Friday, August 31, 2007

Knowing By Heart

Psalm 139:1-4 (New International Version)
1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

Her husband of forty or so years was doing the talking, but I was watching her. Her subtle response to what he was saying was priceless to observe.

I don't remember what he was saying, but I remember every slight shift of her expression.

She had no idea that she was being so acutely observed; that I saw her quick glance away as he spoke; the merry twinkle of the eye; the lips pressed together as if to hold back the words that threatened to escape--and the tiniest of smiles. All of them combined to say, "I love that man, but right now he's singing a familiar song that doesn't make as much sense as he thinks it does--and I'm not saying a word."

Her response made me think of that poignantly beautiful song, recorded by Eva Cassidy, I Know You By Heart. And I thought, is there anything better than to be known by heart? I don't think so.

Being known by heart in human relationships is hard won, whether in a marriage or friendship. It is forged in the fires of misunderstanding and tears and is the precious fruit of persistence and faithfulness to one another in spite of the occasional urge to throw something--hard.

Fear keeps some from being known by heart--no-one gets past the heavily guarded door that guards it. Oh what they miss.

I cherish my close relationships--the ones where we fit like a foot in a comfortable old slipper or a key in a lock. I fall back upon them as into soft, supportive pillows. In these relationships I can show the side of me that is weak and flawed and know that I am still loved.

The Bible says that there is one who knows us even more intimately than the most intimate of friends--and loves us still. He knows us by heart.


Psalm 139:15-17 (New International Version)

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Music

"His music is still with us."

This phrase, heard the other day as I listened to CBC morning radio while preparing for the day--stuck with me.

The host of the show was referring to a celebrated musician who had died suddenly of a heart attack just after boarding a plane. He was only 62, very gifted, and it seemed that a life with its work unfinished had been cut short.

"But," said the host, "His music is still with us."

I wondered about the "music" of my life. What will people say is "still with them" when I am gone?

I thought of those I know who have lost loved ones too soon. The music of their lives remains with us.

Today I'm thinking of some sadly missed. As long as their music is with me, they are too.

I give thanks for their lives and the gifts that they left behind here--and I look forward to the day we meet again.

John 6:51 (New International Version)
51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Having Heart

I was in the store to buy a digital recorder after thinking about it for some time. On the day I finally decided to buy it, I walked around the store several times like a hamster on some invisible treadmill, but couldn't for the life of me find the section where they were.

I looked for a salesperson to help me. Staff were pretty scarce and the ones I spotted all seemed very absorbed in something other than helping customers. I noticed that as I approached, they avoided eye contact and kept their heads down, not looking up, which would be the natural thing to do when someone approaches. They all looked like students who didn't want to get called on in class.

I did eventually make eye contact with a salesperson--and she turned out to be kind and helpful, but when I thought about the body language of the others I had an uncomfortable feeling. Was I like that sometimes too? I hated to admit it, but the truth was that I could be.

A short while ago we had a German guest staying in our home while furthering her studies. She was here to spend time in the agency I work for and learn how the service system for people with disabilities works in Ontario. In between parts of her itinerary she spent time with me, just hanging out quietly in my office as I went about my normal day. On one particular day I was very busy. There was one important phone call after another and in between I was trying to answer the most urgent emails.

While I was on the phone there was a knock at my door. It was someone we support, who I'd helped work through some painful issues that morning. I'd taken the time then, but now I was immersed in other things and on the phone. I excused myself from the phone long enough to say that I would see her later.

It was an hour or so later when I finally looked at my watch and realized that I had to get out of there! I locked my file cabinet, turned off the computer and began gathering my bags together.

"Oh, remember that lady wanted to talk to you," said our guest.

I quickly said, "Oh, she'll be ok. I'll see her tomorrow, I have to get home," and continued with my packing up for the day.

But I couldn't shake the thought of my friends' watching eyes. Her words had pricked my conscience. In that moment I was teaching her something about myself--something I didn't want her to go away with--that I didn't value people--not enough to keep my word about "later" anyway.

So I went upstairs and knocked at the door and surprised the person who'd been at the door and who was now feeling fine!

Seeing yourself through someone else's eyes is an interesting experience. That one incident made me think. If she hadn't been there I would have left. I would have broken my word without thinking, assuming that the woman at the door would have forgotten. The fact that she had, didn't matter. It's a matter of heart--of integrity.

Our guest had told me that she was "on her way" to God. In that moment what bothered me the most was that I wasn't reflecting him very well.

I'm trying hard to reflect him better lately. To do a better job of "being in the moment" with people and not looking like a salesperson who hasn't been trained well in customer service.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Freedom

Luke 21:34 (New International Version)
34"Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.

"Dissipation, drunkenness and...the anxieties of life." As I read that verse in yesterday's Daily Light, I realized that although "the anxieties of life" may seem like the odd one out in the list, in fact, all three things distract from God.

Dissipation--according to the on-line dictionary http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ it is:
1. The act of dissipating or the condition of having been dissipated.
2. Wasteful expenditure or consumption.
3. Dissolute indulgence in sensual pleasure; intemperance.
4. An amusement; a diversion.


That one is pretty self expanatory.

Drunkenness can result through blotting out pain, insecurity or discomfort, through the numbing effect of alcohol. By the grace of God I don't struggle with drunkenness, but I misuse other things. Sometimes food or spending serve that purpose in my own life. These are areas I am laying down for God's transforming power in my life.

Someone said to me this week, "I was born an alcoholic and I will always be an alcoholic. The moment I had my first drink I knew it. My choice is not whether I will be an alcoholic or not--my choice is whether or not I will practice it."

Although God can and sometimes does, deliver people from their addictions--sometimes he gives us the strength to live with them for his glory. His life being lived through us is what makes the difference if we move over and let him.

Anxieties are sometimes the result of an inability to trust God. Some of us need to be healed of anxiety and be given a baptism of faith.

Dear Lord, pleasure was invented by you and you gave us senses to enjoy and experience the world around us. Help me though, not to be mastered and consumed by the pursuit of pleasure but to enjoy all things in freedom and moderation.

Deliver me from anything that stands in the place of Lordship that belongs to you alone. I lay down my weaknesses to be filled with your strength.

Free me from anxiety and fill me with faith in you that my heart will not be weighed down, but will rise, free as a bird because I trust in you.

Monday, August 27, 2007

More About the Rainbow

Ever since August 18th, when I posted the story and photo about the rainbow that appeared the day Bill passed away, people have been telling me they saw the rainbow.

This is unusual as my friend Susan (who is almost always right and knows a lot about many things) tells me that a rainbow is "place specific," a product of the particular conditions of light and moisture in the air at a given moment.

The rainbow that appeared in the late afternoon of August 17th was wider than the average rainbow, very bright and intense and people seem to have taken particular note of it, although by the time I trained my camera lens on it, the intensity was fading.

I just felt that I had to share some of the "rainbow sightings" reported since Terry and I saw it late that afternoon.

Dave Hingsburger said... (in the comments on the blog)
Believe it or not I think I may have seen that rainbow too! The picture was beautiful and the idea that the heaven's radiated in welcome for Bill warms me. I'm wondering, did I, perchance, know this Bill?

Frank Catrambone wrote today...
On the Friday afternoon that Bill passed away(I did not know he had passed away at that time because I was at Freedomfest), the most amazing rainbow I had ever seen appeared in the sky. This happened much later than 3pm because the bands did not start playing until 3pm, and Christopher(my son) and I played soccer for an hour before we were driven into the Festival Tent by a downpour!! Everyone just stopped and stared in the sky. I said to Chris that it was the brightest and clearest rainbow that I had ever seen. It seemed to stay forever. Then, if that wasn't enough, another rainbow, appeared right below it. People everywhere were saying they had never seen a double rainbow that clear beforeThat is amazing. Sometimes God speaks in pictures. All we have to do is adjust our focus ever so slightly to see what he is saying. Lord, help me to readjust my focus so that I can see your hand at work

Lesley-Ann Griffin wrote today...
I had to tell you all. The same rainbow was witnessed by my family while at the cottage in Minden (near Haliburton) God is soooooooooooo good!!!

Others, including Susan, saw it. How awesome is it that? I love the way Dave put it. "The heavens radiated in welcome."

Genesis 9:12-16 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
12-16 God continued, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and everything living around you and everyone living after you. I'm putting my rainbow in the clouds, a sign of the covenant between me and the Earth. From now on, when I form a cloud over the Earth and the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll remember my covenant between me and you and everything living, that never again will floodwaters destroy all life. When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Long Way Home

It was a long awaited vacation for Peter and Sue and their four little ones, ranging in age from 9 years down to 19 months. They went away for a few days in Ottawa.

The plan was for Peter to come home in their van with the four children on Thursday of the week away. Susan was staying in Ottawa for a Creative Memories Scrap-booking event and returning on Sunday.

On Friday, Peter called.

"Mom, what are you guys doing for the weekend?" he wanted to know.

All grandparents know that this really means, "Can we come over for Saturday and Sunday?"

He had his hands full and we really love our grandchildren and him, so we negotiated--for Saturday! Susan's parents, R.J. and Peggy, had mercy and invited them all over for Sunday.

Yesterday he asked, "Mom, did you hear about what happened on Sunday?"

The last thing I knew was that I'd seen Peter and the kids at church. I had thought to myself that they all looked remarkably well put together, considering. All of the kids were really missing their mom though, and could hardly wait to have her home.

Sue had called early that morning. Their plan was to come home through Algonquin Park and down through Huntsville. She was expecting to be home soon after lunch.

"Are you sure you want to do that on a Sunday?" Peter had said, "The highway will be full of cottagers coming home. It might be better to come along highway 7 through Peterborough."

Not being the driver, though, Sue said they'd be sticking to the park plan.

Part way through Sunday morning Susan called her parents and asked if they had a map. This was not a good sign. Sue and her friend had found themselves at Mattawa on the Quebec border. Peggy and RJ consulted a map. The only way they could get back was to go through North Bay.

Seven and a half hours later, they finally arrived home. By this point Peter and the kids were very happy to see her!

Later that week, Sue had some friends over for a Pampered Chef party and left the room for a few moments. She returned to find everyone laughing uproariously and Peter regaling them with the tale. Their nephew Luke had asked Peter, "When did they realize they were lost?"

"It was when the Russian submarine broke through the ice," said Peter, adding, "I would have picked up on it when there were no more trees."

Sue--she insists that it was really a God thing--a chance to share with a friend who needs God--for seven and a half hours!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Little Child Shall Lead Them

No wonder Jesus held up children as the example for us to follow; they have such tender, open hearts and they have so many wonderful qualities that we are prone to lose as we become adults, if we are not careful.

The older I get, the more I love them. I find them endearing, funny and lovable.

This week, in the household downstairs it was time for the annual back-to-school clothing shopping and so Brenda carefully went through both her girl's closets and assessed what they needed.

Victoria inherited a lot of clothes from Tiffany-Amber and needed only a few new things. Victoria is OK with that--she doesn't care where the clothes come from--she is just happy to have them. One thing she did need though was a new pair of shoes and she found a pair she adored at Zellers. It was very disappointing that they didn't have her size.

Today Brenda was in town alone and decided to try the Zellers at the other end of town. There she found the shoes--and in Victoria's size. She bought them and then called home.

"Honey, I found the shoes you wanted, in your size. I've got them," she said.

Victoria let out a squeal of excitement. She was beside herself with joy! Brenda heard her running down the hallway and shouting to her sister, "Tiffany-Amber--Mommy got the shoes--Mommy got the shoes!"

"Buying something for someone who is so appreciative, is so much fun," said Brenda.

"I think it must be the same for God," I said, "When we notice the special gifts he gives us and are delighted with them, I think it must be a blessing to him."

She agreed.

Just 13 months apart, the girls have a close relationship, often playing together for hours. in their imaginary world. They are both very different in personality and as they grow up it's fascinating to watch their development as individuals.

When Brenda took the girls shopping, Tiffany-Amber had an outburst at the mall. The mall is being expanded again and more fields are being turned into parking lot.

"They're always talking about global warming," she said, "And what do they do? They take out the trees and pour more concrete! What are they thinking? What's that about?"

Later on, she noticed that people had been throwing litter on the ground.

She picked up the garbage and said, "Every body's always talking about how bad it is to litter, and yet here they go--they throw their garbage on the ground. What's that all about?!"

And with righteous indignation she stormed over and threw it in the trash.

"You're a good citizen Tiffany-Amber," Victoria said, "A very good citizen."

Isaiah 11:6 (New Living Translation)
6 In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.

Grace Period

Ezekiel 16:5-6 (New International Version)
5 No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised.
6 " 'Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, "Live!"

This morning a friend called me to tell me about someone who had been going through a rough time, condemning herself for something she had done wrong, which she could not go back and change.

We talked about grace and the term "grace period."

According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ , one meaning of the term "grace period" is:

1. A period in which a debt may be paid without accruing further interest or penalty.

That sounded pretty good to me--a relief from the punishment for debt. But my friend said that she realized that the grace that the Bible speaks of is even better that this, in that instead of a "grace period," it tells us of grace--period! That was the grace her other friend needed to realize was available in Christ. Grace. Period.

Dear Lord, this so goes against our grain in a world where we earn consequences and mete them out to others. Thank you for the gift of your grace--the pure free gift that we have only to receive. Help us to lift up our empty hands and hearts and receive it.

Psalm 40:1-2 (New International Version)
1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

Ephesians 2:4-5 (New International Version)
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's All About Perspective

Boy, can I put my foot in my mouth.

I can't tell you how many times I've been corrected, rebuked, reminded, pleaded with, punished, warned, you name it, for the things that have come out of my mouth and for the things that people are justifiably afraid will come out of my mouth. I have had a deeply seated belief, for a very long time, that I can't say the right thing no matter how hard I try, and that if I do say the right thing, it's only an abherration.. The "real me" can't do it, after all.

I was in a meeting last week. I was particularly relaxed and just "being myself". That, for me, is living pretty close to the edge. As much as I was enjoying myself, part of me is always poised for the bomb to drop. Sometimes I recognize it myself as it's rolling off my tongue. Other times, someone points it out to me afterwards, but the fear of 'blowing it' is always there.

Imagine my surprise when someone at the meeting, Carolyn, took me aside afterward and said, "You always know just the right thing to say." (She emphasized the word "just".)

I laughed. Right out loud.

She looked slightly taken aback. Could it be she didn't get the joke? I quickly explained. "I NEVER say the right thing. I get in trouble ALL THE TIME for saying the wrong thing." I laughed some more. She smiled, but she didn't laugh with me.

"Sometimes," she said, "our greatest weakness is also our greatest strength. God can take that weakness and turn it into something really good, when we yield it up to him. When you speak from your heart, and passionately, like you did tonight, others feel welcome. It makes them feel like a place has opened up for them and then they can be more open and speak from their hearts too."

It had been a good meeting. A really good meeting, where words flowed and hearts connected. Belinda wrote this about it:

Last night a group of writers who are Christian gathered. What went on was not just about writing, but about ministry to one another's souls.

It all sounded nice, what Carolyn was saying, and I appreciated her efforts to be nice to me, but I was still shaking my head and enjoying the irony of her words as compared to the message that had come to me all my life long. God use my words? Maybe on occasion, but not as a rule. No, just the opposite was true. I sure had her fooled. Wait until she really got to know me. She'd see...

On the way home, her words echoed in my heart. For some reason I found myself turning them over and over in my heart. I think it was the humour of it all that I was enjoying all over again. I even said them out loud a few times. "You always say just the right thing..."

"No, I don't." I answered to myself.

And then I heard a still small voice, "Yes, you do."

"I do?"

"You can!"

My heart was instantly on fire. I know God's voice when I hear it (sometimes, anyway!) and if this wasn't him, then I'd never heard him. My perspective was changed in an instant. Until that moment I was approaching every opportunity with fear. "I sure hope I don't say something wrong," I would say to myself. A common prayer before every social situation had become, "God, please help me not to say the wrong thing."

Now suddenly I could envision myself walking into a room with an entirely different attitude. Instead of being afraid of getting into trouble, I could see myself saying, "I always say the right thing," and then waiting to do just that!

It's true. It's working. Not that I don't ever slip up, but I've been expecting God to use my mouth instead of my foot being in there all the time and he is! It's been fun sitting in a meeting and waiting to see what "right thing" will be coming into my head and then hearing it come out of my mouth. When I focused on my weakness and looked to the negative, the negative came. What I'm finding is that when I give that same weakness to God, in his hands it is turned into the purest gold.

"A word aptly spoken, is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11 NIV

Thanks, Carolyn, and thank you Father-God for a word aptly spoken after that meeting. A word that has turned my perspective upside down and right side out.



Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Upside Down Kingdom

I called the hospital in Windsor, talked to a social worker (didn't get very far there) and to Dad's doctor (got a bit more information from him). Then I called Dad and asked him if it would be all right if I talked to them, even though it was too late to get his permission. I guess I was expecting to have to ask for forgiveness for butting in, but he surprised me by saying yes without any argument at all. It was okay. I could talk to them. Somehow I had expected him to be resistant to the idea, and was surprised when he wasn't.

My father has reached the stage in life where he needs support. He's made a valiant effort, out-living a doctor's predictions of a premature death by more than 40 years so far. Throughout his adult life, his health has presented him many challenges, but he has faced them with courage and determination and has remained steadfastly independent and surprisingly active. In the last few years he has scootered over to the library once a week, checked out 10 or so books, scootered them back home and read about one a day until he got through the pile. Then back to the library to restock his supply. I asked him once if he ever forgets which ones he's read and takes the same one home again by mistake. He said, "No. Before I take them back to the library, I take a pencil and write my intials lightly inside the back cover. Then when I take a book off the shelf, I just have to look to see if I've read it or not." I'll bet half the books in the Windsor Public Library system have my father's initials in them!

Dad didn't seem to have a very clear understanding of how the system works, so I explained the "discharge planning" process to him. I'm sure his lack of understanding is only because no-one had taken the time to explain. Dad might need help physically, but he is definitely still as sharp as a tack. The youthful twinkle in his bright blue eyes, and a quick and ready wit quickly confirms that he is much younger in spirit than his 83 years.

When I told him that my sister Brenda and I wanted to be involved in the discharge planning meetings, that we wanted to be there to make sure he had all the options presented to him so that he could make the most informed decision possible, he said "Okay." As meekly as one could possibly imagine. I was sure I'd have an argument on my hands, or at least a protestation of, "you're busy, I can handle this myself." But quietly and with a clear strong intent, he said, "Yes". He seemed grateful. And relieved.

Knowing his deep aversion to being a burden to anyone for anything (it comes from watching his father during the depression begging for a little credit, getting turned down, and then begging and pleading some more, and still getting turned down.) I made a point of saying to him, "Dad, this is not a burden to us, you know. It's a debt of love that we owe and it would be a far greater burden for us to bear for the rest of our lives if you didn't let us help."

He understood. And he said yes.

My heart was strangely moved. I was flooded with all kinds of feelings I had not expected and could not have anticipated. In that moment I felt so much love, so much respect for my dad.

I saw something of Jesus in my dad's "yes". How he came from heaven to be one of us, a helpless babe. The King of heaven came to be suckled and diapered and bathed. Was he any less a king? Did he have any less authority? No! He had more!

There's something truly noble and strong in knowing when it's time to say, "Yes." It was out of love the offer was extended to my dad, and it was out of love for us that he said, "yes".

I have never felt more respect, or more love for him than I did in that moment. He's never been weaker, not in my lifetime, and yet even confined to that hospital bed, unable to get up on his own, he's never seemed so straight, so tall, or so strong.

"It's an upside down kingdom," my husband Ron said, when I shared this with him.

It's upside down all right. He's got that right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Good Life

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Yesterday, in between interviews and phone calls and the other things that make up a typical day for me, I plundered the photo albums in my office, for photos of Bill. Katie was going to make up several mini albums that evening to display at the church today at his funeral.
Going through two decades of photo albums was like stepping into a time machine.
There were years and years of parties--celebrating weddings, Christmases, special birthdays, the arrival of babies, trips to various places, staff retreats etc.--our lives woven into the lives of the people with disabilities that we support.
Several things struck me as I went through the albums:
Some of us were a lot thinner a few years ago
Some of us had a lot more hair
We party a lot
The people we support really do have a good life
We are a lot more like family than anything else
Today we came together to celebrate a "home-going."
While there were tears, there was also laughter. The man we were remembering today was celebrated by a flock of people who loved him. He truly had a good life and had an impact on many people.
There were two tables with displays of special treasures Bill had kept over the years. On one there was a small black New Testament that I had not seen before. The pages were yellowed with age. The small book was 60 years old! Inside, these words were written:
To Billy Shaw
from his Sunday School teacher
Miss McIntosh
November 1947
Acts 16:31
"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."
The prayers that no doubt were sent to heaven on Bill's behalf by that teacher, and by the mom he loved and missed so much and who was a believer, were answered in many ways along the way. They were completely answered in recent years when Bill's room mate took him to church and said to the pastor, "Pastor Rick. Bill needs Jesus." One day soon after that Sunday, Pastor Rick had a visit with Bill in his apartment and prayed with him as he made his commitment to Christ.

As we visited after the funeral over the lovely luncheon kindly provided by the ladies of Bill's church, many people mentioned seeing the rainbow on Friday evening. It seemed that everywhere people spotted it and marveled at its unusual intensity and size.

Until we meet again Bill!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Visitors

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This morning one of our visitors, Sabine, left!

We lingered for a few moments over our last morning coffee together before we both left the house--me for work and she to head for Niagara Falls.

I needn't have worried about her driving in Canada. When she drove home from the airport last night she was confident, competent and fast! Thank goodness the car has cruise control--the speed limits are higher in Germany.

She had little luggage to pack into the car. Because she's camping she had to sacrifice all frills to accommodate a tent and sleeping bag in her luggage. She said, "I have my back-pack and my two hands and I have to think, what can I hold?"

I thought of her words as a metaphor for life. We clutter up our lives with so much "stuff," and yet there is such freedom in traveling light.

Over our coffee she said, "Time goes fast. At the beginning I thought three weeks is a long time--but at the end of the first day I thought, it is going to go fast."

Again her words seemed true not just of a vacation but of life. We think we're here for a looong time--but it goes so fast. We need to cherish every minute and our health and strength if we have them, while we have them.

Tonight after supper, Brenda and the girls sat with us and our remaining visitor, Uncle John, and told stories about one another with much giggling and many protestations.

"No! You can't tell that story," said Victoria, more than once, her eyes dancing with mischief, her hand covering her mother's mouth--and then she'd relent.

Then I asked the girls if they would play the duet that they learned for their piano recital for Uncle John. He is brother to their late great-grandfather, Rev. Ronald F.T. Burston. The gift of music flows in Uncle John as it did in his brother. Both had just a few music lessons--all they needed to start it flowing.

Downstairs we all trooped and the girls sat down at their lovely piano, a gift from their other grandmother, Marilyn Adams. I never tire of hearing them play and Uncle John loved it too.

Then I prevailed on him--"Please play something for us."

He protested at first, "Oh, I haven't touched a piano for years. I only play if someone is stuck for a pianist--it's been ages since I've played."

But I persuaded him and he sat down at the piano.
As his fingers touched the keys, slightly fumbling at first, but gathering confidence and ease, he drew music from the piano with such a beautiful skillful touch.

Tiffany-Amber hovered by him, watching his fingers as he played, this man almost seventy years older than her, a minister of the gospel like his brother and with a common passion for the piano.

Beautiful, old-fashioned melodies flowed from the instrument, including one that I love--Glory for Me.

The words, by Charles H. Gabriel are so fitting this week.
1
When all my labors and trials are o'er,
And I am safe on that beautiful shore,
Just to be near the dear Lord I adore,
Will through the ages be glory for me.

CHORUS
O that will be glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me,
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

2When, by the gift of His infinite grace,
I am accorded in heaven a place,
Just to be there and to look on His face,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
3Friends will be there I have loved long ago;
Joy like a river around me will flow;
Yet just a smile from my Saviour, I know,
Will through the ages be glory for me.
Chas. H. Gabriel.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Airports and Heaven



As we crossed the road from the airport Arrivals Lounge to the car park where a guest from Germany was picking up a car, I absorbed the atmosphere and watched people.

The place was humming with activity, even on a Sunday evening. People criss-crossed paths--all on their way "somewhere." A few were alone, but many were being escorted to waiting cars by relatives or friends who had come there to pick them up.

I found myself thinking of Bill. He'd arrived safely in heaven--we all knew that--but I wondered what it was like for him to arrive there. How I would have loved to see his reunion with the mother he missed so deeply. No more sad Mother's Days for Bill.

Then I wondered--would he lose his disability in heaven? I know people who see it both ways. Some people think that the effects of this fallen world will be shed like a chrysalis--and that disability is one of those effects.

Others find that thought insulting and believe that disability is just as intrinsic to personhood as any other quality. I didn't know which camp I was in. So I Googled the question and found an interesting blog by a young man, a very good writer, in the States, who wrote about this very topic.

"sin and suffering and death will be no more. our relationships with ourselves and with each other will be right. so all the stigmas and misunderstandings surrounding "disability" will disappear. the marginalization and manipulation, as well as insecurity and loneliness faced by many people with disabilities will be replaced with a complete humanity, maybe not because their "disability" had been removed, but rather due to their membership in the blessed community where everyone is complete, fully known, perfectly loved, and perfectly able to love."

I love that. Heaven is still a wonderful mystery, but I'm looking forward to finding out the answers first hand one day. I have so many friends there already. I look forward to "knowing fully" however that is accomplished.


1 Corinthians 13:12 (New International Version)
12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Rainbow



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I was preparing supper yesterday when I heard the sound of feet pounding up the stairs from the apartment below.
Two breathless granddaughters burst into the kitchen, eyes wide, hair askew as if they had run in from the wind outside.
"Omie--there's a rainbow--it's right out there!" said Victoria as she pointed to the north-east.
"We thought you might want to take a photograph," said Tiffany-Amber.
I was already on my way to the door to the garden with my camera.
Outside there was a strong wind and clouds were scudding across the sky. I braced myself against the wind to steady the camera and took several photos as fast as I could. The light was changing quickly and the brilliance of the rainbow was fading, but I managed to capture it.
For the rest of the evening I had my eyes on the sky and took many photographs of dramatic cloud formations and a flock of gulls that alighted on the brown field and then rose and flew crazily in the battering wind. It was a beautiful evening.
Tonight Terry called to let me know of the arrangements for our friend Bill's funeral so that I could pass them on to others.
As she was saying goodbye she reflected on the happenings of the day yesterday, and said,"It doesn't matter what your day's been like," she said, "When you get home, swimming lessons still go on--and trips to the mall."
"But," she said, "When I came out of the mall, there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. It wasn't raining. It was just like a sign saying, 'Bill has arrived.'"
"I saw that rainbow and photographed it!" I said to Terry. We were both amazed that we had seen the same rainbow and that, thanks to the girls, I captured it--Bill's rainbow.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (New International Version)
9 ..."No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"
— 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.

Friday, August 17, 2007

All is Well

1 John 2:17 (New International Version)
17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The email came in early afternoon, "It sounds like he is nearing the end of his earthly journey." The writer of the email asked that I pass on the news to another worker who would want to know.

It was expected--we all knew this was coming. Our friend had gone into hospital in February after a fall and never left. When x rays were done to check for broken bones, instead they found cancer.

Miraculously he didn't experience any pain. We were all so amazed and grateful for that. Where the cancer was, he should have felt pain.

His appetite was hearty up until the last couple of weeks, and we kept the Kentucky Fried Chicken store near the hospital in business--bringing take-out--in.

A steady stream of visitors flowed through the hospital room, leaving notes for one another in a journal pinned on the wall. Often we'd cross paths with his pastor or another friend.

On my visits I observed an old man in the next bed, frail and looking long ready for heaven. He had lain there for the past seven months and I never saw a visitor at his bedside. I often wondered about him--who he was--and how it could be that at the end, someone could be so alone.

The phone rang a couple of hours later. It was my co-worker, the manager of the team that supported our friend when he lived in his apartment. "He just died," she said, "and it was an incredible experience. I feel as if I'm on sacred ground."

She and another coworker who loved him faithfully, had gone to the hospital and both were with him at the moment that he slipped peacefully from this world into heaven. We were so happy that he wasn't alone when that moment came--that he had chosen then to leave.

I had seen him last on Monday. He was finding it hard to form words, but his eyes said everything and he looked at me intently and smiled with them. He had already said, "Thank you," to me several visits ago. We both knew that he meant "thank you" for care given--my part in his life--but somehow it was hard to acknowledge to him that I knew that was what he meant. Our lives had been connected for about twenty five years. A long time.

On Monday I said, "I love you," and he responded in just recognizable sounds, "I love you too," and we squeezed each other's hands. It was hard even then to confront the fact that this was happening, but I said, "Soon you'll be seeing your mom," and he had nodded.

But my coworker was telling me about his death now, how she had prayed with him, being encouraged by the nurses to talk to him. "Hearing is the last sense to go," they had said. She asked him to forgive her if she had ever done anything to offend him in her work with him. Then the other staff member had arrived to say goodbye--and soon after that they realized that he had slipped away, so very peacefully.

She told me it had struck her as hilarious, that he, who always wanted to be helpful and not be any trouble to those caring for him, had chosen then to pass away. She had brought his suit to the hospital the day before so that it would be ready when it was needed. She had hung it in his locker and told the nurses that it was there, but she worried that they would forget. Now she was able to lay it on his bed. Even at the end, it seemed he had made things easier for us.

The week at work ended with me sharing the news of his death with some of the people who knew him from long years together, first in an institution and then living free. Although they were not close friends, they appreciated knowing right away.

One of them told me that he would not be going to the funeral. It would not be good for his blood pressure, he said--and then he switched topics--that subject of his friend's passing dealt with.

"Do you know what they have now?" he asked--and with enthusiasm, he told me--"Bullet proof back-packs. That way a knife can't go through if someone stabs you."

I laughed. This is why I love my work. I ended the day with the image of kids going back to school with bullet proof back packs. Somehow the thought was so ludicrous it made me laugh.

Next week there will be plans to make, but right now, our friend is with Jesus and all is well.

Psalm 90:12 (New International Version)
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Isaiah 40:7-8 (New International Version)
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,

but the word of our God stands forever."

1 Corinthians 7:31 (New International Version)
31...use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Greenhouse

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1 Peter 2:5 (New International Version)

5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Sacred ground, that's what it often feels like--for within these walls God's work goes on and his Kingdom advances.
I think of it as a greenhouse where saplings can grow sturdy--a safe place where the atmosphere is steeped in prayer and the peace of God can seep into a soul. There is nothing comparable to feeling the breeze of his Spirit as he is at work in someone's life.
It was about 25 years ago that I read Edith Schaeffer's book about the organization in Switzerland that she and her husband Francis founded in their home--L'Abri--French for The Shelter.
L'Abri Fellowship began in Switzerland in 1955 when Francis and Edith Schaeffer decided in faith to open their home to be a place where people might find satisfying answers to their questions and practical demonstration of Christian care.
On the L'Abri website it says, "As our cultures find themselves further adrift from God, we’re grateful that...decades after the writing of Edith’s book. L’Abri remains a spiritual shelter for all in need of spiritual direction, for all seeking meaning and purpose in life. We are now living in times when the centrality and significance of Christian community has arisen like a phoenix..."
To create a similar place of shelter and hospitality became my longing and now I look around--he has given me the desire of my heart.
Last night a group of writers who are Christian gathered. What went on was not just about writing, but about ministry to one another's souls. Intense conversations were going on in every corner with the concentrated energy of those who had stolen this precious time out from busy lives.
The night before, another group gathered to share a meal, read from a book and discuss it--and pray.
A guest is with us from Germany--she tells us she is "on her way" to God. God's gentle work is ongoing in her and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
An uncle just arrived from England--he too needs a place of shelter and refreshment--for different reasons.
Sharing life, breaking bread together, supporting one another--exploring faith and growing in it. Is there anything better this side of heaven?
Ephesians 2:22 (New International Version)
22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Equipped

Psalm 23:1-3 (New Living Translation)
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.

2 Corinthians 3:5 (New International Version)
5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

Psalm 23:1-3 was printed at the top of my journal page this morning. "I shall lack nothing," stood out among the other beautiful words of those verses.

Then the Daily Light started out with Hebrews 13:20-23--about God's equipping.

20 Now may the God of peace...
21...equip you with all you need
for doing his will.

If we follow where God leads--take the path he lays out for us--he says that he will take care of what we need for the journey.

It has been said that God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the ones he calls. How comforting to be reminded of that.

My anxieties, when they arise, are about that very thing. Sometimes I listen to the voice that says, "Why are you doing this?" and I need to be reminded again that following God is about learning trust and dependence on him.

As if God wanted to make the point crystal clear, the last verses in the August 15th Daily Light, evening reading, are the verses at the top of my journal page. Safety is knowing that he has already given all we need for what he leads us to do.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Out with Fear and in with Peace

Like a low grade infection, I had carried a worry--a burden of anxiety.

I'm not typically an anxious, worrying sort--but almost below the level of my consciousness, it was there, lurking in the shadowy recesses of my heart, if I paid attention.

So I didn't pay attention; I pushed it away and got on with daily life, ignoring the disconcerting edginess within and the sense of inadequacy that scurried around in my soul like a lost mouse caught within a wall.

And then I read...

God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong 1 Corinthians 1:27

and

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty Zechariah 4:6

and

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power Ephesians 6:10

And so I say, it is well with my soul.

God chooses the weak? I am weak.

I have no might or power, but he says that it is by his spirit that he accomplishes his work.

My strength is in him and in his mighty power.

Dear Lord, I'm so grateful that it's all about you and not about me. Thank you for reminding me of that yet again. I am inadequate, but all that you require is a willing heart in order to accomplish your purposes. One day I'll really get that!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Debra

John 14:3 (New International Version)
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

I found another name on the page of today's Daily Light--and remembered Debra.

Today would have been her birthday, but on the day several years ago, that I shared the reading with her, I had taken my Daily Light with me to the palliative care unit of the hospital where I had gone to visit her.

She was dying of cancer, but fighting every step, every breath of the way--for life.

A young mother of four and a pastor's wife, this wasn't supposed to be happening.

I opened the Daily Light to read the verses for her birthday, because often I've found something significant to the person on "their special day." It's as if God put it there, especially for them--a special gift, as if to say, "I know you--I love you."

But as I began to read the verses, which I hadn't read ahead of time, tears flowed down her cheeks--tears of sorrow. The verses weren't verses of overcoming or of healing, but all told of another place than earth. They also spoke of the fruitfulness of a life and they ended with Isaiah 55:8, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.

I tried to encourage her--to get back to where we were before I read the Daily Light, but I wish now that we had had a different conversation.

It's natural that none of us wants to die--God built the desire for life into us. But that day, I believe she needed a friend to help her accept a different reality and that I was the one God sent.

I backed away and moved to a safer, easier place. The weight of responsibility felt too great. I didn't want to be the reason she gave up hope.

Maybe the verses helped prepare her in spite of God's clumsy delivery person. I wish I hadn't run from her tears.


I remember her today on her birthday--a gentle, beautiful woman, of courage, strength and faith.


Hebrews 13:14 (New International Version)
14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lost


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As I was getting ready for bed I found the silver chain. It had come open and slipped down into the folds of my clothing, but the pendant that had been on it when I left the house that morning, was gone.

It had been my mother's and has been part of my memory of her for as long as I can remember.

She would wear it whenever she was going somewhere special--otherwise it lay nestled safely in her little jewelry box--a small glass stone that changed colour from pale violet to blue with the temperature, set in a circular band of silver, with a stem topped by a tiny flower. I'd guess that it's at least sixty years old.
She gave it to me a few years ago and I have treasured it. Unlike Mum, I wore it often--my fingers often finding it at the end of the fine silver chain it hung on.
I mentally retraced my steps that day. I had been in Orillia, a group home in Richmond Hill, a Swiss Chalet restaurant, and at my office in Bradford. There was no way of knowing where I lost it.
I hold most possessions loosely, but not this one and I prayed fervently that I would find it. The next day I called coworkers in Orillia and Richmond Hill, and soon they were retracing my footsteps--anxious to help find it. It seemed hopeless, even as I did everything I could think of. I thought of it lying in a parking lot somewhere--finding it seemed impossible, but I couldn't give up. I kept praying.

Yesterday I spoke with someone I'd been at the restaurant with and she said, "Oh yes, you were wearing it then, I saw it on your neck." That renewed my hope a little--but--still no pendant...
Today I went to Bradford to take back some friends to their Christian Horizons home after church. When we dropped them off, I, with the other friend in the car, had a look again at the parking lot where I'd been on Thursday. A staff from the home saw me and came out to ask what we were looking for. I told her my story and she said she'd look later. "I like puzzles and finding lost things," she said with a smile and a determined gleam in her eye.

Two hours later my phone rang. I could hardly believe that it was true--"I found your pendant," she said.

It was in the gravel of the parking lot--right where we had been looking--but we might never have found it.

I have never, been more grateful or excited at any piece of news. I left right then and there to go and get it. Lovingly cleaned up, it is close at hand as I type this. I am so thankful.

I could really relate to the story in Luke 15 of the woman who lost a silver coin--part of a set of ten silver coins that Palestinian women received as wedding gifts--it would have held great sentimental value. I thought of it several times as I prayed about my lost pendant. Jesus said that she lit a lamp so that she could see into every nook and cranny--and swept the house carefully until she found it.
Then, Jesus said, she called her friends and neighbours to share the news that she'd found it and they rejoiced with her. Maybe they'd been helping her look for it and finally had to go home. You can bet that as soon as I get to work tomorrow I will be calling to share my joy with those who were searching with me. And once I got home today we put the kettle on for a celebration cup of tea!
Jesus used the story of the lost coin to illustrate the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. My pendant was never off my mind when it was lost--something was wrong and only one thing would put it right--finding it. So it is in the courts of heaven, he said--the angels are ecstatic over one lost soul coming to repentance and finding him. I just had a tiny glimpse of the Father's heart for a soul that is lost--his pre-occupation over that wayward, lost one--his persistence in seeking for them--and the happy celebration when a soul finds its way home.
Luke 15:9-10 (New International Version)
9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' 10In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

On Her Way

We have a house guest from Germany for a few days and I had offered to spend this afternoon and evening showing her some of the sights in this area.

She chose the CN Tower and Casa Loma and once word of our pending adventure got out, first my friend Susan asked if she could come, and then Brenda. So off the four of us went--to "paint the town red."

She is studying occupational therapy in Germany and is visiting Canada to spend three weeks with the organization I work for, learning about the system of support for people with developmental disabilities in Canada and then she'll be having a vacation, camping on her own for an additional two weeks. But first she's here with us for just over a week.

As the time of her arrival drew nearer, I looked forward to meeting her--curious about who God was sending to share our lives for a while--sensing that he might have an agenda.

And it seems that he does, for she said, when Brenda asked if she would be coming with us to church tomorrow,"Yes, because you know I'm on my way...."

Lord, how I thank you for the journey and I thank you for those you send to share it with us, whether for a long or short time. Please bless our time together and may we encourage one another on our way..

Friday, August 10, 2007

Movies

A few nights ago, I touched on our conversation over dinner at cell group--a continuation of one we'd started the week before about our favourite movies.

Sam had led an icebreaker where we had shared our favourites and it was surprising, funny and revealing to hear what they were.

Here are some of them:

Ron--Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Richard--The Godfather

Brenda--Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Susan--The Miracle Worker and Chariots of Fire

Paul's were A Christmas Carol and Groundhog Day, and mine were: The Colour Purple and What About Bob

All week though, I kept thinking--what was it about those particular movies that spoke to people--and that's what we discussed over dinner on Tuesday. It was as much fun finding out why people loved them as finding out what they were. We laughed loudly as Ron recounted some of the scenes in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure as they traveled back in time and collected historical figures for their history assignment--So-Crates and Beeth-oven et al. This was to save them from a "heinous" situation! He loves history and loved these slackers at school finding out about history in such a humourous way.

I was so busy listening to others that I never did get to share why I love mine.

The Colour Purple, which amazingly was released 22 years age, was directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker.

I loved several scenes in the movie--one of which is the scene from which the movie takes it's name--because it's about paying attention to the work of God's hands--admiring what he's done--and I do see and admire it all the time! And I love the transformation of the characters in the movie--the overcoming of terrible and hard circumstances.

In What About Bob --a very different movie, there's a common theme--the overcoming of a phobia along with the theme of the underdog becoming the hero-- the prideful but neurotic psychiatrist is rescued by his patient when he freezes on an important T.V. interview about his book, Baby Steps and Bob steps in and aces it.

Transformation, overcoming against the odds, the lowest being lifted up and praise of God's handiwork--themes that resonate!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Revealer and Healer

Jude 1:24-25 (New International Version)
Doxology 24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

"Able to keep from falling"

I've been thinking lately about the inherited aspect of behaviour. Our parents and grandparents may have passed down heirlooms we cherish--but they probably also passed down less desirable things--generational patterns of sin and dysfunction.

That was my sudden realization and challenge a couple of weeks ago when I wrote about my struggle with addictive eating in the post entitled, "One Day at a Time."

In my life I could see it. Alcoholism was one of the addictive strongholds over our family, along with a spirit of control.

I didn't always see the connection between alcoholism and addictive spending and eating, but spiritually it is the same stronghold--addiction.

Control was something I was blind to until God opened my eyes this past spring. Thank God that he doesn't reveal without being ready and willing to heal--and he has been.

At the time I wrote about my struggles with food I felt helpless. It seemed important to be honest about that. But there was something more--the faith factor.

Does faith make any difference in this kind of struggle? I thought that it had to--but I had to admit that I hadn't yet experienced victory in this area.

Then I opened the drawer in my bathroom that is full of reading material and pulled out a little In Touch magazine to read. There in an article written by Charles Stanley, was the answer--the struggle was not mine at all. The key was allowing Christ to live his life through my area of weakness.

I rolled out the red carpet of my tongue and invited him into the throne room of my appetite! I needed to move over and allow him to take his place in that area of my life.

The potential weakness is there--and I think it always will be--but I am noticing a freedom I haven't had before. He promises that when we are weak, he will be our strength.

I don't want to live a show of faith without experiencing the power he promised. I want to declare before the world that he is bigger than any addiction--he is more powerful than any stronghold and he paid the price so that we could live in freedom.

So let's step out and start living.

Isaiah 42:6 (New Living Translation)
6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Remembering Evelyn

In my Daily Light of July 30, is a note that says simply, "Evelyn's Home going 2003." Today, August 9, there are more notes in the margin and I know that this was the day we all gathered to say goodbye.

On those dates and in between, those of us who knew and loved her experienced a roller-coaster of emotions. I remember the call that told me she had gone--this fire-cracker, survivor of a woman who had lately lost the spark that we all thought would never die.

I felt as if someone had punched me in the stomach and I had to be alone--had to leave the crowd of company that was in our home at the time and find a quiet place.

I went out into our garden room--a glass enclosed porch that looks out onto lawns and flower beds--and sat down. It was evening, but the heat of the day hadn't dissipated--it hung in the air. And I remembered her. She who had led all of us a merry chase and who would look at me , head tilted, peering up with one eye closed, and ask, "Am I driving you crazy?"

I would always laugh and tell her I already was crazy.

I remembered watching her at parties, taking advantage of unsuspecting and unprepared guests, reeling them in with uncommon expertise. We were awed at her skills, learned not in a university but an institution. When she used them on us we tried hard to out-think her and sometimes succeeded--but it was always a close call and never a given.

It fell to Miah and I to make "the arrangements." We both loved her, and although there would not be a "viewing," we both wanted to spend some time alone with her at the funeral home. She looked so beautiful, this tiny woman of giant spirit. Her mouth was open as if in soft smiling surprise at an angel's arrival.

We were wrung out with emotion--then Miah bent down and said, "Can you see that?"

I looked too, and we burst into uncontrollable laughing. We could see her name, carefully written on the inside of her dentures--the dentures that so often had gone flying across the room at someone trying to support her.

At that moment the funeral director re-entered the room to find us trying hard to regain our composure. That moment, when pathos and hilarity met and exploded, was so fully "Evelyn" that it felt like her last gift to us.

Mention her name even now, and those who knew her start telling Evelyn stories. Those who didn't, listen and wish they had. Who could wish for a better legacy than that?

In the Daily Light reading for today are verses that seem meant for her:

Song of Solomon 4:7 (New International Version)
7 All beautiful you are, my darling;
there is no flaw in you.
Psalm 45:13 (New International Version)
13 All glorious is the princess within her chamber ;...


Ezekiel 16:14 (New International Version)
14 ... the splendor I had given you made your beauty perfect, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Until we meet again, Evelyn!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Community

We call it a cell group but we're just a group of friends who love God and love each other.

Yesterday--which was Simcoe Day and a holiday--I made a new dish for tonight from one of my two favourite Sandi Richard cookbooks--this one called The Dinner Fix. I made Sweet Indian Chicken. It was supposed to include mincemeat--the kind that goes in mince pies. I didn't have any so I threw in sultana raisins instead--along with some Branston Pickle--a kind of chutney. It seemed to work.

A few weeks ago Paul had come back from Mishkeegogamang with a gift of wild rice from Chief Connie Gray-McKay. I soaked and rinsed it for about 18 hours and then cooked it. It was delicious mixed with Basmati rice.

I had three over ripe bananas and so far this year I've avoided fruit flies, so I made them into a banana cake for dessert. It was nice having extra time to prepare the meal yesterday.

Tonight all I had to do was heat everything up and cook some vegetables and it was all in process when the phone rang. It was Lori Lei asking if the group was on tonight and could she come with Ava, her darling miracle baby--six and a half months old. Of course she could! We'd be thrilled to see them.

Victoria and Tiffany-Amber appeared from their apartment downstairs. "We're here to help," said Victoria.

"Great," I said, "I need some helpers." And soon they were busy setting the table for eight. Brenda came upstairs with them.

The front door opened and a young man stood in the hall holding a long French stick and a carton of fresh strawberries. "I can't stay tonight," he said, "I have to work. But I want you to know this means so much to me. I brought these because...breaking bread is good." With a promise to see us on Sunday in church, he was gone.

Ron and Susan arrived and Lori Lei and Ava--our company for this evening was complete.

As we sat around the table we built on an ice-breaker we'd had last week where we'd shared what our favourite movies were. Tonight we talked about what makes them our favourite. For instance--Paul's are Dickens' A Christmas Carol--the Alistair Simms version--and Ground hog Day with Bill Murray. They may not seem to have much in common, but both of them are stories of redemption.

Brenda shared a funny conversation she'd had with Tiffany-Amber. She had said to Brenda, "Mommy, I don't want to grow up."

Brenda replied, "You know Honey, you think that now, but when you do grow up you're going to be glad you're grown up."

"No, Mommy," Tiffany-Amber insisted, with tears in her eyes, "I really don't want to grow up."

"Well, then," said Brenda, "You're going to have to go to Never Never Land."

"There's no such place!" said Tiffany-Amber, laughing at her mother.

"There--it's too late, you're grown up already," said Brenda, laughing too.

After clearing away the dishes we gathered in easy chairs and on leather couch and read a little more of the book we're discussing--Larry Crabb's Soul Talk. We talked about the importance of being known--"not by a crowd or a committee, but by a person, a close friend, an intimate companion. And not merely held accountable, but genuinely known in an intimate, vulnerable, painfully real, long-term relationship."

We're about cultivating that kind of relationship--and in varying degrees with one another we are growing towards it.

The phone rang. It was Beth, one of Susan and Ron's daughters. The news sent a ripple of anticipation around our circle. Christy, another of their daughters, who had been in labour all day, was heading for the hospital--Mount Sinai in Toronto. Susan will be there tonight with Beth sharing in the drama and hard work as a new grandchild is born.

We prayed--for a fast and safe delivery--for strength for Susan who is still not recovered from a serious sinus infection--and we celebrated and prayed for a new life about to emerge into the world.

Another Tuesday night--and it had been so good to be together.

John 17:20-21 (New International Version)
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Recognition

Matthew 27:54 (New International Version)
54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, "Surely he was the Son of God!"

The day had been drenched in death--but this was something the centurion, a man of noble birth and high social standing, was accustomed to. He had attained his position by demonstrating skill and courage as he led his soldiers by example in battle, from the front. He had seen more carnage than he wished to dwell upon.

The death of the man on the cross he was guarding was different. The centurion was a man of honour and he had no stomach for the work of this day--the obviously political disposal of a troublesome but innocent man.

Keeping a death watch is an intimate duty and whether he wanted it or not he was bound together with this man in a deeply personal way as the hours ticked by and he witnessed his dying agony.

But there was something more that drew the cry of terror from the man accustomed to horrifying sights in battle.

The mocking jeers from the crowd had died down, replaced by the sobbing of the women who stayed close by, but as the man's torment reached its climax it was as if the very earth convulsed in death throes and the elements roared in protest. The darkness, and the violent trembling of the earth told him an unthinkable truth. This man was the Son of God!

I wonder about him...he would have been forever changed. I hope that he found disciples of Jesus and became a follower himself.

He wasn't the first hardened soldier to quake before Jesus. In John 7:45-46 tells of the temple guards who had been dispatched to bring Jesus in returning empty handed, only able to say, "No one ever spoke the way this man does." And John 18:6, the record of the arrest of Jesus, says that the soldiers and officials drew back and fell to the ground when Jesus spoke.

Jesus was gentle enough to cradle a child, but the power of his Presence, even in human flesh and bone, must have been electrifying.

I try to imagine what it will be like to see him in all of his glory --and I pray for all the ones I love--that here and now--he is recognized for who he is--the Son of God.

Revelation 1:7 (New International Version)
7Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen


Revelation 3:18 (New International Version)
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Life With God

Matthew 26:42 (New International Version)
42"...may your will be done."


Jeremiah 10:23 (New International Version)
23 I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.


"This feels like you O Lord, and I feel a rising sense of excitement."

I journaled these words recently as a new door cracked open in my life. I had gone to bed the night before, knowing that the thing I was considering was impossible without God.

I woke up excited, knowing that yes, without God it would be impossible, but I am not without God. He is with me.

There are some things that I do automatically when an opportunity arises and I found myself reflecting on them this morning.

1. I really pay attention to my basic physical reaction. Often my body tells me before my mind does, if a step is a good one for me. If my stomach is in a knot and I feel panic rising in my throat, I listen and don't go further. On the other hand--my breath being taken away and my palms sweating are not negative--in fact they are often indicators of a God adventure about to begin. Being stretched can be scary but the alternative is stagnation.

2. I sleep on it, giving the Holy Spirit some time with my heart. Sometimes I wake up thinking, "What was I thinking?" about a thought or idea that seemed so brilliant and exciting the day before.

3. Then I ask input of my family, especially Paul--and a few close friends. My friend Irene would call this, flying something up the flag pole and "seeing who salutes it." This can be scary. If no-one says, "Are you crazy?" that's a good sign.

4. I ask myself it what I am considering is in line with who I am--the fibre of my being--and with the gifts and potentialities that God gave me. I don't worry about whether I have ever done it before--or whether I am qualified--these things seem of little consequence to God.

That's about it for my decision making process. I've talked to others who worry more about understanding God's guidance in their lives. But I believe that God is very able to make it clear if I'm headed in the wrong direction.

Life with God is an incredible adventure for those who are up for it--and I don't want to miss a single moment.

Isaiah 26:3 (New International Version)
3 You will keep in perfect peace

him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Table

Psalm 23:5 (New King James Version)
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.

Saturday--I always have big plans for extra things--like cleaning windows, getting rid of that pile of mending by doing it, or sorting out the room that needs tidying--but all I can ever seem to manage is watering the plants, doing the laundry and the shopping. And then I seem to run out of day.

Other important things fill up the hours of Saturdays--things like unhurried breakfasts with family, coffees with Brenda, phone calls to England and from Peter. And time with God of course--so I don't feel too badly about my meagre visible results at the end of the day.

Added to the mix today was preparing the worship service and I found myself thinking about it as I watered the plants, my last task before sitting down to choose songs for tomorrow. This week our church will celebrate communion--and I decided I would take a CD with a song to play as the communion is served.

The song I chose was Keith Green's version of The Lord is My Shepherd and to be sure it would fit and that I had the right track, I listened to it.

As usual I was awed by the sheer beauty of his voice and the passion as his fingers beat away at the piano keys, drumming out the rhythm with an intensity that was all part of who he was.

As I heard Keith's voice soar with those familiar words, You prepare a table for me..." I thought of the communion table we would be sharing tomorrow and of the table at which Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his disciples as they celebrated the Passover--sharing the very symbols of his body and blood.

The table prepared for me in the presence of my enemies is the table at which my salvation was promised.

A little research on the significance of anointing someone's head with oil led me to the verse below in Isaiah. Wow--I had never noticed this before. The one from whom the yoke comes is our enemy--Satan.

Isaiah 10:27 (New King James Version)
27 It shall come to pass in that day
That his burden will be taken away from your shoulder,
And his yoke from your neck,
And the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil.

But Jesus is the One who invites us:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)

"You will find rest for your souls" Matthew 28:29 b echoes "He restores my soul," Psalm 23:3

Dear Lord, I thank you for the wonder of your Word and I thank you for the table that made it possible for my burden to be taken away and the yoke that I was under to be taken off and destroyed. Praise you Lord.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Severe Mercy

It’s only in the middle of it that I realized that what they say is true. Trials and suffering do make people stronger. It’s not even me suffering. I mean I have struggled and wept as Nicholas had seizure after seizure a month and a half ago. Even writing that word is foreign and makes me feel sick, something revolts in me at the thought that my little guy had to go through that, and that He still might if he weren’t on the medication that’s keeping him stable. Something I never expected has happened. We have been blessed with four healthy, happy children, and believe me, we count these blessings and are thankful because we know the struggles that so many families have had with medical and developmental challenges with their children. After the little bit that we’ve gone through with Nicky my heart goes out to them so much deeper than it did even in the ten years I worked at Christian Horizons.
But all of that to say, as we walked down the road of life about a month and a half ago, things seemed ok. Nobody was sick, no crises happening. And then the seizures that tossed our world and especially Nicky’s upside down. They were terrifying.
It felt as if we had suddenly taken a sharp left off the road of normalcy and I didn’t want any of us to be there. But we were and we are and a funny thing has happened. We are better than we were before. Where petty things brought division in our family, now they all of a sudden don’t matter. God has us in the cooker. I’m pretty sure because the heat's been up in a lot of areas, but this was truly the most difficult for obvious reasons.
Now though, life has sharp focus, things are clearer than they were. Priorities are defined and easier to stick to because I realize that the fluff and excuses for busyness and pettyness and all the stuff we struggle with on a day to day basis aren’t important.
We shall be refined and come forth as gold. I know this and I’m actually willing. Where I would have felt fear and run from the thought of this before, now I know we’re in it for a reason and God will bring us through. He will complete the good work He has begun in us.
Praise be to His Holy Name.
Nicky calls the seizures storms and a song called "Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns off their Lifesong album coins what I have been feeling. Here's a bit of a verse and the chorus that says it all so well...
"And as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away...

And I will praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I cry
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm"

Dear Lord,
This is hard. Please heal our Nicky. I don't want him to suffer and the fallout of his seizures is difficult, especially the tantrums. But please also help us to learn and grow through all of this. Thank you for bringing a new heart to our family, one that is not concerned with the trivial, but focused on what is important and lasting. Thank you for your severe mercy.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Eyes Open Wide

The best writer is one that goes with us through the world of ideas like a friendly guide who walks beside us through the forest pointing out to us a hundred natural wonders we had not noticed before. So we learn from him to see for ourselves and soon we have no need for our guide.
A.W. Tozer

On Sundays I usually head in the opposite direction to church to pick up three friends--two of them a married couple who have disabilities and the other a friend who has no car.

The energy is always buzzing. Everyone wants to share news from their week and air time is at a premium as we jog along. Sometimes I just smile at the intense joie de vivre within my plum coloured Honda Civic.

Last Sunday we were headed back towards the small town where our church is. Michelle had been away for two weeks and was brimming over with news to share.

Suddenly the young woman with a disability said, "Oh, look at that field, it's beautiful." And it was, I had to agree.

I noticed that she was looking out of the window with every bit as much interest as me, even as Michelle, undaunted, continued to tell us about her vacation.

Something was different with my friend in the back--she was noticing beauty--really paying attention in a way I'd never seen her do before. I thought that I knew why. A couple of weeks ago we were on our way home from a baby shower. I'd taken my camera with me to photograph the baby, but as we drove home along a concession road in the fading evening light, I slowed down and pulled over onto the soft shoulder to photograph a golden field at dusk. As I explained my compulsion to capture the loveliness I see, she listened with interest. I think that maybe I opened her eyes.

Michelle spotted two blue herons and pointed out their Z shaped necks as we admired their graceful flight. I never notice moving objects as easily as some. We laughed at the thought that Michelle has "quick eyes" and I have "slow eyes." We all can need each other's help to see, hear or feel what's all around us at times.

I loved the possibility that I had opened my friend's eyes to beauty--but how much more significant to open some one's eyes to the fact that God exists and that it's really possible to experience intimate connection with him.

He is there, not far from any one of us, the Bible says, but if people don't know to look for him--they may not find him. To help someone discover him--now thats worth more than all the world.
Acts 17:27 (New Living Translation)

27 “
His purpose was for the nation to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

No Fear!

As most of you know, I just returned from a trip to a remote area of Northern Ontario, just half an hour short of Pickle Lake -where the highway ends. It would take just as long to drive there as it takes to drive to Florida from here. That's a "right fur piece"! Fortunately, we got to fly.

I am not an experienced flyer by any means. I logged one trip to England 17 years ago, one trip to Florida 3 years ago, and this trip to Northern Ontario. I have yet to develop a flying "savvy". I didn't know, for instance, (or couldn't remember) that when you sit in the back of the aircraft, the loud "clunk" you hear just after the plane takes off is the landing gear being folded up and out of the way, not - as I thought for a brief flash - the engines falling off, and the plane about to crash. (Silly me!)

It occured to me several times, especially when we first took off from Sioux Lookout on Saturday in that duct-taped together old plane from Bearskin Airlines, that I should be scared silly. But then I remembered that I am covered by the blood of a precious Friend, dressed in His robes of righteousness, my life firmly held in his nail-scarred hands, and I was flying in the very shadow of his wings. I had NOTHING to be afraid of. Whether we lived, or whether we crashed, burned, and died, I am safe with Him. Every moment of every day. Loved. Intensely, thoroughly, unwaveringly, unceasingly, and irrevocably. Loved.

WHAT is there for me to be afraid of? What?

As we entered some turbulence over Lake Superior and the plane began to rock, rattle, and roll, I found myself quietly humming that old spiritual, "Rocka my soul, in the bosom of Abraham, oh, rocka ma soul..." And instead of the turbulence becoming a source of stress and fear, it became for me a physical manifestation of the song that was coming out of my heart.

We are not afraid! We don't ever have to be afraid. Come hell or high water. Plane crashes or stock market crashes. Terrorism, accidents, mishaps, trials, persecutions, you name it. If our lives are hid in Christ we are not - we cannot - be afraid.

What a gift. What an incredible gift.

As I sat rocking in that plane, I thought about the Jesus I am growing to know... The One who stopped to talk to the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Did you know Jesus was just leaving on a journey when that young man came up and barged into his day?

I too had been "leaving on a journey" that morning. I had a hundred things to do and a thousand things to remember in order to be ready to leave on time and not leave others in any kind of difficulty on my account. I can't imagine stopping and giving my complete attention to someone who seemed to have no regard at all for my agenda - like Jesus did with that self-centred young rich kid. However the account of that story in Mark indicates that he not only gave him the time of day, but was fully present for every moment of their encounter. It says Jesus "felt genuine love for him". He felt genuine love for someone who wasn't even ready yet to give up everything and to follow him.

I know he looks at me with that same kind of love. And I know he gives me his full attention, too. Even when I don't deserve it. Even when I barge into his day thinking only of myself.

That's the Jesus into whose hands I put my life. How could I not trust someone who loves me like that? How could I be afraid when my life is in his hands?

Romans 8: 35-39, NLT
"Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." Amen!