A fine example was given us as Jesus would often go off by himself in the early mornings to pray. Winter, spring, summer or fall, I enjoy my early morning walks with my dog. This is my time to reflect, meditate and collect my thoughts before the world awakes and starts demanding my time and energy.
During these walks I marvel at God’s wonderful creation – fluffy white snowflakes floating down to earth, the first call of the Canada goose as it ushers in spring, or the musty smell of harvested grain in fall. This summer morning, I noticed a bee flying from wildflower to wildflower spreading pollen to bring forth new creations. The busy bee continued about its business, never seeing the accomplishments of its labour. Sweet honey is the reward at the end of its labour.
I was soon pondering – we as Christians should be busy bees spreading pollen, God’s Word, in our daily activities from person to person, sharing that life-giving Word, letting the Holy Spirit germinate the heart, giving that free gift of sweet honey, Jesus blood-bought redemption, that we may have eternal life with Him in heaven.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 119:105: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Do you hunger for God’s Word and its freely given promise of Life with Christ in heaven? Do you share that sweet Word?
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:13).
Are you finding it hard to be encouraged?
Sometimes we get so discouraged with the events happening around us that we sink into a state of despair. Rather than being thankful and appreciative for the kind words of a friend we are resentful that our life isn’t what we think we deserve and their words of encouragement seem to exacerbate our situation and drive us deeper into despair. We become afraid. Satan encourages us to believe his lies and perpetuates our fear…God doesn’t care about us or He would remove the terrible things happening to us and our loved ones.
The Holy Spirit comes to us through God’s Word which is sometimes spoken to us by our true friends. God’s Word tells us in Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” We are reminded how God has been with us in the past and we become encouraged by the gift of friendship, just as Titus was encouraged in 2 Corinthians 7:13 “because His spirit has been refreshed by all of you.”
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing
In the societies of Lutheran Women’s Missionary League-Canada we encourage each other through prayer, fellowship and God’s word which enables us to reach out and encourage others through our giving and service to all God’s children, believers and non-believers.
Summer has come too quickly and has developed into a new world of refreshing colours, textures, and beauty. I sat at the cottage in June so eager to get away from my “bubble” (a consistent group of people we spend time with because of COVID-19). The sun was out shining on the lake many of the mornings. The lake offered miles of trees around me and I was overwhelmed by the beauty God had given me during those days. How many shades of greens and blues has He created I often asked myself? I couldn’t count! The time of day, the sun, the shade, the wind dancing in the trees added to the many colours I was seeing. It dawned on me that He had also given me just as many blessings, hopes and joys in my life. Each morning as I enjoyed these times of peace, it reminded me of this Proverb and brought an overwhelming comfort, to my life in a world of ever-changing chaos.
“A joyful heart makes a face cheerful” (Proverbs 15:13 NIV).
What is happening in your life, as you increase your “bubble”? Where are you finding that place to regroup, reflect, and talk with God?
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13, NIV).
Our country is adding stages to our lives; we are getting ready to reopen. But, not too fast is the reoccurring response by many, yet we want to return to that safe life we use to have. Will it ever be the same again? God didn’t promise us a life without challenges, but He did give us the tools to cope with what life brings us. That is what the lake does for me, it reminds me of what is important, who is important and tells me to take the time so that God can fill me with hope, joy and peace. I look forward to returning to those beautiful colours of nature very soon and sharing it with family, friends and sit with God and thank Him for the blessings He has given me. I look forward to you telling me about your special place and how you use it. As you think about where it is, Google Roman 15:13, as well as hymns and enjoy the beauty of the music created from this verse. My favourite was the Benediction Song.
Psalm 147:3: “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”
As a teacher, I see all types of school supplies coming in the classrooms. September is so special as students open new boxes of markers, pencils, erasers and crayons. However, as the days and months go by, the brand-new supplies get well-used, get wrecked and get lost. Then as a parent of students who bring home what little remains of the September school supplies in June, I become dismayed. What happened to…?
Let’s consider the crayon box. Inside, there are brightly-colored crayons that have the wrapper on and smell nice. All 24 (or whatever number) crayons are there – full and new and bright and beautiful! My favourite colours would be pink and purple, so they’d be used a lot, or represent me. What is your favourite colour? Let’s pick my pink one and compare it to our lives and faith journey.
Taking a new, smelly crayon out of the box could represent our life on earth or as a child of God. We are used and loved like someone’s favourite crayon to colour everything with, just as we are loved as a new family or church member. Eventually our sharp tips flatten with much use and other crayons get picked to do the proper colouring job. Sometimes our tips get flat or tired from much use – maybe stress or sin in our lives? And then, when our tips get flat from use, what happens? We start gently tearing the wrapper off to reveal more, like when we expose ourselves to more stress or sin. However, there is more use for us and we feel useful or excited! Sometimes, though, our crayon’s wrapper gets ripped off in anger. Yes, I think we’ve all been ripped apart – in a heated disagreement or by someone who may not like us (or in the case of a crayon, something we’ve scribbled), or by someone’s angry outburst that was directed at us. And what about the outburst that breaks the crayon or us? How many of us felt – or feel – broken by our sin, or by the sins of others that break us down? We are broken in spirit. How many of us have tried to tape the broken crayon together? What happens? It breaks under pressure of our fingers or hand. This is like us masking our brokenness with addictions or fillers but the high or filler doesn’t last. We still break under life’s pressures too! Then there’s the crayon that gets broken and crushed on the floor, only to be swept into the garbage at the end of the day by the janitor. No one bothered to pick up the crayon and save it for further use. Do you, too, feel broken, crushed and alone, feeling useless and tossed away, like no one cares for you?
This is where Jesus comes in. He scoops us up when we are broken, crushed, feeling neglected and useless. Jesus took our sin and brokenness when He took our sins which bound Him to the cross for His crucifixion, which wrapped Him in the tomb for His burial, and then made us new at His glorious resurrection! Jesus promises to be with us always and to use us for His glory! He made us whole and useful to His purpose for our sake. Jesus works through us to “color” His World with acts of kindness, gentleness, patience, love, encouragement. We are all broken crayons, but Jesus uses our brokenness to share Him with others, to decorate the lives of others by showing His Love for us. We are never too broken to be used by God.
So keep a broken crayon with you, to remind you that Jesus loves you and has a purpose for you, no matter how tired, old, crumbled you feel. Share a broken crayon with someone who is also in need of encouragement. And remember, Jesus loves you!
Do you know someone who is broken? Or are you a broken crayon? What have you tried doing to fix or repair? Did it work? What/Who does work to repair? How can we be more encouraging to others?
We were preparing to meet once again at Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Southey, Sask., when our lives were put on hold with a deadly virus (COVID-19. The world was brought down to its knees as businesses, borders, hospitals, care homes, churches, political sessions and many other facilities were closed. We were ordered to isolate and stay home. Many lives were taken out of this world. Many a time it was said we need a war to open the world’s eyes, but something of this calibre is stronger than a war. The separation was hardest on the elderly and loved ones ill in care homes and hospitals. My heart-felt sympathy goes out to those who could not be at their loved one’s bedside. Our medical staff, governments, each one of us, have felt challenged.
Thank you to our pastors who have brought God’s Word out into the world with the help of technology. I pray that those who have never heard God’s Word may do so over these systems instead of using it for our own pleasures. We are not sure how long these conditions will be in place, but we continue to pray and believe in our Lord, helping each other when we can, and giving and sending our donations to keep God’s Word through our pastors’ work coming to us.
In our magazine, “Tapestry,” we have been given God’s Word and have been blessed to have been nurtured for oneness and nurtured for His purpose—to go and share His Word even though our lifestyles are different. With this pandemic, people have been forced to think more creatively, sharing their talents by working together. Also, people are taking their life’s work and making it a helping tool for the less fortunate. For example, making a child’s face smile with a drive-by as a birthday gift, or a drive-by a nursing home window for the lonely older person or visiting by their window. Some sing from their balconies or sidewalks, with people joining in on the streets.
Still there is tension and unrest in countries and communities. We must follow protocols, even as we gather for worship services, follow physical distancing rules and wear masks to sing, leaving feeling cold and separated. The only thing to hold onto is the warmth of the Word from the pulpit and our Lord’s promises spoken by our pastors. In our daily living, we avoid each other—in grocery stores, banking, and many places—rarely making eye contact or offering a smile. As each phase is opened, we are hesitant and sceptical of the virus lingering.
God grant us strength, hope and love, and keep us strong in our faith. Psalm 116 (particularly 1-2, 4, 12-13): “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. … Then I called on the name of the Lord: O Lord, save me! …How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.”
The times that have often felt so very long in the past few months have opened opportunities to focus on God’s word and to reflect on devotions that help with a clear understanding of who God is and who we are. One such devotion focused on Genesis 3:1–15. It is always a surprise when there are “new” reflections and it is always a blessing to reflect on His word. My focus started with v. 7: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were ‘naked’.” THEY KNEW they had done wrong. They were convicted in their inmost being. And then in v. 10, after God had called to the man, “Where are you?”, Adam said, “I heard the sound of you …and I was afraid.” It was because THEY KNEW they had disobeyed that they were afraid. Verse 11 makes me think of the moments when I don’t want to admit I have done wrong and an authority says, “Who told you that you were naked?” THEY KNOW! Satan had deceived them and encouraged them to believe the lie.
Our world today, during the time of this pandemic, would say “Go ahead, go to the store without wearing a mask—no one else is wearing one” or “Go ahead, have a gathering with minimal space between your guests in your home—no one will notice and who will tell?” Yet, WE KNOW! The deceit the world offers becomes an act that only my sinful heart will “know” like:
I don’t have the disease.
No one else is using protective attire.
I can’t stand being separated anymore—it is all about me so let’s get together.
Then, I KNOW, and I feel convicted in my being because I have done wrong, just like Adam and Eve. How easily I follow that worldly idea, and I fall into the deceit—I SIN. It is easy to find excuses, because, just as in Genesis, the snake presents a “believable” image.
Verse 15 offers the promise that I continue to rest on, knowing that Jesus, the Christ, would come and “he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Of this promise, I KNOW that Jesus made atonement for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).
So I go from the “what harm will come of my action” to I KNOW that I have done wrong to I KNOW that Jesus died and fully paid for my sin, so that now I am free to live my life without fear, and no matter what God has planned, I KNOW that I do not fear death. I walk with Him always.
An insignificant little bird No monetary value yet precious – In the eyes of the Lord.
We are the sparrows, you and I, Sheltered by His robe of righteousness Till we fly away with Him on high.
It matters not where we rest He is our Rock, our Redeemer– In Him, we’ve been blest.
The Lord resides with us. We are His channel of love. To bless in the name of Jesus.
At the foot of His throne God, whose eye is on the sparrow Promises an everlasting home.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was the inspiration for the devotion that follows it. For years I wondered what the first two lines of the poem meant; the answer came to me in 2002. When I learned that our last name Varpula (there is no ‘w’ in the Finnish language) is derived from Varpunen which is “sparrow” in English, I equated that to the Bible passage that begins the devotion. God is our refuge and resting place. God also inspired the poem. Glory be to God from whom all blessings flow!
I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14
Each day brings something new, unexpected, and challenging. How we view and approach each situation can set the mood of the day. Let God’s Word guide and strengthen the day as you pause and see Him at work in your life.
This Palm Sunday was not as jubilant as usual as I watched the church service on YouTube. No children walked down the aisle singing and waving palms, only palms in vases on the altar. From my sofa I joined in the hymns of praise, but my heart was saddened as the echo of only my own voice rebounded. I missed hearing the voices of our church family and seeing them in their usual pews.
With the service ended I checked my phone messages. My daughter had sent pictures of our grandchildren doing potato print crafts. Do you remember doing those as a child? Tears came to my eyes as I saw prints of palms on the potatoes. Even though our worship has changed, our daughter found a way to bring the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem alive through an online Bible story and a craft. Lord, wonderful are your works! The Holy Spirit, planted in my daughter’s baptism, has helped her grow and she, in turn, is nurturing that Holy Spirit planted in her children.
Praise to You Lord, my saddened heart rejoiced to see Your Word at work! Hallelujah!!
In these challenging times of limited public gathering, our congregations across Canada have risen to the challenge and continue to feed their flocks in different ways. How has your family continued to nurture the faith and how are you nurturing that faith in your children? We would love to hear your story of faith.
“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you…” (2 Timothy 1:5).
One of the greatest things you can do for your children and grandchildren is pray for them. Pray for them daily, without ceasing. Start early when they are still in the womb.
“He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…” (Psalm 78:5b-7).
Life is so good here in Canada that sometimes we forget, don’t we? As this story shows, thank God for continuing to send His Holy Spirit at just the right time to help us remember. Baby is due in September and the young couple is so excited to start their family. They planned well for this. Then COVID-19 hits. His grandfather gets sick, then his dad. He starts wondering, “Is this the end of the world? Our faith is so weak, we will not go to heaven. And if our faith is weak, then our baby’s faith will be weak too, and our baby won’t go to heaven.”
“a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick, He will not quench;”Isaiah 42:3a
Though reeds and wicks are of little value, they are still handled carefully by our Lord. How much more will He handle us carefully when our faith is weak. All things and people are precious in His sight.
Our father-to-be gets out his Bible and begins reading God’s Word. Comforting words from their own baptism and confirmation come flooding back. They begin to pray together, an evening prayer her mother taught her and the Lord’s Prayer. They decide they are going back to church. Right now, all churches are locked down, so they tune into the nearest Lutheran congregation online. There the pure Word of God reaches their ears again…the wick has been kindled.
Share your story. Has your faith been rekindled by the work of the Holy Spirit? Have you been drawn closer to God in faith and trust during this pandemic? Send it to email@example.com and it will be shared via this blog in a future posting.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life”(John 3:16“).
In a short amount of time we have lived through more than our parents, our great grandparents and anything our nightmares could have dreamed up for us. In our time of self-isolation, we have gone through so many emotions – fear, sadness, loneliness, heartache, and wondering when is it going to stop? As a Christian, I believed I was safe, cocooned in His love and protection. But reality was always around the corner, newscasts told the numbers, governments told the rules, family get-togethers became a distant memory. How I missed the laughter.
Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go! Joshua 1:9
I recently read an article about “Nurturing Resilience” by Michael Ungar PhD, that put so much into perspective when I spoke to my friends and church family. It was like a light bulb went on.
In our conversation I asked them how they are doing; I went on to ask about their coping strategies for being alone, as many were advanced in age. We talked about their personal habits and were these making them stronger or weaker in their mental health. This led to asking about their social connections and who were they hearing from. And we wrapped our conversation up with talking about things to do to remain optimistic for the future. What a variety of stories I heard; had this situation not happened I would have missed getting to KNOW people I had already called friends and family.
The strength our Lord had given us is as Joshua tells us. So many I spoke with told stories of gratitude for what they had and further stories of some unexpected pleasures that came their way despite the pandemic. So, I invite you to tell us how this pandemic has affected you; what has been the most surprising thing you have discovered during this journey to wellness?