Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Loving God; Loving Each Other

Zechariah 4:6 (New Living Translation)
6 Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

The cranberry cloth was spread on the sturdy pine table.

In the warm glow of lamp light, 8 year old Victoria, my faithful assistant, surveyed the room with practiced eye and air of competence, adding condiments and cutlery to the table.

From the kitchen wafted the nutty fragrance of basmati rice mingled with the spicy aroma of simmering butter chicken and a fresh pot of was coffee perking, adding to the olfactory delight.

Friends began to arrive. Three weeks we had been apart--and we all looked forward to being back together again at cell group.

Over dinner Victoria told a story that included her friend Joshua at school. Someone teased her, "Is he your boyfriend?"

"No!" said Victoria, "That's Jacob!"

And Tiffany-Amber, both hands over her mouth to smother giggles, eyes sparkling with merriment, said, "I can't believe you said that."

After dinner; replete, we sank into comfortable chairs and caught up on weeks of hopes, battles and victories in each other's lives.

We read a devotion that challenged us to lay down trust in our own competence and strengths, and trust God completely; only picking them up again, as Moses picked up his shepherd's staff, as tools in God's hands, for his power to flow through.

Surrender and submission; trusting that God loves us and his plans for us are good.

We prayed before parting, and the Holy Spirit hovered over this small band of disciples, challenging us to love him so much that his pleasure would be more to us than anything else--more even than life itself.


2 Chronicles 20:15 (New Living Translation)
15 He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

More Baby Steps

Ephesians 4:25-27 (New International Version)
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold.

Why is speaking truthfully such a hard thing to do when something bothers us?

Reading these verses in Ephesians 4, I see why it is very important to do so. If we don't speak truthfully and we rationalize that we will address the issue "later," we will let the sun go down while we are still angry, and that in turn will give the devil a foothold.

Anger or offence unaddressed, can have some bad results, just as a low grade infection unaddressed in our physical body can.

1. The imagination feeds the offence or anger. Imagination is one of God's most amazing gifts, but when anger fuels fantasy over the perceived faults of others--we can easily become convinced that fantasy is reality.

2. Focusing on the other's faults is a handy tool of the Enemy, to blind us to our own.

Luke 6:42 (New International Version)
42How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

If I have learned one thing in my life so far it is that relationship is what life is all about. Relationships are complex, difficult--and the greatest treasure on earth. They are the surest test of the health of our heart spiritually.

The work never ends. Sometimes I feel as if even my baby steps are going backwards and I need to learn to walk all over again.

Dear Lord I am so grateful for the wind of your Holy Spirit. He blows over my heart when it is out of tune, and he touches its' strings so that it sings in harmony with you. Thank you for your never ending patience with us as we learn to walk in your ways. Thank you for your precious Word and for your perfection. How I love you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We Survived!

My brother and I love each other dearly but we are so different that we make each other crazy when we are together for any length of time. How we sprung from the same loins is a wonder to me. I think that we both picked up odd bits of our parents--different, but very odd bits.

What I gain in quantity, he makes up for in quality. My life is packed to the very edges and beyond, with all that I want to do and be and accomplish. He does few things and lives a quiet, unseen life, but everything he does he does in a very particular way, and very well. He makes an incredible difference in Mum's life and is a gift that I am grateful for personally and for her sake.

But a few hours into a stay in Robert's world, and I suddenly feel that I can't wash dishes or cook, or make tea, or heck, even feed the cat with competence. He misses no detail--I have no time for all the details; the outdoors, nature, and books and writing are waiting.

So we had a few "moments" over our three weeks together. I didn't make spaghetti sauce quite right--I mean, I put onions in it. They make your clothes smell for days he said. Have I been going around smelling of onions for years and everyone was just too polite to tell me, I wondered?

The following week, he made the spaghetti for supper. It just needed a tiny tad of salt for my taste, so I tried to sprinkle some on unobtrusively. But when I thanked him afterwards for the lovely meal, he said, "It wasn't salty enough for you though, Belinda, was it? I saw you putting more on." I knew that even though he didn't look like he was looking; he was!

But then suddenly the weeks were gone and we were at the airport with, Brenda, Tim my nephew, and our friends Chris, Eileen and Nel.

Surrounded by noise and bustle and cases and people, in a moment to which everyone else was oblivious, suddenly my brother's big hand fell gently on my arm and it was as if we were alone amongst the crowd.The moment is freeze framed in my memory as a still photograph.

He said softly, "Thank you for coming, Belinda--I'm sorry for my outbursts." We both knew what he meant; it was a joking referral to our strange mostly unspoken relational dance.

" Well, I had one too," I said, thinking of the incident with the keys (see October 16th post, A Less Than Noble Moment).

"Just one?" he said.

And we laughed!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Simply Being

I am home in Canada, but I called my other "home" in England this morning, needing to reconnect with Mum--to hear her voice.

I called Robert when I arrived yesterday evening to say we'd arrived safely, but Mum's light in her flat downstairs was already off and the hour was late, so he didn't disturb her.

Mum finds it hard to find her way to all the words that have been held captive inside her since her stroke 4 years ago. She can say so little of what she is thinking, but we laughed a lot together over the past three weeks, as I tried to understand when she fought to convey more complex than usual thoughts. She was endlessly patient and resigned, never complaining, as I would do, at the frustration of it.

It was poignant then, this morning, when she said, "Everything is different today...," and, "The leaves are falling; they are sad."

Those few words spoke more eloquently to me than thousands could have. We spoke of "next time," but even though it's hard to be so far apart, we are both so grateful for the gift of "this time."

What is more precious than the simple gift of time together? And I am grateful for the second gift--the gift of knowing that it is a treasure--in all of our relationships--with God or with each other.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Holiness

1 Samuel 6:20-21 (New Living Translation)
20 “Who is able to stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?” they cried out. “Where can we send the Ark from here?”
21 So they sent messengers to the people at Kiriath-jearim and told them, “The Philistines have returned the Ark of the Lord. Come here and get it!”


The Ark of the covenant, first mentioned in Exodus, was a holy object, a place of meeting with God. But by the time of the young prophet Samuel, its significance and symbolism had become distorted so that it was seen by the Israelites and their enemies as having intrinsic, almost magical properties, to bring good outcomes in battle and good fortune to whichever people possessed it.

In 1 Samuel 4-6, the account is told of the capture of the Ark by a people called the Philistines, who soon returned it like a hot potato to the Israelites at Kiriath Jearim. The initial rejoicing and excitement felt by the conquerors at possessing it, soon changed to a desire to pass it on as fast as possible. Why? Dire consequences resulted when the instructions God had given concerning the ark, were not followed, and when the holiness of God, which he had given to this object made of gold and wood, was disregarded.

Thousands of years later no one knows what became of the Ark, but I find myself thinking how easy it is for us to have similarly skewed ideas about God in our lives.

God's desire was always to live with mankind. One of Jesus' names is Emmanuel, "God with us." But his presence is holy. With the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, he became "God in us."

Am I a "sacred object" like the Ark? Maybe it wouldn't hurt to consider what it means to carry the presence of God in me.

God's Word uses metaphor, saying that we are light bearers to a dark world and letters to be read by others. His holiness, his mercy and compassion--he's counting on us to carry them to the world. We are his chosen vehicles for this age of grace.

2 Peter 3:14 (New Living Translation)
14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Faithful

Hebrews 13:5b (New International Version)
5...God has said,
"Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you."

I have to confess that I'm hooked. While in England I have been following the progress of the latest X Factor hopefuls, cheering on ordinary people with extraordinary talents, desperate to win this chance at stardom.

There is a fairytale quality to it all, as a choreographer, team of dancers, and their mentors work with them to develop their raw talent into a winning act.

I have sat on the edge of my seat with bated breath, wondering who Simon, Louis, Sharon and Danni would choose--feeling elation with those chosen and heartbroken for those who hear those dreaded words--but only after their hope has been spun out until the very last moment for the benefit of the viewing audience--"I like you, you've got talent, I have to tell you though...I'm...sending you home."

Although I'm afraid that it's the modern day equivalent of public executions--I'm there, watching with the rest of the nation.

I will miss this Saturday's show--I'll be back in Canada by then--but last Saturday I watched as two of Sharon's choices; young female singers, were left to fight it out for last place. They were both the weakest in the show and only one of them could go forward to this week.

Sharon stood between them, having come so far and invested so much in them. They were after all, both "her girls." She was emotional as the host asked her if she had any advice for them. Her trademark seems to be her emotional outbursts ("hissy fits," Brenda calls them) and she stepped back from them as if to wash her hands of it all and said, "Well, nothing I've said so far has helped, so I've nothing to say."

The two singers stood alone on the stage, deserted by their champion, and in that moment, I thought of mine--who says, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."

And he never does.

Galatians 2:20 (New Living Translation)
20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Flagging Post

It's been a long day. I'm tired. I have a lot on my mind. A lot. I'm wondering how Belinda keeps this up, day after day, after day. She must feel pretty passionate about it. I, for one, am really, really glad she'll be back on this side of the pond come Saturday. I'm sure we'll hear from her again on Saturday evening, if she isn't able to get one last draft in tomorrow from the Alvechurch Library. It's been challenging and fun to help keep the blog going while she's been away, sometimes by posting her drafts, sometimes by writing one myself, and sometimes opening it up and finding she's surprised us all by posting something herself from one of those temperamental computers she calls ahead to book at the library. And then there was that beautiful celebration piece posted a few days ago by Angela (AngCat), which was also a welcome surprise.

Belinda has been doing these posts for almost a year and a half now. I know I'm not the only one who has enjoyed being her audience as she has honed her craft -- the art of devotional writing. I have really enjoyed how she has shared "the journey" with us - her life, her thoughts, her insights, her revelations, her growing pains. It's been a distinct pleasure watching her writing mature and benefiting first hand from what she shares so generously with her readers. God very often uses her posts to speak directly to my heart about some matter or another. It blows me away sometimes when I open up her blog in the morning and there laid out on the computer screen is the answer to a concern or a question I have voiced just moments or hours earlier to God alone.

So let me just take a moment with you to pause in our busy lives to ask Father-God for something special. It's a selfish request really, but I think that's okay...

"Father, keep on blessing the gift you've placed in Belinda. Keep on speaking through her words, keep on blessing your children through them!" (And please bring her home safely and on schedule! Please! 'Cause I'm tired! And keep on blessing the stamina you've given her too!) Amen.

Amen!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still Waters.

Sometimes when I look at myself, I see someone who tries too often to make a splash.

"Look at me! Look at me!" my behaviour sometimes cries. Just like the average three year old. Pathetic, eh?

Well, there's someone I'm getting to know who doesn't do that at all. Sometimes I think I'd really like to be more like him.

We had tea with this new friend, and with a few other people not many weeks ago. Some of us in this group of five were old friends, but others were just getting to know each other. I sent out some tiny tendrils of potential relationship, fragile, tender, trying not to be too vulnerable, deciding to what level of friendship I could begin to trust, taking small risks, yet all the while knowing I was pretty safe. It was myself I was afraid to trust.

We talked about a lot of different things that September afternoon. I told a story about my dad and how he was being treated while in the hospital. I talked a lot because it was a long story and a fresh one. I wondered, as we carried on, if I'd said too much, shared more than I should have. Perhaps I'd bored the party all the way to politely-held-back tears.

The rest of the conversation danced and leapt with thoughts and ideas and stories, erupting from time to time into laughter unrestrained. When a stranger broke into our cameraderie with a rudeness that cast a sudden chill, we quickly found the silver lining. The intrusion allowed a rare peek deep into the windows of each others' hearts as in that moment of sudden exposure forced onto us by another's bad behaviour.  We suddenly dropped all defenses in our quickness to support each other through the uncomfortableness of it all.

All this time he didn't say much, happily letting others do most of the talking. But his eyes spoke with a rare eloquence and showed a keen interest in all that was being said. And he laughed -- with sincerity -- at ALL the jokes. Perhaps he was quiet, but he was certainly "there".

I don't enjoy goodbyes. I haven't figured out all the "rules" yet, even in middle age, and I never quite know if I will find this to be one of those awkward moments of usually short but intense discomfort. We began to gather our things and I braced myself for that last uncomfortable moment, ready to say, "So long," to everyone there.

I needn't have worried about any awkward moments with this new friend. His parting words, accompanied by a friendly, accepting hug, were simply, "Let me know what happens with your dad..."

Let me know what happens with your dad.

For me, there was more in those eight words than in all the other conversation that happened that afternoon.  As my concern for my dad continues I remember those words sometimes. They come back like a warm and welcome blanket over my chilly set of worries.

Still waters run deep. And sometimes they run very deep. And sometimes they leave a good and lasting mark.

"Like apples of gold, in settings of silver, is a word aptly spoken." Proverbs 25:11

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Celebration


It has been a perfect day.
First we attended church with dear friends. Friends who had waited 17 years for a homeland. Who had come the long route here, from Rwanda, through a refugee camp and many trials. Then on the wings of answered prayers and through the support of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, found themselves in our town and I am blessed to say, on my street. I on their street.
Today we celebrated with music, testimony and food of Pascal and Eline's final homecoming as they became citizens of our great nation on Friday.
After filling our bellies we went out to fill our senses with the glory of His creation. The sun blazed down from a clear blue sky. The heat was softened by a strong breeze blowing warm air through the day. We travelled in convoy to Mono Cliffs Park in the Niagara Escarpment. The trees still splashed in riotous colors of red, orange and gold ushered us on our journey. The trail opened before us, littered with more leaves, almost ankle deep, crunching. Musty, fall smelling richness filled our nostrils, bringing forth a glad sigh and exclamation of contentment. There's nothing like Autumn. We walked and ran and gathered leaves in our hands and pockets. We climbed up rocky banks to feel the cold in a cave, took pictures and clambered back down again. We laughed and rollicked and praised our Father in Heaven who is the giver of such good gifts. The children dashed ahead, climbing on great fallen logs to become conquerers on strong steeds, to balance and bounce and laugh and chase on again to the next spot. My littlest boy found a broomy kind of branch and most of the way back, swept the path. "I'm cleaning the forest Mom", he said. "Good job honey" I chuckled loving the pile he pushed in front of him and the fun he was having.
Back at the big clearing before getting to the road, we brought out another bounty of food left from the celebration and had a mini feast. We gave thanks to God and sang "Mambo sawa sawa, Yesu akiwa henzini" which means in Kiswahili "Things are getting better when the Lord is on the throne."
As we sang a large bird of prey circled over us with majestic wing span. He came in close and we could see the light and dark colors in his feathers before he swooped up and away over the trees. We were reminded of the scripture we had spoken of earlier that we will mount up with wings as eagles as we wait upon the Lord. It was a fitting finale to a spectacular day of blessing and celebration, like a visitation of the Lord to confirm His strength and presence.
We give You all the glory King Jesus.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Anniversary

Colossians 1:19-20 (New International Version)
19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Thirty one years ago yesterday, my friend Eileen and I, just 16 at the time, went to Redditch College of Further Education, to see a Billy Graham movie. I was working in an accounts office at the time, and my boss, who was also a pastor, had invited me to go.

At the end of the movie, which I believe was called Oil Town U.S.A., there was an opportunity for anyone who wanted to invite Christ to be their saviour, to go forward. To the hymn Just As I Am, both Eileen and I responded.

It seemed a natural thing to answer what seemed to be a call of God, with, "Yes," but I really understood very little of what I was saying , "Yes," to. I was a very raw recruit, strongly influenced by the culture of the 60's and "working class" Britain, as well as a home life that had been unhappy from earliest memory. At 16, on the threshold of my life--a life that could have followed a very different course--I came to a crossroads and took a bloodstained path.

I had always been spiritually open, even as a small child, thriving on the hymns we sang at school and having a dim but real awareness of God. Now he suddenly became personal. A more intimate relationship had begun.

My heart overflows with gratitude for that relationship--that I was given the opportunity to accept Jesus's sacrifice for mankind as for me personally.

The verse referenced yesterday in Edges of His Ways, by Amy Carmichael, also has personal significance. The path of my life has taken me far from home, but he has proved ever faithful.

Psalm 139:9-10 (New International Version)
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Entrusted with His Word

Psalm 119:103 (New International Version)
How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Words on the page of an ancient book; words that are alive; that dance and resonate; his words.

I've been reading the first book of Samuel, and in chapter 3, the account of the call of the young boy the book is named for, tells of a critical test. Could he be trusted with God's word for his people?

God started him off in a gut wrenching way. He did not give him a comforting word of encouragement to share, but a hard word--a word of rebuke, telling of his pending judgement on the house of Samuel's mentor, Eli the priest. Eli who had turned a blind eye to the utter corruption of his sons.

Ironically it was Eli who helped Samuel deliver the word from God with integrity. "May God deal with you, be it ever so severely," he said, "if you hide anything he told you."

And Eli's response must have confirmed something very deeply for Samuel. Eli, in spite of all his failings, received the word as from God, and said, "He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes."

A call from God is a sacred and holy thing and to be handled with trembling hands. We are told not to judge by Jesus, for our own judgement of another will necessarily be flawed. But when God entrusts us with an element of his work in another's life, to shrink from that is to let "his words fall to the ground." (1 Samuel 3:19)

We may not all be prophets like Samuel, but so many lightly speak words in "God's name." I wonder if we realize what an awesome trust that is?

1 Samuel 3:19 and 21b (New International Version19 The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground.
21 ...and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

Panoramic View

Psalm 119:97 (New International Version)
97 Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.


I was looking for the verse that I wanted to use for yesterday's post, about God's promises being sweeter than honey.


I don't have a concordance at hand where I am staying at present, but I knew that the verse was in the book of psalms, so I decided to skim quickly through the whole book, scanning each page for key words, in order to find it.


I didn't find it on the first skim through, or the second, but on the third, when I focused in more closely on Psalm 119, where I suspected rightly, that I'd find it.


What I discovered as well, was an interesting method of reading the Bible for a change--a different camera setting! My scan of Psalms stunned me with beauty. The imagery from nature; the use of metaphor; the range of human passion described--the prophetic words pertaining to Jesus--all these unfolded as a richly illuminated scroll that opened before my eyes.


Like a light plane flying over some lovely landscape whose pilot was compelled to land and inspect a beauty spot more closely, I found myself "touching down" to linger on certain psalms, sometimes simply to wonder at the literary beauty alone, of the writing, and sometimes at the depth of feeling expressed.


My flight over the psalms, and the panoramic view, were delightful.


Psalm 119:111 (New International Version)
111 Your statutes are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Lord Doth Hear

I opened Edges of His Ways, by Amy Carmichael this morning and saw a note in my hand, written on this day, last year. It simply and cryptically says, "Mum, 2006."

As I went on to read the devotion I understood. The scripture reference is Psalm 141:2

Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

It is followed by an incredibly moving little poem:

When vision fadeth, and the sense of things,
And powers dissolve like colours in the air;
And no more can I bring Thee offerings,
Nor any ordered prayer...
Then, like a wind blowing from Paradise,
Falleth a healing word upon mine ear;
"Let the lifting up of my hands be as the evening sacrifice;"
The Lord doth hear.

While here with Mum in England, it is her Bible and Daily Light that I read. It was her habit always to read them and pray last thing at night before she went to bed. Her stroke in October 2003 changed that. She can no longer concentrate to read. She says that she loses the thread of what she is reading. I've tried reading to her, but even that seems unimportant to her. She lies awake with the light on for a couple of hours after she goes to bed, so I asked her this morning if she prayed.

"No Belinda," she said, "I do believe, but I can't seem to pray."

She paused and went on, "In case of an emergency I do ask for help...and it is there."

It was obvious that she felt badly and she said, "It's terrible really."

"No Mum," I said, "You belong to Him; you are one of His sheep and He is always with you."

Yes..."The Lord doth hear"

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Colours and Glass Balls

Proverbs 3:26 New Living Translation
The Lord is your security. He will keep your foot from being caught in a trap.

Last night I couldn't sleep. I hate lying awake in bed, so I got up, got out my laptop and made an Excel time sheet with 7 days, onto which I laid blocks of colour representing the time spent on various parts of my life. I realize that this might sound like an insane thing to do at 1.00 a.m.--or maybe at any time of the day. Welcome to my insanity--ha ha ha!

The colours represented parts that are either necessary, important priorities, or voluntary preferences and sorting my life out into these "blocks," helped me see whether I am trying to do the impossible in my typical everyday life. The good news is that no, I'm not--as long as everything goes according to plan. :) I do know that nothing ever does of course, but it gave me peace of mind to go through this exercise. It also gave me hope.

This had been on my mind, which might have contributed to my lack of sleep.

Yesterday I told Eileen, a friend whom I've known since we were both 12, that I had been taking stock of my life during this quiet time here in England--thinking about how better to manage it.

"But don't you always do that?" she asked. My friends at home who feel compelled to remind me of this fact will be happy that she took up the cause over here! :)

I had to admit that it was true, it's an ongoing struggle for me. "But," I said to her, "I have to believe that I can change; do better."

Our lives are a series of choices. They are ours to make and there is little about which there is no choice.

I read a quote recently by Lesley Stahl (one of the anchors of 60 Minutes) who said that when it comes to juggling things we should never forget that there are glass balls and rubber balls. And the glass balls are the ones you cannot drop--they smash and can't be repaired. So it's not about not dropping the ball--it's about not dropping the wrong ball, the glass ball.

I would like to keep all of the balls in the air. I know that inevitably I will drop a few but I will probably die with my hands trying to catch them.

John 8:32 New Living Translation
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Morning Thoughts

The gentle beeping of my alarm clock wakes me. It's 6.30 a.m., the time when part of me planned to be up. But another part--"the flesh"--I believe it's called, prefers to linger beneath the warm duvet, listening to the sounds of the waking day.


I hear the twittering of birds outside the window, and upstairs, above my mother's flat, I hear her energetic neighbour, Chris, already up and about.


My thoughts drift back to the docu-drama I watched last night before going to bed. It was called The Relief of Belsen, and used "scripted events, testimony and news footage to depict the struggle of the British led medical team to rescue the starving inmates of camp Bergen Belsen. In April 1945, a British ambulance unit was diverted from the frontline to handle a crisis in enemy territory--an outbreak of typhus in a prison camp. Amid the continuing war a team of volunteers worked to save the starving and dying of Belsen."


I thought of the connection with the book I've been reading while here in England, The Spiritual Brain. The theory of Natural Selection led to the idea that there could be a "super race"--that one human being could be more valuable than another. It was dangerous and evil ideas such as these that led to the unbelievable horror that unfolded in Belsen.


It is important to recognise the lie and the root of it, and stand up for the truth, as Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary have done in their book. The backlash against The Spiritual Brain has been virulent, with many derisive reviews on Amazon.com. That means that they've got the attention of some who oppose the idea that man is a spiritual being.


I pray that many people read the book and see the danger and the agenda behind the Materialists philosophy, as well as understanding the evidence for the existence of the soul.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Less Than Noble Moment

On my first Sunday in England I had a moment that I am sorry for. My brother had just given me a set of keys to his and Mum's flats, to use while I am in England. Shortly afterwards, as I was about to go for a walk, I remembered the keys and came back to get them. Robert said, "You can leave them here if you like, so that they don't get lost, and use the keypad outside."

I know that my voice expressed my frustration as I said, "What are keys for if not to let you in?" I'm ashamed to say that I was angry. My optimism and confidence had bumped up against my brother's extreme caution and carefulness. I felt as if he didn't trust me not to lose a set of keys.

As I walked, I fumed and prayed--an odd combination, but a good one. By the time I got home I was over my silly snit. The keys were Robert's, he had a right to express his preference and I would respect his wishes and use the keys only when going out with them safely in my purse.

That night as Robert was leaving for his own flat, I tried to call after him and apologize. I don't hide my feelings as well as I once kidded myself that I do and it had been obvious I was annoyed. Robert didn't hear me then, but the next morning I said that I was sorry.

"For being horrible?" Robert said helpfully.

And I said, "Yes."

"My insecurities came with the keys," said Robert, and he explained how a set had been lost and fallen into the wrong hands.

I felt even sorrier for my reaction. Robert is careful, methodical, a perfectionist, and set in his ways, but I am quick to anger and impatient. Of the two of us, I came off much the worse! I am praying for God's help in adapting to his preferences and ways. I want to honour and bless him in my time here.

Dear Lord, please forgive me for my insensitivity, anger and rudeness.

1 John 1:8-10 N.I.V.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

"Belinda's" Library


This is the library on Tanyard Lane in Alvechurch where Belinda has been doing her posts while in England. I stumbled across it on the 'net this morning and felt like it was almost like dropping in for a visit myself and thought I'd share it with you, too.
Blessings everyone!
Susan.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Important Correction

Psalm 53:1
New International Version
The fool says in his heart there is no God.

After I wrote the recent posts about Jesus feeding the large crowd of people, and then walking on the water--and effectively said that his followers have to suspend logic and forget the laws of physics where he is concerned--I got to thinking. I think I was wrong.

A better way of putting it would be that his followers need to be prepared to dispense with "human logic," which naturally is very different to God's, and that the laws of physics, "as we know them," do not apply when he is involved.

God does not need to be logical, but I believe that he is, and mankind is still discovering and rethinking, the laws that govern the universe.

Yesterday, at Alvechurch Baptist Church, where I worship when in England, Derek Bevan, a lively Welshman delivered an excellent sermon, using Psalm 53 as his text. He helped the congregation to think about belief in God in light of the views of Oxford University professor, Richard Dawkins, who has written a book that is selling well, called, The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins is a militant atheist.

I was very interested in Derek's sermon, since I am reading a book called, The Spiritual Brain, by Mario Beauregard Ph. D. and Denyse O'Leary, which lays out evidence for the existence of the soul, and discredits the Materialists, who say that man is an organism with no soul and no free will, and a brain but not a mind. I'm finding it a fascinating read.

I've learned that even Sir Isaac Newton, the brilliant seventeenth century developer of the laws of gravity, was not right on everything. He believed that God formed matter in hard, solid particles that could not be divided. Three centuries later, scientists discovered that the layers of physical reality are a collection of force fields. So although Jesus walking on the water seems to defy the laws of physics--perhaps it really didn't.

The universe, and the way God made human beings, is more incredibly wonderful the more that is discovered . Truly we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."

There is a powerful agenda afoot to deny the existence of God and of course, since God made us in His image, human beings cannot be allowed to be spiritual beings, just physical.

I look forward to sharing more thoughts from the book. Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Trial and Error

Matthew 14:28-31
"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
"Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

After providing food for the huge crowds that had followed him to the place where he had gone for solitude, Jesus sent them away. At the same time he made the disciples leave too, sending them away in a boat. Then, finally alone he went up into the hills to pray.

Later that night, darkness had fallen and the boat carrying Jesus' disciples, now far from the land, rocked wildly on waves that were swelled by a strong wind blowing from the opposite direction. Was this a practice session for the lessons of the evening before, when he had fed the multitudes? In my own life it seems that just when I have had a moment of understanding, God gives me a "test" -- although it's often not until after I've messed up that I realize it.

Jesus reinforced the points that logic must be suspended when he is involved--and that his followers had better be ready for adventure, by catching up to the disciples in a unique way that involved over-riding the laws of physics (Matthew 14:28-31); yet another lesson in "life with Jesus."

Peter seems the prototype for those whose hearts leap to follow Jesus, while their reality is that they fall flat on their faces soon after. I think that perhaps we all fall into that category, some, if not most of the time.

In Amy Carmichael's Edges of His Ways, for October 13th, she writes:
Over and over again I have seen the Lord do "impossible" things. I think He delights in the impossible, and He delights to meet the faith of one who looks up to Him and says, "Lord, Thou knowest I cannot, but I believe Thou canst."

Today the "impossible" thing seems to be "us." Only he can transform such as Peter and I into faithful followers. But He can!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Letting Go of Logic

From Matthew 14:13-22

13-14: When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Two thousand years ago, crowds of people followed Jesus. When he withdrew to a lonely place after the death of John the Baptist, five thousand men, plus women and children, tracked him down, without seeming to consider physical needs.

As evening approached, the disciples became concerned.

"Send the crowds away," they advised, "so that they can go to the nearby villages and buy themselves some food."

The account of events though, then takes a twist that suspends logic.

"They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat." Jesus said.

The disciples' response seems remarkably restrained under the circumstances.

"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish."

Our imaginations can picture the emotions behind those few words--incredulity perhaps, or nervous laughter.

The rest is well known. Jesus blessed and broke the bread and gave it to the disciples and they gave it to the people, who were indeed fed. Only then did Jesus dismiss them.

A day in Jesus' life--and a day from which we can tell: That he doesn't see crowds but people; that he cares about physical needs and is willing to meet them; that logic must be suspended when he is involved--and that his followers had better be ready for adventure!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Comrades in Arms

On Thanksgiving Monday, a gray, cloudy stint of weather gave way to sunshine. Robert dropped me off in Rowney Green and I joined a crowd of people assembling on the village green. Regimental band music was playing over a loudspeaker as the men and women of the Alvechurch Ex-Services Association, veterans of the Second World War and more recent wars, gathered with others to remember the Canadians lost in the plane crash. Although some were now frail and stooped with age--and some sat in wheelchairs, they proudly wore regimental badges on their blazers and their war medals shone bright in the autumn sun. The emblems told of a common bond of service and sacrifice. Quivering chins, voices choked with emotion and handkerchiefs clutched tightly in trembling hands, told of deep feelings for comrades lost.

In contrast, a group of fresh faced children, from Alvechurch C.E. Middle School, dressed in smart, navy blue school uniform, were there to lay a wreath, following the ceremonial planting of the maple tree, by Lieutenant Colonel Gary Walker of the Canadian High Commission.

As the crowd dispersed and walked towards Rowney Green Peace Hall, where pumpkin soup and rolls awaited them, to be followed by tea and "Canadian muffins," I chatted with Reg Hudson, a man with kindness written in the lines on his face. He told me that he was 16 in 1943, and working on the farm next door to Lower Park Farm, where the plane plummeted from the air. He remembers two of the men baling out of the plane, but being too close to the ground for their parachutes to open. He shook his head at the memory and said, with great emotion in his voice, "I never go past the farm without remembering."

And later he said, "We'd want those back where they came from, to know we care."

As I walked amongst the crowd I heard the same sentiments murmured over and over again by the veterans--special gratitude for the young men who had come from so far away to join the fight for freedom here. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

These were the five crew members of the Wellington bomber:

Flying Officer Hugh H. Barton of Windsor, Ontario, age 28
Sergeant Charles R. G. Long, Pilot (of California, U.S.A., who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Airforce before the U.S. joined the war)
Pilot Officer Gordon J. Gallagher, of Ottawa, Ontario, age 30
Pilot Officer Harold J. Magnes, of Lockwood, Saskatchewan, age 27
Sergeant Alton J. O'Neil, of Prescott, Ontario, age 28

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Onward and Upward

Me again.

Last night's post was the 500th post on Whatever He Says. That's a LOT of writing! Congratulations, Belinda, I would have quit long before you. 500 posts. That's quite an accomplishment.

Today I was working away at something - a commitment I had made - and I was absolutely fed up with it. The going had become tough, really, really tough. I felt like I just couldn't do it anymore. I KNEW I couldn't. And I was angry that I had to keep doing it anyway.

"I quit", I said to myself. "I really don't want to do this any more. I quit." And I meant it.

Late morning the phone rang. It was a co-worker, Lesley-Ann. "Wanna meet us for lunch?" she said.

"Yeah, I need to take a break," I replied, thinking I really should stay back and keep working, but knowing what an encouragement it always is to spend time with Lesley-Ann and Martha. I packed up and headed toward Swiss Chalet.

How does God do it, I want to know? How does he arrange things to speak so loudly and plainly to us, even when we're not listening? I was in an impossible state - the sense of impending doom and failure had been descending on me for weeks and this morning it had landed full force.

Going for lunch, I found myself driving to Newmarket at a time of day when I'm not usually in the car. Instead of pushing in a C.D. for some reason, I turned on the Christian radio station, Life 100. 3. Almost immediately I heard the voice of Charles Stanley saying something very close to this:

"When the going gets really tough - so tough that you know doing this is impossible - are you the kind of person that gets going? Or are you a person that just quits?"

My ears perked up. He'd obviously been reading my mail.

"When you are at the end of your rope - when you feel like you are failing -- when you feel like you can't do it anymore -- you're up against the wall -- when you feel like you want to quit, do you give in to it? Or do you step up to the plate and dig in your heels and expect God to show you something and teach you something through it?"

I'm afraid I can't capture his words very well, but what I understood him to be saying was all about character building. "Are you going to wuss out or will you take the chance to do some growing up? That's your choice."

After hearing that clear message, you can bet my resolve was renewed. I don't expect God to change my situation, or to take it away from me (though that's what feels right now would be really nice!) What I do expect now is for him to teach me something through it, perhaps painfuluy. Something that will help me to grow up a little more in Him. And based on past experience, I expect Him to act in direct proportion to the depth and sincerity of my dependance on Him and my willingness to follow his lead.

Isaiah 40: 27 (NIV) says:

Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?

That's how I felt. I didn't realize it until I listened to that radio program today, but essentially I had given up that God was interested at all in what I have been going through. The going got tough and I was about to lie down and die at the bottom of the mountain that is facing me. God didn't really see what I was going through. My way was hidden from him. That's what it felt like. But was it? Is it ever?

Verse 28 goes on:

28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
29 He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary

and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,

and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD

will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

That's the word God knew I needed to hear today. That's the word he made sure got through to my stubborn, unbelieving heart. Is it any wonder that I love Him? I still may not succeed at what I've been trying to do, but neither will I be running away. I'll be standing and going forward and learning all that God has to teach me in this situation. I'm ready to take the hard steps up and then over this mountain instead of just going around it and around it one more time.

And lunch with Lesley-Ann and Martha, two master encouragers, served to solidify all that. They're not quitters either. Boy, I'm glad I gave my day to God this morning!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good Medicine.

How wonderful to get a post from England yesterday! (It's good to know you're still alive, and thriving in God's will, Belinda!)

But there is no post-in-waiting in her dashboard this morning, which means that while we all anxiously await the sequel to Belinda's last post about the memorial tree, I'm on again. Sorry all you Belinda-groupies. I'm just as sad about this as you are. But hang on and open wide. You're about to get a dose of some good medicine with the help of some of her family.

Last evening I had occasion to spend some time with Brenda (Belinda's daughter) and two of her four incredible grandaughters, Tiffany-Amber and Victoria, who are 9 and 8, respectively. This is a snapshot from our supper-time together at a restaurant in Bradford:

The girls were incredibly patient with our adult talk, and though we threw them occasional bits of attention here and there, I knew their patience - and ability to sit still - was running thin. So I thought it was time I taught the girls a new game my own kids had taught me at our Thanksgiving dinner. And now I think Brenda will never take me out again.

The game went like this: Tippy and Tori sit facing each other and looking into each other's eyes.

Tori says, “Hah”.

Tippy returns, “Hah, hah”.

Tori adds another. “Hah, hah, hah.” Each time they have a turn, they have to add one “Hah”. The first one to laugh or to say anything other than their correct number of “hah's”, loses.

They caught onto it immediately. After a few games between themselves, one of them would turn to one of us adults, and cast the bait with a tempting "Hah!"

"Hah, hah!" we would throw it back. It was irresistible. Intemittent "hah's" and peals of laughter filled the restaurant and perfect strangers looked over at our table with big smiles on their faces. Tiffany-Amber and Victoria would do their best to get themselves ready for the next go by deliberately putting on poker faces, but it only took three or four hah's until you would see the humour lines beginning to creep into their facial muscles. They would go into contortions trying NOT to laugh. But their lips would begin to quiver, their eyes would start twinkling and whoops! A "hah-hah-hah" would suddenly turn into the full-blown music of their unrestrained laughter. Then, of course, all four of us would be laughing. When it was my turn I really tried to win and sometimes I did, but I couldn't keep it up! Truth is, I couldn’t resist when I saw their dear young faces trying so hard not to laugh and I would just have to laugh too.

Brenda seemed to be enjoying it too the first dozen times or so. She was smiling a lot, anyway. And laughing with us. But later in the car she told the girls they weren’t allowed to play it on the way home, so I think she might have had quite enough of the giggling and silliness my suggestion had instilled into the party. That wasn’t enough to thwart me, though, as you might guess if you know me at all. I quickly taught the girls how to form the letters “H” and “A” with their fingers, so they could could continue playing in sign language without bothering their mom. It was a quick lesson in "how to break the rules without getting caught"! (Like I said, I doubt Brenda will ever take me out again! But she smiled, kind of down her nose, so I think I'm forgiven, but only time will tell.)

Proverbs 17: 22 says: "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength." NLT

The four of us all had good dose of strong medicine last night, and encouraged each other along the way. And now we're sharing our little stash with you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Serendipity

October 7th 2007

Yesterday morning I arrived in England to start 3 weeks precious vacation with Mum and my brother, Robert in the village I grew up in--Alvechurch.

Although it's so wonderful to be here, I was sorry that the timing of this trip meant that I was missing Thanksgiving weekend with family in Canada, but yesterday I discovered that the timing was no accident.

Robert showed me a small article in the local paper that read, Maple Honours Airmen. Tomorrow afternoon at 2.00 p.m., there is a service in the nearby village of Rowney Green, and a Maple Tree will be planted to honour 5 Canadian airmen who died there during the Second World War.

The tree is being planted by Alvechurch Ex-Services Association, of which Dad was a founding member.

The article says:
"The five airmen died when their Wellington bomber crashed in a field at Lower Park Farm, Rowney Green, on November 23, 1943, while on a training mission from Defford Airfield near Pershore.

John Hoccum, secretary of the Alvechurch Ex-Services Association, who arranged the service, said: "The airmen were flying over the area when their aircraft developed engine trouble.

The plane lost height and the pilot could do nothing about it.

When the association heard of what had happened we felt we wanted to ensure these brave men, who had come from so far away to serve, would be remembered and we thought a Canadian Maple tree, as a living symbol, was more fitting than anything else."

So tomorrow there will be a Canadian writer at the service, absorbing every detail and ready to record and share the experience. I am so excited to be here for this.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Time to Laugh and a Time to Sleep...

Well, Belinda darted into the Alvechurch library today, grabbed a few moments at a community computer and has managed to send us a few enigmatic messages via the comments left on the previous few days - just before the library closed for the day.

Yes, Belinda, I'm keeping the ritual going. :o)

Today I wonder if everyone else is as tired as I am. I fed an army of 20 today. Seven of them were our own progeny (three sons and four daughters), three sons-in-law who married into the clan, one shy boy-friend who seems very nice, 7 grandchildren, a Bichon-Friese grand-dog named Frasier, a lovebird named B.J. and several electric trains (who Andrew - our own CP Rail conductor - feels as passionately enough about that he would expect us to consider them as grandchildren, I'm sure!) We cooked a 36 pound turkey, peeled ten pounds of potatoes, plus several pounds of sweet potatoes. We made four loaves of bread into stuffing and put into it a good five pounds of peeled and chopped onions along with an entire pound of butter and copious amounts of sage and thyme. Christy brought cabbage salad and squash. We also demolished several pies, mountains of whipping cream and ice cream, and had a birthday cake besides. Whew! What a day! Oh, did I mention someone forgot to buy paper plates? (Argghhh!)

So tonight I need to laugh. To laugh and then to rest. Check out this video with me on u-tube and you'll be laughing too. Whether you're a mother or you ever had a mother, it's bound to ring true! These lyrics were written by Anita Renfroe (a mom who is Christian) and performed by her to a symphonic rendition of The William Tell Overture. (That's the Lone Ranger's action song for all you western "B" movie afficianados.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxT5NwQUtVM

Blessings everyone and Happy Thanksgiving. This is one tired substitute poster checking out! Over and out.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Gratitude

Still no word from Belinda via the Internet, so here I am again...

It's Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving is all about focusing in on what we are grateful for.

There was a time when gratitude did not come easily for me. I would really have to work at it to see the good side of anything. It was always, always easiest - and still is my natural inclination - to focus on the "justice" and the "fairness" of a situation rather than simply being grateful for all the good that can be found. But I have learned through experience that there is great power that flows through our lives just from the simple act of adopting an "attitude of gratitude" and leaving the unfairness of a situation up to God.

This week at a staff retreat I had occasion to view a video teaching by Erwin McManus entitled "The Character Matrix" which had been originally recorded at a leadership conference in 2003. In that video, McManus says a number of important things about gratitude, but I will zero in on just one:

The only way a person can develop wholeness is through gratitude.

Looking at my own life and the level of brokeness I was at ten years ago, I have to say this is absolutely true. The results of eventually giving up my own efforts to change and adopting an "attitude of gratitude" are clearly evident. Focusing on my problems and on the causes and on the negative actions of others only got me more and more deeply mired in the pit I was hopelessly trapped in. As I learned to turn my attitude around and focus on what I have to be grateful for, healing and wholeness, something I had been actively seeking to little avail, just began to 'happen" all by itself. An increasing sense of "wholeness" has become a natural outgrowth of adopting a grateful attitude.

Forgiveness is the pre-requisite for developing a grateful heart. That means letting go of past hurts and the heart's quest for "justice". The justice part can be left to God. He takes that very seriously. And He doesn't expect us to forgive blindly. Every single thing that has ever been done to you or me, every single thing we have ever done to others, was satisfied completely when Jesus went to the cross. Isaiah 53 in the New American Standard Version says, "But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief..." It was Jesus who was crushed for our injustices. It was all taken out on him. Justice has been done - completely fulfilled. Jesus suffered - and he suffered enough - for what was done to me, and for what I have done to others. That means I am free to forgive -no strings attached. I can forgive both others and myself (equally important!).

So the thing I am most grateful for this Thanksgiving Weekend, at this moment, is the powerful gift of "gratitude". Thank you Father, for providing me with such a good role model (Belinda) when it comes to living in a state of gratitude -- someone who would not let me settle for anything less. And thank you for gratitude and the work that it does in my life -- displacing brokeness for wholeness in You.

"Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude." Colossians 2:6,7 NASB

What are you grateful for?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

15 Years - To the Day.

I just checked the WHS (Whatever He Says) dashboard and I could see that neither Belinda nor any of her team have a post in process, so I'm going to grab the floor again. I know that Belinda is wanting very much to find a way to stay connected to her blogging family, so pray for her that God will help her find a way. Today she must be deep in the throes of jet lag, but tomorrow perhaps the library will be open or she will find another way to connect to the internet and we'll be hearing from her again soon.

Yesterday, besides being the anniversary of my mom's going to be with the Lord, was also my oldest grandaughter's fifth birthday. The phone rang last evening and without even a "hello", a familiar little voice stated simply and softly, "I'm five." Well, trust me, a big fuss was made by her "Mommy'sMum" in response! (That's what she and most of her cousins call me.)

Eliana is a delightful little girl with chocolate hair and dark eyes that flash and sparkle in turn, but mostly sparkle. She is into princesses right now, loving all things "princess" and it's no wonder. She is a little princess herself. She loves clothes, and you should have seen her eyes light up when she saw a child-sized princess ball gown in Zehr's today, hanging on the Hallowe'en costumes rack. She has a tender heart and mothering her two younger siblings comes completely naturally to her.

She was born on October 5, 2002 -- 15 years to the day after my mother went to be with the Lord.

Now that could just be a coincidence, but I doubt it. I have this theory that God has little ways of letting us know - just in case there is any doubt - that our steps really are ordered by him. Nothing could have pleased us more as a family - and comforted me - than to have such a special little girl enter our lives on such a special day. And there's no doubt in my mind that it was no co-incidence. No co-incidence at all.

" The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives." Psalm 37:23. NLT

20 Years

Belinda right now, is somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, heading east, on her way to spend precious time with her dear mum. Godspeed Belinda!

Twenty years ago today my own mom went absent from the body and present with the Lord. (Technically, since it's after midnight, it was yesterday, but for all intents and purposes and since my day hasn't ended yet, it was twenty years ago today - October 5, 1987)

I was talking to my sister about it this evening. "It doesn't feel like 20 years ago," I said. "Mom just seems so much closer than that." She agreed. (Just for the record, Brenda is the BEST sister in the world - the best gift Mom and God ever gave me - and comments from time to time on this blog. You can read her own reflections of this day and our mom at www.brenda.gresik.ca . )

Mom was an incredible person. When she left at just 61 years of age, it was way too early. The impact she made on people was that if she loved you, you knew it. She made it easy to love her in return. If you were one of her kids, you couldn't pass Mom in the hallway without her arms being thrown around you, pulling you into a long, hard hug and a spontaneous, "Ooo, I love you". She made each one of the three her children feel like they were her very favourite kid, and indeed we were.

Mom gave the gift of time. It didn't matter how often you called, she was always happy to hear from you, always had time for you. Even when I called her at work. She spent much of her vacation time serving the people she loved - helping with a new baby, or coming for a visit sometimes just to help you clean your basement, or paint your kitchen.

Mom was a lover of God and pursued him diligently. In her later years, she got up very early, seeking after him every morning before going into her day, leaving behind a number of notebooks and journals and a Bible that was liberally marked up with verses underlined and comments in the margins. You didn't have to wonder - ever - if Mom was praying for you. Her faithfulness in prayer was something you could count on. Always.

I'm often aware of her presence in that "cloud of witnesses" that surrounds us. In many ways, she seems even closer today than when she left 20 years ago. I catch the faintest glimpse of her smiling back at me on occasion when I look in the mirror. She's in the curve of my lip somewhere when I smile, and in the shape of my eyes.

Psalm 121 was her favourite and I share it with you today in the King James Version she memorized, and often quoted to me. I can hear her speaking it over me still, and over all those she loved, even today.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

I miss you Mom. Twenty years later and I still miss you. I will miss you every day of my life and look forward with all my heart to when I will see you again... We all do!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Chair in the Window

I glanced to my left as I drove down highway 400 towards Aurora. The sky was palest, softest apricot, with milky swirls of white cloud.

I was on my way to pick up my black raincoat, left behind in my doctor's office last week. I went back for it on Friday, and I could see it hanging there through the frosted glass window in the door of the doctors office. Through the locked glass door of the office that closes early on Friday afternoon.

I was frustrated at the wasted drive. "Who closes early on Friday?" I thought to myself. Time is so precious and I hate wasting it.

So this is why I was on my way there early one morning this week and admiring the beauty of the sky.

As I drove down Yonge Street through Aurora, I passed a furniture store. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a chair that brought back a wave of memories. It was one of those 50s or 60s ultra-modern easy chairs. It had smooth, minimalist lines and wings that curved up in a swoop on either side of the back, and slim wooden tapered legs--Danish modern.

Instantly I was taken back to Holland during the 50s and 60s where my brother and I spent some of our happiest days on vacations with our mum. In that land across the North Sea from England where we lived, was Oma, uncles, aunts and many cousins.

The chair reminded me of "having time," of the delicious scent of coffee being ground for morning coffee, the fragrance of cigar smoke and endless rounds of visitors. Everyone had time to just sit and "be."

My own life right now, is lacking time. Too often I'm focused on things other than people, and while my life is packed with much interesting and engaging activity, I have a sense of missing something.

Often I'm sure that what I convey through words, body language and tone of voice is that I don't "have time."

And it isn't so much about time as a state of being.

What I want to do better at is giving myself to people more, not just on a schedule. To be able to shift my attention from what I'm doing to a person with kind attentiveness.

There are drivers who go down the road as if they haven't a minute to spare, weaving in and out of traffic. "Aggressive driving," it's called. Often all of this fretting and fuming doesn't really get the person that much further ahead in the long run--we often catch up with them down the road, and meanwhile they've missed the joy of the journey--like seeing an apricot and swirly white sky.

Could it be that way with me? Maybe I'm not really that much further ahead with all my busyness.

Part of my pressure is the fact that I'm getting ready to leave for three weeks in England. Once I board that plane tomorrow night, I will exchange one world for another--a busy north American work and home life, for English village life.

I'll be using my time there to think and write and "spend time" reflecting and visiting.

The chair in the window is beckoning me. Peace.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Taking My Hands Off the Wheel

Romans 12:1 (The Message)
Place Your Life Before God
1-2 So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out...

Presenting ourselves--it involves every part; including our mind, will and emotions.

Today--a day of high pressure and major tasks that must be accomplished, I take my hands off the wheel.

Instead of asking God to help me do "my" will, what I "see and know" needs to be done; I choose to relax into him; truly trusting that he knows better than I.

Your will be done O, Lord.

Use me--my energy and strength and even my weakness--to do your will.

Forgive me for my unintentional arrogance and habitual blind charge forward into the day.

Today, with more to accomplish and more critical things to do than the average day--I hand the steering wheel to you.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (The Message)
23-24May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Story

Acts 22:1-6 (The Message)
Acts 22 1-2 "My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me." When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this.
2-3 He continued, "I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I've always been passionately on God's side, just as you are right now.
4-5 "I went after anyone connected with this 'Way,' went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the followers of Jesus there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing.
6-7"As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: 'Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?


Amazing grace!
(how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost,
but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

John Newton, wrote the well known hymn, Amazing Grace that told of his own transformed life.

Tonight at cell group we met, each with a story of our own--of where we've been and of where we might be if not for Jesus.

"I would wake up in the morning with a swear word on my lips," he said, "But now, I wake up thanking God I'm alive and praying that he'll be with me all through the day."

I hear so many stories, of a faith that isn't just an ideology but a powerful life transforming force.

"I wouldn't be here if I hadn't become a Christian. "

As the tears begin to fall I know what they mean and "here" is not about the geographic location.

Paul the apostle, took every opportunity to tell his story. It was so dramatic and no one could argue that "something" had happened to him on the road to Damascus.

John Newton...a slave trader who during a storm at sea, called out to God and began a journey of faith that would result in a transformed life.

Paul...a well educated Jew, zealous to wipe out the new cult called Christians who fell to the ground from a donkey and was never the same again .

Our cell group member, a young man whose life took a dramatic turn when he turned to Christ and whose dearest longing now is for his daughter to find Christ early.

Across our land right now there are hundreds of Alpha courses running, and thousands of Canadians are being drawn to this opportunity to explore faith.

Each one a story in the making.

Acts 26:12-15 (The Message)
12-14"One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorizing my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: 'Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?'
15-16"I said, 'Who are you, Master?'
"The voice answered, 'I am Jesus, the One you're hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I've handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what's happened today, and to what I am going to show you.

Monday, October 01, 2007

It Takes a Village

I happened upon Jacob on the way to a conversation with him mom, my friend Frances, a.k.a. Poppy.

He answered the phone, with the slightly squeaky voice of a 14 year old boy turning into manhood and with the same softness that I always hear when he talks to me. Even over the phone I could "see" his head of thick red curly hair and the handsome face below it.

Jacob is growing up, finding his way in the world of high school. In earlier years he was the brunt of bullies, but at 14 he has found popularity for his wit and cleverness. He is learning that these twin gifts have their time and place though and that a class in uproarious laughter at him is not always appreciated by teachers struggling to maintain control.

Last week he was upset when his French teacher said he couldn't wear a beloved necklace, a silver nail, hung on a black leather cord, symbolizing the nails that Jesus took for us.

Frances wrote in a comment on this blog last week that she thinks, "He may have even tried to use the "religious emblem" plea in the same vein as ceremonial swords and turbans," but the teacher was adamant that it could be viewed as a weapon. Jacob smuggled it into the school the next day and got into trouble for that.

My first response was incredulity. I really struggled. Was this a battle that needed to be fought? I wanted to--and not in the nicest of ways!

But Frances gave wise counsel to her son. After talking to the teacher, who called her to report all of this, she wrote:

I explained what it symbolized to him(us) but she was firm that it could be viewed as a weapon.I pointed out that a sharp pencil or pen could be used in that manner and in fact used better because the nail is around his neck and would have to be removed first before being brandished. I spoke gently and tried not to be argumentative,just factual. She didn't budge and in the end I agreed that school policy must be adhered to but I did comment on how sad that a young Christian boy's witness had to be attacked like this. I then thought about what Jesus would do.The next morning I talked to my son.I asked him what he had said to the teacher and what he thought about the whole thing. He was angry and thought it was stupid. I told him what I thought: that when Jesus went to that cross and was pinned with the real nails 2000 years ago, he went wordlessly. That if an unbeliever wore that necklace or a cross or any other Christian symbol, that it would have no meaning whatsoever, because it's not the symbol it's the relationship it symbolizes that is important. And that Jesus wants us to submit to authority-that's God's way-His will is best carried out His way. And that I would like Jacob to apologize to his teacher for lying to her and being willful. And tell her the reason he is sorry is because the One he wears the necklace to remind him of would want him to do all these things. Jacob agreed. He's going to talk to her on Monday. Even out of sight, that necklace is going to be used for the Lord's purposes.And the reason why is simple-the God of Jacob;)gave us a model to emulate.His word shows us His ways and how to walk in them.And when we do the Lord's will will be done.I'm so thankful to God for illuminating the wisdom of His ways to my son.As for my son, I'm so proud of him!

But then another friend, a reader of the blog and a formidable advocate on disability issues, Dave Hingsburger, wrestled with the issue and wrote:

I think there is a time to teach children to stand firm with what they believe and not capitulate easily. It seems here, to me at least, that this is overt discrimination against the Christian faith. The 'weapon' issue is a red herring and the teacher knows it, I will bet on that. Just like I'm careful not to teach people with disabilities to be over-compliant, I wouldn't want to teach any child to simply give up something he loves and believes in. I'm afraid that in the giving up of the nail, in what he may see as lack of support for his wishes and desires, he may end up losing something more important. I know, I know, I'm not a parent ... but even still, it might have been better to stand beside him as he stood for himself, than ask him to apologize and give in.

And then in a later comment:
... an apology for the lying is probably in order. But the rest of it smacks of outright prejudice to me. You know I'm what's considered a 'liberal' Christian but even so I hold dearly to my right to my faith, my right to my symbols and my right to be public. I see nothing wrong with wearing the nail. It is no more dangerous than a pen - I still think the 'weapon' angle is a red herring. But, ultimately, the decision about going forward really belongs to the young man. I think he needs to know that he will have support if he choses to fight this battle and that if he choses not to he will still have the respect of those who care.Me, I have trouble with ... 'it's your decision' ... when I know the decision I'd make. But ultimately it was his nail, it's his faith and therefore it's his decision.

So when Jacob answered the phone, I asked him about his decision. I told him that no matter what it was, he had my support and I would stand with him and help him if needed. He said he'd decided to apologize for arguing with the teacher.

"Besides," he said, "I can still wear my other necklace, with the cross, that you gave me."

I respected his decision and today I heard he did apologize to the teacher. He may not have preached a sermon on his reasons, but he showed grace and maturity and I'm so proud of him--and the man he is growing up to be.

1 Timothy 4:12 (New International Version)
12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.