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Saturday, 23 February 2013

A Prayer for Families

This is a prayer I wrote and then spoke for a special prayer service at the local church I attend.  If you choose to pray it, think of specific people you know that fit the various categories.

Heavenly Father,

   We acknowledge your loving design in placing us within families.  Thank you for the secure environment many of us have experienced in childhood as our parents raised us with an awareness that You are Lord of all.  We praise you for the memories built in our homes and for the everyday conversation we can have over meals and chores.  We are grateful for ways to keep in contact with our loved ones who live far away.
   We confess, Lord God, that our homes do not always exemplify the harmony we long for because we are broken people.  So many pressures threaten to pull us apart, and our selfishness often makes us insensitive to the needs of others.  Guide us by Jesus’ humility and giving nature to care for one another.  Please make us quick to admit our faults and willing to forgive.
   We ask for your nearness on behalf of those who live alone.  May their friends and communities be attuned to their needs.  Make yourself known as their constant companion.
   We pray for parents caring for their young children day and night and through illnesses that require extra care.  Grant them loving endurance and needed rest.
   Please be with families facing worries about the future and financial pressures.  Provide peace of mind and wisdom to move forward in faith, we pray.
   Merciful Father, please give Your special strength to families where there is a heavy burden of care giving.  Please give loving patience to the caregivers and needed support so that they will not be overwhelmed by the task.
   We ask for your grace to be given to single parents.  Their task is enormous, so please show us how we can support and encourage them.
   We pray for couples experiencing the pain of infertility.  Please make a way for them to receive the desire of their hearts.
   Please guide couples who are growing apart.  Give them the courage to seek help and the willingness to work at their relationship.
   For the sake of our witness in the world, Heavenly Father, please strengthen all our homes and families.
   In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Stuck in Leviticus?

   This year one of my resolutions is to read through the whole Bible.  I found a reading plan that takes you through the Scriptures in chronological order, which is different than the way they are ordered in most Bibles.  I am now in Leviticus, a place where many readers get stuck.  After compelling narratives, this books seems rather dry and uninteresting.
   However if we have an understanding of its purpose or “form,” a text like Leviticus becomes easier to read.  We will no longer expect a story line but see God’s wisdom in the various commands and requirements given to his people.
   Here are a few nuggets I thought would be worthy to share:
  • Leviticus 12:8 tells about the offering for purification after childbirth: “If she cannot afford a lamb, she [the mother who has given birth] is to bring two doves or two young pigeons.”  From this we can see that since Mary brought the latter offering after the birth of Jesus, she and Joseph were poor.  There is no shame in that.
  • Leviticus 19:18 says “Love your neighbour as yourself.”  Jesus, of course, quoted this centuries later and it has become well known as the “Golden Rule.”
  • Leviticus 13-15 deal with infectious diseases and regulations about keeping the community and its members “clean” and healthy.  It might not dawn on us that these prescriptions were way ahead of their time.  Isolating an ill person was not practiced until church fathers in Vienna turned to the Old Testament in the mid 1300's for a practical solution to the bubonic plague/Black Death that was decimating the population.  They set up quarantine compounds outside the city and expedited burials outside the city to stop the plague.  It worked and become a public health model elsewhere.[1]
   As we approach the Bible, putting the knowledge into a meaningful context can make what initially seems dry and uninteresting into something of value.  As a teacher, it is my challenge to draw out those nuggets inherent in any area of study since the entire world belongs to God.

[1] As explained in The Signature of God by Grant R. Jeffrey, 1998, pages 145-6

Thursday, 14 February 2013

My Special Valentine

   I did not demand them but for nine years in a row I received roses on Valentine’s Day.  During those nine years my husband was part of a family greenhouse business that grew roses for the cut flower market.  I always appreciated these flowers, but there is something I appreciate even more.
   Since 2001, my husband has been giving me the same Valentine card every year.  Well, not exactly the same card.  You see, he adds a new 2-4 lines, often poetic ones,  to it each year. When he started this tradition, he instructed me as follows:
Please do not fail
To return this card,
But not in the mail
Now, each year I receive the card, I can reread the verses from the previous years and relive some of the circumstances that inspired those rhymes.  Words of affirmation are very meaningful to me and are the way I receive love the best.  I love it that my husband speaks my language!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

The Beginning of Science

   Last summer I was reading through the book of Proverbs intensively by reading each chapter multiple times and in different versions and languages.  As I read Proverbs 1:7 in French, I was struck while reading “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of la science.”  Furthermore, each time when the word knowledge is used in English, the French uses science
   As I thought it over, I wondered why it should surprise me that science is in the Bible.  It must be that I am conditioned by my culture to see science and religion as two separate categories that do not belong together.  By pondering this a little more, I recognized that the writer of many of the biblical proverbs was indeed a scientist himself.  King Solomon was a keen observer of the created world and a recognized authority:
He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop plant that
grows out of walls.  He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.  
Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.  (1 Kings 4:33-34)

   Returning to the connection between science and faith, medieval church father Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) saw no contradiction when he called theology “The Queen of the Sciences.”  Two other well-known scientists of the past who demonstrated that the Greeks had faulty notions of planetary motion (Johannes Kepler) and the properties of light (Sir Isaac Newton), respectively were believers in God’s grandeur and gave him glory as they made their discoveries.  Kepler is quoted as saying, “We see how God, like a human architect, approached the founding of the world according to order and rule and measured everything in such a manner.”[1]
   There is still a place for people of faith in science today.  True science begins with the fear of the Lord.  Hymn writer William Cowper said it well:

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his works in vain
God is his own interpreter
And he will make it plain.[2]

[1] Quoted in J.H. Tiner’s book Johannes Kepler—Giant of Faith and Science. 1977 (inside front cover)
[2] From his hymn “God moves in a mysterious way”, 1774

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A Perfect Birthday

With my birthday coming up soon, I have been reflecting on some of my childhood birthdays. 
·        Although I don’t remember it, my first birthday was spent in the Netherlands meeting the relatives on my mom’s side of the family. 
·        On my third birthday, my parents gave me a Fisher Price “schoolhouse,” which I opened while wearing a toothpaste-green sleeper with feet.  How could they have known my future career?
·        My 11th birthday was also spent in Holland, where I also got my ears pierced.  My sister recollects that this caused a stir when we returned to Canada.  My dad did not approve!
   Birthdays should be special, and it always means a lot when the people around you make them memorable.  I can recall two birthdays (35th and 37th) spent in the Emergency Department with a child in need of medical treatment. When people hear this, they are always so sympathetic that I was “robbed” of my birthday.  But I don’t see it that way. Here are more details about one of those birthdays.
   It was a Friday in 2006.  My three-year-old daughter had been suffering from a fever for three full days with no sign of improvement.  She seemed to have an ear infection, and it needed antibiotics to clear it up.  My doctor could not see us, and his office suggested the emergency room.  After dropping my 7 year-old son off at school, I took my two daughters to the hospital.  I had hastily packed a small sleeve of round vegetable crackers and some juice.  I also had a roll of lifesavers in my purse, left from a “Sweet story book” bought at Christmas time.
   It ended up being a full day of waiting, and once you were in the queue, you couldn’t leave to get something from a convenience store.  The crackers and lifesavers somehow sustained the three of us until 5 PM when we were on our way with a signed prescription.  Another blessing was that through a courtesy phone, I could contact a parent at the school to take my son home and care for him until we could get there.
   While we were waiting I came to the realization that I had parked illegally and might be facing a ticket and fine upon leaving the hospital.  By grace, there was no ticket on our van (and I never parked illegally again.)
   When I got home, I was definitely exhausted but I could see God’s providence with me that day.  My husband had hot food ready when we got home, and the prescription led to a quick improvement in my daughter’s health.  I tried to count my blessings with the awareness that if I had lived outside of Canada or North America, my crisis would have been amplified many-fold.
   To me, a perfect birthday can happen anywhere because God’s presence goes with us and can lift us up in the inevitable challenges we face in life.