Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Miracles, Christmas Blessings

As I sit here and reflect upon the past few weeks that have gone by, I can't help but acknowledge as Mary did in Luke 1:38: "May it be to me as You have said." The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, to say the least... full of surprises, unexpected blessings and miracles, God-moments... all wrapped up in the holiday we celebrate called Christmas!

Let me list a few... each moment unplanned... each moment God's idea!

An unexpected carload of presents... leftover from the dinner our church helped served for families affected with HIV/AIDs... all donated to our church... enabling us to bless 19 more children in our church's immediate target area. That is nineteen more children from the three that we had originally planned to buy presents for! Talk about being reminded of the Bible story of 5 loaves and 2 fishes.

A God-moment... I hear about a few families in my son's class who have been affected by the recent economic downturn... not being able to provide their children with a merry Christmas... an opportunity to slip a few Toys 'R' Us giftcards into my son's teacher's hand so that she can pass them on... definitely what Christmas should be all about!

Downsizing at my workplace announced the week before Christmas... our department reduced to two people, my boss and myself... resulting in more work for me! Not what I had in mind at all... I wanted reduced hours... but all in God's sovereign hand. I am trusting that He knows best and this is what He wants for me at this moment in time.

So... Christmas has come and gone. We are stuffed from eating too much. The kids are overwhelmed by the presents they have received, to say the least! We are truly blessed. For our family, 2008 has been a year of truly seeing and believing God! As we look towards the New Year, I am definitely looking forward to more of the same in 2009... may God grant us more opportunites to join Him where He is at work!

Joshua 24:15 (NIV) --- " for me and my household, we will serve the Lord."

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Family Christmas Photos

The house is decorated... the presents have been bought... still some wrapping to do... the Christmas portraits have been taken... Christmas letters and cards are being stuffed into envelopes... and will soon be on their way.

We're getting ready for Christmas and our home is abuzz!!! It is our favourite time of the year. Here are some of our family Christmas photos selected from the numerous shots we took! Wow, I can't imagine going back to the non-digital camera age.

Luke 1:35, 37-38 (NIV) --- The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God... For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Simple Christmas

I've been thinking more about my post from three weeks ago about having a simple Christmas this year. Quite appropriately, I stumbled upon this video and it fits perfectly with my line of thought today. It is a must-see --- here it is (please feel free to pause the music on the side bar as you watch the video):

So, I bring up the topic of a simple Christmas with my kids and we came up with some ideas. My son was quick to say that we should decorate less... his idea is for each family member to pick just a couple of their favourate decorations and only put those up... but we must have the Christmas tree!

We also talked about spending less on presents so that we can give to the needy... gift baskets for needy families in our community, care packages for homeless shelters, food bank and packing shoeboxes for Samaritan's Purse.

We will definitely dialogue more on this as Christmas approaches. As a mom, it definitely is not an easy task to strike a balance between focusing on the real meaning of Christmas and "spoiling" my kids a little bit! I understand that balance to be different for each family. For our family, I know we've reached that balance when my kids want to give more than they want to receive. I don't think we're there yet. One step at a time... slowly, but surely!

"For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!"
---Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Looking Back

This week has been an emotional one as I traced back and saw how far God has brought hubby and I (and our children too!) these past 12 months. You see, this week marks exactly one year since God started to jolt us out of our comfort zone in order to send us into an unfamiliar territory --- church planting work! This morning, it felt good to go back into my blog archives and read about how God showed us the way. Some of those entries can be found here, here, here, here and here!

At this one year mark, I can say for certain that church planting work is definitely not easy, but I definitely wouldn't trade this experience for anything else! Hubby and I have definitely felt God stretch us, mold us, change us and grow us in ways that were unimaginable to us just one year ago.

You see...

Once we thought we were already giving more than what's required of our time, energy, effort, talents and finances to God. Through this journey HE has shown us what it means to totally give ourselves away.

Once we thought we had faith. Through this journey HE has taught us to see how faith can indeed move mountains.

Once we thought we loved enough. Through this journey HE has shown us to love beyond our boundaries, to love unconditionally, to have our hearts be broken with the same things that break HIS heart.

Once we thought we had it all figured out. Through this journey HE has shown us how to follow Him without reservation.

This one year mark represents only the beginning. There are still many chapters to be written in the story of this journey. I said before: I think this is going to be ONE WILD RIDE. It sure has already been!

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest;
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth;
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide.
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow;
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

---Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Words by: Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Week 2: Walking By Faith

Tonight, my Bible study group completed Week 2 of Jennifer Rothschild's Walking By Faith: Lessons Learned in the Dark. A few things jumped out at me. They are...

~ Only after I admit my insufficiency, yield to God, and receive His grace do I have something about which to boast.

~ If we settle into the position His grace has placed us, we'll see His strength made perfect there. And we'll experience the joy of our journey following Him.

~ God is the pilot, and we follow. We aren't invited into the cockpit because we are not in charge of the journey. Our pilot is completely trustworthy. We need not fret, for He is capable of navigating through any turbulence. So we can rest wherever He has lovingly placed us. And when we do, we'll experience the fabulous freedom of following.

~ To follow God, we must die to our own desires, one hammer blow at a time.

~ The desire for complete control denies us the power available to live a crucified life. God is the one in front; living by faith means that God leads as we follow.

~ It's hard to let go of our desire to be in charge, but the life of faith requires us to trust the Lord completely and not our own clever convictions.

~ I have to yield control to the One who is trustworthy, capable, and knows exactly where I need to go. He alone can get me there the best possible way. How silly for any of us shortsighted sinners to bark commands at the One who sees all of eternity. Since God Himself goes before us and prepares the way, following His loving leadership is the surest, safest way to travel.

Can you say food for thought? Definitely! Especially for this girl who likes to know everything, to be in control and to be in charge! Learning to walk by faith is definitely a life-long lesson, one step at a time!

"If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it."
---Luke 9:23-24

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Missed Call

I keep my cell phone in the side pocket of my purse. Often when I am driving or when I am in a store, I miss my calls because I can't hear the ring. All the sounds and noise around me are competing for my attention! I often come home and find 'one missed call' on the cell phone display screen. Sometimes, it is as many as 'three missed calls'!

The other day while I was staring at one of these messages and wondering who was trying to call me, my thoughts drifted towards... have I ever missed God's call? I mean He has a call and a purpose for each one of us... have I ever missed my call and my purpose?

Especially in this world we live in where everything is urgent and clamours for our attention, where everywhere it is noisy, where everytime it is NOW. I wondered if I have ever gotten so caught up with life that I missed God's call... His still, small voice.

My prayer is that I do not clutter my life to the point where I would miss His call... in the small things and in the BIG things. When He calls me to do the mundane like make dinner or do laundry for my family... or when He calls me to do the urgent like visit a friend who is mourning... or when He calls me to be part of something BIG, like starting a church... or when He calls me to just be still and know that He is God. May I never miss His call!

"...asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with Him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ."
---II Thessalonians 1:11-12 (NLT)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween Snippets

For a narrative of our evening, see this post.

"You are the light of the world."
---Matthew 5:14 (NIV)

Trick or Treat!

Let me preface this post with a portion of an email that I wrote to some friends after Halloween last year:
Up until this year, we were comfortable with doing both neighbourhood trick-or-treating and also going to the church’s event. As you all might have read on my blog, we did go to the church’s event this year. But, after coming home and re-assessing our decision, we were convinced and convicted that God would have wanted us to stay at home all night and make a difference in our community that way on Halloween night. So, that’s what we’ll start doing next year --- a new tradition is born!
Still quite unknown to us at that point in time was God's plan to lead us, a few months down the road, into a church plant whose focus is our own community! God was changing our hearts in preparation for something He had in store for us. That is just awesome!

So, yesterday started with the kids participating in a Halloween parade at school. The sense of community was strong as parents came to watch the parade. Then, we stayed home last night (as opposed to going to a church event, that is)! The kids went out trick-or-treating with hubby. I chatted with a neighbour while handing out treats. The kids came home and we hung out on the porch handing out some more treats. We interacted with neighbours and friends who we don't normally bump into. It was a great evening!

During the course of the day, my daughter said something that struck me. She said she is wearing her cross necklace as part of her cowgirl costume because she wants people to notice that there are Christians who do not lock their doors and hide in their houses or disappear into their church buildings during Halloween; that there are Christians who want to be involved in their communities; to let their light shine in a dark place!

Now, I think that is cool! Photos to follow in the next post...

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
---Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Will Be Still...

This song is part of the worship package for the service this coming Sunday. I've literally forgotten that this song exists until this past week when I received the chord charts. The words are very meaningful and God has used them to minister to me this week. Here it is:

"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 (NIV)

Children's Worship Band!

As promised, here are some photos of the Children's Worship Band from church last Sunday:

As I mentioned a couple of days ago in this post, I am one proud mama! I am tremendously grateful that my daughter has been given the opportunity to use her musical gift to serve God at such a tender young age. I believe that this opportunity is possible only because we are in a church plant situation. My hope is: As the church grows and matures, that it will always remain to be a place where children can participate, contribute and feel included!

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him. "Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read," 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise'?"
---Matthew 21:16 (NIV)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shoebox Time!

It's shoebox time again! This is one of our best-loved family traditions. This year, little cousin A is finally old enough to understand the whole idea of packing Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes so we invited her to come and join in the par-tay!!! The children (and the mommies --- my sister and me) worked hard and had lots of fun at the same time!

Here are some photos:

All done!
Twenty-one shoeboxes filled with goodies ready to be sent off.
Great job --- Big A, Big J and Little A!!!
We can't wait for the rest of the littler cousins to grow up and join in the tradition!

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'
---Acts 20:35 (NIV)

One Proud Mama!

My daughter played keyboard at church for the very first time yesterday! She did an awesome and superb job, I must say. I am ONE PROUD MAMA!!! I am confident that God, our Heavenly Father, was smiling down on her as well. There are very few things in this world that can compare to a young heart that is eager and willing to use their God-given talents to glorify and praise the One who is most worthy of all!!!

The whole worship experience was made up of KIDS --- from the song selection, to the musicians (keyboard, drums, electric guitar), to the vocalists (two boys and two girls). While I was directing the band upfront, I looked out into the congregation and couldn't help but notice huge grins on the faces of parents and grandparents, beaming with pride --- just like myself!

As "Children's Ministries Coordinator", it is one of my goals to involve the children as much as possible in the main service. I want the children to feel included and accepted by their church family. I want the children to be visible, not invisible... to be fully functioning contributors to the church body. A children's worship band is a first step and a good start towards achieving this goal.

It was definitely one memorable Sunday. Oh and one more thing --- three daddies who don't usually attend church were there! Their children were three of the four singers. That warmed my heart as well!

I will post some photos once I get copies from a friend. All the excitement of the morning made me forget my camera at home! D'oh!

He said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."
---Mark 10:14 (NIV)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Are Those Snowflakes???

So, while I was working away this afternoon I happened to glance out the window. What do I see? Flurries! Snowflakes! Already?!? Well, I guess so...why not! We do live in the Great White North!

The flurries definitely made me start thinking about Christmas --- my favourite time of year! An email I received today helped jump start that thought as well...reminding me that Christmas is only two months away. thoughts immediately jumped to my Christmas "to-do-list", I panic a bit, then I pause to think. Why do we always get so caught up with all the "to-dos" at Christmas that we get all flustered, stressed, out-of-sorts? Do we really have to do all that?

I wondered if we plan for a simple Christmas instead, what would it feel like? What does simple look like? Would it be more special? Would it create more memories? Hmmm...some food for thought! I'm going to think some more on this (since I do still have two months!) and maybe we might just try a "simple Christmas" this year. I like that thought!

Luke 2:10-11 (NIV) --- But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord."

Too Small for the Trombone!

Three music lessons later, the teacher determined that my son is most probably still too small to learn the trombone. It is quite a heavy instrument and he gets tired carrying it before the 30-minute lesson is over. He also doesn't seem to have enough air in his lungs yet to produce the different notes required to play simple music on the trombone.

So we have a little chat with him. He is understandably disappointed at having to wait some more before taking up the trombone but understands the explanation. He's decided to go back to piano lessons in the meantime. I support that decision as it will definitely help him learn the basics of music and prepare him well for the day when he's finally big enough for the trombone!

So it is with us, isn't it? Sometimes we are so eager to do something for God and He tells us to wait. It is because He knows we aren't ready yet. He tells us to do something else in the meantime because He is preparing us for what is to come. I'm always amazed at how many God-lessons we can learn by parenting our children!!!

Waiting is often hard, but essential. My Bible study group has started on a new book this season --- Jennifer Rothschild's Walking By Faith, Lessons Learned in the Dark. She defines a person walking by faith as: willing to take a step, follows God, gives up control, responds with thankfulness, perseveres, endures, is guided by truth, and is willing to wait.

I am eager to delve into this study. I am looking forward to what God will teach me through it. Let me end today's post with "textbook treasures" from Week 1.

Psalm 62:5-6 --- "Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

Psalm 94:18-19 --- "When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Music

My kids have been taking music lessons for some time now. While they didn't complain about it, I had this impression/feeling that they weren't really having a whole lot of fun. It was just another lesson to go to...

Well, during the summer months, my sister mentioned to me that she is starting my niece on piano lessons. She said that her friend, the music teacher, is quite talented. Not only can he teach a student to read chords, as well as read music for the piano, he can play the trombone as well.

Well, I was interested, to say the least. My son had the trombone picked out as his instrument ever since he was very little. This year, he is finally big enough to start learning the trombone. My daughter, on the other hand, has always been interested to learn how to read chords and play them on the piano.

We started the lessons a couple of weeks ago and both kids love their new teacher! This is a photo of them practicing together:

Just for the record, I have never seen them so eager to practice their music! I am very happy to hear them making music down in the basement. All of a sudden, it is something FUN to do, not just something that they have to do!

In fact, my daughter has progressed so much that she is going to play on the youth worship band at church two Sundays from now. I am soooooo looking forward to it. I can't help but think back to when I started playing the piano at church --- I was about my daughter's age as well! Fond memories...

Psalm 92:1-3 (NIV) --- "It is good to praise the Lord and make music to Your name, O Most High, to proclaim Your love in the morning and Your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp."

Thanksgiving Get-Together

Here are some photos from our Thanksgiving get-together with my extended family...

my sisters and I...

the girl cousins...

the boy cousins...

the other boy cousin with his mommy...

Psalm 106:1 (NIV) --- "Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thanksgiving Already?

Okay, this year is officially zooming by right before my eyes! Is it seriously Thanksgiving weekend already? As I look out my office window into the warm and sunny afternoon... into the almost bare branches of our ash tree in the backyard... into our back garden filled with fallen leaves... there is no denying that the Fall season is upon us.

We are having the exterior of our house painted today. It is a job that I didn't get to do over the Summer months. When Fall arrived all of a sudden, I decided we better hire someone to do this job quickly before Winter sets in and the wood on our windows and garage door is not properly prepared for the harsh elements... It is a lot of work to maintain a house and keep it in excellent condition, isn't it?

The same thing can be said with our heart, mind and spirit! It is a lot of work, a daily maintenance, in order to be spiritually healthy. The only difference is we can not pay someone else to help us "catch up" on our spiritual health when we've slacked off! Definitely food for thought for myself...

Anyway, got side-tracked a bit there... back to Thanksgiving. As I said, I can't believe that Thanksgiving is upon us already. As our family go about our yearly Thanksgiving "to-do-list" --- get food for the Food Bank, start to get Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes ready, have Thanksgiving dinner with extended family --- I reflect on the past year and can't help but be amazed at how FAITHFUL and how GREAT our God is!

Just some of the many things that I am thankful for this year...

~ Faith stretched (in soooooo many ways) and spiritual growth spurt!
~ God leading us to serve Him at a "from-the-ground-up" church plant and the tons of blessings and God-moments that have been a part of this incredible journey.
~ God's provision for us inspite of a slowdown in hubby's business at the beginning of this year; steady work and increased hours for me at my job.
~ New friendships. New relationships. New sense of community.
~ The experience and witnessing of God's healing, not only emotionally and spiritually, but physically!
~ Good health and strength for each day. Sound mind and peaceful spirit.
~ Awesome music teacher for the children.
~ Generally joyful and contented children.
~ Harmony in our home.
~ Peace in times of uncertainty; promise of bright hope for tomorrow!

Psalm 100 (NIV) --- A psalm. For giving thanks.
1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
4 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name.
5 For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hindsight Is 20/20...Or Is It Really?

Today, I caught myself saying that "hindsight is 20/20" in response to a situation that we are currently dealing with. I might not make perfect sense by the end of this post, but I just want to "blog this out" to clear my head...

Anyway, last Friday we suddenly found ourselves in a school "situation" involving our daughter which wasn't our choice nor was it in our control. Things happened and decisions were made, just merely four weeks into the school year, where two of my daughter's classmates (both girls) make the decision to leave the home school and attend an alternative school. This resulted in my daughter now being left in a class of only two (herself included) Grade 6 girls among 20 other children! Mind you, there are three Grade 6 boys in that mix, but the rest of the class are Grade 5 students.

I am not concerned academically at all for I strongly believe that my daughter's teacher is able and willing to program for my daughter's special need, which is intellectual giftedness. I am, however, concerned about the social aspect of this new scenario --- how my daughter will adapt to this sudden and unexpected change, now having to spend this school year with a majority of younger children.

This is where I thought --- "hindsight is 20/20". Way back in June, I could have voiced my opinion when classes were being organized so that my daughter would end up in a totally different class (not with these girls) and we wouldn't be in this mess right now...etc. etc. etc. You know how all the "what ifs" come to mind in times like these?

Well, who would God use to remind me of His faithfulness today but my daughter herself! The very person who is in the middle of all this "change". At lunch today, as we discussed this situation for the umpteenth time (mainly because I want to gauge how she's feeing), she tells me not to worry. She says that she can see the good in this whole thing; that God already knew way back in June what would happen today even when I didn't voice my opinion regarding the class organization; that everything will work out; that this will turn out to be better for her! Well, with advice like that, I guess it's time for me to let go and let God!

Thank you, God, for a daughter who is mature beyond her age; who understands life with a God-perspective; who knows you so intimately; who trusts you with the everyday details of her life! Who am I to worry? Who am I to fret? Who am I to be upset?

Look at these verses from my devotions today, more assurance from my Heavenly Father:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?”
--- Matthew 6:25 (NIV)

“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.”
---Luke 12:31 (NIV)

So, hindsight really isn't 20/20! What we deem to be 20/20 really isn't what God has in mind. In this particular situation, we have yet to see what God has in store for my daughter as He brings about this sudden change. In the end, I know that it will show me without a doubt that my hindsight isn't 20/20 after all.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Answers...

Remember the question I had in my previous post --- when the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few, how can God's work be accomplished? God enlightened me some more this morning through my devotions.

This is what I read: "Sometimes it can be overwhelming to think of Jesus sending us into the world to preach the good news. But it doesn't have to be. When we reach out to just one person in Jesus' name, we change the world."

One person at a time! Now, that's doable for anyone, isn't it?

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV) --- “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

James 1:22 (NASB) --- “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Launch Sunday

Launch Sunday for The Sanctuary Pickering has come and gone! As I sit here in front of my computer on this Monday morning reflecting on the past week's events, all I can say is that my God is faithful!

On Saturday night, after all the preparations have been done for Launch Sunday, hubby and I plopped down on our couch to relax. We were both understandably physically tired but incredibly exhilarated spiritually! We were both sooooo excited we couldn't sleep. As we sat there, it felt surreal to be finally on the verge of publicly launching this church plant! It felt like being pregnant for nine months and suddenly the moment has finally come to give birth.

We couldn't help but think back to exactly one year ago, as we sat on the same couch, wondering why God had us in a place where we were at a crossroads; needing to hear a Word from Him as to the direction of our involvement in ministry; desperately agonizing about the "what ifs" and the "why nots"; feeling impatience creep in as God asked us to wait on Him. God asked us to wait, seeking His direction, for a few months before He provided us with an answer --- He was going to send us church planting in the very community where we live, North Pickering!

What a difference one year can make. A year ago we were waiting, today we are going! A year ago we were agonizing, today we are exhilarated! A year ago we were looking for a renewed purpose, today we are working towards a BIG goal! A year ago we were asking questions, today we are seeing answers! A year ago we were in our comfort zone, today we are being stretched and we are growing! Our God is indeed great; our God is indeed good; our God is indeed sovereign!

Launch Sunday went well. New people walked through the doors of The Sanctuary Pickering. There was enough food, the music came together, the children's programmes ran smoothly. The vision was cast. Our team is incredibly encouraged.

But the greatest impact for me wasn't Launch Sunday itself but the whole week leading up to it as we knocked on doors of people's homes. In my previous blog post, I wrote about my desire to see our team let our hearts be broken with the same things that break God's heart. I can tell you one thing: I saw a lot of those things in the faces of the people who opened their doors to take our flyers. The magnitude of the work that still needs to be done here in North Pickering resonated loud and clear in me as I went from door to door to door.

As I think about the harvest being plentiful but the workers being few, I often find myself asking God how His work can be accomplished. God must be chuckling and saying to me: Is that a trick question? He provided me with the answer instantly this morning just as I was starting to ask again: God's work will be accomplished with God's help.

Look at these verses from my devotions this morning:

Joshua 1:5 (NIV) --- “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Psalm 146:5-6 (NIV) --- “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever.”

II Timothy 2:13 (NIV) --- “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

God Of This City

I love Chris Tomlin's new song, God Of This City. The lyrics are especially meaningful to me at this time because our church, The Sanctuary Pickering, is embarking on a very signficant threshold in less than two week's time --- we are finally having our PUBLIC LAUNCH on Sunday, September 21. In this city!

Greater things have yet to come. Greater things are still to be done. In this city. Where glory shines from hearts alive. With praise for you and love for you. In this city.

Wow...this song brings to mind a powerful image! My prayer is that God will use The Sanctuary Pickering to transform this city for Him, that one day glory will shine from each heart with praise and love for Him. In this city!

Many emotions flood my heart and mind as we prepare for Launch Sunday. Many little details still have to come together and those little details are cluttering my mind! Even as we prepare to walk the neighbourhoods and knock on 15,000 homes to invite people out to Launch Sunday, my thoughts range from excitement to anxiety, from being totally confident to feeling inadequate. I am constantly having to remind myself that God is in control. It is HE who led us into this journey, it is HE who will lead us through it! In this city!

What gets to me each time is the realization that if we truly want to impact this city in a God-sized way, there is much work to be done! There isn't time to waste. There isn't a moment to lose. My prayer is that as a church planting team, we will let our hearts be broken with the same things that break God's heart. In this city!

Luke 8:15-16 (NIV) --- "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Summer Adventures - Part 4

The second week of school has started. My daughter and son have settled in quite nicely into Grade 6 and Grade 3 and I can't believe that summer is technically over! Well, here's one last blog entry about our summer adventures...

The last couple weeks of summer brought us to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Canada's Wonderland and also to the annual Canadian National Exhibition, more commonly known as The Ex.

Here are some photos from the Hockey Hall of Fame. Everyone needs to wear gloves to touch the Stanley Cup! We went with hubby's dad who is here to visit us:

Now, on the Canada's Wonderland. Let me tell you that our trip to Canada's Wonderland made me realize that I am officially old! You see, this year my daughter is finally tall enough to go on those huge roller coasters. So, being the fun mommy that I am, I agreed to go on the Behemoth with her!!! It is the newest ride at Canada's Wonderland --- just opened this year. All I can say to you is that when we got to the top of the first drop, at 230 feet in the air, I thought to myself: "Is it too late to get off?" --- seriously, I couldn't believe I agreed to go on it! I must admit though, it was a lot of fun.

As a teenager, I used to love roller coasters. As a mommy, I quickly realized that I don't love them as much as I used to anymore. Haha! After getting off the Behemoth, I was sick for almost two hours. Needless to say, that was my first and last ride of the day. Thankfully, hubby's teenage nephew came with us. He went on all the rides with our kids thereafter.

The Ex, on the other hand, was all fun! Here are a couple of photos taken at the Canadian Forces exhibit:

We had a lot of fun eating candy floss and corndogs, playing midway games, watching shows and parades! If only summer would last forever...

But the school year is upon us and we have to get back to routine. In a lot of ways, I welcome this familiar routine but a small part of me have come to love the carefree days of summer. There is always next summer...

"The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter."
---Psalm 74:16-17 NIV

Friday, September 5, 2008

Eight Years Old!

My handsome little man turned eight yesterday and he's off to Grade 3 this year! Where has the time gone to?!? No matter how big he becomes, in my heart he'll always be...that little boy of mine.

That Little Boy of Mine
By Grace Wolgemuth

Two eyes that shine so bright
Two lips that kiss goodnite
Two arms that hold me tight
That little boy of mine.

No one could ever know, how much your coming has meant
To me you're everything. You're something heaven has sent!!!

You're all the world to me
You climb upon my knee
To me you'll always be
That little boy of mine.

"Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him."
---Psalm 127:3 NIV

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Victorious Living

We did it! My Bible study group completed Beth Moore's Living Beyond Yourself this past Monday evening. I am soooo proud of this group of women, many of whom are still babes in Christ! They have persevered through this study. For most of them, this was their first experience with a Beth Moore in-depth Bible study --- which translates to lots and lots of homework!!! Way to go, girls! To God be the glory!

Well, the homework for Day 5 was profound for me. I brought along my homework book and my Bible on our trip to Buffalo, NY last week as I still had to complete my homework for Week 10 and Monday evening was fast approaching. As I sat in the privacy of our hotel room balcony watching hubby and the kids swim in the pool below while I did my homework, I turned to Day 5 and quickly realized that the whole day's homework was dedicated to studying Psalm 63.

About three weeks or so ago, God drew my attention towards Psalm 63 as I was reading through the Psalms that day. When I saw that the homework for Day 5 was also on Psalm 63, I knew then that God wanted to show/teach me something. My antennas were now "on alert" for sure!

Before I blog about what God wanted me to learn, I must say that I am continually amazed at God's faithfulness and His grace. Over the course of this year, I have seen Him repeat the same verses that He wants to bring to my attention not just once, but multiple times in different venues/situations. I wonder if He is making sure that the skeptic side of me will erase all doubt that it is indeed Him speaking to me. that's some food for thought!

Here are the points that touched me from Psalm 63:

~ Every morning, I need to acknowledge His authority! Awaken every morning to the challenge, "Choose...this day whom you will serve!" (Joshua 24:15).

~ Throughout each day, I have to abound in His presence. "My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you" (verse 1). Ask Him to give me a spirit that desires to be full of Him, not of myself. Beth writes: "As long as you are completely cleansed and yielded, you will possess a power that is completely beyond love, to experience joy, to know peace, to express patience, to possess kindness and respond in goodness, to be faithful, gentle, and submissive to His will, restrained and under control."

~ I have to ask to see His glory and power! Power appears in the works of God. Glory describes the ways of God. "I have seen You in the sanctuary and beheld Your power and Your glory." (verse 2).

~ I have to award Him with my mouth. Pray for a mouth that glorifies Him all day long, and you will be filled with a sense of His love and approval.

~ I have to approach Him with praise; attribute all satisfaction to Him! "I will praise You as long as I live." (verse 4).

~ At the end of each day, audit the manifold blessings! "On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night. Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings." (verses 6, 7). This is one of the reasons why I have this blog. Beth writes: "A record of your history with God is an immeasurable asset to your Christian experience. How do you know He will care for you today? Because He cared for you yesterday! He never changes!"

~ I have to allow myself to rest in His arms! "My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me." (verse 8).

Love never fails. Joy cometh. Peace rules. Patience waits. Kindness tenders. Goodness does. Faith fights. Gentleness bows. Self-control stops. "Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:23 (NIV). As Beth concluded the study: "Living Beyond Yourself! It's the only way to live. He's the only way to do it."

In closing, I'd like to post a poem Beth wrote at the very end of the study --- it made me ask of myself: Am I known by the Company I keep?

The Company I Keep, by Beth Moore

Let me be known by the Company I keep
By the One who determines each day that I greet
From the moment I wake til He rocks me to sleep
Let me be known by the Company I keep!

Let me be known by the Company I keep
When the valleys are low and the mountains are steep
By the One who holds fast when swift waters are deep
Let me be known by the Company I keep!

Let me be known by the Company I keep
By the One who implores me to sit as His feet
And quickens my soul to discern what is deep
Let me be known by the Company I keep!

Let me be known by the Company I keep
Eclipsed by Your presence that I may decrease
Til all You have chosen this traveler to meet
No longer see me but the Company I keep.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Reminders From God

God has been busy speaking to me these past few weeks. Each time, it has been to remind me of the "word" He gave to hubby and me when He initially called us to become a part of The Sanctuary Pickering. I remember back to the very beginning of when God started to stir our hearts. It will be about one year ago when summer comes to an end this year! As I look back over the past year, I can most certainly say that my God is faithful!

I taught in Kidz Konnection for two consecutive Sundays a couple of weeks ago. I was originally supposed to only teach one of those Sundays but had to switch with another teacher because of her vacation dates. I think it was "divine intervention" as God was going to use those two lessons to remind me of His word.

The first lesson was entitled "Trust God, my Shepherd" and the story was about God asking Abraham to leave his home in obedience even though he didn't know where God wanted him to go. Before hubby and I knew for certain that God was leading us to become a part of The Sanctuary Pickering, He used Abraham's story to speak to us.

This is what I wrote earlier this year:

God also used Abraham’s story to speak to us. Abraham obeyed God and left his home not knowing where God was leading him to. In Hebrews 11:8 it says: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” After being confronted with Abraham’s story, we surrendered to God. We became willing to obey --- that is, willing to leave our home church and go wherever God would take us.

The second lesson was entitled "Be Strong and Courageous" and the story was about Joshua leading the people into the Promised Land. The verse from Joshua 1:9 has been a recurring word from God ever since our family joined The Sanctuary Pickering. I have lost count now of how many times God has reminded us of that verse in particular since New Year's Day 2008!

This is from my account of our journey, also written earlier this year:

On New Year’s Day 2008, God gave me the verses from Joshua 1:5b-6,8-9 through my personal devotions and also through an online sermon, both on the same day from two different sources. Now, again, only God can make that happen!

Joshua 1:5b-6, 8-9 (NIV) --- "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

My God never ceases to amaze me. These verses spoke to me significantly. It was a new beginning for Joshua after Moses had died. God assured Joshua in these passages that He will never leave him or forsake him, and that Joshua was to be strong and courageous because God will do amazing things among the people. The online sermon I listened to spoke significantly to me as well --- the pastor spoke about it being the time to move on; the start of a new beginning.

As you can see, God is so faithful! He even sees fit to plop reminders of His word along the way for me. We are now starting to gear up for the public launch of The Sanctuary Pickering --- less than 6 weeks to go until Launch Sunday, September 21. I can't wait to see what God has in store. I've said it before and I'll say it once more, this is turning out to be one wild ride!

Psalm 33:4 (NIV) --- "For the word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

100-Fold Harvest

Last weekend, I attended Beth Moore's Living Proof Live via live simulcast. It was AMAZING to say the least! God spoke tons to me. I don't even think I can blog about everything I learned because some of the things God impressed upon my heart are difficult to put into words. Sometimes, words just aren't adequate enough...

The theme of Beth Moore's message was "100-Fold Word" and the main passage of Scripture was from Luke 8:1-16 with verse 8 being the key verse --- "Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."

Here are Beth's key points --- a life that yeilds a 100-fold harvest must...

1. Treasure the wonder (of the Word of God, the Bible): we must always yearn for the knowledge of the secrets/mysteries of the Kingdom of God as He will show more to those who are eager to know more. The Bible will make us "competently competent" or thoroughly equip us for every good work.

2. Protect your heart: the enemy can snatch the word away from our hearts so that we become ill-equipped for what we have been called to do. We must hide the word in our hearts! When we hear a word from God, we must move on it in obedience right away.

3. Expect the test: we will be tested to see if we believe the word when it is spoken to us. Psalm 105:19 (NIV) says "...till what He foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved Him true."

4. Dig the roots: our roots are as deep as how convinced we are that God loves us! Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV) says " that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

5. Stop the choke: anxiety, worries and the desire for riches and pleasures can choke the word. Prayer is the cure for the choke! God has given us every spiritual gift to fulfill our destiny/purpose in Christ. This destiny/purpose has been set for us before the foundation of the world.

6. Retain the word: good soil produces a harvest. Good soil = perseverance! The word "good" in the original text translates to "being a benefit/help to the people around us" as described in Philippians 2:17 (NIV) --- "...being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith." We must retain the word in order to resist the enemy because his plan is to make us lose our effectiveness because he can't make us lose our salvation. We must retain (hold in a vice grip, possess, own) the word!

7. Press forth to your 100-fold!!! We must persevere in prayer and in faith. We must hang in there and not quit. We must commit through to see the 100-fold harvest. At harvest time, we will experience such tremendous joy that we will be wishing that we'd dreamt bigger in the first place!!!

My personal word: On Saturday, Beth started the morning by saying that she wanted to share a "word" with us that God had impressed upon her heart the night before at her hotel room. She proceeded to share with us the verses from Isaiah 55:10-12 (NIV) which says: "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

That did it for me! I knew without a doubt that the "word" was meant for me. Take a look here. That is exactly the "word" God gave to hubby and me when He initially called us to be a part of The Sanctuary Pickering. It was God's way of reminding me of His faithfulness, of His love, of His greatness! It was God's way of remindng me to be faithful, to know that He loves me, to know that I can trust Him no matter what, to expect Him to do even greater things, to keep pressing forth towards the 100-fold harvest! Praise God.

The whole weekend's message reminded me of a song I learned as a teenager by Steve Green entitled "Find Us Faithful". The lyrics represent very well what God wanted me to "bring home" from the conference. Here's the song...

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up."
---Hebrews 12:1-3 NLT

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Adventures - Part 3

This past weekend's outing took us to the far away City of Mississauga to visit family. :-) We say Mississauga is far away because to get from here to there, we have to cross over the huge City of Toronto, driving through the very busy Highway 401, which always seems to be congested no matter what time of day it is!

We had lots of fun there as we visited a local splash park! An added delight was to see some friends join us for the day as well. Here are some photos:

Our second outing of the weekend was a trek to the Toronto Zoo. The Great Barrier Reef exhibit just opened recently and we were eager to check it out. Here are some photos:

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"
---Psalm 133:1 NIV

"You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive."
---Genesis 6:19-20 NIV

Summer Adventures - Part 2

Two weekends ago, we headed out to Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara Falls, Ontario. We went together with our neighbours from across the street. We had a great time --- lots of fun for all. We do not have any photos to share because if one wants to truly have lots of fun in a waterpark, one should not bring their camera with them! So, we decided to leave our camera in the lodge room and never did take any shots for the duration of the whole trip.

The greatest "adventure" of this trip happened when we were about to leave for home. After checking out of our room, we decided to pay our neighbours a visit at their room in order to say goodbye as they were staying one night more. The adults (and my daughter) ended up chatting out on the balcony while the younger children stayed inside the room watching TV. I guess watching TV wasn't entertaining enough so they decided that they would play "hide-and-seek" in the dark!

We knew they were playing that game and we actually thought it was quite fun! All of a sudden, our neighbour's daughter came out onto the balcony screaming: "HELP, TV, FALL!!!" We all hurry into the room to find my son stuck under the TV and the TV stand!!! My heart stopped for a moment as we rescued him out from under the mess! While under there, he wasn't crying nor did he make any noise. I thought for a moment that he was surely dead! Turns out, he didn't cry because he wasn't hurt at all --- not a cut, not a bruise, not a scratch!

God surely protected my son from serious injury or even death that day! For that, I am truly grateful to HIM! So, the natural question would be how did it all happen? Well, no ones knows! My son was walking in front of the TV when it suddenly falls over. In his recollection of the events, he now thinks that the bottom drawer of the TV stand was ajar. In the darkness, he couldn't see where he was walking and might have stepped into the drawer, triggering the TV and the stand to fall on him. A possible explanation because as we examined the TV and the stand after the incident, it was very top heavy and tips quite easily with just a little shove.

Anyway, right after the accident, I recalled a conversation I had with my son just days earlier. He told me that he doesn't think God performs miracles anymore today --- miracles like healing the blind and parting the Red Sea. I explained to him how God still performs miracles today, gave him several examples to go with my explanation, but his logical mind just would not come to believe me.

So, when we got into our car to start our drive home, I asked my son if he still thinks that God doesn't perform miracles anymore today. He said he believes now. The look in his eyes told me that he is convinced! Praise God for another teachable moment. If it took this accident to convince my son that his God is believable, then it's all worth it! I want so much for my children to believe God, not just to merely believe in God. Know what I mean? I think that this "adventure" will surely be etched in my son's mind for a long time to come, if not forever. I know it will be in mine!

Fast forward to this past Sunday. The kids' Sunday school lesson was on Psalm 23 --- the Lord is my Shepherd. At the end of the lesson, each child had the opportunity to say a prayer and thank God for being their Shepherd. My son's small group teacher told me afterwards that he prayed and thanked God that he didn't die when the TV unit fell on him. The small group teacher asked him to share his testimony with the other children after prayer time and he did! If you know my son, that is huge for him --- to pray out loud in public and to share his testimony. So, I praise God for allowing the accident to happen --- it surely has been a learning and growing experience for my son in more ways than one.

"The Lord will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore."
---Psalm 121:7-8 NIV

Summer Adventures - Part 1

I've been meaning to post an entry for a few days now but time has been scarce! One of my loyal blog readers not-so-subtly reminded me this morning that it's time to update my blog! ;-) So, here I am!

The saying "time flies when you're having fun" really does have some truth to it, doesn't it? This summer has just been zooming by like a bullet train! I can't believe that it's already half over. Well, I have some summer adventures to blog about, for sure!

Our first summer outing was to the newly renovated Royal Ontario Museum. This piece of architecture is truly a lesson in "don't judge a book by its cover". From the outside, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal addition to the museum, in my opinion, does not do justice to the old historic ROM building. But upon entering the space and seeing the exhibits in this new architecture, I must say that I'm totally impressed. Here are a few photos:

Exterior showing where the old meets the new.

Inside the new building; "Dinos Are Back" exhibit.

"Stairwell of Wonder" model soldiers collection.

"Stairwell of Wonder" from the very top.

One of the many nooks and crannies in the new building.

We had a fun day at the museum. The exhibits we saw triggered multiple discussions about God and His awesome creation. It truly was a learning experience dotted with a few teachable moments!

Next stop: Great Wolf Lodge. That adventure warrants its very own blog post for sure! Stay tuned.

"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 men are without excuse."
---Romans 1:20 NIV