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Showing posts from December, 2008

Jesus Take My Hand

Haggai 1:5 (New International Version)
5 Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways.

What a perfect verse for this week of pondering and listening.

In fact, in the short book of Haggai, an exhortation to give careful thought is repeated at least four times.

Haggai writes in verse 9: "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the Lord Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house."

As I read the words, "What you brought home I blew away," I thought of the disembodied fingers of a human hand that appeared at King Belshazzar’s feast .

The message that the fingers wrote on the wall was about a life measured and found lacking.

Sobering thoughts to start a day; being busy, but with the wrong things.

So I listen and ponder. I give careful thought. So much of my life is out of order. I get some of it right and so muc…

I Am Resolved

Isaiah 26:8 (New International Version)
8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
In this time between times--between the crazy crunch of Christmas and the unfolding of a new year, I quiet my heart before the One who lives outside of time.
This verse from Isaiah captures and expresses my heart's longing for the year to come. His name and renown is the desire of my heart.
I wrote on Saturday of Matthew Kelly’s rule of the Sacred Hour and how I wanted to build that into my life. One reader left a comment that she would love a Sacred Ten Minutes! God knows where we are in our lives. I remember how I cherished moments when Mr. Dressup or The Friendly Giant were on when our children were small. They were my sacred moments back then. Now I have no good reason why I could not have a Sacred Hour and if I don't, I have to be honest and say that I have chosen other things instead that are literally worth less. I'm work…

The Curious Case of the PCP*

Replete, we sat in the semi-comatose state that all adults reach by mid afternoon of Family Christmas.

I noticed that nobody was eating.

"We have Christmas pudding if anyone feels like some," I offered innocently.

"Christmas pudding?" said Pete with curiosity.

It had lurked in the dark recesses of my pantry for a number of years. The exact number is rather inconsequential. "Years" is the word to note.

We don't really like Christmas pudding but I feel the need to have one on hand; a token pudding, just in case someone asks, "Is there any?" If they did, it would seem a terrible thing not to have some.

In the early years of our marriage; the early 1970's (which I think of as my "earth woman" phase, and during which I also baked bread) I made our Christmas puddings from an English recipe that involved an annual search for suet. I steamed the puddings in cheesecloth and also hid coins in them, upholding the tradition of Paul's childho…

Pondering and Listening

Saturday morning and it is raining hard, tapping on skylights and cascading from gutters.

The hills are shrouded in a curtain of mist. It is the perfect morning to cocoon.

I enjoy the quiet of the house; a stillness unbroken from the inside by even the hum of dryer or distant chatter of a program on T.V..

Yesterday children and grandchildren filled the house. Shreds of wrapping paper and empty boxes surrounded the Christmas tree. Carols played on the stereo in the background, mixing with the sound of children's voices, laughter and play, and the murmur of conversation. It was a wonderful day.

But I cherish the post-celebration hush that descends. It is a time to reflect; to ponder the old and listen for the new.

As I washed Brussels sprouts and rolled out pastry while preparing for our family Christmas dinner, I listened to an audio book by author and speaker Matthew Kelly. I heard him speak at the Lead Like Jesus conference I attended in October and found him a dynamic speaker so I wa…

Incarnated Lessons at Christmas

Christmas is a time for celebrating God's greatest "invention" - incarnating Himself in a human baby body, and speaking to us of His love, His servanthood, His humility, His sharing in our lives, by drawing us into His journey to and birth in a stable manger. We talk often in sermons and books about the lessons we learn from this, how God continues to incarnate Himself in our lives in so many ways. But it still feels to me that I don't expect Him to. I somehow believe that certain events are separate from who we really are, even when we are with family and friends. And then He surprises us again with new evidence of His awareness of us, new speech through the language of our bodies.

Such was my experience this Christmas day. My daughters and I had created a lovely Christmas atmosphere, for ourselves as a family, and for our guests later in the day. While a bit pressured, those preparations were meaningful and fruitful. We enjoyed the moments of giving and receivi…

For the Children

The soul is healed by being with children
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It was Christmas Eve day and Paul was out in the driveway, clearing the latest deposit of snow.Everyone seemed to be out and about running last minute errands before Christmas and it appeared that someone was dropping in to see us.It was Hannah's dad, Jason, with an envelope that he asked Paul to deliver to me. On the front was a photo of Hannah, her mom and brother with some friends, and inside, a picture of a Christmas tree with a message underneath from Hannah to her Auntie Belinda.Paul and I love being with children and count it an honour to invest in them as much as we can. They need to know that they are special and loved.And being with children is such a blessing, because inside every grownup is a child just waiting to be awakened.

Matthew 18:2-3 (The Message)
2-5For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you retu…

Merry Christmas!

I've been thinking about how we tend to mix up "presents" with "presence," giving the simple gift of ourselves.

On this day we celebrate Emmanuel, "God with us."

He came then, and comes now, to be present with us and in us, but we can so easily miss this gift too.
When Jesus visited the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany, Mary saw the gift that had come to their home. Martha was so busy and distracted with preparations for her visitor, that she could not enjoy his presence. I want to be better at this; appreciating the presence of others, relaxing in relationship with people and giving my presence to others. I am often distracted and busy with many things. Most of all, of course, I want to enjoy the gift of God's presence in Jesus. What a precious gift that is. Today I wish everyone a very blessed Christmas.
Luke 10:40-42 (Amplified Bible)
40But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, Lord,…

A Prayer for Christmas

John 17:21 (New International Version)
21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I'm praying a Christmas Eve prayer for all of us today.

It's a simple prayer. I pray that we will lay down our expectations of what Christmas should be and just look for ways to serve and love; to be gentle and forbearing.

The season builds to a great crescendo of hopes and dreams. By the time Christmas Eve arrives we may already be unravelling or hanging by a thread, weary and worn out. In our minds dance visions, not of sugarplums, but of the Christmas we want to have, the Christmas we are promised in magazines articles or read about in books.

The reality is that we will be disappointed if we set our hearts on that kind of Christmas. People are messy and uncooperative. We are messy and uncooperative. Illness strikes fatigued bodies, tempers are frayed, people drink too much, spend too much…

The Gift

Mention her name and the stories begin; told in affectionate tones, with respect and laughter. Those who didn’t know her before she died five years ago, try to get a sense of who she was. For at such moments there are only two groups; those who knew Evelyn and those who didn’t. And everyone wishes they had.

I wonder; will a mention of my name have this effect five years after I’m gone? It would be nice if it did but I doubt it.

Twice this week her name has come up, and she has been on my mind as well. Perhaps because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas we think of old friends.

So tonight I share an Evelyn story:
It was Christmas Eve—Miah’s first Christmas working at her new job with the agency that supported Evelyn and her housemates with developmental disabilities. Miah loved her job, but on this particular night she was downhearted. At her last job she had worked over Christmas, which would have meant that she got this one off. But she had changed jobs and here she was again, at the bottom…

Xmas and Christmas by C.S. Lewis

This photograph is proof that at long last, not being able to procrastinate any longer, I have begun to write out my Christmas Extenders! This morning Peter started his sermon with a quote from C.S. Lewis, which I enjoyed so much that I am going to share it here. It seems especially fitting. I hope that anyone who was in our church this morning, won't mind enjoying it twice! Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” by C S Lewis
“And beyond this there lies in the ocean, turned towards the west and north, the island of Niatirb which Hecataeus indeed declares to be the same size and shape as Sicily, but it is larger, though in calling it triangular a man would not miss the mark. It is densely inhabited by men who wear clothes not very different from the other barbarians who occupy the north western parts of Europe though they do not agree with them in language. These islanders, surpassing all the men of whom we know in patience and endurance, use the following customs.
In the…

The Very Merry Christmas Concert

The world was baptized in beauty as I drove down the wintry Ontario highway on the last Saturday evening before Christmas.

The only remnants of a major winter storm of the day before were mounds of sparkling snow that glistened in the brilliant sunshine of the day, turning our world into the perfect picture postcard. But now the day was coming to a fast close, and, as it seemed to want to go out in a final blaze of glory. The sky in the west looked as though an artist had painted brush strokes of salmon pink across a wash of deep turquoise. To the east, the twilight had fallen and the sky was indigo blue. Ahead of me, to the south, in the deepening gray of evening, the city of Toronto sparkled as thought someone had strung the city in white Christmas lights.
I was on my way to pick up Night Owl for a deliberately disorganized Christmas concert. Some friends and I wanted to celebrate Christmas in music without any pressure or expectations. Some children would be playing the piano and vi…

Stay Tuned!

Dear Readers,
We were making rather merry last night at a wonderful Christmas concert, but my brain was too tired to write afterwards. Stay tuned, because I want to tell you all about it. The post will appear this morning.
A Christmas hug for all! Belinda

Christmas in the Global Village

Headlines declare the truce in Israel has come “to an explosive end.” My mind jerks back to the plate I bargained for in the silent auction at the Salvation Army Thrift Shop. I know my $25 will go to a good cause this Christmas. The plate was hand made in Jerusalem, beautiful coloured glass outlining features of this city I have loved and visited. How are those we knew doing in the midst of all the turmoil? I remember how chilly it was in the shepherds’ fields near Bethlehem on Christmas Eve in 1995 when we made our pilgrimage with our children to fulfill their wish on our way to missionary life in Uganda. No donkey bore us there. We took the tourist bus, glad to be safe from the mobs in Nativity Square celebrating a messiah in a keffiya, that leader now dead whose words did not give life.

The radio interview with a family therapist gives wise counsel about family system issues that are likely to crop up at Christmas gatherings. I reflect upon my learning in my counselling training, fl…

Today I Am...

Today I am...

Happy and Honoured
...to have received a card from some of the people with disabilities supported by the agency I work for, thanking me for the big party on Monday night. The reason I treasure this card is that they read our hearts and knew how much we wanted them to have the BEST time. There were so many hugs and thank you's as they left for home. The truth is that we had to turn staff away who wanted to come even though they weren't working. That was because we already had 100 people coming. It truly is the BEST party!


Celebrating
...a special friendship. Thursday was Susan's birthday. We have laughed and cried our way through to the solid gold of a true friendship that will last for eternity. I am grateful for her heart of pure goodness.


Remembering in Prayer
...Ang and Frank, who went to Sick Kid's Hospital with their son Nicky on Monday night after the big party. Frank and Nicky are still there, while Ang came back to be with their other children. It soun…

Strange Sensitivities

This morning I was at a regular monthly committee meeting with colleagues. At the end of the meeting we enjoyed a Christmas lunch of crusty rolls with cold cuts and a Bouche de Noel and squares for dessert. Oh, and eggnog and hot apple cider of course, kindly provided by the committee Chair!

Then came the moment that is also part of a truly Canadian Christmas in the work world; the moment of saying goodbye to people you won't see until after Christmas in a uniquely Canadian way. And no, it isn't, "Goodbye eh?"

It has become politically incorrect to mention the true name of the celebration. Instead, we all fall over our words in an effort to be inoffensive to anyone who might be offended at the word Christmas, and replace the words that want to pop out of our mouths quite naturally, "Merry Christmas;" with a suitably bland farewell, such as, "Happy holidays."

This is so unnatural, that when someone forgot themselves and shouted out, "Merry Christ…

A Very Messy Christmas :)

Blessed it the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
Hamilton Wright Mabie

On Sunday it was my turn teach Sunday School and I don't know what I was thinking. Instead of just taking Christmas cookies for the snack, as the lesson plan suggested, I baked some sugar cookies cut in the shape of stars and Christmas trees and took along white icing for the children to spread on them, and sprinkles of green, red, and multicoloured sugar with which to decorate.

No sane person would have done this. Frances, who was my helper, said that she remembered cake decorations in England called Hundreds of Thousands; little silver balls that would be shaken over tea cakes or iced sponge sandwiches. Well I had no little silver balls but hundreds of thousands of tiny pieces of sugar bounced and rolled all over the floor.

The children seemed to take special delight in building their decorations upwards on their cookies and of course, the moment the cookie was moved, or worse, lifted,…

Light and Shadows

Romans 13:8 (New International Version)
Love, for the Day is Near
8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law










We just finished one of the best of the best parties, my dear team and I. Here are Greg and Susan; Frank and Lesley-Ann, and me between Lesley-Ann and Susan. These photos were taken before the room filled with 100 people with disabilities and their staff. It was divine disorder from that point on. Joy upon joy like nothing else I've experienced.
I've been thinking though, how for so many people, the Christmas season adds to pressures that lie just below the surface. Christmas presses down like invisible fingers around a boil that is already painful, making it feel as if it will burst.Christmas is like a Rembrandt painting. Rembrandt applied paint with his palate knife in a technique that was then revolutionary and unconventional, creating the impression of sharply contrasting light …

Hark!

This is the story of the "coming to faith" of a dear friend, Dave Hingsburger of Chewing the Fat . Thank you so much Dave, and welcome to Whatever He Says as a guest blogger.
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I am a Christmas Christian. By this I do not mean that I come back to faith, yearly, like a salmon spawning. No, though my faith is strengthened by the rituals and the ceremony of the holidays, I am a year round believer. But I came to faith at Christmas. In fact I remember the exact moment that I met Jesus.

A fat and ungainly child, a child of no promise in a home infused with violence, I did not love life, I feared it. Constant, unrelenting fear. Christmas was a time to be endured, gotten through, escaped. A holiday that, to me, resembled a drunken man laughing too loud in a bar, I despised the season. All I knew was that at some moment the stress of the season would break and then part of me would break or bruise. I saw a…

Tantalizing Invitations and Festivity Fatigue

The sun shone through our bedroom curtains on Saturday morning, but I lingered beneath the warm covers as long as I could and longer than I should.

Friday had started early, and ended late. I had been in Kitchener for the day and then Paul and I drove north to Huntsville for a Christmas dinner.

The drive north was magically beautiful. The moon was so close to earth that you could see mountains and its light illuminated the snowy landscape. It was as bright, almost, as day. The boughs of the fir trees were so heavily laden with snow that their tips nearly touched the ground and above them a clear sky sparkled with bright stars. We left the cities of Barrie, Orillia and Gravenhurst far behind us, as apartment blocks gave way to rocky inclines and forests upon which snow drifted down gently.

It was midnight when we got home and much later when I finally crept into bed.

On Saturday morning, the weekend felt a bit overwhelming with much to get done and in spite of all that, I was moving in slo…

Blessings in the bleak midwinter

“In the bleak midwinter. frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.” I look at the words of this old hymn and discover it was written by one of my favourite poets, Christina Rossetti. I guess even in Victorian England she knew what it was to watch the snow endlessly falling, and feel overwhelmed by winter.

So many people are feeling like that these days. Despite the wonderful winter sun, reflecting off the mountains of snow on our deck, the cozy heat inside, cheery plans for Christmas, gratitude for so much that I have, I can be overcome by winter’s intensity. Yes, I am learning to embrace it, and love it, and to do more outdoor activities, after many years of winter in milder climes. I remind myself, in this eighth winter in Muskoka, that every Christmas in Uganda I felt strange, that I often shrunk from the intensity of the heat there, and longed for the changing seasons, the bril…

Taking Time;Taking Stock

Outside the day was darkening. Between the cracks of the blinds on my office window I had glimpsed the glow of a raspberry sunset an hour or so before, but turned back to the electric light of the office to continue a determined attack on the most urgent items on my desk, trying to finish them before leaving.

I wasn't the only one working late. In the next office, one of my team was working hard to complete the day's work. He answered the phone to a call from home, asking if he would be on his way home soon. We hurried each other along then. Some things can wait, but a little boy at home grows up when you turn your back for just one moment. We gathered our briefcases and put on coats to leave, saying that we would see each other in the morning.

Our manager of pastoral services was coming the next day to do a morning's presentation to the whole team on Soul Care for the Caregiver. None of us felt that we had time to break away from all that we had to do, but we knew we couldn…

The Christmas Kettle

James 2:5 (New International Version)
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Her eyes brimmed with laughter. An inner radiance spoke of joy somewhere deep within this daughter of Susan's.
Emily has her own special place in this heart. I love her, and have been witness to the miracle in her of a heart warmed by the gentle hands of Jesus.She sang on Saturday with the Salvation Army Songsters, in the concert we were at, and afterwards she told me that she had been, "kettling." At first I thought she said, "Cuddling," and wondered what was coming next, but then I realized that "kettling" is a verb in Salvation Army lingo, referring to the transparent globes in which donations are collected now, but which used to be actual kettles. So I listened as she went on to tell me a"kettling story."She had been at Yorkdale Shopp…

A Square Meal

I woke up at 5.45 a.m. on Sunday, to the sound of a howling wind and the droning and crunching of a snow plow somewhere out there in the lonely early morning dark. I had gone to bed at 3.00 a.m. after a day and evening of Christmas celebrations. The house was still night-time cold, so I snuggled down deeper within the covers, although I knew that I shouldn't. I needed to be up baking squares for the Christmas Pot-Luck lunch at church. An hour later, with the house getting warmer, I made a supreme effort and exited the bed. In the bathroom downstairs I brushed my teeth and threw on whatever garments I could lay my hands on, just to be warm. Getting ready for the day would come later, after the baking!
It was still dark and snow swirled around the windows. Outside the temperature was frigid, but inside the Christmas tree in the hallway twinkled with brightly coloured lights and I put on some Christmas music by Canadian singer/songwriter Ali Matthews and cracked open a cookbook. To the…

Beautiful Brokenness

I went for a walk with my friend Joshua the other day. We meandered through snow covered roads, cold wind on our faces and quiet invading our hearts.
I talked and he was an audience of one as I shared my fragmented thoughts on the brokenness of our lives, and God's place in the midst of it.
I felt tears well at the thought of my struggling son*, a grief so consuming that my body felt heavy and broken inside, then I returned to the present and the sting of the cold whipped the wet away as I blinked back the tide.

Josh was quiet beside me, walking steadily, unencumbered by the weightiness of my thoughts and I became thankful for our time together.

I have been reading a book my husband brought home called "In the Name of Jesus" by Henri Nouwen.
In the introduction he described his move from the intellectual world of Harvard to the community of L'Arche, a home for mentally challenged people, and the change wrought in his heart and mind as he became priest to the broken instea…

Repentance

The candle flickers, the second of the advent season. I think of John the Baptist who went about in the wilderness of Judea urging people, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:3 NASV


People in Jerusalem, all Judea, and the district around the Jordon went to John, confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordon River.


John was to tell of the Messiah. John's call for repentance helps us prepare, too. What sin lurks in the wilderness of our hearts? How are we stunted in our growth in Him by sin within us?


What unconfessed sins linger? Careless words, unforgiving heart, a gift we will not give, offense harboured, critical spirit, a judgmental attitude?


Will you repent with me? Will you prepare your heart with me for the presence of God-with-us?


According to Webster's, to repent means to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life.


Right now I am in this place of sorrow and regret. I know a contrite heart He will not d…

A Weekend of Celebrations

We are definitely in "celebrate mode" around here! It started on Friday morning early, with preparations for a work Christmas party here at our home for 14. Each year our team looks forward to this lunch. Unfortunately two people had to turn back on the way from Huntsville, as they got caught in a blizzard, but aside from missing them, we all had a wonderful time. We all contribute something very yummy to the feast and bring board games or a story to share. This year we played Mad Gab and Tri-Bond after lunch--not according to any set of rules, but just in a relaxed and hilarious way. Loud laughter, and deep relaxation was the result. By evening, as the last vestiges of that party were cleared away, it was time to prepare for our celebration of "Dutch Christmas," as it is known around here; Sinterklaas, the feast of St. Nicholas, which we celebrate by giving chocolate letters (the initial of each person's first name) and a small gift for each child. And the bes…

The new song in my mouth

Hearing and singing a new song in my heart

“Now relax, and go in peace into each new day and trust me mightily for the future.” These were the closing words I wrote down that God spoke into my heart in a time of deep communion with Him several weeks ago. I have become used to God speaking such words to me, and have recorded them for many years now. God knows that I need to hear from Him in other ways too. He has placed people in my life to give me landmarks in my progress and upward growth. A few days after those words directly from God to me on my own, my spiritual friend quoted these verses to me:

I waited patiently for the Lord;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40: 1-3

As she read these words, as she had received them from God, I realized that despite my m…

The Lord Has Spoken

On The Marathon of Biblical Proportions I am lagging far behind in September's readings.

This morning I read Obadiah, a short book of one chapter; one of the minor prophets. A small part of verse 18 stood out on the page. stark and powerful, following a prophetic statement:

Obadiah 1:18 (New International Version)
18...The LORD has spoken.

I am coming towards the end of the books of prophecy, and they have been interesting reading. They were written over a span of hundreds of years before Christ, a turbulent time of kingdoms rising and falling and the people of Israel being taken captive into Babylon. The poor prophets did not have an easy time of it as what they had to say was not the message the people wanted to hear. The truth disturbed and offended people but over and over again, in the notes at the bottom of the pages in my Life Application Bible, it is clear that the prophecies were fulfilled. That is, with the exception of those concerning a time that the prophets said was fa…