Mighty Hero!

Have you ever found yourself in a place where you’ve felt utterly unqualified for the task before you?  A job or challenge that seems just too daunting and takes you out of your comfort zone?  Maybe you have a boss that continuously adds to the, “…and duties as assigned” section of your job description.  It can leave you feeling frustrated, vulnerable and afraid.  It can be tempting to give into fear and instead of stepping out and trying, you retreat and do nothing.

I’m in a bit of a season of seeing the mountain as insurmountable, myself as an ant compared to the giants I’m facing, and I’m definitely not in my comfort zone–anything but.

I think it was because of a devotional that I’d read, but I found myself pouring over the story of Gideon in the Old Testament.  I’m typically not an OT kinda girl; I find the words of the prophets and judges hurt my brain, but this time around I had an “ah ha” moment.

Back story:  Israel was worshipping Baal–this didn’t exactly put them in God’s good books. In anger, He turned them over to the Midianites who were bullies.  Everything that the Israelites had, the Midianites took. The Israelites would grow a crop and the Midianites would come along and harvest the spoils long before those who had toiled the land could reap the rewards.  Israel was starving to death but because the people were out-numbered and afraid, they simply hid and waited for death.

One day, Gideon is busy secretly threshing wheat at the bottom of a wine press (to keep it hidden from the enemy) when he hears, “Hey! Mighty hero! The Lord’s got your back!”  Not realizing that he’s actually speaking to Angel of the Lord, he whines, ‘Well, if that’s the case, why is all this happening to us?  What about all the miracles we heard about in Egypt–why is he handing us over to the Midianites now?’  The Angel went further to tell him to  ‘Go with the strength you have…..I am sending you!”   Still, Gideon continues, ‘Our clan is the weakest in the entire tribe of Manasseh; and I am the least in my entire family!’  (my paraphrasing of Judges 6:12-15)

The story doesn’t stop here.  Gideon discovers that he’d actually been talking to the Angel of the Lord and thinks he’s done for, but he’s actually commissioned with a pretty daunting task–taking on the Midianites.  Before the battle is fought, God has to deal with more of Gideon’s insecurities and quite frankly, his audacity.  The Angel of the Lord commands him to take down the Asherah pole that his father, Joash has erected.  He does it at night because he’s afraid to be seen doing it in daylight.  All goes well; his father tells the disgruntled tribe that if they have a problem, they can take it up with Baal.  After dodging death at the hands of his clansmen, Gideon was clothed in power by Spirit of the Lord.   Despite this, Gideon still wants God to prove that He is Who He says He is and will do what He says He will–not once–but TWICE.  God patiently indulges him and confirms his assured victory for the umpteenth time with the ol’ fleece on the threshing floor test.  God then makes Gideon pare down his large army of thousands, to a mere three hundred men.  When the night of the battle finally occurs, God says to Gideon, ‘Go for it.  I’ve given you the victory, now go claim it.  But if you’re afraid, take your servant with you, sneak  into the camp and listen to what they’re saying.  You’ll know for sure that you’ve got this when you hear what they’re saying.’  Turns out Gideon is afraid and goes into the camp with his servant and as was foretold, he hears the very words assuring him of his impending victory.  Then he moves.  He is obedient to everything the Lord has told him to do and victory comes swiftly and sweetly as promised.  (Paraphrasing from Judges 6,7)

So what does this story reveal about you and I?

We can read about Gideon’s poor self-image, his fear, and even his boldness to test God over and over, all the while shaking our heads, but are we really any different?  When we know we’ve heard from God but He’s asking us to do something that we don’t want to do, are we not like Gideon, asking for confirmation–a sign that we’ve really heard correctly?  When He centres you out for a mission, are you the one discrediting your own talents, abilities, telling Him He’s got the wrong guy/gal?  Or do you decide that it wasn’t Him at all, it was just a crazy thought that drifted in your consciousness so you dismiss it?

What strikes me about this whole encounter is that before Gideon even knew that he was mightyherogetting his marching orders, God was already speaking identity over him.  He didn’t say, “Hey, Gideon!” he said, “Mighty hero!”  He didn’t say, “I will give you strength,” he said, “Go with the strength you have.”  Even though Gideon argued with the Angel, crying, “I am the least in my entire family!”  God still saw his potential.  He had no doubts because He knew who He’d created Gideon to be. Despite being from a tribe that had deserted the teachings of Moses and was worshipping a false god, Gideon was still God’s first choice to showcase His glory.

God calls,  ‘Hey! Creative Artist!!’ and you say,

Who, me?  I didn’t even go to art school; I’m like the worst artist ever!”

The Father responds, ‘Create with the talent and gifting in you, sweetheart.’

Are you looking at all the mistakes you’ve made, your status, or lack, and deciding that they disqualify you for a blessing?  You’re not that powerful, sunshine.  The Israelites seriously disqualified themselves, but still God wanted to bless them.  Look at how many times Gideon showed fear.  God didn’t turn away in disgust.  He actually knew that he would be afraid, and he worked that into the victory.  He knows when we’re afraid too, and He doesn’t turn away; he works it into our stories too. ‘The only caveat is that He wants the glory.  He will often take away your army, your resources, and comforts so all you have to rely upon is Him, as He did with our mighty hero.  Just as He knew who He created Gideon to be, He knows who He created you to be.  He will work all things for good for His glory.  He did it before and He’ll do it again.

Yes and amen.

A Wink From Heaven

I consider myself  to be somewhat of a minimalist. I’ve learned that stuff doesn’t make me happy–at least not for very long.  Perhaps this mindset was born out of necessity.  Growing up one of seven children,  I rarely asked for things.  We were taught that even if you didn’t have the best, you could at least look your best.  Clean clothes, tidy appearance, even in hand-me-downs– we learned to pull it off.  I may not have had everything I wanted, but I had what I needed. I carried this mindset into adulthood, determining that as long as it looks clean and tidy,  my home was something I could take pride in.

In the middle of Thanksgiving weekend, I was working on the clean and tidy bit. Sitting on a footstool eye to eye with the kitchen cupboards in my little apartment, I willed myself to get a move on. I find the best way to get through the onerous task of housework, is to combine it with one on one talk-time with God.scrubbing  I sighed as I considered the worn cabinet doors that hung crookedly on ageing hinges. As I scrubbed away at them, I told God that in the big scheme of things, I guessed it really wasn’t a big deal.  What really mattered was what was behind the cupboard doors– food –proof of His provision.   I thanked Him for what I did have, and for the contentment He provided in the seasons of not having.

With my tunes cranked I found my groove, going from one room to the next, singing along with the music with intermittent snippets of conversation with God. Within a couple of hour or so, I was finished and reasonably satisfied. My cupboards were still looking a little bedraggled, but they were clean and I was able to check off something else on my ‘to do’ list, giving me more time to enjoy the long weekend.

On the following Tuesday I was at work when my cell phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the number, and since personal calls were a no-no, I quickly hit decline.  Later when no one was around, I listened to my voice mail message. It was my landlady.  I anticipated some type of irritation; what else could a call from ones landlord be about?

To my surprise, I heard the following:

“Monica, you are  such a good woman and I want to do something for you. I’d like to send the carpenter to re-surface your cupboards; hang new doors. Bathroom vanity too.  You deserve something nice.  Would tomorrow be ok?  Let me know; God bless!”

I just sat there smiling stupidly at my phone.  I wasn’t thinking about how my landlady wanted to do something for me, but how God did.  He was just using her to pull it off. Remembering my nonchalant conversation on the footstool a few days prior, I just shook my head in amazement. I hadn’t even been asking for anything, and here He was, blessing my socks off!

winkI have an acquaintance that would call this a wink from heaven; basically God’s way of letting us know that He’s heard our prayers.  This makes me wonder how many times do we talk or pray to God, wondering–perhaps even doubting– that He’s even listening?  To be honest, my “conversation” was actually more of a monologue; I don’t even recall pausing to tune in to what God wanted to say.  God is always willing to talk to us; His communication style is uniquely designed to match ours– if we take the time to listen .  We seem to forget  (at least I do), that the One Who knitted us in our mother’s womb is always with us.  Psalm 139 assures us that He has thoroughly examined us and knows our hearts (verse 1) and that He knows what we’re going to say, even before we say it. (verse 4).

I think what blessed me the most, was that I wasn’t even asking for anything; I was merely expressing gratitude for what I did have.  This lead me to another nugget of wisdom. Sometimes we compare our earthly father’s ability and desire to provide to that of our heavenly Father’s.  Perhaps our earthly parents couldn’t give us everything we needed or wanted, and sometimes, they just chose not to.  Through that lens, we tend to see God the same way; His giving and withholding of gifts and provision are done arbitrarily.

Long ago I was asked why I never asked God for (material) things.  I thought it would make me look greedy and very un-Christian-like.  After all, we’re cautioned to ‘Seek His  Presence, not His presents.’   Since that day I’ve learned that He actually wants us to ask for what we need and even what we want.  That doesn’t make God a genie in a bottle or Santa Claus;  we don’t always get what we ask for, or when we ask for it.  Sometimes we get a ‘ no’,  and often times it’s a ‘no, not yet.’  But Father truly does know best.  He examines our motives and considers the outcome of having that particular thing/job/relationship at that particular time.  I believe that when we don’t get what we pray for, it’s not just an arbitrary ‘nope’.  God is much better at knowing what will bless us and what will be our downfall.  As Bill Johnson (Senior Pastor of Bethel Church–Redding Ca.) says,

“God only says ‘no’ when saying ‘yes’ would violate your purpose.”



There are things for which I am still contending and waiting and it’s still  a process of trusting that Father really does know best.  The reality is locked up in my brain; it just has to make it the eighteen inches to my heart.  But as I cook in my kitchen looking at my bright and cheerful new kitchen cabinets, the truth of His unfailing faithfulness is steadily making the journey southward.

Yes and amen.





The Stories of Our Lives

The following story is a piece that I wrote over twenty years ago,  published in the  Canadian magazine, Long Term Care . As I re-read it, it occurred to me that after all the time that has passed,  neither my opinion, nor my passion for caring for seniors has changed.  As I too have gotten older and as they say, “a little long in the tooth”,  I have been building on my own arsenal of stories; some good, not-so-good,  some hilarious and some downright heart-breaking.  Revisiting this piece has reinforced the importance of story-telling, of getting to know what really makes a person tick and allowing ones past to shape, or at the very least, influence their future. It has catapulted me into a new–or rather an old vision for how I see caring for an ageing population.


I think,” Laurence begins, “That the trick to keeping your reader interested is to begin with something that catches the attention immediately.”

Laurence is talking about the book he wants to write–his autobiography.  He has lived one hundred and two-year and believes his life has been interesting enough that someone might like to read about it.  I sit perched on his window sill, listening to his stories; sometimes the same ones over and over again.  His stories never fail to intrigue me; I think he has a best-seller, and I tell him so.  We discuss the particulars of the book; what to include, what to omit, what might be of interest, and which demographic to target as potential readers.  I am not Laurence’s editor,  but rather his friend and therapy assistant in the long-term care facility where he lives.

Perhaps if my boss should happen by, I might be reprimanded for “just sitting there” and “not being productive.”  It’s funny how you can feel guilty for spending time with a resident that doesn’t involve some purpose readily apparent to an onlooker.  In these days of classification for provincial funding, it seems that everything you do has to translate into a dollar value; it has to be a recognized aspect of the resident’s care plan –something to be marked “completed” on their chart.

Not much wonder that there is no time for story-telling.  If it meant that I didn’t have the time to stop and listen to the remembrances of my residents, I really don’t know if I would want to continue doing this job.  I love a good story and for me, the best ones don’t end when you close the book, but rather when you release the hand or give the hug.

I have been transported to times and places that only my imagination would have allowed me, save for my resident’s memories. Gladys took me to the backyard of her newlywed home where she frantically buried the rice pudding that didn’t quite turn out.  She didn’t want her husband to find out that she wasn’t the cook his mother was.  I was enthralled as Katie triumphed over her wicked step-mother.  She met her Prince Charming and went on to become “Aunt Katie”, a radio personality to hundreds of faithful child listeners.  I wept with Laurence as he returned to Vimy Ridge , eighty years after the Great War to say a final farewell to his slain brother.  And finally, I witnessed the courage of Kay, who kept death at arm’s length so she could experience the joy of becoming a first-time grandmother. 

These are more that amazing stories.  They are the teaching tools that these people use to show me what really matters to them.  When I listen, I am healing wounds–perhaps not the kind that require bandages, but the kind that need to be left open to air.


We manage behaviours when we validate a person’s past.  We promote independence when we acknowledge a person’s previous accomplishments and skills, helping them to set goals reflective of their desire to restore dignity. Through mindful and intentional listening we learn what our charges really want and need–and in doing so, perhaps learn what really matters .  I know my life will never be the same having travelled through the memories of these insightful teachers.  

I am busy living out my own life stories.  One day I may know Laurence’s happiness when someone comes to perch on my window sill and listens to my stories–maybe even more than once.


So here I am some twenty years later.  Dancing to Despacito with Violeta, a fiery four- foot- eight doll from Uruguay because her husband of sixty-nine years can’t/won’t get up and dance with her anymore. James is showing up for my exercise class despite his painful joints because he’s determined to break out of the nursing home to live independently.  And while Earl’s favourite line is “I don’t like it!”  repeated no less than three times with every mouthful of food I try to give him, we’ve still discovered that we were born in the same city, he had a dog named Pat, and he loves chocolate ice cream.


Yes and amen.


Finishing Well



On my second to last day on the job, I came upon Ms. Ruby* who was anxiously trying to get out of her wheelchair.  In the twelve years I had worked in this place, I can honestly say I had never had a conversation with her.   She was going to be 104 on her next birthday and I assumed her secret to longevity was simply staying away from people-she was not a talker and with her no-nonsense look, she an ability to send people from her room faster than a bullet leaving a gun.

“What is it Ms. Ruby; what do you need?” I asked.

“My bed.  I’m tired.”

I gently placed her tiny frame on her bed and helped her to lay down yet she remained anxious, again trying to get up.

“I need to read a chapter.  Get me my book, I gotta read a chapter.”

I reached for the only book on her table, her Bible.  Milky white cataracts had replaced Ms. Ruby’s once sharp eyes, and I knew she couldn’t read it herself. Surprisingly she accepted my offer to read to her and settled back onto the bed.  Holding her hand in mine until she relaxed, I marvelled that her dark skin was soft like that of a newborn.  Strange that after twelve years, I was just now seeing the “softer” side to this centenarian, I thought.

“How about a Psalm, Ms. Ruby; Psalm twenty-seven?”

“Ah, yes,” she smiled at the ceiling.

I began to read and was instant moved as Ms. Ruby began reciting the psalm along with me practically word for word.  When we got to the forth verse I was in tears.   I struggled to continue, but with a strong voice she continued from memory.

MsRuby“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life , to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple.   Oh yes, Lawd!”   A wide grin spread across her face as her unseeing eyes gazed towards the heavens.

I was finally able to rejoin the recitation and I couldn’t help but think that God had planned this grand finale Himself.  One of my favorite psalms, steeped in promises of God’s goodness and faithfulness,  recited by a woman who like the author, was someone after God’s own heart and who would no doubt finish well as the author had.

Peace, Be Still

Three words.  Peace. Be. Still.

Enough to calm a storm and put a few frightened disciples at ease,  these are the words that I breathe.   In….peace…..And out…..be still…..



I don’t know what you, the reader, are going through right now, but for me and others near and dear to me, it’s been a season of white-knuckling it to stay in the boat.

In my first week in a new job, my manager announced to the entire staff in a group email, “Monica will be filling in for me while I’m away on vacation and will be happy to help in any way she can.”  Huh?   Monica would simply have been happy to know beforehand.  But instead of going into panic mode, I decided to meet the challenge head-on and use it as an opportunity to prove my competence and integrity as a leader.

The first days had been anything but promising.  Rumors of how long this one would last had already been whispered around the department and I was asking myself the same question in light of the hopeless atmosphere in which I found myself.  Still,  I was determined to be like Caleb; one of the ten spies who chose to be strong and courageous and see hope and victory while the others saw defeat.  Like the ancient Israelites, I was viewing the giants blocking entrance to the supposed promised land.

As if this transition wasn’t enough to throw me off course, the winds changed direction; this time coming from the west.  My children who had left Ontario for the promise of new beginnings and adventure in British Columbia, were being hit by the gale-force winds of deception, betrayal, and loneliness.  More bad reports from the remaining eight spies.  Pftt.

Add to this a random shooting in a part of our city that left two dead and thirteen injured, a friend in California who was forced to evacuate her home because of the devastating fires, and another acquaintance whose son is on life support following what should have been a routine surgery, I was left feeling like the disciples in the boat, shaking Jesus awake, demanding,  Don’t you care if we die?!

Turns out, He does.

The first life-preserver was tossed into the female staff locker room of all places.  I was just about to walk out when one of the staff members of whom I was “in charge”  stopped me to announce that she needed the following day off.

“I need to be off Thursday–possibly Friday,” she began, tears rimming her eyes.


“My husband and I are going for IVF.  I’m scheduled to have my eggs harvested,”  her lips trembled and tears began to flow in earnest along with the stress that each tear contained.

“I’m a praying mama,” I heard myself say, much to my own surprise.  “Would it be okay if I pray for you?”   Not answering in words, she put her arms around me and tears fell upon my shoulder as I spoke life over her barrenness and asked God to open her womb to receive a baby.  At the writing of this post, it’s too early to say what the result will be in terms of a little one entering the world, although thus far, things seem to be going in a positive direction.  Regardless of the outcome, I do know a seed of another kind was planted.  New rumors are being spread about me, and as spoken of in a previous blog,  Reputation vs. Character I’m totally okay with that.

From the west, the winds of reconciliation have been blowing.  Once determined that she didn’t need a mother–specifically me– my daughter called me in tears.

“I’m so sorry mum,” she sobbed.  “I got a taste of how badly I have treated you and when I realized how much I must have hurt you, I felt awful!”

“I’ve already forgiven you,” I assured her.

“Yeah, I know you’re all over this forgiveness stuff, but I just needed to say it.”


While I haven’t stepped into the fullness of my Promised Land, this is a good start.  Like the disciples of Mark 4:39 this season has been about trusting God in the storms, and there have been many, it would seem.  In all of it I’m realizing that there is nothing I can do in my own strength.  There are no variables that can be manipulated in any of the situations that I, or those I care about find ourselves in; there is no “Plan B”.  I either place my trust in God or I don’t.   Over and over again, I’m discovering that the best strategy it to take shelter in the secret place.  Sometimes it’s a time of quiet reflection, meditating on His promises with hope and renewed faith.  Other times it’s more of a battle; contending through declaration and decrees of what He has already promised. In the midst of it all, I choose to remember the story of some new believers in the middle of the sea with a storm blowing around them while their only Help slept, seemingly oblivious.  When He awakens to their cries, He simply raises His hand to the wind and commands, “Peace–be still!” and the winds stop immediately and peace is restored.  He asked them then, as He asks us now, “Where is your faith?”  If we truly believe that He is in us and we are in Him, we  can raise our hands to the storms around us and make the same command, believing as Hebrews 13:8 says:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. 

As I’m learning daily to put my trust in Him, He has shown infinite patience with me in the process, reminding me that I am His kid and He loves me Today I went to the post office to pick up a prize I had won in a group on social media:  20180728_182506.jpg

Coincidence?  I think not.

I’d like to think that I am the shell nestled in the centre of this art work.  A little ragged from being tossed about in the sand of affliction, but smoothed by the waves of His mercy washing over me again and again.



Yes and amen….

Finishing Well

On my second to last day on the job, I came upon Ms. Ruby* who was anxiously trying to climb out of her wheelchair.  In the twelve years I had worked in this place, I can honestly say I had never had a conversation with her.   She was going to be 104 on her next birthday and I assumed her secret to longevity was simply staying away from people-she was not a talker and had an ability to send people from her room faster than a bullet leaving a gun.

“What is it Ms. Ruby; what do you need?” I asked. “My bed.  I’m tired.”  I gently placed her tiny frame onto her bed and helped her to lay down, yet she remained anxious, again trying to get up.  “I need to read a chapter.  Get me my book, I gotta read a chapter.” I reached for the only book on her table, her Bible.  Milky white cataracts had replaced Ms. Ruby’s once sharp eyes, and I knew she couldn’t read it herself.  I offered to read for her and to my surprise, she agreed, settling back onto the bed.  I held her hand in mine until she relaxed.  Her dark skin was soft like that of a newborn and she relaxed into the mattress as softly, I caressed the back of her hands. “How about a Psalm, Ms. Ruby?” “Ah, yes,” she smiled at the ceiling.  MsRuby I began reading and then Ms. Ruby began reciting the psalm along with me almost word for word.  When we got to the forth verse I was in tears.  Moved by witnessing this side of Ms. Ruby and her love and passion for the Word, I struggled to continue.   But with a strong voice Ms. Ruby continued from memory:

  “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life , to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in his temple.”

 ” Oh yes, Lawd!”  With a toothless grin, she smiled towards the heavens. I was finally able to rejoin in the recitation and I couldn’t help but think that God had planned this grand finale Himself; sweet words from King David spoken by a woman who would no doubt finish well as the author had.

Yes and Amen.

*Ms Ruby’s name was changed to protect her privacy.