Wednesday, September 30, 2009

True North


Vacations are like paragraph breaks in the stories of our lives. Without them life could easily be one long run on sentence.

A change of some sort, either in circumstances or routine, gives an opportunity to re-orient to the True North from which we drift so easily. And so this time, away from our busy lives, has been a chance to do just that.

I have gone for long walks in the country each day, on my own and joined by Paul. At home I had been walking quite regularly, nudged by a hard to resist, four footed friend, and motivated further by a couple of books on CD that made me decide to get some exercise no matter how busy I was. But here I have ramped it up a notch.

I've been learning to control my blood sugar through eating more high fibre foods (and taking fibre tablets) and eating carbohydrates judiciously. I'm saying this cautiously, because I could be wrong, but I think that I've finally figured out that by avoiding sugar spikes that result in cravings that trigger binging on more high sugar foods, I can feel satisfied with much less food than I've tended to eat. I'm not big into self denial and I love food, but am becoming more aware of the science of how different foods affects blood sugar and thus appetite and eating more deliberately, with that in mind.

On one of our walks I asked Paul how he thought "we" were doing. It is so easy to drift into living parallel lives; comfortable being in each other's vicinity but almost completely absorbed in our own interests. Now and then it is a good thing to ask directly if it could be better, and how. I was glad I did. Tentatively he trusted me with truths he may not have expressed otherwise. And I was listening closely; ready to re-orient to True North.

We walked on, fingers intertwined...tenderness deepening and intimacy growing, as we followed the needle on the compass.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Good Choice

I sit here across from the man I love and married 40 years ago as I read a little red book in which I wrote 42 years ago--my 1967 diary.

In 1966 I had met him and danced with him all night at a company Christmas dance, but I was going out with someone else at the time: Peter.

Peter was becoming increasingly serious. He had just got a job as a fireman for which he was going through training. The job came with a house, he said. Yikes! He was four years older than me. At 16 I was far from ready to "settle down." I was barely beyond the giggling about boys with my friends stage and my heart was as changeable as the English weather.

In the first week January of 1967, Mr. Burston, our office manager and Paul's dad, told me the church was planning a party for the Sunday School children and asked if I would help. He told me that Paul would call me with the details. Yikes again! I knew that he could easily give me "the details" himself.

At the Sunday School party, the children kept asking, "Is that your girlfriend, Paul?" He rode home on the coach with me, and when he asked if I would be in church the next day, I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth, and told him about Peter. He flushed and said that he had been going to ask me to go skating. I said that I would have loved to go, but of course, I couldn't. He understood, he said, of course...By the time we got to Alvechurch, he even said that maybe Peter would come out to church sometime and it felt as if we were the best of friends still. It was hard when I got off the coach though, as the other guys from the church had expected him to get off with me and walk me home.

Throughout that spring I continued a relationship with Peter that was up and down. I felt as though I was living in two different worlds and not really happy in either one as long as I didn't decide between them. Peter had friends that were nice enough but some were on the wild side and in trouble with the law. I cared about him but didn't love him and he seemed to have a very loose relationship with truth.

I talked to Gloria, an older woman at the church. She was probably not as old as she seemed to me then. Although she was single, her face was radiant with joy and her faith shone from a place deep within. She didn't tell me what to do, but she told me what she had done, years ago, when she loved someone who didn't love God as she did. The choice was hard, but she chose well: for God. I thought about that a lot.

In March I found myself thinking about Paul and couldn't understand why. April came, and Peter's 21st birthday party. It ended with him having a drunken fight with friends at his house in the small hours of the morning. I knew the time had come for me to make a choice and it wasn't hard to know what it was. After that day I didn't see him again. I wrote a letter ending it.

I heard (though it wasn't true) that Paul had a girlfriend and my heart sank. But I had turned a significant corner in my life. I would never again walk in two different worlds. I still had a lot of growing up to do, but I had made a choice that was good...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Arrival

By Belinda
(My weekly family story will follow tomorrow!)

The morning wrapped the curving shoulder of the earth in a silken shawl of intense sapphire blue and salmon pink.

On a winged boat, above a softly pillowed, gray sea of possibilities, we sailed into the east; cutting through air with the ease of knife through butter.

We break through the silvery sea, soft and silent as silken flax on breeze; leaving heaven to enter the sleeping world of man.

A cluster of village lights sparkle in a patchwork quilt of muted green and gold and strangely silent country roads.

It is 6.30 a.m. and we are about to land at Birmingham airport.

Exactly 40 years ago we left this place for new life and new land: Canada. The life and land we chose have been more than good to us; God has been good to us there; but still, there was a cost; there is a cost for all good things but grace.

We seem to have been mere children then, when we look back now through the lens of time gone by. What did we know then of life or sense or breaking parents’ hearts? We knew little. Perhaps if we had known more, we would have missed much more. We sailed away then on a ship of steel, into the west in the evening of the day, and a future unknown.

But we are here; now; in these precious moments; loving. Heartache is long forgotten.

I sit beside Mum’s bed to say goodnight. In rosebud sprinkled, pink flannel nightdress she lays back on her pillows and smiles her joy through eyes of blazing love.

I ask her, “Shall I pray?”

She smiles and takes my hands. And she says, “Shall we pray.”

Yes, we shall pray!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Here!

By Belinda

Hello Friends,
Yeay! I am in Alvechurch.

I spoke to Robert on Friday morning and he assured me that the British Branch of R-UFF, the Dogs Union, had given me clearance to enter the country. After my crazy comment a couple of weeks ago, about dogs not being able to read, the Dogs Union immediately rallied a panel to greet me at the airport for a grilling, but gave me a reprieve when they heard of my retraction! :)

The flight was excellent and we sat next to a nice young man from Newcastle who was one of a flock of Britons recruited in recent years to work at nuclear power plants. He just emigrated to Canada (Kincardine) one and a half years ago. It was good to hear how much he and his family love Canada and to share our own reasons for making this country our home forty years ago.
How good it is to be here and to find Mum looking so well, and Robert too.
Stay tuned for news from Alvechurch...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lord, You've Been Good to Me

My mind whirls as I remember the way this trip came to be. It was born as a simple dream to see our daughter settled into her new home in the province of her birth, British Columbia. A dream to spend Thanksgiving with her so she can bear our Christmas love to her sibling, our other precious child, far across the ocean in New Zealand. But God had much more to the dream than even I could plan - a gathering in and celebration of our life from before Uganda, a first holiday for me, a first flight for me, a first reconnection for me, for almost ten years. Each detail has come to fruition almost as soon as it was conceived. Every person we have contacted to see has been able and eager to see us. Our itinerary reads like a bus tour with each day carefully and delightfully planned. The only difference is that we are the bus drivers, in our rented Honda Civic. My conclusion: this trip is totally a God-thing.

So, with delight I prepared the final details of packing. By the time you read this we will be two days into our visits, already seasoned travellers again, picking up on expertise born of routine travels as missionaries for almost a decade, a decade ago. My heart will be even more overflowing with gratitude for God's faithfulness and graciousness to us and me through all our lives. I look forward to sharing stories of our visits with many old friends, and opportunities to remember special moments of the early days of our children's lives. I have no doubt that they will shine with the luminiscence of God's overshadowing mercy and protection and provision.

There seems no other song more fitting to share with you at this time, one that we have sung recently in our worship times at church, and one that has run through my mind, and out my mouth many many times in these weeks: Graham Kendrick's "Lord, You've Been Good to Me". I have been able to find a section of it on You Tube performed by Graham and his band, but I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the words. Here are both, to bless you as they bless me:


Lord you've been good to me
All my life, all my life
Your loving kindness never fails
I will remember
All you have done
Bring from my heart
Thanksgiving songs

New every morning is your love
Filled with compassion from above
Grace and forgiveness full and free
Lord you've been good to me

So may each breath I take
Be for you Lord, only you
Giving you back the life I owe
Love so amazing
Mercy so free
Lord you've been good
So good to me

Copyright © 2001 Graham Kendrick
Administered by Make Way Music,
www.grahamkendrick.co.uk

Friday, September 25, 2009

Postless Friday

by Susan.

Hello blogging world,

It's Friday, and I'm supposed to be "up here". It's only one day of the week; it's not much to ask. But I didn't make it this week. Not by a reasonable time, anyway. (We shoot for 12:00a.m.).

Why?

Well, I spent much of the day on my feet yesterday, in front of people, which though envigorating to my heart and soul, is more than a little draining physically. I came home after cell group tired and ready to hit the pillow, but still planning to make a sidetrip to the computer on the way.

As I poured myself yet another cup of decaf. (I'd already had several throughout the evening) the kitchen door opened behind me and in walked Abby.

We have always called Abigail our "middlest" child, simply because she is smack dab in the middle of her siblings. She has four older and four younger. Sometimes we worried about her. Abby is quiet and reserved, but like her Aunt Brenda, whose name she inherited as her middle name (Abigail Brenda) she has a quiet sparkle. In a crazy-full household of nine, though, sparkle wasn't always enough to get the attention she needed and deserved. We worried sometimes. We even called her "the lost child" a time or two - because she seemed to be happy to fade into the crowd. We did our best, and we worried.

In her early twenties, her dad took ballroom dancing lessons with her. They both excelled, and developed a relationship that had perhaps been lacking in some ways in her younger years. (It's never too late.) Abby's never been bitter though. She is accepting and joyously embraces life. She is obscenely talented. She can master anything - without the effort others seem to need to put into it. The dancing is only one example. This year she took a notion to plant the "Hugh Saunders Memorial Garden" (thinking of her grandfather - my dad) and in her first attempt at vegetable gardening, she had an impressive yield. She can draw a horse that will take your breath away (you can "see" the life rippling under its skin), she can catch a tune faster than lightning and she sings like a bird; she harmonizes to complicated melodies as easily as breathe. She flies down difficult trails on her mountain bike, beautiful to look at, fit and strong, and wildly feminine.

Abby has been happy to drift along with whatever life brings - and although there may be disadavantages to that sometimes, it's also an important part of what make her "her", and I wouldn't have it any other way. She seizes each moment that life brings and lives that moment to the fullest. Her neices and nephews adore her. Of course they do. She has time for them. And she accepts each one for the special gift to the world -and to her life - that they are.

She came in and we sat at the kitchen table. I mostly listened for once, my heart bursting with feeling for this beautiful woman, this daughter of mine who is accepting of whatever life brings, and whoever joins her on the journey. I listened, and I loved, and I promised to pray.

Abby is a welder in a local auto part manufacturing plant, and last night, when she dropped in on her way home, after her evening shift, I made sure I was all ears. She doesn't quickly or easily open her heart to share her innermost thoughts, so when she does, special person that she is, it's worth setting aside any agenda I might have at the time. Like writing a blog post.

So thankyou, dear reader, for listening to the reasons why I wasn't at my post last night. And now that you know Abby just a little, I'm sure you understand. :)

Susan.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wonderful Merciful Saviour


By Belinda

How it happens I know not, except that it is God.

Two days ago, words sparred; hearts jarred.

We pressed on and in and through to almost-understanding, letting the Holy Spirit guide us back when fleshiness rose up.

When we hung up and said goodbye, all placed in God's hands; peace was settling in.

He would show us truth; we rested our hearts in that knowledge.

And oh, how he did.

Tonight another call. Laughter as we shared excitement at the revelation. "The holy pages have been rustling ever since we talked," she said. Mine too!

"I see it everywhere I turn," this truth that God is revealing.

"This thing I didn't see, this lie believed, kept me bound in defeat. Now I hope for true freedom."

Me too! Me too!

We laugh with joy and wonder. Suddenly it seems so very clear. Of course, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thank God for Simple Things

By Belinda

Every evening after supper I scan the sky, estimating what is left of daylight.

"Can I beat the rapidly encroaching night?" I wonder, "And fit in a walk with 'You Know Who'?"

Oh, he has trained me well to talk in code, this furry and devoted friend.

From behind the door to the apartment below he is listening. Keen ears attuned to shoes being removed from rack and tied--he knows what those sounds mean. A gentle paw on wood, and a soft whine, says, "Happy, hopeful dog here. Take me."

Into the evening we go; he on best behaviour borne of love and respect; I with heart of gratitude for the gift that he is to we who share his life. Long may he live, I pray often.

I stride out, he scans ground with nose. We compromise on stops along the way.

The evening is warm and sultry for the season and the streets are school-night empty. I listen to my Walkman as we walk our beat; Bill Bryson's book: Shakespeare: The World as Stage.

A black car slows beside us, windows rolled down. A face beloved to Molson peers out--Brenda in her Honda Civic. She is back from bargain night at the movies with her girls (they saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and it was great, apparently.) They are trying hard to catch up with me, running through the village streets, hair streaming, a walk is not to be missed.

She drives off; tail-lights growing distant; Molson strains to gallop after her. "No way, buddy. I can't run that fast."

I see them on the next corner waiting, and out come the ear buds again. Even Bill Bryson is no contest for the thoughts of young hearts.

We notice how steamy the evening is, just like a bathroom after a hot shower. We count the number of sounds we hear: crickets; tree frogs; dog panting; car tires; footsteps; rustling leaves; the wind. I hope they never forget to notice.

As we pass houses with lights in windows in the gathering dusk, Tippy identifies the children she knows that live in each.

"There's Kendra's house, and Skyler's; Steven's and Tristan's," she says, as we walk on.

"And that's where my bus driver lives."

I feel a pang in my heart at the thought that time flies by so fast and that one day these names will be lost to these houses and they will belong to other children. I cried once at a school photo shoot of Brenda's when she was five and at King George Elementary School. The old school had opened in 1912, and in my mind's eye, I saw the generations of children that had sat where she was sitting, coming and going like leaves in their seasons; oh, an active imagination can have its challenges.

Torie is tiring and sits on the ground, feeling sick she says. I have an idea; what if she holds Molson's leash and lets him pull her along. Will that help? Her eyes brighten with the fun of that idea and she is back on her feet. Molson obligingly pulls.

I look up at the sky and catch my breath. "Look, girls! What kind of a moon is that?"

"A croissant!" cries Tippy to my delight. I love that she knows the intent of my question, and her description fits the crescent moon perfectly. Noticing the moon matters.

We are nearly home already and Torie, sickness forgotten, is now running after Molson as he carries his red leash. Tippy laughs at his sideways gait and says that she can always identify his footprints by his lopsided walk.

I am grateful; for golden dog, for girls that delight in a walk in the evening twilight; for God who is in the breeze and children's laughter. For simple things.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tele-theology

By Belinda

We wrestle complex issues through.

Although miles apart, phone to ear, two heads bow over sacred page; searching; reasoning; weighing the intent of words.

Who is he, this One that pursues us with such love?

What does it mean to know him, love him in return, be in relationship with him?

Where is the balance between grace and carelessness?

Once found, can we ever be lost?

Holy pages rustle, turned by fingers of flesh.

On this we agree--in the whole counsel of God lies Truth and godly Wisdom.

Did God bend his ear to earth and listen in? Listen to our tele-theology?

I think he did. I think he was on the party line.

Matthew 5:2-6 (New International Version)

2 and he began to teach them saying:

3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the earth.

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

It was September 1966 and I was sixteen. I had left school and was working in an office. I started out in the traffic office and then moved to the accounts office, with a fairly hefty load of responsibility for a 16 year old--putting through wages every two weeks for a fleet of transport drivers.

My preoccupation, judging from my diary, was boys. No entry is without reference to one boy or another. On the brink of adulthood, my friends and I were trying our relational wings. At work and after work, this involved catching glimpses of the current object of our admiration, usually from afar, and giggling about chance encounters, during which the girls and boys tossed humourous statements at one another--our attempts at witty repartee--a safe way to test out true feelings, which we were never quite sure of.

My friends, Elaine and Eileen, in the photo below, were doing what we often did; just hanging out in my room, listening to music and catching up on our latest adventures.


On September 24th I noted in my diary that my 13 year old brother Robert and I went into the churchyard that was across from our house on Bear Hill, after dark, in the autumn mist and moonlight, just to see what it would be like. I have a faint recollection of that spooky adventure and clutching at each other's courage in the cold and dark as the old church clock chimed out in lonely tones, the quarter hour. Fortunately we didn't meet anyone else in the mist. I can only imagine our mad gallop home if we had.

In October, Eileen and I started going, sporadically at first, to an Assemblies of God church in nearby Redditch. This was after we had gone to a Billy Graham movie at the local college at the invitation of Mr. Burston, my office manager. We had both gone forward together at the end of the movie, to the hymn, Just as I Am, but I really wasn't sure what it meant, other than responding, "Yes," to God, which I would do at every opportunity. We fit in churchgoing with our other activities as another thing to do, along with the folk club; art club; college night school classes in German and short-hand and typing and dances.

Although I always had a spiritual connection with God, we didn't attend church as a family. I often went to St. Laurence Church across the road, at Easter, but was not confirmed in the Church of England. I felt unsure when I went, of when to sit and stand, and a little like an outsider. The church in Redditch was very different. It was in a rather ramshackle building behind some petrol pumps and the small congregation was a racially mixed group of people of all ages, that were passionate about their faith. Eileen and I found out later that the boys in the youth group had been praying for girls and we were seen to be the answer to their prayers!

In October I also started dating another friend's brother, Peter. He was five years older than me and rode a motorbike. Although he was nice, we didn't have much in common, and I had drifted into it more out of surprise that anyone would actually ask me out.

At our work Christmas party on December 23rd that year, Peter didn't come, but Paul was there with his Dad, Mr. Burston, as his mum didn't come. I noted in my little diary that I had danced with Paul all evening. Exactly a year later, on the same day, I would go to a party with someone else, but go home with Paul, having danced with him all evening.

Peter was becoming more serious and talking about marriage in the future. I handled it the only way I knew, with humour, deflecting all attempts at seriousness with jokes.

Mum came to church with me that Christmas, and at the end of the service she acknowledged, with a raised hand, that she wanted Christ to be Lord of her life. Like me she had always had a simple but strong faith in God, and this public acknowledgement was a step forward in her journey of faith. She became friends with Paul's mum, and quietly they both hoped that we would get together.

Paul did ask me out after the Sunday School Christmas party, where I helped out, but I was already seeing Peter, and besides, the spark that one day would burst into love for Paul, had not yet been ignited...

On December 31st, my little green diary was retired after four years, in favour of a small red one with Collins Diary 1967 on the front in gold letters, and with a whole page for each day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Guest Post on STORYGAL

If you would like an extra story this week, click here for a link to my friend Carolyn Wilker's blog, STORYGAL, where I was a guest blogger with a post entitled, A Village Childhood.

Carolyn is a gifted poet, editor, writer and speaker as well as friend.

Blizzard

I worked through the questions that are the homework for the last session in our cell group Bible Study on emotionally healthy spirituality. The lesson had a story from a book by Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness, that told of farmers, years ago, during severe blizzards in the Midwest, tying ropes around themselves when they went out to the barn to feed their animals. Without the rope, farmers could become disoriented and freeze to death in the blinding snow.

The questions were searching and caused me to confront what it is that I allow to obscure God in my life, losing myself spiritually--and what gets lost when that happens. Then the final question asked what "threads" I would use to make my rope to help me stay connected to God.

So often I feel that I need to go back and repeat lessons that I thought I had learned. I wonder if that will ever change? I hope so! But I suppose that the point is not self condemnation; the point is never giving up.

I want to get it right. It's a no brainer really. Everything I do will shine brighter, more intensely and with more purpose and creativity if I do. I'm close enough to the "home stretch" of my life to feel a sense of urgency to figure it out.

A quote I had copied on a scrap of note paper says, "They would rather you brought Jesus than your knowledge or thoughts."

And I know that's what I want to do. More times than I wish, I have given him the leftovers from my day. God has to be more than one of the good things in my life; he has to be the most important thing.

Psalm 63:1-8 (Amplified Bible)
A Psalm of David; when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.

1 O GOD, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for You, in a dry and weary land where no water is.
2 So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.
4 So will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My whole being shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips
6When I remember You upon my bed and meditate on You in the night watches.
7For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice.
8My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Loving the Land

by Meg







Last Saturday I reflected upon the impact of selling our family cottage. I spoke of the liberation from the weight of memories, of the heaviness of family system "rules", however unspoken, and the connection of those with a physical place, the family cottage that had been part of my life from its beginning. Writing that story was liberating, and in doing so I was reminded again of the importance also of celebrating all that was wonderful and good in that place and those memories. I said I would share what I had written in the summer of 2008, when selling the cottage was not really in our thinking. I reread these words and they bring alive again what I truly feel. I am grateful to have them to share now, in this season of letting go of the physical symbol of that part of my family heritage. ......

I lay this morning on the cottage living room floor on the mattress from the uncomfortable sofa bed moved up from my mother's apartment last year when her cancer got the better of her interesting life in Windsor. I mused upon the cedar beams and the pine boards of the cathedral ceiling Dad and she envisioned and built in 1969.

I recalled the many evenings of square dancing and sparkling fires, slide shows and card games, with several generations present. Almost forty years later I celebrate the way my parents put their vision into a building, now labelled a knockdown cottage. I mused also upon the recognition in my spirit that these parents, so different from me in so many ways, like me needed a vision to keep them going. Like we all do. They needed to create a world that represented their love of nature, their desire for company and fellowship, their appreciation of simplicity and beauty. The openness of the big windows on three sides, and the huge totally screened porch spelled out their desire for connection with the land and world of Muskoka. Lying in the lovely early morning sunshine on Canada Day, 2008, I celebrated these dear Canadians, my parents, Dorothy and Cyril, in this year of my mother's death a few months ago, almost 95, twenty years after my father's death, and I remembered their vision and the heritage they have given me, in this cottage, and in my life, as I set aside the stories of tension and misunderstanding I also carried within my being. I rejoiced, and found new joysprings in these stories in the beams above me, in the windows around me, in the trees and lake that beckoned to me, that they and I loved together for all those years. This is a deep part of my Canadian heritage, these parents who in their own way were Canadian pioneers and settlers, like so many people I know and love in this part of Canada that has now become my permanent home...Muskoka, land of those who love the land.



My understanding of God is that he has put us here to love the land, as well as to love people. He doesn't want us to love it more than we love Him,or people, but I do believe He has so much to teach us through His creation, and through the simplicity and richness of living life in deep connection with the land. Just as loving people teaches us so much about Him, and certainly about the nature of love, so loving the land has innumerable lessons. Perhaps our family cottage was the first place where I really learned to love the soil beneath my feet, the stones glistening under the water, the loons calling at night, the sunset saying "Good night", the sunrise saying "Good morning". I have relearned these love lessons again and again, as I have been privileged to live for short or longer times in northern Alberta,Scotland, Jamaica, British Columbia and Uganda, and to visit England,Wales,Israel, Egypt, the beautiful maritime provinces and to drive west through the Rockies. I live them here each day, in my home on the river in a Muskoka town. God calls me through every leaf and breeze, as through each person I meet. My prayer now is that I will always remember to hear His voice through each new encounter with land and person, and through the heritage of memory of family and land shared with them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

This Good Day



By Susan

“Bang, bang, bang!”

Belinda was at the sink going through her morning contact lens insertion ritual. I was sitting in a chair in my pyjamas reading from Proverbs and waiting for my own turn at the sink. The knocking on the door, seemed incongruously loud and we both jumped. I was closest to the door, so I peeked out the window first, making sure that I was not about to open the door to just any early morning body and saw Terry, a co-worker standing outside in her running gear, ready for her morning jog. We were all away overnight at a lovely northern retreat, for our annual district managers’ training. I made what turned out to be a rather feeble attempt to be funny.
“Terry, are you CRAZY???!!!!” I said as I opened the door. I’m not generally very energetic at that time of the morning. And it was cold out there to boot. I smiled, but Terry still looked a little taken aback at my odd greeting. I knew it was affectionate teasing on my part, but it appeared that she wasn’t so sure.

“The mist on the lake is really beautiful,” she said a little tenuously as Belinda joined me at the door. Belinda’s greeting, of course, was characteristically much more gracious, and Terry was quickly put at ease.

A minute or two later, after thanking Terry for the photo-opp. tip, Belinda was back at the sink, and I was standing on the beach, looking eastward into the mist rising off of Bernard Lake. I was hoping no-one in the resort was looking out one of the many windows behind me to notice the crazy person with the uncombed hair standing shivering in her pyjamas on the beach and looking out into the mist. But then a part of me didn’t care who was looking.

Terry was right. It was an unbelievably beautiful morning, and I was grateful that she had given in to the impulse of knocking on the door to share it with us at 7:00 a.m. I took a few photos of the lake that was eerily silent and shrouded in mist. I was soon back in the room taking my own turn at the sink. Belinda, fully dressed by this time, was meanwhile heading out the door to take my place down on the beach.

When she got back we shared photos (hers were way better than mine) and then she settled into the chair next to me and read the Daily Light out loud. I was quickly overwhelmed, once again, at the goodness of God and his ability to meet the deepest longings of our hearts and his ability to speak to us through his Word – that living, two-edged sword.

“A bruised reed he will not break.”

Her voice is gentle and full of grace. The words are almost song-like coming from her lips. But it’s not Belinda I am listening to. It is God that is speaking to me now. Deep is calling unto deep, and my heart is stirred in the deepest recesses.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.—He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.—Thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made.”

“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak.”—Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.—“Behold, your God. . . . He will come and save you.”

Matt. 12:20; Ps. 51:17; Ps. 147:3; Isa. 57:15, 16; Ezek. 34:16; Heb. 12:12, 13; Isa. 35:4

We prayed together – for each other, for Belinda’s team, for our co-workers, for open and receiving hearts as we looked ahead to our day of training.

It always pays to stop and to be intentionally mindful of the One who loves us - to open our hearts and listen for his voice. He alone knew exactly what the day would bring – what mixture of challenges along with the blessings, and where the enemy would soon be laying snares along the way. These few moments spent with His Word and in prayerful communion with him, and with each other, was the perfect start to what unfolded into this good day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Pacemaker

From Belinda's archives

Psalm 44:3 (New International Version)
3 It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them.


As Frances and I continued our conversation on Saturday, about the pressure I felt at the thought of adding Christmas decorating to my "to do" list--she shared a profound insight; "The God that shows us the path, will also show us the pace at which we are to walk."

Any runner has to pace himself if he wants to make the finish line.

In life there are times when in a burst of focused energy we sprint forward for a period of time, but then we need to drop back to regain energy and strength so that we are ready for the next burst of energy we need to expend. At these times it may look as if we are dropping behind others in the race--but we are running the race with others, not competing against them. In this race our eyes should be on the One waiting for us at the end, not on the one running next to us. In fact, God's plan is for us to support one another in the race so that when one is resting, or wounded, the others will take the lead for a while.

Pace is individual and yet our tendency is to compare ourselves with others and often come up short. Instead our eyes should be on our personal coach, the Lord Jesus, who is able to direct every step and every moment of our lives.

I have high energy friends who accomplish an amazing amount and others who live at a quieter pace. To the outside world, they may not seem to be accomplishing as much, but this is an "earthly" perspective.

God calls each one of us to run the race that he sets before us. Life must have meaning beyond plunging headlong, trying to cram into every single minute, the maximum amount of activity, otherwise we are prone to value lives by the system of the World, which might say that a life with little activity has little value.

That train of thinking has dangerous, deceptive potential and leads to the acceptance of such evils as euthanasia, abortion and so called "mercy killing."

If we aren't careful, our meaning can be derived from flawed values. God's Word says that each life is infinitely precious and has meaning regardless of anything we do.

Consider the example of Jesus, out of whose short lifetime, only three years were spent in public ministry. The thirty years before that were like the part of the iceberg below the surface of the water; perhaps the preparation time. They were thirty years not doing anything that we might think of as significant in terms of activity. And during the three years that he did spend in ministry, he constantly pulled away, spending time in reflection, waiting before God, sometimes walking away from the crowds.

I struggle with pace and am tempted to push the boundaries of healthy habits in my life. It's a good thing to consider God's perspective on this.

A final thought; the Italian word for peace, is "pace."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Yikes!

By Belinda

In my post of yesterday: Moments; I quoted myself during a silly moment, saying that, "Dog's can't read." It never occurred to me that this dastardly comment would reach the ears of the Dogs Union, but be careful what you say....

Dogs Union Local R-UFF said...
We of the Dogs Union, wish to protest. Dogs are amongst the best readers in the world. There isn't a dog that can't read a summer sky for rain, a summer breeze for tales of far way, a lawn for evidence of past visitors. We dogs can read scent, one of our members can smell his master's seizure coming along, another works in a hospital, and he can smell cancer cells forming. Reading scent, reading the colour of the sky are one thing, but it seems we dogs have the ability to read the need for love and kindness on the face of your own species - an ability you all seem to have either lost, or perhaps thrown away. Please refrain from further dogist remarks.


Well, in the words of our esteemed Canadian, Marshall McLuhan: I don't necessarily agree with everything I say.

I'm so glad that the R-UFF reminded me of the error of my words. Dogs are the best readers of all, as their representative pointed out so well. Just last night, in fact, before my faux pax, I had been out with Molson for a delicious walk in the cool of the evening. He looked up frequently to read my face and send a message back of sheer joy in the moment. As we neared home, he slowed and looked up, reading the proximity to home. It was time to take off his red leash, fold it neatly and let him take it in his mouth, so that he could proudly carry it the last leg of the walk, as he loves to. Dogs sure can read.

R-UFF--does my retraction mean that I am forgiven? Molson says he will vouch for me and that it was just a temporary lapse.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moments

I think that every writer lives life listening. Any snippet of conversation is potential plunder. One of my friends routinely asks during our phone conversations, "Are you writing this down?" She is wise to ask. :)

So tonight, because I have little time to write, I am offering up three moments made me think or laugh in the past week.

Over breakfast on Saturday, Brenda shared a life lesson that she learned, she said, through (happily) past heartbreak and misery :) "Watch what people do. more than what they say."

My friend Ann shared this during a meeting last week, "A conversation takes time; but anything else takes longer."

And finally, at the risk of everyone thinking I am a complete nutbar--my contribution after cell group last Thursday. I was overcome with gratitude for a few things, including reading, and enthusing to friends Susan and Jane. "Think about what an amazing gift it is to be able to read," I said (and should have stopped there, but I added,) "Dogs can't read."

This caused Susan to burst into laughter and say, "Neither can worms." :) Welcome to Belindaland.

And finally, something sent by my friend Wayne; enjoy, I did:

Tips on How to Have a Beautiful Life

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Office

I left school in July of 1966 with 5 GCE O Levels: English Language, Religious Knowledge, Cookery, Needlework and Art, as well as 3 CSE's in Mathematics Grade 4, Chemistry Grade 3 and Art Grade 1.

Three years before, at age 13, I had written in my little green diary that when I left school, I planned to go to Art College to become a teacher, but by August of 1966, I wrote that so many of the dreams my friends and I had, seemed to have burst like bubbles during our school years, and our individual natures were getting squashed into the mold of offices.

An office was the last place I thought that I would work, but I had plans to leave for Holland in two years--as soon as I was 18. So it didn't seem so bad, temporarily.

A couple of my friends left for Art College and I envied them, but it wasn't possible for me then.

I'd spent a month of the summer in Holland, and Dad had been with us for part of it this time. It was a turning point because he had responded to Mum's desperate unhappiness in England by setting up some job interviews in Holland and exploring the possibility of moving there.

In retrospect, I can see what a monumental step that was for Dad and what courage it took to step out of his comfort zone and do such a thing. He was English through and through and content in his life in the village that revolved around his job, his garden and the pub. It didn't work out though, and it was such a crushing disappointment for all of us, especially Mum. When we got home we found Dad redecorating the house, and it hurt so much because it said, "I'm here and not going anywhere." It was then that something inside of Mum died. She moved out of their room, and their unhappiness deepened.

If my focus had been on a future in England and if our family had not been in such distress, my choices might have been different, but as it was, when I got back from Holland, I met with Mrs. Savory, the guidance counsellor and wrote afterwards that I expected that I would end up as an office junior. The next day I decided to apply for a job at Autocar and Transporters in the office where Mum worked.I had a disastrous interview in which my mind went blank, but they hired me and I started work on August 31, 1966. I worked there for three years, until I got married on August 23rd 1969, just before leaving for Canada.

The photo below is of Patricia, Mum, Rita, Lynne and Maggie, playing cards at lunchtime.

At the far end of the office, behind a big glass window, was the office manager, Mr. Burston (who would one day be my father-in-law), Stan Yarnold the accountant, and Mr. Rainbow, who was a very sweet man. Mr. Rainbow called me Desert Flower, although I have no idea where that name came from! Besides working in the office, he was an artist, and sometimes he brought in his work to show us.

After a week at the office I was panicking. I wrote in my diary, "Last night I had a horrible trapped feeling. I don't want to waste everything in an office. I must keep on painting and if it is still possible, I'd like to enroll at the college for art classes. I wish I could have gone to an art college like Viv and Rosemary. It isn't really fair, Rosemary wasn't really made about art, but her parents are well off."

A few days later I enrolled in two night school courses at the local college: shorthand and typing and German. I also joined an art club in Birmingham's Cannon Hill Park.These activities fed my need for growth and creativity. My friend Eileen and I also went to a weekly folk club, held in a room above The Golden Fleece pub in Redditch. The floor would shake as we stamped and clapped in time to the raw,earthy music.

I had much to learn at work and I immersed myself into understanding how to use a Burroughs machine, a sort of mini computer that calculated the deductions on the driver's wages; while outside of work my life was a whirl of activity.

That October Mr. Burston invited me to a Billy Graham movie at the local college. He was pastor of a church in Redditch and they were sponsoring this movie. I invited Eileen to come with me. It was there that we both answered, "Yes," when we had the opportunity to respond to an invitation of a different sort--to follow Christ.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Son Story

By Belinda

You could feel it all week--that intensity of emotion--the back to school frisson.

Brenda works part-time at a private school for boys and she was busy with extra shifts in the school store as a tide of boys in red uniforms flowed into the school.

It was fascinating to hear about the differences that were evident as new and old boys arrived from all over the world and families parted from them to go home again.

Those from Korea came with whole families, including grandparents and aunts and uncles. Paradoxically they were very matter of fact as they parted. It seemed as if goodbye was no big deal.

Some parents from Mexico, were giving up their sons for just one year in order for them to learn English. It was obvious that it was a huge sacrifice to leave them behind and there were rivers of tears as they said their goodbyes and peeled themselves apart.

The most emotional were the mothers from eastern Europe. It was as if they were wrenching out their hearts to let go of their sons, but they did it because they believe that a good education at this school will make a difference for them.

I found myself thinking of One who gave up a son long ago; not for an education, but for one thing only; sacrifice. I thought of a coming to a planet whose inhabitants were in trouble; not for a year, but for about 30 years of preparation, ending in three years of public life. His way back home was through a brutal death that made all heaven weep. He did this because of an overwhelming love for those responsible for his death.

The record stands: He was here; he died; he rose again, and his life was one long act of love for a race of beings that were slow to understand.

Two thousand years later, although it is out of fashion to believe the facts of history and follow him; in every new generation, millions do. No ideology or ridicule has successfully snuffed out his story and we wait for him...for he said he was coming again.

John 1:10-14 (The Message)
9-13The Life-Light was the real thing:
Every person entering Life
he brings into Light.
He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn't even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn't want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,
not flesh-begotten,
not sex-begotten.
14The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Weight of Memory: Reflections on Selling the Family Cottage

by Meg

We glanced up at the window across the street from the lawyer's office as we exited after signing off on the sale of the cottage that had been in our family since the mid-1940s. "Isn't it interesting that the lawyer's office is right under Mum's old window?" I said to my sister as we got into the car. "It sort of underlines the heaviness of this whole thing, doesn't it?"

She agreed, as we drove away reflecting again on the various stages we had gone through this year and a half since our aged mother died beside that very window, in the seniors' home we had brought her to so that we could be there for her in her last days of terminal cancer. The precious year we had with her before her death was unforgettable. We could not forget either the conversations we had with her about the cottage, the assumptions we had made that we would do all in our power to keep the cottage, preserve it for the future generations.

Yet now we had made this decision, made it in peace and prayer, and the sale had gone smoothly and been a win win for all concerned. The intolerable burden of responsibility had been lifted off our shoulders, and we had given the next generation of family time to realize that what we would have kept alive if we could have afforded it was really only a dream, a version of unreality that we did not want to promote, even a snare and a delusion to bind them into future conflicts, both inner and outer. We did not want to wish on them the carrying of a dream that would turn into a heavy load. Let alone the work and worry.

For me, as I walked up and down the hill at the cottage many times these past few years, I realized more and more that selling it meant saying goodbye to my family system in a way that was very liberating. For our cottage was not just a building and a dock on a lake - it had been part of a network of relatives' cottages, a community that had been both comforting and confining, and, ultimately, a constantly bittersweet place of many melancholy memories. Our cottage experience had bound us into obligations and rituals that often snared and obliged us and taught us the tyranny of family rules that had nothing to do with God's plans for families and their blessings upon the children.

Even the good memories kept me haunted and held, weighed down and reflective. Instead of just enjoying the outdoors and the beauties of nature I was confronted always with scenes from the past...and the ones I treasured most were the most distant...yet even they were full of sadness, the sadness that lay about our extended family like a cloak, the sadness that was sewn into the fabric of our beings from such an early age that it seemed normal.

Now we are free from the physical reminder of all of this...now we just remember, and have more choice, perhaps, about how and what we remember. 'Sometimes the weight of memory is just too much', I had said to myself a few weeks ago. 'Sometimes we need to be free from a place that binds us too closely to those memories.'

I reflect upon how my mother would see things from a heavenly perspective, liberated herself from the family rules, from the obligations that overshadowed so much of her own life. She had also been a sensible person who was willing to encourage others to move on, to make new choices. I cannot help but feel that just as we were free to make this decision because of her death, that she also would be with us in spirit in this choice, that she would not want us to feel guilty or that we had let her down. She might even have said something like I said to myself, knowing what she had learned in her own life but probably could not articulate while she was alive: that we should not live our lives held down or back by the weight of memory.

A Postscript: I would not want you to think I have undervalued the family legacy here. It was a joy to discover what I did share as we left, and will continue to share. I wrote a letter to the new owners and left it with a copy of the booklet my father had written, with my editorial help, of the history of our cottage community, from its earliest connections to the whole history of Muskoka pioneers. I also told them about how my father had made various items of furniture we left in the cottage, and how my mother had made the curtains and bedspreads we left for them too. There were many treasures we took with us, but we left those, and several paintings with interesting connections to our parents. It was a joy to tell these stories, and our agent said it touched him so, and felt we would be welcome visitors to the new owners. With our children we also took many photos of loved places, to keep forever as reminders of all that we loved the best.

Next Saturday I will share the post I wrote on my own personal blog over a year ago, about the great things of that family legacy at the cottage and how I saw them in their best light. That will be a liberating thing for me, now free from the physical burden, to share those good reflections and memories, and choose what I wish to preserve for posterity myself.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Beginning

From the archives... by Susan.

Be silent all flesh before the Lord… ” Zechariah 2:13a KJV

It was November 11th. The weather was unseasonably warm and my husband and I had ridden our bicycles the ten kilometres or so into town for a leisurely Saturday morning breakfast. We hadn’t forgotten it was Remembrance Day, but were still surprised when a waitress actually ran through the bustling restaurant calling out, “It’s 11 o’clock! We’ll have a moment of silence, please.” And then she stood there in the middle of the room, coffee pot in hand, while we all put down our forks, ceased our conversation, and collectively considered the great sacrifice that was made on our behalf and the freedom we were enjoying that very day. It was a stirring moment, shared with a restaurant full of strangers – soon over, and then back to business as usual. We thanked the waitress later for leading us in that simple act of remembrance and respect.

This morning, as I was readying myself to approach God in prayer, I thought about that moment of silence last November. And I thought about the agenda I had for my quiet time with God that morning. If my plans panned out, I would have had every single moment filled – with good things, mind you – like reading the Bible and praying for the needs of people I care about, but every moment would be filled. And I wondered what God thought about that. I wondered what would happen if I gave him just one moment of silence before jumping into my list of things to do and say this morning. A moment of remembrance and respect. A moment of considering who I am in relation to him and what he has done for me. I wondered what would happen if I gave God a space in “my” agenda… A sacrifice of silence. Would he like that?

He certainly seemed to. He filled that gift of space I offered with an awesome awareness of himself. An awareness that I would not likely have tuned into otherwise. An awareness that he was genuinely glad to have me there with him this morning. An awareness of how able he is and how much I need him to carry my life in his hands and how intently interested he is in doing just that.

My minute turned into two or three or maybe five and slowly, subtly an unexpected change took place. I found myself laying down my own agenda and picking up his.

“…There was silence; and I heard a voice.” Job 4:16b KJV

Thursday, September 10, 2009

For Love not Money

By Belinda

It was Labour Day weekend and, as usual, I had plans. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live a life that doesn't have plans, but I don't think I could do it.

One plan that wasn't on my agenda was making rhubarb custard pie, but then, as well as having more plans than I could possibly accomplish, my plans are fluid. This is probably why I ended up on the Monday morning of Labour Day weekend, listening to a book on my walkman; "The Procrastinator's Handbook," (read by the author, Rita Emmett;) and baking a rhubarb custard pie. Rita Emmett sounds like a very nice lady. She has a comforting voice and makes me feel as if I might have hope, if only I would heed her advice.

Brenda had been working the pie angle for weeks, during which my spare time was occupied with a spaghetti supper fundraiser. Brenda loves making people happy, especially those she is fond of, and she is fond of Kevin, the maintenance man at the college where she works. She just knew that a pie would make him very happy. Specifically, one of her mom's pies.

So on Monday, I caved. I pillaged the rhubarb patch, and it coughed up just enough to fill 3 cups--perfect for a pie. Upstairs, the room that I meant to organize lay in disarray for a little longer, while I hoped that Rita's wise words would sink in while I baked, and rearrange the way my brain works.

When Brenda came home in the afternoon, there lay the pie, golden and flaky, waiting to be delivered to its destination the next morning.

The pie made Kevin's day, and, as Brenda knew he would, he shared it. She said that fights were breaking out over pieces of it. Barb, her co-worker, who is a baker par excellence herself, raised one eyebrow and said, "Your mom made the pastry?" then gave a nod and said casually, "It's good."

Brenda had to tell Kevin that I was over fifty and married--to her DAD. We roared with laughter at the fun that pie caused. Apparently I could get rich by selling them--but I'm past getting rich by standing over a hot stove.

Funnily enough, when I finally returned to the clutter in the room I was planning to organize on Monday, I came across a little writing pad. I had made some notes in it when Peter, Sue, Paul and I had sat down one day a few years ago and actually discussed starting a pie business. We didn't get very far because Peter had just left a position as production manager for a logistics company, and when he started doing a time and motion analysis of the pie production process, I knew somewhere deep in my soul that this was not going to work.

The name we came up with was scribbled on the note pad:
Original Sin Fruit Pies: Everybody has a Vice--Make us Yours

And as a sideline, we thought we could have: Fallen Angel Cake.

The next plan I have is teaching Brenda how to bake a pie.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Shadow Girl

By Belinda

Her name was Ingrid and I was just nine years old when I met her, a girl a little younger than me, who lived at the end of the street of council houses we had just moved to.

She had long, dirty-blond hair that was unkempt, and she smelled of stale urine. The other children call her "Pongo."

I didn't know everything there was to know about God. My theology was formed by what I learned at school, in Religious Knowledge class. I learned a lot, too, from the hymns that we sang in morning assembly. I knew that Jesus had said that what we did to the person who was least in the eyes of the world, he considered it done to him. That made a deep impression on my nine year old heart, and I easily connected the dots when it came to how Ingrid should be treated, although I never knew her well.

One day we heard that she had lain down in the road and tried to get run over. Wide eyed and dismayed, I wondered what would make someone want to do that.

Her dad got sent away to prison, and never came back again. Years later her mum married another man. By then I heard that Ingrid's dad had done things with his daughter that were wrong. I had no real concept of what that meant for Ingrid at the time.

I have never forgotten her and I wonder where she is now. Her older sister, seemed popular with the boys and to have a flock of them on bicycles, circling around their house, but Ingrid just seemed to fade away somehow. She was only a peripheral figure in my childhood; one of the children on the street, but not one of those that played hopscotch on the pavement outside our house. She was just a shadow girl from the house at the end of the row.



Matthew 25:34-40 (The Message)
34-36"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.'
37-40"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Being For

By Belinda

John 18:28-29 (New International Version)
28 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, "What charges are you bringing against this man?"

Is it just me, or is there something bizarre about worrying that you might become ceremonially unclean by entering a Roman palace; while you are carrying out a plot that will bring a man to his death? When I read this passage recently, I felt as though God had tucked this piece of irony into the gospel of John; first, for us to see the humour in, and then to ponder.

I enjoyed it, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I've learned that it doesn't pay to laugh too long, because usually under the humour, there is a dead serious point to be found and it is usually hits uncomfortably close to home.

So I've been thinking about how I might make a big deal out of what might be a minor thing to God, while missing something much more important. I have more than a few regrets about the things I've made a big deal about in the past.

For instance, on our honeymoon in Holland, we stayed with Tante Lijda and Ome Joop. Eskaline, a friend I'd met there when I was 15, invited Paul and I out for an evening of dancing. In the intervening years I had made the faith that had sprung up in my heart from earliest childhood, "official." I had gone forward at an altar call and had begun attending a conservative evangelical church. The church frowned on quite a few things that were seen as "worldly," including going to movies, and dancing.

So, we declined Eskaline's invitation, because, we said, we didn't dance, or drink. Of course, that wasn't strictly true, since it was from a party where we danced together that Paul drove me home one night and that was the start of our romance getting off the ground--finally. But in any case, I kind of think that Jesus would have gone dancing if Eskaline had asked him. I think he would have been more about the relationship and less about the sanctimoniousness.

I can still remember Eskaline's puzzled look. She was probably wondering what had happened to that carefree 15 year old that had danced the night away at her birthday party 4 years earlier. Actually Paul didn't like dancing and had only danced with me because he was in pursuit of the object of his affection. I wish we had said,"We'd love to spend time with you. Let's do something different--Paul's not that much into dancing."

It's so easy to find ourselves on the path of the Pharisees; focusing on the outward practice of religion, while overlooking the more important thing; the state of our hearts.

I once heard Pastor Rick Warren say that to the world, the church is known for what it’s against. It should be known for what it’s for!

What are we for? So many good things.

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.

Matthew 23:23 (The Message)
23-24"You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Heart Awakened

By Belinda


Next week my eldest granddaughter turns 14 and then another turns 13 in March and another turns 14 in July..."the girls" are growing up. Today I'm sharing a post I first published 3 years ago. It makes me realize how much they will grow up between now and 15, and maybe they already have and I just am in denial!


The five year diary was one of my Christmas gifts in 1962, and I wrote in it faithfully, every day for the next four years. Faithfully, because there were just a few lines for each day, and four years, not five, because by the time I got to 1966, I was writing too much to fit into the small space.


On the outside, just in case the lock was not protection enough, I had written the word, "Private," twice. Inside I chronicled my life, from age 12 to 16.


Tucked between the pages is a letter I wrote to Dad from Holland.


I started the letter, "Dear Daddy, I am writing again to tell you the latest boyfriend news."


"Latest?" I smile. I don't think I'd ever had any other "boyfriend news."


It was August, 1965, a few days before we were to cross the North Sea back to England, and I was about to start my last year at school. I was 15.


Tante Lijda and her family lived in a flat on the outskirts of Rotterdam, next door to an Indonesian family, the Kuipers. I had become friends with their daughter, Eskaline. She invited me to her birthday party, and I really didn't want to go. I was shy and didn't know any of her friends but there was no polite way out.


So I put on a white blouse under my black jumper, or "pinafore dress," and I borrowed some of Mum's perfume--Topaz, by Avon. 


I was unused to parties and unsure how to act, and when I got there, I found that I was the fifth girl and there were only four boys, as one couldn't come at the last minute.


The Beatles' 1965 album, Help, was playing. The tracks included the poignant Yesterday.


One of the girls, Gaby, became the unofficial D.J., and I danced with a boy who was staying at the Kuipers, Johan van Rijn. He was 15 too and had blond hair and blue eyes. He was about two inches taller than me and everybody called him Han.


I noticed that when I danced with Eskaline's brother, Rein, or her boyfriend, Franc, Han glowered at us, but I danced with him for most of the evening, until 12.30, when Mijnheer Kuiper, took everybody home, including Mum, who had been next door at Tante Lijda's. Mum sat in the front of the car with Mijnheer Kuiper, while Han and I, a girl named Marianne, and Rein; squeezed into the back.


When we got to Oma's flat, we said goodbye and I was sure I would never see him again. I knew that he had to leave for Weesp, near Amsterdam, very soon, as he was starting school on the following Monday.


The next day I was wretchedly unhappy. As I washed my hair in the tiny sink in the back room, salty tears mingled with the water.


Then the phone rang and it was Eskaline. She wanted to know if I could be ready in an hour to go for a last tour around Rotterdam with her and Franc, Marianne and Rein, and Han.


No one ever got ready more speedily. My wet hair was rollered and dried, I gulped down lunch, washed, dressed and put on a little makeup. I was so happy to have another chance to see Han.


After the drive around the city we went back to Eskaline's flat and danced until suppertime. Mevrouw Kuiper had made a delicious but very hot, Indonesian goulash. Everyone gulped down water as unobtrusively as possible, while complimenting Mevrouw kuiper on her cooking.


At any moment Han would have to leave to catch his train to Amsterdam. He called his parents and they said he could leave an hour later, but it still seemed like so little time.


We took him to the station and to my disappointment, he didn't even ask for my address. I had a big lump in my throat, that wouldn't go away no matter how hard I swallowed.


Driving away from the station there was an obviously empty space in the car. I kept talking quickly about Mevrouw Kuiper's goulash and avoided looking anyone in the eye, because I would have burst into tears. It was obvious how I felt, which made it worse somehow.


Back at Oma's flat I cried into my pillow all night long, but in the end I decided that it was best that he didn't ask to write, because I was soon going back to England and it would be just too hard to be so far apart. Moments later I decided that writing would be better than nothing.


The next day I thought up a reason to go to Tante Lijda's house so that I could talk to Eskaline. I discovered that the last thing Han had done was ask Rein, who had got on the train with him, to get my address. Then he had called from the train window, not to forget. But I didn't know, and Rein was too shy to ask me. Later, after I had left for home, Han had called Rein from Weesp, to tell him not to forget.


When I got back to Alvechurch, I played the song, Yesterday, over and over, loudly on the record player in my bedroom, crying at the words, which expressed exactly how I felt.


Han and I corresponded for a year; my life a series of highs and lows; chronicled in my green diary; depending on how long he took to reply to my letters.


When I went back to Holland the following year, although we meant to see each other, we didn't end up doing so. The intensity of our "first real love," had cooled, Perhaps the impracticality of it all finally caught up with us. It was a mutual letting go, with no regrets, and only good memories of a sweetly innocent first love.


I threw away Han's letters when Paul and I got engaged, but a whiff of Topaz perfume, or a song from a certain Beatles Album and I am 15, at a long ago party...

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Foggy Morning

By Belinda

Saturday morning. Pancakes with blueberries, the house redolent with fragrant fresh coffee, and outside--fog!

Tippy said, "It looks like there's a white backdrop outside of the window. If you got all dressed up in white, no one would be able to see you." We laughed at the thought of her fog camouflage suit.

I told of the fogs of my childhood in England. There, when fog descended on our village we groped our way around the old streets. Light came faintly from lampposts and windows and mystery hung tangibly in the air.

The fog muffled sound, adding to the sense of insulation. Time seemed to stand still--or perhaps it magically turned back several centuries, just like it did in the stories I enjoyed reading. Fog was my favourite weather.

Tippy and Victoria listened, wide eyed, fully relating to the deliciousness of imagination.

The windows were open to let in the cool morning air, and on it floated the rhythmic cricket song; the fields alive with the sound.

Then, so faint that we scattered, trying to track down the source, we heard the soft, plaintive wail of a lone bagpipe. We realized that it was coming from outside, though the mist, from the direction of a neighbour's house.

We stood at the window and listened to the haunting sound. We wondered if the piper was a nostalgic Scot.

When the music stopped, we applauded through the window.

"Encore," we cried, "Encore!"

But there was no response, and the throbbing of the cricket's song was all that was left behind...

One misty, moisty, morning,
When cloudy was the weather,
There I met an old man
All clothed in leather

All clothed in leather,
With a cap under his chin.
How do you do? And how do you do? And how do you do again

English nursery rhyme





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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Faithful God, Faithful Girls

by Meg

She won't be home tonight. At least not to this home. She flew out west very early yesterday morning. I said goodbye to my baby again, companion for this summer while my other baby settled into Bible school in New Zealand. Now they are both gone, from here, but not from my heart, nor me from theirs. Until now I have been so happy for them, so thrilled at how their plans have worked out, that I haven't had much time to miss them, or think about missing them. Now here we are - empty nesters.

Interesting that in just three weeks we will see one of them again! How's that for a pining Mum!!We actually arranged the trip for very practical reasons. Share Thanksgiving with her so we can send her to have a Kiwi Christmas with the other one, then welcome the other back for a few months a little while later. Now I am so delighted that it will not be long before I see my daughter again, my dear friend. And I am delighted that she feels the same way.

But what is my song today? I can only sing that refrain "What a Faithful God have I". I think back on these years of child rearing...through all the adventures...moving with them to Uganda in their very early years, moving suddenly back to a new part of Canada in their early adolescent years, moving them from being missionary kids to being small town kids. They coped so well, all the way along, with so many transitions, so many times of being different or misunderstood. And through it all they kept their faith alive, a real, gutsy faith. Then they tested it out in Bible school, and in revisiting Uganda. They got on the family airplane track again, and stepped out into the big wide world, the post 911 world, alone, trusting, scared and faithful.

And as they have grown up, I have too, but I have also become more childlike in my trust. When I wondered how she would get from the ferry to the university residence with her big suitcase, backpack, carry on and satchel, God provided. First He gave her a contact with a wonderful out of the box type of church, then they asked her if she needed help settling in. All I had done was pray for something to work out for her.

I could go on and on with the details of God's faithfulness in provision and protection, and their faithfulness in seeking Him and trusting Him. What more can I say? What is more important than to thank Him every moment for His faithfulness, and trust Him more and more.

These seem the most important words for this week. I have many more words in my own heart of His provision for me too, many too private to share. But God knows how I feel, and how grateful I am. That is enough. So it seems the words have run out, and there is only song. Let's share it together.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Next Year in Jerusalem!

by Susan

Tuesday was our wedding anniversary. 37 years.

Classes start soon and we spent the entire day moving Davie back for his fourth and final year of engineering studies at Queen's. We did seven hours of driving in separate vehicles, plus countless trips back and forth from the van to the apartment unloading stuff and checking out his new digs. Davie was with us, of course, and Jorie (18) came along for the ride since it is her last week at home too, as she is off to college tomorrow. My sister Brenda, who has recently moved an hour north from their old place in Kingston and for another two weeks or so has two houses, let us have first dibs on a pile of stuff that was left behind, before offering it up to the masses via a garage sale this Saturday. (That was the most fun part of the whole day. It felt like Christmas and then some!)

I can't tell you how many times we've spent our anniversary doing something just like this. One year (our 20th) we did a property survey together for some friends. Often, like today, it's been moving one or another child back to college. Many times it's been shopping for back-to-school clothes, or attending a family reunion, or going camping for one last-chance summer's hurrah with the entire family before the first day of school and the return of the fall routines.

At one point today, I was making myself as useful as I could with a still-sore arm by standing guard on the sidewalk in the afternoon sun, making sure no-one took any of Davie's stuff from the open van. I was trying to enjoy watching the others hard at work but I couldn't help feeling guilty, even though I had a good excuse. Ron walked past me with his arms full of furniture. He had a twinkle in his eye and one eyebrow slightly cocked as he looked at me and said as he passed, "37 years. Can you believe it?"

That was all he had to say and we laughed together. Had anyone been watching us, I doubt they would have understood the joke. It was a laugh of deep intimacy and common understanding. After 37 years together, he didn't have to explain anything to me, and I didn't have to ask. I knew exactly what he meant. As I watched him recede down the sidewalk, his eyes still twinkling, and a fresh spring in his step, I finished the joke in my mind. "Someday maybe we'll actually get to say that to each other over candlelight and wine!" It wasn't necessary to say it out loud. He knew. And he knew that I knew. And I knew that he knew. And that's what we were laughing about.

It's funny, but there was a time I would most likely have felt some resentment at such a turn of events. I would have felt cheated out of that romantic celebration which would have been looming large in my expectations, whether or not it made any sense given all the other things going on in our lives. But today, being busy moving furniture felt good. It was a comfortable feeling. We were doing what God gave us to do. Serving our kids. Making an investment in their lives. And we were doing it together. We couldn't have been happier, and we've never been more in love.

It hasn't always been easy. Sometimes it hasn't even been "good". But it's been. We've failed, we've shared some successes. We've grown apart, and we've grown back together again. Like two vines intertwining, wrapping themselves around and around one another, the two becoming one, and the new one stronger being formed from the two. Yes, by God's grace, and to some people's surprise, including at times our own, we've become something good together. Something very good.

Happy anniversary, honey. Next year in Jerusalem! (Maybe!)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Golden Evening

By Belinda

I tie the laces on my well used, dusty brown Rockport walking shoes and clip my Walkman belt around my waist; then reach into the closet for the red leash. A call for my golden friend and he gallops up the stairs, followed by an eager , smiling granddaughter. Victoria's face asks the question, and I answer it, "Yes, I'm going for a walk. D'you want to come?"

She nods , eyes bright, and excitedly runs downstairs to get shoes.

"Does Tippy know we're going?" I call after her.

"Oh no! I forgot to tell her," she says, and yells, "Tippy! We're going for a walk!"

Tiffany-Amber emerges from their downstairs apartment and the computer game that she was playing and begins energetically putting on sandals and bike helmet in the garage.

The four of us launch into the evening. I take out my ear buds and fold them into the Walkman. The book on CD can wait for a different walk.

We pass a bank of goldenrod, breathtakingly beautiful; tall, gaudily glamorous spikes pointing heavenwards amid rich, green grasses. I regret not bringing my camera, but determine to remember the glory of this moment.

Above us the moon increases in brillance as the twilight gently falls around us. I point out its beauty and shape. I tell the girls that yesterday it was shaped like an American football. Tiffany-Amber laughs, "Tonight it's a soccer ball." Last week on a walk it had been a "cream-sickle" moon and I had explained the play on words and what a sickle is.

The village is as alive with dogs and owners, as a hedgehog is with fleas. As we pass one another; straining canines bark and leap while owners remonstrate and make apologies to one another. Molson whimpers sympathetically at passing pups, and lunges too, until we owners pull our wandering pooches back on course.

The park with its swings beckons. "Can we stop for a while?" the girls beg.

"For a little while; it's getting dark," I say, and find a seat. Bikes are flung down and helmets tossed aside, as two girls, 10 and 11, run, hair streaming, for the swings.

A bouncing beagle named Stanley, and his owner, take a seat close by and he and Molson make tentative sniffs at one another, Molson's ears cocked high and alert.

I calculate the moment when the urge to swing is sufficiently satisfied if not satieted, and call the girls back to the walk. We say goodbye to Stanley.

In the deepening dusk, other less fortunate dogs bark from behind fences and open windows as we pass by, or leap at us from chained posts on front lawns. I say to the girls that Bond Head should be renamed Dogville and they laugh their agreement.

Rounding the bend, close to home again; Molson pauses and looks up expectantly. I laugh and fold his leash and place it in his mouth. It is his routine to proudly trots the last leg of the walk, free of constraint, taking himself home.

Tippy has ridden on ahead and is already home, and Victoria walks her bike beside me, tired.

Goldenrod, golden moon, golden dog. Golden evening.

Psalm 8:3-9 (The Message)
3-4 I look up at your macro-skies, dark and enormous,
your handmade sky-jewelry,
Moon and stars mounted in their settings.
Then I look at my micro-self and wonder,
Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?
5-8 Yet we've so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden's dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
9 God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Molson's a Daddy!

By Belinda


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It was on July 15th that I wrote about Molson’s Big Adventure --his first venture into the stud dog world. I was ridiculously excited about the whole thing because he was needed when I was looking after him for Brenda while she was away at the cottage.

Why was I so excited? You might well ask. Well, anyone who reads this blog for any length of time will know that I love that dog to bits. He is the most gentle, meek, noble, beast.

His mission was to sire a litter of puppies for an organization named COPE, which stands for Canine Opportunity People Empowerment. They train service dogs, and I could think of no better dog to serve as a potential daddy for such a purpose.

When Molson came home once "the deed" was done, it had not gone totally smoothly so there was some uncertainty about the outcome. We all forgot about it until yesterday, when Brenda called me at work and told me to check my email. There was a message she had forwarded from Sherri, the kennel owner, and it said:

Brenda, Molson is a Daddy!!! 10 beauties, 7 boys and 3 girls.

You can check out the Birth Announcement and photo of the puppies on the Cope website. They are adorable. I hear they would like to talk to me about writing some stories for them. That would be such an honour.

Tonight we walked through the twilight. A football shaped moon shone down on us. On the home stretch he looked up at me, making eye contact and "smiling." I ruffled the hair on the top of his head and told him, "Good dog."

You did good Molson. Yes, you did good!