Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Nutella Sandwiches & Loving Jesus

So what is it really about preparing Nutella sandwiches that makes meaningful moments every single day?  I’ve always wanted to do something great and noteworthy in my life yet, here I am, folding endless T-shirts and playing referee and judge in wrestling matches between a 6 and 13 year old.

I was recently in a baby shower party and in one part of the program, the ladies were asked to give tips, wishes & advices for the soon to be mom.  And these reminders from Deuteronomy 6:5-7 came to my mind... 

It has too often been the wise counsel to many new parents to put Christ in the center of their homes.  But what does it really mean?  Where does that fit in between the morning rush to school and work?  How is that achieved in the midst of our busy schedules—juggling piles of laundry on one hand and helping the kids with homework and driving them to soccer games and ballet lessons on the other while planning and executing the weekly breakfast, lunch and dinner menu?

We are commanded to wholeheartedly love the Lord and diligently teach the same to our children.  When we love someone, that person is constantly in our thoughts and conversations.  Our daily tasks no longer become a burden but a delight to accomplish for the one that we love.  Sacrifice becomes pleasure for the sake our beloved.  Thus, to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength is to make our world revolve around Him.  It is making Him more than just a part of our families, but making everything start and end with Him.  His kingdom agenda and righteousness now become our priority.  We love each other despite our faults and differences because we are loved by God, our Father the same way.  And following His example is what will make Him happy.  We should talk about Him over dinner and while we walk the kids to school.  We should make Him and His desires the subject of our discussions and bedtime stories.  We should find time to remember Him, to listen to Him, to consult Him, to thank and praise Him together in prayer and as we study His Word and obey Him.

To make Jesus the center of our homes means making Him the source of our joys (not the new dishwasher we’ve always wanted to get); the source of our strength & security (not Daddy’s job nor a bottle of Tylenol); the source of the calm in our chaos (not shutting up the kids when they’re fighting over the last KitKat); the source of our comfort (not the most longed-for lazy Saturday mornings nor the dream vacation to Disneyland); and the source of our hope (not our child’s straight As and the bright future it so promises).  Of course, God can bless our families with many good things which we are to be grateful for.  However, even without such things as money, new pairs of shoes, good health, an employment one can truly be proud of, perfect kids, a nice house or a well-groomed garden, we can still find beauty and sense to our days—be it good or bad—when God is in the center of it.

Our family is far from perfect.  We yell at each other and fight.  We have unfinished chores, overdue bills and stains on our walls.  Yet in the middle of it all, there are lessons to be learned.  Love grows.  Understanding clears hazy windows.  Character builds.  Forgiveness finds its room.  And an unwavering trust and dependence on God open doors for His grace to make wonders out of our weaknesses.  Bringing Christ in the midst of all the disarray is what gives meaning and purpose to both the trying and the mundane.

"Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do...but how much love we put in that action."
 --Mother Teresa

Monday, 13 May 2013

"It's alright, everything will be okay."

When I was a little girl, I remember always running to Mom every time I needed something or whenever I felt scared or troubled.  It's amazing how just one kiss from her can make a boo-boo suddenly feel better; and soothing words like, "It's alright, everything will be okay" can make the monsters go away and the world a brighter place to be.  Moms have a way of comforting children that makes us look up to them in admiration and say, "She's the best!  She's the bravest!  When I grow up, I want to be just like her!"

When I became a mom however, I realized soon enough the other side of the story. Moms aren't always brave.  In fact we worry all the time!  We worry about the littlest things, like our toddlers scraping their knees or our grade-schoolers not finishing their packed lunches.  I'm pretty sure when my sons become teenagers, I will be worrying a lot more about different sorts of things.

This "worry" nevertheless stems from our love--and ironically, the same love that knows no fear and enables us to brave the monstrous of storms.  It is the kind that would be willing to cross the farthest seas and climb the highest mountain for our children's sake.  No matter how old they get, we will forever be thinking of them because "we will be loving them forever, liking them for always, and as long as we're living, our babies they'll be."  I guess moms were created with hearts bigger than our bodies so as to hold as much love that will fuel us to care and nourish 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  You see, moms were not only programmed to preach (from her kitchen table/pulpit, at least), but also to protect.  It is in our nature to nurture.  However, it is when our love is powered by our own strength that we begin to worry and fall short because we know our limits. On the contrary, when we draw the love we give away from the wellspring of God's love, then we are able to walk on water because "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

a page from the book, "Love You Forever" written by Robert Munsch,
illustrated by Shiela McGraw & published by Firefly Books

"I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
My baby you'll be."

--Robert Munsch 

I have thus to understand the fact that there will soon be times and places where I can no longer go with my kids to hold their hands or simply just be there for them.  There will be circumstances they'll eventually have to face all by themselves.  Some things are just beyond my control.  And I'll just have to keep learning to let go and let God.  As much as I'd like to attempt the impossible for my kids, I know I'd be able to do a better job by entrusting them into the Father's loving hands and giving Him His turn to quiet my soul with the words, "It's alright, everything will be okay."

"It's Alright" by Brandon Heath, from the album, "Leaving Eden" 
(released Jan. 18, 2011)
YouTube video posted by Jake SD19

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; 
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

(Isaiah 66:13, NIV)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Who Do You Believe?

We were recently asked in our church Evangelism class to think of a good illustration describing "faith"--the saving kind, and not mere head knowledge.  And just last night, I saw this picture on facebook, thanks to SermonQuotes along with these wise words from Hudson Taylor, and thought "this is perfect!"

Can you trust this bridge to get you across the other side?  Christ, our Savior may be likened to this bridge.  Will you entrust your life to Him as the One & Only Way to the Father (John 14:6)?  To salvation from eternal damnation (Acts 4:12)?  To heaven (Luke 23:39-43)?

Committing our lives to the Lord for salvation however, is only the beginning.  Our everyday walk with God as Christians and our endeavors as a church also require faith.  As faith is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:11), we will surely be confronted with risks to take just as Abraham had when he followed God's call to leave his home to embark onto the great unknown; or when Noah, after being warned by God of things he has never seen, built an ark despite the criticism and opposition of so many.  What we put at stake, be it our time, money, skill, body, our love and devotion or our very lives as we heed God's call reflect our faith.

The good truth on the other hand, is that it doesn't really matter much though our faith be the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20).  We can always ask God to help us in our unbelief (Mark 9:23-24).  Rather, it is the object of our faith that counts!  What or better yet, "Who" do you believe?  Our duty is to simply trust and obey.  Our God is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17)!  It is His job to move the mountain.  It is He who can feed five thousand out of two fish and five loaves of bread.  His grace will always be greater than our sin (Romans 5:20).  It will always suffice for our every need & weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What is God asking you to trust Him with today?  What is He calling you to do?  Are you willing to take that step of faith?  Do you dare leap?

"Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

--John Sammis, 1887

Monday, 5 November 2012

The View from the Top

Have you ever felt stuck--in a tight spot, a boring job, a traffic jam, a noisy crowd or a sticky situation--that your eyes couldn't help but wander far beyond the walls...onto the world outside your windows...up to the sky...far, far away from it all?

With a heavy heart, I heaved a sigh of resignation as I looked up to the vastness of the bright sky above.  I was asking God to rescue me from my pit when suddenly, the world before me dimmed as I looked back down.  No, nobody shut the lights out.  But you know how you temporarily lose your vision after staring at something bright for a while?  Well, that's not all that happened to me.  Jesus' light happened to me.

Jesus' light happened to Saul too on his way to Damascus.  It blinded a man whose views and actions reflected the darkness in his soul.  Yet after seeing Jesus, his heart was changed and so did his name and the way he saw the world.

Not that I have been "breathing out murderous threats against God's disciples."  But perhaps I have been short-sighted of the greatness of God in my own life.  The comforting truth however, was that He will always be greater than my griefs.  And His grace will always be greater than all my sin.  Neither the tightness of my spot nor the stickiness of my situation will ever change the character, power and love of God.  And whether my faith was as big as a football field or as tiny as a mustard seed, God remains to be the Mover of my mountains.

There simply was no question about what God can do, but on what I was willing to do.  My mountain had grown so big that it blocked my way and obstructed my view.  Yet the Lord chose not to move it.  While I've been struggling to find a way around it, all He wanted was to grow my faith bigger that I may gain a higher perspective.  I was stuck, yes...because I refused to grow.  I couldn't see because I refused to open up my eyes to the things that mattered most like love, forgiveness and compassion.

 The breathtaking view at the top of the Dorset Lookout 
Tower in Haliburton, Ontario.

 I called this picture "Big World, Little Jane"
with my friend posing for me beside this gigantic binoculars.

Beautiful rainbow on top of the Haliburton Highlands.

God's greatness had brought me to my knees as it brought to light the shadows that were slowly creeping in the crevices of my heart.  He showed me that I didn't really need to go very far to find His grace.  It was sufficient right where I was.

I know that every now and then I will still be pleading with the Lord to take away my thorn.  Yet when He won't, I pray that like the apostle Paul, He may help me fix my eyes not on what is seen which is temporary, but on what is unseen which is eternal.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."  (Helen H. Lemmel, 1922)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Walking the Turtle

      "Shouldn't we put a leash on him," I asked my son while grabbing the Red-eared Slider out of his tank.  Little Kurt's eyes grew bigger.  He's seen folks walking their dogs around on a leash...but turtles?  He must be wondering how a leash would even fit such a tiny neck that's just about the size of his stubby, big toe.  Well, wouldn't this reptile try to run away after having been confined inside a small four-walled house, where he had nothing better to do--that he just decided to sleep for about four long months?

I couldn't help but mull over such ideas.  After a very quiet winter, I finally hear him moving, splashing and scratching his over-grown claws against his tank.  For a generally shy creature, Todd is suddenly making quite some noise.  Though not at all related to bears, these turtles also go through some sort of hibernation.  They actually "brumate" or become sluggish and less active during the cold season.  In fact, Todd has hardly eaten anything at all since November.  One morning I even thought he was dead.  I had to shake his tank a bit to get him out of his shell.

Todd in his tank, slowly stretching his neck up to the surface to take a peek.

Yet now that it's spring, he's alive again!  After what seemed like the longest sleep, he's now up and about--hungry, tossing to and fro, reaching up for a way out.  He must have heard the birds singing their happy song.  He must have felt the sunlight on his face.  He must have seen the budding leaves and the blooming flowers from his glass walls.  The world outside is coming back to life and so must he!  

Spring must be the breath of God, waking a sleeping world to life.

Oh, I can only marvel at the energy this season brings; the colors it paints in nature; and the hope it gives mankind!  It brings to mind how God can raise even the dead back to life.  For just as He is the Giver of life, He is also it's Blesser, Sustainer, and Keeper!    

It is such a thrill just seeing people out on the streets again.  My neighbors are back in their gardens too.  Even my kids have been roused from their own dormant state of "sitting-on-the-couch-playing-video-games-for-as long-as-they-can".  And Todd, he yearns for the outdoors too.

Free at last!

"Please, hurry up, Todd!  ...Aw, Mom!  Todd is taking forever!"

"Go, Todd!  Oh wait, not there...over here, Todd.
This way.  The Park's this way!"

So yes, we decided to take him for a walk.  Well, of course we didn't get very far.  The poor animal just had to stop after every two or three baby steps to hide back inside his shell.  Nevertheless, it's been great just to be out for a while; to be blessed with a new season; to be alive! 

"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.'"                                                                

--John 11:25, NIV  

"Sigh... It'll be morning by the time we get to the park.
Let's just go back home.  My feet are achy now."

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cloudy with a Promise of a Better Day

"Peace is not found in the absence of trouble but in the presence of God."
I guess almost everyone frowns at the daunting sight of dark clouds.  Like most five-year olds, the sound of thunder used to send me scurrying under the sheets too.  To my mind, Rain and anything that signaled its coming were the villains in what's supposed to be a nice day to play outside.  So with nose pressed hard against our old glass jalousie windows, I had grown up chanting "Rain, rain, go away!" at each ominous rain cloud that hid my hero, Mister Sun away.  

little me under my favorite umbrella

In this life, we too are faced with some kind of rain every now and then.  Sometimes it drizzles, some days it storms.  But what do we do when the inevitable comes?  Should we just let it dampen our spirits and flood our souls with sadness?  Should we run and hide?  Or should we keep on chanting that rainy day rhyme until the storms have passed? 

There is a song I heard once about little flowers which comforted me in a time of grief.  Here are some of the verses I can still remember...

"Little flowers never worry when the wind begins to blow
And they never, never cry when the rain begins to fall
...Oh I guess they've learned the secret; They don't fret because they know
If it never, never rained, then they'll never, never grow"   

Once we understand the promise of Romans 8:28--that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose, we can better appreciate even the most trying circumstances.  And with the God who created the mystery of the seasons by our side, we can trust each out-pour to bring with it new strength, growth and blessing.  For how can we know the warmth of sunshine, if we had not been acquainted with the dampness of rain?  Indeed, the soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears. 

Today, I still shudder at the thought of rain, though am no longer as afraid.  Just as troubles and difficulties are bound to happen, so do better days.  And whether or not the rain is here to stay, the sunshine of God's love shall be enough to paint a smile across my face.  So the next time dark clouds hover, I would like to see that little girl in me coming out from beneath those sheets; putting her rain boots on and running towards the rain.  She would be opening her umbrella upside-down to catch heaven's mercies; and with her head lifted high, she would be spreading her arms as wide as she can to embrace everything else the rain has to offer.  

There is beauty to be found in the midst of every storm when you have God in the center of it.  Over the years, He has been a friend who has walked with me through the grays and gloom of it all.  With His faithfulness, He has led me again and again to that rainbow behind every cloud.   Thus, in the days to come, when the storms rage on and the skies shower down its endless rhythm of spitter-spatter and drippitty-drop-drops, I will trust Him once more to take my hand, jump with me in the puddles, and gracefully dance with me in the rain.