Conversation: Care

 
 1 John 3:
 

17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

16perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our livesr the brethren.

 17But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

 18My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in trud hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shal


 

Always One Fact More

 
 
 

The stiff, incommmunicative neighbour has a loveless marriage. The prank-playing youth has a learning disability. The profane teenage girl gets to watch her parents fight every second day. The painfully shy young man once had a teacher who systematically humiliated him. These are the one facts more which should give us pause and a much more sympathetic ear to our fellow travelers.

But we have a wealth of life experience. We think that we have seen it before. We believe that we have discernment. We know where not to waste our time. And Omniscience looks on and shakes His head at such presumption. Love would have waited and watched, prayed and sought an honest opportunity to bless.

God also reserves the one fact more in our life of faith. Oh, to be saved. Oh, to be healed. Oh, to finish that study. Oh, to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. Then it will be clear sailing and increased usefulness in the Kingdom of God. Then we will certainly have the "word in season" for him that is weary. Then perhaps even the prophetic "now" word to distribute among our friends to their inevitable blessing. Such presumption and self-assurance! We see nothing yet as we ought. We forget the stuff of which all mortals are made. We seldom tremble at God's Word. We have no evident fear of the Lord. He will wait for another day, and perhaps another child of light.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Song of the Wire

 



An overcast day
In the summer.
A pleasant relief
From the heat.
And rising quite
Early this morning,
I’ve taken a
Cool backyard seat.
The birds are
Surprisingly quiet.
Are they as slow-
Moving as I?
The leaves on the
Maple turn over,
Requesting a drink
From the sky.
And upwards behind
Me, I hear him,
In notes softly
Soothing and sad.
His double-tone tune
Of lamenting,
Today makes me
Mellow, but glad.
I wonder what hurt
He is hiding?
What loneliness
Looms in his soul?
What sickness at home
He is bearing?
What trial he finds
Hard to control?
His heart is the
Heart of a mourner.
And pain is a
Constant we share.
He asks, “May I
Help you by singing?
I know, and God knows,
And we care.”
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

A Kiss on the Cheek

 



The story is told of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) walking a remote country lane and discovering a beggar sitting in the grass. The poor man said nothing but held up a beaten dish.

By reflex Francis reached into his robe for a small loaf of bread, smiled and placed the food in the dish. He continued on his way. About twenty-five yards farther he stopped knowing that something was not right.

Francis returned to the beggar, sat down beside him, gently kissed his cheek and said something to the effect of "God in Heaven loves you more than you could possibly imagine. He knows all about you."

They sat quietly for a moment, and then Francis continued on his journey. One more time he turned to give a parting wave of the hand. He saw not the beggar, but rather Jesus standing, smiling, at the roadside at that exact spot. Francis had kissed the cheek of his Master!

Fact or fiction? Does it matter? The story is worth telling as a reminder of the fact that we will be surprised with opportunities. Jesus threw down His challenge in Matthew 25:35,36:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Keep your eyes open, ambassador of the King.
 
 
 

 
 
 

A Living Parable

 


John 13:

12 So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?


This is one of the most beautiful scenes of Jesus with His disciples - the foot washing. Jesus, the Master of the feast gets up from his focal position at the table, strips off his raiment, takes the bowl of refreshing and stoops at the feet of every friend for the washing. This was common at a special meal, but it was to be done by the house servant.

What a contrast! Master of the Feast. Lowliest one in the room. Jesus intended his friends to understand that somehow in the intentions of God He was both. It takes us back to Matthew 11 where the Lord spoke of His "yoke" of meekness and lowliness.

But then the half-naked servant takes back the robe, returns to the head of the table, probably with John and Judas reclining on either side of Him, and asks, "Know ye what I have done to you?"

Here it seems that we have the entire New Testament. The stripping and the serving are seen in the four Gospels. The import of the plan of redemption is explained in the epistles. The Revelation depicts His coming again in judgment and glory, the Leader of an eternal community of joy.

I am so thankful that the fourth Evangelist (John) stepped forward and filled in some blanks for us. 
 
 
 

 

 

Just Checking?

 


Are you doing the Lord's work? Or are you doing your thing for the Lord? There is an important difference.

A calling faces a present need in the Body of Christ which has been impressed upon your spirit and which cannot be denied based upon personal limitations or opportunity. If the Lord wants to use you He will give the irrepressible impression and everything else. He is pulling the instrument from the tool box. He is wielding it. The instrument may take no personal credit. Indeed, wants none.

This calling will also be subject to change at the Lord's will. The instrument MUST remain teachable, listening, humble, undaunted by adversity or temporary set-back. Ready also for new marching orders. Look at the battles faced by a Moses or Barnabus or Wilberforce or Brainerd.

Now compare another scenario seen too often in the churches. A spiritual gifting inventory is conducted among promising parishioners. Pastor and other leaders conclude that candidate "Charlie" is gifted and keen in the scriptures and they apply the "teacher" label. They flatter Charlie because they have a real need in this area in a part of their program. Charlie comes to see teaching as a calling and he fills the slot. He also enjoys the "stroking" and the sense of purpose. He is on the difficult edge of spiritual pride and self-actualization. He may stay in that slot for years, as he has been told to do...by flesh.

Opportunities of the Lord's initiation have come and gone. Charlie simply has not been looking or listening. We have here a very real example of the warning given often by Oswald Chambers: "The good may be the enemy of the best."

Of course there is a need to take stock of resources in the church. But I have heard of another approach. Sam, a friend who was once a pastor, has conducted a number of spiritual gift inventories. But the emphasis is all about rendering a service that one might free up other members of the Body to operate in their callings. There is a prevalent attitude of preferring the other and of being willing to take the lowest seat at the Gospel table. (Luke 14:8-11). Sam would also caution that a calling is subject to change at the Lord's will.

Would you want to remain where you are when the Lord and His power have moved on?

Jesus repeatedly stated that He did only what the Father told Him to do, said only what the Father told Him to say. This was worked out in prayer on the nights preceding the many days when Jesus acted with insight, power and effect. The time came when He walked face-up and alert into temple-halls of slander, adversity and treachery. It was ALL the Father's will.

I guess that I am suggesting that time and again you check the purity of your motive, the singleness of your eye. Do not desperately hold on to the opportunity which you have carved out for yourself when the Lord is suggesting another one, great or small.

North Americans with their individualistic and competitive mind-set have a hard time dealing with Oriental models of community, including the Body of Christ. Perhaps some help may be gleaned from a rather pithy piece of scripture:

Ephesians 4:

15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.


Or look at the New Living Translation:

15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
 
 
 

 
 
 
How You Live with Point of Grace
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 I cry at this one. Thankful for much. Missing some. Aware of sand through the glass, but not frightened by it...Doug
 
  
 
 

 
 
 
 

Men's Ministry

 


Get men around a table. Bibles in hand. Questions, discoveries of interest prepared in advance by many. Open and transparent about who they are and about what their struggles are. Given to good humour and encouragement. Bound by a code of confidentiality and trust. Prepared to launch out in just about any direction. Sex. Finance. Health. Family and relational challenges. Faith. Temptations. Addictions. Church hopes or gripes. Current events. Non-judgmental. Ever teachable. Given spontaneously to prayer and under-girding. Unashamed by tears. Committed to regular gathering. Looking for Jesus to arrive and quietly guide their time together.

This is men's ministry. It focuses on a common desire for friendship, growth and help in Christ. Study and discussion are large issues. Each man will be respected as he "takes the floor".

Occasionally, but only occasionally, bowling, billiards, baseball and breakfasts may help.
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

Whistle Stops the Play

 


One kid was still out on the court. Coach Brown was in his office beside the gym waiting for the team to shower up. But someone was still out there.

PING, PING, dubbadubbadub, PING, fwoosh. He could see that it was Scott Kramer at the far end of the court. He had noticed something out of sorts with the boy during the practice. Reluctance to laugh at the jokes. Unnecessary roughness in the skirmish.

"Scott, take a shower. We have to clear out. It's really starting to snow outside."

"Yeah, OK Coach." The boy slowly placed his ball in the bin and headed downstairs.

It didn't surprise the Coach at all that Scott was much later than the others coming out. This was his second year on the team and he was really starting to carry his own weight. Not quite first string yet, but great in the practices and well worth putting in for at least one-third of the game. He was murder on rebounds and quick shots under the board.

"Scott let me give you a lift home.That snow is wicked. You're on Wellington aren't you. That's no problem at all. Right on my way."

Shortly into the drive Coach took the initiative. "Is there something wrong that you might want to tell me about?"

"Well I don't know, it could be nothing, but then it could be really serious. My Dad hasn't been home for the last three nights."

Instantly Coach got a mental image of a trim man in his upper thirties, slightly balding, raising his arms and cheering more than average from the bleachers. No wife at his side. In the next ten minutes Coach heard of a huge argument the other night and a door-slamming departure. It was tax season and Ken Kramer was an accountant. Many overtime hours. The boy's mother, Barb had a job in administration three days a week at the hospital. There was only the one child.

"I'm really afraid that he intends to stay away. I heard them arguing about one of the doctors at Mom's work. I guess at one time he was her boyfriend or something."

"Hmmm that doesn't sound good. I guess that you will be staying with your Mom, and perhaps hearing her side of things pretty firmly. I'm not trying to judge here. I only know that these troubles usually have roots on both sides. Try to make contact with your Dad, and get him to meet and talk, if only with you."

"The whole thing seems so weird. I never thought it would happen. Exams are coming too, and I have to find the time to work all things out right."

"Scott, I've never told the team this before, but I lost my Dad when I was only fifteen. Colon cancer. Gone in four months. Just like a whirlwind of pain. When it was over I realized that there were so many things I ought to have told him, and didn't. Don't you miss out on chances with your Dad, even if he and your Mom can't work this thing out."

"That's the place there on the left. Big light by the driveway. Thanks for the time and the lift. I'll think about what you said."

"Keep me in the loop on this, OK?"

The snow was letting up just a little now.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
A Table Before Me (psalm 23)
 
 

YouTube Video

 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Gentlemanly

 


Jesus is a gentleman. To the hypocrite He is blasting words of fire. To the oppressor (a man such as Herod) He is terrifyingly silent. To the haughty and self-assured (a man such as the lawyer who elicited the parable of the Good Samaritan) He is succinctly challenging.

But to the needy, neglected and humbly petitioning He is patience, compassion, ready help and sensitive courtesy.

I love the story in Mark 7: 31-37. People have brought to Jesus a man who is deaf and dumb, beseeching that He might lay hands on him as other prophets of old would have done. Jesus takes him aside to a quiet and more private place. He wants to minister intimately and without embarrassment, fanfare or ostentation.

Then the Lord "looks to heaven". He will only give the credit to His Heavenly Father and wants to let the man know that it is entirely natural for Him to call upon such power in the here-and-now.

Then Jesus sighs. There are worlds of comfort and encouragement in this act. Messiah has come, has grown, suffered, laboured and laughed in our mortal sphere. He identifies and offers sinless, vital intercession. He feels, as if real, the handicap, frustration and shame of the man before Him.

He helps the man's faith to receive by doing something physical; fingers into the deaf ears and spittled touch upon the tongue. Note the order. It is better to hear from Jesus, firstly and intently, before having anything much of significance to say. Otherwise our tongues may be a frequent cause for stumbling and harm. Have we not heard the Lord say often, "He who hath ears to hear: let Him hear"? Remember that Jesus gives the ears, the perception, to hear rightly.

And then the word, the creative word, spoken calmly and with authority which compels a trusting response. "Be opened". The result of health and wholeness, new purpose and praise is a foregone conclusion.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
Never Alone
 
 
 

 

Never alone
They said at the starting
You would be there
Through thick and through thin
Never a chance
Your ever departing
Happy to hear this
I just walked right in.

 

Heard of your shame
And pain on the Hilltop
Heard of the folk
Who mocked you as King
Heard how the tomb
Went missing your body
Good News to Israel
That changed everything.

 

Then came the cloud
O’er faith’s early gleaming
Caused me to doubt
How sure was your troth
Then came your balm
And all things redeeming
Rescue, reunion
I thrilled at them both!

 

 


 

 

Christ, The Great Healer 

 

 

“This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

Luke 4:21

The words had been written seven hundred years before. Now Jesus reads them and says, “I am the One to whom these golden sentences refer. This scripture is fulfilled before your eyes. I am the Anointed One and this is the mission on which I came to this world.”

The whole Old Testament was full of Christ. There were a thousand fingers along its pages, every one pointing to Him. All its types and prophecies and promises were fulfilled when He came, and lived, and died, and was raised up and glorified. It is very interesting to take up Christ’s whole public life and ministry, and show how perfectly He lived out the wonderful mission which the prophet here outlined for Him centuries before He came. He preached the gospel to the poor; He was the friend of the poor. He healed the broken-hearted. Wherever He went the sorrowing and the troubled came flocking around Him. As a magnet draws steel-filings to itself from the heap of rubbish, so there was something in Him that drew the sad to Him.

There are two classes always of the broken-hearted. There are those whose hearts are broken because of sin. There are those who are crushed by affliction. Both these classes came to Christ. Sinners came, and found in Him not a stern, censorious Judge, but a tender, compassionate Saviour. The afflicted came and found true comfort.

He loved all men and sympathized with them, and was able to help them. Then He also brought deliverance to sin’s captives, setting them free, breaking their chains. He opened blind eyes; not only the natural eyes to see the beautiful things of this world, but the spiritual eyes as well, to behold the things of heaven and everlasting life. Then He lifted the yoke of the crushed or oppressed, inviting all the weary to Himself to find rest to their souls. Thus His whole life was simply the filling up of this outline sketch.

 
 (Taken from Come Ye Apart by J. R. MIller)
 
 
 
 
 Painting by James Jacques Tissot (1836-1902)
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Rant

 

Why can’t you just listen?

Why can’t you just pause?

I hurt and I want to explode.

There’s nobody else here.

I’ve come just to you

To rant and release this hard load.

But you have your Gospel

And hurt once or twice

And think that you now have the cure.

This challenge is ugly

I burn in its fire,

A fire that you say makes me pure.

Don’t be smugly certain

It all goes away.

Look down…see my guts on the floor.

I wanted compassion.

I wanted a friend.

Not platitudes heard oft’ before.

But now comes a new thing

Do I see some tears

That trickle and moisten the cheek?

Yes, just what I needed

A listening heart

Who knows what it’s like to be weak.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Seemed to Pick Her Up Out of the Trouble

 


Marnie hadn't seen the elderly man until after the collision. Until after she had rear-ended the guy in the pick-up. Until after her teething toddler Jeremy had increased the volume of his bawling threefold. Until after she had sunk her tear-smudged face into the steering wheel.

The old chap had come to her driver's side window: "Not to worry young lady. I saw the whole thing. Stay where you are. Calm your little guy down. My name is Chas. I have phoned for the police. I'm going to get insurance particulars from the guy in the truck. He cut you off. Craziest darn swooping attempt at a right turn that I've ever seen! I'll stick around and give a statement for sure."

And he did just that, giving the odd wave to passing motorists who might have otherwise started the "gawkers block" in traffic.

Who was this guy? He seemed like some sort of guardian angel. His help continued with the arrival of the cruiser and the collecting of information.

"Miss, do you have some sort of auto club coverage for the towing. Give 'em a call. I'll try to keep the boy, Jeremy is it, entertained in the interim."

And so things continued with Marnie rapidly regaining composure and a smile,

"Sir I can't thank you enough. You have been a God-send."

"You know that might just be the case, young lady...but don't mention it. The thing just sort of sparked up my afternoon."

And then he was gone. No details. No phone or address. Consequently no follow-up.

'Yes, he had REALLY been a God-send,' she thought again to herself, as she got into her sister's car.

Friend, you will have experiences in the squeeze where you will know that God has arrived in special kindness, just for you. But it will probably be difficult to convince most others that you have received rescue from above. Do not be discouraged. Do not lose the after-glow of his loving attention. In a mystical way He has spoken to you.
 
Remember the "milestone" experience. He is love.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

New Home for Fish

 


Beth could see that young Michael was in a frump. It was Saturday morning. He was playing with his waffle in the pool of syrup. His sister had gone over to a girlfriend's to work on a project for school. His Dad had left early for the Church. That Fast again.

"Mike, let's hop in the car and go down to the market. I have a surprise."

....The pet shop had been busy, and the five-year old was all eyes. Colourful birds. One that talked! A couple of sleepy puppies. Lizards that you could hardly make out on the dried sticks of wood on the gravel. And lots of fish of all colours. It had been a difficult decision as to which goldfish, but finally they were back in the car-bagged fish, food, dip-net, large glass bowl, special gravel and a little ceramic sunken ship.

Home in the kitchen Beth had already set out a bowl of water to attain room temperature. She gently poured the new family member out of the bag and into the bowl. The little guy froze for a moment in his new surroundings and then began to swim around cautiously.

Mother and son proceeded to warm rinse the new aquarium, lay in the gravel and ship model and half-fill the bowl with tap water.

"Do you think he'll like his new home, Mom?"

"Yeah, I think so, but it would probably be nice in a couple of weeks to get him a friend. Isn't he pretty with that brilliant orange and two black saddles by the back fin?"

"What should the next one be, d'ya think...black?"

Twenty minutes later and a warmer fish tank. "The idea here Mike is gently to approach him with the net, lay it below him and raise him out of the bowl. Carefully carry him to his new home and lower him down and in. Don't drop him from a height."

The little angler, biting his tongue, did as instructed. The fish flopped in a panic in the dripping net. For a few seconds Mike observed this struggle mid-air and registered a look of puzzlement.

"Why does he do that Mom? I don't want to hurt him. He looked like he was afraid for his life. But he's going into a nice new place. Bigger, brighter, good food, clean water and a new friend soon. I guess he just doesn't know what we know, eh?"

Beth thought of her husband down at the Church in prayer, focusing on changes which were coming for the fellowship, and the inevitable struggle in the process. She chuckled at the spontaneity of her little preacher.

Then, speaking quietly to herself, "So often we are in that dip-net."
 
 
See the entire ebook "Church on the Hoist".
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Bird Watcher

 

 


There must have been
Some sunny days,
In golden meadow fair;
When free from crowds
And free from toil,
You sought the purer air.
And as you strolled
The verdant paths,
The wee birds met you there.

Did not they sing
At your approach
Their fanfare, clear and sweet?
Did not they peer
From wayside nests
To note your passing feet?
Or else display
Above your head
Some agile, aerial treat.

Oh, villager,
Oh, carpenter,
Oh, rabbi to the meek.
‘Twas you who reached
From Unseen Halls
To form each wing and beak.
‘Twas you ordained
The feathered friends
So delicate and weak.

Then from the fields
And azure skies,
You passed to City’s din.
To show to powers
Their shallow hope,
Perhaps, their souls to win.
In temple halls
Where Paschal doves
Were slaughtered for men’s sin.
 
 
Taken from the ebook "Bird Song".
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

The Violinist

 


I just want to share this poem by Archibald Lampman (1861-1899).

I can remember enjoying the drive east on Highway Three from Blenheim to Morpeth. Just before you reach the turn-off for Rondeau Park, you will see a small church- memorial and beautiful sloping farmland down to Lake Erie.

While living in Chatham we would crave this drive for a look at land which was neither flat nor covered with corn. One could go inside the chapel and feel the warm and reverent spirit of rural Kent County folk. A blue Ontario historical plaque featuring Lampman was just outside.

The following poem displays the large heart of this "Confederation Poet". Note the short span of his life. Interesting name, "Lampman".

In Dresden in the square one day,
His face of parchment, seamed and gray,
With wheezy bow and proffered hat,
An old blind violinist sat.

Like one from whose worn heart the heat
Of life had long ago retired,
He played to the unheeding street
Until the thin old hands were tired.

Few marked the player how he played,
Or how the child beside his knee
Besought the passers-by for aid
So softly and so wistfully.

A stranger passed. The little hand
Went forth, so often checked and spurned.
The stranger wavered, came to stand,
Looked round with absent eyes and turned.

He saw the sightless withered face,
The tired old hands, the whitened hair,
The child with such a mournful grace,
The little features pinched and spare.

"I have no money, but," said he,
"Give me the violin and bow.
I'll play a little, we shall see,
Whether the gold will come or no."

With lifted brow and flashing eyes
He faced the noisy street and played.
The people turned in quick surprise,
And every foot drew near and stayed.

First from the shouting bow he sent
A summons, an impetuous call;
Then some old store of grief long pent
Broke from his heart and mastered all.

The tumult sank at his command,
The passing wheels were hushed and stilled;
The burning soul, the sweeping hand
A sacred ecstasy fulfilled.

The darkness of the outer strife,
The weariness and want within,
The giant wrongfulness of life,
Leaped storming from the violin.

Th jingling round of pleasure broke,
Gay carriages were drawn anear,
And all the proud and haughty folk
Leaned from their cushioned seats to hear.

And then the player changed his tone,
And wrought another miracle
Of music, half a prayer, half moan,
A cry exceeding sorrowful.

A strain of pity for the weak,
The poor that fall without a cry,
The common hearts that never speak,
But break beneath the press and die.

Throughout the great and silent crowd
The music fell on human ears,
And many kindly heads were bowed,
And many eyes were warm with tears.

"And now your gold," the player cried,
"While love is master of your mood;"
He bowed, and turned, and slipped aside,
And vanished in the multitude.

And all the people flocked at that,
The money like a torrent rolled,
Until the gray old battered hat
Was bursting to the brim with gold.

And loudly as the giving grew,
The question rose on every part,
If any named or any knew
The stranger with so great a heart,

Or what the moving wonder meant,
Such playing never heard before;
A lady from her carriage leant,
And murmured softly, "It was Spohr."

(Ludwig Spohr, 1784-1855, was a great German composer, conductor and violinist)
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
The Least of These
 
 
We love it here
As the Sundays pass
With the smiles galore
With the rich stained glass
And the preacher seems
To have caught our heart
And the tempo thrills
As the songsters start
Yes, the pains forgot
Once they close the door
And the time flies by
How we thirst for more.

But the strangest thing
Happened just last week
As a woman showed
Who was frail and weak
With her clothes askew
And her hair a mess
And the sobs came next
No one moved to bless
She just sat and stared
At a stained glass Psalm
'Til the closing prayer
When she shuffled on.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Just Like That

 

 


The American had really enjoyed the flight in the single engine craft until over the horizon he saw it. Stretching for excruciating miles over the dust and sad vestiges of vegetation. The refugee camp.

The noise of their approach had scarcely raised a head in the heat, exhaustion and brilliance of mid-day. Deceleration across the dirt track had been surprisingly quick. The Agency's Rover was already there with the Belgian, Andreas and his one very thin nurse Miranda, standing at attention and shielding their eyes.

"Welcome to the new nation, my friend; it's a far cry from Fort Worth, isn't it?"

"Greetings Andreas, your arrangements have all been meticulous, really. I am thrilled to be here. I must gather the data and the photos and the interviews to make a convincing pitch back home. What I see here is really overwhelming!"

"Not so fast. First a humble lunch of welcome at the main tent. I want you to meet the key doctors and water specialists. Four of the fifteen are from the States. They have all read about your comparative success in two other camps and they are very hopeful. Then an exemplary drive around the camp and to the admissions sector where things get tense. So many, my friend, so many..."

The meal had been surprisingly tasty and entirely local. The conversation heightened, yet comfortable. One doctor knew the American's brother from college. He had taken eighteen months off already from a successful obstetrics practice in New Orleans.

The tour seemed like miles of the same thing. Mothers shielding babies from the sun. Young children still trying to run in short bursts from one shading canopy to the next. Fathers sitting in small circles with the ubiquitous pipes and a look of sad accountability for the perplexity of their families.

On the hour different tents opened for different health needs. All faces would turn with a noticeable frequency in the direction of the food dispensaries.

The American took one of his new doctor friends on a short walk. They noticed an elderly man, shirtless, gaunt and leaning against a tripod of sorts with occasional use for supporting washing pots. This was a place of water, but it was apparent that the commodity was so much in demand and dwindling. He spoke some French and they were all able to understand each other.

The doctor was called away briefly by an acquaintance, one of the sector councilmen who had chosen to stay behind to help after two exodus movements from the camp.

The American continued his chat with the old man. A knowing twinkle still in the eyes. A hint of education and poise from a former life before the insurrections. His breath came in short, raspy puffs. Obviously he was parched with thirst. And alone.

"Sir, I am going to go and find you a drink. Just relax."

"Monsieur, that would be exquisite, merci."

Rejoining the doctor, the newcomer scrounged in amazement for the next twenty minutes until success. Smiling broadly with an apple juice size of can half-filled with copper-coloured water, he paced bending over toward the elder.

Still leaning against the tripod. Eyes closed. Suggestion of a contented smile on the wrinkled face. No raspy puffs. Dead. Just like that...

Note: Heard a testimony somewhat like this from missionary-evangelist Peter Pretorius of Africa.
 
 
 
 

 
 

Christmas Exchange

 


I once had a client, call him Edward, who had been born on Christmas day in the Irish trouble spot of Belfast. There were then unwritten laws dividing spheres of influence in the city between Protestant and Catholic. Intense fighting, bombing and gunfire.

Edward's pregnant Protestant mother found herself in the wrong part of town as the birth pangs came on, with only a couple of friends in the same predicament and able to help.

It was Christmas and surely there would be some kind of reprieve in suspicions and hostility. A Catholic family was informed, and reluctantly they agreed to ask some quick questions about how a transport might be arranged. In short order that family learned that another pregnant mother, a Catholic one, was in the same condition, and stuck in the Protestant side of the city.

A truce and an exchange were arranged in the darkness of night for the "Christmas babies and mothers". The memory of the Christ child had been sufficiently compelling. Shortly thereafter, of course, they would all resume the shootings, arson and skirmishes.

Edward told me that years later, all grown up and attending a Christmas party in Toronto, he would meet another man from Belfast of the same age. Guess who he was? Now also a Canadian citizen, with the perils of Ulster far behind.

Truly, God's caring eyes and helping hands can be brought down to a very small point of focus. For anyone. Anywhere.
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Because You're Here, Cal


Years ago Cal Bombay viewed the bombing devastation of southern Sudan with a civic leader named Manasseh. He was close to the situation of the horrendous civil war between north and south and had played a significant role in raising funds to free Christians who had been enslaved. (I remember hearing appeals on the television broadcast of 100 Huntley Street that freedom could be purchased for 75 dollars Canadian per individual. At that time I thought, Wow, a life negotiated at that price!)

But here on this landscape of churned earth Bombay could only present to his friend one question:

"What does it mean to you, Manasseh, when you read in the scriptures that my God will supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?"

Without hesitation the man replied, "It means , my friend, here and now, that God will do as He says and provide... because you're here."

In the intervening years that conversation has proved both a stimulus and haunting challenge to Bombay, who has had vivid exposure to the blights of poverty, violence and hunger in Sudan and Ethiopia. At one point it seemed to him that God was saying, 'I want you to acquire farmland and to turn this potentially fertile ground around...50 farms of 2000 acres each'. The land has been acquired, and the challenge now is crop input and irrigation. Smaller farmers are also being helped in large numbers toward self-sufficiency

I can remember enjoying Cal's devotional-teaching input on the Toronto Huntley Street broadcast. He often hearkened back to his time on the farm in his faith illustrations. I always valued his teaching, sincerity and humour.

Now it appears that he has left broadcasting and conventional evangelism to become a farmer in earnest, and on a large scale. He sees in this compassionate outreach a demonstration of a hands-on Christ who is drawing and strengthening people.

All of this was made clear to me this evening on an excellent episode of "The Christian Link" radio program (on the local Faith FM channel 94.3) coordinated by Marc and Elizabeth Leacock and "Lianne".

Anyone requiring more information on this excellent outreach may examine www.calbombayministries.org
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

A Cold Spring Field

 


Yesterday was an exceptional day. Hilary and I were driving through the Woodstock area to London. Our purpose was to pick up my mother, age 83, from a rehabilitative hospital and to move her to a retirement home to be re-united with my father, age 87. The two have had a very trying month following a serious fall in their home. It appears to family that their days in the old homestead are ended. This brings on a mixture of emotions, but ultimately relief.

I expected that the day would be bitter-sweet, and my wife noted that "emotionally I seemed close to the surface." I told her my thoughts as above and the other issue which had been weighing heavily on each of us for weeks - the prospect of revival for the Christian Church and for our assembly in particular.

Perhaps it has been apparent lately in this blog that I am looking beyond pleasant program in our gatherings to an encounter with the power and cleansing and commissioning of God. In my estimation we must break from the inertia of the "workable format" to a humble seeking and waiting and breaking for God's purposes.

We had been listening in the car to a beautiful soundtrack by Michael W. Smith. The day was cool and overcast with sprinklings of snow. Unusual and slightly unsettling for one week after Easter. I observed a lone tall tree, bud-less and leafless standing in the middle of an empty farm field. Not yet disked over. Where was spring?

At that moment the singer's lyrics hit me with force:

"This is the air I breathe.
This is the air I breathe.
Your Holy Presence living in me.

This is my daily bread.
This is my daily bread.
Your very Word spoken to me.

And Oh, I'm desperate for You.
Yes, Oh I'm lost without you..."

This appears to be God's present word on the prospect of revival - DESPERATION.

Will our churches be trusting and honest enough in confessing need, uncleanness, dissatisfaction, restlessness with the status quo, weariness with multiplied programs of men? There is such a pressure to affirm that "all is good with the team at our home church". All is not good. It misses the mark of our Captain and High Priest.

What will it take? Persecution? Scandal? Reproach from a hurting community left unaffected? From disenchanted youth systematically educated in godlessness? Set-back? Financial or social disaster? Weeks of mournful intercession?

For too long now our gatherings have been about entertainment, education, fellowship and self-congratulation. Let us resolve to hear God for change. To come to church ready with a word or an encouragement or a warning. A cleansed, humbled, submissive, trimmed family of obedient servants. Prepared for the action of God's disk and plough.

That spring might come to our land. That the blessing might be far-reaching.

"Bread corn is bruised."
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 

At the Church's Door

 


This month Hilary and I took a memorable holiday trip to Ottawa. Thankfully we were able to realize all of our plans with memorable museums, art galleries, restaurants, shops and boutiques, Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, Gatineau Park and other points of interest.

Our hotel was only a stone's throw away from everything. The second morning I resolved to hit the streets (Elgin, Rideau, Wellington) before sunrise to watch the City come to life.

I was stopped in my tracks as I observed a small side yard and garden at a secondary entrance to Knox Presbyterian Church. The sign touted program and a fundraiser coming for the "In From the Cold Program". A curbside sign was representative of the traffic pandemonium of the City core. Orange pylons from R. W. Tomlinson Contractors reminded one of the endless summer road rehabilitation. But back there toward the overarched side door stood a man in thin sport coat with his face planted against the door frame. I did not move. He did not move. For three minutes.

Why was he there? Shelter from the night's cold (September 8th)? Morning time church opening and free breakfast? Pending appointment with the Reverend? Unfathomable routine of one worn by the streets into a state of mental illness?

But there it was, loud as any billboard. One heart seeking, resting, leaning, hoping. City business all around him. The Nation's Capitol mere blocks away. And the Church door closed.

Bless these Presbyterians if they are thinking of opening...
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Right What?

 


Isaiah shows us the way to God's pleasure. It is the right sort of Sabbath and the right sort of fast described in chapter 58:

6Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

7Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

8Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.

9Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:

11And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.


The consequent blessings from the Father look an awful lot like revival, both personal and corporate.

We evangelicals need to assess our priorities. First we need to be right (2 Corinthians 5). Then we need to act right (James 1: 27). Then we need to speak right (Ephesians 4: 15).

But instead we lock into the good confession, the sound doctrine, the Roman Road to eternal life, the pithy points of Paul's exposition, the principles of "successful" Christian living. We talk and we listen, and we talk and we listen, but we hesitate to push away from the table and work toward compassionate help and social justice. Opportunities are glaringly in our face every day. Serving the Lord does not simply mean filling a niche in the programs at the Assembly.

Consider Christ's admonitions in Matthew 25 about helping His little ones. Let's get on with fruitful Body Life. Let's open the gate to blessing and revival!
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Seemingly Naive

 


Jesus said an unsettling thing in the 16th chapter of Luke. He was telling the story of the dishonest steward whose chicanery had been discovered. Knowing that he was about to be dismissed, he went around to his master's customers and cut favourable deals, thereby ensuring their favour and support for himself for the future. Jesus concluded:

8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.

Said another way, the time taken to come to understand God is time not dedicated to engineering, stocks and bonds, manufacture, disease research or empire building. We as children of light and as members of the True Vine have been given other priorities and assignments. (That is not to say we should not fulfil some worthy task or vocation. But fruitfulness comes first.)

Now consider the image presented in the 15th chapter of Ezekiel. Israel is compared to a vine (see also Isaiah 5 and Hosea 10), and as such, it had better be about the business of fruit-bearing:

2Son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?

3Shall wood be taken thereof to do any work? or will men take a pin of it to hang any vessel thereon?

4Behold, it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work?

5Behold, when it was whole, it was meet for no work: how much less shall it be meet yet for any work, when the fire hath devoured it, and it is burned?


6Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; As the vine tree among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so will I give the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

The fruits of righteousness are our major contribution to community. Deeds of mercy and comfort; attitudes of equity; words of hope. We are the conscience. We are the foil. Causing others to stop, check their paths, look upward.

Light...fruit...salt.

Matthew 5:

13Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.


Not so naive after all.
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Walk Into a Miracle

 


A casual decision to have a little discomfort in the chest checked out. An uncommon sick-call to the workplace. No truck hauling of steel this July day. A drive into St.Mary's Hospital from Elmira. A simple examination turned into a barrage of diagnostic tests under the heart specialist's supervision. And surprising, bracing news:

"Barry, as I see it, you have three options. We have discovered massive deterioration of vessels in and around the heart. You may go home and die within the next few days. You may accept multiple by-pass surgery and die on the table. You may survive the surgery, but suffer kidney failure."

Within hours he was undergoing the surgery, under the supervision of both kidney and heart specialists. Surprisingly the procedure took half the allotted time. The kidneys were saved. The heart reconstructed.

During his month of hospital stay, and much to his surprise, Barry was visited each day by the kidney doctor or by some appointed substitute. He didn't think that busy doctors had such time available. His wife and church friends from Elmira Pentecostal Assembly were a frequent encouragement.

But one day, a jarring revelation from the heart surgeon: "Barry the real battle is fought now, and it is one almost all middle -aged men in your situation encounter. Depression. That sucker kills. I must say, and I am not a religious man, that your case has shown several signs of supernatural intervention. Now, do battle with this new threat in your mind."

Shortly after the doctor left, my friend experienced some heaviness and tears. Some visiting nurses saw him in this state and could not avoid the tears themselves. He had appeared so upbeat. Sort of a cranky, persistent sense of humour. Not a man at first blush manifesting the meekness and moderation of the believer. All-weather trucker. Baseball coach. Family man.

Shortly thereafter in the quiet of his room, Barry did business with God. Confessing that he simply would not yield to the depression, come what may. "Father it is now time for you to have your way and do what you want."

He relates that a strange warmth started at the top of his head and went down through the entire body, completely relaxing him. Never before had Barry experienced anything like this. Not the emotional type. Undeniably he had been visited, and personally comforted.

Last night, approximately six months later, Barry told me this story at Elmira Pentecostal Assembly at the fourteenth annual Sportsman's Dinner and Program. Discussing a miracle in the midst of a crowd of happy men tasting perch, moose, deer, bear, wild boar, rabbit, buffalo and other uncommon culinary delights. There was Barry, front and centre in the team of hosting, cooking, serving men of God.

I am certain that the life-changing, life-saving impact of this encounter is far from over. "That's my story," he says, "and I'm sticking to it."
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 

Barrenness

 

 


Eight-thirty P. M. Automatic garage door closed. Back from Thursday night Men’s Group. Don sat in the darkness, tapping the steering wheel. It was the third time today he had thought of his work-mate, Steve Fornsby. (Steve was obviously having some problems. But bottled up.)

Four rings on the cell phone:

“Steve, its Don Parks. It seems that you have been coming to mind throughout the day. I suspect there is something you need to talk about. I’m available.”

“Well Don, it’s kids. You know that Lorraine and I have had difficulty … Look, I can’t do this now. She is in the next room. It’s very sensitive.”

“Buddy, I have been out for the evening. Even now I am sitting in my car. How be you grab a jacket and meet me at Timmy’s on Weber Street in ten minutes?”

“Isn’t it kinda late for this? Oh, alright…”

That which ensued was something which Don had not even been able to achieve yet with the Men’s Group. Real heart-opening. Real engagement. Real vulnerability. It had been easy to do in the come-and-go anonymity of the coffee shop.

Steve Fornsby and Lorraine were childless. Numerous efforts with the OB-GYN had led nowhere. Best indication was that the problem lay with Steve. He had become testy. Sex was becoming a chore and a source of despair. Recently jealousy had raised its ugly head. Lorraine was a Principal’s secretary at Central Secondary. Jeff Brant was a Phys-Ed teacher, recently divorced. There were suspicions…

And so it went for the next forty minutes.

“Steve, I don’t know if you realize it or not. Our second is adopted. Very difficult first pregnancy, and we went this way for a boy. Never regretted it. Like an oasis of happiness. The older sister really rallied with us. Jimmy is truly family. My pastor Keith’ s second is also adopted. Same story.

I believe that there are a couple of guys we should meet who could help us on this. I have grown to trust them. They will keep their mouths shut. If money is an issue with adoption, we could kick in. We have some connections locally and with distant agencies.

Talk this over with Lorraine. I will be praying. I know that Becky would make herself available for your wife. I would suggest you not go to all the life science considerations being touted in the news. Beautiful kids are out there, waiting. One could be yours…”



In the darkness of the parking lot two mature men hugged and wept, shook hands, ‘til next time.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6: 2)

He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord. (Psalm 113: 9)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
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Doug Blair,
Apr 6, 2012, 9:14 AM
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Doug Blair,
May 21, 2012, 6:54 AM
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Doug Blair,
May 5, 2012, 1:37 AM
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Doug Blair,
Jul 26, 2019, 4:40 PM
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