Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Pomegranates by Chanan Mazal

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Seeking Wonder ~ The Fragrance of Spring


Why don't we stop for a small sacred moment together to take in God's beauty and wonder...

Sit or walk in the quietness, be still

Know that He is God

Lean in and listen

Take a deep breath

Inhale the fragrance of Spring





























It is my prayer this weekend that God may refresh and breathe life into the chambers of your interior castle.

I pray that each and every one of you will be filled with the wonder and sweetness of the aroma of Christ just like the fragrant flowers of Spring.



~


I want to take a moment to express my deep gratitude for taking the time to drop by and make this castle your home. 

I am humbled that you have chosen to walk along this camino together.

Thank you for your kind words of encouragement each week through the comments you send.  Your reflections have been a blessing to me and to this community here at arils and castles.

I look forward to seeing you again very soon...

nicole

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Unexpected Gifts

I am someone who takes immense delight in hunting for the perfect gift for those I love.  I admit that I also quite enjoy when I receive an unexpected present.

The best gifts are usually the ones I would have never even thought to ask for because I couldn't possibly imagine the joy that they would bring to my life.

This is my account of a few of those unexpected gifts...

My husband and I were looking to purchase our first home together.  We scoured the neighbourhood, traipsing through one home after another to no avail.

Despite dwindling hope we decided to check out one more home that came on the market in our preferred location.

After the tour, my husband and I gave each other "the look." Could this possibly be the one?  Was it too good to be true? 

Then Kenneth looked over at a photo in the living room and began to laugh.  The photo was of a family who we have known for years at our church.  We realized we were in the midst of one of those divine moments.

Unexpected Gift #1   Our Home

The couple graciously accepted our offer and we became the grateful owners of a new home. 

There was another crucial part of the story that we were not even aware of at the time.  When we shared the news with my mother in law she was overjoyed and explained that she had been praying all along that we would find a home from a Christian family from our church. 

That day I immediately placed Mum on my call a friend for prayer list. I was convinced she must have a special direct line with God!      

Unexpected Gift #2   Prayer

My mother in law taught me that unexpected gifts happen when we lift up prayers on behalf of one another.  

The story would not end there.

The purchase of our home came with another very unexpected present.

The very first Spring uncovered a beautiful oasis in the backyard of our new home.  I had no idea at the time what joy, knowledge and life I would receive in the years to come from this gift we inherited. 

Gift #3   The Garden
 


Glorious strokes of colour would burst through the soil.

The canvas would evolve and transform with each changing season leaving fragrant scents at every turn. 

The anticipation of what I would discover in the garden each morning became a delightful gift in itself.  



The garden became a place where God's creatures (wanted and unwanted) would come to play, rest and explore.  I soon learned that this space was not "my garden," but that we shared this sacred place.  The brilliant winged choristers bathed daily in the pond as the bunnies would drop by to partake in an early brunch among the leaves and flowers.  
  





The garden quickly became a beloved teacher revealing the hidden mysteries of God and life in Christ.

Lessons of patience and faith came to life as flowers peeked through the winter snow.  If a work of art can emerge from the depths of the earth then there was hope in the dark season of my soul.

I gained a whole new perspective for the need to nourish, as well as ruthlessly prune in order to bear fruit in my own spiritual life.




The garden also spoke to the transforming power that beauty and creativity behold.  

Being attentive to God's magnificent beauty revealed through creation helped to quiet the constant chatter in my mind.  This enabled me to be still to hear His voice as I walked with Him in prayer in the garden.

As I participated in creation by cultivating the earth I began to notice God resurrecting life back to my stagnant soul. 
  



There was
something cathartic and healing in the secret depths of the garden.  I realized it was hard for me to brood over wounds or disappointments when my hands were busy digging, weeding and planting as a co-creator.  As new life emerged from beneath the soil this offered hope that God could also breathe life in me.


Michael Yankoski beautifully articulates it this way,

"Every garden plot, no matter how small, becomes a miniature Mount of Transfiguration."

This has certainly been true for me.

This hallowed ground became a gift to see, smell, taste, hear and experience God all around me.

The garden also turned out to be an extraordinary gift as a gathering place to foster community.

When I think of sacred spaces I tend to typically picture serene places for reflection.  I have since learned that a sacred space can also be used as a gift to offer belonging and hospitality to others.

 


We have so much fun hosting spring teas, movies, baseball games and intimate dinner parties here in the garden. 

This gift has become an unexpected space to nurture deep friendships.

Every time I gather the bounty from the earth to share with others around our table I take a moment to bow in reverence and thanksgiving.

You see, even sharing the humble provision from the garden is a gift in itself.

God's unexpected gifts never end.

As we begin this week together let us slow down and keep a look out for God's unexpected gifts.  They may show up in the most unexpected places. 


~  

In gratitude, I want to dedicate this post to these two extraordinary women who also happen to be gardeners after God's own heart.

Mum, (Happy Belated Mother's Day)

Thank you for teaching me about the powerful gift of prayer.  You have certainly been a precious gift in my life.

Linda, (the Giver of gift # 1 and 3)

Thank you for revealing God The Gardener to me.  This garden has been one of the most unexpected life giving presents I have ever received. 





Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Table of Grace



Having the pleasure of our friends Helen and Daniel from Colombia stay with us reminded me of this incredible moment during our visit with them. 

The Table of Grace …..

A small team of us travelled to visit Hernan and Rosa Bravo (Daniel's parents) who serve with Latin America Mission in Barranquilla, Colombia.


While we were there we facilitated workshops on worship and music leadership for Pastors and Lay Leaders.  We visited families and brought supplies to those that had lost their homes from the extreme flood conditions.



We also planned some day camps for children living in very difficult circumstances.


   
One afternoon our mission team was invited to lunch from one of the members of the Communidad Pas congregation. 

We arrived to find almost the entire church community there to greet us.  Men were playing dominos on the front walkway.  Women were chopping tomatoes on the back table while some young ladies were singing to the colourful parrot in the backyard. 
   
Then my eyes narrowed in on one strong beautiful matriarch.  She was standing alone over a fire in the extreme noon day heat.  There was something special that drew me to her. 


I had no idea at the time that this meal she was preparing would lead to an extraordinary holy moment.  

It would be from this table that I would taste and encounter the transforming grace of the Lord.

We were invited to come inside for the meal.  The room was sparse.  There was one table situated by a fan with enough church chairs for our small team of six.  We felt a little awkward to take the only seats in the house that provided shelter from the heat.

We also felt uncomfortable because we knew it was very likely there would not be enough food for everyone who had gathered to meet us.

Despite our reservations they warmly escorted us to the table that was prepared especially for us.  With gratitude we sat down to partake in this wonderful meal.

They treated us like royalty and delighted to serve us.

I had never before experienced such honour and hospitality as a guest in a stranger’s home. 

They brought us a bowl of delicious cheese soup and some rice on the side.  I savoured each spoonful.  Although this was a simple meal it still felt as if I was dining at the most abundant feast I had ever tasted in my life. 

As people began to share stories around the table I became engaged in a conversation of my own.

An intense internal battle began to rage within me regarding my own worth to sit at this table.

The inner dialogue continued to swirl in my head with words of condemnation - I should be working to serve these beautiful women, not the other way around.

I felt ashamed of who I knew I was and that I did not deserve this kind of honour.  After all they were spending their little to feed, serve and bless me. 

Then in the midst of this painful inner examination it was as if the rest of the room went silent and I heard this faint whisper.

"This is the table of grace."

"This is what I am doing for you Nicole... preparing a table, a banquet for you.”

I fought to hold back the tears.  For a moment there was just the two of us in the room - God & me. 

I now had a faint glimpse of how the disciples must have felt when Jesus knelt to wash their feet.  As I sipped this humble soup I was painfully aware and ashamed that I did not deserve to dine at this table.  It was as if I was confronted by the holiness of the Servant King Himself.

If I felt unworthy to partake in this simple meal then how could I even fathom dining at a table in heaven that was prepared by Christ, the one and only Son of God.

God in His mercy that day did not leave me there at the table in my shame.  He covered and overwhelmed me with this reminder of the precious gift of His grace.


My dear friends ...

Jesus does not just stop at the sacrifice that He made for us at the cross.

He goes further than what we could ever imagine.

Our Saviour extends an invitation of belonging.

He chooses to serve us...even when we continue to wound Him.

Jesus does not just tolerate us, but is actually delighted to prepare a place for us at His table. 

His abounding unconditional love never ends.  It is not based on our behaviour or effort.

There is nothing we can do to earn our place at the table.

We are given a seat of honour as His very own.

In His Presence we are celebrated and embraced with absolute welcome and belonging.


We are not treated as we deserve.

We get to be the recipients of this mysterious and outrageous grace.  

Through a meek bowl of soup and rice prepared by this beautiful woman I literally tasted the grace of the Lord.

I don't think I will ever come to the table the same again. 

It is my prayer that each time we sit down at the table we will experience the sheer joy of dining together with Jesus as His very own.






If you would like to know more about the incredible work of LAM, Canada you can connect to LAM Canada, Bravo Family (Hernan, Rosa, Daniel and Helen)


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