"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine." Isaiah 43:1
I brought my black Toyota Camry to a safe distance stop behind the car in front of me. Sitting at the red light, I surveyed my surroundings, as I often do, while waiting for the light to change. The music on the radio accompanied me on my errand running day and my mind was thinking about the 'to do' list laying on the passenger seat beside me.
Looking out the passenger window on my right, I could not help but notice the young 20 something year old woman, seated behind the steering wheel of the "Jeepish" vehicle beside me. There was something about her demeanor that caused me to keep watching her.
She had shoulder length soft brown hair tucked behind her ears and a slender face. Her eyes were fixed straight ahead, looking, as though trying to change the picture unfolding in her life.
Her hands were gripping the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions, except for the moments she released them, one at a time, to wipe away the tears that were cascading down her cheeks.
Immediately, my mind and heart were engaged in her situation - though I did not know what it was. I did not know her name, but I wanted to speak to her!!
The distance that spanned the space from my driver's seat, across the center console, across the passenger seat, the thickness of my passenger side car door and the roadway between my vehicle and her car's driver side door, seemed like an un-navigable gulf. Too far to cross with the uncertainty of the timing of a changing stop light. Reaching over, I turned off the radio, as I simultaneously rolled down the passenger window, trying to "will" her to look my way so I could ask her if there was anything that I could do to help.
She stared straight ahead! Hands gripping the steering wheel. Her crying- containing gasps, even as her chest heaved to try and catch her breath. From where I sat, her sadness and sorrow were palpable. Everything within me wanted to comfort her!
She stared straight ahead - wiping tears - gasping cries!
The light turned green.
Traffic started to move. Her vehicle began to roll forward, as did mine. I debated as to whether I should follow her; to find out if there was something I could do to help. My concern for her affected my own concentration on my driving for a moment, as I watched her drive away and disappear over the crest of the hill.
Putting on my blinker, I signaled left and drove into the parking lot of the dry cleaners. Pulling into an empty spot, I put the car in park and turned off the ignition. For several moments, I sat quietly looking off in the direction in which the young woman had driven.
What was her name? What had happened to cause such pain?
Had she just received news that someone she loved had died or was in an accident and she was on her way to the hospital? Had she just received news that she was ill and trying to process the prognosis? Had she just learned she was pregnant and it was not welcome news for her life situation? Had she just broken up with her boyfriend? Did she just find out her husband was cheating on her? Had she been abused? Had she just lost her job and did not know how she was going to take care of herself? Had she said goodbye to a parent, or a child? Had life become too unbearable and she was contemplating suicide?
What situation was unfolding or news received that could illicit such a deep, guttural sorrow in her body?
I did not know her name. I could not give her comfort but I wanted to! I wanted her to know she did not have to be alone in her pain!
WHO WAS SHE? WHAT WAS HER NAME?
I could not comfort her but what I could do, I did.
"Lord Jesus - take care of her! You who knows her name and brings comfort. Please go to her where she is and meet with her in a tangible way. Help her O GOD!"
I often think of her. The young twenty-something woman in the "Jeepish" vehicle - nameless to me BUT not nameless to the GOD who knows her.
I was reminded about another broken-hearted woman who lived many years ago, in ancient days. She had a friend; a close friend. A friend of authentic caring, influence and love, who had changed her life. That friend was wrongly accused and had been horrifically brutalized and nailed on to a cross in the most humiliating of circumstances, for all to see. Then his body was laid to rest in a rock enclosed grave.
Three days later, in grief and deep trauma, she had gone to visit his grave. When she got there, her heart and mind and body experienced another adage of pain because it appeared to her as though his grave had been robbed. His body was gone.
This was too much pain to bear and she collapsed in gasping sobs. The cascading tears were falling from her eyes when a man walked into her presence.
"Woman, why are you crying" (“what happened to cause this much pain")
"They have taken away my LORD'S body (“my friend's body is gone") and I don't know what they have done with him".
Almost three years ago, I stood at the edge of an opening in the ground and watched as cemetery workers lowered the casket containing my brother's body, into the concrete vault 6 feet below. Then they put a heavy concrete lid on top of the vault and began to cover it with dirt. I stood there till the last scoopful of earth had been put in place, then grasping tightly on to my husband's hand, walked away in silent grief.
How utterly disturbing and devastating an experience it would have been if 3 days later I returned to his gravesite to find the earth dug up, the cement lid of the vault upended, the casket lid opened and my brother's body not there!
But I picture that this is the type of scenario in which this woman found herself.
"Woman, why are you crying. Who are you looking for?"
Weeping, broken-hearted, vulnerable, frantic, shattered, alone, reeling from trauma and loss, she was now in the presence of a man she did not know and he wanted to know what was wrong. She thought he was the gardener, and possibly in desperation to try and get some answers, through anguished tears, she told him her plight.
"Did you take him? Just tell me what you did with him and I will go get him...
Desperate pain - needing answers - gasping cries.
Wait. She knew that voice!!!
Why when he had spoken the first time and called her 'woman', which held no depth of familiarity, and asked her a question, had she not recognized it?
But, when he called her by her name --- oh, that was different!
"Mary" - she was known!
The gardener, or so she had thought, did not ask her name.
It was not a case of "Now, remind me who you are again?"
He KNEW her! He KNEW her name and he called her by her name!
She heard it, and in that moment, something happened!
"Rabboni - Teacher" (she knew her friend!)
"Don't hold on to me because I have not yet gone to my Father in heaven."
I can only imagine the intensity with which she grabbed hold of him - throwing her arms around him, clinging to him! "Could this be true? Could this be real? Are you kidding me? You were dead and my world shattered and now you are standing here!!"
Intensity of joy, disbelief and relief, overwhelming elation mixed with the tears and feelings that physically impact the body in grief.
This was Jesus! Her friend, her LORD - Alive!!
A staggering cacophony of thoughts and emotions.
Such an intense response she had that he told her - "Don't hold on to me".
The kind of intense response that happens when despair does a 360-degree turn.
A running leap into his arms.
It would be that kind of response for me.
It is an exquisite account to me. A demonstration of magnificent love.
Jesus did not have to go back to his gravesite after he was raised from the dead. BUT, there was a woman there that was in deep pain!
Her friend, her LORD, came to where she was - in her pain.
He knew exactly who she was.
He asked her what was wrong, and then...
He called her by her name!
That is ALL He did... And it was profound!!
It changed everything for her! It transformed her world!
October 13th & 14th are two days which have been chosen for us, as women, to get together. Will you come? Will you bring a friend or two or three?
Provision will be made for you!
I am thinking about you and praying for you!
I will be waiting and I will be watching for you!
I will be interested to see how God, the Most High God, who created you and loves you and knows where you are and all your needs, will give to you on those days.
I hope you will come with anticipation!
I hope you will leave full!
Written by Deborah A. Caya Klassen
(August 2017. All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission)
Click here to listen to the track "Take My Life" from Deborah's "Legacy of Hope" CD
Photo Credit: T. Lau
I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1:3)
I have been blessed to call Arlington Woods Church my home church since 1967 when my family moved to Ottawa so my father could start work at Carleton University. Back then, we were meeting at Knoxdale Public School while waiting for the original church building to be built. My mother faithfully brought us kids to Sunday School though people tell me I spent a lot of time hiding behind my mother’s skirts since I was a painfully shy child and still learning English.
I am grateful for many at Arlington Woods Church who befriended my immigrant family and blessed my brother, sister, and me as our Sunday School teachers, mid-week club leaders, and youth group and young adult leaders. In time, my mother, sister, brother, and I all came to faith.
Some of you took a special interest in mentoring a painfully shy teen. You gave me opportunities to serve alongside you in Sunday School, the mid-week kids’ club, and the library. You introduced me to Wesley Acres Camp, where I worked several summers as a cabin leader and flipping burgers at the Raven Snack Shack.
As a new Christian, Dave had joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) while studying at Acadia University. After graduating, Dave moved from small town Nova Scotia to work in high tech, in the big city of Ottawa, where he joined IVCF at Carleton University, where I was studying. Dave and I met while volunteering with IVCF’s International Student Ministry friendship program. You welcomed Dave when he was looking for a new church. In 1987, you celebrated with us as Dave and I got married in the original sanctuary, the present-day fellowship hall. In 1992, you supported Dave and me when we took a giant and crazy leap of faith and moved to Tokyo, Japan for our 3-½ year international adventure.
You welcomed Dave and me back as parents of two young children and walked with us as our family grew to include two more daughters. You were a big help when those two both came seven weeks prematurely. Just as you had blessed my siblings and me growing up, you blessed my children with your leadership and friendship.
As my children grew, you gave me opportunities to serve in kids’ ministry and, in time, allowed them to serve alongside you and me. In recent years, you supported me when my parents had various serious illnesses and encouraged Dave while he was out of work. You gently encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone and take on some leadership roles. You warmly welcomed me in your small groups, where I continue to grow. This summer, you celebrated with us as my firstborn was married in our current sanctuary.
As I look back over 50 years, I see God’s faithful hand in blessing my family in various seasons of life through generations of our church family - some who are still here, some who moved, and some who are with the Lord. I can’t help but be filled with gratitude. So, thank you, my Arlington Woods Church family. May God bless you and continue to bless others through you.
By: Christine Villeneuve
Please Call Back Later!
“Waah!!!”, “Mom, I need help!”, “Honey, can you give me a hand?”
Since my son was born in January, I feel as though I am being called upon 24-7. Sometimes, the last thing I want to do is pick up a phone, respond to an email, or feel obligated towards something. Admittedly, that feeling is similar to when I feel God calling me for something. That little voice inside my head goes, “please call later?” or “so-and-so has a natural gifting in that area, call them”.
Inevitably, the voice inside my head is wrong. In Matthew 11, Jesus calls “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (v 28-30 NLT).
Many of us as women have multiple calls on our life. We are called in roles in our family, in our workplaces, with our friends, and our extended loved ones. In these times, it is important to listen for God’s gentle whisper, when we are called to rest and be cared for, or when we are called to action. Ultimately, a calling from God is not meant to burn us out or over burden us. It is meant to lighten our load, and help us learn about God’s love, life, and direction. Yes, a calling can stretch us, and challenge us at times, but that yoke should not be heavy as our spirits are refueled by the Holy Spirit, which keeps us strong (Ephesians 3: 16:19), and supported. When life starts taking over, we can quickly become overwhelmed again.
God calls us all to a full life, not an overfull one.
Ephesians 3: 14-19 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
By: Rozen Mathai