Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Note: A little thing I received by email. :) Belinda P.S. (pardon the llicense in it being signed "God" :))


Never  heard it put quite like this before


RECALL NOTICE:


The Maker of all human beings (GOD) is recalling all units manufactured, regardless of make or year, due


to a serious defect in the primary and central component of the heart.


This is due to a malfunction in the original prototype units code named Adam and Eve, resulting in the reproduction of the same defect in all subsequent units.


This defect has been technically termed "Sub-sequential Internal Non-Morality," or more commonly known as S.I.N., as it is primarily expressed.


Some of the symptoms include:


1. Loss of direction


2. Foul vocal emissions


3. Amnesia of origin


4. Lack of peace and joy


5. Selfish or violent behavior


6. Depression or confusion in the mental component


7. Fearfulness


8. Idolatry


9. Rebellion


The Manufacturer, who is neither liable nor at fault for this defect, is providing factory-authorized repair and service free of charge to correct this defect.


The Repair Technician, JESUS, has most generously offered to bear the entire burden of the staggering cost


of these repairs. There is no additional fee required. The number to call for repair in all areas is:


P-R-A-Y-E-R.


Once connected, please upload your burden of SIN through the REPENTANCE procedure.


Next, download ATONEMENT from the Repair Technician, Jesus, into the heart component.


No matter how big or small the SIN defect is, Jesus will replace it with:


1. Love


2. Joy


3. Peace


4. Patience


5. Kindness


6. Goodness


7. Faithfulness


8. Gentleness


9. Self control


Please see the operating manual, the B.I.B.L.E. (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) for further details on the use of these fixes.


WARNING: Continuing to operate the human being unit without correction voids any manufacturer warranties, exposing the unit to dangers and problems too numerous to list and will result in the human unit being permanently impounded. For free emergency service, call on Jesus.


DANGER: The human being units not responding to this recall action will have to be scrapped in the furnace. The SIN defect will not be permitted to enter Heaven so as to prevent contamination of that facility.


Thank you for your attention!


GOD


P.S. Please assist where possible by notifying others of this important recall notice, and you may contact the Father any time by 'Knee mail'!


Because He Lives

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Memories

By Belinda
These photos were taken last Thursday, before I drove our three friends: Chris and Eileen and their daughter Nel, back to the airport after their two week vacation with us.

I thought that you might like to see them!
Also in the photos are Paul (in the photo down below and in the red shirt,) and two of our granddaughters, Tippy and Tori.

On their last day I took our three friends to Cora's (where else?) for breakfast! They were satisfyingly impressed. :) Since Eileen and Nel both work in a swanky 5 star British restaurant, called Artisan,  in Kendal, the Lake District, I was glad that Cora's passed muster.

Nel had a blueberry crepe with whipped cream
Eileen had the spinach crepes with hollandaise sauce
Chris had "Peggy's Poached," my usual choice at Cora's!


After breakfast, we went to St. Andrew's College in Aurora, where Brenda works in reception, and she was allowed to take us on a tour of part of the school, which has some very distinguished "old boys," including Kiefer Sutherland, the actor and Lawren Harris, of the Group of Seven painters. 

This is part of the beautiful library. 
After the tour of St. Andrew's, I came back home and picked up Tippy and Tori and took them out to Swiss Chalet for lunch as they couldn't fit in the car for our outing to Cora's and the school. I didn't want them to feel like so much leftover luggage so I had to make it up to them.  :)

It hardly seemed possible that two weeks had passed by so quickly and our friends were going home.

Now we have one week before Paul's uncle John and cousin Stephen arrive to grace our home. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to School

By Belinda

This is a reworked post from the archives--to help me over a busy time, but also because it is timely!

My memory has a special room where teachers of long ago live. I wonder if they ever imagined such immortality. They are frozen in time in my mind. I can see, hear and feel them vividly; their appearance and personality.

Maybe it's that the mind, eyes and heart of a child are like sponges that absorb impressions and hold onto them more easily than they do in later years!

Teachers all seemed old to my child's mind; even those whom I now realize must have been relatively young. But one who didn't seem old at all was a white haired supply teacher who filled the gap when I was in my last year of elementary school. I can see now that inside this teacher, lived the heart of a child, and we instinctively connected with her. We didn't see the outer shell of a teacher near retirement age, we just saw her soul, She read to us from a book I had never heard of before, even though I was a voracious reader. It was called, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Yes, she introduced us to C.S. Lewis.

She also told us how she used to slide down a long, polished wooden bannister with a curved end when she was a child. A grown up who loved to slide down bannisters! We loved her.
The prize for worst tempered, goes to one of my art teachers. He had long, wild hair the colour of carrots and serious, broody-moody, icy-blue eyes. He threw blackboard erasers, scattering chalk dust, when he lost his patience. I still loved art, but loved it more when a new teacher replaced him. The new teacher looked as though he had stepped right out of a French Impressionist painting. He was short, with pale skin, dark hair and eyes, and a mustache. He taught us about Rembrant, Turner, Pieter Bruegel, Toulouse Lautrec, Manet, Monet and Degas and encouraged me to become an art teacher. I was so shy that I could not imagine standing in front of a class and teaching. "You think that now because you are 15," he said, "But you will not always feel that way." I did not believe him., but I joined the art club and stayed after school and thought that I would become a painter one day.

My needle work teacher made a great impression on me and I learned much from her. She was gray haired intense and frowned a lot. She seemed to always have an over watery mouth, for as she leaned in close to examine our seams, she sprayed as she instructed us. I was not a natural seamstress, but I did try hard. At times I despaired of ever learning to sew, but I learned to rip out seams that were not exactly right and to never settle for less than perfect.

My sewing skills were inherited from Mum, who helped me with my homework one night with disastrous results. In class we had done two rows of gathering stitches on the school sewing machines  around the shoulder edges of sleeves. For homework they were to be set into the armholes of the blouse I was making. At home that night, I struggled ineptly to fit the sleeves into the armholes, and cried tears of frustration until Mum came to my "assistance." She started by pulling out some messy loose threads; the gathering stitches vanished before my eyes. I gasped in horror as I helplessly watched. It happened too quickly for me to catch my breath and protest. It is a memory we laugh about now but at the time it felt as though the world had surely come to an end.

Teacher's words have such power to affirm or speak into children's belief in themselves and their gifts. There were teachers who encouraged me in art, writing and working with people. Even today I remember things that they said or wrote in school reports. I cherished their words and they helped the possibilities I saw for myself.

Teachers, what a gift and responsibility you have when you stand before a class of children. For good or ill, they will still remember some of the words that you speak, forever.

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Sister 'n' Me

Fridays with Susan...

I'm pretty excited.  My sister's coming next week.  It's been a long time since she slept at my house. Our housekeeping standards are miles apart:  hers being on one side of the tracks and mine definitely on the other! 

Growing up we could hardly stand to be in the same house together let alone share a room.  There were a lot of fights, trust me.  Mostly over me, wearing her clothes without permission or saying something outrageous to one of her friends.  I was a bit of a free spirit, shall we say, and she liked to keep to the rules.  Two-and-a-half years older than me, with a brother sandwiched in between, we had no idea what a blessing God had in mind when he made us "sisters".  It took a while for us to come to that realization.


I remember one night lying side by side, each in our own twin bed in the bedroom with the pink painted walls and two small windows.  Between us a radio sat on the old washstand which our Grandpa Daub had turned into a small dresser by adding drawers made from the material gleaned from old packing crates.  It was modified to hold baby clothes when our mom was on the way.  You could still read "Cow Brand Baking Soda" stamped onto the sides of the drawers when they were pulled open.  We were supposed to be going to sleep, but before dropping off, we listened for a few minutes to some radio drama about outer space and martians.

Martians, conjecturing about their existence, and the likelihood of their taking over the earth, or at least attempting to, was a big topic in the late fifties.  Brenda's wicked streak came out that night.  She had me totally convinced that the drama was in fact actually happening and that a martian invasion was not only inevitable, but imminent.  I was absolutely terrified.  I still remember the nightmare I had that night, and many after that, but don't worry.  I got back at her by putting worms and crayfish in her shoes.  Ah, those were some very satisfying screams.  Worth every stripe I got on my backside for the next six months!

As adults, we both came to the foot of the cross within a few years of each other and since then it's been uphill all the way.  I remember the big breakthrough moment.  The phone rang in our little house in Beeton and she was on the other end.  After a lifetime of competing for our parents' attention (of which there was precious little to go around bytimes thanks to some very difficult circumstances) I had been talking about her with one of my relatives.  It was much easier to "win" when she wasn't even there.  But what I said, which was critical and gossipy, was carried back to her on the wind.  I was mortified, of course, when I realized I'd been caught.  But more than that, for the first time maybe, I cared about having caused her pain.  I begged forgiveness over the phone that day with tears streaming down my face, and I vowed to her (and to myself) that I would never get into a gossip-fest about her like that again.  From that day forward, God helping me, I would choose to build up her reputation whenever I could and to defend her right to make decisions about her life that were different than others' perhaps, but were entirely hers to make.   Before that day we had a superficial "love" and not so superficial "hate" relationship, but since then our relationship has grown deep and strong, and unconditionally rock-solid.  Pre-forgiveness reigns supreme, and we both know each others' hearts well enough to be assured that what might be taken as a hurt by anyone else, will just be laughed off by us. 

We grew up in the same dysfunctional family, and so we get each other, perhaps, in ways that others would have difficulty wrapping their heads and hearts around.  We know what it's like to be deeply wounded by the same set of circumstances, and so perhaps we're more understanding and more forgiving of each other's struggles.  We know exactly where those struggles, and weaknesses emanated from.  We are very different people (I'm the extrovert, she's the introvert) and the manifestation of those scars showed up on each of us in very different ways, but they came from times and places and experiences that were shared.  Talking to her for a few hours, when we get the chance, is better, I'm willing to bet,  than spending years in some kind of therapy.

She's coming to help me put part of my house into some kind of order (good luck, there, Sis!) in the same way our mom would be doing something like that if she was still around to help out.  (That's the kind of mom we shared.)  Come to think of it, I think that's probably our deepest bond.  We had the kind of mother who made you feel like you were her very favourite child.  We all felt that way when we were in her presence.  It's a very good bond to share. 

Next weekend.  Thank God.  Four precious days.  Can't wait!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Worst of Times...or the Best?

By Belinda

I was on my way to a meeting and rather late having gone to the wrong location to begin with, when the traffic slowed to a standstill. Up ahead I could see the flashing lights of a police car at the scene of an accident.

Slowly, from far down the line, cars pulled out and turned around, while some waited hopefully to be able to continue on their way. I decided to join those pulling out and find another route. I didn't have time to wait indefinitely.

I followed a car down the next rural route going west, and then turned north, the direction I needed to go in. Across the fields I could see the line up we had been in moments before, standing as still as ever.

The road I was on, ran on a curve though, and a few minutes later, I was practically on the scene of the accident, from a different angle. Clusters of people from the neighbourhood had gathered to watch as firefighters and emergency personnel worked and a news reporter was on the scene with his camera. Obviously the accident had happened recently and people were still trapped in the wreckage of a huge tractor trailer and a dump truck.

I prayed for those involved. In a brutal assault of metal on flesh, metal always wins.

The thought of a cruel assault on flesh, reminded me of the presentation on Mennonite history that I had gone through with Chris, one of our friends from England, in St. Jacobs, a couple of days ago. My friend Eileen and her daughter Nel, went on ahead, but Chris and I with a common love of history, paid a donation to learn, through video, photographs and texts, of the history of the Mennonite movement.

The brutal persecution they endured in Russia and Europe was horrendous, but I commented to Chris on the way out, that it was as bad in England, where both Protestants and Catholics were merciless in persecuting one another to the death through torture and burning at the stake.

Why? Because of different convictions of right and wrong! Different ideas were deemed dangerous and not to be tolerated.

I found myself so grateful to be living today. I believe because I have a deep and rock solid faith built on a foundation of both reason and personal experience of God.

Some may look back to the more recent past and think that the world of faith was was better then, when whole countries and populations identified themselves as believers, but how much of that faith was real and personal and how much was conformity out of fear?

I realize that Christians are still being martyred and tortured for their faith in other countries where there is no freedom of religion. We must never take our freedom for granted or cease to be grateful for it.

In my teens my faith took on a more solid formation because I believed of my own volition. I was grateful that I came from a family that, although they did not go to church, valued debate and discussion and thinking through things. I knew even then that making a personal and free decision for faith was very important.

Today we have freedom to think. Maybe one day we will have to die too, for that freedom. I would argue that in this country, although there is much to oppose it; right now, we live in the best of times for coming to faith.

What do you think?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

In Good Hands

Hi Folks!
Susan wrote a guest post over at Rolling Around in My Head: In Good Hands

Belinda

The T Shirt

Today I received this email from a friend named Debbie, who added some detail to my post Reading T Shirts.

I tried to post the video but couldn't make it work. If you click the link though, it will take you the website for Cross Trainers, and a video that tells you what the man in my line up at the grocery store had been involved in that week. It was August 21st on Saturday, so the project they refer to in the video would have been almost completed. I think the work they are doing is faith in action.

Kudos to Cross Trainers--although I know that they are doing it...in His strength; for His glory!

Hi Belinda,
I wanted to give you a bit of background information regarding the T-shirt with 1Peter 4:11 on it. There was a week-long "manor makeover" mission that took place in Bradford at Bradford Manor. I wanted to paste the information video but it didn't have its own link so I am giving you the website link instead.

http://www.ctministries.ca/#/crosstrainers/ct-calendar

They hope to have pictures soon. There are so many "God stories".
Blessings,
Debbie

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Living Room

By Belinda


There was a winter storm on the way and on the morning radio show there was a segment on safe winter driving.

A driving instructor mentioned that he teaches his students to always maintain space between themselves and the cars around them. He called this, “Living Room."

That Living Room was the space between safety and catastrophe; a buffer zone.

We live in a world that pressures us to use every minute, cram activity into every space. Fill every void in conversation with words. We need a buffer zone; a Living Room.

One day, Susan was over at my place and we just sat quietly side by side in wing backed arm chairs. Usually we have no end of things to talk about, but on this occasion a peaceful silence descended like snow on a winter's night. I must have worried a bit that I was boring her out of her mind, because she later wrote this:

You don't have to feel any pressure at all to fill in those quiet spots. Do you know what it's like to spend a few weeks every year in a Mennonite house with a houseful of introverts? (Grandpa Cook and Aunt Edith were both majorly quiet and introspective people and Grandma was an invalid). No television, no radio, not even a newspaper! (Only the weekly, "Family Herald" -- the one with the children's story on the back!)

I loved that quiet... Grandpa sitting in "his" chair tilted way back with his feet up on the woodbox, quietly puffing away on his pipe and Aunt Edith puttering in the kitchen, neither of them wasting a single word on each other or me! And Aunt Edith and I walking that mile and a quarter down that gently undulating gravel road to St. James Lutheran on a summer Sunday morning, with barely a word between us all the way... Those were some of the most happy and peaceful times of my whole life, a time when I felt some kind of comfort in the silence.. I often feel like that at your house when it's quiet. Especially when I can hear the clock ticking...

These people knew how to maintain Living Room.

Anyone want to join me in slowing down; building in a buffer zone; going counter culture; learning to relax into silence?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reading T Shirts

By Belinda

Our friends and house guests had left for a day of sight seeing, saying that they would be home late, but in time for supper. I had a much needed "catch up day!"

I love people, but I need solitude and thinking time like a tire needs air, so I politely declined their kind invitation to join them and they politely understood that I would go a little loopy if I went along.

Over a cup of coffee I scanned the advertising flyers from the local newspaper and left the house armed with a list and a coupon. I didn't have many things to get; my shopping would be strategic. Paul had called to say he'd be home in the late afternoon, and after three weeks with him away, I wanted to be home when he arrived.

After popping into Canadian Tire and getting one or two things on sale, my next stop was Sobey's, the grocery store. I had only two items on my list there--beef tenderloin (half price,) and Kraft Peanut butter--two for $5.00.

It was Saturday, and there were some good sale items so the store was busy. I headed for the express check out with my three items. There were a lot of people with the same idea as the long line of basket toting shoppers stretched way back into the store. I wondered if it would have been quicker to go through a regular check out, but reminded myself of the Law of the Supermarket; the "other line" always seems quicker.

I stood behind a short middle aged man in faded blue jeans and white T shirt and because I was too far from the magazine rack to read the latest headlines about how to lose 10 pounds in one week while eating cake and cookies, I looked at him. I noticed his longish hair, curling at the edges, dark, but graying. He stood, rocking on his heels, muscular arms folded. The T shirt had writing on it--familiar words. I resisted the urge to tap him on the shoulder and say, "Hey, I like your T shirt."

This is what it said:

...Through His strength
       for His glory...
          1 Peter 4:11 

I stood in line and meditated on the T shirt and felt God's presence. Having been busy with work during the day and friends during the evening and weekend, and Paul away, my time with God has been short. But it felt like God came down and put himself right in front of me in the grocery line up where I had a few moments of enforced stillness.

And then, as if to add a little humour to the moment, I noticed the T shirt of the next man ahead of the first one. It had writing too. It was meant to be advertising a business, but it meant something different to me in spiritual terms. It said:

New Name  New Look
New Branches  New Products
Same Guarantee

And the website? http://www.noble.ca/. Well, what else would you expect from the King? :) 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Limping or Not, I'm Crossing that Line!

by Susan

It was one of the most poignant videos I have ever seen. You really have to see it for yourself. If you are anything like me, you'd better get the kleenex out. This is a story about a real-life son and his dad, but I saw it as an insight into a much bigger picture... our relationship with God.

http://www.godtube.com/featured/video/never-give-life

I wasn't able to embed this one, but I hope you'll take the time to watch it on Youtube by clicking on the link above...

Notice in the video how the son's weakness actually glorifies the father... The father was in the stands watching his son, one of a thousand faces in the crowd. Had there been no injury the father woud have happily stayed in the background and enjoyed watching his son cross the finish line the winner, cheering only from afar.

If in fact the young man had won the race that day as had been fully expected, you would not be watcing the video today. It would have had very little impact at all. It would have been just another race. Not worthy of being put on Youtube, and/or Godtube, and would not have had the incredible influence it has had on so many people. Like me.

When our flesh fails us - as it is wont to do - God's strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2Cor 12:9) But just like the runner we have to accept our weakness, our injury, our sin nature, our own ability to even finish the race, and submit instead to his strength to get us over that line.

He's waiting for that. Waiting for us to turn to him and let him help.

The other thing that hit me about this video was how determined that runner was to finish the race. He had trained all his life for this moment. Limping or not, grieving deeply, he was going to own that distant white line - and he did. But not the way he - and everyone watching - had expected.

Watching this video stirred up my own resolve to run my race well - but not in my own strength. I want to finish that race that's been given to me alone to run. No matter how badly I want to cave, I'm encouraged to keep on. I may be limping, and I may even have to be carried over the line at the last, but I'm going to finish this race. I pray that I will have the grace to lean into my Father's strength and be used to in such a way as to make a difference in the life of every single person I meet every single day... I pray that His power, his Greatness, his Tender love, shine brightest through my weakness, through my injury, through my failure.

God helping me, I'm committed to finishing this race. Committed to hanging on. Committed to laying down my own agenda and leaning solely, and completely into the Father's strength. Committed to making a difference in the lives of those I care most about and anyone else whose life may intersect with mine. God helping me, (and only by God helping me) I'm in for the long haul.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Trust Him with the Pieces

...by Susan (with a lot of help from Selah)

I had listened to this song a dozen times before the words hit me today. Funny how you can tune your ears to hear things in the valley of suffering that would go right over your head most any other time.

Believing that God is working everything together for good is an easy thing to believe and to proclaim when the road is smooth and there are no obstacles in sight. But when God allows the circumstances in our lives to heat up and boil over, it can suddenly become very difficult to accept that he knows exactly what he's doing and has it all under control. These words of Life, favourite scriptures of my Mom's too, once again brought comfort through some huge challenges this week:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NASB)

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. (Isaiah 43:2)

It does not matter what circumstances we go through in this life, what we have done, what we have not done, what has been done to us, by us, for us, or against us. If we lay the shattered pieces of our lives at his feet, there is not a single thing which will go unredeemed. Just like this song (by Selah) says. I pray it ministers to your heart and strengthens your faith like it has mine that putting God in control of the circumstances of our lives is the only sane thing to do. He's good all the time! There's not a single thing, not a circumstance, a disappointment, an injustice, a wrong attitude, a lack of judgment, etc, etc, etc, which cannot be redeemed by a Saviour so great as ours if we will only trust him with the outcome and let go of trying to control it ourselves...   Over to you, Lord...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Let the Chips Fall

Note from Belinda
I am enjoying the company of friends in our home this week and next, with a week's break, and then Paul's uncle and cousin come to stay for another two weeks. Writing here may be a little sporadic as I'm finding it hard to focus--and people have to come first. :)

In keeping with my writer's block, here is a post from Susan, written in January 2008. It made me feel better about my blank brain. I love it. Thank you Susan.

By Susan

What's the matter with me? Why can't I write ANYTHING?

Is this what writer's block is? It must be.

I think about what I've read in my bible the last few days - how the Father has distilled certain parts of it into pure spiritual water washing over me, cleansing my sullied heart and mind. I think about all the profound teaching in the last two weeks from a number of different sources and how I heard his voice through it many, many times, bringing enlightement and peace to some dark places in my heart. I remember the moments of solitude; the quiet listening and waiting, my mind becoming still; strength being renewed and purpose re-formed. I ponder again the rich conversation of this very afternoon - the sifting and the blowing off of chaff between two friends. I start. I stop. I erase. I think. I start again. I can't do it. I can't.

God? What's wrong with me? Why can't I write anything tonight? Again!

I pick up my bible and begin to read in Exodus again where I left off this morning. There's the ephod and the robe and the pomegranates the breastplate, the long-sleeved checkered tunic - all about Aaron and what he is supposed to wear in order to minister to the Lord...

Is this what's wrong with me, Lord? Do I not have the proper garments in place? Am I not fit to enter your presence? Is that why I can't hear your voice or reflect anything of the intimacies you have quietly spoken into my heart these last few days?

That cannot be. For you have done all that could ever be done to make me fit for your presence. The work is finished and as I acknowledge that fact with humility and accept the pure and boundless efficacy of your blood, I am free to approach you. Absolutely free.

I read the words... shoulder straps, and onyx and beryl stones, and clasps, and purple and gold and scarlet and twisted linen... My eyes and my mind read the words, my heart slips away to range freely, even as my eyes and mind take in the sentences on the page.

Suddenly, inexplicably, it's clear. My heart knows! I close my bible and listen some more...

I'm afraid. Afraid? But of what, Lord?

Your words. They won't please everyone. They will be "out there". And subject to criticism.

Ahhhh. Someone might criticize. Or misunderstand. Or read between the lines to fill in the blanks with things I did not intend. So that's it.

So what? So-o-o-o-o what!!!

If I weren't so full of Self, I wouldn't care, would I? I wouldn't be afraid at all. I'd write whatever You put on my heart to write. I wouldn't write for anyone else but you. And I'd leave the rest - what others think and what they might (or might not!) say - in your hands.

What was it that Belinda said yesterday? I heard those words too, at the same time and in the same place she did. She wrote last night about how Erwin McManus had said, "Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the absence of self."

The absence of self. My self isn't absent at all, is it Lord? It's alive and healthy - and the cause of this paralysis of words!

Father, see my pathetic, puny little self? Here where I've placed it on your altar again? It's been SO important to me! Next to your holiness, though, bathed in the light of your goodness, and surrounded by your glory, suddenly I can see it for what it's worth. It's so puny and small and pathetic! Not worth protecting at all!

So why do I try so hard?

Because I so easily lose sight of what you want to give me in its place. What else was it Erwin said? That as I die to "self" - to my "will" - you want to give me your character instead. That you want to conform me to the image of your Son! And you want to use me... You can't do that with my self in the way.

Here it is. My self, my will - over to you, Lord, over to you. And since you have it all in hand? Let those chips fall where they may.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whatever

We have house guests at the moment who I love, but who are distracting! :) So I give thanks to my friend Jane, who shared this reflection with me and gave permission to pass it on!
 
By Jane Archer
 
I have been reflecting on some notes that I took at an Easter Sunday morning service. I do not know who preached this message entitled, “Whatever God” but he spoke of many characters in the Bible who basically said … “Whatever God.”

Here are a few:
  • Abraham who was willing to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22);
  • Jeremiah saying, “The Lord sent me …” (Jeremiah 26:12);
  • Isaiah’s calling, “Then (Isaiah) heard the voice of the Lord saying … Go and tell this people …” (Isaiah 6:8-9);
  • Esther who said, “And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16).
  • He then went on to speak of Hosea who was willing to marry a prostitute,
  • Paul who was willing to suffer,
  • Jesus who endured the cross,
  • John and the Isle of Patmos,
  • Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego,
  • Job and last, but not least,
  • Joseph, who said, “You (his brothers) intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).
I had never realized how many people in the Bible had put their life on the line for God or how many times God tested people to this limit. It was one of those moments when I said to myself, “I had never connected the dots before.” I realized again that the Bible needs to be taken as a “whole” in order to see the full picture.

 
At the time of writing this I am reading I Love God’s Sense of Humor by Stan Toler and one sentence jumped off the page, “Society has a one-word expression for the feeling of futility (they) experience: ‘Whatever’”(112).

Often I will hear people say, “Whatever” and as I think about it, it is with a sense of futility. Perhaps the effect of Doris Day’s song, “Whatever Will Be Will Be” has an underlining dimension to it that we do not realize as Christians?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things I have heard

By Belinda

This morning a post based on a previous post from 2007, which I hope makes you smile as it did me, when I reread it:

Although I talk far too much, I really do prefer listening and often find myself reaching for a pen to write down something funny, wise, or thought provoking, that someone else has said.

I thought it would be fun to start the week by sharing a few things I have heard; wise and funny; ending with a quote from the book of Luke that makes me laugh every time I read it--God has the best humour.

"We are all "under the gun"--in a very positive way, as far as guns go."

“Is everybody in the right place? My father once went to Miami when he meant to go to New York. He thought the flight was rather long.”

(I appreciated this since I once joined the wrong meeting, which quickly became apparent when introductions were made and everyone was from a different field of work to me)

“I assume we’re not here to maintain status quo.” (I think that just struck me as so exciting!)

Someone walked into her first meeting after having had a cataract operation. When asked how she was, she said, “I’ve got new eyes, it’s dazzlingly beautiful. I didn’t know what I wasn’t seeing!”

"Don't worry about the past--worry about the future." (Very encouraging)

"I want to be like Jesus, but in the meantime I want to be like my dad." What greater tribute could a dad have?

A quote from Pete, our son, on the art of communication (his wife Sue has trained him well): "If you're going down the conversation highway and you see that the destination isn't one you want, take an off-ramp."

Finally, this is Jesus speaking, after rising on the third day after being crucified and meeting two disciples on the road to Emmaus, who did not recognize him.

Luke 24:17-18 The Message (MSG)
by Eugene H. Peterson
17-18 He asked, "What's this you're discussing so intently as you walk along?"
They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend. Then one of them, his name was Cleopas, said, "Are you the only one in Jerusalem who hasn't heard what's happened during the last few days?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Call to Worship

Song of Solomon 8:6-7 (New International Version)

6 Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy [a] unyielding as the grave. [b]
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame. [c]

7 Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot wash it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of his house for love,
it [d] would be utterly scorned.



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Musings in the Arrivals Area

By Belinda

I drove towards Lester B. Pearson airport to meet friends from England, praying my way through the rush hour traffic and potential wrong lane changes.

Overhead in a cloudless blue sky a plane drifted steadily upward, arrow-like, angled toward heaven. Its journey seemed lazily peaceful and solitary in contrast to the busy concrete expressway below.

At the Arrivals area in Terminal 3, I scanned the screen of incoming flights: Amsterdam; Cathay; Helsinki; Montego Bay and Port of Spain--my mind went to those places. I saw that my friends' flight from the less exotic Manchester had landed just 20 minutes earlier. I guessed that it would take them at least another half hour to get through customs, but although I had brought a book to read in case the plane was delayed, there was no way I could focus on reading. What if I missed that moment when the doors parted and they came through, eyes searching the crowd for mine?

The doors opened periodically and burped another small stream of people and we crowd of waiters kept our eyes locked on them. People's pace quickened as they spotted their family or friends and they hurried towards them like homing pigeons, with shining eyes and arms outstretched.

A blonde woman in pink shorts carried a small black dog wearing a rhinestone collar. She let out a shriek of recognition and the group of people with her broke into cheers and clapping as those they were waiting for appeared.

A young girl wandered past me, carrying a single, perfect red rose, and two other people held bouquets of flowers. I imagined how welcomed and honoured the people they were waiting for would feel, like my friend whose husband always greets her at the airport with a dozen red roses.

And I think about Jesus and how he is coming back one day; maybe soon. Will I be waiting with bouquets and clapping hands, my eyes on the skies? That's how I want my heart to be when he comes back.

32-39Remember those early days after you first saw the light? Those were the hard times! Kicked around in public, targets of every kind of abuse—some days it was you, other days your friends. If some friends went to prison, you stuck by them. If some enemies broke in and seized your goods, you let them go with a smile, knowing they couldn't touch your real treasure. Nothing they did bothered you, nothing set you back. So don't throw it all away now. You were sure of yourselves then. It's still a sure thing! But you need to stick it out, staying with God's plan so you'll be there for the promised completion.


   It won't be long now, he's on the way;
      he'll show up most any minute.
   But anyone who is right with me thrives on loyal trust;
      if he cuts and runs, I won't be very happy.
But we're not quitters who lose out. Oh, no! We'll stay with it and survive, trusting all the way. (Hebrews 10:37, The Message)

 9-11These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, "You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left." (Acts 1:11, The Message)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Making a Difference

Fridays with Susan...

The first time I heard, or rather "read", "words hurt like a fist" was on a little card that my friend Dave (and avid blog-follower of Whatever He Says) handed out at a rights presentation he was giving for those with disabilities and their caregivers.  The agency he works for had begun a campaign (initiated by him) to stamp out the "r" word, because it is a word that has a long history of hurting people. 

I read on facebook this week a really bad comment.  Because it was made by someone, a generation behind me, whom I love very much, and want to preserve relationship with in the long run, I hesitated.  But in an effort to be funny, he made a very negative reference to people with developmental disabilities, even going so far as to say something about making fun of them.  He used the "r" word, and without batting an eye.

I hesitated, but only for a minute.  Sometimes it's hard to say something because you just don't have the words.  Other times it's hard because people who have that kind of humour can just as quickly turn it on you...  I was grateful to be armed with "what to say", thanks to what I had learned from Dave.  I waded in.

It takes a lot to offend me, but I work with people - children and adults - with developmental disabilities. One of our beloved grandsons has a developmental delay. Does that mean they deserve to be made fun of? Words hurt like a fist. The R word is as hurtful and evil to some (like me) as the N word. I hope you've just never stopped to think about it before and that the expression of my feelings will make a difference the next time... I love you, guy. Nothing changes that...

I had no idea what I was going to get back.  It could have been anything, trust me.  I was both relieved and absolutely delighted to get his response.  But even if he'd reacted in a way that was uncomfortable for me, I knew I'd done the right thing. 

Psst.
Hey, sorry definitely didn't mean to offend anyone, including you obviously. You're right, I definitely should have been more aware... You won't see the R word from me anymore, promise :-)
It feels good to have been used to make a difference.  How many people would have been hurt by that word in this person's circle of friends and acquaintances who now are safe?  Only God knows.   

I read once that the root of "encourage" means "heart" and that the word actually means to take a piece of your heart and break it off, as it were, and give it to someone else.  I don't know if I would ever have said anything if not for having been so directly encouraged by Dave and for having had the opportunity to have it reinforced by him on a number of occasions.  It's a really good feeling to know you've been a part of making some small difference.  There are fewer people going to be  hurt as a result of the words of that person who in turn was courageous enough to hear the truth and let it change his attitude. 

Dave, thanks for breaking off that piece of your heart for me so that I had something to break off and give too.  It feels good to be a part of something, however small my own efforts, that is making such a big difference.

"...learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."  Isaiah 1:17

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On A Corner in Memphis

Down below is another Janet Sketchley song recommendation and I love it.

Let it soak into your heart and soul as it did to mine. Somehow it says exactly what God is saying to me right now. Something profound is happening in me;  if it didn't have such negative connotations I would say that I am being radicalized. 

I love the question across the top of Todd Agnew's shirt, "What if Jesus meant everything he said?" Yes, what if he did?

There is such a contrast in the song between the motions we go through in church and the reality we would break through to if we broke out of the expected pattern; between the much we have and the little others have.

Like tonight, as I talked to Paul on the phone. He is far away on a northern First nations reserve, just being with people, and immersed in a totally different reality to where we live.

I am in the last throes of preparations for friends from England who arrive tomorrow. I told Paul I was moving my stuff from one bathroom to another and my clothes to another closet.

"Yeah, that's a lot of work," he said, "But we're lucky to have two bathrooms. Some people up here don't have one."

And he told me about a man that wanders the community gathering wood for the elderly for the winter and helping others out. But he has nothing himself. He and his wife...how did Paul put it? They are limited, he said.

Maybe that's not the right way to put it, but they have limits. His wife has never been to school and speaks only Ojibway. (Paul is learning Ojibway.) They have no running water and no hydro and no bathroom. They had three children, but they've been taken away. They are trying to get them back.

Paul said that the minister in the community, Mervin, is coming south in September and Paul has invited him to stay a few days with us. I think that I may feel embarrassed at our extremely comfortable home, even though we have an open door and full tables.

A couple of days ago, I said I was moving over for God. I meant that I was getting out of the way.

I think he took me at my word and moved in because I'm feeling the difference between "putting on" Christ, and trying to demonstrate his character qualities--and inviting Christ to take up residence--to be in me and live through me. He doesn't do a lot of the things I would and he loves people so much. He looks at them with more kindness through my eyes than I would.

Dear friends, close your eyes, listen to the song...and may the peace of Christ rule your hearts today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who Knew?

By Belinda

Two separate parts of my psyche are constantly at war. One half of me gives the impression of being organized, but I have an alter ego that sprouts piles of paper like a pumpkins in a pumkin patch.

I love organizational tools that help keep the "messy me" at bay.

When a flyer arrived with the weekly newspaper, announcing the open of a new Solutions Store in nearby Newmarket I could not wait to pay them a visit.

They advertise themselves as being, "Your Organized Living Store."  Well, the promise of "organized living" is a hook that will reel me in every time.

So on Saturday, I went, and was not disappointed. It was hard to not get completely carried away with all of the amazing tools there. One thing I splurged on was a new lunch bag in a beautiful turquoise blue. They were on sale, 20% off, and I rationalized the purchase by thinking of all the money I save each week by making my lunch faithfully every day. It was time to retire my old faithful black zippered lunch bag and after carefully considering all of the sizes and shapes, I made my choice. I loved the colour and it even had a neatly designed spoon and fork attached.

Today, like a child with a new backpack for school, I tried out my new lunch bag for the first time.

Before leaving for work I packed a big container of tossed salad with a little home made oil and vinegar dressing, and in another small container I made a quick penne pasta, celery, tuna and mayonnaise, salad. I threw in half a banana left over from breakfast, and a small container of yogurt.


Lunchtime found me in my car on my way back to the office from somewhere, so I decided to stop at Chapters, the book store, and pick up a book I'd been meaning to get.  Then I decided to have lunch in my car in the parking lot. At this point I should have noticed that I was morphing into "Messy Me," just like the Incredible Hulk in the old TV series.

I undid the silver chain holding the fork and spoon together and tried to eat my salad. Did I mention that I was dressed in a black shirt and black pants?

Before starting to eat I had the brilliant idea of expediting lunch by mixing the two salads together and putting the pasta with tuna and celery on top of the tossed salad. Both salads now formed a precarious pile.

At first stab, I noticed that the fork was not penetrating the vegetables in my salad. Cherry tomatoes and crisp chunks of cucumber and celery began to shoot out of the bowl and land on the car seats or various places on my lap. I mopped several white splodges of mayonnaise from my pants before acknowledging that something was wrong with the fork, which seemed to be made out of very soft material that bent under any slight pressure.

I was faced with a bowl of salad and no hope of stabbing into anything, especially anything round.

This is why, if you had been parked in the car next to mine today, you could have looked over and seen me eating salad with my fingers, with an elegant lunchbag on the seat beside me.

It was only after getting home that it occurred to me that the fork and spoon on the outside of the lunchbag might be ornamental! Sort of a fashion accessory. I was trying to eat lunch with the decorative spoon and fork.

They are safely back where they belong, on the outside of the lunch bag. "Messy Me" is safely zippered inside my skin again--for the moment at least. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Jesus

Wow, my friend Janet over at God With Us: Finding Joy left a comment on Monday's post saying that it reminded her of Todd Agnew's song: My Jesus.

I hadn't heard the song but I always love Janet's choice of music on her blog, so I listened to it. Now I know what she meant. Yes, this is exactly what God was saying to my heart. I echo Todd's words at the end of the song: "My Jesus, I want to be like my Jesus."

The Top Ten List of Things Not to Do

By Belinda

My friend's uncle was a Buddhist and prominent in his community, so when he died recently, the memorial service she and her family attended was a large one, with over 300 people in attendance.

When they arrived, she and her sister were briefed, with other family members, on the protocol of a Buddhist memorial service.

At the front of the room was a large incense urn. Behind it they could see a statue of a god. To the right was a photo of her uncle.

The man instructing them said that at a certain point in the service, the family would file to the front, put some incense into the urn, bow from the waist and then turn and bow to the photograph of their deceased family member.

Alarm bells were going off for my friend and she and her sister looked at each other, then said to their guide, "We can't do the first bow, we're Christians."

"Oh, it's nothing," said the man (I'll call him Barry,) "I used to be a Christian too, until 1990. This is just to show respect to your uncle."

"Well, Barry," said my friend, "I don't know which god you served up until 1990, but with mine, that's up in the Top Ten List of Things Not to Do."

The service began and the two of them felt the tension increasing as the moment of "showing respect" approached. There were other family members there who are Christians and she watched them to see what they would do. They went to the front and bowed, as they had been instructed.

My friend's heart was beating so hard that she felt like it would jump out of her chest; it was like a loud drum in her ears. She felt as though all 300 or so pairs of eyes were on them as she and her sister took their turn to go forward. She felt huge pressure to conform as everyone else seemed to be doing, and yet she knew she couldn't.

Both sisters went forward but did not bow or put incense into the urn, but they turned towards their uncle's photo and bowed in respect.

It took courage not to bow to an idol at the risk of causing offence to a community and close family members and I admire my friend's courage not to cave under pressure. I can't help but think though, of her words to "Barry" about the "Top Ten List of Things Not to Do."

Bowing to an idol seems so obviously wrong and yet people went along with it. But are the items on that list in their less obvious guises, less of an issue because they are more culturally acceptable these days? Not at all. But they are ``the law;`` and though I cannot discount it, I have no hope of keeping it. I thank God for Jesus.

Romans 8:3-4 (The Message)

3-4God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn't deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.

The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. And now what the law code asked for but we couldn't deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Jesus Offends Me

By Belinda

If Jesus were present in the flesh, here and now, I wonder if he would offend me? I think he might.

Would he offend the Church?

Would he say things like " 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' ?

He said that once before to church people (Matthew 15:8-9 (New International Version)) and he might well say it to me.

I wonder if we would be challenged by his physical presence among us? Would he feel at home in the place we call "church?"

Would he say, "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?"

He said that to a nominal believer once, long ago (John 4:23 (New International Version))  Do I really know what he meant by "worship in spirit and in truth?"

Have I fully grasped Truth in my faith life?

Would I even use the term "faith life" if I had?

Have I integrated the truth I say I believe, into my life so fully that there are no hidden pockets where Jesus is not welcome? Let's just say there is room for improvement.

Yes, he offends me; I think he's supposed to. He makes me uncomfortable. He challenges me to greater depth; deeper understanding; fuller consecration; more complete surrender.

I acknowledge the compromise in my life and choose to leave it behind. I choose to press in for all that there is of God. I want his eyes to see through mine, my heart to beat in rhythm with his, my will to be in tune with his.

I'm moving over for God.

Philippians 3:7-9 (New International Version)

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Heart of Gold

By Belinda

Beneath the  fur beats a heart of solid gold.

It is a contented heart, that asks only for a human friend to walk beside.I thank God often for the gift that he is to our household.

A weekend spent alone, just we two, and suddenly I am conscious of how often I move from room to room as  he moves with me around the house.

I make a dent in the long list of chores I planned to accomplish. One oven and two fridges are clean. It is time to go and visit a friend.

Molson hops into the backseat of the car. A pretty gift bag with green leaves, lilac flowers and with matching tissue sits in the front. We have a 75th birthday to acknowledge and celebrate.

We find our way through a maze of hallways to her cosy room. Dolls line the shelves and everything is tidy and in place. Her back is towards the door and she is watching a movie. At our entrance her eyes sparkle with delight and surprise. "It's you!" she says.

We have time for a walk before supper is ready and I push her wheelchair towards a group of people arranged in a circle, like flower petals. There is a t.v. in the room that no one is watching.

No one moves in the circle. Eyes stare into space and limbs seem frozen in place, except for a white haired woman in pink, who suddenly alert, reaches out her hand to Molson. "He's a lovely dog," she says, and Molson licks her hand obligingly.

She motions with her hand for us to come closer and drops her English accented voice. "I've been going back into my past these last few days; and it isn't good. I get a little lost."

Her voice lowers more, "I went right back to when I was 12 or 13." She shakes her head at herself.

I wonder what it would be like to go back and fear getting lost there forever.

Later, when our friend Fanny and I come back towards the dining room I notice the eyes of one of the people who seemed frozen. They are on Molson. I walk towards the woman and her expression becomes more animated. "Do you like dogs? His name is Molson."

Her mouth moves with effort, "Molson," she echoes back, her eyes bright and vibrant. Her hand stretches out towards him. He has brought her to life.

It is supper time; his golden deeds for this day are done; we head for home.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Getting Back Up

Fridays with Susan...

I've had occasion of late to think a lot about "failure", especially in the last few days.  More than occasion.  I was just about to say "God dropped  me into the middle of a situation..." but that wouldn't be very accurate.  Truth is, I concocted my own recipe for failure.  I chose the course that would lead me there, I adopted the fatal attitude, I ignored the signs along the way.  And then "suddenly", the dominoes began to fall.  I was hoping they would stop falling a lot earlier, but no, when God takes us through the valley of the shadow of death-to-self, he doesn't go halfway.  He did an excellent job of exposing what needed to come out in order for me to become that much more conformed  to his image.  Painful?  You bet.  Because this time it was a cause of hurt to others and put those dear people in situations which were difficult too.  Am I going to confess my sins here?  I think I just did.  The details of the situation are not so important to share, just trust me, it was a whopper.  What I am learning here in the valley with the Good Shepherd is far too good to keep to myself.


I have always responded to failure by beating myself up.  Really badly.  I almost went back to my old ways this time.  I could actually feel myself being pulled into the pit where resides some old dragons I once kept company with and knew incredibly well.  The biggest ugliest monster there is called, "Victim".   He hangs out with "Blame", "Excuses", "Self Pity", "Misunderstood" and "Justification", along with a few more slimy creatures.  

Failing isn't fun.  It isn't meant to be. (Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.  Proverbs 20:30).

Our minds will begin to scheme and think every which way about how it might help to get out of it.  But that is the way of fools.  Wisdom leads to a different course.  (A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.  Proverbs 28:13).

There is the temptation to quit, of course.  (Brothers and sisters, I can’t consider myself a winner yet. This is what I do: I don’t look back, I lengthen my stride, and I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God’s heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14)

You're tempted to feel like it's all over, that there is no hope at all.  (Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that's the end of them. Proverbs 24:16)

General Robert E. Lee said:  “We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.”

I don't know what greater disaster God prevented me from falling into this week, but I sure am grateful that he did. 

God is good.

All the time.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dad on Sam

By Belinda

When Mum's cat Sam died in 2008, I wrote about him here: In Memory of Sam.

He loved only Mum. I would always give him a wide berth but Dad persisted in "making overtures;" stroking him against his will with big, heavy hands. Sam didn't do overtures.

When lost in my letters last night, I reread a letter from Dad where he mentions Sam, with whom he was sharing the house while Mum was in Canada on vacation. Here's Dad again:

Dear Paul, Belinda, Mom and Family,
As I write, it's a lovely day as only England can be at its best.
Mom has been gone a week and five days and of course I miss her very much!
I know now what solitary confinement must be like! And what's more the dratted cat at the start, didn't like it either. He ignored me completely for a time, until, that is, he felt hungry and decided he had better be friendly. So of course I fed him, and have continued to do so umpteen times a day ever since. He must have worms.
Ah, he's just come in, round my feet and telling me he wants feeding again. I got up early the other morning; 6:20 a.m. and went downstairs in my stockinged feet. I wish now I'd had my boots on for he was waiting and as soon as I stepped into the room he was all round my legs, so I had to step over him to go to the kitchen to feed him. And as I did so, he sank his teeth and claws into the calf of my left leg. Oh, the pain! I could feel the blood running down. I felt so cross and aimed a kick at him; missed him--and connected with the door frame. Oh, my poor toes. I was sure I'd broken them. For two days I just had to limp everywhere. Gladly I'm alright again now. I told him he was going to the vets to be terminated, but he just gave me a look which said, "You wouldn't dare!"
...Nell, from the day you left, no one has called at the house, and I didn't even have a phone call. I thought, "Are they trying to tell me something?" And as I thought that, the phone rang. I answered it quickly, in case it stopped, and a very cultured lady's voice said, "Mr. Cater, I'm looking for a volunteer to look after the elderly and infirm." Well, at least it was a call, and proved my phone wasn't on the blink.
I love you all,
Dad

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Letters

By Belinda

I meant to go upstairs and continue tidying for an hour this evening after supper, but I picked up the two binders of letters that I so carefully sorted last winter--and I opened them. Immediately I was lost, in page after page of letters written at different times in our lives; some by people long gone. On the page their voices came alive.

There were letters from my dad; articulate and funny, and sometimes, if he wrote them after a trip to the pub, pouring out inner pain, but telling me not to quote scripture when I wrote back.

In front of one binder I have typed out a quote, which I unfortunately cannot find the author of:
There are many kinds of letters, including the obligatory and those you can't wait to sit down and write. In letters you explore the landscape of your soul and reveal it to a friend. Relating external events is fine and dandy, but is merely the ever-changing framework for another work of art being patiently completed within you. It takes courage and a quiet hour to find accurate words to describe your inner picture.
Allow the outer events of your life to lead you inward. What has caused you joy, pain, or anger? A strong emotion you are willing to explore and articulate will lead you to an inner landscape. Emotions are good signposts along the journey.
Sometimes the letter received from a friend wraps the soul in a warm blanket. Even the envelope is lovingly addressed by hand, the stamp carefully chosen and placed.
It's easy to sift such letters from the daily avalanche of mail and patiently wait for the first uninterrupted moment to open such a treasure. Reading it is like opening a window with a striking view. What a luxury to think a thought to the end with pen and paper!
As if to prove that very point, in a letter from Dad, written some time in 1980, he writes:

Dearest Belinda,
Many thanks for your most welcome and oh, so well intentioned letter. AHEM! I kept it by me for a couple of days without opening it as I did your previous letter. I know the rest of the family find my behaviour odd in this respect but then maybe I am. But the way I see it is, a letter is a conversation in written form, and since spontaneity is surely the very essence of good conversation, how can you listen to, or read, what someone is taking the trouble to say to you unless you reply at the time you hear, or read. I always find, that if I read a letter, then put it by for a few days intending to write later, then by the time I have got round to it, my initial reactions to the letter have somehow become dulled, and/or changed. The latter of course "may" not be a bad thing, but in my submission, conversation should be lively, and, as I said, spontaneous. Having got that weighty bit of nonsense off my chest, perhaps I can continue in, I hope, lighter vein...

One of my favourite artists is Johannes Vermeer, who has as letters as a theme in many of his paintings.

I think that blog posts are a form; a descendant perhaps, of letter writing, for they can be a way of exploring "the landscape of  your soul."

My binders and boxes of letters are among my greatest treasures but they should probably be labeled with a warning, "Warning; do not open unless you have several hours to spend in complete and happy oblivion."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Journal

By Belinda

I have been following the journalling pattern laid out by Bill Hybels in his book, Honest to God , which I reread parts of regularly.

When I say, "following," I use that term loosely, for the truth is that I have done it infrequently. But every time I do follow the pattern, I find it helpful and spiritually challenging.

The process starts with the word, "Yesterday...." and reflecting on a moment, a conversation or one thing that happened.

Next come Adoration; Confession; Thanksgiving and then Supplication.

Here is my journal for today.

Yesterday...I entered the world of children at Pete and Sue's house.

While they prepared souvlaki, corn on the cob, tsatsiki and roasted miniature potatoes, my second eldest granddaughter took me to her room and introduced me to her hamster, Catnip, who recently lived up to her name in a near personal tragedy.

She escaped from a cage with a faulty latch and, after brief moments of heady freedom, she experienced horror.

A large furry beast, dark and with evil intent, sat on her. It was the cat, Shadowbox, hoping to keep her hidden while the frantic search for her whereabouts ensued.

It was Catnip's great good fortune to be discovered before disaster fell, and she was safely restored to her cage; none the worse for her ordeal; but perhaps less likely to bolt from the confines of the cage in future.

Adoration...
Warm rays of summer morning sun embrace my arms, and the air here outside is alive with buzzing and twittering and all manner of evidence of a world vibrantly alive.

The gentlest of zephyrs flows around me. How wonderfully pleasing to the senses is your creation, oh Lord. You have made all things well.

Confession...
I confess that my taste for "the best," has dulled. Dear Lord. How crass that seems when written down so bluntly. I would like to dress it up and say something more euphemistic, like, "I have allowed my priorities to get out of wack. " But that hides the truth, which is that I have preferred other things: the internet; a book; a movie; or litterally anything else, to spending time with you. How hard it is to ask for forgiveness for such a bold admission of foolish neglect and idolizing of other attractions. But I do, and I must, ask forgiveness, for I know that you alone are my Centre; my Source; the Key to all that is real and true and good in my life.

Perhaps I have been too unguarded. Is that why you say:
Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23 (New International Version)

Is there not an enemy within as well as without, that either by nature or design will oppose our connection spiritually with you?

Then Lord, I will guard my heart more diligently, and I repent of foolish wandering and distractions.

Thanksgiving...
  • For the support of family around me as it has been in the last few days when the engine on my car died, just after Paul left.
  • Thank you for Pete's wise counsel; for his sacrificial, generous and ready gift of time. Bless him by making that time up to him and blessing his studies; making his mind absobent of the concepts he needs to understand and remember.
  • For the orderliness that is emerging in our home as I slowly but surely declutter, drawer by drawer, cupboard by cupboard and pile by pile. Beauty, utility and ease of maintenance are the rewards.
Supplication...
  • Lord, I pray for Paul and the team in Mishkeegogamang today. As they connect with the children and adults on that reserve, I pray for eternal impact. Only you can accomplish that. Please use them to accomplish your agenda in lives that need you.
  • I pray for Irene Alexander, for a donor liver. It is hard to pray that, knowing that someone else must die for that to be, but if there is a liver, a small one, perfect for Irene, that someone no longer needs, please let it find it's way to her.
In the Name of Jesus, Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Shelter of Family

By Belinda

It was about two months ago that Paul said that he would be gone for the month of August to Mishkeegogamang, a reserve 1000 kilometers north. Although since then the timeframe has been reduced slightly, to about three weeks,leaving this acre of land and a household with endless tasks, grew increasingly hard as his departure last week approached. He drove himself to near exhaustion, weeding gardens, mowing grass and finishing jobs around the house until the last minute.

As well, there was much to do to get ready for the long drive north, and supplies of clothing, toys and food to help gather for a community of people with little in the way of material goods. What is available to buy up there costs much more than here.

The day before he left, Tippy came upstairs looking for a toilet plunger; never a good sign. Paul went downstairs to their apartment to rescue the three Damsels in Distress.

One of Paul's defining characteristics is his burden to make sure that all of his family is taken care of. After that he also worries about looking after the rest of the world. Sometimes the weight of all of the people he carries in his heart is overwhelming.

In the morning we kissed goodbye as I left for work and he left to pick up the van he'd be driving and I started missing him.

That afternoon at the office I told someone on the phone that I had to leave by 2.30 for a birthday party. "This is the highlight of this person's year," I said, "And she will start planning next year's party tomorrow. I cannot miss it!"

I set out in time and as I drove towards the highway I noticed a rattling sound under the car. To my relief though, before long, it stopped, and I carried on towards Barrie. I thought that the car seemed to lose power slightly at one point, but rationalized that it might be my imagination. At the Essa Road exit though, I slowed down for a red light and the lights on the dashboard came on and the engine died. I put on my four way flashers and got out to tell the driver of the car behind me that my car had broken down.

I called the house where the party was to say that I would be missing the un-miss-able party, and next called CAA for a tow to Newmarket Honda.

In the south bound ramp was a tow truck that had stopped so I got out and told the driver; I'll call him, "Big Brad;" that I had a tow truck on the way already. Within minutes he was behind me on my ramp, with lights flashing. I got out and said again that my tow truck was on the way. But he said, "I'll just stay here till he gets here, because you're in a live lane."

"Okay, well thanks," I said, thinking that he was kind.

The CAA tow truck arrived, and I got out of my car again to thank Big Brad and I gave him $5 to have a coffee on me.

He said, "Oh, no, no, that's okay." But I insisted.

When I climbed up beside my tow truck driver and told him I was grateful to Big Brad, he snorted,  and called him a vulture. He said, "Big Brad called the police." He had heard it on his CB radio. If they had arrived before the CAA tow truck, they would have asked Big Brad to get my car off the highway and he would have made a quick couple of hundred dollars. I felt naive, but hoped that Brad enjoyed his coffee anyway.

I noticed the photo of a baby on the dashboard, "Is the baby yours?" I asked.

He smiled and nodded and pulled another photo from under it, an older little boy and soon he was telling me how he was going to the park that night with his kids and "the wife."
Before long I was taking down phone numbers and directions for him for his next call. "I gotta get me one of those ear pieces," he said.

I started making phone calls myself, to Brenda. I only got her voice mail, but I left her a message explaining my situation and that I didn't know how I would get home from Honda.I didn't hear back from her though.

"What will you do if she doesn't get the message?" said the driver when we got to Newmarket. I could tell he was feeling badly about leaving. He had already told me that I "shoulda" asked him to drop me off at home on the way.

"Don't worry," I said, "You've got a call in the other direction. They (Honda) won't leave me in the lurch."

And sure enough, after giving the service rep the details about my sick car, he asked me what my plans were now. I told him I didn't know how I would get home. He asked the young man at the next desk if he was busy, and when he said, "No," he was commissioned to, "Take this customer home."  I was grateful.

The news wasn't good when Robert from the service department called. The engine was shot. He gave me some prices on a new or reconditioned engine, but said that because my car is 11 years old, "Maybe it's time to think about a new car," and I had to agree; I said I would sleep on it though. Paul didn't use his car to drive north and I was grateful to have it to get around with while I sorted out what to do next.

Brenda called, worried, having got my phone messages at last. She said, "Mom, why didn't you call my work number? I turn my cell phone off when I'm there."

And I called Pete, our son to fill him in and he, too, said, "Mom why didn't you call or email me at work?"

Both of them were protective and concerned.

I asked Pete if he could spare an hour or two the next day to come with me to look at used cars at Honda, although I hated to ask because he is under pressure with an upcoming exam to study for. I knew that I could do it alone if I had to, but having him with me for a second opinion would feel good. He immediately agreed.

So, on Saturday morning at 7.30, Pete was at our place to pick me up for breakfast at Cora's--my treat. It was an unexpected blessing to have breakfast together. Our lives are busy with work and family and Pete's studies. Pete wondered just how much use he would be to me, though. I had already done some online research on the used cars that were available at the Honda dealership and had seen a nice black 2009 Civic with low mileage, fully loaded.

But once we were over the road at Honda, Pete went into analytical mode--his strength. He looked at the car, the good tires, the fact that I have good snow tires on rims. He called R.J. his father-in-law and gave the scenario. R.J. recently had a reconditioned engine put into his car so he asked Pete a few questions and gave some input. We decided to go home and review my car file with the records of what I've had done on the car. Pete asked for a sheet of paper and began to make notes and add up amounts. It seems I've basically rebuilt the car surrounding the engine in the last two years and there isn't too much else that could go wrong.

The reconditioned engine available was coming from a company called Carcones (I had read it as "Car Cones," which didn't sound inspirational, but apparently it is pronounce "Carcon-ees.") Pete went online and looked at the engine. It had 200,000 km on it. My old one had 289,000. I do about 24,000 a year, so if the reconditioned one went as long as my old one, I could get about 3 more years from it. It is guaranteed for one year.

I had $8,000 to put down on a new car, but the one I was looking at was $17,995. After taxes, I would have been looking at a loan of at least $13,000. I would have used up my savings and reduced any flex in my cash flow because of now having car payments. I decided to go for the reconditioned engine.

Pete felt as if he had been useful and felt good about that. And he's going to do further calculations on the ramifications of both options and use it as a case study for his course.

I felt very good about the decision and Paul, who the night before had called from Ignace in the north, and thought I was buying a new used car, agreed, once I walked him through the process we had gone through, that although he would have like to see me in a nice newer car, this was a sound direction to go in.

Leaning into the shelter of family. Sometimes we shelter, sometimes we are sheltered. Either way it feels good.
 14 Without good direction, people lose their way;
   the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. (Proverbs 11:14, The Message)

Sunday, August 01, 2010

I Bless Your Name

This morning we sang this song as a worship team in church, led by Frances with her beautiful voice. It's not a new song but it was new to us and I just love it. Had to share it here.