HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


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Peace …

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.     [Luke 2:21]

Sated by fine holiday feasting, and full of good will the heart often turns at this time of year to feelings of peace on earth. This year will be the year we finally solidify that elusive peace process in the middle east. This year the global community will finally make meaningful strides against violent extremism. This year I will finally get past my history with that particular person and heal that long broken relationship.

But it never seems to happen … That much sought after peace seems to flee ever farther away with each passing year. There is little or no peace to be seen, but bloodshed is everywhere.

The calendar year begins with bloodshed for us Christians too. Perhaps only a little blood, but a significant shedding of it none-the-less.

January 1st – eight days after His birth – Jesus is named and circumcised. He bears the name Jesus, as the angel insisted, because He will save His people from their sins. And how will He do that? Through the shedding of His own blood.

And while the circumcision itself may seem like such an inconsequential (never to the baby boy – you can be sure!) spilling of Jesus’ blood it is the first blood He will spill of so much more to come. This little bit of blood marks His resolution to stand fully in our place and be counted among us … no matter what the cost!

It is His first infant steps toward fulfilling all of the law on our behalf. A journey from blood to blood. A journey that will lead us through the seasons of this coming year all the way to the cross and beyond.

For where there will be peace first there must be blood. His holy, innocent blood. Blood that is willingly shed for those of us who cannot find peace on our own. For only His resolve for peace is strong enough to see it finally fulfilled.

May God grant you Christ’s peace in this coming year!

This is too cute not to share!

This is too cute not to share!


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Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Here is a Hymn (still in the rough) that I have been working on. Let me know what you think.

Feel free to use it if you deem it worthy.

Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Text by Ken Maher ©2014 Based on Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-18
To Tune of # 702 (LSB) “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” [Olivet]

1

Gaze up in throes of death, poison seeps, stealing breath,

in dust they lie.

Bitter the words complain, casting on God their shame.

Slaves to their wants remain and for this die.

2

But God looks down in love and sets in bronze above

a shining light.

Gentle is sin reproved thus in faith hearts are moved

so bitter works removed with sin’s dark blight.

3

See also in our sin the devil seeks to win

our grov’ling soul.

Poison inflames the heart distrusting from the start

to play our given part, that servant role.

4

Gaze up with eyes of Faith see there God’s holy face,

thorns crown His head.

In the Lord’s sacrifice all dying may find life

the serpent has his bite and is crushed dead.

5

For God so loved us all He lifted death’s dark pall

cast on this world.

The one who died, now raised, is rightly to be praised

Oh, sinner lift thy gaze to life unfurled!

jesus-snake-cross-coin


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The Pregnant Pause

pregnant mary“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  [Matthew 1:23]

Welcome to the great season of NOT CHRISTMAS!

Advent is that pregnant pause in the Christian’s road to holiday cheer. That makes it so very frustrating for many people … the world is already celebrating Christmas, why can’t we?

We can! We do! But not until the time has come. Don’t deliver the baby prematurely.

Advent is much like pregnancy. Pregnant parents really and truly are parents, but their parenting consists in mainly getting ready.  Remembering the family’s past, looking forward to the family’s future and making plans for the arrival. It is a reality that doesn’t always seem so real. In that way it too is a little frustrating. Why won’t the baby just come so they can all celebrate together? But before that little one (who is already there) comes in that new and exciting way, there are many questions to be asked and answered. How will this baby change their lives? Their home? Their hearts? These are not little questions. There is a reason why God gives new parents nine months to get used to the idea!

Advent is a reality that doesn’t always feel so real. In Advent we remember the Christ who came into our flesh, the Christ who comes even now in Word and Sacraments and the Christ who will come again in glory on the last day. It is a season full of preparation and planning. It is a time of “Yes” and “Not Yet.” and “Why won’t the baby hurry up and arrive so we can all celebrate together?” And that makes it a season that is all the more necessary for everyone.

Who is this child whose arrival we will celebrate? How does He change our lives? How will He? How can we share our home with Him? What adjustments do we need to make? What does it really mean that God is with us in Jesus Christ, this babe of Bethlehem? These are not little questions. But they are vital to understanding and celebrating this Christmas Child who is coming again.

It is not Christmas. Not yet. But the One to come is already here. Are you making the most of the time you have with Him now? As He is here for us now? But He is still coming. When He arrives will you be ready? Let the expectant joy of that saviour’s return grow and swell in your heart until His time is ready. There is so much wonder and miracle to see in the waiting and the preparing … don’t miss out on this pregnant pause in your rush to hold the baby. There will be plenty of time for that … just not yet.


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The Shirt off Your Back

ShirtStormFull disclosure: I’m a man and I wear shirts.

I know this will automatically disqualify me, in the minds of some, from having an opinion or the right to share it. So be it.

By now you may have heard that there is yet another round of internet outrage this time over feminist reaction to a shirt. It seems some poor scientist made history this past week by wearing the wrong kind of clothing in a TV interview. Why he was being interviewed still remains a mystery to the outraged masses. But then, that hardly matters, as it is not about what you do, but what you wear for which one should be judged.

That is the feminist mantra isn’t it? Judge a person for what they wear. Shame them for their choice of wardrobe. Of course not. Blogger Bhagwad Jal Park summarized it rather nicely when he wrote “Every time a woman asserts her right to dress the way she wants without being blamed for getting attacked, someone will say – “Feminism isn’t about going half naked”. But you know what? It is. The very fact that people are trying to tell women what is “decent” and what isn’t, what is “acceptable” and what isn’t, means that this matters. Because how a woman dresses should be up to her, and up to her alone.

Kind of ironic isn’t it? Substitute the word man for woman and him for her and you will see what I mean.

“O you fool!” I hear some of you shouting at your monitors “Can’t you see that this is different precisely BECAUSE what he chose to wear objectifies women with its comic-book inspired cleavage!” You make a good point and so I must apologize. I am sorry … but I don’t see why this is any different from so much of what feminists do themselves.

And I’m not just talking about crazy fringe feminists like Femen here. (Where is the internet outrage for what they did with crucifixes in St. Peter’s Square in front of men women and children?) There is the whole Slut Walk movement, and the Free the Nipple campaign which are seeking equality through nudity and the right to objectify oneself without giving anyone else the right to do so in return. There is the feminist praise of Kim Kardashian for being empowered enough to break the internet with her nudity. And there is the likes of Kiera Knightly who protests the evils of Photoshop by posing naked … because feminism. The whole spectrum of crazy inconsistencies is nicely summed up in this feminist cartoon (caution, it contains non-objectifying cartoon cleavage!)

It seems to me this is a case of losing your shirt, but wanting to keep it too. You will have to forgive me for not being able to follow the logic of the selectively schizophrenic syphon through which certain things are empowering and certain other things derogatory. Is it only OK for women to objectify themselves because they don’t really mean it? Perhaps I’m missing the irony. Is it bad that a female friend made this monstrosity of men’s wear for him? Is it wrong because a man actually appreciates the female form? Would it be acceptable if he was a gay man wearing the shirt to make a point? Do feminists themselves even know how to answer such questions, or would they just be outraged that I asked them?

Before things shame-spiral out of control let me say that I think men and women should all dress with much more modesty and respect for not only themselves, but all those around them. Your God-given assets are nothing to be embarrassed about, but they are not to be flaunted around just anyone, and certainly not for public viewing. They are for you and your spouse. Period. Clothes and behaviours shouldn’t objectify any group (including the one doing the displaying).

That being said, there is a time and a place for gaudy shirts, and a press conference is not it. But it hardly seems justifiable that a movement so intensely connected with flashing its bits in public should be so outraged when someone publicly appreciates that same female form … in a shirt that is more restrained in its depiction of that female form than many of the lauded protestors themselves. Nor is the irony lost on me, that they are publicly shaming someone for his choice of clothing and completely disregarding his worth and accomplishments as a human being.


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Standing on Guard

Canadian Soldiers“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  [2 Timothy 1:12-14]

This month brings with it the annual day of remembrance. Poppies and solemn services, Reverie and Last Post. These will all be a little more poignant this year for us Canadians. In the past couple of weeks we have been shocked and saddened by the death of not one but two members of our armed forces, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, right here on our own Canadian soil. Murdered simply because of their uniform. One can’t help but also think of the three  fallen RCMP officers from Moncton in this regard either.

Without making light of the pain their families and communities now bear, it is a powerful reminder that freedom always comes at a cost. A cost every soldier proudly says they are willing to pay when they take up the uniform. Make no mistake, this is not just about conflicting ideologies. At least, not because of any nationalistic or social/political/religious identity. (Although it is very obvious that  NOT all such identities are morally equivalent or “good” by any stretch of any definition!) It is a question of Good and Evil. The sanctity of life and the disregard for life. Evil is real, and evil never rests. It will not stop until all is enslaved once again. Eternal vigilance is not just the stuff of rhetoric and political speeches. It is the price that must sometimes be paid in blood. Thank God we have those brave souls who are willing to pay it!

But before our country remembers it’s fallen soldiers, the church has already done the same. All Saints day (November 1)  is our reminder (in part) of the lives lived and died under Christ as the price of that eternal freedom of God’s Kingdom.

Many of these soldiers of the cross never once picked up a gun, or marched off into battle (though many did), but all sacrificed, in their own way, for the sake of country, neighbour, family, and God. When they took up the uniform of the faith, Christ’s robes of righteousness, each confessed their willingness to pay the cost. All were willing to meet evil head on, in their communities, their homes, the lives of their friends and neighbours. Many fought for those they had never met, and likely never would this side of eternity – sending money and missionaries, providing aid and prayers for any and all affected by the high cost of evil in this world.

And facing that evil, they paid for it. They paid from their own comfort, their livelihoods, their reputations, the support of their friends and family. Some even paid with their lives. And more and more pay every year. It is open season on Christians in vast parts of our world … but just you watch … that won’t stop them from standing up and paying the price to love their friends and family, communities and countries, strangers and enemies. They know it is the cost of freedom.

Canadians have been entrusted with a freedom and openness that makes life for her citizens the envy of much of the world. It is the good deposit we are called to defend. Christians have an even greater deposit entrusted to them … the very Gospel of God … the Good News of free salvation in Christ for anyone and everyone regardless of nationality. So remember the sacrifices that allow you to be here today. Remember and stand guard for those who will come tomorrow. To live in service to freedom and to die in service to that freedom are always worthwhile. Just ask the families of our faithful men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, and all first responders (Firefighters, Police, and EMT’s) who gladly do the same for us everyday. Just ask your Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

saints


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Painting a Different Picture

For some truly wonderful pictures of motherhood, might I suggest you visit the site of Katie m. Berggren http://kmberggren.com/

For some truly wonderful pictures of motherhood, might I suggest you visit the site of Katie m. Berggren

I don’t normally like to do this sort of thing, but someone I care about alerted me to this recent post over on Facebook. As it is a time sensitive issue, and as Facebook is notoriously difficult to comment on (in a meaningful way), I have decided to pursue the issue here.

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but the pro-abortion supporters have been working really hard lately at painting a different picture of themselves. The talking points of choice and women’s freedom are fading into the background as a new tactic begins to take the center stage. Abortion as the kind and loving option!

[Author’s note – following the links below will take you to stories that are emotionally disturbing. They do contain graphic and tragic content that is not for everyone …]

There was the young woman who so bravely (and out of love for others struggling with the shame and stigma of abortion) filmed her abortion to show how empowering and uplifting it can be. There was the couple in Britain who bravely and lovingly poisoned their unborn child so he wouldn’t have to suffer in life. It was after all the only thing a mother could do. And because it was such a hard decision to make you know it had to be the only right one to make.

And then there was this article, about a young woman bravely struggling with her decision to abort her baby [tomorrow] by writing an open letter to the child she is going to terminate. Sarah Burris who writes the article for Blue Nation Review, after accusing those who oppose abortion of thinking all women who get one are selfish, finishes with the summation: “The facts, and this woman’s story, paint a different picture.”

So, just what are the facts here? And what picture is being painted? Best go right to the source and see for ourselves. [Again, my apologies to those who will find this upsetting]

Little Thing:

I can feel you in there. I’ve got twice the appetite and half the energy. It breaks my heart that I don’t feel the enchantment that I’m supposed to feel. I am both sorry and not sorry.

I am sorry that this is goodbye. I’m sad that I’ll never get to meet you. You could have your father’s eyes and my nose and we could make our own traditions, be a family. But, Little Thing, we will meet again. I promise that the next time I see that little blue plus, the next time you are in the same reality as me, I will be ready for you.

Little Thing, I want you to be happy. More than I want good things for myself, I want the best things for the future. That’s why I can’t be your mother right now. I am still growing myself. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new life into a world where I am still haunted by ghosts of the life I’ve lived. I want you to have all the things I didn’t have when I was a child. I want you to be better than I ever was and more magnificent than I ever could be. I can’t do to you what was done to me: Plant a seed made of love and spontaneity into a garden, and hope that it will grow on only dreams. Love and spontaneity are beautiful, but they have little merit. And while I have plenty of dreams to go around, dreams are not an effective enough tool for you to build a better tomorrow. I can’t bring you here. Not like this.

I love you, Little Thing, and I wish the circumstances were different. I promise I will see you again, and next time, you can call me Mom.

First, lets begin with the seeming confusion in the recipient of this letter. Is it a little thing or a person being addressed? One doesn’t usually write letters to things. But then again, one doesn’t normally go around talking about killing people next friday.

Next, consider that this woman states she wants the unborn to be happy, and that more than she wants good things for herself she wants the best things for the future … but whose future? Obviously not the little thing in question. She wants her child to have everything she didn’t have as a child, but since she can’t give her all that  her only recourse is to kill it instead. This, by  the way, is what Sarah Burris states is one of the main reasons for abortion – no money to raise a child. That and abusive partners. which I think may lead into the next point.

Next this young lady states that ghosts of the life she’s lived would cause too much harm to the child in question. So again, to avoid  the possible victimization of this person in the future the best solution is to kill them before it happens.

Once you get past the emotionalism of the words (which I don’t think you are supposed to do – remember if the person is agonizing over the decision then whatever they decide must be right) … once you get to the heart of what is being said … such words do indeed paint a picture, but one that is very dark and terrifying.

At best these words paint a picture of  someone who doesn’t really believe the humanity of the baby involved, but will play on the heart strings of those who do to show that abortion is not selfish (really?) and is in fact the only loving thing you can do sometimes.

At worst they show (perhaps even more fearfully) someone who does in their heart of hearts believe in the humanity of the child in question and simply doesn’t care. If you or I were to walk up to anyone on the street and say the things this mother says to her unborn child we would rightly be called sociopathic. Why is it criminal in one case and “brave and loving” in another?

I am not saying all this to attack the person struggling with her life and her decisions. I think she is struggling in large part because she, like so many other young women (and men) have been duped into thinking something that their hearts don’t really believe. I am saying all this in the hopes of getting past the brazen and deceptive picture some would like to paint of abortion, to the truths that lie behind the emotion.

Finally, I am writing all of this to ask you to join with me in praying for this young woman, and for her unborn child. Pray for a different understanding of love to guide her actions tomorrow. Pray that this young woman, and so many others like her would come to see that her life is in the hands of  the God who paid everything (even His own life on the cross) for her salvation because cost is never really a consideration when it is someone you truly love.  The very same God who has brought her through the harsh abuse of this cruel and calculating world by sacrificing not someone else but himself. Just as He did for that precious baby He has entrusted to her.


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Thanks for the Lima Beans

give_thanksSee that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
[1 Thessalonians 5:15-18]

This month marks the annual observance of Thanksgiving celebrations here in Canada. Family, Food, Fun and fellowship are high on the list of what most people will take time to be thankful for.

And while sometimes it can be difficult to be really and completely thankful for brothers and sisters who won’t let your childhood discretions go even after all these years, or to be really and truly thankful for things like brussel sprouts and lima beans (even if they are good for you). All in all Thanksgiving is a pretty easy holiday to get behind.

But is that all there is to be thankful for? Food and friends and good cheer? What about being thankful for times of sickness, because it reminds me to appreciate the gifts of health and vitality God normally grants me? What about being thankful for hardships which teach me to trust in God’s grace and not my own meagre abilities to cope? What about being thankful for all those who disagree with me thus causing me to study and reaffirm my beliefs instead of just coasting along giving them little thought?

Can we be thankful for those who hate us? How else can we learn to love as God loved us … without hope or thought of return? Or how about being thankful for the death of a loved one … not that they have died, but that through the gate of death they are no longer burdened with grief and sin and pain as we are, but are resting peacefully in the Lord?

So this Thanksgiving I am going to try and be thankful for the things we don’t normally appreciate. I will be thankful not just for the things that make me happier but for the things that make me better, the things that draw me closer to God … that, and lima beans.