A bright flash of colour was seen when the bird flew overhead. It landed in a nearby tree and quite effectively disappeared from sight.
Although I knew the bird was there, it now blended into the drab brown of the leafless branches.
The bright plumage was hidden. Only when wings were spread in flight could colour be seen.
I thought of the times I have also caused myself to disappear in plain sight. When I deny the unique attributes that make me who I am; my drab exterior blends in with my surroundings. No distinguishing characteristics are visible to set me apart.
God has gifted each of us with our own combination of talents and abilities. These are not to be hidden, but to be gratefully acknowledged and used for His glory.
I know this but it still seems risky to leave my safe perch and attempt to fly. I am more like a frightened baby bird than an exotic tropical one. Who am I to think I could possibly soar? It’s probably better to blend in than to draw attention to myself.
I remember hearing there are two things that can happen if I step out in faith to test my wings. One is that God will catch me if I fall. The other is that He will teach me to fly.
Either way, trusting God and following His leading will not be a mistake. Where I can only see my uninspiring, drab plumage, God sees the beauty He has instilled in me.
When, in faith, I embrace the opportunity to spread my wings and fly, the bright colours of His love will be visible to others and point them upwards to the glory of God.
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship.” (Psalm 19:1 NLT)
Isn’t that interesting?” I said to my husband. We were on a beach walk when I saw the primitive looking shelter.
It was set back a good distance from the water to protect it from being washed away with the tides. The construction materials were those found readily at hand. Poles supporting the structure appeared to be long, thin pieces of wood such as we’ve often seen on the beach. A few more of these were crosswise on the top, forming a base for the roof. Dried palm fronds on the top ensured a shaded area inside the structure.
The shelter was simple but would provide refuge from the heat of the intense Mexican sun. Other properties had more elaborate structures but this simple one was all that was really needed.
I pondered this thought as our walk continued. Before long I realized snippets of an old song were providing background music my mind. The lyrics told of a mansion that is waiting for us in heaven.
Now, I understood the draw the shelter held for me. It represents my life. My needs may be taken care of but that doesn’t stop the desire for more. No matter how much I have my longing will never be satisfied this side of heaven.
God is my shelter today. He watches over me, guides and protects and has made my life rich with more than material things.
I have the assurance that one day Jesus will take me to a home He has prepared for me and I will spend eternity with Him. Nothing in this life can compare to what is in store for me then.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 13:2-3 NIV)
The English speaking church we attend in Mexico had an interesting beginning. We have met the Canadian couple who were instrumental in the formation of the church. I enjoyed hearing the story both from their perspective and that of the pastor.
After wintering in the area for several years, this couple could see the need for a church service in English. They learned of a pastor in the area who was bilingual and approached him with their idea.
He could see the merit in this but didn’t feel his language skill were good enough. After more conversation he thought it might be possible. “We can start next year” he said.
The immediate response of, “How about next week?” took him by surprise. Sensing this was God’s will, he agreed. The next Sunday fourteen people were in attendance for the first service in English. That was over ten years ago.
We appreciate the ministry of our Mexican church home. I have been privileged to be in attendance for both multicultural and outreach events with the English and Spanish congregations working side by side.
I am grateful for the pastor who didn’t feel equipped but accepted the challenge. He did not give in to the natural tendency to say, “No” or put off what seems too much to handle. Instead, he stepped out in faith and trusted God to lead the way.
This story has inspired me. I know that God has big plans for each of us. He doesn’t always call those of us who feel equipped. Instead, He calls those who are willing and equips them. When I step out in faith and trust the Lord, there is no limit to what He may enable me to do.
We have taken winter vacations in the same area for several years. During this time we have met a few people but due to our quiet lifestyle, are not well known.
This year we are spending longer in the area and have been able to get involved in a few activities. This means we have made more contacts.
A week ago we were on a walk along the beach when someone called my name. I was surprised to find someone who knew me and enjoyed stopping to talk. We carried on with our walk and five minutes later someone in a nearby house called out my husband’s name. Again, we stopped to talk.
On our walk home we commented that we’d encountered people who knew our names. It felt good to be known.
There is one who has always known me. He knows much more than my name. He knows everything about me. The Bible says God knows the number of hairs on my head. It doesn’t say He knows how many there are but each one is numbered. That means He knows exactly which one falls. I don’t even know that about myself!
This intimate knowledge started before I was born.
God saw me as I was formed in my mother’s womb. Isn’t that incredible?
I no longer wonder if my presence is seen. The scriptures confirm God knows me in a way no other can.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1 NLT)
“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”( Psalm 139:17-18 NLT)
The image was quite striking. The concrete steps had what looked like a supporting frame on either side. Other than that, there was nothing attached to join these side pillars to anything else. The stairs were on an angle, tipped backwards into the sand. Abandoned.
I wondered what this scene had once looked like. Were these steps that led out to a world of adventure and later back to the safety and comfort of home? Did they watch children go over them to play on the beach? Maybe they welcomed guests to an outdoor patio gathering. There are many stories I could tell myself about what they had been. I have no way of knowing the real story.
Now they were a sad sight. They led to nowhere.
I could go over them and around them and still be basically in the same place. My steps would be wasted as they would lead nowhere.
This was a visual reminder of what can happen to me if I’m not careful. Without clear direction, my dreams of what life can look like remain only dreams. The plans I have for my life will not be fulfilled.
I think of times I’ve been disappointed when what I had worked towards did not bring about the results I’d hoped for. Sometimes I’ve abandoned my dreams the same way these stairs on the beach had been abandoned.
There is a better way. My direction needs to come from the Lord. I can make all of the plans I want but until I trust the Lord to determine my steps, they may be getting me nowhere.
We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NLT)
The high winds we had been experiencing were unusual. It’s often breezy where I live, but gusts up to 100 kilometres per hour were definitely out of the ordinary.
One day a north wind blew in cold arctic air. Another, a Chinook wind blew in mild temperatures. Either way, it caused problems and was the topic of many conversations. The roar as it buffeted the house was enough to make me wonder if we’d be blown away.
The wind warnings had finally subsided when I heard someone on the radio talking about an experience from his childhood. I’m not sure where he grew up but he told of wind so powerful that it picked up the trampoline from the backyard and sent it over the top of the house where it came crashing down in the front yard. Needless to say, the trampoline was totally destroyed. From then on, his dad always made sure everything was well anchored.
Although the picture of a trampoline being tossed over a house was vivid, the term well anchored was what stuck in my mind. The storms of life have a way of tossing me around and then causing serious damage when I come crashing down. To stay safe I need to be well anchored in the Lord. Prayer and reading the Bible are the lifelines that keep me firmly connected to God.
There is no need to doubt I will be protected because I fully believe in His promise to care for me.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6 NIV)
The pastor started his sermon by telling us the choices we make shape our future and determine our destiny. This was something I already knew. The question remained; how often do I think about it when making my choices?
Life gives plenty of opportunity for making choices. I can face these with faith or with fear. I’ll admit, making choices is not easy for me. When it comes right down to it, I think the fear of making the wrong choice is what causes my inability to be decisive.
What I fail to remember is that the faith I need to move forward isn’t faith in my own judgment or ability. I only see the short-term and what looks like the easiest and most productive path for right now. God is the only one who sees the whole picture, beginning to end, and can guide me to make the right choice.
How strong is my trust in God? I know He can take care of me but do I fully believe that He will? Do I succumb to my fears or wholly trust in the Lord?
The answer to those questions will shape my future and determine my destiny. The decision is mine to make. God will never force himself on me. It’s my choice and I choose to trust in Him.
The Lord will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8 NLT)
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT)
It has become my tradition to share this poem with you as one year and we embark upon another. Every year I read it and appreciate what it has to say. My mother gave it to me many years ago and unfortunately, I don’t know who the author is.
My prayer is that each of you will be blessed this way in 2019.
NEW YEAR PRAYER
May God make your year a happy one,
Not by shielding you from sorrow and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, if it comes.
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy enough to travel any path.
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking all cowardice and fear from your heart.
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows.
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you where man and his cause need you most,
And by making you anxious to be there, and to help.
Over the years I’ve heard the saying, “Giving is receiving.” This is something I’ve experienced as I’m sure many of you have.
The fact our giving doesn’t have to be extravagant to have an impact is an added bonus. Sometimes all we need to do is show up. Our time is valuable and giving it freely to someone shows a commitment to that person they may not have experienced elsewhere.
Acts of service show we understand the needs of another and are willing to help fill those needs. In order to recognize them, we need to pay attention.
My husband is a master at this. He quietly takes care of things around the house to give me time to spend writing. By giving me the gift of his time he is also valuing mine. There is no way to put a price on this kind of gift.
His example makes me strive to cheerfully give my time and attention to others. By doing so, I am giving one of the most thoughtful gifts possible. No lineups to purchase are required. No fancy wrapping is needed. The ripple effect is far-reaching and can enable me to experience a little of Christmas in any month of the year. This may be the most perfect gift idea ever!
“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” Mother Theresa
My favourite Christmas concerts are the ones put on by children. They have several things in common with the first Christmas – music, drama, God, and the element of surprise! You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I think the mistakes in the program provide some of the most memorable moments.
The Christmas I was six years old, I was given a major role in the school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me memorize the poem. By the day of the concert I had it word perfect. That is, until I stepped up on the stage in front of an audience!
Part way through, I forgot my next line. I paused and then started again, unaware that I was repeating a previous line. Suddenly my three-year-old brother yelled out from the audience, “You already said that part!” My mother was embarrassed at his outburst, I was embarrassed by my mistake and my little brother stole the show!
Now I can look back and realize that mistakes actually help teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They allow us to see that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God’s love was telling us more than 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Jesus. He’s still telling us that today.
His love is there when we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He’s there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts. When we make a mistake, he picks us up and encourages us to try again. He delights in our enthusiasm and rejoices with us in our accomplishments. His unconditional love always meets us exactly where we are.
Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, I want to be like a little child, basking in the love of my Heavenly Father.