Saturday, February 28, 2009
The familiar words jolted my memory during the Ash Wednesday service this week. I am not a religious Christian, nor a religious Anglican. I hang loose to various rituals and customs in my denominational tradition. But neither do I shun them at times because I am confident that God can speak to me in any way He chooses, even in church. So this week I chose to attend this special service, confident also that there would be a great message, as there always is, from our gifted and wise female pastor/priest, Kelly. So I had the ashes imposed, and began the season of Lenten reflection with a black sign of the cross on my forehead. It didn't last long, so I didn't have to worry about parading my piety out in the world. I got what I came for - an opportunity to reflect quietly in a shared and sacred space.
Dust was on my mind, and the phrase repeated by my dear Ugandan friend, Canon Marie. She used to say that the only D.D. she wanted was "Down in the Dust." The D.D. of course we were speaking of was the title of Doctor of Divinity, an honorary or earned degree. "Down in the dust", she said, "down in the dust with Jesus." Canon Marie's comment was typical of her honesty and her humility, two of the qualities which had drawn us into close friendship during my family's missionary years in Uganda. Together we began an English Bible Class which still operates more than ten years later, and eight years after our departure from that beautiful land.
But it wasn't just a saying for my dear friend Marie. It was a reality she lived. Up before dawn every day she did heavy digging in her vegetable garden, eager to make a little extra money for her family at the local market. Then a full day doing ministry in the church and home to prepare an evening meal for her husband and family of boys. Her long years of service in the church had been recognized with the title and honour of Canon. However she was a woman, and she was a friend of "the whites". She was my friend, when people didn't understand us, when people didn't like us, when people told lies about us, when people told lies about her, and the supposed advantages she had gained through being my friend. When we suffered deeply from the prejudice that eventually turned to danger and sent us home to protect our family, I could do nothing about the suffering that came upon her. I often wondered, and said to her later, that if I had known what she would suffer for being my friend I wonder if I would have pursued that friendship which brought me so much comfort and opportunity for ministry.
I believe Canon Marie has known and continues to know what it means to be "Down in the Dust". And she knows also, as I do, that it is the only safe place to be. It is not safe to be "special", to be in an important position, to be in special ministry or in any way "above" others. Soon enough something will happen to bring us down into the dust. And when we are we know for sure the joy of His presence with us, as He walks with us along roads of suffering and sacrifice, which eventually bring us into the resurrection freedom He has promised for us.
I am glad I can remember these words and principles this Lent. And I shall never forget them.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Isaiah 58:5-6 (New International Version)
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
It was the first day of Lent, the start of 40 days of repentance and reflection.
How fitting that a group gathered in Toronto on that particular day, as guests of the Faith and Culture Inclusion Network, to learn about the challenges faced by the First Nations peoples of Canada.
The speakers: Cindy Blackstock, C.E.O. of First Nations' Child and Youth Caring Society of Canada, and Jonathon Thompson, Director, Health and Social Development, Assembly of First Nations.
The event had been organized in a very short time frame, but was a significant opportunity to learn about issues facing the First Nations.
We were humbled and challenged as Cindy and Jonathon recited the facts of life for the First Nations peoples of Canada, opening our eyes and wiping away prejudice, ignorance and apathy as they did.
Cindy spoke calmly about the inequity and humiliation that result in social problems and broken families. Photographer Liam Sharp shared his documentation of the plight of the children of Attawapiskat whose school should bring shame to all who see the photographs. He said that he felt it necessary to bring the story to Canadians. "Is this our Canada?" he asked. He said that it wasn't what he thought it was.
Cindy spoke of her hero, Dr. Peter Henderson Bryce, who is buried in Beechwood cemetery in a humbly marked grave."Real heroes need not shout," she said. Dr. Bryce caused official embarrassment by condemning Native boarding schools as breeding grounds of tuberculosis.
She said that when she visited his grave, she was, "listening in the wind," because she hasn't yet learned to speak into the silence that Bryce spoke into.
There were only about 70 of us there on Ash Wednesday, 2009, but I couldn't help thinking of the Civil Rights movement in the United States and how Rosa Parks stood up to the wall of silence that sanctioned the humiliation of a people and how people heard about that and were challenged to stand with her. Could this day be such a turning point?
Cindy challenged us to each consider, "What is my special gift? What can I contribute?" I believe that each person in that room was hand picked by God to be there. There were pastors, writers, newspaper editors, photographers, social workers, leaders and direct support staff who work with people with disabilities. What if each of us did what we could?
Refuse to countenance prejudice when we hear it spoken
Educate others on the issues we are aware of
Not be okay with the fact that there is an Indian Act
Not be okay with the fact that there are reserves
Not be okay with the fact that "status" expires every five years
Write to the premier and prime minister and say that in Canada equality matters
Go to the website in support of Jordan’s Principle and add our support
Dear Lord, forgive our ignorance. Thank you for opening our eyes and for an opportunity to work for justice. For this is the kind of fasting you choose that we engage in.
Micah 6:8 (New International Version)
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I have been reflecting on that verse for more than just a Lenten season or two. In particular I have been pondering it in relation to many events and concerns in my faith journey that I have the privilege of sharing with you on this blog. Knowing that you will be waiting for encouraging words on my day to write gives me reason to more intentionally reflect on ways that God speaks to me as I go through my days. It is an incredibly rewarding experience. Perhaps when we each have to pull together thoughts for others we come up with much that enriches our own lives and thinking. And what is really important is what the words do for us, for all that really matters is what is going on in our own hearts, and between us and God.
Our constant inner chatter, surface voices or deep truths expressed in the riddles of our dreams, is known to God as well as to us. He knows and hears it all, and seeks to have His loving words break through the chatter, bring His voice of truth into the bedlam of our fears, hopes and dreams. And how else can we hear His voice than by being quiet? That doesn’t mean taking a vow of silence for the season of Lent, or not sharing our concerns with others. It might even mean finding our voices in new ways, as I have done through writing on a blog. Each of us will know what it means to be quiet, just as each of us will know what it means to have our confidence in God, and finding our strength there. Some of the other translations for Isaiah 30:15 use the word trust instead of confidence, making it very clear that it is our trust in God that gives us confidence.
My prayer for each of us, and especially for myself, is that in this season of Lent, as we prepare ourselves for the commemoration of those great events which are the source of our confidence and trust, the death and resurrection of our mighty humble Saviour and King , Jesus Christ, is that we will find new ways to be quiet within our hearts and minds, and new ways to grow in confidence and trust in Him.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
This has been a whirlwind couple of days with little time for reflection. Yes, I confess, I even missed my Sacred Hour on Tuesday and it has been a Sacred Half Hour a couple of times in the past few days.
I don't want to write meaningless words, but I wanted to still say hello and let you know that I carry the readership of Whatever He Says in my heart always.
Blessings on you in this day as we start Lent and that sacred time of reflection and preparation for the joy of Easter.
I hope to be back tomorrow, fully charged up and inspired with a fresh word--whatever "HE" says. :)
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
22News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.
"News of this reached the ears of the church." Those words trigger a shudder of recognition in me. Oh, not about news reaching the ears of the church, but about me, when certain things reach my ears.
In this case, it was a rumour that the Cypriot and Cyrenian Christian Jews had shared the gospel with Greeks, of whom a great number believed and became Christians. The good news of the gospel was spreading more rapidly than butter on a pile of hot pancakes.
I love that when the church got the news of what was happening, they sent a pair of eyes to see what was going on. And what a pair of eyes. Wise eyes. Godly eyes.
Their response has the stamp of godliness. Don't react, but search out truth. I tend to search out truth while I am reacting. What a good lesson is hidden in these few short words.
And oh, how I want to be a Barnabas; a peacemaker, path smoother and rock of reason.
Monday, February 23, 2009
I pondered a train of thought that had started earlier in the day about the times that God did things that seemed counterintuitive. With the benefit of hindsight it is easy to see humour in people's responses. I read one of them this morning:
A disciple named Ananias was told in a vision to go to a house on Straight Street, and pray for a man from Tarsus named Saul, who had lost his sight. I smile whenever I read Ananias's response.
Acts 9:13-14 (New International Version)
13"Lord," Ananias answered, "I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name."
The "pharisee of pharisees," the least likely to be chosen for the task of reaching the Gentiles, was the very one God chose.
I also love the passage in Luke, describing two disciples walking to the town of Emmaus after the crucifixion. They are joined by Jesus, whom they do not immediately recognize. This is some of the interchange that took place.
Luke 24:17-19 (New International Version)
17 He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
19"What things?" he asked.
"Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem?" Can you imagine how Jesus must have been smiling?
I thought too, of the account of Lazarus's death. How puzzling that Jesus took so much time to go to the bedside of his sick friend-- seemingly arriving too late.
John 11:32 (New International Version)
32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Jesus must have been anticipating what was to happen next--the raising from the dead of Lazarus. "Where have you put him?" he asked. And no one could have guessed why.
As we drove back later, Paul mused out loud, "I often wonder if my dad felt cheated."
"What?" I asked, surprised.
"Well, he was only 62 when he died of cancer, 23 years ago. I'm nearly 62 and I wonder if he didn't feel like he had a lot more living to do."
I didn't know what to say, but I wondered if those times--the times when we think God didn't hear, or got the answer wrong, aren't the times when God gave the best surprise of all...
This morning we sang again, that beautiful song, by Chris Tomlin, I Will Rise:
And I Will Rise
when he calls my name
No more sorrow,
No more pain
I Will Rise,
on Eagle's wings
Before my God fall on my kness,
I Will Rise
Sunday, February 22, 2009
"I don't mean to worry you, Belinda," he said, "but Mum has fallen a few times lately and she fell last night."
He went on to tell me how Mum's legs have been failing her and on Friday morning, before the Helping Hands lady came to get Mum up, something prompted him to go down and check on her. He was shocked to find Mum on her back beside her bed. At first glance he thought that she was gone, but she was just badly shaken and hurt. We don't know how long she'd lain there, but her back was bruised and she was mentally disoriented because of the shock. She has an alarm to push in emergencies, to call for help, but the Helping Hands ladies said that many of their clients are too confused in an emergency, to remember to use them, or they are afraid that they'll have to go to hospital, so they don't.
I thank God that in the little English village of Alvechurch, the doctor still makes house calls. He came and checked on her, prescribed steroids and antibiotics for a rumble on her chest and said that he would check in again on Saturday.
I told Robert that I would call back that evening and see how she was. During the team meeting we had a prayer time but when I tried to pray for Mum I couldn't speak. Martha took over, placed her hand on my shoulder and covered Mum in prayer. The prayer support of this dear team of managers was a great comfort.
That evening we celebrated Tiffany-Amber's 11th birthday, which is on Sunday, and in the midst of the children playing with their Playmobil, I called Robert. He said that she was safely tucked up in bed. He had gone down at 11.00 p.m. to check on her. She had not been herself all day though, and not really aware of things. Helping Hands had doubled up their ladies to help support her from her bed when she needed to get up. He said that her colour wasn't good and he had a feeling that maybe there was something more going on. We actually talked about her wishes about funeral arrangements and I said that I was ready to leave for England if I needed to be there. He said it was so good to hear the girls voices in the background as they played.
This morning as I got ready for the day, she was on my mind, and I prayed that if she was sick, God would take her peacefully at home and that she wouldn't have to go into hospital or a nursing home.
After breakfast I called and Robert answered the phone. He said, "I'm right beside Mum's bed Belinda. I'll give her the phone and go into the other room for the extension."
Imagine how I felt when Mum's voice said, "Hello darling," with her familiar little laugh.
She is herself today. Still in bed, but she enjoyed listening in to my conversation with Robert and laughed at all the jokes Robert made. At the end she fell silent as we talked, and Robert said, "I think that Mum may have dozed off."
Quickly her voice came back, protesting firmly,"No. I heard everything you said."
I am so grateful--for Robert's faithful care of Mum and for God's gift of another day of her being with us.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
So here is this comforting truth, expressed for us all, in a song.
No One Knows My Heart Better Than You
Standing at my window, hidden by the night
Harboring the private wounds, safe and out of sight
There's an agony in living, but there's a comfort in the truth
That no one knows my heart better than You.
I can face a lot of people with this sanguine act of mine
Guarded by the eloquence I sometimes hide behind
But it's a veil of false pretenses that You can see right thru
'Cause no one knows my heart better than You.
Part of me is reaching, and part of me holds back
But when it comes to You I am a doorway
You're free to walk into
'Cause no one knows my heart better than You.
Words and music by Susan Ashton, Billy Sprague and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Copywright 1991 Birdwing Music/Sking Horse Inc. ASCAP/Emily Boothe, Inc. (BMI)
Friday, February 20, 2009
12For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as [a]in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand [b]fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been [c]fully and clearly known and understood [[d]by God].
It was late afternoon as he stood at the upstairs window looking out at our big backyard and the girls of 10 and 11 down below, granddaughters, playing in the snow. He had been drawn to the window by the sound of their laughter. He loved them so much, and he took every opportunity to tell them so.
Suddenly he thought, "What am I doing up here watching through a window?" A few seconds later he was putting on his coat and gloves and making his way outside to join them.
He played outside with them for an hour, this husband of mine, almost 62 years old. But when he decided to try the ice slide they had made, the girls came running over with concern that he would get hurt.
"I used to do this all the time when I was young," he said.
"Yes, but now you are old, and you might hurt yourself," they said.
Ah, the honesty of children! They leave you with no illusions.
When Paul recounted the story, I saw the heart of our Father in his love for the girls. God didn't stand far away and watch us from a distance, but came to our world, to be with us. His love compelled him just as Paul's did.
Had the girls looked up at the window, before he came downstairs, they would have seen his dim shadow, just like the description in 1 Corinthians 13:12 of the reflection in the mirror.
A few days ago Paul shared a thought about that verse that was interesting. He connected it with the Jewish custom of covering mirrors during a seven day period of mourning; a ritualized period, called Shiva. When the days of mourning are over, the veil is removed.
One day that will be true for us, the time of mourning, pain, sickness and troubles will be over, the veil will be removed and we will see clearly, face to face, a Father whose love for us is beyond compare.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
6 For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
Yesterday, on my post about teachers, there were some wonderful reflective comments and I loved them all. Two of them took the time to remember teachers too: Brave Raven with humour, and Susan with poignancy. I hope they don't mind, but I would like to share them for today's post.
Brave Raven said...
Aaah, teachers. I too have some unforgettable ones: Mrs. Foy and Mrs. Elliot who taught me to speak English; Mr. Blake who called me up after a poetry assignment and said, "You should do this for a living;" Mr. Finn, who told me no matter what I did, I'd be a success. Hmmmm. I hope I never run into these people. They would wonder what happened and probably blame themselves. HA HA.
Then, there was a Grade Five. Horrific Grade Five. Her breasts were so pointy that we were convinced they were made of plastic. I'll never forget one boy Ed giving her a "compliment:" "Miss, I like your......shirt." Our entire class erupted in "inside joke" laughter. Pleased by his comedic success at the expense of this miserable lady (who should have chosen another profession that did not involve working with children,) he tried again the next day:"Miss, I like your....hair." Devastating silence followed by unfortunate consequences....for Ed!
I talked to my uncle last week who is a teacher. I said, "I hope you guys know what a lasting negative effect your actions can have on the lives of the kids you teach when you handle things badly...
"He answered that yes, he does understand and said, "It scares the hell out of me".
It should.I had some horrendous teachers who just didn't "get" me. I also had a couple who were outstanding. Mrs. Street (Grade 4) made me feel like I could do ANYTHING - and for her I tried to! I did so well that year that they advanced me a Grade in the middle of February. When she took me down to the nurse's office to tell me that she would no longer be my teacher that year, I bawled! I went into Mrs. Abey's class, who made me feel just the opposite. That I couldn't do ANYTHING. And I didn't. In spite of being reasonably intelligent, and having just been accelerated a year, I then failed two grades in a row. I think part of that was just that they didn't know what to do with me for the most part and decided I was a "bad" kid. So I was.
Then there was Mr. Reimer, a principal in public school, who I saw again in my forties. He remembered me vividly and said, while he rubbed his chin, and with a great twinkle in his eye, "Ah, I remember you! YOU were a CHALLENGE!" He said it like being a challenge was a gift or something. He used to help me control my behaviour by extending GRACE - he would give me jobs to do like ringing the bell for recess, or taking notes around for all the teachers to sign once they'd read it. It was entirely undeserved, but it made me feel important and responsible, and I did my best to live up to his expectations. I never wanted to let him down. I loved that man and can't wait to see him in heaven. He made SUCH a huge difference in my childhood. Just simple acceptance and instead of trying to change me, he chose to channel my energy into worthwhile activities and thereby gave me a goal to shoot for that was entirely unspoken, but very tangible.
I wish all teachers knew what he did and realized that EVERY kid in their heart wants to do well. I know I did. I think the worst thing you can do to a kid is to take their behaviour personally... We, as adults, have the power to consolidate in a child either the positive or the negative. You are so right that we need to be incredibly careful and accepting and understanding of children... We need to respond to the BEHAVIOUR, without judgement, manipulation or control. I wish I'd done a better job as a parent. Thank God we get a second chance through our grandchildren and all the other kids in our lives.
1 Corinthians 1:25-27 (New International Version)
25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I wonder if they ever imagined such immortality? It is a very long time ago--43 years since high school--and yet they are frozen in time in my mind, as real as they were then. I can see them and feel them vividly, both in appearance and personality. Maybe it's that the mind, eyes and heart of a child are like sponges that absorb impressions and hold onto them more easily than they do in later years.
Each teacher in my memory has a sense of "caricature" about them, but perhaps that is because they were a little larger than life to us and their personalities extremely distinct.
Teachers all seemed much older than we were, even those who I now realize must have been quite young. But one who didn't seem old at all was a white haired supply teacher who filled the gap when I was in my last year of elementary school. I can see now that inside this teacher, who must have been close to retirement age, lived a child with whom we instinctively connected. We didn't see the outer shell, we just saw her soul! She read to us from a book called, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, a wonderful book that I had never heard of before she introduced me to C.S. Lewis. She told us how she used to slide down a long, polished wooden bannister with a curved end when she was a child. Imagine! A grown up who loved to slide down bannisters. We loved her and I feel as if I will see her one day in heaven.
The prize for worst tempered, goes, I think, to one of my art teachers. He had long, wild hair the colour of carrots and serious, broody-moody icy-blue eyes. He threw blackboard erasers, scattering chalk dust at us when he lost his patience, which was frequently. I still loved art, and loved it even more when a new teacher arrived who looked as though he had stepped right out of a French Impressionist painting. He was short, with pale skin and dark hair and a mustache. He taught us about Toulouse Lautrec, Manet, Monet and Degas and encouraged me to become an art teacher. I was so shy that I could not imagine standing in front of a class and teaching. "You think that now because you are 15," he said, "But you will not always feel that way." I did not believe him., but I joined the art club and stayed after school and thought that I would become a painter one day.
My needle work teacher made a great impression on me and I learned much from her. She was gray haired and frowned intensely and seemed to always have an over watery mouth, for she sprayed as she spoke with a sputtery manner. I was not a natural needlewoman but I did try hard. I still can hear her voice saying "Gusset;" and feel the spray. At times I despaired of ever learning to sew. I learned to rip out seams that were not exactly right and to never settle for less than perfect. My sewing skills were inherited from my mother, who helped me with my homework one night with disastrous results. In class we had done two rows of gathering stitches on the sewing machines, around the shoulder edges of sleeves which were to be inserted into the armholes of a blouse. At home that night, I struggled ineptly to fit the sleeves into the armholes, and cried tears of frustration until Mum came to my assistance. She removed all hope of doing it by taking the messy loose threads of the gathering stitches and pulling them out. I still remember my gasp of horror as I helplessly watched the threads disappearing from the fabric, too swiftly to protest. It was worth the catastrophe for the many opportunities it gave us to laugh about it since.
This reminds me that children are thinking, observing, absorbing and remembering much more than we might think. It makes me want to be more intentional in the way I relate to them, to think about how I want to be remembered, maybe not as a teacher, but as a Sunday School teacher, grandparent, aunt or just a friend.
Mark 10:16 (Amplified Bible)
16And He took them [the children up one by one] in His arms and fervently invoked a] blessing, placing His hands upon them.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I don't say that it wasn't deserved. I have broken more plates, cups and glasses than the average person. But where my reputation and reality met or ended I never was quite sure. It always felt to me as if a self fulfilling prophesy had been spoken over me.
Along the way I resisted the rap and made up my mind that this Twinkling and Tripping was not me. I was really no more doomed to clumsiness than the next person. And, for the most part, I stopped dropping things.
Now I have the perfect mother, but since she is only human, she is allowed a weakness or two. She will never let me forget that I am Twinkle Toes. I have only to drop one thing and in spite of the fact that she is 82, has had a stroke and is not quite as quick in thought or speech as she once was, she remembers this, and with a knowing look, she will say something like, "There goes my Belinda," which I know means--well, not, "Belinda the graceful."
I quietly smile to myself (well, sometimes I smile) and determine to ignore the label, or else I know that I will be suffering from my own brand of dropsy in no time at all.
I say all of this really, to encourage thought about the power of words spoken over a child and even those long past childhood. I count myself blessed with a stubborness that withstood--and understood too. But how tempting it is to spot a trend and name it, and, as we do, bending a sapling in a certain way, all too quickly. I am sure I have done it unwittingly myself.
Lets say good words--prophesy signs of strength and good character as soon as we spot a glimmer of them: Gentleness, kindness, humility, generosity and compassion; unselfishness, persistence and patience; honesty. Children can grow up and into these qualities, as into shoes bought just a little too big, as mine always were.
Ephesians 4:29 (New Century Version)
29 When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you.
Monday, February 16, 2009
I drove to church and sat among the people. I sat among the people and I sang. I stood and raised my hands to heaven in surrender and in praise. I worshipped him with heart and soul and mind.
At home a pork roast filled the house with fragrance. And the long pine table decked in cranberry cloth lay waiting; waiting for family to gather all around it.
And soon enough, three generations filled the places. And a child gave thanks in stumbling words for church and food and said "Amen." And dishes passed from hand to hand. Plates filled with mashed potatoes, corn and broccoli and peas. What bounty.
And then the bargaining. "How many more bites?"
"One each of mashed potatoes corn and meat!"
Cups of tea and coffee. Sleepy parents and grandparents lolled in comfy chairs while children played.
Conversation punctuated by sporadic peacemaking while the hours ticked away.
And I was so grateful for the simple pleasures of this Sabbath day.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
11...Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"
Whatever he says to me,
Matthew 20:22-23 (New International Version)
22...Jesus said to them. "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?"
23Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup..."
His footsteps lead on thorny paths;
5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
Psalm 73:25-26 (New International Version)
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
I go through my days, trying to sit back from myself and ask if I am being "moved". Now of course I believe that He wants us to be moved, to care deeply, about many people and situations, to weep with those who weep, to rejoice with those who are rejoicing. So I don't think He's talking about that.
I believe He's talking about developing that quality of inner stillness that is not dismayed, that deep trust in God's faithfulness that holds on no matter what, that capacity of knowing and dwelling in the depths of His spirit, far beneath the ever changing forces moving all around us.
I have to say that is the only way for me. That deep place of quietness is the only place to be, the only way to be truly at home in God and in myself. Otherwise I will always be pulled out of myself, tossed here and there, reacting to each stimulus,and often over-reacting.
That deep balance comes only from His presence deep within my being. As I look back on my life, as I look within myself from the vantage point of many years of walking with God, I understand more fully why He gave me that life verse when I was only 11 years old, from my dear grandmother: "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." (Isaiah 30:15)
Friday, February 13, 2009
Brenda's eyes were shining as she said, "I'm not wearing black, I'm wearing Dad's favourite colour." She wore a beautiful jacket of kingfisher blue. "I can't be sad," she whispered.
I understood. There was so much of God's hand in all that surrounded this man's passing.
A little later as we began to file into the chapel for the service, I noticed a row of veterans in the back. Gray haired, faces lined, and no longer resembling the dashing young men who once went to war, they sat with a quiet dignity. Suddenly I felt very close to my own dad. I knew that many of them shared a brotherhood with him that only they could understand.
Later, after the committal at the graveside, we came back for lunch at the Legion hall and I went over to chat with a couple of these gentlemen and shake their hands. I told them that my dad had been an old soldier too, and I asked them where they had been during the war. I wanted to show them honour, to pay attention to them.
The respect and honour shown to the deceased person at a funeral is an important part of this final ritual. Susan's and Brenda's dad, Hugh Saunders, was honoured with a full colour ceremony at the Legion the night before the funeral. He was buried with a hundred poppies in his casket, placed there dozens of vets and his family. Susan pinned hers right on his lapel and then patted his chest, right over his heart and whispered, "Goodbye Dad--until I see you again."
As the cavalcade of cars proceeded slowly through the heart of Windsor to the cemetery, I thought of the sombre progress, 6 years ago, along the streets of the village of Alvechurch as I rode in the funeral car with Mum and Robert. A man in top hat and tails walked slowly in front of the car, leading the way from the house, to St. Laurence Church, only a short walk really; not even a mile. The sense of dignity though, was immense, as it was when dad's coffin was wheeled in, draped in the Union Jack, and led by standard bearers.
Today I wondered why we save so much honour for the end. I understand why we do it then, but why wait? Why not try to show honour and respect for each and every human being we meet, each and every day? Our world has become so casual in many ways that I think we have lost something precious. It is, after all, a demonstration of love to honour someone. What a wonderful thing it would be if each person we met felt incredibly cherished and attended to, loved and honoured.
1 John 4:7-12 (New International Version)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
After everyone else had left the funeral luncheon today, and I had delivered some of the flowers to my dad's wife, Peggy, and had another cup of tea with her, I went back to the cemetery alone in the rain. I cranked up my car stereo full blast, left the door wide open and as I listened to the strains of the same song Belinda posted on Sunday ( I will Rise ). I sloshed through puddles and mud and made my way over to the freshest grave there, my dad's and danced (yes, I danced) all around my mom and dad's side by side graves in the pouring rain. My hands were lifted high to heaven in gratitude to a King who brings all things to fruition in the fullness of time... I will see them again. I will see both of them again. I will see both of them together again. And I am in awe of God''s great plan. His heart must be SO BIG to be able to contain such plans!
God is so good, people. GOD IS SO GOOD!!!! There is nothing he can't do. Absolutely nothing!
Ask me how I know. :) My mom and dad. Together forever. Yeah, ask me how I know...
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
I leave early this morning, for Windsor, to simply "be with" Susan and her family at the funeral of her father. With me I will carry the love of her co-workers and friends who couldn't make the long journey, but who wish they could. I know from experience, how much each token of caring means, whether prayer (I literally felt the prayers of others carry me when my father died), or a card, or the physical presence of the people who come to show their respect and love.
Susan is giving the eulogy at the funeral, and I look forward to hearing the thoughts that she will share.
When my father died I expected to speak on behalf of the family; I'm the oldest child and usually pretty comfortable speaking publicly. But when the local vicar came to visit and help plan the service, and began to ask questions about dad's qualities, I suddenly felt very fragile and helpless and was grateful to lean into his strength. He seemed to assume that he would take care of the whole service and I was happy to let him.
Sitting with a total stranger at such a raw time, trying to make sure we conveyed everything that was important to say, was draining and exhausting. How do you sum up a person's life in a few short words? And yet it seemed so important to do so. He wasn't just anybody, he was my dad. After the vicar left, I felt as though I had failed miserably in describing him.
But in my Daily Light, on the page for January 29th, is one of my little notes. It says:
"The day after we met with the vicar to talk about who Dad was and I felt we had failed to describe him. 2003"
The first verse of the day was this:
Genesis 16: 13
You are the God who sees me
As if that wasn't enough, the next verses were from Psalm 139:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
At the end came this verse:
But Jesus . . . knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.—
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
God assured me through his Word, that it didn't matter whether I had described Dad well enough, or even how the vicar translated what I had said, because God knew who he was. What sweet comfort. What a sign of love.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Man shot twice in two days
Same man shot twice in two different weekend incidents. » What happened?
I mean, who could resist finding out "what happened?"
Well, most of the time, I could, because I try not to get distracted on the way to reading email, which I'm usually doing as a distraction to begin with. But this evening I did take the bait, and I must be feeling punchy after my stressful week last week, because when I read this:
CALGARY (CBC) - A man who was shot on two separate occasions over the weekend is not co-operating with police.
I started laughing. I'm sorry, but there is something very funny in that sentence.
The story continues:
The man was in a car that was hit in a drive-by shooting in the southwest on Friday night. "When police arrived they located a Dodge Stratus vehicle, unoccupied with motor running and lights on with the passenger door wide open," police said in a press release.
A search of the area where the shooting took place failed to find a victim, but two hours later, a man showed up at hospital with wounds to his shoulder and chest.
He was treated and released
The story continues...
On Saturday night the same man walked into a convenience store on Macleod Trail with a fresh bullet wound to his left shoulder. He was taken to hospital in serious but non-life-threatening condition.
"We've asked our homicide investigators to actually help in the investigation only because he obviously is a targeted individual," said Insp. Rob Williams of the Calgary Police Service. "But he's not being co-operative with us at all and wants nothing to do with police or our assistance.
"At this point he is a victim and we can't force him to follow any of our advice."
I can't help it, I find so many of the lines in the story funny: "We've asked our homicide investigators to actually help in the investigation." I mean, as opposed to doing what?
Well, now you know the truth, I have a warped sense of humour. It is prone to strike at odd moments like tonight, and it is a mercy when I am sitting quietly at home and not in a meeting when it happens. I have memories of standing in a washroom, having left a meeting to compose myself, only to burst into laughter again every time I caught sight of my eyes, wet with tears, in the mirror. And if I had to explain what struck me as so funny, I would expect eyes that pitied and thought I'd lost my marbles, which quite possibly I have.
Meanwhile, I've been wondering if we couldn't use this tantalizing technique for church signs:
"Man swallowed by giant fish--find out why."
To those who don't know the story, it might just be enough to spark their curiosity.
And I do feel sorry for the poor man in the newspaper story. That was a very bad weekend.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Beside me trotted my faithful furry friend, Molson, his paws crunch-crunching as he trotted along, as happy as a child let out of school early. So many new scents to sniff--where to start? It was all too overwhelming.
As we began our homeward jaunt, behind us in the west, the sky seemed to be awash with a river of pink molten lava, rippled in lavender. The pavement reflected back the pink light, stretching out behind us and pointing like an icy finger in the direction of the sky.
Before us, like a luminous lantern guiding us home, hung a moon in the dusky twilight sky, as creamy white as a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
It felt like a wonderful start to a new week after several very busy ones with some temporarily long hours put in to meet deadlines.
Last week, at my peak of pressure, late on Wednesday, I came home frazzled and testy. It was worship practice night, but I had too much to do at home.
At my personal worst, on a day when I should have worn a sign around my kneck saying, "Approach at your peril," I decided that maybe it was time to leave the worship team. Although I love to sing, my voice is not strong and I don't sing the beautiful harmonies that some of my team mates do. I felt quite dispensable, and hastily sent a quick email to the worship leaders sharing my decision. It felt like a relief at the time, although I knew that there was something amiss in the condition of my heart.
The next day...well, a terrible and hollow feeling descended. What had I done? Every time I thought about Sunday, I felt a sense of loss. I hadn't heard back from anyone. Perhaps they hadn't opened their emails yet. It wasn't long before I was sending another one across cyberspace, saying something like, "If you'll still have me, can I stay?"
Before too long, two emails arrived, relieved and gladly welcoming me back from my self imposed exile. They both also said something I hadn't expected, and which made me feel uncomfortable, "You are irreplaceable." In my reply to the first email I ignored that sentence, focusing on my own relief at still being part of the team and my happiness that sanity had returned. In my reply to the second, I said, "I know that no one is irreplaceable," which seemed right. But I felt a gentle Holy Spirit rebuke; a rebuke I recognize and take seriously when I feel it. I paid attention and considered what it meant.
What I felt God saying to me was that we are all indeed irreplaceable, but not in the inflated sense we might think of it. In our zeal to avoid pride, we also avoid truth. God does not use cookie cutters. There will never be another person that can fit our place exactly. Like a puzzle piece that fits neatly into place, we belong somewhere in his plan, and what joy it is when we find that spot.
Romans 12:3-5 (Amplified Bible)
3For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.
4For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use,
5So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another].
Sunday, February 08, 2009
15 But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me;
grant your strength to your servant
and save the son of your maidservant.
I closed my Daily Light after reading it on Friday morning, but before I did, I moved the bookmark to the next day's reading, February 7th. There was a note in the top left hand corner of the page in my handwriting. Not unusual, for I have written little notes throughout this dog eared, book that is very precious to me. Some notes remind me of a birthday, or a the day of some one's death. Some note a significant moment in my spiritual journey. A few are so enigmatic that I wonder whatever I meant at the time I wrote them.
The one on February 7th, said, "Susan S. parent's 50th wedding anniversary '98." On October 5th another note says, "Susan S. Mom's home-going, 1987." She went to heaven 22 years ago in October, but February 7th would have been her 61st wedding anniversary.
I don't know why I feel compelled to note these things, but I do.
I was lying in bed this morning trying to will myself to get up when the phone rang downstairs. I knew that before I would get to it the answering machine would kick in, but it gave me the needed nudge to emerge from beneath the warm covers.
I crept downstairs so as not to waken Paul, and listened to the message. It was from Susan. Her voice raw and trembling slightly. "My dad's gone; about 2 o'clock this morning. We were on the way, we're at Chatham." Susan's father, an old soldier, like my own dad, lived in Windsor. He was proud, stubborn and independent, but he had resigned himself to moving to a nursing home on Tuesday, something he had never wanted to do.
I marvelled at how God weaves these things together, because when she called again a little later, to tell me he had died in the hospital, I was able to remind her of what day it was, and that perhaps he wasn't alone. I imagined a special visitor to that room, one at whose sight his eyes would have brightened as the veil between this world and the next was pulled aside.
Tomorrow our worship team will sing the beautiful Chris Tomlin song, I will Rise for the first time. I've been longing to sing it, having listened to it over and over, loving the lyrics and music. Is it coincidence that we sing it tomorrow?
There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when
He calls my name
No more sorrow,
no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow,
no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
Saturday, February 07, 2009
I share today some of those words that I read in a Daily Prayer each day, taken from the website of the ministry of John and Stasi Eldredge: www.ransomedheart.com. You can find the full two page text of this prayer under the section on their website called Going Deeper- Daily Prayer.
Jesus, I also sincerely receive you as my life, my holiness, and strength, and I receive all the work and triumph of your resurrection, through which you have conquered sin and death and judgment. Death has no mastery over you, nor does any foul thing. And I have been raised with you to a new life, to live your life - dead to sin and alive to God. I now take my place in your resurrection and your life, through which I am saved by your life. I reign in life through your life. I receive your life - your humility, love and forgiveness, your integrity in all things, your wisdom, discernment and cunning, your strength, your joy, your union with the Father. Apply to me the fullness of your resurrection. I receive it with thanks and give it total claim to my spirit, soul and body, my heart, mind and will.
My life is beyond this body, this hour, this day, this circumstance. I must never forget that, nor must you.
Friday, February 06, 2009
4He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love [for love waved as a protecting and comforting banner over my head when I was near him].
Calm returned to my heart as a big task at work was accomplished today. My shoulders grew lighter and laughter returned to my soul! That felt so good. I could relax and feel like a human being instead of that tense ninny who had to apologize to half a dozen people the next day. I noticed those in my immediate vicinity heaving sighs of relief. Was I really so grim and negative? Yes, I know the answer.
Tonight five of us sat after dinner, discussing the questions in the study we've been doing on the armour of God as described in Ephesians 6. Our focus was the footwear; the shoes of the gospel of peace.
One question was: How did God make peace with you?
Paul's answer gave me much food for thought. He spoke of the symbolic custom of breaking bread in the middle east, and how those tricked into doing so by their enemies knew that once this had occurred, whether knowingly or not, there could be no further hostilities between the parties. He reminded us of Jesus, at the Last Supper, breaking the bread and saying, "This is my body, broken for you." The deep symbolism of that action and those words, sank in. Peace between man and God.
What a banqueting table; what a love feast.
Ephesians 6:15 (Amplified Bible)
15And having shod your feet in preparation [to face the enemy with the firm-footed stability, the promptness, and the readiness produced by the good news] of the Gospel of peace.
Psalm 23:5 (Amplified Bible)
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with [a]oil; my [brimming] cup runs over.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
4 He has taken me to the banquet hall,
and his banner over me is love.
Writing a reply to an email I find myself harsh. I second guess myself; edit, reword, soften, remember...breathe.
A sudden surge of anger at something catches me off guard, adding pressure to an already pressured day.
A question asked once too often and I reply discourteously to someone who does not perhaps notice the subtle rudeness of my reply. But I know, and my heart is grieved.
Who is this hot-head that lives in me still?
If I make more room for Christ, surely what flows from me will naturally (or "by nature") be love. I will have no fear of harshness. No need to repent of sudden sharpness in my voice, in spoken or written word.
The verse today says, "His banner over me is love." Self referentially I always thought that it pointed out how much he loves me; how much he loves us. I wonder if I have that wrong (not about his loving us, but what the banner means.) I wonder if the banner is meant to proclaim, "Here, look--this one is mine. She represents love." Surely if I am his child carrying his DNA; made of "God stuff;" I should resemble him more closely.
Oh Lord, let love invade and possess the kingdom of my heart, and flow like life bloood through my thoughts, words and deeds.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
The anthem at church this Sunday was "Joy in the Morning". It spoke of the joy there would be "on that day", presumably the day when God would make everything right, and good and beautiful. I thought that what I really care about is the joy that I need, and try to find, and that indeed is available to all of us, every morning. I thought of my waking thoughts earlier that morning, and my ongoing reflections on joy versus happiness. It seems time to share them.
My struggles often seem the worst in the middle of the night, and the very earliest waking hours of the morning. Sometimes I come to a place of peace before I rise; other times it comes when I am upright and moving forward, accomplishing some simple tasks, and settling down to speak and listen to the Lord, through prayer and His word. This morning he reminded me through this scripture verse of His power to give me the kind of joy that lasts, that sustains and satisfies, whatever else is going on in my life. It is His love that gives us the power to "sing for joy and be glad all our days."
I remember the joy of singing His praises on Sunday evenings in the worship team I love so much. There I always truly know that God is present in His praises, that singing the words of His faithfulness indeed has power to change our minds and emotions. And that is one time where an external experience, of worship, can change what is going on in the inside.
But in general what I believe we learn in the Christian life is that it is joy, not happiness, that sustains us. In the poem called "The Gift", that I quoted last week, there is the line "You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness." (William Stafford) And happiness is like that. It is not something lasting; it depends on circumstances.
The insight for the day on January 29th in the Bible League's 2009 Devotional Planner highlighted this counterpoint:
Joy is not the same thing as happiness. The word 'happy' comes from the word 'happenstance', which means "a chance happening." Happiness depends on happenings. Joy is a state of being. It flows from the inside out. Let God be the well from which your joy springs - no matter what the circumstances. Have you ever felt joy even when you weren't happy?
This reminds me again of a principle that has become ingrained into my thinking through the words of a mentor. I was taught to recognize when I was looking to "happenings", events, improvements, relationships, changes in others and situations, to make me feel better about my life. The saying " If....were better I would be okay" has come to sum up a dependence on "happenstance" to bring me or others a sense of well being, okay-ness, safety or joy. Learning to let go of that dependence has opened me up more to the capacity to find true joy in living, even if I am not happy.
I believe that is what God is calling us to when He says, through Paul, to "Be joyful always." (I Thessalonians 5:16), or through the psalmist reminding us of His capacity to empower us to do that through His unfailing love.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
A virgin heart each morning
A blank page
On which the Master's hand
May write a loving lesson
A love note
I want to lay it down
A sacrificial offering
A pure heart
And yet I come to him
With heart already cluttered
A half heart
I want to live for him
In action as in discourse
A true life
To really put him first
And give to him unflinching
A whole heart
This poem birthed itself this morning as I was thinking about the fact that a whole month has gone by since I began my quest to develop three key habits:
A daily Sacred Hour
A good night's sleep each night
A weekly Sabbath--celebrating it as a day of true rest
Results? Well, not perfection, I am afraid, but I'm not giving up.
My daily Sacred Hour has sometimes been a Sacred Half Hour, but I have had many whole hours and it has been so good. The hour goes by so fast, and I love to have unhurried time with God.
I do struggle to get to bed on time, being by nature more of a night owl, but I am trying, because I want to become a lark. This weekend I did better. I have been getting more sleep, but if I don't get to bed in time, obviously my morning is shorter.
Finally, the celebrating of Sabbath has been good on the one hand, because I have resisted doing any personal chores on it, but because it has been a very busy time at work, I have done some work that was necessary, on Sunday evenings. I won't be doing that next weekend, but I felt that I had to over the past couple of weekends. Is this the thin edge of the wedge? I sure hope not--I am committed to resting on Sundays.
Other updates: On Saturday I got a lot of the decorations put away but our Christmas tree is still up! :)
Ephesians 6:10 (New International Version)
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Monday, February 02, 2009
In a writers’ group online, one author told how her pastor’s mention of an Old Testament passage triggered the idea, “the right word for the right occasion.” She decided to add this phrase to her biographical details as her “tag line,” but didn’t know its source.
Someone suggested Proverbs 25:11 NIV: "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Another verse given was Eph. 4:29 NIV: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
My mind went back to childhood years in West Vancouver, following WWII. A very precise and disciplined British surgeon, who founded a ministry in Aden and countries around the Red Sea, sometimes stayed in our home for a week. This tall statesman had to sleep on my brother’s bed, the width of a cot.
On each furlough trip to Canada, this pioneering doctor tried to raise up potential missionaries for that hot and (then) thankless area – perhaps young marrieds, willing to have nothing, to live by faith, and to join a very difficult work. At that time, particularly in Yemen, many woman died in childbirth since fathers did not encourage daughters to leave to study nursing – and female patients were not allowed male medical assistance.
Dr. Lionel Gurney , on his knees, gave my brothers camel rides on his back in front of the big stone fireplace made of round boulders. Still on his knees, he pointed out to me, a teenager, all the Red Sea countries on a large map on the floor, and inspired my prayer. He also gave me Isaiah 50:4 (and later verse 7). In the King James, the verse read
The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned,
that I should know how to speak a word in season
to him that is weary:
he wakeneth morning by morning,
he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.
Today through the cyber world, these memories came flooding back. And with them came new insight, as I read the Psalter version Queen Victoria used. God says He will “learn” the meek – i.e., cause them to learn His way, as He teaches them (Ps. 25:9).
All these years, I have thought these verses showed the wise tongue and ear were “learn-èd” in the old, two-syllable pronunciation. In contrast, I suddenly realize that the tongue and the pen belong to the “unlearnèd” one who listens – to the New Testament “disciple” – the follower, and the learner – the one willing to be taught. Today, I choose to put myself back into the role of the pupil, and to hear His voice – and maybe, as I listen, He will give me “A Word in Season” to share.
Psalm 25:9 (New Living Translation)
9 He leads the humble in doing right,
teaching them his way