By Rosemary Flaaten –
It was a night like any other. Our three preschool children had bathed and bedtime had consisted of stories and lots of giggles. The last bedtime ritual was a time of thanksgiving and prayer which always ended with “send angels to watch over us”. These prayer times with our children were a special time of tenderness and teaching about God’s provision and protection in our lives.
Despite having a young family, my husband’s job required him to frequently be away from home. The frequency had increased and he found himself with as many nights in hotels as in his own bed. Each night, whether at home or abroad, he would pray that God would watch over his family.
On this particular night, after getting the children to bed and packing his suitcase for his pending trip, he went to bed with a heavy heart, anticipating the time away, the loneliness he would experience and the growing anxiety of separation.
Eventually deep sleep came. But, for some unknown reason, he awoke in the middle of the night. With his eyes open, he rolled to his other side to snuggle next to me. But as he rolled towards me he was astonished by what he saw.
Hovering just over the blankets and in a fully reclining position was a Being – translucent and glowing. It wasn’t an illusion; it had depth and substance to it. It glowed in an iridescent manner. There was an angel not just watching over us but protecting us with his presence.
For a split second he was filled with fear that perhaps I had died, but my rhythmic breathing settled that question. In its place came an intense peace flooding his heart and mind.
My husband is a Type A personality who is not prone to fluctuations of emotion or seeing visions and dreams. But on that ordinary night, this extraordinary encounter gave him the reassurance he needed that God had heard our prayers and that all would be taken care of in his absence.
Prayer: Thank-you for being our loving Father who hears our prayers. Thank-you for being loving, gracious and full of mercy, and for desiring good for your children.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
By Rosemary Flaaten –
What’s the significance of your name? Were you named after a family member or someone famous? Does your name reflect your personality?
My name – Rosemary – was one that my mother always loved and it also was a combination of my paternal Grandmother’s name (Mary) and her only sister (Rose). To top it off, I was born with a high colour complexion which meant that ever since I was a baby, I’ve had rosy cheeks. Thus my father’s nickname “Rosy,” seemed to fit both my complexion and my personality.
In Scripture, the names that God uses to identify Himself always gives evidence of His character. The one that has intrigued me the most is that God is simply known by “My Name”. God assured Solomon and the Israelite people at the opening of the temple that “My Name shall be there” (1 King 8:29 NIV). Jesus promises that “I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God” (Revelation 3:12 NIV), and the Psalmist extols us to “Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people, praise his holy name” (Psalm 30:4 NIV).
“God’s name is associated with his glory, power, holiness, protection, trust and love. To call on his name is to call on his presence. To act in his name is to act with his authority. To fight in his name is to fight with his power. To pray with his name is to pray to him.”
By calling upon The Name of the Lord, we are not just glibly addressing a higher being. We are calling upon every power, all peace, unending strength, boundless love and endless grace. Speaking His Name creates an open door to the God of the Universe. There is power in The Name of the Lord. May we use it with gratitude, reverence and trust.
Prayer: My God, heighten my awareness of the presence and power of your Name.
“Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God” (Isaiah 50:10 NIV).
By Rosemary Flaaten –
Holding the door for the young mom pushing a stroller and keeping two toddlers in tow.
Waiting with uncommon patience while the clerk looks up the produce code for my purchase of artichokes.
Sitting with a young couple as they wait for their one year old daughter to return from having a cancerous tumour removed in surgery.
Stocking the pantry with food my teenage son’s friends can devour as they hang out at our home.
Complimenting an elderly woman that she looks like a million bucks in her fur-collared coat.
Acts of kindness.
I’ve been on a mission this spring to be the purveyor of kindness. A purveyor is someone who provides, supplies or makes available. My mission has been to ooze with kindness, to seek out opportunities to show kindness and to do so to a variety of people.
On the days that it seems easy to show kindness to the total stranger at the grocery store, it proves a struggle to come home and speak kindly to the loafing family member. Other times, I’m unwittingly overlooking the person beside me and their need for a kind gesture in favour of a self-absorption that doesn’t allow me to look past the end of my own nose.
To live out the commandment found in Mark 12:30 to love the Lord my God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength I must love my neighbour as myself. The age old question of delineating who might fall into the category of neighbour was fully explained when God became Incarnate and moved into our neighbourhood even though our neighbourhood was characterized by hostility and abandonment. God chose us as His neighbour and He showered us with kindness and love.
Kindness is the quality of compassion and generosity. It’s what spills out of us when we’re filled with God’s Spirit. It cannot be manufactured but it can be practiced. Choosing to discipline ourselves to be someone who seeks out opportunities to show acts of kindness will impact three realms:
1) it’s an act of worship to the God who acted kindly to us
2) it will impact the recipient – who knows how God might use that act of kindness to draw that person to Himself?
3) we’re blessed through obedience –“It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor,
but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (Proverbs 14:21 NIV).
Prayer: Lord, gives us eyes that are like Yours so that we might see the needs of people around us and a heart like Yours to be purveyors of kindness.
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NIV).
By Rosemary Flaaten –
I once had a first year college student tell me that everything he was learning in my class on Spiritual Formation he had learned in fourth grade Sunday School. I have to admit, for a fleeting minute, I seriously contemplated giving him a big fat “F” on his next assignment, simply for having a lousy attitude. But as I got past my self-righteousness, I wondered how often God must witness a similar attitude emanating from me.
“God, haven’t I been down this road before?”
“How much longer do I to have to put up with this cantankerous boss?”
“Why is this happening to me again?”
Life is like a spiral where we come around to the same spot with the same issues and often even with the same people. But if we allow it, that spiral will take us deeper into the issue affording us the opportunity to grow in our understanding and relationship with God and in our self-awareness. John Calvin, and a number of other writers, purported that as we come to know God we will come to know ourselves and that as we come to know ourselves more fully, our understanding of God will expand.
Our Christian walk is described by Paul as a race that we run. If we take the approach to my college friend’s statement, my response to Paul would be “I ran sack races in fourth grade, why do I need to go for a run today? After all, I’m smarter now so there must be some new way of working my muscles and training my body.” But running a race involves continual training. My race will be stunted if my present workout resembles my childhood sack race.
The exercises of spiritual formation, such as a variety of spiritual disciplines, are not new but in order to have a robust faith, we must allow the Holy Spirit to push the spiral deeper into our lives to create training that makes us more like Christ. Let us not resist the needed repetition but rather embrace it as the opportunity for maturity.
Prayer: Lord, help me to have the heart of a learner that is open to your guidance and instruction.
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).
By Rosemary Flaaten –
Do you find yourself wishing your friendships could be authentic and loving? Do you wish you could forgive your parents and siblings? Do you long to know how to relate to your husband and children? Do you damn yourself for the choices you’ve made?
How do we bring about change in the way we relate to others? Do we just try harder? Do we give more and more of ourselves to a seemingly bottomless pit of relational need? Do we give less of ourselves, becoming more guarded and controlling? I could give you some quick tips to improve your relationships, but doing so would be like giving you a Band-Aid for terminal cancer. To get to the root of the problem in our relationships, we must have them connected to our most basic relationship: the relationship with our Creator.
Imagine arranging thousands of tiny pieces in straight lines. As soon as we get one line neatly placed, we bump the table, and are forced to start over. Over and over we try to get everything lined up, but even our best efforts do not produce the outcome we desire. Does this frustration sound like our attempts to improve our relationships?
Now imagine what would happen if those pieces were brought in contact with a magnet. The pieces would quickly line up and order would be created. So it is with life and relationships. Putting God at the center of our lives, through a surrendered heart, aligns our relationships, transforming chaos into order.
Only as we allow God to bring about heart change will we relate differently to others. Our relationships will be transformed as we’re filled up with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. None of these are qualities we can manufacture on our own. We need God to fill us with His character.
Prayer: Forgive me for trying to fix my relationships on my own. Help me to open my heart to You so that what flows out of me is Your character, O Father.
“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them – living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious free life” (Romans 8:5-7 The Message).