Sunday, February 28, 2021

Weekend Words

 From the Bruderhof Communities website...

Following Jesus Together


Artwork by Justine Maendel.

Too many of my Christian friends prefer not to be in each other’s company. What am I to do?

Part of my dilemma stems from the variety of friends I have recently made.

For instance, there is my signs-and-wonders charismatic friend, who is staunchly nonpolitical and believes that activism is dangerous to the soul and contrary to the gospel. Then there is my activist friend, who, inspired by the early Christians, sees little wrong with socialism and is distraught over racial injustice. There is my evangelical friend who is a hyper pro-Trumper, refusing even to look at President Biden’s face, and my other friend who sympathizes with a group called “Believers for Biden.” My friend the homeless advocate works tirelessly to build tiny villages in Denver, while a pastor I know well is intent on not ruffling any feathers in his congregation, especially when it comes to things like zoning laws. My neighbor down the street is a Christian herbalist mystic who tells me that our biggest problems lie within; while my city-council friend is intent, as a public witness to the state, to gather people on his front lawn for worship despite certain COVID restrictions. I could go on.

An interesting and eclectic circle of friends. I love them all. But I have to admit, it frustrates me that the one common denominator they all share, Christ, hardly ever factors in. There exists an unspoken, stubborn resignation: coming together, even as Christians, with people you seriously disagree with just ain’t possible.

I’m baffled as to why this is, especially if following Jesus is our starting and ending point. If he is the source of our faith, then how have we become so alienated from each other? Perhaps this is because we are forgetting how radical Jesus was. Peter Wehner recently wrote, “First-century Christians weren’t prepared for what a truly radical and radically inclusive figure Jesus was, and neither are today’s Christians.” We seem to have lost our belief that radical inclusion is actually possible. For some I know, it’s not even desirable.

And yet, the fact remains: Jesus was a radical inclusionary. Jesus hung out with all the wrong people: the half-breed Samaritans (including a shady woman at the well), filthy tax collectors, cursed lepers, the lame, the blind, the possessed; all who were considered worthless and useless. In short, as Wehner puts it, Jesus made company with “men and women living in the shadow of society.”

Not only this, Jesus brought enemies together. He not only transgressed boundaries, he broke down barriers – forming a community that was, from a human point of view, not humanly possible.

Recall Jesus’ band of followers. They certainly were unlikely fellows: Judas Iscariot, Jude, and Simon the zealot were Jewish nationalists filled with hatred for, and aiming to be rid of, the occupying Romans; Matthew was an unclean tax collector, considered a traitor and despised by his fellow Jews for being complicit in Rome’s occupation; and Peter, James, and John were all lower-class Galileans with reputations for living unruly and uncouth lives. Yet together they formed a cohesive band with a brand new cause.

And then there were those “others” Jesus hung with, either in conversation or at table or on the road. There were the Sadducees, the priestly aristocracy, who made their way to power and did everything they could to maintain their privileged position under the Romans; the Herodians, a small group that supported the fanatic Herod and embraced Hellenization; and finally the Scribes and Pharisees, strict and fanatical adherents to the Jewish law who despised compromise and colluders. They all hated each other (sound familiar?), and yet Jesus not only related to them, but called them to follow him together.

In the light of this, Wehner asks the following: “Who are the tax collectors of our era, the people we despise but whom Jesus would welcome, those around whom we are [sic] determined to build a ‘dividing wall of hostility,’ to use the imagery of the Apostle Paul?”

Good question. It certainly makes me think about my own circle of friends. Though most of them are not from the margins of society nor “enemies” at each other’s throats, nevertheless far too many of them condemn one another. Foreboding walls exist between them despite their common profession of faith in Jesus Christ.

How can this be? For Jesus came precisely to abolish the social, political, religious, ethnic, and economic boundaries that kept people apart. He called people away from their current stations in life, with their dominant mindsets of mistrust and animosity, into a new order wherein the principalities and powers were visibly disarmed and dismantled (Col. 2:15).

Jesus led people out of their own rendition of reality and formed a new kind of family, where there existed neither rich nor poor, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Gal. 3:28). Jesus welcomed all, and in so doing, transformed each person from the inside out, and transferred them from one kingdom to another. He lifted them out of the mire of division, discord, and hate, and brought them into a peaceable people where walls really came tumbling down.

But what about us? Is Christ’s kingdom radically inclusive today or is it not? Is the new community he came to establish a real possibility, or is it just a theological pipedream?

Our current situation is badly in need of repair. Our challenge, however, is not that we try harder to affirm diversity or learn to better tolerate one another (although that wouldn’t be a bad place to start). No, our challenge is whether we are willing to go back to the Source, to die to ourselves and to our hotheaded opinions, and become who we truly are in Christ: one body, serving one another in a life of practical love, demonstrating that God’s politics and God’s kingdom of justice are altogether greater than the world’s. Are we determined to live out what the world on its own cannot become?

If we’re honest, Jesus’ radicalism judges us. For we have become far too animated over issues that aren’t Christ’s deepest concerns. Consequently, the world looks upon us and sees little more than a religious variant of what itself already is: a people divided by walls of self-interest and self-righteousness. We are guilty of having embraced agendas and lesser lights that have, over time, convoluted and compromised our true calling. We have wandered off the narrow way – looking left, looking right, looking elsewhere other than to Christ and his cause.

Jesus prayed that his followers would be one – all his followers, from every tribe, tongue, and nation (John 17:21). This prayer is as radical as Jesus was. The question to us is this: Will we or will we not strive to be an answer to this prayer? Or will we remain cemented in opinions that prevent us from laying down our lives for one another?

As iron sharpens iron, let us take deliberate steps to turn away from the things that sow mistrust and disunity among us. Let us instead draw closer to each other, as hard as this may be, humbly addressing yet boldly exorcising the demons that have marred our witness and superseded our ultimate allegiance. Let us be determined to be as radically inclusive as Jesus was.

There is info HERE on the author of this article.

Romans 15:5-7 (NKJV)

Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded towards one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

Micah 6:8

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you

But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Weekend Words

 From Our Daily Bread ministries (apologies for the white background.  I don't know how to get rid of it, but I hope you'll read anyway)...

Get Up and Walk - Offering Compassion where We Can.

Accra, Ghana, situated on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa, is vibrant and growing. An integral part of the city’s bustling scene is its street vendors. They’re everywhere! It’s how business gets done. Representing (mostly) legit entrepreneurs, these hawkers sell just about anything that could be sold in a traditional store; they just do it by the roadside. Once you learn the protocol, it works pretty well. If the vendor doesn’t have your size, he’ll sprint two blocks to retrieve it, chase you to the next intersection (there’s plenty of time with this traffic), and offer you additional colour options. 

All cities, however, have their poor, and Accra is no exception. They’re not merely underprivileged; this is a destitute underclass scratching out life at the margins. Often they’re immigrants from other African countries, drawn by opportunities in southern Ghana’s more prosperous economy. And here, the poor are likely to stare directly into your car window. 

As soon as you stop at certain intersections (usually the ones you can’t avoid), a squad of earnest-eyed kids begins flitting from car to car. Always, there is the universal sign for hunger—an empty hand gesturing toward the mouth. Please give me money for food, they’re saying. How can you say no?  

The hard truth is, you need to say no. Because once you give something to one child, your car will be surrounded by so many clamouring kids you won’t be able to drive. Your only remaining option would be to give away everything in your wallet. And still, there would be more kids insisting on your beneficence. 

An even harder truth is that many of these kids won’t get what you give them. Someone is watching, awaiting their cut, i.e., most or all of it. These kids are being exploited by their own harsh circumstances and some very bad actors who rely on your goodwill as they prey on society’s most vulnerable.

But even if they’re not working for someone else, another reason not to give to these kids is that it encourages a lifestyle of begging. In Accra, school is a viable (and vastly preferable) option. If it pays to score some petty cash from a foreigner, why go to school? With no skills, a child making such short-sighted choices will likely remain in poverty for a lifetime. Begging is not a career path. 

I bring this up, because a while ago our small group was discussing Jesus’ instructions in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:42). In that same discourse Jesus also said, “If you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19a).

I took the minority view (in our group)—a view that made me look a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge. I said that Jesus wasn’t telling us to give to everyone by the side of the road. We must give wisely, on a case-by-case basis, or we’ll have nothing left to give. And we won’t really be helping the one we’re giving to. 

One of my colleagues gently suggested I was ignoring one of Jesus’ commands by refusing to give to those hungry kids. I replied that my eye has, in the past, offended me, but I have not yet gouged it out (see Matthew 5:29). And anyway, I’d still have one remaining eye, which is certainly more than enough to get me into trouble. More than that, the problem isn’t my eyes so much as it’s my mind. You see the difficulty here, right? 

My point was that Jesus’ instructions can’t be stripped from their context and applied indiscriminately and literally to every situation. If we do that, we’ll have a bunch of destitute, mutilated Christians unable to help anyone else. Jesus doesn’t expect us to save the world. That’s his job. He asked us to make disciples. He asked us to teach others to follow his commands. (Matthew 28:19-20).

Shortly after Jesus left his disciples, two of them, Peter and John, encountered a poor beggar who couldn’t walk. Peter told the man, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:1-8).

Perhaps we can relate to not having any silver or gold to give, but who among us can identify with miraculously healing a man? How does this apply to us today? 

Notice what Peter said: “I’ll give you what I have.” We can do that. But that doesn’t mean we give money to everyone who asks for it until all our money is gone. The point is that all of us can give something that will help someone “get up and walk”. And surely many of us who live in more prosperous communities should be giving money to those who have little or nothing. But we must do so wisely. 

Does the image of hungry kids on Ghana’s streets haunt me? Yes! So what can I do? I’ve chosen to give to a reputable Ghanaian work that helps poor rural kids. I contribute to this ministry because the man on the ground there is a personal friend, a Ghanaian who has never forgotten where he came from. I know his integrity firsthand, and I know the work he is doing to help orphans. But always, there is more to do. “You will always have the poor among you,” said Jesus (Matthew 26:11).

Instead of opening our wallets to every single person who asks, we should open our hearts to lifestyle changes of our own and intelligent giving designed to support long-term solutions. It’s possible to give generously and to give wisely. 

—Tim Gustafson

Source: Personal experience

This article was originally posted on

When God blesses you financially, don't raise your standard of living, 

raise your standard of GIVING.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Weekend Words

From Our Daily Bread devotional...

The Ticking Watch - Read Psalm 37:1-7

"Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him." - Psalm 37:7

A group of workers were cutting ice out of a frozen lake and storing it in an icehouse when one of them realized he'd lost his watch in the windowless building.  He and his friends searched for it in vain.

After they gave up, a young boy who'd seen them exit went into the building.  Soon, he emerged with the watch.  Asked how he'd found it, he replied: "I just sat down and kept quiet, and soon I could hear it ticking."

The Bible talks much about the value of being still.  And no wonder, for God sometimes speaks in a whisper (1 Kings 19:12).  In the busyness of life, it can be hard to hear Him.  But if we stop rushing about and spend some quiet time with Him and the Scriptures, we may hear His gentle voice in our thoughts.

Psalm 37:1-7 assures us that we can trust God to rescue us from the "wicked schemes" of evil people, give us refuge, and help us stay faithful.  But how can we do this when turmoil is all around us?

Verse 7 suggests: "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him."  We could start by learning to keep silent for a few minutes after prayer.  Or by quietly reading the Bible and letting the words soak into our hearts.  And then, perhaps, we'll hear His wisdom speaking to us, quiet and steady as a ticking watch.

- Leslie Koh

How can you be still before God each day?
What will help you stay silent and listen?

Loving God, grant me the patience and discipline to stay still for a while each day,  that I might hear Your gentle whisper in my life.

And from some literature I picked up at church this morning:

"If we give thanks regardless of our feelings, He will give us joy regardless of our circumstances."

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Birthday Post


Had a birthday last week...

see the macrame flower Marnie made for me :)

 Marnie and Denver took me out for lunch, and then we came back here for the cake...
Marnie made a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

we didn't have any birthday candles so had to improvise :))

A parcel arrived with lovely yarn in it from Jefferson and Anushka...
haven't decided what I will make with it yet

And the yarn I ordered from Bendigo Woollen Mills (as mentioned in previous post) also arrived...
not sure if I will use the gold (it's actually a darker shade than shows here), but knitted up a test square (going to make them about 5 1/2"/14cms) and was originally going to sew them together randomly, but think I might make the blanket up in an Amish patchwork/quilt pattern.  Will knit the squares, and then decide.  Plenty to keep my hands busy over winter :)

Finished reading What Money Can't Buy last night.  Really enjoyed it...
and still working my way through the Amy Carmichael book

Felt like a change of pace, so started another David Baldacci book.  I really like his style of writing, and also the droll humour of the main character (Amos Decker)...
and knit myself another beanie on the weekend.  I wear them a lot - summer and winter :)

At the river one day this week...

And this morning...

So many butterflies in my garden this afternoon...
but they were constantly flitting here and there and it was hard to get a photo of them

This week's quote :)

"On the brink of every ending is a new beginning: if we keep our hearts open to possibilities, each transition brings joy we might never have known otherwise."

- Linda Frost Raha


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Weekend Words

From Be Still and Know... 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1)

This is a Psalm of comfort and trust for a life filled with trouble.  When problems arise and discouragements come, when there is no human source of help, we have the promise that God is "our refuge", "our strength", and "our help".

Refuge is defined as "shelter from danger or distress."  The Lord Jesus Christ IS our refuge today (present tense).  Hidden in the hollow of His all-mighty hand, we have a shelter that is safe and secure.  This refuge is not a place where we escape from the situation and circumstances of life, but is a protection for us in the midst of them.

Not only is the Lord our refuge in time of trouble, but our strength to endure it.  When we realize our limited strength is not sufficient, we discover He has a never ending supply of strength on which we can draw.  "And as thy days, so shall thy strength be" (Deuteronomy 33:25)

He is also our help in trouble.  Whatever our need may be, He wants us to know that, "I AM, right now, this very moment, not only your help in trouble, but a PRESENT help."  It has been said, "It sometimes takes trouble for God to get our attention."

When we become Christians, we often assume our days of trouble are over.  Soon we discover this is not true.  God has a purpose to accomplish through difficulties in our lives.  Some lessons can only be learnt through trouble.

We are proved and tested in this way.  "A very present and WELL PROVED HELP in trouble" (Psalm 46:1 Amplified).  "A TESTED help in times of trouble" (LB).  It has been said, "Trouble is His vote of confidence in us."

He is a "well-proved help", a "tested help".  Are you testing and proving Him as your own personal refuge, strength, and help in your problems and trials of today?

There is a poem that begins,"He's helping me now, this moment, in ways that I know and I know not."  He is our help today, whatever our day.

He's Helping Me Now

He's helping me now--this moment,
Though I may not see it or hear,
Perhaps by a friend far distant,
Perhaps by a stranger near,
Perhaps by a spoken message
Perhaps by the printed word;
In ways that I know and know not
I have the help of the Lord.

He's keeping me now--this moment,
However I need it most,
Perhaps by a single angel,
Perhaps by a mighty host,
Perhaps by the chain that frets me,
Or the walls that shut me in;
In ways that I know or know not
He keeps me from harm and sin.

He's guiding me now--this moment,
In pathways easy or hard,
Perhaps by a door wide open,
Perhaps by a door fast barred,
Perhaps by a joy withholden
Perhaps by a gladness given;
In ways that I know and know not,
He's leading me up to heaven.

He's using me now--this moment,
And whether I go or stand,
Perhaps by a plan accomplished
Perhaps when he stays my hand,
Perhaps by a word in season
Perhaps by a silent prayer;
In ways that I know and know not,
His labor of love I share.

--Annie Johnson Flint

Monday, February 1, 2021

In no particular order...

Here's a bit of randomness from the past week... 

At the river one morning...

A garden I walk past...
I wonder what's at the end of the path?

My Evening Primrose plant...
I can't believe how it continues to flower!

Over my back fence...
hello boys!

And while we are on the subject of sheep, I was given a fleece (Merino Dorset cross)...
now I need to get a wheel and brush up on my spinning skills

I have a new knitting project in mind, an Amish blanket.  I had a gift voucher for Bendigo Woollen Mills, so have ordered some yarn and am awaiting its arrival...
the yarns shown were just some random bits I had left from previous projects.  Not necessarily the colours I will use

In the meantime, I am crocheting another charity blanket with leftover yarn from the baby blankets...
and dipping into this book

Still working my way through the Amy Carmichael book.  It's a bit of a slog at times, and will probably take me awhile as it's my daytime read and I don't get much reading time during the day, but I will persevere (not my strong point)...
and my bedtime read (What Money Can't Buy) might take awhile too, even though I am really enjoying it, but I don't get many pages read before I start to fall asleep, and then have to reread again the next night because I can't remember what I've read !!!

Will leave you with this lovely bunch of statice I bought at the Mennonite fruit and veg shop the other week...

And (of course) a quote...

"As the years pass, I am coming more and more to understand that it is the common, everyday blessings of our common everyday lives for which we should be particularly grateful.  They are the things that fill our lives with comfort and our hearts with gladness - just the pure air to breathe and the strength to breathe it; just warmth and shelter and home folks; just plain food that gives us strength; the bright sunshine on a cold day; and a cool breeze when the day is warm."

- Laura Ingalls Wilder

May you find joy in simple pleasures!