Your Gifts


“Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God?”

You might not have given much thought to this question lately but it’s a good question. I’d rather live by a good question than a bad answer.  In case you were wondering, it’s a question from the Bible. Paul wants to bring to light what should be obvious, that what we have and who we are should be understood as sheer gifts from a generous God. See if you can hold your breath and read this entire blog before exhaling!  If you are a speed reader you might be able to, but most of us can’t last long without oxygen. And this invisible air we breathe second by second is gifted to us without cost by another much greater than you and I. You wouldn’t be reading this blog without that perpetual supply of that oxygen! So, no room for entitlement or conceit because life, every part of it, is a gift.

So back to the question, what’s the point of Paul’s asking? To not live by a bad answer: Conceit. Conceit doesn’t recognise gifts. The next step is obvious, too. It doesn’t recognise a giver. I found out that the more I knew the more I knew I didn’t know! So I decided trusting a God I believed was beautiful and generous, albeit cloaked in mystery. I found out I didn’t need to throw away my head to believe and I could give thanks. I simply trusted my heart and let my heart’s response inform my head. Realising that all of life is a gift made trusting the guiding hand of God become easy. That’s not a bad place to start this New Year, by enjoying the generous giver, God.

Now after the weirdness of 2016 lots of people are afraid that 2017 is going to be a harder year yet. Those crazy U.S. elections didn’t help much, right?  Add to that the big bear Putin flexing his Russian muscles and aligning with the Syrian tyrant to destabilise the middle polar-beareast even more than it was. And those poor polar bears so used to running around on ice at this time of the year now find themselves swimming, a lot. It’s a weird world. Not to mention that our personal worlds are full of variables too. Will we lose our jobs, our health or one of our loved ones in 2017? God forbid! Yet even if this were to occur, there is reason to not give up hope.

Though the future may seem out of our control, there is an obvious certainty that we can trust: God is bigger than we. He hasn’t lost sight of us nor control of our universe. It doesn’t mean you and I won’t have to face some hard situations. We will. And hanging tuff through that can mean being a part of the white knuckle club! Yet, humbly, I assert to you that our lives and our days are safe in God’s past movements, present moments and future mercies. We, all of us, are on a trajectory towards greater goodness, healing, wholeness of the likes that will last for an eternity! So take a big deep breath, now exhale, and know that where that breath came from, is the greatest gift of all, God himself.

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The Storm Called Dying


My Dad has always been one strong man. I can hardly ever remember him being sick! On the top of his game he seemed to have an answer for most things, even if his answer wasseed-podn’t quite right! Now at the age of 78 he still can be found out in the garden in spring or piling wood in the cold fall for the wood stove. Yet I’ve seen a softening, perhaps a tiredness in his bones. He cries. He is at a loss for words. I would be too. His wife, my Mom, once a real beauty, is losing life slowly from the ravages of cancer. Today they took Mom out of her home of 40 years and put her into a hospice.

I was there this past September for Mom’s 75th birthday. We actually tried to light all 75 candles, give or take a few. The cake looked like an inferno as we sang her birthday song a little quicker than usual! It was a precious moment. The moment I will cherish most, though, was the night I said my deepest goodbye, I held mom in my arms and wept, wept like a baby. I knew she was not getting by this storm, not this time.

People go through storms all the time. Some are deadly! A few days ago an Air Asia plane with 162 people on board flew through what was thought to be a storm-filled cloud. They wanted to ascend higher but permission was denied by the air traffic control tower. The plane disappeared soon after. I’ve flown on countless Air Asia flights, I cannot imagine how frightening it was to the passengers to feel a powerful storm rock their plane. My heartbeat quickens when turbulence barely lifts the plane in that jumpy up and down motion. The only mercy for the people on board of that Air Asia flight was that the storm would not last long. For all the relatives and friends unfortunately the ‘sad winds’ won’t taper off for awhile. I don’t think this was the ‘will’ of God to take that plane down. I know so. It’s just weather patterns and human decisions and untimely happenstance.

Yet I have toyed with this idea of the ‘Allowing’ of God. Seriously, God does allow a lot of awful stuff to happen on this planet! So it makes sense that God allows us to go through storms for reasons beyond our comprehension. Can we bypass a lot of the storms that life throws at us or that we bring upon ourselves? Probably, but not all. Do they always make us stronger or simply prove that we have weak shallow roots? Only we can answer that one for ourselves.

Oswald Chambers says, “The only way God plants His saints is through the whirlwind of His storms. Will you be proven to be an empty pod with no seed inside?” The question at the end of the quote was meant to be a warning, but strikes me as somewhat shocking.Jesus talked a lot about seeds, including the mustard seed, and once said that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies it cannot produce anything anymore. How sad it would be to have lived out life and at the end of it have nothing inside, nothing to release into the final wind. What exactly is the DNA of our seed we need inside of us, that when planted in the ground will produce more seeds and bring forth yet more beauty on the earth? Could it be the smallest seed called the mustard seed of faith?

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I sit here in my thoughts and wish that this slow unrelenting storm called death was shorter for my Mom and for my tired Dad. I hate to see my Mom unable to respond with her mind or with her swollen legs to life’s needs and challenges. I hate to see Dad frail with caring each day and night, for the love of his life. I know, however, enough about seed planting and how the pod dries up and cracks open to release new life and the winds serve in blowing these seeds to new places. For me, Mom and Dad, helped to inspire a faith in us kids. Mom planted seeds, man! I had faith in the goodness of God to get me through to where I needed to be, to grow, to be fruitful. Their faithfulness was an example to me in Asia and now Europe.

Wherever you may be now, whatever you are going through, and I do know there are people feeling the blowing storms even now and it doesn’t take much to cause tears to drop for you. I want to encourage you to have even the tiniest tad-wee faith in your life-whirlwind. His eye can see you there where you are and He will see you through somehow! You’ll also be one of those saints planted by God right where you need to be! And when the final storm comes upon you, you will have given the world something to thank the God above about.