Tag Archives: Heidi Baker

The river, fullness and Heidi: A Dream

“Blouberg in Praise” Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2021 (c)

The River, fullness and Heidi – Sept 11, 2022

I’ve been dreaming significant, intense dreams since returning to Canada. I’ll share them with you as I can. This dream is not just for me and it reminds me of the 1990’s Vineyard song, “The River is Here.” I’m pretty sure it’s on YouTube. Now my dreams often have a significant Iris or Alpha leader in them, since I was involved in both movements (and we have always loved the Alpha Course in different formats (prison, seniors’ homes, churches, community centres). Iris will always be a part of my life, just like I have a history with Catch the Fire, Vineyard and the Baptist and Anglican Churches. I’m not surprised when symbols from these movements and churches are shown. It would be the same in your own dreams. Yet, Heidi Baker is often shown as she is: full of joy, faith, hard work, perseverance and LOVE. She’s someone who is intent on obedience to the Holy Spirit and is sensitive to his leading. So, when Heidi (or her husband Rolland) shows up, I pay attention.

Here is the dream: I had an intense dream full of colours, tastes and sounds.  I was quite mobile (not like I currently am in waking life), and I was working with Heidi Baker on the side of a lovely little stream.  There were people who were worshipping and doing a dance in the stream.  Heidi told me that I could take a break from the grunge work that I was happy to do with her.  She told me that I needed to drink deeply and that I could only work and minister by filling up again.  She gave me one of her sweet smiles, and a hug.  

So I walked just a bit further down the stream to find a spot where you could walk over the stream via stepping stones.  However, the stream began to run faster, deeper and wider.  I managed to barely get across, before the stones were underwater, and the current of the now river was running fast.  

The little dancing worship team continued to worship and dance in the shallows, where they welcomed me.  Then the river again grew even wider and more and more of my team members were carried by the current.  They weren’t afraid, but they were full of joy.  I laughed as my teammates received.  I continued to splash, just glad to be mobile and worship without having to sit down.  The river was filling me with life.

As the river grew, you could hear Heidi’s voice over the water, saying, “Thank you, Lord.  Thank you.  We are so thirsty.” 

The river is coming.  The tide is turning towards us.  Are you ready? Let’s pray to become thirsty.

Lord, I ask for those who are reading, as well as myself, that we become thirsty for you. Please soften our hearts to receive your life-giving rain, your Holy Spirit. Give us new wineskins to hold your new wine. Prepare us for a wonderful outpouring from you. Refresh us, as we wait on you for assignments, or as we are currently in an assignment for you. Refresh the new believers to give them extra grace to grow well in your kingdom. And prepare us for the day when many prodigals return and new people come to faith in You. Give us dreams and visions to guide us, and may your scripture come alive to us as we read your story and the story of your people. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  Tony had his CT scan recently, but we are waiting on an oncology consult in October to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after four treatments).  His fifth infusion is in early October as well. Otherwise, he will continue for some time (years??). We are thankful that his side effects are minimal compared to how chemo was with L-A three years ago.

We are thankful for the skills of Tony’s doctors, and that the tumour in Tony’s lung lining shrinks and even disappears.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.  

Laurie-Ann is being monitored for hot flashes but cannot yet take hormone replacement therapy due to her past with breast cancer. Perhaps her oncologist will clear it, but there are other ways to treat this menopause left-over. She continues to receive compression therapy for lymphedema but we cannot afford lymphedema massage treatment or physiotherapy due to lack of finances. We are trying to get a disability pension for L-A, but it’s extremely difficult, and even her spine MRI from Worcester, SA is being questioned. The disability pension would morph into an old age pension, so we’re wondering if it will be worth the effort for less than four years (L-A is 61 and will be eligible at age 65 if the age isn’t raised to 67). But we will manage with the Lord’s help, and we are thankful for living at L-A’s dad’s home while we care for him (he is 93, frail, with vascular dementia and incontinence). During this time, while we are in Toronto to care for my dad, we three actually take care of each other.

If you feel led to contribute towards medications, hospital parking, hospital travel expenses, and perhaps lymphedema treatments for L-A, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all L-A’s teachings and articles are online for free to bless you.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, some are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson in Western Cape.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes. Right now she is learning how to write in that format (and may rewrite Holy Ghost Sommelier as well). Here is a little tidbit. Did you know that it’s now the current writing fashion to write shorter books? We guess that L-A’s story (and perhaps Ways to Grow in God), will be shorter in the future. Hmmm. We wonder if that applies to sermons, haha. It depends on which church you attend!

Meanwhile, my colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please send us your email address and let us know you would like some.  Bless you, and thank you for your prayers and support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing in God through his LOVE

unknown township boy at Mail box club

Tony and I have been Canadian missionaries in South Africa.  We have learned through our African friends in different countries how to slow down and be relational.  This is something all of us in fast-paced countries need to learn.  So come along with me and we’ll learn together on the adventures of Growing in God.

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we are living in Toronto, Canada.

During our last article, we learned about growing in God through truly entering his rest.  Rest is actually a command to us (see the Ten Commandments on Sabbath!)  Remembering the Sabbath rest and keeping it holy is an injunction that in our busyness: if we don’t take a regular weekly rest, or a sabbatical retreat, our health can force us to “lie down in green pastures!” (Psalm 23).  Is this a joke or an exaggeration?  Yes and no.  In my own story, I burned out so many times, got serious mono in my 20’s, and spent two months where I could do very little.  This is not an exaggeration. Later, when I was helping my parents (for three months in 2015),  I would go for days and then crash and spend a whole day in bed. 

I believe at the very core of rest is a sense of trust in the Lord.  You become content in his presence, give him your deep concerns and hurts, just like when he offers in the Gospel of Matthew. “Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matt 11:28-29 NIV)  Rest is a gift.  Rest is a choice to stop and trust.  You choose to pick up his yoke.  His yoke is the same connection that Jesus has to the Father.  When we abide in him, we are also connected to the Father, and his rest.

Rest is also connected with repentance as shown in Isaiah 30:15.  “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation,  in quietness and trust is your strength, (but you would have none of it).  (Isa. 30:15 NIV)   Salvation and the Lord’s rest are one and the same!  Would we also have none of it?   What about God’s love?  Would we stop and receive this?   Trust is at the centre. Trust in the Lord is what keeps us before his face and in his presence.  This is what abiding is, as shown in John 15:5:  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  This is an invitation to his love.  His love is like a tractor beam on our hearts (to use a Star Trek analogy) into that rest.   Let’s go and explore how God’s love helps us grow in him.  

I’ve written about growing in so many aspects of God’s grace, and in disciplines that help us grow in the gifts he’s given us.  I’ve shared my personal devotional journey within many of my articles, starting with my preferred disciplines of soaking prayer, journaling and reading the Bible (usually, chapter by chapter).  But I cannot miss the deepest foundation of all of this.  1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that you can do all sorts of things in anointing, but if you don’t have love, you’re like a clanging cymbal.  What matters most is love.   Trust is an essential thing taught by a baby bonding with their parents. It’s important.  But love?  We need love to grow spiritually, emotionally and physically!   It’s like needed water that we are meant to drink daily in order to live. 

I have learned, through one of my pastors, that a child needs that love to have their brains develop properly (Ash Smith, Living in the emotional heath of Jesus, CTF Toronto, August 14, 2022).  This is confirmed by the Canadian Pediatric Society.  They say:  Your baby’s brain needs a strong foundation. Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.”  [https://caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/pregnancy-and-babies/your_babys_brain#:~:text=Your%20baby’s%20brain%20needs%20a,the%20negative%20effects%20of%20stress].

Stress, feelings of rejection, abandonment, shame, feeling unloved: all these things are slowly melted by consistent love.  Pastor Ash Smith encouraged us that love is the key foundation for a child (if not all of us).  She talked of orphanages in Romania where babies and toddlers were shut away; with no contact, no loving touch and no soothing lullabies.  They were catatonic, lifeless of emotion, and separated from each other.  Their brains were being stunted, and their neural pathways weren’t developing from the lack of consistent love.  They weren’t being given a foundation. 

I have found with my work in Iris Western Cape (and other missionaries would support this)  that abandoned children can be difficult to love initially.  We found that the farm workers children we saw weekly, were among the toughest kids to consistently love.  We unfortunately lacked adequate Afrikaans, which was their heart communication language.  However, they did respond, it just took longer.   They went from boys throwing stones at our car and shouting at us, to more at peace when colouring in my prophetic drawings.  They were captivated by love, especially when they saw that I drew an image of some of them with Jesus.  I had remembered them.  The Father remembers and loves them, as he does us.   Other children that we worked with responded much faster, but sometimes had ‘weedy hearts.’  What do I mean by a weedy heart?

Think of the parable of the sower (Matthew 13: 1-9, 20-23 NLT).  Three places that the sower scattered seed didn’t fully take in the seedlings.  One area was the stony path, so there was no soil.  The second was too shallow and the third grew full of weeds.  Jesus explained to his disciples that:  20 the seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”   Many of the kids we worked with had a shallow faith, which wasn’t always real to them.  Others, like C, were genuine in their faith but other concerns cropped up but choked their faith.  How I longed to uproot C’s concerns of worry, envy, comparison and gossip.  Oh, it did bother me, and sometimes when she was like that, I didn’t want to be around her.  I loved her but it was difficult for that love to penetrate this cheeky, grabby girl who loved to get attention. Then at times, she was intent on her faith and wanted to teach about Jesus to other township youth.  She was good at it, and did it with joy.  She loved reading the Afrikaans Bible we gave her.  We pray for her perseverance and that those weeds in her heart will be pulled up at the right time. 

Another girl we worked with was ‘my girl.’  We bonded deeply and she was one of the ones who helped me during my cancer journey.  She didn’t laugh at my bald head. We enjoyed quiet sharing about our faith, and she liked to colour my drawings in the most delightful way.  We connected on a deep spiritual level and it was always easy to share and pray with her.  She surely was the fertile soil that Jesus talked about in the Sower parable.  She needed deep love and stability, which we gave in part, and she bloomed.  We could see her potential beyond high school in a dangerous township.  During the time we knew her in person, her family had serious continuing struggles with health, poverty and safety concerns.  We prayed that she would be able to ‘graduate’ from the township in a way that she would be a blessing to her community and to God.  She had been given a university entrance scholarship that was deleted from the university database through administrative error, but with Tony’s help in talking to her university and to her school, it was back on track.  She underwent 3 operations for scoliosis, and at the same time as the third one was diagnosed with drug resistant TB.  Finally, school began, and she was able to attend online at the hospital with a computer we had bought her.  Now, she is happily housed in residence.  Then we found out that her scholarship only covers half of her room and board (as well as her tuition).  She had no money for that, so this means a further investment beyond how we had planned to help her and her family.  Wow, this is a serious commitment.  But we cannot end here.  We will pray that our resources will stretch so that we can handle this load with the Lord’s help.   It’s a lesson in faith to Bella and to ourselves.  God is faithful.  And his love is practical.    Heidi Baker always says that “love looks like something.”  Through this faithful consistent love, Bella is flourishing in her faith, her local campus church and her studies. 

There are so many other stories, that were also weedy hearts, but they did respond to love, whether it was given in practical ways or in encouragement, prayer and gospel truth.  We baptized one girl, who flourished through the Alpha Course, and another took us on another journey where we lost trust in her, but regained some of it back.  She knew we still loved her.

One of my favourite South African ministries was to go into a local primary school and spend an hour and a half on Tuesday mornings.  We went in using the same ‘persona role’ we use when we go to a kid’s club.  We sing together, with Tony on guitar and me on my Irish bodhran drum.  Then Tony shares an interactive nugget of science that he re-learned in a children’s science curriculum he used in our MasterPeace Academy school.  Then we either taught them life lessons, or I taught them art from a charismatic Christian expression.  It was soaking prayer and colouring/drawing.  During one semester, I created a group project where they all painted an abstract background of blue, purple and green.  Then they were to draw their personal Christian symbol that they each chose as theirs.  I had to teach about Christian symbols several times for these children to ‘get it.’  A few never did, and just copied others, or added spaceships as their symbol because they were learning about space ships in another class.  However, there were some that understood from the very first time I shared.  There were two very smart and spiritually astute children, Liam and Caitlyn.  I bonded to Liam and even had a little impression of him giving a hug to Jesus.  He understood right away, and I said, “now, I know that’s hard to draw, so draw instead you holding Jesus hand, like he is your buddy.”  Liam smiled and understood.  After weeks, sure enough, his symbol was proudly displayed within the group painting among the many crosses, rainbows, waterfalls and (haha) spaceships.   Liam also drew glasses on all the angels in our shared drawings, since he wanted the angels to look like him.  Ah, so sweet.  Later when we finally left the school, so many children had bonded to me, and despite the spread of Covid, they ignored that no touching rule for this one time.  They hugged me like they didn’t want to let go.  Each was welcome in my arms, whether it was our first grade ones, or the ones who followed.  It didn’t matter whether I knew their name or not, I loved them with the deep, jealous compassion of Jesus.  They will always be in my heart, and I trust that I will be in theirs.  This legacy of love continued through other mature people from a local retirement village where we used to live. It’s really special when children and surrogate “grandparents” (including “aunts” and “uncles”) can interact in a way that God touches and uses both to bless.  Love is shared. It grows stronger when it flows through a pipeline, instead of being stagnant like a puddle.  These children will grow with the deposit that we gave them. God willing, others will continue in this legacy.  Nothing that we sowed will be in vain; weedy hearts or not. 

I had moments when the kids of OVD township loved to sit beside me and colour.  Colouring sheets were always a tool to bless the kids, and see where their hearts were at.  One day, a young boy that I didn’t know sat beside me on a tree root.  He only had a few crayons, and I suggested in my limited Afrikaans, “groen” (green).  He gave me the sweetest smile and we connected on a deep, deep level.  The godly compassion that overflowed through me felt like love was searing my heart.  It felt like it was going to be painful, but what it did was open up a door to the deepest parts of my heart that needed to receive and give God’s love.  I grew exponentially in that moment.  It was simple but profound.  These moments are like mini-surgery, and connects you to the hearts of the “least of these” (aka Matt.25) and the heart of God the Father for children.

Our 2022 assignment of unknown duration is to love and care for my frail 93 year old dad’s needs.  Elder care of a man with vascular dementia is more challenging than it was to inspire and love wonderfully messy township children.  Even here, we have moments of deep love as we take care of his practical day to day needs.  We are slowly and gently leading him to Jesus.  Sometimes I want to ask him right off, but the time is not quite here.  We are re-establishing love in his life by giving him consistent touch, gourmet type food (I love cooking for him), listening to him, and letting him rest when he needs it.  He gets too confused to go out much other than the front porch.  The last time we took him on a summer ‘picnic’ by Lake Ontario, he had a TIA and we had trouble getting him back to the car.  Dad knows that we love him, even if he doesn’t always know who I am.  He knows me as “Laurie,” but doesn’t always realize that I am the same person he raised.  That’s OK.  He’s become fond of me anyway, and this is about God’s love and our love to him.  He will continue to grow in that reflective love of God through us, until he receives God’s love directly.  That is my greatest wish – that he would receive forgiveness, know God’s love from inside, and love Jesus.

My own desire to love others has always been there, and I wanted to do something “big” for God.  Many new believers have that desire as well.  Yet that something big really is allowing yourself to keep your heart “pipeline” pure so that you can love well consistently.  This is especially important as a long term missionary.  Short-termers (which I was from 1993-2010) make an impact, but long-termers can continue to bring lasting change in people’s lives because they are consistent.  They are re-laying foundational love in these children’s hearts.  They are helping to heal past hurts, although this doesn’t replace the need for special counselling for traumatic events like gang violence, gender based violence and domestic violence.  These things are rampant in the townships (as well as other spots).  They aren’t unique to South Africa.  It takes time and care to recover and grow in resilience, without giving up hope.

My heart was big on the short-term missions, but grew so much more in our longer South African mission.  Heidi Baker mentions in the “Compelled by Love” movie that she wanted to love people from the inside. This was her desire even before she knew Jesus personally.  When she came to faith, she also received her call to be a minister and missionary to “Asia, Africa and England.”  Since then, she and her husband Rolland ministered in Indonesia, Hong Kong, inner-city London and Mozambique.  She is in demand as a speaker all over the world.  Heidi “stops for the one” all the time, whether with the poor and needy, or among the spiritually poor in the first world.  To “stop for the one” is to say “yes” to divine appointments that seem to be set up just for you.  You may get a rush of sudden compassion for someone and you just have to respond.  I’ve done this with the homeless, with children and with adults.  Heidi did this for me at a women’s conference in 2010.  Someone had given her red roses, and she tends to not keep much for herself.  She passes them on.  So I had a moment in worship one morning, and felt the deep love of Jesus as Heidi stood beside me, hugged me and handed me roses.  I was ‘love-bombed.’  I had no idea what was going on, or why she did this act of kindness.  It took me years to realize that she had ‘stopped for the one’ – and I was in that moment the one she stopped for.  But, oh the love was deep.  I felt the presence and love of God while she stood there beside me.  So, I was impacted to stop for the one from then on, even before we went to Harvest School.  Tony took to that form of love even faster than I did, and he made good progress after missionary school.  Consistent love was a key, and still is.  

Iris is known as a ministry movement that is empowered by love.  It’s just a little bit different.  Right now there is a terrorism insurgency in northern Mozambique, and this forced Iris to move the Harvest Schools to other locations.  This love consistency, when combined with humility is the foundation of the previous and current issues in Pemba.  The “Irisers” are still empowered by love.  Heidi shares in the 2022 film “Nefento” that “love always wins, especially when you go low and slow. Instead of being overwhelmed with a world where there’s so much pain, when extremists come and war happens, we’re empowered by the love of a God who IS love to stop for the one in need.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g1jVzfAego

Back in 2013, I hungered to be empowered by love, and was drawn like a magnet to Heidi. I had wondered what kind of long term ministry I should be involved in, and considered my new skills in radio broadcasting and especially audio production/creative writing.  So, I considered a radio-based ministry.  But this only made sense in my head, not my heart.  I was meant to be with the children, using my art, the calling that I had abandoned for so many years, after it was originally my identity.  The Holy Spirit re-knitted me into that calling, and used it beautifully in South Africa (and beyond).  I know that he will continue to use it in other countries, as children who are thirsty for love, encounter the love of God in the colouring sheets and books.  Love looks like something.  For some, it’s sharing soup, beans and rice, or paying their school fees.  For me (right now), it’s to be with children at play – in drawing images planted by God in their hearts.   It’s my heart to do this consistently or at least whenever I’m given the opportunity. 

I’ve grown so much while learning to love.  It’s been quite a journey but I do not regret it, even having inflammatory breast cancer try to ruin our golden time on the South African mission field.   Even the refining times have carved away the dross in my life so I could love better.  I received such love and peace from God, throughout my cancer journey, often beyond it as well.  I was able to feel God’s love in every season and know that he does not fail me.  He is consistent.  He is always faithful, and we knew God’s favour and kindness at every step along the way.  He opened us up to love in so many different ways, through our different gifts.


Catch the Fire Toronto Pastor Murray Smith recently taught on the Emotional health of Jesus.  He spoke on love as the necessary foundation of our hearts.  He said: “the measure of our (spiritual) maturity is, how do we actually love?  How much do we walk in love?  How much do we practise love?  How much are we able to contain our souls, and our disconnection, because of the issues of our heart that we are dealing with?  Can we REMAIN in love, even when people around us are freaking out.  Let’s make that measure of love our spirituality.”  (Pastor Murray Smith, Catch the Fire Toronto, August 7, 2022)  In Murray’s context, he was sharing that nearly all of us need to go back to our basic foundations and repair them.  Ask God about receiving love for yourself.  Get inner healing from trusted people who have experience in Restoring the Foundation or inner healing background.   You can start by inviting Jesus into any hurtful memory and ask where he is.  He will open your imagination and show you.  He can and will fill you with deep love and peace as you accept his presence in your memory.  Let him love and heal you.  You won’t regret it.  Say YES to Jesus’ yoke, just to hang out with him and not let go. 

If you’ve never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, it’s very simple.  Nicky Gumbel mentions on earlier Alpha Course videos a simple way to remember the way.  It’s Sorry (for my sins and all I’ve done wrong).  Forgive me.  I now turn from everything I know is wrong.  Thank you Lord for your love, and I accept you as my Saviour.  Please fill me Lord with your love and all that comes with it.  I give you my life that I can live for you, with you and have your love in my life.  Lead me, and help me along the way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lord, please bless all who have read this article and may they encounter the love of God poured into their hearts, just as Paul talks about in Romans 5.  May everyone become deeply rooted grounded in your love, as in Ephesians 3.  “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Rom 3:17-18 NIV)  Holy Spirit, come and reveal the love of God to each person today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I will record an audio version of this article, which will be posted on the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on coppleswesterncape.ca.  Mouse over the “Listen” drop-down menu, or click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html and when it’s recorded, scroll down to #79! 

If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know! 

Updates:  For those looking for news, Tony continues his immunotherapy infusions at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  He will have a CT scan in September to check how the tumour has responded to the immunotherapy (after three treatments).  Otherwise, he will continue for some time.

His left eye has healed to the extent it ever will, and he now has an updated eyeglass prescription.  His vision is now better than at any time since his retinal detachment.

We ask you to give thanks for the skills of Tony’s doctors, and that the tumour in Tony’s lung lining shrinks and even disappears.   Thanks for coming alongside in encouragement and prayer.  

If you feel led to contribute towards medications and hospital parking expenses, and perhaps lymphedema treatments for L-A, this would be most welcome.  Not everything is covered under Tony’s senior drug plan and OHIP, but don’t feel obligated.  But meanwhile, all my teachings are online for free to bless you.  Here is our Paypal for any of you who feel led to contribute: https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

Laurie-Ann’s Colouring Books:   If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, some are available at LeRoux and Fourie wine shop on R60 beside Cape Lime.  This is west of Robertson in Western Cape.  Or you can have your own copies printed for you through Print on Demand through Takealot.com. 

Link for Colouring with Jesus 1:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

Link for Colouring with Jesus 2: https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus-2/PLID72991486

We plan to republish the updated books in North American format (and in English only) in the future (after taking care of family).  

L-A is beginning to imagine writing other books, so watch this blog for more info when it comes.

Colouring sheets are available to children’s ministries for free; please just let us know.  Bless you, and thank you for your support!

Love, Laurie-Ann

A time to reflect and reassess

“The tree of life is Love” – Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple (c) 2021

Hi everyone. I came to the end of the prepared Ways to Grow articles in March, and I still plan to write another, but the words just won’t come. I can say that this time has been a season of growth in care of my dad, who is 93 and has vascual dementia. He has mini-strokes and seizures, where more and more of his memories and reasoning is taken away. He is horribly confused and sometimes belligerent, depressed and ambivalent. He refuses to be in a care home and wants to stay in his own home. He wants his finances to be handled by another family member (which is his choice), although he accepts our daily care and meals. We have a PSW come care for his hygiene and we do the laundry and some of the housework. We monitor his needs as best we can, noting when he has these episodes, and his behaviour for his doctor.

At the same time, we are both working through our own health journeys. I now have care at Sunnybrook Hospital for potential breast cancer resurgence and will have lymphedema care. Tony will have a video-assisted biopsy on May 4th at Toronto General Hospital, to assess the tumour that is in his left lung lining. There will also be samples taken. To do this, they must drill a 1 cm hole in Tony’s rib cage. It’s a lot more involved than the core needle biopsy that L-A had. We researched it through a booklet sent by the asbestos.com people in the US. It looks like Tony has a form of mesothelioma, due to past asbestos exposure in the Royal Navy. Financially he can’t have compensation from HM government, but since we are in a public health care system, compensation may not be an issue for health care. We will know soon from Tony’s biopsy whether this is a malignant mesothelioma or a benign one. Either way, the tumour will have to be removed.

Meanwhile, we have been attending Catch the Fire Toronto (near the airport). I have some history with this church, although almost all the people who were there in the late 80’s and the 90’s have moved on. One Sunday, we were sitting in a spot close to the front in a disabled row. It had a good view of the stage, although there were also screens by both sides of the stage. One of the church leaders asked for the Holy Spirit to speak ONE WORD to each person about the season we were now in. I’m sure that there were different answers for other people, but for me, the word was, PERSEVERANCE. This set well with my spirit, and I plan to write on this journey – I’m sure the words will be there soon.

I do know however, that perseverance isn’t just waiting something out or coping, it is much more active than that. I am sure that it will be another way to “Grow in God,” and involve more of a refiner’s fire to make me a little more like Jesus. That’s the point! But it’s not easy. So as we battle the confusion and enmeshment of three medical journeys in a perfect storm, we will not quit. May you also not quit in your own journey. If you don’t quit, you WILL win. That piece of lovely wisdom is pure hope, shared by Mama Heidi Baker herself.

Bless you on your own journey. I will be back.

Love, Laurie-Ann

Growing though courage: part 1

“The Angel of the Lord defends those who fear him” by Laurie-Ann Zachar Copple, 2019.

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During the last article, we journeyed through growing in our refuge. This isn’t just running to a place of safety, like the days of old when people ran for sanctuary.  It’s also not about being a refugee, although there are so many examples of refugees and displaced people today. This is a world-wide phenomenon.  The Bible shares about the importance of being kind to strangers and soujourners in the land.  In some way, we are soujourners in South Africa, since we are here on a 3 year visa, with a medical visa extension. 

But the ultimate form of refuge is to lean heavily on Jesus in hard times.  He sets us above the floodwaters that come in.  I spoke of the refuge boxes that are placed on the pilgrim route and road into Lindisfarne Holy Island.  If someone is stranded while the tide comes, they can take shelter there.  There is also the form of refuge that Jesus carries you through difficult times like in the well-known Footprints poem. That pilgrim took refuge in Jesus’ carrying him, although he did not know it.  In my case, the Holy Spirit showed me an image where Jesus carried me close to his chest. Every time I began to look around, Holy Spirit nudged my head back into Jesus’ chest.  I felt safe.  I felt loved.  I knew it would be okay.  Now I also know that I was in shock, and later came to feel the normal feelings that come with loss: grief, sorrow, anger, and more.  But it’s OK.  Jesus has still carried me, he’s been inspiring certain people to pitch in towards our medical expenses, and giving me the needed strength to do what I must do.  Then Tony got sick with TB, and I was given a dream of Jesus carrying him across a windy beach.  Jesus looked back at me, walking behind him in a walker.  He said to be “follow me.” Fortunately he moved slowly so that I could follow, but gain strength and courage in the walking.

Strength and courage are strongly connected.  Courage is what we are filled with that gives us strength.  It’s also related to joy, as shown in Nehemiah 8:10, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Warriors often rely on strength and courage.  Warriors who are Christian trust God, despite their momentary fear, and choose to push on.  This is a very real and gritty thing. A soldier may find himself in grave danger, but he pushes on, one step at a time.  Sometimes soldiers will do heroic feats, like rescuing a child in the midst of a battle, or protecting a fallen comrade.  That is courage.  There is a special saying in Afrikaans that coloured folk here say that sums up what is needed: “sterke” or strongs.  It has a connotation that is deeper than the English mentality of ‘chin up mate and carry on.’  It’s strength that requires courage.  Courage strengthens.  I believe that true courage is from God.  During the first month or two following my cancer diagnosis, I have been told that I am strong and have shown courage and bravery, by many people, both in the church and outside of it.  Tony tells people of my strong attitude.  But I confess that it really is God’s strength that carries me.  What people see is my determination to trust God, and they see his joy and peace in me – at most times.  Even heroes have their moments of sadness, fear and confusion.  Tony’s daughter-in-law is a gem who has been a cheerleader for me along the way. Her name is Kathy.  She told me that I was near the top of her hero list for the strength and courage that was visible to her. Later, during a weak moment of sadness, she acknowledged that it was okay.  She insightfully and tenderly told me, “it’s okay to feel sad and be what you are in any changing moment.  This is your first cry since diagnosis, so you’ve probably been denying your negative feelings.  Let them be what they are, so you can acknowledge them and let them go when they’ve run their course.  You’re fighting an epic battle and there will be ups and downs. Walk in freedom and be beautiful you through it all. Love you and hope you find a lift in your psyche soon.” This is one of many wonderful messages that acknowledged the real journey where I have been growing in strength through God’s courage and joy.

What is courage?  Courage is often understood as the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty and intimidation. Courage gives you the ability to stand, and not back down.  It is also the ability to do something that normally would frighten you, something that is BRAVE.  It’s also strength in the face of pain and grief; especially in the example of fighting an extended illness with great courage.  The illness could be cancer, or many other invisible disabilities that bring daily pain and discouragement.  This is why courage to face the day is needed.

Personal courage has two aspects, physical (to keep you ‘going’ during each day), and moral. The moral includes spiritual, which is at the centre of our hearts.  Our Faith in Jesus is the core of this.  Holy Spirit is the one who fills us with what we need.  There is a Bethel song called “You make me brave.”  It’s a favourite from 2014 that has emboldened many hearts.  One line goes “You make me brave, you call me out beyond the shore into the waves.  I have heard you calling my name, I have heard the song of love that you sing, so I will let you draw me out beyond the shore, into your grace, your grace.”  (You make me Brave – Amanda Cook)

The root of the word courage is COR- the Latin word for heart.  In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant, “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.”  Over time, this definition changed to become associated with heroic and brave deeds. And bravery is shown on the battlefield AND in your daily walk of faith.  I used to work as the PA and social media assistant to Canadian prophet Darren Canning. He shared a great example of courage recently:  He said, “One person in a war may seem like one piece of sand upon the seashore but one person filled with courage can speak to the wildest waves and they will have to obey.”  (Darren Canning, FB post October 10, 2019)

Everyday courage is also shown in your life wherever you are.  It means you don’t have to be a soldier or a missionary to have courage.  Every day acts include:  apologizing when you are wrong. It takes courage to admit when you are wrong. You also need courage to be yourself, especially in a culture that likes to imitate. Don’t copy or compare yourself with others.  Pastor Shawn Gabie often tells his congregation that “comparison is a calling killer.”  You also need to take responsibility.  You are where you are in life because of your past choices, although God’s grace, mercy and favour may have altered these circumstances.  Keep your commitments, and don’t be a drop-out.  Let go of the past and don’t let it hinder you anymore.  Listen deeply to your mentors and grow.

You may do all of these things and still need to grow further.  How can you boost your courage? Continue to pray and read faith-building scriptures on faith.  Stories of David and his mighty men are helpful.  I will share more this later.  You can also read stories and testimonies of people who have been given deep courage, like Heidi Baker, and missionaries who walk into warzones with no outward fear, although they experience many times where they must heavily lean on the Lord’s strength.  Otherwise, you can remind yourself that fear isn’t always helpful. It is a warning trigger, but beyond that, you don’t need to act on it.  I used to wear a giving key on a chain called FEARLESS.  It reminded me to keep standing or advancing in the areas in which I was called.  I always remember where a visiting speaker shared to the Catch the Fire congregation this gem:  it was that when we become comfortable in the Father’s love, we become FEARLESS in our calling.  It’s all about who is backing you, like Elisha who told his assistant to look at the angel army protecting them from a much smaller physical army. This is shown in 2 Kings 6:17:  “Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.”  We need to open our eyes that the Lord is indeed with us.

Remember that you can advance in baby steps.  It’s also okay to stand where you are for a little while.  You can expand your comfort zone gradually.  If you are in a panic mode, remember to breathe.  You can even say to yourself, “STOP” and say, it’s OK.  I’ve done this on occasion when my heart was pounding.  Take a step back.  You may be looking too closely at your situation.  See it with new eyes, kind of like Elisha’s assistant. Ask Holy Spirit to help you. And begin to look to the future.  Ask yourself who you need to become. This is more of who you dream yourself to be, your best self.  Think of what God is doing in your heart to get you there.  And then, with prayer and direction from the Holy Spirit, take action.

Jon Bloom says, “Where does courage come from? How do you get it when you need it, when some fear towers over you and threatens you, and you feel like cowering and fleeing into some cave of protection? For an answer, let’s look at one of the most famous stories of all time in 1 Samuel chapter 17 — and one of the most misunderstood stories in the Bible.”  Nearly everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.

Over three thousand years ago, a massive man named Goliath of Gath stepped out of the Philistine army’s ranks, stationed in the Valley of Elah.  He taunted and defied not only Israel’s army, but also the God of Israel. For forty days he continued heaping shame, insults and likely curses on them. None dared to accept his fight-to-the-death, winner takes all challenge.  With each challenge, there was no one to accept, as they froze or retreated in fear.  Then a teenage Hebrew shepherd boy named David showed up in camp.  He brought lunch for his older brothers who were in Israel’s camp.  He personally heard the giant “pour out his scorn on the impotent” soldiers.  “David was indignant. So he took his shepherd’s sling, chose five smooth stones, hit Goliath on the forehead, and chopped off his head.” [Jon Bloom, Where Real Courage comes from, Desiring God, June 2015. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/where-real-courage-comes-from]

Now David’s defeat of Goliath is not just a story of personal courage.  David was not like Rocky Bolboa in the Rocky films. He was an underdog, but not that kind.  He wasn’t necessarily a rebel fighter.  But his courage was empowered by something else.

But let’s look at the situation in context.  The Israelite army was looking at what was going on with only their physical eyes. Goliath was nine-feet tall and very strong.  He was a highly trained fighting machine that physically outclassed the Hebrews.  “Fighting Goliath looked like suicide, plain and simple.”  [Jon Bloom] David didn’t see it that way.  He looked through the eyes of faith.  Even though the soldiers had seen great feats, they were weak in faith at that moment.  Perhaps they forgot who they were and who God is. They were looking at Goliath’s size, and the physically impossible circumstances. They thought any challenger would end up as “bird food.” [Jon Bloom]

But David had deep confidence in God. He deeply believed in God’s promises and his power to fulfill them.  David wasn’t “self-confident, he was God-confident.”  Earlier in his story, the prophet Samuel anointed him as a future king of Israel. This was a promise. He went out to meet the Philistine giant knowing that God would give him victory over Goliath.  The victory would demonstrate God’s power and faithfulness, not David’s courage.  When David replied to the giant’s taunts and scorn, he didn’t show his own strength, but rather God’s.  This is what 1 Samuel 17:46-47 says: Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

What’s the source of your courage?  “Real courage is always produced by faith. Courage is a derivative virtue.”   [Jon Bloom] For most Christians, when you lack courage, you ‘shrink back’ like the Hebrew army.  They may have been distracted by circumstances, or forgot about God’s promises.  All we see is our own weakness.  But look up.  It’s not about US!  All of us experience this fear. So did David. David is such a helpful example. He fueled his confidence and courage to face Goliath from God’s promises. But he also frequently felt fearful himself.  He also needed to encourage his soul again by remembering God’s promises. Just read the first 25 Psalms. It shows how often David battled fear and unbelief. Yet he always turned around the situation and declared that God was his hope and that he would trust him.  David was human.  Yet his gifting was to turn towards God, despite fear, and sometimes sin, and he knew how to repent.  He was declared a man after God’s own heart. 1 Samuel 13:14 says, “But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”  (This was in context to King Saul when he blew it).

Faith made David more than courageous.  It made him angry at Goliath’s taunts against God. And when no one defended God’s name, it made God look weak.  Jon Bloom says that “our fears are not primarily about us, even though they feel that way.  Our fears are primarily about God and his character.” [Jon Bloom]  They see God as weak, or worse, non-existent.  It’s the same today in popular culture: from Chris De Burgh’s song “Spanish Train,” where the devil cheats and beats Jesus at poker (who is “just doing his best,”) to the remote God in the song “From a distance” and the lack of God entirely in the song “Imagine.”

But as Christians, we don’t actually fight the people we deal with day to day.  We are not on a battle field with them. Even if they are gangsters, or unruly learners in our little cottage school. The kids always fight, to my dismay, but I continue to pray for breakthrough.  Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that we are not to battle with flesh and blood. We are to LOVE our human enemies.  Yes, gangsters, that means you.  Yes sangomas here in South Africa, that means you too.  Yes, religious people who only complain in person and on Facebook, that means you too.  We love you.  Jesus loves you. And to say that truth takes courage.  Our own Goliaths are not people, but the sin that entangles us, as well as the snares of the devil. But once you get free, just remember, if you don’t believe his lies, he has no hold over you.

It also takes great courage to share about yourself and of God’s love.  But you can share your story.  No one can counter act your story – because it’s about God’s work in you, not a philosophy that is debated.  Missionaries are courageous – just look at Heidi Baker, where she willingly confronts people who are evil, but in a way where it is clear that she is a mama pointing to a mighty God.  Just read her books, which are many.  There are so many beautiful treasures in there.

So why should we develop courage?  You may be facing an overwhelming situation.  At this time we are in that place. While we love being on the South African mission field, we were hampered by my journey of inflammatory breast cancer.  So I not only fought forces of darkness outside of me, but also the cancer that was inside me.  But I won’t ask why.  I trust that the Lord is working out this situation for his glory.  And twice the Holy Spirit has spoken to me about my healing in South Africa.  This was before the cancer showed up.  I thought he meant about other ailments, one of which is now in remission.  I choose to believe in his promise, as David did of God’s greatness.  God’s glory will be shown in me no matter what.  I know his strength and courage does, but that’s not mine.  It’s his.  Heidi Baker often shares the analogy of stepping on Jesus’ feet and going along for the ride.  I do the same, except I’m allowing him to carry me.  My weakness is plain to see, but the strength pouring out is all from God.  I can’t claim any of it, except as a precious gift from a loving God.   So we take courage, because God’s perfect power is shown in our weakness.  There is much more I can still share, as I have found while researching about courage, so next month we will journey through part two.

In the meantime, cling to Jesus, the author of your salvation.  He is your strength and your song. He gives me strength when I have none.  May he do the same for you.  Remember, he is with you, as he is with me. He never leaves you. 

Lord Jesus, thank you that you are always with us – through your Holy Spirit. You guide and comfort us, and carry us when we need to be carried.  You give us strength to confront evil, and the resilience to persevere in tough times.  You are our strength and our shield. Bless my friends who are listening with all that they really need.  In Jesus’ name.

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, please visit the Ways to Grow in God (WTGIG) podcast page on the coppleswesterncape.ca website (under the “Listen” drop-down menu).  Click here:  (https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/wtgig-podcasts.html) and scroll down to #64!  If you have been blessed by this article, please let us know!

Updates:  For those looking for news on my cancer journey, I am still receiving oncology visits in South Africa, and the awaited plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar has been postponed, since the surgeon was concerned about me being exposed to covid.    I am waiting on the surgeon for when it can be rescheduled.  He has generously waived the surgical fees, so we only need pay for the anesthetic (likely local) and the medical venue (a day hospital in Cape Town’s Panarama neighbourhood).

I had an excellent cancer post treatment appointment last month. There is no trace of cancer in my blood, although the high level of pain meds I receive does show.   The supplements however, have made a difference in recovery from the treatments as well as the cancer that was in my body.  Now we will continue to keep watch that the cancer doesn’t return.  I have extensive scans and blood work in July (pending a medical visa extension).  Tomorrow, I have a simple flush of my chemotherapy port, which I have chosen to keep for the time being.

I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada (which was to be in May 2021, but it’s difficult to return so we will see if we can return in September). 

We did receive our first, allow us to stay until May 2021, but we are working to reapply for the extension this month.  According to Home Affairs, the wait can be up to 60 business days. That’s a long time without our passports, but we need to be patient and trust God and our lawyer during the process. 

We believe that the medical treatment here is excellent, although expensive, despite the rand-Canadian dollar exchange has helped keep costs almost 15 percent lower.  We have incurred significant medical debt, although kind people in Canada and around the world have helped us so far.  God bless each and every one of them.  But we still need help. Tony has significant medical bills as well for TB, eye surgery and other issues. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.  I want to thank Teriro, who blessed us with a gift last month.  We weren’t expecting it when it came!  Most people who are led to give are friends, or friends of friends, so when friends we’ve not met yet respond, it’s very special!

We are still crowdfunding to cover the cancer treatments (as well as Tony’s TB treatments). If you feel led to contribute, please do so via our PayPal:  https://www.paypal.me/WaystogrowinGod

L-A’s colouring book:  If you are in South Africa, and would like to purchase one of L-A’s colouring books, they are available at OliveTree Bookshop in Mountain Mill Shopping Centre (near Pick n Pay), Worcester, Western Cape.  You can also buy them at LeRoux and Fourie Wineshop on R60 beside Cape Lime (between Nuy and Robertson).  Or you can order one (or more) printed for you through Takealot.com through this link:  https://www.takealot.com/colouring-with-jesus/PLID68586424

The Colouring with Jesus 2 is in the works – in translation mode into Afrikaans. After we return to Canada, we plan to republish the devotional colouring books into English-French.  Bless you and thank you for your support!


Growing in God through Honour: Part 1 Developing a culture of honour

Image is from Bethel Church, Ottawa, Ontario.

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have ministered with people in Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Canada and the USA.  I’ve also ministered in African countries like Kenya, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, South Africa and Botswana. But at this time, we live in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.

During our last article, we journeyed through growing in God in the midst of windstorms.  There is evil in the world, and sometimes that really feels like a damaging firestorm that brings pain, loss, and more.  Jesus warned us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy.  But he gives abundant life.  He is our windbreaker to combat evil through the armour of God.  The Holy Spirit is also like a true Cape Doctor, in bringing healing, hope, comfort, truth and refining. Allow yourself to set your face on God, and he’ll bring that sweet wind to lift you up and give you strength for your journey. If the Holy Spirit is the holy wind, we are the sail.

Grace is something that is very prevalent in our faith as we choose to trust God and follow where he leads us.  God is faithful and shows this in many ways. We can even see this faithfulness reflected in others.  Sometimes God’s characteristics like love and faithfulness can be understood as a language that people can understand without words. A wonderful way to see God’s language reflected in you is through developing a culture of honour.  The military have a sense of honour that manifests as a code of conduct. It shows as valour, chivalry, honesty and compassion.  These are good traits.  Honour sometimes is understood how one may look in the eyes of other people – in a positive way, people can see the goodness and compassion inside a person and call them “honourable.”  In a negative way, this may be a mask hiding what really is inside, or perhaps honour could be construed as “face.”  Face is very important in Chinese cultures, as honour of purity is important in Middle Eastern culture.  But true honour is even deeper than that.

Honour is relational.  In the West, it’s not popular to speak well of people until after they die.  You could work for years in a company or NGO and find that many people don’t bother saying nice things about you.  It’s simply assumed that you know that you are well liked.  Yet if you make a mistake, complaints are issued quickly.  We certainly find this attitude online on Facebook and Twitter.  However, when someone dies, people like to share wonderful stories about how you touched their lives in a positive way.  Eulogies and telling stories of people who have blessed you is a good thing!  However, you need not wait until a person dies to say good things about them.  These people really need to hear this when it really matters to them!  The first time I learned about honour as an expression of blessing, was through two Canadians in ministry: Patricia King, and Faytene Grassechi.

Faytene has a heart for change through social justice, prayer and encouragement.  One of the ministries that she developed visits and prays for different people in the Canadian government.  They include young leaders who honour and serving these Canadian politicians. They basically represent the voice of Christian youth to Canadian parliament.  They don’t put down the leaders. But rather, they encourage them for what they are doing well.  They honour them and listen to them.  These leaders are blessed by the encouragement. They feel that they have been honoured, not criticized.  Faytene was encouraged to have honour as an important component to her ministry, as taught by her mentor Patricia King, who is also Canadian.  I was a supporter of Patricia for over ten years, while I was able.  Patricia is a generous, kind and honour-bearing person. She never speaks badly of any who speak badly of her. She chooses to bless her opponents and to honour them.  This goes beyond forgiveness. It’s a lifestyle of choosing to bless and note all the good things her opponent is doing.

Patricia notes that to honour is to hold someone is respect or esteem.  She says that it’s “interesting that the word Hebrew word “kabod,”or glory, means ‘weight.’  This word is often used in scripture to give honour.  It is an interchangeable word for honour, although it also shows splendour, glory and dignity.  It’s really interesting that honour is so tied in with the glory of God and the weight of his presence.  God loves honour and he hates dishonour.”  Patricia has seen over the years, that when there is an individual of honour, (who exercises honour intentionally), doors fly open for them. Promotion comes from the Lord to them, and blessing comes on their lives.  Patricia has also seen the exact opposite when a person is given to dishonour.   When there is dishonour in their lives, they dishonour leaders, and they dishonour their parents, the exact opposite happens. It’s like a curse comes over their lives.  The doors are closed.  She has even seen people with tremendous anointing and ministry callings; but because they are people of such dishonour, their spiritual gifts NEVER break open. They never get established, yet they’ve got so many gifts to release out to people.  One of the biggest secrets to advancement is to honour others.  It’s tied in with humility.  Tony Morgan notes that “if you want to receive honour, you have to give honour.  If you want to experience honour, you have to embrace humility.”

So honour promotes and dishonour demotes. Honour blesses and dishonour curses. Honour builds strong relationships, dishonour destroys relationships.  Honour is pleasant, dishonour is unpleasant.

Rob Packer teaches about honour in his excellent book, The Life Giving Power of Honour.  He says that “Honour is the recognition of a person’s value and the expression appropriate to that value.”  When you are honoured and recognized for who you are, you are valued.  You are also released to BE who you are.  When you honour others, you release them to be who they are to you.  They feel safe to be who they are. Dishonour is just the opposite.  It shuts down the relationship between you and the other person.  You can’t receive what they have to give you, since they aren’t allowed to do so.  It was the same when Jesus wasn’t given honour in his hometown.  He wasn’t allowed to love on his town and people, except in a very limited way.  No wonder he couldn’t do any more than a few healings in Nazareth!

Tony and I are involved with the Iris Global movement as Iris Ministries Canada missionaries. This movement’s slogan says, “love looks like something.” And so it does.  Love is active. Love and honour easily work together; in fact, if you love someone, there must be honour involved.  Our Mama Heidi was shown the importance of honour when she had a problem.  She prayed over bush outreach struggles that were happening in northern Mozambique.  There was resistance. People threw stones, and Heidi was tired of it.  She knew something was missing, so she asked God what it wasThen the Holy Spirit revealed to her that she needed to meet the village leaders, and to honour them. She was instructed to do something different. Before this, she ignored the leaders, and set up competing movies and evangelism that were louder than their own meetings.  Now, she was directed to meet these leaders. She needed to get to know them and to honour them.

She brought the international Harvest School students who were with her, and asked them to bow before the leaders, and introduce themselves to each leader.  The leaders were now in a relationship with Heidi. They felt ready to welcome and invite the students to their villages. Gifts were given to the leaders. Concerns were genuinely addressed.  Since that time, all Harvest School students go into the bush with Heidi or other senior leaders. This is a special time of publicly honouring the village leaders.  The blessing goes both ways. It really does.

Tony and I experienced this honour ceremony in Linde, Mozambique.  We shook hands with the leaders. They were genuinely happy to see us. We experienced a welcome that was truly heart-felt.  Honour truly IS the language of the God’s kingdom. It opens doors.  It blesses hearts.   The Bible has much to say about honour.  Let’s start the honour countdown with eight examples of honour!

Number one: It all starts with honouring God.  Rev. 5:12   gives us a picture of honour in heaven, when all there sing in a mighty chorus:  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches, and wisdom and strength, and honor and glory and blessing.”  Patricia King reminds us that “God is to be honoured, and not just on Sunday mornings! And not just in our songs, but in everything that we do.” This means that we would give him honour in and through our lives.

Number twoHonour your parents.  Exodus 20 says to honour your father and mother.  It’s the first commandment with a promise.  When you honour your folks, “you will live a long and full life in the land.”  Another version says that your days may be prolonged. Jesus even quoted this commandment in Matt 15: 4.

God is very clear about honouring father and mother.  Some of us may have had fathers and mothers that perhaps in your mind don’t deserve to be honoured.  But this commandment is clear despite how imperfect our parents are. Patricia King says that “when you position yourself in honour, it positions you for blessing.  You will live long in the land that the Lord gives you, which is his kingdom. It’s his promises, the land of his goodness, the land of his abundant life.  So when you honour your parents, it positions you in the blessing of the Lord.”

In the case of where parents have abused you,  this honour is not about their wrong deeds and harm they have done. You need to forgive them for that.  But you can’t empower evil. In this case, as a step, at least don’t dishonour them.  It’s not about what they deserve, but rather, to honour that they are your parents.  My mother used to tell me, “Laurie-Ann, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”  So sometimes it’s better not to say anything.  Sometimes honouring a parent is simply to not dishonour them.

Here’s a Biblical example of not honouring a parent.  We know that in the case of Noah, he had one son who uncovered his nakedness.  Ham and his son Canaan were cursed.  Why?  Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness. He exposed him; when the other sons covered him.   He dishonoured his father’s dignity, rather than honoured him. God wants us to walk in honour, so this goes for your spiritual parents too.  Most of us have had spiritual parents who have nurtured us, but no one is perfect.  There’s been areas where they have been a blessing to you and not been a blessing to you, but we need to honour them as well.

Tony and I saw a beautiful example of honour when we visited Bethel Church in Redding, California. This is the same famous church known for contemporary worship music and great teaching. They have a 14-7 prayer house, healing rooms, outreach, and so much more.  We arrived at the early service on Father’s Day 2017.  Eric Johnson chose to not only honour the fathers, but also the single moms in the house.  These women were trying to fill the place of both mother AND father to their children.  He encouraged the congregation to bless them financially and with a hug.  And so they did, including my own Tony.   This same honour attitude was also extended to those who came to faith that day.  In many churches I’ve been involved with, they have everyone close their eyes and people can slip hands up anonymously.  I understand why they do that, but at the same time, those people can also be frightened from any contact, so it’s good to welcome them in honour.  Eric told them that they acknowledge them in the open, so they can be encouraged, rather than to hide.   They are seen as that important.   Parents also need to honour their children, so that you allow them to be who they truly are. The Apostle Paul warns fathers in Eph. 6:4, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. (Message)

Number threeHonour our elders.  Lev. 19:32  says to   “Stand up in the presence of the elderly, and show respect for the aged. Fear your God. I am the Lord.”  Tony and I have noticed there is more of a culture of honour in South Africa towards the tannies and ooms then we have in North America. We celebrate that.    We found the same in Sierra Leone, where their strong culture of honour is helping heal divisions from their civil war. Rob Packer says there is a prevalent mindset in western culture that expects people who are over 60 to retire from work, get their pension, play bowls, move to an old folks home and wait to die.  They say they have done their bit, they have had their day, and now they should move over and let the younger ones do their thing.  That is such a strategy from the enemy!  Older folk have the greatest time availability, greatest life experience, and financial resources.  Many great businesses, inventions, and art is produced by people aged 60 to 90.   Patricia King also encourages seniors to get out there on the front lines of ministry.  She says the second half of life of these people can be greater than their first half was.

Yet in the west, there is the rise of elder abuse.   We see elderly people taken advantage of financially. They are targeted in scams with no conscience against it whatsoever. Some of these seniors are left absolutely bankrupt with no way to care for themselves.  Even some family members, have been abused rather than honoured. They’re just put in a home, and forgotten and never visited.   I’ve been fortunate in my family.  My maternal grandparents were cared by my aunt, uncle and cousins.  I even took three months off from volunteer work to care for my own parents in 2015.  It was an honour to do so.  Right now, we live in a retirement community and are always happy to see family visit our neighbours.  We even plan to visit the most frail of our community. This gives us great joy. I look forward to seeing my folks again on our home visit next year.  We always pray for their health and life.   Our friend and co-worker Maggie loves and ministers in the old-age home in nearby Robertson, as well as many seniors in that community. She is a real representation of honouring the elderly, in a special, loving way.  That love and honour that she shows them pleases God. It touches them and Maggie is blessed in the giving.

Number fourHonour widows. The Apostle Paul mentions honouring real widows in 1 Tim 5:3.   Some of these widows and widowers are just barely getting by. They are lonely and need to be honoured; they need to be loved on. They need to be esteemed, blessed, invited out, and given affirmations.  Sometimes they need finances, so every once and a while, slip them some rand notes when you shake their hand.  Some people call this a Pentecostal handshake, although I can say that Anglicans and Baptists have done this to me when wishing me well on short-term mission trips.  Psalm 68 mentions about God placing the lonely into families.  I’ve always understood this scripture as the long-term singles, since I was one until Tony scooped me up.  However, it also applies to the widowed.  Perhaps there is a lonely widow or widower in your community that you can adopt as your own tannie or oom.  I can think of a few here in Worcester.

Number fiveHonour church leaders.  We need to give special honour to church leaders for their care of preaching and teaching.  Paul encourages us to give double honour in 1 Tim 5:17, as well as the reminder in 1 Thess. 5:13 that we must esteem them, because they are working hard for you.  I know that my Ottawa pastors of John, Shawn, David and Trisha often would endure complaints as well as praise. David and Trisha even stepped down from one of my churches in a painful situation.  They are still in my prayers.  Sometimes a few of my past pastors have made mistakes and hurt my feelings.  But they were not intentional.  Our leaders are human, just like we are.

Sometimes famous Christian leaders are slammed, judged, and criticized openly and behind their backs. There are many Facebook posts of others that are in agreement, who also dishonour them.    Patricia King asked her own parishioners to not do post any posts on their Facebook pages that are negative, critical and cruel.   She asks them to stop negative talk, and to speak positively or not at all.  I personally take that stance.  I also remember Heidi Baker making a joke that she doesn’t  type her name into Google.  Some people have pegged her and other charismatic leaders as outright demonic.  Now THAT is dishonouring. And she’s not the only target.  Unfortunately people who do that create a culture of dishonour.  Even Jesus was pegged as demonic by some of the Pharisees.

Our Afrikaaner pastors,  Johan and Peter-Louis, have treated us with honour. It is easy to love and honour them back.  But even then, they and their families need our prayers. So does your own pastor, and all the leadership that works with them.  Please do pray for them and choose to honour them.  It will bless both you and them.

Number sixHonour other leaders who may not be as visible as those on stage.  1 Corinthians teaches to give more honour to the invisible ones.  In honouring them, scripture doesn’t say to honour them only if they are perfect and flawless. Criticism and judgmental attitudes hurt those leaders. It also hurts those who criticize. It’s dishonouring, so best to pray for the leader. Deal with your own attitude and forgive mistakes.   In the case of dealing with abuse, assault and the like; well, that must be reported. But if we’re talking criticism and complaining over minor issues, it’s time to forgive and move on in a gentle way.  A critical spirit is only going to harm your own walk with God. It will drag down your health and relationships.  Instead, choose to honour. Find kind ways to express disagreement without causing harm.

Number sevenHonour our government leaders; and our employers. Paul wrote in 1 Tim 6:1 to regard your masters as worthy of all honour.  Even if they are nasty, you must honour your employer. This means to not bad mouth them to other employees.  You are to honour them so that God himself won’t be looked upon in a bad way. We are to be absolutely blameless in this sense.  We are to be people of honour.

Even in the political realm, there’s a lot of people – even Christians – that will slam leaders terribly, with a critical attitude.   This isn’t just about US president Trump, but every leader.  These people may need constructive criticism but not curses. They need our prayers for difficult decisions. We pray all the time for Cyril Ramaphosa.

Patricia King loves the example of David and King Saul in 1 Sam 24: 2-13. In this story, David had an actual opportunity to take Saul out.  Patricia says that “Saul was the appointed king.  David was anointed as king, but he wasn’t appointed yet. He wasn’t in position yet, but he was blessed to be king. So he could have flaunted his authority.  But he didn’t.  He actually repented –  even from taking a piece of Saul’s garment. He had still ‘touched’ the anointed of God in a negative way. He did not take his life, he did not harm him in any way.  He said to Saul, “why are you doing this to me? I’ve only honoured you.” Saul made his own choice before God.  Patricia thinks that the reason why David got promoted was because he was a man of honour. Despite his mistakes, he was a man after God’s own heart.

David was greatly honoured, because he sowed honour.  He passed his honour test.  Patricia shares that “you will always be watched by God before you go into promotion. You have to pass your honour test.  Because if you fail an honour test,  you will not be able to properly stand in your next place very well. You will fail in that place. God wants you to always pass the test of honour; and you will be tested.”

You might think, ‘well, that person doesn’t deserve my honour.”  David could have thought this way, but he didn’t!  If he did take that attitude in his heart towards Saul, he would have failed the honour test.  But instead, he passed the honour test. “He held the honour test strong, right to the finish, because even after that, he didn’t become king right away. He had to still walk that out. He chose to be humble and he honoured the king.  It takes time to honour in that way, but it sets up a good foundation for the future.

Number eight: Honour each other!  This includes our spouses, best friends and everyone else. If you thought you were being missed out in this honour-fest, well, you’re in the party!  You’ve not been forgotten.  The Apostle Paul asks us in Phil 2:3 to esteem or honour others. In Rom. 12:10, Paul says to love each other with genuine affection, and to take delight in honouring each other.”   I’ve watched this love and honour in action at Iris gatherings where they all scramble to pay the bill.  I know our Iris leaders have certainly honoured and encouraged us.  We’ve been honoured and loved on by Janis, our Iris Ministries Canada director.  And sure enough, she bought me lunch.  We all need to grow in giving honour.  We could see this as a positive challenge.

If you value something you will take care of it, you will honour it.  For example, if you have a three carat diamond ring, you see the value in that. You’re not going to be careless with that diamond ring. You’re not just going to take it off your finger and forget where you put it; because you value that ring.  In the US, there is a company who markets caramel popcorn and peanuts in a box and call it “Cracker Jack.”  Inside the Cracker Jack box is a ring.  If you pull out the ring from a Cracker Jack box, you may like it, but you’re not going to value it the same as the diamond ring.  It doesn’t have the value of the diamond ring.

Whatever you value, you will honour.  I believe that God wants us to learn to value each other like he values us.  When he looks at each of you as individuals, he values you beyond anything you can understand.  He is willing to give everything to you because you have such great value to him.  When we look at each other, and we can’t see value, just ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it to our hearts.  He will help us honour each other.  He reveals our value.  You might look at the person and think, nah, … they’re losers.  But they are not losers in God’s eyes.  When you look through his eyes, and ask him to reveal his heart for that person, it will change the way that you see them.

If you can change the way that you see them, and see the value in them, you will honour them.   This is the core truth in many Facebook posts about seeing the gold in people, rather than the dirt.  Yes, we all have dirt, but we also have gold.  So it’s easy to honour what you value. I believe that God wants us to see the pure gold in each other. He wants us to see the potential.  He wants us to encourage that potential in each other. One of the BEST things about raising children is to NOT tell them how bad they are. Don’t point out all the bad things that they’re doing, and all their mistakes.   They better fix this, fix that, do this and do that, ‘cause you’re just not making the mark.  If you do that, you’ll destroy your child. They’ll become people-pleasing strivers and not know who they are.

If you’re doing that, you’ll find out that you’re destroying their self-image, you’ll destroy everything about them.  Instead, start speaking into them, who they really are. When you  discipline them, call them up into who they are. This transforms the way that they live and the way that they grow up.  They’ll grow up strong and straight, because they’re being valued. If you feel valued by someone, you’ll live differently, than you will if you feel like you’ve been hated by people.   Have you ever gone into an environment where you’ve felt despised?  It’s just like you want to hide, you fumble, you’re not yourself, you don’t rise up in confidence; but when you go into a place where you know you are valued and loved, it just pulls up in you the fullness of who you are.

Despite our mistakes, if we honour each other, and see potential in each other, we’ll see each other grow.  It will be so beautiful.  So honour is a key in building strong people, community and family.  Honour is a big deal in countries like Sierra Leone, who is still healing from their civil war. And honour is due to the one who eternally loves us.

So we have learned there is so much to establishing a culture of honour.  When we choose to honour, we will in turn be honoured ourselves. It isn’t all one way.  So as we choose to honour God, our parents, our leaders, the widows, the vulnerable and each other, we are also within that honour matrix.  In earlier broadcasts we learned about encouragement and blessing.  To honour is to take that further.  In our next broadcast, we will learn further HOW we can honour.

Lord, I ask you to please teach us deeply in our hearts about honour.  Show us ways that we have been dishonouring to others. Show us how we complain and speak to our hearts about how to stop these habits. Show us your way, the way of honour, the way of love.  Show us what honour looks like.  We thank you for your faithfulness to us and give you all the honour of making our lives beautiful. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

If you would like to hear an audio version of this article, please follow this link to CopplesWesternCape.ca and scroll down to #36

We’ll continue to journey through honour as part of a four-part series.

Blessings and love
Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God through God moments at Christmas

Okay, with the above picture, it shows that even if this is our second Christmas in the southern hemisphere, the weight of so many northern hemisphere Christmases is still stronger.  But it’s still Christmas!   Where ever we are – on a skating rink, the mall, the beach, or in church – there are lots of opportunities to stop for the one at Christmas (or what South Africans call ‘the festive season.’)

My name is Laurie-Ann, and I’m a missionary. During my mission travels, I have spent Christmas in Northern Ireland, England, Pakistan, St. Maarten, Canada and South Africa. This time, it’s Christmas in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa.    In our last article, I shared about learning to thrive in God despite disappointment.  We are to pause, ponder, praise and psalm.  It’s at times like this that we remember God’s faithfulness.  The Psalms often mention “Selah” or pause. A friend of mine just named their little one this precious name.  And what beautiful one wouldn’t cause a parent’s heart to pause and ponder?  So it is the same as we think of the heavenly child, Jesus, who came to earth for us.  We also praise Jesus for every good thing that he’s brought us, including our very lives and salvation. Psalming is a beautiful devotional practice that allows you to voice disappointments to God, choose to lay them at his feet, and then trust him.  If you’re disappointed during this Christmas season, then I recommend you do this.  Your perspective may get deeper, as you realize that God is indeed Emmanuel, God with us.  God is with you – he is closer than you think.

During my last two broadcasts on CWCP Radio, I spoke about depending on God for all our strength when we have none of our own.  Sometimes disabilities sap us of strength and other times, we are brought into weakness when we use up our own strengths.  We can’t run on our strengths and gifts alone. The Apostle Paul shared with us to use our weakness as an opportunity to lean on God.  2 Corinthians 12: 10 says, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”   Gideon was transformed from a fearful man to become a great hero.   We can do more in our weakness that we realize.  If you have any form of disability, it does not stop you from doing great things in God. There are many other examples of people that  God worked through their weakness.  I recommend you visit the Ways to Grow in God podcast page on our Coppleswesterncape.ca website to learn more. These are #40 and #41 on the page.   

When I was in the acceptance process to become a long-term Iris missionary, my health was a question that topped the list.  Our base co-founder Johan Fourie, defended me and said, that while I couldn’t do certain things more ‘able-bodied’ missionaries could do, I could do a lot of other things.  These things include our call to love, teach, disciple and befriend vulnerable farm kids and township kids.  It includes our prison ministry, my artwork, bookkeeping, and webwork.  It includes writing, CWCP Radio, and stopping for the one.

Tony and I often talk about stopping for the one, wherever we are.  It’s something that our Iris Global co-founder Heidi Baker says all the time.  When people ask her how she does ministry in a nutshell, she often says “We just stop for the one, it’s not complicated.”    Heidi also says that love looks like something – and it does.  This means that love has different flavours.  This isn’t about chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, but about the many different ways of showing love in practical ways.  To a single-mom, it’s about practical help in fixing things, and being a support to their children, as well as her.  To a lonely senior, it’s in lovingly listening to their stories and encouraging them that they still have purpose.  It’s in relationship.  To a person with various disabilities, it’s in bringing practical help that they need and want, while respecting their dignity.  There are so many examples.

To a love-starved child, it means being like a loving aunt and uncle. Sometimes, well maybe a lot more often than sometimes, this means giving them something good to eat, while listening to them, teaching them, and holding them close to you – that is, once they trust you enough to hug them.

I’m fortunate; some kids have warmed up to me right away, since they see I’m not threatening.  And many kids love Uncle Tony and have wormed their way into Tony’s heart.  Sometimes it’s a ride in Avian Park, one of our townships in Worcester, and other times it’s a ride to church.  We also disciple and love on eight or more teen girls from Avian Park.  They love to come up to our retirement village home, for the wifi, sandwiches, Bible study and the love.   These are often planned times of ministry – usually on Monday and Saturday afternoons.  We have many times of planned ministry, and we give these times to God for opportunities for what God would have us do beyond our planned items.  In other words, our agenda is very loose, so we can allow for what the girls want and we would like to share.   We also have many beautiful God moments with the Brandvlei inmates on Saturday mornings; it is amazing what happens within the space of two hours.  It’s the same when we are teaching at MasterPeace Academy – we are teachers, but in some of those moments, we have God opportunities to bless each child, depending on their needs and the Holy Spirit’s leading.  The most needy child is Mpho, who has ADHD, but learns and receives love by touch.  So I always hug him and touch him gently and appropriately to show him that we love him and are there for him.  Sometimes stopping for Mpho in the context of school is to encourage him that he can still learn despite his disability.  He actually came top of the class in the art exam last term.

Then there are the moments that are in-between planned activities.  They go beyond Tony’s visits in the Hospice, which involve healing, prayer and pastoral care.

These are the moments when we meet people in cafes, grocery stores, on holiday and in need anywhere at all.  Ministry time isn’t just for planned times during the week.  This can be for anyone at all, not just full-time missionaries or pastors.  But the biggest step is to intentionally go beyond your comfort zone and trust the Holy Spirit’s leading.  It’s a little adventure that can be a great blessing.

God often sets up little divine appointments in our lives.  Ask God to set them up for you, and they will be most fulfilling. The person we are to connect with could be anyone at all – male, female, teen or child. The key that I’ve discovered is that you sense a nudge inside you.  Any fear for the unknown becomes overwhelmed by a wave of compassion towards that person.  That is the key.  Then you know that this is the person that you are to speak to.  This person could be a lonely person in a café, and you find you have something in common. Say you’re reading the same book.  Or you feel a nudge to give them a little treat to share with their tea.

Tony finds opportunities like this to find people to interview for the Worcester Reports.  Sometimes we may find a place or a person seemingly by accident, and yet it’s no accident at all.  Tony found the Iris affiliate couple Josh and Rachel Minter of the East London ministry, Global Mercy Missions when I searched out ministries near our Grahamstown B&B.  He found the co-founder of the Rooibos Teahouse in Clanwilliam while we stayed in the Cedarberg just before Christmas. She brought us the rooibos experience, and we even shared our faith together, with wonderful stories on both sides.   Sometimes stopping for the one involves people you don’t expect – including family members.

Stopping for the one at Christmas involves insight into those who are lonely and alone.  Some of these people are seniors, but they also include busy single-moms and caregivers.  Christmas can be a stressful time, and a lonely one for those who are on their own.   One way is to invite someone to Christmas dinner (or another festive meal) and love on them.  Make their Christmas.  Another way may be to help a working poor person with a Christmas purchase.  Say you’re in the queue at a store, and the person in front of you is short a few rand for an important meal purchase, or toy for their child.  If you feel that wave of compassion, then reach out, and help their Christmas.  Or help someone struggling with their grocery bags.  You may see someone in obvious physical pain.  They may need practical help and prayer.  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  People rarely say no, and you can bring a touch of hope into their lives.  You may even be asked why you’re filled with such love and joy.  Or they may remark about the peace that surrounds you.  It’s Jesus!

The key components of stopping for the one during the festive season, as they call it in South Africa, are the same as the other times of the year, with more opportunities.  Most people are actually more open to receive at this time of year. Christmas carols, gift-gifting and special meals don’t always require financial resources.  These are opportunities for giving and showing love.   The components of stopping for the one include: that you need to allow God to love others through you, and to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.  You don’t need fancy words or a formula.  Be yourself.  Be willing to be humble.  Don’t rush.  Heidi Baker was always telling us at Harvest School to “go low and go slow.”  This means to be humble and to take your time. And if you  work with children, lower yourself down to their level.  Your divine appointments with people are not a project.  They are real people, with real needs.  They also give unique blessings that can blossom into special friendships.

The journey can be a wonderful one, especially if you can allow God to give a special “Kairos” God moment to someone at Christmas.   Pray about the opportunities as God opens doors for you.  You don’t have to go to Bible School, seminary or missions school to stop for the one. Sometimes it’s as simple as bringing your neighbour cupcakes, tea and a loving chat.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the Christmas season.  Open our eyes to see the moments right in front of us.  Let us see you in others, and allow others to see you in us.  Fill us with your compassion, and give us direction to love on specific people at this time.  We give you our calendars to fill with your appointments.  Open our eyes to see them and you, and our ears to hear your loving voice.  Thank you for coming to earth to show the Father’s love that we never could have received without you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be blessed my friends, and have a lovely Christmas.   May you encounter Jesus today.

Love, Laurie-Ann

If you’d like to hear an audio version of this article, it’s on the CWCP podcast page as #42, and will be broadcast December 27, 2018

Growing in God through letting go of self-sufficiency





Happy Easter!  He is risen. He is risen indeed. We are Easter people in a Good Friday world, as Desmond Tutu says.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what invites the presence of God in our daily lives.  This isn’t just about daily devotions, as essential as they are.  It’s about the more.  Do you want more?  I certainly do.  Heidi Baker often cries out “More!” in her pre-talk prayers, that we are invited to join in. She doesn’t do anything without God’s presence.  Without it, your cup is empty and you have little to give that will last or impact lives.

I’ve been reading up on Andrew Murray Jr, who was a beloved 19th century South African pastor. He was mediator, missionary, speaker, writer, and he bordered on the edge of apostolic.  He was a strong figure, with a vibrant personality – full of many strengths.  His roots were Scottish from his father, Andrew Murray Senior, the pastor of the Graaf-Reinet congregation. His mom was a devout lady from Cape Town, who had sixteen children.  He and his older brother John travelled to Scotland and the Netherlands for their university and seminary education. They were both highly influential, as was a third brother, William, who later trained for ministry as well.  Andrew was part of several revivals, including one that impacted both Murray brothers when they were in the very liberal Utrecht seminary.  The revival that Andrew was most known for was the Cape Awakening in 1860 – 1862, which began first in Montagu, and then spread to Worcester, where he was the new pastor at the time.  Other Christian leaders also were able to encourage this move of the Holy Spirit; that happened mostly in the Cape colony.

Andrew learned to not stifle the manifestations of crying out in intercession, and of also crying out in remorse for sins, although he at first did not understand it.  Who can completely understand God?   That’s beyond us… but pity the person that stands in his way.  So that’s about God’s power.   Earlier I mentioned about many of Andrew Murray’s gifts and strengths.  I have found  that he would have set those aside and consider them little.  Even the Apostle Paul said of his own accomplishments without Jesus as being ‘garbage’ or ‘rubbish.’

Here’s what Paul said about his strong Jewish schooling and heritage in Philippians 3:  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c] For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

Paul realized that pride and self-sufficiency become stumbling blocks to growing in faith.  In his case, he even had a thorn in the flesh to keep him humble.  Some have speculated that this was a health problem. If it was, I’m not surprised, for I have one of my own, as had Andrew Murray.  He could not sit down very long to write, due to injuries and illnesses he went through in his exhaustive early ministry.  I have noticed again and again that God does not always use people in perfect health to accomplish great things.

So Andrew Murray learned early that pride and self-sufficiency are stumbling blocks to faith.  He learned that lesson more than a few times, which is the case of a strong personality. Yet Jesus says in John 15: 1-8:  “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothingAnyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Do you notice the verse where non-abiding branches are to be burned?  This reminds me of the scenario of being allowed to burn out, even if it has happened within trying to do Christian things.   This also includes the scenario of just leaning on your own strengths, even if they are absolutely amazing gifts.  The lasting fruit comes from remaining in the vine. This process is called abiding in God’s presence.  It’s similar to the soaking prayer I’ve shared about previously.

If you have a strong personality with many great abilities, these are good things.  However, you may want more than good things.  If you are involved in any kind of ministry, it is important to give these to God daily.  Spend deep time with him.  Without him, these strengths can become weaknesses in which we burn out trying to accomplish good things.   For those who already have weaknesses, then you need to know your limitations and give those to God.  Weaknesses can include illness, disability, circumstances and challenges of a different sort. These that can make one feel inadequate.   One of my favourite inner healing teachers was Leanne Payne, who wrote a book called The Healing Presence.  In it, she says that we need to learn our sense of inadequacy, so that we have to depend on God.  If you are weak, you already know this, but you need to know who to turn towards. Turn to Jesus!  When we give God transcends those weaknesses to show strength, so these people can accomplish incredible things for God, in many fields – not just in the church.

Strong personalities also have to turn to God, to in a sense, save themselves from their self-effort. It’s almost like the sinner’s prayer when we come to faith.  Our faith comes alive by grace, when we accept his love and lean on God.  This is the same.  I also had an encounter, where I took a course on overcoming self and prayed a ‘selfers prayer.’  Part of this is described in chapter six of Charles Solomon’s book Handbook to Happiness.  Before one learns to live by the Holy Spirit, they feel like they are in the wilderness of self-effort.  They are living to die.  When they come to a time where they become centred in Jesus Christ, and abiding in him, they are now dying to live.  The prayer was as follows:

Father, I admit that I’m a selfer, and have been struggling in my own resources to live the Christian life.
I confess that my life is a failure and a mess.
I now give up my life and affirm with You my death with Christ. I also affirm that I have risen with Christ and am seated in Him in the heavenly places.
I give you complete control of myself and everything I’m hanging onto to meet my needs.
Do with me whatever you choose.
I now thank you that Christ is my life.

When I prayed this prayer, it was a form of surrender of my self-suffiency. This is still a process, but I am thankful for the ministry of the man who shared this book and course.

Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China around the same time period that Andrew Murray was active in South Africa. He also learned this lesson and burned out in his ministry.  He had a wonderful gift of identifying with the Chinese and becoming like them as much as he could. However, the need overwhelmed him and he became ill. During a recovery, he learned the importance of abiding in Jesus. He called it his spiritual secret and quoted John 15 as his life scripture.  Abiding became how he could do anything.  What does “to abide” mean?

Modern English gives different versions of abide, which makes light of the word; like the merely tolerate or obey.  But an older version of the word means to remain, continue, stay, persist; and even to live or dwell.  It is the word dwell or live that is closest to the biblical view of abide.  In Hebrew the word is ‘yashabh.’  This is an incredible closeness that invites us to live in the very centre of God’s heart.  He wants us to stay there.  He wants to love on us before we run off to play and work.

Abiding applies to deep daily surrender.  It’s not just a once and a while thing. God helps us to do this.  Andrew Murray wrote a book called Absolute Surrender.  In it, he encourages us that it is not impossible to give everything to God. How is this so?  It is because it is God himself who helps us.  It was the Holy Spirit who helped me to pray that selfer’s prayer, and it was God that continued my ongoing surrender, so that I could live more and more in peace and not in strife.

Andrew wrote: “God does not ask you to give the perfect surrender in your strength, or by the power of your will; God is willing to work it in you.”  He also quotes Philippians 2 verse 13:   For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Jesus also lived his life dependent on the Father (as well as the Holy Spirit). Jesus  said in John 5 verse 19, that he only did what he saw the Father doing.  He didn’t get burned out, he relied on the Holy Spirit and spent times alone in prayer with the Father. While he could have done miracles because of his own divinity, he chose to put this aside until after his resurrection and ascension to heaven.  Philippians 2: 5 – 11 shares this attitude:

Though he was God,[ahe did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus gave the ultimate absolute surrender.  Andrew Murray said that the life of absolute surrender has two sides:  on one side, to work what God wants you to do, [and] on the other side, to let God work what HE wants to do.”   This is a process, but God helps you on the journey.  Then the blessings flow out onto you, because now your cup is empty and waiting – to be filled with and by Holy Spirit!

The whole idea of being filled with God’s peace, love and purpose is to allow the blessings.  The blessings are one part of experiencing God’s love.   Earlier (in other posts) I talked about allowing grace to overcome obstacles.  Those obstacles were like speedbumps. This journey is the same process, but from a deeper perspective.  This is a continuation from receiving Holy Spirit for our own lives to receiving Holy Spirit continually to reach out to other people.

Those other people may include your friends, family and your sphere of influence.  In our case, our current sphere isn’t just in Canada, but is also in our new community of Worcester, South Africa.  We could easily burnout if we rely on our own strength.  I can tell you, there are some days it can be difficult – especially with our crowded schedules.  We can continually practice the presence of God (which is something I will share about another time). However, we need to have adequate time for God.  Give him your schedule.  Make a space for him. We need to take a specific time and set it in your calendar – think of it as a date with God.  And in your daily life, allow his interruptions – they usually involve unexpected blessings that you can’t ignore.  These flow from your time with God.

One of our Afrikaans pastors, Pieter-Louis and his wife Sume, make a date with God every evening after nine.  This is a great sacrifice of time – but since they do this, I can say that this dear couple are so full of the love of God that they are wonderful to be around. Their ministry is a genuine one.  Their sufficiency is not in themselves, and they are growing in God as a result.  The fruit of the Spirit is easy to see in their lives.

My last example is that of our Iris ministry founder, Heidi Baker.  While her schedule is even more intense than ours, she and her husband Rolland spend hours with God.  They have no sufficiency in themselves, even with doctoral degrees.  Their lives in Pemba, Mozambique have crazy interruptions, intense difficulties, spiritual warfare, and the many challenges that can arise in African countries.  They rely on God for finances to feed, clothes, educate and minister to thousands in Pemba alone.  That doesn’t include the mercy and relief ministries they do throughout the world. Throughout the difficulties, they are in prayer and worship. They know they face impossible tasks.  Each time,  they put their lives and ministry COMPLETELY in God’s hands.

Heidi often shares of the time where she was so burned out that she no longer wanted to be a missionary.  She instead wanted to go work in K-Mart (a American budget department store, similar to PEP in South Africa).   So, she surrendered it all again to God.  It didn’t take long for God to restore her, although the next season of her life was intense and difficult.  But now the Holy Spirit could strengthen her in perseverance.

It’s at times like this that we realize it is impossible to continue your ministry, or any long-term task that matters with God.  Then we can relax and depend on God’s faithfulness.  He doesn’t let us down. So remember, surrender that self-sufficiency.  Learn from the examples of Jesus, the apostle Paul, Andrew Murray, Hudson Taylor, Leanne Payne, Heidi Baker and others I’ve mentioned.  I will share more on this soon. Allow God to help you as he did them.  You won’t regret it.

Blessings to you all,

Laurie-Ann Copple

You can hear Laurie-Ann share Ways to Grow in God on CWCP – Copples Western Cape Radio on Thursdays, 8 pm South African Standard Time.

You can also listen via the podcasts of the Worcester Reports  and Ways to Grow in God

Growing in God: Suffering and Joy


Last time we discovered that thankfulness and gratitude are key to managing suffering.  This helps us in natural ways, but also gives opportunity for God to work supernaturally in our lives in the midst of difficulty. Jesus suffered for us (dying on a cross, 39 lashes) so he is no stranger to pain. He endured because of the joy awaiting him (Hebrews 12:2).  Part of that joy was for us to come to know God through him. He didn’t bemoan his situation. When we refuse to practise negativity in the midst of difficulties, our hearts are ready to receive the supernatural help to get through situations that are near impossible. God gives his grace, and in the midst of it, that grace can even bring joy.

When I wrote my earlier article on suffering, I only partly understood what it really means.  My understanding was incomplete, even though I had met Christians who had suffered greatly in northern Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.  I understood key aspects of successfully living through suffering.  My article suggested that most of these keys included attitude, gaining a refined identity as children of God, ministering comfort toward others, humility and realizing that God will somehow make sense out of the suffering.  Through these things the Holy Spirit would develop in us a deep perseverance, as well as character and hope (see Romans 5:4).  All of this is true; scripture implores us over and over again to not give up in the face of difficulty.  However, I still didn’t truly understand the paradox of joy and suffering. I have been pondering the issue of suffering for years.  Many people have, which is why it’s the number one topic in Nicky Gumbel’s book Searching Issues.

I had just returned from my first mission trip to Kenya in 1993.  I attended an evening service in Toronto with a friend who had journeyed with me through some of my own difficulties. My then-pastor Dale, had preached on Hebrews 12:1-3:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Most people would have focused on our cheerleaders in heaven (the great cloud of witnesses), or perhaps the encouragement to not give up (run our race with perseverance, and not losing heart). This again gives us good reason to not give up.  Never, never give up (I’ve given up too early many times in the past). Yet I was drawn to the phrase “for the joy set before him he endured the cross.”  Joy?  In the cross?  In suffering?  I also had heard of persecuted Christians who showed joy at surprising times but I wasn’t yet ready to read the stories.  I was afraid to hear their stories but I needed to read them.  I remember going up for prayer to Dale’s wife, Linda. I asked her that I may understand what joy and suffering meant, and to understand joy in the context of the cross. I don’t think she understood what I really wanted, but she did pray (albeit with a perplexed look on her face).

When I studied in Tyndale Seminary, I took a New Testament course called Prison Epistles (Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon).  The Apostle Paul wrote these letters while he was under house arrest in Rome. I remember Paul often writing about joy in the midst of the letter to the Philippians. It’s known as the book of joy. Joy, or rejoicing is mentioned 16 times in this letter! Yet, this is the apostle who endured so much persecution (read 2 Corinthians 1:8, 4:8-12, 6:4-5, and especially 11:16-33).  Paul was no wimp. He suffered out of love to reach as many people as possible. Yet in that time, God gave him the grace of joy.   I remember I had a brief flash of insight when I was writing the final exam in the Prison Epistles course.  It was about the paradox of suffering and joy – and I believed that Paul’s statement of being content in all circumstances was the key.  I still sought the core of that inner contentment – what was it?  What came to me was a very small, but bright intuitive flash – the centre of that joy, that contentment was trust.  Pure and deep trust in God, no matter what. Since I was still working on that part of my life, I didn’t get to expound on my discovery.  Paul’s contentment is made plain in Philippians 4: 10-14 (Message Version):

“I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

That trust is something I saw in the eyes of the people in Shantinagar, Pakistan. I remember seeing them as glowing, shining stars for Christ: humble, loving, full of radiant love.  I saw the same thing through the eyes of missionary Heidi Baker.  She is an apostle of radical love.  She and her husband head up Iris Global, a huge movement of missions, mercy and radical lovers.  She approached me once in a women’s conference and gave me roses. I remember the deep love of Jesus that poured out of her.  Here is one person who so completely loves and trusts God that she never says no to him. She laughs out of joy, simply because she is so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Heidi’s husband Rolland is just as amazing as his wife. I got to meet Rolland while at an Iris conference hosted by Iris Virginia (Richmond/Williamsburg).  I began my relationship with this community in June 2014, and continue to correspond, visit, pray with and minister with these folks as much as I can. I am awaiting my fourth visit in September. My second visit was for this conference and I was given the opportunity to receive lots of ministry.  Heidi had declared on the first night that some people needed to receive God’s joy in order to be used effectively for the gospel. I didn’t quite walk into that crowd at the altar, but I wasn’t far from them.  I should have been closer.  I was often sad and still grieving the loss of my only full-time job; and I still missed the Nelson, British Columbia community I came to love while I was working there. I had given my loss to God, but I didn’t yet have the joy/trust to overcome my loss. Heidi asked for Rolland to pray for all who were depressed.  Many wept deeply.  Sometime during that evening, someone had prayed for me, and I went down.  I spent a long time on that carpet, weeping almost as much as the poor people on stage.

The next night, I stood between the Iris book table and a pole in the church lobby with my new friend Ryan. Ryan was a philosophy student at Boston University and is brilliant (as Rolland himself is). While Ryan and I discussed and debated, Rolland tried to touch us many times on the arm or shoulder (he was deeply filled by the Holy Spirit, and wanted to share with us).  Rolland giggled and had a mischievous glint in his eye.  Sure enough, Ryan and I laughed and giggled as Rolland prayed for us.  I hugged a supporting pole in the church lobby and didn’t want to fall on the floor.  There was no carpet, this was hard tile!  It was also difficult for me to get up!  It didn’t matter.  Rolland was relentless and we received (although we did not fall down).

The next evening, much of the crowd didn’t return, since Heidi had gone on to another conference, far away from Richmond.  But Rolland and Mel Tari were still there. I was able to actually say hello to Rolland, and when I asked him how he was, he said, “Hi, I’ve come looking for revival, have I come to the right place?”  Surely he must have been joking, but I prayed for him anyway!  What a privilege (I was to get the same honour of praying for Heidi only four months later in Toronto)!  That night, holy laughter broke out in the meeting between the worship time and the sermon.  Rolland didn’t want to wait, and it seemed the right time to change the ‘usual format’ of the service. He invited people up to the front to receive. He jokingly called himself “Doctor tee-hee;” for he really does have a Doctor of Ministry degree (as Heidi has a PhD).  I ran up and stood right in front of him, so I ended up being one of the first “hit.”  Rolland thrust his microphone into my stomach and down I went.  It took me ages to get up later, so I sat at his feet while he talked.  While I was on the floor, the rest of my sadness poured out.  I was at peace.

You would think that Rolland would then speak on the theological nature of joy, or of God’s love.  But, no.  He gave a sermon of pure gold. He spoke on holiness and sin.  He spoke on what we desperately need in the church – repentance; and of all that keeps us from leading a holy life. Perhaps we were able to hear Rolland more clearly because we had already received ministry. Yet through it, I remembered Rolland’s words when he was praying for people earlier,  “That the joy was necessary as God was preparing us to die.”  What did Rolland mean by that?  Death of self?  Perhaps!  Many times our own selfish nature gets in the way. Or maybe he meant about inevitable suffering that comes in ministry and when you’re an outspoken Christian?  I had a sense that was what he meant.    The following day, I asked Mel Tari to pray over me that I would become fearless. He smiled and said, “I’d like to pray for you to come into your destiny instead.”  And so Mel did. By the end of the conference, and weeks afterward, I had a lasting taste of what the ‘Joy of the Lord’ meant (Nehemiah 8:10).  It really is about trust, child-like trust that is intermingled with contentment. It is deeper than a feeling, but includes emotion. It is love, trust, and joy that is not connected to circumstances.  Happiness is connected to circumstances, joy is not. I finally could understand joy.   I guess that meant that I was now prepared for suffering, but rather, what came in the wake was more subtle refining.  Some of this was: preparation for future ministry, learning to live on no income of my own, pouring out many volunteer hours in pastoral care (at Kingdom Culture and other places).

I am praying about attending a future Iris Harvest Mission School, and have been reading their required list for over a year.  I found more teaching on suffering and joy through Surprise Sithole’s biography, Surprise in the Night. As I mentioned in my last article (Growing in Gratitude: Paradox and Ministry), Surprise has an amazing way of seeing all of life through joy, despite the tremendous suffering he has endured. He can still have a “good day” every day. Rolland shares in his doctoral dissertation the five values of Iris: God can be found, dependence on miracles, humility/going to the least of these, being willing to suffer and rejoicing in the Lord.  He ties the last two values together when he says, “the joy of the Lord is not optional, and it far outweighs our suffering. In Jesus, it becomes our motivation, reward and spiritual weapon.  In his presence is fullness of joy, and with Paul we testify that in all our troubles, our joy knows no bounds (2 Cor. 7:4). It is our strength and energy, without which we die.” (Rolland Baker, Toward a Biblical Strategy of Mission. P 112)

That extreme dependence on God puts one in a good place, because then God can give us the grace, and the joy we need as we trust him.  This trust isn’t harmed if you’re deeply suffering, because you’re already rooted into his unshakeable grace. Neither is it harmed if you’re in preparation and want to run ahead but know you cannot.  You’re stuck in the place of trusting and waiting on God – for his hand in provision, direction and ministry.  He is the same God, but through this experience, he changes you and his glory inside you begins to shine out of you.  Why do many persecuted Christians seem to smile in the midst of such torture?  The glory within them leaks out. Their eyes are focused on Jesus, and they become even more filled with grace, and that’s what the persecutors see. How are these people carried?  By deep and sure grace.  Strange joy in the midst of horrible circumstances.  Now that I understand, it’s impossible to ignore.  Lord Jesus, help us to learn from those of us who lead the way in shining for you.  May we shine for you as much as these people shine in persecution and even death.

Rolland’s wife Heidi shares a vision she was given of at least a million needy children.  Her voice clip is included in Jason Lee Jones’ song “Song of the Martyr” (which is on his cd, Face to Face).  The children from Heidi’s vision were from all nations.  Jesus said to Heidi, Go give them something to eat, but Heidi was overwhelmed.  Then Jesus took a piece of his broken body and said to her, “Because I died, there will always be enough.”  I believe it was about more than just enough food and enough gospel message.  Heidi took the piece of flesh and it turned into bread, and the bread multiplied over and over. She was also shown that she would drink the cup of suffering, but she would also drink the cup of joy.  Joy is necessary to overcome; after all it is rooted in deep trust! Below I have posted a video of Jason Lee Jones singing a special song about some of the martyrs.  This is a live version, rather than the version on his cd, Face to Face (which I highly recommend) May you be as impacted as I was.

Next time we will explore growing in our identity in the midst of transition.

Laurie-Ann Copple

Jason Lee Jones “Song of the Martyrs”
Jason’s website is: http://godbreed.org/  He is one of the leaders of the Iris base at Savannah Georgia, USA.


Growing in Gratitude: The Cup of Thanksgiving

thankfulness chest

These past months, we have explored growing in our faith through thankfulness to God (and in a smaller way, to others). We learned to be thankful for the good, or what will turn to ultimate good in our lives. Thanksgiving can be found in acts of worship, and in thinking far outside our circumstances.  Thankfulness is an expression, or fruit of having a heart of flesh rather than a heart of stone (Eze. 36:26-27). We also began to explore seeing through the eyes of thankfulness.  Sometimes the word gratitude is shown as an expression of thankfulness. I mentioned gratitude eight times in December’s article due to the intimate connection between thankfulness and gratitude.

In January, I discovered there was so much more to thankfulness and gratitude. I was impressed that this area of our faith walk deserves a pause to think deeply about thankfulness. Thankfulness is part of our healing and re-storying our lives through the eyes of faith. Many Psalm writers did this in ancient Israel, including King David. Thankfulness can be combined with soaking prayer so that our act of thankfulness goes even deeper into our soul.  This means that through the Holy Spirit, thankfulness is a key that God can use to transform us. Thanks is also part of the very prayer we use to come to initial faith in Jesus Christ (often called the ‘sinner’s prayer’ but simplified in the Alpha movement as “sorry-thank you-please”).  Thankfulness needs to be a daily part of our walk – it helps us keep our eyes on Jesus, especially if you are experiencing difficult times or you’re in transition from one stage of life and ministry to another stage.  Let’s explore thankfulness and gratitude further.

Is there a difference between thankfulness and gratitude? Or are they aspects of the same thing?  I researched the two words, and often the two concepts are interchangeable. However, I had a sense that gratitude is deeper than thanks. Gratitude is an internal emotion of deep thankfulness. The act of giving thanks is an outward action term; it’s a desire to offer your thanks for something that’s been given to you; or something that you already have.   Personal coach Linda Ryan believes that “being grateful is appreciating something that you have not yet received, but [you] have faith it’s coming.”  She looks at it like this:  “I am thankful for my wonderful family and friends; I am grateful for all the great people I am going to meet.  Being in a state of gratitude keeps us mentally and emotionally connected to our goals.”  http://www.coachlindaryan.com/2011/11/dont-just-be-thankful-be-grateful/ 

So being grateful also makes us more confident and less restless in life’s “in-between” times; it gives us focus.  Michael Austin Witty  (Looking for the Faith-Gratitude Connection) takes this further when he says:  “Before a miracle happens, thankfulness is faith.  Afterwards it is gratitude.” This statement implies that thankfulness and gratitude are a process that we can grow in, which makes good sense to me.  However, I believe you can experience gratitude when you receive God’s love right now, not just in the future. Say God is radically touching your heart, by healing a deep emotional wound. Right now, the Holy Spirit fills you with love and forgiveness. Your entire being feels light, loved and full of hope. So then, what’s the primary emotion you will feel if not gratitude?  Say God uses you in a very special way that you did not expect!  He brings a hurting person to you and you are given an encouraging word, compassion and a gift of healing right when they need it most.  He has had you ‘stop for the one.’  So you are grateful that you got to be a part of that special moment – God is here with us right now!

God doesn’t just work in the past and the future.  Too many of us lose the opportunity of receiving what God wants to bless us with today – this happens if we only focus on the future.   Here’s an example:  I applied to a three-month mission school in southern Africa over five weeks ago. I became more and more anxious on whether or not I’ve been accepted. I kept looking at the ministry site a couple of times a day to know one way or another.  While it is normal to be excited at the possibility of ministering in Africa in the coming months, the anxiety drew my eyes away from God. I was beginning to lose focus on what God is doing right now during my time of preparation.  I began to grow restless and lose my peace.  However, I was gently reminded by a close friend that I need to “live in the now and let God take care of tomorrow.”  Does this sound familiar to you, like  Matthew 6:33? (Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well)  While the biblical concept of seeking God first is about worry and provision, it also deals with trusting God’s sovereignty. Trusting that God is in control and being grateful that he is in charge, opens up a deeper place in our hearts for God.  While we wait for answers, Jesus calls us to that secret place where your eyes are only on him.  You spend valuable time with him.  How can one work in the mission field or any kind of ministry without spending time with God first?  It is essential.

So, I can sing along with the writer of the worship song “Give thanks with a grateful heart” – that God has my back.  I can trust him to work out what I need and what I will be doing.  And while I wait, I’m deeply grateful for being carried like the person Jesus carries in the Footprints poem written by Mary Stevenson.  When you are in gratitude, God gives you even more of what you need. This includes better health, peace of mind, less stress, alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. One way to help expedite this process is to go on a negativity fast for at least 21 days (read Dr. Caroline Leaf and/or Steve and Wendy Backland). By the end of that time, you will have trained yourself to no longer be a complainer.

Gratitude is connected to deep faith, and even joy.  One blogger says that “faith and thanksgiving are close friends.  If you have faith in God, you will be thankful because you know his loving hand is upon you, even though you are in a lion’s den.  That will give you a deep sense of joy, and joy is the barometer of the depth of faith you have in God.” [http://christiananswers.net/q-comfort/growing-thanksgiving.html] That gratitude grows in two ways: one, as you are completely dependent on God (as in the Footprints poem) and two, as you actually see answers to prayer happen in your life.  When this happens, don’t forget these little victories.

Thanks and gratitude can and do change your perspective in the best way.  A “treasure chest of thanks” or a “gratitude jar” can help you remember and itemize each day’s blessings.  When I was part of Kootenay Christian Fellowship in Nelson BC, I set up a prayer jar in the back of the church so I could collect prayer requests for the email prayer team.  Had I stayed in Nelson, I would have added a gratitude jar of answered prayers and other blessings.  You can also have a gratitude jar in your own home!  Some churches have times where they share testimonies with the leaders (and congregation).  This time is like an audible gratitude jar!  What is a testimony? Some dictionaries call a testimony: a legal proof, a divine decree or a recounting of a religious experience.  Others, such as Merrium-Webster, add “an open sign,” an open acknowledgement, an evidence and a “firsthand authentication of a fact.” These are real blessings that have come our way. Remember them and be grateful, since the God who gave them won’t stop in blessing you.

Let’s look at the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in the Gospel of Matthew. Before the miracle that stretched the bread and fish, Jesus gave thanks.  That thanks opened the door to God’s miracle of provision.  Something similar happened to Iris Global’s Heidi Baker when she was in a difficult situation.  They had just been kicked out of an orphanage and had limited resources.  A friend from the US Embassy decided to bless Heidi’s family with a pot of chili and rice. The food was enough for Heidi’s family of four, but after a prayer of thanks over the food, the meal stretched to feed everyone present. This wasn’t just a case of adding a little more rice to the mix, but a literal miracle.  Heidi said, “We began serving and right from the start, I gave everyone a full bowl. I barely understood at the time what a wonderful thing was happening. But all our children ate, the staff ate, my friend ate, and even our family of four ate. Everyone had enough.” (Rolland and Heidi Baker, There is Always Enough, pg. 52)  Heidi even says near the closing of the Iris movie Compelled by Love, that she is so grateful for what God is doing each day. That gratitude grows daily.

Gratitude like this becomes an everyday lifestyle and a discipline. Earlier I had mentioned doing on a negativity fast.  One action Steve and Wendy Backland had tried with their congregation was to give some people a ‘no-complaint wristband.’ You can also look in your gratitude jar and read some of the entries if you are feeling down that day.  Gratitude can be developed as a discipline by choice.  Henri Nouwen wrote that “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment.” (Henri Nouwen as quoted in Robert Jonas, Henri Nouwen.)  Henri Nouwen also noted that “The choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious. Because every gift I acknowledge reveals another and another until finally, even the most normal, obvious, and seemingly mundane event or encounter proves to be filled with grace. There is an Estonian proverb that says: “Who does not thank for little will not thank for much.” Acts of gratitude make one grateful because, step by step, they reveal that all is grace. (Henri Nouwen, The return of the Prodigal Son, pg.85)

Gratitude is also like a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The named fruit of the Spirit are:   love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5: 22-23).  It is a by-product of deeply abiding in the grace of God and relationship with him.  Henri Nouwen also talks about the fruitfulness of grace.  He says,  Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is, is a divine gift born of love and freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.  The more we touch the intimate love of God which creates, sustains, and guides us, the more we recognise the multitude of fruits that come forth from that love (Robert Jonas, pg 68).  Without a spirit of gratitude, life flattens out and becomes dull and boring. But when we continue to be surprised by new manifestations of life and continue to praise and thank God and our neighbour, routine and boredom cannot take hold. Then all of life becomes a reason for saying thanks. Thus, fruitfulness and gratitude can never be separated. (Henri Nouwen, Lifesigns. P.70-71)

Gratitude brings us to the cup of thanksgiving!
In the New Testament, thanksgiving is the very essence of the Church’s life. In liturgical churches, the word eucharist actually means thanksgiving!The very centre of the Church’s liturgical worship of God is when, in remembrance of all His saving acts in Christ, the faithful “lift up their hearts” and “give thanks unto the Lord.” (Orthodox church in America)

Pastor Jim Reimer from Nelson, BC shared the connection of gratitude and the Cup of Thanksgiving (1 Cor 10:16 NIV) while I was still part of his congregation. He noted that there is a deep connection between Eucharist (or in some churches, Communion or the Lord’s Supper) and thankfulness.  As we receive the wine and bread, we are thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice. We remember what he did for us.  But even more, we are grateful for his presence in our lives, and what he continues to do.  He brings us to more and more freedom. He does not leave us the way we came to faith, but causes us to grow.

Gratitude becomes the drink in which we grow in love.  Gratitude keeps us connected and wanting to connect to Jesus in a deeper way. And in a sense, everyone has a cup to drink.  1 Thess. 5:18 encourages us to give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  So instead of our cup being half empty or half full, OUR cup, the cup of thanksgiving, runs over (Psalm 23:5).  The paradox is that Jesus’s experienced his cup of pain, suffering, treason and death (1 Cor. 10:16), but through Christ, it is our deliverance.  Jesus becomes our cup of thanksgiving.  For this, and him, I am deeply grateful.

Next time, we will continue to explore gratitude, and what we can do when life just isn’t going our way. Meanwhile, drink deep of the Cup of Thanksgiving.

Blessings, Laurie-Ann Copple
Ottawa, Canada