Saturday, March 25, 2023

God's Provision With Work

God is Our Provider - Jehovah Jireh

In the post linked here I talk about how Abraham gave God the name of Jehovah Jireh because he had a profound circumstance in his life where he saw God providing for him.  In that post I include a couple of examples of how God reached down into my life and provided for me and us as a family.  In this post I'll share a couple more short stories of how God has provided for us.

In many cultures around the world, men are seen as the 'providers' of the household.  It was no different for me growing up, and so when I had a family I felt that same responsibility.  So it means a lot when God helps me and aligns my career so that I can stay working and provide for my family.  I see that as God's provision for us.  Here's a couple examples of that...

Career Change!

After working in the print/publishing industry through most of the 1990's, I could see that it was not a growth industry, and there were other career choices that I was more suited to and afforded more hope to make a decent living.  Background context for this career change can be found at this link.    In short, I quit my job as a printing pressman, and we moved our family to Calgary so I could get educated as a software developer.  We strongly believed God was in this decision to move and transition.

I started IT school in January 2001 and that spring saw the beginnings of the 'dot.bomb' era in the stock market.  Up to this point, investors had been bullish (enthusiastic) about investing in IT companies.  However several large IT companies had posted questionable numbers that spring (Nortel being the main Canadian example) and the dot.com bubble burst causing stocks to slide.  As a result many IT companies went into receivership...  including the IT school I was going to.  While our school was closed, the receiver kept the Vancouver school open.  They gave us a living allowance and had us finish school there.  Because of all this I knew the IT job market was going to be tough to get into for a 'newbie' like me.  I consequently tried to get a certification in Java programming while I was still in school.... and I failed that test.  I resolved to write the test again after school was done (and I had more time to study for it).  Upon finishing school, I studied for two weeks, wrote the test and passed.   God helped me press in and finish that goal.

Returning back home, I spent most of the next 10 months looking for work.  I called every software company in the yellow pages listings one by one, and asked for a job.  When I was turned down, I learned to ask if they knew of any other companies that were hiring.  I got a 2 month contract this way, but I completed it with no further opportunities.  We had been living off of our student credit line and in the end I had to take a job framing houses with a friend to make ends meet.  This felt terrible, kind of like a surrender.  However, after 4 weeks of framing houses, I got a call from a large IT consulting company who was interested in hiring me because of the Java certification I had persisted in obtaining after school. 

As badly as I wanted that java developer position, I managed to get lost driving to the interview.  (This was before the days of Google Maps)  Realizing I was going to be late, I phoned to let them know I was lost and confirmed the directions to the office.  Fortunately, I did well on the interview and they offered me the job.  God provided a great first job as a software developer for me when the industry was not hiring junior developers, and in spite of my fumbling tardiness to the first interview.  This opportunity was entirely God's favour and provision for us!

A Promise Kept

Having worked in the software industry for about 15 years, I had not had the opportunity to work at a software Start Up.  In 2016, that opportunity came across my path with some former co-workers.  I signed on as a contractor, and then 6 months later was encouraged to become an employee.   I would get paid substantially less as an employee, but I'd get stock.  I made a deal (really, a promise) with my wife that if and/or when our savings ran out in this employee situation, I would look for a contract position again.  

A couple years later, that's exactly what happened.  Our savings were nearly depleted as we'd supplemented our income from the start-up to keep paying all the bills.  It just so happened that within a week or two of our savings getting to a critical level, a fellow from a previous company I'd worked at contacted me with a well paid contract position.

I was a bit torn.  I really enjoyed working at the startup with my team, but I'd made a promise to my wife.  I asked God what to do, and He gave me a verse:  "You’ll go back to your old work of planting vineyards on the Samaritan hillsides, and sit back and enjoy the fruit—oh, how you’ll enjoy those harvests!" Jeremiah 31:5. Your old work?!  God didn't need to tell me anything else.  I realized then and there that this was His provision and direction for me.

software work - computer keyboard
Transitioning into that new position, I also realized that knowing God wanted me to make that move was crucial, as it was the encouragement I needed to stay there and persist in what we were doing.  I was part of a very small team with the responsibility to help set up a new discipline/department, and there were lots of challenges and things to learn.


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

The Names of God - Jehovah Jireh

Jehovah Jireh - God Is My Provider

Jehovah Jireh (God is my Provider) was a name given to God by Abraham.  I'll be honest right now and say that I don't think I fully understand all of the idiosyncrasies behind the story of Abraham getting this revelation of God as his provider.  A simple perspective:  Abraham was a rich man, blessed by God.  But God wanted to test Abraham, and in that test He asked Abraham to give up - relinquish - the most valuable thing in his life.  Abraham obediently complied.  Right at the moment when God knew Abraham was going to be completely obedient and faithful, God stopped him and provided a replacement.  In that provision, Abraham saw God as Jehovah Jireh. I believe this sequence of events meant more to both of them than I'll ever know.

In My Life...

In my life, my perspective on God's provision has been the source of some of my greatest challenges and victories.  God's timing and method of provision didn't always line up to my expectations.  In one specific instance, that turned into a bitter disappointment for me which you can read about here.  Many other times, He provided for me ahead of time, before I knew what was coming or what to ask for.  You can read about many of these stories on the links on this page.  I'll chronicle some additional ones below.

Teaching at SAIT

After various experiences with piano teachers growing up, I always thought I'd make a good teacher.  However, I never had the opportunity to get a degree.  After a decade of working on printing presses, God directed my wife and I to make a major career change, and that offered broader opportunities that surprised me.  

A couple of years after this career change, I was riding public transit to work and saw an advert for a software development course at the local technical college.  On a whim (God's direction, no doubt), I thought I'd email them and see if they needed any instructors.  That email got forwarded to the coordinator for the department who ended up being a software teacher of mine from the past.  He offered me an opportunity on the spot, and I ended up teaching at the Souther Alberta Institue of Technology for 14 years and I loved it!  God's provision in my career!

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
Heritage Hall

A Missed Flight

In September 2022 my wife and I flew to Poland for a short holiday and family trip (my wife grew up in Poland).  It was our first time travelling after the Covid lockdowns, and airports and airlines still had Covid protocol that everyone was required to follow.  On our return trip, some passengers didn't want to follow protocol and made our flight from Krakow to Frankfurt late.  We ran through the Frankfurt airport to catch our connecting flight back home, and saw it still at the gate.  However the airline had cancelled our boarding passes because they knew our baggage wouldn't make the flight.  It was pretty disheartening to see the plane we were supposed to be seated on leaving the gate without us.  

God, however, provided through the airline for us to stay overnight in Frankfurt for on the airline's dime.  And we had enough time to take a taxi into downtown and actually be tourists there for several hours - a city both of us had never previously explored.  It was a great surprise mini-adventure for us at the end of our time away, and we took full advantage of God's provision there.

Selfies in downtown Frankfurt

For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.  Proverbs 2:8

Other Names of God Significant to me..

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Finding Your Roots - My Story

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4

Finding Your Roots

We enjoy watching 'Finding Your Roots' on PBS with Henry Louis Gates Jr.  We quickly get engrossed in the family histories and intrigue that accompanies different celebrities as they discover their ancestry.  I find it easy to wish I had an opportunity to discover my family history with the help of a bunch of experts like Dr. Gates has.  And then I remember, we had something like an episode of Finding Your Roots happen with us more than once!  Here's part 1....

Paul's Birth

My brother and I are Irish twins - 355 days apart - so I remember nothing about his birth.  My parents tell a story though, that when he was born, my Dad's foster Mom looked at him and told my Dad he should really investigate his ancestry.  Why?  My Dad was a foster child.  He became a ward of the government when he was 5 and his mother was no longer considered fit to care for him.  His father wasn't in the picture.  So why would my brother's birth suddenly bring this up?  It seemed my brother looked completely different than me when he was born.  I was fair and blue eyed.  He apparently had almost black hair and dark brown eyes.  Where would this come from?

40 Years Later...

Fast forward 40 years later.  My wife and our kids were visiting my parents, and my Mom asked our daughter what she was learning in school.  Our daughter answered that she was learning about the first nations people of Canada and was keenly interested in them.  She was so engrossed in learning about them that she told my Mom that she wished she could've been born into a first nation.  My Mom smiled and replied, 'Well, you know...' and launched into the story of my brother's birth, what we knew of my Dad's history, and the outside chance that there may be first nations blood in our family line on my Dad's side.  Kornelia was beside herself learning about this, and couldn't stop thinking about it for the rest of the day.

That evening when I was tucking her into bed she brought it all up again.  'Do you think we have some first nations blood in us, Daddy?' she asked.  'That would be so cool if we did...'  I agreed and helped her say her goodnight prayers.  Leaving her room, I wondered if perhaps, with so much information available on the internet, there might be a chance to find some clue or thread of my Dad's family history.  I decided to give a couple searches a whirl....

Knowing my Dad's full name, his birthdate, and the town in which he was born turned out to be the keys to a successful search.  I think a major God wink had something to do with it was well.  :-)  Within an hour, I had unmistakably discovered my Dad in a family tree line (from his real parents) stretching back to the mid-1700's - with several first nations grandmas!  I was beside myself with excitement and couldn't wait to share this news with my kids and my Dad.

Alex McKenzie

The most colourful character discovered in my Dad's history was a fellow named Alex McKenzie.  He is said to possibly be a relative of the explorer Sir Alexander MacKenzie, but there is no proof of that.  Born near Trios-Rivieres, Quebec, Alex was orphaned at 3 years old and sent back to Scotland to be educated and nurtured by his paternal relatives.  Later, back in Canada, Alex snowshoed across northern Alberta by himself, ending up in Peace River.  He worked there for the Hudsons Bay Company as a fur trader for 27 years.  Retiring from fur trading in 1888, he began farming in the area, and was well known for his stories of adventures and escapades as a fur trader in the north.  He died in 1919 from the Spanish flu at 76 years old.

Alex McKenzie - wearing his traditional fur trader outfit

The history I found even included a picture of Alex McKenzie!  Here he's wearing the typical coureur-de-bois outfit, formerly worn by all Hudson’s Bay Company employees and natives in the northern Alberta country – a blue blanket cloth mackinaw with cream blanket cloth cape and red trimmings, a turban cap to match and black pants with trimmings of Indian design.

Its About Identity

We all seem to have an innate desire that surfaces some time in our lives to understand where and whom we come from.  It can help give direction and confirmation to our own sense of purpose, destiny, and self-worth.  My daughter was ecstatic when she learned more about our family history and our roots here in North America.  She wanted to know as much as possible and find out if our first nations relations were close enough to get us any benefits (they weren't).  When I told my Dad about what I'd found of his family history, he was very reserved.  Understandably so, considering his life experience.  It took him a long time to warm up to the idea that he has a genuine family history with real blood relatives still living in the province.  

God knew that many people would struggle with their personal heritage and ancestry.  Wars, divorce, diseases, and other disasters are brutally efficient in wiping out traces of our histories.  In other situations, we'd prefer to forget what we know about those who preceded us.  For each of us, no matter the background situation, God offers a new life and a new heritage.  He says:

I can give you a new name if you will accept the gift of my Son.
Along with that is a fantastic, eternal inheritance I've prepared for you.
You will have a place at my table, and a room in my house.
You can call me 'Daddy'

(see John 3:16, John 14:3, Psalms 23, Revelation 2:17, Galatians 4:6)

Want to know more?  Contact me at netfocusconsulting@gmail.com

Click here for more true stories of God's protection and work in my life

Monday, January 30, 2023

The Names of God - El Shomri

God is my protector

Why am I writing about the names of God?   El Shomri, another name for God, means God is my protector.  While there is no specific instance of a person in the Bible calling God this name directly, it is used several times in the Psalms..

Psalm 31:20:  'In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues;  you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.'

Psalm 121:5-6:  'The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.'

So how have I seen God as my protector?

Experience #1: The Landslide

In the early spring of 1990, the Vancouver coast got a lot of rain - notably more than it usually gets.  I was a freshman, majoring in music at a college close to Abbotsford at this time.  The college was located up a hill in the small town of Clayburn, BC.  It poured so much one cold weekend that the road up to the college washed out.  There had been a significant landslide, and it was within walking distance of our dorm.  

Road Washout in Clayburn, BC
Road Washout at WPBC in Clayburn, BC

That afternoon couple of sophomores came up to the dorm, muddy all over.  They said there was some incredible mud - almost like quicksand - at the bottom of the landslide and it was 'pretty cool' to mess around it.  Being relatively young and inexperienced, I thought this sounded like a bunch of fun.  I changed into some throw-away cloths and headed down with them to the slide.  Sure enough, it was quite muddy down there and the mud was deep.  One could easily sink dangerously low if not careful.  We spent the better part of 45 minutes down there exploring the slide.  

S.A. and G.D playing with me in the mudslide
S.A and G.D playing with me in the mudslide

What I didn't think about until decades later was what a dangerous position we put ourselves in playing in the mud at the bottom of the slide.  Very often (particularly if the rain keeps up) a secondary slide can happen.  We would've been directly in its path and would've stood no chance in getting to safety.  Maneuvering in that mud was slow and painstaking work.  God protected us in our youthful ignorance there that day.

Experience #2: Kamikaze Deer

Fast-forward 15 years to 2005.  Our family was on a trip from Calgary to Edmonton to celebrate a new business contract I had just signed.  We always prayed for God's protection before we left on longer driving trips like this, and on this trip was saw Him answer quite tangibly.

After praying, the kids settled in the backseat of our Honda Accord and we left.  The speed limit on that freeway between Calgary and Edmonton is 110km/hr and we were going at least that fast.  :-)  We had just crested a long hill and had a beautiful view as we continued north.  This particular day, the view happened to include a herd of deer sprinting from the west side of the highway, intent on crossing the highway and making their way east.  

I noticed them from a long way off and continued speeding north, confident that they would pass some distance in front of us, which they did.  Unseen until too late was a straggler to their group.  This deer's life mission was to catch up to its buddies.  I didn't expect the deer to be so single-minded, so I kept moving.  Our trajectories met - the deer realizing this before me, jumped and managed to mostly hurtle the car.  The car grazed its legs as it flew over our roof.  This caused the deer to fall when it landed.  It quickly got up and followed its friends east.  I continued north with a good shot of adrenaline and a lot of questioning from my wife.  The car had a hardly noticeable bump on the roof and an absent radio antenna after that.  God really protected us there.

Experience #3: Post-Covid Flying

In the last 5 months, I've done a bunch of flying - some personal and some business.  I've logged close to 20,000 miles on 12 flights through/to 7 airports in 6 countries.  There have been lots of Covid strains in the air during that time, many of them 'more virulent and contagious'  than before.  To my chagrin, I've sat beside people who have coughed halfway across the continent.  We've prayed for God's protection as we've travelled and we haven't gotten sick.  I genuinely see that as God's protection as the planes, airports, and security lines are always crowded with few people wearing masks.

My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022 - God's Protection
My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Wasted Life? Journal Entry Jan 2023

Growing up, I was keenly aware that my life should mean something.   Multiple sources encouraged me to avoid 'wasting time' and 'wasting money' etc.  Days were busy - school, basketball, volleyball, concert band, stage band, piano lessons and practice, part-time jobs...  I had a litany of activities to ensure my time and my resources weren't wasted.  

As an adult, the acute desire to avoid wasting my life hasn't dwindled.  But marital, career, and family responsibilities easily obfuscate (or at the very least, add complexity) to what it means to avoid 'wasting my life.'  What makes a life meaningful?  Whose definition of 'a meaningful life' should we follow to ensure that our life isn't wasted and holds value?

This train of thought and line of questioning came to the fore this week when our worship band decided to read a five day devotional together (online) called 'Don't Waste Your Life.'  We were doing this together through The Bible App.  Its formatted so you can read the devotion along with some scripture, and then comment together on it online.  

To say I struggled with the prose in this set of devotions would be putting things mildly.  The phrasing of the thoughts comes across very strong and decisive.  I actually found when I finished reading a devotion, my own thoughts and feelings were in complete turmoil and upheaval.  I frankly felt like I didn't measure up and my life wasn't good enough.  The devotions had sentences like: 

'The wasted life is the life without passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.' 

'The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.'

'If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right.  To run from it is to waste your life.' 

I believe the turmoil and upheaval I felt was not positive. If the author intentionally wrote this way to challenge believers to action (to avoid wasting their lives) he/she was quite successful.  I would argue that the author took their 'writing license' too far.  How can I live like this, in this day in age, in a 'secular' IT job the demands my attention and careful thought most of the day?  Never mind the familial demands on my attention and time when I am done work for the day.

The author tried to speak to this in the last devotion, saying things like: 'Secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8-5' and 'Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.'  I just couldn't get over everything else that was said, and the voice it was written in.  So absolute, confident, and binding.  I wouldn't be able to live up to this author's expectations without feeling condemned all the time.

Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

I'm tired of having to sift through devotions like this after trying to live my life for God.  How does this author live?  Does their life line up to these broad, sweeping, absolute, theological statements?  Have they ever worked in a secular job?  Does their spouse think the author's life aligns with what their writing?  How do I know?  If I don't feel joyful, do I have to manufacture or synthesize joy or risk living a wasted life for the day?  Bottom line - I find it challenging (read irritating) to submit my heart to strong teaching like this when I can't see it lived out in front of me.

Of course I don't want to waste my life.  I want to live for God, and seek him first.  I want to 'do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly' with him, 'making it my ambition to live a simple life' and 'give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for me.'  My understanding is that the fruits of the spirit (love, joy peace, patience, etc.) should be natural by-products of a healthy relationship with God, not a compulsion based on some strongly worded paragraphs.  I don't want to be so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good.  I want to be able to act and communicate with people without them thinking I'm a weirdo.  

Matthew 9:36 'When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.'

Matthew 11:28-30. 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'


Monday, November 28, 2022

The Names of God - Jehovah Shalom

Jehovah Shalom - God is my peace.

Another verse that has been continually returning to my thoughts over the past year or so is Philippians 4:6-7  'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'  God wants me to live in peace - without anxieties or concerns.  

This is an outstanding promise, and one I find utterly challenging to take advantage of.  Its so easy to get worried, anxious, and concerned about a multitude of things.  The most tangible example for me currently is when we have thunderstorms in the summer.  I used to love thunderstorms as a kid.  Now that I have a house of my own and experienced some intense prairie thunderstorms with hail that shattered windows and stripped the vinyl siding off of nearby houses, I actually get physically anxious when an extreme storm is forecasted for our area - my heart beats faster, adrenaline kicks in, and I can't stay seated.

God doesn't want me to feel like this!  He wants me to 'cast all my cares upon Him, because He cares for me.'  There are times (like in the middle of a thunderstorm) where I have to sit down and consciously focus and meditate on these promises to release my anxiety.  

Etymology

Gideon gave God the name Jehovah Shalom.  Gideon's life was fear filled up until that point.  He claimed his family as the smallest and weakest family of the smallest and weakest tribe in Israel.  And Israel was the smallest and weakest nation around.  God found Gideon anxiously threshing wheat in a winepress because he was afraid his enemies will find him and steal it.  And when he realized Who showed up to talk to him, he was afraid for his life because 'I have seen the Lord face to face!'  God replied 'Peace. Do not be afraid.  You are not going to die.'  This exchange clearly had a profound impact on Gideon because he built an altar there and called it 'The Lord is Peace' - Jehovah Shalom.

Application

My quality of living is so much better when I've given all my worries, anxieties, and concerns to God.  He doesn't want me to just leave it at that though.  God wants me to share this lighter living with others who are still weighed down.  I'm reminded of St. Francis of Assisi's prayer:

"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offence, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.
Where there is error, let me bring truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.
O Master, let me not seek as much
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
for it is in giving that one receives,
it is in self-forgetting that one finds,
it is in pardoning that one is pardoned,
it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life."
Photo by Colton Duke on Unsplash

Why am I writing about the names of God?

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Names of God - El Roi

El Roi - God sees me.  

Our church is doing a sermon series this summer called 'This Verse Changed My Life.'  One of the verses that had a significant impact on my this year is Genesis 16:13 'Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, El-Roi; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?”'  

Hagar - Sarah's (Abraham's wife) servant - gave God this name after she ran away from Sarah.  She was distraught, emotional, and pregnant.  God promised her things would work out for her and her son if she returned to Sarah.  Hagar clearly had special moment with God because in giving him this name I believe she was saying, 'You understand me.  You see the full spectrum of my life experience - you know and perceive me.  Thank you for seeing me and my predicament and meeting me where I'm at.'

I Am Seen

I was personally encouraged when this story and name El Roi was re-illuminated for me again this year.  Honestly, for the impact its had on me, 'personally encouraged' sounds weak.  God sees/perceives/recognizes me - every part of my life.  He knows where I've been, all my past experiences, my current situation, when I feel overlooked or ignored or taken advantage of, and all my foibles, faults, frailties, fickleness, and fears.  He groks the entire context of my life, understands who I am, the promise of my life, my potential, and wants to encourage me, too.  Remembering this is an immense comfort for me. 

Nathanael had a similar experience the first time he met Jesus.  In an instance he flip-flopped from being super skeptical to being a completely sold out, convinced follower of Jesus after Jesus said '...I saw you under the fig tree...'  at the end of John chapter 1.  What would make Nathanael do such an about face?  Like his Father, Jesus truly sees and people recognize that.

The names of God - El Roi - God Sees Me. Do I see others?
Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Isn't being seen a foundational human desire?  It certainly seem to be for me.  I often find myself longing to be genuinely perceived, understood, recognized, and known by someone - particularly people in authority that I admire.  When I let the truth that God sees (and has seen) everything about me sink into my soul though, it changes me.  I'm not as frustrated when I'm interrupted.  I'm not as disappointed when I'm overlooked, misunderstood, or forgotten.  I am seen, heard, and understood by the One who matters most.

Application

God doesn't want me to just be comforted by this realization.  He wants me to live it out, be his ambassador, and truly see others as He does.  I need to slow down, pause, and sincerely consider other's perspective, experiences and context in life beyond me.  Then further, make them aware that they are seen too.

Why am I writing about the names of God?

The Names of God

The Names of God

I loosely try and use the Lord's prayer as a model in the morning for my own prayers - at least lately.  See this link for previous prayer patterns I've practiced (love that alliteration).  More specifically, I've been considering who God says He is - how He's revealed His greatness through His name to me personally - and thanking Him for that.  Hallowed (or great) be Your Name...  I've found this combination of thankfulness and remembering His greatness to me particularly potent in a positive way.

The Bible actually focuses a lot on God's names.  Often there are phrases like 'bless the name of the Lord', 'for your namesake' and, like above 'hallowed be Your Name.'  Names carry an enormous significance in the Bible.  Many of the different names of God in the Bible came from different people's experiences with God and actual 'revelations' they had of who God is.  Essentially they're saying 'I experienced the living God in this way...'  

As I consider the kaleidoscope of all the different names of God from the Bible, I find God is ready and more than able to meet my needs for living, anywhere, anytime.  God the Seer, God of ages, God the healer, God my peace, God with me, God of all comfort, God the provider, God my hope and protector, etc.

So what are some of the names of God that I remember and I'm specifically thankful for?

The names of God - a view above the clouds
Photo by Taylor Van Riper on Unsplash




Saturday, October 15, 2022

A Father's Fear - Kids & Accidents

 Have you even been in a situation where you're watching an event unfold right in front of you, and the person involved in that event is going to get hurt, potentially badly, and there's nothing you can do to help them?  There isn't enough time for prevention, you're half aghast that the event is actually happening, and all you can do is observe while your stomach drops to your toes.  You hardly even have time to murmur a quick prayer:  'Oh God...'

I had events happen like this with each of our kids when they were younger - one with Kornelia, and one with Erik.  Fortunately, God protected both of them from getting seriously hurt in both circumstances.  Here's what happened...

Flying Like Peter Pan

Did you ever get confused as a kid with the brakes on a bike?  I think like most people, Kornelia's first bike had brakes in the pedals.  Then, when when she got a bigger bike, the brakes moved up to the handle bars.  Trying to stop that bigger bike with the pedals doesn't work very well, AT ALL.  I think this may have happened to Kornelia...

I took the kids for lots of bike rides when they were younger.  Calgary has lots of great paved biking paths.  One summer Saturday when Kornelia was about 11 or 12,  I took her for a pretty good ride - maybe 10 kms or so.  On the way back, the route I chose had a rather steep hill on it.  There were two routes down - one was paved and zig-zagged down the hill so it wasn't so steep.  The other route was a trail that went straight down the hill, intersecting the paved path at a couple of points.  

I went down the hill first and took the straight path.  I thought Kornelia would take the paved path, but she didn't.  I looked up in shock to see her coming straight down the path I'd just ridden.  The steep decline accelerated her quickly and she panicked, forgetting where her brakes were.  I might have yelled, 'Use your brakes!' but if I did, she didn't hear it.  She rocketed down to the bottom of the hill as I watched, transfixed and terrified.   

The bottom of the hill was immediately flat, but there were numerous obstacles:  A garbage can held solid with a cement foundation; a large boulder to prevent vehicles from driving up from the road; and large bushes all around.  I had no idea how she'd manage to navigate around these obstructions or where she would go.  Everything unfolded in slow motion for me.

God's protection - bike wipeout and swing fall

When Kornelia and her bike hit the bottom of the hill, she launched off her bike and flew like Peter Pan.  I believe God's angels were there giving her an extra guiding push, because she flew quite a distance (several metres) into a large wild rose bush.  The bush was so thick it broke her fall, but scratched her a fair bit.  

I nearly pee-ed my pants.  I shook with adrenaline as I helped extricate her from the bush.  God absolutely protected her from serious injury in that situation.  She walked away from that accident with scratches from the rose bush.

Click here for more true stories of God working in my life

Back Flip Off a Swing

Erik was about 4 or 5 when we went to a nearby playground after supper.  It was winter and the sky was already dark. It wasn't too cold though, and we'd had some significant snow recently so it seemed like a fine evening to get some outside activity and fresh air.  Erik was bundled up in a snowsuit, mittens, and a toque.   

After horsing around on some of the more interesting apparatus in the playground, Erik asked if I could push him on the swing.  I helped him on and gave him some pushes.  Being a typical boy, he requested 'Higher, Dad!'  So I pushed him higher.  I imagine the combination of his clumsy mittens and the frost on the chains didn't help Erik's grip. When the swing reached its full forward amplitude, Erik lost his grip on the swing chains and plummeted down.   

Again, for the duration of that fall, everything was in slow motion.  I watched frozen - literally and figuratively - as Erik flipped backwards off the swing and landed headfirst on the ground.  Immediately I thought, 'Can he feel his feet?' and 'Is he conscious?'  I ran over to see how he was.

God cushioned his fall!  He was stunned, his neck was sore, and I think the fall knocked the wind of him, but he was OK otherwise.  But he was no longer interested in playing outside that evening.

"He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully"  Luke 4:10

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

New Every Morning - Journal Entry Sept 2022

As I've grown older, I begin to recognize patterns and attitudes in my daily living that I didn't pay attention to when I was younger.  For example, I've noticed if I haven't exercised in a while and then a do some intense cardio where I'm breathing hard, the next day or two will find me coughing up phlegm a fair bit.  Its not a cold, my lungs are 'cleaning up'. 

Another example I've noticed is that some evenings when I'm very tired - particularly after a more intense day - my attitude suffers.   My thoughts tend to get quite negative and brooding.  I can be grumpy with others, and I find it much easier to blame God for things and wonder negatively about my station and position in life.

God's Mercies are New Every Morning

But then...  I've also discovered this other amazing thing:  I can go to sleep and wake up in the morning feeling and believing that 'its a new day with new opportunities and new hope!'  I also find it easier to forgive other people and the issues I had with them from yesterday.  I believe God gives me this gift most mornings - I'm able to see my life with a renewed, refreshed perspective.  

Morning sunrise - God's mercies are new every morning
Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

This might sound a bit silly.  And yes, there are mornings where I definitely get out of the wrong side of the bed and I'm grumpy.  However, for me this 'hope and grace' in the morning is a tangible proof of what the prophet Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:22-23:  

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

God's grace and mercy is new every morning, for us!  I want to continue to try and receive and embrace it, whether I feel like it or not.  Will you, too?

Friday, September 30, 2022

David & The Ark of the Covenant - August 2022 Journal Entry

 Our church is doing a Summer sermon series where different members share about 'This Verse Changed My Life.'  After the very first sermon, I considered which verse that might be for me, and immediately my mind went to 2 Samuel 6:14.  "...and David danced before the Lord with all his might..."  In fact, I've previously written a blog post (click here to read it) about why that verse impacts me so much.

The week after the first sermon in this series was shared, I couldn't get the idea of sharing about my own verse out of my head.  I texted the pastor to see if there would be a possibility of fitting me in the summer schedule.  It turned out that the schedule was full, but when the pastors found out which verse I wanted to share about, they wanted to squeeze me in.  I was pretty excited to be given 5-10 minutes to share in a service.  My shorter talk required me having to 'edit out' several interesting thoughts I had about David's relationship with God and God's heart for us.  I'll share those things in two blog posts - this one below, and this one I wrote earlier.

Bringing the Ark Home

In this previous post about the closing lines of Psalm 23, I talk about the value and importance a shepherd must put on a dwelling place to rest.  A shepherd back then would've spent all their time in the elements, keeping a watchful eye out for their sheep.  It was a 24/7 job with not a lot of comfort.  Coming back home to an actual dwelling with good shelter would be like a vacation for a shepherd. 

Should we be surprised then, when David's first priority after becoming king is to build a house for God?  Or, when God denies David that chance, David still does what he can to bring the Ark of the Covenant close to him and the protection of his home in Jerusalem?  Up to this point, the Ark had been on a rather nomadic (sometimes eventful - see 1 Samuel chapters 4-7) journey.  The shepherd in David wanted to put that past to rest - literally and figuratively.

Doing the Right Thing the Right Way

That's probably why he didn't stall very long after the tragedy of the death of Uzzah on his first try bringing the Ark into Jerusalem (see 2 Samuel 6).  Something like that would have definitely made me pause for a long time and question "Did I do the right thing?  Was it a mistake to move the Ark?"  I'm not sure David was even asking that question - I think he somehow knew in his shepherd's heart the getting the Ark to Jerusalem was the right thing to do.  So he started an investigation into "What did we do wrong?" and discovered that they weren't moving the Ark the correct way.

Interestingly, sandwiched around this story in 2 Samuel are a couple of stories where David is planning battles against enemies and the first questions he asks before doing anything are "Will God give us victory?  If so, what's the correct way to go about getting the victory?"  Unfortunately, he neglected apply this same line of questioning when moving the Ark.  

Where in my life did I do the right thing, but the wrong way?  Sigh.  I'm so thankful for grace and forgiveness because there are a litany of situations where I have managed this effortlessly.  Numerous times I haven't been a tactful communicator.  I tried to communicate the 'right thing' but unfortunately accomplished my goal in an insensitive manner and hurt/offended people.  Several times I've been onstage playing an instrument and either had to volume turned too high, the wrong sound patch configured, or played the wrong chord/notes and ended up creating an atmosphere of acute disharmony and cacophony.  Recently, I fell off my mountain bike while biking and braced my fall like I was landing on snow (as I skied for many years) instead of hard ground.  Oops.  The result?  A small pelvic fracture that makes it uncomfortable to sit weeks later.

I need to pause, reflect, and seek God's opinion before acting, speaking, and making weighty decisions.  

The Significance of the Ark

As I considered the significance of the Ark in this story, I was struck with the difference in what the Ark meant to David versus most other people at that time.  To David, the Ark signified the presence of God.  David wanted to build a physical temple to house the Ark.  He wanted it close to him, precious, protected. To the rest of the nation of Israel, it seemed to be more of a tool to be used to accomplish victory - the power of God.  It was a tool used in battle to try and assure victory.

Ark of the Covenant - God's presence or power?

Examining my own life, why do I seek and follow God?  Is it for His presence, or His power?  Definitely a sobering line of questioning.  I think the 'fruit' in my life - how do I react/respond to various circumstances - provides me with some answers.  When things go well, am I giving God the credit, thankfully rejoicing?  And when life is disappointing, am I blaming God, or happy that He's giving me an opportunity to become more patient and graceful (like Him)?  

David dances because his heart is in the right place.  He's thankfully rejoicing that the Ark is coming back to Jerusalem - home, close to him, and a place to rest.  It had lost its place as Israel's spiritual centre, but David, with God's help, was bringing it back.  Being a man after God's heart, he was ecstatic to see it coming back to its rightful place.  

God's Provision With Work

God is Our Provider - Jehovah Jireh In the post linked here I talk about how Abraham gave God the name of Jehovah Jireh because he had a pr...