Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why He's A Keeper

It was Friday afternoon...
He walked in the door at the end of a hard work day, at the end of a stressful work week, which must have felt longer than five days to him... and he greets me with the brightest smile he's had in days.

I knew right then, even without him uttering a word, that something beautiful had happened in his day.

Then, he told me the story...
On his way to a client's place earlier that day, he saw a homeless man as he exited the highway. The man was standing to one side at the end of the exit ramp, begging. The traffic lights worked beautifully in a way that hubby was stopped right beside this homeless man.

He rolled down his window and struck up a conversation. He learned that the homeless man's name is Bruce. Bruce has been homeless for five years... since his wife passed away. He sleeps under a bridge every night, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road. Most days, he stands at this exit ramp until 6pm... getting enough money to buy dinner.

Then, the traffic lights changed. It was time to keep moving.

Hubby went about his work day and finished the job at his client's place just before 5pm. As he drove past that same exit ramp to get onto the on-ramp across the street to come home, he saw Bruce still standing there.

Instead of coming home, he drives past the on-ramp and goes to a Mr. Sub restaurant. With a foot-long sub and orange juice in hand, he gets on the on-ramp and drives towards home. He takes the first exit, turns around and enters the highway again going the opposite direction... to get to the off-ramp where Bruce was standing.

He handed Bruce the foot-long sub and orange juice. Bruce was surprised to see him, in awe that he would actually come back and bring him dinner. After a handshake, my man drives off. Exiting the highway and turning around one more time to get onto the on-ramp towards home.

As he approached the on-ramp to come home, he saw his new-found friend, Bruce... dinner in hand, walking towards home earlier than the anticipated 6pm, to his home under the bridge, the one right by Pharmacy Avenue just down the road.

And my man comes home with the brightest smile he's had in days.

He's a keeper, isn't he?
He could have driven straight home and not bother to check if Bruce was still there. After all, it's been a stressful work week and a long hard day. He's entitled to come home and relax. Besides, it's too much work to go the opposite direction on the highway, just to get to where Bruce was standing. Plus, he'd have to stop and buy the food still!

Yet, my man chose compassion over comfort... choosing to demonstrate a cross-shaped love, a Jesus-shaped love.

You have no idea how much this makes my heart smile happy and overflow with thanksgiving.

More than when he buys me flowers. More than when he washes the dishes. More than when he takes the trash out. More than when he makes sure my car's gas tank is always at least half-full. More than when he still tucks our 16-year-old girl to bed. More than when he reads the Bible with our boy each night.

I am truly blessed beyond measure.

Because a man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments (Psalm 112:1); a man who chooses compassion over comfort, choosing to love with a Jesus-shaped love, he's a gem. He's a keeper!
Blessed man... who fear God,
Who cherish and relish His commandments,
His children robust on the earth,
And the home of the upright — how blessed!
His house brim with wealth
And a generosity that never runs dry.
Sunrise breaks through the darkness for good people —
God’s grace and mercy and justice!
The good person is generous and lends lavishly;
No shuffling or stumbling around for this one,
But a sterling and solid and lasting reputation.
Unfazed by rumor and gossip,
Heart ready, trusting in God,
Spirit firm, unperturbed,
Ever blessed, relaxed among enemies,
He lavishes gifts on the poor —
A generosity that goes on, and on, and on.
An honored life! A beautiful life!

~ Paraphrase of Psalm 112, The Message.
As we celebrate his 48th birthday today...
He is, once again, choosing to bless others over pampering himself. As a result, we will be contributing towards our church's 1,000-lbs Thanksgiving Food Drive in a special way!

There are 10 most-needed items on the grocery list. We will be donating 48 units of each item, to celebrate hubby's 48 years!!! We can't wait to hit the grocery stores this coming week!!!

If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and would like to help us celebrate hubby's birthday in this way, please let me know!

I can't wait to see what 1,000 pounds of food looks like!!!

The donated food will be going to two wonderful Christ-centered organizations, Covenant House Toronto and The Sharing Place, just in time for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend!

Covenant House Toronto is Canada's largest homeless youth agency. Recognizing God's providence and fidelity to His people, they are dedicated to living out His covenant, serving the youth that come to them with absolute respect and unconditional love.

The Sharing Place provides a safe place for anyone who needs a hot meal or a bag of groceries, serving out of a spirit of brotherly and sisterly love as commanded by Jesus and the early church.

It is a grace for our family to be able to help, even in a small way, stock the shelves of these two ministries with much-needed food during this Thanksgiving season and to celebrate hubby's birthday at the same time!
In an endless cycle of grace, He gives us gifts to serve the world. This is how to make a life great and eucharisteo embarks us on the path: "Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave" (Matthew 20:26-27).
It's the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside-down economy of God. 
Empty to fill.
Here I can become the blessing, a little life that multiplies joy, making the larger world a better place.
God can enter into me, even me, and use these hands, these feet, to be His love, a love that goes on and on and on forever, endless cycle of grace.
~ Excerpts from Chapter 10, One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sacrifice. One Word, Three Things...

A couple of nights ago, the text for our family devotion time was from Romans, chapter 12. It is one of my favourite passages in the Bible. In fact, verses 1 and 2 are the very verses that I gave to my boy as he entered the waters of baptism earlier this year.

This chapter outlines for us, Christ-followers, what it means to be a living sacrifice, to live a life that's holy and pleasing to God — because living as such is our true and proper worship.

I love how The Message words this chapter. Friends, please allow me to share with you three things, among many things from this chapter, about what it means for a Christ-follower to be a living sacrifice.

First thing...
Living then, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.
Friends, this is absolutely true! In our family's journey into child sponsorship with Compassion, we have truly experienced, each step along the way, blessings being multiplied a thousand fold over and over.

We have learned that in being a living sacrifice, one absolutely can not out-give God; one's good is nothing compared to God's goodness; one's outpouring of love is nothing compared to God's relentless love!

He blesses. He brings good. He loves. One thousand fold back.   

My girl, with our Compassion LDP student Rechelle, in Cebu City (Philippines).

Second thing...
... if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond.
Ah, yes! Being a living sacrifice involves having eagle eyes and quick hands and feet that are always ready for action. :)

There are dire needs all around us. Many are pressing, most are immediate. For people living in extreme poverty, their dire need is a daily reality. For the majority of us, first-world-citizens, it's not even something that we can fully grasp, understand or get our heads around...

Sponsoring a child with Compassion provides an answer and a solution to that dire need now! Today!

Friends, would you use your eagles eyes and spot that one child whose dire need you can help to alleviate today? Would you provide a quick response to this child whose need is so great it hinders them from living life to the full?

Our family with our Compassion child, Florianlyn and her family (and her social worker)
inside her house on the island of Masbate (Philippines).

Third thing...
Love from the center of who you are... Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Evil persists. Evil is rampant. Evil is everywhere.

Extreme poverty is an ugly evil. Extreme poverty robs people of basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing. Extreme poverty robs people of basic resources such as healthcare, education and job opportunities. And the list can go on and on and on... 

But it doesn't have to... because when we, as Christ-followers, live as a living sacrifice, and love from the center of who we are, extreme poverty can be alleviated. 

Lives can be bettered. Evil can be overcome!


Friends, there are countless children today...
Trapped in the world of extreme poverty, with no hope for a brighter tomorrow. 
They desperately need to know...
... that there are Christ-followers who are willing to live simply and give generously.
... that there are fellow brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ who are keeping their eyes open and are willing to respond quickly.
... that there are members of this global community of God's people who are willing to fight evil by loving from the center of who they are.
My kids and Florianlyn. Hanging out on the beach on the island of Masbate (Philippines).

You can be that person today! By being a living sacrifice... living a life that's holy and pleasing to God  — offering up to Him your true and proper worship.

Sponsor a child with Compassion...
A child is waiting to call YOU friend this very day. A child is waiting for YOU to be a living sacrifice. A child is waiting for YOU to help release them from poverty, in Jesus name.

Canadian resident? Please click here
All others, please click here.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Letter To My Childhood Self

Hey there! It's me... the grown-up version of you. It feels a little strange writing to you... it's kind of a little back-to-the-future-ish, don't you think? Well, bear with me... because I think you'll like what I have to say!

Hmmm... where should I start? How about that I remember how you were such a shy and introverted girl, even to the point of not talking for long periods of time at school, feeling trapped inside your shy shell. Fret not, child... for you are an ambassador of Christ. One day, you will be free of that shy shell and start to have confidence in yourself!

How about that I remember your struggle to grasp the reality that God is good and found it hard to believe that God can be a loving Heavenly Father. Know this, child... you are a child of God, a beloved daughter. You have been adopted into God's family, a co-heir with Christ. God delights in you. Trust me, one day you will fully grasp how wide and long and high and deep God's love is for you!

Because you see, God's grace... it's this utterly amazing and beautiful thing! 

In your teenage years, you will leave the life that you've known since birth. You will move half-way around the world to a foreign country called Canada. You will start a new life. It is where this grown-up version of you still live today!

It is in this new country, in its education system, where you will learn to slowly come out of your shy shell and start to have confidence in yourself.

In just three short years after moving to this foreign country, the man your soul loves will come after you and three years after that, you will marry him!

It is in this marriage, soon after your first child is born, that you finally fully grasp God's goodness and start to understand that He truly is, and always has been, a loving Heavenly Father and that you are, indeed, a beloved daughter of the King!

It is in this marriage, through the good and the bad, that you grasp God's relentless love for you... that He truly is always good and that you truly are always loved!

See? Didn't I say that you'd like what I have to say?

In recent years, this grown-up version of you has come to love the writings of Ann Voskamp. So, I'll end this letter with one of the quotes from her book, One Thousand Gifts:
The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.
Beautiful, right? I hope you'll take that to heart and know that God is always good, that you are always, always, always loved!

This Grown-Up Version of You.


Friends, there are countless children today...
Trapped in the world of extreme poverty, with no hope for a brighter tomorrow. They desperately need to know that they can be free of this oppression. They desperately need to know that God is good, that He is a loving Heavenly Father to them.

You can help speak those words to them! By being the hands and feet of Jesus to them today... 

Sponsor a child with Compassion...
A child is waiting to call YOU friend this very day. A child is waiting to hear YOU speak life to them. A child is waiting for YOU to help release them from poverty, in Jesus name.

Canadian resident? Please click here
All others, please click here.

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Labour Day, Birthday and the Start of School

Thirteen Labour Day Mondays ago...
At precisely 8:21 in the evening, an eight-pound-ten-ounce bundle of joy in the form of a sweet baby boy joined our family. True to the meaning of his name, Jonathan... he is a gift of God, from the Hebrew name Yehonatan meaning Yahweh has given.

Through my son, God has truly given me a precious gift. It is an honour and a privilege to be called his mama... I wouldn't trade this journey with anything else!

Mothering him has made me a better person.

It has taught me valuable life-lessons, it has humbled me, it has challenged me.

It has driven me to my knees in prayer, it has given me so much joy and laughter, it has had me shedding tears.

It has made my heart swell with so much happiness, it has made me trust God so much more.

It has broken me, it has made me whole.

Motherhood is truly a gift... my boy *is* a gift, a blessing beyond measure!  

Just a few minutes old.

A few months old.

At his baby dedication.

In just a blink of an eye... 
He's suddenly a teenager! Thirteen. Yes, thirteen! Today, he turns thirteen. How did that happen so fast? How is it that, seemingly overnight, he's suddenly taller than his sister?!? How is it that his feet have surpassed mine in size?!?

How is it that time waits for no one? How is it that time always flows like a relentless river?

We've always celebrated his birthday over the Labour Day weekend...
This year is no different, even though it turned out to be a series of impromptu celebrations --- a trek downtown on Friday, an outing to the waterfront park on Saturday, a dinner with dear friends on Sunday, another dinner with family on Monday... plus we'll be heading out to have dinner at his favourite restaurant later tonight. 

And, birthday boy started school yesterday... 
This year, he's in Grade 8... his last year in elementary school! As I walked with him to school for this last first-day-of-school at our neighbourhood public school, I couldn't help but remember back to his first day of Junior Kindergarten.

Like it was just yesterday...

With big sister on his first day of Kindergarten. Thumbs up!!!

Just before heading out the door!

Hubby had to pull him in the wagon. His little legs couldn't
walk the entire {short} way to the school! :)

Entering the Kindergarten yard.
Mommy is following right behind! ;)

In a blink of an eye, it's the eve of Grade 8. Chilling on the couch with me
{and his cube} and processing some first-day-of-school jitters.

Happily going off to school in the morning!

Happy Birthday, my son!
You are loved, more than you can imagine! My prayer for you today, as always, is this...
May you grow up to be... "a man whose heart beats to God's heart, a man who will do what God tells him." {Paraphrased from Acts 13:22, The Message.}
Though somehow... I know you have already become that young man, one who is after God's own heart. Your mama is so thankful for God's grace in your life and so honoured for this privilege of being your mom. To God be the glory, great things He has done!

:: :: ::

As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who is always good and who always loves... these are the things I am thankful for this week... #3055 - #3062:
:: God's grace, for mama mistakes. And, second chances. His mercies, new every morning. His faithfulness, so great!
:: The joy that my boy brings each day to our family! Marking thirteen wonder-filled years today!
:: Family movie night at the theatres... one movie for the boys, another one for us girls! :) 
:: Smooth transition back-to-work, after vacation.
:: Another school year being upon us, praying for one filled with God-appointed moments.
:: Friends and family. 
:: Our local Farmers' Market!
:: A Compassion child, being considered for sponsorship!
Hello brand-new school year!
On the start of this unofficial new year... I am reflecting on these:
All the world is window. People, circumstances, situations, relationships, no material is opaque. If we are willing to see, all is transparent. All of this globe is but glass to God. Eucharisteo washes the windows. Eucharisteo, wholesale worship, is redemptive work, wiping away the soot of days cindered. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
My friends, you were chosen to be free. So don't use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love. All the Law says can be summed up in the command to love others as much as you love yourself. ~ Galatians 5:13,14.
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!