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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship and Marriage

Over Valentine’s Day weekend,  New Covenant Ministries Church, our place of worship, invited guest speakers to conduct special services on the subject of marriage. The husband/wife team provided Scriptural insights and helpful examples of what a marriage should be. The sessions were informative and fun, and we shared a lot of laughter, as we explored the roles of husbands and wives and how spouses can serve and complement each other. I thought of how important it is to never take your partner for granted,  whether you have been married one year or thirty. Every day we need to pay attention to our spouses and show them appreciation and respect. Acts of kindness should begin at home.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate both romantic love and friendship. There are few things more precious than friendship in life. In the Bible, Jesus refers to us not only as his children but his friends: “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends,  for everything that I learned from the Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, NIV). Jesus puts a high value on friendship. The strongest marriages have not only a romantic component, but a foundation of of friendship, as well.

When our children were small, we would occasionally arrange a date night for just the two of us. One one of these evenings, a lady observed us in a restaurant and said she could hardly believe we were married, because we were having such a great time talking. to each other. We have always had  a common bond, because of our faith in God, and our many shared interests such as history, music and literature. Of course, we have our differences, as well.  I prefer to shop with my female friends because the whole process bores my husband. He sees only the dollar signs, while I think of shopping as a social activity. On the other hand, I have to remind myself to at least ask my husband how his favourite baseball or hockey team is doing!

A few years ago, during a particularly painful time in our marriage, which involved job loss, extreme financial stress and greatly altered  circumstances, I believe that one of the things that held us together was the solid friendship we had developed early in our relationship. The best of friends are there for each other, during good times and bad, even when circumstances are doing their utmost to unravel their lives. Our faith in God convinced us that better days were ahead and our friendship and love  gave us a a point of contact and endurance.

Throughout the rest of 2014, let Valentine’s Day live in your everyday lives. Be a friend to your spouse and others. Perform acts of kindness in your home and outside of it. Many blessings await you!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

 

 

The Stable Night

One afternoon, about a month before Christmas, I came home from work to find that our power had been turned off. My husband’s job loss had thrown us into a grim period of financial uncertainty, including the inability, at times, to pay our bills. Fortunately, my husband  found a way of paying off the power bill and assured me that  we would have power again by the next day. However, that night, it was dark in our tiny, seventh floor apartment.

I dusted the apartment by candlelight and later went out and sat on the stairs leading up to the 8th floor, to do my  Bible reading. For a while, though, I simply stayed in our living room, lit by the shadowy light of the candles. Signs of Christmas were everywhere: in the stores, in brightly lit decorations, in festivities, concerts and tightly stuffed mailboxes. The pace would only quicken during the next few weeks. As I reflected quietly though, in our candlelit room, it occurred to me that my dark surroundings were much closer to the first Christmas, than the festivities we would later enjoy. The stable was not likely bright nor spacious. The circumstances were humble. Mary and Joseph were facing uncertainty and perhaps fear.The angels would come in all their bright and holy  splendour, but for now, there was birth and pain and darkness.

The next day, we celebrated our youngest daughter’s birthday. Not long after her friends arrived,  the power was restored. The apartment was bright and cheerful. We never lost our power again and our circumstances gradually improved. However, I will never forget that night of flickering candlelight and my small glimpse into the long ago darkness of the  stable night.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV).

Merry Christmas!

Ruth Ann Adams

For my husband, on Father’s Day

In the 1980s, when we lived in the picturesque village of Kisbey, Saskatchewan, my husband ordered a small, six-inch lemon tree from a mail order catalogue. He was no doubt inspired by a lady in a nearby town, who successfully grew a lemon bearing tree. While our tree has yet to produce lemons, it has something unique to share.

As my clergy husband accepted calls to  pastoral charges across Canada, the tree learned that a ride in the back seat of our van signaled a major change. Over the years, the tree experienced all the cheerful chaos of living with toddlers, pets and changing scenery.  During one cold winter, the furnace in an otherwise cozy house broke down, and the little tree froze. However, it was brave and resilient and soon flourished as before.

Finally, after an especially long and noisy drive, the tree found itself in the province of Nova Scotia. At first, life was pretty much as usual. The youngest child entered first grade and the tree enjoyed the lull of quiet daytime hours. However, the tree began to sense that things weren’t quite as they should be. The family moved again, this time into a huge building, such as the tree had never seen before.

lemon treeIts new place was in front of the window in the living room.Perhaps there was not quite enough sun, or perhaps the tree sensed its humans were working hard to keep their own leaves from wilting. Whatever the reason, one January the little tree failed to thrive. Its leaves turned brown and fell off. No new leaves took their place. All that was left was a woody and bare stalk.

It was time to face reality. The tree had enjoyed a long and eventful life, but the end had come. My husband would have none of it. He would not part with his tree. Finally, after months of looking at the tree’s pathetic little stalk, I came up with a plan. Father’s  Day was approaching. If my husband wouldn’t give up his tree voluntarily, we would gently unfasten his grip. My thought was that we would buy a new lemon tree, remove the old one, and surprise my husband with a brand new tree on Father’s Day.

I called a gardening shop but it had no lemon trees in stock. Then, the miraculous occurred: I looked at the woody stalk and saw a tiny bit of green. It was so small, I could have imagined it. “Look at this!” I said to my husband. “Do you think the tree is going to grow again?” We waited. More green appeared.The tree developed leaves. Once more, it flourished.

My husband received a remarkable Father’s Day gift, but not in the way I had expected. He told me later that he had been praying for the tree every day. His prayers were answered. Given my plans, perhaps the tree sensed it was time to thrive!

This is the Father heart of God, to take a situation, a person or a difficulty, that looks beyond repair, and breathe into it new life. A small step, a little change, a tiny bit of green on a dead looking stalk may be the sign of much good ahead: blessings, fresh opportunities, healing and restoration. God tells us not to give up, because his blessings are fresh every day (Lamentations 3: 23).

Not very long after the tree recovered, it found itself in the back of a vehicle once more. Its humans  found a home they are happy in. God has touched their lives in innumerable ways and the tree is healthy and growing tall.

Have a Happy and Blessed Father’s Day!

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Coventry, a lesson in forgiveness

In Coventry, England, two churches stand side by side. One is a bomb shelled husk, a grim reminder of the flames and devastation of World War 2. The other is the new church, built after the old one was destroyed. Two churches. Two messages. One symbolizes the horrors of death, while the other the miracles of life and restoration.

Why is the old church still standing? To the people of Coventry, the sight of the bombed structure is a reminder that good triumphs over evil. When German bombs destroyed lives and property, in a 10 hour attack on the city, the people chose to focus on forgiveness.

As Easter approaches, Christians focus on two symbols of faith: the cross and the empty tomb. One represents sacrifice and death, the other resurrection and life. We are reminded that as Christ sacrificed his life for us, we need to share his love with others. Sharing Christ’s love in an imperfect world always requires forgiveness.

What would have happened if the people of Coventry had decided not to forgive? They would have lost the opportunity, not only for their own healing, but for the privilege of being an  example of faith and hope to the rest of the world. Forgiveness is always the most powerful option and Jesus has shown us the way through the cross and the empty tomb.

Have a blessed Easter!

Bells at Harrods

I took a small, Christmas bell ornament off the rack. My husband, two youngest daughters and I were at Harrods, a famous and expensive department store, in London, England. It was August, too early for Christmas, but the colourful decoration was actually affordable and I wanted a souvenir to take home. Besides, when Christmas arrived, we would enjoy the cheerful ornament.

Bells have been ringing for hundreds of years and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, as in John Donne’s famous lines, “…send not to know/ For whom the bell tolls,/ It tolls for thee” (“No Man is an Island”), bells signify death. At other times, bells are rung for joyful occasions, such as weddings or coronations. In churches, bells are used as a call to worship or as part of a mass. On July 27th, bells were heard all over the United Kingdom to announce the beginning of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Big Ben – the name of the bell, rather than the clock- is admired by millions of tourists.

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At Christmas, bells represent joy. Luke 2:13-14 describes the Bethlehem scene: “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praisingGod and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests’” (NIV). The angels announced the coming of the Christ Child with great rejoicing. Even though bells are not specifically mentioned, it isn’t hard to imagine an angelic chorus ringing bells from on high!

This December, I have been asked to be the bell ringer for our church play, and somehow this seems appropriate. 2012 has been a “bell ringing” year for our family. We have celebrated our oldest daughter’s wedding, a university convocation, our youngest daughter’s Grade 12 graduation and 18th birthday, several children entering college and a dream trip to Iceland and the UK. These have all been milestone events and reasons for great happiness.

We have also experienced more subtle forms of joy: colourful flowers blooming on sunny mornings, stacks of good books on our desks and shelves, walks on sandy beaches, acquiring a car after years of doing without, getting much needed dental work completed and enjoying wonderful conversations with the incredibly awesome people in our world. Happiness is very often a choice and gratitude and recognition of our blessings plays a large part in how we view our lives.

Sometimes, though, we have to purposely and steadfastly ring our bells, through times of darkness. This year, the tragic death of a friend, the loss of a job I have loved and the ongoing illness of my niece have brought with them a sense of grief and loss. The birth of Jesus reminds us that light and joy are always present, even during those times when our circumstances don’t reflect them.

The Christmas season has arrived. The bell ornament I purchased in August from Harrods is hung in a place all its own. It is a symbol that the joy of God is ever present. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” As 2012 draws to a close, ring your bells and anticipate with joy the blessings God has in store for your future!

Merry Christmas!

Fran by the Sea