A pile of folded green towels behind the title "You're Folding the Towels Wrong"

 

Have you ever heard the age-old debate about the “proper” way to fold towels and sheets?

Should the towels be folded in half and then in thirds? Or perhaps in thirds and then in quarters? No, the best way might be simply in half and then in half again.

It seems every established housewife or business that uses towels claims a different way to be the best and only correct way to fold towels.

During my Bible school days, I attended three different schools all run by the same parent organization. I was surprised just how different they did things at each school. Those differences included how they folded the towels. In fact, in one of the schools, towels had to be folded differently based on whether they were guest towels or kitchen towels.

When I got married and moved into a new place, it took a few weeks to figure out a way of folding towels to enable them to fit into our narrow cupboard while allowing the cupboard door to close.

“So, what’s the point?” you may be asking.

The lesson hidden in the midst of the many towel folding techniques is simple, yet ever so complex.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV tells me:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

A time for what, you may ask? The following verses mention many examples, including:

“A time to be born and a time to die…”

“A time to plant and a time to uproot…”

“A time to weep and a time to laugh…”

“A time to search and a time to give up…”

“A time to keep and a time to throw away…”

“A time to tear and a time to mend…”

“A time to be silent and a time to speak…”

Throughout the Bible I see examples of this. There was a time for Israel and his sons to plant themselves in Egypt, and a time for them to uproot themselves and leave. The Apostle Paul sometimes stayed put in the face of persecution, but at other times fled. Sometimes Jesus was silent, while at other times He spoke with great boldness.

In Luke 10:4, Jesus sent out His disciples with instructions to not bring a purse or bag, but later, in Luke 22:35-36, we read:

“Then Jesus asked them, ‘When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?’

‘Nothing,’ they answered.

He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.'” (NIV)

Why do I point out these things? Because it is valuable for me to be reminded from time to time that, while the core doctrines and what is right or wrong do not change, the best actions to take or the best way to respond may vary from situation to situation.

I often have seen this clearly in my preschool teaching. Some children learn well by sitting quietly, but for others, having movement incorporated helps them pay attention for longer. Some children respond well with a gentle word of correction, while others need firm consequences clearly laid out.

So how do I know what to do in each situation? I don’t. However, previous experience, knowledge of the situation, being well grounded in the Bible, and walking in tune with Jesus all help.

Indeed, may my prayer be like that of David in Psalm 25:4-5,

“Show me Your ways, O Lord;

Teach me Your paths.

Lead me in Your truth and teach me,

For You are the God of my salvation;

On You I wait all the day.” (NKJV)

So how do you fold your towels? I currently fold bath towels in thirds and then in quarters because it’s the best way I’ve found to make them fit on my narrow shelf.

Brilliant sunshine behind title: The Sun's Consistency

 

This morning, as I watched the sun rise, I marvelled at the consistency of it. The sun rises every single morning at the exact right time and the exact right place. I am never filled with anxiety that today it might not rise.  It consistently rises every single morning.

Of course, there are days when we cannot see it rise. Perhaps thick clouds or fog hide it, but I don’t become worried. I know it is still there. I will see it once the air clears.

At other times, while the sun is visible, it looks different. Smoke causes it to appear red, or smog in a big city dulls its gleam. Alternatively, a thin cloud may block half its light. Even then I know the sun itself has not changed, rather something has gotten between myself and the sun causing the difference in appearance.

Some might argue against the sun’s consistency by noting how it changes through the seasons each year. Indeed, living in Canada, I feel these changes keenly. In June the sun is up from roughly 5:30am-10:00pm, while in December I only see the sun from about 8:30am-4:30pm. That’s a difference of more than 8 hours of sunlight per day!

Added to that, the angle of the sun changes throughout the year. In the summer, the sun barely shines inside our window during the afternoon, but in the winter the sunlight reaches more than 12 feet through that very same window. Also, the spot on the horizon where the sun rises and then where it sets, shifts dramatically through the seasons.

Still, I call the sun consistent. Why? Because it is predictable. A quick Google search can reveal the exact time the sun will rise and set on Aug. 8, 2043. That’s how predictable the sun is. Scientists can predict its timing years in advance.

Thinking about the sun, got me thinking about God. God is consistent in that He is always with me and He always keeps His promises.

As Hosea 6:3 tells us, “[God’s] appearance is as sure as the dawn.” (CSB)

I may not know His timing or what He is doing, but He is always with His people. As Scripture says: “He Himself has said, I will never leave you or abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5b CSB)

Sometimes my view of God is hindered, whether by storm clouds, or the hustle and bustle of life, or by my desire for other things. Yet even in those times I know, and must trust that God is still there, just as He has promised. He will never leave me.

Sometimes the sun is too bright. It makes it hard to see my computer screen, or I may want to rest in the dark. I can go inside where the windows only let in a limited amount of sunlight. Or I can go into my basement, in a room without windows, and hide from the light.

It’s different with God. I can try to hide, thus cutting off many of the blessings that come from walking closely with Him. However, I can never vanish from His sight. He sees everything I do. I can hide nothing from Him. (Psalm 139)

One final thought came to me as I watched the sun rise. I recalled the story, in 2 Kings 20:8-11, when God caused the shadow of the sun to go backwards rather than forwards. What a wonderful reminder to me that God has power even over the consistency of the sun.

I am incredibly grateful to serve a God whom I can depend on. He is faithful. I can trust Him.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”  (Heb. 10:23 NKJV)

Cold sunrise behind title: Critical Resources

 

Yawning, I pulled myself out of bed. I shivered at the slight chill in the air.

Having readied myself for the day, I fetched a warm sweater and sat down in the living room to read the Bible. By the time I was done reading, it was bright enough outside to open the curtains, although the sun was not yet up.

As I surveyed the scene outside, I noted the dull faded pinks, oranges, and yellows of the pending sunrise.

Many of the buildings had thick plumes of smoke rising lazily from their chimneys – more steam than exhaust on a morning such as this.

Crisp snow covered everything, giving the scene a coziness.

The weather app announced the chilly news: -25C this morning with the wind chill making it feel like -32C. That’s cold!

Even though the sun would rise soon, brilliant and blinding through the frigid world, it’s cheery rays would do little to chase away the cold. The warmest the day was expected to reach was -20C with the wind chill still feeling like -27C.

Behind me, I heard the rumble of the furnace turning on.

On days like today I am incredibly thankful for a furnace that works, especially since we live in a house without a wood burning fireplace. Were the electricity and gas to shut off, the cold from outside would quickly seep in. Staying warm enough to not die would become our main goal. Keeping the pipes in the house from freezing and, therefore, bursting would also be at the top of our minds.

You see, electricity and natural gas are critical resources for us. Especially on days like today, they are the difference between life and death.

If the food supply was cut off, we’d be okay for a while. Maybe even a month or two if we really scrounged through the cupboards. If water was cut off, we could make due for a day or two with the bottled water in the storage room. If the electricity and natural gas were cut off, we’d be in trouble.

As I pulled out some things for breakfast, I thought of the cans tucked in the back of the cupboard. Trying to make do with the food we had on hand would certainly not be preferable nor as healthy since we would quickly run out of fresh food, but if we got creative we wouldn’t go hungry.

Likewise, if we ran out of bottled water, snow could be melted. Again not ideal, but we wouldn’t go thirsty.

After breakfast, I wandered into the living room. Looking out into the brilliant yellow sunlight these thoughts circled in my mind and I wondered if perhaps there was a lesson to be learned.

I believe the question to be asked is “What are the critical resources of my walk with God?”

There are some things that I could do without for a time, even though it wouldn’t be preferable or necessarily healthy.

There are other things that are critical. Without them, I would be fighting hard to stay alive in my walk with God.

What are these critical resources? Here are three that I must be intentional to keep in my life.Woman reading Bible

  • Prayer
  • Bible (reading, memorizing, studying, etc.)
  • Christian Fellowship

Why these three?

Prayer

Prayer connects us with God as we are reminded to shift our focus to the things above. At its richest, prayer includes worship and thanksgiving as well as praying for the needs of those around us.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV)

Bible

The Bible helps us keep a godly perspective. When I stop reading my Bible, I risk getting sidetracked by false teachings. I also miss out on the many times when the Lord would speak through the Bible into my specific circumstances.

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB)

Christian Fellowship

Spending time with other Christians, especially when discussing the things of God, helps remind me to remain faithful in prayer and Bible reading. As a human prone to wander, Christian fellowship helps keep me focused on what really matters.

“And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 CSB)

In Conclusion

Life has many seasons. Each season takes a different appearance. Some seasons are full of joy. In other seasons, what we value greatly is taken from us.

In each new season we adjust with God’s help. We learn new habits and routines, sometimes leaving behind old habits we treasured, sometimes stepping into new routines we’ve long anticipated.

Regardless of what season of life I find myself in, may I always be intentional to keep these three critical resources a part of my life: prayer, Bible, and Christian fellowship.

After all, the most critical resource I need in all of life is my walk with God. Without Him, I am lost. Therefore, protecting and strengthening my walk with Him must be of highest priority.

Do you need access to a Bible in a language you can understand better? Check out www.biblegateway.com They provide free access to read the Bible online in countless languages including some I’ve never heard of before.

Want to go a deeper in your Bible study? I often use www.blueletterbible.org to look up a specific word and its original meaning, or to compare English translations. This website does take some time to learn your way around, but it is a valuable resource.

Also, for anyone on my email list, I have a free printable Bible reading chart that includes a list of every chapter of the Bible so that you can track your Bible reading. If you haven’t already, click here to join my email list.

An uprooted tree behind the title: Deep Roots?

 

How deep are your roots?

Back when I studied in Germany, there was a forested area I enjoyed slipping away to in the afternoons. This allegory is from my time there.

I pulled on my runners and slipped out the door. With a smile, I breathed in the fresh rainy air. After a morning in lectures and a noisy meal in the dining hall, it was lovely to be outside.

To fend off the chilly edge in the air I tugged on my jacket zipped.

I had a couple of hours before I needed to return to the school, so I headed past the charming little stone church built decades before and followed the street.

After a time, I veered off on a side path. It was slightly muddy due to the dampness of the day.

Softly I sang as I walked, whispering my favourite worship songs into the emptiness of the world around me.

I stooped to check on a familiar stream. It was flowing well today.

When a bird fluttered nearby I paused to watch. As it flew away, I strolled on.

At length, my way led me into a more wild section of forest. It had no paths to guide my feet, but I didn’t mind. I knew the patch of forest was surrounded by civilization on all sides. I couldn’t get too lost.

As I roamed freely among the trees, pausing to study the vines clinging to the tree trunks, or the moss underfoot, I noticed a fallen tree. Had it been there the last time I’d wandered through? I couldn’t remember.

Approaching the fallen tree, I eyed its base. How odd it was.

The tree had not broken its trunk nor torn off from its roots.

Rather, the roots had stayed with the tree and taken much of the ground with it.

Indeed as I rounded the bottom of the tree, I marvelled at the layer of rocky soil now vertically suspended nearly as high as I was tall.

I leaned closer, wondering if I could spot evidence of larger roots still in the ground. I couldn’t.

The tree’s roots hadn’t broken, but they also hadn’t been deep enough to properly anchor the tree. Not only that, but the soil into which the roots had grown was too loose and rocky to keep the tree secure.

Marvelling at the sight, I pondered what I could learn from it.

It didn’t take long to think of an application.

The Bible mentions roots several times.

One example of this is in the Parable of the Sower. The seeds sown on rocky soil have no root. They hear the word and receive it, but when trouble comes they fall away for lack of root. (You can read the parable in Matthew 13:3-8,18-23.)

Challenges come in life.

For a tree, those challenges may be strong winds, heavy snow, or simply the weight of the tree’s own branches. If the tree doesn’t have strong enough roots, it will tip over.

In the case of the tree I observed in that forest, the tree had roots, but they weren’t deep enough or in good enough soil to hold the tree upright in the challenges of life. The roots themselves didn’t break, but they took the loose rocky soil with them when they tipped.

The question to ask myself, then, is how are my roots doing? Do I have deep roots? What sort of soil are my roots anchored into? Am I anchoring my life in Jesus?

In closing, here is another place the Bible mentions roots that serves as a valuable reminder for me.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”  (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

A golden gift behind title: The Perfect Gift

 

Have you ever received a gift from someone that you didn’t know you wanted, but when you received it, it fit a need or want wonderfully?

That was my experience recently.

One morning last week, I glanced outside. I needed to drop some Christmas cards in the mail.

I checked the weather app on my phone. -17C with wind chill making it feel like -21C. That’s cold.

Despite the fact that the mailbox was not far away, I bundled up carefully. An extra sweater under my winter jacket, two layers of gloves, a neck warmer and a toque (or beanie for those of you not from Canada). I pulled on my winter boots. That ought to do it.

I frowned, however, when I zipped up my winter jacket. I’d worn the same sweater beneath it just the week before, but this time the zipper felt tighter.

You see, I’m pregnant. My middle is quickly expanding and now pushing the limits of my winter jacket.

I shrugged it off and headed outside.

The fresh air greeted me and the sun was shining, though it did nothing to melt the snow on the sidewalk.

I strolled to the mailbox and back, enjoying the outing.

As I stepped back into the house, I felt reluctant to leave the freshness of the outside world. My layering had worked. I wasn’t cold yet.

I glanced at the snow shovel sitting near the doorway. There wasn’t a lot of snow, but the sidewalk could use some shovelling. My husband would gladly do it, but he wouldn’t be off work until after dark and it would be colder then.

Deciding to go for it, I picked up the shovel and got to work. I was careful to go slow and not do much lifting as I cleared the sidewalk.

Not long afterwards, when I headed back inside, I smiled. How refreshing to have been outside and to have moved my muscles.

Later that day, when my husband got off work, I commented to him that I hoped my jacket would last the next week or two of colder weather, but wasn’t sure it would last much longer.

I figured that if I wore enough sweaters then I might be able to get by with having my winter jacket unzipped. Especially since we typically don’t have too many days that are so very cold. Alternatively, I could try buying a maternity winter jacket, but I wasn’t sold on the idea.

Anyways, that evening we visited with one of my sister-in-laws. As we prepared to part ways, she handed us some Christmas presents. The plan was to open them on Christmas day. However, she spoke up and insisted that I open mine before leaving.

I hesitated, but finally conceded.

When I opened the cutely decorated gift, I found a piece of fabric with zippers on it. Holding it up, I discovered it was a jacket insert.

Right away we tested it on my winter jacket. It fit well.

The insert attached to my jacket zipper on both sides, making the jacket bigger. Now I could continue to wear my jacket even as my middle grew larger.

I smiled. I had not thought to put anything like it on my Christmas wish list, yet it was exactly what I needed.

It was the perfect gift.

Gifts are on my mind a lot around Christmas time. I try to think of meaningful gifts others would appreciate. At the same time, my family asks me what I want, so I brainstorm a list of ideas.

There is a lot of shopping to do and sometimes coordinating to buy bigger gifts. Sometimes I think I’ve found the perfect gift for someone, other times I’m not so sure.

Then there are the many gifts that money can’t buy. The list of things to be grateful for is long. 

There are so many ways that God blesses us. Often we take them for granted and forget to say thanks.

Many of the gifts God gives us are similar to that perfect gift my sister-in-law gave me. It wasn’t something I had thought to ask for, but it met a need wonderfully and in the nick of time.

Around Christmas time, we often pause to remember the gift the Father gave us when He sent Jesus to be born on earth. Yet that gift would not matter much if it weren’t for what it led to.

It was when Jesus died on the cross and then rose again that God granted us the ultimate gift. It was a gift we didn’t know we needed, but He gave it to us at the perfect time.

The Bible tells us:

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23 ESV)

This Christmas, beyond all the other gifts the season may bring, I want to celebrate the gift the Father gave us in sending Jesus to come in the flesh. Beyond that, I want to remember the ultimate perfect gift He gave us by taking away the wages of sin which I deserve.

Because Jesus died on the cross and rose again, I can have fellowship with God. The barrier sin caused between us has been torn down. Praise the Lord for giving us such a perfect gift!

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)