Barnabas (1 Cor. 9:6). It becomes clear that the two eventually reconcile, or at least become settled again in their hearts over how they feel about each other. Paul also later tells Timothy, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.” (2 Tim 4:11)

The unfolding of this disagreement reveals the guiding of God’s hand. God built Paul up through circumstances in Paul’s life to be a man who would unashamedly correct wrong behaviour within the churches. Paul visits those churches he and Barnabas planted as he retraces his steps and speaks boldly over bodies of believers. Barnabas, also revisits churches, thus splitting the load with Paul. but Barnabas does it by being the man God built him up to be, the encourager. He visits less hostile churches and gives Mark the second chance he needs to grow in his own ministry, thus making Mark an invaluable tool later on. 

God used the personal convictions of these two men to cause a division. No doubt, hearts were hurt as they sorted through who would go where. Long term we can see God split apart two to multiply many. His sovereign hand was at work guiding these two causing them to move apart so others could be taught, trained, corrected, and raised up stronger.

This was the case in what my husband and I were witnessing. A sharp contrast in convictions led to a parting of ways. Did it hurt? Absolutely! But, as years have gone by I can see both parties flourishing and are exactly where God needed them to be. 

If your heart is heavy-burdened over a split between yourself and a godly friend, or a separation in your church, take heart. God’s guiding hand is indeed at work. 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)



Love,










photo credit: Kamboompics.com@ Pexels

Thursday, 9 August 2018

For The Late Night Worrier: The Theology of Sleep




According to Statistics Canada there are approximately 3.3 million Canadians who battle insomnia. I am one of them. There have been times when my insomnia was brought about by chemical deficiency, but if I’m really being honest, I would say the majority of my sleeping problems are caused by stress. I am a Midnight Worrier. 

There is something about that moment when my head hits the pillow that causes my brain to wake up. I begin to unravel the day, and yesterday, and tomorrow, and 10 years ago, and 10 years into the future. Like a hamster in a squeaky wheel, my mind begins to race. 

What is it that keeps me going all. night. long? Like lingering question marks when I wanted a period, they are the unsolved problems of the hour/day/week. The questions I either could not solve, or did not have time to solve. And the deeper into the dark of night I go, the larger the question marks become, dancing around my head.

And then, with the quiet nudging of the Holy Spirit, I hear, “he makes me lie down in green pastures.” (Ps 23:1b) He is calling me to sleep. God knows. He knows the answers to my unknowns, because He is the all-knowing. My circumstances are real. My trials are real. My conflicts are real. But, they are not mine to hold, not for the 8 hours I ought be sleeping for, nor for the 16 hours that follow. He did not call me into midnight turmoil, he called me to the quietness of his side. 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)

In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat-- for he grants sleep to those he loves. (Ps 127:2)

When God made us he purposefully did not make us to be able to function without sleep. He knew we would need sleep because he made us to need it. It was not an arbitrary purpose either, he had a plan right from day one. 

The very first day of creation, God made light and dark, and separated the two. He began by making rhythm and pattern, not for his benefit, but for ours. He knew once humans were made we would need the peace of the darkness of night to reset. A time set aside each day where we shut down and shut off and be human, not gods.

“God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Gen 1:5)

He continued until day 7 when God himself rests. 

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Gen 2:3)

He did not do this because HE needed rest, but one of the many implications of this is that God again set a pattern for us to follow. If God took time to stop creating, and we are not above God, then we certainly need to have moments to stop “doing”, and that includes quieting our obnoxiously loud thoughts.  

Laying down and resting is an act of submission that we are not miniature gods. Sleep requires us to acknowledge that whatever weighty thoughts or activities we are trying to solve are not ours to carry. We are the sheep, he is the Shepherd. “He will not let your foot slip-- he who watches over you will not slumber.” (Ps 121:3) He holds your circumstances, your deadlines, your relationships, your kids, your marriage, your health, and your future 24 hours a day 7 days a week. All of it is firmly in his hands. In full surrender that the faithful God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is firmly in control we can lay down in green pastures and rest. 

It may feel like we are finishing with lingering question marks, but know that God, who writes your story, places the finality of periods where he sees fit. He knows perfectly what is to come, and when the sun goes down, it is time for you to rest while He continues to unfold his plans. 

Tonight, as you go to lay down, imagine for a moment that your bed is the mighty hands of God. Fall into them and know that, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day”. (Ps 91:4-5)


Love,








photo credit: Annie Spratt @ Unsplash

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

How Much Faith do I Need to be Healed?




“If he just had a little more faith I know he would be healed!”

She had great concern for her friend and his current health crisis, and she wasn’t the first one to lament the seemingly lack of faith in a loved one. 

“How much faith does one need to be healed?”, I asked. Her puzzled look told me she had not thought about that yet. So I went on, and it sounded something like this...

The Bible tells us that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.” (Matthew 17:20b) Surely if such a minuscule amount of faith can move mountains it would be more than enough for anyone to be healed. 

But, just how much faith is a mustard seed faith? 

Mustard seed faith is the tiniest seed of a new found faith in God. It is the first utterance of a declaration that God is real and Jesus is your personal Saviour. It is the admittance that you believe in and belong to God’s family.

Her friend indeed was a child of God and had been for many years. We established he certainly had at least mustard seed-sized faith even if he had never grown in faith since he first prayed for God to be part of his life.

The problem with this notion that if we just had more faith all things would work out is that it is a self-defeating statement. It puts pressure on ourselves to rummage up enough faith to make things happen, and when they don’t we feel we have failed God. So we try other routes: more prayers, more good deeds, more tithing, more reading our Bibles...all great things...but when the desired outcome does not come we grow deeply discouraged. And not that moody-blue "I'm-having-a-bad-day" type of discouragement. We are talking about deep dissatisfaction to the core of our souls. We want to give up and question if God is even listening, or moreso, if he even exists. 

I had my friend open to the book of Job and read the very first verse: 

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. (Job 1:1 emphasis my own)

Blameless, upright, God-fearing, and he turned away from evil. This is a man of exemplary faith!  We could most certainly say that Job at least had faith the size of a mustard seed. Oddly enough, it did not keep Job in good health. In fact, this wealthy land owner was not only struck down in his own health, but experienced the death of his children, and the loss of his livelihood. It left Job wondering "why me?". A question we too often face when confronted with the painfully unexpected trials of life that seem to come wave upon wave.

While I can’t answer why, I do know this...

The only faith you need to have is enough faith to trust God has a plan even when the mountain does not move. Sometimes He needs us to faithfully start climbing instead of asking him to flatten the steep incline in front of us. 

Do not believe for one second that your future health and healing depend on you and your ability to muster up faith. You simply do not hold that kind of power. The hands that set the earth on its foundation are holding you as you go along no matter how grim it may appear in this moment. Maybe you will be healed, maybe not. The guarantee we long for does not exist this side of Heaven anyway. Our guarantee is the promise of eternal life through Jesus. With eyes fixed on eternity it makes any climb worth it. 

love,





photo credit: Markus Spiske @ unsplash.com


Monday, 2 July 2018

[GUEST POST] Worshipping God Where You Least Expect It




A few weeks ago I asked my friend Janet to share her story on what she has learned about the heart of worship. Janet has worshipped God in places you would not ordinarily think to sing his praises. Below is her story in her own words about seeking and praising God at all times, in all settings. 


Should our surrounding or circumstances effect worship? Can church be anywhere that we are, or does it need to be inside an actual church building?  

I had an opportunity to go to Guatemala last year. While I was there I had the privilege to join in with a few small groups, school chapels, a community outreach, hospital visits, and a Sunday morning church service. Their worship and church is drastically different than here at home. They approach worship with an excited attitude of, “I get to worship the Lord”. When they were worshipping God, their whole hearts were in it. You could tell they were not thinking about the days events or what was going to be happening later that night. No one was worried about the size of the building we were in, or if the roof would keep all the rain out. Everyone was thankful to be there and squeezed closer together to make room for any new friends who may join in.

Worship is not meant to be complicated, it is a state of heart. 

I know this is a big statement; there are times that I feel consumed by my circumstance and a heart of worship does not always come easily.  When I am being peppered by questions and requests from my kids, or I am knee deep in homework, laundry, and other tasks that life throws at us, it can be easy to feel dragged down. However, when I stop and take a moment to focus on God and his goodness it changes my perspective on the events of the day, and lightens the heaviness of the situation.  

God is willing to meet us wherever we are at, eager to love us in that moment. God only wants good for us, when we are hurting God is hurting too.  I know that for me on a Sunday morning when we are trying to get our family out the door on time it can feel like an uphill battle.  I have to stop and give thanks for the opportunity to go to church with my family.  In the past when I neglected to take the time to refocus on God or the reason we were going to church I would find myself half heartedly joining in. My mind would be thinking about the craziness of the morning and the things that need to be done later that day.

I feel like the church can be anywhere that we gather and enjoy God’s presence, and share his love with others. I got to see this while in Guatemala. We hosted an outreach in a grassy field at a remote village where we worshipped God in a sink hole that is primary used for witchcraft.  

I have recently had the opportunity to join a team of ladies serving in an outreach ministry with the Salvation Army for women working the streets. We get together and make lunches and stock the Salvation Army’s van with a variety of things the ladies may be in need of and head out on a Thursday night. The van is known to the ladies as a safe place, so they wave us down. When we stop for theses ladies they are thankful to be greeted with a kind smile as they get on the van with us.  Most of the ladies that I had an opportunity to meet were happy to list their prayer requests when I asked them if I could pray for them. They were very thankful for the kindness we showed them with our prayers and the items we gave them. Being part of this team has given me new opportunities to connect with God.  Before going out we spend time in prayer, asking for boldness when speaking with these ladies, and safety.  God totally show up! I felt comfortable and safe all night, he blessed me with words (praying out loud with strangers is a bit outside my comfort zone), and a thankful heart for the opportunity.  

I think when we serve others God can use these small moments to have big effects in the lives of the people being served and the ones doing the serving. When we are feeling overwhelmed by our surrounding we need to choose to speak life, our words are so powerful.  

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”  (Proverbs 18:21) 

It can be easy to speak death and list off the things that seem to be going wrong or the stuff we do not have. By focusing on the negative we are killing our hope.  We need to take time to give thanks even if it feels like it is something minuscule, the more we give thanks the easier it will become to spot the good things in our lives.  

The love of God is fiercer than we will ever have the capacity to understand this side of eternity. I think we can be the church and worship God anywhere we are. God hears our praise and cries no matter if we are in a deep dark pit or in a beautiful church. I encourage you to worship God wherever it feels comfortable to you.

~Janet

In response to Janet's encouragement to praise God in all circumstances, leave a message and let us know a time you found yourself worshipping God in a strange place or time in your life.