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.

****

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.

****

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.

****

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!

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.

Graduated? Or Just Entering Kindergarten?

Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash

Some time ago a friend said it seemed to him that when a person became a Christian they believed they had arrived, graduated from College, got the cap and gown, and now they knew it all. He admitted he just didn’t feel like he was ready to graduate yet.

As he was talking, I thought back to that time in my life when I became a Christian, and I couldn’t help but explain how it was for me. Contrary to thinking that I had graduated from College, I felt like I had finally entered Kindergarten. It felt like I had been held back for a long time, unable to learn, unable to see what was all around me. I felt like a small child who enters the world of learning for the first time and begins to discover the wonders of the world, the wonders of language, science and math, the wonders of interacting with other people.

I remember going for long walks along the Klondike River and marveling at what I was seeing. I had walked there many times before, and enjoyed it, but somehow everything seemed fresh, everything had more color, more life. I was seeing the world for the first time, not just as a beautiful place, but as a beautiful place created by a loving God, created specifically for those upon whom He wanted to shower that love. I wrote this short poem to try and express my feelings:

FIRST YUKON SPRING          

Green.
Green so fills my eyes
I sway
with spring
a song
alive and swelling
out of winter grey and white
the colour
in fields and ditches
dances
and I wonder
was there life
before this day?

Truly, there was no life before that day. Life had dried up and blown away long before, leaving me like a dry husk, alone and miserable.

But on that day, the day when I asked Jesus to forgive me and to be the centre of my life, the dry husk drank in the living water of Christ’s love and I came alive again.

I began to see there was something much more amazing than just the surface of things – there was mystery, infinite pattern, purpose and wisdom behind it all. Even the things I read had a depth to them I had not seen before. My interaction with people slowly became not just a game of relationships, but a meaningful exchange of lives.

1 Corinthians 1:5 says, “For in Him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge …” When a person accepts Christ, he is enriched in every way, because the source has been revealed. As we acknowledge the Source, turning to Him for understanding and knowledge, we become aware of the depth of His love as he grants us a measure of these things. He grants us a sense of wonder and awe that brings the world to life.

The excitement lies in realizing there will never be an end to it, never a point when we will know it all, until we come face to face with the One who has created it all. 1 Corinthians 13:12 says – “Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Graduated from college with nothing more to learn? Oh no, not even close, but rather, just entering Kindergarten with an infinite world of knowledge and understanding yet to be discovered.

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Soon, But Not Yet

middle-east-flat-bread-671234_1920
Photo from Pixabay.com

Unleavened bread and roasted grain. That was the first meal the Hebrew people ate in the promised land.

We in North America are used to embellishing our food with spices and sauces or condiments, anything that makes it more salty or sweet. It seems the goal is almost to disguise the real taste of the food. Take away the embellishments for a while and our taste buds begin to adjust. I realized this while canoeing on the Yukon River many years ago. We were paddling to Dawson City from Whitehorse, a trip that should have taken about ten days. It took us three weeks. We spent a lot of time sitting still, waiting for the wind and rain to stop, and we ran out of food.

Well, almost. We had some Red River cereal, which consists of a blend of cracked wheat, rye, and brown flaxseeds. More than a little bland for my North American pallet. But after a while, I started to notice that it did have a pleasing flavour, especially after a long cold day on the river.

The Hebrew people had been used to eating Manna. We don’t know what that tasted like, but I imagine it might have been a little like Red River cereal. Basic and bland. They grumbled about that manna. (see Numbers 11:5,6). It wasn’t at all what they had been used to in Egypt. And they had been promised milk and honey – a euphemism, I think, for rich foods of all kinds, spiced and made sweet and salty. I think the thought of it probably made the Israelites drool just a little as they ate their manna every morning, noon and night.

So why did they only eat unleavened bread and roasted grain on that first day in the promised land?

We have no way of knowing, but perhaps we can be allowed to speculate. Perhaps there was a lot left over after Passover. Perhaps they did not want to waste time and energy creating a lavish feast until they were more settled in the land. Perhaps they realized the time had not yet come for celebrating, for the promised land was not yet entirely theirs.

Or perhaps that meager meal was a wonderful feast to them, as that Red River cereal was to me after a long cold day on the Yukon River. Their feet were now on the land God had promised to them and soon, they would indeed feast upon its bounty. Soon, but not yet. First, there were wars to fight, barriers to overcome and much to learn about trusting their God.

I imagine that first meal was almost like the meal the apostles shared with Jesus just before He went to the cross. We call it the last supper, but perhaps it would be better to refer to it as the first supper. That too was a time of new beginnings, a time of a new relationship with their God, a time of promises being fulfilled.

But first, Jesus had to die. First, they had to remember all the things He had taught them. First, they had to trust and obey.

The Hebrews were, after all, no different than the disciples of Christ – a people promised much, not the least of which was an abundant life and a life lived forever with God.  We, too, are no different. We too have been promised these same things.

For now, we are eating unleavened bread and roasted grain. But someday soon, perhaps very soon, we will feast.

Luke 14:15 says – “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

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Marcia Lee Laycock is the author of five novels and four devotional books. Click the link to subscribe to her devotional column The Spur

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