The Trickle of Time

What lies beyond?

immo-wegmann-uV6PjZ6O1FM-unsplash

While watching a video recently and listening to this song I was struck by the image of that ancient tool of time, the hourglass. It made me sigh just a little, since I am not just “over the hill” but getting very close to the bottom of the far side.

And I have a friend who is dying. A friend who does not believe there is anything more than this life. He believes that when those last gains of sand fall into the receptacle on the bottom, that’s it. There will be no one there to turn the hourglass over so we can start again.

That belief saddens me deeply. Because I believe there is one who is waiting for us, a God who is monitoring the inexorable drip of the hourglass of our life, the one who will turn it over and open a new life to us, a life lived forever in His presence.

It makes me think of the place where I went to school, on the shores of a short strip of water called the St. Mary’s River. It joins two of the largest inland bodies of water in the world, Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The high school I attended stood on a hill overlooking that river and the locks that allowed huge ships to pass from one lake to the other. I remember staring out a window before classes began one morning and thinking about the courier du bois, those courageous explorers who paddled canoes from one lake to the other.

I wondered what they must have thought as they came to the end of Lake Huron. They had heard rumours that there was more beyond, (their first nations guides told them so), but I imagine they wondered. Could it really be true? Could there be another lake, larger and more wondrous than the one they had just navigated? I imagined their excitement and fear as they came to the end of the St. Mary’s River and saw that yes, it was true. Lake Superior lay before them.

Just as heaven will one day lay before those who have believed in Jesus, the Christ.

As someone who is getting closer and closer to that moment, I take great comfort in that promise. Unlike those explorers, I have no fear of what is beyond because Jesus has told me, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1- 3, ESV).

It’s that last phrase that excites me but yes, makes me a little nervous, in a way. For how can I, one with so many faults and failings, come face to face with Jesus? But then there is another promise. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1,2, ESV).

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

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Thank you for taking the time to read. I invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more of my work about finding your way home, into the arms of Jesus. 😊 You can find me on Medium.com at Pond’rings and Words on the Wing and a few other publications along the way.

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Is There a Cosmic Bowling Game Going On?

And are we the brunt of it?

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

None of us knows what will happen a year from now, or a month from now, or even tomorrow. Circumstances can hit at any moment and bowl us over like the proverbial pins we love to knock down for amusement. Sometimes it can seem like there’s a celestial bowling game going on and we are all the brunt of it.

A friend woke up on New Year’s Day to find their basement flooded and water spewing out of a split pipe. A young woman carrying twins is told to abort one because they cannot both survive. A community is wiped out by fire while another shudders under an abnormal deep freeze. Wars erupt and millions die of a virus that seems impossible to stop. If I did not believe there was a God beyond us who is in control of it all I would often be in despair. But then that young mom gives birth to those twins. A flower blooms unexpectedly in the desert that amazes all who see it. A man’s terminal cancer inexplicably disappears.

It is the safe arrival of those beautiful little babies, one of whom would not be alive but for a mother who said no, that keeps my head up and my heart soaring. And that single flower blooming in a far-off desert. And that father who is able to join his family for another Christmas dinner. And as long as there are such things in the world there is a will to go on, there is hope. As Sam Ganges said to Frodo when they were at the height of hopelessness – “… because there’s good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for.” That goodness spurs gratitude which lifts our eyes above our circumstances to the face of a loving God. That love ricochets through the universe, touching the hearts of those who are on the verge of giving up, as someone near them reaches out a hand to help them stand again.

After every natural disaster we hear of heroic deeds that are lauded through media around the world. The bravery and resilience and nobility of man is evident to all at such times and sometimes someone even wonders where such things come from. Beauty, nobility, creativity, heroism, pure unadulterated kindness. Are they sourced from the depths of mankind or from the depths of something, someone, beyond us?

As we launch into 2022 such questions bear pondering and answering. Some of us will frown and shake our heads because the answers seem unsearchable, unknowable. Some of us will smile because we’ve felt the love of a great and merciful God and seen His hand at work and known that He stands with us no matter what circumstances befall us. We smile because we can know where the nobility and kindness come from; we can know this God who is the source of it all.

As we launch into 2022 perhaps the only resolution we should have is to get to know Him even more as we take yet another step into the unknown, with hope.

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Other places to read my work:

On Medium.com find me at https://medium.com/pondrings and https://medium.com/koinonia and a few other publications along the way.

And on InScribe Writers Online

And be sure to sign up for my newsletter, Home Words, to receive sporadic updates and a free short story.  😊

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Re-making Christmas

Perhaps a little too much tradition blurs the reality

Like many others, no doubt, our church is getting ready for the Christmas pageant to be performed by all the kids in Sunday School. Last Sunday the decorations appeared – tinsel-covered Christmas trees and a large barn-like structure complete with the animal trough surrounded by a donkey, a lamb and a cow that looks suspiciously like a Jersey. As we took our seats my husband leaned toward me and whispered, “Good North American nativity scene.”

I chuckled. Yes, we have remade Christmas in our own image. There would not have been spruce trees anywhere near the birthplace of Christ. A fig tree would be a more accurate depiction, and perhaps an ox would have been more appropriate than the cow. Often we are relying more on tradition than accuracy as we prepare for Dec. 25th. Jesus was likely born in the spring, not the winter season.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the traditions of Christmas: the tree and all its baubles and tinsel, the wreaths adorning the doors, the cards that stuff our mailboxes both real and virtual, the Santa hats that adorn the heads of sales people and shoppers alike.

And I was glad to see the display at our church, nonetheless. With the religious symbols of Christmas sadly absent from most of the festive displays our communities these days, I was thankful that here, at least in the church, we are still making an attempt at remembering the birth of the Messiah.

Perhaps it would do us all good to remake Christmas more accurately in our hearts, as we focus on the Scriptures that tell us what really happened that day over 2,000 years ago. Yes, there was a census, the reason Mary and Joseph had to travel to Nazareth, the city of David, which fulfilled one of the prophesies about Jesus (Luke 2:1). Scholars debate whether His birthplace was actually a stable or more likely the place in many homes where their animals were housed in bad weather. (Luke 2:12). And there were shepherds, the first to hear of the birth, (Luke 2:8), the first to spread the good news to as many as would listen. (Luke 2:15). There was an unusual star, one so bright it caught the attention of astronomers who made an arduous journey to find the one prophesied about long before. (Matthew 2:2-10). They did not arrive in time for the birth but they did supply Mary and Joseph with the means to care for themselves when they had to flee to Egypt to avoid Harrod’s death squads. (Matthew 2:13).

Some of the details have perhaps been remade into tradition, but there is one fact that scripture tells us is true. The Son of God, “The Word, became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14, NIV). He had come for a specific purpose, to reconcile mankind to God.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NKJ).

The Lamb

To Celebrate His Coming

I shivered and pulled my cloak tighter around me as I peered at the fire where my father and uncle and the other shepherds sat. I thought of trying to get closer but knew I’d only get a clout for my efforts so I remained where I was, cold and miserable with not even a dream to warm the night.

Father was still angry with me. I was thinking of relenting, letting him take back the lamb he’d given me. But it was a pure, unspotted lamb, so unlike all the others in the flock, that were marred in some way. This one was good enough to be taken to the market and sold for a good price. That’s why father wanted to take it back.

But it was my lamb. He’d promised it to me, for working with him for so long with little recompense. He’d been promising me a lamb of my own for some time and I kept reminding him of his promise until finally, he’d said, “Yes, yes, the next one born is yours.” I think he only said it to be rid of me and my pestering, but I was thrilled. I was there when the ewe gave birth and reminded my father again, of his promise, just in case he’d choose to forget. He nodded his head without examining the tiny thing.

Later I saw his eyes light up when he realized what a prize it was and he wasted no time telling me he wanted to sell it. But it had become precious to me and I refused to give it up, even though I knew the shekels would mean food in our bellies for some time to come. Father was furious but I still refused. I wanted my own flock one day and this spotless lamb would be a good start. I didn’t trust him to keep his word, so I kept the wee thing tethered to me, day and night. No, I would not give it up. It was mine. I tugged it closer for warmth and was just about to lay my head down to try and sleep when a strange light made me sit up.

A tall man stood there, his very clothes bursting with white light. I could not see his face clearly, for the brilliance of it. My father and uncle and the other shepherds were on their feet, clustered together, some of them starting to back away from the strange apparition.

Then it spoke and we all fall on our faces.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, NIV)

When it vanished the whole sky blazed. Angels! My mouth dropped open at the sight, my ears rang with the sound as they glorified God and bestowed peace upon us, we dirty, ragged shepherds.

When they were gone my father and the others all agreed – and that was an unheard of thing – but they agreed there was only one thing to be done: find the child! I lifted my lamb onto my shoulders and followed them, stumbling in the darkness but eager to see the wonder of an infant Messiah.

I expected he would be in a palace of some kind and despaired of ever getting close enough to see him, even if my father did allow it, but when we found the place it was as humble a dwelling as any you could discover. The child’s father was a bit hesitant at first, when such a rag-tag group arrived, but when my father told him about the angels he waved us closer. I stuck my head between my father and my uncle, expecting to get a swat but my father moved aside, put his arm across my shoulders and, drawing me close, spoke quietly in my ear.

“Why we have been chosen, my son, I cannot fathom, but we must study this scene, commit every detail to memory so that we can tell everyone we meet. The Messiah has come!”

I clutched the spotless lamb to my breast and did as he said, noting the soft features of the young woman holding the child who was wrapped, as the angel had said, in bands of cloth. He looked so ordinary, cried so like any other child, but I knew, deep in my soul that he was no common infant.

The lamb bleated in my arms. I looked down at it and knew what I should do. Without hesitation I loosed the tether from my wrist and laid the lamb before him. The woman’s smile widened and she nodded. But when she glanced down at the animal again I noted the smile faded and a sadness lay in her eyes. I wondered at it then.

It would be many years before I would understand. My gift no doubt reminded her there would be pain and sorrow ahead.

For this child was, indeed, a pure and spotless lamb. The lamb of God who would be sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.

My Father’s only WW2 Souvenir

There’s a blue hooked rug beside my bed. I step down onto it each morning and each morning I think of my dad. He made the rug in 1946, just after the end of World War II. He was living on the psychiatric unit of a hospital in Germany at the time, after joining in the liberation of Bergen Belsen, one of Hitler’s notorious death camps. What he saw there made my father’s mind stop and his soul shrivel. It would be many months before he was well enough to leave the hospital. He worked on the hooked rug a little each day. It was one of the few things he brought home with him when he returned to Canada. His only surviving souvenir, it was more precious to him than the medals he received. I often wondered about that, wondered why he would hold it so close. I never asked because he didn’t like to talk about the war and very few people knew he’d spent time in a psychiatric facility. My mother warned me not to mention it when she told me where the rug had come from.

But I think the reason he prized that hand-made item was because it had been part of his healing. As his hands performed the simple act of forming bits of blue wool into a pattern on a loom, his mind began to heal, his soul began to be restored. Todd Henry, founder of Accidental Creative once said “The creative process is a daily assault on the beachhead of apathy.” I believe it can be more. I believe it can be an assault on the evil and imbalance in ourselves and in the world, a beachhead against chaos and destruction.

I believe that as we write, as we sew or knit or quilt, as we paint or sculpt or weave, we are healed, we are made more whole and we draw closer to the Divine Spirit that guides us on. We also remind ourselves and those who will read our words or enjoy our created things, that complete health, in mind, body and soul, is the state in which we were meant to live. Thus hope is breathed out, made literal in words, in blankets, in hats and paintings and all artwork, and we are all encouraged.

That process brings us joy and satisfaction because it is what we were created to do. We were created to make life better by practicing and using the gifts He has given us, whether it be to write a novel or paint a portrait or hook a rug. Creating opposes the purposes of the evil one who is set on destruction, and flows with the purposes of God.

And, as Oswald Chambers is quoted as saying: “If you agree with God’s purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.” (Oswald Chambers, from Called of God in The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers) That is true health, true holiness.

“Therefore, my dear friends … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” Philippians 2:12,13).

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Thank you for taking the time to read. My name is Marcia Lee Laycock and I invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more of my work about finding your way home, into the arms of Jesus. 😊 You can also find me on Medium at https://medium.com/pondrings and https://medium.com/koinonia and a few other publications along the way.

For more information about my writing and speaking ministry, sign up for my newsletter to receive sporadic updates and a free short story.  😊https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/10812cf2-55f3-11eb-bb1c-177e9f3a62d2

Sometimes You Need to be Taught

Sometimes you need to be taught a little humility. Several years ago, after my first devotional book was published, I was asked to teach a workshop at a writer’s conference. That made me feel pretty good about myself and about my work. I prepared as best I could and stood smiling from the podium as the students arrived. I studied each one, putting them in little boxes I thought they belonged in. That one is writing fantasy, no doubt. That one isn’t sure why she’s here. That one looks like a retired missionary – she’s likely writing little stories for her grand kids. (Isn’t that sweet!).

The class went well and my head was pretty swollen by the time it was over (In Papua New Guinea they call arrogance having a “bik hed” and that was a good way to describe me at that time).

At the lunch break I ended up sitting beside that ‘retired missionary’ so I asked what she was working on. Her reply stunned me.

“Well, at the moment I’m editing a Greek manuscript by ….” (enter name of famous theologian). “He’s made a number of errors so it’s taking me a while.”

“So, you’re editing this in ancient Greek?”

“Yes, then translating it of course.”

“Oh right, of course!”

I wanted to slide down under the table and sink to my knees to ask forgiveness for my arrogance.

Then I thanked God for that valuable lesson.

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The Power of Brokenness

It happened the moment Jesus broke the bread

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

It seems there were two men, two of Jesus’ disciples, who were deeply loved by Him. He loved them so much that he took the time to chat with them as they walked away from Jerusalem toward their home in a town called Emmaus. That would not have been particularly unusual, except that Jesus had been crucified three days before. The account of this story in the book of Luke tells us that the two men were “kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16), even as Jesus “explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v.27). It wasn’t until they were eating with him that their eyes were opened and they saw.

It happened at the moment when Jesus broke the bread.

I don’t think that moment was a random act. I believe Jesus chose it to teach those two men something. I believe He was also teaching us something about brokenness.

The Psalmist David knew about brokenness. When the prophet Nathan confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba, David poured out his heart to God, acknowledged his sin and sought God’s forgiveness. He knew what was required –

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17 NIV)

It’s not easy to think about that, let alone desire it. We don’t often pray, “Lord, break me.” We don’t often recognize that we are already broken people, damaged by our own sin. It’s common knowledge among those who work with alcoholics that they cannot be helped until they have “hit bottom.” Until they recognize their need for help they cannot change.

We are all in that place.

Until we recognize our need for God, for his mercy and grace and forgiveness, we cannot fix our brokenness. He is the only healer who can accomplish it.

Why brokenness? Because it leads us to our Saviour, to the one who loves us so deeply he takes the time to walk with us and reveal himself to us. He has broken the bread of his own body and offered it to His Father as a sacrifice to atone for our sins. He offers it to us. All we have to do is acknowledge our brokenness and reach out to take the gift that will give us complete healing in every way.

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Thank you for taking the time to read. My name is Marcia Lee Laycock and I invite you to follow me if you’d like to read more of my work about finding the extraordinary in an ordinary life. 😊 You can find me at https://medium.com/pondrings and https://medium.com/koinonia and a few other publications on Medium.com.

For more information about my writing/teaching/speaking ministry just subscribe to my newsletter, Home Words When you do, you’ll receive a pdf of one of my most popular short stories to enjoy at your leisure.

Blessings to you all! M

Why I Will Celebrate Canada Day

Yes, I will celebrate, but with that pull of sadness that reminds me I’m not home yet. It’s a pull that tugs hard when I hear about the mass graves being discovered, the wars raging in too many countries, the injustices filtering the mercy so needed in our courts, the death count rising after a disaster directly resulting from greed.

It’s a pull I felt when a neighbour saw me as only a means to satisfy his sexual urges, and again when a teacher saw me only as a vulnerable child she could manipulate. I felt it when I was the victim of bullies and misunderstood by those who just didn’t take the time to listen.

We all feel it, here on this fallen earth. And the sadness and anger run deep.

But we must celebrate. We must remember those stories of bravery and glorious humanity in the midst of war and chaos. We must cherish the smiles of those who took the hands of all the children whose innocence saves us from insanity. We must praise those who take responsibility, who stand up and say, “I’m sorry. Forgive me.”

Because there is still goodness in this world. There is a thread of a Spirit that won’t let go of us, no matter how heinous the crimes and depraved the imaginations. That Spirit stands with us in the midst of the flames and destruction and the pain they cause and opens a way for healing. He gives us people, and sometimes whole countries, that still strive to choose what is right over what is expedient.

And that makes me want to wave a flag and sing an anthem that still mentions God with a note of thanksgiving.

Yes, I will celebrate Canada Day, though her history makes me weep, because I also feel the pull of her goodness and beauty that reveals the One who still stands with her and cries out, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28, NIV). Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live” (Isaiah 55:3, NIV).

I will celebrate because to deny that goodness allows all that is evil to take another step forward in victory. And we must not allow that to happen.

News I Would Rather Not Know

Like most of us these days I receive a lot of news bulletins on my phone. A quick swipe to the left and I have access to all the latest happenings in our country and beyond. There are some days when I don’t bother, others when I wish I hadn’t. There are days when the news gives me information I would rather not know.

Yesterday was one of those days. The first item in the news feed read: More than 200 Bodies Found at Residential School in BC. I stared at the words, shock rendering me immobile for a moment. Then I clicked on the title and read the article and tears began to flow. Over 200 children buried in unmarked graves, their parents never notified. How could such a thing be true? That even one child would die and be discarded in such a manner should be unthinkable to us all. But 200? The word genocide cannot be dismissed.

Perhaps this news hit me hard because my grand-daughter’s eyes have a lovely slant to them. And this crime was committed at a Catholic institution. I was raised Catholic and what I read in that article went against everything I thought that institution stood for. I was raised to believe the sanctity of life was paramount, to the church and to God. How could those who were raised with that belief commit such a heinous crime?

My best friend in my high school years was an Ojibway girl who lived on a nearby reserve. She introduced me to some of her friends who were from remote communities in northern Ontario. Places like Moononee, Fort George and Attiwapiskat. Those kids were part of what is now known as the ‘Sixties Scoop.’ Hundreds of children across the country were taken from their homes and put into residential schools or foster homes without the consent of their parents. I often wondered at the time, in my innocence, why many of those kids seemed unhappy, why many of them were constantly in trouble, why many of them tried to run away from the places where they lived. Those children are now my age, in their 70’s and 80’s but the pain of the trauma they experienced still lives with them. Until recently, they were given no counselling to help them process it, let alone an acknowledgement that it had even occurred.

When I talked with my daughter about this news yesterday, her comment was insightful. “Why weren’t we taught about this in school?” she asked. “We learned about the Nazis and the holocaust. Why didn’t we learn about what had happened in our own country?”

Why indeed. I would like to believe, in my innocence, that it is because of the shame and the guilt. But sadly I suspect it is because of something more insidious, something more evil – racial prejudice.

Romans 12:15 tells us to “weep with those who weep.” Perhaps we should do more. Perhaps we should stand with those who are weeping at the mass burial sites. Perhaps we should voice our indignation and our horror. Perhaps we should demand that this history be taught in our schools. Perhaps we should demand that memorials be erected so that, like the cry to remember those who died in the world wars, a cry of remembrance might be raised each year for those innocents who died for no reason. Lest we forget. 

James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. Yes, perhaps we should do more.

Nahor? Who’s he?

Image by falco from Pixabay

In a recent sermon at our church the preacher gave an excellent message on Genesis 22:1 – 24, which is primarily the story of Abraham and Isaac. The preacher’s insights were profound and timely for our culture and our current circumstances. (You can listen to it on Faith Community Church’s page on Facebook, if you wish). But it was at the very end of his sermon that I sat up and paid attention. Not that I wasn’t already, but I resonated deeply with his comment on verses 20-24.

Those last few verses aren’t about Abraham. They’re about his brother, Nahor.

We all know the story of Abraham, how God promised he would have descendants more numerous than the sands on the seashore and that all nations would be blessed through him. But Abraham and Sarah reached old age without having even one child. Sarah laughed when a stranger told her she was about to bear a son and Abraham went along with her when she told him to take her servant to bed. Logic said that was a reasonable thing to do. But then Isaac was born and they learned the faithfulness of their God.

Abraham’s obedience when God told him to take his son up onto a high place and sacrifice him as a burnt offering has long been a source of astonishment to me. That he would even consider saying yes to that command makes my jaw drop. But it was through that obedience that Abraham learned something about himself and his God, something he could have learned no other way. God is not only faithful to fulfill His promises, no matter how impossible they seem, He also cares deeply about those to whom He has made those promises. God wasn’t just concerned about the future plans that would unfold through Abraham, He was concerned about Abraham and Isaac, then and there.

Then we come to those verses about Nahor. They are in fact a genealogy of Nahor’s children – all twelve of them! The preacher did not dwell on how that fact must have rubbed Abraham the wrong way, but I could well imagine. Because I’ve been there. Perhaps you have too.

He’s the neighbour with the bigger house or fancier car. He’s the colleague who gets the promotion. He’s the man who reaches old age without having gone through a single medical crisis. He’s the one who publishes a single book but gets invited to speak around the world. He’s the author whose books hit the best seller’s lists even though the writing is mediocre at best.

Yes, those last two have been all too real for me.

So I sat up and took notice when the preacher said that after Abraham’s time on that mountain “he looked at his brother and all his children and then he looked at Isaac and smiled. It was Abraham who was given the greater portion.” It was Abraham whose progeny would bless the world. With just one son.

It is a lesson I must repeat to myself over and over again. God has a plan for my life and my work. Trusting Him with my life, even when it seems the blessings are flowing in other directions, will bring a lasting smile to my face. Trusting Him with my work, even when it seems it’s swimming in a very small pond, will bring a lasting peace and the knowledge that striving for what is fleeting is pointless if God is not directing it.

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. (Psalm 16:6, ESV).

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To read more of my work visit https://marcialeelaycock.com