Loving Extravagantly


“But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

  Luke 7:47


Sometimes it’s difficult for those who have consciously and carefully tried to live a good life to be aware of just how inadequate this rule-bound life can be.  Sins of commission are fairly evident, but sins of omission don’t necessarily reveal themselves in the short term.  Attitudes and thoughts of the heart are invisible, and we don’t always see how they affect our lives.    If we refuse to risk developing and contributing our talents for fear of criticism, for example, it’s not readily apparent that we have cheated our Creator, ourselves and the world.

In his book Dreams and Healing, John A. Sanford writes about such a woman, who had played it so safe that her life had essentially not been lived.  Sanford observes, wryly, that “she has nothing to be forgiven for, therefore she has everything to be forgiven for.”

Contrast this to the woman in Luke’s story who anointed Jesus with perfume.  She knew herself to be a forgiven sinner, and recognizing the depths of that love, she loved much in return.  Simon, Jesus’ host in that incident, was stingy in his love and half-hearted in his hospitality because he was not conscious that he also had accumulated debt.  Like Simon, perhaps our careful observances of rule and decorum lead to pride that keeps us from acknowledging the fact that all that we have is a gift.   And worse, this focus on externals causes us to  build walls to hide our neediness and pain, even from ourselves.

Truly living life means realizing our common humanity, getting our hands dirty, falling down and being picked up again, putting ourselves to the test out there in the arena, gaining compassion for others out of our own painful experiences.  Learning inevitably involves making mistakes.  Love can be heart-wrenching.  We fear honestly facing ourselves and others.    But Jesus came loving, forgiving, and healing so that, like the prostitute overwhelmed with gratitude, we are free to love extravagantly.

Fall Apples

When I was a child, one of my favourite autumn activities involved selecting a juicy red Mackintosh apple and an enticing book, then finding a spot where I could tuck myself away to enjoy them without fear of interruption.   I thought fall the most beautiful season of the year then, and still do today.

In our early teens, my sister and I got up before the break of dawn on Saturdays to work for a neighbour who sold his produce at the Kitchener market.  Later I sold apples at the Burlington Mall market with another farmer.   Markets, with their overflowing abundance,  are such a feast for the senses.  There’s the bright colours of flowers and vegetables and fruits, the  lively bustle of people everywhere, the spar of wits in give and take bargaining.

There was also the September happiness of picking apples in an sun-drenched orchard under clear bright blue skies.  That job supplied my first real income after being home with small children for a number of years.  We strapped on special apple-picking buckets that had canvas on the bottom.  When the apple bucket had been filled, you would waddle down the orchard lanes, unwind the cords wrapped around little hooks, and gently lower the apples into the bins.

The farm was kilometres away from the lake, but we could hear the boom of the foghorn on misty mornings.   Days would begin crisply cool, but as it warmed you would see various articles of worker’s clothing draped over the branches.    Hawks soared overhead in search of unwary little creatures.  Once we saw a little unblinking owl perched deep inside the tree’s shelter.

With the nights turning chilly, it’s time to get back to baking, to savour cinnamon-infused apple crisps and pies.   It’s a joy that includes wonderful memories of days spent outside, of the gratitude and urgency of harvest, of knowing God’s blessing of provision for another year.

Making New Paths

“I will make the blind walk a path they don’t know and I will guide them in paths they don’t know.  But I will make darkness before them into light and rough places into level ground.  These things I will do; I won’t abandon them.”  Isaiah 42:16 (CEB)


I’ve been thinking about paths lately, as I watch the landscapers prepare a new walkway for our property.  As usual, I am impatient to see the finished work.  But there is so much that has to be done first – days of digging out, laying down a gravel base, compacting between layers, leveling and making smooth before the first stones could be laid down.   If those preparations are skipped, a poor foundation will be laid for this path.  It may look really beautiful, but the integrity of the work will be evident as time goes on.

So I am thankful for the expertise of these men at Second Nature landscape design, for their patience and skill.  And it strikes me that, all over Scripture, God promises to make good paths for us to walk on.   Sometimes I get so frustrated when there seems to be no clear direction when I want to forge ahead now.  When I fret, I forget that God is always at work in my life preparing the way ahead in the design he’s planned – paths of integrity that take time and much unglamorous labour to complete.  This foundational work may be in my heart so that the way becomes clear, or it may be work shaping outside circumstances to prepare the way.  But it, too, is necessary for the transforming of my old nature into a second nature, making rough places plain, making that which is unlovely in my life beautiful to Him.

The Horse and Its Rider

“The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.  The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Exodus 15: 1-2

Sometimes I think that the best part of a vacation is in remembering it,  re-visiting the good memories of faraway or exotic locations.  Any fears of flying were overcome, there were interesting things to see and do, and you know that it ended well – you arrived safely home.

In the Old Testament book of Exodus, Israel, too, was traveling.  Not on a vacation, but on a freedom march from oppression in Egypt.  When the Egyptians’ grief over the loss of their eldest sons turned to anger, they regretted their haste in getting rid of their former slaves – within days they pursued the  fugitives.  Israel stood in breath-stopping fear at the Red Sea shore, but saw God’s miraculous deliverance as he opened up a dry path through the sea.  It’s a moment that would always be writ large, that lived on in their history as an experience of God’s goodness to them, a glorious truth.

There are extraordinary times, and we cherish them as we would the memories of an amazing holiday.   But God doesn’t let us stay there, because these times are merely signposts on the way to a much more glorious destination.  After their joyous celebration, Israel had to move into the bleak desert, and three days later they were grumbling because the only water they could find was bitter.  They needed to learn that the God who had been able to accomplish the spectacular could also be depended on their basic everyday needs.

I’ve lived through some hazardous and thrilling times, and sometimes I’m tempted to think God is not that interested in my ordinary days.   Still, getting to a destination can include long plodding periods of just putting one foot in front of the other.  In these times my vision is blocked if I linger too long on former glories.  Perhaps instead, as we do with icons on our computer screen, we can focus best on our present work when we know those victories are treasured there in the background.

When we reach new vistas, there are new truths to live out, new battles to be fought.  One day the journey will be done, and we will arrive, like Israel, safely in the Beautiful Land.