Tag Archives: Laurie-Ann Copple

Growing in God through Kindness

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 our last article, we journeyed through establishing legacy.  Legacy applies to families, relationships, and investing in others. It also applies to passing on skills and education.  Legacy in a spiritual sense is about discipleship.  It’s not in creating other versions of yourself like a franchise, but in training up leaders in their callings.  While we have different gifts, we all have the same ministry – that of passing on God’s love in some way.  And Legacy is also something that Tony and I have in mind for leaving something behind in Worcester that will last long after we leave South Africa.  We also offer these Ways to Grow in God podcasts as part of our legacy to you.  Legacy is also a gift – which is ultimately based in the kindness of those who have invested in us, and also the kindness of God.  Let’s journey through the field of kindness.  

We need kindness.  Even the Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who always said, “Always try to be nice, and never fail to be kind.”  [https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2017-12-26/did-you-spot-all-the-doctor-who-references-in-peter-capaldis-regeneration-speech/ ] He’s right.  But what is kindness?   Kindness is often hard to define unless you use synonyms. When you Google it, the answer comes up as “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.”  It also comes up as decency. Yet the definition goes beyond that to include tenderness, good-will, affection, warmth, concern, care, thoughtfulness, altruism, hospitality, generosity and graciousness.

Christian Cheong believes that “we all need kindness. It is a language the dumb can speak, the deaf can hear, and the blind can see. Kindness is far more than loving people. It is loving people more than they deserve.  “Kindness is ‘going the extra mile’, it is grace put into action.”  https://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-kindness-of-god-christian-cheong-sermon-on-grace-136864 Stephen Wittmer believes that “Kindness is underrated. [Some people] equate it with being nice or pleasant, as though it’s mainly about smiling, getting along, and not ruffling feathers. It seems a rather mundane virtue. ”- [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything But kindness is NOT mundane.  Kindness deeply touches hearts.  It can melt past emotional defences and anger to soften a stone-cold heart.  The Old Testament ties kindness and mercy into one word: that is ‘Chesed.’   This word comes up 35 times in the Psalms and in 1 Chronicles; within the context of worship and decrees.  How often have you heard this tune, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” 

That love is not just any love – it’s loving KINDNESS.  It’s also mercy!  When you look up 1 Chronicles 16:34 in the NLT version, it says: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.”  In other versions, faithful love comes up as: mercy, love, loyal love, grace, and loving kindness.  My Old Testament professor in Tyndale Seminary taught us the importance of God’s loving kindness. Some misinformed people think the God of the Old Testament is mean and vindictive, while Jesus is (more) loving. However, The Father is also love. Jesus told Philip that he who has seen the son has seen the Father.   They have the same character.  John 14:9 states: “ Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” This loving kindness is something that can be counted on. This is like God’s faithfulness like a father, because He is THE Father.

So, this love, this loving kindness has been here all along.  Just as love searches out the beloved, so kindness does the same.  Kindness is an active virtue. We as believers try to act in God’s kindness.  Bible scholar David Huttar believes that “human imitation of God’s kindness does not come naturally. In fact, ultimately no one is kind. Psalm 14:3 and Romans 3:12 have the same message, that “all have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Kindness can be a consistent part of the believer’s experience because it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.  [David Huttar, https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/kindness/]  Kindness is supernatural, as shown in Galatians 5:22-23. Notice that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Kindness also made the list of the Apostle Paul’s fruit in the midst of suffering.  Stephen Wittmer says, Paul proved to the Corinthian church that he was a true apostle. He did this by detailing three things.  These were the trials he endured for the sake of the gospel, the inner grace God gave him despite his suffering, and the God-produced fruit in his life. Read 2 Corinthians 6:1-13.  In the midst of all kinds of suffering, verse 6 shows that Paul had “purity, understanding, patience and kindness.”  Wittmer shares Paul’s defense this way:  “You want proof I’m an apostle?” he said, in effect. “Okay, here it is: I’m kind.”  https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything Kindness within the context of being wronged, is similar to Jesus’ command to love our enemies.  True kindness is Spirit-produced. It’s a supernaturally generous turning of our hearts toward other people. This means we do this even when the other doesn’t deserve it or doesn’t love us in return. God himself is kind in this way.  God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance which means if we haven’t yet turned to him, we are not yet his friends.  Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”

When Tony and I were preparing to go back to Canada for our home visit, I prayed about the topics we would share.  We wanted not to just have a show and tell of slides of the teens and children. We’re always happy to share stories, but sometimes there is a specific message for the people who come to see us.  We minister as much to them as we do on our South African mission field.   

Prior to our arrival, I woke up from a nap while thinking about the “kindness of God.”  Part of this was tied to the Romans 2 scripture, but the kindness of God leads to more than repentance.  Kindness leads us closer to God, because he softens our hearts.  This is also tied to the loving kindness and care that was mentioned in the Old Testament.  Loving kindness is about deep care and compassion.  It’s tied to mercy because we don’t deserve it. 

Sometimes kindness is to those who don’t love you at all. Proverbs 25: 21-22 tells us that, “If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the Lord will reward you.”  I always wondered what that scripture meant. It has to do with extending kindness on God’s behalf, even to those who have been mean to you. They may re-think their meanness.  While some wrongly interpret the coals would actually burn, there is a meaning behind the instruction.  In the time when Proverbs were being documented for posterity by Solomon, people heated their homes and cooked with coal or wood fire. Jeremy Myers from redeeminggod.com shares sometimes if your fire went out, you would go ask a neighbour for a coal to relight the fire. He interprets this scripture as, if the fire of your enemy goes out, and they come asking for a coal to relight their fire, to be generous.  “Instead of turning them away or giving just one [coal], we should be  extravagantly generous. How? You must keep one coal for yourself, and give all the rest of the burning coals to our enemy.” [Jeremy Myers  https://redeeminggod.com/heap-burning-coals-on-your-enemies/]

This example gives us a lot to ponder. King David was kind to his friend Jonathan, and even more to his surviving son Mephibosheth.  While other royals killed the last remaining children of their enemies, he did not.  Jonathan’s son was the grandson of King Saul.  Saul was the same leader who ruthlessly tried to have David killed multiple times. But David was intentionally kind.   2 Samuel 9:3 says, “The king then asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.”  Four verses later, we see that David’s kindness was not a short-term thing.  King David says to him, “you shall eat bread at my table continually.” Later verses show David meant this promise. This kindness was a commitment. This is also a reflection of God’s loving kindness to us.

What happens when you are kind?  It stops people in their tracks. It also gets at your own heart. Sometimes it even exposes your sin for God to take away.  Loving Kindness in the Old Testament may reflect mercy.  In the New Testament, the Greek word for kindness means “goodness in action.”  Kindness and goodness are kissing cousins, and are two of the nine fruit of the Spirit. When God’s goodness is prompted to us, it feels like tenderness and compassion.  [http://www.christianmessenger.org/kindnessofgod.htm] I often speak about stopping for the one, or divine appointments.  What happens during those special moments?  They are acts of deep kindness. This kindness is received not only from the person who stops, but also directly from the Holy Spirit.  They are like a spiritual love letter, and you feel deeply noticed. You’re not invisible. God has searched for you and found you. Stephen Witmer says that “kindness is no small thing. It yields marvelous fruit both in our lives and the lives of those around us.”  Proverbs 21:21 says that “whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” We open ourselves to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit when we ask him to produce in us kind hearts that overflow through kind lips. [Stephen Witmer https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/kindness-changes-everything

We need to ask God for his kindness before we give kindness to others.  While people can do kind gestures for others, real kindness flows from compassion.  Human kindness falls short of that.  What can the kindness of God do for us?  It opens our eyes to God’s care for us.

Tony and I have an expression that we’ve come to embody since before we arrived in South Africa.  We say that the kindness of God chases us down.  God wants to be kind to us.  He draws us to him like a tender lover, even though we sometimes run from Him.  We have so many examples of what we call T-K-O-G – the kindness of God – in our lives.  Heidi Baker said recently at an Australian conference that “God wants to open your eyes and open your heart. When your eyes are closed, you can only feed your family of four.”  She was referring to the first time that the Holy Spirit stretched a pot of chili and rice to feed not only her family, but over 300 children.  An experience like this is eye-opening.  So were ours, even if they weren’t as dramatic.   We had a T.K.O.G moment in the speedy process of our South African visa. Normally it takes 8 weeks. We had a call to pick up ours in 24 hours.   We were led on where to live – and found our gated retirement village house is perfect in size for ministry, and safe to live in.  It was available right when our guest house lodgings were finished.   We were given renters to live in our Ottawa condo at just the right time for us to leave. Only one couple was interested, but that’s all we needed.  Their rent enables us to pay for our rent in South Africa.

We were led to our local church and bi-weekly connect group through expat YWAM missionaries that we had met through advisors. And we found that our connect group met in our prearranged guest house. This was a great kindness.  We were drawn into a loving church family who, while Afrikaans, made provision for translation stations, and have been there for us in prayer and encouragement ever since we arrived. They even prayed for us while we were in Canada.  We had another T.K.O.G connection when we were invited to become teachers, and I was reminded of an impression I received four years earlier.  The image showed me teaching art to African children – and I was asked to teach art.  We had similar experiences for many of our other ministry involvements, which are too many to mention. But in every case we have experienced sheer pleasure in ministering. That is also T.K.O.G.  We have been lovingly guided on every step.  We were even given expert and kind care by multiple doctors, from GPs, gynecologists, surgeons, urologists, cardiologist, oncologist and other specialists.  Each has been wonderful in hearing us out, and doing the very best they can. We don’t always get that in Canada.  We even had a confirmed diagnosis from an ailment that I suffer from within months, when the average is seven years.   

And while we haven’t had the miracles of stretching food like Heidi Baker, we’ve had our own resources stretch when we need it.  We’ve had entrepreneurial ideas for art, resources and colouring books. We’ve had special connections and networks, and have been blessed by breaks and getaways just when we need them. Even when I was enduring my first and worst flare-up, Tony was an amazing nurse.  I didn’t understand it at the time, but I experienced the kindness of God through his love and service.  Another T.K.O.G was when my parents gifted us with the cost of our rental car on our home visit.  All of these gifts and more have been manifestations of the kindness of God.  His kindness and compassion are to provide for us, guide us, and give us joy every day. He’s opened our eyes to see the smallest everyday kindnesses as well as the larger ones. So even when we’re not in good health, we have peace because we know our issues will be resolved. This certainly was the case during my inflammatory breast cancer journey from August 2019 until recently in December 2020.  Even though this was a horrific season (super-imposed on a glorious mission season) in having a deadly disease, my husband and I were carried by the grace of God through the treatments.  A shower of crowd-funding fell at my feet, since our insurance company refused to no longer cover me. We were given the very best of care, and there were so many tangible manifestations of God’s kindnesses extended to us. 

Even after we attempted to return to Canada for surgery in April 2020, we were locked down tight due to severe covid-19 restrictions all over the world.  God’s kindness at that time became emergency mastectomy (where the surgeon had excellent margins for the cancer, which he called a miracle), and following treatments of radiation, lymphedema massage, compression therapy and Herceptin injections, which ended in November 2020.  We were kept away from covid-19 far more where we were than if we had returned to Canada.  We are now waiting on medical visas, to carry us into May 2021, for a spring return to Canada. We trust that the visa acceptance would be another kindness of God.   What about the cancer journey, you may ask.  How is that the kindness of God?  Well, cancer is NOT the kindness of God.  However, God was kind in the midst of it.  While he was healing me of the cancer through medical professionals, he was also working on other things – including my heart, the discovery of undiagnosed lymphedema in my legs.  None of the pain and tears are wasted.

Is God kind to you also?  I would believe that he is; but just ask God to help you notice the ways He is kind to you and to those around you.   God’s kindness may also affect others in particular ways. God shows His kindness through the ongoing provision described in Acts 14:17: “He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons.”
God’s kindness is part of His nature. It’s easy to overlook the everyday expressions of His kindness, but if you intentionally look for them, you become more aware of God’s love.

As we think on God’s kindness, we discover four things;  these are: that God IS kind, we choose to be kind, that kindness has a flavour, and that we can pass on that kindness to others.  It’s just like paying it forward.  Being kind is a choice. You make choices every day; some big and some small. Think about all the choices you’ve made in the last hour. These may be what food to eat first at dinner, where to sit while reading your Bible, and who to share compliments with; those are all choices. I believe that God wants you to choose to be kind.  Boaz was kind with Ruth, as she gleaned from his field.  Sometimes kindness is a choice to share what you have with someone in need. Other times, it’s a decision to encourage someone with a sincere compliment.  When you do, you grow as you actively practice being kind.  Remember Matthew chapter 25, when Jesus compared the sheep and the goats.  The sheep were kind, the goats were not.

Kindness also has a flavour, and it is sweet. Sweet words are like honey to the soul. The words we say to others make a difference. Words can be sour, or they can be sweet. They can hurt feelings, or they can repair relationships. Words can build people up or tear people down. You need to choose your words carefully because they are powerful. The apostle Paul urges believers In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 to “encourage one another and build each other up.” When you choose kind words, you’re giving others a taste of God’s kindness, and that brings Him honour.  It also honours them.

Divine Kindness is essential to be reflected in our human experience.  Both the books of Hosea and Matthew note that expressing kindness to others is more important than religious rituals. We are to love kindness. We are to love kindness and mercy.  Hosea 6:6-8 remind us that if we really want to please God, burnt offerings, deep sacrifices and other offerings are not what God really wants.  Verse 8 gets right to the point. “No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:  to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” In other words, to be kind.  There are many other scriptures that confirm this, before we even examine the nine fruit of the Spirit.  

What are some ways you can show kindness to those around you every day?  Could you let God use your loving touch and words to encourage others with kindness?   Part of this is addressed in the Iris way of “stopping for the one.”  You can also intentionally be kind to everyone, in the style of Steve Sjogren, who wrote the book Conspiracy of Kindness. While this is a gentle book on low risk, high grace evangelism, being kind does more than bring people to faith.  It also brings healing and deepens relationship.   Kind deeds, and kind words create “phone wires’ for sensitively transmitting love into people’s hearts. The Kindness of God does that with us – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through other people. That heart melt helps bring a wave of emotional healing and good things to come.  Don’t close your heart to it, and don’t shut down if someone rejects it.  Even a little kindness is a great blessing.

The Apostle Paul experienced the kindness of God when after he encountered Jesus, he was cared for by some Damascus Christians. He was accepted.  The power of this acceptance confirmed his direct experience with Jesus.  It proved to him that the love of Jesus is real.  People come to faith when they realise God’s kindness – either directly through the Holy Spirit, or through those who can represent God.  We can represent God when we are filled with kindness and compassion. Both are from him.  Ask him to fill you with both, since he really wants to do that.  God loves to bless his children with kindness – just look at all the acts of kindness he’s done for us.  And we pass this on to those we love and serve.  We let the overflow go to others.  How?  Go to him and ask him to fill you, and open your eyes to those you would miss.

The kindness of God opens our eyes to others in special moments.  Steve Sjogren shares that kindness includes the art of noticing people.  Most people are lonely. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 35]  This includes our neighbours.  Jesus asked a lawyer who had challenged his authority by asking him the greatest commandment.  When Jesus answered him correctly, he offered deeper insight into the second commandment – that of loving your neighbour.  Your neighbour is the person right in front of you with a need in their life. [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 86]  The kindness is in noticing them, and not expecting anything in return.  Sjogren shares that “we are by nature completely selfish. But when Christ comes in, something elemental changes. [Early Christians were known for] their generosity towards others.” [Steve Sjogren, The Conspiracy of Kindness p 80]  That generosity – one of the flavours of kindness – breaks the hardness and fear in your own heart as you reach out to bless someone else. 

Don’t be afraid to be kind – we have opportunity to sow the seeds of kindness every day.  And as we do, we’re not doing this out of the desire to gain influence or power, but in the pure joy of sowing.  There is a law of reaping what we sow. Galatians 6:7-10 shares that we should not be be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” This works for good and bad.  If it is to “live to please the Spirit, [you] will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.”

Lord, thank you for  T.K.O.G’s – you’ve given us so many. You’ve blessed us here on our mission field in South Africa, in family, church family and ministry family.  You are giving us kindness and blessings every day, whether we know you yet or not.  I ask that your kindness with melt hearts so they turn to you.   Melt hearts so they can also bless each other through your kindness.  I ask that you be praised for being so faithful.  Help us to reach out to others with your kindness.  Your kindness leads us to repentance, and that’s a good thing.  It leads us closer to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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 #61!  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, and I am awaiting plastic surgery on the left side of my mastectomy scar (on January 12th). We have been given favour from the plastic surgeon who is waiving his surgical fees!  We are waiting on my cardiologist for the echocardiogram results to be sent to us, so the anesthetist can feel safe about sedating me.  We find this surprising, since I had two surgeries with general anesthetic, including the first (chemo port insertion) surgery right before the echocardiogram was done.  I also receive MLD therapy, lymphedema treatments and physiotherapy to get me stronger for our eventual return to Canada. 

Meanwhile, we are still waiting on our medical visas, which would allow us to stay six months longer in South Africa.  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 – 20 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. Please click here for the medical campaign page to get more info: https://www.coppleswesterncape.ca/medical-campaign.html.

 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

Bless you and thank you for your support!  We also wish you a blessed and happy Christmas!

Laurie-Ann

L-A’s writing a book

chapterone

Hi, It’s Laurie-Ann.  During this season,  I’ve been encouraged to grow in creativity.  While I already am a visual artist, audio producer and radio host, I have been pushed to begin to write my story.  I know some of you have been encouraged by little stories that I include in my Ways to Grow in God articles.  Would you be interested in a sneak peak, or even read the book when it is finished?  Let me know!

Blessings from Laurie-Ann

Prayer and Fasting – another important way to grow in God

Growing in God doesn't have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in God doesn’t have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in Prayer and Fasting: Ways to Grow in God

Last time we discovered that we flourish as we express our prayers in journaling, as well as waiting for the Holy Spirit’s voice in reply. This reply often comes by remembered scriptures, words of encouragement and being drawn closer to Jesus). We also learned the popular model of ‘A.C.T.S.’: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  Supplication includes praying for others; sometimes in the form of lists. The ‘Prayers of the People’ that we share at church would be in this category. I believe that God listens to these prayers. Yet, have you had times when you were interrupted by an urgent thought, a picture of someone you know in your memory and an intense desire to pray for them?  This is intercessory prayer – prayer requests from the Holy Spirit himself. So you’ve obey that call and pray for that person. You feel that burden on your heart grow lighter. Sometimes you may weep while praying.  Then soon after, you learn the person you prayed for had urgently needed help at that exact moment. Your prayers were used by God to get them out of some danger.   The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Thess. 5:17 to pray without ceasing (or to pray continually).  This doesn’t necessarily mean for us to literally be on our knees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it does encourage us to have a prayerful attitude where you can offer up quick ‘arrow prayers’ to the Lord throughout the day.  This attitude keeps us thankful.  It also helps remind us that Jesus really is there with us all the time.  This is “practicing the presence of God” (or abiding as mentioned in John 15: 1-17). This posture keeps you peaceful and centered on Him.

Remember to take your time in all forms of prayer. Don’t just pray quickly to get it over with. Slow down and listen – and be quiet before God.  It can be difficult to hear God in the midst of an adrenaline rush. When you take that time, He may say something to you. He may lead you to specific scripture verses, or pour His love and peace into you as you wait on Him.  You will find that time refreshing and a welcome break to a hectic day. Then you will be more energized and focused. Think of it as a divine refreshment break.

Fasting is often combined with prayer.  My former priest Fr. John reminds us that we need to give something up and take something on during the Lenten season. This kind of fast is specific to Lent, since it is giving up one thing for a specific period of time.  However, you can also set other times for specific fasts if you are called to do so by the Holy Spirit. Usually that item or activity that you surrender would be important to you. The activity you pick up could be extra time with God, or doing a ministry for him (This practice is meant to be a gift of devotion to God and bring you closer to Him).

Many people chose to give up chocolate. Your Lenten fast doesn’t have to be chocolate, although many people choose it as the thing to fast from because it’s their favourite thing.  There are many things we can give up for a season.  I remember going off coffee one year, and it wasn’t easy. Another year I gave up television, which was difficult at the time, but later on I didn’t watch much of it when I was in school nearly full time.  A few years ago, I gave up credit cards, which was a good thing, though I have since relapsed.

You don’t have to limit your fasting to Lent.  Tony and I went on weeklong vegetarian fast before a mission trip. It is also called a ‘Daniel fast’, since the Old Testament prophet Daniel fasted from meat and wine for 3 weeks while he prayed (Dan 10:2-3). We did this as a time of praying and waiting on God’s confirmation of our 2005 Kenya Alpha mission. During this week my mind cleared and my heart began to change concerning Tony’s role in the mission. While I did not yet get the guidance I needed, God was preparing Tony’s heart for that mission; even though he wasn’t yet willing to join me. I simply asked the Lord to speak to Tony about going to Kenya during my own devotional prayer time.

During that week Tony shared with me that he could sense God very strongly several times when he was working on his computer, and he prayed in response to God’s call, but he did not get direction on going on the mission trip.  Eventually, Tony did hear the Holy Spirit speak to him about going with me on the mission, but this was in HIS time, not mine.  Fasting in the context of prayer is meant to change the heart of the person who prays. It also helps that person get more in tune with God’s heart.

Now did any of these Lenten fasts bring me closer to God?  I would have to say that in and of themselves, they did NOT bring me closer to God – but that is where the taking on something extra comes in.  When one gives the Lord what you have given to him as a GIFT, not as an obligation, and in the time you would spend watching television, or eating dessert, etc, you would be spending that time with Him in a specific way, then it can become a blessing to you. One Lenten season I taught the Ways to Grow series at St. Paul’s and all of us were deeply blessed. I especially received as I poured out love, teaching and prayer to those who attended. This was the something extra that I took on that year.

Other fasts can be more intense than Lent.  This includes fasting from one meal for prayer, to forty days fasting from food, but not liquids.  Jesus spent this kind of fast in the Judean desert.   Do we need to do this in our own walk with God?  Perhaps – but I would advise taking small steps as you learn.  I am still learning this discipline myself, and I know the Lord honours our efforts to grow in Him.  He will guide you closer as you dare to walk closer to him.  You won’t be sorry.  Note:  I also shared a longer talk on prayer and fasting that will be posted online separately for readers who need more than this bite-sized story.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann recently moved to Nelson BC, and works for Vista Radio.  She attends Kootenay Christian Fellowship and has roots at St Paul’s in Kanata ON.

Becoming Holy: Choices, Obedience and Integrity

July 2012 104

Last time we discovered that we grow really well when we are mentored or discipled by someone who holds us accountable in our faith. My priest, Father John often reminds us that his faith is not entirely his own. Our parish helps him grow, and we are encouraged by him (individually and corporately). We grow in relationship.  Mentorship can be done by peers or by someone more experienced than ourselves. Sometimes this accountability can be a form of tough love, but it is absolutely necessary for us to grow spiritually mature.  Our spiritual journey is also deepened by obedience.  This means we must obey God’s principles shown throughout the Bible. Obedience is outwardly shown as integrity and holiness.  It’s a reflection of our faith and obedience to God.

Mission trips are like pressure cookers of faith experience.  Long days, culture shock, and human frailty often show what we’re really like inside.  What is really visible in those moments?  Is it something that points to Jesus or our own weaknesses?  I have been told by the Anglican mission agency SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) that sometimes we are the only Bible that others see. This means that our actions much match our faith. Integrity includes honesty but goes much deeper. Integrity is a special fruit of our character as Christians. It develops over time. Some of this is based on the  baptismal promise to “persevere in resisting evil and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.”  Good character develops as a foundation for choosing to walk in his holy ways.   When we answer “I will with God’s help”, we acknowledge that we can only live the Christian life in His power, not our own.  When we do this, it frees us, since without God’s help we’d burn out. OK, I get it.  We can’t become holy by our own power. So how DO we become holy?

When our faith in Jesus comes alive for the first time, He makes us holy because he died for us.  God the Father looks at us and sees us through His Son.  Yet there is a process in becoming more holy in our habits and our actions.  This is a process and most of us have a lot of bad habits to overcome.  This process is called sanctification, or becoming holy.  Some biblical teaching on holy living is simple and straight forward. If you are married, stay faithful to your husband or wife.  We are to love and honour them in a way that blesses them. Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives as much as Jesus does the church. Wives are to love their spouses and understand that their husband wants to protect them from harm, or at best, he should. If you are single, it means you stay celibate until you are married.  When we come to faith, sometimes we don’t know the details of how to live a holy life and it takes time to work this out in our lives.  The Holy Spirit often speaks to friends about areas of weakness in their lives in a gentle corrective way at just the right time.  Sometimes over zealous Christian leaders have mistakenly beaten the Holy Spirit to the ‘punch’ and approached these friends over their poor choices. Mentors and leaders have to be gentle in holding us accountable, since this is the Holy Spirit’s job. It is God who makes us holy, not our church leaders, although they can be used to encourage us to obey God.

The Bible and the Holy Spirit also teach us to act with integrity in other areas: in our work lives, in friendships, and in daily living. God is our source for godly living (2 Peter 1:1-11) and He will help you live out the holiness that you are given through salvation in Jesus Christ.   This means you do not do this in your own strength.  The Apostle Paul tells is in Phil. 2:12-13 “To continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Part of becoming more holy, is to make good and godly choices.  Quite often we wonder, “OK, I’d like to please God and become more holy. How do I know what is His will for me?”  God often leaves simple choices to us, especially if we do not distract others in their faith walk (for example, not drinking in front of an alcoholic and causing him to be tempted). This freedom grows as we become stronger in our faith. It often becomes easier to make good choices because of this strength. However, this freedom gives us more responsibility not to stumble others in their faith because of cultural differences. Paul encourages us to “not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God… (1 Cor. 10:23) and John reminds us that “whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:10).

Cultural differences include worship styles.  When I was in Pakistan, I learned their cultural experience of prayer. When people pray, their shoes must come off, because where they are praying is holy ground.  Women wear shawls over their heads during services, and especially in prayer.  I grew used to this, although it was difficult pulling my boots on and off.  One of the associate pastors in Lahore joked with me, “Sister Ann, you are powerful with your shoes off, but when you have them on again, you are weak!”  I thought this was incredibly funny at the time, because he was helping me put my shoes back on yet again.  But what they saw when I had my shoes off was a “holy lady” who knew how to pray.  Culturally I was connected with them. I showed by my willingness to enter their culture that I loved them.  This was a godly choice, and it blessed them.  It was the same motivation that caused me to dress African-style when I was in Kenya and Sierra Leone.

So you see that our choices can affect others for good or ill, and cause us to grow or stop growing. I pray that in our choice to follow our Lord, we may become aware of WHEN we are given direction to walk in His way.  If we continue to walk in His ways, He grows our trust in Him.  I will speak on growing that trust next time.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann is an Ottawa based media person.  She attended Tyndale Seminary and graduated in 1999.  She attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario

Growing through Relationships: Mentorship and Spiritual Friendship

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I’ve been on a journey and learned that we grow when we allow God’s grace to work in our lives.

Last time we discovered that we grow well when we minister to and encourage each other – in fellowship or koinonia. We are created to be in relationship. Another form of relationship that blesses us is mentorship.

Mentorship means to have someone help you intentionally grow deeper in your faith. When you are a new Christian, it helps to have someone to ‘disciple’ you.  A disciple is a person who has wants to be more than a church-goer.  Like Jesus’ disciples, we choose to follow Jesus. As we grow on that journey, we can do great things for God. This process takes time and willingness to learn.  Jesus said to “take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart.” (Matt. 11:29)  Although Jesus is Lord, he was also a mentor to his disciples. He taught them the way of service and love. He does the same for us through the Holy Spirit, and through the relationships we have with our mentors.

A mentor can be someone who is like a spiritual mother or father (not just a godparent). This person actually is what a godparent could be.  That person intentionally comes alongside you and in a loving relationship encourages your walk with Jesus. They don’t just take you to church. Time together can include Bible Study sessions, prayer and pastoral care. Other times a mentor can seem quite harsh in their admonishment, but that is only when we really need that discipline. I had a mentor like that – she was an Australian lady named Jan and she would always tell me to “pick up your socks, mate!” She wasn’t talking about my actual socks!

Other biblical examples of mentors include the Apostle Paul, who was a mentor to Timothy.  Paul encourages younger Christians to be imitators of him (1 Co. 4:16) and to be imitators of God (Eph. 5: 1-2). One of the things that a mentor does is to encourage you.  Paul talks about encouragement as being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Rom 12: 3-8).  My former pastor Dale always said that ‘encouragement is the oxygen of life.’ This is true of all relationships, including marriage. My husband Tony and I believe so strongly in this that we included the promise of encouragement in our wedding vows. We pledged, “to love, honour and encourage.”

A mentor is often a person who is ahead of us on the journey and lends hand in guiding us forward.  Peer-relationships can also help you grow, and are encouraged at Tyndale seminary (where I graduated in 1999).  I took a course called Foundations of Christian Spirituality, which taught about ways to grow in God.  This included the experience of spiritual friendship – which is to have someone as a dedicated listener and prayer partner with you for a season.

A spiritual friend should be the same gender you are. They can be older or younger, more experienced or on your own level of faith and growth.  The important thing is that you must be very honest with them, and they must be allowed to tell you the truth without you getting annoyed.  When it was time to choose my spiritual friend, we had one female and one male left over in our class. I was the leftover female.  This meant that I had to have a spiritual friend from outside the class.  I chose my friend Claudia, and we shared the devotional book Space for God at least once a week.

Near the end of our course, Claudia remained faithful with me. She also benefited from our deepened friendship.  It turned out that Jan (our Australian friend) was dying of cancer. Jan and I used to be close but when she got really sick I saw her less due to my school and work schedule.  I also didn’t know how to comfort her and procrastinated in going to see her.   When Claudia told me that Jan wouldn’t make it through the week, I grimaced and said “I’d like to see her on the weekend.”  Claudia then gave me a metaphorical push and said, “Jan won’t be alive by the weekend.  You need to go NOW.  I will go WITH you.”

Thanks to Claudia’s push, I was with Jan the day before she died.  We spent a few hours with her, I fed her ginger ale and was just “with” her. I didn’t expect her to talk, but she knew I was there.  While we were there, others came to visit.  This included a chaplain and an emotionally weak friend, who cried all over Jan.  Jan responded and tried to minister to her.  I knew this was exhausting for Jan, but it was very important for this other friend to see Jan almost as she was before she became ill.  I held my feelings in, and didn’t expect Jan to do that for me.  I felt guilty that I hadn’t been to see her for so long.

Somehow I ended up singing Jan’s favourite worship song, “Faithful One” to her.  I closed my eyes and sang my heart out.  I was later told that during the song, the Holy Spirit fell on Jan in such a way that she looked like the Jan she was before she was sick. At that time she shone with love for Jesus, and pride in me for singing to her.  When I opened my eyes, I saw Jan as the way she had been. I thanked her for being such a faithful friend, and that was her gift to me.

The chaplain asked Jan if she’d like me to sing that song at her funeral, and she said yes.  It was at this time that Claudia came back into the room to support me, and take me home. This is what a spiritual friend does – like Jan, in her faithfulness, from telling me to ‘pick up your socks, mate’ when she was well. Jan also forgave me for not being there when she was sick.  Claudia also was a great spiritual friend.  She gave tough love when I needed it, and was supportive when I finally did what was right.

Spiritual friendship and mentorship are both intentional relationships. This means setting a certain time aside, saying to each other: “how is your soul, really?” It means going through your spiritual walk with the Lord together and being HONEST with each other.  God will still bless us through our regular friends, but there isn’t as much opportunity in those friendships.

However, they have potential.  My priest reminds us of this every time he mentions in his blessing, “May you know the Love of God in every friendship.”  Next time I will share with you another way to grow in God… meanwhile I pray that a mentor will be available to you when you need one for whatever spiritual season YOU are in …

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

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Laurie-Ann Copple is an Ottawa-based media person.  She has been on mission trips to Northern Ireland, Kenya, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.  She attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.

Growing through relationships: Communion of Saints

communion saints

I’ve been on a journey and learned that we grow when we allow God’s grace to work in our lives.

We allow Him to take away the ‘speed bumps’ that get in the way (such as restlessness, unforgiveness and bitterness).  Speed bumps harm our relationships with other people as well as with God. We are created to be in relationship. We grow best through being blessed, encouraged and loved by others and when we share that love with others.

Some people call that fellowship, but what exactly is fellowship?  It is more than small talk and asking a polite ‘how are you?’ during coffee time on Sunday.  Fellowship is time spent in caring friendship and journeying in your faith with each other.  It includes sharing daily struggles and encouraging each other in love.  The Bible has many examples of how we can minister to each other – the phrase ‘one another’ is repeated the New Testament many times.  I found this statement in the Snodgrass Ephesians commentary: “we cannot be mature Christians by ourselves, for we cannot give ourselves everything we need for a life of faith.  Christ has chosen to grace others so they contribute to us and us to them.  Grace comes from God but it is conveyed through horizontal channels” [Snodgrass, Ephesians commentary, p. 221] My priest, Father John Bridges has said many times that his faith is not entirely his own.  He is validated in his faith partly by us, the community that loves Jesus with him.

One of my former pastors, Dale, had a lot of practical sayings about church.  Dale shared his hopes and dreams for our congregation in a way that I’ll always remember.  He said that the church is meant to be a prayer army, a family and a hospital. This triple role was also confirmed to me in seminary counseling class. I learned there that the church is seen as ecclesia (a place to worship), therapia (a place of healing) and koinonia, (communion of saints).  When we greet each other during Sunday services with the peace of the Lord, we aren’t just giving hugs and handshakes, although I love these.  We are extending love to each other in the Lord’s name. Each time we do this, I feel incredibly blessed.  We do this because we have just been forgiven by God for whatever sins we’re given to Him. This is also a time to extend that same love and forgiveness to each other, even if it is just for a minute.  It’s worship, healing and family at the same time.

Perhaps a good way to understand Christian fellowship is to ponder the term “communion of saints” – a term that I’ve come to love.  I studied at the University of Toronto. While I was in my first year, I took “Basic Christian Beliefs” at St Michael’s College.  I became fascinated in New Testament word studies.  One of the Greek terms I studied was parousia, (the return of Jesus), another metanoia, (which means changing your mind/attitude). However, the most interesting one to me was koinonia, which means communion of saints, or fellowship

Although there are many different aspects to church, the one that means the most to me is communion of saints.

It’s more than a line in the Nicean and Apostle’s Creeds!  It’s that special bond between Christians that is more than friendship, and deeper than family ties.  It’s the sense of deep connection that you have with someone that you have shared and prayed with.  When the Holy Spirit fills you both while in prayer together, he knits your spirits and hearts together.  This often happens during the healing prayer time that we have in the Sunday services and it is an intimate bond. This is a safe place to be when this bond is strengthened by friendship and inspired compassion.  It’s this aspect of church that can make it a hospital and place of healing, because healing happens within relationships.

Of course, we should all know by now that there is no such thing as the “Perfect Church.” We’re all at different stages of spiritual growth and emotional maturity. However, we do see glimpses of how the church should be, for example: during the Alpha Holy Spirit weekend, or the Cursillo weekend, and in small group sharing and prayer time. I love getting to know the guests as an Alpha Course leader. Through Alpha, I have gained really amazing friends. One gentle participant said that he was able to share deep things with us that he never could have with his long-time secular friends.  This isn’t because it’s a secret – sharing thing, but rather the sense of trust in each other that is very intimate.

Years ago, “May” was part of one of our Alpha courses.  She loved the course, but she didn’t like going to church, except the occasional evensong, (an afternoon service).  She didn’t have any fire of course, although she appreciated the company of other people at Alpha.  I wondered how she could even survive in her faith completely on her own.  Nicky Gumbel tells a story of a young man who used to be very much on fire in his faith. However after he decided to not go to church anymore, he lost his enthusiasm.  So he went to see an older, wise man to ask him why he lost his joy.  The older man didn’t say a word, but instead spoke through action.  Since they were in the UK, and it gets cold and damp in the winter – so the old man had a coal fireplace. All the coals were hot and glowing red.  The man took a coal from the fireplace with a pair of tongs and set it down on the hearth.  At first the coal was red, but very soon it faded and became grey and then black.  The older man then looked at the younger one, and then took the lonely piece of coal and put it back into the fire, where very soon it grew red-hot again.  He showed the young man without a single word- why he lost his enthusiasm.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25)  The Apostle Paul encourages us as well that we are a body (in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20).  We NEED each other.  “Communion of Saints” is also mentioned in the Nicene Creed that we recite each week, so this again confirms how central Christian relationships are to our growing faith.

And so my friends, I want you to have the same blessing that Father John often gives us – that you may see the face of Jesus in those you meet, and may you know his love in the friendships you have.  I would also like to add that I’m grateful for the prayers of all my Christian friends during my time in radio broadcasting school.  Since I was the only Christian, I have come to value the communion of saints even more.  We have something special in God and each other.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann Copple is an Ottawa based media person.  She graduated from radio broadcasting at Algonquin College and attends St. Paul’s in Kanata, ON.

Allowing God’s grace to overcome speedbumps

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I have found great blessings while writing my Ways to Grow in God series.  The concept was originally prepared in Kenya as a talk on Christian Maturity for a SOMA mission.  A year later, the Holy Spirit led me to expand this talk into a whole series. This was further honed in Pakistan and taught as a Lenten series at St Paul’s Kanata.  We had five to six people at the time, and ended with ‘soaking prayer.’  Since I’m an Alpha coach, I’ve watched Nicky Gumbel’s Alpha videos many times.  During the Holy Spirit weekend, Nicky talks about our being hard crusty sponges until the Holy Spirit fills us with His living water.  This inspired me to take a sponge with me to teach about soaking prayer when I’m on mission trips. When I did this in Pakistan, word of this act spread and gave me opportunities to talk about soaking prayer as a way to cultivate the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

The sponge is used as a symbol of how much we need to be hydrated with both physical water and spiritual, living water.  If a sponge is dry and ‘crusty,’ it can’t be used and can even damage countertops if you attempt to use it for cleaning.  But after a sponge is softened by water, it becomes useful.  We are like that sponge.

If we allow ourselves to soak in the presence of God, He fills us with life, peace and His deep love. There is nothing quite like the sense of God’s presence. When we are in His presence, we begin to reflect His glory and we are slowly ‘transformed’ into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18).

This practice involves laying aside your concerns of the moment by writing them down, then praying with someone else. Then turn on some soft worship music; Ruth Fazal works for me.  You sit quietly and let the music wash over you as you focus on Jesus.  You may even sense a little picture in your mind, remember a special scripture or generally sense the peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7)

However, sometimes there can be ‘speed-bumps’ in allowing the grace of God to work through you. Barriers that slow God’s work include striving to do the will and work of God in your own power.  Just as when you first came to faith in Jesus Christ by grace, coming to maturity is by God’s grace!  We have to allow it to change us.    We are God’s workmanship (Eph. 2:10).  He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:12), and He makes us holy as He is holy (Lev. 19:2), but we have to be actively willing and not get in the way.   We have to trust God and allow Him to change us.

Restlessness is a speed-bump on the road to receiving God’s grace. I couldn’t quiet myself to ‘be still and know that He is God’ (Ps 46:10).  I was frenetic inside and out. Finally, a seminary professor advised me to turn the radio off rather than playing lively worship music in the car. This way I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit within the silence.  Sometimes we crowd out worries by filling all our time with endless activity.  Often we’d even fill our devotional time with lively praise music to drown out the concerns that are hidden in our hearts.  Praise music is excellent for other times. However, sometimes silence is needed and the music is a distraction.

Silence became rest for the heart and it was good to help me ponder, drive, and listen.  It was in the silence that I learned the meaning of “In repentance and rest is your salvation, and in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) So the “super-striver” in me began to let go.

A speed bump that can even stop spiritual growth is un-forgiveness and bitterness. The Apostle Paul warns us not to develop a root of bitterness in our hearts. This defiles us – and those who are around us. (Heb. 12:15).  If you are deeply hurt by a past sin against you, forgiveness is essential, because it helps you let go of the pain and give it to Him. We must forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us. Until that time, hearts are frozen.   When you are able to forgive, it means that God has given you the strength to overcome your daily challenges.  It also  means that you can leave God to deal with the offender in His time and way.

Forgiveness is often a process, but as my priest Father John Bridges often tells our congregation, our faith is a journey.  You are not alone on this journey, for the Lord has promised never to abandon you.

Laurie-Ann Copple is a media person who is based in Ottawa.  She attends St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario.

Slow down and let God’s love fill you

July 2012 103

During my mission travels, I am often asked about how people can grow in their faith – especially in Africa, where Christianity is noted as being “a mile wide and an inch thick.”  We are called to ‘grow roots’ like a healthy tree by a stream so we prosper (Psalm 1:3).  This means we are called to go deep so that we cannot be uprooted easily.  I will be exploring many different ways to grow during upcoming posts.

One thing that I found is that it takes TIME to grow in faith.  When I first became a Christian, I was almost TOO excited – that is in the eyes of the church people around me. Often I was advised by wise church leaders to “be still, and know that He is God.” (Psalm 46:10).  This is good advice because it taught me to wait on Him when my natural desire is to ‘jump in with both feet.’  Even in Kenya, there is an expression called ‘pole, pole’, which means slowly, slowly – and in our fast paced society around us it can be hard to slow down to hear God’s still small voice speaking to you in your heart.  My Tyndale Seminary professor David Sherbino used to remind me that it’s hard “to hear God in an adrenaline rush.”

Why does it take time to grow in God?  Well, think of it this way – in my church I am a server- crucifer. I bear the processional cross at the beginning and end of the service.  When I do that, I am acting as an image-bearer. That image represents Jesus.  That image is also inside of you – you’ve been marked as Christ’s own, with the sign of the cross, and in time He conforms you to be more and more like Him (2 Cor. 3:18).   We are a part of God’s family and as we all grow in faith, often we see glimpses of Jesus’ love and character in others.  It’s not just that people are nice, it’s that they remind you of Jesus.

Spiritual growth is like growing fruit. Nicky Gumbel tells many stories in the Alpha Course. One story involves Nicky’s impatience about pears growing on a newly planted tree. Nicky would check the tree’s growth so often that his friends teased him.  Finally a friend taped a granny smith apple to the pear tree.  Nicky responded to this joke by saying, “I may stupid, but even I know that granny smith apples do not grow on pear trees.”  Nicky emphasized that it takes time to grow fruit, and it also takes time to grow in faith.  So I encourage you with Church Father John Chrysostom’s proverb about patience. He says that to be patient, is to ‘have a wide and big soul!’

Why do we need to grow in God?  We need to grow to become familiar with, and grounded in truth. That way we won’t be deceived by lies.  When we become mature, also we get more discerning, loving and willing to bless each other in ministry (Eph. 4:13-16).

Now finally to one of the ways to grow in God:  We grow through God’s LOVE.  Earlier I mentioned about being like a deep-rooted tree by a stream. Now you can imagine yourself like a plant.  Any plant needs good nourishing soil.  A heart full of forgiveness is like good faith-soil inside you. When we are rooted in God’s love, we grow deeper into God (like tree roots) and also wider in our reach towards others (like the plant growing up towards the sun).    God’s love is like the sunshine we need to grow even in hard times.  I pray that as you read this article, you may experience the love of God in your heart. It’s like water to the soul and sunshine to the heart.

St. Paul gives us a special prayer in Ephesians 3: 16 – 19 for us to meditate on: “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp who 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 the fullness of God.”

This article was published in Anglicans for Renewal in Fall 2011