Fists and Elbows ?

With all the recent focus on germs and viruses, handshakes may be a thing of the past.

This pleases me, since I have small hands, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my hand squashed by someone demonstrating a ‘firm handshake’.

Frightening, however, are the forms of greetings that are evolving. Fist bumps look alarmingly aggressive. I’m sure I would flinch if someone pointed a clenched fist at me!

Equally silly is touching elbows, and possibly dangerous too. People’s bones become more fragile as they age, and poking someone with one’s elbow may be unwise.

I appreciate a greeting that I learned from Harpreet, a colleague of my husband, who is from India. He came to our house and we enjoyed delightful Indian tea, with warm milk.

He also taught us his traditional greeting. With head slightly bowed, and hands folded in prayer position, the words ‘Sat Sri Akal’ are spoken, which translate as :’God is great’. It is similar to other cultures where a bow is a respectful form of greeting.

Hopefully in the future, strangers, upon meeting, will feel no need to touch each other. Bowing respectfully to each other might be good.

Imagine too, how nice it would be if we greeted each other by saying: ‘God is great’ .

Pixabay photo.

If Only…

Do you have regrets about some things, and have thoughts that begin with : ‘If only…’ ?

Mike was sitting in front of his small red house ten days ago , looking extremely dejected. We know that he has a chronic challenge with substance abuse. Beneath our village’s charming exterior, we deal with the unfortunate reality of much addiction.

We got to know Mike better last summer because when our lawnmower broke, he used to walk his mower over, from across the village, and cut our grass. He wouldn’t accept payment, but we made lunch for him.

I felt an intense desire to talk to Mike when I saw him sitting outside looking so forlorn, and I told my husband that we should go over to speak with him right away. He insisted, though, that we shop first, and then bring a pizza for Mike.

When we returned to Mike’s house he was gone, but his door was open. We called to him, but there was no response, and after a while we left.

Two days later, we learned that Mike was in the hospital, in a coma, and fighting for his life after an overdose. This tragedy had occurred just a short time after I saw him looking so despondent.

If only I’d listened my intuition to go over and speak to Mike.

Often the Holy Spirit may prompt us to act, and this prompting may feel like an intense , intuitive feeling, or a ‘gut ‘ feeling.

And, as you know, as Christ followers, we always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

After two days in intensive care, Mike recovered. If more mental health services were available here, he should have received further help, but in the village, like most places, resources are limited, and Mike was sent home.

We had another opportunity, by God’s grace, to go over to Mike’s house, to bring him food , household supplies, and above all, to tell him that God loves him, that there is always hope, and that we have been praying for him. We continue to minister to Mike.

May the Lord continue to sharpen our spiritual vision and hearing so that we can recognize people who may desperately need our help.

Red Kool-Aid ?

Are you a member of a religious denomination ?

For several decades I’ve visited and worshipped in many churches.

The varieties of worship styles and liturgy reflect our varying preferences and cultures. God, designed us all uniquely, for His purposes.

One of the most fascinating things I’ve observed is how different groups celebrate the sacrament of Communion, or The Lord’s Supper. This was instituted by Christ myself, on the night he was betrayed.

At many churches, small cubes of white bread and tiny containers of grape juice are consumed by worshippers, as they commemorate Christ’s sacrifice for us.

At one church I visited, the pastor passed around a whole loaf of bread, and everyone tore off a little piece of it. (germs…?).

At the Vatican, I received the Eucharist, the communion wafer, in a crowd of 60,000 worshippers, outside, at St. Peter’s Square.

And, memorably, there was the time a church served tiny ( and tasty) salted crackers, and tiny cups of red Kool-Aid as their Communion celebration.

What would Jesus say about this variety ? Of course, we don’t know, but what we know with absolute certainty is that Christ expects us to be united in Spirit. (John 17:21).

Although each individual worshipper is infinitely precious in God’s eyes, essentially Christianity is a faith that involves all of us working together as spiritual brothers and sisters, and members of the huge Body of Christ. We are all equally valuable as we move God’s Kingdom forward in the world, and invite others to share the Good News of Salvation. We, the believers in this age, need to be working diligently in these times of the harvest. We no longer have time for inter-denominational squabbling.

Communion styles vary considerably amongst Christ followers, but , as we partake, we agree, with the Psalmist : ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’. (Psalm 34:8)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The Best Listener

My frustration had reached a really high level.

Can you identify with this uncomfortable emotional state ?

It is a type of anger that results when our needs are not being met.

I felt I needed to talk to someone, to ‘vent’ , to have someone who would understand and comfort me in my distress.

The three best listeners I know came to mind – my husband, my friend Anne and my brother, Michael, but then I remembered instead, the Best Listener, and I decided to talk to him instead.

I went to my room overlooking the sea, closed the door, and spoke to God.

As a new Christian, I thought it was presumptuous when people claimed that they talked directly to God.

Gradually, however, I learned that we can speak to the ruler of the universe, through our faith in Jesus, who has created a bridge between God and man. Talking to God is called praying.

Jesus told us in the scriptures, that no one can approach the Father, unless they come through Him. ( John 14:6 )

Those who believe that ‘there are many paths to God’ would probably find this message offensive, and yet, for love of neighbour, God asks us to share that He is personal and loving , and we can communicate with Him directly, but we need to come through Christ.

I spent a long time that night talking with God, and then I listened, in silence, to the impressions that came to my mind.

I realized the part that I had played in creating my frustrations. I became aware also of the tremendous frustrations that Jesus felt during his earthly life, as He tried to teach proud Pharisees, his often cowardly disciples, and fickle crowds of listeners. Jesus understands frustrations.

Since the day I decided to consult the Best Listener, I regularly bring my concerns to Him through prayer.

My frustrations have decreased, and my peace has grown.

The words of the hymn remind of us a great truth. :

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear,

What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.

Photo by Sally

Bar Ministry

The man at the ATM bank machine was wearing his pyjamas.

This was not unusual, since the machine is inside our local bar/gambling casino.

People with serious addictions are sometimes not fussy about their wardrobe choices.

We were in this establishment because it was so scorching hot this summer, and the casino is the only spot that has reliable air-conditioning.

I had a diet coke, my husband had a Stella Artois beer, and we split a club sandwich.

The kind server, Gloria, was seeking advice from my husband concerning the long wait her husband was experiencing trying to see a heart specialist.

I watched the people at the machines. They all had the same expressions on their faces, a combination of sadness, expectation, and desperation. Their focus was intense, as they thought that with the next spin their fortunes would change.

I fantasized about going over to the gamblers and telling them that Jesus loves them.

However, this remained just a fantasy. I’m bold when writing about our Lord, but less confident in telling strangers about Him.

I wondered if Christ would have entered establishments such as this if they had been available when he was on earth.

I believe he would have ministered here. He came, not for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. He came to love, heal and forgive. Everyone is uniquely precious to God, who longs, through Jesus, to enter into a personal relationship with each of us.

I am still praying for the man in the casino in his pyjamas.

Pixabay photo.

Prayer For a Watch

Are you sometimes intimidated by technology ?

I wanted to get an Apple Watch, but I wasn’t sure whether I had the skills to get the watch to work. I ordered one anyway.

On the day it arrived, I unpackaged it, and prayed for the Lord’s help. He reminds us in John 15:5, that without Him we can do nothing.

On the second day I managed to attach the strap.

The third day was spent studying YouTube videos on how to set up an Apple Watch.

By the fourth day, the watch was running ! It is a great help in monitoring my fitness levels, and I’m still exploring all of its all amazing features. Technology can be a great help as we age, if we are able to be patient as we learn how to use it.

Just as I needed to use a slow and steady learning method to figure out this watch, I’ve needed to use the same method to learn spiritual lessons.

God understands our individual learning styles, and knows how to draw us increasingly closer to Him, if that is our desire.

For me, I need so much repetition, and some of the lessons that God has been trying to teach me are the same ones I’ve been struggling with for years.

Nevertheless, we know that our Father is a patient teacher, and always desires to draw us into closer relationship with Him, through Jesus, as long as we are teachable.

Photo by Sally

Pet Peeve and Big Trouble

Do you have a pet peeve, (something you strongly dislike) ?

Mine is artificial flowers.

My aversion to fake blooms once got me into big trouble and taught me a valuable lesson.

When we moved to the village we found that the local cemetery had not been carefully maintained. This seemed to be disrespectful to the faithful departed.

My husband and I approached the government, who graciously provided a $69,000 grant to beautify this sacred and historic space.

Eight part-time workers were hired, who planted grass, and flowers, and placed a beautiful granite bench.

We were hoping that people might come in, to rest for a while, and contemplate eternity.

We welcomed fresh flowers and plants at the sites, and I offered to plant little gardens at sites if family members would like these.

The workers complained that the bunches of artificial flowers placed on gravesites made mowing the sites more difficult. On windy days, they blew all around, and sometimes wires got caught in mowing equipment.

And so I suggested that they remove the counterfeit blooms and place them in the storage shed. We informed the community to pick them up if they wanted them.

The community was furious with us !!

They felt that we were outsiders, who had come in, and were telling them how to do things ! After this cultural blunder, we gave up our volunteer positions, and the fake flowers quickly re-appeared.

It is pride that makes us think that our opinions are best.

Indeed, our pet peeve might be someone else’s great joy.

Our pride can cause us to place our wishes above those of others, and relationships can suffer as a result.

May God, in his mercy, show us when our attitudes are prideful.

May He allow us to live in harmony with others.

What Did He Write ?

The woman been caught in serious sin.

And her accusers brought her to Him, to ask whether the Law of Moses should be upheld.

And then, He stooped down, and wrote something in the sand, and all the accusers left.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus wrote ?

There have been hundreds of speculations made, and despite many possibilities, we are never told exactly what it was.

I prefer to agree with the writers who believe that Jesus wrote in the sand to show his compassion and mercy.

If you’ve ever written words in sand, you know how easily those words can be erased ; the earth is not a permanent writing medium.

Jesus forgives sins. That is why He came to earth, to take upon himself all of our human failings and transgressions.

Perhaps Christ wrote the adulterous woman’s sins in the sand that day, and then, with a sweep of his hand , or foot, erased them .

In the same way, God forgives our sins as we confess our sins, repent, and do not continue in purposeful transgression.

And, obviously, an essential aspect of receiving God’s forgiveness is that we forgive those who have sinned against us.

As He forgave the woman in the parable recorded in John 8, so Christ offers forgiveness to all sinners, when they repent, and turn to Him in obedience and trust.

As we grow in our faith, our sensitivity to sin grows, as does our compassion for others who are still enslaved by the folly of sin and disobedience.

The Holy Spirit, who indwells us, increasingly gives us strength to live lives pleasing to our Lord.

We serve a God of mercy and compassion.

Let us continue to share the good news with others.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Jesus writing with finger in the sand

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1888, Only in Colour

Have you noticed how some things change so quickly, while others hardly change at all ?

I took this neighbourhood photo the other day, and realized that it looks pretty much the same here as it did in 1888.

That year, George Eastman invented the Kodak camera, and it became possible to create memories through photographs. If a photo had been taken here in that year, it would have looked pretty much the same as mine, except in black-and-white, and without telephone poles, or a vehicle.

Lawns are relatively recent here. In the past, grass grew long, and was used to feed livestock.

Our neighbour lets his grass grow naturally.

Every time I pass this field, I think of the Scripture verse Isaiah 40:8, which reminds us that grass withers, and flowers fade, but God’s word endures forever.

Photo by Sally

Holy Day’s End

A holy day is coming to a close, and the sky outside my prayer room is putting on a dazzling display.

Today has been Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement, a holy day within Judaism.

I grew interested in learning about Jewish Holy Days while in Israel, and it occurred to me that since Jesus observed these days, I desired to have a knowledge and some understanding of them as well.

I’ve been meditating today on Romans 11 , where Paul describes how Gentiles, also interpreted as Christians, are like wild olive branches that have been grafted into the original olive tree of Judaism. We know that a growing number of Messianic Jews have already accepted Jesus as Messiah.

Jesus came to earth not to abolish ‘the Law’ of the Jewish people, but to fulfill it.

As the Psalmist tells us, let us continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Photo by Sally