Embassy of Love

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19-20

Have you ever considered yourself an Ambassador for the Kingdom? When people ask what you do, have you ever considered answering, “I am an Ambassador?” And when they raise their eyebrows at you, you continue, “for the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I don’t know Ludmilla, but guess she may answer that way! Watch why…

What is an Ambassador?

A bible study I am currently in describes an ambassador as “a dignitary whose full-time job is to live for a period in a foreign land, intentionally building relationships with the people native to the land and purposefully representing to those people the desires of his king or sovereign and is given authority to speak and act on his behalf. Adapted from Chris Patton.”

How are we Ambassadors?

We are living in a foreign land until God calls us home. While we are here we represent  our Sovereign King. We live purposely by continuing the work of Jesus through the work of the Spirit that transforms our character and guides our steps. We are called to reflect God’s goodness and speak of His love.

Often I can get wrapped up in my wonderings of what my purpose is. Yet, God has it already laid out in His word!

Have you ever considered yourself as an Ambassador of God’s Kingdom? What resonated for you in Ludmilla’s story?

But you are chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 

Love Holds No Record of Wrong

(Originally posted on 2016 but a timeless message of love).

In our human world, it is natural to want to have rules to follow, laws to live up to, yet is that what God calls us to? Are His ways the ways of the world? Does He call us to follow the way of rules to become worthy of being complete in Him?

I tried to find my own words to answer these questions with what I think is truth but Paul’s words say it so much superior.

What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. Galatians 2:20-21 The Message

I’m struggling friends, of what to write, as there is so much here to unpack! It is the foundation for understanding how much we are loved without needing to ‘impress God.’ It is through this love, our identity in Him, we no longer are  ruled  by our egos, others opinions of us, and our human vulnerabilities. And we are free to love ourselves and others as Jesus loves who keeps no records of wrong.

(Love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

When we grasp this understanding that we are already complete in Christ, loved wholly and unconditionally, we no longer need to be loved by anything else in this world. Often our hurts, offences made against us are from expectations we have on others on how we think we should be treated. Our identity gets wrapped up in our attachment to how others satisfy our egos. So when others do not live up to our own expectations, our character feels attacked, and we take offence. We become afraid and build our walls of defence.

In other words we become a slave to others opinions and treatment of us.

The Way

But Jesus showed us a Way out of this entrapment to freedom. He showed us how to love.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:24

They do not know what they are doing. No judgement, no unmet conditions, just Perfect Love seeing the brokenness in his offenders, and keeping no record of the wrong. Instead, He rose and came back into a world that crucified Him because He loves us that much!

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When we grasp this understanding of this perfect love He has for us, where there is no condemnation, no-need to please or make-up for our transgressions, we begin to love ourselves as the Father loves us, freeing us to let-go of any need to be loved and treated a certain way to feel okay in this world. And in that way we free others too, from our own judgement and conditions. This leads us to take no offence and casts out our fears of being vulnerable because we are complete in Christ, and fully loved just as we are now.  We can then take that understanding of God’s love for us and return that same love out to the world.

The Promise

Friends, I don’t pretend to know it all. Paul’s words again express this so much more superior than mine.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

Camp on these words for a moment-Christ Jesus took hold of me. He’s got you, looking out for you, because of who He is-Perfect Love.

And how can we understand His perfect Love that holds no record of wrong, that does not take offence and extends only grace? I believe only through the Holy Spirit, asking our eyes and heart to be opened to Our Good Father.

Open the Eyes of My Heart-Michael W Smith

 

 

Lessons of (new, real) life

 

sky (35 of 1)Set your mind and keep focused habitually on the things above [the heavenly things], not on things that are on the earth [which have only temporal value]. For you died [to this world], and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3: 2-3 AMP

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One summer vacationing in Vancouver, BC, with my daughter and two grandchildren, I found myself slowly stepping across the 450 ft (137m) long, 230 ft (70m) high Capilano Suspension Bridge.  Looking down, one hand gripped the twisted metal rail, the other held my camera tightly against my chest. People passed me, some whose quick steps swayed the bridge causing me to step even more slowly while muttering to myself that never again would I do this! Heights swell fear within me. Somehow my imagination sees me misstepping and falling, even though realistically I am safe and secure.

Once across I am in a 27 acre park of coastal rainforest where Western Red Cedar, Douglas Firs, and Western Hemlock trees grow among the delicate ground forest plants. My young grandson runs behind a tree and the trunks circumference hides him from our sight. But we know he is there.  We call out to him, and he comes back into our vision. He holds my hand securely as we step along the paths carved through this forest.

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When our minds play out scenes from our fears, we loose sight of the presence where we are now safe and secure. When life events cause our steps to be uneven and we try to fix our struggles in our own strength, we grow weary and worrisome.  I’ve been in a season of uncertainty experiencing the fears and worrisome mind. What I saw of as my security seemed to be dwindling away and a broken wrist deprived me of my regular exercise and photography pursuits.  I could say I sailed through looking up to heavenly things as Colossians 3:3 teaches, however keeping it real, I hid myself in a lot of Netflix and slept much more than usual!

We can’t hide.

Even when trying to hide behind screens and under covers, God though, knew where I was, always. And like my grandson unseen behind that tree trunk but known by us, his mom and grandma, nothing is large enough to  hide behind to not be known by God.

So the beginning of this 2020 has been like walking a swaying suspended bridge. Letting go of my grip and keeping my head up with hope and trust, and learning–learning the lessons (some of them the hard ones!) along the way.

My verse for this year is Roman’s 12:12-13 

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Have you a verse for the year? Or a verse that gives you hope during troubled times?

A Breath for Joyful Gifts

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

I do like to give gifts. Gifts is my love language! And in receiving…yes, I love that too, especially when the gift shows that I am known.

Treasured Gifts

What I have learned about the treasured gifts to Jesus from the Magi;

Gold: Gold is valuable, beautiful, and long-lasting. Scholars generally agree that the gift of gold represented Jesus as a king with an everlasting throne. It was a treasure befitting royalty.

Frankincense: An acknowledgement of Jesus’ priesthood, setting him apart from a typical king. Frankincense was used in the temple routines, burned ceremonially by the priests. Not native to that region made obtaining frankincense costly so was precious in both meaning and value.

Myrrh: A spice for a person who is about to die foreshadowing Jesus’ sacrifice.

And myrrh mixed with frankincense comprises an antimicrobial aromatic substance used to fight disease–practical way to protect Jesus when he was young!

Such precious, thoughtful gifts!

How do we choose?

As we come into the season with mail boxes stuffed with shopping flyers, an abundance of emails advertising gifts to purchase, and doorbells ringing from charity ambassadors, may we pause with breath to allow frenzy consumerism to drift away and the Holy Spirit’s voice to direct our choices.

For, like the wise men, we each have unique gifts to bring that are long-lasting, encouraging, teaching, healing and joyful to those we love.

Do you have a special gift-giving tradition at Christmas?


Idea on sustainable holiday shopping


Update on my broken wrist–I don’t need surgery! So, in about 6 weeks, I hope to be lifting my camera & start capturing nature spaces to share here again.

A slippery lesson of trust

Who knew my last post Being Alert in the Comfortable, with the tagline, “Even the most  noble can slip,” would be illustrated with my own slip a few days later.

After carefully (still not very skillfully, although improving)  practicing the ice skating elements taught by our coach, I slipped. But not on the ice-rink. Instead, my feet came out from under me while casually walking to my car, the parking lot icy from the warming and cooling temperatures upon the snow.

Waiting 

So, I type with one hand while adorning a cast on my other arm to stabilize a broken wrist. A green cast with a couple of red stripes. At least I match the upcoming festive season.

What’s fascinating is that I was about to take on a life turn, stop on one road and take another. Now I need to wait as if behind a guard rail while the train passes by.

I can pound the steering wheel in frustration, or cry with fear as the changes I hoped to help support my future roll away.

Trusting

Or I can wait expectantly, trusting.

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:25

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Adventure On-Hold

My seeking adventures to photograph winter wildlife including owls is now on-hold, too. But I have wanted to learn still photography with indoor lighting…. You may see my new adventure here as soon as next week, God willing! In the meantime, a couple from previous adventures!

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Being alert in the comfortable

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His look of surprise did not deter me. I looked back down at my check book to continue writing the amount he had just verbally told me.

“You know ma’am, you can’t pay me the fine directly. You have to mail it in,” he said passing the yellow slip of paper through my car window.

Check written, I tossed it on the passenger seat along with the traffic ticket. “I know,” I told him. “Just want to deal with it now so it’s over and done with.”

“Well…” he shook his head slightly, stood up straight. “I must admit that’s a first. Someone paying the ticket before it’s even written.”

I considered his thin, greying hair and assumed his rookie days as a police officer were long ago.

“Glad to give you a first then today,” I said, eyebrows raised, slightly smiling.

Once again driving, my seat belt now secured around me, I thought how unfortunate I was to get a seat belt violation only a three minute drive my home. I deserved it though as I was guilty.

And  isn’t that how it often can be? We can ease up on the rules, press the boundaries to the limit, often in those places where we’ve become very comfortable?

Oh, my friend, I definitely have walked to the edge of boundaries. And fell.

Fallen into a messy heap of consequences.

King David’s Messiness

King David too, found himself in a messy heap of consequences when he messed in an area he had no business being in. Instead of going to war in the springtime with his army, he chose to stay home. And walking one evening his eyes wandered beyond the boundary of his palace roof to another roof where the beautiful Bathsheba bathed. He summoned her; he got her pregnant; he got her husband killed, and his son died at just 7 days old.

A string of consequences started in the comfort place of his palace home.

A slip out of  a boundary may seem innocent. In David’s case, seeing a beautiful lady on a walk in a familiar place was an innocent activity.  But when he took a further step, lingering on her beauty, he began get close to the edge where it is harder to turn back.

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He may have felt he could handle himself and would not slip into sin. Or maybe that he deserved the pleasure of Bathsheba,  after all his hard work on battle field.

Why We Break Our Moral Boundaries

Pride. Self-sufficiency. Sense of entitlement. Lust. All of these can lead to actions that take one over the edge. And when one boundary is broken, it’s easier to break another, then another. And be quickly swept away like falling into a river’s current.

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Believe me, sisters and brothers, I’ve been there. Once it wasn’t until I physically removed myself away from a situation, that the fall broke. And one of the most important lessons (and humbling) I learned:

No one is above temptation. Anyone, even the most righteous like King David, can fall. Click to Tweet

God Helps Us Not Slip Over The Edge

But God gives us the help we need when we stay in the boundaries of His words.

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:23-27).

And seat belts are best to clipped into place before you start driving!

The Adventure Continues

As per my last post regarding starting my winter search for owls, still seeking! Here are a few shots, though, of those smaller creatures in our woodlands.

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Linked up today at SoarPatriciaHolbrook_RW_button3A-e1485727161169ing With Him

The adventure around the corner…literally!

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“You’ve been out on adventures, I see,” said my friend. We sat at a high table, our lunches ordered, and catching up during a long overdue visit.

I guessed he was referring to my pictures I’d shared on social media, mainly of forest and prairie lands, some of old farm houses and wheat fields.

I didn’t want to disappoint him but I also needed to be honest.

“I’ve been taking photos just around the corner, actually!” I explained. “About 20 minutes down the highway from my house. Some at a park and some at a tourist historical site.”

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He lights up as he starts telling me about his hour walk just the other day that took him into wetlands he didn’t even know existed, even though he’d lived and worked in the area over 20 years.

His adventure just around the corner from where he lives.

Facebook pictures of friends in far away places, emails from travel bloggers, and overheard stories in coffee shops of warm places can make our hearts and minds discontent.  We become aware of what we think we are missing out on, and our awareness starts to focus on where we are not rather than where we are.

Thankfully God created our minds to change.

It’s our choice, though.

For awhile now uncertainties around finances had me choose to stay closer to home. Believe me I wasn’t pleased about that at all especially when my sisters flew off to their Ireland and Scotland adventure (that was my idea in the first place)!

And sometimes my mind did wander to poor me…

So I began to ask myself what adventures can I take myself on closer to home that are affordable and new?

Once the focus shifted to where I am, my list of places to explore exploded along with new (and always wanted to try) activities. It’s probably going to take me a couple of years to get through them all!

One of those activities is to find owls! So far I’ve photographed chickadees and hiding wood peckers, but still have a list of places to explore and seek for birds of prey. So if you are patient with me, I’ll be taking you on my owl seeking journeys.

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And borrowing the words of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz “There’s no place like home,” is there?

What places near you have you yet to explore? Or activities still to try?

If in a place and time where travel and activities seem limited (and I know those times are tough), I pray God shows you the delight that’s in the very corners of your present places, filling your mind and heart with contentment.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12:13

 

 

 

 

A Breath of Wind & Reading

Sometimes you can come across a passage of words in books that leave you breathless…
“He had seen it often, from the verandah of his uncle’s farmhouse, or at the end of a long street, but till now he had never heard it. The hollowing hum of telephone wires along the road, the ring of hidden crickets, the stitching sound of grasshoppers, the sudden relief of a meadow lark’s song, were deliciously strange to him.”
― W. O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind

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Psalm 19:1-6

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
 There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
 Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

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On Friday, my blog-friend, lovely Linda, is starting her On-line Fall Book Club. Click the link to find out what book is chosen!

Linda Stoll-I’d Rather Be Reading Book Club

Have you read passages in books that left you breathless? If so, what is your favourite?

A homesteader’s teachings-# FMF

This post is part of Link-up-Five Minute Friday

This week’s word prompt-DEEP. 

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She greets us within her clay hut, the light so dim I cannot see the colour of her eyes even though it is midday. She tells us she is a neighbour taking care of her friend’s five children while she goes to town to buy a few goods. Her friend’s husband is away, you see, she explains, harvesting deep in the fields. I look around. One double-sized cot covered with a tattered quilt takes up half the space on the dirt floor. A clay stove, and the wooden chair where the woman sits wearing a cotton printed dress and wool mittens, are the other furniture pieces in this place that is not much more spacious than my bedroom in my home not too far away.

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She’s playing her part well, this woman actor at a historical village that teaches and reminds us of those that played a part in creating our prosperous province today.

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A family of seven had lived in this home deep in the Alberta prairie lands. They sculpted clay to form their home walls and chopped what wood they could find to keep warm during the harsh winters. It was the late 1800’s when free farm land in Canada became a draw to move away from their home land of Ukraine.

This Monday is our Thanksgiving in Canada. And I’m in awe and grateful for those early homesteaders who farmed, and harvested, and helped on the railway, and created an economy for those that followed them to flourish and grow.

And I’m also grateful for the deep-dish Apple Pie I bought at their bakery shop that day!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

Read more posts inspired by DEEP at Five Minute Friday

 

 

Breath of Contentment

My brother ‘n law loves to fish. After he and my sister secure their fifth wheel for another weekend at a lake campground, he’s soon seen steering the electric motor of their inflatable boat to a cove where the fish most likely are to be. He is a catch and release fisherman. And so content that my sister, generally after he’s been gone a minimum of four hours, will try to catch his attention by waving her arms from the shore. And often he does not see her, so wrapped up in the moment of fishing with no regard of how much time has gone by.

In the meantime, and perfectly understandable, my sister thinks he should be back at the campsite after a certain amount of time. And I sympathize with her. Yet, I also am inspired by my brother ‘n law and his ability to not ‘should’ himself into the next thing. Instead he catches and releases moments, reacting to both the tug and slack of his fishing line as they come–content with either.

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In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul teaches us how to be content even when we don’t have what we think we should have, or be where we think we should be.

 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

This summer I’ve had the opportunity to learn how to be content, however doing so I have not been as graceful as a casted fishing line. Instead, I’ve tugged with the “I wish that turned out different because…” or “I wish I could have afforded that vacation to…” or “I should be instead of….” And tension is created between the past and the future, instead of keeping me in the stillness of the present. So I hold on to these words of Paul too:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Pressing on is not letting go of what you hope for, however it is trusting God’s got you in your place for a purpose and to stay present with a heart of gratitude. What helped me over the summer is starting to write my gratitudes down daily (a habit I had stopped).  And, of course, included in these gratitudes are camping weekends with my sister and brother ‘n law!

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What circumstance is God wanting you to be content in?

And, if you are a camper, where is your favourite spot to go?