Ordinary Time

By Elaine Knudtson

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“Ordinary Time between Feast and Penance”

The liturgical church calendar has 32 weeks of ordinary time between major feasts.  By far the longest time in the year, it represents over 70% of our life.  We mistakenly focus on the big events and lose sight of the day to day living that characterizes most of our journey.  If we anticipate or dread the extraordinary events, we might miss out on the best part of life.

“Ordinary Time”

Thirty-two weeks of “ordinary time”.

The time between birth and death

      planting and harvest

      weeping and laughing

      silence and speaking

      feast and penance.

In the ordinary time I learn to sit quietly and let the Spirit breathe through the forgotten memories of

     answered prayers,

            burdens lifted,

                   and insights given on the other side of chaos.

I seek God on the edges of ordinary time.

I EXPERIENCE Him inside it.

When the testing is over; I forget the fear of failure or death.

When the smoke dissipates; I minimize the sacrifice made in carrying me through the fire.

When the waters subside; I neglect to give thanks in proportion to the hours I spent petitioning for rescue.

Creation becomes the backdrop for life.

     A bird is just a bird I’ve heard before.

     The sun always rises.

     The river eternally flows in the same direction.

     Seasons simply follow the rotation of the planet.

     Life is predictable and uneventful.

Chores need to be done.

Work provides pay cheques, weekends, and vacations.

Quiet time becomes the occasion for flights of imagination into “what ifs” that seldom happen.

Family occupies the same space and interrupts the ordinary time, briefly, with chatter or requests.

I exist in this space, choosing not to focus on the death and resurrection on either side of these moments of calm.

The teacher, son of David, King of Jerusalem warns:  Meaningless!  Utterly meaningless.  Generations come and go, but the earth remains forever.  What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again.  There is nothing new under the sun.

One can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their work.  This. . . is from the hand of God, for without Him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 1)

To the one who pleases Him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness.  When God gives wealth and possession and enables us to enjoy them, to accept our lot and be happy in our work–this is a gift of God.

We seldom reflect on the days of our life, because God keeps us occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

I learn to “be” in ordinary time.

“Be still and know that I am God”

“Be still”

“Be.  . . “

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The Hope of Glory

By Elaine Knudtson

20190415_093622If you promised summer when I’d only known winter,

I’d laugh at the thought of leafless twigs transforming from black to green.

I’d ignore the promise of songbirds filling the silence of dark mornings.

I’d doubt that ice and snow could melt into puddles of crocuses, buffalo beans and dandelions;

That day could conquer night,

That the cold earth could become the cradle for new life,

That melancholy could give way to joy.

But then spring came.

Although rain, clouds and cool nights linger,

I begin to believe in miracles and start to listen to foolish promises of glory buried deep within the eternal hope.

I remember summer.

 

Romans 8: 19-21: The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.…

 

Transformative Moments

By Elaine Knudtson

altar1When God is in our lives, we know that hardships are His opportunity to show His power.  Life is not fair or kind; we live in a broken world, but He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.  Suffering and persecution is meant to drive us to Christ.  “I Surrender All” is the altar cry at these times.  “Search Me O Lord “ opens our lives to change.  Only His spirit can reveal where that change needs to happen, but the transformative power of a crisis has the potential to either destroy or rebuild us.

I have been working on my family story for a reunion we are having this summer.  It has been a blessing to observe the arc of our family through the transformational moments in each generation.  Our greatest tragedy is often God’s opportunity for His greatest gifts.

DSCN2693_2133.jpgIn 1885 Jons Larsson had lost his first wife shortly after the birth of their fourth child.  Raising four sons in a small log cabin in Sweden proved to be a challenge.  When he remarried and began having children with his second wife, the tiny log cabin forced a life-changing decision.  His oldest son was asked to move out and establish his own home.  His youngest son, a dwarf, was allowed to stay.  However, Louie and Ole, ages 15 and 13 were sent to a farmer in Wisconsin as indentured farm hands. There they were treated cruelly and given unrealistic expectations.  Through a series of events, Ole eventually came to Amisk, Alberta under the Canadian Homestead Act in 1909.  Shortly thereafter, he made a decision to sponsor his father and step mother, along with their four children, to come to Canada.  His act of forgiveness and grace towards the very ones who sent him into exile, became the transformational story for Jons Larsson.  Just as Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, only to become the means by which the children of Israel (Jacob) were saved from famine in Canaan, so Ole became the means by which his family came to Canada.

By 1921, Ole had a thriving farm in Amisk , but he lost two of his sons within 11 days of each other to scarlet fever.   “Why God?”  he asked.  He listened and heard, “Because you have made your farm an idol that has replaced me.”    That seemed harsh and he could have walked away from God and become bitter.  At a time when prayer seemed futile, he sold his farm and built a church.  His prosperity was eventually restored, but his greatest legacy is in the lives of the people in the community and in his own family who were influenced by his faith. He didn’t get his sons back, but God changed the trajectory of his life.  The church he built still stands.

My grandfather, Nels, came from a nominal Christian home.  He married Ole’s daughter, Ruth.  She remained faithful to the Lord throughout the years despite watching Nels go through 3 failed businesses that moved her from Amisk to Killam to Wildwood and Edmonton.  Nels was a mechanic and an entrepreneur.  He owned car dealerships and fixed vehicles.  He was good at it, but the war and bad timing left him bankrupt.  After the third financial collapse, he returned to Edmonton and gave up the dream of being an entrepreneur.  The only work he could find was cleaning wood that had been damaged by a fire;  humiliating for someone who had bigger aspirations.  During that time he sought the Lord.  There was a revival in the church they were attending and it grabbed Nels’s soul.  His priorities shifted to the church where he became a secretary/treasurer and faithfully attended over the years.  My Dad tells me that his heart melted.  When Dad was growing up, Nels was a rigid and a strict disciplinarian.  By the time God finished with him, he was beloved, gracious, and full of good humour.  God raised him up.  Although he never again owned a business, he did become a mechanic, with a steady income, that allowed him to support the family.  More importantly, his heart opened to the love and mercy of God.  Bitterness was replaced with faith, even in his darkest moments.

I suffered a marriage breakdown in my early twenties just before my daughter was born.  Looking to the future I saw nothing but hardship and loneliness.  I asked my father, “Why is that my life is so hard when all I wanted to do was serve the lord?”  He reminded me of the Lord’s question to Saul on the Road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, how long will you kick against the pricks?”  It was my call to surrender to the love, mercy and grace of God.  Learning to trust in the faithfulness of God, despite the circumstances, lead me to a lifelong career as a teacher and principal, and marriage to a compassionate man of God.  He became a pastor and biblical teacher at several Bible schools and colleges while helping me raise four wonderful children.  What might have happened if I had walked away from the Lord at my moment of crisis?

Death of children, loss of vocation, financial devastation, marriage breakdown—this is the stuff of life.  God doesn’t make it happen, but he waits there to be our spiritual director, remolding old habits and entrenched attitudes that keep us from being everything He has in mind for us.

I don’t know why we suffer.  What happens to us is often beyond our control, but our response is totally our own.  Joshua said to the children of Israel, 14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

When the path is dark and uncertain, consider that this may be your transformative moment.  May God give you the grace to stand firm in Him.

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The Choice

By Elaine Knudtson

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And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.  In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . .

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”

The woman said to the serpent.  “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord banished him from the Garden of Eden. . . (Gen. 2:9; 3:1-6, 22-23)

The Choice

The choice has been made. 

We are like gods, knowing good and evil. 

The forbidden fruit tempts with eternal youth, beauty, happiness, fame and glory.

Consequences are revealed in aging, decay, despair, loneliness and mocking death.

Good confronts evil with love, creativity, joy, praise and eternal life.

I MAY choose the good:

                To dance in the light

                To harmonize with the symphony of creation

                To encourage and comfort the sojourner I meet on the way who has turned back                    in despair before encountering the true presence.

I WILL embrace the good:

                Seek the peace of God

                Imbibe on hope until I am drunk with the joy of the Lord

I DARE to rise from the death of mortal fears and stroke my aging skin, feeling the softness of your touch that reminds me that I am not alone.

We have chosen to accept the good and resist the allure of despair and death.

We see our sagging and creaky tent as a guarantee that we will be reborn,

Not to evil, but to good.

“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” I will see the good.

The choice was made.

The curse of death arrived with my birth certificate.

Eternal life and goodness were secured in my baptism into His death and resurrection.

I live under the curse in a broken world with the hope of eternal life guaranteed by the one who gave me the choice in Eve.

Where she failed me, Christ has triumphed.

“See what love the Father have given us that we should be called children of God.”