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Showing posts from January, 2009

Time, the Timeless, and the Timely

My times are in your hands. Psalm 31:15

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

It seems my life is ever an inner dialogue about the interface between the timeless and the timely. Whether I reminisce about long dead family members and their impact on my thinking, the legacy of my mother's furniture and life, the complexities of missionary life or parenting, or simply trying to decide how to organize my basement and how that fits with the existential issues of life, a constant theme in my thinking and writing is expressed in this timeless phrase.

I search for it on Google to see how much it is used by others and discover over 700 references spanning make-up, architecture, decorating,cooking,clothing, poetry, religion, philosophy, music, and so on. I recall the seminar at a Christian writers' conference that impacted me the most. The author teaching the seminar is an editor of several top thoughtful Christian magazines. He urged that eve…

The Power of Seeing the Gift

My friend Dave wrote on his blog Chewing the Fat on Thursday, that he had a request for an interview from a writer in Alberta. The person was writing an article on people from the area that includes Dave's home town, "who went on to international success in their chosen fields."

Dave was feeling nervous. A powerful speaker on his area of expertise; he lacked confidence in having anything to say about himself. And besides, nobody that knew him as a child, expected him to amount to anything at all.

At the start of Jesus' public ministry a similar thing happened to him:

Luke 4:22 (New Living Translation)
22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

I thought about the two questions that Jesus asked the apostles about his identity:
Luke 9:18-20 (New Living Translation)

18 One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who d…

Know Him First

Philippians 3:10 (New Living Translation)
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,

What we say about who God is...well, I think sometimes we take it way too lightly, and I include myself in that.

We have our own opinions, and everyone is entitled to an opinion. But the only way to truly know God is by reading his Book every day and hanging out with him long enough for some of who he is to really sink in deep.

Do I really want to know him? Because I have to consider that knowing him may require me to change. The likelihood is high that I have some things very wrong and that I may have some major, and maybe painful, adjusting to do, in order to line up with him. Who am I kidding "may have?" He is holy, and I am not. But I will never change, unless I press in close to him and listen.

Long years ago my heart aspired
To really know my Christ Divine;
And through the years much has transpired
To…

A Vote of Confidence

I remember as if it were yesterday; the day I told Mum The Big Lie. It was outrageous and obvious--I am not a good liar, which probably saved me from going down that road very far.

I was about 12 years old; a time when school was not my favourite place in the world to be and I went through a phase of playing truant, either alone or with a friend.

On one occasion I read the journals of Queen Victoria, while safely hidden in the branches of a yew tree in our village church yard, with the clock in the bell tower chiming away the day in 15 minute increments.

On the day of The Big Lie, I left for school as usual, walked down the hill into the village where I met the friend I usually rode the school bus with. We hid out in the church yard until my mum left for work, and then we let ourselves into the house.

We had fun watching TV, closing the curtains in the living room to block out the sunlight. At some point during the day, I have no idea why, we decided to melt some baking chocolate in a sa…

Stand by Me

Playing for Change: Song Around the World “Stand by Me”
I found this version of Stand by Me on Raspberry Rabbit last week and have wanted to share it ever since, if only for an excuse to listen to it again. I absolutely love it for its brilliant musicianship.

Stand by Me, is one of my favourite songs, and it speaks to what I wrote about yesterday: We all need someone to stand with us, to be "for" us at some time or another. Lean on Me, another of my favourite songs has a similar them.

"Standing with," somebody takes courage. Often it involves some risk. It might be inconvenient and involve sacrifice. It might take us out of our comfort zone.

I look around at my friends and count myself very blessed. All of them are the kind of people who would stand with someone and have the courage to go against the flow. It is one of the things that I love about them and I include my dear Paul in that group. I don't think there is a conformist in the crowd. They are a passionate …

Covenant Friendships

2 Peter 1:5-9 (The Message)
5-9 So don't lose a minute in building on what you've been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can't see what's right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.

The table was covered in a cloth of pale avocado, reflecting the colour of the walls. Care was taken in every detail of the table. The water jug held grapes and orange slices, and palest ochre napkins were carefully folded by Hannah and placed on the dinner plates. Candles shimmered; their light reflected in the deep red of the wine. Every detail comm…

A Full Tank

I continue to learn as I work on incorporating new habits into my life. It isn't that I can never extend myself, or make a supreme effort when it is called for. That has been called for this week at work, but when I wrote on Thursday evening about not being asleep at my post anymore, I talked myself out of starting a big task at 10.30 p.m. and instead went to bed.

I was rested for the next day. The day was busy but highly productive and then I chilled out with Paul by watching a movie until 8.30.

I remembered then that because it was Friday, Meg was writing the blog post for Saturday. That was a wonderful thing to enjoy--a blog Sabbath.

I did do a couple of hours of work on some deadline driven tasks. What difference running on a full tank makes.

I am so used to running on empty, through sheer grit, will and determination but I have long struggled with a tendency to fall asleep easily at meetings. I am also a master of procrastination before getting on with a big task that is waiting …

More About Treasures - from a Heavenly Perspective

Our new couch arrived yesterday. You can see it as the featured bargain on www.thebrick.com. The Grace sofa. I loved the name, but didn't buy it for that. It is our very first new sofa, replacing the second Salvation Army thrift store one which did us well after the first SA one, both of which now live in the basement. The room really needed this new sofa, to match the quality, at least in looks, of the ancestral furniture that came after Mum's move from Windsor, and her final move to Heaven. I think she would approve of my choice. I did the best I could with the upper edge of the lower line of sofas. For many, this would not be a big deal. For me it was. Like when I moved that amazing antique family dresser into our bedroom, and mused about that two weeks ago. An astute observer of my life commented on how I had brought something of value into my heart, connecting the intimate bedroom with my heart. That really struck me, along with the whole experience of valuing things, and…

No Longer Asleep at my Post

I am so used to falling into bed exhausted.

I usually wring out the day and catch the last precious drops, whereupon I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. I have spent quite a few of my "early nights" wondering why I went to bed so early; tossing and turning until just before it was time to get up, when I suddenly felt tired.

But last night--oh happy night--I went to bed at 11.00 p.m. and only woke up here and there, just long enough to enjoy the delicous thrill of discovering that it was "only" 11.45 or 4 o'clock.

I woke up at 4.50, just before my alarm went off, and was able to get up without feeling like I had to stay for the "few minutes" that always turn into half an hour (time moves fast when you're in bed.) I've always felt that Proverbs 26:14 was a little harsh. Does anybody just leap out of bed in the morning?

This morning though, I felt rested and it was wonderful. It felt like the right time to get up.

I was so tempted the ni…

In Case Anyone is Wondering

Just in case anyone is wondering...I thought I would give an update on the status of my "orderly life." :)

Our Christmas tree is still up. That about says it all. Last night at the end of cell group I moved three of our Christmas figures to the foot of the stairs. I laughed because they looked like the Three Wise Men--as if they were definitely going somewhere. I can only hope that this weekend they make it to their final destination, a cupboard upstairs, where they will be neatly stowed away for a few months.

Usually our Christmas things vanish before we return to work after New Years Day, but this year, with holding on tight to celebrating Sabbath, and getting sufficient sleep and having a daily Sacred Hour, Christmas seems to have come to stay.

I have held on tight to my Sacred Hour. It has really helped to build a new morning ritual around it. In spite of my best efforts I have not done so well in the past few days at getting enough sleep though, and on Sunday, because of …

I Don't Know Everything Anymore

The older I get, the fewer things I am sure of.

You would think that with each successive year, more things would be securely nailed down, but I am becoming much more comfortable in saying, "I don't know," and thinking that is okay. I don't need to know everything.

I remember with embarrassment some of the passionate and pompous pronouncements of my youth.

I hope that now a little humility has pushed aside the certainty with which I held forth on certain subjects.

It is a little disconcerting to be unsure of some things, but I believe it is part of the journey of discovering truth.

I have some questions for God; I don't understand everything, but I do have some core certainties and they are enough for now.

I don't believe that God is threatened by questions, and I do believe that there are answers. That is one of my core certainties.

I turned on my car radio recently in the middle of a call-in show. The host identified himself as Jewish, and he was in dialogue with …

Love Now

The flood of emotion hit me suddenly and unexpectedly.

I was driving to an afternoon meeting, the heater blasting my feet with hot air and Chris Tomlin's song Love, from his CD, Hello Love , blasting my ears with hot music. The moment triggered a strong memory of Mum's presence in the car seat beside me when she was last in Canada in 2003.

I was on my way "somewhere," and she was with me; utterly content. My CD player in that moment was blasting out a new rocky arrangement of Amazing Grace and I was enjoying the music; and having Mum by my side.

Mum's 32 years of transatlantic visits came to an end with a stroke in 2003, days after returning to England from Canada, but I have so many memories to treasure. They are concentrated essence of pure joy.

The anticipation of each visit was part of the joy as the countdown began about six weeks before her planned arrival. By the time I went to the airport, I would barely be able to contain my excitement. I would imagine that…

The Teacher

Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Does Jesus, then, have a "least of these?" I don't think so, and we shouldn't, but we do, and that is what I think he meant.

I think that he wants us to open our eyes and see, that unless we see him in every soul, and especially those we are tempted to see and treat as "the least," we really have no part with him, for he also says, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' (vs.45)

It is so easy be detached about the message of Jesus; to admire it and talk about how society should change, but he has a way of bringing the message home, and making it very personal. He asks me to change.

He did it again this morning--showed me the gap between my talk and my walk. And I am grateful. I want to see, but am often blind. Ye…

Hope

2 Corinthians 9:8 (New International Version)
8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

I prayed for my friend Hope, whose name the enemy has assaulted with all of his might for the past three months. She fell seriously ill in October and has been in hospital since then, battling cancer, lung problems and infections.

Reaching across to the small table beside the wingback chair in which I was curled up, I picked up my weighty, red covered Bible. David's psalms had come to mind as I prayed, so that was the book I opened to, quite expecting to find myself reading of pits and despair--David's laments in dark places.

Instead I opened to psalms (96-100), which spoke and sang of God's power, might and justice; and David's thankfulness.

Next I opened Amy Carmichael'sEdges of His Ways, where she wrote on 2 Corinthians 9:8 and God's all sufficiency. She wrote, "All …

The Tree God Knows

Here in Muskoka winter I muse about trees outside our window.I can look at them many ways: they can be beautiful and artistic as they glitter in the sunlight. Deciduous trees can look lonely and stark without their leaves in barren brown-ness. Evergreens stand out so much more in the winter, their plenteous boughs preserving the essence of Christmas trees throughout the bleakness of winter months. As I drive up the highway I notice trees in winter in ways I often don't in summer. The cold and starkness of life highlight the strength and individual outlines of trees. Summer shows their composite foliage; autumn overwhelms with brilliant contrasts of colours, but the story then is more of the leaves than the trees. So winter is a time to see the true outline of trees, their basic shape and the beauty or not thereof.

Such is true of all of us. It takes the hard seasons to show what we are made of, whether our lives are truly in balance and we have what it takes to withstand the tests …

The Study

I thank God for the delightful rest at cell group this week; a study book taken to work to read at lunchtime, but forgotten at the office by one too weary to go back for it. It hadn't been read at lunchtime anyway.

And I thank God too, for the conversation that took place instead, around a dinner table. A conversation as important--maybe more so--than the study that we didn't have.

She had knocked on my office door earlier that evening. I was under pressure to complete certain tasks before I left to go home; tired and stressed. As she opened the door, she said, "I made peanut butter cookies for cell group tonight."

"That's so nice, but I'm really busy, I can't chat now," I know that my voice was terse, my mind a million miles away from peanut butter cookies.

She was quick to apologize and vanished quietly, leaving me to my computer screen and piles of budget pages.

Half an hour later I knew that I had to leave if I was going to have the casserole hea…

Attentiveness

I slip from the warm blankets later than I intended, but it is minus 28 degrees Celsius outside and so cosy beneath the covers.

Downstairs the coffee maker is soon percolating, making rude, snorting, gurgling noises; but since they herald that first delicious steaming hot cup of morning coffee I don't mind at all.

I cradle the precious cup of dark golden brown liquid in my hands and pad barefoot into our big back room. Curling up in a wingback chair by the window, beneath the reading lamp, I notice that it is still dark outside. I think of how much I cherish these quiet moments at the start of the day.

I read a couple of pages from Mark Buchanan's book, The Rest of God ; the section called, Sabbath Liturgy; Paying Attention. I determine to be more intentional in paying attention--noticing better.

I start, first, as I begin to pray, by noticing that he is here and acknowledging that. I think of how rude it would be not to greet a guest or beloved friend in our home, and so I speak …

For Karen

This story took place on a dark November night a few years ago when I was driving alone into town for a party.

A deep, bone numbing, glacial chill hung over our area. The snow that had arrived several days earlier showed no signs of leaving but had settled in like a house guest who was overstaying his welcome. It crunched and squeaked beneath our feet as we huddled deep into our coats and jackets with shoulders hunched and collars raised against the biting wind.

As I approached the traffic light in the centre of town, I slowed to a stop as the light turned amber, but my teeth rattled in my head as there was a jolt and a thud. The car behind me, following too close and not expecting me to stop, had hit my bumper.

We both got out and the other driver, who was very apologetic, checked my car, but there seemed to be no damage, so I didn't bother getting his name and number.

The light changed and I drove on to my office where I had one or two things that I had to do before going on to the …

Where Rubber Meets the Road

Psalm 139: (New International Version)

1 O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue

you know it completely, O LORD.

The cursor on my laptop screen pulses silently, as if it is a living thing that waits; patient--but as insistent as a tapping toe, for the touch of my fingers on the keyboard.

Sometimes the wrestlings and complexities of a heart are hard to express and words are not easy to birth.

God is at work in my heart. Again. It started a week or so ago; the kneading and shaping; the challenging and prodding.

He knows me inside out; sees what I hide from others and even from myself. He peels off the pretty packaging and searches beneath. Yes,Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

This vein of thought started, I think, when I began to read Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl. I paused at t…

Remembering Ralph

This morning dawned cold in Ontario.

As I got ready for the day, I listened to CBC radio. On the morning show they were reading emails from listeners who described the weather conditions in their part of the province.

It had been a crystal clear winter's night with a full moon. Apparently the moon was as close to the earth as it ever gets. A listener described an early morning walk in the woods, with the moon descending in the west. She said that the woods were floodlit electric blue. What beauty that description conjured up.

On an end table I noticed a folded bulletin from a funeral I had attended the previous Monday. I kept it because I wanted to write about Ralph, who died on New Year's Eve at the age of almost 83.

Ralph's funeral was attended by family and a collection of friends from a cross section of society in Barrie. The funeral service was led by his friend of 32 years, Pastor John Howard, and in the congregation was more than one lawyer, as well as staff from sever…

Special Delivery

It was Friday, the day that Purolator delivers mail at work. I was finishing up for the week when a co-worker, Mary Anne, popped her head around the door to hand me two large brown envelopes containing the weekly mail, and then a minute later came back with a small white envelope, saying, "Next time I should make sure I have it all."

I looked at the white envelope with my name handwritten on the front. It was unmistakeably my own handwriting. I stared at it for a minute with a very strange feeling of being in the "Twilight Zone." As I opened it, my mind went back four weeks to a presentation on Soul Care given to our team of managers by our manager of pastoral services, Mark.

It seemed so long ago. Vaguely I remembered Mark asking us to fill in the blanks on a form letter written to ourselves, personalized with our own diagnosis of our pressure points, and a prescription. We sealed them in self addressed envelopes that we handed back to him. He told us that four we…

Making space for tomorrow: rearranging the furniture in our lives

All of my life I have enjoyed moving furniture around, creating spaces in rooms, making "little houses" my sister and mother said. Whenever we were travelling when I was younger, and stayed in motel rooms or on board the Empress of France crossing to live in Scotland for a year, I would take a corner of the room and set up boundaries with whatever and make my little house, set up my dollies, and play. Somehow I learned to make myself at home wherever I was.

In other ways it was hard for me to settle, and has been in my life. Many times I have had too much stuff, and had to take time out of my life to sort and get rid of things, like I am doing a lot in the basement these days. Other times it seemed I did not have what I really needed to make me feel at home, as if my room itself was restless. Often I didn't know what I really needed and God had to show me. I guess in so many ways I had to learn to get rid of the old, the makeshift, the not good enough, to make room for th…

Confessions

I was on my way back to the office, driving from Stouffville to Bradford, which meant that I went through Newmarket, past the Jones of New York store right at lunch time. What could I do?

The lure of the January sale and possible bargains was strong, so I pulled into the large parking lot of the strip mall, deep in melting slushy snow left over from the morning's snow fall. I parked my car as close as I could to the store, and splooshed my way across the parking lot with all speed.
I can power shop with the best, and less than half an hour later, having tried on about ten tops, I emerged with a zippy little black and white top that I liked, for only $14.99.
I fished in my purse for my automatic car starter, pointed it in the direction in which I had left my car and pressed the buttons that start the car and unlock the doors; then I started the hunt for a car with a running engine. I spotted it. The engine wasn't running but the doors were unlocked. I need to buy new batteries bec…

Breaking Old Patterns

Proverbs 16:3 (New International Version)
3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed

"If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting."

It was Sunday night and as I anticipated seriously starting back to work in the morning, I knew that it was crunch time. It had been a restful week since Christmas--a week in which I began to adopt new patterns. The week had been like a booster rocket to my determination to get enough sleep, embrace the gift of Sabbath and guard a Sacred Hour. But on Monday morning I would hit the ground running, and I knew that unless I was deliberate in shaking up my normal patterns, I would be sunk.

I had a sudden flash of inspiration. "If I don't do anything differently, nothing different is going to happen." OK, OK. I never claimed to be a genius.

Maybe it was Sunday morning's sermon at church that got me thinking about all of this. It was from Luke 5:36-38 and was all…

Healings Chapter 2 - My Dad

In his weakness, he has no choice but to submit to their strength. Thank God the hands of the two paramedics - one male, one female - are gentle, and caring. Thank God the words coming from their mouths are respectful, meant to encourage and strengthen, to guide and direct.

With strong arms around his shoulders, they lift and then ease him over to a sitting position at the edge of his hospital bed. It's chrome and cranks and overhead trapeze bar are strangely incongruent in this homey little apartment bedroom. But he wants to be here, in familiar surroundings, not in a nursing home, and he hangs on as best he can to every shred of independence available to him. That's a difficult thing when nerves and muscles have been ravaged from a disease long in the past and his body just won't work for him anymore. His legs buckle and flop instead of obeying as they should. Strength in his arms once helped to overcome the weakness in his lower extremities but that strength has been dra…

Healings - Chapter 1

Today it is evident that he needs to go to the hospital. An infection is growing somewhere inside him, causing his body to shake and teeth to chatter, even in an apartment that is hotter than hot and with blankets pulled up around him and tucked in from nose to feet.

"Dad, you're really sick. We need to call an ambulance to take you to the hospital."

"No. I don't need that." At 84 years, I guess he's old enough to make his own decisions.

Half an hour later I try again. "Dad, the nurse said you need to go to the hospital if you don't get any better. And you're not better, you're worse." As rational thought turns to delerium and strange utterings about wild strawberries and dogs in the room begin to come out of him in slurred words, still he is adamant about not going to the hospital. For going on three hours I continue to get the same response. "No."

I finally call my sister for backup. "He needs to go to the hospital,&qu…

Full Stop

Yesterday was the first "Sabbath Eve" of 2009 and really, my first go at this new rhythm of life that I want to incorporate. Saying that sounds funny because, after all, I have been going to church every Sunday for the past 40 years or so. But going to church does not make Sabbath.

I went into the weekend with my usual mental To Do list, knowing that what didn't get done on Saturday was not getting done this weekend.

Yikes! This added a new dimension to Saturday. I found myself prioritizing and getting on with things a bit quicker than my normal sluggish pace. :) It wasn't that I felt pressured or driven, but there was sorting as I went through the day: "This can wait until next week--this needs to get done today."

It felt like different and good; as though there was a boundary, or border, at the end of my week. I tend to have a distorted sense of time and think of it as flexible and fluid, so a limit was a good thing.

As I anticipated the coming Sabbath, I sti…