Monday, June 30, 2008

Angel in a Fur Coat

Glad eyes, that's what he has, Molson, this friend of mine with golden hair and lolling tongue.

We run from the house into the evening air, his nails tap-tap-tap-tapping lightly on the pavement as my feet thud-thud beside him.

He dances with exuberant joy at being "out." Jumping high, he catches his red leash in his mouth and tugs me along; pulling it as if he is playing a joke, pretending that it is he taking me for the walk. He is so HAPPY and he communicates that with every fibre of his being and glance of his glad eyes.

The first rush of excitement settles and he trots forward with focus, pacing his trot perfectly to my stride. He is a gentleman of a dog, disciplined and well bred.

He reads the ground with his nose and leaves messages behind for others who will follow. He looks as if he is about very serious business. I don't hurry him; it seems a small thing to wait when he is such good company.

On Friday evening the village is a-buzz with lawnmowers. It seems that people are getting a head start on the weekend chores. I inhale the scent of fresh mown grass.

On Saturday the sound of backyard fun fills the air, as if, the chores done, it is time to enjoy the weekend. From behind hedges and fences come the sound of children's voices, laughter, and the splash of water in backyard pools. The appetizing smell of meat grilling on a barbecue tantalizes my nose.

On Sunday night we walk under a rosy sky as God slowly pulls the blanket of evening over the village. We pass a house with the garage lit up and the front door open. Lawn chairs sit deserted outside and from a stereo inside the garage comes the mournful, wailing sound of a country song. As we pass, the music gradually fades from our ears.

Along the way I catch the scent of blossom from a nearby tree. I walk closer and stop to smell a sprig. It is Molson's turn to wait patiently. If he wonders what I can find to smell on a tree when all the good smells are on the ground, he doesn't show it. He knows the first rule of friendship; acceptance.

Tonight we leave the house later than usual and blue sky and fluffy salmon pink clouds are fading quickly into dusk.

We run and I hear his tags jingling and his ears thudding he shakes his head.

I shout, "Hi" to a neighbour.

"Can I see your dog?" he asks, walking towards us past the sprinkler out front on his lawn.

"He's the best dog in the world," I say,

"Not a mean bone in his body."

"I had a golden myself," he says.

"He got old and we had to put him down just three months ago. His name was Gatesby."

"I'm so sorry. What a perfect name."

He is squatting beside Molson now and Molson is sitting while he pets him. He fingers his tag with the cross of St. John's Ambulance.

"He's a therapy dog," I tell him.

"He visits seniors now. He's working his way up to visiting group homes. "

"Ah, they will love him," he says.

We say goodbye and walk on. The air carries the fragrant scent of wood -smoke from a backyard bonfire. Firecrackers go off intermittently; it is the eve of Canada Day. Molson doesn't react—he's so not high strung.

His cold, wet nose and mouth rub my hand in a sign of love.

As we walk on, fireflies flash in the ditches.

I think of Gatesby, and Eric, my friend Dave's dog, and Irene's Henry, who were such faithful friends while they lived; and Molson, who is still fulfilling his assignment to love his people unconditionally.

And I wonder if maybe dogs earn wings like Clarence the angel in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life.

I see a lot of God in dogs: Faithfulness, unconditional love and quick forgiveness.

I am grateful for the four-legged friend sent to be our angel in a fur coat.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Words

Words spoken.

Not to be taken back. Released from imperfect hearts.

Words encourage, build, comfort, heal.

Words discourage, tear down, hurt, and destroy.

Words have such power - from our tongue and in print.

I know one day we'll give account for every foolish word we have spoken. My reckoning will be very long, I figure. I trust in Him and am glad that I will stand before God alone as judge.

Proverbs is full of exhortations, admonishings, warnings, and counsel about how we speak. Lately I have been trying to speak life into others by choosing words that edify and encourage. I have been doing a lot of thinking on the verse, "The power of life and death are in the tongue."

Such a big responsibility we have. So often we fall short of speaking words of life and blessing. Other times we encourage, build, minister and we come away so blessed to have been able to do that for others.

I think of the times I have been encouraged in my life. What a blessing those words have been and how they did speak life into who I am. I also think of the harsh words, the bitter, and the hurtful ones. Sometimes they still hurt and taunt. Words are powerful.

This week-end we have been packing for vacation. A lot must be done. My words this week-end have not been characterized by blessing. I am sorry. I grieve. I have the assurance of forgiveness but I can't take back my words. Damage has been done. I must trust in God's mercy and His grace for myself and the ones I love. He is faithful. I am glad, I will become a better steward of my words. I know I will strive. Because of Him, I look forward to more success. Right now, I have regrets.

I meditate on James 3: 2-10

"For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what He says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well...Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell...But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing..."

Lord, may we be more mindful of the words we speak. May we build up, encourage, and edify others, especially those we love the most. Lord, help us to speak blessing rather than cursing. Help us to speak life into others, not death. Lord, I thank you for forgiveness, mercy, and grace. I thank you that you are the healer.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Emails... (Love Lifted Me)

Susan writes:

..there's a big war going on over me. I'm not sure if it's inside me or all around me. I know there's good stuff God put into me, but I feel like there's just too much to fix, you know? Even when I do my best to submit to Him and to allow the conforming process, I still fail miserably. Which wouldn't be so bad if it was just me, but it hurts people. I feel like life is just a series of hurting others and being hurt. Being hurt and hurting others. It cycles over and over and over... I guess I shouldn't try to guess what is too much hurt for other people, should I? I guess it's for them to decide if the good outweighs the bad. You lose some, but you find out eventually who your true friends and companions of the journey are, don't you?

Belinda:

<I guess I shouldn't try to guess what is too much hurt for other people, should I?> There's a lot unsaid between those words, but they are true. A war may be waging, but please don't concede defeat.

Susan:

Concede defeat? Hmmm. That's an option, I suppose...

But where else would I go? What would I do? Jump in the pit? Cover myself with darkness?

The only real option I can see is that I have to try to follow the Good Shepherd and hope that he either waits up for me, or leaves the ninety and nine if needs be and comes back to find me..

It's the only hope I have...

Post Script:

I get up to wash my face. My days of mourning are over.

The south wind blows; the sound of the turtledove can be heard in the land..

I am black but comely and what's that?

I hear the voice of my Beloved...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Technical Difficulties

I know, you are expecting and looking forward to Susan's regular Friday night post, but tonight she is enjoying a special family gathering. Susan will be back tomorrow evening!
So here's another slice of life from, as my friend Dave would put it, "Belinda-land."


It was two weeks ago that our Whirlpool Gold dishwasher had a breakdown. Up until then it had purred along with a discrete and polite swooooshing, but suddenly no more swoooosh! Instead, a nasty gasping, coughing and choking sound was coming from my trusty mainstay.
At the same time a puddle of water spread over our wood laminate kitchen floor and dripped through the ceiling of the apartment below.
I sopped and mopped as quickly as possible but the wood laminate planks still rose up in protest at the flood.
It happened on a Sunday, and that evening when the folks who meet here for the Sunday night small group study heard about it, two of the guys, Roger and Mark, were on it like sour cream on a baked potato! They studied the appliance with eyes narrowed, and asked serious questions like doctors diagnosing a patient.
"It's ok," I assured them, "I'll be calling an appliance repair man first thing in the morning." Ha!
AAA Appliance Sales and Service, was the first name I found in the book. Andrew arrived on Monday evening. He opened it up and looked around inside and said, "It says Whirlpool on the outside, but this is a Bosch." He spent an hour and a half on the patient looking for the serial and model number and diagnosing the problem. It needed a new hose. I had somehow misplaced my owners manual, which I had been looking at just that morning, and we could not find the model or serial number anywhere on the machine. This was a problem, but Andrew left saying that he would do his best to find a replacement hose.
The next day Andrew's wife called to say that without the model or serial number it was a hopeless situation and to give her a call back if I found it.
Over the next week I had other distractions but kept looking for the book intermittently. Fortunately, the two of us don't make piles of dirty dishes.
Sunday came and the small group guys wanted an update. How was the dishwasher? Did I get it fixed? I was amazed at their kind concern and realized that some guys just can't stand to see something broken. I gave my report on the mystery of a Bosch inside a Whirlpool case. Roger nodded sagely and muttered something about globalization and takeovers. He recommended a parts place that has "every thing."
On Monday I moved some papers and there was my owners manual. Yahoo! I called AAA Appliances again and gave them the two numbers written in the book. They weren't the right numbers. Rose (we were on a first name basis by now) suggested that I call Whirlpool and kindly gave me their number. She said she knew of the parts place that had "everything" and they used them. I asked her to send me a bill for the time Andrew had invested. "Oh no," she said, "We didn't fix it, so there's no charge."
I called Whirlpool Canada and ended up in one of those horrible automated phone mazes. I did get two pieces of information from the robotic voice at the other end of the line though. A) There was no point at all going further into the maze if I didn't have the model and serial number and B) these are located on the side of the rim around the dishwasher door!
So this morning as Paul was leaving for work I told him where the numbers are hidden. I had already looked and realized that it wasn't going to be simple to read them. That edge of the door is in a corner and the numbers hard to read.
Paul got down on his hands and knees and called for reading glasses. I stood by like a nurse in an operating room. "These glasses aren't strong enough, pass me the other ones," he said, and I handed him another pair of the dollar store glasses that are scattered over our house.
He started to read out numbers and I wrote them down. We had no idea what they meant, but we had numbers. After Paul left for work I got the magnifying mirror that I use for putting on makeup and studied the numbers again. It wasn't easy, as all of the numbers and letters were in mirror image, but I made sure we had them all and had them right.
I thought about the phone maze at Whirlpool and my list of 7 different numbers. How would I sort out which one they wanted with no human being on the other end?
I called Rose at AAA Appliances again! We laughed about dim eyes and she confessed that she has a ruler that she bought from the dollar store. In the middle there is a line that magnifies numbers. She uses it to do the books. She promised to give the numbers to Andrew and see what he could do with them.
The dishwasher is still not working, but folks, if you need repairs, go to AAA Appliances, they are nice people.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

Psalm 105:1-2 (New International Version)
1 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
2 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderfulacts.
They sat, one on either side of me on the couch in our dark olive green room. In the background, the clock on the wall, in its beautiful case of maple, ticked away the seconds and minutes, but for the moment we were oblivious to that.

Tiffany-Amber and Victoria were engaged in a favourite activity with their Omie; reading a story together from a book by Peter Black, entitled, Parables from the Pond.

The book is a delightful collection of parables for children, set in a place called, The Commonwealth of the Pond.

The pond is populated by all manner of wild creatures with names and personality. The life lessons and character questions are thought provoking enough to interest this adult, but simple enough for children.
Tonight we read a story entitled, Thanksgiving--Amidst Global Warming.

At the end of the story, we were asked to consider matters for which we could give thanks to our Heavenly Father for his mercy and grace, even in the midst of disturbing things going on in our world.

I asked the girls what they were thankful for. Victoria quickly answered, "A house to live in, family and food." Tiffany-Amber, our little environmentalist, said, "That blue thing around the earth--the atmosphere; plants, animals, birds." This is the child who wrote on her bio for her piano recital that her favourite thing to do in the world, is to pretend to be an animal.

Tiffany-Amber's thanksgivings reminded me of a poem I wrote some years ago, so I grabbed the old, red journal it lives in, and read it out loud to the girls. Victoria said that it was so good it sounded like it came out of a book. So I share it here as my personal thanksgiving.

Lord your love is evident, everywhere I look
When you were making this fair earth
What tender care you took
You could have made the birds talk
As plain, as plain could be
But joyous, cheerful melodies
Ring from tree to tree
The sky so blue above us
Your love did hang in place
Without earth's special atmosphere
We'd stare right into space
In every sight, in every sound
Your love is there; outpoured
Oh, how I want to thank you
My great Creator, Lord
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Of Human Hearts

Mark 3:5 (New Living Translation).
5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!

I was driving across that glorious stretch of country to Collingwood this morning. The bright sunshine lit up the land in all of its early summer newness and the waters of Georgian Bay were a match for the Meditteranean in vivid turquoise and lavender hues.

As I drove I listened to the New Testament on DVD, which Irene gave me for my birthday. Her aim was to help me with The Marathon of Biblical Proportions, the schedule of reading through the Bible in a year that some of us are on.

While I find that my concentration drifts occasionally and I don't hear every word, I enjoy the soothing sound of the reader's voice and I find that I pick up on different things when I'm listening than I do when reading.

For instance, the other day, when listening to Matthew chapter 15 I noticed a conversation Jesus had with Peter:

15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”
16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.


I just thought that was so interesting in light of Acts chapter 10, the account of Peter's vision, which was in process while the servants of Cornelius the Roman centurion, a Gentile, were on their way to find him:

11 He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. 12 In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. 13 Then a voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
14 “No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean."
15 But the voice spoke again: “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean.” 16 The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was suddenly pulled up to heaven.


Peter was just like the rest of us, he needed to have a lesson repeated a couple of times before he got it.

Today what hit me, were two references to the hardening of the heart. The first was about the Pharisees who were outraged because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. They cared more for The Law than the spirit of the law, and the second was about divorce, which Jesus said Moses only allowed in response to the hardness of people's hearts.

These references tie back to the conversation Jesus had with Peter about not getting hung up on the laws about what goes into the body, but to consider the heart and the defilement that lurks within; the spots of black hardness that can so easily creep over a heart like black spots of mold in the corners of a musty bathroom.

I know about hard hearts from personal experience; I've had one. It was built by self justification, anger, a sense of inferiority and self protection to name but a few of the ingredients. There is only one cure. Radical heart surgery by One know as The Great Physician. I've had the surgery but a relapse is possible if I don't keep my heart tender to God.

Ezekiel 11:19 (New Living Translation)
19 And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart,

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hearts and Flowers

I noticed how He loves today,
When through my garden gazing.
He sends us hearts in every form.
Their beauty sweet, amazing.














This plant heart in tender green,
A lightest, frilly hue.
Another dark leafed violet,
Spells out "I love you".














The bleeding heart,
Bold pink and white
Drips broken
On the vine.














I'm overwhelmed,
By all He gave
To me.
Oh love divine.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Garnet Ring

I was almost ready to leave, just a few last things to do before heading out to work, when the phone rang. On the other end was Lori Lei, one of my co-workers. She said, "Belinda, did you think the training started at 9.30?"

"Yes."

"No, Belinda, it starts at 9.00! Greg said he thought he'd heard you say it started at 9.30 and I thought I'd better call you so you wouldn't be embarrassed by being late."

"Oh my goodness--thank you! I'll be right there."

With a mixture of gratitude and panic, my relaxed departure was forgotten as I shouted a frantic goodbye to Paul and grabbed my rings, which I always take off when I come home; along with car keys and purse and two other sets of keys. Susan had left those behind the night before at cell group.

As I made a dash to the car I was putting on my rings and fumbling for my car keys.

I sat behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition, while noticing that my garnet ring was missing from my right ring finger, but since it's not unusual for me to accidentally leave one of my rings behind on the ring holder, I didn't worry. I had other concerns; getting to the training on time, and I was sure I had left it behind on my ring holder.

That night when I got home, I found the ring holder; a silver giraffe on whose tail the rings slide; empty. I remembered my hectic exit of the morning with a sinking feeling.

I retraced my steps to the car, and scanned the gravel surrounding it. I looked inside but there was no sign of the ring. Brenda saw me searching and helped. She turned up a long lost travel mug from under the car seat, but no ring. She sent Tiffany-Amber and Victoria outside to look for it. Still no ring.

Paul arrived home and found me outside, intently studying the driveway. I poured out my sad story and said that I was going to drive to the training location parking lot before it got dark, in case it had fallen from my lap when I got out of the car. "I'll drive you there," he said, and I gratefully got into his car. Once there, we both walked up and down, scanning the ground where I had been parked, but there was no sign of my ring.

I felt terrible about losing my ring and over the next several days the finger I wore it on looked conspicuously empty. I had bought it to replace a garnet ring that my mum had given me many years ago; garnet rings are a Dutch thing. I had lost the first one on a transatlantic plane journey and had felt so badly about that and it was hard to tell her that I had lost it.

On Saturday morning I was talking to Frances on the phone when Paul came in and seemed to be wanting to say something, but you know how it is when two girlfriends are catching up!

When we eventually said goodbye and I hung up the phone, Paul was lying on the couch. "Did you ever find your ring?" he asked.

"No," I said, "Why?"

He pulled his arm from behind his back and held out his hand with a smile of triumph. On his pinky finger was MY GARNET RING!

I cried out with delight--exactly the reaction he'd been hoping for I think. "Where did you find it?" I gasped.

"It was in the car, at the back, under the passenger seat, tucked in a corner. I get down on my hands and knees when I look," he said, with as much satisfaction as a cat that got the cream.

I was thrilled to put the ring right back on my finger where it belongs.

I wish I didn't give my friends and family so many opportunities to search for the precious things that I lose, but the intensity of our searching made me think of other precious things worth searching for with all of our hearts.

Jeremiah 29:13 (New International Version)
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Matthew 13:44 (New International Version)
44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Committed to the Goal

The good hand of God is on each of us. He has wonderful plans for us. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2: 10 NASV

I pray that I, that each of us, would be so committed to His work that we would persevere under trial, buckle down when we're questioned and stay the course when attacked or discouraged.

May we be like Nehemiah. He was a Jew and a cup bearer to the King. Nehemiah wasn't born into greatness, yet he became great. Nehemiah didn't pray for God to remove his difficult circumstances. Instead, Nehemiah looked for opportunity within his circumstances. He was burdened for the things of God.

Nehemiah learned the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates were burned with fire. He says, "Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven." Nehemiah 1: 4 NASV

Nehemiah didn't stop there. He beseeched God. He interceded on behalf of the people. He prayed, "...we have sinned against Thee; I and my Father's house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against Thee and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses." Nehemiah 1: 6-7 NASV

Nehemiah was courageous. He was committed to the work and the goal, in spite of trials and regardless of circumstance. While rebuilding the wall he and his men were mocked. Others were trying to wage war with them.

Nehemiah says, "Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon...so we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared." Nehemiah 4: 17, 21 NASV

It's hard to carry on in the face of discouragement. It's hard to focus on the goal and what is truly important when urgent matters clamour for our attention. Momentary distractions perpetually exist. We often want gratification now rather than hold out for what God longs to give us. We need to press in and strive for the end goal.

Like Nehemiah, we need to be tenacious. He did not allow distractions of the moment to inhibit his goals. Certain persons wanted to meet with Nehemiah. They were trying to detain him and stop the work. Four times they sent messages to him desiring to meet with him. I stand in awe of his response. Nehemiah would not be detained.

He said, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down." Nehemiah 6:3 NASV

Isn't that perfect? Nehemiah knew how important his work was. He had found favour with God. He knew he was doing the Father's work. He did not allow for persistent men to postpone his commission.

May we be committed, tenacious, and persevere, like Nehemiah. May we not get caught up in the minutia and neglect what is important. May we faithfully do what He has called us to. May we be courageous and wait on His strength to complete all He's called us to do.

"...let us lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,..." Hebrews 12:1

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Thread

I can't remember now who I was comparing her to, but the difference, I said, was that at least she was hanging onto God by a thread.

"A thread?"

"Yes, a thread."

It is a connection that she never quite lets go of. She's been distracted, preoccupied with things other than God. She was dangling; but at least she was connected.

The words went deep. They hit her in a way I hadn't meant them to; an arrow that pierced her soul. She hated the thought of such a tenuous connection, but she knew that it was true.

Today, almost a week later, we talked again and she told me she'd been rising early, making time for God first. She was working, she said, on "thickening the thread."

"I want it to be like that rope made of steel--unbreakable," she said.

"After all, if he is my anchor, I want to be connected by more than a thread."

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (New Living Translation)
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's Not My Job!

Philippians 2:13 "...for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. "

What does that mean anyway? It sounds nice. But what does it mean?

I have a bible verse that is sent to me via email every day at work. Yesterday it was Phil. 2:13. But a different translation. This time it was the New Living Translation I was reading and all of a sudden the light went on.

"For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants."

So...

1. God is at work in me.

2. First he helps me to want to obey him.

3. Then he helps me to obey him.

How simple is that? It really doesn't have much to do with "me" at all, except that I have to cooperate with God in his work. Cool. All I have to do is give my will over to him. He'll do the rest.

No wonder I've had such struggles! I thought it was all on my shoulders.

He says elsewhere (John 15), "If you love me, you will obey me."

This evokes striving in me as a stand alone verse, but coupled with Phil 2:13, I can see that I should not be striving at all. If I love him, I will rest in him.

If I am in a loving relationship with him - then he will help me first of all to want to do it his way, and then he will be there with me to help me follow through. I don't have to do anything. Except co-operate.

How cool is that?

All I have to do is JOIN HIM IN HIS WORK. The work he's already doing. It's not my work. It's his work. And I can rely on his strength!

So THAT'S how it's supposed to work!

Sighhhhh!

(P.S. Happy Birthday, Bren!)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pregnant with Possibilities

A week ago today it was the first day of Write! Canada in Guelph, a conference I first attended in 2000 and have gone to every June since. It is something I start looking forward to from the moment that I leave each year.

The weekend actually started on Wednesday evening with The Word Guild Awards gala at World Vision in Mississauga. A young musician friend, Luisa, joined Susan and I and Lorraine, another friend, for the evening. It was a splendid evening, hosted by Herbie Kuhn, with music by Jacob Moon.

After I got home, late on Saturday evening, it took a day or so to recover and to process all that had filled my heart and head and soul.

This is what I wrote to the email list of The Word Guild, the group that organizes the conference:

There seems to be a holy hush upon the hearts of the over 200 writers who made the pilgrimage to Guelph for Write! Canada 2008. Right now they are perhaps pondering, just like Mary, "How shall this thing be?" this holy commission they have been given. And just as surely and miraculously as the child within Mary grew, so fruit in abundance will flow out of these precious days apart.

I can't begin to describe the wonder of all that transpired in workshops, worship, around dining room tables and in Divine Appointments in the gym, but it was sacred and amazing.

And just as I so often sense that other "cloud of witnesses" looking on and cheering us on, there was a cloud of witnesses who weren't there this year in body, but were there in spirit. We "saw" your faces and felt your prayers and you were with us.

There seemed to be a theme of pending fruitfulness, as the award winning singer, Deborah Klassen sang the beautiful song, "You are in the Waiting." Part of the song goes like this:

So plant your seed
Till it's living, Lord, in me
Make me all you want me to be
Unveil my eyes if I’ve exchanged the truth for lives
Give me faith so I can see
The work that you began you will complete in me
And I don’t have to understand because you are keeping me

You are in the waiting
In that moment of my life
When my faith and hope collide
Well my heart’s anticipating
How and when you’ll move
Oh that’s when you prove
You are in the waiting too

My Daily Light on the Daily Path from June 14th to 16th, is covered with circled scriptures and notes that say things like, "Write! Canada 2004." God always says something to me while I'm there.

This year it was Hebrews 12:1 that leapt out at me:

Hebrews 12:1 (New International Version)
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I feel God calling me to focus, and avoid the many things that distract me from what he has called me to do and being all that he has called me to be.

There was a line in Deborah's song that talked about God breaking up our fallow ground and I think that's what he's been doing in me.

Mark 4:28 (New International Version)
28 ...—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

For the Birds

We sit across from one another at the breakfast table, we two; a precioius time for us each day; an oasis in our busy lives.

In a house that is so often full of people, this is when we are usually all alone and can share our burdens and hopes and prayers.

I stir my oatmeal. Steam rises from it. While I wait for it to cool I sip my morning nectar--black coffee.

Paul looks sleepy.

"I was awake at 4.30," he says; "the birds wake me up every morning at that time with their singing."

"You know, they settle down and go back to sleep after that," he says.

"Really?" I wonder out loud, "I wonder why they sing so early then."

Paul says, "Maybe God wanted someone to sing about his glory when every one else is asleep!"

And this makes me think of some lines about birds that I wrote:

Birds sing in the bath too
They do!
I heard them today after the rainfall
From hidden places feathered throats exult
In God who made them and who made me too!
Yes, birds sing in the bath too,
They do!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

Sometimes as I stand in front of the mirror in our ensuite bathroom with it's earthy, brown tones, I am asked a deeper question in my heart.
As I gaze at my reflection and assess my acceptability, a voice probes past the appearance in the glass to the condition of me, the interior me.

My hair might be styled well, a little flip on the left, and the right tucked behind my ear, my clothes complimenting each other and me, teeth brushed and light make up applied to enhance my finer points. However, the question lingers inside, "How much time have I spent preparing the inner me, the one that reflects the One. Have I groomed the outer and left the heart to hide unattended, undressed. What do my eyes say past the perky smile and mascara? Are they happy eyes, contentment shining because I'm free and I know He's watching me. Are they thankful eyes that will smile knowingly with a secret waiting to be shared of provision, of grace and mercy. Are they loving eyes ready to see the heart of another and make that steady contact."

I gaze upon my mouth, rhubarb coloured lipstick carefully applied. Is the smile real or contrived. Is it a mouth ready to speak words of compassion, gentleness and kindness, or do impatient words and criticisms lurk inside.


I know the One who is posing these questions to me as I ready myself to leave the house, to leave my room.
He is the only One who truly sees past the presentation to the heart of the matter.
And I am comforted that He is still looking, molding, reminding, prompting quietly, for I am His child and it is a privilege to be the clay in His hand. Not always easy, for the changing and the digging deep feels relentless sometimes, yet I am glad He speaks and asks me these questions, for it means I am His.

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." Matt. 6:22 NIV

My bathroom assessment seems to be changing. I am challenged to look at the inner me I am taking out to present to others. Sometimes it's not even out of the house, but down the stairs to rambunctious boys and a watching daughter, waiting to see what the new day brings. I trust that God is helping me, molding me into steadiness, filling me so that I can bear fruit from the depths of a relationship with Him.


"Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 2:12 NIV

Monday, June 16, 2008

Imago Dei

Isaiah 53:6 (New International Version)
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

A bunch of us are tackling the twelve week challenge of Focus on the Family's, The Truth Project at the moment. We are having some interesting discussions and wrestling with some counter-culture concepts. Sometimes it feels as if we are wrestling with each other; but it's all good! Our brains are being stretched, that's for sure.

So yesterday we were immersed in a discussion about the nature of man; is it basically good, or bent towards sin?

We talked about the difference between secular culture's premise that man is basically good and needs to "self actualize," and what Jesus taught; that it is actually in emptying ourselves of self that we are free:

Matthew 10:39 (New International Version)
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Genesis 1:26 (New International Version)
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image,

That image took a beating when mankind bought the lie that God was holding back something good in the forbidden fruit. That fateful decision is one that we duplicate over and over as individuals daily.

But I thought of another verse that speaks of God's image being restored in those who love God. We are shaped by each event that comes into our lives if only we are yeilded and supple in his hands--may we be so; may we become like Jesus; may his image be restored!

Romans 8:28-29 (New International Version)
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Two Men

Two men a generation apart, as different as night and day.

One gregarious, adventurous, and spirited, fills each moment with sixty seconds of distance run. He carved provision for his family from hard, physical toil. His body built for power, much like a Belgian work horse. He taught his children through proverbs, and sayings but mostly by example. He rarely lectured, seldom spanked, never a rough hand or word. He directed with a nod, a raised brow, or gentle word. Some of his sayings, often biblical, molded my life.

"Do unto others as you would want done to you."

Live by the acronym of J-O-Y , Jesus first, others second, yourself last."

When there's a will, there's always a way.

Smile and the whole world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.

Two wrongs, don't make a right.

No use crying over spilt milk.

There were many more.

This man, his love steady and consistent and dependable as the earth and sky.


The other man is reserved, quiet, steady, gentle and cautious. He measures his words and actions out of sensitivity to another. He serves faithfully, with the wisdom of a prophet, discernment of a King, and heart of a servant. His vision is for the future, not the day. He measures his words and actions with an eye for tomorrow. He serves, teaches, and helps his children. He recognizes his family's strengths and weaknesses. He loves in truth. He selflessly, quietly, lifts me up. He is the wind beneath my wings.

Both men, have deep faith. Both provide and protect their families. Both men love God. Both men work hard. Both men have put God first and family second. Both men have impacted my life in significant ways.

These two men sit side by side today. I am blessed and honoured. I am loved by both.

I thank God for my husband and my Dad.

If you have had a similar experience, you are blessed. Thank the men in your life that have been faithful.

God has desired that as we look at our fathers, we will see Him, our Heavenly Father. Our earthly fathers are responsible to God to lead their families, patterning after the one true God, the perfect Father.

Although all men are sons of Adam, some men are so broken, they cannot do for their own children what God asks. These dads do not protect, provide, or love.

So if your Dad could not love you as our Heavenly Father loves, look beyond and see the loving eyes of your God. Abba, Father, Daddy. Let Him love you and heal you. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. He will never forsake you. He is faithful.

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO ALL THE GREAT DADS OUT THERE.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Can You Imagine?

Hebrews 1:3 (New International Version)
3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Romans 8:29 (New International Version)
29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Booster cables connect a dead battery with one fully charged and the car splutters to life, making the engine purr as the current flows. That's how it felt when these verses jumped out at me, brought to life by the current of the Holy Spirit. I caught a glimpse of a specific gripping truth as I put them together.

If we are "conformed to his image," and he is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being," then shouldn't we also be? Wow! Can you imagine?

I love to watch people holding newborn babies. They gaze at them. taking in the fascinating details of these little ones, who seem to me like aliens from another world.

Their fingers and toes, so tiny, are touched and wondered at. Exquisitely formed ears and tiny noses and mouths; all so perfect, are the work of a master craftsman.

People love to caress the downy softness of a baby's head and stroke their fine skin. And who doesn't love the scent of a freshly bathed baby?

There are parallels with people who have so obviously been with Jesus. Something of his fragrance and beauty clings to them and like alien creature among us, they exude qualities that come from being with him: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:22-23

We are his representatives on earth, but we are truly aliens belonging to another world:

Philippians 3:20 (New International Version)
20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ...

The book by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps, written in 1896, sparked a relatively recent flood of bracelets, necklaces and bumper stickers, all asking, "What Would Jesus Do?" or "WWJD?"

But as I ponder becoming "the exact representation of his being," I am challenged to ask myself, "What would Jesus be?"

I am praying that in every work, touch and thought, more and more, he is being through me.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Note from Write! Canada 2008

Belinda - welcoming first-time participants to Write! Canada 2008
Dear Friends,
She postively glowed as she took her place at the microphone. Her passion for writing, for encouraging others in their calling, and for ministering "belonging" to people, began to flow.
"I want to welcome you!" she said. There was no doubt as to her sincerity.
A little later in her talk...
"I am an encourager. That's what I love to do. So if you need any encouragement this weekend, come and see me. I'll give you some! It's what I do best..." Her joyful enthusiasm erupted into laughter and rippled across the room as other joined her. Any ice in the room, at that point, was instantly melted.
My mind is so full of all that God is saying and doing! So much so that I can't sit and force myself to concentrate on the very thing I came here to focus on this weekend - writing. But I did want to share this snapshot of the conference with you. I'm SURE Belinda will have more to share in the coming days. If not directly about the conference, you're sure to see the fruit of it as she moves forward in this aspect of God's calling on her life.
Special blessing are sent to those who would have loved to be here but couldn't make it. We're bringing home C.D.'s!
Blessings all! Susan.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just one Word

Malachi 3:3 (New International Version)
3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,

"Lord, make me more like Jesus." I found myself praying this prayer this morning and although I've prayed it many times before, and with a sense of consecration; this time, God stopped me in my tracks.

"More?" he seemed to challenge me; and I suddenly saw the limitation in that word.

"'More' like Jesus," may be a worthy goal; but it falls short of Romans 8:29 (New International Version)
29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

And so I prayed again, differently this time, "Lord, make me like Jesus."

There is an inherent danger in those words, and I felt immediately the difference. Conforming implies a pressing into shape, not a sketch of something.

Suddenly I felt as if I had stepped from a relatively safe zone, into a danger zone--the zone of, "God you have carte blanche; complete authority; in my life."

Strange how just removing that little word, "more," would make such a difference!

Deuteronomy 13:3 (New International Version)
3 ...The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

"All" my heart and soul is what God wants. Being "more like" him is still being in the boat, gazing out at him and thinking that "one day" maybe I could get out there on the water with him. "Being like," is being out on the waves, my face and hair wet with the spray; my heart pounding with the glorious terror-faith of following this danger man; out in the roar of the deafening wind, eyes on the Master.

I want to be out there. I think maybe I just stepped out.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Be AlertI

Nehemiah 7:3 (New International Version)
3 I said to them, "The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses."

When I read this verse a few days ago, I just had to look it up in the notes in my trusty Life Application Bible. Being a "digger" and "explorer" when I read, I love the LAB, and being able to look right away at the bottom of the page for more information when I have a question.

In the case of this verse; why, I wondered, did Nehemiah give this order, not to open the gates of the city until the sun was hot?

The notes told me that city gates were usually opened at sunrise, enabling merchants to enter and set up their tent stores. Nehemiah though, did not want Jerusalem to be caught unprepared by an enemy attack, so her ordered the gates closed until well after sunrise when the people were sure to be awake and alert.

I couldn't help thinking of the need for such vigilant protection of our own households. Nehemiah said, "Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses."

I want to be at my post, when it comes to praying for "my house," and those in it. I want to be alert to our vulnerability to enemy attack, and not let down my guard.

How do we let down our guard? In many ways!

Whenever we engage in counsel to our family members using human wisdom rather than counsel based on God's ways. We are so easily influenced by the culture around us and often blind to the fact that we are.

Whenever we fail to put God first in our hearts and in our activities.

When we grow lax in what we allow as input to the soul.

When we fail to pray.

Dear Lord, like Nehemiah, I want to be on guard and protective of the trust you have given me. Keep me awake and alert and at my post; a vigilant sentry in your army.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Redeemer

Redeemer is His Name.
As I sit here in the field, my pen caresses His name onto the page.
Gratefulness gentles and smoothes the rough places of the day as I recall His purchase.

"I owed a debt I could not pay...". The old chorus runs through my mind as I write.

To redeem is defined in Websters as "to recover by payment, to regain, to deliver from sin, to pay off, to restore to favour, to make amends for".

If He is the Redeemer, then I am redeemed, purchased back, covered, my debt paid.

"Here, let me get that" He says gently with a smile. "My treat this time", as He stretches His arm out, around me at the checkout and hands payment, for my life, to the warden of this earth.

I have fought, held my head high, insisted that I could manage on my own. All to my own detriment and the hardship of those around me.

But gradually, by His grace, understanding dawned, comprehension took hold and I saw.

I've been redeemed from the need to hold on so tight as I feel my fingernails slipping from the edge...from that pressing need to control...from the inclination to save myself from deeply rooted sin.
I have not become perfect, but I press on toward the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.

The change is that I see. I lean into the Redeemer and accept, grasp, love what He has done for me. I yield as a dog who presses close into the side of his master, trusting in all circumstances, even unpleasant ones. It's all about trust really. I am learning to live in a place long prayed for, a place of trusting my Master, my Redeemer, my Jesus.

Thank You my Lord for teaching, for Your patience as I have floundered and for persevering as I journey in this place. Lead me on and I will follow.
In Jesus name.

Monday, June 09, 2008

WAIT

Genesis 16:13 (New International Version)
13 She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me,"...

Job 2:13 (New International Version)
13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.

The book of Job, an ancient account of the disasters that befell a man whose name has become synonymous with suffering; has much that I need to hear.

Job's friends started out by sitting silently with him for seven days and nights. The notes in my New International Version, Life Application Bible tell me that this was Jewish tradition when comforting someone in mourning; not to speak until the mourner spoke.

The notes go on, "If only they had continued to be silent," and add, "Often we feel we must say something spiritual and insightful to a hurting friend. Perhaps what he or she needs most is just our presence, showing that we care."

I can so relate to Job's three unhelpful friends. How hard it is to be silent and not to engage in assessment, judgment and advising when others are in trouble.

How easy it is to think we see clearly where others have gone wrong, and how tempting to voice our opinion.

There is danger in doing this. We are instantly prone to pride, at risk of voicing human opinion rather than godly counsel. The greatest danger is misrepresenting God to others.

In Job 42:7, God in anger says to Job's three friends,"You have not spoken of me what is right."

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar calls God, "the God who sees me." God sees and knows us inside and out. He knows us better than we know ourselves for we are so often blind to our own motivations and faults.

Matthew 7:3 (New International Version)
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

We are personally in need of the Holy Spirit and God's Word, both of which illumine and clarify truth. How risky to think we can do that for others without knowing for sure that God is prompting us to speak.

James 1:19 (New International Version)
19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Someone who does life coaching told me that she has the acronym WAIT on the far wall in her office. When someone comes in for a coaching session, she can see the letters on the wall behind them. The letters stand for Why Am I Talking?

It's a question I need to ask myself every day and in every conversation.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ponder the Lovely

About us there are many beautiful things.

As I walked down the sidewalk briskly, I noticed much. Green lawns, some lush and thick and vibrant green. Gardens greeted me cheerfully with their abundant variety of colour, texture, and heights. Bold, red geraniums, pale pink and purple saucy petunias, the start of a small, delicate, white rose bush. Ground cover in purples and whites and mauves give stark contrast to trees and lawn. Hidden in the shade of some gardens were lily of the valley - oh those tiny, delicate, bells - four to five on a stem! I saw multi-coloured hostas, tall sedate Iris in white and blue and purple. Further along I caught my breath as orange poppies swayed in the wind. Their silky petals blowing remind me of wars fought, blood shed, and lives lost. Whenever I see them I think of John McCrae's poem, In Flander's Fields. I reflect with a thankful heart for the Two World Wars and honour those who claimed our freedom. I walk on. I pass fragrant purple lilac bushes, pushing onto the sidewalk.

Birds chirp and sing their pretty songs. A robin, less than two feet from my toes, hops from the sidewalk- some yellow grass firmly grasped in its beak. Repairing a nest? I wonder. I walk on, glancing at the clear blue sky, birds gliding here and there. The day is warm and there is water pooling in concrete depressions, a reminder of last night's rain. The wet, quenching plants' thirst. Thanks be to our God and creator who formed the sun, rain, and soil. I am delighted to enjoy the artistry of this late spring. Another gift from Him. Life shimmers and shouts its rhythms to my thirsty soul.

I cross the bridge. The Boyne River flows, murky and brown over rocks. Gurgling, twisting, sometimes trickling around branches. I watch before the footbridge leads to concrete and businesses, stores, and offices and then meets the parking lot. I come to the main street of this small Canadian town.

I shout ahead to my three children on bikes, "Wait for mom at the busy street." I watch the girls hair flowing behind them - one a coppery orange, the other earthen brown and honey. As Josh turns, I see his blushed cheeks and dancing eyes." He turns, again facing forward, races his sisters up the hill. I am reminded of the simplicity of life, the joy of the moment, and the beauty that peeks around every corner.

The beauty around me stills and calms my soul.

Why do we rush, hurry, press on- to accomplish tasks that never end? When did we forget to pause during the day to drink in moments of splendor? How do we find time to enjoy the present?

I'm down by the river now, I hear its life burbling, flowing. I smell the earthy damp. I watch a black squirrel scamper up the large maple tree. I step over a root and around a rock and I know the truth.

We claim the time. We ponder what is. We reflect on this abundant life. We pause and use our senses. We think on the lovely, the pure, the honourable.

We quiet our minds, and turn our hearts to the Great "I am." With thanksgiving we seek our God in prayer. Father, Creator, Provider, Healer, the one who was, and is, and always will be. We pause to hear His still and quiet voice whispering truth. Dark places are made light and light places are illuminated to accentuate good. We choose life and blessing and give the same to those we touch.

We remember a hug, a kind word, a deed of service, a victory won, laughter shared, lesson learned, song sung, trials endured, a gift given, friendship granted, mercy extended, grace applied, pride surrendered, generosity cultivated, meekness admired, patience honed, gentleness appreciated, peace understood.

Simply put, we ponder the lovely.

"Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you." Philippians 4: 8-9 NASV

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Simple Saturday

I woke up to the smell of coffee. There was a steaming cup on the chair not far from my pillow, nicely within reach. There was no hint as to how it got there, but at the same time, there was no doubt it was husband Ron, who has learned the wisdom of waking me gently. His whole day seems to go much better that way!

A few hours later, Ron having left to spend the day helping a friend re-shingle his roof, our yard was filled with the sounds of children at play. I sat in a lawn chair under our big old oak tree, entirely grateful for the gift of shade on this hot summer day. A gentle breeze ruffled my hair and kept the black flies and mosquitoes at bay. Mikey, 7, Matthew, 5, and Nolan, 3, were puttering about around me intent upon the business of childhood. Spurning the large (and expensive!) play center, they used the garden hose to fill the water-play table (which was entirely legal) and then quickly turned their attention to the hollowed out patches of black dirt, one under each of the swings hanging from sturdy branches of the oak tree. The little boys squatted at the edge of the puddles as they formed, and soon sticks and pebbles were being gathered to be used in this recipe for summer fun. Before long, shirts and shoes were shed and there was some serious wading going on. I'm not sure when exactly the wading turned into wallowing, but it didn't take long!

Meanwhile, the boys suitably, and, to my mind at least, harmlessly involved, I picked up the cordless phone for my weekly friendship catch-up call with Belinda. Our conversation was punctuated with the occasional, "Excuse me. --STOP THROWING MUD!-- Okay, I'm back." Eden, 7, had appeared from somewhere around the end of the lilac bushes and soon was right in there with the boys, taking only seconds to become just as smeared they were, neck to toes with black mud.

Just as I said goodbye to Belinda, Jacob appeared with baby Greg and the trampoline was hopping and popping with five children all bouncing at once and crying "Popcorn! Popcorn!" And that's exactly what they looked like!

There were trips into the house for popsicles and drinks and tools to fix broken toys. There were bumps and bruises and hugs of comfort quickly given. There was laughter and good-natured teasing and gentle admonitions to please rein it in.

As much as I was enjoying it all, it is Saturday and the end of a very long and hard week. I felt the need for a nap creeping up on me. Just in time, Daddy Mike appeared around the end of the lilac bushes. He began collecting shoes, and shirts and gave the "Five minutes!" warning.

Suddenly the yard was quiet and I was headed for the couch for a seriously delicious Saturday afternoon nap. Grandchuldren are the crown of life, but having them living as close as next door is blessing upon blessing. I got little done on my own agenda today, but I know there was a little more etched into the memory banks of the four little boys next door. Sigh. It was a day well spent.

Psalm 128: 6 "...and may you live to see your children's children. Peace be upon Israel."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Lions & Lion hearts

Psalm 81:16 (New International Version)
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you."

A couple of days before leaving for England in May, I found a large, white envelope in our mailbox, with an English stamp on it.

It was a card from Panna, whom I met on board a plane from England in August 2006.

Panna traveled with a large Indian family, en route to a wedding. We became instant friends, with the bond of a quickly discovered common faith.

She and her family live in Leicester, and we keep in touch with very occasional emails, so I was surprised to receive the card, which I loved.

On the front of the card was the photographed head of a male lion in sharp focus, appearing, head and powerful shoulders, over the soft, golden grass of the African veld.

One day, soon after coming home, I glanced with admiration at the lovely photo, which now sat on my side table.

That morning as I quietly read, before rushing into the day, there were three references to lions in the scriptures I read. I wondered if it was just coincidence or if God was trying to make a point. But the verses didn't seem to have a common thread, apart from lions!

While I was in England, Panna had called me and we chatted for while. Before she hung up, she asked if I knew what the verse in Psalm 81 about honey from the rock meant. I didn't know, so Panna asked me, "What is harder than rock? And what is sweeter than honey?" And she said that out of the hardest circumstances in our lives, God will bring sweetness.

As it happened, I needed those words at the time, and so did our friend Chris who was visiting when she called.

That verse also seems to resonate with the story of Samson's riddle in the book of Judges, chapter 14, "Out of the eater, something to eat;out of the strong, something sweet..."

The answer to his riddle, was a lion, in the carcass of which was a swarm of bees and some honey.

Judges 14:14 & 18 b (New International Version)
14 He replied,
"Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet..."

18 ... "What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?"

I'm still reflecting on God's message about the lions, but someone this week wrote to me, "You have the heart of a lion." I'm not sure how they meant that--I should have asked, but I think I am strong and I know I need to be sweeter!

Dear Lord, take my strength and make it softer and more tender. I think I see with clarity--please help me always see with kindness too. And thank you that you bring sweetness out of the hardest things in our lives. I am so grateful for that.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Brother and My Friend

He is three years younger than me, this brother of mine and we share history, starting with the day of his birth when I was banished to the farthest reaches of the house, because I had measles; a rocky start to our relationship!

It's funny to think of it now, because he is 6 foot 3; but when he was small, I once chased a boy that was older and bigger than both of us, around a field, because he was picking on Robert. I had a dog leash in my hand and swung it around my head in circles as I ran after him like some medieval warrior woman.

We both know that we will always be there for each other and I can count on him to tell me the truth on any question.

Robert doesn't put anyone's faith down, but "spirituality" doesn't factor as much in his life as in mine. He rarely talks about God and I'm not really sure what he thinks about him. I've done a lot of thinking about that of late.

He is the main carer for our mum, along with a small flock of ladies from Helping Hands. While I was with them for two weeks in May, I watched...

Mum's toes grow close and tight together, some of them overlapping; and when she has her weekly shower, the ladies who care for her don't pay attention to her feet. So each week, Robert washes Mum's feet.

One day I watched him doing this, kneeling down in front of her, carefully washing one foot at a time, then drying them gently with a towel and massaging them with heavy duty moisturizer.

His reminded me of another washer of feet--one I claim to follow but don't always represent as visibly.

I recently heard someone at work speak on 1 John 1:1, describing the verse as being about a "tactile presentation of the gospel."

1That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

My work friend said that when we say, "I shared 'the gospel' with my friend today," we usually mean that we shared verbally. He said, in fact, everything that we do is gospel because Christ changes what we do and how we do things. Or he should.

I found myself thinking about how I have represented Christ to my brother. Not always very well, I concluded.

I have been headstrong, proud and arrogant; easily irritated and unappreciative of who he is.

This year I saw him through different eyes. I saw his humility, love and tenderness as he cared for our mum.

I've always liked the maxim attributed to St. Francis of Assisi "Preach the gospel. And if necessary, use words."

We need to be prepared to share God's Word with people who are curious and hungry to know him, but preaching the gospel may have as much to do with gentleness of heart and grace of life, as the words we loudly proclaim.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Why obey?

John 14:15 "If you love me, you will obey my commandments….” (God’s Word)

Yesterday I stood next to my 10 year old daughter, Meggie at our Chiropractor’s office. We were watching my 11 year old, Emma get her adjustment and I didn’t want Meggie to be in the way. “Stand against the wall right here.” I told her pointing to a place I felt was reasonably non-obstructive. She placed her back to the wall where I had pointed and I thanked her and turned my attention back to Emma. When I looked back at Meggie she was silently sliding down the wall to the other end all the while watching me to see if I had noticed. “Meggie!” I said in my polite-there-are-other-people-watching-and-you-are-being-bad-voice. It’s like a loud, harsh whisper with a good measure of my most serious face to let her know she’d better get back to the spot I’d put her. “Be obedient!” I finished. After all, I had told her exactly what she should do and she had chosen to disobey. She smiled and said she was sorry, but one look at her face told me she wasn’t…not really. She wasn’t sorry she’d disobeyed. She was sorry I’d caught her.

We climbed into the car after our adjustments and started to drive home. As I was pulling out onto the highway, I thought of a Bible verse I had never fully understood growing up. John 14:15 (Jesus speaking) “If you love me, you will obey me…”. It brought to mind all the “If you love me”s I’d heard in my life. They were usually used by people who wanted something from me that I didn’t want to give as a way to guilt it out of me. It always spoke to me of ‘prove it to me’ or the kind of thing we all remember from Elementary school ‘If you don’t_________then I won’t be your friend anymore.’. It never sat right with me that Jesus would do that to us. I always pictured Him standing there with his hand on His hip wagging a finger at His disciples saying, “If you love me, you will obey me”, and them grudgingly agreeing.

As I pondered that verse in light of Meg’s recent behavior, I realized that there are really only two reasons to obey someone. Fear is the first. Many children obey out of fear of being punished (not always a bad thing I’d just like to say), adult often obey out of fear too– fear of losing a job, spouse, getting a ticket etc. In many countries the citizens are terrified of the consequences for disobedience, some of which are death. The second reason is love. So often we obey out of love for the person who is asking us. It’s like a gift we give them out of our own free will to bless them, not to prove anything to them. That is why I wanted Meg to obey me. Because she loves me. We spoke about this on the ride home and afterwards she apologized again, only this time she was sorry because she knew it had hurt me. This time she meant it.

That is why Jesus wants us to obey Him. Because we love Him. It isn’t a threat to us “If you love me..” with a wagging finger and a stern look. It is a statement of the natural flow of things borne out of a true love of Christ. It is because of the love we have for Jesus that the obedience naturally follows. It isn’t a forced grudging obedience that is trying to earn the right to say we love Him. He isn’t telling us to ‘prove it. He isn’t saying ‘if you don’t do this I won’t be your friend anymore.’ He is asking us to choose to actively love Him in word and deed. It is a joyful offering of love given gladly by us just to make Him happy. How freeing and how lovely to be able to show our love for Jesus in this way.

“If you love Me…” I do Lord. I do. I will show you my love by my the gift of obedience. You have given me your life. Please, please, take mine in return. I offer it joyfully and unconditionally. Here I am Lord, let me show you how I love You. Amen.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rain

I love the rain that drips and drizzles, dampens earth and waters thirsty greens.
I love the rain that patters down, leaving splotches dark upon my walk.
I love the rain splattering upon my window, rolling drops make tracks straight down the pane.
I love the rain that pours, surrounds my house like waterfalls as I lay down, so dry and warm.

I love the rain as Spirit beckons spirit, soft soul drops refreshen thirsty one.
I love the rain as All Sufficient One replenishes the dry and yearning soil.
I love the rain as Shepherd King is known and I lie down in pastures green and water fills.
I love the rain as Majesty reveals and I bow down, receive, and worship Him.

I love the Reign,
Of this King who makes the rain and all we take and give.
And how we hear and thirst and yearn are all His doing
Anyway.
I love the rain.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Remembrance

A short-cut into the churchyard, has been carved out recently through a hedge. It runs along the steep hill that must be climbed to reach St. Laurence Church in Alvechurch, which has stood sentinel over the village for eight centuries.

The earth is clay; the red clay that gave the town near to the village of Alvechurch, the name Redditch (originally Red-Dych).

I found myself walking the roughly hewn path, strewn with sticks and stones, many times during my two weeks in the ancient English village of my childhood, in May.

I felt compelled to go there on my first evening.The air was filled with birdsong; the Evening Chorus. I reveled in the sight of bluebells and a variety of other wild flowers and blossoms, snapping photos as I walked.

My destination was Dad’s grave. It seemed wrong to be in Alvechurch and not go there right away. I found his quickly amongst the crowd of headstones and I touched the stone, still warm with the sun of the day, tracing with my finger, the letters of bright gold in the dark gray granite.

I thought of the care that went into every detail of it's choosing. The stone, the words, the celtic cross. All of them chosen with great care and executed by a local stonemason, a craftsman.

I whispered, “I’m here Dad. I love you.”

My brother and I visited that spot together more than once while I was there. We have an unspoken understanding of the importance of such things.

Robert would quickly see any unruly encroachments of nature and squat down, his large but gentle hands plucking stray clumps of grass from the edges of the stone or brushing away the grass clippings from the ledge. His gentle solicitousness strikes me as poignant. He recieved so little of it from the one whose grave he tends.

Our father's grave stands in a row of others in various degrees of neatness.

Our old headmaster's grave lies a couple of rows ahead of dad's grave. How well I remember him.

But sadly, although he has lain there for two years already; he died on Easter Sunday, 2006, his grave is untidy and uncared for, and a "temporary" wooden cross with brass plaque, is all that marks it.

There may be many reasons for this. Perhaps his children are far from home now or perhaps there is a story behind the apparent neglect; we can't know.

In any case when I was reading the book of 2 Chronicles; the record of the kings of Israel and Judah, I read of two very different men and how they were remembered.

There was a king named Jehoram who lived a life of wickedness and idolatry and in 2 Chronicles 21:20 are words that sum up his life:

He passed away, to no-one's regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tomb of the kings.

On the other hand, in 2 Chronicles 32:32-33, we read of another king named Hezekiah and this is what is written:

32 The other events of Hezekiah's reign and his acts of devotion are written in the vision of the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 33 Hezekiah rested with his fathers and was buried on the hill where the tombs of David's descendants are. All Judah and the people of Jerusalem honored him when he died...

We can't know how our grave will be cared for when we die. In some cases there seems no logic in how that works out. What matters more is how we live. How sad it would be to end up like king Jehoram.
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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just Different

I have a friend who has made many choices that define her life. She and her husband have a home-based business and they have two children. These are both decisions they made together. While she and her husband were dating, he had a fall - an ordinary fall for reasons that weren't so ordinary. One thing lead to another, and he was diagnosed with MS.

She said, "This sounds strange but we really thought we could beat MS". My friend shared that they did many alternative health treatments - vitamin regimes, acupuncture, and massage, to name a few. They did everything in the hopes to slow down the progress of his illness. Later in our conversation she said, "It is really fortunate that his MS has stayed mainly in his legs."

I felt guilty when she said that. It really shone light on my shaded perspective. For the past year I'v known them I had thought how unfortunate he's in a wheelchair. Chastened gently, I held a new respect for my friend's perspective.

My friend and her husband made another choice when they had children. They chose to tell them their Daddy has 'tricky legs' - that his legs are 'just different'. My friend explained, "We don't want MS to define him." Her children are aged 7 and 5 and they understand Dad's legs are 'just different'.

My son went to the library with them this week. He was curious about all the knobs around the steering wheel of their van. My friend explained that the children's Daddy drives differently and uses his hands, not his feet. Joshua thought that was really neat. Joshua will probably learn to accept people of various differences easily because it was presented that way.

My friend said that because of MS, their lives were "just different". She said, "Our difference is seen right away because of the wheelchair." She acknowledged that, "Because of MS, we have had to make choices right up front. How we're going to live, define ourselves. Others' differences are more hidden but really we're all different."

She also talked about society not making it easy to be different. There was a silence. She didn't need to say any more.

I "got it" I really got it.

My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 18. His delusions, hallucinations, and the world he sometimes lives in, is not a world understood or accepted by others. His world is just different.

I worked for Christian Horizons for 10 years, supporting people with mental challenges. These people too have been misunderstood and rejected by others. Their lives are just different.

Each one of us have been made in the image of Christ. Each one of us is uniquely beautiful. I want to see beauty in everyone - the beauty of Christ Himself. I want to stop feeling pity when I see a handicap. I want to be compassionate, empathetic, and supportive but no more pity. Pity comes from pride - believing that I have it better. The truth is, I don't. People don't easily see my handicaps but God does.

I have learned to see MS as an obstacle that sometimes creates roadblocks in lives. Obstacles can be overcome. MS doesn't define lives. We define lives by perspective.

I went to my daughter's violin recital on Saturday afternoon. There were many solo pieces being played - some well and others are still 'works in progress'. One violinist is particularly special to me. When he comes up to play, I always pray he'll shine. At every recital he always shines. He's a talented musician with an incredible ear for music. He's good, I mean really good.

He struggles with autism though and I fear for him. I don't want others' to laugh. I fear he may be mocked. When he pauses before he announces his piece, I hold my breath. When he begins playing, I breathe a sigh of relief. When he talks to others, I stay close-by, smiling- willing others to receive him with respect.

At this recital, I did him a favour. I did me a favour. I just enjoyed the music. I still prayed for him when he did the 'introduction of his song" I still clapped just as loudly at the end. I still felt the incredible surge of pride for him when he played with excellence. This time though I knew he and I were cut from the same cloth. I knew we were equals, each struggling in various ways. I knew he and I were just different.

I had some quiet time for reflection. I remembered my friend saying that 10 years ago they thought they were going to beat MS. We left that statement wide open. Neither of us pursued it.

I wonder if she knows they have beaten MS. It doesn't define them. He is a man, a husband, a father, a business owner. He cares for, protects, and provides for his wife. He's an active, loving daddy. He works diligently each day. His creativity defines his abilities and skill.

I wonder if there will come a day when there is acceptance in this world for people that are just different.

We are reminded to, "Let love of the brethren continue." Hebrews 13:1 NASV

"The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." 1 John 2:10 NASV