Of Fish and Crushed Dreams

Fishing

We are all dreamers. We dream of the future – where we might live or travel to, of times with our children or grand-children, perhaps even of accolades and awards. Sometimes it feels like our dreams are close to coming true. But sometimes our dreams are crushed. Our life looks like nothing but a pile of pointless efforts. Sometimes all the sacrifices seem to have been for nothing and we come close to giving up on all the dreams.

I think that was the state the disciples were in, when Jesus was crucified. The hardest day in their lives was probably the day before the resurrection – that very long day when they were in hiding, fearing that they too might end up on a cross.

Imagine the dreams the disciples had – dreams perhaps of the glory and acclaim they would have as his disciples when they came into their own in his new kingdom. It was an earthly kingdom they were dreaming of, that did not include the brutal rule of the Romans.

Imagine what they’d sacrificed – they’d left their homes, families, their livelihoods – the fishing nets that supplied their food; in Matthew’s case, the money collection stall that made him wealthy; in Luke’s case, a fulfilling and lucrative medical practice. They’d allowed Jesus to turn their lives upside down. And now what? He was gone and it looked like it had all been for nothing.

No wonder Peter said, “I’m going fishing” (John 21:1). He’d given up on the dreams. He didn’t know what to do with himself, so he went back to what he knew – casting his nets, and he took some of the other disciples with him.

But look at what happened – in the last part of vs. 3 of John 21 it says, “but that night they caught nothing.” Then, early in the morning, when they were heading back to shore empty handed, a man calls out to them – “friends, haven’t you caught any fish?”

Imagine the tone of their voices when they say no. But the stranger tells them to throw their nets on the right side of their boat. And you know what happened. The nets were so full they couldn’t haul them in and then they recognize Jesus.

I love this next part. Jesus has made a fire and is cooking fish. When the disciples arrive, he says, “Bring some of the fish you have caught.” I can just imagine their bewilderment as they struggled to understand what Jesus was trying to teach them.

I think he was trying to tell them that he had more for them to do than just catching fish, more for them to be concerned about than just making a living. He was telling them He would provide for them. The story wasn’t over. In fact, it was just beginning.

Noted author and counsellor, Larry Crabb wrote – “God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts.”

Yes, sometimes our dreams can look like their dead, but lift up your head. Jesus is there, with a better plan.

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Three Things

Gorillaby Marcia Lee Laycock

It’s somewhere in Africa. A young woman sits cross-legged on the ground, surrounded by tall grass. She has been told to sit very still. She can hear snuffling noises and now and then a grunt. When the massive head of a gorilla pokes out between the grasses, she is tempted to leap up and run. But she has been told that would be disastrous so she sits quietly. The gorilla approaches, moves around her, touches her hair, sniffs her shoulder. She remembers the instructions she was given: “No sudden movements. Don’t make eye contact.” She tries not to think of what those massive hands and arms could do to her. She tries to relax her shoulders. Slowly.

Another gorilla approaches, then another. They investigate her, sit close by grooming one another before slowly ambling away. The young woman lets out her breath and smiles. The adrenalin coursing through her body makes her laugh out loud. She knows she has just won a great victory over fear.

I have spoken to many Christians lately who seem to be afraid. The world is changing around them and many of the changes go against their own beliefs and morals. Chaos seems to reign on all sides. They feel helpless, unable to control what is happening.

But Jesus has told us that He has “not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). It is these three that will help us overcome: power that comes from One who defeated death itself, love from One whose very nature is full of it, and a sound mind from One who has given us His own wisdom through His Holy Spirit.

Jesus Himself never fell prey to fear. He was willing to walk into the darkest of places, confront the darkest of enemies, because He knew that the One who was in Him was greater than all the world. We have the absolute assurance that that same One is in us, working through us and that nothing can stop His purposes from being accomplished on this earth.

God has promised to redeem His creation and one day all of it will be made whole again. There is the possibility of redemption of all that is ugly and evil and all that fights against God in this world, because of what happened on a cross at the base of a hill in a tiny country then called Palestine.

The good news is that He has given us a part to play in that redemption, given us work to do for His kingdom. That work cannot be done in a spirit of fear. 1 John 5:4 says – “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

This is the work we have been given to do: “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). May He find us faithful.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10).

A Good Day Indeed by Marcia Lee Laycock

The Cross
“Once Again I look upon the cross where you died …” Matt Redman

“Good day to you!” The man doffed his Irish cap as he passed by on the narrow cobblestone street. How lovely, I thought, to cast a blessing upon strangers as they passed. That’s not something we see much in North America. You’re lucky if you get a slight nod let alone a quick smile. I found myself wishing it were otherwise.

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about that word, ‘good.’

It’s used 594 times in the Bible. All of those instances are appropriate.  That makes me think of another use of the word, in the phrase, Good Friday. The question has often been asked, why is the day on which Christ died such a horrible death called ‘good?’ Did you know the day is only called good in English? In most other languages, it is called Holy Friday. In Denmark, it’s Long Friday. In Germany, it’s Sorrowful or Suffering Friday. All names that seem more fitting.

But then, think about it. This is not the only thing in the Bible that seems topsy-turvy to us. Jesus exemplified that rather descriptive English expression. “Love your enemies,” He said. “Do good to those who despise you,” He commanded. (Luke 6:27) More than once he turned the religious leaders’ world upside down. He ate with sinners and broke the rules on the Sabbath. In a sense, Jesus was the original counter-culture revolutionary. Continually His disciples came to realize that when He said His ways and His thoughts were higher than theirs, He wasn’t joking. Often, they found them incomprehensible because they were so opposite to the way in which they were accustomed to thinking and living.

So yes, it is fitting that we call this day ‘good,’ because that is what Jesus would have called it. Though he was beaten and tortured, spat upon and ridiculed, He would have called it ‘good’ because it was on that day that he accomplished the will of His father. This ‘good’ Friday was the day on which mankind was restored to the state of righteousness that God intended. It is the day on which mankind was released from the burden of sin, the day on which the greatest sacrifice ever given occurred for our benefit. It was on that day that He made it possible for us, not only to come into the holy presence of his Father, but to live ‘in Him,’ forever bound to Him as his children, His beloved.

That day is ‘good’ because it leads us all to the resurrection. Glory! Glory to God in the highest!

Who is Worthy?

refugee

I recently won a gift bag with a watch in it that had a rather large price tag on it. That was nice. But I got a little excited when I discovered there was also a $100.00 gift certificate included. Until I read the fine print. The certificate was only good at a high-end jewelry shop. It didn’t take long for both me and the clerk in the shop to realize that I was not going to be using that gift certificate in that shop. The clerk made me feel as though I really wasn’t worthy of being there and by the time I left, I felt a little like I’d been trying to steal something.

Then I had a closer look at the watch. It had scratches on the buckle and a stain on the wrist band. I know they say you shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, and I really did try to be thankful, but I confess it left me with a bad taste in my mouth. It felt like they were saying I wasn’t worthy of receiving something of true value, so, here, take this second-hand, tainted, bobble and be happy. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

Think of my experience in terms of our attitude to those less fortunate. Do we make them feel as though they aren’t good enough? Do we respect them enough to give them something of value, something of true worth? Or do we give them watches with scratches on the buckle and stains on the wristband? Perhaps you’ve heard that old story about the missionary that received a care package from home that included used tea bags. How would you feel?

Our church just voted to sponsor a refugee family who had to flee Pakistan because of religious persecution. We’re not a big group. It’s going to take a few miracles to raise the money needed. It’s going to take giving till it hurts. I was quite nervous about it all until we managed to arrange a Skype call with the family. Suddenly my perspective changed. They are real people, lovely people, in a desperate situation. They are worthy of our help.

But then, isn’t everyone? Aren’t all made in the image of God? The Bible says they are – “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them…” (Genesis 1:27).

We hear a lot about refugees lately and there are many who don’t want to help, many who are afraid of the changes our country will undergo because of the influx of strangers. Perhaps we would be wise to remember what Jesus said: “I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me …Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matthew 25:43-45).

Jesus made no judgement calls on who was “worthy.” He associated with the least of the least and ministered to all. Should we not do the same?

If you would like to help “open the cage” for this refugee family contact me for more information at vinemarc AT telus DOT net.

Going Too Far

Stained Glass
I hit send and sighed. This first draft of the first act of my new play didn’t come easily and I wasn’t happy with what I’d produced. I knew there was something wrong but couldn’t put my finger on what it was that left me wanting to drag the document into the trash. I thought about doing just that for the next few days as I watched my inbox with trepidation, believing my instructor’s comments would not make me happy. When her critique arrived I sighed again and hit open. 

As usual, the instructor was frank about her thoughts and didn’t hold back the criticism. But there were things she liked so I was encouraged. Then I got to the part that I knew wasn’t right. And I started to smile. My instructor didn’t mince words but they were words I wanted to hear – words that clarified why the lines weren’t working, words that made me want to jump right back in and get to work on it again. They were words that made me glad I hadn’t dragged the document into the trash. And I was thankful.

The problem? My instructor expressed it this way – “It’s your characters telling us what to make of that moment that begins to feel like the playwright “telling us” what to think and feel, instead of trusting the moment and the image to speak for themselves. I like to think that I am called to plant the image, the debate, the relationship and I let the Holy Spirit do the rest. People love to figure things out for themselves. I think this is why Jesus spoke in obscure parables and resisted explaining right away. It’s a holy practice – to ponder.”

Yes! That was it exactly. I had simply gone too far, said too much, given too many answers instead of leaving the questions to be pondered.

And I wondered, do I do this when I’m talking with people who don’t know my Jesus? Do I go too far in trying to lead them to Him? I thought about the time when I came to Christ, a tumultuous time in my life when I desperately needed answers but did not want to hear them. I thought about my brother, simply saying, “God bless,” every time he left my home. Those two words tolled like a bell. He didn’t have to preach at me. The Holy Spirit was quite capable of making those two words do their work in my heart and my life.

“A holy practice, to ponder.” Yes. And another holy practice – to write sparingly, allowing the Holy Spirit room there, too.

“Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible.” (Elie Wiesel, author of Night)

“This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Matthew 13:13).
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Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards. Marcia also has three devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

 

 

 

Be Mine

heartredwhite

I ripped the cellophane wrapping off the small package with delight. The cards my mother had bought that morning were perfect. They were bright red with hearts all over them and short funny sayings appropriate for Valentine’s Day. I spent all that evening addressing the envelopes and signing my name to all the cards. All, that is, but one.

There was one card in the package that was larger than the rest. It said, “Be Mine,” and the verse inside was not funny. In fact, to me, it was so serious that my heart beat faster. This card was going to someone I thought was deserving of something so special. His name was Darryl. I was ten years old and I was “in love.”

I did not sign my name to the card addressed to Darryl because I was afraid. I did not want to admit my feelings for fear of being rejected. What if he just laughed? What if he threw the card in the trash and someone else saw that it was from me? What if he left it behind on an empty desk for anyone to see? No. I would not put my name on that card, but I would pray that Darryl would know who it was from.

Giving your love and affection to someone is a risk. You become vulnerable to being hurt, to rejection, perhaps even to ridicule. Jesus knew all about that when He agreed to be born as a tiny babe on earth. He knew that many would spurn His love. Many would scorn his affection. Many would just laugh. And then a mob would demand His death. No one would understand. None of it would look like a fairy-tale and the ending was anything but happy. It would look like defeat and it would stink of death.

But it was the greatest act of love this world has ever seen. Christ gave up the glories of heaven, took on the physical limitations of a human body and then allowed that body to be tortured and killed. He did it all so that we would be able to live in the presence of His Father’s love eternally. He did it with an anguished cry of, “Be Mine!”

Jesus was neither afraid nor embarrassed to sign his name on the card that revealed His love for us. His card was a cross erected on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. He signed it with His own blood and when it was delivered to the world at the moment he died, all the barriers between us and God were torn down. Forgiveness was ours for the asking and hope became a reality.

It was therefore true when the apostle Paul said to the people in Rome – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

That is a Valentine worth cherishing.

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I Am Not a Writer

light-on-the-path
Light on the Path

For many years, indeed, for as long as I can remember, my identity has been totally and inextricably bound up in being a writer. It’s not just what I am, I told myself, it’s who I am. Sadly, over the years, that perception led me to a place that was filled with stress and burden. In fact, it became like a prison in a way, a prison of my own making.

Today I am declaring (with thanks to Ted Dekker), that no, indeed, I am not a writer. Every time those words enter my consciousness I feel the chains fall away. I don’t have to produce. I don’t have to publish. I don’t have to succeed. It is not who I am.

I am, in fact, a daughter of my Father in Heaven, the King of this universe who demands nothing of me but that I accept His forgiveness, return His love and let that love flow through me to others.

Yes, I believe He has given me the task of writing as a means to spread that love and a way to discover more and more about Him myself, but writing is what I do, not who I am. It’s all a matter of perspective. When my perspective is correct, I am free to be who I was meant to be and then to do what I was meant to do with joy and a sense of freedom. When my perspective is not correct, what I do becomes a chore – I worry about marketing and sales instead of praying for the hearts and minds of my readers; I fear not being able to produce the work I should (the blank page terrifies me); when someone points out a mistake in a published piece I feel humiliated; when my work is rejected I become depressed; when I don’t win a contest or award I become angry and cynical.

Yes, I admit, all of these things were happening to me. I knew these feelings were wrong, I struggled against them, but I couldn’t deny they were real. And all of it was beginning to crush my creativity. It became a struggle to produce. The joy was being bled away.

So, it may seem like a counter-productive thing to do, but I have decided to declare this statement to myself every morning when I sit down at my computer: I am not a writer. I am the daughter of my Father in Heaven who loves me. Nothing else matters. When those words have sunk deep into my soul, then, and only then, will I write.

So, will you join me?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22,23).