Tag Archives: change

Time to Downsize?

Some months ago, we began the arduous task of selling our home in the country See www.countrywindow.caand downsizing. We needed to reduce everything so we could fit into an apartment less than half the size.

We got radical! I agonized over what books to cull in order to reduce my library by three quarters or more. Mary Helen began giving away her unique spoons and teacups to grandchildren. I rejoiced to find two people in ministry to whom I could entrust the collection of illustrations and topical subjects I’d gathered over fifty years. But how to condense five filing cabinets of records into one? Some of the heirloom items passed on to us, we gave to our kids and grandkids. Every week the garage guys wondered about the number of bags at the curb.

We loved our country property with its mature trees and gurgling stream. If possible, we would have gladly waited for the Lord to take us home from that idyllic spot. Why then pour ourselves into such a stressful task? It was time.

The urge to simplify and de-clutter makes good sense at any time. We all saddle ourselves with too much stuff. But as we age, we hit a critical time when downsizing becomes not just a wise choice but an urgent necessity. Haven’t we all heard too many horror stories of seniors who die leaving a home stuffed with junk for their relatives to get rid of? Such a legacy is cruel. Here then are a few questions we asked ourselves that might help you make a similar choice.

Is our home cluttered? One look in my closet told me that Mary Helen was right. “You haven’t worn some shirts for years! Get rid of them.” And a survey of the two levels of our house demonstrated that we had too many knickknacks, too Movingmany paintings, and too many family photos. And the garage! Tools, I’d never use again. All kinds of stuff that I once thought I’d use. The decision made, we took many trips to local charities with useable items from our abundance. Other stuff just needed to be taken to the dump.

Is our health weakened? The list of prescriptions we take, tell us the answer is, “yes.’ For some time now our family has warned me about using ladders. And yet there were windows to wash and gutters to clear. There were dead trees to fell. A realistic appraisal of our health, made us realize that we need to live where maintenance would become another’s responsibility.

Is our energy diminished? Mary Helen and I both scratch our heads about a mystery. Where has all our youthful energy gone? Weariness creeps up on us unexpectedly. It’s obviously time to sort out family memories to keep and toss out useless files while we still have some energy. Better to expend what energy we have on preserving and passing on memories and heritage rather than cutting grass.

Is our mobility reduced? With our washing machine down a flight of stairs, Mary Helen had found it increasingly difficult to keep up with the washing of clothes. With a knee replacement, I tackled stairs very gingerly. And we lived at some distance from town with its shopping and doctors’ offices. Time to move to an apartment building in town with an elevator where we can have everything on one level.

www.countrywindow.ca

Does this mean we should now mop and moan about our past? No way. New vistas of enjoyment have opened for us in town. We live near a beach and harbour. We can still see birds from our apartment window. And we can walk to a local coffee shop. Restaurants are nearby. Taking a jaunt into the surrounding countryside is still an option. Doctors’ appointments now are not 30 minutes or an hour away.

We’re so glad the Lord graciously nudged us to downsize and move to a place more suited to our current limitations. Have you considered downsizing or de-cluttering? Why not take the step while you can?

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What Leads to Good or Evil Conduct; Nature or Nurture?

Why do some people display compassion and kindness while others act out a selfish, even evil agenda? Is the good a result of the natural temperament of the person or the nurture they received from their parents or community?

Let me give an example. Two young Canadians from the Ottawa Valley, both ending up in uniform in the Middle East, illustrate this conundrum. One, John??????????????????????????????? Maguire under his new name, Abu Anwar al-Canadi, travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State’s (ISIS) war on the west. The other, Dillon Hillier after a tour of duty in Afghanistan, has voluntarily paid his own way to Iraq to join the Kurdish Peshmerga militia in their fight against ISIS.

John Maguire, aka Abu Anwar, joined the Islamic State to spread terror in Syria and Iraq. He praised the two attacks on soldiers in Canada and urged more acts of terror. Dillon Hillier joined the Kurdish militia to stop the Islamic State’s advance and atrocities. Both grew up in similar communities, went to similar schools, and both seem to have had normal childhoods. Abu Anwar’s high school friends saw nothing to indicate an affinity for Islam or extremism.

Why the difference in these two? The only clue might be found in the divorce of John Maguire’s parents and his move to live with his grandparents. Did the breakup of his family push him into bitterness toward the west? Was it a failure of nurture? It’s hard to say.

Certainly, the influence of parents constitutes a crucial element in a person’s moral upbringing. “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged”(Col. 3:21). “Children…’honor your father and mother’–which is the first commandment with a promise–‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’”(Eph. 6:1,2). A balance of loving nurture and wise parental training generally produces successful and moral adults.

And yet, Cain, who murdered his brother Abel, came from the same family. Arguably, being the first children after Eden, they grew up in a nurturing environment and even shared the same DNA. Why then the difference?

SunriseClearly, the space-time fall of Adam and Eve from innocence led to the twisting and distortion of all their progeny. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Rom 5:12; 3:23). One of the most basic facts of humanity is that every one of us has been born with a sinful nature. Our nature is twisted so that “all of us [live to gratify] the cravings of our sinful nature and [follow] its desires and thoughts”(Eph. 2:3).

Four things contribute to helping us curb our sinful and selfish propensities. The first is parental nurture. The second brake on our sinfulness is the community in which we live—the values our community teaches and the deterrent that our society’s police provide. If brought up in North America we will have a strong entrepreneurial bent, a revulsion against cruelty, a desire for social justice, and an expectation of personal freedom. If however, we grow up in the North West Frontier of Pakistan and Afghanistan we will be shaped by that society’s view of hospitality—a good quality—but also by an honor system which would require us to exact revenge for slights to family or community. If we imbibe Islamist rhetoric such as found in Syria, Iraq or Yemen we might tend to feel the need to destroy non-Muslims.

The third brake on our sinful tendencies is conscience. If it has not been distorted by contrary cultural or family training, conscience will innately arouse a sense of what is right and wrong. Paul explains that even non-Jews who don’t have training in the law of God “show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them”(Rom. 2:15). This is why many Muslims know in their hearts that killing infidels or raping women is evil. Conversely, we in the west also know, when we listen to our consciences, that indiscriminate bombing or polluting the environment or using prostitutes or exploiting cheap labour is wrong.

The Fourth, and most powerful brake. Since neither parental nurture, nor community values, nor conscience can totally conquer our sinful natures, we need something more powerful. We need God to change our hearts and minds. As Jesus said, “You must be born again…of the Spirit.” (See John 3:5-21). Jesus Christ died upon the cross to conquer our sinful natures and deliver us from the judgment our sins deserve. That conquest occurs when we are converted, born again. How does this happen?

New Sugar Maple leaves unfurlingIf we would be born again, we must pray to Jesus Christ, confessing our sins, asking him forgive us, to cleanse us from sins’ pollution, to change our propensities, and to give us new hearts of love and devotion to Him and His will. From that point on we will give ourselves to follow the guidance he gives us in the Scriptures.

Fortunately, many people around the world, including Muslims, are hearing this call and responding to its good news. Has this been your experience?

The Mysterious Power of Growing Things

???????????????????????????????Out for a walk recently, I noticed something startling. The path on which we trod had been recently paved. And there sticking up through the pavement were little plants; plants determined to force their way into the sunlight.

One wonders how soft plant material can possibly thrust itself through tough asphalt, but it does. The innate power of growing things is visible throughout our world. Trees growing out of temples in Cambodia. Oat grass reclaiming dunes in the Carolinas. Tree roots lifting concrete paving slabs in our cities. Living things in the natural world exhibit an incredible vigor.

Much more potent is the spiritual power of God as manifest in the transformation of sinners into followers of Jesus Christ. When I was converted by God as a 19 year old, my life began to change overnight. Swear words dropped??????????????????????????????? from my vocabulary. A concern for others began to slowly break up the hardness of my pervasive selfishness. Hope and faith began to chase away the clouds of gloom and discouragement that periodically engulfed me. As Jesus taught me his standards of right and wrong, I felt a compulsion to confess my stealing to a store manager where I’d pilfered some items. To this day, God continues to woo me to embrace change. Sometimes he has to shake me out of complacency.

The life-principle imparted by God transforms. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”(2 Cor. 5:17)! That life comes through Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men”(John 1:34). Christ explains; “I am the way, the truth and the life”(John 14:6). The new life he imparts to a repentant sinner is potent with potential! “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full [abundantly]”(John 10:10). Nothing can resist the implanted power of new life in Christ. Drug addiction? No. Lust? No. The desire to control others, to abuse them, to steal from them? No. Fear of death? No.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThroughout history and all over the world today the power of new life in Christ continues to transform people. Licentious Augustine became a godly bishop and gifted theologian. God moved C.S. Lewis from agnosticism to faith. And in our day, Muslim jihadis become loving disciples. Drug addicts break free from their habit. Hypocrites become sensitive and humble. Tribal men and women in Ethiopia joyfully cast off their fear of death and witch doctors. A cutthroat money trader becomes honest and generous in giving. A single mother bound in poverty and despair rises up with new faith in God’s ability to provide.

Living things reflect the Creator’s power to initiate change in humans. The change begins when we embrace the gospel and ends when we pass into heaven. Meanwhile, are you and I resisting or rejoicing in the flow of life eternal in us and through us? Are we open to positive change or resistant to the alteration of our lives, as the Spirit works to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ?

[For descriptions of books such as Through A Country Window, and Eric’s newest suspense novel,Riptide, please see http://www.countrywindow.ca]

Disguising Problems

???????????????????????????????Overnight an inch or two of snow fell, covering everything with a glistening white blanket. Yesterday, the landscape was brown and drab. Every discarded beer can along the roadway was visible, today all is hidden.

Snow hides ugliness whether it be a rusting tractor, garbage along a country road, an abandoned factory, or the toxic tailings from an old mine. Then the temperature rises. Ugliness rises again to blight the landscape.
As humans we are adept at disguising reality. We decorate the surface of our persons with facelifts, hair transplants, and designer clothing. Companies fund research facilities to find new ways to improve our appearance. We borrow to buy upscale cars and upscale homes so we can pretend to be one of the hoi paloi.

Ingrained in our societies is the drive to camouflage reality. We disguise our OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfrightening debt beneath a mumbo-jumbo of terminology. We blame others for our own choices— our parents and our government. We order research studies and Royal Commissions. We appoint committees to come up with solutions. But the root problems remain: selfishness, addiction, irresponsibility, dishonesty, evil within the heart of mankind. What we need is what happened during the Reformation and the Evangelical Revivals.

Jeremiah knew that you can’t paper over a national problem with platitudes, by crying, ” peace, peace, when there is no peace.” (See Jer. 6:14) Ezekieh realized that humans cannot be mended until God does radical surgery. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez. 36:26).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs Jesus explained to Nicodemus, “You must be born again”(John 3:7). Only the redeeming influence of the Holy Spirit who applies the blood of Christ to the inner fountains of our motivation can make us new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor.5:17)! It is these new men and women as they gradually become kind, thoughtful, loving, forgiving, patient and creative citizens who contribute to renewed societies.

I’m not saying that Christian conversion solves all problems. But expecting honest politicians and athletes and business people to just morph from the raw material of humanity is wishful thinking. The main problems of societies are moral and motivational. Convincing people about the transforming power of the gospel is the best way to contribute to good communities.

Falling Leaves–Finding Stability in a Changing World

Fallen leaves litter lawns. Trees stand bare. A northwest wind assails pedestrians causing them to turn up their collars against the bite. A chill of grumbling about the long months ahead frosts conversation around the water coolers. People talk wistfully of last summer’s fun and of retiring early so they can move to a country that has summer all year long. A place where the leaves never fall.

We forget that no place on earth is safe from change. Most of the countries with summer-like climates have tsunamis and typhoons and volcanoes and coups and runaway inflation and malaria. Better to look elsewhere for something changeless.

Where shall we look? Malachi reminded Israel that the promise of their escape from total destruction was rooted in the covenant promises God made to Jacob. “I the Lord do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob are not destroyed.” (Malachi 3:6)

The storms of winter that will break around us need have no impact on our soul health. Like Jacob, those who have been born again by faith in the gospel seed discover that their soul-stability rests in God’s unchanging word. “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” In this passage, Peter contrasts the frailty of mankind in general with the passing glory of grass and flowers. “‘All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.’ And this is the word that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:24,25)

The leaves fall. The weather changes. But in our hearts we can rest in God and his unchanging word. “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; its stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations.” (Psalm 119:89,90) God’s faithfulness guarantees his ongoing commitment to keep his promises. And his power enables him to actually fulfill them. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him . . . through these he has given us his very great and precious promises.” (2 Peter 1:3,4)