God Knows

Cemetary, Blackfalds

I scrolled through my computer files looking for just the right post to recycle. Since I wrote a devotional every week for over twenty years, there were many to choose from, so I prayed that God would help me pick the right one. I opened an article I wrote many years ago, after the death of a friends’ infant. It was called Hard Questions and was one of the pieces that had received a lot of feedback from readers and an award or two. It was also a piece that was read by the father of that tiny baby, a young man who thanked me for giving him something that was “part of the healing.”

I read it through and thought, yes, this one should be posted again.

“But not now.” I heard and kept scrolling.

That was a few months ago. A few days ago, I came across the same article and felt that nudge that said, “Yes.” So I copied the file, did a bit of editing, gave it a new title (When Babies Die and There Are No Answers), and sent it off to one of the ezines I write for on Medium.com. I received a notice that one of the editors, a woman I have known for many years, (I’ll call her Grace), had approved the piece for publication.

Two days later I received another note from another friend telling me that Grace’s three-year-old grand-daughter had died suddenly the day before. That would have been the day after she read and approved my devotional.

I wept all day. Perhaps because I have just recently become a grandmother myself, I felt my friend’s loss deeply. I was stunned at the timing and prayed that God would use those mere words to bring comfort.

That night I attended our weekly Bible study at our church. Ordinarily, the weekly Bible study is launched in September or October at the latest, but, for a variety of reasons, it was delayed. We have just begun to study the book of Job, a book full of loss and pain, yet a book that pictures the power of a sovereign God and, in the end, gives us all hope.

He knew. He knew when it was not time for that piece to be published again, and when the time was right. He knew when we should begin to study the book of Job and how it would bring me to that place, once again, of being able to say, with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job1:21).

A Good Year to be Thankful

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It’s not hard to find things to be thankful for in our country. There’s the bounty of the land, the system of law and order that ensures peace, the potential for so much prosperity. All we have to do is stop and look around us to find many things for which to be thankful.

This year our family has had a few special things added to our list. First of all, the arrival of our first grandchild, Thea Wells. What a delight it has been to watch her grow and watch the delight her parents are taking in her. Then, the relatively gentle passing of my dear mother-in-law into the realms of glory. We are so thankful she did not suffer or linger long when the time came. The retirement of my husband after 30+ years in pastoral ministry. The retirement party held by our church was a special joy. Then the arrival of a refugee family, whom, after three years of interceding, we were able to receive safely into our home.

Yes, it’s been a momentous year with much to be thankful for. Perhaps the greatest blessing of all, we are aware of the One to whom that thanks is due.

I recently heard a man read a story in which he expressed his thankfulness, yet the entire tale centred around the fact that he rejected the One to whom he could have been giving his thanks. It made me sad to realize there was a huge lack in the joy he could have, if he knew his creator and provider. It is good and natural to be thankful but when we have no knowledge of God, that thankfulness is empty.

God is the provider of all that we can and should be thankful for, in the good times and the bad, in the days of blessing and the days of testing.

Abraham was shown the truth of this in the book of Genesis, chapter 22, when God asked him to take his only son, Isaac, up onto Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice. Though Abraham knew that Isaac was the “son of promise,” the son through whom all the promised blessings would come, he obeyed his God. He raised the knife above Isaac, but God stopped his hand and showed him the ram he was to offer instead.

Genesis 22:14 says, “Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (or Jehoveh Jireh, which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”

And James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Because we know the God who provides we are able to take great joy in giving thanks. My prayer is that you may know the God from whom all blessings flow.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the LORD Most High (Psalm 7:17).

Happy Thanksgiving!

At the Top of the Ladder

Ladder

https://unsplash.com/photos/BFO8xXD__gM

Finding Myself at the Top of the Ladder

By Marcia Lee Laycock

“Do you know where I am?”

“Where am I going now?”

I’ve been hearing these similar questions lately, asked with the same heart-wrenching look of confusion and a trace of fear. I’ve seen and heard people say these things before. I’ve seen them enter into the disturbing realm of dementia and thought, how sad when the elderly so often seem to revert to a child-like dependence.

It isn’t the first time this has hit close to home. One of the people who has asked me these kinds of questions was my own mother. Her descent into dementia was long and torturous. Just recently my dear mother-in-law veered onto that same path, but her time of fear and confusion was blessedly short.

It’s hard and it leaves you with a gnawing sense of helplessness that makes you want to scream or weep. Sometimes, paradoxically, it makes you want to laugh. When my mother attended an afternoon luncheon whose theme was tropical, she wondered if we could afford going on such a lovely cruise to Hawaii. We assured her it was all taken care of.

I have reached that stage of life where those who have always been the anchors are now in need of someone to hold onto and I am suddenly in confusion too. This is a new place for me, one I’m not sure I’m ready for, because, truth be told, there are times when I’m not sure I know where I am or where I am going. I feel inadequate to answer those questions.

I am reminded of a poem by Luci Shaw that expresses this feeling so eloquently:

“… There is no one above you

to compass the wideness of space. You

are the final clasp that buckles

earth to heaven. Somehow, you

must hold up the ladder, heavy with life.”

(from When Your Last Parent Dies; Writing the River by Luci Shaw)

 

Suddenly finding yourself at the top of the ladder of life can be terrifying. But there is, after all, someone to hold onto. We don’t have to hold up the ladder all by ourselves. And when we are asked those disturbing questions, we can answer with assurance and comfort. We can tell them it’s okay, because there is someone who knows where we all are and someone who knows where we all are going.

There’s an old hymn that says it well – “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms, leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” The arms of Jesus are waiting to hold us and waiting to point the way. The writer of Proverbs exhorts us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Prov.3:5,6).

There is another very comforting thought about being at the top of this “ladder, heavy with life.”

The next step is into the arms of Jesus.

 

God Rejoices Over Me? Not Likely

raychan-694037-unsplashPhoto by Raychan on Unsplash

 

God Rejoices Over Me? Not Likely

by Marcia Lee Laycock

“I can’t remember anyone greeting me like that before.”

I smiled as my husband and I pulled away from our rental property. We hadn’t seen our tenants, a Syrian refugee family, for almost two months due to illnesses, both theirs and ours, so we expected our reunion would be joyous, but we did not expect that Nabil* would almost skip across the room, his arms wide, his eyes dancing with delight. His embrace was obviously heart-felt.

Then Nabil’s mother embraced me with the traditional kiss on both cheeks, then it was his wife’s turn, and then the children came one by one. We sat in their living room and had tea, then Yara disappeared into the kitchen and it wasn’t long before a huge meal was on the table. In their limited English they told us how well the children were doing in school and some of the health issues they’d been dealing with. As we visited it amazed me, once again, at how much could be communicated with so little ability to speak one another’s languages.

I still smile when I think of the delight in Nabil’s eyes that day. The scripture tells us that God, too, delights in us. Psalm 149, verse 4 says, “For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” And the prophet Zephaniah tells us, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

There have been many times when I’ve had a hard time believing those words. When I examine my own heart and see the twisted motives that lurk there, I can’t believe God would be delighted in me. When I hear harsh or cynical words come out of my mouth, I doubt that He would rejoice over me with singing. There are days when I think that I’m just a big disappointment to God and imagine Him giving a deep sigh as he turns away.

But my unbelief is cut to shreds by verses like these:  “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5); “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).

And my personal favourite, Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

These verses are true because of what Jesus did on the cross. If we accept that sacrifice, if we seek that forgiveness, there is nothing that can come between us and His love, not even our own flaws and failings. Yes, then He delights in us and sings over us because we are His children, adopted into a family that will never be dissolved, a community that will live with Him forever.

Because of the cross I will one day see an even greater delight in the eyes of Jesus than I saw that day in the eyes of our friend.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

*Names have been changed

 

Saying It Doesn’t Make it So

Back CameraI stood at the exit from the airport and couldn’t help but shiver as the doors in front of me slid open and the cold air rushed in. Returning to -20 degrees Celsius after basking in sunshine and strolling on white beaches was a bit of a shock. When my husband and I chose the dates for our vacation we had no idea that we would miss the ‘deep freeze’ that hit much of western Canada during those two weeks. Our timing couldn’t have been better! But now we were back.

The doors behind me opened and a young man dressed in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals, with a huge scarf around his neck charged toward the outer doors, his voice repeating loudly: “It’s not that cold, it’s not that cold, it’s not that cold.” I couldn’t help but laugh. As I saw his breath form a vapor cloud in the cold air, I knew no matter how many times he told himself it wasn’t that cold, the reality would not change. It was still -20. I hoped he didn’t have far to walk.

As I think about that young man it reminds me of the times in my life when I, and others around me, have denied reality because it did not suit our circumstances at the time. Like the day a group of us headed out on a bus to attend a conference in Calgary, even though the radio that morning had warned of white-out conditions on the road. The weather was fine when we headed out but not far down the highway, we found ourselves driving through a blizzard. We never did make it to Calgary and we were very fortunate not to have ended up in the ditch, or worse.

All of us have a tendency to deny reality now and then. Some of us deny the very existence of God, even though there is evidence all around us that our world was formed by an intelligent and incredibly imaginative creator. Like our denial of bad weather, doing so can have dire consequences. In the first book of Romans, verses 18 to 20, the apostle Paul warns:

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

“Without excuse.” If that young man wearing shorts into -20 degree temperatures got frostbite it would be his own doing. If we had gone off the road in that blizzard, we would have had no one to blame but our own foolishness. If you deny the existence of God, the consequences are on you.

Look around you. The evidence is plain to see. God exists. And He wants to get to know you now.

****

Pine Lake Retreat 2

“An inspired and inspirational speaker. I was riveted.”

Book Marcia for your event – contact her at marcia@marcialeelaycock.com

 

 

 

12 Days of Christmas Books

Crowe cover

What Is Success To You ?

 The Daytime Lives of the Ladies of the Night is the follow-up to the debut memoir by Toni Crowe. The Daytime Lives makes you think about your life and your definition of success.

Have  you ever wondered: “What do the women who sell their bodies and souls at night do in the daytime?  What do these women want out of life?

This follow-up to Never a $7 Wh**e continues to detail the lives of three escorts: Baby, Essence, Irish and their new  trainee, Tee.

As the four ladies struggle with the isolation associated with how they are living, The Daytime Lives of the Ladies of the Night reminds us that peace is within anyone’s reach, if they have the desire and determination to change their destinies.

Excerpt from Daytime Lives of the Ladies of the Night ***

Prince turned to me and said, “Hey, I need you to do me a favor.”

I looked at him suspiciously and responded with, “Oh, a favor?”

He said, “Yeah. I left my wallet at home, so I don’t have any money on me. I owe Ed here five hundred dollars. Ed said if I don’t give him his five hundred dollars right now, he’s going to have his two guys take me out in the bush and beat the living shit out of me until they get five hundred dollars’ worth.”

I was stunned. Even though Essence had told me something was coming, I was still stunned by what Prince was trying to do to me. My grandfather had called this one the “You a Sucker” scam. It worked well as long as the sucker thought they were saving a loved one from a horrible fate. The scam took many forms, and Prince was playing his version out pretty well. I guessed he had run this scam a hundred times.

I innocently asked, “What does this have to do with me, Prince?” I knew my mark.

“Well, Ed thinks you are one sexy woman. He said that if you would give him a blowjob, he’ll write off the entire five hundred dollars. There’s a bedroom upstairs. You and he can go up there discreetly. Once you give him a blowjob, he will forgive the entire five hundred dollars.”

I said, “Prince, I want to make sure I understand. You owe him five hundred dollars?”

“Yes, I owe him five hundred dollars,” Prince said.

“You don’t have the five hundred dollars with you?” I asked.

“No,” Prince said.

“But I’m certain we have five hundred dollars back at Tara, back at the house,” I responded sweetly.

Prince didn’t miss a beat and said, “Yes, but Ed is not willing to wait for it. He wants his money right now. So you have to give him a blowjob right now.”

Prince looked deep into my eyes, and he said, “How much do you love me? How deep is your love? Are you willing to see me beat to crap over a single, lousy blowjob?”

I winced, thinking about how ashamed I was to be in this situation. My grandfather would spin in his grave. Prince took my wince to mean he had gotten to me—that he was winning this game.

He pressed on. “How much do you care about me? If you cared for me, you would do this for me.”

I stared at the floor. I could feel any love I had left for him sliding out of my feet and out onto the floor like a living thing. I was a mark, nothing more. I was a sucker for this man. Prince thought he had me.

His voice was soft and sweet. “Tee, you would make sure I don’t get hurt. You would be my girl. You would be my savior. It’s one lousy blowjob.”

I said, “Yes, you’re right. How much money do we owe him again? I want to make sure I understand.”

He confirmed the debt was five hundred dollars, and then he smiled that beautiful hundred-watt smile at me, knowing I was going to acquiesce. I stood up at the same time that Ed did, and he reached for my hand. I did not take his hand. Instead, I reached into my purse. I pulled out the money I had stuffed in with my lipstick earlier. I had six hundred dollars. I counted out five hundred dollars for Ed, and I handed it to him.

I looked at Prince and said, “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for you, baby. I think we have a much better solution.”

At that moment, I knew that I was one blessed woman. I had struggled with telling Essence where her little boy was. I was so worried about the consequences if Prince or Baby had found out. But I was all in. My heart told me that I needed to tell Essence and so I did. Her heads-up regarding this situation had prepared me for something unusual. Her money had helped me escape this time.

End Excerpt

Crowe

Toni Crowe, BSEE, MSM, CLA, PE is the bestselling author of the $7 Journey series. She is an award winning and accomplished executive with 30 years of experience as a CEO/President, Vice-President, Director, Engineer, and Manager across multiple sectors including high tech, consumer and nuclear sensors, Aerospace,  film production and glass. Toni has extensive experience in P&L, Manufacturing, Operations Management, and Lean.  She has participated in a number of mergers and acquisitions. Toni is currently the CEO of  Just One,  her company which is dedicated to changing lives, one life at a time, by insuring that no one has to make the same mistakes she made.

Buy Daytime Life of the Ladies of the Night to remind someone what success is really about.

12 Days of Christmas Books

Twitter Decoded

Smart Topics for Writers to Tweet About

By Ruth L. Snyder

Use Twitter to easily and effectively reach your readers

Successful writers take responsibility for marketing their own work. Social media, including Twitter, can be amazing tools. But how do you get started and use Twitter productively without wasting valuable writing time?

Ruth L. Snyder explains the benefits of Twitter for writers and leads you step by step through the process of setting up an effective account. Using this manual, you’ll learn the lingo, find your way around the Twitter dashboard, and start building relationships with your worldwide audience. You’ll also discover many tips and tricks to engage your audience and build a solid marketing platform in minutes a day. Finally, you’ll learn how to write great tweets, use hashtags, link shorteners, Twitter tools, schedule your tweets, use tweet templates, and continue building relationships with your worldwide audience.

Here’s a sample chapter from the book:

Are you stumped when it comes to deciding what to tweet about? We’ve already discussed that you need to tweet about things your individual audience is interested in, but there are some general topics any writer can tweet about. Sandi Krakowski (@sandikrakowski) suggests:

  • Pictures of flowers
  • A link to a favorite recipe
  • Fun questions (What’s your favorite flavor of ice-cream? What’s the best book you’ve ever read? If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be? Who’s your hero?)
  • Inspiring quotes
  • Things that make people laugh

 

Pam Moore (@PamMktgNut) shares 100 ideas to tweet about http://www.pammarketingnut.com/2013/03/100-things-to-tweet-about-on-twitter-besides-yourself/ including:

  • Tips to help people save money
  • Photos of you that show your human side
  • How-to tips
  • Jokes
  • Pictures of nature
  • Thank a favorite writer or blogger
  • Link to a favorite song
  • Ask a thought-provoking question
  • Tweet a whole story
  • Share when you reach a goal
  • Share a daily thought
  • Tweet a positive review you received

Jenn Hanson-dePaula (@Jenndepaula) shares 40 ideas https://twitter.com/Jenndepaula:

  • Mention (@[Twitter Handle]) one of your fans, thanking them for supporting you
  • Share an old picture for #TBT (Throw Back Thursday)
  • Write a Haiku
  • Share something that has helped you in your writing
  • Share the title of a book you’re reading and mention the author

Your turn!

Use one new idea each day this week in your Tweets. At the end of the week, use your “Notifications” and your bit.ly links to track which tweets get the most response and continue to use those ideas.

 

You can purchase your copy of Twitter Decoded at mybook.to/TwitterDecoded

Ruth-Snyder-sm

 

Ruth L. Snyder resides near Glendon, Alberta, along with her husband and five children. Ruth enjoys writing articles, devotionals, short stories, and Christian fiction. Ruth is Past President of InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship.