The Road to Emmaus

Two men travelled to the village of Emmaus, seven miles distance from Jerusalem. The most momentous events in human history had just occurred. For three years, Jesus, a carpenter’s son, had healed the sick, raised the dead, taught the multitudes and gathered a group of disciples to carry on his mission. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Messiah. He drew massive crowds, which filled the religious  leaders of the time with anger, jealousy, and since the Jews were under Roman occupation, probably fear. They stirred up the same crowd who had laid their coats and tree branches on the ground just days before to welcome Jesus as king, to call for his death by crucifixion. He was flogged and hung on a tree, left to die as a common criminal.

Now rumours were circulating that Jesus was alive, risen from the dead!

Did  the men understand what had happened, that the destiny of mankind would never be the same? It appears not. They met a man on the way whom they failed to recognize. At first, this man seemed to have no idea what had transpired in Jerusalem. Then, to their amazement, “he explained to them  what was said in all  the Scriptures concerning himself'” (Luke 24: 27b, NIV). Something stirred in their spirits but still they had no idea who the stranger was.

They stopped at a house and  the man broke bread and handed it to them. Then suddenly, they recognized that the stranger was Jesus and the stories of his resurrection were true! In their confusion and disappointment, they had not realized that Jesus had been sharing with and teaching them, as they were together on the road.

We all travel the road to Emmaus. Things happen that we don’t expect, can’t comprehend or have no answer to. Jesus is always with us but do we always recognize him? Perhaps we need wisdom but don’t recognize God’s voice, even though the answer is right in front of us. We need comfort and fail to see all the little blessings God sends us each day.We are in grief or pain but don’t hear the small voice speaking words of love to our spirits. Or, someone needs our care and we walk by, not realizing that God is calling us to extend our hands and hearts.

For some reason, this story holds great appeal for me. God has answered prayers in ways that I could never have anticipated.  Sometimes, when I listen, I can sense his spirit assuring me that he has the problems I face well under control, that it is only a matter  of waiting.

Look for God on your own road to Emmaus. He will be there, drawing you with his love, comforting you in times of sorrow, pouring out his blessings and giving you the wisdom you seek. Ask him to reveal himself to you and he will break bread before your eyes.

Christ has risen, and because He has risen, all things are possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day

16707425_10158230254290156_4180565611012105938_oHappy Valentine’s  Day from snow bound Nova Scotia! More people may be shovelling than having romantic dinners  today,  but we can  still choose to focus on  love and friendship. As my husband and I shovelled, we laughed with our neighbours, making the task much easier, more like an occasion than a chore.

Sometimes life is just hard. Relationships shatter, often for no apparent reason. People hurt each other and find it hard to forgive. Dreams fall apart or do not play out as we had hoped. Loved ones die. Life’s problems and heartaches sometimes make it necessary to live one day, one moment at a time.

However, we were never meant to live our days in sadness or despair. The Psalms are full  of action words such as: sing, rejoice, praise and worship. There is a time for grief but also a time for dancing. God loves us. He will never let us down. Situations will change and we will walk with a lightness of heart again. Keep smiling. I have heard it said more than once that smiling confuses the devil.

Today might not be the perfect Valentine’s Day. However, you can laugh while you are shovelling, dance in the snow, think of those you love, and remember that spring is not that far away.

Happy Shovelling….I mean, Valentine’s Day!

 

Darkness and Light

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Perhaps at no other time than the Christmas season are we as aware of the contrasting presence of darkness and light. The nights grow long as we head towards the winter solstice. Yet, the dazzling array of lights on homes and businesses both dispels and is  accentuated by the darkness. People turn off the lights  in their homes so they can better see the beauty of the lit bulbs on their trees. Churches may hold candlelight services, or their equivalent, on Christmas Eve, which focus attention on what the light stands for.

2016 has held both darkness and light, in varying degrees, for all of us. As I reflect on my own experiences, I am reminded of the opening lines of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….” Darkness  has come to me this year primarily in the form of loss. Our family could never have anticipated that my cousin, Doug, at 56, would be diagnosed in August with a rare form of cancer that would take his life just weeks later. When my aunt phoned me, I was strengthened by her sheer sense of courage in the midst of losing her son. Her words created light in my heart.14333103_10157432478945156_35679603554883442_n1

2016  has also brought unexpected joy.  During the summer and fall, we had wonderful visits from friends we had not seen for some time. One visit was such a surprise that I didn’t catch on when my friend sent me a picture of herself  near a Nova Scotia sign! Two of the other  families  were from Saskatchewan, where my husband pastored several churches  over 30 years ago. It was amazing, the sense of going far back in time, the thrill of making new memories while remembering the old.

Although I don’t know what 2017 will bring, I am believing for a year of brand new possibilities and dreams fulfilled. Doug’s story has not ended. Before his death, he was able to hold his first grandchild, a beautiful baby girl, in his arms. She will soon celebrate her first Christmas. Darkness has no  substance or power; only light does. When darkness invades, the solution is both simple and profound. Seek out the light. Believe that joy will come in unexpected ways and dispel the darkness, as the Christmas lights brighten the December skies. The shepherds discovered this joy in the fields, while doing their customary job of tending sheep.” An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them….”(Luke 2:9, NIV). The angel announced the birth of the Christ child, who brought light to the world. The shepherds responded in trust and worship. Let the Christ child be your light as well. 2017 is going to be awesome! The “best of times” is yet to come!

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

Paper Scraps

I have a very close friend who hates writing letters, e-mails, texts or anything remotely connected with print. However, when she and her sister, Kathy, go on holidays, Kathy kindly takes on the role of Marie’s amanuensis. Marie dictates and Kathy writes, throwing in a few comments of her own, such as her severe lack of compensation. Marie is highly talented in other art forms. During Marie and Kathy’s last holiday, Kathy sent me a picture of Marie’s latest  endeavour.

 

In Kathy’s words, “It may look like one picture but it is hundreds of small pieces of paper or pictures that are glued together to make a picture of her vision of the view from the cottage that we are staying at. The pictures are from hundreds of magazines that she’s bought to collect cottage, sky, deck and tree pictures from. She then cuts pieces from those pictures to create her vision of the cottage. It even has a cat! I can verify that she has spent at least 10-15 hours at my place this spring cutting out pictures and colours from magazines and then she has spent over 10 hours putting it together here. It truly has been a labour of love for her and she is pleased with the results so I thought I’d share her work with you.”

Marie’s work is breathtaking. I can’t imagine the patience it would take to create a complete picture from tiny pieces of paper. Marie takes what seems to be insignificant or torn and brings wholeness and  beauty. She is a creator, with a clear vision of the potential these scraps of paper possess.

Isn’t that what God does in our lives? We can’t see the whole picture. Some of the pieces may seem missing, ripped or meaningless, and we can’t figure out how to incorporate them into something significant. We can’t find the missing pieces, the solution to a problem, a way to bring more healing and happiness to others.

Just as Marie saw the final picture put together,  God sees it in our lives.  He knows the end result. He knows which pieces fit and which to throw away. He wants nothing but the best for us. We simply need to listen to his voice and let him direct us as the scraps are assembled.

I don’t worry when Marie doesn’t write to me. If I push hard enough, such as putting: “To my elusive friend, please write back” in the e-mail subject line, sooner or later, I will hear her voice or get a reply. As well, there is her faithful sister,  who sacrifices some of her holiday time, to be Marie’s personal secretary.

Marie puts the pieces together, a job she is good at not only in art but in her relationships with others. When our own lives don’t make sense, it is  because we don’t  see the finished product, but we can trust that God is in the business of placing each scrap in its proper place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Butterfly

Yesterday, I was talking to my sister on the phone, when I looked out the window and saw a gorgeous butterfly flitting through the leaves of my husband’s lemon tree. “Go and get a picture of it,” Brenda said. The butterfly didn’t stay long enough for the picture but the scene created a picture in my mind.

A number of years ago, when we were  living in a tiny apartment, my husband’s lemon tree appeared to die. There was no sign of  life, just a bare stick. Finally, I decided that I would discard of this dead tree and put a new one in its place for a  Father’s Day gift. The tree had other ideas. Before I could carry out my plan, a tiny spot of green appeared. It was a very small beginning, hardly noticeable, but now we have a healthy tree, that has actually had to be cut back several times.

Butterflies are my favourite symbol. Inside the dark cocoon a lowly caterpillar grows into a beautiful butterfly. Life out of death. Joy out of sorrow. Hope out of despair.

We all go through periods in life in which it  seems as if dreams have died. Perhaps they are too remote,  too impossible, too painful to fix. We don’t have the answers or the foresight we need. We have tried our own solutions and they haven’t worked.

When I saw the butterfly hovering about our lemon tree God spoke to my heart. The dreams you cherish are still there, waiting for the right time to be revealed. They are not dead. I am in control  of them. 

Whatever you are facing, don’t give up. Your tree will bloom. Your butterfly will land in its branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Finish Line

13307231_10156961266475156_458387478405197081_n“As soon as we go around this corner, Mom, you will see the finish line,” said my daughter, Hannah. We were walking a 5k in the Scotiabank Bluenose Marathon. Hannah could have run the 10k with ease, but she signed up for the 5k walk to be my guide and encourager. We rounded the corner and saw the big arch of the finish line. Then something odd happened. As we approached the end, I had this horrible fear that I wouldn’t be able to finish, that my feet would not carry me any further. Why?

A young woman on my Sunday School team said the arch looked further away than it was and that the last stretch was uphill. Technically it was a more challenging part of the route. This was not really surprising. It is often just before a major accomplishment, significant  change or restoration, that we encounter the greatest resistance.

Sometimes, we can see the finish line ahead but at other times, we have no idea how close we are. This is when we are most tempted to quit. This is also when we need to keep putting one foot in front of the other and refuse to back down. I once had a dream, during a difficult period of my life, that I was riding a bicycle towards a destination. I was not sure of my physical ability to ride the bicycle nor of my knowledge of how to get to the place I was heading. I just knew that if I  kept riding, I would arrive.

Situations can come unexpectedly into our lives. They may seem so bewildering and hurtful that we have no ready answers,  That is exactly the time when God wants us to keep walking, keep walking, keep riding, keep riding, trusting him that the outcome of our journey is entirely in his hands. We will reach our destination. We will come through the finish line.

Hannah and I walked through the arch together, holding hands, and feeling the triumph of completing our race. The sense of dread, that I wouldn’t make it to the end, was only a feeling. Reaching our goal was well attainable but if I had stopped walking, I would never have finished my course.

Refuse to quit. Never give up. You may be way closer to victory than you think.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Favour

 

When our children were young, my  husband and I, along with helpers from the congregation, often ran Vacation Bible Schools for the first four days of the March Break. These were fun and lively affairs. I got out my guitar and led the children in plenty of action songs. My husband did most of the teaching and taught the children how to make papier mache puppets. He also wrote skits and recorded the children’s voices as they read their parts. Parents and other guests formed an audience for the children’s plays during the final day.

On the Fridays, we took our children for a family outing. Often we drove into Ottawa and visited the National Museum of Science and Technology. The children loved the Crazy Kitchen and other entertaining sights and activities.

Then we would go out for supper, which was always a  treat. One year, we went to Swiss Chalet. At the time we had four children, the youngest  still a baby in a high chair. When we were shown to our seats, a man with his wife and small daughter were sitting across from us. There was something very special about this family. The man immediately made sure we had sufficient room to put our coats. Later, when baby Hannah began to fuss, he showed concern and asked if there was any way he could help. The family finished their meal and we continued with ours. A little later the waitress came over to us, since we were ready to pay our bill.  However, she said:  “There is no charge. The man sitting across from you paid your bill. He said that he and his wife were very busy with just one child and you looked extremely busy with four. He wanted to do this for you.”

We were astonished by this man’s generosity. A complete stranger, whom we had never met before, blessed us with totally unexpected favour. We didn’t know his name and were never able to thank him but I believe that simply passing on  this gift of kindness was all the thanks he wanted.

At Easter, we celebrate another man who extended completely unmerited grace. Jesus, the Son of God, died for the sins of mankind. He paid the price of our sins on the cross, so that by merely acknowledging his name and accepting his grace, we could become his children and be guaranteed a heavenly home when we die. This was not a gift that we earned in any way. As Romans 10:13 explains it: “…Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (NIV). Our only responsibility is to respond to God’s gift of love.

The generosity of the man in the Swiss Chalet  years ago was a reminder to our family of how gracious God is. He gives us his gifts in many ways,  through people, circumstances, nature,  the blessings of each day and eventually of eternity. It is all ours for the taking, if we choose to put our faith in Christ.

God bless you this Easter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another kind of love

Recently, I looked through my tote box, where I keep wrapping paper, gift bags and ribbon, and found a box of children’s Valentine’s Day cards  featuring cats and dogs. Perfect, I thought, for my little friend. Sam has two cats, Daisy and Oscar, plus several dogs in his extended family.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate much more than romantic love. We are reminded of the beauty of friendship and the love we have for our families. For many people, pets are both companions and family members. Animals often serve  utilitarian purposes  but a lazy cat, curled up in the sun, dreaming of its next meal, lives in our home for no other reason than mutual affection.

Although I don’t mind dogs, and can become attached to a dog I know, I am definitely a cat person. When my husband and I were first married, he didn’t especially like animals. Shortly after we moved into our house, a neighbour told us that her cat had a litter of kittens. My husband knew exactly what was about to happen. Soon we had a little black ball of fur whom we named Habakkuk, after an Old Testament prophet. Habakkuk complained to the Lord and our Habakkuk complained when his dish was empty. When meal time came, he would start chewing telephone cords. I had to move at top speed to get the food in his dish before the telephone wire was chewed right through. I didn’t always manage to move fast enough because we had to get our phone repaired on several occasions.

About a year later, between church services on my husband’s two-point pastoral charge, a little kitten wandered across the road and headed straight for me. I phoned the farmer she belonged to  and he said if I was pleased with her, she was all mine. Prissy was not the glutton that Habakkuk was. In fact, we had to feed them separately so that Habakkuk would not devour Prissy’s food along with his own.

That summer, we moved to Saskatchewan with Habakkuk and Prissy in tow. Habakkuk did not like travelling and made his displeasure obvious with howls of protest. What was even more disconcerting, though, was the baby girl who joined us the following August. Neither cat could quite understand why we had brought such a small but incredibly loud creature home, and why such a fuss was made over her. This scenario would be repeated four more times. The cats and the children learned to live together amiably but Prissy was always a little jealous when a new baby arrived.

Prissy and Habakkuk and the cats that came after them gave us love, affection and many moments of amusement. Once, in the middle of the night,  my husband said to me, “That cat has to lAscensioneave the room. She is ringing the wind chimes!” Naturally, being cats, they rule the house, covet the warmest spots to sleep, and make their wishes well known. It is a win-win situation, though, with the humans and cats giving each other love and attention. Several even managed to get themselves into print in the story,”The Cat We Didn’t Need,” published in Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon, edited by N.J. Lindquist.

This Valentine’s Day, give thanks for the blessings your pets bring into your life. Proverbs says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals” (12:10, NIV). Look after your pets well and they will return abundant love to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tale of the Orange Crush, in honour of my husband’s birthday

Andy young boy picToday is my husband, Andrew’s, birthday. Now in his 60s, his dark brown hair has just developed some patches of white. He is calm, serious, kind and loves to challenge people with trivia questions. Over the years, though, I have heard stories of a younger, different Andrew, capable of driving his parents and other authority figures to distraction. The story I am about to share, in honour of his birthday, is his favourite and mine.

In the late summer of 1960, Andrew was five and a half and his mother was soon expecting his brother, Christopher. The family were living at the time in Saskatoon, not far from where Andrew’s father, John Adams grew up. Andrew’s maternal grandfather was visiting, awaiting the new arrival. In order to give Mom a break from caring for a very active little boy, Dad, Grandpa and Andrew went for a trip to the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

By August, the long days of sunlight and limited precipitation had taken their toll on the vegetation. Andrew looked out the window of the car and saw brown, barren land. The grass had turned yellow and most of the beautiful wildflowers had disappeared or gone to seed. Some of the trees had started to turn yellow, a contrast to the faithful evergreens. Harvest was about to burst into full swing, with harvesters, combines and grain trucks.

The rambunctious five-year-old was hot and probably a little bored. Their route was taking them along a highway  which was  away from any major centre.

“I’m thirsty!” Andrew said.

There weren’t many places to choose from. Finally Dad and Grandpa found a roadside Orange Crush concession booth. Dad stopped the car and the three of them went in.

“What do you have to drink?” Andrew asked.

“We just serve Orange Crush,” the clerk explained.

“I don’t want Orange Crush,” Andrew complained.

Dad and Grandpa grumbled as they took Andrew back to the car.

“I’m still thirsty!” Andrew whined.

About 10 to 15 miles down the road, was a hotel with a diner. This might prove more promising. They went in and sat on the  bar stools in front of the counter. The interior was dark. The middle aged lady behind the counter was occupied with another customer, Andrew was restless. He begin to swing over and over, round and round, on the bar stool.

“Stop that, Andrew,” Dad commanded, increasingly irritated  with his young son’s behaviour.

Finally, the lady was free to serve them. “What kind of drinks do you have?” Andrew asked.

“We have Coke and Orange Crush.” Andrew didn’t want Coke. He realized that Dad and Grandpa were unlikely to take him to a third place, so he said, “Okay, I will have the Orange Crush.”

It was all Dad and Grandpa could do to keep their tempers under control on this hot August day in the barren Rocky Mountain foothills. However, Andrew got his drink, most likely having no idea why they were so irritated.

Happy Birthday to my beloved husband! We will make sure that there are other selections of drinks at your party, besides Coke or Orange Crush!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Days Before Christmas

Two days before Christmas! The gifts are wrapped and arranged under our tree and being used as a gymnasium by our cats! Most of the housework is done, baking is underway and our cupboards are groaning with food. The trappings are largely completed but what is happening in my heart? Am I honouring the Christ child, keeping peace in my heart and  life, and refusing to worry about what another year might bring?

My key word for 2016 is gratitude. Without it we cannot truly have peace or appreciate all we have.

Sometimes, God sends an unexpected occurrence to remind us of his goodness, his grace, and the love he shows in the stressful circumstances of life. Last Friday, my husband and I went shopping. When I got home, I realized I didn’t have my purse. In my purse were my credit cards, health card and all the other ID I  carry with me, plus several gift cards that I had purchased. The last place I had been was in a MacDonald’s, waiting for my husband. We quickly got in the car and drove back. Had a desperate shopper taken my purse? Would it still be there? I rushed into the MacDonald’s and just as I was looking around the table where I had been sitting, a lady said, “Are you looking for your purse? We gave it right away to an employee.” I thanked and thanked this lovely young couple, out having a meal with their little boy. Having worked retail, I know that not everyone is as honest. This couple blessed me by their compassion and thoughtfulness. They warmed my heart and helped me to remember that God’s mercies are always there.

My pastor, Gary Hooper, says that 2016 is going to be a year of surprises. May this couple, and all of you, discover wonderful opportunities, good health, provision and beautiful surprises of every kind in 2016.

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams