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Anxious For Nothing

7 Dec

 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6

I really love this verse. I always have. I guess you can say that my mind easily resorts to anxiety, in just about every situation. This verse speaks to me in countless ways, and I hope I can share just a few of the incomparable truths that it holds. Continue reading

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Pots and Pans…and Caribbean Cruises

30 Nov

The voice on the other end of the line said that I had won. After placing my name in a ballot box, I had been selected to win one of many special prizes. All I had to do was come to a very brief presentation featuring a top of the line brand name item. Seemed like a reasonable request to make. After all, there was no requirement to make a purchase, and I was guaranteed a prize at the end. Of course I accepted the offer. Continue reading

God Tells Her…

21 Nov

I was directed to this video through one of Paul Martin’s tweets and I am so very thankful for it. Please have a listen to what this woman has to say about her hope in living with disability:

http://theworksofgod.com/2012/11/20/gods-beautiful-words-have-changed-my-life-krista-horning/

Lost in the Desert

16 Nov

 I have a tendency to repeat myself. There are some memories I have that I enjoy sharing over and over, and Shady tries to gently tell me “Ah, Dina, I already know this story. You’ve shared it many times.”

Like the time I travelled to Europe with my good friends Sherien and Natalie. We lived on a diet of pizza and ice cream, and I still managed to lose five pounds. That’s a favourite of mine. Who else can boast of losing weight on a high fat, high carb, chocolate filled diet? I say that’s worth repetition on a weekly basis if you ask me.

My father also has a tendency of repeating his stories…but one in particular has been a family favourite for as long as I can remember. Since I was a young child he told us the story of the time he was lost in the desert. Growing up in Egypt, I guess it wasn’t uncommon to be near a desert to begin with, which of course gave the story special appeal to a young girl who’d never even seen one.  He told this story numerous times, so many times that eventually, when we had grown up, we jokingly banned him from repeating it to any of us. Once he would start with “Did I ever tell you about the time I was lost in the desert” we’d reach for our ears, laugh out loud and say “yes, yes, we’ve heard the story maaaaany times.”

When I introduced Shady to my parents, my father was very excited to have a fresh audience who had never yet heard the story. Shady was of course intrigued, someone lost in the desert, that sounds like it could be a great story. But my mother, my sister and I all refused. We hereby declared that my father was not to repeat the desert story. We’d heard it one too many times, we practically had it memorized, we wouldn’t sit through it again!

My poor father…It’s been six years since he’s met Shady, and he still hasn’t been able to share the desert story!

Now, I hesitate to share this because I know my father might read this. But can I be truly honest? I miss the desert story. In fact, truth be told, I can barely remember the details. Was he seven, or was he eight? How did he get to the desert in the first place? I know the story centred on his heroic use of the sun’s rays to find his way home…but I can’t remember how it all fits together. The story that had once been all  too familiar, and consequently abandoned for years, has now become unfamiliar, fragmented, distant.

Unfortunately, the same can be said for many of the stories that I grew up with from the Bible.

I’ve grown up listening to and reading many of the accounts that are captured in the pages of scripture. The time that Jesus walked on water, the return of the prodigal son, the parable of the sower, the the calling of the apostles. The list goes on and on of the stories that I grew up hearing. With time, I regret to say, I began to tune a few of these stories out. They were getting “too familiar”. I thought I knew them well enough. “I already know these stories,” I would say to myself. “They are too familiar. I’m ready for something more.”

And so, even now as an adult, many times I will skip over these stories when I am looking through the Bible. Out of sheer habit of telling myself that I know them too well, I go past them as though I have somehow mastered their truth, and the result is that I am losing the incredible insight and meaning they have for my life today.

The plain truth is that we can never hear the stories in the Bible too often. Why? Because we are told that 12 the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Each time we open the pages of scripture, God is speaking to us. Though we’ve read the words before, He has a message for us.  There is always more to learn, always more insight to gain, always fresh application for our lives, always conviction to be received, always comfort to be granted. God’s words never run dry, never grow irrelevant, never lose their meaning. They are living and they are active.

Besides, even if the lesson is familiar, have we mastered obedience to it so that we do not need the reminder?

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! Romans 11:33

Perhaps it’s been years since you’ve read some of the stories in the Bible that you feel are “too familiar”. Perhaps you read them, but like me, you read them with eyes that claim to have seen it before and a heart that is not widely open to the living truth it provides.  Let’s repent of claiming that we’ve somehow mastered the lessons they provide, and commit to go back, reread the stories we have grown up with, and ask God to show us the truth that he has for is in the pages of His word.

And to my father, when you read this post, I would like to invite you out to lunch where you can finally, with full freedom share all of the details about the time that you were lost in the desert!

Banana Bread, Blankets and Teddy Bears

10 Nov

I’m addicted to the songs from the “Sound of Music”.  Every once in a while I’ll break into my own personal rendition of “I am 16 Going on 17″…. and poor Amanda has endured far too many performances of “Doe a Deer” (If you don’t recognize what I’m talking about, we probably wouldn’t enjoy watching movies together).

I’m not all that crazy about the story line of the movie, but I do love the songs that they sing. Perhaps my favorite scene is when all the children are piled up in Maria’s room; they are scared of the thunderstorm, and to comfort them she begins singing about some of her favorite things. Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm wollen mittens (Okay, when I write them out it does sound a little silly). But I love the idea of having a list of my own favorite things. Things that make me smile and things that make me thankful. So here’s my list. I won’t put them into a song, but if you’re talented that way and want to give it a try, I’ll pay you big bucks!

My Fuzzy Warm Blanket – Each night, after Amanda has gone to bed, after the laundry has been folded and the dishes put away, I grab a snack and head right to the couch to cuddle up under my warm fuzzy throw blanket. Shady thinks I have an obsession with feeling cozy, but I keep telling him that it’s not just me. Every girl loves being cozy (just look at the assortment of warm fuzzy slippers at the mall). When you see him, please tell him you love being cozy too. It will really help build my argument!

My Coffee Mug – Some mugs are uncomfortable. They just don’t sit right. Like an uncomfortable pair of shoes, they just don’t fit and you  can’t enjoy your drink the way it was meant to be enjoyed. But not my mug. It’s the perfect size. The handle was built just for my fingers. When I hold it in my hand…ahhh…my coffee tastes just right. Every morning I look forward to my coffee in my own special, built just for me, mug (You too can experience this, for only $5.99 at Canadian Tire).

My Teddy Bear – I know it’s silly to still value my teddy bear at this age. But if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know the deep family history that this bear could share. True, he just sits in a basket pretty much out of sight. But when I’m cleaning around Amanda’s room, and happen to catch a glimpse of him, I won’t lie, I still smile. He doesn’t compare with the teddy bears in the market today. You can’t plug him in with a USB, He won’t learn to say your name, and he won’t play your favorite tunes from the tiny speaker in his ear. He’s made of cotton, not LED lights and microchips, but to me he’s worth so much more!

My Rocking Chair – Tucked into the corner of Amanda’s play room is an old wooden rocking chair. It’s not in the best of conditions. One of the rockers is chipped away at the bottom, and it makes a funny sound when you rock back and forth. But I love this chair because it used to belong to my grandfather. I would see it in the corner of his room each time I would go visit him in his nursing home. He sat on it when he would watch television, and lined up next to him were all the pictures of his grandchildren. When I sit on the chair and watch Amanda play with her toys, I feel as though I am somehow keeping his memory alive with me. It is much more than just a rocking chair. I hope that one day, Amanda will hold her little child as she rocks her back and forth on this very same chair.

My Banana Bread – Not just everyone’s banana bread (though I’m sure it’s delicious too), but my banana bread is my absolute favorite. I wish I could remember where I learned the recipe, but I guess it doesn’t matter since I’ve varied it up a a bit anyways. In my personal opinion it’s as close to perfect as dessert can get. I’ve made it countless times. In fact if you’ve ever come over for dinner chances are you’ve also had a taste. I’m not a good baker, I don’t know how to cook a variety of fine foods, and to be honest I really don’t enjoy working in the kitchen all that much. But my banana bread…well, how about I give you the recipe and you can let me know what you think. Here it is:

Dina’s All Time Favourite Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat two eggs, 1/3 cup of oil and 2/3 cups of white sugar for 3 minutes.

2. Mix in 3-4 overly ripe bananas (the riper the better), as well as 1 1/4 cups of white flour.

3. Mix in 2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp of salt.

4. Add as many milk chocolate chips as you can handle (chopped becans are also a good idea, but I don’t like anything competing with the taste of chocolate).

5. Place in a greased loaf pan and bake on 350 F for 55 minutes.

Really hope you enjoy it!!

So what about you, what are some your favorite things? What are some of the things God has provided you with for which you are truly thankful? We can be thankful for the big and the small, the important and the trivial, the material and the immaterial. Share your thoughts!

Psalm 92:1  It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;

Should I Be Crying?

2 Nov

If you’ve been around children for any amount of time (even five minutes will do) you’ll know that falling is a regular part of their lives. I’m pretty confident that if I took some of the tumbles I’ve seen children endure, I’d be out for the week. And yet they get up, keep walking, and carry on, although nothing has happened.

That is of course, unless you give them the look. You know that look. It’s that automatic response we make with our faces that says “OUCH, that must have hurt!” Even if they feel fine, even if the fall was broken by the thick padding of their expensive diapers…the look on your face is enough to convince them that they must be in pain. It is then that they will cry.

It’s a regular occurrance in our house these days. As Amanda has been growing into her walking feet, she has been venturing out into the vast unknown landscapes of the house. She falls. She instantly looks up at me for her next cue. It is as though she is asking me “You saw what happened right? So how should I feel? Should I be crying?”

It’s not the only time that she looks at me with this look of complete dependence . Each time she reaches for something, especially something I’ve already restricted her from touching, she glances at me looking for a response. Wether she’s looking for approval, or checking to see if the rules have somehow changed in her favour, I know that my look and my response will very much determine her next steps.

I’m 34 years old now (I know, I look MUCH younger than my age!). You’d think I know how to react to just about everything by now. But I don’t. I have to confess that there is still in me a very real and compelling need to look to something or someone greater than myself to know how I should react. Each time something happens, a new event occurs, I hear of something in the media, a decision has to be made in my life, I face the same questions that Amanda does as well. Should I be scared? Should I feel sad? How should I respond from here?

What are my options? Where and to whom can I look to accurately diagnose my situation and tell me how to respond from there? I can look to man around me. The experts they’re called. Only trouble is…they so often contradict each other. One day you should do this. The next day, don’t even think of doing that. It’s absolute chaos. The wisdom of man is flawed and cannot be trusted to order the affairs of our lives.

I can look to myself. Trust my instincts. Go with what feels best to me at the moment. To be honest…I’m not sure how that philosophy has gotten as widespread as it has. Trouble is…if I listened to myself I would be in a constant state of panic. If I listened to my self I’d consistently feel overwhelmed and discouraged. Or worse, at times, I would have no reaction what so ever, when in fact God’s Word demands that I take very clear steps in response to the situation.

So where do I look? When life takes a turn and I long to look up for direction, who will fill this need?

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God breathed and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, THOROUGHLY equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Truth be told, when Amanda looks up at me for direction, sometimes I don’t give the right commanding orders. I accidentally under react when in fact she is hurt. I let her touch something when yesterday I said no. I try my best, but at the end of the day I am a fallen creature, and my “marching orders” will often be flawed.

But God’s word is reliable. It is perfect. It is consistent. It is straight from the breath of God, and is relevant and true for ever occassion, for all of time.

Think how often a child looks to his parent for direction. Is this how consistently and dependently I look to God’s word as the final authority over my every circumstance?

Deceitful Appearances

25 Oct

A friend of mine shared a story with me that really made me laugh! A while back she was assigned a new office at her workplace, which meant she had also inherited the plant that came with it. Nervous that somehow she would cause the death of this plant, she was very careful to take good care of it by watering it regularly. This went on for a few days. That is until she made a great discovery…the plant wasn’t real!!

Shocked and surprised she immediately shared the story with the office secretary….who then broke into tears of laughter. Why? Because she too had been fooled by the appearance of the plant, and had been watering it for months!

Appearances can truly be deceiving. I know that on numerous occassions  my eyes have tricked me into thinking one thing…when the reality was quite the opposite. Food that looked delicious but actually made me sick. Individuals who appeared intimidating and uncaring, who later showed themselves to be kind and compassionate. Purchases that looked appealing and promised satisfaction, but delivered only regret.

Sin that promises life…and delivers only death.

THE ULTIMATE DECEPTION

The media often portrays the devil as an ugly man, draped in a red cape, carrying a pitchfork. But let’s be honest, if that’s the package in which sin was delivered, would we truly be so easily enticed? The devil, and similarly sin, parade as though they were appealing, beautiful, desirable, life giving. Sin promises to give us all we desire…true happiness and true life. But this is nothing more than deceptive appearances.   Sin will never deliver on its promises. The only thing that it will provide is regret, shame, separation from God, and ultimately, for those who reject Christ, spiritual death.

Throughout the Bible God describes sin as both deceiving and leading to death.

“But encourage one another day after day…so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrew 3:13

“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” James 1:14-15

THE DECEITFULNESS OF THE FLESH

Not only is the Bible filled with verses warning us about the deceitfulness of sin, we are also reminded about the true nature of man. On the outside, we really are very attractive beings … Living in very attractive homes…living very attractive lives. Things look beautiful from the outside! The truth however is that apart from Christ our hearts are depraved…dead in our sinful state. Those are harsh words, and they are not easy to swallow…but this is exactly the diagnosis that God has made of mankind. We are told that in our sinful state, we are in actual fact spiritually dead and separated from God. All believers, before conversion, were dead in their sinful nature. It is not until God’s Spirit inhabits our hearts and turns us to Christ that we are given a new nature…one that is reborn to the things of God.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great live with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” Ephesians 2:4-5

BACK TO THE PLANT

So what about the plant? As bizarre as it seems to water a dead plant, in many ways we do this on a daily basis. Though Christ has put to death our sinful nature, we repeatedly invest in behaviour, thoughts, words that nurture our sinful nature, rather than the new man that was created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Think about it. Every time I give in to sins deception, I nurture my flesh and starve my spirit. I am seeking to revive the very nature Christ has crucified on my behalf. I water that which ought to be starved, and neglect that which ought to be nurtured.

In John Owens book…The Mmortification of Sin…we are reminded about the constant battle in which a Christian must be involved. This battle is with sin…and if we are not daily conscious of our struggle with sin, seeking to mortify it and cut it out of our lives…it will take over…steal, kill and destroy. John Owen reminds us that we ought to be killing sin or else sin will be killing US.

For believers, God has truly put to death the sinful nature. Though we continue to struggle with its daily temptations and numerous times fall into its deceptive appearance…God promises to keep us faithful. He will complete what he has began in us, and it is by His Spirit that we can nurture life, and not death, through obedience to Him.

So Christian…stop watering the dead plant would you?

A Piper/Keller Discussion on Sanctification

10 Oct

Have you ever listened to a conversation between two people and thought, “Wow, I wish I could come up with ideas like that so effortlessly.” That’s exactly what I thought when I watched this 15-minute video of Tim Keller and John Piper discussing the process of sanctification. The conversation began by both men addressing sanctification from two different perspectives. When they realized they were coming from different angles, they ended up using both the “push and pull factors” as motivation for working out our salvation – as Paul puts it in his letter to the Philippians. We are pushed towards sanctification by the truth of the Gospel, which is that Christ died for us, and pulled by the promise that the pure in heart shall see God. They are such familiar ideas, but so profound and true in their daily application. Okay, one more thought before I let you watch the video. When discussing the battle against sin and the flesh, Tim Keller says the best defense is a good offence. “When you’re enjoying God you don’t want to let anything come in between that enjoyment.” Again, how basic is that idea!? When we’re really enjoying something why would we allow anything disrupt that enjoyment? I guess the trouble is when we become “too familiar” with the Gospel and rush in and out of our communion with The Lord, the author of true and lasting enjoyment. This video reminded me to really take the time and enjoy fellowship with my Father throughout the day, and fight against the tendency to view my time with him as just a part of my daily routine. Simple concepts, and yet so often forgotten.

Worth the Cost

5 Oct

I don’t care how strange this sounds…I love the new Swiffer commercial!! After cleaning the house in record time (with the help of her Swiffer of course) the woman in the ad catches a glimpse of her coffee mug. With utter excitement she grabs the mug, rushes out the front door and revels in the fact that she now has the time to drink it on the porch! It’s a small pleasure, I know. She didn’t win the lottery, isn’t going on vacation to a luxurious island…she’s not even enjoying a fancy meal. Just a quiet moment with her coffee mug on the front porch. Ahhhh…what a thought.

The commercial makes me smile because I feel like I can relate to her! Oh to drink a coffee in the front porch…an uninterrupted, quiet, responsibility-less moment. Don’t get many of those moments anymore.

In fact if I’m honest I’ll admit that motherhood really has come with its abundance of  sacrifices. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Rest. Freedom to hop in the car and go where I please. A wardrobe that contains only one size clothing. The ability to carry one purse with only my items…as opposed to a travelling kitchen/back up wardrobe. The constant heavy burden of wondering if I’m doing motherhood properly.

But you know what? It’s worth every sacrifice and much more. Like a treasure that you save up for and spend all you have to obtain, so is motherhood…completely worth the cost.

Some things in life are worth every last ounce of sacrifice.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”

We can read these words, spoken by Christ, in Matthew 13. The point of the passage is not that we have to sell everything we have in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. However, what we do see in these words is that knowing God, walking and fellowshipping with Him, and ultimately living with Him in Heaven forever is an invaluable treasure, far beyond anything else we could ever obtain or dream of receiving.

But it does come with a cost. If we are honest we’ll admit that following Jesus is does require sacrifice, and does cost us something. Like what?
– It costs us our pride – Coming before a Holy God in confession and repentence
– It costs our will – Laying down our own preferences and living instead according to the ways outlined in God’s Word.
– It costs self denial – Living with Christ as Lord, rather than defending my “right” to be my own master

Yes, salvation is a free gift and is a result of faith alone. Yes and Yes again! But genuine faith, a life that seeks to follow Christ, will come with difficulties and cost. I don’t think anyone knew the cost of discipleship more than the apostle Paul. Listen to what he endured for the name of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11:

“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”

Why go through all this? Why pay such a high price? Because the treasure far exceeded the personal pain and sacrifice.

I need to be reminded of the ultimate worth of Christ. No sacrifice takes away from his value. No earthly pleasure can compare with the knowledge of him. I don’t claim to always apply this, nor do I say it as though I fully live it. But I know it is true…and I press on in this pursuit to know him more.

What are the difficulties you face today? What “cost” is required in your discipleship of Him? What is your obedience requiring you to sacrifice at the foot of the cross? Together, let us keep our eyes on the Pearl of great price, the treasure of greatest worth…knowing Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Back to the Routine

3 Oct

It’s been months since I’ve written and I wanted to come back with something important and insightful. To be honest, for the past few weeks I’d start writing something, but end up either unable to finish it or finishing it and deciding it’s not worth posting. So I decided that it’d be best to just come back with something that’s important to me, but likely not important to mostly everyone else (especially on Presidential Debate night).

Every year around this time, I begin my new year with the new NHL hockey season. I set my goals and my New Year’s resolutions, have a countdown, celebrate, and engage in all the typical New Year’s festivities (not really). This year, as you can all imagine, it’s been a real struggle so far. It feels much like a large portion of life is on hold and there isn’t anything I can do about it. After all of the unnecessary cries I heard from NBA fans last year over their lockout, I promised myself I would not complain about this year’s NHL lockout, but who are we kidding! This is ridiculous. With looking forward to this season beginning very soon (I hope), I’ve been watching old games and highlights and thanks to a good friend, I came across this video. It’s pretty sad, but very well done. As we all wait with anticipation, I hope we can offer support to one another during this difficult time. Hang in there friends.