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Showing posts from October, 2011

Hallowe'en Draws a Blank

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Just won't address it. Never have recognized it in the twenty-four years here in Waterloo. Kids went without. Neighbours encountered a dark, empty house. Blair family out for dinner or wanderings through a mall.

It is hard to imagine the social pressure wrapped up in this celebration of the ghoulish and ungodly; "Oh, you don't go out for Hallowe'en? Cheapskate. No fun at all. Our kids deserve your shell-out of candy. Have a good mind to soap your back windows!"

Even the churches cave in with their "protected" costume parties, apple bobbing, compromised movies and games. The faithful give out tracts at their front door. Better to ignore the night. Little else is as disturbing as a leering Jack O' Lantern on the front steps of a household of faith. Stand, rather, on the side of light against darkness.

Recognize that most of the adult parties thrive on lust and fantasy in cheap, skimpy costumes. Recognize that the occult-cluttered front lawns, lighting a…

Feel the Pulse

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Eight fifteen. Sunday morning. Window open for fresh air overnight. Had to take the air conditioner out of the kitchen window yesterday. Downstairs just too cold now in the early morning.

Outside a robin clucks from a nearby tree branch. Tree half empty of its leaves. Raked them to the curb yesterday after our shop for groceries.

The robin is telling us, "I'm about to leave. Had another good look at those travel magazines flaunting North Carolina and blossoms and beaches. You can keep your Canadian winter. Stinging winds. Slush underfoot. Frozen lawns devoid of worms. I'm outta here."

A few nights ago, gazing skyward at a partial harvest moon, I saw the fluttering "V". Heard almost simultaneously the faraway honkings of migration. Canada Geese, underbellies partially illumined by the city lights beneath. Practice traveling in skein formation.

Another winter about to be encountered. But then it has its own delights to a Canuck such as I.

See the poem previously p…

Passion Flower

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It's a beautiful thing to see. Five vivid petals, memorializing the five woundings of our Saviour's body, by forged metal and stabbing thorns.

Two hands, two feet, one brow, wounded for our transgressions.

But one day, meditating upon this, it came to me. There were other wounds. The mutilated back bearing the terrible signatures of scourging. The spear wound to the side, confirming that the victim had indeed died.

Perhaps a flower should have been chosen which presented seven vivid petals. Seven, the number of perfection, the perfectly accomplished work of redemption.

There are other messages in the additional two. Isaiah said in chapter 53 that "by His stripes (lashmarks) we are healed". Can we look for bodily healing in the atonement?

Physicians have commented that the issues of blood and water out of the spear-wound co-mingled, confirm an internal rupture which accompanies death and the breaking of a heart. This wonderful rabbi, Jesus, who spoke such glowing words of …

Lifted Up, Better to See

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It has come to this.
In a way, I'm glad.
The dank, dark days
In the cell.
My partner's constant
Rehearsal of our
Foul-ups.
The robbery gone bad
Midst the uprising.

So quickly
To the street.
Wooden beams thrust
On our backs.
Rome's disgust shown,
Block by block,
Curses and floggings.
Onlookers puzzled.
Faces without mercy.

Out of town,
The hill beneath
Glowering skies.
The "skull place"
Where justice leers.
The drop, the stretch,
The pounded nails,
The screaming shock.
Crucified!

...Passing time
Stupefies.
Another is with us,
Quiet wretch.
With a following,
No less.
(No women wept for us.
No rabbis scurrying.)
Who can he be?

He shares the pain,
The taunts, the shame.
His face is peace,
His battered frame
Puts up no fight.
What's that? His name
Is Jesus.
Princely sort.
I'm drawn to Him!

Kept for Jesus Christ

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(Today's thought in Our Daily Walk by F. B. Meyer)

Jude 1
1 Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James,

To those who have been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ:

2 Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.


The word "keep" rings like a refrain throughout this letter. It suggests a power which originates in the Divine will and operates through the Holy Spirit's energy within us. Behind our willing and working, our choosing and electing; behind all the influences that are brought to bear upon us, there is a gracious and Divine movement, in virtue of which we are being "kept for Jesus Christ.'" Our spirit is being kept for His Spirit to tenant it; our soul is being kept that His mind may energize it; our heart is being kept as the bowl of a fountain that His love may flow in and out; our imagination and fancy are being kept, that He may utilize them as He did Bunyan and Rutherford; our body is being kept tha…

Parishioners

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Oh, they love the Lord. Can remember the circumstances of His rescue of them. Worship regularly in the Sunday hour. Share the peace. Shake hands and smile.

But what's distinctive? Do they bake a pie, offer a ride, deliver a meal, baby-sit, lend some money? Well, the world, the unchurched, do all such things in the spirit of generosity without any reference to Christ.

Somewhere a sermon has been preached that "only what's done for Christ will last. That Romans 8 proclaims things done in the flesh cannot please God." They hear such and cannot discern the meaning. I am reminded of Jesus' parable about the wheat and the tares (weeds). Both were allowed to grow full term without visible distinction, and only at the harvest would their destiny of favour or flames be determined.

So back to the distinction. Believers will never allow the demeaning of His name or message; will never stand idly by in the face of oppression or struggle of one of His little ones; will forgive; …

The Yoke

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In the eleventh chapter of Matthew Jesus invites followers to take upon themselves his yoke. That they might learn of Him. That they might discover, surprisingly, the lightness of the burden.

The burden referred to is the life ethic developed by Him in the Sermon on the Mount. It is one of service, generosity, patience, free from judgment or retaliation, strengthened in prayer, fasting and honest religious exercise. It is sincere and guileless. It attests to a heavenly citizenship, although civic duties are to be honoured as a testimony.

A Jewish audience had been trained to look for temporal well-being as a consequence of adherence to the Law. Jesus could not guarantee this. But He could guarantee the abiding attention, love and ultimate victory flowing from the Father. He spoke of God as Father. He spoke with authority. Unprecedented.

He described himself as meek and lowly. The perfect leader rubbing shoulders in the task with His followers. Let us remember that meekness suggests contr…

Godspeed

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I have often heard the good wish expressed, "God bless and Godspeed". Apparently the latter expression comes from the old English, "spede". It refers to having good success on a voyage or journey, initially a shipping term.

Think of the dynamic of the voyage at sea. Adequate supplies below decks. Rigid maintenance of all canvas, cables and tackle. Caulking and re-caulking. Thorough study of navigation maps. Thorough training in the tools of navigation and weather. Clear chain of command. Water supply rationed between stops. Manifest of payload checked and double-checked. Shifts on board assigned to crews. Pay and trouble-pay noted. Whistle signals and audible commands all memorized. The language of the flags. Optimal use of the tide heading from the estuary. Pilot commissioned for harbour and river negotiation. The open sea...

Crew members would remember the Captain's prayer before launch and the serious look to skies, clouds and horizon. Godspeed!

In spite of all…

Get It Out There!

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I had wanted to spread the message of God's measures for us being far beyond our wildest imagination. I remember vividly the impression once received from Isaiah 52 and 53 that the input of the foretold "suffering servant" would be a startling discovery.

The prophet speaks in terms of a corporate body being in receipt of the blessing. This must also be our point of view; God ever moving The Body forward to its appointed destiny. As one member is blessed, we rejoice. As one member is strained in adversity, we weep. We were not meant to be fixed on the individual. It is for the grasping world and not the Church to be saying, "Yeah, but what have you done for ME today?" Most North American assemblies cannot get this oriental spirit of community into their fabric.

Oh, but if we could! There would come to mind and heart all of the stories of blessing, victory, noble endeavour, conditioned power and Christ-likeness to be found throughout history and throughout the plan…

As the Firstborn

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A wonderful foreshadowing of Gospel delight appears in Genesis 48. Joseph has brought his two sons by an Egyptian wife to his father Jacob for the traditional blessing. These boys, Ephraim and Manasseh, are half-breeds, not fully of the lineage of Abraham, God's friend.

Their grandfather says the following:

5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.

He has chosen to give them the same standing and favour as his first born. They have simply submitted themselves to his gracious blessing.

We are told in Romans 8 that we have been adopted and given the position of joint heirs with God's "firstborn", Jesus. He looks upon us with the same eyes of satisfaction and love which He casts upon His victorious obedient Son. This realization should free us from condemnation and any sense of feebleness.

We understand more clearly now Paul's triumph…

Bells Victorious

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It is five o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and the bells of St. Agnes Parish Church down the street are ringing out victoriously. As if it were not a miserable raining, windy October day. As if it were not the final raucous wrap-up "oompah" night at the Oktoberfest beer halls in Kitchener-Waterloo. As if one of our most respected corporate citizens Research in Motion (of Blackberry phone fame) had not gone through one of its worst weeks with massive systems control malfunctions. As if the province had not just had an election offering no real change and the worst voter turnout in decades. As if the investment elite of the Western World had not been shaken by massive protests in front of their exchanges. As if the number of insolvent nations with their pockets turned out had not increased. As if Ashton Kucher had not left Demi Moore. As if the majestic polar bear had not lost too many ice-flows supporting his travel and hunt.

But the bells ring out, one almost tripping ove…

Remembering Tammy and Jim

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A business call was made to North Carolina and I found myself speaking to a secretary named Tammy Baker. I told her that she had a most distinguished name. She chuckled and said that friends often made jokes about make-up and other things conspicuous in the one-time singing evangelist and co-host of the PTL Television Network.

Tammy's husband Jim had been charged with numerous counts of wire fraud over a time-share building project. The project collapsed after the disclosure of a sex scandal involving Jim and a purported church secretary who had been most evidently set up to allure the preacher in a hotel. It was disclosed that for years she had been receiving hush money while the ministry continued with the Gospel and a particular program emphasis on supporting and healing marriages.

All that time, while living in Chatham, Hilary and I were regular viewers of the Bakker broadcast. I told this secretary on the phone that there were many nights when I would come home from work, worn…

Inroads of Darkness

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The plan was in place. He and his wife would be driving to Pearson Airport that summer day in 1984 to pick up a nephew from Germany. At a certain point returning to London they would leave the 401 for a secondary highway where they would encounter a seemingly broken down vehicle. They would stop, offer help. The hitman would go for his gun and Helmuth Buxbaum would be rid of his wife, Hannah.

This became one of the most notorious murder trials to go through the criminal courts in my home town. Eddy Greenspan would receive much publicity as counsel.

Buxbaum a wealthy owner of a network of Seniors' rest homes and a prominent leader in an Evangelical church, had slipped into a dark, secret second life. Cocaine, prostitutes, pimps, dealers, bikers, crazy alibis, whole weekends lost without account. What had been the threshold for declension leading this man to conspiracy to commit murder? To the readers of the London Free Press this was a modern-day Jekyl and Hyde.

But the plot was doome…

The Note

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Frank had not had many days like this. Just six months into his new responsibilities at the firm, the announcement had hit like a thunder clap. Regional Branch Office closing after the amalgamation. Talk of redundancy and streamlining. His entire workplace had two months.

To make matters worse Sandy had accepted a nursing tenure in Moncton and it looked like the end of their two and a half year relationship. She had been the one hinting at marriage. He had remained somewhat cool for too long. This was only his second serious commitment at age twenty-six. He had watched his parents' marriage fade away after thirty years. Mom remained at City Hall in the Planning Department. Dad for the last three years in Northern Alberta in geological exploration. And that after nineteen years as a University Prof.

The car lease expired in a month and there would either be re-financing or a hefty payout of excessive mileage. Student loans weren't going to go away for another four years, and doub…

Thankfulness Blesses

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"Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."-- Eph 5:20.

"Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually."-- Heb 13:15.


SOME PEOPLE seem born with a sullen and feverish temper, and it is very difficult for them to brighten into smiles and songs. But whatever our natural disposition may be, if we belong to Christ it is our bounden duty to cultivate a thankful heart. A melancholy person has a bad effect upon others. It is miserable to have to work with or under a confirmed pessimist. Nothing is right, nothing pleases, there is no word of praise or encouragement. Once, when I was at Aden, I watched a gang of Lascars trans-shipping the mails. It was a pleasure to see them, one after another, carrying the bags cheerily because their leader kept them all the time singing as they did their work. If, instead of finding fault with our employees or servants we would look out for things for which we could commend a…

Desperate Situations

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(Today's entry in Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles Cowman)


"The angel of the Lord came upon him (Peter) and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off" (Acts 12:7).

"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God. . . . And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one's bands were loosed" (Acts 16:25, 26).



This is God's way. In the darkest hours of the night, His tread draws near across the billows. As the day of execution is breaking, the angel comes to Peter's cell. When the scaffold for Mordecai is complete, the royal sleeplessness leads to a reaction in favor of the favored race.

Ah, soul, it may have to come to the worst with thee ere thou art delivered; but thou wilt be delivered! God may keep thee waiting, but he will ever be mindful of Hi…

Escape from the King's Jail

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This is what the church lawn sign said as I left the coffee shop early this morning. Coincidentally, I had just been reading Acts 12 and the story of Peter's miraculous escape from Herod's jail with the help of an angel. Fetters fall off. Guards remain stupefied. Doors swing open. A dark city street hides the fugitive.

Peter makes his way to the house of John Mark's mother where Christians have been gathered in serious prayer for his release. But when the young woman Rhoda comes to the front door and hears Peter's voice from outside, she can hardly believe her ears and retreats briefly to the inner room. Supposedly there wasn't monumental faith in that place for his deliverance, but there was earnest supplication...begging.

And that so often is what successful prayer is all about. Crying out from the heart, inarticulately.

Psalm 50 by Asaph suggests that God is not after religion and fancy approaches. He says simply, 'Call out to me when you are in trouble. I wil…

Lord, Teach Us to Pray

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The disciples marveled at the Master's night-long absences in prayer. He would return seemingly rested the next dawn and prepared with that relaxed calm for any eventuality. They had only seen scholarly rabbis approach a degree of confidence anywhere close. But they had always couched their pronouncements with the support of precedent. "Rabbi X would say this." "Or Rabbi Y would argue that."

But Jesus would give a description of the Father's outlook on some issue, and then add, "And I say unto you, thus and so..." Surely this boldness had come about after much serious and complicated formulaic prayer, or so they thought.

I remember a book by the evangelist Mel Tari suggesting how very relaxed, honest and intimate Jesus' prayers must have been (The Gentle Breeze of Jesus). Any father loves the time when a child crawls up onto his lap, just to be there, just to express his heart. The Father, by gesture or by simple affectionate word, will impart …

Crowning the Year

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Psalm 65:

11Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.

12They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.


It is as if He pulls out all the stops in His artistry. Bounteous crops of all sizes, shapes and colours are displayed. Corn cobs, pumpkins and squash adorn front porches.

Northwoods flash red maple and golden birch on a back-drop of coniferous green. Treasure the sight. In a single wet day all of the colour may escape to forest floor.

Country lanes over-arch with orange and yellow, and low angle rays filter to the gravel beneath.

Squirrels hurriedly gather their inventory. Calls of jays register with greater resonance.

Stooks and bales take toll of the reapers' vigour, teamwork and discipline.

Black clods of disked earth prophesy the silent, white blankets to come.

Happy children rake and pile and kick their rustling collection to hearts' content.

Fireplace smoke brings a delicious smell to an evening's nei…

Couldn't Have Been Nicer

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Hilary and I took a drive to our downtown Victoria Park. Temperature and sun were extraordinarily "summery" for this October Saturday afternoon.

Sitting lakeside we marveled at the stateliness of the Canada Geese, their imperceptible thrust in plying the waters and their group dynamics. Several came over to visit us and to discover whether we had treats. One neck-bowed hissing bully took on the entire group of ten and intimidated them into the water.

Typical "Canadians" we thought; always avoiding confrontation; issuing pointless apologies and failing to set the wrongdoer in his place. Colourful mallards kept to the background and sea-gulls dropped down with their typical agility. Meeting and swooping away from their precision partners reflected in the surface brilliance.

Across the water a Victorian gazebo caught the eye, peeking out from behind the hissing drapery of one old willow. A pre-teen girl in shorts took a spin at ballroom dancing, thinking herself quite …

Word for "Train"

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Murray is an enterprising Mennonite farmer and young father. He supplies our factory with steel drums for shipping purposes. His father Cleeson did also for years before him. I have enjoyed many a talk with them. Cleeson died of cancer about seven years ago. Over a thousand Mennonite people from around the county attended his funeral. How they "chip in", one for the other!

Murray has taken to bringing his four year old son Jeffrey in the truck for an outing and in order "to do some work". Never too early to start. The little fellow gets a real kick out of rolling barrels off the back of the truck. Of course I clown around with him. He usually speaks Old German to his Dad.

Today Jeff stopped in his tracks because a freight train was going by on the industrial spur line to the east of our steel yard. Lots of rumbling and groaning and squeaking steel. I asked what was the Old German word for "train". He stood silent and baffled. His father piped up, "I do…

Shangri-La

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The front cover of the book caught my attention: "The First Paperback Ever Published." Lost Horizon by James Hilton (c. 1933)

A couple of British diplomats, a woman missionary and an American businessman of clouded background are hi-jacked in a plane leaving India and brought eastward to the Mountain of the Blue Moon where they discover a tranquil monastery governing an isolated valley somewhere in Tibet. The visitors come to discover an almost timeless community of reflection, moderation and protection from the rages of the outside world of the twenties and thirties.

The key protagonist, Conway, receives surprising and deeply prophetic news from the High Lama:

"We were discussing Mallinson, and you said he was going to be my problem. Why mine, particularly?"

Then the High Lama replied very simply: "Because, my son, I am going to die."

It seemed an extraordinary statement, and for a time Conway was speechless after it. Eventually the High Lama continued: &quo…

Deeper

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(Today's entry in Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles Cowman)

"Not much earth" (Matt. 13:5).
Shallow! It would seem from the teaching of this parable that we have something to do with the soil. The fruitful seed fell into "good and honest hearts." I suppose the shallow people are the soil without much earth--those who have no real purpose, are moved by a tender appeal, a good sermon, a pathetic melody, and at first it looks as if they would amount to something; but not much earth--no depth, no deep, honest purpose, no earnest desire to know duty in order to do it. Let us look after the soil of our hearts.

When a Roman soldier was told by his guide that if he insisted on taking a certain journey it would probably be fatal, he answered, "It is necessary for me to go; it is not necessary for me to live."

This was depth. When we are convicted something like that we shall come to something. The shallow nature lives in its impulses, its impressions, its intui…