He tells you lies – like nobody cares
He says there’s nothing you can do
I’ll tell you now that it’s not true
When depression descends like a cloud
And cloaks your joy with its icy shroud
We many not completely understand
But we can reach out and hold your hand
When your job is gone and bills are due
And you’re feeling like a failure too
We may not know just what to say
But be assured that we will pray
So you messed up big and feel ashamed
You don’t want to show your face again
And we may not know what to do
But we are here to stand by you
When tragedy and loss hits your home
And your whole world comes crashing down
We may not know just what to do
But we are here to grieve with you
So your spouse is gone, your marriage done
And you carry on not two but one
And when we don’t know what to do
Then we will stay and cry with you
Come out of hiding when trouble comes
Exile is a trick from the evil one
Even if we don’t know what to do
Be sure to know that we love you
Copyright 2015 November 9 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
Our youngest child has just completed university. We watch our children make their way as they are young and freshly into their careers. We can see how God is molding their lives in ways that perfectly fits their personalities and interests, the way God wired them. We remember this uncertain time when our lives stretched in front of us and we had dreams and hopes.
We hoped to do mighty things for God and we were ready … so we thought.
Jeff had a degree in Psychology from McMaster and a mostly completed Social Work degree. His best friend in Ontario was originally from NB so Jeff travelled with him here many times. He fell in love with the province and a girl that lived there :) When he moved to NB, he went to work as a mechanic because he spent all of his teen years doing mechanical work in his Uncle’s shop. He went on to study and received his Interprovincial Mechanics License. He worked as a mechanic for a while and even had his own shop. God nudged him into a job at CIEVA and he was the shop foreman working with handicapped adults. While he was there, he felt he should complete his degree in social work. After doing so, he began the career that he first planned in university. Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. NLT Many times he wondered WHAT is God doing with my life? What is God’s purpose for me?
We hoped to do great things for God … anything.
Why the long meandering route? We talk about it now and laugh because we can see how each and every part played into his current role. He can relate to many professions. He can sit and talk cars and engines for hours. His days in the wood working shop allowed him to have a hobby in wood working that relaxes and refreshes him. His role as an advocate is firmly lodged in his heart due to his time at CIEVA. It all prepared him for his current job as a Advisor for Autism and Early Childhood Education for the Province of NB.
I studied to be a secretary and my placement for this course was in the ER for 2 weeks. When I completed these studies, I promptly went to work … waiting tables in a restaurant which is what I had done in high school. However, my route was quite different than Jeff’s. After working as a waitress for a year, God snatched me out of my job and plunked me into my role as a medical secretary in the ER – literally overnight. I have been a medical secretary ever since. Whenever one door closed, God opened a new one for me. When the doors close for good, I will know that it is time to be done. Psalm 32:8 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” NLT.
Through the years God led us to do many things in our church. We sat on committees and boards, volunteered in our community , and participated in everything going on at the church. Jeff was a deacon, an elder, played the organ, and was on the worship team. I organized events and worked in children’s ministry for decades. We raised our children, worked, and made a home. We tried to be obedient to God’s call and seek His will. We floundered at times. We had seasons of set-backs, discouragement, and doubt. Sometimes we wondered what God was doing. Did we measure up? We hoped that God would reveal with great fanfare what He would have us do with our lives, preferably written in the clouds and signed.
We hoped to do good things for God … something.
We all have an idea in our mind of what the measuring stick looks like. Is it perhaps someone who stands on a stage in front of thousands of people to preach and teach? Is it a Christian singer with loads of fans and lots songs recorded? Is it a missionary to foreign lands? Is it someone big and powerful?
What is the measuring stick of mighty, great, good, or at least anything-something for God?
Does it depend on how many failures and success that we have?
We did not realize God was leading us all along to what He wanted us to do and that the things we had already done in our jobs and our church were all part of His plan. As we fret and fuss about deciding what and who is important, God is already at work. In spite of the fact that we pat ourselves on the back for the good things we think we have done, GOD is actually the one who is doing the great and mighty things. Yes, He wants a relationship with us and He has a purpose for our lives but the “something” we do is the design made by Him that exactly fits our lives if we are obedient. Sometimes people get the great “AHA” moment but often it is a gentle nudging through time and a molding to His purpose and His will. He is asking us to stop struggling and be ready to obey and live each day for Him and He will lead us to where He wants us to go. Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. NLT He uses all of our pain and life circumstances to create a beautiful plan. We will exactly fit His measuring stick. God is saying –
“Just wait and watch and see the great and mighty things I will do.”
Copyright 2015 June 10 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
There is something going around. It is terribly contagious. In spite of taking all of the precautionary measures, you caught it. You had the very best intentions. You thought you had been careful where you went. You were sure that you stayed away from all those places where you were most likely to catch it. You are not sure where you got it. It may have been at the mall when you were browsing all of the beautiful things, or riding in your friends brand new car, or possibly chatting with your neighbours while leaning over the white picket fence by their massive new house with a paved drive.
When you least expected it, when your guard was down, then BOOM you caught it. You came down with a full blown, hard to cure case of AFFLUENZA!
When Jeff and I were young we drove old cars because he was vehicle savvy and a great mechanic, but as our family grew and we needed more reliable transportation, we carefully shopped for a “newer old vehicle.” We prayed, shopped, and were delighted when we found a great minivan in excellent condition for our family. I was very pleased and told a friend but was taken aback by the reaction. In exasperation they said “why do you drive used vehicles, have you NO desire to keep up with the Joneses!?” I pondered that scolding for a long time. I looked at the minivan with shame and a little contempt when only one day before I had been so happy.
Do the Joneses make the rules?
Are they truly wealthy or do they just pretend to be wealthy?
Am I a better person if I seem to be like them?
Will I be an outcast if I reject this value?
Will I fit in if I am my transparent self?
Will our family participate in this game?
If I play this game, When do I arrive and when is it enough – or do the rules keep changing?
Is there an actual end point where you become Mr. and Mrs. Jones?!
This was a new game for our young family and we decided early that we did not want to play! Through the years we lived within our means. We paid cash. We waited and went without. We were dead last to get the newest coolest thing, and more often than not, we did not get the “thing.” We looked at others with envy many times. We longed. We wished. We coveted … but most of the time we did not cave in. In the early years we bought second hand, recycled, and repaired. I am sure we thought we suffered but as an adult looking back I see that we had all that we needed … not all that we wanted.
In the end we still did not do everything right because here we are as adults and empty nesters saying where did all of this stuff come from!? Now we are in the process of getting rid of as much as we can. We also learned that appearances mean nothing when getting into the actual bank account comparing game. Things are not what they seem.
We sat in counseling rooms with couples facing us that were deeply in debt with marriages flying apart. All of the material goods in their hands did nothing for their happiness. Objects with no meaning were suffocating them and they could not see the people in their lives past the possessions that came between them. We saw lives ruined in pursuit of the next “thing.”
Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying money is the cause of misery. Being wealthy is not the cause either. All income levels, both the rich and poor, can suffer from this affliction. I still struggle with the Joneses. They are very powerful. I flinch when I get caught up in the comparing game. The problem lies in the heart and attitude about money, status, and possessions. God does not condemn wealth but he does warn those who chase after wealth more than they seek God. He warns against our self reliance. I love how Colossians 3:2 reads in the King James because it uses the word affection. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” Other versions say set your mind on things above. As I work through this, it is with this mindset that I am going to try to view the things that I have. These are the questions I am thinking about.
How can my possessions be used for His Kingdom?
Do I rely on myself or do I rely on God?
What is my attitude about my possessions?
Are they really MY things anyway?
How will I deal with the Joneses and their constant pressure on my life?
Have I set my affection on things above?
My possessions are temporary and so am I, but God promises us another inheritance for us as believers that is far greater than Mr. and Mrs. Jones can ever attain. 1 Peter 1:4 And we have a priceless inheritance–an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. NLT
Affluenza can be cured. Set your mind on things above!
Copyright 2015 March 23 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
The idea was hatched long ago in the dining hall of our beloved Camp Shiktehawk. Sandra, one of the camp leaders was cornered. I imagine the conversation went something like this as Dale used all of his powers of persuasion – “could you lead a choir Sandra? If we could get 20 kids together we could have a choir. You are a teacher, you are great on the piano, you could do this.” I bet Sandra’s mind was swirling “twenty kids, every Sunday! That would be a lot of work, I teach full time. Let me pray about it.” Sandra recruited Leonard, a fellow teacher who had music oozing out of every pore. The answer was yes and in 1977, The Carleton Victoria Youth Choir was born. They achieved their goal of 20 teens –
and 20 more
and 20 more
and 20 more
and 20 more
and 20 more
Leonard and Sandra had no idea what saying yes to God would mean. They had no inkling of the plan that God had for a bunch of acne faced, hyperactive, awkward teens, but they were obedient to His call. I am sure they must have been overwhelmed when God multiplied the dream born at Camp Shiktehawk more than anyone could ever have imagined. They soon would learn just what could be accomplished –
all because of God’s amazing grace.
Numbers went as high as 120 and settled in at a steady 80. We came from the country, the villages, and towns over a 155 km stretch of road from Grand Falls to Nackawic. We met every Sunday en masse at big churches and tiny churches. Imagine teen age drivers travelling on back roads laden with moose and critters and in snow storms for a period of 3 years and no serious accidents –
all because of God’s amazing grace.
All were welcome. There were no auditions. Some could sing, and some of us … not so much. Some of us were there because our friends were there, some of us to occupy our time and keep us out of trouble, and most because we loved to sing. God had a plan and placed each of us there for a reason. We practiced, the churches fed us, and in the evening we put on a concert for them. At times we did not fit on the platform and spilled out in front and to the sides. As we practiced the songs proclaiming God’s glory all afternoon Sunday after Sunday, the words worked their way into our hearts and we were forever changed –
all because of God’s amazing grace.
Leonard and Sandra taught us discipline as we spent long hours practicing. They had the gift of making learning fun and they taught us respect. They were wonderful mentors. We learned what it meant to use our gifts for God’s glory and what it meant to serve others. We gained friends, some for life. And in those uncertain days of our teen years, we learned to have confidence. We grew up in those 3 years and were on the edge of adulthood. We had many decisions to make but we had gained friends that would pray for us. As the choir years came to an end, we stepped into our adult lives. Some would go into full time ministry, and many others would serve for decades in their own communities and churches. Life wasn’t perfect or easy and sometimes there was pain. Sometimes we were obedient even though we had no idea what God was up to, but He guided us safely through –
all because of God’s amazing grace.
Thirty four years later God brought us back together again. Some of us were a little grayer, a little balder, and yes a little plumper. We sat in our seats in the right front of the church automatically as we always did and caught up. There was much laughter and tears and of course stories as we remembered our adventures. We lingered and swapped photos of our grand babies. The inevitable happened and we gathered on the platform with a few pieces of yellowed music to sing one more time. Sandra said “I haven’t played these songs for 34 years, I’ll never remember!” But she did and as her fingers hit the keys, they defied the three and a half decades of time and the music poured out. Leonard said “I can’t stand for long periods of time anymore.” But he did and he stood in front of us in full director mode and we loved it.
As we stood to sing the years fell away and we were teenagers again for a little while. We faltered through some songs and others we remembered well. One special song has deeper meaning for us now. It is a song that summarizes our journey and we have seen the proof of God’s faithfulness and guidance as we grew older. It fell off our lips with a little more wisdom than it did decades ago. We sang in perfect 4 part harmony as if it was just yesterday that we sang it last –
Amazing grace, oh how sweet the sound
That saved a poor sinner like me!
Though once I was lost, yet now I’m found,
Though I was blinded, now I see!
Through disappointment and danger, too,
Through labours and sorrows we’ve come!
But God’s grace has guided safely through,
And it will surely lead us home!
Then with the ransomed around God’s throne
We’ll praise our redeemer and King!
We’ll tell how His mercy for sin did atone,
Through countless ages this song we’ll sing!
It was all because of God’s amazing grace!
Because on Calvary’s mountain He took my place!
And someday, some glorious morning
I shall see Him face to face,
All because of God’s amazing grace!
(song by Stephen Adams)
Copyright 2014 September 15 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
We Maritimers are accustomed to hurricanes heading up the coast bearing down on us. However, when they reach the cooler waters they often lose power and move out to sea. We are left with the outside swath which brings wind and rain and some minor damage, but miss the fury the hurricane had in the south. Hurricane Arthur was different. It swung further inland and churned up trees by the thousands, washed out roads, and downed power lines. When we tried to leave our cabin to check on our house, our hearts sank when we reached the end of the road and found the power lines like spaghetti. We attempted to go home one way but the road was flooded. The other way home was littered with trees across the road. It quickly became apparent that it would be a long time before we got power.
Suddenly the things that we never gave a second thought became foremost in our minds – how to keep our food cold, water to drink, bathe, and flush the toilet. Phone lines were down and even cell coverage was gone. It was a challenge to think up things to cook up on the BBQ or propane stove. Generators became a hot item and stores sold out. It was a lot of work to do our day to day tasks and all we could do was wait and “make do,” helpless to do anything about it. We did not appreciate our access to power until it was gone. The process of restoring power was a daunting task as crews worked around the clock to clean up the mess.
When we met up with our neighbours, our usual greeting changed to “you got power?”
I had a lot of time to think in the quietness of our home without the hum of the fridge and the computer silent in the corner. I realized that I had access to power in my own life that I had not tapped into for a long time. When we become Christians and give our lives to Christ, we have access to power at the moment we believe. HIS power. So many times I have gone through storms and ended up feeling helpless and vulnerable, waiting for my life to be restored to normal or else run around in circles desperately thinking of ways to fix things. Relying on ourselves is like scurrying around hooking up things to the generator – first the fridge, then the freezer, then making rounds to other essential household items after the power lines were already repaired. It is the same as bringing buckets of water from the stream to bathe when there is already water gushing from the tap.
Why do we rely on ourselves when God is saying
“Hey, I am right here, I am your source of power, connect to me!”
Why do we go through our lives with the breakers set to OFF?
I am guilty. Are you?
19I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power 20that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19-20 NLT
God knows our lives are hard. We live in a fallen world but He wants us to stop struggling and trust Him with our lives. He desires to help us in those storms which roll in without warning and create a huge mess. He is the one that can restore us. The battle has already been won!
7We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.b This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. 8We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NLT
When we are trying to maintain the balancing act we call life, and start to feel hopeless that we keep failing and can’t keep it all together, put your trust and hope in Jesus your source of power. We no longer have to “make do,” we can connect to His unlimited resources!
16I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. 17Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.20Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:16-21 NLT
So when you are greeted after the storm what is your answer to the question now?
You got power?
Copyright 2014 August 15 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
I long to be understood.
I long to serve God with the gifts He has given me.
I long to worship.
I long to be able to say no without fear of rejection.
I long to know God better.
I long for God to be pleased with me.
I long to connect.
I long to be free to be passionate about the things God has placed in my heart.
I long to belong.
I long to fulfill my purpose.
I long to have time to rest my mind and body without judging words.
I long for community
I long for my opinion to matter even if it differs from the status quo.
I long to be accepted.
I long to be respected as a woman, emotions and all.
I long to grow in my spiritual walk.
I long to express myself freely without feeling like I am breaking all the rules.
I long to be valued.
I long to be accepted in my Sanguine nature, old jokes, laughing, and all.
I long to be acknowledged in my Melancholy parts because I am capable of more than you think.
I long to feel safe.
I long to be free to be the way God made me.
Are my longings wrong? Are they reasonable? Am I asking too much?
If they are, I will ask and allow God to shape them, in His time, in His special way, to help me understand.
What are you longing for?
Zephaniah 3:17 For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Copyright 2014 May 9 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
What does pain look like? Can you see it? If pain had a colour what would it be? In my mind it would be black or gray however I think most of the time it comes carefully camouflaged in bright colours, Sunday best , glitter and bling carefully covering the black so that no one can see.
Can you hear pain? Really, you should be able to hear it when your entire being is a train wreck so loud that surely those sitting beside you can hear the clanging in your head. However often all you hear is a soft moan or an escaped sigh, or glimpse a tear sliding down a cheek that makes no sound at all.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT
I think pain should have a smell so that it could alert us when it exudes from the pores of those around us. However it is invisible and odourless like a virus that sneaks in and catches you unaware. It spreads it’s toxins to encompass all of your being and yet remains invisible.
If you could touch pain would it feel cold so that you have to draw your hand back quickly? Does the cold wrap itself around your heart barely leaving room for it to beat? Does it linger in the air like an icy breath on a winter day?
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:17 & 18 NLT
Does pain have a taste? Does it taste bitter in your mouth? Perhaps it makes your mouth dry so that words cannot escape your parched throat if you finally muster up the courage to reach out. Stretch out your hands.
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:6-8. NLT
When life deals out those seasons of pain it’s nice to have someone to talk to, someone to share what is inside, and hear encouraging words, a hug, a
“it will get better”
“I’m praying for you”
“hang on, I’m here for you”
and preferably from someone
who knows just what you are going through
who has experienced it before
someone who gets it
someone who really cares.
I think about the time Jesus spent on earth. He knew pain. Everywhere He went crowds gathered with every imaginable kind of pain. He is the King of Kings but He walked with us and chose to spend time with those who were hurting. He heard their pain as they cried out for Him to heal them. He saw their pain and they pressed close to Him hoping that He would see them and touch them. As they stretched out their hands to Him, He healed them. After that they killed him. He embodied our pain when He was rejected and put on a cross to die for sins He did not commit. He knew physical pain.
The colour of His pain was bright red for the blood He shed for us.
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 NLT
If there is anyone who gets it, it is Jesus. He heard, tasted, smelled, touched, and saw pain in every colour. He knows what we are going through. Imagine taking your pain to Jesus the one who can touch your pain and heal you. Stretch out your hands. He is saying
“it will get better”
“I hear your prayers”
“hang on, I’m here for you”
because He knows what you are going through.
He understands what you are experiencing
He gets it and
He really cares.
Stretch out your hands.
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. 1 Peter 5:10 NLT
Copyright 2013 December 14 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission
Toys packed – check.
Snacks – check.
Diaper bag – check.
4 hats, 4 coats, 8 mittens, 4 pairs of boots on – check.
4 hats, 4 coats, 7 mittens, 4 pairs of boots off because I forgot to take them to the potty – check.
4 hats, 4 coats, 5 mittens (nobody knows where they went) 4 pairs of boots back on – check.
By the time we arrived at the church we were frazzled and wondered if it was worth the bother. However when we stepped inside there were many loving arms reaching out to help with our little brood, hands to help with their coats, hands to wipe noses, arms to catch the “runners” before they ran out through the parking lot, and arms to help us settle in.
We did not get to relax very long before one child, naming no names – (Rianna) would crawl under the pews like a greased pig, fast as lightening all the way to the front before someone could catch her by the feet before she got to the pulpit and hand her back row by row to until she got back to us. Another child of ours which we cannot disclose – (Lieneke) would “visit.” She would toddle to a face she knew and stay with them and “visit” for the entire service looking back to us from time to time with a look that said “see, I’m being good.” Aneke and her cousin Devin would be at our feet and colour and the smell of crayon wafted over the back pews. We thought they were not aware of anything going on in the service until Devin would call out an answer to one of the pastor’s questions. Arjen would build Lego towers (which by the way are very dangerous for high heels). Don’t ask me how I know this.
If you ask me now, was it worth it, I would say indeed it was!
Today I get a warm fuzzy when I see little ones in church. I love the little one who dances in the aisle lost in the music unaware of all the people around her. We could take some worship lessons from her.
Welcome little one. Are you our future worship leader?
Occasionally a little one gets carried out, protesting all the way. When this happens there are smiles on the faces of the older Moms. It is a “knowing” smile. It is a “I remember those days” look.
It’s okay little protester. You are welcome here.
One Dad and Mom got their kids settled in the nursery and Junior church then promptly nodded off during the service. No one woke them because we remember all too well those sleepless nights with teething babies, the night owl toddlers, and feverish kids. We knew it was probably the first moment of quiet the entire week. We appreciate your efforts Dads and Moms. Don’t give up.
Tired, frazzled, sleep deprived parents are welcome here.
Those of you who have been through these days don’t forget to extend those “hands” to encourage all of the parents who make the effort to bring their children. Enjoy all the sights and sounds of little people. Crying and cooing babies, chattering toddlers and preschoolers, excited grade school kids, and even the misbehaving ones are all a special music to our ears. It is a precious sound, the music of our future church. Without their song our church will die.
Hello next generation church. Pleased to meet you next generation leaders. You are our future and you are welcome here!
And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. Matthew 18:5 NIV
Copyright 2013 November 3 Cyndi den Otter – All Rights Reserved May be used with author’s permission