Friday, April 30, 2010

Let It Go

Found this song on one of the blogs I enjoy and it's in my link list,Hey look, a chicken!. The song is a great reminder to give up control to God. I'm tempted to say that I'm "working on it," but that sounds like such an oxymoron. :)

More on "What If"

Fridays by Susan.

Belinda's post yesterday blew me away.  Those five "What If" questions she asked herself were profound in their potential to change her landscape and how she fits into it over the next several days.  By the time I reached the last of her questions, I was already formulating my own list...

 
What if I stopped doing "what feels right" most of the time and began to ask myself this same series of questions as deadlines approach - and long before they get to the "looming" stage!  Let me re-phrase them in a way that is generic.
  • What if I figured out the most important things that are possible to do today (or this week?, or before that deadline, etc, etc)
  • What if I didn't worry about the myriad of things that cannot get done?
  • What if I made a list of those things that cannot get done so that I don't forget them - and then I scheduled blocks of time to do them at a later date?
  • What if I keep on weighing what is most important, in order to make sure I keep my promise to get back to those things?
  • What if I -in sorting out the above questions - make sure God/family/other priorities get all the time that rightfully belongs to them?
 I am experiencing a time right now when I am sitting on the sidelines for a bit.  I am home for two weeks recuperating from elective surgery.  There are many changes going on in my inner life right now and the timing seems perfect to add this  My emotional response to Belinda's "what if's" this morning was immediate -
  • What if, as part of my recovery, I don't go back to living from crisis to crisis?
  • What if I were to begin right now to live my life much more intentionally and less by "what I feel like doing" right now?
  • What if I began to incorporate these questions into my lifestyle and asked them, not just at times of crisis or time pressure, but what if I asked them of myself every single day?
  • What if I were free - really free - from the tyranny of the urgent?
While I was thinking about Belinda's "What if's" this morning, I saw a funny picture in my mind.  It was Belinda hopping across a river, from stepping stone, to stepping stone.  Jesus was pointing out to her which were the stones she should light upon.  As long as she kept to His direction, she made incredible progress toward her goal.  There were many other good stones that Jesus was bypassing.  They looked solid and some might even have been apparent shortcuts.  But I knew somehow that if she had chosen them over any of the ones Jesus pointed out, her progress would have quickly been impeded. She might still make it to the goal, but she would be splashing through water, arms and legs churning, expending way more energy, soaked to the skin, hair a-mess, flustered and miserable, tossed about by the currents and the flow of the water and the flotsam and jetsam all around her.  She might still get across that river, but it wouldn't be easy.  And it wouldn't be pretty.

I thought about how when I get back into the game in the next couple of weeks, I want to do like I "saw" Belinda do as she was crossing her river.  I want to hop only on those solid stones being pointed out to me.  I realized that I have spent much of my time in the stream, reacting to the river's current, instead of rising above it...  And so I asked myself one more question...

"What if I get up early enough to wait on God for his game plan for the day?  What if I trusted him to show me the right stones to tread upon instead of waiting until my strength is wasted from fighting the currents and splashing through the water on my own?"

What if?

Dear readers, I hope to answer that question next week at this time.  Stay tuned for a progress report.  And thankyou for providing me with a little accountability!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What If...

By Belinda

I leave for England on Monday, and have only two days left at work before being away for two weeks. I am staving off low level panic at the coming boundary over which there can be no leaping!

At the same time I have an opportunity to choose to be panicked or not, even though it might take some talking to myself to accomplish.

This makes me think of a thought provoking post at my friend Marilyn's blog, As Good a Day as Any. You can click here to read it. It was entitled "If," and challenge us to ask ourselves the question "What if...?"

Marilyn's post, and several other good ones in the blogosphere, was based on a blog post by Donald Miller,The single Most Powerful Question You Can Ask

So, I'm asking myself 5 What If questions as I prepare to leave after this weekend:

  • What if I figured out the most important things that are possible to do by Friday evening?
  • What if I didn't worry about the myriad of things that cannot get done?
  • What if I made a list so that I don't forget them and then schedule blocks of time to do them when I get back?
  • What if I don't give away that time too easily, without weighing what is most important, when I get back? 
  • What if I leave on time on Friday, and spend my last Friday night at home for two weeks, relaxing with my Paul?
"What if?" It would be lovely!

I think I've just talked myself into sanity. :)

What about you? What are your "what ifs?"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tozerites

By Belinda

A couple of months ago when our daughter-in-law Sue was painting a room in our house, she stopped for a tea break and scanned one of my bookshelves. She found a book by A.W. Tozer; The Pursuit of Holiness and started reading it. When I got home, she asked if she could borrow it.

"Keep it," I said, "I've had it for years, meaning to read it. It must have been meant for you."

Sue loved the book and decided to order a compilation of Tozer's sermons in a book to study with a group of young women at her house. We caught the wave and decided to study the same book in our cell group.

This Thursday evening we finish our group study on A.W. Tozer's The Attributes of God.

We will be cramming a little to do it; two chapters in one night--the Holiness and Perfection of God; but since some of us will be away for the following two weeks, and we are so close to the end, we thought we'd do it.

I still haven't got over last week's chapter on the Immanence of God (this was when we were still serious and hadn't yet reached the silly state we ended up in during closing prayer.)

Usually I'm pretty faithful in reading the required chapter, but I just didn't make it last week. And Jane, who is leading the study, arrived from work looking so tired that I said, "If you want to just have a relaxing evening, that would be just fine."

But she said, with a smile, "I'm ready!" And wow, she, and everybody else, was!

I felt as though I had really missed something by not reading the chapter, as one after another, the others shared things that struck them and excited them. All I could do was listen (a very good discipline for me BTW) and try to catch up by speed reading as they referenced passages.

"Immanence," in relation to God, for those who don't know, (as I didn't,) what it means, really, is the fact that God penetrates everything--a pretty mind boggling concept.

I promised myself that I would catch up. Never mind that I already had not one, but two chapters to read for this week; I had a glimpse of what was in that missed chapter and I was determined to fully soak it up. And I did. I have to say that if you only read the book for that one chapter it would be worth it. I underlined and circled and exclamation marked the pages to the full! I learned so much from it.

Basically, these are the Belinda notes:
God is all around us and in us--and in everything; but because of the dissimilarity in our nature compared to his, we are just not aware of him, not sensitive to him. God is not manifest, but he is there.

Tozer goes on to describe God's character and nature and how far from him we are, as only he can. I love the exuberance and passion with which he writes. Here's a small sample where he is writing on the Unselfishness of Christ:
Do you notice that Jesus Christ was completely unselfish and gave himself? But how self-centred and self-indulgent most Christians are! Even when they're reading books on revival, they're still self-centred. Even when they're praying for revival, they're still self-indulgent. A revival is, among other things, a sudden manifestation. It's a breaking through the clouds. It's not the coming of the sun; it's the breaking of the sun through clouds.

I'm sick in my own heart, sick about myself, sick about my friends, sick about the preachers and their ministry. How utterly self-centred we can become. We live for self, talk loudly about glorifying God and boast and say, "This is to the glory of God"--and yet we are self-centred. You'll know you're self-centred if anybody crosses you and your hackles go up. Don't smile about it. It's not funny--it's serious!

I have to say that got to me. I'd had my personal hackles up, under some self righteous guise or another, just a few days before reading that passage. Yuck!

The whole chapter reminded me of the need to draw close to God; to repent of my distance; and the dissimilarity of my character to his character. It began to prepare my heart for Sunday, when I stood at an altar with a heart wide open to God, shoulder to shoulder with our pastor on one side and son on the other and just a little bit, God was able make himself manifest to us.

 24-29"The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it? (Acts 17:27-28, The Message)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Taken In

By Belinda

I said hello with a smile as I strode up the steps of the church, but she, going in the opposite direction, clutched my arm gently, her eyes bright with news to share.

Soft perfume wafted around her, and I noticed her elegance and femininity. She wore a stylish, long coat and a silk scarf. Made up perfectly, her eyes were set off by soft, light brown eyeliner; tastefully applied with a light hand and her hair; soft, light brown waves; framed her face. She must have been very beautiful in her time, I thought.

She leaned in towards me, conspiratorially, pulling me closer with the hand on my arm.

"Did my daughter tell you what they've done for me?" she said, smiling.

"No," I said.

"They've said I can live with them," she said, "James--St. James I call him, is so good to me."

Her daughter and son-in-law (James): in their 50's: had walked on ahead of her as she confided her happy secret to me. I knew that she had been living at a nursing home with her husband who had just recently died of Alzheimer's disease.

Her words were poignant, and reminded me of Blanche Dubois in the movie, A Streetcar Named Desire: "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

There was something about someone so glad to have been "taken out" and "taken in," that made me feel sad. This woman had once held a position of prominence in society. Is this what happens to us all, I thought, this utter vulnerability and gratitude? And why did it affect me so? Surely it was wonderful that she no longer had to live at the nursing home?

Gratitude is a good thing, but I think I wished that she felt that she was the gift that others appreciated and that she would feel precious and vied for more than grateful.

I feel, deep down as though family doesn't "take in," they love one another and do that together as long as they can.

But perhaps it is me who is wrong. Her family have made room in their lives; adjusted their home to include an extra person and that is kind and generous and not to be taken for granted.

What do you think?

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Last Eighteen Cents

From the Archives (originally posted March 22nd 2007)

By Claire Alexander

Isaiah 55:8-11 (New International Version)
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

A friend attending a seminary class was able to drive me from our rural town to the subway, after I learned that this year’s final Bible study for retired alumni was being held in Toronto. The unusual topic, from 1 Kings 22, dealt with Micaiah, the true prophet of the Lord, and 400 false prophets of Asherah (1 Kings 18:19). Photo shots of archaeology showed recent findings of Ahab’s palace, verifying 2800 years later the syncretism of his version of the Hebrew faith, and the ivory of his house (22:39).

At the end, as I waited in the entrance of a college closer to the subway, I was musing on my own need for “pure religion,” when a small, unshaven man diffidently approached me in the foyer for money. Though we often see beggars and homeless people on trips to Toronto, this encounter seemed different. The Lord nudged me that this shy little man was my responsibility, regardless of the truth of what he said.

I knew I had nothing in the bank until my month-end pension cheques would come, but a wonderful sense of being God’s messenger filled me, as I gave him my remaining seniors’ subway tickets, except the one to go home on, and unexpectedly found two twoonies ($2-dollar coins) and some change in my pocket. As I searched my bag, I offered the wrapped cookie from the coffee time, saved for lunch on the way home and, regretfully, said that was all I could do.

Then I thought about integrity and purity. My almost-empty change purse had something in it, I knew—and as I gave him the last eighteen cents, I said it came with the love of Jesus, and I was trying to trust Him, too.

Though I’ll never know if anything helped him, I myself needed to go back to zero to start a new journey of faith. The next morning as I got a ride to the Post Office, I suddenly remembered in the car that I had stamps but no money to mail our daughter’s birthday present.

However, at the end of the long farm driveway, the mail flag was up on the green rural mailbox, and the mail had arrived earlier than usual. Inside was an envelope for me, not only with an unexpected cheque for services rendered, but also with an added $25. God’s way of amazing me was more than a 500% return on my few coins, and yet I learned that His ways are not my ways. It doesn’t seem strange to ask Him to help me listen, but when He nudges someone else to meet my need, somehow I find that amazing!

Isaiah 55:10-11 NIV

10 “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven… 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Joy

By Belinda

I've said so often how much I love Thursday nights--the night when it is a full house around here.

This Thursday, I stopped at the post office as usual on my way home. Laurie, the lady who runs the post office, was reading a book behind the counter and had a note book and highlighters out. She told me with excitement that there is a Bible Study in Bradford and that she is studying a Beth Moore book there, but, she said, she has an hour of homework to do every day.

Laurie is dark haired, with kind, brown eyes. She is short and of stocky build and Ukrainian background. She was going to the Ukrainian Orthodox church in town, St.Catherine's, but now attends Holy Martyrs of Japan in Bradford. She was telling one of her customers that she had said to her priest, "Father why don't you have a Bible study?" which prompted the customer to tell her about the Beth Moore study. Laurie felt as though she had stumbled upon a well kept secret--a Bible study in Bradford.

So I told her about our Thursday night cell group. Laurie's eyes widened. "You are kidding!" she exclaimed, "In Bond Head? And you study the Bible?"

"Well, we are studying "The Attributes of God" by A.W. Tozer," I said, and explained how we are always studying a book about God and I made sure she knew she'd be welcome anytime for supper and the study. It made me wonder if we have become so politely reserved about sharing our faith that people stumble upon God as upon hidden treasure,finding out only by accident that there are place where people love to gather, eat together and talk about God.

Depending on how busy a week I'm having, I sometimes experience a mild panic as Thursday approaches but then I default to something simple, reminding myself that it is sitting down together around the table that is the true gift.

After supper this week we sat down and talked about the chapter on the immanence of God; the fact that God penetrates everything. I had such a busy week that I hadn't read the chapter, but Jane led the study with such energy that you would never have known that she had said when she first walked in how tired she was. Other who had read the chapter were excited about it and I felt that I had missed something by not making time to read it. I made a mental note to take some quiet time and read it, because as we skimmed over the parts that people were so excited about, I glimpsed tantalizing passages in between. Gotta go back!

At the end our conversation took a hilarious turn and we laughed so much our sides hurt. Jane called us to order for closing prayer and started with the words, "Father we thank you for A.W. Tozer," and paused for a second. A snigger erupted from somewhere, followed by peals of laughter and then howls, from all around.

Jane lost all control and laughed so loudly and freely that it seemed as if a dam had burst somewhere deep within. We wiped our eyes, and held our ribs and with eyes shining and moist with tears, hugged one another goodbye until next week.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sex Ed

It's Friday, so this is by Susan!

My mother did a pretty good job, I think, for the 60's.  We were at the cottage and she arranged for the two of us to share the cabin that night while the rest of the family stayed in the main cottage.  She presented me with a book called, "The Stork Didn't Bring You," and together we went through it.  I was 9.  The next morning, I stood at the top of the bank looking down over the dock and with hands firmly planted on my hips, I announced to older sister Brenda with great authority, "I know the facts of life!"  I think I stuck out my tongue right after that. I must have looked pretty silly!
Mom did a pretty good job as I recall.  But unfortunately she was a little late...  I had already learned far too much on the schoolyard and in the neighbourhood. Now she was giving me this new version -- and trust me, it bore little similarity to what I'd learned on the street! In fact it had been months before I found out that this strange - and dirty - activity which my friends told me about and which was called "sex", was something that resulted in pro-creation! 

As mom talked , I listened.  And I never let on that I already knew the whole story.  It was good to get it from a wholesome perspective finally, but I remember being very conflicted at the time, suspended somewhere between the two versions.  And Mom was completely fooled.  She had no idea that I might have had "another version" at all.

Mrs. Johnson, my phys.ed. teacher, tipped the balance a couple of years later in our all-girl's health education class.  By that time I was in Grade 6.  Even though she had sent home parental permission forms, it still fellt like a huge surprise when, amdist giggles and red faces, she started talking about certain specific body parts right in class.  It was so-o-o-o weird.  But I also remember feeling so relieved.  It confirmed the healthier view which Mom had taught me and helped me to understand that all the other stuff was something I needed to unload.  Not that I ever could.  What gets introduced in a child's mind at such a young age, is very difficult to ever dislodge entirely.

What my own children learned about sex - from me - was at a much younger age.  We started them off really young  because I didn't want them to hear "the street version" before I had a chance to teach them the truth.  I found if I inadvertantly gave them more than they could handle, those parts would go right over their heads quite nicely anyway, and I really didn't have to worry about it that much. They came equipped with their own  internal filter.

I'm sure this subject evokes a lot of memories for you, too.  I'll bet you remember the time and place and circumstances of how and when someone - or some-thing - reavealed for you, the Truth!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Shopping

By Belinda

"Shopping." The mere word holds a myriad of associations, but today a chance sentence heard, triggered memories of shopping as defined by Mum when I was a child--and I lingered there for a while, enjoying the gift of memory; to live a moment in time again.

Shopping for my mother was a serious affair. I don't remember shopping being a pastime or fun, except for her forays into the ironmongers, or hardware stores as they are known here.

The ironmongers had a distinct smell. It was slightly musty, kind of like a tool shed; faintly oily and papery; a serious smell of work-to-be-done. And the tools of all kinds of household work were sold there.

Mum loved tools. She had an inventive mind on which I could depend for creative solutions to any technical, mathematical or strategic problem. I am sure that is why I have a deep seated belief that there is always an answer for any problem and no knot that cannot be unraveled given patience and persistence!

From the ironmongers came treasures such as new spouts for teapots or taps, or new plastic butter dishes, which, believe it or not, were exciting to Mum, and therefore to me. I learned from her pleasure in small things, to be appreciative of anything and everything. This became a lifelong gift of attitude that neither one of us understood the tremendous value of at the time I was absorbing it.

The weekly grocery shopping was a serious ritual. Mum made a shopping list, which she would drop off at a small corner grocery shop on the way to work in the morning on Friday. That evening the shopping would be delivered to our house in brown, cardboard boxes, by the shop owner, always dressed in a white lab coat, and then unpacked by Mum, each item checked off against her list, which was returned with the shopping. She was meticulous in following this process and checking every detail.

On Saturdays there was more shopping and I often tagged along. In the village the post office would be visited to pay the bill for the weekly newspapers. Mum often stopped at Mrs. Haynes's shoe shop to unburden herself of personal problems. I didn't like hearing our considerable family woes aired so often, but it was one of Mum's coping mechanisms in a marriage that was not easy. Dad had the pub to help him cope; Mum had her friends.

On Saturday afternoons we went on the bus or train to Redditch, the town just 3 miles away from our village. We would visit Rainscourts the butcher's shop on Evesham Street, where Mum would buy sliced ham and tongue and black pudding as well as the salami or wurst. Woolworths was always a wonderful place to wander around too.

The train ride home took all of 5 minutes through sheep dotted fields and hillsides. I remember making Mum laugh once when I studied my face in a mirror on the train and gasped at how "awful" I looked. "It must be the light," I said, not joking. Mum laughed and laughed.

Mum's sense of humour is another of her great gifts passed down to us. Jokes sometimes pass over my head unnoticed, as my friends know, but no subtly ridiculous situation unfolding, passes me by without inner or outer hilarity. To have a mother capable of collapsing into giggles that she attempts to smother by pinching her nose is a delight that I still treasure.

I'm getting ready to pay her a visit very soon. On May 3rd I fly out. She won't be taking me shopping, but you never know, if she consents, I might take her! :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Forgive My Ungenerous Heart

Tonight I am out of steam and my eyes feel as though they are ready to fall out of my head! Balancing the budget has that effect on me. :)

So...instead of writing, I would like to share a poem that inspires me to greater goodness whenever I read it. I have it copied out in one of my journals and it is by Hartwig Lohmann. I believe I found it on a Sunday School bulletin but it was over 25 years ago.

I so relate to the sentiments. Enjoy and be inspired too.

Dear God, forgive me!
Forgive my ungenerous heart.
It really isn't so hard,
to be nice to someone.
A friendly word;
a warm glance;
an understanding smile;
a word of thanks or "please."
Life isn't so much a matter of
life and death,
but rather of more generosity of
spirit.
Life isn't so much a matter of
winning and losing--
but rather of being merciful.
Life isn't so much a matter of
giving things up,
but rather of giving more.
You give me everything O God,
but don't let me forget that
you love and give to others just as much.
Why then, when we are all your children,
do we still treat each other so harshly?
Liberate me, God, from my ungiving heart,
from my thoughtlessness and stinginess to others,
Liberate me from myself--
Liberate me for you--
Let my life be pleasing in your eyes, O Lord.

Hartwig Lohmann

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Seeing Eyes

By Belinda

I am grateful for seeing eyes. I see beauty all around me, even in strange things that might seem rather odd, like a ditch full of last year's dead leaves.

I also see connections; I see when God is at work. Mystical things happen and sometimes I just know that all will be well, even in situations that look scary.

One of these "miracles in the making" is happening right now. A story that will be told when the time is right (and when I have permission!:)) But what joy to see it happening and know that God is doing something wonderful and to be a witness to it.

And then tonight Paul and I were deep into a rather sappy movie. (Something kept us watching in spite of the fact that it seemed to have been made on a shoestring and some of the acting could have been better. It had a very heart warming story line and great ending.) In the middle of it Brenda called from a park and I could hear her excitedly telling Paul something.

When she got home she said, "Did Dad tell you?" He hadn't, but I had a feeling I was about to hear, so the kettle was put on for tea, and out poured a story of God at work.

But the best part of all was that this time God was at work in something concerning her two girls--and they, old enough now at 11 and 12, had spotted it.

Torie had been heard saying to her sister, "God can do anything!"

Yes, he can. And he is growing seeing eyes in my granddaughters. I pray that they keep them wide open always.

P.S. I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I thought about the title of the movie we were watching. It was called, Treasure Blind "Some see it; some don't." Hmmm. Coincidence?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Holding Up a Mirror

By Belinda

Our conversation was personal and filled with laughter. I told a story that concerned me, and before the three of us parted, I said, laughing, "What was said in this car, stays in the car!"

One of my friends asked directly, "Why? You aren't worried I might say something are you?"

I said, "Yes!" a little nervously, thinking back to times when things had slipped out. We talked more about it later that day, laughing about our earlier conversation, and I said that I hoped she wasn't offended by my quick "Yes."

She wasn't, she said. She  understood that I was just making sure...

The next day I told my story to another friend, adding to it the exchange with my first two friends. We laughed as much as I had with my friends in the car. I didn't give a thought to sharing a story that was my own, after all.

When I told one of my first friends of my second conversation, she said, "I hope you didn't share..." and she mentioned something personal to her that had become part of the story by then.

Unthinkingly, I had, I confessed. To my dismay, I realized that I, the introvert, so concerned about my own privacy, had not been so careful with another's--and I hadn't even realised it.

My friend forgave me. Once more I was grateful for the grace that is automatic in my closest friendships.

It was a moment of truth that was needed. I am so quick to see things from where I stand; a position in which I am not perfect, but far less flawed than I really am. How glad I am that I have friends that will hold up a mirror from time to time.

And who love a friend who fails in the very area in which I doubted them.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

By Belinda

God knows when we come home battle weary, as I did tonight. Oh, I'm more than all right, don't worry, but it was a long day and a sore spot was touched, and I reacted in defensiveness, then self promotion, and then disappointment--at myself.

I was tired and not at all in the mood for writing anything.  And then I read this on one of my favourite blogs, As Good a Day as Any, a great post:Fighting Bullies ;Marilyn declaring that she will not be bullied by her blog!

And she included a link to a blog that is new to me: The Moonboat Cafe and a great post Obscurity Can Be An Asset

"My blog is not my life. Twitter is not my life. Facebook is only a photo album. These are products of my life, like all my writing. But they are not my life." - Cassandra Frear

I heartily commend both of these posts to you. They are far better than anything I can write tonight, and they will feed your soul with good food.

And yeay! It is Saturday! Happy weekend every one. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Old Lady Brown

Mrs. Brown was my Grade 2 teacher and for some reason I'm thinking about her tonight.  She was a very mean widow.  Everyone said her husband died in the war, but I really don't know if that was fact or fiction.  She always wore a man's watch on her left wrist.  It was rumoured to be her dead husband's watch. 

Mrs. Brown always seemed "old" to me, though I think she was probably in her early forties when I first crossed her path.  That would put her in the same generation as my grandparents, so that certainly made sense. 

Mrs. Brown ran a tight ship.  She put up with no nonsense.  She would rap her pointer across the desk of anyone who was caught talking in class, and she would make my brother and I stay in until our work was done, even if that meant missing the bus and facing a three mile walk home.

There were some good things about Mrs. Brown.  She was a good teacher in that I remember nearly everything she taught.  But there were some lessons in her class I wish I'd never learned.  Once, years later when I was out shopping with my sister, she came down the elevator in Bartlet's Department.  I can hear her booming voice still.  "There's two girls I know."  Then she stopped to ask us what we were doing now and how our parents were.  I stood there incredulous that she was actually being nice to me.  She used to tell me all the time that I wasn't living up to my potential.  Well, neither was she, neither was she.

I don't know what it was that made me hate her so much.  Perhaps it was her booming voice which scared the tar out of every kid within hearing distance.  Perhaps it was her rather large presence, which was enhanced by those black lace up clunkers which everyone's grandmother wore for shoes back then.

My most vivid memory of Mrs. Brown was the time she picked my brother up out of his seat by the hair.  I can still see him suspended between chair and desk and flopping about like a rag doll with arms and legs flying helplessly about.  And I can still see the tears form in his eyes as she released her grip and he fell back down into his seat and began to cry.  And I can still hear her castigating him to stop crying. "Get busy and get your work done."  And I can still see her backside retreating up the aisle in search of her next victim.  Hot tears began to run down my cheeks too.  I think that was the first time in my young life that I had ever experienced pure hatred.  And raw fear.  I did not know what to do.  I wanted to hug my brother and bite her hard on the leg.

Intimidation and domination are what she used to keep  control in her classroom  .  No wonder we called her "Old Lady Brown."

Once I wrote the words "Junk on the Hill" next to the word, "School" on the front cover of a notebook.  By then I was probably in Grade Four.  She was walking past me as I sat on a retaining wall under the shade of a small honey locust in the front yard of the school.

"Let's see what you're working on," she said, sounding interested.  My heart began to beat faster.  She picked up the notebook and to my utter chagrin, saw what I had written.  She looked at me disparagingly and told me to take the notebook inside and show it to my teacher, expecting, I'm sure, that some dastardly punishment would await.  I didn't listen to her,  though.  I just walked into the school through the front doors and right back out the through the side doors and into a smaller school yard on the other side where I knew she had little chance spotting me.

Funny how we remember these things so many years later.  When we're interacting with the children in our lives, let us remember that they will remember too.  ...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

By Belinda

Friends, it is a late night and an early morning awaits! So, I'm digging out an old journal and sharing a poem I wrote in 1982. It isn't a very good poem, but God can use even a very bad poem! Maybe. :)

Christ never did the obvious,
The natural thing to do.
He did things so amazing--
And startling, and new!

If you would tread his footsteps,
Then wear his shoes of peace,
Seek out his Word and love it,
Begin and never cease,

To hear what he is saying,
To those who love his law,
Seek his way, not the world's way,
For different they both are.

Down here we have no city,
We seek one that's to come.
We're citizens of Glory,
And one day we'll reach Home.

'Til then we'll walk with Jesus,
And love him more each day,
And let our lights keep shining,
As we live the "Jesus Way."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Inez

By Belinda

I drive west along the seventh line. On the edge of our little village, what was once farmland has become The Club at Bond Head, a very ritzy golf club. It is evening and an artificial lake reflects the colours of the sunset like a jewel in the dusk.

I never tire of this drive; this feast for the eyes between our home and church.This evening the sun vacates the sky in fine style, leaving showy swirls and feathers of cloud tinged in palest pink and peach over fields just emerged from winter.

I glance to my right, at a farm nestled deep among the fields at the end of a very long laneway: Inez's farm.

I think of her kitchen empty, and piano untouched. On the seat beside me lie a salad and loaves (including the ever abundant Amish Friendship Bread) that I am taking to the church for her funeral lunch tomorrow.

When our church first began, many of the people from surrounding farms were its first members. Now the demographics have changed and we have a more diverse congregation with many young families that commute to the city, but Inez was a faithful constant, tying past to present.

The newer families probably don't know how long she has been part of the fibre of the church. Tiny and birdlike, with a slight frame, she had deep set blue eyes and a head crowned with white hair always set in the same short, immaculate style.

Before we had the luxury of three pianists, guitarists, drummer and violinist,Inez was our back-up pianist. There were a quite a few times when I stood beside her piano in the farmhouse, as she practiced the songs I had picked out for the worship service the following Sunday. She never found it easy, but she believed she was supposed to share the gift of music God had given her and I was grateful!

Her voice was beautiful. Again, no one in recent years probably knows that, because she has been in frail health, and gave up singing solos many years ago. But tonight, I remember, and see her as she was.

I will miss her familiar presence across the church, in "her pew." Tomorrow the family will gather and say goodbye and as many of us as are able, will honour her memory by being there.


 
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Burdens and Blessings!

 By Belinda


Posted by Picasa The only burden that comes close to having a ratbag for a mother, is having one that isn't. Ask Brenda! She has carried a burden, that of a mom whom the rest of the world apparantly loves, with varying degrees of dismay or disgust all of her life.

I think she's coming around lately. She just laughs now, which is a great improvement on the gesture I've seen once or twice in the past--the one with the finger in the mouth depicting gagging! :)

Just last week she took her car into our local Honda dealership for service, and as she was giving her name and other details of service required, the older gentleman behind the desk said, "You wouldn't be related to Belinda Burston would you?"

Brenda said, "Oh no, I know where this is going!" which caused the woman behind the desk with him to crack up.

Brenda said that he had an all too familiar glazed look in his eyes as he said how nice I was. I had no idea he knew me as anyone other than the woman with the 11 year old plum coloured Honda that we are nursing along together! :)

Brenda played it to the hilt as only she can, rolling her eyes in a dramatic portrayal of the daughter who will forever walk in the shadow of her beloved mom. Not true; she has more than her own share of sparkle and sunshine but she had fun with it.

I don't know how, but somehow I have the world fooled--all but my team and my near and dear friends and family, who know the truth.

Beneath our joking, though, lies a mutual love that grows with every year, and with my 60th birthday approaching, Brenda decided that she wanted to buy me a very special family ring. She got an idea of the style that I would love--simple, square cut stones set into a plain band, and she's been looking for weeks for: The Ring.

Tonight she and Tippy went out together to the mall, for some "Tippy and Mommy time" and she called from a jewelery store, excited as all get out. The Ring had been found! She wanted to know, would I prefer white or yellow gold?

She brought home a flyer from the store so that I could see the beautiful ring. Her delight in doing this, worth more than the finest ring money could buy.

The woman who was serving her in the jewelery store asked, "Where can I get a daughter like you?"

And Brenda said, "Let me tell you about my mother."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Empty Boxes

By Belinda

I arrived at a home that I had not been to before, for a meeting last week. Even as I approached the front door, there was a sense of neatness, order and beauty. Inside, the warm welcome of the inhabitants was echoed by the home, as it wrapped itself around me with the warmth of the colours on the walls, and the atmosphere of comfort and hosptitality.

Before the four of us started our discussion on the topic of the meeting, the two other women mentioned being regular readers of this blog. I felt humbled and a little embarrassed. It is a great honour that anyone chooses to read here but I was caught off guard when I thought about how "off the cuff" some of my writing can be.

This was further reinforced when one of the women referred to my post of a couple of weeks ago about the church business meeting, and my (backfiring) attempt at humour. In my determination not to be stereotyped as a lover of Gaither music just because I am over 50, I had managed to do the thing that I was resisting for myself--I stereotyped lovers of the Gaithers!

The woman sitting across from me laughed as she mentioned that her dear late husband had been a "Gaitherite" and that his final revenge on a younger member of their family, had been to have her sing,
I’m Free at his funeral.

Her words fell like a gentle rebuke, although she did not intend them to. How little I had considered the reach of my words. She promised to send me a relevant poem that her Aunt Erma Davision had written, which was published in To a World, with Love by the Bible Christian Union (79.) With her permission, I share it here as the message is so true and one that I need reminding of (occasionally! :)) Thank you Paula!

Empty Boxes

Father
help me to not
put people
in boxes
labelled
*"worldly"
"unspiritual"
"liberal"
"gaitherite"

What's the use?

they keep escaping
my self-made cubicles

and I'm stuck
with all these

empty boxes!

*Please insert your own labels

Blessings to you on this good day of empty boxes. :) 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's Over

By Belinda

After writing about never giving up on true friendships, I feel that it is important to add the counterpoint and say, "Sometimes there comes a point when you just have to bale.!"

For a month I've had this high maintenance friend that moved in with us. Really she was a "friend of a friend."

She was very expensive to keep feeding and I just found that she was sucking up way too much of my energy, so I decided I had to call it quits and end the relationship.

I did it tonight. It's over. I have no more "starter." I baked all of it in a massive batch of Amish Friendship Bread and Amish Friendship Muffins.

My kitchen is closed (I just said that to get my own back on Dave who told us he was deleting his blog on April Fools Day) and I am hanging up my apron!

I knew it was time when I visited someone yesterday, and took a loaf of Amish Friendship Bread as a gift. Just before I left I remembered it and reached into my bag. "Oh, I nearly forgot," I said, "I brought you some Amish..." and before I could finish my sentence I saw the fear in her eyes. It was then that I knew I was doomed. The market had hit saturation point. I had to get out.

So tonight as I studied the recipe, figuring out how many dozens of eggs I needed to empty my fridge of for my massive bake off, I noticed something that had flown over my head every time I've read it so far.

The recipe exhorts the baker to "pour the entire contents of the bag into a (in bold letters) NON METAL BOWL." Hello! My shiny new Kitchen Aid, which Paul went out and bought for me when he took pity on my Amish bondage, has a METAL BOWL! You can't use it WITHOUT the metal bowl.The recipe even says to use a NON METAL spoon. I have been desecrating my Amish batter with METAL. Well, the sky hasn't fallen in, but I wondered what I did to the Amish batter so I Googled the question. Apparently the metal reacts with the sourdough and kills the yeast, thus the bread won't rise as well. Hmmm.

So here, recorded for posterity, is the end of my relationship with my needy friend.

Here Molson is having one last sniff.

And isn't this pathetically adorable? :)

Farewell friend. It's been a blast; quite literally, the time when the fermentation process on my countertop resulted in an explosion.

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Friday, April 09, 2010

Not Fair!

by Susan (with generous amounts of help from lessons learned from life and from the book "Joseph" by Chuck Swindoll)

"Grace, grace, God's grace,
  Grace that will pardon and cleanse within
  Grace, grace, God's grace,
  Grace that is greater than all our sin..."

I heard Paul singing this softly as the group began their disbanding ritual tonight after our cell group meeting. It's an old Evangelical hymn for those of you who may not recognize the words as easily as I do after hanging out with Pentecostal-types for more than 30 years...   It's a good hymn, with a bouncy, catchy, churchy tune.  And its words capture exactly what we were talking about tonight. Grace.

One of the things we talked about was the difference between grace and mercy.  What I took away from it goes something like this:  Grace is when you get good stuff that you really don't deserve and mercy is when you don't get the bad stuff that you really do deserve.

I was thinking about Joseph.  Now there was "a trophy of grace".  God took that boastful young buck and allowed him to go through a meat grinder of circumstances which certainly served to bring him down a notch or two.  Talk about hard knocks!  His father favoured him, setting him up to be envied by his brothers.  They took everything he had, including his freedom and then lied to his father about what had happened.  I wonder if he felt like they had second thoughts and were coming to rescue him when they fetched him out of that well, only to be double-whammied when he was sold into slavery.  By the guys he loved.  The guys he grew up with.  The guys who called the same man "Dad" as he did.

When he got to Egypt it seemed like it was going to get better as he took up a position in Potiphar's house and began to do well there.  I wonder if he had hopes of someday, somehow earning his freedom and going back to find his father.  All of those hopes would have been dashed when he was thrown into prison for something he didn't even come close to doing.  Talk about "not fair!"

And then hope springs up again when one of his buddies in prison gets set free, leaving him behind, but with the promise that he wouldn't forget him.

But he was going to rot in that hell hole for another couple of years before God declared "for such as time as this" and began to move him into a position to bring a blessing back to his father and to the people he came out of.

Through all of that, Joseph trusted in God's utter goodness and leaned into a Wisdom that was far above the limited view he had of his own rotten circumstances.  Which became more and more rotten, more and more hopeless, month after month and year after year.

In all that time Joseph had every opportunity to cook up the biggest pot of "bitterness stew" in his frustrated heart.  But he didn't.  Instead of hating his brothers, and resenting them for being the cause of his dire circumstances, he continued to love them and remained faithful to God and his wisdom.  When he became the king's chief steward and was put in charge of the nation's food supply during an extreme famine and those scoundrels, his brothers, came to him for help, he had every opportunity to exact his revenge.  He could have had them wiped out with a wave of his hand.

Instead...  (Oh, this part is so cool!  I love God's ways!) 

God had positioned Joseph to become the saviour, so to speak, of the infant nation of Israel.  Had he given in to bitterness - and he had every right to under heaven - he would have lost the opportunity of a lifetime to be so utterly used of God to become a story that is still told around the world, and still rings true, even these thousands of years later.

Because Joseph kept a guard on his heart, and refused to swallow that satisfying, comforting pill of bitterness, God used him mightily.  Not just to bless his brothers, but to be the agent of their very survival.  To prick their consciences and to cause them to acknowledge and confess their sin toward him, which opened them up to the path of healing and restoration.  Oh what a plan!  Oh, the wisdom, the glory, and the grace of God revealed in this old story!  I love it.  I love Him!

Joseph showed mercy to his brothers.  He didn't give them what they deserved - the death penalty.  Instead, he poured out grace all over their heads by giving him what they did not deserve!  An opportunity to repent and to make things right.  He sent them back to get their father and set them up to live lives of blessing and prosperity in Egypt.

Can you draw some parallels?  Is God calling you to look past some circumstances right now and right into his face?  Will you trust him with that issue that is driving you crazy?  That just is not fair?

If you do, God will not just help you to get by, but I believe he will reveal himself to be the same God to you as he was to Joseph.  Not overnight, maybe.  But if you stay the course, his blessing will come, it will surely come.  And you will be used, just like Joseph was, to bring healing and comfort to the very people who have done you wrong..

Lay it down.  Hating them, and harbouring bitterness isn't going to change a thing.  Letting it go, and letting God take over will result in some amazing things...  Extend his mercy in that situation.  Hold back from giving them what they do deserve.  Instead, give them what they don't deserve - your forgiveness, your blessing, your prayers.  Give them the gift of restoration... and see yourself restored in the process.

Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you

and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Luke 6: 20-31

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Things Hard Won

By Belinda

We sang, wrestled with beat, rhythm, harmony and key. With every attempt our voices grew stronger, more confident, the sound more harmonious. In the end we fancied a distinct likeness to the 70's pop group ABBA. Well, we had been at practice for an hour and a half by then; perhaps we were delusional--or maybe we just really, really sounded good.

We spilled out of the church into the coolness of night long fallen. Car doors slammed, assaulting the silence, headlights beamed and motors sped us away to our homes.

As I drove, the result of our efforts made me think about things hard won. 

There are battles in my life I have not yet won. They are testimony to my human frailty, weakness, selfishness, self indulgence, and self deception, but I haven't given up; I am still on the journey.

I have some hard won relationships and those I cherish more than words can fully express.We have wrestled with notes that jarred and wrong keys and practiced our friendships with tears of frustration, misunderstanding, jealousies, anger and hurt. We didn't give up though, because we loved one another.

The prize is true friendship; trust; grace; understanding; acceptance of weakness; and love.

Every time one of my friends graces one of my blurted and too blunt sentences with the words, "But I know you," and we both understand that means the words were interpreted somewhere between mouth and ear, and every time a small thing that shouldn't even hurt, matters, we are leaning into the gift of "hard won" friendship.

We are reaping a harvest from fields dug over, sown with seeds of prayer, long, often painful conversations; and watered with tears of hurt and laughter.

A thing hard won is a very big deal.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Treasure and Tears

Exodus 33:13-14 (New International Version)
13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."


14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

I had spent the morning at my desk, busy. In early afternoon I took a break for lunch, completely unprepared for the fact that I was about to stumble upon treasure...and tears.

While munching on a Ryvita crispbread and piece of Jarlsberg cheese, I pulled up Whatever He Says on the internet, and clicked onto a favourite blog, Bene Diction Blogs On, in the blogroll sidebar.

Bene announced the death through an aggressive cancer, of Michael Spencer, well known for his blog,
Internet Monk: Dispatches from the post evangelical wilderness and a group blog The Boars Head Tavern
 .
It was obvious that Bene had great affection and respect for Michael and he included an excerpt from one of his favourite posts: The Boat in the Backyard . Out of curiosity, not being familiar with Michael Spencer, I looked up the post and read it in its entirety.

I was still at my desk and the minutes of my lunch half hour were almost gone, but I sat still. Inexplicably I felt a sense of profound loss at the passing of a man I didn't know. The story I had just read had moved me to the core of my being and touched places in my past that made me want to weep.
I knew that the best gift I could give the readers of Whatever He Says today, would be to suggest that you make a cup of tea, sit down for half an hour, and read The Boat in the Backyard. Allow the words to touch you where they need to--and if they don't, enjoy it for the writing's sake.

Thank you Michael.

"The things I thought were so important - because of the effort I put into them - have turned out to be of small value. And the things I never thought about, the things I was never able to either to measure or to expect, were the things that mattered." --Thomas Merton (a great influence in Michael Spencer's life.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Revisitation, Resurrection, and the Big Picture

A post by Meg

We are in Eastertide, living freshly with the remembrance of our status as an Easter people, people redeemed by the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, people who live in His resurrection power if we have surrendered our lives to Him, accepted His redemption, and His lordship of our lives.

As we revisit and re-member these timeless truths in extra special ways for a few days each year, we are reminded once again of who we truly are. My daily readings at this time are in Deuteronomy, full of God's reminders to His people of all that He had done for them, and of the power and promise of living in that remembrance, and the consequences of not doing so. It seems that all of Scripture does that...calling us to be our true selves, to live in the light of our destiny, to remember that we are part of God's Big Picture, and that the small details of our everyday lives are also part of the big picture of our whole lives.

God gives us other ways to re-member Him and ourselves and our lives, through revisitation, and of course resurrection of much that has hurt us or died in our lives and our hopes and dreams. Always being true to His promise to make things new, we find Him busy restoring, renewing and refreshing us and others, even as we, in our human tendency to doubt His faithfulness, expect things to not go well or to not work out. Of course there are many situations that cannot be changed, but somehow God can restore what He was trying to do with us in them, and bring us to a fresh realization of His presence with us at that time and His ongoing commitment to work with us, our choices, and the decisions of others.

I have never forgotten the quote by an unknown author: "Our lives are shaped by those who love us, by those who refuse to love us." We can lament the latter truth, and rejoice in the former. It seems a timeless truth, but far above and beyond it is the timeless truth of God's abiding, faithful, intervening love for us, which shapes and moulds us, and leads us forth, through all our trials, into eternity with Him.

This Easter marks the fulfillment of plans we are making to revisit some scenes of hurt for me in my earlier adult life, alongside reconnecting with friends and enjoying a special tour to places unseen. For me it is extra special because the trip is across the ocean and back across several decades in time. As we planned the trip, I felt the Lord nudging me to make it a pilgrimage of revisitation, so that He could show me His resurrecting power. I have felt His guiding hand in the details, and have grown in joy as I see the results in my spirit.

In this process He has also resurrected the song I wrote about on July 23rd, 2008. It is also what I have chosen to sing as a solo at a special upcoming service. With the choosing and the singing come the remembrance of the occasion of hurt in which God spoke to me through the words of the song, reminding me of His call on my life, His commitment to the fulfillment of His purposes in my life as I would journey onward from that place and time, looking forward and not backward, not worrying about what others would think of me, but rather rejoicing in my place in Him.

I believe this song is for all of us who live and abide in Him. It is a song about the call of Jeremiah. We are called to a prophetic role in relation to this world, and we all feel so unable to fulfill it, so dependent on His strength and power. And that is how it will always be. Let us this Eastertide celebrate these truths in all our lives:

Oh the Word of My Lord (Song for a Young Prophet)

Chorus:
Oh the word of my Lord,
Deep within my being,
Oh the word of my Lord,
You have filled my mind.

Verse 1
Before I formed you in the womb
I knew you through and through
I chose you to be mine
Before you left your mother's side
I called to you my child
To be my sign
Verse 2
I know that you are very young
But I will make you strong
I'll fill you with My word
And you will travel through the land
Fulfilling My command
Which you have heard

Verse 3
And ev'rywhere you are to go
My hand will follow you
You will not be alone
In all the danger that you fear
You'll find Me very near
Your words My own

Verse 4
With all My strength
You will be filled
You will destroy and build
For that is My design
You will create and overthrow
Reap harvests I will sow
Your word is Mine

CCLI Song #740510
© 1978 Kevin Mayhew Ltd
Damian Lundy

Monday, April 05, 2010

The Day; From Start to Finish

By Belinda

This is how we spent a most wonderful Easter day!

First: The Easter Sunrise service!

The pastor more formally dressed in shirt and tie, is our son, Peter, reminding me of his grandfather whom I once observed reclining on the sand at Wasaga Beach, dressed in suit and tie. :)

About 50 believers from various churches, gathered in time to see the sunrise over the Tottenham pond. We sang, "Jesus Christ is risen today" and heard the account of the first Easter, read from the gospels.


Between the sunrise service and going home to change for church, Susan, Ann and I, went to the Cedar Kitchen for breakfast. Yes, that is the hippy Ann and I. :)

Susan, Frances, Cheryl and I led worship, with Charlene on the drums, Kevin on guitar and Esther on piano. The children came up on the platform before Sunday School, for the song,"Bullfrogs and Butterflies;" the girls looked like fairy princesses in their Easter finery--all a flurry of frills and pastel gossamer.


After church, Paul and I prevailed upon Mum Burston to come for lunch at the China Garden Buffet. This was a great treat for us--having her to ourselves. We can rarely persuade her to come out.

She is beloved of many. Like my mum, people are drawn to her. She has a ready laugh and is completely down to earth. She talked today about how she gets upset at injustice and of her urge to stand up for the "underdog." I never realized before that Paul inherited his passion to fight against oppression from this dear lady; my mother-in-law.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Truth About Easter--By Isobel


Happy Easter

Christ is risen!

I am about to drive off into the dawn for the Sunrise Service at the pond and however you are celebrating, I wish you joy.

One of my dearest friends, Dave, posted this on his blog this morning. Many of you know him through his comments here. He usually writes on disability issues specifically,but since this post also speaks to faith, I share it here.

Easter Sunday: A Reflection on God’s Love

Saturday, April 03, 2010

If You are Wondering About Easter Candy...

May I commend to you: Peeps: the Epic Battle

GOOD Friday

 9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
    (1 John 1:9, 21st Century King James Version)

By Belinda

I sat, at the end of the day, thankful to rest at last, enjoying the cool, gentle, night breeze wafting in through the open screen door, carrying with it the call of coyotes from across the fields, wild and haunting.

It had been a perfectly exhausting but perfectly wonderful day. Good Friday; good Good Friday.

It had been 2.00 a.m. that Friday morning when I finally conceded that I had done as much as energy and common sense would allow, to prepare for our family dinner after the Good Friday communion service. Okay, scratch the "common sense" from that last sentence--sometimes common sense cannot prevail when there is work to be done. But the sweet potatoes and warm potato salad were ready and the potatoes for scalloped potatoes were ready to peel and slice later in the morning. I could go to sleep in peace.

Later that morning, the spiral ham in the oven, I stepped out into the warm spring sunshine to drive to church for worship practice before the service.

I was a few minutes late getting there after last minute the dinner preparations and Cheryl, Jessica, Cindy and Frances were already practicing the second song:Chris Tomlin's, Jesus Messiah. Their voices blended in rich harmony and as I took my place among them, Cheryl handed me a microphone, with a smile and a wink. I thought, as I so often do, how privileged I am to be part of this worship team.

It was the first time I'd been to church since I wrote the blog post about our church business meeting; and I was a little nervous in case I had offended anyone by it. So, between the practice and service, I checked in with Cheryl. She hadn't read the blog post, so I gave her a synopsis of the "meant to be funny" story about the hippy faction (including me) who didn't want to be stereotyped as Gaithers fans just because of being over 50. That's when I found out that in fact, the exchange that took place last Sunday had hurt someone who loves that music.  Suddenly it didn't seem so funny and I was mortified.

As soon as I could, I grabbed the hand of the person we had hurt, and apologized.

"It wasn't you," she said..

"Yes, it was," I said--and tried to explain, while feeling crushed that a brief, and (to Ann and I) funny, fling, had caused pain to someone I care about.

In my determination to resist a stereotype, I had been guilty of stereotyping. Isn't that the way it goes?!

It isn't cool to be cruel, and cruelty is in the heart of the receiver. I was sorry from the bottom of my heart for saying and doing something that was experienced as unkind. I determined that in future I would be more careful. If there is a buffoon to play a part in my joking or writing, it shall be me. I have more than enough material to keep me going from that quarter.

To my repentant heart, the words of the communion service, resonated deeply.

I looked down at the congregation as the ushers circulated among them, serving the juice and bread. I looked at Lindsay sitting beside her mom, and I thought of her Sunday School class with Susan the previous Sunday, when she had taken the girls outside to gather hawthorn branches to make a crown of thorns. I knew that this Easter would be different for Lindsay because of that.

I looked down at my dear friend Susan sitting with a curly haired grandson beside her, and thought of all that God has been doing in her life of late. I sent up a prayer of gratitude for the miracle of God's work in our lives.

I thought of our brokeness and bumbling relationships as a congregation and how I don't want to be thought of as "cool" in my music choices as much as I want to be known as one who loves well. I think that's what God cares about more than anything else, too.

After church the dinner was got to the table with many helping hands and 12 of us sat down to celebrate family.

We feasted until replete and then the kids watched a movie while we started the Big Clean Up. Finally we all went for a walk to the park.

And the weekend isn't over. There is more to come. If this was Good Friday, I can't wait for Easter Sunday.

And by the way, here is a clip from a Gaither concert!


Friday, April 02, 2010

For Molson Fans!


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Jesus, Thank You

By Susan

Amanda came up the aisle of the church during announcements and took the pew directly behind mine. I had just then taken a seat in the front row, welcoming the few minutes to sit down before going back up on the stage for the last few songs before the sermon. It was a great morning so far, and I was "in the groove", enjoying the worship immensely, an inordinate sense of joy having settled upon me after a particularly momentous week on my spiritual growth chart.

Amanda's face was the picture of anxiety as I turned to answer her poke from behind.

"There's no teacher for your class," she said questioningly. She paused for a second and then said "Could you?"

It wasn't that hard to pull myself away from singing on the worship team. I love singing, especially on the worship team, but I couldn't help but respond to the angst on Amanada's face, even though this week it wasn't my turn to teach.

"Sure," I said. She smiled and handed me the lesson book with a look that was somewhere between pure gratitude and sheer relief.

I took the book, but knew there was no time to take the lesson out of there. I began to cast about the deepest pools of my mind and memory for an idea of what to do once I got down to the classroom. "Twas all in vain. I had all of about a minute from the front of the church, across the foyer, down the stairs and then to the opposite end of the basement to the last Sunday School room on the left to plan a lesson. Surprise, I didn't make it. My mind was blank. I walked into that room cold.

When "my" girls erupted into cheers as I crossed the threshold, I tried to enjoy their enthusiasm for my being hijacked out of church on their behalf, but I still had no idea what we were going to do. I started probing for ideas.

"What's new, everyone? How was your week?" The chatty banter began immediately as each of the four fresh-faced 9 and 10 year-old girls shared what was going on in their lives. By the time the last of the girls had their turn, I was still coming up empty. "So much for looking for something in the past," I thought to myself, "what about the future?"

"What's coming up this week?" I asked the girls. Their faces stared at me blankly. "Do you have a day off on Friday by any chance?"

Suddenly the lights went on as they remembered and cried out nearly in unison, "Good Friday! Easter!"

"Maybe we can do something for Easter," I offered and thought desperately about what I might be able to scavenge out of the craft cupboard. But what?

Suddenly I knew what we were doing. "Get your jackets on," I said. "We're going outside."

It was difficult to rein them, and help them to remember that there was a church service going on upstairs. They sprang out of that classroom and up the stairs like four wild young fillies let out to pasture after a long winter in the barn. I grabbed a pair of kitchen sheers on our way by the church kitchen and somehow managed to gather the girls close enough to listen to the reason for our trip outside.

"We're going to gather thorns," I told them.

"Thorns?" They said it in unison.

"Yup, thorns."

"Why?"

"You'll see!"

I knew there was a large number of hawthorn bushes growing along the railway track up the bank that runs behind the church and that was where we headed. We cut off a branch for each girl to carry and headed back to the classroom. There were thorns aplenty and the girls were impressed by their sharpness and length.

One of the girls noticed some bits of twine lying on the ground as we made our way back to the door of the church and we picked them up amid my admonitions to "clean the mud off your shoes before we go inside!"

By the time we were back in the classroom, the girls had guessed we would be making a crown of thorns. I pricked the back of my hand and a couple of fingers at least half a dozen times in the making of it. It was a little lopsided, but when we were done, it didn't look half bad. At least they'd get the idea.

I tried it first to make sure it would cause no damage and then I allowed each girl to take a turn at placing the crown oh-so-carefully and gently on their own heads - not enough to pierce their skin, but enough to feel the sharpness of the thorns. I explained to them that Jesus would likely have had his crown of thorns rammed down upon his head and then he was beaten about the head with a stick.

"That would make it bleed!" cried Lindsay. (She always seems to know exactly what you're driving at.)

"Yup," I said. "Can you just imagine how much that would hurt?"

"That would really hurt," said Eden, brown eyes melting with sympathy.

"The Bible says that he suffered more than any man," I told them, and explained what I could of what his suffering might have been like. "The worst part was that his father had to turn his back on him," I offered. We decided to look into the Scriptures together.

I read from Matthew. I read slowly, and between each phrase, I looked up to see faces fiercely attentive, deeply moved, and catching every word of scripture as I read...
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and
gathered the whole Roman cohort around him. They stripped Him and put a
scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they
put it on his head; and a reed in his right hand; and they knelt down before Him
and mocked Him saying, "Hail, King of the Jews". They spat on Him, and
took the reed, and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked
Him they took the scarlet robe off Him and put his own garments back on Him, and
led Him away to crucify Him... " Matthew 27:27-31

We talked a lot about what Jesus went through. And we talked about why. I could see something on their fresh young faces that I had never seen before. The Holy Spirit was touching their hearts and changing the meaning of "Good Friday" for them forever...

It wasn't just them he was speaking to. The heart of one old broken-down Sunday School teacher was being touched afresh too.

It seems so inadequate, but - Jesus, thank you.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

There is a Green Hill


By Belinda

Easter is about resurrection, but mostly, I think, it is about  remembering.

It has been a busy season at work and home and I confess to not having had much reflective time, but I have been remembering; thinking about Easters past as I prepare for Easter present.

I didn't grow up in a church-going family but I went to a Church of England school in Alvechurch. I loved the hymns that we sang during assembly each morning, and the prayers that we read from the Book of Common Prayer. They, and Religious Knowledge classes, gave me a good start in knowing God.

The season of Lent and Easter was an emotional roller coaster ride for my little girl heart, as I re-lived Jesus's Last Supper, his agony and lonely night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and his betrayal and crucifixion. The hymns we sang in the week before Easter touched me so deeply that as we sang, There is a Green Hill, a lump would rise in my throat and tears fill my eyes.Children are so much more easily connected to God than adults are. No wonder Jesus said that to understand the Kingdom of God we have to become like little children.

On Easter morning the bells of the ancient St. Laurence church would ring out, from high on the hill overlooking the village. I was drawn there as if by a magnet, climbing the narrow asphalt path to the churchyard. Then, as the sun streamed through the stained glass windows with pictures of knights and angels, we would sing the joyful Easter hymns to the strains of the majestic sounding pipe organ.

There Is a Green Hill Far Away

1. There is a green hill far away,
Without a city wall,
Where the dear Lord was crucified,
Who died to save us all.

2. We may not know, we cannot tell
What pains He had to bear;
But we believe it was for us
He hung and suffered there.

3. He died that we might be forgiv'n,
He died to make us good,
That we might go at last to Heav'n,
Saved by His precious blood.

4. There was no other good enough,
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of Heav'n and let us in.

Chorus:
Oh, dearly, dearly has He loved,
And we must love Him too;
And trust in His redeeming blood,
And try His works to do.

Lyrics: Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander
Music: George Coles Stebbins