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Friday, 28 December 2012

Year in Review: Heroes of 2012


As I reflect on the year 2012, the people below stand out as being heroic:

 

Scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka

   This scientist from Japan, along with British scientist John Gurdon, won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research in the area of stem cells.  He has shown the medical community that it is no longer necessary to use embroyonic stem cells in their research.  Yamanaka’s ethical work has resulted in “stem cell research into drugs, treatments and transplants without having to use human embroyos.”[1] 
   I admire that Yamanaka allowed his pro-life convictions to guide his scientific inquiry for the betterment of humanity.

Winnipeg Police Chief Devon Clunis

   This courageous man recognizes that any city’s battle with crime involves a spiritual battle.  In mentioning that prayer could bring about change in Winnipeg, Manitoba[2] (considered the capital of violent crime in Canada), Clunis faced criticism from many quarters claiming that faith has no place in public life. 
   I admire Chief Clunis in getting to the root of crime—the sinful human heart—as well as pointing people of faith to a life of prayer and action to make our communities better.

Canadian Member of Parliament Stephen Woodworth

   The Honourable Steven Woodworth introduced a private member’s bill to the House of Commons in the spring in order to determine when a fetus becomes a human being.  Canada’s current law states that a fetus becomes human only after it has fully emerged from the birth canal; there is no protection of the fetus’ rights until that point. 
   Although the bill was ultimately defeated in September, I admire Mr. Woodworth’s courage in addressing this huge gap in Canadian human rights.  He faced the wrath of many in his own party, including the Prime Minister himself, and brought this important issue to the forefront.

Fostering and Adoptive Parents

   Some unsung heroes to whom I need to give honour are those who have opened their home to children not biologically their own.  Two of the students in my current Junior Kindergarten class have been given a loving home by wonderful adopting parents.  This is a day in and day out commitment without always knowing the kinds of trauma a child experienced before or how that will affect his or her future.
   I admire these people because right before my eyes they reflect the incomprehensible love that God has in adopting us as his own children. 

Is there someone who you would like to honour because of their impact on you in 2012?  Post a comment and share it with us!



[1] From the text of The Millennium Technology Prize also awarded to Dr. Yamanaka by the Technology Academy of Finland in 2012, quoted in “Nobel scientist’s moral achievement” by William Saletan in the Waterloo Region Record, October 13, 2012, page A13.
[2] As reported in Christian Week (Ontario Edition), November 2012, page 24 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Appreciating My Wardrobe


   They say that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.  It’s not that all my clothes are gone, but if you read my post on November 26th (My Outfit for December) you will know I’ve been wearing the same black skirt and sweater since December 1st and intend to continue until the end of this month. 
   This was all about making myself aware of the plight of people so poor that they may need to wear the same thing everyday, and may not have the resources to wash it as frequently as I could.  Besides being more grateful that I have many outfits to choose from starting on January 1st, I have also learned the following:
  • I have an addiction to variety.  This month I was more conscious of selecting different footwear or jewelry since the basic outfit was already set.  Since this clothing was all black, I added a colourful scarf I already owned to the ensemble as Christmas approached.
  • I chose this outfit because it would not look out of place at school or church.  However, I did feel a bit overdressed during a visit to my sister’s house and at a casual Christmas get-together.  
  • I was reminded of my own mother’s experience growing up in Holland.  My grandmother would buy three matching dresses for three daughters close in age.  My mother was the youngest of the threesome and would wear the same dress to school each day until it no longer fit.  Then, she would wear two more identical dresses passed down from her older sisters until the cycle would begin all over again.
  • When I was ready for bed, washing my clothes by hand was an extra chore I didn’t always count on.

Monday, 24 December 2012

December 25: Christ the SAVIOUR is born


  Christmas has arrived.  As “Silent Night” says, “Christ the Saviour is born!”  But what is a Saviour?

   There are candies called lifesavers, and they can give us a clue.  On ships, there are many large things shaped like this candy.  If someone falls into the water, people on the ship throw out a lifesaver (also called a  life preserver) so the person will not drown.  The person is rescued!
   Did you know Jesus is a life-saver?  Maybe you know that Jesus is sometimes called our “Saviour”, but it really means the same thing.  If he did not come to earth, each of us would be lost.  We would drown in our own sin and the hurt that it causes.
   Jesus' name means life-saver.  The angel told Jesus' parents that they were supposed to give him the name Jesus because it means “God saves” (Matthew 1:21).  Jesus is the way God came to save you and me. 

            “Silent Night! Holy Night!” verse 3
                         Silent night! Holy night!
                        Shepherds quake at the sight
                        When they hear the angels sing
                        Alleluias to the King.
                        Christ the Saviour is born!
                        Christ the Saviour is born!

Preparing for Christmas #24: Messiah


   What kind of liquid is in this bottle?  What do we normally use it for?  We use oil for cooking.  In Bible times, olive oil was used for cooking, but the best olive oil was used for a special task of anointing.  A prophet, priest, or king would have this kind of oil poured on his head to show that God called him to do some special job.  The people were supposed to listen to this person because God had given them that task.
   The word Christ or Messiah both mean “one who is anointed.”  Jesus was given a special task by God to preach, to be a priest, and to reign as king.  He is in heaven ruling things right now.  There was no other man like Him!
   Tomorrow is Christmas, the day we remember Jesus coming into the world.  He came to be our Messiah—chosen by God-- to do a special task only he could do.  Let us praise Him every day of the year for all that he is and all he has done for us.

“God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” verse 1
            God rest you merry, gentlemen,
            Let nothing you dismay.
            Remember Christ our Saviour
            Was born on Christmas day,
            To save us all from Satan's power
            When we were gone astray.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #23: Bridegroom



   What do the rings on this picture mean?  Why were these rings given?  They were given at a wedding.  On their wedding day, the woman is called a bride and the man is called the bridegroom.
   Jesus was never married, but he called himself “the bridegroom.” Why did he do this?  One time the people who hated Jesus asked why His disciples did not fast.  Fasting means that a person stops eating for a period of time to show how much God means to him or her.  Jesus said that people do not fast when they are with the bridegroom (Matthew 9:15).  Weddings are times of joy and celebration, and Jesus' followers realized that having Jesus with them was supposed to be a happy time.
   In Jesus' time, the bridegroom had to pay a special price to the woman's family in order for her to become his wife.  In a way, the people who love God are the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom who comes to live with them.  To show how much Jesus loved this “bride”, He gave up His life for them/us.  When Jesus comes back to earth again some day, Revelation 19 speaks of it being like a wedding.  After that we will always be with Jesus, our bridegroom.

Prayer:
Thank you, Jesus for all your love towards us.  Thank you for giving your life for us.  We look forward to the wedding feast when You return to bring us to Yourself.
Amen 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #22: The Resurrection


  How does a butterfly come to be a butterfly?  Was it born that way?  No, it goes through different phases, beginning as an egg, then a caterpillar, and then a chrysalis.  If you found a chrysalis somewhere, you would think it was dead.  Even so, when the time is right, a living butterfly comes from that dead-looking case.
   The birth of a butterfly can help us understand the big word resurrection.  In resurrection, a person does not just seem dead, he or she really is dead.  And then, the person is made alive again.  Jesus called himself “the resurrection and the life” just before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead (John 11:25).
   Three days after Jesus died, God made him alive again, and he walked, talked, ate, and spoke again.  For forty days he showed people he was alive until he went up to heaven behind a cloud.
   Jesus promises that if we trust in him, he can and will do the same for us some day.  He gives us everlasting life that begins now and will continue even when our body is put in the grave.  It may sound unbelievable, but it is true!

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” verse 3
            Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace
            Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
            Light and life to all he brings
            Risen with healing in his wings.
            Mild, he lays his glory by,
            Born that man no more may die,
            Born to raise the lost on earth,
            Born to give them second birth.
            Hark! The herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the new-born king.”

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #21: Immanuel


   What is a house for?  Where does God live?  Does he need a house like we do?  No, he doesn't, but when Jesus became a man and lived on earth, he did stay in houses.
   Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus did not own the nicest house of His day.  Not at all!  He once told some men who wanted to follow Him that even though birds and foxes have homes, Jesus Himself did not have a place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20).
   Jesus was called Immanuel or “God with us” (Matthew 1:23) because he came to live with us—eating, talking, walking, crying, listening—doing all the things that people do from day to day.  He did all this while he was still God.
   Jesus is God who became a human like us in every way except for sin.  That is why he can totally understand our joys and troubles.  Wow!

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” verse 2
            Christ, by highest heaven adored,
            Christ, the everlasting Lord!
            Late in time behold him come,
            Offspring of the virgin's womb.
            Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
            Hail the incarnate Deity,
            Pleased as man with man to dwell,
            Jesus, our Immanuel.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #20: "Amen"


What are these hands doing?[1]  How do we begin a prayer?  We mention God's name.  How do we usually end it?  We say the little word “Amen.”  Amen tells God that we truly mean what we have just prayed for, and we want God to answer us.
   Jesus is called the Amen (Revelation 3:14).  God made many promises in the Old Testament part of the Bible—to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to David, and others; all of those promises have come true in Jesus.  He came as the Amen to the prayers of God's people (2 Corinthians 1:20).  He makes it possible for us to pray to God as Father and to belong to His family even though we are humans.
   Next time we say “Amen” in our prayer, we can remember that Jesus came to earth to be the Amen who makes all our prayers possible.

Prayer:
Thank you that you hear our prayers, O Lord.  Listen to our heart's cry to you.  Please give us your peace. Amen.





[1] These praying hands carved out of wood originally belonged to my grandmother and were passed on to me.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #19: Lion of Judah


   To which animal did we compare Jesus last time?  What are some things that are true about a lamb?  It is weak and helpless and small.  Jesus did not fight against those who wanted to kill Him, but does that mean He is weak and helpless?  No! He surrendered, but he was not always silent and powerless.
   What animal is this?  Would you be afraid to be alone with a lion?  I think we all would be.  Jesus is called the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5).  The qualities of a lion are very different from the lamb, but both are part of who Jesus is.
   The lion means He is powerful and that he is coming to rule with authority.  We must be in awe of Jesus, the Lion of Judah, because he is truly awesome.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
You are powerful and strong.  Help me not to forget that you hate the evil in the world and the evil that I do.  Give me your strength to fight against it.
Amen

Monday, 17 December 2012

Preparing For Christmas #18: Lamb of God


   What kind of animal is this?  Is it all grown up?  It is called a lamb because it is a young sheep.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible, men called priests sacrificed lambs and other animals to show that sinning against God will lead to death.
   At one time of year called Passover (Exodus 12), all the people had to bring a lamb to be sacrificed.  They used some of the blood to put on the sides and top of their outside doors.  At first, they did this to save the oldest boy in their house, but afterwards, the people kept celebrating this holiday to remember how God protected them (Deuteronomy 16:1).
   It was also Passover time when Jesus was killed (Luke 22:1).  Three years before this event, John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Like a lamb, Jesus did not fight back when the soldiers beat him, and he was quiet when they called him names.
   Jesus was a perfect lamb; he never sinned (1Peter 1:19).  Jesus was the ONE lamb that God sent to earth so that no more animals would have to be sacrificed for our sins.  Whoever believes in this Lamb has all sins forgiven!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
You took our sins away when you died for us.  We are amazed.  Help me to live everyday with a thankful heart to you for all your love.
Amen.

Preparing for Christmas #17: Redeemer


   What kinds of things can we buy with money?  Do you think you could buy a person?  Today people cannot be bought or sold in our country because we do not have slavery.  Sadly, though, some places still practice slavery.  People are treated cruelly and can be bought and sold.
   When Jesus lived on the earth, some people were slaves.  There was a way for these slaves to be set free.  If a friend or someone kind wanted to make a slave into a free person, he had to pay the owner a certain price.  This price was called a ransom.  When the ransom was paid, the slave would be free.  The slave would be so happy!
   One time when Jesus was teaching the people, He told them that He had come into the world to serve others and to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus did not mean He was going to set ordinary slaves free by paying the ransom price for them.  No, He meant that He was going to give his life so that we could be free from being a slave to what sin wants us to do.
   We call Jesus our Redeemer because he bought us from a life of slavery and paid our ransom.  Now we are free to serve him and do what is right.

            “Silent Night”, verse 3
            Silent Night!  Holy night!
            Son of God, love's pure light;
            Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
            With the dawn of redeeming grace.
            Jesus, Lord at Thy birth (2x) 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #16: The Door


   How many doors are there to get into your house? At the time Jesus spoke to his people, the homes of most people had only one door.  This was also true of sheep pens—they had only ONE opening.  During the day, the animals could freely go in and out, but at night the shepherd himself would sleep in this opening and act as a gate to keep the sheep inside of it safe from wolves and other dangers..
   Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9).  Jesus is saying that He is the only way to be saved from our sin and the only way to reach God.
   When we come in through the Jesus-gate, we are forever safe with Him.  Jesus came to earth to be the gateway for us to know God.

“Good Christian Men, Rejoice” verse 2
            Good Christian men, rejoice
            With heart and soul and voice.
            Now ye hear of endless bliss;
            Joy! Joy!
            Jesus Christ was born for this,
            He hath opened heaven's door
            And man is blessed forevermore.
            Christ was born for this!
            Christ was born for this!

Preparing for Christmas #15: Good Shepherd


   What kind of person would use this tool to do his or her work?  A shepherd.  What do shepherds take care of?  Do you think sheep are easy to take care of?  It may surprise you that they are not!  They are easily scared, and they need food and water nearby all the time.  Sheep also like to explore and find any hole in the fence to escape.  Then they might also get lost.
   A shepherd with many sheep needs to watch them carefully so that they will not wander away and so that no wolves or other wild animals will attack them.  He risks his life to chase away the animal that would hurt his sheep.  He needs to lead the sheep to clean water and green grass.  He comes to know each sheep by name.
   Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  He never took care of actual sheep, but He is talking about taking care of us.  He knows each of us by name too.  He gave his life to save us from our enemies of sin and Satan.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
You are my shepherd, I have everything that I need.  You lead me.  Protect me in times of danger.  I am as helpless as a sheep without you.
Amen.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #14: Cornerstone


   What is this part of a building called?  Why is it there?  Today the cornerstone of a building is pretty, and it shows the date when the building was finished or dedicated.  Long ago, it was not just for decoration.  A cornerstone was important in keeping the building strong and safe.  If the cornerstone were ever taken out, then over time, the whole building would crumble and break.
   Not only is Jesus the strong rock, but he also calls himself the cornerstone.  He is the most important part of our lives, and if without him our lives will crumble and break.  When Jesus calls himself the cornerstone, he adds this:
            “The stone the builders rejected as become the cornerstone” (Matthew 21:42)
   When Jesus lived on the earth, many people said that He was worthless because he came from a small village and a family that was not well-known.  He was just a carpenter’s son, they said.  They were so wrong because Jesus is really the most important One of all!

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
You really are the cornerstone of everything there is.  Help us to let you be the cornerstone of our lives too.  Teach us to know what it means to build our lives on you: our decisions, our goals, and our desires.
Amen.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #13: Strong Rock


   In days long ago, rocks or bricks would be used to make a strong building.  Why would rocks be chosen instead of wood or straw?  They are so strong, and they are hard to destroy.  If you hit a rock with all your strength, what would happen to the rock?  Why would it still look the same?
   In the poems or psalms of King David, it says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress” (Psalm 18:2a).  Enemies could shoot arrows, but the rocks of the fortress would stop the arrows from hurting the people inside.  In the same way, the Lord Jesus is protection for us.
   As the rock, Jesus is strong, and he keeps us safe from dangers and anything that would destroy us.  We can be happy that Jesus is a rock if we trust Him, but the Bible says that those who do not trust Jesus will trip on this rock and fall down (1 Peter 2:8).
   The baby born at Christmas is not weak and helpless anymore.  He is the strong rock of our lives.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
Thank you for being a rock-like fortress to protect your people.  We need your strength to live.  Help us to trust you more and more.
Amen.

Needed: One Boot


   At my husband’s workplace, which serves people in need of food assistance, donations of clothing and a variety of other items are also accepted.  These, in turn, are sorted and placed in a sort of waiting room where clients can take whatever they need at no charge.   Yesterday, a man holding a winter boot asked if my husband might be able to find its match in the employees-only warehouse.
   My husband, with little confidence and a whispered prayer, headed to the “corner” where the clothing is usually piled in disarray.  To his surprise, the other boot was on top of a bin of potatoes.
   The man was still waiting and gratefully took the pair of boots.  He had just been hired to drive a tow truck for the busier winter season and would not be paid for two weeks.  Yet the running shoes he was wearing would be inadequate for this job.  He had checked a retail store, but $100 was completely unaffordable.
   These boots were meant for this particular individual!  He had the boldness to ask.  As well, if the two boots had been placed in the waiting room together, they would have been taken long ago.  This is one more story showing that my husband works at a “providence place.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #12: The Word


   A dictionary is full of words.  What do you do with a word?  You can say it or write to tell about your thoughts. What part of your body says a word?  What part hears it?  What part of your body understands it?  Words are used for talking.  If I couldn't use any words, it would be hard for you to know what I wanted.  When babies are very small, they cry instead of talking because they haven't learned to speak yet.  Mom or Dad has to try to find out why the baby is upset, and sometimes it is not easy to figure it out.
   But God wants to be very clear to us, so he uses our words to tell us about himself; he does this in the Bible.
   The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God” (John 1:1).  “The Word” is another name for Jesus.  Jesus is the way God wants to talk to us and tell us how much he loves us.  He also tells us in the things he made, like the trees, rocks, sky, and animals, but his love is shown most clearly in the words Jesus said and the life that he lived.  The most important parts of Jesus' words and life are written down in the Bible.
   God sent Jesus to earth to speak to us, but are we listening?

“O Come All Ye Faithful”, verse 4
            Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
            Born this happy morning;
            Jesus, to thee be all glory given;
            Word of the Father,
            Now in flesh appearing;
            O come let us adore him (3x)
            Christ the Lord.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #11: Bread of Life


   What is this?  When would we normally eat it?  We sometimes have bread for lunch or with our dinner.  There is a prayer in the Bible which Jesus taught to his helpers called “The Lord's Prayer” or the “Our Father.”  In it, we ask for daily bread (Matthew 6:11), and the word bread here means all the food we need to live.  In Bible times people ate bread more often than we do, and they ate it plain without butter or jam.
   Jesus calls Himself “the bread of life” (John 6:48).  That means He is all we need to live.  Bread keeps our bodies alive, but Jesus makes us truly alive, in our spirits too.  Jesus    did more than just say He was the bread of life.  Two times He fed thousands of people with one or two bread-and-fish lunches. (Mark 6:44; 8:8-9).
   Jesus came to earth to satisfy our hunger for God.
           
Prayer:
            Our Father who art in heaven,
            Hallowed be your name
            Your kingdom come
            Your will be done
            On earth as it is in heaven.
            Give us this day our daily bread
            And forgive us our sins
            As we forgive those who sin against us.
            Lead us not into temptation,
            But deliver us from the evil one.
            Amen.

Preparing for Christmas # 10: Balm of Gilead


   What is inside this container and what it it used for?  It is a kind of medicine to help your skin heal.  It has a special name, called “balm.”
   In Bible times, balm came from the sticky sap of certain trees that grew in a place called Gilead.  Gilead was famous for this balm, and it was traded as far away as Egypt (Genesis 37:25).  People wanted this balm to heal sores and wounds.
   Jesus is called the “balm of Gilead” (Jeremiah 8:22) for two reasons.  When He lived on the earth, He showed his power by healing people who thought they could never be cured.  These people were unable to walk or hear or see; some had skin diseases that were very bad.  The other reason is that we are all wounded and sick with the disease of sin.  Only Jesus can heal that wound, but we have to ask Him to do it.
   Jesus is like good medicine that heals our souls.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus
We admit that we have a wound in our lives called sin.  Instead of doing what you want, we go our own way hurting others and you.  We have tried other ways to get rid of the pain, but now we ask you to heal and forgive us.  Thank you for hearing us, Jesus.
Amen

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Preparing For Christmas #9: The True Vine

   Yesterday we talked about the roots of a tree.  What do we have to look at today?  It is a branch from a grape vine.  Vines have thin stems that can turn and twist as the branches hook onto whatever they are climbing.  Would a grape vine be useful if in an entire year no grapes grew on it?  Of course not!  We expect a good grape vine to give us fruit.

   Jesus says, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1a), and he says we are the branches.  This branch has been ripped from a grape vine.  Can it stay alive and produce more grapes next year?  No.  In the same way we need to be connected to Jesus in order to fully live.  He wants us to have fruit too.  Not grapes, but good words and kind actions.
   Are you attached to Jesus, the living vine?

Prayer:
Dear Jesus
We need to be part of you in order to grow and live.  Help us to see that you are able to work through us, that only by Your goodness can we do any good.  Forgive us for trying to do things on our own.
Amen.

Preparing for Christmas #8: Root of Jesse


 

 What is this?  Where would you find it?  What is it a part of?  Why does a plant have roots?  Roots keep a plant from blowing over, and they bring water in the soil up to the rest of the plant.
   Trees need roots too.  If we cut down a tree at the trunk and left the stump, could the tree still live?  Sometimes a stump may look dead, but all of a sudden a little green shoot can come from an old willow or basswood stump.
   In the Bible, Jesus is called the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10; Romans 15:12).  Who is Jesse?  He was the father of King David.  After King David died, one of his sons took over as the next king, and God promised that this family would always be the kings of Israel (2 Samuel 7:16).
   After many years rulers from other countries took over and no kings from David’s family were in charge of Israel.  It seemed as though the tree was chopped down and had died, and that no more kings would ever come from the line of David.
   But Jesus was born as a Jew into the family of King David (Matthew 1:17; Luke 3:23,31).  Jesus is the King from that family of kings.  The root was still alive so that Jesus could come into the world at God's time, more than 2000 years ago.

“O Come, O Come Immanuel”, verse 4
            O Come, O Branch of Jesse's stem,
            Unto your own and rescue them!
            From depths of hell your people save,
            And give them victory o'er the grave.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Preparing For Christmas #7: Sun of Righteousness


What did God create that gives light in the day-time?  The sun.  Why is light so important?  How would you feel if the sun would not come up tomorrow?  We need the sun to give us light and life.  Without it we could not live.
   When the old priest Zechariah finds out he will have a son John and that the Saviour will come soon after, he sings a poem to God.  He says, “The rising sun will come to us from heaven and shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow or death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:78)  He is saying that Jesus will be like the sun that gets rid of the darkness of sin in our lives and shows us where we need to go.
   Jesus is like the sun.  When you see the sun today, be reminded that Jesus came to earth to give us light.
           
            “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, verse 3
                        Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace
                        Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
                        Light and life to all he brings
                        Risen with healing in his wings.
                        Mild he lays his glory by,
                        Born that we no more may die,
                        Born to raise the lost on earth,
                        Born to give them second birth.
                        Hark! The herald angels sing,
                        “Glory to the new-born king.”

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #6: Prince of Peace


Above there is a symbol of peace, a dove.
   How do you feel inside if someone is yelling at someone else?  How do you feel if you are pushing someone or being pushed?  These things make us feel bad inside.
   How do you feel when you are sitting quietly and watching one of God's creatures, maybe a bird or bug or a horse?  How do you feel when someone you love gives you a hug?  These are nice feelings, feelings of peace and safety and warmth.
   The yelling and pushing feeling is how we would feel against everyone and even against God if Jesus never came.  We would be enemies of everyone.  Jesus, a prince (son of the King), was born to make peace between God and us (Isaiah 9:6).
   All the bad things we say and think and do push God away from us.  But Jesus, the Prince of Peace, put all those bad things out of the way so we can have peace with God.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” verse 3
            Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace
            Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
            Light and life to all he brings
            Risen with healing in his wings.
            Mild, he lays his glory by,
            Born that we no more may die,
            Born to raise the lost on earth,
            Born to give them second birth.
            Hark! The herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the new-born king.”

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #5: King


   Whose picture is on this coin?  Why does her portrait appear there?  Queen Elizabeth's picture tells people that the money is from Canada and that she is our ruler.  Queens and kings used to have more power in Canada than they do today.  Now most of the ruling is really down by the leaders in Ottawa that people voted for.
   When we think of Jesus being called the “newborn king” in some Christmas songs, we may not understand what is meant by “king”.  Jesus is not a king like the kings of this world.  He rules now from heaven and is in control of all the countries of the world and their rulers.  He guides and directs the things that happen, but he is not responsible for the bad things people do to hurt each other.
   When we realize Jesus is the King and Lord of everything, we want to praise Him.  At the end of history, He will show His power by destroying all that is evil and ruling in a more public way.  We can trust Him to rule us better than any earthly ruler.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” verse 1
            Hark! The herald angels sing,
            “Glory to the new-born King;
            Peace on earth and mercy mild
            God and sinners reconciled!”
            Joyful, all ye nations rise;
            Join the triumph of the skies;
            With the angelic hosts proclaim,
            “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Monday, 3 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas #4: Son of God


   Look at the wooden people in the picture?  What relationship is being shown between them?  Yes, a father is standing beside his son.  Does a father have a child? Yes, that is why he is called a father.  And most children love their fathers.
   In a voice from heaven, God said at Jesus' baptism, “This is my Son, whom I love;  with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
   Sometimes a father and his son do not get along, but God the Father and the Son always agree and have the same love for us.  The Father sent Jesus into the world, and the Son willingly came to rescue us and to let us join his family. 
   Because Jesus calls believers His brothers and sisters (Mark 3:35), we can also call God our Father and pray the Lord's Prayer which starts “Our Father who art in heaven...”  (see full prayer on December 11th)

“God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” verse 3
            From God, our heavenly Father,
            A blessed angle came;
            And unto certain shepherds
            Brought tidings of the same;
            How that in Bethlehem was born
            The Son of God by name.

Preparing For Christmas #3: Potter


What is this jug made of?  How was it made?  A potter has a wheel that turns the clay as it is shaped.  Could the potter make two pieces exactly the same?  No.  Each pot or bowl or cup will be a little bit different.
   Now imagine with me if the clay could talk and say to the potter, “I don't want you to make me into a jug;  I want to be a fancy plate that is hung on someone’s wall as a decoration.”  Of course, the clay cannot talk.  The potter is allowed to make whatever he wants to with the clay (Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:21). 
   Jesus is like a potter because, as God, he shapes and changes us to become what he wants us to be.  He also places us exactly where he wants us to be at this moment. We need to be like clay and let Him do his work.  Are you letting the Lord of Christmas shape you?

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
You are the potter, and I am the clay.  Mold me and make me what you want me to be.  Grant me patience so I will wait quietly, and not fight you.
Amen.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas # 2: Creator

What are some things that can be made with play dough?  If you use your imagination, you can make all kinds of things.  You could make something to look like a worm, but you could not make it alive.

   Because Jesus is God, He was part of creating the universe—all that we see around us in nature.  It says in the Bible, “Through him [Jesus], all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3).  So really, Jesus is the Creator.  Did he have play dough or other materials to work with?  No, he simply spoke and things came to be, out of nothing.  Light, sky, land, seas, sun, moon, stars, birds, fish, animals, and people—all of these things were His invention.
   At Christmas, the One who made everything entered into our human world.  He could have chosen an easy life, but as we will read later on, He chose to go through the same hardships we go through.  This is amazing!

“Silent Night”, verse 2
            Silent night!  Holy night!
            Son of God, source of light,
            Now lies crying in Bethlehem's stall
            Tiny child, Creator of all,
            Infant, Saviour, and King!
            Infant, Saviour, and King!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Preparing For Christmas #1: Alpha and Omega


   What are these letters?  The first one is part of our alphabet, but it is also the first letter of the Greek alphabet and is called “Alpha.”  The other letter is called Omega.  It is the last letter of the Greek alphabet.  Greek is important because the part of the Bible that tells about Jesus' life was written in that language.  When the Bible talks about Alpha and Omega, all the people who first read it knew exactly what that meant.
   When Jesus called Himself  “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8), he meant that he is the first and the last.  The first means that before creation, he was already there.  The last means that even if other things are destroyed, he will always be there.  He is eternal and will never end.
    Yes, Jesus was born and had a birthday on Christmas, but He existed long before that.  And now that he is not on earth any more, he is still alive in Heaven.

Prayer:
Dear Jesus,
It is hard for us to understand that you have always been God, but we believe what you tell us.  Thank you for being so trustworthy and perfect.
Amen.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Introducing "Preparing for Christmas"


Next month, I will be posting some advent devotions/object lessons that I wrote when my children were very young.  I wanted to help my family get ready for Christmas in a spiritual sense. From December 1st until Christmas day, I will post a new reading each day.  Each reading is associated with an object that can point us to the qualities of Jesus, the Son of God.  My husband graciously took each of the accompanying photographs. 
   Where there are questions, stop and think about or discuss them.  If you use them with children, you may also want to make connections to their experiences.  At the end there is a familiar Christmas carol or short prayer that links with the day’s theme.
   It is my hope that these devotions can enrich our celebration of the birth of Jesus, who grew beyond infancy to show us the way to the Father.

Monday, 26 November 2012

My Outfit for December


In my last post I referred to someone who wore the same dress for a month to raise awareness of poverty.  With her permission I am doing something similar.  Instead of a dress, I have chosen to wear my black wool skirt, a black wool sweater and a snakeskin print shirt every day in December.  I will change into different sleepwear.
   I chose this outfit for a number of reasons:
  • Wool is a natural and durable fibre worn throughout the centuries and which remains important in developing countries without factory-made clothing.
  • These clothes will be able to be washed and dried overnight in order to wear them again the next day.  I do not have a dryer.
  • It is simple.
  • It would not look out of place to work or at church.
  • Except for the shirt, each item has been in my closet for at least three years and was purchased at a second-hand store.

   There are numerous agencies that help the poor close to home or the poor far away.  If you like what I am doing, please make a donation of any amount to an agency you trust.  To God be the glory.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Newsletters That Inspire


In my mailbox this fall, I received two newsletters I found quite inspiring.   
   One is entitled Breaking Bread and comes to my home twice per year.  It told the story of a Malian widow named Sara Doua who was blessed with a food ration from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  The food that would last her family about 2 months consisted of three staple items—135 kilograms of maize, 25 kilograms of beans and 9 litres of oil.  She is grateful the food and for the new dignity that comes from not having to ask her neighbours for food.  I found this story inspiring because it showed me true gratitude.  She is grateful for the same basic meals everyday for two months, when I would probably be grumbling about a lack of variety.
   The other publication was fittingly called Get Inspired.  It is produced by edu deo ministries, which helps build Christian schools in developing countries through partnerships with Canadians from all walks of life.  A little picture caught my eye with the caption “SAME DRESS.”  I later went online to find out more.  A young woman named Brittany McDonnell decided in November 2011 to wear the same black dress for a month (except as sleepwear) in order to raise awareness of poverty and funds for this charity.  She also fasted from shopping for clothing during that period.  I am highly impressed by her creative idea!  You can read more about it by going to this link: www.edudeo.com/blog/nov-15-2011-transforming-livesone-dress-at-a-time
   When you receive newsletters from charitable organizations, don’t just think of them as appeals for money.  There is much to learn!

Monday, 19 November 2012

I Thank God It's Monday


In North America people typically hate Mondays and love Fridays.  They say  “TGIF” and “I live for the weekend.”  I enjoy rest and time with family as much as other people, but living for the weekend is foreign to my way of thinking.
   I can understand that some people do not enjoy their occupations.  But how sad to simply endure most of your days in order to arrive at the thrills of time off work. 
   I love how the Bible is so practical and realistic.  One verse that really helps me stay focused in what my job is really about comes from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (NIV). 
   When I give my work, whether paid or unpaid, as an offering to God, it is no longer drudgery on the path to “me time.”  My work allows me to be a blessing in the lives of others.  When I experience glimpses of how that blessing is received, it’s a better reward than any pay cheque.
   

Thursday, 15 November 2012

"...Heals All Your Diseases"


   These words come from my father’s favourite Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 103.  I recently asked him how it came to be his favourite.  He shared that his grandfather (who shared the same first name Marinus) had greatly loved this passage as well.  In 22 verses, this song of praise to God covers so much ground.  It is easy to identify with.
   When my dad reads the part, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit” it is very personal.  He has experienced healing from episodes of illness, both physical and mental.  Previously in pain with every step he took, his knee surgery in 2009 has made him able to walk with ease.  He is a survivor of thyroid cancer.  The  “pit” can represent depression as well as the grave.  He has been lifted up from them both.
   God’s character is highlighted: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  The God of the Bible is not ruthless but abundantly caring towards his people.
   Regarding our past wrongdoings, we discover “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  He doesn’t hold them against us anymore!
   These ancient words show that “from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.”

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Food Wasted


I remember the days when there were only three places you could buy food—directly from a farmer, at a grocery store or at a convenience store.  Things have changed.  Gigantic department stores have sprung up that have an entire wing devoted to food, often sold in bulk.  In addition, food can now be found in the aisles of hardware stores and drug stores!  
   Along with all of the locations stocking perishable food comes the greater reality of food being wasted.  Inventories need to be maintained; variety must be offered to the consumer; dairy products have a short shelf life.  It is reported by the Value Chain Management Centre that food waste at the retail level is about $3 billion dollars per year in Canada.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of food wasted.  The total documented in a report released in October 2012 is $27 billion.
   As consumers, we spend a great deal of time trying to save money on food, but homes are the worst offenders in throwing out perfectly good food, about $13.7 billion dollars worth annually.  Why does this happen?
  • We tend to buy more food than they can use.  If we don’t keep track of what is in their pantries and fridges the result will be waste by spoilage.
  • We may not know how to make the most of the food we have.  Some fruit can be eaten unpeeled for added fibre.  Some food that does not look appealing to eat can still be used: bruised apples can be made into applesauce, wilted vegetables will taste fine in soup and bananas with dark skins make great banana bread. 
  • We may look at the “Best Before” date as an expiry date, but this is not proper.  Yogurt can be eaten up to 2 weeks past the BB date with no danger to health as long as there is no visible mould.  Milk past the date can be used in baked goods calling for “sour milk.”  A dried out roll or heel of bread can be heated briefly in the microwave to restore moisture or dried out further to make bread crumbs.
   I’d be interested in how you avoid food waste at your house.
 
     

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Hidden Losses


   People do not look forward to funeral home visitation or funerals.  However, when we have lost someone close to us, these events do often help us in the grieving process.  We receive support from friends and family members, even by their simple presence.  We are permitted to speak about our loss and shed tears without shame.  As well, the fact that there was a funeral means that others are aware of the loss and can continue to provide support in the weeks and months to come.
   When a couple loses a baby through miscarriage, it is often a hidden loss.  Perhaps the couple has not yet shared their excitement because “it’s too early.”  There is no public protocol for this kind of loss, and yet the grief is real.
   I’d like to share my personal journey of hidden loss.  My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.  It was very early, so only my husband and I knew about it.  (We did later share this with our close family).  I struggled privately with guilt for more than two years until I was able to have a healing talk with my husband at a couple’s retreat.  Then, for the most part, I pushed this experience out of my mind as I cared for the children I was blessed with afterwards.
   After reading the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo last month, I came to a fresh realization.  I should not forget about this baby because I will see him or her in heaven.  I always believed that life begins at conception, but I have not really lived accordingly in this case. 
   I wonder what the church can do to reach out to those grieving hidden losses.  I’ve heard of a church that holds an annual memorial service for babies lost before birth or in early infancy.  Anyone who wants to come can do so.  This would be a place to let such grief be safely known and shared.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A Contest with a Difference


   In my role as Enrichment teacher (in addition to my two-day per week Kindergarten position), I told students about a writing contest called “The Meaning of Home.”  This was open to Canadian students in Grades 4, 5, and 6 and was sponsored by a financial company.  Children could write a poem or original story about what “home” means to them, or what they love most about their homes.
   The difference of this contest is that each entry would result in the sponsoring company donating $5 to a Habitat for Humanity project closest to where the entrant lives.  I explained to the students a little about this wonderful organization, which builds homes using donated materials and volunteer labour.  Families who apply to receive a home must put in 500 hours of their own labour and buy the home at a rate they can afford to pay monthly.
   Yes, there are prizes for the best entries, but each student is rewarded with greater awareness of the issue of families in need of homes and gratitude for his or her own dwelling and its inhabitants.  Another bonus is that I will take the 15+ students who took the time to submit something on a walking trip and tour of a Habitat project close to the school.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Finding a way to "Celebrate" Hallowe'en


Warning: My position on Hallowe’en is rather extreme.  I do not expect everyone to agree with me, nor do I judge those who allow their children to go trick or treating.

   My children are 14, 12 and 10 years of age, and they have never dressed up and amassed candy from our neighbours on October 31st.  Maybe I am too serious about this kind of thing, but I believe a “holy-day” should point to something “Holy”, not something macabre.  Increasingly, this is what Hallowe’en is about—the celebration of death and gore and horror.  It can also promote gluttony and greed as children are taught to knock on people’s doors and ask for things that are not even good for them.
   So, what does my family do about Hallowe’en?
  • We talk to our children about the reasons we have chosen not to celebrate Hallowe’en the way most people do.
  • We point out that October 31 is also called “Reformation Day”, marking the date that Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (comments about corrupt church practices) on the church door of Wittenberg in 1517.
  • Some years we turn off our porch light and play a family game.
  •  This year, we have decided to give out a CD sampler of “Adventures in Odyssey” instead of candies.
  •  This year my daughters asked if they would be allowed to dress up in tame costumes and collect non-perishable food in a campaign called “Hallowe’en for Hunger.”  My husband is going to accompany them in our neighbourhood.
     

Saturday, 27 October 2012

UP-Lifting

Wow!  This is my 50th post on providenceplace.  I hope my readers continue to be encouraged by the stories I share.


On the rare occasion that I watched a Disney movie at my home, I discovered a gem of a film.  This animated flick was released in 2009 and is called “UP.”  I heard about the movie when it first came out, but all I really knew was the far-fetched element of a house floating around on helium balloons.
   Yet this film is so much more!  It is fresh and original in a medium where plots have become predictable.  It is artistic and yet simple in a medium where special effects often overshadow any meaningful message.  It affirms what is good in our world.
   Three messages shine through:
  • The seemingly ordinary, everyday things we do are ultimately more memorable and important than “the one great adventure” we may be living for or saving up for
  • The priority of human connections and doing the right thing
  • “A house is just a house”
   If you have not had the opportunity to see “UP,” it is worth watching.  If possible, view it with someone you care about!

Monday, 22 October 2012

How Two Traditional Introverts Found Each Other


   This weekend marked 17 years since my husband and I first met.  We were both in our 20’s at the time, quiet by nature and serious about our faith.  He was a volunteer at his church with a boy’s club, and his friend teased him that he would never meet someone spending his time there.  I was relatively new in town, but the eligible bachelors in my church never asked me out.
   My work colleagues were twin sisters, and they had a cousin in the same town that they thought I should meet.  After a few months of thinking about it, I agreed.  A while later, I got a phone call from a man I had never met asking me to go out for supper with him.  He later told me that this phone call was not as nerve wracking as it would otherwise be because he already knew I would say, “yes.”
   After we got over the initial awkwardness (because introverts are not so great at “small talk”), we began to discover we had all kinds of things in common and most importantly our Christian faith.  It turned out that his dad was born in the same hometown (in the Netherlands) as both of my parents had been.  By Christmas time we met each others’ families.  By April of the next year we got engaged.  One year and 13 days after meeting on a blind date, we were married.  We’ve never looked back, except to marvel at God’s plan to bring us together.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

"Friendly Fire" Close to Home


One of my uncles in the Netherlands has asked me to work on translating his testimony from Dutch to English.  In it he refers to a pivotal event in his childhood.  He was not quite five years when on March 18, 1943 the house he was living in was destroyed by a bomb dropped by the Allies who had been aiming for a German military target.
   This incident, which occurred about one year before my mother’s birth, has been part of a story of providence carried by the family since World War II.  Every one of the family members was guarded from the catastrophe. 
   Both of my grandparents were at home at the time, since my grandfather was dealing with an illness.  Shortly after my grandmother had taken their eight month-old daughter out of her crib to sit her with “Papa” on the couch, the bomb fell on the house and pieces of debris landed in her crib.  The family, including my uncle, fled the house without injury. 
   One older brother had been sent to the store with a ration coupon for cookies, but he heard a plane overhead and was afraid to go inside.  That store was leveled and all inside perished. 
   Two other children were at school, which was untouched.  Arriving home at the end of the day, they found the ruined remains of their house and were sure they had become orphans.  Bystanders were able to tell them where the family had fled and they were again reunited.
   Why were some spared and not others?  This is a question that cannot be answered except that God does not play favourites.  His purposes for the individuals who were spared was not finished yet.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Gratitude: Weakness or Strength


As we pass between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, I’d like to give voice to some things I’ve been pondering about gratitude.
   How can gratitude be viewed as a weakness?
Ø      To be grateful means you need to acknowledge a level of dependence on others.  Some people have a difficult time with this because they consider themselves self-sufficient and in control of their own destinies.
Ø      Niccolò Machiavelli wrote a book entitled The Prince in the early 1500’s.  In it he asserted that a ruler must be feared instead of appreciated because gratitude is a fleeting emotion that is “forgotten the moment it’s inconvenient” (17.5). 
   How is gratitude a strength?
Ø      Being grateful puts you in your proper place.  Humans are interdependent, and gratitude puts a positive spin on that fact.  Expressing gratitude is a key ingredient that causes any relationship to flourish.[1]
Ø      For Christians of the Reformation, our life and good works spring forth from gratitude to Christ, the one who saved us from a life of misery.  We do not live motivated by guilt or fear or the need to earn our way into God’s favour.  Gratitude overflows into service to both God and our fellow human beings.




[1] With thanks to Rev. B. DeJonge for pointing this out in a Thanksgiving Day sermon (October 8, 2012).

Monday, 8 October 2012

Sparrows are not Celebrities


“God sees the little sparrow fall
It meets his tender view
If God so loves the little birds
I know he loves me too”
            -Maria Straub  (1874)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”         
 -words of Jesus Christ recorded in Luke 12:6-7

   A short time ago my family went to a bird banding station.  Migrating birds fly into humane nets, which are checked periodically.  Each bird is carefully extracted, placed into a cloth bag and brought into the station.  Here volunteers reach in to see what has been caught.  A band is placed around one of the bird's legs,  measurements taken and then the bird is released. 
   The public is allowed to watch this process at set times, and it is just as exciting for them to see what comes out of the bag.  We saw a golden crowned kinglet, a Magnolia warbler, a purple finch and a gray catbird among others.  Only one was a sparrow--a white throated sparrow.  We were excited for a close-up view of the less common birds, but if all of the bags had contained sparrows we would have quickly lost interest.
   Therefore, it’s so interesting that Jesus chose the common sparrow as the creature to highlight as the one God cares for.  If he cares for the ordinary and plain birds, we humans don’t need to become celebrities to catch his attention!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Pumpkin Cookies and the Story Behind Them


Here is a recipe for pumpkin cookies that have more of a biscuit-like texture.  They are egg-free and dairy-free.  I received the recipe from a woman who grew up in the former Yugoslavia.  Her mother invented these cookies because all she had available during a time of poverty was pumpkin, cornmeal and vegetable oil.  This recipe has been modified a little from the original.
   Since these ingredients continue to be plentiful in the fall season, you might like to try them.
  
                        Pumpkin Cookies
4 cups cooked mashed pumpkin
2 cups flour (whole wheat or combination of whole wheat and all purpose)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup margarine or shortening
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cream together the margarine, sugar and mashed pumpkin.  Mix together the other ingredients and stir well.  Drop batter onto a cookie sheet.  Flatten slightly and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown (about 15 minutes).

Friday, 28 September 2012

Seven Days = A Week


   Every fall when I teach my Kindergarten class about the days of creation I am reminded about the anomaly of a seven day “week”  All our other classifications of time are related to something definite in our solar system:
  • A day = 24 hours, the time it takes the earth to rotate once on its axis
  • A month = 28-30 days, roughly the time it takes for the moon to go through all of its phases
  • A quarter/ a season = the times between equinox and solstice, when the earth’s tilt gives us different weather patterns as it circles the sun
  • A year =365 days, the time it takes for a full revolution of the earth around the sun.
   But a week is not like that!  It seems completely arbitrary.  Why not have a ten-day week to match the metric system?  In fact, the architects of the French Revolution tried to do just this because they recognized a seven-day week as an acknowledgement of God and his work in creation.
   The pattern of six days of work plus one day of rest was established by God Himself in the beginning.  Every calendar gives testimony of God’s creation for those with eyes to see it.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Redefining "The World's Richest People"


This week Forbes put out its annual list of the World’s Richest People.  The effect of this list is to make most people feel envious and poor in comparison.  This measuring tool is not very helpful.
   Let’s consider a different measuring tool.  Take the entire world’s population of 6+ billion people and condense it into a village of 100 people.  Six of the people in this village would own 59% of all the wealth, and that includes most residents of the United States and Canada.  Only one of these people has a college education; everyone with a degree is a privileged member of the world community.  In this global village 50 people suffer malnutrition, 70 cannot read or write and 80 live in substandard housing. 
   If this is true, how is it that we have convinced ourselves that we are just struggling to get by?  I think it’s because we have expanded the definition of basic needs.  For many, this includes considering such things as cell phones, paid vacations, one car per licensed driver and endless types of insurance to be necessities.
   A glimpse at the big picture shows we are rich in material goods and in opportunities. This perspective may help us when we are inclined to feel deprived or want to whine about those who have more than we do.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mixed Motives


   I’m having some trouble with mixed motives.  I ask myself, “Why did you decide to create a blog?”  The answers include having a space to share my stories about God’s amazing provision in my everyday life, to improve my writing, and to encourage others.  However, it becomes very easy to allow the tendency of self-promotion to obscure my vision.  Checking how many page views I have had over the past week and wondering if anyone has commented on one of my posts can get out of hand.
   I’m reminded of Joni Eareckson Tada whose beautiful artwork is sketched or painted by mouth because she was paralyzed from the neck down.  Each time she signed her name on the canvas, she wrote Joni PTL.  PTL (“Praise the Lord”) was her way of acknowledging that what she accomplished was not her own doing but a gift from God.
   Centuries earlier, the gifted musician JS Bach ended his compositions with the letters SDG, Soli Deo Gloria (Latin for “To God alone be the glory”).  He wanted those who appreciated his music to understand his ultimate goal was not self-honour.
   I’m well aware that I am not in the same league as the Christians I have mentioned, but I too need to consciously write my posts with the goal of God being glorified rather than myself.  If any of my posts comes across as self-glorifying, please call me on it.  I know I haven’t “arrived”.