Facing My Failure

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This time of year makes me a bit jittery. It’s that time when people ask, “Do you garden?” I take that question personally. I guess it’s a hold-over from my Yukon days, but I always have the feeling the person is really asking, “What are you good for, anyway?” The question always makes me squirm because I’m not good at it. I inherited my mother’s black thumb. I’m death to fruits and vegetables and most especially flowers.

Not that I haven’t tried. For twelve Yukon summers I dutifully planted rows of cabbage and broccoli, peas and lettuce. I even built a greenhouse and kept a fire burning in it at night to keep a few tomato plants alive. Once I replanted three times when late frost hit, only to have it all wilt from an early one in August. With a season of twenty-four-hour sunlight, the plants that survived grew furiously. So did the weeds. A neighbour once drove by, honked and called out – “tendin’ the weed bed, are ye?”

I wanted to give up, but at the end of each summer, I harvested what had managed to survive. I was thankful there was a grocery store in town. We surely would have starved if we’d had to live on what I could grow!

When we moved south, I anticipated the “game” would go on, but was delighted that there were so many grocery stores to choose from! When spring arrived I dutifully got out my spade and tested the ground in the back yard. But, oh, woe is me, it was full of roots! The large old cottonwood in the corner of the yard had spread its thick underground fibers far and wide. My husband took a turn at the spade but could find not a single spot suitable to till. Such a pity.  

Having an excuse eased the guilt, but I feared my failure was apparent to the world. When friends asked if I wanted their harvested leftovers I always said yes, with thanks, but had that nagging suspicion they were pitying me. I knew I was a failure. So did they.

Then one day, a friend asked if I’d like some potatoes. Seems she’d planted way too many and they all grew wonderfully (of course!). My family and I spent a morning digging up part of her potato patch. It was one of those special times – a glorious morning with the smell of earth freshened by rain and the delight of children’s voices in the crisp air. But the most wonderful part was the look on my friend’s face as we loaded the boxes of food into our vehicle.

“I just love being able to do this,” she said. “Thanks for coming out.”

The power of her words hung in the air around me for days as a simple truth sank in. There were things I loved doing that could be a blessing to others. I don’t have to be good at everything. It’s okay to be a failure at gardening. It’s not my gift.

1Peter 4:10 says – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” My friend did a great job of that the day she invited us to her potato patch. On that day I started admiring the work of people with green thumbs, without feeling guilty. They have that gift. I have others.

Do you know yours?

When Jesus was Silent

Photo by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

I almost leaped to my feet, but instead turned my head to stare at my pastor’s wife. “Say something!” I screamed the words in my head. But Ella did not speak.

The pastor of our tiny mission church had just announced that he would be away and, as had been the custom in the past, his wife would take the pulpit the next Sunday. A man, (a new-comer to the congregation), stood to his feet and exclaimed that allowing a woman to preach was not Biblical. A fair bit of discussion ensued, ending with the pastor inviting that man to preach in his place.

As a strong ‘women’s lib.’ proponent at the time, I was incensed. It was not until years later that I realized God’s will was being done and my pastor’s wife had the maturity and discernment to see it.

When I first came across the passage in Matthew 26 where Jesus does the same thing, it pushed that same justice (or was it vengeance?) button, and I could feel the anger rising. “Say something, Jesus! Do something!” That was the cry of my heart.

We all have a streak in us that cries out for justice. Or perhaps, on occasion, its more ugly cousin, vengeance, rises up.

But Jesus was silent before His accusers. In this, as in all things, He obeyed His Father, so prophesies about Him would be fulfilled – “He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7, ESV)

For we who have a limited, earthly perspective, the silence of our Saviour seems outrageous. As David Guzik says in his commentary on Matthew 26, “Jesus could have mounted a magnificent defense here, calling forth all the various witnesses to His deity, power and character. He was silent but not helpless.”

Charles Spurgeon puts it well: “His was the silence of patience, not of indifference; of courage, not of cowardice.”

Jesus knew speaking up would not change the minds of his accusers or change the course of the path before Him. None of that mattered, because He knew who He was and the destiny He was to fulfill.

It is not until the high priest finally confronts Him bluntly and asks if He is the son of God, that Jesus responds, “You have said so.” And He goes a step further, telling Caiaphas that one day even he will see Jesus’ true identity. David Guzik states: “Instead of defending Himself, Jesus simply testified to the truth. He was indeed the Christ, the Son of God. He answered as briefly and directly as possible.”

Jesus had no need to defend Himself to those who did not recognize Him. He knew the day was coming when even the High Priest would bow his knee.

Every believer is able to follow His example, to pray for that same patience and courage in the face of ridicule and even persecution. We too know who we are – children of the most high God who can depend on His promises to fight our battles and guide us in the way we should go, as He did for the Hebrews in the book of Exodus.

We can be assured that, at just the right time, the Holy Spirit will lead us to testify to the truth, that Jesus is “… the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, ESV).

Until then, perhaps it would be wise to be silent.

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

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

Easter – Joy upon Joy

Easter Stories and More marks the eighteenth anthology in which my work has been published. It’s always such a joy to be part of a group effort, especially when you respect the work of the other authors in the collection. It’s always such an honour to be counted with them in a collection that you know will inspire and strengthen faith.

This one is especially dear to my heart because Easter is dear to my heart. What could be more exhilarating than celebrating the triumph of good over evil, the restoration of mankind to its God and, on a more personal level, the joy of resting in the assurance of one’s own salvation?

I thoroughly enjoyed writing the two monologues written in first person: The End of a Pilgrimage, which was written for Inscribe’s blog and Torn, written in response to the call for submissions for this anthology. Putting yourself in the place of a Biblical character brings the story of the life of Christ into a sharp perspective and causes you to dig deeper into the scriptures to discover more of the truths lying buried there.

The poem I submitted to Easter Stories and More, Easter Walk, was inspired by a stone I picked up as I was walking one spring day a few years ago. The stone was scored with two dark lines – one vertical, one horizontal. I wondered what had made the marks and as I walked my thumb traced the lines, my mind pondering again the mystery of the death and resurrection of our Lord and all that it meant to me.

It left me with a renewed sense of peace and thankfulness for His sacrifice and for the sacrifice His father made, in sending His only son to rescue such a ‘motley crew’ of humanity. It also left me rejoicing that Easter is my victory too, because He included me in it, called me into His family and secured my life with His death.

I hope you too are able to rejoice in that victory.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55, NASB).

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March 24 – Ruth L. Snyder https://ruthlsnyder.com/blog/

March 25 – Sally Meadows https://sallymeadows.com/blog

March 26 – Eunice Matchett https://albertastoryteller.com/

March 27 – Lynn Dove https://lynndove.com/

March 28 – Pat Gerbrandt https://patgwriter.wordpress.com/

March 29 – Denise Ford https://walkingwithdustyanddee.com/

March 30 – Marcia Laycock https://marcialeelaycock.com/thespur/

March 31 – Bob Jones revwords.com https://revwords.com/

April 1 – Valerie Ronald https://scriptordeus.wordpress.com

April 2 – Kimberley Payne https://www.kimberleypayne.com/blog/

April 3 – Marnie Pohlmann https://marniewriter.com/blog/

April 4 – Allison Lynn https://allisonlynn.blogspot.com

Lynn Simpson https://lynnjsimpson.com/ 

Love Transforms, Love Demands

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Do you remember your first love?

Picture a sixteen-year-old girl. She’s walking home from school, her shoulders hunched, her eyes on the ground. She’s wearing dark, somber clothing. Her hair often goes unwashed. She rarely makes eye contact with anyone and doesn’t smile much. She doesn’t have many friends.

Fast forward four years. That same girl is wearing a flowing floral dress. Her head is high and her eyes sparkle. Her hair flows out behind her, gleaming in the sun as she runs across her neighbour’s lawn. He hardly recognizes her. “You’re in love,” he says. She laughs and admits that it’s true. And it has made all the difference.

Love does that. It transforms us, it makes us believe that life is good and worth living. It makes us believe we are worthy of being loved. Yes, the discovery of love, especially God’s love, transforms us.

And the Demands of Love work to continue that transformation. Love is never easy. People tend to be complicated and their lives are often messy. Loving well inevitably leads to the need for sacrifice and a selflessness that most of us resist. But we are called to love unconditionally, as Christ loved us. We are called to give much, because much has been given to us. Luke chapter 7: 36 to 47 teaches us this truth. Jesus was invited to have dinner with a Pharisee. A woman who, the Bible tells us, had “lived a sinful life,” arrived with a jar of perfume, poured it on Jesus’ feet and washed them, wiping them with her hair.

When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Then Jesus tells the Pharisee a story about two people who owed money to a moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both.

“Now which of them will love him more?” Jesus asked. Of course, the Pharisee said the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.

Then Jesus said to him, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (v. 43-47).

Have you been forgiven a little or a lot? I think we can all agree that it is the latter. Yes, we have been forgiven much, we have been given much, and we are expected to forgive, to love well, and give much in return.

Love transforms but love also demands.

 

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.