HOPE for the HAPLESS

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


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So loved …

love“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  [John 3:16-17]

Love is difficult. It is painful. Love often hurts the one who loves … but you wouldn’t want it any other way. Because that is part of what makes love so beautiful. It is the power behind those well-loved words of St. John “For God so loved the world …”

Yes, God the Father loves this world enough to give to the ungrateful, to supply the unthankful, and to bless those who will in turn horde and abuse, and complain that He hasn’t given enough.

God the Son loves this world enough to have lived and died for others – even those who mock and spit and hurl insults as His blood flows for them. He loved enough to be lifted up in public shame so no one else would have to.

God the Holy Spirit loves this world enough to limit himself to working through the Word and Sacraments for our surety, teaching and life of prayer. He loves enough to promise He will work through them, even when people would rather hear some other word (any other word), or ignore the plain words of their loving God.

God’s Love does not come easy. Indeed it comes at great cost to Him. But it comes precisely for that reason. God doesn’t do what He does to condemn the world. It stands condemned in its sin already. God does what He does to save the world through His Love. No matter what it costs.

And that is the kind of Love we Christians need to share. The love God shared first with us. In this world so quickly unraveling at the seams, and into lives being torn apart by the sin sweeping over them and our culture, we need to love as no one does anymore.

Our love must be ready to bear the cost of helping those in need, even those who do not appreciate the gift or thank the giver. Our love needs to be ready to stand firm and suffer for the right thing. To be made public a spectacle and the mockery of those who would sacrifice others to get their way. Our love must be willing to submit itself to the ways and means that God has provided, the truths that He has spoken. Content always and ever to teach, and pray, and hope in Christ.

Such a love is difficult. It is painful. It will cost those who love, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, for it is His way. And it is the kind of Love that will save this condemned world!


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Buzzwords … or the “Love” Word?

Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. [1 John 3:18]

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are the buzzwords of our modern age. They are the words our culture has decided to use to show their understanding of love. Don’t believe me? Show yourself to be intolerant, or divisive in any way, and people will quickly tell you how unloving you are. The problem is not whether you are living up to these ideals, but that they really have nothing to do with true, real, or genuine love at all.

Tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness are just words. Words, which sound loving on the surface, but in reality promote attitudes and actions that are anything but. They are the very words that excuse inaction in the quest to simply “live and let live”. They are words that gloss over problems, sin, and real differences by saying “you have yours and I have mine”.

They are words that are designed to make it easy to feel like you are loving when in fact you are only being selfish. Most who champion such wordy ideals do so because they are happy to let you have what you want as long as they then get what they want.  That’s not love, it’s quid pro quo.

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are finely crafted words that allow us to protect grand hypothetical ideas … all the while ignoring real people in real need. Lowly people who are different from us. Dirty and dangerous people who are disagreeable to us. Angry and offensive people who might never think twice about helping us in return.

We are not called to love in word or in talk, but in deed and in truth. Real love is hard. Real love means doing, giving, and sometimes even suffering, for people we don’t always like very much. Love finds its value in people, not buzzwords. Love is lived out not in blazing emotions but in well-reasoned choices. Love does not ask us to give up and give in but to make difficult (and often unpopular) stands. Love never seeks out excuses or the easy way out, it fights for what it good and right and beneficial, not for the self nor some hypothetical, but for the other.

Love led Jesus not to tolerate our sin, but to pay for it with His own blood. Love moved Jesus to give up His life for those who would never accept Him. Being the recipients of that love in action we are now moved not to tolerate or accept or include, but to love. And love guides us to uphold everyone in our thoughts, prayers, and actions … not because it is easy (it is the hardest thing to do in truth) … but because God loved us first in Christ.


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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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Taking Time to Ponder

ponderingBut Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. [Luke 2:19]

 Have you sat down and taken a deep breath yet? It is the season when you and I could really use one! Times of celebration are so full of joy and cheer, comings and goings, family, friends, food, and festivities … but what about reflection?

 Don’t get so busy making it all happen … cleaning up after its done … catching up once everyone is gone … getting back to normal once the holidays are over … that you forget to stop in the moment and treasure all these things up in your heart.

 For this season is truly something to be treasured. A gift from God’s own heart to yours. The gift of His Son, your Saviour. The gift of peace on earth that passes all understanding. The gift first given over 2000 years ago, but one who still keeps on giving today.

 If you must be overwhelmed at this time of year, why not take a quiet moment or two … when the meals are done and the button on your pants is comfortably undone. Yes, take a moment and sit down with your Bible and a warm drink of your choice (and an ant-acid if needed) and be overwhelmed by the love of God. A love so bold that He did not spare His own Son, but sent Him into that stable, to lay in that manger.

 A love that alone could satiate our hunger to know that everything will be OK. That our loved ones are indeed loved. That we will be taken care of. That God does not abandon us to the hectic din of this demanding world.

 A love offered up in the Bread of Life, laying in a feeding trough in the town of Bethlehem (the House of Bread). A love that treasures us more than we can ever know. A love worth pondering again, and again and again … in every gift, every loved one, every opportunity to gather before Him and hear again of that great love for us, stored there in the beating heart of that Babe in the manger, where you (yes you!) are quietly and joyfully treasured above all else.


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Greater Love Has No Man Than This

PoppyLet me begin by stating at the beginning that I love my children very much. I love seeing what they are doing at school. I love being able to take some time to be present at their assemblies, such as I was on Monday.  As far as Remembrance Day ceremonies go it was your pretty standard affair. The teachers doing their best (but generally failing) to file the children in neatly and get them sitting in respectful silence. The welcomes and introductions. A poem spoken (barely) by the older children, the presentations of a wreath from each home room class. The presence of veteran to play the traditional bugle parts. And then my son and his class got up to sing. They sang beautifully. They sang with gusto. They sang clearly (and for the most part on key). I could make out my son’s voice and he is a credit to both his mother and his father. But what they sang was like nails on a chalkboard …

Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Perhaps you know it. Here are just a few of the grating phrases i had to sit through: “If you want the world to know we won’t let hatred grow put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place …” “I hope when you decide kindness will be your guide put a little love in  your heart. And the world will be a better place …” I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, or worse yet who agreed with them and signed off on it. But I do understand the thought behind it. It comes from a deep-seated misunderstanding that many people in our culture have regarding love and what it is. One that is intimately tied into their misunderstanding of Tolerance and Compassion.

For many people these days (people who for the most part have never really and truly had to face real war) love is often confused with appeasement. If you love someone you need to let them be. If we really loved, there would be no more need for war. If we really loved, we could all just get along. If we really loved, not one veteran would ever need to waste their life on something so foolish ever again.

It all stems from the idea that everyone is basically good and that no one really wants to hurt anyone else (or if they do it is only because they don’t know better, and a little kindness will show them the error of their ways). Perhaps we all watched a few too many after-school specials growing up. It is the kind of thinking that summarized in the recent (but certainly not new)  “white poppy” debate.

It is also, unfortunately, a thinking that simply doesn’t work in our world. And it doesn’t work because it refuses to acknowledge both sin and evil.  You see, no one in this world is basically good. We are all sinners, every one of  us. There are times when even the best of us has no qualms whatsoever with sticking it to someone else.   And there are some who genuinely enjoy hurting others, killing others, and subjecting others to all kinds of  suffering. And no amount of kindness is going to teach them otherwise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one might ask the former British Prime Minister Chamberlain, how well his loving approach to appeasing Hitler’s Germany worked. Better yet, ask the Austrians.

This world is broken by sin. This world is pock-marked by evil. And no amount of school assemblies, children’s choirs, or after school specials (no matter how good they are) is going to fix it.  Somethimes the only loving thing to be done is to confront the evil head on, and not allow it to do any more harm.  This is the kind of love that God showed for us. No appeasement to the way things were. No, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” No desire to get along by letting things slide. Instead He took it upon himself to come down to this battleground in the flesh and stand in the breach. In love He choose the path of love that led Him to pay the ultimate price in defeating evil. In love He chose to give up His life in the battle that would set us free from sin, grant us victory over death and evil. In love He waged a war. In love He fought and He died and He rose again so that He might lead His people to do the same.

John 15:12-14a  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends”

And this, I think, is what is missing in so many people’s stundted understanding of war and peace, and the remembering of our veterans. They did not do it (most of them) to glory in war. They didn’t do it out of hatred … but out of love. Love for you and me and all who were (or are) oppressed. Love for Canada.  Those blessed men and women loved enough to lay their life upon the line. They loved enough to say “enough is enough” in the face of evil. They loved … and for so many of them they lost … all so that you and I might gain the freedom and security we now take for granted. And I can think of no greater love to put in my heart, as I remember their sacrifice for me, than a love like theirs … a love like our saviour’s … A love that is willing to lay down my life for someone else.


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How Do I Love Thee …

Every once in a while a story comes along that just seems to say it all.  Consider the following gem:

Bronx Zoo selling naming rights – to cockroaches – as Valentine’s Day gifts

Published: Friday, February 11, 2011 | 5:44 PM ET  Canadian Press The Associated Press

NEW YORK, N.Y. – If lingerie is too intimate and dinner out is too expensive, the Bronx Zoo suggests another Valentine’s Day gift: a Madagascar hissing cockroach.  Spokesman John Calvelli says, “Nothing says forever like a cockroach.” The Wildlife Conservation Society runs the New York City zoo and is raising funds by offering the public the chance to name the huge roaches. In return for each name, it’s asking for a $10 donation. Calvelli says about 1,700 cockroach names were bought in the first two days of the promotion. Recipients get a certificate. The zoo says naming a roach will honour a sweetheart’s resourcefulness and resiliency. As the zoo puts it: “Flowers wilt. Chocolates melt. Roaches are forever.”

via Bronx Zoo selling naming rights – to cockroaches – as Valentine’s Day gifts.

How is a person to show love on Valentine’s Day … if outright lust is just a little too carnal for your tastes, and gourmet gluttony is above your pay scale …  why not try cockroaches!  What says “I love you” more than putting your beloved’s moniker on something that scurries from the light, feeds off of garbage, secretes a form of neuro-toxin, and  hisses to communicate?  What girl in her right mind wouldn’t want that! How do I love thee? Let me count the ways … 1, 385,418 … 1385,419 … 1,385,420 … no wait! Don’t lift that!

And I don’t know what is worse, that someone thought of cockroaches and Valentine’s Day as a good fit, or that 1700 people bought into it within the first two days.  Is this what people think of love?  Is this what it’s come to … pleasing the baser desires of sensuality, or grabbing a few bucks off of a bizarre marketing plan?

Here’s a humble idea instead. Why not do something that is actually loving for Valentine’s Day.  Take that ten dollars and just donate it to the zoo, or the charity of your choice and leave everybody’s name out of it.  Or save yourself the money and maybe volunteer a little time with someone who is stuck in a nursing home, or visit a friend who’s down in the dumps. Send some food to your local foodbank. Volunteer an hour or two for one of the hundreds of local charities in your community.  Help your children with their homework. Talk to your spouse about things that are important.  Or maybe you could take a moment or two to read about the man behind the Holiday, St. Valentine himself. Physician, priest, martyr … his life and death have a lot to say about the true meaning of love.

Love doesn’t have to last forever (only God’s love for us is that good!), but it should be lived out in the here and now.  Love doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but it should cost some of you (just as God’s love cost all of Jesus).  Real love can never be expressed by lingerie, lunches, or laughable marketing campaigns, only in one person giving of themselves for another – no matter how  un-sexy, unpretentious, and unassuming that may seem.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  (1 John 4:7-11)


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“… and right before Christmas!”

Bad news is nothing new to any of us.  We have all seen our share of it, and we all know others who have it even worse than ourselves.  There is even a reported axiom in the news media that goes “If it bleeds it leads”.  If it weren’t for bad news there wouldn’t be much news at 6:00, 10:00, or 11:00 pm.  Recent events are no exception.  In the last week alone there have been terrible snowstorms stranding hundreds in their cars on the highway for a day or more and collapsing stadium roofs, there have been torrential rains and devastating floods and fires ruining people’s homes and businesses. Outside of the cataclysmic weather stories there have also been the regular parade of  stories involving violent crimes, gang shootings, break and enters, vandalism and more.  There has been much misery that has been particularly newsworthy of late.

But last night as I watched all of these and more unfold on the news, I was struck by a refrain heard again and again in one story of disaster and despair after another.  “… and right before Christmas!”  As each person stood before the broken remains of their house or home, their peace, and security, or family well-being; each in their turn took up the same litany of pain and grief crying out “… and right before Christmas too!”

What I was witnessing over and over again was the heart-felt religious expression of those who have come to the dark night of the soul.  That moment when all their convictions are brought into sharp contrast with reality.  And it was humbling to watch.  With each new voice added to that psalm of lament, the unanswerable question loomed clearer and clearer.  How could such a thing happen now?  Why Now?  It was as plain as the grief in their voices, that their suffering was only heightened by the fact that in their understanding  things should be very different.

What each one in turn was crying out for one and all to hear is that somehow, in someway, for some reason, Christmas should be different.  When was the last time you heard someone who lost a home to flooding or a fire cry out “… and right before Labour Day too!”  “How could this happen so close to Canada Day?”  “And to think it should come to this on Family Day!”  I don’t mean to belittle, anyone’s suffering, going through such tragedies on any day of the year is very difficult … but why should it be even harder to face just because it’s right before Christmas?

Because people believe Christmas should be different somehow.  People believe that there should be no pain, or suffering or tragedy or heartache on Christmas.  People believe that Christmas should be a reprieve from normal life, which is full of all this pain and suffering.

But in thinking this way people miss the real meaning of Christmas … for Christmas is not a reprieve from normal life, but in a sense, a fulfillment of such.  Christmas is the celebration of that time when the Lord God Almighty, everlasting and omnipotent creator and ruler of the cosmos, chose to become part of the “normalcy” of our broken human life.  Born into family discord, scandal and raised eyebrows.  Born away from the warmth and safety of a home. Born into poverty, want, and danger.  Faced with violence, oppression, and grief from day one.  And still it will not be over until many years later and the betrayals, the torture, the cross, and the painful death. Christmas has it all … and then some.  By the standards we tend to put on our own Christmases the first Christmas was an abject, heartbreaking failure.

But that’s the point of it all.  Christ came among us, came as one OF us, on that first Christmas, not to be a reprieve from our normal life, but to take part in it. Every last sad, and bitter piece of it!  And that’s the incredible news in all this … Christmas is where the convictions of God’s love for mankind comes into sharp contact with our reality.  Where the Heavenly One becomes so earth-bound it hurts (unto death).  But there is no dark night of the soul here!  Instead, the heavens are opened up and the night is filled with a glorious light. As God comes down from heaven into our world of struggles and pain and suffering, the angel hosts cry out in the litany of  hope and joy “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!”

Christmas is different, but not in that we should be free from suffering.  It is different, in that our God, out of His undying love for you, took your suffering upon Himself.  Christmas brings peace, not in the lack of grief, but in grief placed upon our Lord’s infant shoulders.  Christmas brings healing, not in the avoidance of pain (if only for a while), but in the wounds of Jesus by which one and all are fully and finally healed.  Christmas does grant a reprieve to all that pain and sorrow … but not here, and not yet …  In the meantime it offers us something very different. It offers us a God who has been there and suffered all that.  It offers us a God and will be right here with us through it all, sharing in our pain, that we might likewise share in His joy.  Christmas is not the time to cry out Why Me? or Why Now? It is the time to cry out Thanks be to Him!