Tag Archives: joy

Nuggets of Hope 19 – At All Times

Do you praise the Lord at all times?

That’s what David vowed to do after God rescued him from the crafty Abimilech.

I will bless [praise] the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the Lord ;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Psalm 34:1-2

Twenty-eight years ago today my daughter Bethany was born. It was a day of great rejoicing. Marion and I had not planned on a fourth child but God saw fit to intervene. We had also not expected to have a daughter. I remember the Holy Spirit speaking to me and telling me that He was giving me what I had desired but had not asked for. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and praised the Lord.

Five years ago today my daughter-in-law Carmen lost almost all of her small bowel. I will never forget the phone call from my son Joe telling me that she was about to have surgery and might not survive. I left my desk, went for a long walk and prayed as I have seldom prayed before. I knew that Carmen’s life was ultimately in the hands of the Lord.  That was a hard day, but God has shown himself faithful. I don’t say this only because she survived – although I am very thankful that she not only survived but is now thriving. Even if she had been taken from us, God would have shown himself faithful. He is always faithful to His good, eternal purposes. That is who He is.

We don’t praise the Lord only or primarily to get things from Him, although praise does release God’s blessings into our lives in a powerful way. We praise Him because He is worthy of our attention, worthy of being the primary focus of our lives. There is no-one else more worthy of our loving, appreciative, thankful attention. But we also praise and worship God because we need to.  It’s good for us. Praising and worshipping God has a wonderful way of putting things into perspective for us. As we lay down our concerns and forget ourselves in praising and worshipping Him, everything else takes its place.

Not many months after surrendering my life to the Lord and going through my first series of severe tests after coming to faith, I remember being at a Christian family camp where Harold Harding was ministering in teaching and personal prophecy. I do remember some of what he said – in fact his personal prophetic word to me had a profound impact on me – but what had the greatest impact was his habit of pacing up and down the platform, praying over and over again “Thank you Lord” as he waited for prophetic words to come. I saw in him qualities of perseverance, constancy and steadiness that had developed over a lifetime of both blessings and trials. He looked for the hand of God in both, and so his life remained stable and fruitful until the day he passed into the presence of Jesus.

There’s something very stabilizing about praise. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the nations, and we can all feel its impact in multiple ways, one of the best things we can do is to turn our attention to God and praise Him. When we turn our attention away from ourselves and our concerns, and away from the opinions, judgments, mistakes, achievements and social media pronouncements of others, and fix our attention on the Maker of the Universe, we soon begin to realize how very small people are and how very big God is.

Paul wrote to the young church in Corinth during a time when they needed a dose of encouragement due to a crisis in their life together. He reminded them of their foundations.

Now it is God who makes both us and you
stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,
set his seal of ownership on us,
and put his Spirit in our hearts
as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22

When we turn our attention to Him and surrender to His good work in our lives, God puts a firm foundation under our feet, and He anoints us and seals us with His Spirit – the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and empowered Him for his ministry. None of this is from us. It’s all from God. He redeems us from the pit and gives us stability and hope, He gives us the power to live a new life, and He gives us the promise that His good work in us will be completed and that we will get to share in His eternal inheritance if we remain faithful.

It’s good for us, sometimes, to be reminded of the losses that others have suffered. It was good for me today to be reminded of the pain that Carmen has been through and the grief, sorrow and travail that so many of us experienced as we were waiting anxiously for news about her first and second surgeries during that horrible period of testing five years ago. It’s also good to remember our joys, as Marion and I take delight in remembering Bethany’s birth twenty-eight years ago today. But it’s even better, having revisited both past joys and past sorrows, and having taken stock of present challenges like the current pandemic, to turn our faces and our hearts to the God of the universe who alone is worthy to be worshipped and praised.


Finishing well

Working Out

The other day I was working out on my exercise bike. When I’m on my bike, I set a goal, and I try to push myself and fight the temptation to quit. I was getting winded, and so I asked the Lord to help me finish well.

I often return to this prayer theme during exercise. It speaks to me on two levels. At one level  I am focussing on a very practical, physical goal. I am asking for strength to persevere in doing the things I need to do to stay fit. It would be easier just to quit.

But there’s another level to this prayer as well. Why bother exercising if your life isn’t going anywhere? I work out because I have hope and a purpose. I have hope for this age and for the age to come.  So, it’s my goal to finish well.

My mother in law passed into the presence of Jesus a little over six weeks ago. Since then, three people who are close to me have said good-bye to their mothers for the last time in this life. Two others have received cancer diagnoses. This has reminded me of my own mortality. When you’re young and energetic it’s easy to think that death is a long way off. But the older you get, the less you can convince yourself of that particular delusion.

The passing of Marion’s Mom completed a process that began with my Dad’s death thirteen years ago this month. Marion and I no longer have earthly parents to look up to. We do have great memories and much to be thankful for, but our parents have left this life, left the family circle, and we are now the ones that our children and grandchildren look up to. We’re the old folks now, as our good friend John Herweyer used to put it.

I know that I have entered the last major phase of my journey in this life. I might stay healthy for another twenty years or more, but unless Jesus returns first, my life on this earth will end in my death, and that date is drawing closer with every breath. But I don’t want to live out my remaining years worrying about what might happen to me. I’m not afraid to die. I’m in good health and enjoy a reasonably active life. My health is a blessing. But even if my health should fail, and even as my strength gradually wanes as I age, I want to run my race with perseverance and joy.

I have friends who went to South Africa two years ago when Tony was in his mid seventies and L-A was approaching her sixties. They have been serving young South Africans in one of the townships in the Western Cape. They inspire me. It hasn’t always been easy for them, but they have run their race with joy, creativity and purpose. I am inspired by people who live their senior years in conscious devotion to the goodness and purposes of God, relying on His nearness and power to sustain them and give them hope. That’s how I want to finish out this life. In the words of a classic worship song,

This is my desire – to honour You.

When I draw my final breath in this life, I want to enter Jesus’ presence having lived my last years on earth in wholehearted obedience to my Lord who gave me life, and who redeemed that life and gave me a purpose. He is worthy of whatever I have to give, and much more. I recognize that good health and energy are a great blessing, and I want to honour Him by enjoying my remaining years. I believe this gives God more honour than living a miserable, fearful, self-obsessed life. I want to be a blessing to my children and grandchildren. I want to support missionaries and help the poor. I want to be a good steward of the bit of land I have, and the time, energy and finances that have been entrusted to me. I want to use my spiritual gifts to serve others and help them turn to God with their whole hearts. And if health and strength should fail, I am still determined to close out my days with my eyes on Him who gives me hope for eternity.

Lord, give me strength and grace to finish well.

All my life you have been faithful
All my life you have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God.

Jenn Johnson.


One Day in Your Courts

Love is at the core of every special day. Think back to some of the best days of your life—days marked by joy and excitement. If you scratch beneath the surface of those days, you will find love at…

Source: One Day in Your Courts


Every nation, tribe, people and language

The Book of Revelation is punctuated by a series of powerful images of the heavenly world and the Age to Come. In one of my favourite episodes from this amazing hope-filled book, the apostle John is given a preview of the Throne Room of the Great King after the Great Tribulation. He sees a crowd of worshippers from every nation, tribe, people and language, giving praise to the Lamb who has redeemed them.

Last night Marion and I, along with about a hundred other worshippers, were given a small but rich and delightful foretaste of this wonderful heavenly reality. We were treated to a cross-cultural worship experience at Eglise le Sentier, a French-language Baptist church in Gatineau.

The evening was sponsored by CASE2, a diverse team of Christian musicians from the Ottawa/Gatineau area. Of the nine musicians who comprise this group, four are active participants in All Nations Ottawa, our home church. We had attended a previous concert by CASE2 – a fund-raiser for a 2011 mission trip to Burundi – so we knew we were in for a treat.

The performance was energetic and passionate. The band was clearly well-rehearsed but their musical presentation was spontaneous and fresh. The songs – all original – represented a variety of musical styles. The lyrics were strong, addressing a wide range of human experience and always leading the worshippers to Jesus.

As the child of immigrant parents, having grown up with three languages, I understand and appreciate cultural diversity. I also find myself increasingly aware of the wide variety of languages, cultures and theological flavours represented within the Body of Christ, not only world-wide, but in the National Capital region. Last night’s concert was a microcosm of some of this richness. The nine current members of CASE2 are active participants in a variety of churches in Ottawa/Gatineau, ranging from Evangelical Baptist to non-denominational charismatic. Two of the nine are French-Canadians while seven are immigrants to this country – six from Africa and one from Belgium. They represent at least three continents and several native languages.

None of the musicians have English as a first language, yet they had intentionally crafted a bilingual repertoire, with some songs in English and some in French. Even the testimonies and song introductions were presented in both languages.

Several of the musicians had contributed songs to the repertoire, and many of the songs were prefaced with a brief comment by the composer. This gave the band members an opportunity to tell their story. They spoke of how faith in Jesus had changed their lives, and gave strong encouragement to those present to trust the Lord and walk closely with Him. Several of the musicians have had the experience of being refugees from a war-torn nation. At least one has been a missionary in a foreign continent and has been shot at by terrorists. Many of them have lost a great deal, but every one of them testifies that in Christ they have found even greater riches.

Towards the end of the evening I found myself reflecting on what I was experiencing. My faith was being encouraged by new friends from a wide variety of backgrounds. They had bridged several cultural divides – the divide between French- and English-speaking Canadians, the divide between evangelicals and charismatics, the divide between African immigrants and white North Americans.  They were not only singing songs, they were sharing their life experience. The audience, too, was diverse. It was probably about half white and half African. English-speakers were definitely in the minority, but Marion and I were far from the only ones, and not for a moment did we feel unwelcome on “the other side”. And that is as it should be. After all, we were among friends – we were among God’s people. But it has not always been that way among those who name Jesus Christ as Lord.

This experience has left me grateful for the many excellent friends that God has given me. I have been blessed with friends from many nations, tribes and languages – friends who have known what it is like to suffer great injustice, yet who live a life of gratitude without a trace of bitterness – friends who are true servants, who encourage my faith, who challenge me by their testimony, who enrich the Body of Christ by sharing their gifts and their love so freely. I will be sharing eternity with these friends. God has called us to live and work in partnership as one family. I am grateful that He is giving me an opportunity to get to know, love and appreciate some of them on this side of eternity.


The wedding feast


Last Saturday my oldest son, Joe, married the love of his life, Carmen. For me this was cause for great joy.

I was delighted for Joe. He looked so thrilled as he waited for Carmen to walk down the aisle. He has married a good woman and he will be an excellent husband and father. He has waited a long time for this day, and his patience has been rewarded.

I have enjoyed getting to know Carmen and it was most satisfying to be able to welcome her into our family. She spoke her wedding vows with thoughtfulness and conviction. It was good to meet Carmen’s parents and her brothers, who evidently care so much about her.

I was so pleased for Marion. She and Joe have always had a special bond, and it was good to see the love and pride in her eyes as she watched her son get married and as she shared a special dance with him during the party that followed.

It was lots of fun to have Simeon, Heather and their girls staying in our home for the week leading up to the wedding. I loved playing with the girls, reading them stories, going to the park with them, watching “shows” with them, and talking with Sophie about the big picture of Jesus in our living room. Bethany and her boyfriend Dunovan also spent hours playing with the girls, much to their delight. I see the makings of a favourite aunt and uncle there (though there may be some competition for the title).

On the wedding day I was thrilled to see my two beautiful little granddaughters walking down the aisle in their pretty dresses, Sophie bearing the wedding rings, and Alivia carrying rose petals. Heather, despite feeling miserable due to a nasty cold, was a great sport and made sure the girls were up for their special role.

I was blessed to see again how many truly good friends Joe and Carmen have. Joe and his team worked long and hard to pull off a wedding on a farm under less than ideal circumstances (pouring rain). After having planned and hoped for an outdoor wedding, they adjusted admirably to the wet weather, spending several hours on the wedding day itself shovelling and raking crushed rock so that the rest of us would be dry (relatively speaking) inside the wedding tent. Others spent hours preparing and serving food. Carmen’s friends added to the joy of the day with their gifts of music, service and presence. Special mention goes to Caleb and Julie; Jon; Dave; Margaret, Maggie and Katrina; Nick and Alex; Patrick and Sarah.

At the reception, Joe’s brother Simeon, the best man, spoke with affection and pride of his respect for his big brother. Their younger brother, Reuben, took extra good care of Grandma and Grandpa with the help of his ever-supportive wife Jess, making sure that they were comfortable. Marion and I were so grateful for the help and support of Earl and Debbie Davidson who so generously made their house and property available. It was wonderful to reconnect with them as well as with other good friends from our Russell and City Church days.

All in all, my cup was full. My oldest son was seeing a dream of his heart fulfilled, my wife was happy, and my children and grandchildren were laughing together, serving each other and enjoying each other’s company in the presence of much-loved friends.

Yet during a week filled with such great joy, there were some troubling notes. In Barrhaven, an OC Transpo bus collided with a train, and several people were killed. In Washington DC, a number of people were shot by an assailant at the Navy Yard. In Nairobi, Kenya, Al-Shabaab terrorists attacked a mall, targetting non-Muslims and killing over sixty. On a more personal level, our good friend Lynne is facing chemotherapy in the wake of cancer surgery.

How can we make sense of all this? How do you enjoy a wedding and a family celebration in the face of such pain?

These are really questions of life and death. Why is there suffering? Why is there grief? Why is there death? Why is there evil? What is God’s answer?

Though these questions are not easy for our hearts, the Bible does have clear answers. I find it so helpful to be reminded that Jesus, who has suffered for us and with us, is the real Bridegroom, and the Marriage of the Lamb is the real Wedding Feast. He is alive, He lives and reigns now in the heavens, and soon he will return to claim his bride and rule openly as King. The joy of Joe and Carmen’s wedding points forward to the far greater joy of that great day when every tear will be wiped away.

During his earthly ministry He did many miracles to encourage our hearts, and similar miracles are still happening today. To cite just one example, my good friend Gola Tiruneh has seen many works of great power as he reaches out to Muslims in Indonesia with the good news that Jesus is Lord. These are signs of His Kingdom that is coming, and they are wonderful indeed. It is good to have reminders that ultimately the darkness will be defeated, and the Bridegroom will be acknowledged by all as King.

But in the meantime, even when the Holy Spirit is poured out and people are saved, healed and delivered, even when hearts are healed and relationships are restored, even when we enjoy wonderful times of celebration with family and friends, this does not mean that there will be no more trouble. Jesus told us that until His return He would always be near, but He also said that his followers should be prepared for sorrows as well as joys, and warned us not to be dismayed by the one or distracted by the other, but to stay alert and fix our hope on His coming Kingdom.

I am very happy for Joe and Carmen, and wish them many years of happiness and much growth in love. I’m similarly happy when any of my children – or anyone else that I love and care about – finds true joy in life. But my heart’s desire for my children, and for all those God has called me to serve and love and pray for, is that they would fix their eyes on Jesus, the crucified and risen One who is coming to reign. He is the one who can anchor our hearts so that we are not dismayed by the troubles that are part of living in a dying world. The good news is that He has a plan to restore the earth and bring everlasting joy to those who have put their hope in Him. Every wedding, rightly understood, points forward to that glorious day when the Messiah will claim His bride and the earth will be restored.

I want to end this post with a link to a beautiful song by Matt Gilman that expresses the cry in our hearts for that day when the Bride will marry the Lamb. Blessings.



No high like the Most High

I love walking in winter, especially on days like today, when the air  is cold enough to be invigorating but not so cold as to be bone-chilling.

Besides giving me a bit of exercise, my brisk morning walk to the bus occasionally also leads to unexpected encounters. This morning, while walking along Montreal Road I ran into JB.  JB is an old friend. We were part of the same spiritual family for a number of years, but life took us in different directions and I no longer see him regularly. Occasionally it happens that our paths cross when he is on his way home from his night shift, and I am on my way to work.

One reason I love JB is because of his smile. As soon as he recognized me this morning, he gave me a big grin, and when I got closer, a bear hug and a blessing. We didn’t talk long because he knew I had a bus to catch, but as I went on my way, my spirit was lighter.

One of the things I always appreciated about JB was his enthusiasm for the Lord. As I said goodbye to him this morning, I remembered how he used to say “There’s no high like the Most High”. He would sometimes share how he used to seek happiness in drugs until he met Jesus. His life exemplified a visible hunger for the real thing – a genuine relationship with God, no faking.

Life isn’t always easy. It’s not easy for anyone, and in some ways, following Jesus makes it harder. His people are called to live by a higher standard than the world around us, and we sometimes encounter opposition in various forms. We know that we are headed for resurrection, and that’s wonderful. But I am so glad that Jesus gives us the promise of His presence with us by the Holy Spirit here and now, as a down payment of what is to come. The grin on JB’s face this morning reminded me of the joy of the Lord. I was grateful for the reminder.


Our Toyota Story – Part Two

Well, we got the Matrix to Minnesota as planned  (read Part One of this story here).

We set out on Friday at 6:55 am – five minutes ahead of schedule, which is almost unheard of in the annals of the Hartgerink family.  This momentous feat was only achieved by telling each other that we should really aim to leave by 6:30 am.  So, although we were 25 minutes behind our official target time, we were 5 minutes ahead of our real target time.

Our goal was to be at the facilities of Stonewell Auto Importers and Exporters in Port Huron, Michigan by by 3:30 pm.  To accomplish this, we had to reach the Bluewater Bridge (Sarnia/Port Huron) without any major delays along the road, get through US Customs hassle-free, and then find Stonewell’s facility in an unfamiliar city.  After doing our business with them, we planned to drive another 4-5 hours to Hammond, Indiana (just east of Chicago) where we had a hotel reservation for the night.

I was a bit keyed-up about the whole process.  There had been a lot of paperwork in order to get the Matrix ready for import, and I wanted to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything.  This would be our first time crossing the border not as private citizens but as agents of a commercial vehicle importer.  I was very conscious that everything needed to be in order.  At the same time, we had received many confirmations that this whole undertaking was in God’s will, so although I was keyed up I was also confident.  And indeed God was with us at every step.  Our voyage went amazing smoothly, with many signs of God’s favour along the way.  Every time we needed something, we prayed for guidance and/or provision, and the Lord always answered us.  Sometimes we didn’t even have to pray, because He answered before we asked.

I had my Blackberry with me, and I had a phone number for Chris, the agent from Stonewell who was supposed to meet us at their facility at 3:30 pm.  On three separate occasions along the way, I was thinking “It would probably be good to get in touch with Chris right about now”.  Each time, he called just a couple of moments after I had this thought.  And even though I did well over half the driving on this trip, whenever Chris called, it “just happened” that Marion was driving, and I was able to concentrate fully on his call.  The first time, he called to say he had a job interview in another city that morning, so he might not be able to meet us at the agreed-upon time.  This was not what we wanted to hear!   So, we thanked God for giving Chris a job interview, and asked Him to enable Chris to get back in time to help us finish the import process.  We also asked Him to give Chris favour in his interview.  The second time, Chris called back to say that the interview had gone so well that they had hired him on the spot, and he wouldn’t be able to meet us but he would arrange for someone else.  This wasn’t what we had expected, but it sounded like God’s provision.  The third time (by now I was getting a bit antsy because we were getting close to the border and I still hadn’t heard back from him) Chris called to confirm that he had arranged for someone to meet us.  All we had to do was make a phone call from the bridge after clearing Customs, and his Dad (Jeff) would meet us at the Stonewell shop, photograph our car to show that it had indeed entered the country, photograph the speedometer to show that it registered miles per hour as well as kilometers per hour, and affix a label to our car stating that it had been imported into the USA.

Things were looking pretty good!  Every time we had a concern, it was being met.  Thus far, the Lord had helped us.

We got to the bridge ahead of schedule, which was good.  But this was a critical moment.  We had been told to go through Customs in the commercial lane.  Did this mean we should follow the sign that said “Trucks”?  We decided that this was what we ought to do.  It felt a bit weird to leave the car lane, drive our little Matrix across the bridge in the truck lane, and go whizzing by all the other cars that were lined up in the car lane, waiting to clear Customs.  Then we got close to the Customs gate, and it was our turn to line up, with the other commercial vehicles that were waiting to clear Customs – our little Matrix sandwiched between two massive semi-trailers.  “Are you commercial?” asked a bridge attendant.  “Yes, we’re commercial”.  Weird! Us?  Commercial shippers?  We’re just a Mom and Dad, bringing our Matrix to our son and his wife so they can have a good car for their family!  But to good ol’ Uncle Sam, we were commercial shippers, and our goods were potentially subject to inspection.  Not that they’d find anything … my Mom’s dentures had been cleaned out of the car three years previously, when we received the car from my parents’ estate  🙂

Suddenly the whole process, which had been going so smoothly until now, seemed to slow to a crawl.  There were about six trucks ahead of us, and each truck appeared to be taking between 5-10 minutes to clear Customs.  We were almost out of gas, having decided to wait until we were in the USA to gas up, so we kept our engine turned off except when someone cleared Customs and the line moved.  Would we get there on time?  Would we run out of gas? Would Uncle Sam show kindness to us and let our Matrix into the country?  Would we be able to contact Chris after crossing the bridge?  Would Jeff be able to come and meet us?  It’s easy to trust when all the questions have easy answers.  Real trust is all about unanswered questions.  Real trust is when, after you’ve done everything you know to do, you realize that you still can’t control the outcome, and you choose to rely on the Lord’s promise “It’ll be OK because I’ll be with you”.

Finally we got to the Customs window.  Our car hadn’t run out of gas – yet.  It was our turn.  This was the moment of truth.

The Customs agent looked down on us from what seemed like a great height, as his window was positioned to enable him to talk to semi-trailer drivers who sit about 10 feet off the ground.  After driving up to the window, I could no longer see him at all, but I heard a disembodied voice calling down to me : “Can I help you?”  I shouted back : “I can’t hear you very well!”.   “Get out of the car, then!” the voice called back.  The man seemed helpful enough.  Probably our visit was an amusement – a bit of variety in what must surely be a somewhat tedious job.  (“Guess who I checked through Customs today, dear?”).  Eventually we managed to communicate why we were there, and he scanned our paperwork and told us to go ahead, after a few words about parents who were still giving their kids handouts.  I thought to myself, maybe he doesn’t fully understand God’s generosity – but God did use him to show us His favour!  He didn’t even charge us the usual fee.  Praise the Lord.

Next challenge : get gas and get hold of Chris.  Gas – no problem.  Trying to contact Chris – call failed.  Since my Blackberry doesn’t seem to be working at the moment, try to find a pay phone.  None to be found.  What to do? Pray, of course!  Answer to prayer: “Go to Stonewell’s shop and you’ll know what to do next”.    We got there – almost exactly at our original target time – and someone was already there, waiting for us!  Whew!  Thank you, Lord.  Jeff – a middle-aged guy like me, filling in on a job that he evidently had not done for a while – had a bit of trouble printing the label that had to be affixed to our Matrix to show that it had been legally imported into the USA.  Between Chris (by phone) and myself (in person), we helped him figure it out.  He talked about how hard it had been for his son to find a job, and how grateful he was to be able to help his son out.  I understood how he felt.

The rest was easy.  Long, tiring, but easy.  We got to our hotel – a bit strung out, and desperate for sleep.  We left very early the next morning, and got through (or around) Chicago with no problems, thanks to excellent directions from Keith (Heather’s father).   We had an opportunity to help a fellow traveller who had run out of money at a gas station, and later had a great breakfast at a country diner in a historic village called Cherry Valley, Illinois, where we were quite obviously the only guests from out of town.  We drove for hours through many miles of early fall beauty – fields ready for harvest, interspersed with forests and the occasional city.  We got to Bloomington, got the car cleaned up and ready for its new owners, and had a delightful – if brief – visit with Simeon and Heather.  After a few moments of uncertainty, little Sophie remembered us (“Gamma ! Gampa!”)  and it was a joy to see her again.   The next day, we flew back to Ottawa where Reuben and Jess met us at the airport, took us home and fed us comfort food – just what we needed after a long journey.

So, I am at the end of my tale.  But why, you may well ask, did I bother to recount this particular narrative?

First, it was a great joy to be able to bless my children with this car.  They had not yet been able to obtain a really good family vehicle, and Marion and I had an opportunity to provide them with one.  The rest was simple – just do it!  We are made to give.  Even though my Dad was somewhat of a skeptic in matters of faith, one of the Kingdom values that he modelled very well was the value of generosity.  Many times my parents had helped us out when our children were young and our budget was tight.   To be in a position to do the same for my children – in different forms for each child – is a delight.  To be able to pass on a vehicle from grandparent to parent to child is probably quite unusual, but for me this was a source of deep satisfaction especially because I know it will meet their need so well.

Second, our children give back to us more than they know.  Simeon and Heather’s obvious affection and gratitude, little Sophie’s hugs, playful smiles and games of peekaboo, and Reuben and Jess’ care for us upon our return – these things fill our hearts with contentment.  We are blessed beyond deserving.

Third, as already mentioned, I saw so many evidences of God’s grace along the way.  This visit reaffirmed for me that we are made to give, and if are faithful to give out what God has so freely entrusted to us, He will always bless us.  It also reaffirmed for me that if we are seeking to obey the Lord, He will never leave us high and dry.  It’s easy to believe this about other people – especially those who do great deeds.  It may not be as easy for us to believe it about ourselves, but the Lord desires to show us His trustworthiness in smaller adventures like this one, so that we can rely on Him for the grace needed to take on bigger challenges with joy and courage when He calls us to them.

Every time we step out in faith and rediscover God’s faithfulness, our hearts are being prepared for the next adventure.  I have just learned that our missionary friend Gola has seen a door open for him to travel to India (from his current base in Indonesia) to preach the good news of Jesus, the Saving and Healing One.  Will God provide for him?  Of course.  Will we help him?  Of course.  What else would we do?


Sweet or sour? It’s your choice

It’s been said that the majority of people are thinking negative thoughts up to 90% of the time. I don’t know about most people, but I know this was certainly true of me at one time.   Worry, anxiety, frustration, anger, critical thoughts about others, and expectations of failure were my constant companions.

I remember one occasion in particular, a couple of years after I had surrendered control of my life to Jesus Christ, when Marion and I were privileged to participate in a three-day prayer ministry training school with Victorious Ministry Through Christ – a ministry that over a period of several years had a life-changing impact on both of us.  The event concluded with a prayer service at which each participant was prayed over and received words of blessing from the leaders of the school.   The words spoken over me were that I would go forward in joy.   Like a good student, I dutifully wrote the words in my journal.  Later, reading my journal and reflecting on this promise of joy, I had a disturbing thought.  I realized that I didn’t even know what joy was.

Well, that was 20 years ago this year, and I thank God that my approach to life is much more positive.  Yes, I do know now what joy is – and I rejoice daily in God’s amazing kindness to me.  I can honestly say that Jesus has healed my soul (my mind, will, and emotions) and transformed my whole outlook on life.  Life certainly hasn’t always been easy since then, but I have learned the wonderful truth of the promise that everything in our lives – even difficult and painful events – can ultimately serve God’s amazingly good purpose.

The other day I was walking home from work through a snowstorm, thinking about how bad it is that Ottawa’s bus drivers are currently on strike, and feeling less than enthusiastic about the weather and the longish trek home from work.   I decided to ask God a question.  I’ve found this is a very good way of getting my thinking straightened out, as long as I’m willing to pay attention to the answer.   So I said “Well, if all things work together for good for those who love you, what is the purpose of this strike and this snowstorm in my life?”.   Believe it or not, as soon as I asked the question I realized the answer.

It’s easy to be positive when everything is going well.  The real proof of a transformed life is when peace and joy continue to mark our lives in the midst of challenging circumstances.   So in the midst of my snowy walk home, I began remembering all the evidences of God’s goodness in my life, and thanking Him for each one.

People sometimes say that you can’t help how you feel, but this is actually not true.   Of course, you can’t help being affected by events that happen to you.   I’ve had my share of painful experiences, and I’m just like you – when things don’t go my way, I don’t like it any more than you do.   But the very circumstance that causes me pain or grief or frustration can be my stepping stone to the joy of the Lord if I choose to respond in faith.  I’m not talking about pretending that everything is fine when it isn’t.  I’m talking about making the choice to respond in faith to real problems.  Am I going to stay in the pit or am I going to praise my way out of the pit?

Of course some problems are a lot bigger than others, but if you believe God is real and that He loves you, the size of the problem doesn’t change the way you need to respond if you want to stay in God’s peace.  I have consistently found that if I begin to lay out my concerns to the Lord and then start praising and thanking him, suddenly my whole perspective begins to change, and the goodness of the Lord is what begins to fill my sights instead of the problem.   Not that this always changes the painful circumstance – quite often it doesn’t.   But it does change me – my thoughts become more settled, I begin to feel more positive, I begin to see a way forward.  If the trial I’m going through is particularly painful, I may have to keep fighting the battle for joy and peace for days or even weeks, but I know that Jesus is more committed to my success than I am, and in the end, if I respond in faith and trust, I can only win.  And like any kind of training, choosing God’s peace gets easier the more you practice it.   Years of doing this have functioned like a kind of training for my soul, so that my thoughts and emotions are much more stable and God-oriented than they once were, and my peace is not nearly so easily disturbed.  Even if my life is threatened, I know where I am going to spend eternity, so I have no need to fear.

Yes, life can be challenging – and no doubt some of you reading this have been dealing with challenges far greater than mine.  But we do have a choice about staying in God’s peace.   If you read your Bible you will know that the purpose of testing is to form the character of Jesus in us.  Whether or not this actually happens in my life is pretty much up to me.   Will I take hold of the resources of faith and grace that God has made available through Jesus, and become a conqueror?  Will you?