Monday, March 31, 2008

The Giver

The guest worship leader came representing a well known ministry. He was gifted musically, playing the piano with casual ease but great skill, while talking, in between songs he'd written and recorded, about the children whose lives could be changed forever for the price of our North American coffee habit.

His young wife ran the sound system at the back of the church, "Great with child," as he put it proudly; their first. They have been called to "live by faith," serving this ministry; he using his voice and talent to make a difference.

But not on any pedestal, this young man. He talked of idols, of the constant personal temptation to be captivated by "stuff," or addictions; on-line shopping; this or that. I know how it goes. Nail one down addiction and the self life oozes out somewhere else.

At the end, one of my younger friends met me at the back and said she'd sponsored a child. She said slightly nervously that she hoped she could manage it.

In the midst of a busy whirlwind of a day, today, another young friend told me of obedience in giving a "tithe;" a tenth, to the Lord; and of how big a sum that was when you give the whole tenth, especially to a young couple with large day care expenses. And of how they really shouldn't be managing without it, but how, amazingly they were.

And I thought of another young couple many years ago, learning to take God at his word and trust him to meet their needs. And of how blessed we are; not because of what we have given, but because we have trusted God, who will never, be out-given.

I opened the Daily Light tonight and read this morning's reading again.
Mar 31 Apr 1 >>
Morning
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”—He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?—For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.—As having nothing, yet possessing everything.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.—For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.—God . . . richly provides us with everything to enjoy.—And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Phil. 4:19; Matt. 6:33; Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 3:21-23; 2 Cor. 6:10; Ps. 23:1; Ps. 84:11; 1 Tim. 6:17; 2 Cor. 9:8 (Read full verses...)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A lot More than Sugar Maple Sap and Spring

The spring sun shone brightly, warming cheeks and hearts. Snow glistened like crystals under its rays, and shadows formed under bare branches and life-giving trunks of sugar maple trees. I smiled as I watched children clamber on snowbanks, sliding down and bearing up again. Dead, brown leaves settled among tractor tracks and puddles formed. Spring mud beckoned children with its ooze. Mesmerized by dancing eyes and gleeful squeals, I forgot to scold. Childhood remembered, I delighted in the splish, splash of boots. Along with them, I revelled in the delight of "now" - melting snow, warmer weather and the promise of spring.

In my mind I formed entries for my "Gratitude Journal" begun in mid-February. I thought of what I read in another blog about all the lists we make - things to do, things to purchase, and things we want. Ann Voskamp @ Holy Experience began a different kind of list. She called it her "1000 Gifts List" where she recorded things she already has. Ann believes that "Love can only be patient when it is first grateful for what it is now!" She wisely discerned, "Where thankfulness flourishes, patience blossoms, and one reaps love abundantly."
Her words, I had read in late November, resonated with me. I understood the desire to be more patient, to be more loving. I knew all too well, the havoc discontent reeks.

I also knew well, the words in I Thessalonians 1:16-18 , "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Slowly over several months I knew I needed to develop my own "1000 Gifts List". I wanted to savour blessings, reflect on them, and give thanks for the lavish bounty God pours into my life. For six weeks I have journeyed this road. My life scenery has begun to change. I no longer see piles of laundry to wash, fold, and put away but little people who'll quickly outgrow the need for washing. As I pick up doll clothes, legos, and toy trucks, I rejoice for the gift of play and the full house I always dreamed of having. When the decibel levels reach an ear-splitting high and my auditory senses are in "overload", I remember the sound of silence and an empty house. I know one day I'll long to hear all this chaos just one more time.

So I look up at the bright blue sky and I thank God for this day. I thank Him for the opportunity to gather at The Tiffin Centre to experience the age-old process of making maple syrup.

I looked up and saw several Canada Geese returning to their northern home. They honked and my heart spilled over with thankfulness. Judy,one of our two guides for the Maple Syrup Tour said that the sap hadn't run all morning and had just begun a few minutes ago. The tap, tap, of the sap falling into the tin buckets from the spiles punctuated her words. Another gift from my Father's hand. And so... I learn more about gratitude.

We stood at a great sugar maple and discussed photosynthesis and how in winter the sap is stored in the roots of trees. The woodsmoke from the fire hung in the air. I found it comforting. Large trunks, hewn and roped together supported 3 large black cauldrons of sap boiling to make syrup. Pioneers began the March Break for that purpose alone. School children were off to make Maple Syrup and work together in families. Part of me longed for that sweet opportunity offered in times past. Yet I smiled at the now. I delight in being in the woods, here today, alive with brightly clad children, parents, and spiles, and buckets, rubber hose, crackling fire, and a sugar shack.

Marcus, our second guide, had the children singing a little chant. "Lotsa water, little sugar, boil, boil, boil. Out goes water, more sugar for the sap, sap, sap. They danced to the beat and laughter rang through the woods as we learned about the 40:1 ratio of sap to syrup. How fully alive I was right then, living in the moment, savouring the "now".

I want to notice, to savour His gifts, to dwell on them until the richness of my bounty seeps deep into the essence of my being. Oh, that thankfulness will absorb into the soil of my soul until it sets root and His joy flows through my trunk and branches out to touch all others in the forest of my life. May I warm those close to me like the coming of spring, not freeze them with the touch of indifference. That the sweetness of a heart that is thankful to her Creator will be like maple sap flowing from these trees - as ageless as creation itself.

I am thankful for our Canadian natives, the pioneers of our great country, Acadians and Englishmen alike. I am thankful for the past and present rolled into this experience of community today, the gathering of friends here under a great blue sky.

From gratitude overflowing my heart I share some recent entries of my 1000 Gifts List with you:

76. The smell of woodsmoke and outdoors on a sunny day... hearing Canadian Geese honk, mud puddles, and listening to the tap, tap of sap dripping into tin pails - sure signs of spring to those who are waiting, expectant with joy at melting snow.

77. Children, home again, playing with one another, from the oldest to the youngest - a chorus of five, chasing, frolicking like puppies. How much, the comaraderie, blesses this mother's heart!

78. Blinking and squinting from the brightness of the sun after many gray days.

79. Children clamouring with Saturday morning chores; cheerfully building responsibility and diligence. They look forward to some special opportunities this day offers once their work is done.

80. Little boy sleepers, soft and snuggly, silky hair, and chubby hands grasping Mama's face. Twin toddlers seeking morning comfort on Mama's knee, rubbing sandman from their eyes, perching atop bible and journal, oblivious to any discomfort. Both attentive as Mama chants, "The Itsy, Bitsy Spider" just one more time.

81. A coffee table strewn with bibles, journals, books and a floor littered with afghan, toys, and upturned stool. All signs of an evening enjoyed, early morning well-spent and this family living domestic chaos... in messy love centred in the 'now".

82. I praise God that now the mess is o.k. and I rejoice that I feel no need to apologize for the clutter. I'm thankful for this life I've chose and come to know so well.


And so I list the gifts from His hands. I savour their meaning and the joy each one imparts. I find contentment in the now and thankfulness begins to flourish. Spring is just around the corner and patience is preparing to bud . Already shoots are pushing through thawing soil. I look forward to one day reaping an even greater harvest of His abundant love.

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow. James 1:17 NASV

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Visitation

By Poppy

I received a visitor this morning- Jack Frost! He had left little feather-flowers on my window. They looked like the participants of some strange dance, some brave souls having ventured to the center of the floor; more , hovering on the peripheries , longing to be asked but not having enough courage themselves to simply join their friends in the middle and be free.

But the majority of the feather-flowers remained clinging to the side of the Great Dance Floor, like wall-flowers who knew that not only is there safety in numbers but anonymity in the crowd of hundreds (maybe thousands) of themselves, all embracing the frozen security the walls afforded them.

Little did they know that the Lord had made them all Himself, and that He put a drop of his own glory into all His creation. Everyone of them was unique and not one was exactly the same as another. And even crushed together on the window they each of them shined , outlined as beautiful, frozen works of art, wrought by the greatest beauty-lover of all.


Psalm 8:3-5
New International Version

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him?
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

H.M.S. Belinda

It was Wednesday morning early and I was spending some time waiting on God and praying before heading out to seize the day. Tuesday had been difficult; the pressure nigh unbearable. I cracked more than once, and was determined that today would be different. I wanted to affect those around me in a positive way and pull them up, not drag them down into my negative vortex as I was sure had happened the day before. As I prayed and gave my day to the Lord, I saw a picture in my mind’s eye of a regal, stream-lined clipper ship in full sail, plowing gracefully through the billowing waves unaffected by the instability of the roiling sea. That’s how I wanted to sail into my day. Moved along by the wind of the Spirit and bringing an unspoken message of peace and stability to those around me.

I left the house tired and wishing that I could stay home to sleep away the dull headache that had wakened me, but hopeful nonetheless that this day would be better than the one before. However, my emotional and physical reserves were already empty and I was barely running on fumes – tired fumes at that. By the time I was five minutes into my workday, one thing after another was hitting me, none of which felt like I could manage, let alone all of it in one day. The pressure began to build and before I could even begin to cope with one thing, another wave would hit and crash over me. Having a sick headache didn’t help. About 11:30 the phone rang. It was Belinda, busy and under pressure herself. She quickly sensed my panic and offered to put aside her own agenda and come over to help. I protested that I could manage but she sensed otherwise and in a little over an hour, she entered the program where I work and where chaos , until then, was reigning supreme.

It was funny, because when she was on the phone with me an hour earlier, I wondered what she could possibly do to change anything. But when she walked in, smiling broadly and greeting every one with her customary graciousness, the atmosphere changed instantly. I could feel my adrenaline levels begin to dissipate, and everyone else seemed to be pulled up a notch or two as well.

I had to laugh. That gracious ship I imagined earlier that morning turned out not to be me, after all, as I’d hoped it would be, but Belinda. I just didn’t have it in me that day so God arranged for her to come along, just when she was most needed. He knew my limit and sent in reinforcements to keep me from toppling over the edge. By the time she left my sails were up again and even catching the wind a little. I love how God uses the body like that.

On my way home that night I thought about how geese fly in that “V” formation. The leader cuts the path and works a little harder than all of its mates who have the luxury of following in the airstream behind. When the leader tires it falls back to join the end of the “V” for a while where the flying is easier and lets another stronger goose take its place.

Today it was my turn. It was another crazy day, but instead of adrenaline flowing, I began to laugh at first one crazy happening after another. I could feel God’s wind in my sails and his joy in my heart. I hope that others around me were pulled up too.

What a difference our attitude can make! What a gift a positive attitude can be to others.

Thank you Lord for blowing The Good Ship Belinda into my roaring seas this week, just when you knew her attitude was what was needed.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gifts

Matthew 25:19-21 (New International Version)
19 "After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.'
21"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

As I drove into work this morning I gave my day and my self to God.

I prayed, "Use me."

I laid my self open to him and asked for forgiveness; cleansing, from the sins that daily cloud my heart and soul.

I prayed, "Make me usable."

And I thought of what and who I am; created for a unique purpose in the fabric of this time and place on earth.

I prayed, "Make me useful."

Later that day, my co-worker Greg and I were doing an interview and talking with the person we were interviewing about what we can do to make sure other people's goals and dreams are supported.

The person was filled with energy and enthusiasm and she said that once she found out what the dream was, she would say to the person, "I can just see you doing that!"

And I thought what a wonderful gift that would be to a person, to have someone say that to you, "I can just see you doing that."

I have good friends that have said that to me and they have called out of me things that I didn't see in myself. How blessed I am to have the gift of friends like that. I hope that I can be that kind of friend to others and I think that I have been sometimes. It hasn't been hard, to see the gift that God is giving to the world in them.

Later, I was talking to one of my friends about the Johari window, a tool for describing the Self, that has four panes: The self that is known to ourselves and others; the self that others can see but we are blind to; the hidden self that we do not choose to reveal; and the self that is unknown to both ourselves and others but that can be discovered.

And this too, reminds me of how we need one another to help us uncover our gifts, to help release each other into all that God created us to be. I love that God set it all up this way. It's such a beautiful process to engage in, this blessing of one another into our purposes on this earth.

1 Peter 4:10 (New International Version)
10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Of Mornings and Marathons

He sits down at the breakfast table with a satisfied air and says, "As of today I'm caught up."

Those of us on The Marathon of Biblical Proportions do not have to ask, "With what?"

We know.

"Well, at least I'm in Joshua," I reply, happy not to be trailing far behind in Deuteronomy anymore.

"Joshua," he says with a smile, "Is a very long book."

Groan.

He picks up the Daily Light on the Daily Path, which we read together every morning, and he opens it.

"Belinda," he says, shaking his head, "Those people--the leaders and the Judges--the way some of them lived....not that I'm judging.".

For a moment I think that he's reading from the book and that I'm suddenly in it, but no, I soon realize that he's still talking about the Marathon.

We agree that's the thing about the Bible. You can't read it thinking that God was endorsing the things his followers did. Some of them were terrible and it makes you wonder why God stuck around at all. If I were him I would be tempted to consider mankind an experiment that went terribly wrong and start all over again with another creation entirely.

We carry on with our morning reading from the Daily Light and the new Watchman Nee we are enjoying, The Normal Christian Life, and then we pray.

His first words catch me by surprise, "Thank you Lord, for giving me Belinda, and allowing us to enjoy you together."

And I feel as though I want to remember this moment forever.

I'm sharing it for those who struggle now, to give you hope. He has brought us to a place of intimacy and love that I treasure and never take for granted.

And as we pray for each other's day, and the people on our hearts this morning, I think, "Thank you Lord, for giving me Paul, and allowing us to enjoy you together."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

His Answer

He answers in unnatural ways.

This is the second time in a short while that I've heard of an elderly soul, ill, and potentially close to leaving this blue planet for heavens domain, having a reprieve. Death where is thy victory, thy sting?...Truly our Lord Yeshua has the final say.

Sometimes a young one is taken home, and us confused, remaining ask "Why"? And to another He grants extra days, more time for reflection, or just more time for those we love and will miss so much when they are gone.

We have a dear friend at church. He's had heart problems since he was a young man. Now he's a grandpa, almost a great grandpa (albeit a young one), but his earthly heart has been failing him of late, slowing, whisking his breath away so that sometimes it's a daunting task to speak or lay his gentle hand on the dog's head.

I thought I'd seen him for the last time, here, and a sadness settled into my heart. We prayed, many prayed, as he wasn't able to come to church or even have visitors.

The following Sunday I called the church early as Frank had gone in for worship team rehearsal, and I had to confirm something with him. The phone rang, it picked up and a gentle voice said "Elliston Pintecostal Chuch". A South African accent..."Cecil?" I said, waiting "Yis, hello, Ahngie" he uttered. Oh, so good to hear his voice and to know that God had left him with us for a bit longer. His dear wife Carol given more time with her love.

We don't understand His decisions, but can trust that they are good and perfect.

I am so comforted to know that He hears our prayers. Does He change His mind when we pray, or does He put His desire in our hearts, so we can pray His will? Possibly yes to both, but I know He knows what is best for us.

So as we pray for the young Dad at my sister's church, a father of preschoolers, and husband to a young wife, we can know He is in control. This young man has been "given" a month to live, by the doctors, as cancer invades his organs. Yet he was in church, worshipping, lifting up his heart to the crucified, risen Saviour, on Good Friday. What I am learning is that only God is the giver or taker of life. As we press close to His will, we can hope for the unexpected and the unpredictable, for God will never be boxed into a doctor's prognosis.

We trust and hope, knowing that whatever the outcome He is enough, all sufficient, all powerful to heal, to strengthen, to comfort.

Sometimes we are surprised by joy, and other times leaning heavily on His comforting arms, yet I know in all this that He is good, either way.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 KJV

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Ride of My Life

Deuteronomy 32:11-12 (New International Version)
11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them on its pinions.
12 The LORD alone led him;

no foreign god was with him.


Imagine what it would be like to have such a ride; on the wings of an eagle. The "pinion" is the outer rear edge of the wing of a bird. I don't know about you, but that would not be my first choice of location if I had to ride on a wing. Clinging on, somewhere close to the shoulder is where I would prefer to be!

I'm reminded of that expression, "A wing and a prayer," which was coined in 1942 in a song by Harold Adamson, about a plane limping home from a bombing raid.

Though there’s one motor gone,
We can still carry on
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer.

A ride on the pinion of an eagle's wing could compare to limping home in a plane with one motor gone and a prayer would definitely be in order!

In order to encourage the little eagles to leave their comfortable nest, the parent eagles mess it up a little, stirring the nest so that spikes of twigs and wood stick out all over. Then the mother eagle flutters her wings at them, almost beating them to the edge of the nest. She then spreads her wings so that the little eagle can climb onto her back, which it does, as the only place of safety now. Only it's not as safe as it seems.

As the baby eagle clings on for dear life, suddenly the mother eagle dives, and the baby eagle, dislodged from it's perch, plummets towards earth, it's wings flapping, trying to catch the air currents but flopping around wildly due to inexperience.

Suddenly the mother eagle is below, wings spread wide, catching the baby eagle. Now I understand riding on the pinions. The wings are really there for comfort and support. Just the merest physical connection is all it takes for the baby eagle to try again and again until, through repeated practice, it learns to catch the air currents and ride the wind!

In my Daily Light for March 24, I've written something in the margin that seems applicable:

As we travel down the road--we come to places where there is no bridge and God says, "You're going to have to trust me on this one." Faith moves us out of our safety zone, into God's "I can do it" zone." Our faith does not rest in our ability to believe, but in God's ability to bring it to pass.

Just like the baby eagles, I grow when I am out of my comfort zone. But God teaches me twin truths then: What it is he made me to be, which I will never learn while I snuggle safely in my nest; and that, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13

Deuteronomy 33:12 (New International Version)
12 About Benjamin he said:
"Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him,
for he shields him all day long,
and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

At Dawn on the First Day of the Week

John 14:19 (New International Version)
19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.

The insistent beep of the alarm breaks through my warm cocoon of slumber. It is 4.45 a.m.

My fingers fumble to silence the intrusion.

A voice from behind me in the dark, a gentle, helpful voice, says,"The alarm went off, love."

"Yes, thanks, I know...a few more minutes," I mumble back.

But I dare not give into the siren that pulls me back to the shores of sleep. I have somewhere to be this morning.

For He is risen.

And so I slip silently as a shadow from the bed, and pad downstairs.

I shower while the coffee perks, and listen to Jeff Goodes on CBC radio as he gathers the country together, creating community via email and phone.

Listeners who are up share plans for the day. One is putting a turkey in the oven, the only one up in a sleeping household, while others, like me, are about to leave for sunrise services. It feels as though we are all together somehow in the hush of the early morning, not alone as we are in our individual homes.

I soon am driving west, along a charcoal ribbon of road, towards Tottenham. Behind me, the eastern sky is the rosy colour of the flesh that surrounds a peach pit; ahead of me a silver globe, the full moon, shines in the twilight.

I pass sleepy farms, surrounded by fields in which the remains of last year's corn stands up, blond stubble, through the crusted snow.

Pulling off the road, I join other vehicles slowly crunching up the hill leading into the conservation area.

It is very cold! Easter has not been this early in 95 years, and it will be not be again, for another 200 years. As we walk from our cars, the crisp snow crunches loudly beneath our feet, and we sound like an army marching over gravel.

We huddle together, a cross-denominational community of Christ followers, offering the triumphant Easter greeting, "He is risen." And back comes the affirmation, "He is risen indeed."

A brave trumpet player raises his instrument to cold-numbed lips, and as the first notes lead us in song, two Canada Geese take to flight over the frozen pond, their plaintive honking sounding like a rusty gate, swinging on its hinges.

As the sun creeps over the treetops across the pond, a pressure crack bangs over the water and we sing, "Thine is the glory, risen conquering Son, Endless is the victory, Thou o'er death hast won."

Later, at Fraser Presbyterian, I enter the warm church and the tantalizing aroma of breakfast weaves its welcome around cold and hungry celebrants. Sausages, pancakes, homemade muffins and fruit salad are waiting downstairs. No breakfast ever smelled more appetizing.

A young man from our church, eyes squinting as he remembers, tells me that he felt Jesus walking among us up on the hill. He says he had prayed to feel him.

I suddenly feel a bit shallow. I had been listening hard and looking at all that was around me, trying to take it all in and remember it. He was looking for all the right things.

Once home I call Susan in her Windsor motel room. "He is risen!" I declare in response to her "Hello." With a joyful laugh she responds, "He is risen indeed."

I read the Daily Light reading for March 23rd to her. It seems so fitting that one of the last scriptures in the evening reading is this:

Matthew 18:20 (New International Version)
20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

Yes, Lord Jesus. You were with us; all of us, today.

Thine is the Glory

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Sunrise Service 7.00 am Tottenham Conservation Area




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Friends, He is risen!!More later....

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Heart of the Bride

Joshua 1:16 (New International Version)
16 Then they answered Joshua, "Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.

Ruth 1:16 (New International Version)
16 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

The heart of a bride for her bridegroom is devotion and love.

How well I remember as a teenager, falling in love with someone whose heart was inexplicably set towards a land far away.

I knew that to love him meant leaving all that was familiar; my beloved mother, friends and country, to follow him. But there was no question then, and there is none now. I love him and would follow him anywhere, no matter the cost. And that is the heart of a bride.

Another teenager, two thousand years ago, named Mary, had an unexpected visit from the angel Gabriel that turned her expectations of life upside down. But she had a heart that was yielded and pliable in God's hand; the heart of a bride. In the gospel of Luke chapter 1, verse 38, after the startling revelation she had just received, her response is recorded:

Luke 1:38 (New International Version)
38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

And I love her heart of submission and trust. The cost of the adventure she was about to embark on was greater than she could have imagined, but her cousin Elizabeth rejoiced with her and said, "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" (Luke 1:45)

Yielded and pliable in God's hand; fully devoted to him and his use. There is cost and sacrifice on the surface, but no real doubt as to the decision, when you fall in love with him.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Mission of Mercy and Love

Isaiah 41:10 (New International Version
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


I sent the verse above, from today's Daily Light reading, to Susan last night. Her heart was in turmoil; her father very ill with pneumonia in Windsor, and she worn out from a tiring week and sleepless nights.

She had quickly packed a bag and planned to leave this morning to be with him and to do what she could to make him comfortable. In spite of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, requiring oxygen 24 hours a day, this old soldier of 84 had decided not to go to hospital and was not on antibiotics.

As we drove to church for the Good Friday communion service, she was on my mind and in my prayers.

The worship team leading the service had chosen songs that were moving and meaningful and drew the congregation of our little church into a place of reflection and deep gratitude for the sacrifice which cost God everything.

During communion I glanced across the aisle to sunlit pews filled with parents and children. I watched hand after hand reaching up to take the elements of communion from those serving. His blood, his body, "this do in remembrance of me;" more sacred and meaningful than ever, on this day of all days.

I held the small plastic cup of grape juice and a piece of bread, waiting for the moment in the service when in unison we would take elements, when suddenly, squatting down by the side of my seat, was a familiar figure clad in purple; Susan.

Her words were pressured and intense. "I'm leaving; he's gravely ill, please call Frances and please call as many people as possible to pray. I'm going to nurse him."

We hugged each other and I said, "God be with you; He will be."

At the end of the service when there was opportunity, I went forward and prayed in place of Susan, for her dad.

Once home; the house fragrant with the scent of baking ham, I quickly emailed four groups to pray, called Frances, and then six grandchildren and their parents filled our home with laughter and chaos. It was time to focus on family and food.

Finally it was evening. The silver Honda van had left the driveway, loaded with Burston grandchildren, and the Adams grandchildren had returned to their home downstairs. All was quiet, when the phone rang. It was Susan calling to give me an update.

All the way to Windsor she said that she had adjusted the radio dial, trying to tune into CBC, and on every radio station there seemed to be songs with the same message; "If you love someone, tell them while you can. Don't wait."

Finally she was there. She was fighting back tears as she prepared to see her dad. That morning he had been delirious and had not known his own name, but as she walked in, he looked at her and said, "It's you!"

She had grabbed lip balm as she left her house, and as she gently rubbed some on his dry, chapped lips, his wife, Peggy came in and asked, "Would you like some ham?"

He said, "No, I want hot dogs."

Susan thought, "He's doing very well, for someone who's dying." He ate two hot dogs without buns, and talked to Susan for hours. He seems to be rallying, even without antibiotics!

They spent some hours talking and her dad was talking about the future--about such things as a kind of pillow he wanted.

After spending time making him as comfortable as she could, Susan booked into a motel. She has so needed a good rest and God has given her exactly that. She has time to relax and read, and catch up on some sleep. Such an unexpected gift.

Susan described her brief visit to the church that morning. "I stopped in," she said, "Got a hug from you, grabbed some communion and ate and drank it on the way out the door."

She continued, "I thought, as I flew in and flew out; this is what it's all about; the Body, being there when you need it, giving you what you need."

And she said, "My dad might just be jumping up and getting a job tomorrow, with all the prayer."

God is so good.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Music We Dance To

A sentence overheard...a line on a radio program...a friend on the end of the phone; any of these can trigger inspiration and send me scrambling for pen and paper.

If I'm up as early as I mean to be, I start the day with CBC Radio Overnight and listen to news from around the world, then at 6.00 a.m., to Andy Barrie on Metro Morning.

During a recent CBC radio interview first thing in the morning; with a young dancer who also composed music, I heard some words that captured me. "We are only as good as the music we dance to," he said.

I carried on with my morning race, the minty toothpaste waking up my mouth as the glass carafe in the kitchen slowly filled with that nectar of the morning; first coffee. And I pondered the thought, "We are only as good as the music we dance to."

"Yes, we are," I thought, "And what music am I dancing to?"

I went from the bathroom to the quiet of my olive green sitting room, opened up the Daily Light for March 17th and read:

1 Peter 1:18-19 (New International Version)
18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

There is an emptiness in a life lived without Christ, when the music we dance to is materialism, academic or career success, financial security or even relationship with family and friends. None of these are wrong in themselves, but if the "music," the thing that guides the steps of our lives, is any of these alone, it is out of tune and tinny in tone.

There is a music whose beat is the heart of God. That is the music to dance to.

Matthew 4:3-4 (New International Version)
3The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God
.'

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Wish that I Could be..a Tree

Posted by PicasaThe day dawned misty and the route I drove to work took on an unfamiliar look, as houses and trees, wrapped in a cotton ball fog, combined with mud splashed snow to create a creamy mocha, soft focus, sepia photograph day.
I was driving "relaxed," as per Frances's police officer's instructions (for those who aren't regular readers, see Three Fast Friends on March 8th).
Taking the ramp off the highway, I waited for the red light to change to green and admired a stand of trees across the road, serene and beautiful in their utter stillness; bare, soft taupe branches graceful, against the soft backdrop of the day.
And I thought to myself, "I wish I could be like a tree; standing so still," and I thought of the man in Psalm 1 who is like a tree planted by streams of water; with roots going down deep so that its leaf doesn't wither.
A tree is a beautiful picture of rest, drawing nourishment and bearing fruit.
And the trees sang to my soul a song it needed to hear, for I have nothing to say but what he tells me, and I only hear him when I'm still long enough to listen, waiting like a little sparrow, for crumbs to fall from heaven.
Later as I drove back to my office, I was reading the signs of the businesses in the neighbourhood, and saw a lawyer's shingle with the business name, Sorley and Still.
"Still"--even the word sounds peaceful. I want to be still.

Psalm 1:3 (New International Version)
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Break...Humour and Blessings


We’re two-thirds of the way through two weeks of March Break and have had loads of fun, minimal catastrophes…and lots of laughs.


We’ve been to Casa Loma with children and Grandma, for a tour of the grand house and an encounter with enough pirates to shiver yer timbers. Incidentally…what’s a pirate's favorite letter of the alphabet? ARRRRGH!

There have been friends to play with and today an unexpected blessing.
Our dear friend Claire, from Writer’s Nest has a farm, on which she keeps about 35 horses, 1 pony, 1 donkey, 1 sheep, 4 chickens, 1 bunny, a few cats, and a dog.
Joyful Fox and I offered to bring the children down to help with the chores, as Claire’s son Craig is in rehab after a stroke and unable to keep the farm. Various people have been pitching in over the months to help out.
However, the journey today was not work for us, but a time of blessing.

We arrived at 10:30am on the dot. The fields were full of horses, one paddock with the heavy, blonde, Belgian horses, and farther off another paddock with smaller, lighter pleasure horses, resting, pulling hay from the large round bales stuffed in the racks.

Claire met us outside, greeting us with her gentle smile and warm hug, then led us into the barn, warm with the musty, rich smell of horse manure, dust and hay.

Our first stop was to watch the blacksmith, as he trimmed and filed great horse feet. His helpers were Amanda, who boards her horse Maxie there, and Joan, Claire’s daughter, as gentle and welcoming as her mother.

We saw horses in their stalls, a bay, then a small, fine boned chestnut, flighty and nervous as he circled round his stall. Then the little appaloosa mare next door, heavy with foal and feeling ornery, ears flattening against her head every time the chestnut approached on the other side of the bars. “Why are you so grouchy?” I whispered in at her, and Ellen laughed “Because she’s 9 months pregnant Ang, remember how that feels”. We chuckled.
Then Amanda was leading us up steep wooden stairs through a trap door into the loft of the old barn. There, rectangular hay bales were piled high, and gigantic round straw bales lay like great balls of string on the plank floor.
Climbing heaven! The children clambered and jumped over bales, scrambled up and down ladders that rose to the ceiling, then climbed down and swung on a rope slung over one of the great beams reaching from end to end in the old structure. The smell was like August in the fields, when the giant mowers and balers form the clover filled grass into twine wrapped bales.
Then it was time to go outside. The children descended the stairs carefully, adults after them, passing Button the sheep on their way outside to meet two young horses, not yet a year old.

Amanda haltered them in their paddock and lead them to us. Sweet faced, baby eyed, weanlings. They were cautious only for a few moments and then pressed in, sniffing and snuffing at the children hanging over the fence. They were Monkey and Timbit, accurately named as Monkey nibbled and shoved at small child faces and mittens. Michael, my 5 year old was enamored, wanted to take a Monkey home with him.
We strolled over to the field where the Belgians were kept. These gentle giants were a study in classic beauty, as they lumbered over to the fence, hesitant at first, yet curious to sniff and say hello. As long as the children were still and held out their hands quietly, the horses would stay. If anyone made an abrupt move, they would shy away.
There were young and old, stallions and mares in the group, some expectantly round of belly. And they were hankering for attention, standing in a row of magnificent, horsey beauty, gazing out of gentle, cautious, brown eyes.
As our group left the fence, the scene remaining was Joan, in the field, surrounded by large, blonde horses, sniffing, communing, visiting, enjoying, and her resting in the grace of the moment. Such a gift!
Next Amanda led us into the barn to groom Maxie, her sweet paint horse, and then blessed each of us with a ride. The children each chose a brush or curry comb from the bin and were instructed on how to groom correctly, scrubbing off dirt, then brushing firmly, following Maxie’s fur in the right direction. Then on went the saddle blanket and finally the tan coloured western saddle. Joan told the children to watch Maxie’s ears as the girth was done up around her middle to hold on the saddle. With each tug to tighten it, Maxie’s ears went flat back and she swung her head at Amanda as if to say “Ease up, you know I don’t like this part”. But then it was on and she was fine.
Joshua was up first, and for his first time on a horse, he sat like a knight, learning how to hold the reins correctly and direct the horse where he wanted her to go.
Each child had a turn, full of smiles, excited voices and satisfaction as Amanda gave them a little instruction. And nobody fell off.
While the children waited their turn, Joan took them in turns to Teddy, another horse in the arena, and taught them how to pick out his hooves. They were occupied and loved. We were so blessed.
After the riding was done, Amanda gave a little riding demonstration, showing how Maxie could go over a jump. Even though she hesitated at first, Amanda’s patience and coaching paid off and soon, to the tune of cheering children, Maxie was sailing over the crossbar.

Then it was time to go.
After taking photos together, Joan led the children to the chicken coop where they were allowed to find eggs and say goodbye to the bunny. Then the eggs were added to a dozen for each family from the farm house.
Such a day, of welcome, gentleness and kindness.
Thank you Claire, Joan and Amanda! You blessed us more than you can know.

May God bless you with a double portion … “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Tale of Two Yokes

Leviticus 26:13 (New International Version)
13 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high.

I'm still back in the dust of Deuteronomy on the Marathon of Biblical proportions, and this morning I read chapter 28, about the blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience, which really boil down to a decision to trust God or not trust him.

When I read the reference to a yoke in verse 48, I thought about the verse above, in Leviticus, which I had written out in my journal a few weeks ago. That verse was talking about the fact that God had literally freed the people of Israel from slavery, but, years later, it seems they were in danger of not living free.

Deuteronomy 28:48 (New International Version)
48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the LORD sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.

Deuteronomy 28:68 (New International Version)
68 The LORD will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.

I'm not so very different to the Israelites. Even freed, living free sometimes seems like an elusive dream. My own choices entrap me!

So I'm grateful for the figurative journey of the Israelites and the lessons I can glean from this nation who like me, needed to learn things many times before they "got it" and even then were prone to disastrous failure.

And I'm grateful for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to die for sinners such as I, and to place on my shoulder a yoke of light and perfect fit. Lord, I receive your yoke, your rest and your freedom. All are precious gifts, without cost, yet purchased at infinite cost.

Matthew 11:29-30 (New International Version)
29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some Days Test Our Mettle

Some days test our mettle. Saturday was one of those days. I woke up tired and irritable and tried to, "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." I chose to be cheerful, even though I was miserable.

Plans got cancelled first thing in the a.m. and the older children were disappointed. Chores got done reluctantly and with complaint but I knew all of us gave the best we had.

The day didn't get easier. Even while supervised, the twins were into one mischievous endeavor after another. How they plan and execute these tiny missions in minutes never ceases to amaze me. How much damage can be done in a moment by one toddler is one of life's mysteries. How much can be done by two should be the Eighth Wonder of the world. In five and a half hours here is a sample of a few antics: one upturned full basket of folded laundry, 4 spilled cups of water, acquired and placed in mouth 9 hard candies(yes, I counted),one peeled off corner of wallpaper, several bites out of 5 different apples, one knocked over shoe rack holding 10 pairs of shoes, one totally decimated bag of shreddies.

Aside from these, there were lots of little things that just happened throughout the morning to wane my strength. After lunch, I realized I needed to quiet my heart before the Lord. I had prayed little popcorn prayers all morning long, more like desperate pleas, but it became abundantly clear that I needed more nourishment than that. I sat down and opened my journal, my bible and my heart.

I wrote my worries down and gave them to Him. I didn't feel adequate as a mom to love and lead these children as God desires. I felt even more inadequate as I thought of the Sunday School class I was to teach on Sunday. I felt weak and heavy-laden. To those of us who feel burdened, Jesus says, "Come to me." So come, I did. I laid things before Him. I gave Him my heart.

Some words from my reading in the Book of Joshua really jumped out at me. Caleb was 40 years old when Moses sent him to spy out the promised land. Of the twelve men sent, only Caleb and Joshua were faithful in their hearts.

"So Moses swore on that day, saying, 'Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God fully.' Joshua 14:9 NASV

By chapter 14, Joshua and Caleb had wandered in the dessert for 45 years. Moses was dead and Joshua was leading the Israelites. Caleb is 85 years old and yet he says, "I am still as strong today as I was on the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now,..." Joshua 14:11 NASV

Sometimes parenting seems like wandering in the desert so I can relate to Moses, Joshua, Caleb, and the Israelites. Over the past 10 years I have found myself wandering at times. When I come to Him, He is always faithful. On Saturday, God strengthened my heart through His word. Although I was feeling weak, in Christ I became strong. How I felt didn't negate the truth. In Him I am strong, just as strong as when I began this parenting journey. He will see me through these toddler years with the twins (yes, it is a survival expedition at times) just as He did with the other 3. God has called me to parent these 5 children and He will equip me day by day until they reach adulthood (my promised land).

I, like Joshua and Caleb, will be faithful in heart. I will follow the Lord fully even when it is difficult and seems impossible.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the Lord...Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord! Psalm 104:33-35 NASV

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Only..."

Our friends the Furuya's came for supper tonight; Brian and Frances, with Jacob, Summer and little Eden Belle.

Frances gave me a gift; a potted white calla lily. The plant is lovely, with an abundance of creamy white blooms. It came beautifully wrapped in clear plastic, tied with green and pink ribbons. Inside, the pot was surrounded by two layers of tissue, one decorated with sprays of red flowers and one plain, a vibrant green.

I unwrapped it carefully but I hated to throw out the beautiful tissue paper.

"Throw it out," Frances urged, "It's only tissue paper!"

So I screwed up the tissue paper and threw it in the garbage and didn't smooth it out and save it as I as tempted to. And we laughed as we were reminded of something that had happened to Frances a while ago.

A friend had come to visit, and stayed longer than she expected. Frances had been looking forward to a pasta salad stowed away in the fridge. The friend though, seemed oblivious to the time, so finally there was nothing for it but to invite her to stay for supper. Frances opened the fridge, knowing that there was no way her friend was going to have any of her pasta salad. As she did so, she actually thought she heard God say, “Oh for crying out loud- it’s just a pasta salad.”

Just tissue; just a pasta salad; they made me think of how we can place importance on things that are really so insignificant!

I know that I am prone to cling to silly things and neglect the truly important. And sometimes it takes being shaken up a little to realize what is silly and what is real.

It would be so much better to be aware of what is truly important moment by moment and not get lost in minutiae...to not get sidetracked by tissue paper and pasta salads.

Proverbs 8:10-12 (New International Version)
10 Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies,

and nothing you desire can compare with her.
12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;

I possess knowledge and discretion.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Hope Springs Eternal

by Susan Stewart

The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. Ecclesiastes 1:6

I like surprises. So I don’t usually bother with listening to weather reports. I do enjoy listening to people talk about the weather, though. Especially during our Canadian winters. I almost always chuckle to myself when someone complains about the snow and cold. What do people expect living here in the Great White North?

Well, my philosophy is to expect nothing. Not before May 1st, anyway. I don’t look for spring until it is long past due, and you know what? I’m never disappointed. In fact, every upturn in the mercury feels like an unexpected – and undeserved – blessing.

Last night late, as I left my car by the laneway and walked tired up the long sidewalk toward our old farmhouse, I felt a strange and unexpected sensation. Out of the darkness, the wind was blowing soft and gentle on my face. It seemed a stark difference to the biting cold that has been nipping at us all this winter long.

Spring is definitely, if barely, in the air. Last night, even though a cold white blanket of snow still covered the darkened earth in my view, I could feel its promise in the gentleness of the wind and I could actually smell its coming sweetness. The memory lingers this morning as I write. I am finding myself, long before it’s really due, with everyone else, hoping for spring to come soon.


The rhythm of the seasons speak to us of God's faithfulness. We hope for spring because it's always come. Our hope is based on what we have experienced and know to be true and our hearts are quickened by the hints we see of the promise to come. A receding snowbank. A dripping icicle growing smaller by the hour. A bare patch appearing in the garden on the south side of the house, where a few snowdrops unfurl the earliest gifts of spring. Soon we will be looking for the crocuses, then tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth, soon followed by summer in all it's glory.

I've walked down some difficult pathways in the last few years, and I'm learning to remember, in what is sometimes the dead of winter in my soul, and in my circumstances, that spring will surely come. We often pray, "Let your kingdom come, Your will done, here on earth, just like it is in heaven." I don't think that's just talking about the end of the age, but also the here and now. In our lives, winter passes, spring returns. His kingdom comes, his will is done more and more as our lives in him unfold. In the midst of the difficult circumstances, we can't see what God is doing beneath the snow of our hearts, and in the hearts of others, but he is getting things ready, allowing things to mature perfectly, waiting to be gloriously revealed with his perfect timing.

At the very beginning of the book of Titus, Paul says that we have "...a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at his appointed season he brought his word to light...

Come again, into the difficult circumstances of our lives, into the unlovely places in our hearts, Lord Jesus, come and bring your Word to light. Melt our hearts, reveal your glory in our midst. Even so, come, Lord Jesus, come...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rearward but Running

Psalm 119:9 (New International Version)
9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.

Frances was thrilled. Ever a lover of a good bargain, she shared her delight with me at the brand new bible she had recently found in a thrift store.

"In a sense it should be free," she said, "But on the other hand, it was in such good condition, it should cost the world."

She went on, "I hated paying a quarter for a pristine bible; but as you know, I've given away all my good bibles."

I smile as I think of her exuberance and of how God delights to plant such surprises in our path sometimes, but I also feel a little guilty when I think of my own record recently at reading my copy of that very same book.

In January I joined The Marathon of Biblical Proportions with about 40 or so fellow congregants at our church. No excuses...I'm behind. In fact if this was a real marathon, I would be a dot in the distance behind the pack of runners. Two weeks of wild and crazy days at work with late nights and too late mornings (I am making excuses aren't I?) and I'm on Deuteronomy 24 when I should be on Joshua 11. Ahh, confession really does feel good for the soul. Thank you for listening.

The readings in the Daily Light for March 14 (evening) all speak of the treasure of God's Word. John 6:63b says, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."

They are life...One thing I know for sure is this: I need those words of life for my soul begins to shrivel and wither without them.

So, I may be a dot in the distance, but I am at least that, a dot. With God's help the dot will grow bigger and I'll be closer to the rest of the pack. But that's not really what matters. What matters is me, opening up that precious book, turning my face and my heart towards him and waiting for him to speak. And I think he's waiting for me to do that; right now.

Psalm 119:103-104 (New International Version)
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;

therefore I hate every wrong path.

Psalm 119:16 (New International Version)
16 I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Father's Hands

Numbers 6:25-26 (New International Version)
25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
26 the LORD turn his face toward you

and give you peace." '

The wind rustled the trees that surrounded the farmhouse. A little six year old girl looked up at them, the breeze teasing loose wisps of blond hair from her neat braids. Squinting her blue eyes against the morning sun, she watched the branches swaying lazily back and forth, back and forth.

Her school bag bounced on her back as she skipped down the long laneway to meet her school bus. She was a little early as she always liked to be there in good time, waiting when the bus arrived.

But this morning something was different as she got close to the end of her driveway. She saw a huge transport truck standing still, right at the end, like a beast of prey, waiting. From her vantage point, she couldn't see the man inside, but she knew he was there, and her heart stood still. She was immobilized with fear. Who was this stranger? Was he waiting there for her? Her heart was in her throat and her stomach lurched with panic as she quickly turned, urging her trembling legs to run as fast as they would go, back to the farmhouse!

The laneway was long, and she didn't dare to look back to see if anyone was coming after her; she ran, praying that God would help her get back to the house.

Weak with relief she arrived at the farmhouse door and grasped the handle. Pushing at it hard, she opened it and burst back into the kitchen she had left only moments before.

At the table in the middle of the warm kitchen sat her father. All was suddenly so peaceful in contrast to the raw fear and adrenaline that had propelled the child back to this place. He looked up in surprise from his breakfast, and listened to his child's tale of the truck at the end of the laneway. His lined, Dutch farmer's face was so calm and capable as his eyes looked kindly on his little daughter. He rose from the table and took her hand; her small hand, in his big, strong, farmer's hand, and then he walked down the laneway with her.

She felt suddenly so safe and secure that a convoy of transport trucks would not have frightened her.

It was an experience she never forgot. Even when she was as old as her father had been when she was six, she remembered his big capable hand folded around hers; and it was ever after a picture of God's Fatherhood for her.

I have a picture of two hands that rest on white robed knees. One is turned upwards in invitation, and the other outstretched, beckons, "Come." I bought it for my Tante Cor, who lived in Holland, and after she died, my Dutch cousins made sure it came back to me. She often said, as she endured her final battle with cancer, "I know in whose hands I am."

And we both knew they were safe hands.

When my heart is overwhelmed and in turmoil he is waiting for my cry, ready to take my hand in his.

Matthew 14:27 (New International Version)
27But Jesus immediately said to them:
"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March Break

It’s March Break and I’m slowly getting into the swing of things. Our school board decided to bless us with two weeks with the children and when I first saw that, I squawked and balked. Yes, the break backs into Easter weekend, and they have really only given us two extra days off, what with the Easter Friday and Monday, but after nine snow days as well, it’s all feeling rather busy around here.
“I’m bored Mom” I heard on the Monday (yes, the first day of the week), and I knew someone’s attitude had to change.
It turned out to be mine.

Did God give me children? Yes! Did I ever say during many long years of infertility “I will never be one of those Moms who can’t wait for the summer holidays to end?” Yes I did!
“I will treasure my children and not want to rush them off to school”, I wisely spouted.
Well I do love my children...truly, madly, deeply.
And I truly love their school, in an appreciative kind of way…in a longing sort of way.

However, what God really dropped into my heart today was a nugget out of Hannah Hurnard’s “Mountains of Spices” (the sequel to Hinds Feet on High Places). I love these books. They are dearly written, and rich in content. Gentle instructors to my character and relationships.
Here is a poem from Chapter 2 where Much Afraid learns about the fruit of Love.

Love is oneness-oh, how sweet
To obey this law,
The unlovely we may meet
Need our love the more.
Make us one, O love, we plead,
With men’s sorrow and their need.

We are one in needing love,
(Let us true love show)
Only love’s sun from above
Makes our spirits grow.
“Love us!” this is our heart’s need,
“Let us love”-and live indeed!

We are also one in this,
We must love or die,
Loving others is true bliss,
Self-love is a lie!
Love of self is inward strife,
Love turned outward is true life.

Let us love and fruitful be,
Love is God’s own breath,
Love will kindle love and see
New life born from death.
Nowhere is a heaven more sweet
Than where loving spirits meet.

The whole book is like this, full of allegories about pouring ourselves out and finding true life in so doing.
And it is true. As I stopped thinking about how busy things were, and started finding friends to play with, activities to engage in, the stress disappeared and the fun started.

When Frank came home, he dove right in (after a few minutes on the drums) and wrestled and steam rolled the kids until they screamed with laughter, then played hockey with them in the basement. I actually had a few minutes to breathe and clean up the kitchen and it was like I could hear the Holy Spirit whisper over me, “See, I know all your needs and how to meet them best. Trust me….”.

At bedtime I was laying down with Michael and he said “Daddy puggled me tonight”.
“What does puggle mean?” I whispered back. He snickered something in my ear about “When Daddy shoved me down on the couch in the hockey game, that was a puggle”. (All’s fair in hockey and war).
So I told him we’d have to make a new word for the dictionary and that is exactly what it would mean.

I love my kids. They are small, but very large blessings. Through them I am sanctified, if I will just let go of all my expectations and uptightnesses and really dig into the joy of just being their Mom, here in the March Break. It’s a time to play, kick back, break out of routine and enjoy each other.
I think I’ll do it……..we’re going to see pirates at Casa Loma on Thursday…I can’t wait.

Dear King Jesus,
Thank you for my children. Sometimes I feel puggled from all angles, yet when I look to You, and really look at my children, it's all good. This is what I most wanted to do with my life, was be a Mom and raise kids for You.
Thank You for this awesome privilege. Help me to remember when things get hectic; to love and pour out makes me richer than all the grasping at time for me ever can.
I love You.
Amen

Monday, March 10, 2008

Peace

Psalm 28:7 (New International Version)
7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

From the first rosy rays of light, the morning was something special. Icy cold, below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the air hung quiet and still in trees that bordered creek and crowned the hill.

There had been a hoar frost; leaving white frost crystals on every branch and twig. As the sun, in a blaze of rosy raspberry, slowly crept from under its counterpane of night and over the hill, the white tips of the trees were backlit by the first rays of the day's light as icy mist hung, wraith-like around them and across the fields.

A little later, I drove into work, through a world of brilliant, powdery, diamond sparkled, snow. The sun was fully up by then and everywhere was icy, dazzling white.

I passed a majestic weeping willow; and its graceful, sparkling branches looked like a frozen cascade of water.

What a contrast all of this was to two days ago, when we in Ontario had huddled in our homes and watched the storm outside with awe at the force of nature descending upon us. Snow drifts had rapidly filled driveways and roads, as an army of grey coated snow soldiers rode in on the wings of a relentless wind.

Then, as suddenly; peace. All is loveliness and children play in the powdery drifts all day long, rosy cheeked and noses freckling as if kissed by angel lips.

I think of a conversation I had with one of my co-workers last week about something that was unfolding at last in a wonderful way for someone. The person's mother had said, "Everything always works out for ......," and my co-worker had laughed as she said, to me, "It's not just ..... that everything works out for," and we both knew what that mother didn't acknowledge, that when God is involved in things, we do see things unfolding in amazing ways for people; ways that often make us shake our heads and smile. Storms come and pass and peace settles over our hearts.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (New Century Version)
5 Trust the Lord with all your heart,
and don't depend on your own understanding.
6 Remember the Lord in all you do,
and he will give you success.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

When We Walk Against the Wind

Warm granola sat on the counter, the house full of its nutty aroma. The kitchen floor was scraped and scrubbed clean and my Saturday morning chores were done. As I washed the floor, I even had a chance to return three phone calls from earlier in the week. There were only a few items thrown in the wash bucket by wayward twins - a board book was drying on the hand rail and my gloves, turned inside out were hanging under the kitchen sink. It had been a peaceful morning.

I got ready to go for a walk and I was warmed by the scene of our home before I left. Olivia was drawing a whale at the dining table, Hannah was finishing cleaning one of the bathrooms, and Jason was entertaining the twins with toys in the basement. As I closed the door, zipping my coat higher against the swirling snow and wind, I could hear the strains of Josh practising Beethoven's Fifth Symphony on the piano.

The peace I felt now belied the events of the week. It was a tough week. I had been irritable at times, harsh on occasion when correcting the children. I had been contentious with Jason as we struggled to make some big decisions. I was overwhelmed with the daily grind and the never-ending tasks, children's squabbles, and the tsunami of needs generated by a young family.

As I pushed against the wind and blowing snow, I was thankful for the biting cold. It helped me to be reflective, centered in the peace I felt as I walked. The spirit of calm was in direct contrast with the discouragement I had experienced all week. Everything was now a blurry white. It was difficult to see, even with the sunglasses I wore to protect my eyes from the glaring snow.

Mostly this week I was discontent with myself. Trying in so many ways and failing, over and over again. Wondering if I'd ever have control of this tongue. I was feeling that my ongoing efforts were futile, so tired I was, of missing the mark. I was disgusted with my own impatience, angered by my lack of gentleness. I felt alone and unlovely. I certainly was unlikable. I couldn't even like me, so how was anyone else suppose to.

The longer I walked, the faster the snow fell. When I was at the half way mark, I had to walk into the wind to get home. I could see nothing except the few feet in front of me. The wind howled across the farmer's fields and the walk was no longer enjoyable or even comfortable. The coldness was stinging my face as I quickened my pace. I couldn't see very well as snow pelted relentlessly into my eyes. I walked by instinct, knowing the way and faithfully putting one foot in front of the other.
Snow was coming up over my runners and melting. Although my feet weren't cold, they were getting quite wet.

Life on this earth is sometimes like my walk. You're walking into the wind and it just isn't comfortable or even enjoyable. You walk because of what you know and because you know Him and that, at times, has to be enough. You don't see very far ahead but God shows you where to take the next step. You walk by faith, not by sight. God is faithful and we are sojourners on this globe. This world is not our home.

It's at times like these that I remind myself that I will one day be like Him, when I shall see Him as He is. I draw strength from the One who is my strength, knowing joy will come in the morning. Perhaps the sun will shine tomorrow and there will be the calm, the peaceful silence after the storm.

God is faithful to complete the good work He began in me. The journey is as valuable and as necessary as the victory. Perhaps I will one day know the joy of giving a hand up to another discouraged traveller.

One day I will be like Him for I shall see Him as He is.

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall all not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed...Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:51-52,58 NASV

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Three Fast Friends

Isaiah 26:3 (New Century Version)
3 You, Lord, give true peace
to those who depend on you,
because they trust you.

It was snowing as Frances drove to work and the car in front of her was doing 80 km per hour in an 80 km per hour zone. She seethed with impatience at what seemed like a deliberately slow pace, holding her up with no place to pass. What was he doing, admiring the view?

At her first chance she would pass him ; there was a passing lane at the top of the hill ahead. But as he got to the base of the hill he sped up. He had deliberately held her up, she thought, and now that she had a chance to pass he was going to make it difficult.

"He's just doing this to make me angry--thumbing his nose at me," she fumed.

"My anger told me it was a communist plot," she said later, "I was in competition with every driver on the road; everyone slower than me was the enemy."

As she sped up to pass, she looked in her mirror to see lights go on what was an unmarked police car, signalling her to pull her over.

At the top of the hill she pulled off the road, wound down her window, and waited. The wind was blowing hard in that exposed area and the snow swirled around her vehicle.

The tall, slender figure of a young OPP officer approached. As he bent down to her window, he raised the fake fur collar of his bomber jacket to his ear, to shield his face from the biting wind.

Calmly he said, "In a bit of a hurry, weren't you? You were traveling quite close to me there."

"Yeah," she said, "You were going the speed limit."

He asked why she was in such a hurry and she was honest--she told him she was going to work, but that she knew she was doing 110-115 km per hour when she passed him.

"You're driving angry," he observed, "You need to relax."

And she thought of her whole life; every part of it.

"I drive all over Southern Ontario; I'm a traffic cop," the officer continued, "I drive the limit; it's relaxing. You will be more relaxed if you drive the limit."

As he hunched his shoulders higher against the wind, peace was seeping into the places where anger had been. This peaceful man, who moments earlier she had been inwardly fuming against, was taking time, in the cold, to teach her and extend mercy. His words were finding their mark, changing her heart and attitude more than any harsh rebuke would have done.

He will never know that not only Frances was changed that day, but her experience has also impacted me. As I drove home late last night in a bad snow storm, although I wasn't tempted to speed, I heard his voice saying, "You need to relax," and my white knuckled grip on the wheel relaxed as I pressed my back into the seat and calmed down.

Is it coincidence that Susan and I both got speeding tickets as well within the past month? Maybe God wanted to make a point (I don't know how else this could have happened) but ours were on the same day and within one minute of each other's. Hers was at 1.45 in Alliston and mine was at 1.46 in Durham. Susan's husband Ron said that my police officer's watch was probably fast.

I guess we all need to relax and slow down. Our tickets were God's grace and mercy.

Romans 13:3-4 (New International Version)
3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hitting the Wall.

And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise. Heb 6:15

by Susan Stewart

I remember the last trip I made to Windsor before my mom died. It was mid-September. I didn't know it would be the very last trip but it was. I felt an urgency to get down there, which turned out to be God's perfect guidance and direction.

The gas guage in our old red Toyota was broken, the indicator pointing perpetually to "E", but Ron assured me that I would have enough gas to get all the way down there before having to fill up again. I had six-month-old David along, who I had to bring since he was still nursing, and 12 year old Beth as a babysitter. Along about Chatham we ran out of gas. Ron had forgotten to factor in that I would probably be speeding - about 20 km. over the limit all the way. It was my own fault, but it sure seemed appropriate at the time to blame him.

The word "chagrined" does not begin to describe the feeling that began to sweep over me. David was quickly unstrapped from his car seat and Beth and I took turns carrying - first over the guardrail, then through the ditch full of bull rushes, and up the other side. The car had sputtered and died just shy of an overpass and we began to walk up the crossroad toward town. It was about a mile before we reached a furniture store that was on the very outskirts of Chatham. Unfortunately it was the days before cell phones, but fortunately we had CAA. I went into the store and asked if we could use the phone. I made the call, told them our location and the approximate position of the car. We four made our way to the front of the store to watch out the window for our knight in a rusty tow truck to arrive.

How well I remember that wait. I was some stressed. I felt very vulnerable, travelling with two children on my own and now I felt guilty for exposing both of them, and myself to the risk of walking out in the country unprotected. That feeling was only exacerbated when a strange man pulled over in his retro two-tone brown and tan hearse, leaned out the window and offered us a ride.

"No thanks, we'd rather walk," I'd told him brightly, hoping against hope that he would not be able to detect the raw fear that was lurking, just below the surface.

Walk we did. And now we were waiting by the display window of this furniture store, peering down the road for the first sign of a truck. My mother dying for pete's sake. Didn't the cosmos realize that it should come together to rescue me now?

I prayed anxious prayers amidst waves of pumping adrenaline. They were prayers of supplication that were probably very close to demanding, "Please God - send that tow truck. Please! Get us some gas! Get us to Windsor!", but the praying had no immediate effect. There was nothing more I could do to make that tow truck get there. I simply had to wait. I forced myself to quiet my heart even as I made every effort to quiet my now fussing baby.

I've often thought of that wait since then, when I've been up against the wall, in desperate need to see God act NOW but at the same time realizing that his agenda is not necessarily synchronized with mine. I wonder sometimes if "waiting on God" really means what I think it does. To me, it's just like waiting for that tow truck. It's simply standing there, and knowing for a certainty that God will eventually show up. He has to, because you're putting your trust in him. And when he does, he'll bring with him whatever is needed for the next step of the journey.

I've had to do a fair bit of waiting of late. I've been standing, and watching down the road with not a tow truck in sight. Feeling hopeless, and helpless, apart from knowing that God is on his way - without knowing how, without knowing when, but knowing just the same.

I love how God moves like that. It's like he gets energy from our trust in him and from our prayers. And all the while we are waiting, he is moving and shaking things in a world unseen. Then "suddenly" the answer comes together. Suddenly he appears. And he is always worth waiting for.

My soul waits for the Lord
More than the watchmen for the morning;
Indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.
Psalm 130:6 NASB

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Stephen and the Snow Day

The big yellow school bus trundled along with its load of chattering children.

Miss Cheryl, the bus driver, knew a question was coming from the seat behind her, as 6 year old Stephen gripped the metal back to her seat and pulled closer to talk.

He popped his head of short, dark hair over the seat, his deep brown eyes bright with curiosity.

“Do you think that tomorrow will be a snow day?”

The teachers thought for sure that it would be. All day on the news there had been warnings of an impending snow storm and all the children were sent home with extra school work to be prepared.

"Well Stephen; only the Lord knows, but I think you’d stand a pretty good chance of it being so,” said Miss Cheryl, and her voice was as soft and husky as a ripe peach. She was one of his best sources of information.

She turned on the radio to see if the weather man had anything to say on the subject..

Stephen’s curiosity wasn’t satisfied, “Well, how do you know?” he asked.

“My work calls me,” said Miss Cheryl.

“Well, how do they know?” pressed Stephen.

“Someone from the school board calls them,” said Miss Cheryl.

Stephen pondered this, quiet for a moment.

“Sometimes they don’t get it right,” he said, thinking back to a “snow day” about a week ago when the sun had shone brightly all day long.

“That’s true,” said Miss Cheryl, “But I still have to listen to them. I have to trust that they know what’s right. Just like you trust and listen to the Lord; that he knows what’s best.”

“Yes, that’s how it goes,” agreed Stephen and he counted on his fingers over the back of seat, “First you have to listen to the Lord; and then you have to listen to your mom and dad; and then you have to listen to the government.”

This made Miss Cheryl laugh. She was very fond of the rosy cheeked boy with the inquiring mind and their conversations on the journey home from school in which many lessons were learned.

Romans 13:1 (New International Version)
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More Than Conquerers

It's been a week of news of struggling friends and tragedy in local families. Most people have seen the report of the young girl stabbed by her father. Other beloved friends have deep struggles that are being brought to the Throne of our loving, Capable Father.

The enemy is roaring like a lion, seeking whom He may devour; He knows his time is short. That is all good news for those of us who believe. That means God is moving. Like in Narnia, the white witch became frantic when Aslan was on the move, snow was melting, the deep freeze was over and new life was on the way.
So we press in. We draw near to the One who has all the answers, all the hope, all the Truth. And we let all the distractions fall by the way, because nothing else matters when we are besieged except to fix our eyes on our Captain, await His touch, His direction, His salvation.
He is Faithful and True.
Like Jesus in the desert, when He was approached with audacity by satan, to tempt and buffet Him, Jesus responded each time..."It is written...", and gave the final Word of authority on each topic broached. He is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Let us speak Him in our lives, in our circumstances, in our struggles.

"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." James 4:7-10KJV

"Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it's shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3NIV

King Jesus, Thank you that You are a persistent, loving Saviour. Help us Lord, for in some ways the trouble is overwhelming, yet we know that You are in command and that all things do work together for good, because you have called us by name, and we love You. We commit to do it Your way, for all other ways lead to difficulty and death. We commit to You our children, our families and friends and community. Help us to be Your light in the darkness. Shine Jesus Shine.....

"No, in all these things, we are more than conquerers, through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord". Romans 8: 37-39NIV

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

WAIT

The siren song of the wind was the first thing I heard this morning. It lifted its mournful voice in a loud wailing crescendo, as if to wake us up.

My first thoughts were prayers, for those who have no warm bed, and whose night may have been on the street. The wind made me think of them.

I am grateful for so much in my life. How do some people’s lives go so wrong?

I thought of how much we have and how some have nothing at all, and I prayed again, for each person, faceless to me, but who has a face and a history to God. It’s funny what the wind can make you think of.

In the bathroom, listening to the radio, a winter weather watch is issued. Tonight a snow storm and ice rain is predicted. I shiver, and hurry to prepare for the day.

Now it is night and the predicted snow has not yet arrived; I’m grateful for that. Maybe it will pass us by.

My prayers now are for a need that seems God sized in that we have run out of any human ways of meeting it. I lift it up to him and pray. I pray and I pray, in the name of Jesus, that this need will be met. I pray that he will keep us all together while we wait.

The word “wait” has been on my mind. Someone shared the acronym WAIT with me yesterday, a counselor who said she has it on her wall and it reminds her to ask herself, “Why Am I Talking?”

I loved it and I may make a sign to remind me to listen better. But tonight the sign would not mean Why Am I Talking? But simply “WAIT:” wait for God to act, wait patiently for he is coming; wait for he will not fail us.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
5-12 Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Honor God with everything you own;
give him the first and the best.Your barns will burst,
your wine vats will brim over.
But don't, dear friend, resent God's discipline;

don't sulk under his loving correction.
It's the child he loves that God corrects;
a father's delight is behind all this.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The TTC

I was on my way to an appointment in the downtown core of the city of Toronto; a place I am more used to seeing in the distant haze on the horizon than at close quarters.

My friend Irene had advised taking the subway and so, having parked my car on the rooftop of a multi story car park at the Madison Centre, I found my way, with the help of kind strangers along the way, through the tunnel to the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) at Yonge and Shepherd.

A little breathless from running down the stairs, I was relieved to finally be on the southbound train as it lurched away from the station, along the one of the routes that run like veins from the suburbs to the pulsing heart of the city.

As the train zoomed, swaying and rolling through the various stops, to my destination at Yonge and Bloor, I looked with curiosity at my fellow passengers and observed their practiced ability to close themselves off from human contact. I noted the downcast eyes, the studied concentration on a book, or document pulled from a briefcase; anything but connection with people. Every other person seemed to have his or her ears plugged by an iPod from which issued the tinny staccato beat of music.

I amused myself by imagining finding out the name of the passenger next to me and then introducing him or her to everyone else on the train. In my mind's eye I saw people looking into eachother's eyes, laughing; discovering the delight of connection, but when I looked up. alas everyone was still in the grip of "the TTC trance."

Two hours later, after my appointment, I returned to the subway station, descending the stairs, less hurried now than I had been earlier. Again I joined the silent travelers on the platform, waiting for the northbound train.

From somewhere behind me, above the roar of approaching trains I heard strains of music. I turned and saw a busker; a short, stocky, elderly, white haired man, who had just sat down near a wall, and was playing an accordian. In front of him lay an empty, open case, for donations.

I fumbled in the breast pocket of my coat for the change I knew was there and quickly went over and made a contribution. Our eyes met; both of us were saying the same thing, "Thank you."

I turned back towards the platform where my train would arrive at any moment, but as I listened to the romantic strains of the Viennese waltz by Johann Strauss, every fibre of my being was responding to the lilting music.

My heart and memory carried me back to the kitchen of my childhood, where on Wednesday evening every week, my mother would take out her beautiful accordian of marbled blue finish, with coloured glass inset "gems," and play the melodies of her growing up years in Holland.

My imagination took flight again as I fancied the stoic strangers around me inviting each other to dance and waltzing along the platform.

The train arrived, and with a backward glance and smile of gratitude at my musician friend, I stepped away from the captivating music. A woman with a soft Scottish accent smiled at me as we boarded and said, as if she sensed how much I was enjoying it. "Nice music," she said.

I laughed and said "Yes." Human contact had been made.

And I wonder if God finds us as closed off as travelers on the TTC. Does he look at us with longing and wait for us to glance up and look him in the eye? Does he long to make contact, heart to heart? Does he woo us with the music of heaven, trying to break through the shell of our self absorption, wanting to infuse us with his love, and the pure, real joy that can only come from him?

1 John 4:11-12 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
11-12My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!