Blue and Yellow Paint

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“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

(Hebrews 11:1)

            For a day or two this week, the view of the North Shore mountains rising from the lower mainland and Fraser Valley has been magnificent. Their heights are flocked with the first snow of the year revealing breath-taking beauty. Vancouver’s ubiquitous autumn clouds have unexpectedly fled. The clear sky reveals what local skiers, boarders, and simple view-lovers appreciate: snow-covered mountains. I am reminded of another brilliant sun-bathed day in those same mountains. No snow blanketed the mighty champions that day.

Emerging from the shady trail, a dazzling reflection blinded us. Sun-bleached exposed granite replaced the dim browns and greens of our forest path. We saw small splotches of blue and sometimes yellow paint, like thoughtless graffiti, randomly littering the rocky face as we scanned to find a route to traverse it. Then it came to us. These splashes of pigment were our waypoints. Unlike forest floors, rock leaves no footstep-trodden evidence of safe passage, provides no sturdy tree trunks on which to post trail markers. Blue and yellow paint was our escort.

The peak of Crown Mountain lay somewhere above us, out of sight. Below rose the tops of Douglas and Cedar trees whose roots held onto earth somewhere in their unseen depths. Before us stretched this granite desert. This would be no place to fall.

Hand and foot we made our way across the rocky expanse. Paint splotch after colourful paint splotch guided us when the way seemed impossible. We entrusted ourselves to the route chosen for us by someone else. And so, little by little, we completed that daunting section of the trail. More forest trail, followed by more precipitous courses over and around blue and yellow be-dabbed granite led us further and further up. The path was always safe and true, but sometimes, the other option—the one that could lead to disaster—was only a misstep away.

We reached the top that day. (Some even scrambled to the precipitous jutting spur to lay claim to the very top). Breath-taking views stretched across mountaintops rimming the sky in every dizzying direction. Even there, maybe especially there, our safety was assured only as we stayed ourselves on the marked path. A thoughtless move and one might be silently swallowed by that magnificence.

Father God; These awe-inspiring mountains teach us of you. We walk each day in places we hope will bring us satisfaction or beauty, excitement or rest. Sometimes the going is pleasant and we journey somewhat mindlessly. Shady paths and leaf-softened forest floors easily mark our way. But other times we find ourselves on exposed rocky cliffs needing to grasp at granite where no handholds exist, where it seems the surface is too hot or too cold to touch. We fear we don’t know the way.

Then we see your splotches of blue and yellow paint—promises of Your love and faithfulness—directing us through difficulties. As we follow You, O Great and Loving Guide, we fear no evil for You are with us. Rock of Ages, draw our eyes to you. Steady us. Keep us from the dizziness of looking at the world around us for hope. Bring us safely home, gloriously spent, and aware only of your awe-inspiring faithful presence.

(Photo Credit: By Maoman (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

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Thirty-one Ordinary Prayers, #2

Praising God’s Sovereignty (A Paraphrase of Jeremiah 32:17-27)

Sovereign God, all-powerful Ruler of the universe and beyond, Your fingerprint is on everything, seen and unseen alike. From the tiniest atom to the furthest solar system, Your signature mystery and beauty, order and surprise is stamped on all Your handiwork. Everything was made by You and is sustained by You; nothing is too hard for You to accomplish.

You understand the heart of every person who every walked this earth and breathed its God-rich air. Nothing escapes Your notice. You are incredibly fair: to those who bow before Your Sovereign authority You show Yourself to be a loving, compassionate Father and friend; to others who, in foolish rebellion, twist and pry themselves away from Your loving hand, You are as unbending as steel and as fearful as gravity.

O magnificent and might One, whose name is LORD Almighty, Your purposes and plans are matched only by Your power to accomplish everything You intend. You see every one of us, giving each of us unique opportunities to make our choices clear: we may honour, love and obey Your or ignore Your sovereignty and go our own way. You allow us the dignity of that choice, while cautioning us that each way comes with its own eternal consequences.

God of all mankind, in the midst of my daily living, help me consistently and clearly choose You. Help me obey Your commands even when they look strange by this world’s norms. Help me become the person You want me to be. Nothing is too hard for You!

Culture of Life

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We’ve been dabbling in death for too long. From the French Revolution’s lethal guillotines through the atrocities of Jihadist terrorism and the convenience of ‘therapeutic’ abortions there runs a culture of death as swift and overpowering as a mighty current. The Western World’s recent ‘advances’ in assisted suicide provide a solution no less diabolical than Hitler’s death camps. Who can offer us something more than the hopelessness and emptiness of death?

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” answers the first century fisherman Peter. “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).

Peter’s epistle of praise to God reflects upon and savours Christ’s offer of assisted procreation: the gift of “new birth.” It is more than a dry theological premise. Much more. The concept of Christian new birth is the key to living an extravagantly deep and meaningful life. But where did Peter come up with this concept of new birth?

The teaching originates with Jesus, who Himself explained, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” This new birth forms the foundation of the experience called the Christian faith. We all know what Christianity is, don’t we? But let’s look a little closer at what new birth really means.

Jesus explained, “Spirit gives birth to spirit,” and “So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” He is saying that the Spirit of God regenerates that part of us that is designed to commune with Him and ultimately live forever within that primary relationship. The depth of this birth means that it is invisible to the human eye. It is the unseen core that now pulses within the believer. The Apostle Paul explains that we “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.” All fine and well, but how do we actually do this?

Peter anticipates our question by calling believers “newborn babies”, “obedient children”, “chosen people” and “a people belonging to God.” As God offers new birth to believers our first job is to embark on a new way of thinking about ourselves—that is, to understand our new identity. Every thought, every word, every intention and action we will go on to initiate arises from this mindset of our new identity.

Since we each come out of old, distorted identities prior to our new birth of spirit, we need to be intentional about settling this issue in our minds. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is now our God and Father. We are His children; we are no longer bound to be rebellious but are free to obey Him out of love for Him.

The third level of our new birth involves our behaviours. “Just as he who called you is holy,” Peter counsels, “so be holy in all you do”; “love one another deeply, from the heart” and “rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” Like the old saying, “Beauty is as beauty does,” our behaviours are the evidence of our spirit and our identity.

We have no small task ahead of us. Holiness is otherness; it is living other than the way our old bent to selfishness and lies used to cause us to live. God, though—great joyful mystery!—is on our side. Just as He launches our new birth through His Spirit giving life to ours and as He helps us understand our new identity, He also assists us in developing the new behaviours we need in order to be authentic. His Son Jesus is the model for the new character into which we will mature and His Spirit is the impetus within us to help us reflect our model.

So those who accept Jesus’ offer of living hope through His resurrection have moved. We have moved from a culture defined primarily by death, to one defined by life—eternal, Spirit of God-filled, ever-expanding life. It’s a new birth and a new identity, which leads us to new behaviours. How will this change the way you live today?