Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? (review)

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Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention?Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? by John Murray Cpd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After he had written a memoir about his childhood, John Murray’s wife asked him, “When are you going to write about your experiences in Eastern Europe?” Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? is that book.

In it Murray tells many fascinating stories from his twenty-year stint as the Executive Director of Euroevangelism Canada and supplements these anecdotes with Bible teaching.

The telling is organized in eight chapters, each titled with a question: “Does God Care?”, “Does God Answer Prayer?”, “Does God Heal?” etc. Within the chapters he relates incidents that happened to him and others that speak to the chapter’s question. He also explores what the Bible says, sharing rich insights developed over a lifetime of pastoral and missionary work. Each chapter ends with a “Guide for Group Study” section that includes a Bible reading and discussion questions.

I loved this book for its inspiring stories, like the one Murray tells in the chapter “Does God Protect?”:

Some Christians in Budapest had bought a derelict restaurant to renovate into a church. Due to low funds members of the congregation were doing most of the work. Every week the place was busy with volunteers.

Regularly on Friday mornings the church leadership had a prayer meeting to pray especially for the renovations. During one of these prayer meetings a deacon said he felt they should pray about the roof, though he didn’t know what to pray for specifically.

On a Saturday morning not long after, when forty people were working on the building, a man working in the rafters caught his hammer on something made of metal. The movement dislodged the object, it fell, and banged hard onto the concrete floor below.

The object turned out to be an unexploded WWII bomb which, the army bomb squad later told them, was live. The army men couldn’t figure out why it hadn’t exploded on impact (pp. 101-103).

I also loved this book for its teaching, like this bit from the chapter: “Does God Intervene?”:

“Whether we are looking for healing, for guidance, for comfort, or any other aspect of God’s intervention in our lives, we are encouraged to look in the right place. we have been given the Word of God so that God can speak through it. We have been given the privileged channel of prayer by which we can share with Him our devotion, our worship, our thanksgiving, and our supplications. We have been given the ministry of God’s Spirit within our lives to guide us in all areas. The Spirit of God is also the one who plants the gift of faith within us, so that we might look expectantly for God to work. We ask, and then we wait. The waiting is the most difficult part” p. 142.

The amazing stories and wise insights in John Murray’s Miracles: Coincidence or Divine Intervention? will help grow your faith high and deep. I recommend it.

This book is part of my own collection.

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Earth Day Prayer (NPM ’16-Day 23)

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“The generosity of green…” (Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly)

Earth Day Prayer

O Creator of the Earth
from its systems and creatures
may I learn and make my own

the faithfulness of the sun
the inevitability of day-night rhythms
the wisdom of cycles

the faith of a seed
the determination of a shoot
the generosity of green

the persistence of water
the kindness of down
the trust of a lily

the song of a sparrow
the joy of a dolphin
the grace of a fish

the patience of a snail
the cooperation of ants
the love of a dog

the simplicity of milk
the sweetness of honey
the versatility of grain

the mystery and fulfillment of Word
the adequacy of bread
the celebration of wine

Amen

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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n response to yesterday’s question at Wonderopolis: “How can you make Earth a better place?” I thought of all the things we can learn from created things. However, for me the purpose and destiny of Earth can’t be separated from its Creator, His incarnation, and the privilege we earthlings have to bear witness to His place in it all.

Prayer Breakfast Reflections (NPM ’16-Day 6)

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What I experienced on Monday and Tuesday of this week was the perfect preparation to write about Bobbie Ann Taylor‘s one-little-word MERCIFUL.

My husband and I were asked to be part of our church’s delegation to the annual MLA*’s prayer breakfast, hosted at a hotel just steps away from B.C.’s Legislature in Victoria on Tuesday morning.

After the beautiful ferry crossing Monday afternoon, we arrived in Victoria in time for dinner. An MLA friend who attends our church joined us at Milestones. That began a fascinating time of learning as we conversed and he answered questions about how he navigates the tricky water of provincial politics. No novice (he was formerly the mayor of the town in which I live), he explained how has trained himself to ask questions, listen, and then when the time is right, explain his position. He told of interfaith gatherings where he has joined with Muslims, Sikh’s and people of other faiths in initiatives which they all support.

The prayer breakfast saw around 150 people eating breakfast together (18 tables, with one or two MLAs— representatives of both political parties—at each table). It was an eye-opener for me as I glanced across the room and saw, for example, the former leader of the NDP** party in B.C. who raised his hand when the organizer asked who of them had attended the prayer breakfast for each of the ten years it had been happening. I had no idea and realized I have make judgments while I didn’t have a clue!

The man who, those ten years ago, had the brain child to start hanging out with our politicians for the purpose of lending them spiritual support obviously loves them and is loved back. In this time when politics can be a divider of people, this event was a real encouragement to me.

We stopped for lunch on our way home where each one us (five in all) shared the significance of the event personally. My friend Joyce said she had texted the words of the hymn “There’s a Wideness In God’s Mercy” to her husband as a sum-up of her response. I found those old lyrics were also the perfect expression of my feelings.

As my poem for today (Wednesday—poem-a-day for National Poetry Month and my post for Spiritual Journey Thursday), I’m taking the liberty of using some of the lines of that old hymn as I reflect on MERCIFUL.

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Here I am standing in front of the Legislative Assembly. After Tuesday’s breakfast we  observed Question Period from the gallery (Photo by Joyce J.)

Prayer Breakfast Reflections

“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea…”
We can live it out when peaceful
we agree to disagree,
when the members, left and right
share croissants, coffee, and tea.

“There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.”
Listen to opponent’s viewpoint
strive to understand and see
common path we walk together
while we guard integrity.

“For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind…”
See the needs that make us human
not by party lines defined
while the prayers of fellow travelers
aid us in the daily grind.

“And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.”
On this servant-leader pathway
that by many is maligned
help us all to pull together
as we seek Your mastermind.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Spiritual Journey Thursday is hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

*MLA: Member of the Legislative Assembly

** NDP: National Democratic Party – the left-leaning party in Canadian national and provincial politics, roughly equivalent to the Democrats in the U.S.

*** “There’s A Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

 

Faith (Rough Ride)

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Faith is hard to define and, I think, becomes evident not by what we say but how we live. Our life demonstrates what we really believe in.

I see that Justin (who has chosen FAITH as his one-little-word for 2016) has added the modifier “blind” to it. For me, faith is rarely completely “blind” in that buried somewhere in my history is an experience or conviction that what I put my trust in is trustworthy. And yet another way to look at it is that faith is always blind to a degree. That’s what makes it faith.

I have found that my spiritual faith in a God who is all good and all powerful is tested when bad things happen to me and those I love. A TV speaker I enjoy (Dr. Charles Price) talked about this very thing last Sunday. He pointed out that in  the story of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Jesus delayed coming to their home until Lazarus, his friend, had died. How uncaring—how bad—that looked. Yet this apparently callus response worked all kinds of good in the lives of Mary, Martha, and the onlookers. God was in the temporarily bad situation working something good.

As Dr. Price put it, “There are the physical visible events that we see, and there are the spiritual events that we do not see, that are running parallel. We live in the first of these two but need eyes for the second, the realities that we cannot see that God is working out. There was more going on in this story than the health and life of Lazarus.” (Read the story in John 11:1-44; listen to Dr. Price’s talk: “I Am the Resurrection of the Life”.)

And, I would submit, there is also more going on in our lives than just the physical realities we experience each day. I believe that God is in all of them and works out all of these things for our eventual good.

This is the bottom line of my faith, expressed in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

However, in my human state, and from my earthly vantage point, I still feel stretched when circumstances aren’t going well. My faith is challenged. At such times I often discover that what I say I trust in I don’t really, at least not to the extent that I thought I did. Otherwise, why would I be so anxious?

Image: Skeeze / pixabay.com

Image: Skeeze / pixabay.com

Rough Ride

“You have covered yourself with a cloud
That prayer should not pass through” – Lamentations 3:44.

My need is the rodeo’s
pitching bull.
With one hand I clutch
the saddle horn of Your word
while the other is raised
in pleading.

My faith is the 747
on automatic pilot
buffeted by circumstances
whiplashed and tossed
by the turbulence.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted each week by Holly Mueller at her blog Reading, Teaching, Learning.

The gift of people

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HACwithCinnamonCoverSOne of the things I love about writing is having pieces accepted for publication. One of the things that I don’t love is the publicizing and marketing that’s needed when those publications are books. But I know I need to do my part. So when the newest Hot Apple Cider anthology (Hot Apple Cider with Cinnamon) came out this fall with two of my poems in it, I decided to suck up my angst and pull my share of the marketing weight. After all, there are 61 of us and if we all do a little…

A virtual launch on Facebook was stretching! Each of us authors who signed up hosted a half hour—probably the most hectic half hour I’ve ever spent on Facebook as I tried to keep the conversation ball rolling even as I introduced a contest and answered questions. Let’s just say the refresh button of my browser got quite the workout.

Then one of the local anthology contributors scheduled an actual bookstore launch  for last Saturday.

My biggest fear for both of these book events was that no one would show up. That I’d be talking to myself on Facebook and the three of us authors would end up as our only audience at the bookstore.

I did all I could to publicize it—invited local Facebook friends and sent emails to family not on Facebook. And prayed!

Saturday came and hubby and I arrived at the store a good 15 minutes early to find the bookstore cafe, where we were to read, full of diners and nothing set up. (Maybe this would turn out even worse than I dreaded!) So we sat down and had a coffee along with everyone else. What else was there to do?

But the store person was on it. Eventually a table appeared. We got our books set up. A cousin I had contacted was there and she said more were coming. Several friends from my poetry society showed up.

When we were finally ready to introduce the book and do some reading from it, a healthy crowd had assembled. The hour and a half of the launch passed before we knew it—a success because family and friends did come out.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky.

House of James book launch with Rose Seiler Scott and Bill Bonikowsky (Photos by Bill B.)

And so today I celebrate the gift of people in my life—my husband who’s game to go on these bookish escapades with me, my friends, especially the ones who know what goes into making books and appreciated the importance of a launch, and extended family who supported me by coming out and doing a little Christmas shopping too!

Plus I thank the Lord. I can just imagine Him, smiling indulgently down on me after one of these high maintenance episodes and murmuring: “O ye of little faith.”

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

Join us at Reading, Learning, Writing

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning

If (review)

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If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If PossibilitiesIf: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In his newest book If, author Mark Batterson uses Romans 8 and the powerful little word “if” to challenge readers to live the Christian life with more obedience, faith, and abandonment.

Section headings “If only,” “As if,” “What if?” and “No ifs ands or buts” focus on four sides of the idea. In the “If only” section Batterson challenges us to live without regrets. In the “As if” part, the gauntlet is to live as if the unseen and invisible were true. The “What if?” parts are about dreams coming true, about the bigger-than-we-expected results of giving ourselves to God and the working of the Holy Spirit. In the “No ifs, ands or buts” Batterson gives us his bottom line—the things about which he feels there are no ifs, ands, or buts, and challenges us to name and live by our own.

Batterson explores these facets of “if” through a slice-and-dice of Romans 8 and stories (taken from history, his early life, and his experiences as a pastor of the multi-campus National Community Church of Washington DC). Each of If’s 30 chapters begins with a verse or part of a verse from Romans 8 and he also draws our attention to the prominent themes and “if” phrases of this chapter.

The writing is lively with a chummy tone that lends itself to cliché and trendy expressions. In other words, it doesn’t read like a textbook or theology tome.

The exegetical feature does make the book feel a bit rabbit-trailish as far as idea flow is concerned. Perhaps that was by design, for Batterson says in the Introduction: “If is not a systematic theology … If is not a commentary; it’s more of an impressionist painting … a landscape of faith, hope and love with right brain brush strokes” – Kindle Location (KL) 246.

I enjoyed the stories and illustration though numerous times here too I found myself puzzling over exactly how the story I was reading related to the idea or principle being discussed.

Batterson excels, though, at inventing catchy phrases and sayings. My ebook is full of highlighted passages. Here are a few:

“God has blessings for us in categories we don’t even know exist” – KL 2798.

“Our destiny has far less to do with what we do than who we become” – KL 3292.

“For better or for worse, your deepest held beliefs will define who you become” – KL 4142.

“Convictions are lessons learned from experiences we’d never want to go through again, but we wouldn’t trade for anything in the world” – KL 4161.

Full of energy, enthusiasm, faith, and challenge, If is recommended for Christians in the 20-40 crowd—or those finding themselves at a life crossroad or stuck in a backwater.

I received an ebook version of If as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of writing a review.

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A Shalom Blessing

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Today is the first day of the new school year in our part of the world. As the day after our last official summer holiday, Labour Day, it definitely feels like an end and a beginning—even for us who no longer go to school or have to brave the commute to work.

Today’s poem is a blessing on all who are climbing back into the saddle of school or work.

Children's outdoor playground

“Shalom on… their playgrounds…”  Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly

 

A Shalom Blessing

(After Isaiah 26:3,4)
Shalom: A Hebrew word meaning peace, completeness and welfare: nothing broken, nothing missing.

Shalom on your going out
on your car, bicycle, bus
on the avenues, roads and highways
and other drivers.

Shalom on your workplace
your office, boardroom or barn
your partner, receptionist
your work truck, computer, iPhone
and all your machines and tools.

Shalom on your children
on their cribs and car seats
playpens and toys
their schools, desks, playgrounds
and all their pals.

Shalom on your coming in.
On your street and neighbors
your frying pan, kettle
pitcher, pot and plate
your fork and your food.

Shalom on your radio
television, phone and email
that deliver news from afar
(may it be good)
on your downloads and players
all the words, music and images
that fill your head and your home.

Shalom on your lists and plans
your goals and ambitions
on the wind that refreshes
the rain that nourishes,
the sun that lights your path
and the moon and stars
that illumine your dreams.
Because you trust in Me
Shalom, Shalom.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly