25 Benefits of Trials

It’s easy to grow fearful in times of uncertainty. It’s easy to lose hope as we suffer through lengthy hardships. Events such as the COVID-19 pandemic remind us how fragile our lives really are.

Like any trial, we often cannot see an end in sight and this one is no exception. When we are staying at home, social-distancing, viewing reports of daily escalating numbers, suffering through mandatory business closures and potential loss of livelihood, we worry we won’t manage.

My mum used to say of trials, “This too shall pass.” And it will. When it does, things won’t be the same. We will have a new framework out of which to operate. I imagine we will have a more thankful mindset, a greater appreciation for others as we joyfully reconnect and fully embrace our renewed freedom. Trials arrive unexpectedly and loom large, but we can move through them with grace, peace, and even joy.

Monty at the cottage
Cuddling my grandson – one of the ways I’m savoring this slowed pace.

Continue reading “25 Benefits of Trials”

Prayer for Today

Today has been declared a National Day of Prayer in the USA. Prayer is powerful. Imagine a whole country—a whole world—collectively praying. I have witnessed the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others. Though I’m Canadian, I join our neighbors in the US and share my offering below. Won’t you join me in praying in the midst of this health crisis?

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Lord our God,

We come into your presence with thankful hearts for your tender mercies and lavish kindness. We are grateful for your unfailing care and love. We are thankful that you never leave us or forsake us, and will never do so, especially in our time of great need. 

Despite the chaos we see and hear and experience in the natural world, we also understand and are reminded that you are still in control and haven’t left us or forsaken us. 

We confess our fear and worry and release it to you. In its place, we take your peace and find our comfort and rest in you. Please fill our troubled hearts and minds with your presence. 

We are grateful that you are our provider and have given us all we need. We confess that we have so often taken your provision for granted, behaving self-sufficiently as though we are the ones in control. Please forgive us and have mercy on us. Teach us greater trust in you. Continue reading “Prayer for Today”

A Love Like No Other

It’s not like you’ve imagined. Probably unlike anything you’ve been told, taught, or experienced. Being with Jesus isn’t a prescribed program or a series of have-to’s. It’s not a checklist of holy duties or a list of rules to follow. It’s not polishing yourself shiny or hoping you’ve been good enough.

It’s so easy that some find it hard.

Jesus extends his arms, pulls us in, and wraps us in HIS holiness, offering us forgiveness, rest, peace, joy, love—all the things we’ve been striving for but couldn’t manage on our own. His is a put-your-feet-up, cease-striving sort of love that beckons us to just BE. Be ourselves in his company. Be still. Be undone. Be made new. Continue reading “A Love Like No Other”

Why Are We Still Starving Ourselves?

modeling picIn the mid-’80s, when I was fifteen years old, I decided I wanted to become a model. A Toronto agent agreed to represent me but explained that I needed to lose weight. I had been a cross-country runner for five years and never in my life had I given a second thought to the scale. This particular year, I had discontinued running and had stopped growing. I was 5’7” tall and weighed 127 pounds. Now, for the first time in my life, someone was telling me I needed to consider what I ate.

I hadn’t a clue how to diet so I went to my family doctor for advice. He gave me a pamphlet that explained how to count calories, and so I began to figure out how to limit my food intake. Each Friday, I had to call into the agency to let them know how much weight I had lost. They wanted me to lose a pound per week. It was no small thing to change my eating habits since spending time with friends usually included things like ice-cream, candy, chips, pop, and McDonald’s visits. 

After managing to drop fifteen pounds, I was booked for a fashion show at Harbourfront in Toronto. I had been hard at work figuring out how much food I could eat and still lose weight. My agent had come to watch and afterward commended me on how well I had done in the show but told me I still needed to lose more weight. So I ate even less and landed at 108 pounds. For me, that meant virtually starving myself. 

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Penny Noble Model Management – the agency I modeled under for 8 years.

I’m not sure how, but my sixteen-year-old brain realized that this wasn’t going to work. That not only did I dislike such a restrictive eating behavior, but that this lifestyle wasn’t realistic for me. I met with my agent and told her that I didn’t want to diet anymore or be a part of her agency. She told me that was a shame, but that if I could ever keep the weight off she’d be happy to have me back. After months of sometimes eating as little as 200-400 calories per day, it took nearly two years for my metabolism to return to normal. I’m thankful I chose to put a stop to the strict dieting before developing anorexia.

Two years later, and twelve pounds heavier, I decided to give modeling another try. I met with two agents who both extended invitations to join their agencies. Neither one mentioned my weight. I continued to model for several years after that in Toronto, Montreal, and on contract overseas. I realized that the problem with the first agent was that she was trying to make me something I wasn’t. She wanted me to be a thin, high-fashion model when I had a more girl-next-door commercial look. 

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Don’t misunderstand me, I endorse exercise, healthy eating, and self-care, but just like my initial modeling experience, when we attempt to become something we aren’t—when we go to extreme lengths to be accepted but deny our true selves—we run into trouble. We become trapped on a treadmill of never-enough’s, people-pleasing while attempting to fill a soul-hole that can never be satisfied with the things of this world. 

Because here’s the thing, there will never be enough weight to lose, enough money to gain, enough compliments to receive to make us feel full. We’re starving and seeking to fill the emptiness with junk food. The lack of nutrients leaves us feeling even more depleted, but thankfully there is a remedy.

The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) When we seek God, we are satisfied. When we desire God, the other fixes fade in importance. Our taste buds change, and we see the former things for the empty calories they were. No longer trying to be something we were never made to be, our identity grows secure in Christ and his love, and we partake of his rich blessings.  

The apostle Paul put it this way, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

We find that all we ever needed and wanted—all that satisfies—is found at the feet of Christ. There we discover security, acceptance, healing, love, forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy—all the things we searched for but couldn’t find. In Christ, our true identity surfaces and an internal work of growth and transformation begins that no amount of earthly accoutrements could foster. From here on in, we are fueled by faith and nourished by the word of God secure in his promises.

I’ll leave you with this verse to ponder:

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
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  1. In what ways are you starving yourself trying to fill the soul-hole that only Jesus can fill?
  2. You can gain the whole world and lose your soul, or you can find Jesus, save your soul, and gain eternity.

Weddings & Love

69263302_487623432028438_1628037293765820416_nTwo weekends in a row we have had the privilege of attending weddings. Last weekend our nephew Robbie was wed, and yesterday we attended the wedding of our dear family friend Sarah who our son Kurtis stood beside attending as the Man of Honour.

It was heartwarming to witness Kurtis handing a tissue from his breast pocket to absorb Sarah’s tears of joy and then shoving the dampened ball back in his breast pocket after her use. He held Sarah’s bouquet for the signing of the registry and smoothed her trailing veil as she returned to her place at the altar. I didn’t see what else Kurtis did that day, but what I did see was a touching display of a loving friendship.

At each of these weddings, I also witnessed evidence of deep joy and love between the bride and groom. At the altar stood two different people courageously undertaking the mystery of becoming one. They said “I do” to a lifetime of two, entwining their years together, attesting to disallowing the world and its ravages to rip their love asunder.

Our friendship with Jesus bears some similarities to our friendships and especially our marriage relationships. Jesus stands beside us in our most joyous moments but also in our most difficult ones. In times of turmoil, he smooths out the ruffled material of our lives and helps carry the things that are too cumbersome for us. Psalm 56:8 says, You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” Jesus is gentle and kind to us, sensitive to our needs and diligent with his care. His love and affection toward us never fail.

It appears Jesus loved weddings too. His first miracle was performed at a wedding when he turned water into fine wine. In this, we see a display of Jesus’s intimate care and provision to us, and his desire to be present in the everyday experiences and details of our lives. Jesus’s presence welcomed and celebrated within our marriage—and every aspect of our lives—brings blessing, comfort, strength, joy, peace, and love to our marriage and our broader relationships.

Knowing that Jesus celebrates with me during my joy-filled moments and holds me during my soul-crushing ones is a source of great comfort to me. He is a faithful friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). I can look to Jesus for wisdom and help at every turn, hand him a burden too heavy, or ask him to smooth out the wrinkled messes of my life. With Jesus, I’m never alone.

In this, there is not only deep security but also deep joy. Whether married or single, we can take comfort in knowing that in Jesus we are not alone. In Isaiah 41:13, God assures us, I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’” and in 1 Peter 5:7 we are invited to release our troubles by casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

Perhaps the most astonishing and differentiating part of our relationship with Jesus compared to our other relationships is that he was willing to die for us. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8) Jesus’s love toward us was so great that he took the punishment of our sin upon himself, giving his life in place of ours to secure eternity. 

Jesus’s love relationship transforms our lives and our future. You need only say “I do.”

Coming September 17th, 2019

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ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7

Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. 

eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.

This Is Not Heaven

61555202_676562199467770_2025329413687607296_nThis time of year is spectacular in Southern Ontario with its breathtaking array of flowering trees. There’s magnolias in all their splendor, the heavenly scent of lilacs, and cherry blossoms that take your breath away. The birds join in nature’s show adding songs that span daytime and reach into dusk.

Yet however fragrant the blooms, however sweet the birds’ chorus, all of this is just a mere scent of heaven. Anything of any beauty we experience here is only a small taste of things to come.

Amid these fleeting pockets of beauty and moments that take our breath away, we’re aware that the here and now is not heaven. Alongside the beauty, there’s heartache and hate, pain and poverty, tears and turmoil. There’s darkness that displaces light and depravity that dipells hope. Sometimes, despite the fragrance of heaven, the next breath is difficult and painful.

The world aches and our hearts throb, yet we try to replicate heaven on earth. We seek comfort, perfection, and beauty while desperately avoiding pain. We numb ourselves to distract the discomforting soul sores or the courage that it would take to face them. As a result we’re addicts clinging to cheap imitations of heaven while trying to break free of our various pacifiers. We reach for anything that will displace the pain for a while, silence the desperate cry of our hearts, or fill our empty places while running from the very thing that offers us the heaven we seek.

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No matter how beautiful the flowers, how idyllic a moment, how much a vacation feels like paradise, or a person like perfection, all pales in comparison to the real deal: knowing Jesus. It’s that friendship that fills the heart holes, heals the hurt, wipes away the wounding, and purchases the paradise you’re longing for. But to find it we need to release our misguided grip on the here and now, stop trying to fabricate heaven on earth, and reach for the promise—the person—of Jesus.

When we do, all that once seemed so important will lose its shine. All that we use to deal instead of heal will lose its lustre. This is how the apostle Paul put it: “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

Strangely enough, heaven comes down—bursts right into the imperfection, heartache, futility, and falsehood, answering the groans of humanity with a healing love. A kind of love that makes room for the mess of this place, while cleaning up the garbage in our lives. In Jesus, we find the answer to our deepest needs, peace in the imperfection, deep joy despite circumstances, and the promise of a heavenly home.

What would it take for us to loosen our grip on the things of this world, to trade in the comforts we’ve tucked around our lives attempting to buffer the blows and ease the pain? In an act of faith we can reach for—or return to—Jesus and let him be the peacemaker and joy-giver of our lives.

This week’s song: “What a Beautiful Name”

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  1. What are you doing to numb the pain, fill the void, or find happiness? Is it working?
  2. If not, try Jesus. He’s been the answer to my deepest needs.

 

 

 

 

A Eulogy for My Best Friend

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This Easter weekend, I’d like to introduce you to someone I’m most fond of. He may be the most misunderstood man who ever lived. But I love him for it, because he’s probably the only man who didn’t care one bit about any of that. And because he didn’t care about what others thought of him, he was unswerving in his life’s purpose.

He didn’t get in the way, like some religious people of his time, and block others from seeing God. He showed up in unlikely places—often with the unpopular—and pointed people to his father. Instead of harsh judgement and criticism, he honoured everyone: men, women, and children, and reached out to those on the outskirts of society who would have appeared unholy, unworthy, and labelled sinners by the “religious”. He showed great compassion and said they were the ones he came to call (see Luke 5:32). He offered healing, grace, love, hope, and peace to anyone who would listen and even offered his very life. He gave all, for all, until his last breath.

He was the most unselfish person the world has ever known. His life was lived for his father’s purposes for the sake of others. Every place he stepped, every action he took, every word he spoke was for another’s benefit. His mission was clear: to show God’s love in a myriad of ways so all could see, hear, and understand his father’s great mercy and love.

The beauty of his unfathomable life is that none of it was typical—nothing you’d expect of a king. That was part of the problem. People found his humanness and humility unfitting. It was difficult to take him seriously and hard to accept that he wouldn’t fit their preconceived idea of God. Those who had spent their whole lives waiting for him, missed him. Those who should have known better, crucified him.

This is how one man explained him:

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.”  ~ Isaiah 53:3

In the end, even his closest friends scattered. He died utterly alone, and it appeared his thirty-three years on the earth had amounted to nothing. But I adore the way looks are deceiving, and more than that, how his heart-wrenching obedience changed everything. Because he suffered the most horrific death known to humankind, I was offered a second crack at life—a chance to surrender the life I deemed so dear for a new one with him.

He once said: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

And there it is, with him I live freely and lightly; the heaviness of all the things I wasn’t meant to carry handed over. My burdens lifted, my sins wiped out, and my mind renewed. All the former things fade in importance for the friendship found in him. And as the load is lifted, love fills the deadened creases of my life. This same love brings with it a breath of freedom and joy, and peace that ignites hope. You can’t describe his beauty. It’s something to behold.

He moves into our tired lives when we let go. But it’s not easy—the letting go. You see it at the cross, this refusal to release. Some hanging on tightly to their position or praise, others hanging on to disbelief, and others to the material things of this world, grasping at anything that seems too precious to leave behind. Because what is known feels safer than launching into the unknown, even if the known is mediocre at best. But all the praise, position, money, best behaviour, or good deeds count for nothing if I reject him.

His radical, life-altering offer is extended to all. No one left behind. No matter where you come from or what you’ve done, you aren’t excluded. His forgiveness is a free, unearned gift, and when you receive it—believe in and trust him—you’re renewed for today and preserved for eternity.

You’re beautifully and unconditionally accepted and adored by the creator of the universe, all because one Easter, over two thousand years ago, Jesus died for you.

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God loves you. There isn’t a thing you can do, or not do, to earn his love. With a simple prayer, you can receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life, and step into tomorrow with him.