Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Letter From a Friend" (Margaret Fishback Powers)

Margaret Fishback Powers is a Canadian author, most well known for her poem, "Footprints." This poem is taken from her book that traces the story of that world famous poem.

conrade

LETTER FROM A FRIEND


I am writing to say how much I care
  for you and how much I want you
to know me better.
When you awoke this morning
          I exploded
           a brilliant sunrise
            through your window
trying to get your attention.
You rushed off.
  Later I saw you walking and talking
   with some friends.  I bathed you in
    warm sunshine.  I perfumed the air
          with nature's sweet scent.
     You rushed off.
     You didn't notice me. 
Then I shouted to you in a tornado.
  I painted you a beautiful rainbow
  in the sky.  Then you gave me a glance.
     Still you rushed off. 
That evening I spilled moonbeams
  in your face.  I sent a cool breeze
     to rest you and take away your fear.
     I watched over you as you slept.
          I shared your thoughts.
           You were faintly aware
            I was so near.
             I've chosen you.
I have a special task for you.  I hope you will
talk to me soon.  Only I brought you through
the storm.  Others saw no morn.
     I remain near.
     I am your friend.
     I love you very much.


          Your friend,
               Jesus

Monday, July 21, 2014

BookPastor >> "Invitations of Jesus" (Trevor Hudson)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on January 20th, 2014.

conrade


TITLE: Invitations of Jesus
AUTHOR: Trevor Hudson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Upper Room Books, 2014, (96 pages).

This little devotional is written by a Methodist minister based in South Africa. He begins with a reflection on a wedding invitation that he had overlooked. It was something very special for the couple, but he had embarrassingly forgotten all about it in the midst of his work and busyness. Once over, "our loss is forever" so says Trevor Hudson. As he looks at the relationship between Christ and us, so many of our relationship with God is on the basis of our own needs instead of on the basis of faith and love. For Hudson, it is important not to be straitjacketed in a BSH relationship that believes in Jesus, Saved from sins, and straight to heaven after death. Christianity is not about a project to escape hell and enter heaven. It is a response to the invitation of Jesus to open and receive Jesus' gift; to explore and to know God; and to respond to God affirmatively. The key is to learn to be fully alive to God, and in turn be fully alive to one another, and to the world that God so loved and gave his only Son.

The six weeks of "invitations" is a journey from spiritual wakefulness to hopefulness in God. Week One sets the tone of the trip. It encourages readers to open the invitation and to respond with eager hearts. Week Two looks at "transforming intimacy" where Hudson reminds us about the importance of passion for God. Love is not a burden. It is a passion. When we look at our faith from the lens of passion, obeying the commandments of God will be most natural and beautiful. He connects this intimacy of God and relates it also to intimacy with people. True spiritual intimacy is never isolated from intimacy with people. Week Three talks about "transforming discipleship," Hudson poses a challenge to us:

"What is your life's greatest opportunity?"

He urges readers to consider growing in God as that opportunity.  We learn to be accepted by God. We learn to accept ourselves. We learn to connect our individual small stories with the Big Story of God.

Week Four moves to "transforming solitude" which is an invitation to dwell in the gospels, to walk with Jesus in solitude. Underneath Jesus' busy agenda, he frequently takes time to be alone, to pray, and to spend time with God. We learn about rest, refreshment, and renewal. The intriguing thing about solitude is that true solitude is never lonely. It is an awareness that God is right there with us.

Week Five reminds us that the Christian life is never inward looking. It has a "transforming mission" focus. As our relationship with God deepens, we feel a greater urge to share of this intimacy with others. Those who have personally tasted the sweetness of the fruit of spiriual life, will be most happy to share the experience. Without any such experience in the first place, how then can one share about anything? Transforming mission is also about sharing, especially in the suffering of people in the community.

Week Six is an invitation to a "transforming mystery." Sometimes, we in the modern scientific and technological world can arrogantly think we can solve all things. Even our saying of certain things that are impossible comes across more as lip service. The key is not in terms of our knowing or unknowing. It is in God revealing Truth to us, according to his own time and purpose. Just like we do not know when we will die, our losses can be a mystery in itself.

So What?

Do not be deceived by the brevity or the simplicity of this devotional. There are many stories and illustrations to drive home the message of Jesus inviting us to walk with him more closely and more intimately. Far too many Christian books and resources have tried to give us tools to get things done or to make things happen. As a result, many people become more activists instead of reflective respondents. We become more fixated on the visible stuff of life and ignore the invisible things. We fall into the habit of trying to do things in our own strength instead of depending on God's strength. This book of invitation is open-ended enough for us to be creative in our practice of it. It is closed-ended enough to limit our scope to six weeks of transformative exercises. Do these with much prayer. Be patient. Be open. Be intentional. Most importantly, learn to remember that Jesus has already given us an invite. We need to RSVP our response.

Rating:4.5 stars of 5.

conrade

This book is provided to me courtesy of Upper Room Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Grades Are Not Everything

This letter written by a teacher is food for thought, to remind both children and adults that grades are not everything. There is a lot more in life. Lots more. The letter, written by Rachel Tomlinson and Amy Brikett of Barrowford Primary School in the UK in response to a KS2 test. The letter has since gone viral with its constant reminder that grades and results are not everything.

View image on Twitter

Transcription:
Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test results. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.

However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique. The people who create these tests and score them do not know each of you- the way your teachers do, the way I hope to, and certainly not the way your families do. They do not know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or that you can dance or paint a picture. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future, or that sometimes you take care of your little brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with special family members and friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful, and that you try, every day, to be your very best... the scores you get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.

So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.

Monday, July 14, 2014

BookPastor >> "Footprints" (Margaret Fishback Powers)

TITLE: Footprints: The True Story Behind the Poem That Inspired Millions
AUTHOR: Margaret Fishback Powers
PUBLISHER: Toronto: CAD: Harper Collins, 1993, (106 pages).

Many people have read the poem and have been inspired by it. In an age of the Internet, people have searched for it on Google, and many do not even know where it originated from. Who wrote it? What is the story behind it? The answer to it all is in this book. The story begins at the hospital bed where an excited nurse was sharing about the popular "Footprints" poem to a recovering patient in an intensive care ward. She wanted to encourage Paul and after reading it, she admitted that she don't know who the author was. Paul said he did. It was his wife. Paul was recovering from a heart attack and his daughter had just survived a drowning situation. The same poem that had been read to him had also blessed millions of people around the world. The problem is, not many people knew who was the author, including the same nurse.

Written in 1964, twenty years ago before this book was published, the former school teacher gives readers a flashback to her earlier years on how she had survived an electrical storm while in the classroom. She reflected on moments with her soon to be husband, how God had inexplicably been carrying them through their tough times. While the author survived the lightning, one of her students did not. The going was tough but she found assurance that the Bible declares death does not have the final say. God does. That begins her initial thoughts on writing the first few sentences of the world famous poem.

The Ingredients That Helped Form the Poem

Fishback-Powers's poem was one soaked in reflections over her life and her loved one, especially her husband, Paul who himself had a traumatic childhood. From Paul's life, she learns about the deep grace of God who rescued Paul from his doldrums, his unhappy childhood, and the loss of his mother. She remembers her near-death experience, avoiding an oncoming truck; a stinging punishment in school, and her encounter with a threatening bumblebee. Gradually she learns from her husband the meaning of: "Memories and mistakes should be guideposts, not hitching posts." Through the hard times, she hears the soft voice of God speaking to her. Then on an ordinary beachwalk with her husband, the words from Paul accelerates the writing of the poem.

"Margie, when the most troublesome times come, that neither one of us can handle, that's when the Lord will carry us both, as long as we maintain our faith and trust in Him." (42)

Absorbed in the thought of that one set of footprints, she allows her mind to dream and her writing to flow. In between her wedding plans and the hope of a beautiful marriage, she has an increasing awareness of the peace and comfort of God in the midst of tragedy and suffering. Yet, that one thought remains consistently clear. God had carried them in the past. God is carrying them in the present. God will be carrying them through the future.

Challenges in life may be different. The way to survive them all is to know that one is carried by God all through the day, all the way. The author also shares her struggle with copyright matters, establishing her authorship, especially when the poem had become famous. Even when she had won the right to have her book published by a prominent book publisher, she realized that enforcing it will be difficult. She ends the book with a poem of trust again: "Leave It There" with the Lord.

That is what faith is about. Not making big money or profits, but helping others to walk the way of life with Jesus carrying us. If you want to read about the controversy over Footprints' authorship, you can check out the article here.

conrade

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Heartwarming Project

Here is a really heartwarming project that links two generations learning to speak and teach English with technology as an aid. The teenagers are in Brazil while the English speakers they wanted to learn with are from Chicago.

conrade

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Midweek Meditation: "Marks of a Christian" - Basil of Caesarea

Basil of Caesarea (329-379 AD) is a significant figure in the fourth century. Revered by both the Eastern and the Western Church, he had played a huge role in defending the doctrine of the Trinity, Christ, and the creeds that have defined Christianity through the ages. For more on Basil, you can read my review of a recent book on him here. Below is a short and pertinent description of the basic marks of what it means to be a Christian.

conrade

"What is the distinguishing mark of a Christian? Faith working by love. What is the mark of faith? Unhesitating conviction of the truth of the inspired words, unshaken by any argument either based on the plea of physical necessity or masquerading in the guise of piety.

What is the mark of a believer? To hold fast by such conviction in the strength of what Scripture says and to dare neither to set it at naught nor to add to it. For if what is not of faith is sin, as the apostle says, and faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of God, then everything that is outside inspired Scripture, being not of faith, is sin.

What is the mark of love towards God? Keeping His commandments with a view to His glory. What is the mark of love towards one's neighbor? Not to seek one's own good, but the good of the loved one for the benefit of his soul and body.

What is the mark of a Christian? To be born anew in baptism of water and Spirit. What is the mark of him that is born of water? As Christ died to sin once, that he should thus be dead and unmoved by any sin, as it is written: 'All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that we should no longer be in bondage to sin.'

What is the mark of him that is born of the Spirit? That he should be, according to the measure given him, that very thing of which he was born, as it is written: 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.'

What is the mark of him that is born again? To put off the old man with his doings and lusts, and to put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him that created him; as it is written: 'As many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.'

What is the mark of a Christian? To be cleansed from all pollution of flesh and spirit, in the blood of Christ, to perfect holiness in the fear of God and love of Christ, and not to have spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but to be holy and without blemish, and so to eat the body of Christ and drink His blood. 'For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself.'

What is the mark of those who eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord? To keep in perpetual memory Him who died for us and rose again.

What is the mark of those that keep such a memory? To live unto themselves no longer, but unto Him Who died for them and rose again.

What is the mark of a Christian? That his righteousness should abound in everything, more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, according to the measure of the teaching of the Lord in the gospel.

What is the mark of a Christian? To love one another, even as Christ also loved us.

What is the mark of a Christian? To see the Lord always before him.

What is the mark of a Christian? To watch each night and day and in the perfection of pleasing God to be ready, knowing that the Lord cometh at an hour he thinketh not."

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