Clinging to the Rock

Dwarf Fireweed. photo by Marcia Lee Laycock

The far north is a place where things are pared down, taken to the lowest common denominators of life. Rock, water, sun, insects and wind. And of course, in the winter, snow and ice. It is a place where the word survival is never far from one’s thoughts.

It was a marvel to me how the tiny delicate flowers of Baffin Island could survive. There is very little soil there, yet they spring up and cling to solid rock. Vibrant dwarf fireweed, saxifrage, anemones and the ever-present Arctic cotton. As my friends and I walked across it, the tundra seemed to be in motion as the tiny ones swayed in the constant wind, lifting their heads toward a far-away sun. We stepped around them, our heads bent in homage, our camera shutters clicking.

As I moved across that barren landscape I couldn’t help but think of the barren landscape of cancer I had been wandering in. The similarities were stark. After the diagnosis, there wasn’t much to hang onto at times. The winds of fear and loss seemed always in my face and the sun seemed oh so far away. But as I thought about beginning the first round of chemotherapy, I stared at a bright yellow anemone and took heart. If this little one can survive in this, her desolate place, then so shall I in mine, I reasoned, by doing what she does season after season. Cling to the rock.

My Rock was more solid and everlasting than those slowly disintegrating across the tundra. My Rock spoke and comforted and held my hand. My Rock carried me when my knees buckled and cradled my head when I just needed to cry. My Rock hid me in its cleft and set my feet on a firm foundation.

And when I “lift up my eyes to the hills,” and ask, “Where does my help come from?” He answers – “My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber … The Lord watches over you, the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:1-8, NIV).

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Now in Paperback format on Amazon

An Appropriate Quote

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.com

By Marcia Lee Laycock

I read the email with a bit of anticipation and a bit of dread. It was an invitation to another Christmas party. In those pre-Covid days, that meant another pot-luck item to prepare, another Chinese auction gift to bring. It was almost enough to make me want to shout, “Bah Humbug!” But the instructions in this email were intriguing and piqued my interest. For the gift exchange, we were to bring a favourite quote, done up in some kind of creative way. The favourite quote part would be easy, I thought. I have a huge file of quotes on my computer. With the state of my health, I knew the creative part might be a bit more difficult, but I decided to try and rise to the challenge.

I clicked into my quotes file and began to read, and read, and read. Nothing seemed exactly right. I was thinking Christmas but couldn’t find anything seasonal. I thought inspirational, but nothing seemed to hit the mark. I thought humorous but couldn’t find anything that made me laugh out loud. So I gave up, swallowed some more cough medicine and went to bed. The next day I opened the file again. A quote seemed to beam its way to me immediately. It was short but thought provoking, and when I thought about it, the words, from poet Anne Sexton, were very appropriate for the Christmas season. She said: “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”

I realized back then, that in the midst of the rush to shop, to bake, to decorate and make it to all those Christmas parties, God was calling us to do just that. I wonder if His call is perhaps even more urgent in these days when there isn’t such an urgency to bake because we’re not allowed to have people in our homes. The need to decorate seems equally pointless, and Christmas parties? Well, it may be some time before we’ll be able to attend one again.

Perhaps God wants us to stop and hear His voice in the tumult. It is a still small voice, but one that echoes with everything we need. It is the voice of a child crying from a manger, the voices of angels proclaiming and shepherds jabbering about a baby born to be King. It is a voice weeping for those in pain and sickness. It is a voice mourning for those who refuse to hear Him. It is a voice shouting victory over the forces of evil and death. And it is a voice calling us to know Him, to know His love for us, love that grants us one more day of life, filled with all its challenges and blessings.

Listen for Him. He has promised that anyone “who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev.3:20, NIV) Not only that, but He has also promised to stay with you forever, to guide and protect you, and to give you peace.

So, “put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” You might just hear the true voice of Christmas.

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Christmas Books Available

To order contact me at vinemarc@telus.net or go to my Amazon page

Wishing I Could Be Jesus

Image by coastventures from Pixabay

I recently attended a funeral for a young man who died too soon, leaving a wife and three young girls. The sadness overwhelms at times and it makes me wish I could be Jesus, just for a few minutes, just long enough to say, as He did, “arise.”

But then, I realize that He doesn’t need me to do His work for Him. He has already done it. He has already said that wondrous, mysterious word and brought that young man into His kingdom, given him time to have a productive, full life here on this earth, and then brought Him home, to the place where he has wanted to be, as a believer in Christ.

Often, especially during these difficult days when we constantly hear about a worsening pandemic, the world seems off kilter and full of so much pain and suffering it overwhelms us. And we want to be Jesus. We want to snap our fingers and make it all better. But He is and has already been at work. He has a plan for this earth, for each one of us, a plan that goes far beyond what we could ever imagine.

God told the Hebrew people exactly that when they were in circumstances that were full of pain and suffering – their captivity in Babylon. Living as slaves, they no doubt often cried out to God to bring them relief from all the suffering and pain they experienced and saw around them.

This was His answer – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

At this time of year some of us are in circumstances that are made even more difficult by all the joy and/or jollity around us. Our lives have been turned upside down. And sadness overwhelms.

Here are a few things we can do when that happens:

Look up. When we see all those decorated Christmas trees, look up. Look for the star or the angel on the top. And know Jesus is with you.

Look around. There are others who are struggling. Is there something you can do for them that will lighten their hearts, and yours?

Look ahead. Jesus has promised a bright future and given us a way to know we are secure in his hand.

Yes, there are times I wish I could be Jesus. But then I remember – He is the Messiah, the Living God, our hope and our comfort. We don’t need anyone or anything else.

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A similar version of this devotional in included in Marcia’s book, Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals just for Christmas. It can be ordered from Amazon or by emailing the author – vinemarc@telus.net

Just Adopted

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

“You’re just an adopted brat. Go away!”

I turned away in tears, stung by my older brother’s taunt.  It wasn’t the first time he’d flung those words at me and over the years I’d begun to believe it. I was the “caboose” of the family, born after my mother was sure she was finished child bearing. I always felt like I didn’t quite belong.

Until we made a trip to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles and a hoard of cousins. I loved going there, especially being with the cousins, some of whom were even my age. On one afternoon one of the uncles gave us all a nickel each, to spend at the local corner store. The group of us trooped in, chose our candies and took turns paying at the counter. The kindly owner joked with each one, until I stood before him. He frowned a bit, then said, “Well, you’re obviously a Lee, but which one are ya?” I told him my name, and my father’s name. He grinned. “Of course. I should have known. You look just like him.”

I skipped all the way back to my grandfather’s house and I never believed my brother’s taunts about being adopted again. Finally I knew where I belonged. I was my father’s daughter and nothing could change that.

The struggle to believe it, however, did not end. There were still times when I felt like I didn’t fit in, as though I were a foreigner in a strange country. I wandered through many places, careers and relationships over the years, searching for a place to truly belong, until one day when I was challenged to take a serious look at Jesus Christ. When I asked Jesus to forgive me, everything changed. At that moment I was adopted into a different family – the family of God. I’ve never forgotten the joy of knowing I belong to Jesus, knowing I am loved unconditionally.

When I think back on that time is still amazes me how simple it was to make that step, yet how much I resisted doing it, for so long. When I finally turned to God and asked for his forgiveness it was not with a humble heart, or a broken spirit. I was still flippant and defiant. But in His amazing grace and mercy, Jesus still opened his arms to me and welcomed me home like the long lost child I was.

That’s amazing grace, the kind of grace that extends love and forgiveness to anyone who asks, even when their attitude isn’t right, even when their life is a mess. One of my favourite verses in the Bible says – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8, NIV).

While we were still sinners, still disobeying him, still cursing him – even then, He is willing to forgive.

So now I’m not “just adopted.” I’m welcomed in, owned, loved and accepted.

Eternally at home.

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Thanks for reading! I’d love to connect with you – just leave a comment here or one my website – https://marcialeelaycock.com

TODAY – I’ll be joining a few other Canadian Christian authors who are highlighting their books LIVE on Facebook. The event begins at 5:00pm MST. I’ll be talking about a few of my Christmas books – at 5:45pm MST. Pop by and say hello!

Gifts of Good Words: Christmas Books !

Christmas is for reading right? And don’t we all love to get a little book stuffed into our stocking? That’s why I created these two little books:

Christmas, a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the edge of the Arctic Circle and the streets of the inner city. The miracle of Christmas is transported from one unusual setting to another and into your heart as you read.

And …

Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals. Love is always in the room with us at Christmas time. These short but timely reflections will stir your heart with a new, clear perspective on the perfect Saviour who came as a babe so long ago. From the child-like delight of a Christmas flash mob to avoiding “too much” Christmas, award-winning author and speaker, Marcia Lee Laycock gives fresh insight into our most beloved season.

Both books can be purchased directly
from me for $15.00 including postage, by emailing vinemarc@telus.net

or from Amazon –

Love in the Room ; Christmas

What readers have said:

About Christmas:

“If you’re looking for a collection of stories to inspire and understand the Christmas spirit, look no further. The author skillfully presents characters in a wide range of circumstances, so that you feel you’re right there with them. You feel their anxiety, their pain and their joyful answer to a burning question. If there’s anything I might have wanted, it would be more of her stories.”

Each story is a delightful read. The characters are believable and the story lines engaging. A refreshing read that does “stir the Christmas spirit.”

About Love in the Room:

“I love Marcia’s winsome style. Her carefully woven stories are proof that great truth is taught in simple ways.”

“The spirit of Christmas is indeed alive in these devotionals. Savour each one in the days leading up to the 25th. Or give it as a gift to be enjoyed in the days after and at any time of the year.”

Virtual Book Fair Blog Hop Schedule – Please follow along for the next 14 days and check out all of these great selections.

Wednesday November 4—Ruth L. Snyder https://ruthlsnyder.com/2020/11/04/gifts-of-good-words-blog-hop/

Thursday November 5—Eunice Matchett https://albertastoryteller.com/

Friday November 6—Grace Wulff https://gracewulff.com/

Saturday November 7—Tandy Balson https://www.timewithtandy.com/

Sunday November 8—LD Stauth https://www.ldstauth-author.com/

Monday November 9—Sally Meadows https://sallymeadows.com/

Tuesday November 10—Janet Sketchley https://janetsketchley.ca/

Thursday November 12—Marcia Laycock https://marcialeelaycock.com/

Friday November 13—Ruth Meyer (on Facebook)

Saturday November 14—Laurie Haughton http://lensofmotherhood.blogspot.com/

Sunday November 15—Carolyn Wilker https://www.carolynwilker.ca/

Monday November 16—Janis Cox https://www.janiscox.com/

Tuesday November 17—Lynn Collier https://lynnecollier.com

Wednesday November 18—Barrie Doyle https://barriedoyle.com/

Gifts of Words Blog Hop!

Follow the Gifts of Good Words Blog Hop taking place from November 4-18, 2020. Find quality Canadian Christian Books for those on your Christmas list! Then, on November 18, join the Good Words Virtual Book Fair on Facebook.

I’m participating with my two ‘stocking-stuffer’ Christmas books:

Christmas, a collection of short stories that will take you from the far reaches of the galaxy to the edge of the Arctic Circle and the streets of the inner city. The miracle of Christmas is transported from one unusual setting to another and into your heart as you read.

and

Love in the Room, a collection of devotionals. Love is always in the room with us at Christmas time. These short but timely reflections will stir your heart with a new, clear perspective on the perfect Saviour who came as a babe so long ago. From the child-like delight of a flash mob to avoiding “too much” Christmas, award-winning author and speaker, Marcia Lee Laycock gives fresh insight into our most beloved season.

Both books can be purchased directly from me for $15.00 including postage, by emailing vinemarc@telus.net

or from Amazon –

Love in the Room ; Christmas

I’ll be talking about both books live on Facebook on Nov. 18th (see link above). Hope you will follow along on the blog hop and join us on the 18th!

Please check out books by my fellow Canadian Christian authors!

A Taste of Heaven in the Holy City

Photo by Marcia Lee Laycock

We had been in Israel for some time and I was getting a little tired of visiting all the cathedrals and churches our tour guide led us too, but on this particular day he stopped at the entrance of St. Anne’s Cathedral and turned to us.

“If you like to sing,” he said, “this is the place to do it. The acoustics in this church are remarkable.”

I stepped over the stone threshold of the building and immediately my eyes lifted to the vaulted ceiling. The architect and builders had done their work well. The dome above seemed to float, every beam and arch leading the eye up toward heaven.

Then I heard the singing and for a moment I thought I was there. The sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. I could not understand the words but I recognized the hymn. As our tour group crowded in behind me I stepped forward and saw that the source of the beautiful sound was a quartet – four Korean men standing in the centre of the sanctuary, directly below that magnificent dome.

Almost as though we had been directed by a choir master, we all began to sing. “When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart. Then I shall bow, in humble adoration, and there proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

We had just begun the chorus when another group, from South America stepped in and joined us, singing in Portuguese. Then another group, this time singing in Spanish. My heart and soul swelled as I envisioned that day when we will all stand before our Messiah.

To see His face; Oh, to see His face! To be in heaven in the presence of this kind of pure and powerful unity – the longing was overwhelming, and I began to weep.

As we quietly left that place, the scripture I had read that morning, Hebrews 12: 22 -29, sang in my mind – “But you have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Finding Your Way Home

Image by dave canning from Pixabay

I was returning to Canada, on a plane somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when I had the first dream. As most dreams are, it was confusing, full of images and scraps of sound that, though vivid and realistic were disjointed and without logical sequence. I had another similar dream on the bus taking me to my hometown back in Canada, then another on the train north, taking me to the isolated fishing lodge where I was to work for the summer. The dreams were full of foreign scenes – orange-tiled roofs and dark-skinned children from Spain, cheese shops and narrow streets from France, soaring mountains and towering cathedrals from Switzerland.       

The trip from Lisbon to my destination in northern Ontario took about 36 hours. By the time I arrived I was disoriented, but had no time to think about it. I went to work immediately and didn’t have a chance to relax until later that day when I went for a swim. Floating on a small raft, I soon was dozing in the warm sun. Again, dreams filled my mind with disorienting images and sounds. Then my foot slipped off the raft into the icy water. I woke with a start, staring at a landscape that shocked me. There were no red-tiled roofs or foreign languages, no Gothic cathedrals or cobblestone streets. My eyes opened to rugged cliffs and swaying pines. I knew I was not in Spain, but where was I? Then I realized, “Oh. Canada. I’m home.” Home – the place where I was safe, where everything was familiar – the landscape, the culture, the language.

We all need that place called home. We need to know we are safe and surrounded by what is familiar. But sometimes we can feel as though we are living in a foreign land, surrounded by strangers speaking words we can’t understand. Sometimes we feel so out of place that every day is a struggle, a battle to believe we belong. The battle is real because the truth is we don’t belong. We weren’t made to live in this world of corruption and chaos. We were made to live in a climate of joy and praise, in the presence of God. Anything less will make us feel disjointed, out of place. Anything less will leave us with a longing for home.

Our home is not a place, not a city nor a country field, not a valley nor a mountaintop. Our home is with God.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1,2,NIV).

Peace with God brings us home, no matter where we are, no matter what our circumstances. Jesus brings us to that place. Follow Him and He’ll lead you home.

Juxtaposed

Photo by Inspirationfeed on Unsplash

I’m struggling to understand.

It was an ordinary day. Actually, it was a bit unordinary because my husband wanted to go shopping. For clothes. Clothes for himself. That, my friends is a rare occurrence. He was wearing a pair of shorts he’d purchased at a store we don’t often go to, but he said, yeah, he’d like to get another pair just like them. So we found ourselves there, shopping. He in the men’s and I in the women’s department. Fingering the sales racks. Maybe a dress would be nice. Haven’t worn a dress in a long time. Yes, a nice breezy summer dress, I was thinking when I heard a man’s voice.

“Somebody just attacked a doctor at the clinic next door, with a hammer. Stay inside.”

The clerk asks if she should call 911. The man is leaning out the front doors. “No, the cops are already here.”

I follow the clerk onto the sidewalk in front of the store. I’ve never seen so many cop cars, ambulances, fire engines, lights flashing, no sirens.

I go back inside, walk to the men’s fitting rooms, call my husband’s name. “Do you want a different colour?”

He emerges, shorts in hand and a Tshirt. I grin at the bright colour. “Nice,” I say. We make our way to the front counter. No one there. They are all still outside on the sidewalk. I tell my husband why there are police cars in the parking lot. He asks one of the clerks if he can pay, please.

She rushes back in, face white. “One of the cop cars just hit a pedestrian but it looks like he’s okay, just bumped him I think,” she says. Her hand shakes a bit as she offers the debit machine.

We pay, walk outside, watching the EMS guy tend to a man. His dog is pacing as we drive away.

I pray the doctor will be okay.

It’s not until about two hours later that I read on my phone that he died from the wounds inflicted by the hammer and a machete. There are a few more details, how two other patients tried to intervene, a description given by a mother who pulled her eleven-year-old daughter to safety and hid in her car.

I close my phone and stare out the front window of my home, my safe home, that looks out onto a still small pond. I replay our time in the store, the ordinariness of our words, our movements, while just 200 metres away a man was crying out, “help me! Call 911!” Perhaps those were his last words on this earth.

While I wondered whether or not I should buy a summer dress.

And I don’t understand. Why this juxta positioning of our lives with his? Why were we there, at that exact time?

Of course, it makes me think of the fragility of life, the seeming randomness of events that, in a matter of seconds change everything. And yet, nothing. Nothing has changed for us. Except that we paused for a moment to pray, to wonder, and then perhaps to ponder the bigger questions, once again.

Delayed reactions are normal for me so I’m aware of a heaviness that is slowly descending, with thoughts of the doctor’s family, the trauma suffered by a woman and an eleven year old girl who were there, instead of shopping for a summer dress.

I’m aware there are things I need to learn because we, too, were there. Or perhaps, more to the point, I am just more aware. Aware of the gentleness in my husband’s eyes, the goodness in his heart, the warmth of his body lying next to mine at night.

Perhaps that is reason enough.


Assurance

There have been times when I have feared that I’ll die before accomplishing the things I dream about, before writing what I really want to write – that great novel, the perfect devotional, that poem that sings and that article that changes a life. After all, death is the final interruption. It always comes at an unexpected time and often in the middle of something.

I hope my death doesn’t come for a very long time, but I know it could be sooner than I want. It could be today. That’s why I love what it says in 2 Timothy 1:11,12:

“And of this gospel I was appointed a herald … I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:11-12, NIV).

When I read that verse recently it reminded me again who I work for. He’s the kind of boss everyone wants. He’s organized and efficient, He knows all my weaknesses and strengths and exactly what direction I need to go to develop my skills. He constantly encourages me and provides ample opportunity for me to learn those skills and learn more about him in the process. He knows the beginning and the end of my life and my career. He has it all mapped out so that it will give me everything I need, bless others and bring him glory.

I have committed my life and my work to Jesus Christ. I can rest in the assurance that I won’t die until He has accomplished all that he intended through me. I don’t have to fear an “untimely death.” Neither do I have to fear that death is the end of it all. To the contrary, scripture tells us it is just the beginning. We will have all of eternity to accomplish what God intends – singing his praises, glorifying him forever by using all the gifts and skills he has taught us along the way.

After all, death is only an interruption. The novel might be half finished, the poem only begun, but the words will continue to flow in that new reality. I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able.