Go To Your Altars

by Marcia Lee Laycock

Altar

At a recent writing seminar those attending were challenged to write the last few words we would give to the world before we died. A sobering thought. I’d been thinking a lot about altars lately, since I had been doing a Bible study on the ancient tabernacle and how it relates to us today. The study led us to realize that we are now the temple, the place where the Spirit of God resides on this earth. Another sobering thought.

The Bible study detailed the role of the various altars and furniture used in the tabernacle that was built and carried by the Hebrew people during their time in the wilderness. They were instructed in the construction and placement of the altar of sacrifice, the altar of incense, the table of the bread, the lamp stand and the brazen laver and, most significant of all, the ark of the covenant that sat behind the veil in the Holy of Holies. Each one had a specific purpose. At each altar the priests were to perform specific rites for the atonement of the sins of the nation.

That led me to wonder – if I am a temple, where are my altars? Do I have an altar of sacrifice – that place where I lay down that which is precious to me as an offering to the Lord? I should do so daily, within the sincerity of my heart. Do I have a brazen laver where I wash myself before entering God’s presence? I should do so on my knees, humbled to know that I can proceed into His presence because of the spilling of His Son’s blood that has washed my sins away forever. Do I have an altar of incense, that place from which praise and prayer and worship emanate? Again, it should be a daily practise, erupting from my mind and my mouth like a fountain.

Do I have a table, where the bread, the body of my Lord, is displayed in all its simplicity and glory? Is there a lamp stand, that place that burns with His holy fire that can never be extinguished? I must hold it up high for all to see. And is there an ark in me, a place where the remembrances of God’s faithfulness and holiness are kept? I should cherish them in the depths of my soul, bowing before that mercy seat and acknowledging the forgiveness He has extended to me by His death on that cross.

These altars all require my service, the death of my own agendas and ambitions, the breaking of my pride and a bowing down to His sovereignty.

So these are my few words, words that I would say to myself and to all of us who would be believers in Christ –

Go to Your Altars

the altar of incense, shouting out praise, petitions and songs; the altar of washing, bathing in His mercy, acknowledging His grace; the altar of the lamp stand, feeding the flame of faith as a light to the world; the altar of sacrifice, relinquishing your ambitions, your dreams and your pride. Go to your altars. Lay yourself down.

Waiting

DSC_2198Ask anyone in the country and they’ll tell you it’s been a long cold winter. Spring’s feet have been weighed down with ice, her blood still running cold and sluggish even though it’s well past the date they designate as the first day of spring.
And everyone has had enough. Everyone is longing for green, for the sound of running water, the sight of clear blue skies and the feel of a warming sun.
The longing of our hearts can be an ache that won’t let go. It can be for something as simple as a change in the weather or it can be a deep yearning for the return of a loved one who is gone, the desire to return to a time and place that gave us pleasure, or the deep deep longing to be forever in God’s presence, in a place where there will be no more pain or suffering, no more longings.
These feelings are indications that we are not yet where we were meant to be, that we are not yet who we were meant to be. It’s the deep deep longing for communion with God Himself. These longings can sometimes build into frustration with ourselves, with our circumstances, and even with our creator.
The scripture tells us that even nature “was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:19-23).
The waiting is hard, especially when the end result we long for is delayed or perhaps even seems like a mirage. There are days when it seems it’s too much to bear, but we know the end will come. The trees will bloom and the soft warm breezes will blow. And we know some day we will be in the presence of our creator, the One who has put these longings in our hearts to remind us that there is something so much more and so much better to come.
And as we wait we have His promises, His presence with us, the daily mercies that tell us He knows and understands our heart’s longings. And we can know that His intention is to fulfill them, to give us our heart’s desires in ways that we cannot now comprehend. The redemption of our bodies, our minds and our souls will someday be a reality, just as the arrival of spring is sure.
So “put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption” (Psalm 130:7).

 

Almost by Marcia Lee Laycock

“Tell me your story,” my friend said.

I smiled and warned her that we might be there for a while, but she said she wanted to hear all of it. And I was excited because I love telling it, not because it’s my story but because it is, from beginning to end, God’s story. It becomes obvious to those listening and even more, to myself, that God’s hand of protection has been over all of my life. There were so many times when I could have/should have had disastrous things happen; times when I almost died.

As my husband has said, “You walked into the fire and right out of it again with hardly a scratch!” Well, the smell of smoke often lingered, but he’s right. I can relate to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

There was that day I should have drowned but was saved, that night I could have been raped and even murdered but was left alone, that time I ingested a poison but it left no effect, the times I trusted strangers who could have been demons but turned out to be angels. Over and over again God protected me.

Oh yes, I have had my share of tragedies and trials, but even in those circumstances, God was there. There was the moment when I heard those mind-numbing words, you have cancer, the days when the chemo treatments were almost too much and others when I almost could not make myself walk through the doors of the clinic where I would lay on a table and allow radiation to burn my body. There was that day I was almost overcome when I realized the child I carried would not be born alive and the day I got the phone call telling me my father had died. There were those years when the pain of the circumstances almost drove me to curse God.

In all of those times it was God’s presence, and above all His love, that kept me sane, kept me going, and kept me in the shelter of his wings. It was Jesus who kept me from going beyond ‘almost.’

I love that old song that says, “The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and they are safe.” The words are true. The name Jesus keeps us safe, even in the midst of the fire or in the midst of a raging storm – not always safe from pain, but safe from separation from Him. And that is the only agony we would not survive.

These words are also true: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed” (2Corinthians 4:7-9).

That is our testimony, our story as believers in Christ Jesus. When we have Him we will always have that word, almost.

 

Written in Stone

Written in Stone
Written in Stone

The tables in the hall gleamed with china and glass. The church family smiled and chatted, all dressed in their “Sunday best.” The banquet, celebrating our friends’ many years of ministry, was about to begin. Then the M.C. asked everyone to take a seat and told us that this was our opportunity to honour the couple whose lives and ministry we were celebrating that evening.

One by one people went to the microphone to speak about what that couple had meant to them over the years. Most of it was complimentary and inspiring. But I remember what one young woman said. She smiled at her former pastor’s wife and said she was thankful to her for being an example of stylish dress.

I was stunned. Really? That’s it? I felt a kind of emptiness as the young woman sat down. And I thought, would you want that engraved on your tombstone? And it made me wonder, what will I be remembered for?

It also made me think of an interview I’d read with Malcolm Gladwell in which he talked about writing his latest book, David and Goliath. He interviewed Wilma Derksen, the mother of a young woman who was brutally murdered in Manitoba. As Wilma talked about forgiveness  Malcolm Gladwell recognized something astounding in that woman – “to borrow that marvellous phrase from Pierre Sauvage— (it was) the “weapons of the spirit”—the peculiar and inexplicable power that comes from within” (Relevant Magazine).

I hope and pray that I end up like Wilma Derksen. I hope and pray that people see God’s Spirit in me day to day. Sometimes I despair of that being so, because I know my flawed nature all too well. There are many times when I know I have not exhibited the love and grace of God. But I hope, indeed, I do know, that as I have grown in Christ over the years, those days become fewer and fewer. I am being changed by the Spirit in me.

I often grab hold of these verses in Philippians 3:12-14 – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

I am so thankful that God’s grace is new every morning and each day is another opportunity to get closer to Him, to read His word, to practise His presence and to watch for examples of how others are living for Him. That’s the only way to learn how to wield those “weapons of the spirit” Pierre Sauvage mentioned.

Those weapons are mighty. They can change us. They can change those around us. They can change the world. Those weapons of the Spirit are the key to being able to live for Christ. And they will produce in us something worthy of being written in stone.

Just like Him by Marcia Lee Laycock

Smiley Barbeque

My eyes fluttered open to the sound of howling wind. More snow, I thought, and thought about slipping deeper under the covers. But I was awake so I headed to the kitchen to make my usual cup of coffee and start the day. I expected there would be another few inches of snow on our deck and the thought didn’t make me happy. Coffee in hand, I wandered to our back door. Yes, there was another thick layer of the white stuff, but there was something else that caught my eye. A smiley face, grinning at me. There, on the side of our barbeque’s cover was a perfect smiley, eyes and all.

It made me laugh out loud. And then tears came to my eyes. You see, I’d been feeling a little blue lately, a little “under the weather,” as they say. I’ve been chalking it up to the grey days we’ve been having lately, combined with the fact that I’ve had some health issues that haven’t been fun to deal with over the past while. I tried to talk myself out of the ‘funk’ by reminding myself of all that I have to be thankful for. That helped, but the grey mood still lingered. So I asked the Lord to lighten my spirits a little. He knew just how to do it.

As I stood there grinning back at our barbeque, I thought of all the other times He has done something similar. The time he made a tiny flower glow with the promise of hope in my living room as I lay on our couch aching from chemo treatments; the day he showed me a perfect rosebud that had just bloomed in a Papua New Guinea garden when I was struggling to walk after being hit by a debilitating virus; the day he showed me the delight in my three-year-old nephew’s eyes when he saw a cluster of blue irises for the first time; the morning my mom woke my brother and I so we could see the marmot that had taken up residence in a pile of logs beside our house. These were all ‘smiley’ moments – moments of delight sent by the hand of God. It’s  just like Him to know exactly what we need at exactly the perfect time.

We shouldn’t be surprised. The scripture tells us He delights in delighting us. “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory” (Psalm 149:4).

The Scripture also says “because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam.3:22,23).

And “great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2).

Are you a bit “under the weather” these days? Ponder the works, the love, the faithfulness of our Lord. And don’t be afraid to ask him to lighten your spirit. It’s just like Him to find the perfect way to do it.

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flatecover(98) Marcia’s novella, An Unexpected Glory is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo

 

 

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Marcia’s short story, Missing Christmas is available on Amazon

 

 

 

 

The Promise of Christmas

Nativity sculptureChaos reigned supreme. That’s how it seemed as we rehearsed our Christmas play. The first rehearsal didn’t really happen. The second one was only a bit better, and three quarters of the cast didn’t make it to the third. Those of us who were supposedly “in control” wondered if we were going to have a play at all.

That was nothing new. Every year it seems to happen. Kids run helter-skelter, some don’t show up, some can’t find costumes or those made for them don’t fit. The choir director is tearing her hair out This year seemed a bit more chaotic than usual. But somehow it all came together in the end. The night of the performance seemed to go well. I say seemed, because I was too busy trying to keep my “cast” quiet and focused, to notice if the play was working. One of the magi discovered he could use one of the shepherd’s headbands as a slingshot to wing the beads off his crown clear across the front of the church. That delighted the kids in the front row who dashed out to pick them up. Mary couldn’t stop squirming because her costume was made of wool, and Joseph kept changing his mind about which robe fit best – right up until he walked out onto the ‘stage.’

I wasn’t sure it had really all come together until the audience stood to applaud at the end. When many congratulated us on a job well done, all I could say was, “It’s a miracle!”

And that’s the promise of Christmas – it all comes together in the end. I’m sure the followers of Jesus, watching the drama of His life and death, felt the same way we ‘directors’ did. To those who thought they were in control, it looked like chaos reigned. From the moment of His birth, He and His parents had to run from those who wanted to kill Him. As He performed miracles, religious leaders plotted against Him. Even the disciples themselves didn’t understand His message. They were disappointed that He didn’t chase the Romans out of the country; He never did set up an earthly kingdom. Then, the cross. It looked like everything they tried to accomplish was doomed to fail. But in the end …

In the end, the stone was rolled away. The baby born in a stable and crucified on a cross was raised glorified, to the glory of His Father.

And there is another promise yet to unfold. As the birth of Christ is overshadowed by the cross, which was blasted away by his resurrection, even that will be outdone by His return. One day, God has told us, “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength’.” (Isaiah 45:23,24)

It will be a miracle and it really will all come together in the end.

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flatecover(98)

An Unexpected Glory is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo

Flash Mobs at Christmas

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I love the videos of flash mobs that circulate on YouTube and Facebook, especially at this time of year. I love to watch the faces of those in the malls or city squares as they realize that something unusual is happening. The looks range from bemused delight to open-mouthed awe. Cell phones quickly appear to capture the event and the applause at the end is usually long and loud.

What is it about these spontaneous events that delight us?

We aren’t expecting it. Who expects a symphony orchestra to suddenly strike up in a food court? The people doing it look just like us yet they are doing something out of the ordinary, something fun and sometimes spectacular. Ordinary routines are suddenly halted, an ordinary day is turned into a festival and the focus on scurrying around to shop is forgotten. Strangers smile at one another and share the delight of discovery. For a few moments a community is created.

As I watched a flash mob the other day I thought of how perfectly it exemplified the spirit of Christmas.

Who expected the Messiah to be born as a baby in a manger? The people involved were ordinary people who looked just like all the others in that era yet they were involved in a world-changing event – something totally out of the ordinary, something spectacular. The ordinary routines of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men were suddenly halted. An ordinary event, the birth of a child, on an ordinary day, became the pivot on which history would turn. Those who came to worship the Christ child on that day were strangers to one another, but they became companions in a journey that would lead them to the most important discovery of their lives and a joy that would never leave them.

As I thought about it, I thought about my own attitude to yet another Christmas season. I’ve seen over six decades of them. Yes, I’m that old! And sometimes I miss the delight and the joy I had as a child, because it is all so familiar. It’s all so commercial with the constant pressure to buy and my jaded attitude causes me to miss the glory.

Perhaps that’s why I love the flash mobs. They renew my joy in this season, they renew my delight in the story that is still the pivot of the world’s history even after more than 2,000 years.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

What about you? Has your attitude toward Christmas been jaded by all the commercialism? Click into Youtube and find a video about a flash mob. Then ponder that event, more than 2,000 years ago. It might just renew your Christmas spirit.