Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Wonderful Words of Life Experiment

"I like to think of words as little pieces of mental Velcro we all go around sticking to the world."
Michael Yankoski, The Sacred Year 

A couple of years ago we travelled home from vacation along I99. Janis (my sister) lent me her library book.  It was called, Change Your Words, Change Your Life, by Joyce Meyer.

With a title like that I was hooked.  Who doesn’t want to change their life?

I was inspired as Joyce shared stories of the impact that our words can have upon others, even complete strangers.

Everyone in the vehicle was getting hungry so we decided to take a pit stop for dinner at the Cracker Barrel.  Don't you just love their biscuits?  A basket full of warm biscuits and I'm a happy camper!  (once again, I digress!)

As we waited in line and throughout the meal I noticed that the hostess personally ensured that every customer was warmly welcomed and attended to throughout their visit. She truly did an ordinary job in an extraordinary way!

I felt “the nudge.”  You know the one … where you sense that God is wanting you to do something that sounds completely crazy and potentially embarrassing.  I could almost hear Him taunting me... “this is your opportunity Nicole…go and tell the hostess that she is doing a great job.”

My introverted side was quick to talk me out of it.  You have got to be kidding … that is ludicrous … I’m not doing that.

The other part of me loved the anticipation of the challenge to see how it would turn out if I did approach her.  After all, if I looked ridiculous what is the likelihood I would have to see her again?

I know … sounds very spiritual.  Don't judge!

As we were leaving the restaurant I quietly approached the hostess to thank her.  I explained that I had noticed how her customers light up with laughter due to the kindness and warmth of her attentive service.  I expressed that she is truly incredible at her job.

She looked stunned that I would take the time to say those things. Before I knew it, she had wrapped her arms around me.  She told me how much that meant to her and then she hugged me tight again.  

That night I felt like I had been the one to receive the greatest gift.

It was powerful to witness how a few simple encouraging words could have such a profound transformation on the countenance, energy, and joy of a hard working southern hostess.

Even as an introvert, I have to admit what a sheer delight it was to receive a hug with such gratitude from a complete stranger.  What a high!

When I left the restaurant I was beaming and she was beaming.

This story reminds me of the power of words.  That our words are conduits of God's light and life.

The exchange of light through a simple kind word or action is also what connects and unites us together as one in Christ.

Through the hug of a complete stranger that night, I felt like the world was a little smaller.

As I shared in my rule of life, I have been practising the discipline of daily examen this year.

I pray at the close of the day and ask God to examen my conscious and unconscious thoughts, words and actions. Most days I beg for Him to be gentle as I cannot bear the truth of what is exposed deep within me.

Since I had been reflecting upon the power of words, I decided to ask God to examen the recent words of my mouth.

I am ashamed at the thought of the missed opportunities to bring words of life to those in need.  I am grieved for the times I have left others wounded or crushed by my careless words.


Word of caution... (pardon the pun!) when partaking in the discipline of examen...it isn't pretty! 

Having the motives of our hearts exposed is an enlightening, yet truly humbling process.

Through my personal time in daily examen this week God revealed that my words far too often come with condition instead of freely given like Christ.

God helped me to see that I am quick to be wounded or feel slighted if I am not thanked, acknowledged or admired for my words or acts of kindness.  My words came with a hidden condition!

If words stick like Velcro, as the quote above suggests, then I want to make sure the words I use are going to reflect and spread the light and love of Christ, unconditionally! 


Daily Examen:  

I urge you to find a quiet place this weekend.  Have a journal with you.  Spend time in prayer with each question.

Do not rush through this process.

Begin by giving God permission to examen the words of your mouth.

Trust that what God brings to light is for your benefit. 

Ask God to bring to mind the conscious and unconscious words that have grieved His holy spirit and that have wounded His loved ones (this may also include yourself).

Was there a situation this week that words were best left unsaid?

Have the words I used this week been edifying?  Have they built up or torn down?

Have my words been used to complain or contribute?

Have my words been used to gossip, blame, criticize, protect or defend myself?

Have my words reflected your light?  Have my words put out your light?

Feel free to use this refrain...

Father forgive me, thank you for setting me free.


Ask God to reveal the motive and intent behind the conversations you have had this past week?

Have I used words for my glory or for yours?

Have I used words to draw attention to myself?

Have my words been true or have I spoken in order to be liked, thanked or admired by others?

Have my words come with condition?

Write down and expose the secret motives of your heart to His light.

Father, forgive me.  Thank you for setting me free.



Give God thanks for bringing to light the things you need to change.

Ask God if there is someone specific who needs a word of encouragement today that you need to call or reach out to?

Write down anyone who comes to mind.

Ask Him for an opportunity to share words of life with those you meet along the way this week.

Ask God to put a watch over your lips.  That He would replace your thoughts and words with His thoughts and words.

Ask Him to give you help to speak only what is true and good.  That words of life would come forth from your lips.

Spend some time pondering and praying through this verse:

"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer."
~Psalm 19:14

Write down any thoughts or words that stand out to you as you meditate on this passage.

Now go and spread words of life and light to everyone you meet!




Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by to make this castle your home!

Monday, 22 February 2016

Faith ... Like A Window


“Faith, is like a window. 
It is not there because we happen to want one wall of the room to be made of glass.  It is there for the sake of what we can see through it –and in orderto let light into the room.”
NT Wright, small faith Great God 


This quote captured me as I felt it was another piece of the puzzle toward learning to live awake, full of the light of Christ.

I operate on faith every morning that when I draw back the curtains the light through the window will expose a view that will provide me with particular information.

I have confidence that when I open the drapes the scene through the window will reveal if I need to scrape the ice off the windshield on the car, if my neighbours are out and about, whether the squirrels are putting on their aerial show in the trees above or if the cardinals have been kind enough to drop by for a visit.

The size of the window matters because that will determine what I am able to see.

When it comes to living in the light of Christ, is the window of my faith too small?

What do I really expect to see?  

Do I live with confidence that when I open the word, pray or walk through the day that Christ is alighting on, in, and through me?

Is my faith situational, based on circumstances or feelings?

Does my faith rest in Christ or the comfort and guidance of others?

Wright eloquently describes that the secret of faith is to believe and live in the strength of God’s power.

“not according to how we feel or according to whether we are happy doing the particular task assigned to us for the moment. …The current carries the swimmer along with it.  He or she has to swim too, of course, but with the help of the current the swimmer can go further and faster, and with less effort, than by his or her own power.  And so it is when our weakness swims in the stream of God’s almighty power.  Our God is the God who gives power to the faint.”

Maybe that is why I am so exhausted.  I forget to allow the current of God to carry me.

What if we swim in the stream of His almighty power rather than by our own effort?

In order to see God, receive and reflect His light...we need the window of faith.

Faith cannot be obtained by our own effort.

We must also be careful to not take credit for our faith.  If we receive answers to our prayers we must refrain from the temptation to boast and take pride in our faith, as if we had something to do with it.

I am reminded that everything, even faith, belongs to God.

Faith is a precious gift of grace from our Father.

Thankfully He is the author and perfecter of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

It is God who will give us the faith so that His very own light will radiate in and through us.  Therefore, we can boast not in our faith, but in God alone.



Father, thank you for your Son, the author and perfecter of our faith.  Enlarge the window of my faith so that your light can shine through. 

"Send forth your light and your truth,   


let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell."
  ~ Psalm 43: 3

Amen

May God open wide the window of our hearts to let the light of Christ flood through every room of our interior castle.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Move Over Easter Lily!



Last year I had the privilege of visiting artist, Sylvia Woods, at her studio in Guelph.  

Sylvia's husband (Brad) is a long time friend of my husband (Kenneth) so it did not take much convincing to take a road trip despite the wintry blizzard conditions outside.  

While Brad and Ken caught up, I was honoured to have a private showing of Sylvia's stunning paintings from her floral collection at her rustic studio conveniently situated above the tea shop on the main strip.  Who wouldn't want a studio above a tea shop?

Sylvia's work is inspired by Renaissance symbolism.  I was captivated by stories of the spiritual significance told through the vibrant strokes of each glorious flower coming to life on squares of hung canvas.

If you ever have the honour of meeting Sylvia, you are in for a blessing. She has a welcome ease that enables a visually-challenged, art-loving novice, like myself, to not feel intimidated. 

I felt this pull toward one particular striking work of art that was displayed at the back of the studio.  In Sylvia's quiet attentiveness she approached to assist me with "seeing" - the type of "seeing" that enables one to enter into the story with a deeper understanding than what the eye could see at face value.  

Spiritual disciplines also enable space for the Spirit to help us with "seeing."


 "both awakening and surrender are shaped by seeing because how we see determines what we see, and what we see shapes the soul."

~Juliet Benner, Contemplative Vision, A Guide to Christian Art and Prayer 

Sylvia explained that many people thought this particular painting was a poppy when in fact it was another flower called the anemone.

She revealed that the anemone symbolizes anticipation and waiting.

This particular species grows, almost like wildflowers, in the Garden of Gethsamene.  After further research, I have since learned that anemones are sometimes referred to as "drops of blood."

Luke 22:44 recounts the hours of anguish as Jesus prays that evening in the Garden.  The Word says, he prayed with such earnestness that "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."

God's story is all around us, even found in a simple flower!

As I examined the intricate details of this floral portrait, I could vividly imagine the scene of Jesus that night in the Garden.

The words, waiting and anticipation lingered and stirred deep in my soul.

Through the image of this glorious flower I could see the suffering and hope of the resurrection of Christ through a fresh lens.

The scarlet brushstrokes spoke to the anticipation of the torture and agony of his imminent death as he prayed in the Garden that evening.

As I gazed into this work of art, I imagined the anticipation of Jesus longing to return home to the embrace of his Father.  The hope of salvation, the fulfillment of the divine plan.

Needless to say, this painting called to me deep in my spirit and today hangs on the wall beside our bay window in our home.




This painting is my source of contemplation during this lenten season.

It speaks to me of the beautiful paradox of the gospel story.

The paradox and mystery of suffering and joy.  Anticipation and hope.  Death and resurrection.

This flower reminds us that in the midst of every dark season of the soul we must wait in hope.  Hope will not disappoint.  

This resurrection life is not just a future hope to await.  God longs for us to live in the power of His resurrected Son, through His Spirit, in the here and now.

There is hope, because Christ has died, offering his life on our behalf.

Hope, because his outrageous grace washes away our sins.

Hope, because we are never separated from his everlasting, unconditional love.

Hope, for righteousness we could never earn.

Hope, because He has covered our shame with his very own blood.

Hope, because we are made new in Him.

This particular work of art fills me with wonder and gratitude.

It is not just the beauty of nature being captured by the strokes of a brush.

It is the mystery that the creation of a humble flower can intentionally bear witness to the glorious story of the gospel, which in turn draws me to Christ Himself.

Thank you Sylvia for revealing the fullness of Christ through your extraordinary gift as you humbly create in His image!

To view or learn more about Sylvia and her collection please check out 


Art and religious icons have been used as a means of contemplation throughout the years in various faith traditions.  It is less that you look "at" the image and more that you look "through" the image - giving you insight into a deeper spiritual reality. 

Why not consider creating your own symbol as a source of reflection to be attentive to Christ throughout this lenten season? 

Typically at Easter we have the regal white Easter lily adorning the front of our sanctuaries.

As we begin this season of lent, I wonder if it is time to let a new flower take centre stage.  May I suggest, the scarlet anemone!







Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sacred Roosters?

Rule of Life ~ To seek God's beauty and wonder!

I thought I would share the story that birthed in me the desire to be a wonder seeker.  This experience had such a profound impact that I had to add this practise as part of my personal rule of life.  Here is how it all began...

There is a saying that refers to "sacred cows."

The phrase is used when a person demonstrates an inability to be open to criticism or change in regards to a particular subject or topic.

During my travels to Hawaii I had an unusual and unique kind of sacred holy moment of my own.

And by the way... it didn't actually involve a cow.

In fact, it was with a completely different creature altogether.



It involved a "sacred rooster!"      

If you have ever been blessed to spend time on one of the islands in Hawaii it is likely you have encountered a rooster or two. 

As we attempted to adjust to the time difference, the rooster's crow was not the most pleasant alarm come 4:30 a.m. on vacation.

However, as the week progressed I gained a new adoration for my vocal friend.

Vacations are finally my chance to be still and hear from God.  I want to re-connect with loved-ones, experience new things and come back refreshed with a whole new me.  No pressure!

By day five panic set in as I could see the vacation slipping away. 








I








I decided I better get some rest back at our "Hawaii home." 



(as Xander, my little nephew called it)   





I volunteered to watch the boys while the others went to the ocean for a dip before the close of the day.  

My nephews were quietly absorbed in their ipad gaming world so I took advantage of the opportunity to read one of the books I had packed called, Wonder Struck.

Margaret Feinberg dares the reader to pray for wonder.  She urges us to live attentive and anticipate God's very own presence.

I was hooked!

As I eagerly turned each page I found myself noticing everything all around me.  I felt the gentle warm welcomed breeze on the back of my neck, the delightful giggles from the boys nestled together on the couch and the unique strong call of the rooster from the open window behind me.

I felt a pull to accept Margaret's challenge to seek the wonder of God. 

As I bowed my head and began to pray I heard the crow of the rooster once again from beneath the window sill.

I continued to utter my simple, yet urgent prayer for help to awake to the wonder of God's Presence.

I opened my eyes and continued to read from the chapter where I left off.

This is what followed my prayer...


"The power of God can be heard in the crackle of hail, the crash of an ocean wave, the groan of a gusting wind. The nearness of God is exhibited in the daily dawn-inspired rooster's crow, 
the rhythmic pacing of seasons:  all of creation testifies to the power and presence of God."

    ~ Wonder Struck, Margaret Feinberg


God has a delightful sense of humour!

Seriously?  What are the odds of being in Hawaii surrounded by roosters reading that exact book and that exact sentence?

What are the chances that while praying to experience the nearness of God that the rooster would crow again in the midst of my prayer? 

If that is not crazy enough...as soon as I finished reading that chapter the rooster called out one more time to close the day.

Sound a bit familiar?  I seem to recall another story about a rooster crowing three times.  Thankfully this story did not involve an ear being cut off!

God brings the sacred into the ordinary in the most unexpected ways.

I thank you God for the wonder of sacred moments with roosters!

Dare today to pray for Wonder.

Watch and wait!

Seek, taste and breathe in His goodness.

Live attentive to the beauty and wonder of God all around you.

I know you will find yourself in the midst of a sacred holy moment of your own. 




 





   








Rocks Of Remembrance

"When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua,   “Choose twelve men from among the people, one fr...