Yearly: 2015

Blog, Poetry

Neglecting the Signs

Hebrews 13:2, Hebrews 12:12-13, Hebrews 13:16

How many times have we all found ourselves driving along a road or highway daydreaming and in an instant we lose sight of where we are or where we are going? We’ve all missed a sign or turn and took an unplanned route as a result of our inattention. Our own personal distractions, foggy spiritual focus as well as the storms of life can take us off our life path or cause us to miss out on blessings waiting along the way.

It was just such a day about 30 years ago, when my own languid response to an opportunity resulted in a missed blessing and years of regret. I was at a choir rehearsal that evening and the director realized that we needed more copies of the music we were learning. Our pianist, the pastor’s wife, and I, volunteered to go down to the church office to get the needed copies.

The sun was setting and a light rain had begun to fall as we entered the office that evening. Finished with our business and the light turned off, we stepped out into the garden path. Then,startling our exit, several strangers approached us. All of them were dressed in biblical-looking attire. One came closer and introduced himself as a fellow believer and “traveler.” He asked if the church might have a room where they could rest for the night and be sheltered from the rain. I started to respond positively but was quickly cut short by my companion. “We don’t have the authority for that,” she responded. Of course being the pastor’s wife she did indeed have the authority, but was obviously timid to allow strangers into church property.

It doesn’t take authority,” the young man said “It just takes heart!” The strangers walked away briskly and we stared at each other with pricked consciousness.

“Maybe we could let them sleep in the early childhood room where there’s a bathroom,” she revised.

Sure,” I said and immediately we set out to find them and give our hospitable good news. They couldn’t have been out of our sight for more than a few seconds, yet as we rounded the other side of the building in their direction, they were nowhere to be seen. They had simply vanished. There were no other structures nearby possibly hiding the conspicuously dressed group and no crowds of people to blend in with, yet we could not see them anywhere.

Looking at each other in wonder and dismay, words failed and expressions revealed our obvious regret and curiosity of the blessing we both missed that night. We had forgotten to entertain strangers and likely missed out on “entertaining angels.” Perhaps there is no correlation to this event, but it was only a few years later that the church closed its doors.

Can you imagine the regret the innkeepers had for turning away Mary and Joseph that serendipitous night? After learning later of the special birth they missed, it must have pierced their hearts with remorse. Some no doubt never put it together, or made excuses for their harshness and unsympathetic refusal of a room. We can only surmise that many may have realized their mistake and lived with long regrets for the blessing missed. Who knows, but perhaps some of the Inns may have even gone out of business consequently. Hebrews 13:2 shines a light on the importance of attentiveness and brotherly love along life’s highway. “Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”

STAR OF WONDER

Star of wonder

Star of night

Lead us with thy splendor.

Guide us through the dead of night

And make our way much clearer.

Wish I may and wish I might

Find my way to thee.

Holy one of His delight

David’s prophesy.

Star of wonder,

Star of night,

Little lambs are bleating.

They can hear a shepherd’s voice

Tiny though it be-e.

Angels they have heard on high

And they wonder too,

Will you be a lucky star,

And make our wish come true?

By Iris Carignan 2009

Blog

In His Time

Recently I was praying about my busy schedule and I asked God to help me sort it all out. It was all good stuff… things that honored Him. Most everything on my schedule involved Godly activities for His glory. One particular responsibility was our small group Bible study. My husband and I host and lead a study for about 16 people. We take turns doing the teaching and it was my turn to teach that particular week. I could feel the tension building in my back muscles as I contemplated how I would find time to do it. I went to prayer and asked God to help me know what to drop or help me have more energy to do them all. This tired old body of mine ain’t what it used to be. Then I asked a very bold and crazy thing- I actually asked Him to give me more time to do them. It just sorta slipped out in the same breath.

A short while later I began preparing the lesson needed for our home Bible study. After what seemed like a few hours of prep, I glanced at the clock thinking it was probably getting late and I’d need to get to bed soon. To my amazement only 30-40 minutes had passed and I still had plenty of time left before the clock struck midnight and I turned into a pumpkin. I continued on with the study prep and finished in record time.

It’s hard to describe just how much it felt like time actually slowed down for me that night, without sounding like an idiot. But it sure seemed like it. Then, just because He is that kind of father, He gave me some more miraculous moments the next day. He woke this “night owl” up sharply at 6 am the following morning. Not only did I wake earlier than usual, I felt completely rested and ready to go. The study went well and the rest of my week continued to feel relaxed. Praise God for His mercies and peace.

Philippians 4: 6&7 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

As we enter into the holiday season, no doubt many of us will be feeling stress over added duties. I pray that we will all remember to give them over to the Lord with thanksgiving our hearts.

 

Blog, Poetry

Purple to the Rescue

The virtuous woman as described in Proverbs 31 is commonly set forth as a standard for Christian women and has always been a favorite of mine. While I fall sorely behind meeting that standard in many ways-especially the part about rising before dawn, one characteristic is especially fitting for me- the love of the color purple. In verse 22 it says: “She makes tapestry for herself: her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Long before I became a woman, purple was my favorite color. In fact it actually came to my rescue, once, saving me from a bully.

For me the middle school years, (Junior high as we called it then) were the most tumultuous part of growing up. Dealing with the daunting new responsibility of several classes, remembering locker combinations and battling emerging hormones, was a walk in the park next to the stress of peer pressures. To say I was a scrawny little kid was putting it kindly. Those of us who hadn’t yet caught up with the leaders of the pack-the already well endowed, beautiful and popular girls-faced a double dose of intimidation. Just about the time I felt secure in finding a best friend, another friend stepped in with divisive betrayal. They both turned against me with cutting and hurtful words that pierced deep into my spirit. So when a bully began taunting me too, it was almost more than I could handle.

Bullies didn’t just appear in the 21st century, they’ve been around a long time and mine was the girl who happened to have a locker next to mine in P.E. One of the other dreaded experiences of middle school was the embarrassing predicament of changing clothes and showering next to strangers. These revealing close quarters apparently ignited a rage of hatred towards me that was without merit. Every opportunity she had, this bully would taunt and intimidate me. One such day caught me “up-to-here” with her ugly threats.

I got in her face and told her if she didn’t stop bothering me, she would be sorry because, “I know karate.” Of course it was an unfounded threat, a bluff. About all I knew regarding karate was what I’d seen in movies and television. She immediately called my bluff.

“Oh yeah! What color belt do you have?” she challenged me.

My mind scrambled furiously for the right response to the punch she threw my way.

(Apparently there were multiple karate belt colors-who knew back then?)

“Purple,” I shouted back confidently, (while praying that belt color even existed in karate).

Turning from raging red to ghostly pale, the bully’s face revealed my well-placed blow had hit square on. She shrank back in retreat. Apparently, I’d chosen just the right color level-not too high-not too low to be a convincing foe.

The bully girl in the locker room never bothered me again. So, that was the day the color purple came to my rescue. Now, years later as a grown woman, I see in Proverbs 31:24 that the virtuous woman also “makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies sashes for the merchants.” In verse 25 it goes on to say, “strength and honor are her clothing.” A sash is a kind of belt typically worn in Biblical days. How ironic I thought, as this scripture spoke to me today in new ways. I also wonder if the belts she provided for the merchants gave them a sense of confidence and strength as they faced the challenges of the marketplace while selling their wares. Some of them may have been purple too.

Ephesians 6:11-14 affirms that the underlying true belt that girds us against the enemy is God’s word. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil….Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth,…” As you go out into the world today, be sure you have put a belt of truth around your waist, because you never know what kind of devilish bully may challenge you.

RAIN UPON IRON

Like rain upon iron,

Rejection produces rust.

And injustice withers the spirit,

If in you, we do not trust.

Temper me like steel, oh Lord.

Let my soul become wise.

Bring your mercies to my door,

And justice to my eyes.

Open the visions of my soul,

To the working of your hand.

Let it see your perfect will,

And only on you, stand.

Rejection once rained on you,

And still it does today.

Injustice tried to conquer too,

But redemption had its way.

You were despised and betrayed.

Great sorrow yet embraced.

And so much more,

You suffered for,

To bring us all your grace.

Iris Carignan 2015

 

Blog

Muddy Paths

Any artist who paints knows that there is one color you never want to put in your painting and that is mud. Now this isn’t a color you can buy in a tube or jar, it is really a non-color, but actually what has been dubbed as “mud” when too many of the wrong colors have been mixed together and end up looking very much like it’s descriptive name.

With life, we also see that the temptation to mix a little lie with the truth can lead to trouble and muddy up our life. We read in Genesis 3:13 of how Satan tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. If you read it carefully, you’ll see that much of what he said to her was the truth. He just mixed in a little lie or two, and colored the truth with distortions. These lies mixed with the beauty of the fruit were just enough to convince Eve to sin. Jesus referred to Satan as the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and says that telling lies is consistent with who he is and always has been.

We continue to see evidence of the evil one’s influence in our society today. Unfortunately, too many Christians don’t know the truth well enough to spot a lie when it’s there. We may be so impressed with the beautiful color that has been painted that we buy into the lie.

In Psalm 7:14 it says, “the wicked conceive evil; they are pregnant with trouble and give birth to lies. They dig a deep pit to trap others, then fall into it themselves”. One of the most frequently used methods of deception is repetition of a mistruth. Many businesses and organizations whose motives are less than honorable have used this technique effectively to influence large segments of our society. They have discovered that if they tell a lie often enough, loud enough and to enough people, it will be believed.

How can we best sort through all of the information that bombards our minds and souls every day? Is there any way we can truly find the truth about important moral, ethical and spiritual values? For centuries the Bible has been the one consistent source of truth that has withstood time, societal and cultural changes. In it we read that we can ask God to give us the gift of discernment to help us distinguish the truth from a lie. We also read that the author and finisher of our faith in God’s truth never changes, for it says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

 

Blog

A Surprising Perspective

As our plane approached LAX on the evening of our return from a vacation, a large number of passengers began making o-o-oh sounds. I glanced out my window and saw a most amazing and surprising sight – fireworks exploding everywhere for miles. It was an awesome and most interesting perspective of our nation’s birthday celebration for the 4th of July. Of course I have seen many fireworks displays over the year, but never from a heavenly perspective.

I couldn’t help but wonder at that point, what God thinks and feels as He looks down from His throne not only at the colorful splashes of glittering fireworks in California, but all across our nation’s skies. Does it make him joyous to see us celebrating our blessings and heritage or does He weep over the vain partying of a nation that has strayed so far from the faith it was founded on?

A week later, after sharing this experience with some Christian friends, they told us of a recent experience they’d had while on vacation in Belgium. It was not for the 4th, but for another most important event’s commemoration. Our friends, Larry and Beccy told us how they were in a restaurant with a large picture window near their table. Suddenly they began to see dozens of fireworks shooting into the sky. They learned that it was an annual celebration of the end of WWII. They also found out that at midnight the colorful display would end; the whole city would go totally dark and silent in reverent remembrance of all who lost their lives during that horrible war. Now that sounded like a well-balanced and meaningful commemoration.

We all like to celebrate and some of us look for the smallest reason to throw a party. I wonder, though, how much of what we do for holiday celebrations like Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter etc., actually expresses or produces appreciation and reverence for the true meanings.

The Israelites also had many festivals and feasts to commemorate Godly events in their lives. Often times they were also instructed by God to set markers of stone in certain places to help them remember His leading,blessing and protection. Sometimes they also built altars for sacrifice as commemoration. A friend of mine who endured terrible abuse all her life from her own mother, recently purchased a heart-shaped stone with words on it to help her remember God’s love and path for her life.

As tender creations, I believe all of humanity craves joyous reflecting on even the most horrendous events which have affected their lives. It gives them a sense of hope in the midst of sad remembrances. it sets a marker for a new and better path for the future. Do you need to set a marker of hope to look toward when trouble threatens to steal away your joy? Remember that our Lord has a godly perspective on things. Ask Him to give you His vision for you in the circumstances. Psalm 121:1-2 says: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills-from whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Painting Title: “Yellow Tree- a Bird’s Eye View”

Blog, Poetry

Freedom’s Never Free

There is a land

Of which I’m certain

Is a land of the brave and free.

It was built by our great fathers,

Built for you and built for me.

It wasn’t born without a trial,

Nor did it happen easily.

The men who died

To bring us freedom

Gave their lives for you and me.

So when you stand and see old glory,

Or when you sit by the shining sea,

Just think of all that came before it

And that freedom ‘s never free.

 

To look ahead to our great future

This land I love

Must see the past,

For it was there

Our nations’ history

The great foundation’s built to last.

It is a land of strength and power

With its’ roots of faith and peace.

It is a land of great resources

A land of opportunity.

So when you stand and see Old Glory

Or when you sit by the shining sea,

Just think of all that went before it,

And that freedom ‘s never free.

Words and Music by Iris Carignan 7/4/ 2014

 

Blog

Running the Race in Stride

Oh that we should ride on the strength of the Lord

Each and every day of our race.

Oh, that we would let His swift and powerful legs

Continue to set the pace.

Oh, that each day’s trumpet would

Open the gate and start us with great vigor,

And harnessed to Him ‘t would carry our spirits,

With all of His might and rigor.

Imagine the power intertwined as one

From the start of the gate till setting of sun.

Take off the weight of all that deters,

Let us not stumble on things that hinder

From the goal set before us our eyes fixed ahead,

We’ll make it someday if we follow where led.

Sometimes the horse,

Sometimes the rider,

Sometimes the dirt on the ground.

Whatever my lot, whatever my station,

I pray that my heart will be found

Eager to run,

Eager to follow,

The pull of His reins on my life.

And full of His strength

Not in the fodder,

I’ll run in the grace of each strife.

Carried to the finish and

Running for roses,

The race can never be won,

without perseverance,

Without some endurance,

Without His might and His Son.

Iris Carignan, 5/17/2015