OCTOBER 31, 1517 – OCTOBER 31, 2017

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The above pic of a statue in the city of Worms, Germany.

500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his thesis of 95 grievances to the door of the Wittenberg Church. We celebrate that day as the birth of the Protestant Reformation. You can read the list of his grievances here. 

In those days the Roman Catholic Church was a very controlling and corrupt force. The clergy convinced the public that they (the pope and the clergy) had the decision-making power as to who would go to hell or heaven. Money spoke. Anyone with money, religious or not, could buy their way out of purgatory and into heaven. The church was pretty powerful in convincing the poor to give their last dime to the church in order to save their souls. This is only one example of many that were problematic in the church.

Martin Luther spent a few years as a monk searching for truth and for a personal relationship with God. As he searched the scriptures he saw many inconsistencies and inaccuracies in the church. He left the priesthood and enrolled at the University of Wittenberg eventually becoming a professor of theology. While preparing for his lectures and studying the Bible, he came to realize that salvation comes through faith, not by works. Salvation could not be determined by the pope or by any priest or any man, but rather only through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, he determined that the pope did not have the sole right to interpret scripture, but rather that each person should have access to the written scripture so that they could determine the truth for themselves.

He wrote a thesis detailing his perception of the inaccurate beliefs preached by the Roman Catholic Church and nailed this thesis to the door of the Wittenberg church. At a special trial in Worms, Germany (called the Diet of Worms), he was convicted as a heretic and excommunicated. Threatened with arrest and branded as an outlaw, his life was at constant risk. He spent the rest of his years as a fugitive.

This year I was fortunate to travel to Germany where we stopped in Worms and I was able to get some pictures of the church there and several statutes of some of the Fathers of the Reformation. Unfortunately, we did not have a guide in this city, so we were unable to interpret many of the inscriptions on the statutes and graves inside the church.

A few pics of the church in Worms, Germany.

 

A few days later, we were in Geneva, Switzerland and visited the Museum of the Reformation. We were not permitted to take any pictures inside the museum, but the pictures below are of the area around the museum.

I read that the original Protestant churches met in secret in caves in the mountains around the city of Geneva during these early years of change. There is one cave that can be visited and is still set up as a chapel. However, access to that site is very difficult, requiring a car and good set of hiking boots. We didn’t have time to scout this out.

A few pics of the area around the Museum of the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland.

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I Have Loved You to Piece/Peace.

We may wonder if healing will come. Sometimes God seems so far away. But his promises hold true.

LiifeTree: equipping in identity, spirituals, mental health, healing, wonder...

It was as a dream. The exception is that it was more than a mere dream. Not even a vision of the night, but an encounter. For those who can believe, I am certain some aspect of me truly was there, even if only in spirit.

Sitting close to the centre in the second row, the speaker was central to my view. One person to my left in the group was debating the truth of the speaker’s words–not to be difficult, but because they didn’t yet know the truth experientially. As for me I sat transfixed, smiling at him as warmth filled my being and nodding my assent.

“I have Loved you to Pie/ace.”

To One Piece, and to Peace. A play on words. The content was about becoming whole, as one piece rather than broken or fragmented, and to peace versus anxiety and fear. I knew it in every…

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Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Today I reflect on thankfulness.

Yesterday, we celebrated Thanksgiving Dinner with my son and his family, and my daughter. My son and daughter-in-law are the most amazing cooks. Their turkey dinner (and most other meals they cook) would beat any contest going. I’ve often nagged them to open their own restaurant, to no avail. To their credit, they’ve both worked in the foodservice industry and they know the hard work and expense that such a venture entails. They prefer to share their culinary talents with friends and families for free. We are always delighted when we get an invite.

My son and his daughter-in-law both have the gift of hospitality. Although I encouraged my son’s culinary interests, the love of hospitality was not something that he inherited from me. Perhaps I slaved over the kitchen stove when my kids were growing up but I no longer do so, nor do I desire to. I am truly thankful for these two special people in our lives that pour out their talents to bless others.

I am thankful for the gift of a beautiful granddaughter. Needless to say, because of her parents, this young one will grow up with a very sophisticated palate. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if she becomes a chef or some other type of expert in the food industry. At the age of one, her future is a blank slate waiting to be written. We can place options in front of her, but in the end, it will be the talents imbued by her creator that will draw her to her chosen field. I am thankful to have the opportunity to encourage her to develop her God-given talents.

I am thankful for my husband. Because of his faithfulness to me and dedication to our life, I have everything that I need. More importantly, I have someone that does his best to take care of me when I can’t take care of myself. Those difficult days happen too frequently. But he never complains.

My husband and I are polar opposites in many respects. One balances what the other lacks. He freezes at the technological challenges that stupify many of our generation, while I take up such challenges with the belief that if a small child can learn it, then I can too. I’m willing to take risks while he prefers playing it safe. He needs structure, clarity and defined schedules, while I function with loose boundaries and diffuseness. I may see a fridge full of opportunities while he only sees sandwiches and canned soup. Together we may be opposites, but we encourage each other to greatness.

That wasn’t always the case. There was a time when we attacked each other’s differences. Now we accept them and embrace them, and admire them. Each is what the other is not. Today I am grateful for this diversity.

I am thankful for my daughter.  Her challenges and limitations taught me patience and acceptance. I think back to how incredibly impatient I was as a young mom. Because of her, I learned to pause, reflect and develop critical thinking. Parenting a special needs child requires strong problem-solving skills. Because of her, I developed a strength in that area. Without her, I would still be an incredibly selfish woman. Today when I see people who struggle with life, I wonder if they have loving family and friends to help them cope with their disabilities. I see the failure of our society to address the needs of the disadvantaged and my spirit cries. I am thankful that I can understand and that I have been blessed enough that I can help.

I am thankful that my husband has two daughters and a precious granddaughter that love him. Even though they are three thousand miles apart, he has a connection and a bond with them that tells him that he is loved. The physical distance saddens him. All miss out on the special occasions in each other’s lives. Birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving and special events are celebrated without each other. This is an unfortunate reality. Thankfully, technology makes distance less distant. I’m thankful that he is loved. Because he feels loved, he is able to love me more.

I am thankful for so many wonderful friends that grace our lives. There are people that pour into our lives and allow us the opportunity to pour into theirs. Sometimes we are so empty and we need others to fill us. When love overflows in our hearts we can spill over into others. Love is that gift that just keeps on giving.

I’m thankful for the memories of our parents. My mother still lives, but her life is frail and fading. It’s always sad and painful when people pass. But we can hold on to great memories that remind us of those that loved us and encouraged us in our lives.

I’m most grateful for the Christian foundation instilled by my parents. I shudder to think what my life would be without that. Because of them, I know that Jesus lives and I know he cares about my daily life. Because of their influence, I learned to talk to God and to listen to the sound of his voice. My youthful rebellion proved that a life lived poorly is a life wasted, but obedience brings fruitfulness. Despite the many wrong paths that I took in my life, I eventually came back to the truth. We all make mistakes, but the education of our childhood cannot be understated. For that childhood and a lifetime of memories, I am grateful.

I am thankful for Canada, the country of my birth. Our country still permits political and religious differences. We can still vote our conscience and worship in the church of our choice. Most of us enjoy clean drinking water and clean air. We live with a relatively high standard of living.  In our individual home provinces, we enjoy the security of no-fee basic and emergency health care. This system is far from perfect, but it’s something even our neighbors don’t have.  There are many social and political challenges in this country, but we enjoy privileges that many countries don’t. For that, I am grateful.

For all of these things and more, I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving Canada.

 

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Gardening with Jesus

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This summer God has been downloading so many things to me mostly around the theme of gardening.

You might think that I’m a wonderful gardener. I’m not. In fact, most of the time I give up halfway through the summer. I get tired of the work involved. I just want to sit back and enjoy the flowers. I walk around the neighborhood, admiring the beautiful front yards, wishing I had the stamina to put in the work required to have an award-winning yard.

But I don’t. I suffer from low energy levels and poor physical strength. To keep my energy levels consistent, I’ve learned to pace myself, take plenty of breaks and accept the inevitable. My body can only do so much. It needs plenty of rest.

This week I was at Christian leaders’ retreat in Toronto. My decision to go was almost spur of the moment, registering only two weeks before the conference. I wasn’t sure why I needed to go, it was simply an urging of the spirit.

I can’t go into everything about the things that I learned. Some things will settle and morph as the weeks go by. So many revelations were dropped into my spirit and many wounds were healed. It was an incredible week, full of emotion and intimacy.

At the beginning of this week, I experienced a profound and uplifting vision. I’d like to share this with you. I hope it will be as encouraging to you as it was to me.

The vision opens with me standing in my backyard. I walk over to my garden. Jesus is standing there at my raised garden bed with a hoe in his hand. I am surprised to see him standing there. He waves me over and holds up a rake.

“Come Garden with me.” he says.

“Well, I’d like to garden with you, Jesus, but nothing I plant ever grows. I’ve planted and planted and nothing ever comes up.” I said.

“Garden with me.” he says again.

I stand there unsure. I am so discouraged. I’ve tried this before, it doesn’t work. I want to give up.

“But Jesus, I’ve tried this before. It didn’t work then, Why will it work this time?” I ask.

“Because I’m here. Let’s do this together. The seeds will grow this time.”

I take the rake and start to work the soil with him.

I mumble, “I just want to see some fruit from my planting.”

“Come with me,” he says. He beckons me with his crooked finger.

I follow him around the pergola. There in the middle of a very large backyard filled with trees are banqueting tables, stacked end to end covering the lawn. The line is so long I can’t see the end of it. It seems to go on forever.

(Just a note of explanation here. In the natural, my backyard is very small. It would never hold this many tables. This fact confirms the spiritual implication of this vision. This is about my spiritual life, not my natural life.)

Now back to the vision.

The tables are covered and overflowing with fruits and vegetables.

I look at him in awe.

“Where did these come from?” I ask.

“From the seeds you planted.”

I stand back, open-mouthed, my view fixed at the table. I look at him again, then back at the tables.
Then, I see them.

Scores of people, all races of peoples, all ages, young and old alike, from all corners of the globe, are seated around the tables. It’s hard to see them because they are almost hidden by the produce on the table. They pick from the table and eat, feasting on the fruit that came from my garden.

“Where did they all come from?” I asked.

“These are the fruit,” he whispers. “These were from your seeds. They have grown, they are at the table eating. Your planting was not a waste. Your seeds grew and multiplied. You just weren’t there to see them grow.”

The vision closed. I pondered.

There is so much revelation here, that it’s difficult to pick one issue to talk about. But I will review this many times in the weeks and months ahead. I will leave the relevant learnings for each reader to glean for themselves. At least, for now.

At the end of the week, one person (who knew nothing about me or this vision), spoke this one word of knowledge to me.

“Abundance.”

It was a perfect word that fit this vision from the beginning of the week.

My spirit is overflowing. There is so much more to come.

Thank you, Jesus, for this vision.

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Living in The Land of The Harvest

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This was today’s picking of Concord grapes from my garden. When I tell people in Niagara about my bountiful harvest, they simply nod, smile, say “that’s great” and wander off.

Great? It’s amazing! You do not understand what this means to me.

For most of my life, I lived in regions where the climate was too cold to grow grapes. But here in the wine region of Niagara, this is a common back yard hobby.

Growing something I’ve never grown before is awesome.

But this means even more to me.

You see, I didn’t plant these grapes. The previous homeowner did. And he never received any harvest. Instead, I was the one who reaped this harvest.

There were no grapes last year or in 2015, the year we moved in.

But this year I have more fruit than I can eat.

I have planted plenty of seeds in my day. I’ve had good harvests and bad harvests. Sometimes the plants don’t grow because the summer weather is too hot or too cold, too damp or too dry. Sometimes the crops fail because of disease or insects. Sometimes the harvests are small. But this year, the harvest is huge.

In the natural world, there are a number of truths around good or bad harvests. If you take care of your crop, water it well, fertilize it well and protect it from insects, this should almost guarantee that you will have an adequate crop at the end of the summer. But since we cannot control the weather, it’s the way we work with the weather that encourages our crops. If we ignore this mighty factor, we can end up with either a bad harvest or none at all.

I had no idea how to care for my grapevines. I pretty much left them alone to see what they would do. It was this year’s weather that encouraged them. A hot, humid summer with plenty of rain. I was unable to enjoy the swampy weather that awaited us almost every day. I escaped to my air conditioned house during those hot afternoons. But apparently the weather that I didn’t like was perfect for the grapevines.

We all need different growing conditions to produce the best fruit or to become the best that we can be.

In the gardening world, some believe that a harvest of plenty will eventually follow multiple seasons of drought. This is the eternal hope of the gardener. However, an overabundant harvest can also be a foreboding sign of a harsh winter to follow.

These principles are also applicable in the spiritual world.

In my spiritual life, I’ve applied gardening principles as I’ve watched for evidence of growth or harvest in the lives of others as well as my own. I’ve planted seeds, cultivated, tilled the soil, and fertilized many gardens only to wonder whether I’ve been any help or encouragement to them. With no evidence of fruit or harvest, I’ve walked away discouraged and disheartened. Often, I’ve felt completely useless as a spiritual gardener, thinking that perhaps I should give up trying to be one.

I’ve plucked fruit from branches of great spiritual leaders. But that same fruit ended up rotting in my own life. Much of that rotting fruit was inadvertently dropped into the gardens of others, discouraging their growth, or making them work twice as hard to get rid of the disease or bad seeds that I left behind.

Over the years, God has pruned me, shaped me, and fertilized me. And yet, I still wait for evidence that my branches are bearing fruit.

I’m encouraged by my grape harvest this year. There are also spiritual promises inherent that I can apply to my life.

Some of the lessons I am gleaning from this:

1) The previous homeowner planted the grapevines and never saw a harvest, but I did. I reaped what he sowed.
So too, the spiritual seeds that I plant in someone’s life may never bear fruit in my lifetime. But that shouldn’t stop me from planting. I can be encouraged by this principle. I may sow, others may reap. There may be times when I will reap what someone else has sown, just like my grapevines.

2) We all need different things to grow. Some need more or less heat, some need more or less water, or different types of fertilizer. Perhaps some of us need more pruning than others. Then again, some of us just need to be left alone while we grow silently without being disturbed. We need to recognize that our idea about what healthy growth looks like, might look very different to someone else.

3) A healthy plant will always produce a bountiful harvest if it has received the right nourishment. We simply have to wait.
In our spiritual lives, sometimes we need to practice patience and wait. If we’ve done all the right things, the harvest will happen.

4) A healthy harvest is often the signal of the end of a drought. But that doesn’t mean we celebrate the harvest and quit taking care of the plants. The care continues each year, with hope for an even greater abundance of harvest next year.
In our own lives, we should never take a harvest for granted. The work must continue. There will always be room for a greater harvest. “The harvest is great, but the labourers are few.” (Matthew 9:37)

5) A bountiful harvest can signal a foreboding of a harsh winter. Nature has a way of supplying us with extra food exactly before we need it. The old methods of preserving our excess is a tried and true method that ensures that we have food later when we need it. We need to pay attention to these natural signs.

So too, in our lives, when a spiritual harvest happens, things can happen that may threaten to steal our hard work. Our worst enemy can often be ourselves. We procrastinate and don’t protect the spiritual fruit at our doorstep. We get lazy and complacent. Then we complain when we see all our hard work go right out the window.

6)Preserving is hard work. Ripe fruit demands immediate attention. Otherwise it will rot on the vines. Rotting fruit is waste and benefits no one. Even the plant doesn’t like it. If you don’t pick the fruit, the plant will diminish it’s harvest in future years. It’s almost like it knows when it’s not needed or wanted.

Are we paying attention to the fruit in the lives of others? What about the fruit in our own lives? Are we encouraging spiritual growth in ourselves and in those around us? Or are we ignoring it, making others feel that their gifts of contribution are unnecessary or unwanted?

7) Ripe fruit often gets picked at by birds or stolen by rodents. It must be protected by netting, fences or other natural means until is ready to be picked.

In our spiritual lives, there is an enemy that is watching to steal our fruit, our hard work. How are we protecting it? What are you doing to make sure your fruit is growing safely in a protected environment until it’s ready to be shared? Are we surrounding ourselves with others of like minds to encourage and support each other? The more we grow, the more we need to do. If we want the harvest to happen, we must dig in and do the work.

6) THE HARVEST WILL HAPPEN. THE HARVEST IS COMING. MAYBE THE HARVEST IS HERE? Will you recognize the harvest when it arrives? Will you know what to do with the bounty that you will be receiving? It’s great to dream, but when the time comes, you will have to do something with that fruit. Don’t let it rot on the vine.

Jesus said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”John 15:1-8 (NIV)

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On Death and Dying

August 8, 2017

The grim reaper has been busy this week. With everything that has been happening around me, I felt the need to write this blog today.

Yesterday, August 7 was my dad’s birthday. If he were alive today, he would be 87 years old. Every year since his death in 2011, I have lit a candle, proverbially speaking, in some form or another to celebrate his birthday and his life.

I often think of his last years when we both enjoyed our weekly Sunday night phone calls. Although those phone calls only started after his life slowed down, it was a tradition that still holds great significance for me. Every Sunday night I wish I could just dial up heaven to talk to him. I miss him greatly.

The second reason for this blog (and perhaps the reason why I am writing this blog in the first place) is that a friend of mine passed away yesterday on my dad’s birthday. She wasn’t a close friend, but a friend nonetheless, someone who impacted my life. This week I will discover more about her life as I spend time with those who loved her.

The subject of death began raising its ugly head last week when I heard of the sudden horrific death of the son of a dear friend of one of my closest friends. He was not someone I knew, but his death still impacted me because it was caused by the hands of others. The parents of that young man will not have closure on that death for a very long time. Graphic and sickening, nothing like this should ever happen, but sadly it does.

Death happens in different ways and no death is ever the same as another, regardless of similarities. Each of the above deaths was very different from the other. The impact on those left behind is nonetheless, traumatic.

My Dad was ill for about two months before he passed. He suffered slowly, his pain and medications gradually increasing until the end. He had plenty of time to say good-bye to family and friends, and he didn’t take this time lightly.

His journey of dying encouraged me to appreciate the value of time in our lives and the importance of making a positive impact on others. After his death, I began to be more grateful for the loved ones in my life. The accumulation of things lost its meaning. I no longer needed to possess as I once did. I learned the importance of ‘being’ in the moment, taking each day as it comes, and becoming more adaptable to the changes in life. With the intentional practice of mindfulness, I continue to learn to ‘let go and let God’. This too encourages me to become more thankful.

My friend’s death was very different from my dad’s. She went suddenly during the night, completely unexpected to everyone. She was still young, in her 60th year, just slightly younger than me. She had no close family and only a few friends that she could count on. She had no time to prepare. Neither she nor her estranged family succeeded in making the effort to repair the wounds from the past. In the end, it was her roommate and her church community that were her family.

I wonder about the thoughts and emotions that her family are dealing with today. I wonder about the regrets that they will feel. How will they cope with the reminders of the many moments of friction that passed between them? Regardless of their relationship, I have no doubt that they will still experience her loss as tragic. And they grieve greatly.

This death teaches the lesson of the importance of resolving conflict and forgiving others quickly. Because we don’t know when we will have another chance. But true forgiveness requires repentance from all concerned. This is only possible if both sides agree to put differences aside and accept each other as the flawed humans that we all are. If only we could embrace the importance of this task.

The death from last week has very different lessons to be learned. This was a young man tragically dying at the hands of others. Completely unexpected and so horrific, it causes bile to rise in our throats from the anger boiling in our bellies.

Things like this shouldn’t happen, but when they do we wonder why.

Is it that our modern world no longer sees life as sacred, but rather as disposable? If so, we need to bring the value of sanctity back to our technological preoccupied world. We are not machines to be disposed of. We need to say no to death and yes to life. The dignity of living requires the education of the principles of respect and honor. A tragic death reminds us that we, as a society, need to re-evaluate those basic human values.

Three very different deaths. Three very different lives. All with valuable lessons to be learned.

Whether expected or unexpected, death is always a kick in the gut forcing us to pay attention to life. Death forces us to pause. It brings us face-to-face with our mortality. It encourages us to review our own lives. It enables us to re-examine our relationships with others. It gives us the opportunity to forgive both those who have died and those around us who are still living. It allows us the chance to grow as human souls, to increase our compassion, to look beyond ourselves and see life from another perspective.

And perhaps, most importantly, death taps us on the shoulder and says, “what’s next?”

Death can be our biggest motivator to change.

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Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

Investigating the claims of the Gospels by J Warner Wallace

Source: Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels

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