Not Just on New Year’s Day

20160101_114931 New Year’s Day – 2016 – a new year stretches ahead, full of potential.

Clean, untainted – like freshly fallen snow.

The good news is that every single day is like this! Not just January 1st, but each and every one of the 364 other days of the year will be new days.

Jeremiah, the writer of “Lamentations,” was going through awful times along with the whole nation of Israel.

He wrote:

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
And is bowed down within me
But this I call to mind
Therefore I have hope.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning,
     Great is Your faithfulness!”

May you have a wonderful year in 2016, and may you experience God’s steadfast love that never ceases, and His new mercies, new every morning.”

He is….

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who He is.

This post in not just for Believers, even though it is about God. It is for Atheists, Agnostics, and all kinds and degrees of believers in God.

If there is a Creator God, then He is who He is regardless of whether we’re okay with that or not, or whether we like some aspects of who He is and don’t like others.

“Remaking” Him to our specifications doesn’t change Him, and choosing not to believe in Him doesn’t change Him. He is who He is.

In fact, when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush to commission him to go back to his people and lead them out of their slavery in Egypt, and Moses asked God’s name, God told Moses His name is: “I am who I am.”  “Say this to the people of Israel,  ‘I Am’ sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

So who is God? “I am who I am”. He is who He is.

He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34 :6-7).

I was in a congregation once where the speaker had the congregation memorize this Biblical description of God minus the last phrase.

We seem to be fine with some of who God is “merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounds in steadfast love and faithfulness, forgiving sin”...but not one who “will by no means clear the guilty.”

But God is who He is however we feel about it.

And He is way slower to anger than we are. His steadfast, faithful, patient, forgiving love is quite amazing!

But there is also a point of wrath. He is slow to anger, in fact various psalmists ask “How long, O God is the foe to scoff?” and “Arise, O God, defend your cause, remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!” (Psalm 75: 10, 22).

To this psalmist, and to many other people, God was too slow to anger. But He does get there.

The thoughts for this blog began when I read these words in the first chapter of Nahum:

The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
   the Lord is avenging and wrathful;
   the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries
   and keeps wrath for his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
   and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.” (Nahum 1:2-3)

Those verses make me uncomfortable (even though I know that when God exhibits wrath, there is good reason, as verse 38 of Psalm 78 says, “Yet, He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained His anger often and did not stir up all His wrath.”

While some verses might make me uncomfortable, God is who He is and my being uncomfortable doesn’t change Him.

If I were suffering under the Nazis in a concentration camp, or undergoing torture under various other regimes, I might not mind these words so much.

In fact as a young girl, I appreciated when my father, who loved me very much, rose up in my defense when someone wronged me; whether it was my friend who threw my hat in the snow on a freezing winter day, or the time when, because a teacher wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom, I wet my pants.

Because of my father’s great love for me, there was his wrath against those who had acted against me.

God is who He is.

Nothing will change that. It is not helpful to live in the non-reality of thinking of Him other than who He is, trying to ignore the parts of Him that don’t suit us. It is not helpful to ignore Him and pretend He doesn’t exist.

The most beneficial thing we can do is to get to know God’s whole character…who He really is. This will affect our lives in innumerable positive ways.

 

Beautiful! Beautiful!

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(This post was written on July 3, 2015)

Yesterday I spent from sun-up to sun-down travelling to a city 4 1/2 hours away, attending my 100-year-old uncle’s funeral, burial, going to the shiva house (where relatives mourn) and making the return 4 1/2 hour return trip (with my son, bless him).

It was a good, sweet, and sad time on many levels.

I have a pile of responsibilities today and and although I don’t really have time to do so I felt compelled to take a walk at a beautiful park 20 minutes away.

I didn’t really have time for this walk, but I felt a strong need after my intense day yesterday, to make the time.

After walking for a while, I began to notice the beauty around me – not just the water, which is why I go to this particular park on the shore of the Ottawa River, but in the grass, the foliage, the flowers. Somehow even as I took a closer look, even the pavement that I was walking on had beauty in its varied shades and shapes in the concrete.

And I thought of my uncle, who passed away in my presence several days ago.

“Beautiful!” is a word he would often say. “Beautiful! Beautiful!” in his wonderful Jewish European accent that my children loved and would imitate to the best of their ability.

What was beautiful to my uncle? A person, music, many things actually. Uncle Sydney seemed to see beauty everywhere.

But where was the beauty in my uncle’s life the last couple of weeks? In his fall. In his pain. In his suffering. I looked. I looked. Had there been any beauty?

There was beauty in his loved ones being there for him – being there in the hospital with him to love him and ensure that he was taken care of. Beauty in that one special, extremely capable, caring, compassionate nurse in Emergency. Beauty that his beloved daughter was right there with him when he passed away.

Many people see the pain, the sorrow, the hardship of life. And that ugliness is there. My uncle saw the beauty.

May I encourage us all to look for the beauty. Find the beauty in your daily life – find it, enjoy it, be thankful for it.

“Beautiful! Beautiful!”

What are some beautiful things in your life?

 

Unplanned things

RobinChildhood_002_480“I’ve got a crazy idea,” my dad would say on occasion, musingly.

These few words would fill me with excitement: “What? What? Tell us, Daddy. What’s your ‘crazy idea?'”

It might be a drive along the Montreal lake shore, stopping for a picnic of Kentucky Fried Chicken; a drive up to Mount Royal Park or to get an ice cream at a special place we loved.

But whatever it was, it was spontaneous and special. It interrupted the scheduled flow of life. A good time was waiting to be had, when those words were spoken.

It is because I knew from experience that what usually followed my father’s words, “I have a crazy idea,” was something enjoyable that I reacted to them in such a positive way. I loved and trusted my father because I knew he loved me and had my (and the rest of my family’s) best interest at heart.

I have a heavenly Father whom I love and trust because I know He loves me and has my (and the rest of mankind’s) best interest in mind. He is sometimes referred to in the Bible as “The Rock” – He is stable and trustworthy and so even when unplanned things happen I can still be secure and positive and embrace life.

Beauty

My thoughts on beauty all started with breakfast. Three breakfasts to be exact. My husband Alan and I were staying at some friends, while involved in a homeschool conference in another city. And each of the three mornings we stayed there, our host served us a breakfast that was not only delicious, but also beautiful. A wonderful omelette along with fruit artistically laid out.

I was taking a walk just before setting out on our journey home (after eating the aforementioned breakfast) and I was thinking how the food I had just eaten was not only a feast for my palate, but for my eyes as well. Really a thing of beauty.

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As I was walking along, I was appreciating the beautiful blue sky, and then I became aware of a chorus of birds – more beauty for my eyes, for my ears.

There’s a line in a Rich Mullins song that came to mind, “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see, but everywhere I go, I’m looking” (From “Here in America”).

And I think it’s a good thing to do. Everywhere there is beauty, whether in nature (clouds, sky, trees, water, flowers, sand, fields)…

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In people (smiles, wisdom, warmth, support, encouragement, generosity)…

In smells (fireplaces, flowers, baking)…

Tastes (chocolate, coffee, freshly baked bread, chicken soup)…

Sounds (beautiful music, a baby’s laugh, birds in spring), o2015-02-06 18.04.04r touch (holding the hand of a loved one, hugs, cuddles)…

Sights (a beautiful dancer, gymnast, home run)…

I could write pages on how beauty is everywhere!

As the song says “There’s so much beauty around us for just two eyes to see, but everywhere I go, I’m looking.”

There is also ugliness and sorrow and tragedy in this world. But there IS beauty. And it, too, is everywhere. 2014-10-02 15.45.00

I want to do what I can to make a difference in this world. Several of my adult children are working full time in situations that are dark, such as Sarah working with extremely poor people in Haiti,  Joshua working with the organization, “Strength to Fight” against pornography, Daniel working against Human Trafficking and pornography, or Devorah working to stop the dismemberment of pre-born babies. So besides the news of devastating earthquakes, terrorism, and war, our family knows about darkness.

But the beauty is there as well. All around us. So I would encourage us all to “stop and smell the roses,” so to speak. That is, as you go about your day, notice the beauty that is everywhere. Appreciate it. Contribute to it. It only takes a smile.

Blowing My Mind

Robin_MindBlowing01_480Originally I had another title for this blog post. I would have called it “God Blows My Mind,” but frankly, I thought perhaps a title with the word “God” in it would cause atheists not to read it, and I didn’t want that.

I read the Bible daily; I talk about God;, I talk to God; but sometimes when I stop and actually think about God, it blows my mind!

I was at an intersection the other day when I had a “moment.” Do you ever have these moments? I looked at all the cars, all these people going from here to there, each one with their own story, their own family, their own life, and I was overwhelmed. And then multiply that by all the people in the world!

You see, on a daily basis I am preoccupied with my life, my family’s lives, and the people we come into contact with. I don’t on a regular basis think of everyone I know or have ever known and I certainly don’t think of each individual in the world. But when I do, when I stop to think of each individual as a person like me with their own lives, it blows my mind.

And then to think that God knows – and what’s more – cares for each individual!! – that takes faith and the reason it does is because we are not able to do that. And we tend to think of God as someone like us, just a bit more, like a super-hero.

Another possible title for this blog post was “Is Your God Too Small?” I think that some people react to this mind blowing glimpse of how vast this world is and the people in it by not believing in a God who is the Creator and sustainer of it all, because as I said, they imagine a deity only such as our human mind can fathom. And that God is just not big enough.

Others believe in God, but don’t take the time to contemplate His vastness and end up believing in a God that they “keep in their pocket,” figuratively speaking. Not unlike a genie, this god is there to serve them, get them out of trouble, give them what they want.

And while we might not be able to handle letting our thoughts go to this mind-blowing place all the time, I think we should let our minds go there sometimes, so that we can worship this amazing God as we catch a glimpse of His vastness and can be in awe that He knows each hair on our heads.

I know some people are upset and blame God (the one they don’t believe in) for all the ills of this world, but give all the credit for everything good to mankind.

The time that we are in, our lifespan, is part of a much, much bigger story. When we are looking only at our time in history, it doesn’t make sense, just as one puzzle piece doesn’t make sense by itself.

You have to look at the whole picture. My husband calls this God’s Epic Story. And it starts a long time ago: “In the beginning…”