Friday, November 30, 2007

Connections

The old familiar story, first heard in Sunday School, or perhaps read to me by my 1st Grade teacher rang true once more. We were sitting in a large circle, doing devotions before the start of our last day of leadership training in Orillia. We were looking again at the life of Joseph, attempting to glean from his experience and example, some lessons in godly leadership.

The message that came through to me was simple. No matter what the circumstances, no matter how dire or hopelss or unjust the situation, God would eventually use it to bless Joseph and to position him to effectively channel God's blessing to others - sometimes those who had most despitefully used him. And depending on the attitude I choose (sometime even in spite of it!) God will do, and has done, and continues to do, the same for me - as he will for anyone else, too.

Tonight, I knelt beside the bed of a little blonde curly-haired boy with blue eyes and skin like porcelain, my grandson, Mikey. I held his hand as, eyes filled with tears and brimming over, he poured his heart out to me, my own heart breaking with his. There is already so much injustice in his little life! And he feels the hurt keenly and deeply. Just like we all do.

I listened and when he came to the end of the sad series of stories about his day, I asked him if he wanted to hear mine. He didn't even nod, but his blue eyes met mine and I took that as an invitation.

I told him the story of Joseph in as much detail as I could remember and how badly he had been treated by people that should have loved him (his brothers, in this case). I talked about how he must have felt at the bottom of that pit, or locked away in jail, being punished for something he didn't even do! But he didn't blame God and he didn't have a pity party about it. He just kept walking. Just kept living his life with integrity, and trusting God, walking through the problems, not around them or away from them. He didn't seem to indulge in despair or bitterness, though he certainly had every reason to feel that way. What he would have missed had he given in to those feelings!

I promised Mikey, not just because of the story of Joseph, but from lessons learned in my own life story, that God was going to use all of this to give him the skills and put him where God needs him to be so that he can fulfil the purpose in life that he was created for.

"It's hard to believe, but someday," I told him, "you're going to look back on all of this stuff and thank God for it. Because God's going to use it all to make you into someone that He can channel his blessing through to others. And when that happens, you'll feel so awed by the goodness and greatness of God who loves you, that you will actually be glad all this stuff has happened."

I'm not sure he got it all, but he listened raptly to the story and all the lessons I drew out of it, too. Soon after I finished, his little eyes closed and he was fast asleep.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 NIV

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Time Out

The wind blows over Lake Couchiching on this cold, gray, morning; its distant roar the first sound I hear as I wake in my cozy bed at Geneva Park YMCA Retreat and Leadership Training Centre, where I am for two and a half days of training.

In the bathroom, from somewhere nearby I hear skin squeaking against bathtub, and bumping as someone steps out; a shower starts to run, then a hairdryer—the sounds of co-workers in adjoining rooms starting their days.

It’s a refreshing break to be here; a time to learn and grow as a large team, but as I open up my Daily Light this morning I am drawn to another place and feel a longing for the day when time loses its meaning and there is no ending.

Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

At breakfast I sit with Dennis, Gord, Jon, Janet, Marianne and Carolyn and we soon are engaged in conversation that has us all laughing at corny jokes, like Gord’s answer to “How did you sleep?” which was, “With my eyes closed.”

We find ourselves talking about parenting. Our ages span several decades and around the table are parents of very young children as well as teenagers—and me, a grandmother.

Gord,a father of young daughters says that he kind of looks forward to the day when they say, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me.”

Marianne whose daughter is already there, says that she's been called a “crackpot,” and Jon says that his son called him a “freak show.”

Janet tells us that she has been greeted on the way out of the door, by the words, “Mom, you’re not wearing that are you?” and when driving the car and bopping to the music on the radio, she’s been told in a horrified tone, “Mom, stop!”

Oh, the indignity and humiliation of parenthood.

I remember the days of my children not wanting to be seen with me in public. I once gave a ride to a young man who was a few years older than my own kids, when they were teenagers and was surprised that he didn’t mind me waiting in full view for him to return to the car after he registered at college. I had been trained to stay discretely out of sight when dropping my kids off at school--those days seem long ago now!

This time out is a gift for which I’m grateful. Here there is laughter, rest, inspirational teamwork and time to connect with old friends. God is good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Antidote

Ephesians 5:3-5 (New International Version)
3 But among you there must not be…greed…but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No…greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

These mentions of greed are scattered among references to more obvious sins in Ephesians 5:3-5. It is one of the sins of our society in which we have more than previous generations would have ever dreamed of. What is it that keeps us hungering for more?

Our culture encourages greed and our economy runs on it. There is a never ending deluge of advertising flyers in our mailboxes. It is the “acceptable sin” of our day and we don’t even see it for what it is.

I realize that I have choices to make when I see that what is acceptable in our culture is not acceptable to God. There is ugliness to greed below the surface glitter.

The antidote to the disease of greed is thanksgiving--being grateful for the blessings of shelter, food and clothing; family and friends. When I focus on gratitude, I realize how very rich I am in things that cost little and yet are beyond price.

Isaiah 26:13 (New International Version)
O Lord, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone do we honour.

Psalm 119:32 (New International Version)
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

White Dawn

I look and see him gazing,
At the snow so softly falling
Through the window
In the hallway by his room,
The quiet, calling.

5:40 in the dawning
Thick icing coats the rooftops,
While the streetlights still reflect
Descending flakes.
White coated morning.

I wrap my arms around him
And we breathe in silent wonder
At the world pristine
and perfect
Wearing frosty robes of splendor.

I wake the other small ones
Say, “the snow is here,
come see.”
Eyes open with a smile inside
That hours uncommon glee

Rejoicing in their voices
“Let me see Mom!
Dad it’s here!”
They bundle up in snowsuits
Off we go, the bus is near

Deep angels, real, impressions
As we wait they roll and play
Both the laughter and the romping
Keep me warm
O’ such a day.

They clamber on the school bus
And she chugs off
Up the hill.
Smell of diesel on the air
And my heart has had its fill.

I return to house and hearth now
Where flames are gently glowing.
Out my window
Like a picture
The canopy keeps snowing.

I love the first snow. This was last week and we were all so enthralled. Thank you Lord Jesus for the whiteness that blankets our world so quietly and gently. It makes everything seem so fresh and new and perfect.

Monday, November 26, 2007

You Need Only to Be Still

Exodus 14:13-14 (New International Version)
13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Sometimes we are actively engaged in battles that no-one sees in our daily lives; battles against negativity, misunderstandings; struggles within our own hearts.

What a powerful encouragement these verses are for just such a circumstance. The battle belongs to the Lord; I need only to "be still."

Only to "be still?" Is it really that simple? Yes, for in his presence we find that "peace which transcends all understanding." (Philippians 4:7)

In his presence our hearts are turned from the twin sins of pride and Self. In his presence our hearts are turned from earth towards heaven. In his presence we are changed.

I Googled "being still" and found these questions at a wonderful blog with the link http://proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com/2007/10/being-still.html

"When was the last time you were just still?

To hear complete quietness and doing absolutely nothing except meditate on this verse?

Have you stilled your mind?

Have you stilled your heart?

Have you stilled your soul?"

Psalm 46:10 (New International Version)
10 "Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

HEAR OUR BATTLE CRY

Give me eyes to see beauty...

snow blankets bowing branches of evergreen... billowing clouds in skies of gray... barren bush, a red beacon of winter's sleep... black squirrel dashing along a wooden fence, and a regal blue jay standing sentry on a silver birch.
God's creation, rich in colour, texture, shape is the purest form of beauty. Undiluted... a gift, created by God for His pilgrims to enjoy.

Not so, in us, His created ones. Although created in His image, we sons of Adam, daughter's of Eve are scarred with sin - snow and crimson - impure, yet saved by grace.

I desire to learn to see like our Father. His eyes see us, without blemish or stain. I want more than sight, I want eyes of Love.

Oh Lord, I want to see others through your eyes.

Mother's voice cuts harsh as I cringe at her response,
"But why weren't we sent an invitation? That isn't proper. Why haven't they done this thing right? It would of been so much easier if we had a map."

As she speaks, I search my heart, looking for those soft words that turn away wrath. Mom, I offer, "I have a phone number for the restaurant, would you like the number and you can get directions."

This time her words are more accusing, indignant...
"I think it is an affront that I have to call the city and pay the long distance charges and pay gas to get there, and my own meal. Aunt Mary isn't even sick. She likes the attention. Why, it isn't even her birthday - that was in April!" Mom winds down with righteous triumph.

I try again, softly.
"I know Mom, there are expenses. I will phone for you or get the directions off my computer (to say I'd google it on Map Quest would be a foreign language, a bridge too far to cross to a generation lost to our age of software)".

"I just don't want to go - but I'll ask your father."
Silence... as she "goes through the motions." All my life it has been, "I'll ask your father" when really, he has no say.
She looks to him for confirmation to her rightness - Dad usually gives it, seldom will he differ and enter the war of words - the battleground of her experience.

When she returns, I have let go of my desire for them to be at this extended-family meal. I have offered and tried. Although grieved at their loss and ours, I recognize their age, the distance and the bitterness that has grown over the years. I contemplate the five hours of driving, Dad has a cold - he's 80 now -perhaps it is best. I wait as mom comes back to the phone.

"We won't be going. Your Dad doesn't want to."
She isn't finished, "Why can't they send invitations with a map? Why is this done so carelessly?", she accuses, sharply.

Gently I say, "I don't know why, Mom. They are busy and they're nieces like I am. Auntie Mary doesn't have any kids to do this for her. She's dying of lung cancer, she lives on her own, and has just moved to the nursing home. She is perhaps lonely and displaced right now."

Gently, softly I continue, "Mom, I'm glad Terry and Val are arranging this for her. I didn't do anything to show I care, but I would like to go - for them and Auntie Mary. I think everyone is just doing the best they can, Mom."
I'm not finished yet, I love her and I want peace. So often, I too have slung mud to make this relationship strained.
"Mom, you and Dad are doing your best too. It is a long drive. Dad does have a cold. I think you've made the best decision for you. I'll give everyone your best wishes."

She softens. I am surprised. "I would like to go. It's just so far and since my masectomy in July...", she trails off and sighs..., "I don't have the energy anymore. And the snow and we're so far."

"I know, Mom. I hope Dad gets rid of his cold soon."

As I hung up the phone, I wonder why there has to be blame - someone' right, someone's wrong. Why does she have to justify not going and become angry. Perhaps that is the only way she can give herself permission - not to go. It must be hard as you age and can no longer do all that you once did. Is Mom grieving and lashing out? Her way of coping perhaps. It has always been this way. Pride, anger, barbed speech - a habit formed in youth, in years of living a hard life.

I remember words I read on Ann Voskamp's blog, Holy Experience. I understand. I don't remember word for word, Ann's revelation of her relationship with her dad. I borrow some of her words and make them mine. She captured the essence of the generations so beautifully.

I love Mom. I have her voice, I share her bloodlines. When I became more of a daughter to my Heavenly Father, than her - she was enraged. She resented losing me. The strife between us heightened. I had knowledge of His love but no experience. I too lashed out, slung mud.
Do Mom and I ever heal? We get close, and word barbs catch, rip, cut. We've shared years together. We share the same battle - her and I - pilgrims on this earth.

She is beginning to know the king. I have been on the journey a long time. And yet, I battle pride, selfishness...I like to be right. My battle is the Lord's. My battle cry is to die to self, let go of what is mine. I want to become, "Holy as He is holy."

Although Mom's and my life are still connected - the same blood runs through our veins, this generational sin is one we share- the battle is the Lord's. Our battlefields are in different homes, one generation apart, and each of us will answer to our king.

My battlefield is in this home, with this husband, and these children God has given me. In this ordinary life, I need to see the holy. I need more of Him and less of me. In the day to day, I put on His armour, pick up His shield, wield His sword. The battle is not mine.

Hear our battle cry. Hear the bugles sound. Hear shouts of victory. The battle will be won.

When we are weak, He is strong for His power is made perfect in our weakness...where sin abounds, grace abounds even more...our faith in His word, the truth, the confession of our mouths...the battle is leaning in our favour. We are on the side of the king.


Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might.
Put on the full armour of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places.
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
Ephesians 6: 10-12 NASV

Hear our battle cry, Oh Lord.

Today, in the everyday, I die to self. I won't sling mud. Oh tongue of mine, we'll be wise today - one moment at a time in this ordinary life. Life-giving words, one moment at time - to bequeath a legacy, different from the one I received. To die to self, to Him the victory given. His wisdom, His strength, His grace, His mercy, His power....all mine, in Him.

To see as He sees, to see with eyes of love.

Hear our battle cry.


By Joyful Fox

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Worlds Intersected

The phone messages from him began arriving at the start of a very long and busy day; the first was waiting for me when I arrived at the office.

The message told of finding someone living on the street and how they needed help. “Please call back,” the slightly quivery voice said, “I’ll be out on the tractor, but you can ask my wife to call me on the two way radio and I’ll come in.”

For the rest of the day we played the familiar game of “Phone Tag.” I was out when he called me and when I called him back I got the answering machine. His messages sounded increasingly urgent.

Towards the end of the day a woman answered the phone. “I was down doing eggs,” she said, “Father is out in the fields. I can try to reach him but I doubt he’ll hear the radio over the sound of the tractor.”

I told her that I was working late and that he could call me whenever he got in. Before I hung up the phone, I asked about the farm. She told me that “Father” was 84 and still farming 400 acres. “He always wanted a farm and he bought it when he came back from the war,” she said. Apparently there was a North Farm, South Farm and the Home Farm on the land.

The woman said with a little laugh, “I’m a town girl that went country,” and it was obvious that she loved the life and was happy to still be working side by side with “Father” after sixty years.

I worked on in my office as evening grew dark, while the wind blew rain that was fast turning to sleet past my window. My car, in the parking lot across the road, was gathering its first winter coating of ice.

We finally connected. He’d been out in the fields, working against time, bringing in things before the bad weather hit.

In between gathering information about the young man he’d called about, I learned more about the farm and just as his wife called him "Father," he called her "Mother."

It was obvious as I listened to him and the deep emotion in his voice, that he had a heart of compassion for people who were lost in one way or another, and a deep faith in God. He said it had always been the way on the farm to take in people in need of a place to stay, almost like stray animals. “You’d come in after dark and never know who you’d find sleeping on the floor,” he said.

I was touched by his concern for the young friend he’d found on the street. He reminded me of an older version of Paul. “I am married to a man with a heart like yours,” I told him.

“Then you’re lucky,” he said, strangely without a trace of pride--he was just a plain and honest farmer telling me a fact…and I knew that he was right.

Worlds intersected that night; I in my office, deluged in an avalanche of paperwork; he working hard against the clock, bringing in bales of hay; both of us part of the family of God and really working for another world all together.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Seven Years

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".

Today is my anniversary. It was seven years ago today that I started on a most unexpected, surprising and challenging adventure. I had no idea then that I would be where I am today on the journey. It was an unexpected turn, that's for sure. As I look back over those years I am amazed at the goodness of God and at the incredible, intense, and supreme joy of feeling his pleasure.

Seven years ago I started working for Christian Horizons, supporting people with developmental disabilities. I, of course, had stated many times over that I would NEVER do that. I "couldn't" do that. Hah! Sometimes I think God takes great pleasure in waiting until he hears us saying things like just so he can surprise us with a different ending than we would ever expect.

When I think about the highlights of those years, what springs to the forefront of my mind are the faces -- faces of people I have had the privilege of working with and for. How much richer my life is now because of each one of them. I have learned more, grown more and experienced more in this last seven years than I could ever, ever, ever have dreamed possible. Through it all - the challenges, the surprises, the disappointments, the joys, the failures, the opportunities, the successes, the sorrows - through it all I have learned to trust him more (oh, he is a solid Rock!), to expect more, to accept more, to hope more, to dream more, to risk more... to live more! My family, too, each in their own individual way, and as a unit, has been immeasurably enriched by all the experiences and people that have touched our lives through the ministry he has called me to through Christian Horizons. I have received far more than I could ever give. (And I am humbled by that fact!)

I'm so glad I trusted His lead and walked through that door when it opened. God is so good!

Psalm 16: 5,6 (NIV)
LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Tide Turned

Micah 7:8 (New International Version)
8 Do not gloat over me, my enemy!
Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness,
the LORD will be my light.

I've never been in a real flesh and blood battlefield, but I think that there must be a moment if you are, when you know the tide is turning.

I imagine it's like that moment in an arm wrestle when, veins bulging, arm trembling, heads down, right hands clenched, the opponents sweat it out, literally head to head. Almost imperceptibly, one arm begins to give way. You know it's all over at that point.

I had come home last night at the end of a thirteen hour day. As I drove into our S shaped driveway in the bluster of a winter storm, I saw that our bedroom light was on; Paul had already gone to bed.

As soon as I dropped my briefcase and took off boots and coat, I went up to say goodnight. "I don't know if I can do this," I said. The truth was I didn't think anyone could--there was just too much--of everything.

We had no time in the morning. The snow storm had continued through the night and Paul had to leave for an important early meeting in Toronto. He left without coffee, breakfast and the prayer together that has become so important to us at the start of the day.

But I found a promise of prayer on the blog from a friend from afar, and another friend chose to declare victory, albeit on wobbly knees. Myself I had "willed" not to engage in the negativity that was so tempting--and justified after all. No, it just wasn't on--it had been eliminated as an option.

As I drove over slippery, snowy roads to the office, I didn't know, but the tide had turned.

Ellen wrote to me tonight, "I too, am relying on His love and right now am trusting His love and my faith in all of who He is as I choose gratitude, praise, and love and more dying to self. The armor of God is strong and we can deflect the fiery darts of the evil one. Praise Him for this life, this day, and these trials and darts. May we come through shining as gold."

In her voice I heard the victory that is ours as children of God. It's not an easy victory. It's a muscle straining, eye bulging, arm trembling, sweat on the brow, gritted teeth type of victory. And it is declared in the heavenly realms before we see it in the physical.

God was present in every moment of this day, so that tonight when I came in, lugging bags of groceries that I had picked up on the way home and Paul said with concern, "Frances called. She's calling back at 7.00. I told her you are tired," I laughed.

My first words to her when she rang were, "Before you say anything, I'm not tired."

She laughed, and said in a mock serious voice, "Oh, I'm so glad, because when Paul said you were tired, I thought that I was going to have to lecture you about Excel schedule spreadsheets and Christmas trees falling out of attics."

As we laughed I knew it was true; and it felt so good; the tide had turned indeed.

Isaiah 42:3 (New International Version)
3 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Faith under Fire

1 John 4:16 (New International Version)
16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

Today this verse jumped up and waved its hands at me.

We know and are convinced of, God's love for us. He demonstrated his love for us in Christ. We would have to be blind not to see it. Of course, sometimes we are.

Yes, I know God's love; both intellectually and experientially.

Today though, more than "knowing," I am "relying" on that love.

The word "rely" speaks to me of leaning on something that is solid; that will not give way; something I can depend upon--something I can trust. If I cannot, then my faith is empty and hollow.

When I rely on the love God has for me, it is my turn to demonstrate. I show, rather than tell, that my faith is in the One who sees the other side of the mountain I am facing; who has answers I haven't even considered, to my problems--and whose promises are "Yes" and "Amen."

It's a tough time for some of us right now and we feel as if we are sinking under the weight of an avalanche. But I choose to stand for Jesus. I repent of my complaints and I choose instead to let praise and gratitude flow from my lips. I am challenged to go deeper and higher; to let the fire temper me and make me stronger, not burn me. For he is worthy and he is faithful.

2 Corinthians 1:20-21 (New International Version)
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wii Wish You a Merry Christmas

It was Monday morning, the kids were in school and I was on a mission. I was hunting for a coveted Nintendo Wii system. It was at the top of all three of my children's wish lists...and as I was about to find out, it was apparently at the top of many other people's wish lists too.

I sat at my desk at 9:30 in my PJs (the joys of a stay-at -home mom) with my 2ND cup of coffee and pulled out the good old fashioned phone book. My attack plan was to look up all the numbers of stores that may sell the system.

By 9:45 I had about 20 different numbers. I made the first call, "Yes, good morning. I'm calling to see if you have any Nintendo Wiis in stock." The kid on the other end of the line informed me that they'd gotten a shipment on Saturday but they'd sold out in a couple of hours. They didn't know when the next shipment was coming in. They couldn't hold any. They couldn't put me on a call or waiting list. During the next 15 minutes I ran through all my numbers with the same results. The best advice they could give me: call every day and be prepared to jump in the car and get down to the store before they sold out.

I hung up the phone with one number left to try. To be honest, I really expected the same response from the last place, but I dialed anyways. "Good morning, I was wondering if there was even a remote possibility that you might have a Nintendo Wii in stock." A lady with a wonderful southern accent answered, "As a matter of fact we just got a shipment of 12." I nearly fell off my chair. "Can you hold one for me?" I asked. "No, I'm sorry we can't do that." She replied. "I can give you my VISA number." I offered. "I'm sorry ma'am. It's strictly first come first served." She replied.

Well, in a panic I dressed, skipped the teeth brushing and the hair brushing and the make-up and tore off in the car. I was a half hour drive from the store..I made it in 15 minutes. The whole time I was driving I had this vision of me running into the store just as the last Wii was being packaged for someone who was 2 minuted ahead of me. I swung into a parking spot and ran full tilt into the store - I nearly bowled a sales associate over in my haste- ran up to the lady at the counter and panted, "I called. Do you still have any left?" They had 8 left. She kindly agreed to put one aside for me (I wasn't allowed to put it into my cart until I payed for it) while I picked up extra nun chucks and Wiimotes so all 3 kids could play. 10 minutes later - with the crazy panic madman glint starting to leave my eye - I was being checked out. There was one Wii left. The man behind me asked for it, but he needed a nun chuck and the shelves were empty. "I'll just run upstairs and get you one" the sales girl said and ran off.

As I was paying for mine, a second man came in and asked for a Wii. The lady behind the counter took the last one out of the box and began to ring it through just as the sales girl came back with the nun chuck. "Excuse me." the fist man said to the second one, rather aggressively, "But that Wii is mine, I was just waiting for a nun chuck." The lady behind the counter jumped in "I'm sorry sir, but we can't hold Wiis." Then the sales girl tried to explain that he was just waiting for her to come back before he paid for it.

Well, I paid for my Wii and left as the argument got worse. I walked away from a couple of grown men who looked ready step over their own mother to get their hands on a gaming system. As I stepped out into the fresh air I had a paranoid moment where I pictured someone tackling me from the side and running off with my Wii.

I smiled to my self as I settled into my car as I thought about how crazy people can get during the holiday season. The smile didn't last as I drove home and my thoughts changed. How sad that we are willing to go so crazy for material things. I was suddenly embarrassed by my desperation. I preach to my children, "Christmas isn't about what you get under the tree. Jesus was the best gift of all." But I had to admit, that Monday morning, the only thing on my mind was getting a hold of a Wii. At that moment, a Wii seemed like the most important thing on Christmas morning. I felt like without it, Christmas would have been a dissapiontment.

That afternoon when my kids got off the bus, they saw the list I'd left on my desk with the list of stores and a note next to each saying 'Wii sold out' . My youngest came up to me and slipped her little hand in mine. She looked up at me will her big brown eyes full of love and she smiled. "Don't worry Mommy. I saw your note and I know you tried your best." She assured me. My eyes filled with tears as I swept her up into a big bear hug. I laughed to myself as I realized I had put more importance on the Wii than they had. I came first in their hearts. People before things. "Besides, the best gift ever was from God. He gave us Jesus." She finished. The wisdom of a child.

Lord, thank you for the innocence of children. Thank you for showing us that what we try so hard to teach them does take root. And especially thank you for Jesus. He is indeed the best Christmas Gift we could ever hope for. Help us to keep our eyes on You this Season and teach through example. Help us to bless You this year as You have blessed us.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alpha and Omega ~ A Foretaste of Heaven

Revelation 21:1-3 (New International Version)
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

The worship team was singing as I arrived this morning at our Central District offices. I carried bags of sweet grapes and pineapple into the kitchen for later on, and then slipped quietly into the back of the room to join the symphony of praise with the 40 or so staff gathered there at the start of a day of training.

Alicia was leading, eyes closed, face raised to heaven, arms spread wide. The rest of the team: Haesun on keyboard, Deanna on bongo drums and Karen singing; played and sang with deep passion. The staff they were leading in worship represented nations from all over the world, a cultural diversity unique to Toronto.

As the worship time drew to a conclusion, Karen's beautiful, rich voice called me to the front, "Belinda, would you come and commit the day to God in prayer?" I was honoured to do so, and as I finished my prayer, the lights dimmed. A song of praise, that I realized later was coming from a video on the screen behind me, began. It was a song of worship so beautiful and unrestrained that it brought us to the very throne room of God with all of the angels and saints who have gone before.

The singers were a group called Israel and New Breed and the song was Alpha and Omega, live in South Africa. I thought that there could be no better gift from the blog tonight than sharing it. Click the link below to hear the song on You Tube.

Revelation 21:6 (New International Version)
6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5WWdA1KgYM

Sunday, November 18, 2007

He is Enough - Dayenu

Weary, worn, dirty...grieving from sin - my sin. I am not the victim, the offended. I am the offender the perpetrator.I didn't die to self, not today. I dug in my heels.

I want to be more like Him, I really do.

It's so easy to want to do what comes easy. Give into self. Trust myself, give into the flesh, the mind. Say those words ...those easy words. I did, Lord. I said them. That tone, you know the one Lord. The tone of pride, the voice of self.

"I will concede this... but not this. I cannot trust. I really think it would be wise if we did....but not this...."

The still small voice said, "Ellen, that's not submission, that's not yielding."

The strife began, set in motion, my tongue seared...the ones I love. I chose Lord - I chose me.

Forgive me Lord.
It is grace, mercy... His relentless grace I need. He is enough.

Exceeding, abundant, lavish...the grace poured upon me, upon you...simply because we are His.

It is enough...He is enough

Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV)
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus...


I think of what I learned this week as the children and I studied Israel.
In the Jewish Passover feast, the Jewish remember God's goodness to them as God brought them out of slavery from Egypt to the building of the temple.

The Jewish people sing a song as they sup...as they pass on God's goodness and remind themselves and one another of His blessings. Each verse sung shares a memory of God's goodness.

He parted the red sea - Dayenu , He smote the Egyptian first-born boys but not the Hebrew children - Dayenu, He gave them manna - Dayenu

Fourteen verses and each time the chorus - Dayenu - It means He is enough.

If God had only done one thing, it would have been enough. He did so much...for them...for me...for you. It is enough. HE is enough. Dayenu.

I am thankful.

We can all add our own chorus' for He is the same, He has always been the same - Dayenu. He is enough.

He gave me this life, not any life but this one. He gave me this husband, not any other. He gave me not one child, but five. Dayenu. He is enough. He gave me this day, only once - this day. He showed me my sin. Dayenu. He is enough.

His grace - lavish, abundant, exceedingly kind. He is enough. Dayenu.

I am content. I rest in Him. I am thankful for this life. I am yours. Dayenu.

Today is our Sabbath. Dayenu.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday Evening Post

It's the end of a busy day and I am spent. It's good to sit quietly, enjoying the gentle ticking of the wall clock and the hum of my laptop. In the background the indefinable sounds of a TV program filter in from the next room.

The fragrance of my pomegranate candle fills the room. Susan, who gave it to me last Christmas, hinted last week that the plastic that still surrounded the candle was supposed to come off. I thought it was meant to hold it in shape. She took matters into her own hands on Tuesday and removed it anyway, saying that leaving it on was like leaving the plastic covering on a new couch and she couldn't stand it any more. Suddenly the perfume was more distinct; she must have been right.

The Christmas tree has not come down from the attic yet, but any day now it will and I think I'm ready to "take it on." It's time to surrender to the season!

On Thursday one big Christmas thing was done--picking up the chocolate letters from the Dutch store. I buy over 100 of them and make an Excel spreadsheet to make sure I get the right number of each letter. It's a Christmas tradition for me to celebrate my Dutch heritage by giving these to friends and family.

I needed a dress for a special occasion; "Christmas at the Castle," at Casa Loma. On Thursday, I was on my way home from a meeting in Newmarket and thought that I would stop by the mall to see if I could find one. I dreaded the thought really, of going into the mall, and I thought that I would quickly pop into Still in Style, a consignment store, first; just in case there was something there that would work. I got there with 15 minutes before closing time. I headed for the "dressy dresses" rack, and there was a beautiful long, dark green satin skirt, with a matching top, with exactly the neckline and look that I had seen in my mind's eye. I tried it on--it fit and looked lovely. The price was very right, so I bought it and left with five minutes to spare!

I talked to a friend who is Roman Catholic that evening, and he mentioned celebrating Advent; the expectant waiting for the coming of the Saviour that starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. The peace and expectancy of Advent contrasted in spirit with the dread and panic that seems to overtake me as the snowball of the season gathers momentum and size.

Is it possible to dodge the snowball? I'm hoping that it is. I want to remember the reason for Christmas and reflect on all that it meant when Jesus was born in that stark, cold stable over 2000 years ago.

1 John 4:9-10 (New International Version)
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sod Field Devotions

It’s early morning. I head out into the frosty air for my morning walk. My heart feels as heavy and as cold as the November dew on the sodden grass under my feet. I walk the perimeter of the sod field near our old farm-house. With every step, my heart lays wider open before God, pouring out my feelings to him, purposing not to ask him for anything today, but only to “be”. I am carrying my pocket Bible and about halfway around my circuit of the field, I feel impressed to stop and read. It opens to Psalm 63.

O, God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water... …Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me…”

As I read, the Truth floods my soul and displaces any feelings of sadness and abandonment that had been attempting to creep in. I know who I am and more importantly, I remember Whose I am. I am overwhelmed with the goodness of God and at his ability to use his Word, not just to speak to my heart, but to instantly change my attitude.

I head into the day with a different perspective entirely than the one which would have had pre-eminence, had I missed that walk to the sod field with Father-God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fly

I was nearing home when I saw them. They flew in that beautiful V formation, this time with hardly a passing honk, except from the ones at the rear, encouragement probably. I've heard that's what they do. Their leader was out front, long neck, and flat, pointed head like an arrow toward their destination. I felt my feet quicken, muscles tense in my legs and I wanted to run, shout "Wait for me, I'm coming too". They were going somewhere. They had heard the clarion call and were answering.

Help me Lord to listen, point and go with determination, so that when I hear that Clarion Call, I am ready to hit the skies running and meet You in the air.

A minute later, the geese were gone and then I heard another crowd. This time they were sounding their horns loudly, still flying in a V, but unorganized, confused. Their leader was gone. They swooped around in a circle, flew over my head again and flapped, calling loudly in the direction the first flock had gone.

They had missed the call.

Lord Jesus, I fix my eyes on You, for You are the Author and Finisher of my faith. Thank you for the parable in the geese, in all of your creation, that trumpets Your coming. I will listen for Your Call.
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what He has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.
"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
Revelation 22:12-14, 20 NIV

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Pace Maker

Psalm 44:3 (New International Version)
3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.

As Frances and I continued our conversation on Saturday, about the pressure I felt at the thought of adding Christmas decorating to my "to do" list--she shared a profound insight; "The God that shows us the path, will also show us the pace at which we are to walk."

Any runner has to pace himself if he wants to make the finish line.

In life there are times when in a burst of focused energy we sprint forward for a period of time, but then we need to drop back to regain energy and strength so that we are ready for the next burst of energy we need to expend. At these times it may look as if we are dropping behind others in the race--but we are running the race with others, not competing against them. In this race our eyes should be on the One waiting for us at the end, not on the one running next to us. In fact, God's plan is for us to support one another in the race so that when one is resting, or wounded, the others will take the lead for a while.

Pace is individual and yet our tendency is to compare ourselves with others and often come up short. Instead our eyes should be on our personal coach, the Lord Jesus, who is able to direct every step and every moment of our lives.

I have high energy friends who accomplish an amazing amount and others who live at a quieter pace. To the outside world, they may not seem to be accomplishing as much, but this is an "earthly" perspective.

God calls each one of us to run the race that he sets before us. Life must have meaning beyond plunging headlong, trying to cram into every single minute, the maximum amount of activity, otherwise we are prone to value lives by the system of the World, which might say that a life with little activity has little value.

That train of thinking has dangerous, deceptive potential and leads to the acceptance of such evils as euthanasia, abortion and so called "mercy killing."

If we aren't careful, our meaning can be derived from flawed values. God's Word says that each life is infinitely precious and has meaning regardless of anything we do.

Consider the example of Jesus, out of whose short lifetime, only three years were spent in public ministry. The thirty years before that were like the part of the iceberg below the surface of the water; perhaps the preparation time. They were thirty years not doing anything that we might think of as significant in terms of activity. And during the three years that he did spend in ministry, he constantly pulled away, spending time in reflection, waiting before God, sometimes walking away from the crowds.

I struggle with pace and am tempted to push the boundaries of healthy habits in my life. It's a good thing to consider God's perspective on this.

A final thought; the Italian word for peace, is "pace."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Thing in the Attic

It was a long time since I'd thought about it, so I was taken by surprise when seemingly out of the blue he mentioned it, and said that he was planning to get it down--to let it out of its hiding place up in the attic. I just wasn't ready.

A chill ran down my spine and I begged him to leave it there a little longer. "Not yet," I said, "I need to prepare myself." He listened and I was grateful for a temporary reprieve.

On Saturday my mind was drawn back to it through an innocent conversation with Frances. She said that she had been looking at magazines and thinking about decorating. "Isn't it wonderful?" she said, with a dreamy note to her voice.

I had to confess then that I didn't feel the same way, that my heart quivered at the thought. I mentioned Paul's attempt to broach the subject earlier that week and how I had stalled for a little more time.

I know it's inevitable. I'll have to face up to it--but I'm just not ready for the Christmas tree to come down yet!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Living Reality With Hope

2 Corinthians 6:9-10 (New International Version)
9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (New International Version)
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

I was thinking this morning about the importance of acknowledging the truth about difficulties, yet choosing not to be defeated by them.

Some of us err by ignoring the reality of challenges, others are brought down by them, but in Paul's letter to the Corinthians there is a pattern for life worth adopting.

Winston Churchill rallied the British people during the Second World War, promising them nothing but blood, toil, tears and sweat. I thought of how he inspired them to not give up the fight so that he and they became famous for their grit and determination in the face of a fearsome foe. The verses that I read this morning reminded me of that.

I noticed that Paul managed to communicate a very hard reality without sounding defeated, by ending each statement of fact with the words "but," or "yet," followed by a statement of hope and faith.

Negativity allows our physical and spiritual beings to be invaded by toxicity and hopelessness. However when we finish each statement of difficult truth with a "but" or a "yet," as Paul did, it is a powerful thing and I believe that God rises up with agreement with us.

At work we try to practice the Fish Philosophy and one of the four Fish principles is, "Choose Your Attitude." I think that's what Winston Churchill challenged the British to do. I think that's what Paul was doing, choosing to declare victory in the midst of apparent warfare. It's what I've been reminded of today and what I want to practice in my heart and speech.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (New International Version)
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance


Not knowing its significance to me, she gave it almost as an aside during a meeting at my office.

"Miah asked me to give this to you," she said, placing it in my hands.

I immediately gasped in recognition of something I considered a treasure.

"Do you know what this is?" I asked, and she said that she did.

Taped onto it was a small piece of notepaper decorated with hearts and a little picture of a girl feeding squirrels and birds. The note said, "Joanne, Please give this to Belinda, Thanks, Miah."

It's hard to find the words to express what I felt, but it was as if it had been guided to the next pair of hands that were to hold it in trust; and a heart that would keep a memory alive.

It was just a leather pouch, but to me it was about whose the pouch it had been.

It was made ruggedly out of one piece of tan leather, folded and stitched together on both sides with flat, thin, strips of off-white leather. The flap was secured by a pair of domes sewn inside.

There are initials on the flap, "E.H.," painted in white. They are in the centre of an small oblong of stitches, securing a piece of leather inside onto which the domes are sewn. The initials are a puzzle, since the pouch belonged to Evelyn, whose last name started with "C." I'm not sure if she inherited it from someone else, or if someone got her initials wrong when they were put on. Two drops of white paint landed on the front of the pouch sometime in its history, and no one bothered to remove them.

In the pouch there are the remnants of lives long gone—a letter written in 1941 on a lonely Christmas Eve, shortly after a bomb had dropped nearby the home in Belfast, shattering windows. There are old photographs, newspaper death notices and other things. They belonged to two people that came to Canada from Ireland in the early nineteen hundreds. These people married and the child they had was "our" Evelyn.

I look into the eyes on the photographs and see "Evelyn’s people;" Evelyn, gone seven years ago now to heaven: Evelyn who was known and loved for her character and feistiness--Evelyn whose 16 years with the agency I work for (after her discharge from an institution,) were the stuff of legends.

She had no people when she came to us, but God saw to it that she soon had some. He made some of us love her dearly.

Mention her name in a group of veteran staff even now, and the stories start. She would love that. She always loved stories.

She loved me to recount the story of the disastrous day we spent together when I left the lights on in the van in the parking lot at the Finch subway station. A smile would break across her face at the humour in it all. That was the day she took the gum I offered, and it stuck to her dentures. We crossed the parking lot to the van waiting with a dead battery, to the sound of Ev's wailing about the gum on her teeth. Earlier that day we had ridden the subway (an event in itself since it was quite scary for her) in order to catch a streetcar, just for the fun of riding one--something she had wanted to do. But all of the streetcars seemed to be on the opposite side of the road to the side we were waiting on. Ev and I both thought that was funny. We gave up, crossed the street and caught the streetcar on the other side. We were immediately surrounded by emergency vehicles with sirens wailing, on their way to an accident or fire. Evelyn wailed too--she was scared by the hullabaloo.

When she died, after eventually moving to a nursing home; Miah and I had visited the funeral home together to say our last goodbyes to the part of her left behind, but missing her indomitable spirit. Inexplicably, she lay there with her mouth open. I don't know which of us spotted it first, but when our eyes met and we broke into laughter through our tears--for we could not help but gaze into her open mouth and see her name inscribed on the inside of her dentures; the dentures that no doubt flew across the room so often that a nursing home staff wanted to make sure they were returned to the right person.

On a day of remembrance; I treasure her memory. 

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Threshing Machine

I'm old enough to remember threshing machines. (Pronounced "thrashing" where I come from.) They pre-date combines by just a few years. A tractor backed up in front of the Great Monster and they would be joined together by a six inch wide belt which delivered the power from the tractor's shiny steel drive wheel to the thresher.. The grain, which had been cut and stooked in the field was gathered up and fed into one end, and out the other, with much shaking and rocking and flying of dust and deafening noises, came the grain clean, stripped of straw and chaff and ready to be milled. As a child, my curiosity would drive me close to the action. I would stand in the barn with my hands over both ears and had great respect, if not raw fear, for the great machine that inflicted such violence on the golden stalks of wheat. When it was all over, and the machine turned off for the day, I remember picking up great handfuls of the golden wheat kernels out of the hopper and letting them fall through my fingers, a cascade of tiny gold nuggets.

Sometimes it's not any easier to maintain authenticity in a relationship than it is for the wheat to go through that threshing machine. It's safer to be "nice", but that's not the kind of friendships I want to have.

I want company on the journey - someone to be my friend, and to be a friend to. Without strings attached and without expectations. I want to be authentic. Absolutely authentic. And if I feel something and I'm afraid it's coming between us, I want to be able to say so, just like I want them to be able say so to me, too. And if we get angry with one another, or things go off-kilter, as they are bound to from time to time in any human relationship, I want to be able to throw the whole friendship into God's threshing machine - no matter how much it hurts at the time - so that the wind of the Holy Spirit can blow the chaff away and so that what comes out is pure gold - pleasing to God and to one another.

I want friends who may not like it - who would? - but at the same time aren't afraid of that threshing machine. Because what comes out the other end, can be the purest gold.

I know.

"Wounds from a friend can be trusted." Proverbs 27:3

Friday, November 09, 2007

More on the Stair Story!

So many people enjoyed Ellen's response to my post on the colours that bled on my schedule, that I asked her if I could share this email too, which was a blessing to me. Thanks Ellen for saying I could share! Belinda

Thanks Belinda,
Your blog again resounded in my heart. I, too am in the fires of being a stair for my family.

Sometimes I yield and willingly do all that is required of me with a cheerful, grateful heart. And other times I buck and lash out and resentfully put forth minimal effort.

It's funny though, dying to self is one choice at a time, moment by moment. I can choose to love, or not to love, every day. So many opportunities are afforded me. I want to develop habits of "love", of dying to self, of being a stair. It is in dying that we can only truly live. Another of the many paradox's of being a pilgrim on earth - this is not our home. We must keep our eyes fixed on things of Heaven.

Similarily as we love one moment at a time, love is also lost in the same way. Dying to self and loving must become a way of life. We cannot ride on yesterday's, or this morning's victory. Victory has to be ongoing or our success is meaningless.

So, together with you, and with our fellow pilgrims, " as those who have been chosen of God, holy beloved, we put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness,and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." Colossians 3: 12-14.

May we inspire one another as we chose to love, to die to self, to be a stair - one choice at a time, moment by moment.Because He Lives, Ellen Fox

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Being a Stair

Ephesians 5:1-2 (New International Version)
1Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Sometimes when I set out in the morning to read the Bible I don't get very far, and this morning was like that. I started to read Ephesians chapter 5 and didn't get beyond the first two verses.

"Be imitators or God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

There is so much in just those two verses to open my heart and soul and mind to.

Living a "life of love," could be taken as a sweet and gentle, airy-fairy sort of thing, but not according to this verse. For love, it goes on to say, was demonstrated by Christ as our pattern to follow.

The verses challenge me to my very core, because they talk of the meaning of love being sacrifice; and not sacrifice of things, but of Self.

And so this morning, because I do love God and I consider his words as infinitely precious and the guide for life, I have to take his invitation seriously, to do a hard thing; lay down Self and self interest.

It is easier to do this for God than for other people somehow--after all, we owe him everything--our very lives. But Ephesians 5:1-2 doesn't let me stay there. The text says that Jesus gave himself, not to God alone, but he gave himself for us.

So I must give my "self" for others and this is easier in theory than in fact. There are numbers of times in every day when my "self" is poked, prodded or jostled, and I don't like it very much.

Last Sunday our son Peter mentioned The Truth Project, on which he had just spent two days training. It seems to be about grounding people in the truth of God's word, which is a powerful thing and very much needed.

Peter said that the concept of sacrifice had come up and the analogy of being a "step" for others. That reminded me of a beautiful piece that I read long ago, from a book, Creation in Christ,* by George MacDonald. It was about the ultimate transformation of "self," and a small section echoes what Peter heard at The Truth Project:

His eternal rejoicing will be in God--and in his fellows, before whom he will cast his glad self to be--a stair for their climbing.

God knows how far I am from that place. But I want to get there--to be glad to be a "stair."

*Published by Harold Shaw Publishers, Wheaton, Ill.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Heart Re-Alignment

Ephesians 4:2 (New International Version)
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

How opposite to human nature these words are: "Be patient, bearing with one another in love."

"Bearing with, in love" is not something I am good at. I want to point out an offence, to make sure the other person understands that they did something wrong.

I'm not a mechanic, but I know that when wheels are out of alignment, it makes for a bumpy and rough ride. So it is when our hearts are out of alignment with God's ways. I knew when I read this verse this morning--I needed an alignment job. I needed to think less of my ruffled feathers and care more for the other person.

Dear Lord, let your humility and gentleness be my garments today. Help me to bear with others as you bear with me every day. Forgive me for thinking more of myself than of others. Thank you for your Holy Spirit, who steers the ship of my heart when I open it up to you.

Ephesians 4:32 (New International Version)
32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:15 (New International Version)
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cloud Camel Trains

Psalm 25:4-5 (New Living Translation)
4 Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
5 Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

It was so still in the house as I padded around the kitchen in the early morning. How I love being up first. I've always relished the solitude; even as a child I loved to get up before everyone else.

I glanced out of the window, drawn, as usual, to the sky and fields and hills, and saw a low layer of clouds moving across the sky, from the south-west to the north-east, in stately procession. They reminded me of a slow moving camel train heaped with packages of spices, silks and Persian carpets, bound for some distant city.

It was beautiful; peaceful, in the morning light. Their passage seemed so purposeful and unhurried. The line they traveled across the sky was straight, driven by a powerful, invisible wind current.

I prayed for my day to be as purposeful as the clouds seemed this morning, and that the force carrying and directing me would be the wind of God's Spirit.

Psalm 32:8 (New Living Translation)
8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
I will advise you and watch over you.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Colours

Saturday mornings are coloured golden yellow on my funny Excel schedule--the one I made in a futile effort to corral my life.

On Saturday mornings we have pancakes and coffee and we don't rush anything. It's time for friends and family and I love it. I wish the whole week could be Saturday morning, but then that would be heaven.

This past Saturday the first phone was from England. It was my dear mum's voice and my brother was on the other line too. He told me that the day before, he had come into Mum's flat to find her just putting the phone down. She told him that it had been someone from Holland calling to tell her that her dear friend for almost 60 years; tante Mies, had died. Robert said she had some tears and I was so grateful that he happened to come in at that very moment.

He said, "We've had a few extra cups of tea," and Mum said, "Yes."

Tea has amazing properties of comfort. Just the very act of putting on the kettle signals that all will be well, no matter how bad things feel right now.

I remember tante Mies and oom Bart from our visits to Holland when I was a child and teenager. She was tall and elegant of frame with long, black hair, pulled back into a bun. She always wore her nails long and painted red or orange,. She had dramatic, penciled in eyebrows. She and oom Bart had no children but her niece Ingrid and I, who were the same age, became friends at 4 and are still friends, 53 years later.

I saw tante Mies last year when I spent a few days in Holland. Her hair was no longer long and black, but short and white and she was blind. Added to that she had hurt her hip and was unable to walk, but she was still elegant and she still had the same warm, rich voice that I remembered from my childhood.

When Mum had a stroke in 2003, tante Mies prayed faithfully for her every day. She and Mum were so different, but what a precious friendship they had.

As soon as I put the phone down, it rang again. It was Frances and we had much to catch up on. We took delight in laughing at ourselves--a never ending source of entertainment.

Frances said, "I used to think that there were people who think like me and people who have to be taught to think like me." I was relieved to hear that she's moved on from that point of view, but it was funny hearing how she had once looked askance at a friend in her kitchen who used the handle of a wooden spoon to stir something. "It wasn't just that she used the wrong end," said Frances, "but it was the fact that she didn't care that amazed me."

We laughed at how we are all so different. As Frances put it, we are caricatures of ourselves--all of us, "There's you with your Excel spreadsheet," she said, "and me and my judgement."

Yes we are different and it is all good.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (New Living Translation)
11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Who is God--Really?

1 Peter 1:6 (New International Version)
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

John 16:33 (New International Version)
33"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I wonder how God feels when someone turns away from him, not because of who he is, but because of a person who said they were his follower; someone who called themselves by his name; but who was so harsh, abusive, condemning or legalistic that the person said, "If that's what Christianity is about, I want no part of it."

2 Corinthians 3:2 (New International Version) says this:
2You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody.

Rightly or wrongly, people judge God by his followers. This scares and sobers me. I am often such a poor representative of him. It also makes me realize how very important it is to know who really God is.

It's a dangerous thing to choose selectively from God's Word--using it like a grocery store from which to pick up parts that are to our taste or what fits our carefully packaged worldview.

I've heard it said by some that constant victory, perfect health and abundant financial blessing can and should be our expectation as children of God. That is a seductive and appealing view, but does it represent what Jesus said?

The verses for today, from the Daily Light, say that our encouragement comes from facing difficulties with rejoicing and peace. It doesn't say they'll necessarily go away. After all, we are following someone with nail scarred hands and feet.

The only way to know who God really is, is to read the Bible from cover to cover, and then start all over again--dig into the book that holds the whole truth about God. Don't ever just rely on what someone else says. Check it out. What did God really intend when he said this thing or that? Talk about it with friends, pray for insight, meditate, and remember that Jesus was always counter-culture.

Lord, I long to know you and for your image to be formed in me. All that I know of you is so wonderful, but I confess that there are parts I don't understand. Please help me to know you better and to reflect you with greater integrity to the world.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Harvest Will Come

Galatians 6:9 (New Living Translation)
9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

Hebrews 12:3 (New International Version)
3 Consider him who endured...so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

This week, in my Bible, I found a slip of paper with my mum's familiar handwriting, on which she had written all four verses of a hymn. This is the first verse.

Father, I place into Your hands
The things that I can't do.
Father, I place into your hands
The times that I've been through
Father, I place into your hands
The way I should go,
For I know I always can trust You.

The fields around our home have been filled with men and trucks and machinery since we got home from England last Saturday; the land being stirred up into smoky clouds of dust rising into the chill autumn air.

Tiffany-Amber, who's been watching the process from her school yard, found it all fascinating and tried to demonstrate to me through hand gestures how the harvesting machinery worked--the grain gushing through and being churned around as it poured.

As I drove home in the dark evenings, I could see the lights across the fields that told me the workers were still out there. I thought of how tired they must be as they had been out there from early morning. But they had to keep going.

Going on vacation felt like skidding to a screeching stop--so sudden was the change of pace--but from the start of this week I could feel my neck tensing painfully as I tried to work through some tough situations and help others through their stress too. I needed to find the hymn in my Bible, with its reminder to trust in God.

In spite of the intensity of this week it is good to be back on the land. Harvest is coming!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Schedule Saga

By~Ellen Fox

Hi Belinda,

I'm with you - you know my carefully crafted schedule that took weeks (6 of them working a minimum of 1 hr. a day) - also very colourful? Well, it bleeds every day.

No-where on the schedule does it say, "Eight year old boy drops 1-litre-bottle of olive oil (brand new of course) on the floor" - Clean up time - 1 hr. and 5 min. plus a whole bolt of paper towels. Did I mention that this occurred at 7:00 a.m.? No-where does it say "six year old daughter lets neighbour's cat in house - 5 children chase cat - it hides (wouldn't you?)" - Cat exit time 25 min.

Chewing gum caught in hair - had to Google what to do with that - then tried all mentioned remedies - finally after 45 min. , I cut the rest out.

This isn't to mention - twins playing in toilet - all garbage contents, toilet paper roll, and my current book for assessment, Charlotte Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" at the bottom of toilet bowl, totally soaked. I've never seen a book look like that! Oh, did I mention - the last toilet user forgot to flush the toilet?

Clean- up included: emptying toilet (what a privilege that was!) cleaning washroom, "bathing twins - time" - 1 and 1/2 hours - and a week of emotional recovery.

Oh and then there's the daily correctional time "Mom, I will not do my Math today" That wasn't on the schedule either.

Nor was: trip to hospital (3 since Sept. 1), illness, teething babies, and Jason's overtime, over-sleeping after a late night at writer's group or talking on the phone to a friend and grocery shopping (how did I forget that?)

Well...you get the picture--the colours bled. I am not a slave to my schedule- it is my tool. I am not a slave to my schedule - it is my tool. I am not a slave to my schedule - it is my tool. That mantra - there's no grace there, didn't cut the mustard. The inventor of the schedule said, "Don't be discouraged if you have an occasional 'off' day - just get right back 'on' and carry on."

Belinda, I didn't have one - no, not one, 'on' day - in 4 weeks. My tool was not a schedule, it was a hammer. It hit me on the thumbnail day after day after day. I know now that a schedule is only a guideline, an ideal, and for someone else's house, or for mine in a few years...it was a good experience though!

Anyways - I thought I'd share that bit of humour with you.
Love, from another maker of schedules,
Ellen Fox

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Colours Bled!

Proverbs 8:34 (New International Version)
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.

From the quiet, peace and gentle rain of an English village last week--into a first week back at work, filled so far with intensity, crisis, pressure and conflict.

While on vacation in England I made some of my friends laugh when I took the time to reflect on my normally very busy life. I had tried to organize it better by charting it on an Excel spreadsheet with blocks of colours that signalled boundaries and categories.

It looked so possible--if I tried hard not to waste time, dally too much, or get distracted.

The truth is that the colours bled and life throws more wild cards than I could catch even if I was an octopus. Perhaps there was a missing colour on my chart--bright, shocking pink for the wild cards.

So I look to God. To whom else should I go? He is my source of strength--my only hope.

I give him my life, my weak frame with all of its' limitations--and even my "charted life." It's all his; and I know that he cares for what is his.

Dear Lord, I need your wisdom, strength and power.

Psalm 123:2 (New International Version)
2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.