Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Journal of Hope

We sat together talking about "us" and the times in the past when our marriage felt like it was over. It's been almost 39 years so there have been a few times of heartache that felt hopeless. Neither one of us has been a model spouse. Is there such a thing?

My journal contains scattered puddles of pain that poured out and splashed onto the pages when I felt that I had nowhere else to go with it.Many times I have been tempted to tear those pages out. I haven't though, because an edited life seems to me to be to be a flat and pallid life. For better or worse, it is my life

One thing I worried about though, was Paul reading those pages if I died first. I did care about that and how hurt he might feel. But this week I read some of them to him.

It was such an intimacy, to look back at how I railed against him; how we hurt each other, and to realize that we are here now, still together and loving one another deeply and tenderly and with all of our hearts.

I thought it might give others hope to read this two part poem that I wrote. The verses were written 4 years apart.

1979
We kill our love in little ways
In little, insignificant seeming stages
Walls
Built slowly; but oh, so surely
Block by block...

Familiarity, it seems, really can
Breed contempt
And indifference--coldness
Things we once shared
Are now put aside...
Like forgotten toys

1983
We build our love in little ways
In little, insignificant seeming stages
Trust
Built slowly; but oh, so surely
Step by step

Familiarity can also bring with it content
And intimacy, closeness
Things we can share
God will provide
And new found joys!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wonder-full

Thursday morning I woke up at 7:05. I know what time it was because I looked at my watch right away. I felt so go-o-o-od, and it seemed like I should mark the significance of the moment somehow, so I did it by glancing at my watch to see exactly what time it was.

I sensed God very near to me. "This is a hug from my Father," I thought to myself and snuggled back in, exulting in the sense of feeling utterly loved. I slipped quickly and easily into my early morning quiet time with him, first spending some time under the covers just enjoying the intense sense of closeness and acceptance I was feeling, and then getting out my Bible to read for a while and listen before heading off into my day. Sometime during that hour, I remembered a recurring picture I've seen in my thoughts a time or two before when I was spending time communing with him. I wouldn't call it a "vision", exactly, but a "thought picture", kind of like looking at something, then closing your eyes, and being able to still see it for a few more minutes.

The picture I saw was of me lying down on my back, and Jesus unzipping me from my neck to my abdomen, as though I had a big zipper down my front. Then he reached inside and lifted out a perfectly lovely form of woman who was obviously dead, or very sound asleep. So sound asleep that her arms flopped backward and out to the side, and her head flopped backward too, chin pointing up.

I saw him lift that form of a woman and I knew it was me... The true me. The essence of "me".

I thought when he picked her up she would wake up, but she didn't. And I found myself praying, crying out, "Please Lord, wake me up. Why is she sleeping? Please wake me up!" and then wondering if he was trying to tell me something or it was just silly thoughts coming to distract me.

That night I went to a small gathering of women (and one sound "guy"!) at our church who our leader Sue calls, "The Freedom Fighters". I was a bit late, coming in part way through the first half hour of the meeting, which is spent in worship and waiting on God before going to a time of instruction in principles of emotional healing. Soon Sue was standing at the front and explaining what we'd be doing that night. We were going to see a film about "the slumbering spirit", a teaching given by John and Paula Sandford.

As they began to share, I could identify with some of the symptoms they described. After my experience with God that morning, and the picture I had of the deepest part of me needing to be awakened, you can bet I sat up and took note. A number of things on their list of symptoms applied directly to me and I knew God was speaking to my heart.

At the end, they said the only remedy for a sleeping spirit was to be able to receive the unconditional affection and love of a father or a father substitute. He recommended that people get attached to a small group of believers - to find a safe place where they could experience the Father's love from one another. But I couldn't help but think about my experience upon awakening that morning, that strong sense of being in my Father's arms.

What a journey we're on, eh? I love how God leads us so gently, and how he makes sure we sit up and take notice of things that in his love and concern for us, and in his commitment to conform us to the image of His Son, He needs for us to hear. If I hadn't wakened up "in Father's arms" that morning, I KNOW I would have missed that teaching entirely. But He made sure I was primed and ready. And before I even heard what needed to change in me, He had already let me know that the remedy was right at hand. All day today I've been remembering that I am in my Father's arms and that I am fully known and fully loved. I was reduced to tears several times today, just by the wonder of it all. Is it any wonder they call Him "Wonder-full"? Not to me!

The saga continues... but suffice it to say that I'm a lot more awake and alive than I have been in a very long time.

Thank you Father, for being such a good, kind, gentle, and thorough teacher, deliverer and friend. You are all these things and so much more!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Of Trees and Fruit

I bought a t-shirt today. I bought it because it was a rich and deep forest green, which has always been my favourite colour, especially when teamed up with the colour blue. (I figure God and I must have pretty much the same taste, because when I look around His world, especially during this verdant spring, that's what I see. Green hills, and blue sky. Everywhere. Those are the two predominant colours in his creation. I'm so glad he didn't decide to paint the sky purple and the hills orange. I think about these things, you know. They're pretty important in my little mind. And I like to tell God when I think he's done a really good job, too, just like Shug in the movie, The Colour Purple. Yes, when it comes to the colour scheme he chose for the world he created, sometimes as I'm drinking it all in, I just have to say, "Well, done God! Well, done!" )

The t-shirt I bought today has no blue on it, but emblazoned on the front is a much lighter shade of bright green in the shape of a globe. I think it's supposed to be the sun. And silhouetted against this huge bright green sun is a stalwart looking oak tree, it's intricate network of branches bare and exposed. It is beautiful in its intricate simplicity.

I love trees, too. Even if they weren't green, I think I'd still love them. All year round. However they come. Whether naked and exposed, a labrynth of black branches in contrast to a snowy landscape, blushing red with the swelling of buds in the the very early spring, fully dressed in the verdancy of summer, or in their brightly coloured autumn pyjamas almost ready to go back to sleep.

On the t-shirt, underneath the silhouette of the tree, in the same bright green, is printed "Matthew 12:33". I had no idea what that referred to, though I did guess it must have something to do with a tree. I looked it up as soon as I got home and my packages unloaded from the car:

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad." NLT

Hmmm. What makes some trees "good", and others "bad"? I hope I'm a good tree.

I read once that when you see the branches of a tree above the ground (think of those naked limbed winter silhouettes) you must realize that there is just as much of a network of roots below the ground, too. A network of roots which draws nutrients and water from the eath, doing its part to contribute to and to nourish the whole. I've been fascinated by that fact from the moment I first learned it, and often when looking at a tree, it doesn't stop for me at the bottom, where the trunk meets the ground. In my mind's eye, I can see the mirror image of another entire tree living quietly below the surface in the darkness, unexposed, safe from the storms and shifting weather conditions above. A secret upside down tree reaching around rock and pebble for nourishment and water in the soil.

A week or so ago, in my mad dash to catch up to my comrades in The Marathon of Biblical Proportions (I'm only 3 days behind, now! Pant! Pant!) a verse caught my attention and I wrote it down in my journal.

2 Kings 19:30. "The surviving remnant of Judah shall take root downward and bear fruit upward."

I immediately thought of my morning quiet times with God - my relationship in secret with him... "Do that in me, Lord", I wrote in my journal right beneath the transcribed verse.

Do that in me! Let those roots below the surface of what the world sees of me go deep in seeking out nourishment in the time I spend with you in the darkness of that early morning hour. Help me not to neglect my secret life - my most important life - my relationship with you. Let me reach around rock and pebble and to find the richest soil there. Guide me to your streams of living water. Water me. Feed me.

And the fruit? Ah, Lord, I have a feeling that as I grow downward into the rich soil of your Word, the fruit will just take care of itself. :o)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Teacher

Psalm 78:1-4

O my people, hear my teaching:

Listen to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in parables,

I will utter things hidden from of old—

Things we have heard and known,

Things our fathers have told us.

We will not hide them from their children:

We will tell the next generation

The praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,

His power, and the wonders he has done.

I'm writing today of a teacher whose name is Pain. As I reflect on my own childhood, and those of my friends, this teacher seems never to have been far away.

We hate to think of any children experiencing pain and would do anything to protect them from it. We want all childhoods to be safe, secure; full of sunshine and only happy memories; but this is an idealized view really.

Children do suffer because of the sin and brokenness of their parents or others; the result of living in a sadly fallen world, and while will do our best to keep them safe and create happy homes, trying to avoid pain is futile.

At the time it was difficult, but without the pain I experienced as a child, I would not be who I am now. Would I change anything? Sure I would have loved it to be different, but then I would be different.

Our children, who are now adults themselves, learned their greatest life lessons to date, during times of pain, although it was and still is, very hard for us to see them suffering.

When pain comes into a child's life, we have an opportunity to encourage them to let this teacher teach them tools for living in a fallen world and to build spiritual muscle that will stand them in good stead for life. I've had to learn many times at the feet of Pain, what to avoid; a powerful lesson. And I have learned who is my refuge and strength in time of trouble.

We naturally focus our energy on mitigating pain. We pray, we worry and seek to help. But pain is inevitable. Instead of agonizing and feeling helpless, it would be so much more productive to watch for opportunities to talk to children big and small, about it; to teach them how to respond and grow through the hard times.

John 16:33 NIV

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.

Psalm 100:5 (New International Version)
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Encouragement

A few days ago it was Track and Field day at my children's school.
A day that is anticipated by some and dreaded by others.

As my children prepared for their big day it was with mixed emotions. My 7 year old daughter who is very athletic like her father, had trepidation about her day, didn't think she would do well at all.
My 9 year old son sailed out the door with confidence. He also gets his athletic abilities from his Dad.
My youngest, who is 4, and I set off to the school at 9am to meet up with the kindergarten class (where my 5 year old was) to join in on the cheering of the older children as they ran, jumped and threw.

It was a fantastic day. Races were won, and lost. Some children sailed over the high bar in the high jump and others knocked it down consistently. We took photos of the students as they took a run and a series of skips before hurtling into the air for the running long jump.

There were pensive faces and grins of relief.

But there was one pervasive characteristic of that day that brought tears to my eyes over and over.
It was the time when the grade 5/6 class stood waiting for their turn at the high jump, and as the grade 3/4 boys took their turn attempting to conquer the rail, they were cheered on and each got a high five from their waiting older peers as they went back to line up, whether or not they were successful.
It was when the grade 3/4 boys were watching the girls from their class run a long race and one child was lagging far behind. They all cheered her on, but one of the most athletic boys left his spot at the side of the track, joined his classmate on the track and ran with her the rest of the way to the finish, encouraging her on, step by step.
It was the teachers doing the same..."you can do it, keep going, you're almost there..", as they ran alongside the track.
And the mad cheering from all onlookers as even the slowest runner made it past the line.

And there were no losers! When it came to ribbon time, there were first, second and third place ribbons and everyone who didn't place in one of these spots was awarded a fourth. And they surely earned it, by being there, by giving all they had.
While talking with one of the teachers that day, she noted that this is a day that some students dread, but it's balanced by days that recognize students with other talents (public speaking, science fair, etc.).

The day was characterized by the word ENCOURAGEMENT and because of that every child walked away a winner.

Isn't that how our Christian walk should be. As we come along side each other, as we cheer on those who are struggling, as we pray and love, we win the race, for this is how Christ taught us to be. How wonderful I feel when someone encourages me, when the Holy Spirit sends them at the right time and I am given a hand up off the side of the road where I have sat down.
How right it is to see a brother or sister struggling and to go, to be sent, to be a missive from God Himself to say "you are not forgotten, take my hand for a while, let's do this together".

"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather healed".
Hebrews 12:12-13

An Alert for Lovers of Music

One of our blog readers, Luisa a.k.a. Night Owl, posted an important message of concern about some decisions being made by the CBC on her blog http://cloudywindows.blogspot.com/ . The decisions will be of concern for lovers of classical music and musicians. The link to the post in question is:

http://cloudywindows.blogspot.com/2008/05/stand-on-guard-canada.html

Monday, May 26, 2008

Love and Fear

1 Peter 1:17-22
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites when he judges. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as foreigners here on earth. For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, he was sent to the earth for all to see. And he did this for you.
Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And because God raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory, your faith and hope can be placed confidently in God. Now you can have sincere love for each other as brothers and sisters* because you were cleansed from your sins when you accepted the truth of the Good News. So see to it that you really do love each other intensely with all your hearts.


I have just had a truly amazing experience that I simply had to share with you. On Sunday, my Pastor preached a message that has proven to be life altering for me. He spoke about Saul in the book of I Samuel, and how he was chosen by Samuel to be the first King of Israel. However, we go on to learn that he was chosen largely because of his physical size and good looks. God gave Saul a number of jobs to do, and in the beginning, Saul was successful. Over time, however, he rejected God by relying on his own abilities rather than on God’s power and promises. In the end, Saul’s rejection of God resulted in God’s rejection of Saul and Saul’s ultimate failure. God had called Saul to simply be faithful and obedient to God and trust God to fulfill His word, not to try to do it all with his own brains and muscle. Saul trusted his own abilities over God’s. The battle is not ours.

As I drove home, I thought about some of the doubts I had struggled with in terms of my own ability to be a good youth leader. A few years ago, I had stood in church praising God and seeking His will in my life when He spoke to me. He told me to teach His children to fear Him and to love Him. I knew then that my life of service would be in the form of teaching the young people in our church. I was (and am still) profoundly honored. Yet as I prepare for my youth group each week and pray and study the lessons I will teach, I am always bothered by a small voice nagging me, telling me that I am not good enough because I am not a ‘pastor’. True, I never attended Bible College, so each week I would worry and study and try to memorize in the attempt to give my best to God and my youth. But just as Saul had been appointed to a position by God and then tried to do it with his own strengths, so was I. That path will lead to failure. The story of Saul showed me that God will make up for my lacking. He doesn’t need me to be the most learned scholar in the world, nor do I need to be a world class public speaker. I simply need to be faithful and obedient to what God had called me to do. The battle is not mine.

Next step: I prayed, “God, what do you want me to do to prepare? What is the next step?” I felt led to read the Bible. (I had really hoped He wouldn’t ask me to do that. Sometimes, I find the Bible a little overwhelming and confusing.) But where do I start? How do I know if I am understanding it properly without years of Theology? So many questions. Again and again, doubting my ability.
A spiritual hush.
Just be obedient. Have faith in Me.
So, I picked up my bible.
Where do I begin?
I Peter.
I began at the beginning. As I read my mind kept asking me, “Are you sure this is where God wants you to read? Why start at I Peter? Why not start at the beginning?” I kept reading. I read all of Chapter 1, and moved on to the reading of the notes on the bottom of the page. That is when I saw it. My notes for 1:17 began “Reverent Fear” and went on to discuss its meaning. Further on my notes for 1:22 began “Sincere Love” and continued to talk about its meaning. There it was in black and white. All those years ago I was told to teach His children two things, to fear and to love Him. I put my Bible down and wept. I felt like God was giving me a pat on the back telling me I’d finally figured it out. This isn’t my job I am doing, it is His. I am simply meant to be obedient and faithful to Him. If I do those things, God’s Will will be done. The battle is not mine, the job is not mine, the glory is not mine, it is His. Our job is not to figure it out and make it work. If we are faithful and obedient the battle will be won by God’s power and for His glory. Hallelujah!

Praise you Father God for Your faithfulness to us. Thank you that never expect more from us than we are able to provide. Thank you for Your word which is both Holy and trustworthy. You never fail to give help to those who ask for it and your love in unfailing. You do not grow tired of hearing from us and you will never leave of forsake us. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You. Amen.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Intimacy with God

I am often amazed at David's relationship with our Father God. God said of David, "He is a man after God's own heart."
That He was. To cultivate a relationship with our Heavenly Father such as David maintained, is a treasure!

David drew strength, power, comfort, wisdom, and blessing from an intimate, deep, and abiding relationship with God. He sought the Lord faithfully every step of the way.

David was faithful yet He sinned just like each of us. When David sinned he returned to His loving Father. With a contrite heart he repented and each time God dealt mercifully with David. In spite of everything, God's favour rested on David.

In Chronicles we learn that David numbered the people of Israel. God was displeased with David and He struck Israel.

David said to God, "I have sinned greatly, in that I have done this thing. But now, please take away the iniquity of Thy servant, for I have done very foolishly. I Chronicles 21:8 NASV

The Lord gave David a choice of three punishments for His sin. (Before Christ, there was no atonement for sin, other than through sacrifices and punishment.) Two punishments included David being overtaken by his foes. The third was allowing the sword of the Lord, and pestilence in the land for three days.

David responded, "I am in great distress; please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great. But do not let me fall into the hands of men." 1 Chronicles 21:13 NASV

David trusted His Heavenly Father as a God of mercy even when justly dealing punishment for his own wrong-doing. He knew the hearts of men can be merciless and unkind and at best unpredictable. He would not trust this punishment. Instead He turned His heart back to His Father.

David humbled himself before His God. With true repentance and a contrite heart, he sought forgiveness. A contrite heart the Lord will never refuse.

So the Lord did send pestilence on Israel; 70000 men of Israel fell. "And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, 'It is enough; now relax your hand.'" I Chronicles 21:15 NASV

God's mercies are great. They were to David and they are to us. He does not deal with His children as we deserve.

Throughout the Psalms, and the Old Testament we are witness to David's intimacy with His Father. We can cry out to our Father in our darkest of nights, in oppression, fear, grief, terror quoting the Psalms that David penned. We find comfort, peace, and strength through David's words in the Psalms.

As we read the accounts of David in the Old Testament we see David humble himself again and again before His God. We see Him come boldly and desperately, with a trusting heart to His God and King.

There were times he danced and sang to His God, sometimes mocked by others, even his wife. He was grateful for all He received from His father's hand. Over and over David found favour in God's sight. He pleaded with God at times too. He spoke to God, He listened to God, and He obeyed Him. But David was a man. He was weak and fragile just as we are weak and fragile.
He fell short of the holiness of God. And we do too!

So many times we see account after account of David's intimate relationship with His loving Father. David learned His Father's heart. He knew Him. He sought Him in good times and in bad. Is this why God says, "He was a man after my own heart."?

Father God, we seek You like David did. We cry out to You. We want to know Your heart. We meditate on Your word. We teach it to our children, when we walk by the way, when we eat, and when we sleep. We want to be faithful to love You with all our heart, mind, body, and soul. We give it all to You Lord. Use us Lord. May we learn like David did, to seek that intimate, deep, abiding relationship with You. We love You, Lord.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Wisdom's Blessing


We sat across a table over lunch, Paul’s uncle John and I, catching up on news; he telling me of his recent missionary journeys to the Philippines and Nepal and India. At almost 79, he shows no sign of letting up on a schedule that would exhaust many younger men. He has just crossed thousands of miles in India, on overnight trains; teaching groups of pastors hungry for encouragement and sound biblical knowledge.

“And you? What are you doing?” he asked, turning his attention to me.

I told him what I was writing and what I had been thinking through lately about having been “in” Christ when he died; I, testing my thoughts and understanding before an older, wiser disciple.

When we are wrestling through to truth, that is one of the tests; that and measuring what we think or someone tells us, against God’s Word. I often bounce things off Paul when I get excited about a principle or thought, and sometimes he suggests that maybe I should consider this, or that counterpoint or thought. It’s a place of safety.

Uncle John’s eyes brightened and he nodded with approval and agreement in response.

“Yes,” he said, “First we appropriate our identification with Christ’s finished work, and then we cultivate the life of the Spirit; nourishing it with good food.”

“Thank you,” I said, “You’ve just given me my next blog post! “ And he laughed.

Appropriate: 1. Take and use as one’s own.[1]
Cultivate: 2. Produce (crops) by tending them. 3. Spend time and care in developing and encouraging. [2]
This is “working out” our salvation; not “working for” by our own human effort, which can never succeed or else the law would have been enough.
_____________________________________________________________________________________
2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Galatians 5:16-18
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

[1] Oxford Dictionary
[2] Oxford Dictionary

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Friday, May 23, 2008

What a Book!

I'm catching up. A week ago I was 24 days behind on the Marathon of Biblical Proportions. By the time I go to sleep tonight, hopefully having read the next three chapters, I'll be down to just 12 days behind. Soon the people who have been pacing themselves with more diligence than I will be able see my dust in the distance behind them somewhere. And before long I'll be running side by side with them again. I'm getting my second wind. I'm running my heart out right now, and at the same time, thoroughly enjoying the race.

I'm thankful for this race through God's Word. I've started to read the Bible through from cover to cover a number of times, but have always fizzled out somewhere in the Old Testament. Mostly I have stuck to the parts that I enjoy - like the Psalms. And John's gospel. Written in her own hand in the flyleaf of my mom's Bible, are these words:

"Reading only the portions of scripture that we enjoy will not give us the whole counsel of God."

I'm finding the truth that is in those words as I get closer to the half-way point. I'm finding myself looking forward to doing it again. To passing landmarks that will be familiar to me the next time through, and become more and more familiar each time.

I love God's Word. I love it's living-breathing-ness. I love that it's HIM coming through the pages to speak to US. I love that it is the key to intimacy with Him. A humble key... a book. Just a book that could stay lying on a shelf gathering dust, and yet the key to SUCH riches of wisdom and understanding. Opening the cover, and applying faith to the words on the pages, is the pathway to knowing God, to hearing his voice, to understanding his ways, to being conformed to the image of his Son. Isn't that just like him to pick such a humble way of revealing himself? Just a book on a shelf - taken down and read with a heart that is longing to know Him.
Just a book... What a Book!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

From My Morning Devotions...

Psalms 37:3-7a

Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord;
And he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and he will bring it to pass.

And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your judgment as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Keys and Onions

Just before I left to spend two weeks in England with my 81 year old mum, and my brother Robert, I joked with friends about Robert and said that I expected we would drive each other slightly crazy while I was there. What I see as my free, simple and uncomplicated approach to life, would collide with his methodical, careful ways.

Like last year, when he had given me a key to use while in England, and then suggested I leave it at home when I went out for a walk in case I lost it! Although I saw the funny side of that afterwards, I didn't at the time.

When I tried to give him a break from cooking one night and made spaghetti sauce, Robert had been aghast at the fact that I used onions. The smell of cooking onions, he said, is absorbed into every fabric surface in the house and lingers for a very long time; and worse, he told me, you just can’t get the terrible smell out of your clothes. Yes, they would smell for days, or longer. And to think that for so many years I had been blissfully adding onions to almost every dish I cooked

My dear brother reminds me of “Bob” in one of my favourite movies, What About Bob, starring Bill Murray. He has a decidedly obsessive-compulsive streak—in my opinion.

I laughingly said to my friends that it was a result of our childhood, which like that of so many others was difficult. But, I explained to them, it had affected him more than me.

My friend Magda caught my words and tossed them back to me with gentle humour and provocative insight. “Let’s just say, Belinda, that it affected you both differently."

Her words humbled me, and on the way home I reflected on how arrogant I must have sounded, but worse, I realized that my words reflected my heart.

This year Robert didn’t give me a key at all. I used the key safe outside the door and the extra minute this took didn’t bother me one bit.

I also realized that when in England I am entering his space and I determined to treat it with respect. I stayed out of his kitchen unless asked for help—and, when needed, I stepped in with the help Robert asked for, in the way he wanted.

Suddenly I see that his routines and patterns are his, as much as my ways are mine. It was so disrespectful to laugh at them. So many of his revolve around our mum. She benefits tremendously from the level of care Robert gives her. It maintains her health and well-being and I am so grateful. Without him, she would be so vulnerable.

This year we hardly irritated each other--I'm not sure of my effect on him! Perhaps I am finally growing up. He couldn’t resist bringing up that onion thing again though. I’m counting on my friends to tell me if there is an odour I should be aware of, because the onions are staying!

John 16: 33 NIV
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.

Powerful God

Romans 7:18-19 NIV

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.


"Romans 7 ...I always read it in the past as though the apostle Paul was describing a present reality for himself. "


I now see that Paul was not describing his present reality at all, but describing man in general when he struggles to live up to the law. The good news; the gospel, is that Christ died for our sins and our sin. Perhaps the description in Romans 7:18-19 seems to describe you, as it has me, but should it describe redeemed humankind? Lately, I think I've been mistaken in believing that.


Isaiah 53:5


But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.


Surely a new reality came into effect with the cross. Christ's death purchased our peace and healing along with our salvation.


Romans 6:6-7


For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.


Romans 8:1-3


Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering...


Romans 8:11


And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.


What does this mean to you and me? I believe that knowing and understanding truth is a powerful first step to living it out. Meditate on these verses as I have been. Then let us claim them for our live— by his Spirit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More On The Garden (and a bit on spiders)

It's amazing to me how God Works.
He has been asking me to tend His garden, of children, people, loving, listening, being His hands extended instead of hiding myself amidst pots of lilacs and honeysuckle gleaned from my Mum's garden, finding them a home around my yard. I love to lose myself over some new growth breaking the ground, showing it's dainty new green dress to the waiting audience of one. I'd stay there all day if He allowed, but of course that's not possible.
But the funny thing is that as I've yielded to His garden plan, people have been giving me more plant life for my flowerbeds, and top soil's been on sale and my farming friend provided rich, composted manure for free. Does life get any better? :-)
It's such a blessing. It's as if when I tend His garden He says "Okay, now I'll provide for yours".
Thank you Father, you are so faithful!

On a funny and completely separate note...
I was driving home from a meeting at a friend's house tonight. As the car moved through the darkness, headlights cutting a swathe of light along the country road, I became aware that I wasn't alone in the vehicle. Something with eight legs was moving across the windshield, on the inside and it was about the size of a looney.
I don't like spiders. I'd rather hold a large snake than have a many legged creature scurry over part of me in the dark.
It moved up and down the windshield, back and forth and eventually headed off to the right. I kept turning on the inside light to see where it was and was fine as long as I could see my uninvited passsenger. There was a suitable distance between us, but I had the kleenex box held tightly on my lap in case it decided to move to the ceiling and start swinging from a thread. I don't like killing things, but will if it swings at me in the dark.
The moment of consternation happened when I reached the corner to turn onto my road. There was a streetlight there so I stopped to assess the situation. Spidey was nowhere to be found.
And as I rolled around the corner and headed for home (I had about 4 kilometers to go), I had a profound thought...there's only one thing worse than having a large arachnid in your car with you, and that is not knowing where it is.
I scanned the ceiling, the window, the dashboard and then put my foot to the floor. My imagination took over as I started to feel those creepy feelings on my scalp, a quick landing of many feet and the crawl starting. So there I was driving like a maniac, slapping at my head, scratching like mad and shortly after pulling in the driveway in one piece.
The spider never did turn up.
Maybe Frank will find it in the morning...hee, hee.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Powerless Law

Since January I have been on The Marathon of Biblical Proportions; not a running marathon, but reading through the Bible, on a schedule with a group.

Just as in a running marathon, we soon scattered into a flock. Some, like Paul, my beloved over-achiever, are ahead of schedule; and others, like me, are trailing behind in turtle fashion, stopping to admire the view along the journey. The main thing is that we all stay the course!

To read through the whole Bible, cover to cover in a year, means reading an average of three chapters a day and our schedule has us reading them consecutively. This gives a perspective you don’t get when reading chapters separately. Now I’m reading the historical books of the Old Testament and enjoying the grander flow of story, but the same principle holds true for the letters of the New Testament, in which a thought develops over several chapters. Meditating on a few verses at a time holds blessings of its own, but reading in context helps to ensure integrity of intent and understanding.

So I found myself reading Romans chapters 6-8 and seeing a beautiful truth:
Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did.

What exactly was the law powerless to do, I wondered? The answer would be obvious to someone who had just read the preceding chapter.

Romans 7: 14-17:
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

The law was powerless to transform human nature. Its purpose was to establish a benchmark, but in doing so it demonstrated the woeful gap between the law and our lives.

Romans 7 is where I have been stuck. I always read it in the past as though the apostle Paul was describing a present reality for himself and I don’t think I’m alone. It’s an easy mistake, especially when it so closely mirrors our own experience. But reading the span of Romans 6-8 gives a different picture.
Romans 8:3 says that “what the law was powerless to do,” “God did.”

What did God do? The verse before says that: …the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. I will have more to say on this next time, meanwhile , take heart dear friends; our present reality is that we are free! Yes, we really are free from the law of sin and death.

More on this wonderful reality will follow on Wednesday.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Choose Life

This week I've been really challenged by an exhortation in the Book of Deuteronomy. God was speaking through Moses to the people of Israel who were about to enter the promised land. The people had wandered in the desert for 40 years and in order to enjoy God's blessings in the promised land, they must know God's law and obey it.

"...I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them." Deuteronomy 30: 19-20 NASV

Choose life. Choose blessing. Wow! There is both life and death before us. There is both curse and blessing.

We all have our desert experiences. Often our sin and choices keep us wandering just like the Israelites. Often it's not that we want to sin. We, like the Apostle Paul, are weak. We end up doing what we don't want to do, and not doing what we ought. Our battle to chose what is right and holy is not new.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to choose life and blessing. He wants us to enter the land flowing with milk and honey.

For me choosing life means to forgive little comments that may be taken as offenses. It means not being inflated by compliments and being defeated by criticism. It means serving my family cheerfully. It means forgiving myself when I've blown it, knowing God already has and His grace is big enough. It means extending mercy, not judgement. It means listening to God's still and quiet voice. It means that I need to wait for the soft and gentle voice that comes after the earthquake and after the fire. It means not being silent, when someone is unjustly judged or accused. It means being silent when I want to defend myself. It means being a Godly steward of the time, energy, money, and talents God gives me. It means persevering when I'd rather quit. It means learning how to love others how He loves me. It means finding my way to righteous, holy living and being honest when I've fallen short of God's laws. It is about confessing our sins to one another. It's about learning from my and other's sin. It's about love, grace, mercy, humility. It's all about Jesus.

Father God, you desire us to obey your law, to know it, to write it on our hearts. You have set before us life and death, blessing and cursing. You want us to choose life - abundant life, a life full of blessing. That life is not free. It cost you dearly. It cost the death of your son. It will cost us too. Help us to surrender what You will never take. Help us to give, what you will never ask. Give us a heart after your heart O Lord. May we be faithful. May you find us diligent. We love you, Lord.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Walk Across the Room

"Susan!"

I didn't want to hear my name called just then. I was in a hurry. I had ducked into a grocery store - one that I rarely shop in. I had just left a meeting and I wanted to quickly grab some cut up veggies and fruit for my lunch and then get right back to work. There was no time for dilly-dallying today. I thought about ignoring the voice, half hoping it would go away or that there was someone else in the store with my name and I would be off the hook.

"Susan!" This time it was louder and more insistent. There was no choice, I had to look. I turned to see my friend Inez, and the look in her eye told me there would be no putting her off. She motioned me over by insistently flapping her right hand toward herself, but it was the look of joy in her eyes that caused me to succumb. "Get over here!" she squealed with delight.

"Okay, Lord," I mumbled to myself. "Your agenda today, not mine," and I put on the brakes full force, causing my day to come to a screeching halt so that I could be fully present for a few minutes in a grocery store with an old friend. I thought God was asking me to slow down to be a blessing to her for a few minutes, but it was entirely the other way around.

"I can't believe you're here!" she spluttered happily. She hasn't been well for some time and I couldn't believe the energy that she was able to muster to cause her words to dance and tumble off of her lips like the water in a brook bubbling over and around the rocks in its path.

"I've got something to tell you!" she said. "I've been praying that I'd have a chance to talk to you. But you're so busy... I can't believe we just ran into each other in the grocery store of all places!"

I couldn't believe it either, and told her so. I rarely go into that store, and never in the middle of the day on a workday. It had to be God we quickly decided.

"Remember when we had Alpha at our church a couple of years ago?" Her story began.

How could I forget? It had been a community event, made possible by all the churches in our area and over a hundred people had taken part. Some of them became Christians through that event and are attending our church to this day.

"Well, I ran into someone at the hospital last week who was there."

"Oh?" I was intrigued. Inez began to tell me about a woman who had come out to Alpha who had been searching and was at a very difficult crossroads in her life. She felt like it was time to explore this "God-thing" to see if there was really something to it and so she answered the call of the advertisement she saw in the paper and she came.

Alpha, as most of you probably already know, is a program designed to introduce people to the basics of Christianity in a very non-threatening, culturally sensitive way. The meeting begins with a meal together, then everyone watches a presentation before breaking up into small groups to discuss what they've seen.

This person had come alone, Inez said. She didn't know a single soul in that room. She got there just at the advertised starting time and there were no seats left. There were a few chairs turned up against tables saving spots for others, but there seemed to be nowhere left for her. She finally found a seat after walking self conciously through the whole room asking here and there if this seat was taken. She was finally able to sit down, but everyone at the table had come with others and didn't think to talk to her through the meal, so she just listened quietly to the conversations of others. She enjoyed the presentation, but she hadn't make a single friendly connection that night. She came back the next week thinking surely someone would welcome her this time. But again, that's not what happened. Not the second week, not the third week, not the fourth week either. By the end of fifth week (there are twelve sessions in all) she was really discouraged. She told Inez that she made a pact with herself about the sixth week. "If no-one talks to me," she promised herself. "I am not coming back."

When she came back after making the promise, someone finally came up to her, said hello, and asked her a few questions about herself and made her feel welcome. She told Inez how good that made her feel and she decided that she would finish the course. She had someone to talk to now, someone to connect to. She was no longer "alone" in that crowded room.

As Inez began the story, dark fuzzy memories had begun to stir in the nether reaches of my brain. By the time she had finished the story, I remembered the woman. And I remembered who it was who had talked to her. Inez knew, too. "It was you!" she declared to me right there in the grocery store.

"I won't keep you," Inez began to loosen her friendly grip and I knew I would soon be on my way again.

"I know you have to get going, but I just wanted you to be encouraged. God used you that day, and you probably didn't even know it. But what you did made a difference in someone's life." Inez went on to tell me that this person is going to a church in another city now and after being there for a short while, asked the leadership if she could be a "greeter". The church had never had greeters before, but she wanted to do all she could to make sure that everyone felt welcome.

I remember that day. I remember having the same feeling that I had when I heard my name called out in the grocery store this day. I had seen the woman sitting alone in that crowd and I knew I had to walk up to her and talk to her. I didn't want to do it. I wanted to stay put, just like I had obviously done for the previous 5 weeks. I wonder how many times God had tried to get through to me before I finally paid attention and responded with this simple act of obedience. I actually heard that still small voice, and chose that time, for some inexplicable reason, to succumb. As soon as I started talking to her, of course, it became easy, but I really do not like being the one to "break the ice".

Thank you Lord, for the grace to be obedient to you this time. How many times have you asked me to do simple things, small things, that really didn't seem at the time as though they would make much difference at all? But when you ask us to do something, you know what you're doing, don't you? How silly we are not to trust you! Thank you for the grace you gave me that night - the sixth night of Alpha - the grace to walk across that room.


And Lord? Bless that woman. Wherever she is tonight, bless her real good.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What Would Omie Do?

It is Tuesday night - cell group night - and Belinda is in England. It won't be the same. It couldn't be the same. But it is our last night of the Alpha program, and so we are to go ahead anyway, even without our hostess/friend/shepherdess of the flock.

I was the first to arrive. I saw Paul's jacket from work laid neatly across a chair in the glassed in front porch, so I knew he had been home, but his car was gone again, and so was he. The door had been left unlocked for us though, so I walked in, kicked off my shoes and put the pizza I had just picked up onto the counter. I gently moved Paul's copy of The Daily Light and his glasses off the kitchen table and began to get out the things that would be needed for supper. It seemed a little weird to be putzing about in Belinda's kitchen without Belinda there, but at the same time it felt very comfortable - knowing that this is what she would want me to do. Tiffany-Amber and Victoria must have heard me because they soon appeared with smiling faces and freshly washed hair to help raid the fridge for juice, pop, and ice-cold water. Together we put out cutlery and drinking glasses. I thought out loud about using the smaller plates, but one of the girls said, "Omie would use the big ones" and the other echoed, "Yeah, Omie would use the big ones". I reminded them about the royal blue apron she sometimes wears with "What would Oma do?" emblazoned in white across the front and we laughed together as we took out the big ones. What choice did we have? She would want to make sure we had ample room on our plates. Yup, that's exactly what Omie would do.

By the time the others started arriving on schedule, the table was all laid out and ready. Not quite like Belinda would do it, and certainly not with the same amount of bounty but fairly adequate none the less. Lesley-Ann came in with a big salad, Ann and Samantha with containers of Jamaican jerk chicken brought from the city. Neena arrived with the other Susan and Michelle and carrying freshly baked banana bread. Paul had hobbled in on painful limbs and we bowed our heads together while he said grace. Then we ate together, laughing and talking - first filling up those big plates and then emptying them again. Paul's sterner voice, rarely heard, and reluctantly used, interrupted the laughter of two little girls whose behaviour was getting carried away after being goaded on by some of the adults. Little did Grandad know it was really the older "girls" who should have been corrected! Everyone promptly reigned themselves in and Tiffany-Amber and Victoria kept their secret to themselves. No tattle-tales they! Paul was teased about being in the kitchen with nine women while his wife was away but there was absolutely no worry there!

We tidied up a bit before gathering in the more comfortable chairs to watch our last episode of Alpha together. We talked, and then Paul prayed again before we all cleaned up together. Once everything was put to right, some of us stayed to talk with Paul for another half hour before we all dispersed into the night.

On the way home I thought about how good it had been to be together. And I thought about how it almost felt like Belinda had been there too. And then I remembered... She would have been praying for us as we gathered that night. I chuckled out loud as the thought bubbled up. No wonder it felt like she was there! After the laughter came a big sigh. There's such comfort in knowing someone is so faithful that you can count on certain loving actions from afar. Of course we would have felt her prayers. Of course she would have been praying for God's blessing to settle over us. Of course.

Isn't that just what Omie would do?

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

The Best Mum in the Whole World

 
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Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Creature: New Habits

Romans 6:11
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

I believe that to some degree we decide who we will be. Recently when I got two speeding tickets in quick succession, I decided that it was time to become a non speeder; I just didn’t do it anymore.

Not long after deciding this, I was driving home from church on a Sunday morning with three friends who I had to drop off in a nearby town before going home. I needed to get home to finish preparing a big family dinner. A roast was in the oven and I was feeling under pressure and anxious about the timing of the meal.

One of my friends commented on a car that passed us at a high speed. “Gee,” she said, “Look at him; he’s in such a hurry. We’re not even keeping the speed limit and he’s speeding past us.”
I was shocked. I hadn’t realized that my foot was so heavy on the accelerator. This was the new me, after all; the one that didn’t speed. But there was a gap between “who” I was, and what I was doing.

I have heard that when giving up smoking, breaking the psychological habits associated with smoking is almost as hard as breaking the physiological dependence. We have many automatic habits, as I noticed when I gave up speeding.

Even when driving behind a car that was going the same speed as me, I would automatically check the lane to my left, and if there was a space, find myself moving into it. There was no logical reason for this; it was a reflex action. Even though I am disciplining myself to stick to the speed limit, that empty space on my left beckons!

On the other hand I have noticed that when you maintain the speed limit you influence others to do the same. Often people will tuck in behind me and suddenly I’m leading a convoy of people going a hundred kilometres an hour.

This morning somebody stayed behind me for a while, and then suddenly pulled out into the left lane and zoomed off up the highway. This is a metaphor for my life up to now; temporary living within boundaries with periodic lapses.

There are parallels too, with the elusiveness of transformation in Christ. Once I made the decision; once I became a non speeder and took that into my conscious identity I did adjust my life accordingly, however I must confess that reality is not lived out 100% of the time in my driving. I hope that more and more it will be; that my actions will be consistent with who I actually am.

Suddenly I understand that both things can be true at once. I died when Christ died, but I don’t always live as if that is true. I hope that my actions will be more and more consistent with my identity in Christ; a new creature with new habits.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Last Minute

“The Last Minute,” what would we do without it? If we are born with internal clocks, then mine must have been set 5 minutes late.

I have to admit that this is not coincidence but a bad habit, made worse by the fact that I try to cram as much as possible into any space of time. Leaving one place for another is something I find hard and typically I find myself rushing to do “just one more thing” before leaving.

Closely connected to this habit, is another; speeding. I didn’t think that I am a reckless driver, but shaving myself to the last minute meant that until recently, I usually drove under pressure.

A couple of months ago, after maintaining a clean driving record for many years, I got two speeding tickets within one month! I faced the reality that I needed to make some changes.
I made the decision to stop speeding; that I was no longer going to be a speeder. From then on, everything in my life adjusted to that decision. I calculated longer traveling times to get to places; added in a margin for unexpected delays—and began to arrive at my destinations, not just on time, but early.

I noticed an unexpected side effect of slowing down. I felt peaceful and relaxed; no more dashing into meetings last, scanning the room for an available seat. I liked the feeling of having time to spare.

At the same time Paul and I were reading, The Normal Christian Life, by Watchman Nee. Mr. Nee explained that based on Romans chapter 6, when Christ died, we were “in him,” being crucified “with him.” The book is about the difference between Christ’s death for the sins we committed in the past and our “sin nature“being crucified when Christ was crucified. The challenge was that while Mr. Nee’s theory lined up neatly with what Paul the apostle wrote at the beginning of his letter to the Romans chapter 6; we were confronted with a gap; the difference between what we read and our personal experience. We understood our need for grace for our sins, but we did not feel very dead to sins!

I discovered something from my new identity as a non-speeder that I believe has relevance to this puzzle. Stay tuned for my next post on this topic tomorrow.

Romans 6:5-7
If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Go As The Wind

God is our commander. We are to be as the wind, blown by the Holy Spirit wherever He would have us go.

I have many plans and hopes, ideas about how my day will go, with children, with my husband, with God Himself, and in my circumstances.

Often things don't turn out as I had expected. But I'm learning that this is not necessarily a bad thing. I am under construction and as is so often said, "God's plan is not to make me happy, but holy", and "He is more interested in my character than my comfort". And I do have an abundant measure of happiness and comfort in my life.

It really is all about expectations. If I have set out my wheelbarrow, donned my gloves and straw sun hat, equipped my small children with spades and pint sized watering cans, and my neighbor shows up...God has determined a different step for me than I had planned.
He took the disciples and made them fishers of men, instead of fishermen. Sometimes he takes me and sets me in a garden of neighbors who need tending, loving, encouraging in their circumstances...pour out some uplifting words, just listen as a heart is shared, nourish with scripture, bolster up a wilting one with a strong hug. The list is endless and is the work of the kingdom.

If I get up in the morning and set my day out in an orderly, pleasing fashion, God is bound to upset the apple cart. I think maybe He enjoys this, "Beloved, leave your agenda, your plans to please yourself and come sit by Me awhile. "
Then He sends his plans, and not always in advance, sometimes they just happen, an unexpected phone call, a sick child needing comfort, or not sick and just wanting Mommy to play, a new responsibility, a friend needing a ride somewhere.
God is the enabler and the director. When we yield, it is so good, and He blesses us in the midst of it all.

I have friends experiencing circumstances they didn't ask for; a spouse out of work, a car accident that totaled their vehicle, and the current need to work extra hours above and beyond full time in order to make ends meet.
Discouragement has been grasping at the hem of my friend's robes, trying to drag them down into self pity and depression. Life has not been easy.
But God is providing. He is faithful and is making a way. Character, perseverance and deep faith are being formed in these saints. And I am having the privilege of going along for the ride, as we pray and trust together. My faith is increasing too.
Nobody asks for difficulty but when we keep looking at Him and His intentions, we see the refining, and the helps He puts around us to nurture us through the circumstance. Then we can rise to the occasion, meet it face on, with faith in God's unfailing love and good purposes.

He will blow us where He will and form us in His image. We can strive against His molding, or yield to the Potter's hand.

" In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps". Proverbs 16:9

Monday, May 12, 2008

The New and Improved Alvechurch Public Library

Don't miss Belinda's post below! - Susan.

A Quick Hello

Dear Friends,
I am safely arrived in England, and am posting this from the brand new Alvechurch Public Library. Hey, last year Susan found a photo on-line of the old one. I wonder if she'll find one of the new library! A challenge for you Susan. :)

I have several blog posts in the making, but none ready to post yet. It has been more important to spend time with Mum and Robert and recover from the flight and a crazy week prior to the flight. I hope to have a post for Thursday (Ang Cat is up tomorrow and the library is closed on Wednesday--but there is an internet cafe not to far away--I'll do my best!)

Alvechurch in May is the closest thing to heaven on earth. My longed for bluebells are everywhere and the air is heavy with the fragrance of them, and also lilac and apple blossom. It is warm and sunny and so good to be here.

God be with everyone "over the pond!" I miss you and love you.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY TO ALL OF YOU

To you who has given birth and raised a child
To you who has nurtured another, given encouragement, shelter, a meal, a kind word, or a hand up along life's journey
To you who know the pain of a barren womb
To you who wait expectantly till your day comes

Happy Mother's Day to all who 'mother' and know the joy, challenges, and pain of care-taking. We lift our hearts and hands to you Jesus - to fill us, use us, teach us...may we walk with you on this journey. May we serve faithfully until our work on earth is done.


PART OF THIS MOTHER'S JOURNEY...JUST PASSING THROUGH

He looks at me, eyes hard, defiance set on his face. No words this time but every ounce of his energy is targeted in that glare. He turns and does what I ask. Not cheerfully, not with a willing heart, but because he dislikes the consequences which his inaction will generate.

I ponder the nature of this wiry, blond, eight-year old boy. He's full of youthful curiousity - so many questions, his innocence shines like the sun. He's rife with vitality and vigour, exploding with leaps and motion. When he's not angry or defiant, his eyes dance like fireworks. This young man is expectant, seeking adventure, allured by risk and challenge.

Somewhere along the way, I lost his honour and respect, his devotion and desire to please. Instead, anger brews below the surface, smoldering, ready to ignite at the slightest provocation. Words of blame, accuse; remarks muttered under sneers of rebellion, actions mock gentle counsel. He retaliates when his wishes aren't granted or immediate requests are denied.

How did we get here, this boy of mine and I? It doesn't seem that long ago that I scooped that toddling child up for hugs on the run, kissing his blond ringlets as his chubby hands squeezed my neck. He pulled me to and fro saying, "Mommy, come"

My love for him runs deep, he is a part of me. Beyond that I know I'v somehow contributed to his current state. In that same vein, I can, in God's love and in my love and humility encourage and lead him to another place.

I seek to restore what was lost. My eyes and heart are drawn to him and turn towards him. I long to hug him close but instead I read him. He's not willing today. My boy-man is finding his identity, his place in this world. He pushes me away for now, and needs to muddle in this space.

Loving Father, teach me to be a mom to this boy-man. You have work for Him to do, people to touch, many pages still to be written in his book. May I respect who You made Him to be, love him in the way You do, unconditionally. Help me to have fun with him, smile at him more, enjoy him. Give me wisdom to garner his respect again and wait expectantly for His return. We're passing through territory that requires prayerful caution, and reckless loving abandon.


Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering,for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds... Hebrews 10:22-24 NASV

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Journey Continues

Dear Friends,
Lana-Joy sent an email to some friends and family and when it was passed on to me, I wrote and asked her if I could publish it because there is so much in what she says, that would help others. She said that if so, I could gladly publish it. So here it is:

I decided to send out one last email to everyone to share how and what Jonathan and I are doing and let you know where we are going from here. From here on in I will no longer be sending out group emails to everyone unless something unusual happens.

Since Jeff passed away Jonathan and my lives have changed forever. It is hard to wrap my head around what has happened and equally hard to absorb it all. When asked, "How are you?" it is not easy to quickly respond. Some images come to mind in attempting to answer this question.

The first image is that of a big heavy bucket of sadness. I received this bucket when Jeff died and many of you have received a bucket of sadness too. The only way to lighten the weight of my bucket is to cry it empty. Usually, I'm fine when talking to people but if I do start to cry please don't feel bad. You are giving me a gift by helping me empty my bucket of sadness.

Unless I indicate otherwise please don't hug me. I don't need to be hugged every time I'm sad, I just need to be given the freedom to feel sad and cry when I need to.

The other image that comes to mind about how I'm feeling is the picture of running waist deep in water. You move forward, something is happening but it feels funny, off balance, more effort than usual and not quite right.

Many people are wondering about Jonathan, how he is feeling and what he understands. I've explained to Jonathan that his Daddy has died,that he is gone to heaven and he won't come home again. Jonathan uses all these words but I do not believe he understands what they mean. Jonathan does not ask for his Daddy but he still prays for him at nightwhen he goes to sleep. He says, "Thank you God for Mommy, Daddy, Elmer, Jane etc." I do not comment on his prayers but just tell him I love him.

Jonathan has been more concerned about me lately wanting to know where I am and he often asks ,"Is Mommy sad?"

I tell him I am sad but that I still love him. I ask him if he is sad sometimes and he says, "Yes."

In all that has happened I can see things to be thankful for. Jonathan and I are very blessed to have 2 supportive families who are keeping a close eye on us and helping in many ways. Thank you so much!

I appreciate how our families helped out immediately the week Jeff died and that they are also looking to the future with me and helping sort out what is ahead too. I am also so thankful that Jeff and I had our affairs in order. If you don't have a will, life insurance or specific plans to care for your family get going! Don't be foolish or selfishly afraid of your own mortality but be sure to look after the people you love.

So where are we going from here? I need a little time to catch my breath and get some rest. It will be hard to find a new routine for Jonathan and I. Things will be different, we have no choice in that. Each day that passes takes us a little farther away from Jeff but that is the way of life as much as I wish I could choose otherwise.

Don't take life for granted, we will all be following close on Jeff's heels; what you do does matter.

All my love LanaJoy

Friday, May 09, 2008

Letter from England

David sent the following to us in an email this week. As you know from last week's post, he is in England as a student taking part in a six week study tour. I believe I mentioned last week that David is on the autism spectrum. But the following made me think about who really has the disability? Susan.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Although I am pretty wowed and excited about this trip, there is also this weight on me that I'm feeling. I feel somewhat sad and depressed as well. Part of it I guess is this sense of desperation that I have for the people around me. They don't know Christ, and they have no idea about the life that God intended us to have. I have compassion for them. Please pray for me that I can be a good witness for God in this place.

It's very different than when I was living at Newman House. (Note from Susan: Newman House is a Roman Catholic community where David lived this past year at Queen's). How did we get to be a society that only seems to question morality, and never questions it to build it except when we can use certain values to destroy others in a hippocritical fashion? Haven't you ever noticed how those who shout "tolerance" the loudest not only badly define tolerance if they define it at all, but they usually don't even show any toward those people that they accuse? I'm sure society has always had this problem.

Today, I was part of a conversation at a table at lunch. One girl talked about how her boyfriend always ends up in her bed against her parents direction and another said, "awww" as if it was supposed to be good and beautiful, but I know that there is nothing good or beautiful about that. He loves her right? What makes it beautiful is that it shows his affection, right?

Wrong. Love shows respect. Love keeps its distance until it is ready. You never just go up and kiss a girl you like and expect her to be ok with it, even if she was hoping it would one day happen. Love keeps its distance until it is ready. Love stays pure, does it not? Also, where was the honour in sneaking to her room? Where was the honour in disobeying her parents? I kept this to myself, because I do not judge her. I am no better off on my own and I will admit it! But it is just very saddening to me that it is so difficult for the people around me to see the truth of these things.

I read in Proverbs recently that a foolish man will hate you if you correct him and it would do him harm, but a wise man it would help and he would love you for it. How true that is, but how sad as well. I can only have faith that Jesus can help the blind to see, but the sad thing is this: When they do see, will they still choose to be blind?

Please pray for me that I can be a good witness here. Please pray that I can show people that it is good to have moral boundaries. Please pray. Please.

Love, David.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stuff

The house was filled with family, as it often is on Sunday afternoons. But seven year old Stephen was all alone in the den, stretched out in a wing backed recliner, set almost to a horizontal position, watching the hockey game on the big screen TV. He looked like the king of the castle. He could not have looked more satisfied if he were stretched out on a beach in Hawaii.

When Paul came in, Stephen looked around the room and said, "Grandad, how did you get all of this stuff?"

Paul said, "It took a very long time. And remember Stephen, it is just stuff."

His brother and sisters were playing in the next room with their cousins, but Stephen was pondering life and the aquisition of material goods.

When Paul told me this story, we laughed at Stephen's curiosity. God has blessed us with a beautiful home; in trust. It is really his.

We try to make it a place of welcome and it is a well used house where no one worries too much if things get scratched or broken. Nothing matches too perfectly, but everything is well loved; the air is filled frequently with the aroma of large dinners cooking; and its walls hold the echoes of laughter, voices raised in prayer and of many friendly conversations.

And that is the "stuff "after all, that really matters.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (New International Version)
9However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him"
— 10but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Look into Their Eyes (The Key to Compassion)

It was a chaotic morning in the Furuya household. It began with Frances waking with a start from a deep sleep, at the sound of her teenage son Jacob's voice.

"Mom, I slept in," he said, leaning over her with his flaming halo of red hair and serious brown eyes.

Usually Jacob gets up at 7.00 and wakes Frances up, but on this day, it was 8.15 and he was late for school.

Frances got up right away, rushing to get the girls, Summer and Eden to their public school. She was late dropping them off and had to sign them in at the office.

Summer went off into the school by herself, and Frances and Eden were about to leave the office, when they found the doorway blocked by two small girls, on their way in.

"You need to step aside," thought Frances, already out of sorts with the way the day had gone so far. Her thoughts found voice in a cool, "Excuse me please," aimed at the girls.

Frances was focused on the two little round bodies in the doorway. She saw orange T shirts and sneakers, but she didn't look in their eyes.

When she did raise her gaze to their eyes, she saw that one of them was crying and she was telling Eden that her mother had been in a car accident.

The office staff took care of the girls, but as Frances went on with Eden to drop her at her class, she could see Eden's anxiety building. She said, "I know that girl's mommy," and added with a wail, "I miss Brandy and Dawn."

(Brandy and Dawn are Eden's older sisters who live in the Maritimes. The emotions stirred by the distress of the girls at the school office, were spilling over.)

Frances's eyes filled with tears too; tears of increasing conviction at her quick, cold response.

Back at home, she finally sat down with her devotional book. The scripture for that day was from the book of James, and all about faith without works being dead.

She thought about the moment when she went from seeing the girls just as obstacles in her path, to seeing them as flesh and blood little people; it was the moment when she raised her gaze and looked into their eyes.

James 1:2-4 (New International Version)
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 2:26 (New International Version)
26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.


The Gardener

Ang Cat's post, A Variant Garden, reminded me of this poem that I wrote many years ago.

Precious flower in God's garden
He has placed you in my care
Bid me water you with kindness
And to nurture you with prayer
Tell you of the gentle Gardener
With his hands all scarred with love
How we'll live one day forever
In his garden up above
And though weeds may try to choke you
And your head be bowed by storm
In his tender care he'll guard you
Ever keeping you from harm

Belinda

A Variant Garden

I'm still in my garden, planting, toiling over the arduous work of ripping out sod to replace it with vegetables. Frank sweated alongside me yesterday, digging, grasping, pulling, trying not to put his back out.
But yesterday I was privileged to do a different kind of gardening, as Nicky and I joined the kindergartens at school for the afternoon.
Miss Veenstra gave me the job of helping to make Mother's Day crafts (apologetically saying "Sorry Ang, you get to see this ahead of time").
That was okay, for it delighted my heart to sit with each little child, a flower in God's own garden, and start the task.
I had to trace their hands, and they had to color. Eliana's Mommy would do the cutting out later. As I traced fingers, the unique handiwork of God was evident. Some hands were large and strong, others with long fingers, another dainty, petite. Skin tones ranged from pearly white to olive, and brown. A rainbow of wiggly digits pressed on the page as I outlined, little voices saying "that tickles", smiles radiating from all shades of brown, blue and hazel eyes.

Each colored in their own style, some meticulous in detail, others leaving broad splashes of color, taking but a moment before rushing on to their next activity.

They were like a riot of sunflowers, splashes of daisies, marigolds, black eyed Susans and some very sturdy shrubs.

A journey of joy with many involved, planting, nurturing, watering. Miss Veenstra was firm and loving, directing, teaching, admonishing when necessary and always calm.

I like working this soil. It's fresh and open to what is being planted. The fruit is beautiful and has a sweet fragrance. Yes, you have to pluck weeds out, we all know that 4 and 5 year olds can have a mind of their own, but they were movable. Sometimes they needed transplanting during circle time as the plant they were beside was too companiable, or not beneficial to their growth for that moment.
I love the analogies.

We are all His garden and I'm glad for His tending.
Give me fertile soil dear Father Gardener. Prune me where I need it so I can bear fruit for Your Kingdom. That's really all it's about isn't it...to shine for You.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Fish Feared Him

A Fish Story written by Gloria Sewell

Jeff and Lana Joy Wierdsma have always loved the great outdoors and together they spent time canoeing the waters of many parks across Ontario. Anyone who knew Jeff well was aware that he loved to fish, his line was in the water “trolling” as they paddled along. Picture him in that big black cowboy hat, a smile as wide as life, looking a little bit like the lone ranger! We have a special memory of Jeff when he came with Lana Joy to Red Pine Lake in the Haliburton Highlands to visit and have dinner at our humble cottage, that is accessible only by boat.

Bruce & I are not fishermen, although we love a good a feed of fresh fish! Bruce always jokes with people that his idea of fishing is a trip to the Red Lobster. However, we have a Golden Retriever who shares Jeff’s passion for fishing. As soon as she gets let out of the cottage in the morning she heads straight for the lake through the morning mist. Gelert will spend as much as 4 or 5 hours standing in the water patiently watching the little rock bass in the shallow waters at the shore line. They taunt her, watching with their beady red eyes, opening and closing their mouths as if mocking her, swimming right up to her feet without fear. Gelert whines, wags her tail; pursues the fish relentlessly hour after hour, stalking, then swimming after them. She never tires of this game all summer long, year after year she goes back into the water to fish with out success.

Gelert looked up from her fishing one beautiful summer afternoon, there in the distance was Jeff & Lana Joy Wierdsma paddling into the bay. If you listen closely you can hear music, like in a movie when the hero enters the scene. Jeff got his long legs out of the canoe on to the dock and his fishing line was in the water within minutes. The rock bass love to hide on hot summer days among a few big old logs at the end of our dock. It wasn’t long before Jeff pulled out his first rock bass! “Gelert” was ecstatic and watched the fish wiggle in Jeff’s big hand as he pried the hook from the slippery fellow. A few moments later back into the water it was released, much to “Gelert’s” disappointment. Well this went on for several hours during the day, Jeff pulling them out one after the other, the dog wagging her tail joyfully by his side admiring his every move. It was as if she perceived Jeff as some sort of fish “God” looking at him in awe wondering how he accomplished this marvel so effortlessly.

Our afternoon ended all too soon, the sun slid lower in the sky cooling the air with the scent of sweet pine. We started to think about dinner and began gathering up the empty glasses and bottles, heading up to the cottage. Jeff dropped his line into the lake one last time snagging it into one of those old logs at the end of the dock. Unfortunately the line broke when Jeff tried to free it from the log and he lost his lure. I didn’t realize that losing a lure is a traumatic event for fishermen, a type of fishing emergency! Jeff considered going after it but it was late in the day getting pretty cool by now. Jeff’s appetite for dinner may have also been a factor in his decision to leave the lure. He mentioned his sorrow several times that evening but managed to console him self in the enjoyment of dinner and a cold beer. I learned from Lana Joy that he talked about coming back for that lure many times.

Jeff was the kind of guy who had a “big” presence. When he walked into a room or out on to a dock, his infections smile and booming laughter filled the space around him; endearing him to others, (pause) but fish feared him!

In memory of Jeff

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Stories Passed Down...

I first saw it from the air, a snaking pattern of dark murky brown, obviously a river. When we arrived in Winnipeg, I quickly learned that there are two rivers flowing through Winnipeg. The Red River runs north and south and the Assiniboine, west and east. They meet at what is called, "The Forks", a modern-day shopping area for tourists. In the past, a trading post for the Hudson's Bay Company sprung up conveniently in this place.

A trip to the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature confirmed the rich history of Manitoba. The Red and Assiniboine Rivers were used as routes to get to the great plains where bison were hunted by the natives. Explorers traded furs along these rivers and received pemmican and other provisions from the natives.

We value history and seek to perserve it.

As six of us toured the museum, I watched how we were all captivated by various points of interest and I thought of our visit here and why we came. Barbara and Catherine shared that Aunt Bernice travelled to Moose Factory before she got married. For one and a half years she worked at the mission, sharing Christ and teaching. She got sick and had to return home.At another centre in the museum, some of us made canoes amd shared more of ourselves.It's about knowing one another, drawing closer, sharing stories, one generation to the next.

It was my Uncle John who pointed out relationship a few days ago. As he pushed his walker through the Personal Care Home, he said to me, "There are three generations represented here", and I nodded, "ÿes".
I looked at he and my Aunt Bernice and then at his two daughters, Barbara and Catherine, and thought about Catherine's husband Don and their children, Erin and Ally. I thought about Hannah and I and the families we represent.

We've shared a lot of stories over our visit - some humerous, some painful and some just facts. Each of us have a journey that winds through time, snaking through terrain rough and smooth. On the plane, I could see so much of the river's path.Yet on the ground I could just see the murky water- swirling, churning, flowing. I know now that the snaking river is the Red River that starts in North Dakota and ends at Hudson's Bay. Not because of what I saw and experienced but because of what I heard - a truth passed down.

Stories told. Experiences shared. Feelings expressed. So it goes. Like the Red River, we tell our stories and we link generation to generation. We learn of God's faithfulness in the past. We speak of it, an know more of His greatness, His power, His goodness, and mercies and we meditate upon Him and praise His name.

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Thy works to another, And shall declare Thy mighty acts. Psalm 145: 3-4

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Be Unto Your Name

In Memory of Jeff Brent Wierdsma
April 8, 1975-April 28, 2008

Be Unto Your Name
(Click on post title to play)

Verse 1:
We are a moment, You are forever
Lord of the Ages,God before time
We are a vapor,You are eternal
Love everlasting, reigning on high

Chorus:
Holy, holy, Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
Highest praises, honor and glory
Be unto Your name, be unto Your name


Verse 2:
We are the broken, You are the healer
Jesus, Redeemer, Mighty to save
You are the love song we'll sing forever
Bowing before You, blessing Your name
(Chorus)

Robin Mark

**************************************
It was a gray day. A blustery wind blew and rain fell in sheets as car after car arrived, filling the parking lot to overflowing at First Christian Reformed Church in Orillia. There was standing room only as we gathered to remember Jeff Wierdsma and celebrate a life that was achingly short. Jeff was battling cancer but it was a rare reaction to the drugs used in the chemo that caused irreversible damage to his lungs and his death. Our hearts go out to Lana-Joy, little Jonathan and their family. To get to know Jeff through the memories of friends, you can visit http://www.jeffwierdsma.blogspot.com/

One thing was evident from the memorial service; Jeff's life was full. It was full of faith, friends and family; the things that matter. Although he was so young (33 years old), he left a legacy that any one of us would be proud to leave; memories of laughter, kindness and courage. And this life, after all, is so short.

From the back of the bulletin:
Question 1 from the Heidelberg Catechism
What is your only comfort in life and in death?

Answer:
That I am not my own,
but belong -
body and soul,
in life and in death -
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his
precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of
the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for
my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and
ready
from now on to live for him.

Friday, May 02, 2008

He's In Good Hands...

"I'm scared, Mom."

He was scared all right. I could see it in his eyes and in how his body moved through the airport - just a little hunched, like he was afraid something was going to come at him that he didn't expect. We were walking through the new Terminal 1 at Pearson International Airport. He wore the new jacket I had bought for him at Costco on the way to the airport in my last burst of mother-fussing before he would be gone and there was nothing more I could practically do. The jacket was the top half of a rain suit, perfect for the kind of weather one can expect in England. The bottom half of the suit was safely stowed in his duffel bag soon to be on its way to the belly of the giant airplane he was getting ready to board.

"I'll be praying for you," I said. "You'll be okay. God's brought you this far..."

"Yeah," he said bravely. "I'm scared, but I'm still going."

David has just finished his second year at Queen's. He was captured by the idea as soon as heard about the opportunity to go to a castle in England for a six week study term and let himself begin to dream. He filled out an application and as soon as he was accepted, he applied for a bursary to help with the cost. He filled out the forms on his own, calling us often for guidance, reassurance and a lot of affirmation that it was a dream we thought he should pursue. We talked to him about the difficulty someone on the autism spectrum would have in getting through airport security; how stressful it might be to find the right seat on the right plane, and not to mention finding his way around a strange airport in a strange country to end up, finally, at the right destination. We thought it would be best if one of his parents traveled with him. David knew he needed some help, but he didn't need our help. He approached Disability Services on campus and got the name of someone his own age who was also going on the trip - someone who would watch out for him and was willing to provide the support he might need. "Peer support". Yup, our Davy is growing up.

We met El-amin at the airport, just under a massive grey pillar marked "J" and next to the Air Canada counter. It was still half an hour before they could register for their boarding passes so we had a bit of time to get acquainted with him and his parents who had come along to see him off. El-amin was an only child, I soon found out from his lovely, doting mother, whose head was wrapped in a beautiful scarf. He was very self assured and told me that he was a philosophy major, just finishing his third year.

"Do you believe all that stuff they teach you?" I smiled at him.

He laughed in reply. "No, not any more. I did during my first year, but it didn't take long to realize that all these cool things that sound like the truth, can't all be the truth. You have to sort things through for yourself." (I instantly made a promise to myself to pray for this young man that he would indeed find The Truth.)

We visited for a while and then his friend Emily arrived. She was just as friendly and accepting as El-amin. I stood and visited with her parents while the three students procured their boarding passes and then stood in line to check their baggage.

We parents were all excited and obviously apprehensive a little about sending our children across the ocean, even if it was just for six weeks. We exchanged stories and got to know each other a bit. El-amin and Emily led David through the baggage checking process and I was relieved to see them take his bag across the counter, having feared all this time that it was overweight and not knowing what we'd do if it was.

Rejoined by our children, we left the baggage checking area and drifted over to Gate 8, where we would be saying our final goodbyes. We were joined by a few other students who were on the same study trip and knew each other from school. We all hung together for a bit longer, looking at the planes out the window, and then suddenly everyone was hugging and kissing, and saying their farewells.

I couldn't believe what a warm and wonderful young man was El-amin. His parents told me that one of his jobs on campus was to welcome International students helping them to adjust to life in Canada on a strange campus. He seemed instinctively to have just the right idea of how much support David needed, while at the same time giving him enough space to maintain his self esteem.

"C'mon, Dave. This way." El-amin and Emily waited for David to catch up before they all three disappeared behind the sliding doors where they would undergo their security checks. David turned to give me a characteristically stiff hug and then he was gone.

We parents all looked at each other, suddenly bereft of our children. I could see worry and concern behind their smiles and in the reassuring comments they made to one another.

"They'll be all right," they kept saying over, and over.

I had a sense that I wasn't quite fitting in to the situation somehow. I was actually feeling a bit guilty that I wasn't more worried - like these other parents. Here was my kid with a fairly significant disability headed across the ocean for six weeks. Wouldn't a "good" parent show the same concern as these others? My kid has a disability and I wasn't worried. Yet, all the parents of these "typically developing" kids obviously were.

I thought about it as we all parted ways and I headed back to the parking garage, but it wasn't until I was telling the story to Belinda on my cell phone on the way home that all my feelings began to gel. God had provided El-amin - and Emily, and he would meet all of David's other needs as well. I wasn't worried at all.

Of course I wasn't worried. David is sometimes overwhelmed with anxiety. He struggles in social situations. And he's headed for England. But unlike the other parents in that terminal, my kid knows who to call on in times of trouble when I'm not there.

And I know exactly in Whose hands he is in.

"For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth." Psalm 71:5

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." Jeremiah 17:7

Godspeed, Davy-boy!