God is Still Good!
It is truly our hope that you are adjusting to the new way of doing life, ministry, work or connecting with your family and friends. This is certainly not easy, nor is it preferable; in fact, God never intended for us to live our lives "physical-distancing" from one another. Before sin was introduced in Genesis 3, God told Adam that it was not good for him to be alone and created Eve as Adam's companion (Genesis 2:18 GNT). God's heart has always been for community and relationships. In many ways, this crisis is causing us to be very intentional about maintaining our connections as we amp up the communication and take advantage of the available technology to stay connected.
I am convinced that most of us will emerge from this crisis changed for the better!
In the meantime, we can choose to spend our days focusing on what we lack and thinking about how crises bring out the worst in people (like those toilet paper and hand sanitizer hoarders or those who continue to disregard public-health guidelines and gather in groups). OR, we can look around and see God's goodness sprinkled in the random acts of kindness and compassion strangers extend, the selfless sacrifice of our frontline workers, unwavering leadership and commitment of essential service providers, government and church leaders.
This coming week, be intentional about seeing the goodness of God in the circumstances around you and watch for glimpses of goodness in others. Recognize how many of the faithful prayers of believers around the world are being answered by God on a daily basis and remember who has come through time and again for you and for those you love. While we do not know for certain how or when this will end, we do know that we can trust the One who holds our future in his hands. We can find peace in his grace and trust his wisdom. He knows that we are confused and that we don't understand what's going on but he is not shaken; he has a plan and of that we can be certain.
Are you able to trust him with all your heart and to lean not on your own understanding? (Ref: Proverbs 3:5 NIV)
Receive a boost to your faith as you reflect on the lyrics of this week's worship song: "Do it Again" by Elevation Worship.
Arlington Woods Women's Ministry Team
God is Still Working!
As we continue to wade through this uncharted territory of COVID-19, it may seem like each day brings more questions than answers. We quietly go about our days in a modified state of existence, watching events cancelled, more restrictions implemented, states of emergencies declared, as parents set up homeschool classrooms at their kitchen tables. Our friends and loved ones are losing jobs, others are getting sick and many others are succumbing to this virus around the world.
Where is God through all of this?
Not only is God still present, he is still working on our behalf! Think back to the time when the Israelites were ready to give up hope, certain they were going to die as Pharaoh and his mighty army overtook them at the Red Sea. Then God showed up in all his glory and led them on dry land to the other side so that God "will get glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen." (Exodus 14:18 ESV)
God is still working on our behalf even when it looks impossible to our finite minds. We serve the Almighty God who fights for us and all we have to do is be silent. Silent in prayer and steadfast in our faith. (Ref: Exodus 14:14 ESV)
Let us hold onto the promise that God is working all things out as we are diligently and faithfully waiting on him in prayer and intentionally drawing closer to him.
Enjoy this week's worship song: "Yes I WIll" by Vertical Worship.
Arlington Woods Women's Ministry Team
God is Still Present!
In these unprecedented and uncertain times, when we must practice social distancing while craving community, be encouraged to remain steadfast in the Hope that is Jesus. As Christians, we do not worry as the world does; rather, we hold onto our anchor and lean on each other.
That is what we hope to do as a community of sisters during these times - offer encouragement and support. Here are some practical ways we encourage you to stay connected as we "virtually" gather under the canopy of God's faithfulness:
- Keep in touch with one another via text messages, social media, emails, and phone calls.
- Use this time to draw closer to God through increased time in prayer and worship.
- As you are able, join the AWC Daily Evening Zoom Prayer Meetings (Online) from 7:30pm - 8:30pm.
- Consider doing an in-depth study of a book of the Bible and virtually talk it over with a friend.
- Think about journaling your thoughts and prayers during this time and then anticipate & record how God answers them.
Know that we will get through this together. May this be the time when we look more like Jesus to a world that is in desperate need of him.
Let this worship song, "With You" by Elevation Worship encourage you today.
Arlington Woods Women's Ministry Team
"Forgiveness: Why it Matters.”
Editorial Note: Forgiveness that most of us are required to give or receive may be of a different nature than the following account. However, the end result of any type of forgiveness is the same. There is healing for the person who is doing the forgiving. God is so gracious to grant that to us.
You are about to get a glimpse into one woman’s personal story about forgiveness - how she came to extend forgiveness to someone who had sexually abused her when she was a child. This is not everyone’s story, yet there may be some of you who have had similar experiences. We encourage you to not suffer in silence or alone; there are resources and support available to you. Please reach out and access them.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14, (NIV)
Forgiveness is a topic that not everyone enjoys talking about. It makes us think. Choices that have been made in life, whether it affects our life directly or not, places us in situations or circumstances where forgiveness needs to be addressed. Maybe we are not ready to look “in the mirror” and see what the reflection is telling us to do or what direction God is telling us to go.
Google gives the definition of forgiveness as “the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offence. The offence may not be forgotten yet forgiven.”
I like this definition as it says that forgiveness is intentional (on purpose) and it’s a voluntary process (it’s our choice and it can take a while). Forgiveness can be instantaneous!
As believers, one of God’s amazing gifts to us is His son who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We talk about that as salvation or forgiveness of sins.
Why does that matter? It brings purpose for us to walk a holy life with and for God. God forgives us of our sin, yet we struggle with sin and the shame that it has brought to our lives. We often find that we need to forgive "ourselves" and the choices we have made in the past, and it becomes a part of the process of working out our salvation.
Jesus’ story is about believing by faith in someone we cannot physically see. When Jesus said in Luke 23:34, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do...”, this was at the time when He was dying on the cross. Pause and think about that scene for a moment.
When you imagine the scene, is He still on the cross? Or is the cross empty like the ones often displayed in churches?
I try to picture the scene on the day HE was there suffering for our sins. I know that I can’t see it all, but I try. I see the cross as the ultimate display of FORGIVENESS.
When I was growing up, I used to listen to a song that identifies with the topic of forgiveness; I still often think about the lyrics that went like this: “He knew me, yet He loved me”. This song talks about how if it were only for me, Jesus would have still died on the cross because He knew me, yet He loved me. Have you ever wondered that for yourself? Would Jesus have died for just "you alone" on the cross? This question can produce strong feelings and conviction all at the same time.
Forgiveness evokes many questions such as, do we forgive on the basis of feeling and emotion or by choice and being obedient to what God tells us in Scripture. What chapter and verse do we find that?
Forgiveness and why it matters is a question, I believe that many of us have to deal with in our lives. Perhaps you are dealing with someone or something that requires forgiveness - either giving or receiving? What is your story?
Jesus’ story of forgiveness was shared in the Bible for a purpose. Does the forgiveness that is needed in your life hold a purpose?
My story is one of childhood sexual abuse at the ages of 11-13 within a church setting that happened many years ago. I had to deal with this because God brought the situation to a point where the abuser needed to come to a place of accountability. He needed forgiveness. Did I wake up one day and say, “He is forgiven Father.” No, I did not. It was a journey of healing and a testimony of God’s faithfulness because through that journey, I came to realize that the LIFE-GIVER (Jesus) did not abandon me.
God gives us purpose and sometimes that purpose includes forgiving others for the wrong that they have done in our lives. Wrong choices that have affected our lives, caused us pain and suffering. Because of free will, given to us by God, we often make sinful choices. These choices harm us, but we know that our God is bigger than our mistakes and He can turn our situations around and give us new life. He is the life giver and remember He doesn't abandon us!
One of the choices in my life that still has repercussions today and that I continually talk with God about is “keeping secrets”. It was a big part of my life for a long time, a learned behaviour that became a part of my identity. God knew every detail, but I was “keeping this secret” from everyone. Someone made a wrong choice and changed the course of my life. Yes, I have the ability to change how that affects my life now. Through God’s grace, my secret was brought to light. That’s what God is about. Bringing light to the dark areas of life which results in progressive healing in His strength, His love and His hope.
Today, I literally have to remind myself to “change the tape, CD, record, and the “self-talk” that I am “a failure” because of the abuse, I am not a failure, I am a survivor of my past and a daughter of God who saved me, healed me, forgave me and made me a new creation in Him.
What is your story? What has happened in your life that needs forgiveness? Why does it matter? It matters to God, YOU matter to God.
On Saturday, October 13, 2018, I will tell my story and share how God has brought me on this journey of healing and forgiveness. I will share what I believe to be the purpose and why it matters in life. Hope to see you there!
Here are some verses to get you ready for our time together on Saturday:
Mark 11:25-26, (NIV), “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Luke 6:37, (NIV), “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
By: Ruthann Wheaton
Listen to the 2-part story that inspired the Matthew West, "Forgiveness" song.
“I will set out and go back to my father…” Luke 15:18a (NIV)
There is something to be said about distance; something about picking yourself up and leaving something behind, because you no longer want to be held captive by whatever was holding you down. The older I get, the easier I can recognize it! There is often a lot said about walking away from something, and never turning back, but I want to talk about going back to something that maybe you should not have walked away from or walking away from something that you thought was not for you.
It takes a certain amount of humility to return, doesn’t it? Tail between your legs, head down to the ground, total humility. It’s about going back to your mom after being away for a while because you thought the world was better than your family or returning to a marriage you had given up on. It’s going back to a place you maybe shouldn’t have left.
It can be terrifying! It can bring you back down to earth incredibly quickly. Until it becomes a matter of returning to the place that is home; the familiar and nurturing place where you find acceptance in spite of your shortcomings.
How often have you had to return to your faith home? Or are you in a place where you need to return?
I’m not talking about a physical church building, though it could be that too, but the home that is in Christ; returning to the Father.
Does this get you thinking about the story of the prodigal son? If you’re not familiar with that parable, you can find it here. It doesn’t have to be that dramatic or severe, but a return may be the next thing that you need to do in your faith journey. This is something that has been on my own heart lately, as I began to sense a disconnect; a bit of a distance from “home”.
Recently, I returned to a job which I had boldly left months ago. I was onto bigger and better things and was ready to become a full-fledged independent boss lady. Pretty quickly, I realized that this new place, that seemed shiny when I was looking from a distance, really wasn’t for me. Though I always had the option of returning to my original position, I knew that it would take a certain amount of humility, admitting I made a wrong move, and that I missed the place I called my “work home”. I remember how nervous I was to tell my former boss, that I wanted to come back. I was expecting a bit of frustration, even rejection, and was pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome back I received.
It was like receiving the prodigal son’s robe, ring and celebration – I received a warm hug, and pure joy that I had returned. I’ve never felt more valued in a work setting before!
Jesus is like this – though better! When we stray, and honestly, we will all have seasons when we are a bit farther away from Him than others; it’s the ebb and flow of a human relationship with a Holy God. But He is waiting for us; arms open, with a warm hug, and our very own robes, rings and celebration. We see this in a series of parables recorded in Luke 15. In each of the illustrations, something is lost, and each time, the owner, representing the Father, searches for it; leaving the other items (99) to search for the one.
It’s so amazing to me when anyone gives me a second chance, but especially when God, the perfect being gives me chance, after chance, after chance. I screw up in countless ways and would have given up on me a long time ago. Thankfully, God never will.
I’m not sure what your story is; maybe you’re in a great place with your faith, where you’re excited to meet God every day. Maybe you’re feeling a bit over it, going through the motions, like you’re trying for no reason because nothing changes (hello, I’ve been there). Maybe you’ve given up all together, and are ready to move to the next place, city, relationship, job, family.... I’m not sure where this message meets you, but I hope it encourages you to return to your home, return to the place that can’t go wrong, even when it feels like there is a better way, a better, shinier home. There isn’t one.
Will it be easy? Probably not. Usually, when we have to return to our faith home, it means leaving behind a bit of mess. Maybe it’s a life of deceit, or a relationship that reduces you, or even habits that will lead to destruction. But take the step, He will meet you, and help you.
It’s never too late, never met with anger and you will not be turned away. You will be received with warmth and acceptance. Ask God for the courage to return and the humility to go back and start again.
By: Yelena & Yolande Knight
Allow these powerful, yet simple lyrics of this song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn to resonate with you.
Our Mugs & Muffins Meet-up for March was a celebration of International Women's Day, which is observed on March 8th, and we selected the theme #PressForProgress as our focus.
Many groups or countries select their own theme for the day, including the UN, Canada, and the InternationalWomensDay.com organization, the latter's theme as the one we've selected (which is not to be taken as an endorsement of the organization).
For information purposes, the themes chosen this year by Canada’s Status of Women is #MyFeminism, and by the UN, it's: "Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives".
Why should we, as Christian women, be involved in any activities or celebrations for International Women's Day?
To quote Crosswalk, a Christian online magazine, “As Christians though, Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the women who came before us, defying tradition and sometimes risking their lives to impact Christianity today.“1
Furthermore, the Bible has something to say about equality & justice. Read what the prophet, Isaiah had to say in Isaiah 58:6-7.
Our discussion at Mugs & Muffins focused on six Christian women who have #PressedForProgress long before it was a hashtag or slang. Here they are:
Cher Wang came from a wealthy Taiwanese family and is the Co-founder and Chair of HTC, a consumer electronics, high-tech company. Her company is one of the top three smart-phone and tablet providers in the world, besides Samsung and Apple.
Growing up in a wealthy and well-known family, Wang has never hid under the umbrella of the family business; she started a legendary new page in Taiwanese high-tech world with her partners and claims that her success is all God's grace; known by the world to be "the wealthiest woman in Taiwan" who is always in simple athletic attire, she does not chase after brand names, and is very content in being simple and free.
She is very vocal about her faith, never afraid to discuss the ups and downs and struggles of living out her faith, "I followed my family in my belief in God and attended Sunday school and Sunday services. I got baptized at 13 years old, because I was touched during a retreat, but did not continue in the pursuit of faith. I left alone to the United States for education when I was 15 or 16 years old, and you could say that I gradually left God." She said bashfully, "I might have gone to church on Sundays, but I was mostly late, or left early, and I mostly made up stories. I knew that I needed to pray before bed, that it was important to study the scriptures, but I never seriously read the Bible through even once. You could say that my life was not really transformed."
"In this path of faith, He has let me experience a little bit of blessings at first, then gave me some trials and tribulations, and then let me experience His miraculous guidance and works; in these ups and downs/gives and takes, my faith has gradually grown. And on this day, the bigger the trials, the stronger my faith becomes and the greater the joy that comes after experiencing God. I know how intricate His intentions are and feel that I need to grasp onto His words every day," she said firmly.
Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) was a simple British woman who wanted to go to China as a missionary, but she was told that women could only serve as teachers or nurses—and she was neither. So, without official backing she used her life savings to buy a one-way ticket to China. She knew about an elderly missionary woman in China who was looking for someone to replace her but when Gladys finally did arrive in China, she was told that the missionary had moved to another village, a two-day mule ride into the mountains. So, Gladys hired a mule driver to take her there.
In China, Gladys worked first as a “foot inspector” removing bandages from the feet of Chinese girls as they used to believe it would keep their feet from growing big. After doing such a good job as the foot inspector, she was asked to calm down some prisoners who were rioting. After successfully doing that, they referred to her as the “Virtuous One”. Gladys went on to work with orphans where she rescued over 100 girls. Her work was captured in the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness—a film that Aylward hated because it glamorized her very simple life.
Jennifer Wiseman was a senior project scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope and became the director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion for the American Association of the Advancement of Science. This organization encourages communication She is active in the science and faith dialogue, and enjoys giving talks to congregations, youth groups, civic groups, and science enthusiasts on the excitement of science.
“My scientific education did not cause me to doubt what the Bible says regarding God’s authoritative involvement in creation, but I started reading a lot more, particularly books by scientists who were Christians about how they reconciled their understanding of Scripture with what they had learned scientifically about the details of nature. Some of these scientists also came to our Christian fellowship groups on campus, and it was a terrific help to me as a student to see these models of excellent scientists who were followers of Jesus Christ. I saw their reverence for Scripture and God along with their love for studying the natural world fitting together in a beautiful mosaic.
Even though I don’t experience an ultimate conflict between science and my Christian faith, I still have many unanswered questions. . . What was God doing in all those ages before these familiar parts of our world existed? . . . Was God just waiting for humans to come around? Why didn’t he create all of this instantly and just get to the point?”
Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman to be admitted into the NASA astronaut training program and the first African-American woman in space. During her eight days in space, Jemison conducted experiments on weightlessness and motion sickness on the crew and herself. In all, she spent more than 190 hours in space before returning to Earth on September 20, 1992. Following her historic flight, Jemison noted that society should recognize how much both women and members of other minority groups can contribute if given the opportunity. She is also a physician, engineer, educator, and entrepreneur.
After leaving the astronaut corps in March 1993, Jemison accepted a teaching fellowship at Dartmouth. She also established the Jemison Group, a company that seeks to research, develop and market advanced technologies and currently works on the 100 Year Starship Project which she says is “pursuing an extraordinary tomorrow to create a better world today.”
Known as the “Mother of the Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks was a seamstress and civil rights activist who became famous for her refusal to obey a bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white male. Her arrest for civil disobedience triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched one of its organizers, Martin Luther King, Jr, to the forefront of history.
In her book Quiet Strength, Parks says this about how God helped her the fateful day she refused to give up her seat. "I felt the Lord would give me the strength to endure whatever I had to face. God did away with all my fear...It was time for someone to stand up--or, in my case, sit down. I refused to move."
Born into slavery in New York, Sojourner Truth escaped with her infant daughter and went on to become an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. In 1843, Isabella (her birth name) sensed God calling her to adopt the name "Sojourner" and travel the country sharing the gospel and her testimony. Her children were horrified at the idea, worried that a poor, illiterate former slave would not survive as a travelling speaker. Besides, women weren't supposed to speak publicly during this era, let alone former slaves. But Sojourner reassured her family that if, as she believed, the calling was from God, then He would protect her.
Sojourner was not intimidated by convention or authority. She learned to manipulate establishment institutions to effect reforms. During her lifetime she brought, and won, three lawsuits. This was very unusual for a woman, especially for an illiterate ex-slave. She retrieved her son, who had been sold illegally from New York State into slavery in Alabama. She also won a slander suit in New York City and a personal injury case after she was injured in a street car incident in Washington. D.C. She is best known for her speech on racial inequalities entitled, “Ain’t I a Woman?” which she gave at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in 1851.
Empowered by her religious faith, the former slave worked tirelessly for many years to transform national attitudes and institutions. According to Nell Painter, Princeton professor and Truth biographer, "No other woman who had gone through the ordeal of slavery managed to survive with sufficient strength, poise and self-confidence to become a public presence over the long term."
Some photos from Saturday's Mugs & Muffins Meet-up:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV)
Trust Issues. It’s more than a Drake song, it’s something that many of us experience.
I can’t think of a person walking on this earth (even though I know like, five people), who has not experienced some kind of hurt that resulted in a break in trust. I can think of so many personal examples where I trusted in someone and that trust was broken by an action. It hits us in our core, and it hurts. If this happens to us enough times, it can make us not want to trust anyone (hands up if that’s you).
Lo and behold, a package of trust issues manifests. You will, of course, convince yourself that you are “protecting yourself”, and you are “wiser now than before”, because you refuse to believe that people can do good, can help, can truly and genuinely care without wanting anything in return. Of course, there is an element of guardedness required in life when it comes to trust – you should absolutely not trust in everyone you come across, that’s silly. However, what I’m writing about is when the pendulum swings too far one way, and you won’t trust in anyone at all out of fear.
Fear. How many of us want to admit that trust issues are a result of fear? I sure didn’t; I have told myself the above a million and ten times – I am just smarter now than before (and, I must add, I absolutely am). But my pendulum swung so hard the other way that I wouldn’t let anyone in. I was (and honestly, I still am) scared to meet new people, to let friends fully in, to allow myself to believe in the good of others. How many times have I blocked myself from meaningful and fulfilling relationships because of trust issues? This is important, but I think the bigger question is this: how many times have I blocked myself from a meaningful and fulfilling relationship with Christ because of my earthly trust issues?
A recent message at church (link here) really shook me to my core. Do I truly trust God, or am I putting in all of these terms and conditions for my trust?
Why am I acting as though God needs to earn my trust, when He doesn’t need to prove that he’s got my back? How have I allowed myself to put human conditions on God?
I will admit that I don’t always totally trust God, which seems almost blasphemous to say. I love God, believe that He’s good, and believe the Word. However, because of human hurts, and life circumstances I still don’t totally understand, I sometimes doubt that He has my back.
I love the story that many of us know well: Jesus calling Peter to walk on water found in Matthew 14:22-32. We can lose some of the meaning of the story by the sheer amazement of someone actually walking on water. Peter trusts Jesus while walking until he didn’t, until he thought about sinking. (vv. 29-31). When he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink, crying out for Jesus to save him; almost forgetting the fact that he was walking on water before. How often are we “walking on water”, focusing on Jesus, and not our problems, and then we lose sight of that, look at our earthly circumstances, get scared, and begin to sink, forgetting that Jesus was there all along.
That is exactly what happens when we stop trusting in God, and look at our circumstance. It goes something like this: we stop trusting in God, look at how other imperfect humans have let us down, and lose hope. We forget that God is God; He is different. We cannot measure Him by human standards or through our human experiences.
In order to have a full and lasting relationship with God, we have to take the step toward truly trusting Him. Really. That means not always knowing what’s going to happen, or seeing the full picture.
Because if we knew it all beforehand, it wouldn’t be faith, would it?
By: Yelena Knight
Lauren Daigle's Song "Trust in You" is a perfect reminder of how we need to let go and let God.
As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night." (Genesis 8:22, NLT)
I’m an odd duck, always have been. I love winter. I don’t ski or snowshoe and I haven’t been on skates in years, but I love winter.
It came to me as a child.
We’d play outside after school until Dad came home, and then we would play all day on Saturdays. Homework was done after supper when the news was on and we had to be quiet. We played mostly in the front yard so our friends could see us and join in. Since Dad didn’t seem to be bothered when the snow tumbled onto the driveway, we made that our main playground. Sometimes we would even shovel it onto the lower half of the driveway so we could toboggan down our hill and up the other side.
When I went to school, the only time we were allowed to stay inside at recesses or lunch, were times when there was lightning. It didn’t matter how cold it was, you were expected to dress for it.
I can recall the school closing if there was a blinding snowstorm, when we would have to stay home and stay in! Not only were the roads hazardous, but there was a real fear that the street plow operator would not be able to see us with the auger on the plow, if we were on the road walking to school.
Today, at the school where I work, the school hardly ever closes for bad weather. Even when the school buses are cancelled, the school is often open. So, I watch the weather closely and test the snow with my hand every morning when I arrive.
Will we be able to do it today?
In anticipation of having the perfect snow conditions, I would have purchased four bags of large carrots which would be safely stored in the “Breakfast Club” refrigerator. I would have made and left cookie dough in my freezer at home. Then I would wait for the perfect winter day.
The perfect day arrives when there is lots of snow and it all holds together - the day for the Annual Snowman Building Contest!
Once that day is announced through the intercom system, the school erupts with cheers. Student teams are formed and one student is selected to be sent to the office for their team number and a carrot. Over the course of two recesses, and within thirteen categories, the students get to perfect their masterpieces. During the entire process, the principal films each of the teams in action and at the end, I get to go out and judge them.
Judging is difficult because each team has worked so hard. However, we are able to select seventeen winning teams and announce them during the following morning’s announcements.
On the Annual Snowman Building Contest day, there would be no fights, nor any throwing of snowballs. Instead, there is team work, imagination, and lots of fresh air. Teachers are grateful that their duties outside on that day, are fun and easy. It’s a winning day for all.
It makes me think of how our Heavenly Father must smile when He sees us working in teams, using our imaginations, and having fun!
Let’s Pray: Father, thank you for all the wonderful winter memories as a child, and for allowing me to create new memories now that I am grown and can experience the joy of the seasons through the eyes of the children around me. Thank you for the imagination of kids and for the opportunity to participate in activities that help them stretch those imaginations and work together. Help us all to see the wonder in your beautiful creation and the excitement in enjoying the simple things in each season. Amen.
By: Bev Charles
Enjoy this song from Hillsong Worship – "Seasons" - fitting for this post.
"Tree-Sight vs Full-Sight”
And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:24-25 ESV)
The first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, Helen Keller, is quoted to have said that “the only thing worse than having no sight is to have sight but no vision.”
This Helen Keller reference makes me think about the story of the blind man whom Jesus healed at Bethsaida. You know the one: the strange encounter when this man was brought to Jesus to be touched and Jesus took the man outside the village to heal him. Read it in its entirety here (Mark 8:22-26).
Perhaps, like me, you were so hung up on the manner in which the healing occurred, (come on, Jesus spitting on the man’s eyes is definitely bizarre behaviour), that you missed some of the gems of the story. After all, we’ve seen this “spitting thing” before but never quite like this.
On two other occasions, (see Mark 7:33 & John 9:6), we have recorded accounts of Jesus using spit in the performance of a miracle, but this is the only account of a miracle when Jesus did a healing in two touches and the only recorded miracle in all of the four gospels where Jesus asks a question of the person being healed.
Though I am only speculating about the reasons for what I consider to be key elements, some theologians have also noted these points as having illustrative or other importance in our Christian walk.
Some of you may be interested in delving deeper and can study the significance of factors such as, the fact that this was a private healing, the place the miracle took place, the timing of the miracle and how it is interpreted in the larger story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. Bethsaida was the hometown of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip, and this was Mark’s last recorded miracle of Jesus in Galilee as He headed to the cross. It was also the signal of the end of Jesus’ public ministry; His remaining time was spent in private teaching and discipleship of the Twelve as He prepared them for His death.
Did you also wonder how this blind man knew what trees looked like? Could it be that he wasn’t always blind?
I will say this: I believe that this story is an illustration of spiritual vision, and like the disciples then, how our spiritual sight comes in stages. Like the physically blind man in Mark’s story, whose healing started with a little sight and then became full sight; our spiritual lives are the same. We are people who were in darkness, received partial sight (tree-sight) and our hope is for God to restore us to full sight where we see everything clearly.
This account has also caused me to think about my own life and how sometimes, I tend to have “tree-sight”, when I see things through my own eyes, and not fully, as God would have me see them. It’s in those moments that I need that second touch from God where I can have full sight.
How about you?
By: Yolande A. Knight - firstname.lastname@example.org
I'd like to share one of my all-time favourite worship songs that helps to usher me into a time of drawing closer to God as I seek Him for healing by Christy Nockels - "Healing is in Your Hands"
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NLT)
We'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a Happy New Year and pray that 2018 will be your best year yet!
- Arlington Woods Women's Ministry Team
Today in the car, I was listening to a seasonal offering on audible.com from their narrators who were sharing their experiences about the holiday season. That got me to thinking about what I would like to share concerning Christmas. I recalled that many years ago, now; I loved to listen to Morningside on CBC radio, especially on Monday mornings when Peter Gzowski and Stuart McLean would share stories on numerous subjects. I remember one story where Stuart reminisced about the Christmas windows at Eaton's and Simpson's, which, every Christmas, were filled with moving mechanical scenes to celebrate the seasons and which were a favourite thing for families wherever they had stores. I believe Stuart grew up in Montreal.
I well remember all of my brothers and my cousins piling into the Queen Street streetcar, in Toronto, with my grandfather for the trip downtown to view these displays and the wonder and delight we took in it, especially as we drew closer to these iconic stores. It was something we always looked forward to.
Stuart went on to describe the intricacies of the mechanics that went into these displays and had even hunted up the folks who worked on putting them together. Then, he went on to talk about the holiday season in terms of the winter solstice. He spoke about how ancient peoples, especially in northern climes, feared the coming of winter and the shorter hours of daylight. He described how pagan peoples feared the dark and believed that the sun might go out. They devised rituals to appease the gods and looked forward to solstice celebrations which they used to convince the gods to bring back the light. At their height, these celebrations centred around December 21st.
I am sure that Stuart was aware of the analogy between the Christian celebration of Christ's birth and the return of the light, and this story has always resonated with me ever since. How clever our church fathers were to make this connection with new converts to Christianity.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light of the world and that his followers are also to be light in the darkness.
In John 8:12, Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Matthew 5:14-16 says; “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
And in Ephesians 5:7-14 it reads; ‘Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”
The celebration of Christmas is a time of renewal of hope and recognition of God's greatest gift to us - the coming of the Saviour of the world and the completion of God's plan for mankind.
Through Jesus’ coming, death on the cross and resurrection, our relationship to God can be restored and indeed, we are assured that God sent the Son to bring light to the world and we need never fear that darkness will overcome it. Indeed we are called to shine the light we have received to others in the world to share the free gift we have been given.
For me that is part of what Christmas is all about.
Like the star that the wise men followed, we can show others the way to the Saviour.
By Lynne Willoughby
Enjoy this song by a local artist, and CHRI announcer, Care Baldwin, “The Light of Christmas”.