Monthly Archives: September 2015

Birthday Truffle

My mom was a master of leftovers.  I guess with five kids all spaced about a year apart and, though by no means poor but definitely with a budget to work within, she needed to make sure nothing was wasted.  The picked over remains from one meal would be put together with a few new ingredients and become something brand new.  A lot of times we didn’t even realize the meal started with leftovers.  Even the leftover porridge would become the foundation for some glorious fresh baked bread.

Most impressive though, were the dishes that for one reason or another didn’t turn out but would be transformed into not just something edible, but delicious.  Like birthday cake.  I don’t remember whose birthday it was (we had a lot of them), but the tradition in our house was that the birthday child chose the meal.  We could ask for whatever we wanted, including what kind of cake.

For some reason this particular cake didn’t turn out.  Either it fell, or got left in the oven a little too long, or was missing a key ingredient because while it tasted like cake you sure couldn’t put candles on it.  Most of us would have thrown it away and pulled out the box of cake mix, but not my mom.  She cut up the mess into pieces made some pudding and whipped cream and mixed it all into a fancy serving bowl and set birthday truffle in front of us complete with candles.  As I recall none of us were disappointed we didn’t have cake.  In fact I’m pretty sure birthday truffle was requested at least once after that.

Many of us live with some “if only’s”.  If only I hadn’t made that choice.  If only I had chosen this path. If only I hadn’t been so foolish or immature or any number of other regrets, guilt, or even sin.  But God is a master of taking the mess that we’ve made and as we submit our lives to him, he creates a beautiful masterpiece from it.

For those who are Jesus followers, no experience is wasted.

All the experiences of our past, whether self-induced or caused by others, even the blatantly sinful things we’ve done, God will use to make us into a dish that he sets before the world to bless and meet the needs of others who are hurting and messed up.

As per Genesis 50:20, what was meant for evil, God uses to bring about his good.


My Life Is Not My Own

I’m usually a pretty up-beat, positive kind of a guy but last week for just a few minutes I began feeling a little sorry for myself.  I was out at Hardendale Hall for a rehearsal for a wedding I would be officiating the following day, and being a little early I decided to slip down to Cow Lake just to enjoy the quiet for a few minutes.

It was stunningly gorgeous! The water was like glass.  The color of the blue sky and white clouds contrasted with the changing leaves reflected perfectly on the lake was breath-taking.  There were grebes with their strangely beautiful croaking cry close by, and from off at the far end of the lake came the occasional wail from a loon.

Cow Lake

Cow Lake

My first response when I saw the lake was “Oh God, this is beautiful! You are amazing!”  But my second response was “I don’t want to leave.  Let me go sit in a boat with a line in the water and just enjoy this for hours,” which was followed shortly in my downward spiral of self-pity by “It’s not fair.  I never get to go fishing, or hunting, or even get out in the bush anymore.”

Graciously, God didn’t let me follow that path very long.  I was gently reminded that my life was purchased by God at a very high price, the suffering and death of Jesus, and no longer belongs to me to please myself as I see fit.

I heard someone say that many people will willingly name Jesus as their savior, receiving forgiveness from their sin and the blessing of eternal life, but far too many stop at naming Jesus savior, and do not name him as Lord of their lives as well.  There is a belief that has developed in our western culture that Jesus died for me so that I can be happy.  That belief is wrong.

Jesus laid down his life for me because he was obedient to the Father. That obedience brings glory to the Father, who in response gives honour to the Son.  And therein lays the pattern for our lives.

God brings many wonderful things into our lives including wealth, possessions, our houses and church buildings.  His blessings also include his creation and the enjoyment of it.  But none of these gifts were intended to be hoarded to ourselves as though they were an indication of God’s pleasure with us.  All gifts from God are given with the expectation that they will in turn be spent on others, thus bringing glory to God and honour to the Son.

Cow Lake

Cow Lake

Harvesting Is Dirty Work

It’s harvest time again.  In previous years out at the farm my job has been to do the cultivating after the crop has been taken off.  I like that job.  I’m in a nice, clean, fairly quiet, air conditioned cab with comfy leather seat, a stereo and a cup holder for my coffee.  It has GPS steering so once I drive the headlands all I have to do is make the turn-around at the end of the field, touch a button on the screen and then sit back and watch to see that everything is working.

But I’m not really harvesting.  Oh, it’s part of the farming, but I really have had nothing to do with the actual work of bringing in the harvest.

This year, as it happens, I’m driving truck.  There’s a lot more pressure driving truck.  There’s the almost constant shifting of gears, dealing with traffic, the rush to get back from dumping at the yard so the combines don’t have to stop and wait, the stress of not spilling while picking up from the combine on the go, the noise of all the machinery and so on.

And then there’s the barley dust.  You just can’t avoid it.  By the end of the day my eyes are scratchy, my neck is just about raw, and I’m itchy all over.  But it’s worth it because I’m actually part of the harvest!

Jesus told his disciples to pray that God would send out workers into the fields to bring in the harvest.  It was a metaphor he used to describe the process of telling people about the love of God expressed to us through Jesus, and leading them to a life characterised by hope, meaning, and purpose as we live to serve God and others rather than ourselves.

Here’s the challenge: the first word Jesus spoke after the instruction to pray was “Go”.  Many of us, myself included, would prefer to stay with the cultivator.  We like the familiar, relative comfort of going to church, singing familiar songs, being with people who think and dress like us, and where we pretty much know what to expect. But we’re not really being involved in the harvest.

To be involved in the harvest is more dangerous and more stressful.  We’re going to be uncomfortable, and we’re going to get dirty as we involve ourselves in the lives of people who Jesus died for but whose culture and experience is vastly different from our familiar “church circles”.

I’m committed to being in the dust of the harvest, will you join me?

A Joyful Funeral

Today I attended the funeral for a man named Clark Ironside.  Most of you reading this won’t have known him, I myself didn’t know him really well, though he was the type of man who if you met him you knew him because he was always very real and genuine.  Clark is the father of one of my wife’s oldest and dearest friends who describe themselves as sisters by choice.

At most funerals people speak predominantly about the good deeds and traits of the person who has died.  Today, while there were a number of glowing tributes, there were two things that stood out to me that were different from most funerals I’ve seen.

The first was how Clark approached death.  In the Bible Paul as a prisoner facing what turned out to be a death sentence wrote of how he longed to depart and be with Christ which, he said, is better by far.  From his hospital bed Clark told a friend, “Two days ago the doctor gave me 48 hours to live.  Why am I still here? I’m supposed to be in heaven today!” And even though by the end he struggled to breathe or speak the one thing he kept saying to whoever came to see him was “better days are ahead.”

When a person knows Jesus the way the apostle Paul or Clark Ironside did death is not feared but is honestly and eagerly anticipated.  But the excitement is not primarily for all the wonderful blessing of heaven; freedom from pain and sickness, no hardships or disappointments, or even all the glorious beauty of perfected creation.  It’s about seeing Jesus face to face.  And that points to the second thing that stood out to me.

For all the wonderful accolades given about the man that Clark was the focus and honour was all given to Jesus.  Clark actually told the pastor who he had asked to lead his funeral, “Don’t talk about me, talk about Jesus.”

The truth is that when a person lives in such an intimate relationship with Jesus the praise that is given to that person is naturally given to Jesus because all that that person is and does has been created and given by Jesus.  Paul says it is Christ living his life through me.

What do you want your funeral to look like?  If am the primary focus of the praise at my funeral it’s really no benefit to me at all; I’m not there to hear it.  But if the attention is on what Jesus has done in me that praise will literally carry on for ever.