Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Past

By Belinda

This weekend it felt like time to begin the transformation of our home to Pre-Christmas. The stook on our front steps looked more out of season with every day, as did the wicker cornucopia. I listened to the inner nudge and packed them away for another year. Then began the pulling of boxes out of the loft room cupboard and unwrapping familiar ornaments from layers of tissue paper. I have a whole closet full of boxes of ornaments gathered over the years. I no longer feel compelled to take them all out, but choose which ones to grace our home with each year.

Strains of a Christmas tune wobbled wonkily from a musical globe with revolving Christmas figures telling the old, old story; and our nativity scene, that loses more fake brownish green grass with every year, emerged from it's bag looking decidely well worn. When Pete dropped by on Sunday evening and saw it set up on the hall table, he went into his annual theological protest at the sight of Wise Men at the manger, when they really didn't arrive that soon. That is all part of our family's Christmas--he has to set the record straight--but the Wise Men get to stay, looking slightly drunk and off kilter on the uneven footing of the stable. :)

Our Christmas tree is up, with branches yet to be fluffed. The top half of the lights aren't working yet. That too is part of the ritual. This year I feel less pressured to rush. It will be all ready in time.

Our Christmases in England in the 1950's and 60's were very simple, but magical. The decorations were kept in a brown cardboard box. One small cardboard box. The box contained fairy lights, rolls of coloured crepe paper, tinsel, metalic angel hair and coloured glass Christmas tree ornaments with concave hollows with shiny patterns.

On Christmas Eve, we would get a pine tree, about 3 or 4 feet tall, and Mum would put up the decorations. The tinsel would decorate the mantlepiece over the fire place and paper streamers would be twisted and hung from the centre of the room, and pinned in each corner. Balloons and crepe paper decorations that lay flat in storage and opened up into honeycomb balls and bells, would also be pinned in corners.

The glass tree ornaments of silver, gold, green and red, caught the light and reflected back our world to us. They seemed to my child's eye like the most beautiful, rich jewels. The little string of fairy lights was so pretty and magical, the tinsel so festive, and the final touch, the hanging of the icicles of angel hair transformed the tree into a shimmering vision of splendour and promise.

On Christmas Eve, one of our presents would somehow arrive on our bed, and the next morning Mum, Dad, Rob and I would gather around the tree to open our gifts. The Christmas of 1962 I received a green vinyl covered five year diary, which I kept faithfully for four years. I wrote so much in the fourth year, when I turned 16 that I had to get a new diary for 1967, with a whole page for each day. Thus began the chronicling of my life.

We would have a chicken for Christmas dinner, with sausagemeat stuffing, brussels sprouts and roast potatoes, and Christmas pudding and white sauce afterwards. Mum would always insist that she wanted the chicken neck and "parson's nose," and Dad would always refuse to let her have them. I could never understand why he wouldn't let her have the parts she wanted. It took a long time to realize why she chose them.

Christmas crackers were part of our celebrations, snapping and banging and filled with paper hats and tiny gifts. And after the feast we would eat the foil wrapped chocolates that hung on the tree until our we could hold no more food in our tummies. Then,sated and full to the gills, if I had a new book I would find a quiet spot and lose myself in it.

These are happy memories that come out of my box of Christmases Past. The box contains other memories, but only a few, that I choose to leave packed away, just like the boxes in my closet. I don't need to unwrap them all.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Inimitable Mrs. Francis

By Belinda

I spotted her at a nearby table; my dear friend Frances. We and many of our other friends were at a gala to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the agency we work for.

When I went over to say hello, she was shimmering--her hair and face dusted with sparkles. And she was bathed in the fragrance of her Christmas perfume, Cinnabar; a floral blend of incense, spice and amber.

At her place was a white folded place card that read, "Mrs. Francis." None of us even had a place card, let alone one on which our name was so uniquely enscribed.

The evening was a very special celebration, with an appearance by His Honour, David C. Onley Lieutenant Governor, the Queen's representative in Ontario; to bring greetings and congratulations.

The Delta Meadowvale Conference Centre banquet hall was filled with an ocean of white clothed round tables as far as you could see. There must have been 300 people or more, present.

Part of the program involved the master of ceremonies and an accomplice--sorry--assistant, Aimee Sider; roaming the banquet hall with a microphone and camera (which transmitted to two large screens,) and carrying out a fun quiz as a way of giving information about Nationwares a social enterprise of which Amiee is the founder and director.

As they selected random guests to interview, most of the eyes in the room were instantly averted! Most of us were intimidated, to say the least, at the thought of being quizzed in public, with our picture broadcast on two large screens, even if the questions were multiple choice and the right answers obvious. Aimee was giving out leather bracelets sold by Nationwares as a prize for right anwers.

I don't know if it was by sheer force of will that Frances drew them to her table, but suddenly, there she was on the screens and in command of the microphone. I had good reason for giving Frances the nick name Poppy. She is vibrant, expressive, bold and colourful. And not in the least bit shy.

Frances has a favourite fantasy of having her own show: The Fran Show. The show would feature guests, but they would be interviewing her. :) And here was her fantasy coming to life!

After she and Aimee had fun with some livelier than usual questions and answers, Aimee asked if she would be doing her Christmas shopping at the Nationwares table.

"Well," said the naughty Frances, "I do have three children--with leather allergies." This got the desired laughter and required some searching for a non leather prize.

At the end of the evening I went over to congratulate my friend on her performance, which I knew she had so thoroughly enjoyed giving.

"There are," said Frances, "two kinds of people in this world: Those who want an audience--and the audience!"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Someday I'll

Belinda Burston

“SOMEDAY I’LL…” These words can either be weak or dynamic, depending on how and why they are used.
“SOMEDAY I’LL…” is powerful when the words are used to confidently express an imagined future state by someone daring to dream big. Such thoughts have the power to shape reality when backed up by an action plan. But too often I’ve used them myself wistfully, in reference to a hope that never seems to transition from dream to reality. I say one thing and yet do another. In that case I think I’m describing “Someday Isle,” a day dream with no substance or power; for example, losing the 10 pounds that stand between me being what I consider my perfect weight....Read more of this guest post on As Good a Day as Any here

Friday, November 26, 2010

"American" Thanksgiving

Fridays with Susan...

Today, across the border to the south, it's the day after Thanksgiving and known as "Black Friday", the biggest shopping day of the year.  No-one knows for sure if the use of the word "black" is to denote the awful crowds and traffic tie-ups, or whether it's the day in the year that merchants finally cross over the line in their ledgers from red ink to black, but it's there.  Happy shopping today to our American friends, those of you who will wade into the fray in search of bargains galore.  And I hope you enjoyed your turkey dinners with all the trimmings yesterday.  And the football!  Who could forget the football? 

I think our American friends have a really good idea in terms of having one holiday weekend a year that is actually four days long.  Though I'm not an American, this weekend for me is fraught with memories too.  For most of my life, and up until three years before she died, my mom crossed either the tunnel or the bridge which span the Detroit River and earned the bulk of our family income on the American side of the river.  There were huge advantages to that.  She made more money than she ever could have in Canada, and she had opportunities there which would never have presented themselves on this side of the border.  With a Grade 10 education, she started as a clerical worker in an insurance company in one of the downtown skyscrapers, and ended up in the suburbs at another insurance company managing the entire department of actuaries, all of whom had university degrees.

It wasn't Mom's choice to go to work, but my father was never well enough to support the family on a consistent basis and so the needs of a growing family dictated that she take on the role of primary breadwinner.

I hated mornings when Mom would stand at the mirror in her slip, going through the motions of her morning routine.  Between dabbing powder on her face and putting on red lipstick she would direct our morning getting-ready-for-school rituals from there.  "Did you have breakfast?"  "Where are your leotards?  Get them ON!"  I hated it because it meant her departure was imminent.  She wasn't a perfect mom, but I loved her fiercely.  And we were firmly - perhaps a bit too firmly - attached.

Because she worked in the States, and we lived in Canada, Mom didn't always have the same holidays we did and almost all of her working life she had only two weeks vacation - not enough to satisfy the needs of an overly dependant little girl who wanted her mom to be there more than anything else in world.  The worst days were when our national holidays didn't jive.  We always had a day off on Good Friday, for instance, but Mom always had to go to work that day.  The same thing would happen on the Monday of our long weekend in May - and for our Canadian Thanksgiving, too. 

So, even though I had to go to school myself those two days, American Thanksgiving (as it was called in our house and in many houses strung along the border where the traditions of two distinct nations would regularly collide) became my favourite holiday.  Why?  Because Mom stayed home those two days.  It was almost like having a "real" mom.  I knew when I left in the morning on that Thusday and Friday every year, that she would be home when I got there.  And Mom always tried to out do herself each year.  It was like she was trying to make up for all the days she wasn't able to be there and she would try to make those days really special.  We could count on her actually serving breakfast (quite likely fried eggs and toast), making our lunches (we always made our own) and best of all there would invariably be some kind of baking waiting on the kitchen counter when we walked in the door after school.  A few pies, usually schnitz (a little taste of heaven from her Mennonite heritage) and lemon meringue would be sitting on the counter and perhaps a pan of apple or pineapple bars still in the oven and giving off an aroma that must be close to what heaven is like.  Mixed with the baking, the house would smell of Lestoil and hardwood floor wax, and be well on its way to getting a deep cleaning.  The washer and dryer would be humming and she would be deeply involved in some organizational task (Mom was a multi-tasker!) but she would drop everything, fix us a cup of her signature cocoa (NOone could make it like her!) and she would sit down with us and ask us how went our day.  Pure bliss! 

At least that's how I remember it.  (My sister Brenda, who is a regular reader may have some different memories to share!)  There were even more cherished memories formed as we grew into adulthood and had children of our own.  When Mom came to visit, she had a way of making memories that would last a lifetime and beyond.

So Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends.  Now you know how it is that "your" holiday is my favourite one of the year.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

There are days when you just have to knuckle down and make a stew for cell group and balance the family budget. Well tonight that's what I needed to do. So friends, I am missing in action today, but tomorrow, when it is Friday with Susan, I think that you will also find a post by me on my dear friend Marilyn Yocum's blog As Good a Day as Any; a contribution to her "Someday" project. In fact, today, since I have nothing to say worth writing down :) why don't you pop over for a visit the day before my post is up? I recommend it for a few minutes happily spent.
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

North Star

By Belinda

I bundle myself up the way I once bundled up our children in their winter snowsuits, and go out into the cold, dark night. It is 3 degrees Celcius but it feels like -2 because of the gusty wind. I am determined to face this Canadian winter that has barely started. So far, so good.

The wind roars around the treetops like a fierce army running at a foe, but all that flee before it are dry leaves making weak tinny sounds as they scuttle and scamper across the dark village streets.

Molson trots along obediently by my side, but tonight we meet not one other soul, human or dog. We pass Molson's friend Sidney's house, but even he's not there on his lawn where he usually sits. I'm glad that he's warm inside tonight.

I'm thinking of this morning when Paul and I sat in our warm kitchen and read from Ephesians 6.
Ephesians 6:10-17 (New International Version, ©2010)

The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I've always read the beginning of verse 12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood," the way many versions of the Bible state it; as, "our struggle is not against a human foe." But this morning I thought, "What if that's not what it means? What if it means that we're prone to fight the wrong battle--a battle that was won the day Jesus died--the battle against the flesh?

"Our battle is not against flesh and blood." Well, I know that's the battle I've spent long years fighting and losing--until I realized that when Jesus cried out, "It is finished," he meant it; that he came to overthrow human effort which can only end in failure or pride anyway.

Instead, the verse goes on to say that our foe is spiritual. Since one of his names is "Father of Lies," how fitting if his cunning strategy was and is, to distract us with the wrong battle.

Read the remaining verses through that lens and they ring true.

This week we also read this verse:
Matthew 11:29 (New International Version, ©2010)
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

His yoke, I see, is easy because there is no work for me to do. He is a good yokefellow, who has done it all.

5:1 (New International Version, ©2010)
Freedom in Christ
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

We have a gravitational pull towards self effort--the "yoke of slavery" spoken of in Galatians. Is it coincidence that both Ephesians 6:14 and Galatians 5:1 tell the reader to "stand.firm?"

Although the sky is obscured by scudding clouds, I am thinking of the North Star tonight. If you find the North Star, you can plot an accurate course.

(I hope this isn't too much of a diversion from my usual lighthearted chatter of which I still have plenty! It's what I've been thinking of a lot lately.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miss Jones

By Belinda

Miss Jones passed by the house of my childhood so often that she became a part of my memories of that time.

Our house was situated on the top of Bear Hill, but it was really two roads at that point, separated by a steep bank of grass. The lower road ran along our row of council houses, which were filled with families with young children. The upper road carried traffic to the lower village from Station Road, which led to the railway station.

Miss Jones lived in Lewkner Cottages, on Station Road. In earlier, more ancient times these had been almshouses, but by the time I write of, they were merely accommodation for the elderly.

I had a large collection of big copper pennies at that time, when 12 of them made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound. I had lots of pennies with images of Queen Victoria, from the young, girl queen, to the old, stout, and stern looking matron she became, with double chin and veil. And I remember thinking, as I watched Miss Jones's unhurried progress along the path above our road, that she had been alive when Queen Victoria was alive, for Miss Jones seemed old to my young eyes; a link in a chain connecting me to the past of my penny collection.

Miss Jones was roundly plump and on the short side of average height and I never saw her wear anything but a bright royal blue coat that came almost to her ankles. She wore a hat of darker blue atop white hair, which she parted in the middle and wore in a bun at the nape of her neck. She walked slowly, with the aid of a walking stick and she seemed kind and peaceful although I couldn't tell you why.

She was a Miss in the day when you were either a Miss or a Mrs., a time before "Ms." How clear and concrete those definitions seem now; no in between.

I didn't know Miss Jones, but I think I remember talking to her once. And she belonged in my life, along with the angular Miss Twitty of the sweet shop in the village and Miss Lawton of the haberdashery shop, who, after she retired, walked the village streets with her golden retriever in a slow and unhurried manner.

Writing about Miss Jones makes her real again for me. Now I wish that I knew more about her; who she was, and her story. But maybe that's not important. Like the toy people that fill my grandchildren's  Playmobil make believe towns, she was one of the people who filled up the village of my childhood, and thinking of her brings back a time long ago and dear to me in memory.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not Just in My Heart

By Belinda: Note--this is a repost from November 2008 but it is something I have been learning all over again. It seems the gravitational pull is always away from the simple truth that, as Jesus said, "It is finished." His yoke is easy and burden is light because he has done the work. When I wrote this two years ago I knew it in my head. Now I think I finally really have it in my soul!!!

Jesus: please be, not just in my heart, but in my mind, my hands and my lips; even in the least obviously significant corners of my being. Baptise me; fill me, full of you Lord.

I need Christ; not me and my ways, wisdom, or effort. I need his love to flow from the pores of my skin, and through my tongue and fingertips.

The fruit of the Spirit is a natural result of him in me. I realize that I cannot afford to go one day without being before him and inviting him; begging him, to come and fill me up with his dear self.

I am tempted to use the word "suddenly" and say that I suddenly have so much more clarity on all of this, but of course it hasn't been sudden, but a persistent seeking to understand over time. I have been a slow learner!

Verses that previously puzzled or perplexed me and seemed impossible to live up to, now make sense. In fact, it is as exciting as seeing the world through a new pair of glasses. I can't live up to them, but he doesn't expect me to be able to. He only asks that I know him, and let him fully occupy the land of my life and then he will live them through me. For instance:

Matthew 5:48 (New International Version)
48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

Would he ask something of us that is as impossible as that sounds? If we read it as meaning that we have to do the work we are undone before we start.

John 5:39-40 (New International Version)
39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

Watchman Nee writes in his book, The Normal Christian Life, p.181:

God will not give me humility or patience or holiness as separate gifts of his grace. He is not a retailer dispensing grace to us in packets, measuring out some patience to the impatient, some love to the unloving, some meekness to the proud, in quantities that we take and work on as a kind of capital. He has given only one gift to meet all our need: his Son Christ Jesus. As I look to him to live out his life in me, he will be humble and patient and loving and everything else I need in my stead.

1 John 5:11-12 (New International Version)
11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life\

This means that I am free from both credit and condemnation. Mainly I am free!
Come Lord Jesus--fill me with your love. Be love in me, be patience and gentleness, kindness and humility in me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Breakfast at Ginger's- golden retriever dog eats with hands

This dog could be Molson's sister! I'm posting it for Paul's mum who laughed so hard at it alone in her room when she saw it on Facebook that she was worried about the rest of her family hearing her howling with laughter!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Weekend Yay!

By Belinda
We were in for the night. It was Friday and we landed happily on the shores of the weekend. Friday evenings always feel like the start of something good.

Relaxation seeped into body and soul as I heated our supper in the microwave--lasagne left over from cell group the night before--no work at all.

"I got some movies," called Paul from the den.

"Perfect!" I shouted back above the whir of the microwave.

We settled down in from of the tv with our suppers on trays and watched Letters to Juliet with the beautiful Lynn Redgrave. It was the perfect Friday night movie--so romantic!

Brenda was out so we brought Molson upstairs, and he curled up between us, content to be with part of his "pack."

When the movie ended at about 9.00, though, he was unusually restless. We'd all had a busy day and he hadn't had a walk, but now we took pity on him. We had bought reflective vests for walking at night a while ago, but hadn't tried them out yet. So we bundled up against the cold night and put our vest on over everything else, thinking that it was a good thing it was dark and no one could see us, although that is the purpose of the vests.

The village was unusually quiet, except for a small group of teens who called out "hello" as they swirled across a dark deserted street like windblown leaves.
Molson has a friend named Sidney; a big curly, light haired golden retriever who is often tied out on the lawn at the front of his house.

As we rounded a bend and got close to his house, Molson started to cry softly as he always does. To our surprise, there was Sidney, out in the cold, dark night, sitting on the lawn.

Both dogs perked up at the sight of the other. We went with Molson across the road, and he went  up to Sidney, tail wagging, and both of them, instead of a meet and greet, did a dance and prance, posturing playfully. That done, Molson was good to go and we set out again on the rest of the walk.

It was a minute or two before I realized that Paul wasn't with us. I looked back. He was still on the front lawn with Sidney, talking to the old dog and stroking him. This is so unlike Paul, who really isn't as into dogs as I am. But every now and then he surprises me completely.

And this is another reason why I love him.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lightening Up

Fridays with Susan...

I take myself way-y-y-y too seriously.  If you don't believe me, just refer to my Friday posts of the last few months.  Granted, there have been some stressors which have been pretty intense this past year.  But after being away on vacation, and then a marriage renewal weekend with Ron, I've found something has changed .  It's not the circumstances themselves so much, but my attitude to them.  (I know this is a no-brainer for most of you, but please bear with this slo-o-ow learner.)

None of the following was adopted in a very intentional way.  It's just kind of happened.  But there are a bunch of things I've been doing lately which have allowed me to lighten up and to enjoy life a LOT more.  (Some of you will be most happy to hear that!)

1.  Look for the humour in EVERYTHING (especially in myself). 
I was deeply involved in a software program this week which I could not "get" and for which the deadline for submission of data was all too rapidly approaching - and I was already working a few hours past when I should have gone home.  My concentration was so intense that when I was interrupted with the fact that there was no hot water in the house, it actually took a few minutes for me to switch gears enough to care!  Even though it was a problem seriously and directly affecting a large number of people.  When I finally got my head around the fact that I needed to make this my immediate priority and pulled myself away from the computer, I had listened to the words, "Susan, you're not listening to me!" at least five times.  We solved the problem as best we could by figuring out together how to adapt to the situation at hand and by resigning to the fact that there was nothing to do but wait for the plumber to come the next morning.  Then we spent a long time laughing about the whole situation - especially zeroing in on the fact that the world can be coming to an end around me, but God help anyone who tries to get my attention when I'm hyper-focused on something else!  Suddenly what had been a serious problem a few minutes earlier turned into an adventure - with a great deal of hilarity along the way!

2.  Stop working so hard to figure out who is to blame and start solving the problem, or overcoming the obstacle.
Oh this is a good one for me...  There is a natural bent in me that wants to make everything someone else's fault before I can even begin to think about what to do about it.  My poor husband.  If I can't find my car keys or my cell phone, it has to be because HE moved them!  He's such a conspirator to ruin my day!  I'm trying not to do that anymore.

3.  Make a mental list of everything I DON'T have to do! 
It's much longer than the list of things I have to do, and makes me feel a lot better!  And it's such a ludicrous idea that it makes me laugh, which takes me back to # 1.

4.  Be grateful.  That attitude of gratitude thing is so powerful.  There is so much to be thankful for if we just stop for a minute and DO it!

5.  Celebrate the little things.  The really little things.  One day this week I walked in the back door - really late- and there was no-one around to greet me.  I stood just inside the door with my arms outstretched and my palms turned up and yelled, "I'm HO-O-O-O-OME!!"  No response.  "YooHOOOO!!!"  I tried again.  From the furthest corner of the living room I heard a small "I'm in here."  (He must have got tired of waiting for me.)  As soon as I had his attention I "demanded" a standing ovation.  "I'm here!  I'm home! I could have gone anywhere, but I chose to come here!  Could I have a little enthusiasm???"  Ron cracked up and began to hoot and holler and clap his hands on his way into the kitchen.  I took a step toward him as he came across the room, we collapsed into a big hug, and forgot about how late I was - again.

6.  Let go of some stuff.  I realized this week that I can worship from the back pew just as well as standing at the front with a microphone in my hand.  It was a decision I could make that would not essentially change anything, but would give me a few more options on Sunday mornings (like the option to actually ride to church in the same car as my husband!  Novel!) It would also serve to take away the stress of missing too many practices and feeling badly about that.  So I stepped down from singing on the worship team at church.  It didn't turn out to be as hard as I thought it was going to be and I'm really looking forward to experiencing some new pockets of time.

There are so many more things I could add to this list.  But how about you?  What are some of the ways you keep from letting life overwhelm you and drag you down?  We're all in this together, and I can still use use a lot of help...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Handsome is as Handsome Does

By Belinda

"Handsome is as handsome does" is an old proverb that I grew up with in England. It means that actions, which speak to inner character, are far more telling than outer beauty...

I love nice clothes and have always rationalized my overspending in that area of our budget as a "small weakness." I can trace my passion for shopping back to my childhood where there was no money for frills, including pretty clothes. We had our school uniforms and good shoes but other new items of clothing were so rare that I can remember every item of clothing in my wardrobe between the ages of 12 and 16, when I started work. But that is all so long ago!

On my trips back to England to visit Mum and Rob, I always looked forward to spending time in Marks and Spencers, Next and Dorothy Perkins and always came home with several new items of clothing.

In October I was back in Alvechurch again and this time was different. I focused on Mum and being everything to Rob that he needed. I went shopping with him to Sainsburys and walked with him to the post office and the village shops. I went with him to the dump, or "tip" as they call it in England. He does these things alone usually. I cooked as many meals as I could and walked Bruce twice a day to save the strain it causes to Rob's back. I did dishes when he cooked.

One day Rob asked if I'd like to go to the bank with him and I did. I'd been there about a week and I hadn't been into the shopping centre at all. He asked if I'd like to have a look around as it was early in the day and his back had not yet begun to bother him. I said, "I'd love to have a look in Dorothy Perkins." He came with me and I scanned the store in two minutes flat.

"Would I be able to have a look in Next?" I asked.

He said, "Yes, my back is feeling all right."

While Rob followed me in I saw the latest trend and liked it. The sheath dress of the 60s was back in style and there was one dress that I especially liked, but I cared about Rob's back and didn't want to presume on his kindness. I made a mental note of it and thought that maybe I'd have a chance to come back and try it on some other time.

The days went by fast. I was only there for 12 days this time and with visits from friends; a special birthday party, and an accident with Mum's leg, the time flew by. I was content just to "be with" and "be still." I didn't feel the usual urgency to shop for gifts to take home for all and sundry. I picked up little things here and there in Sainsbury's or wherever I saw something that I could afford and I knew was the perfect little thing for someone.

The dress was at the back of my mind though, and finally it was my last day there. I had packed the day before, and although I had lunch with Uncle John, I made sure I came home early in the afternoon so that I could spend as much of the last day as I could, with Mum.

I knew that if I asked Rob, he would have driven me to town to try on the dress. I also knew that Mum would not begrudge me doing whatever I really wanted to do. But the phrase, "Handsome is as handsome does," ran like a refrain through my head. I saw that had I gone to try it on, something ugly would have lived on in my soul. It felt as though some old dead branches were being pruned off this tree called Belinda, and it was growing more beautiful and stately of form.

This was the trip when I loved my brother practically better than I have before and I know that Jesus loved him through me. How important that was. And I felt a different sort of beauty; one much to be preferred.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

By Belinda

Last week, in my post entitled, The Defining Characteristic , I wrote about an article in The Mail on Sunday, by Lauren Booth, on her conversion to Islam.

Another part of the article, which was entitled, "Why I love Islam (...and so do my daughters,)" intrigued and disturbed me, and that was where she described her two daughters' reaction to her conversion. I quote from the October 31 article in The Mail on Sunday:

I sat in the kitchen and called them in. 'Girls I have some news for you,' I began, 'I am now a Muslim.' They went into a huddle, with the eldest, Alex, saying: 'We have some questions, we'll be right back.'
 They made a list and returned. Alex cleared her thoat. 'Will you drink alcohol any more?'
 Answer: No. The response--a rather worrying 'Yay!'
 'Will you smoke cigarettes any more?' Smoking isn't haram (forbidden) but it is harmful, so I answered: 'No.'
 Again, this was met with puritanical approval.
 Their final question, though, took me aback.
 'Will you have your breasts out in public now you are a Muslim?'
 It seems they'd both been embarrassed by my plunging shirts and tops and had cringed on the school run at my pallid cleavage. Perhaps in hindsight I should have cringed as well.
 'Now that I'm a Muslim,' I said, 'I will never have my breasts out in public again.'
 'We love Islam!' they cheered and went off to play...
I reflected a lot on that snippet. With the simplicity of children they were ready to embrace whatever it was that caused these changes in their mother. I found it disturbing that their hearts and souls were so easily won.

In doing some research on the path that these three are setting out on I read an excellent article by retired U.S. army chaplain Pastor Bob Leroe entitled Islam—submission vs grace. Pastor Bob's blog can be found by clicking on his name. His article, from a well informed knowledge base, clearly and in a balance way, lays out information it is important to know about Islam. We are so generous in our acceptance, and we should accept and respect other's choices--the alternative is bigotry and prejudice--but we do need to be educated on what it is we are accepting and just how it differs from the faith we hold if we are Christ followers.
I pray for Lauren Booth and her daughters; who admitted to only having read 100 pages of the Koran; when she discovers what lies beneath the surface of the dreamy glow she is experiencing at the moment.

Post Script: I know that his is not the sort of topic that I write about usually,  but the article sort of haunted me, especially thinking of the children.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heaven Sent in Suits of Fur

By Belinda

Chatting with my brother Rob, and my mum in England, is part of every Saturday morning. As well as catching up on our human family's news, we always talk about our dogs: Bruce, his Staffordshire bull terrier and Molson our golden retriever.

Bruce is still suffering with shattered nerves from Bonfire week in England. He hides under Mum's settee when he is downstairs in her flat, in the far corner, where he manages to find a tiny space to wedge into. Rob has to work hard to pull him out. When he is upstairs in Rob's flat, his chosen hiding place is in the storage cupboard. He still only ventures out when he's sure it's safe, in the wee hours of the morning. Rob said he will probably just be getting over it when the fireworks start again around Christmas.

Both of us believe that our dogs are gifts sent by God. Rob doesn't talk much about God except when it comes to Bruce coming into his life.

Years ago Rob had a Staffordshire bull terrier named Boss. He loved that dog and for years I thought that having another dog would be so good for him. But he is a man who doesn't make snap decisions and it never seemed to be the right time to look for a dog. Bruce belonged to a young couple and lived on a farm. They loved him dearly but they knew that he was not good with children and when they had a baby of their own they made the hard but only right decision to find another home for him. John, Rob's son, who lived with him at the time, became his new owner. When John was at work, Rob would take Bruce for walks as far as his weak back allowed, but still, Bruce belonged to John. A few months ago John moved out of Rob's flat and in with his girlfriend who has a Staffordshire bull terrier of her own, called Fink. She has a little daughter, and there was no risking her safety with Bruce. Bruce stayed with Rob, and eventually, after a few weeks had gone by, Rob said tentatively to John, "So do you think I can I call him mine then?" John laughed but didn't say no. So, now he belongs to Rob; he landed where and with whom, he was supposed to. He has filled a void Rob didn't even know was there but if he was gone the void would be an aching hole.

Molson also belonged to someone else to start with. He had been partially purchased from a kennel where Brenda was doing some volunteer data entry. His owner, a youth, had agreed to work off the other half of the purchase price, but never kept his promise. Then Molson was found wandering loose, traced back to the kennel and brought back. He had not been properly cared for, and it took some time before his owner made inquiries and found out where he was. The kennel owner would not give him back, even when a relative of his youthful owner offered a generous amount to buy him back. Instead the owner offered him to Brenda, on condition that he be available when needed as a stud dog.

Readers here know how much we all love Molson. If I had a dollar for every time I hug him and thank God for the blessing he is to us, well, I'd be growing richer by the day.

This past Friday I ended my day by talking to someone with someone struggling with her relationships with people. Suddenly she asked, "How's your dog? You brought your dog to the barbecue in the summer, didn't you?"

I laughed and said, "He's fine, and yes, I did."

She said, "He didn't eat any food."

"Oh, I think he got quite a few bits and pieces that he wasn't supposed to," I said.

"I gave him a piece of my sausage," she confessed, "just a small piece."

And I thought that I really should  bring Molson along to work sometimes. He probably would do a much better job than me with people who need some unconditional acceptance and love.

I believe dogs are heaven "sent" to where they are meant to be and it kind of feels like some of them are on a mission with special orders--a mission they are fulfilling with flying colours.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Bridal Registry

By Belinda

It was a bright, fall Saturday afternoon when I set out to do some errands, including buying a wedding shower gift for a friend.

It wasn't the first stop on my list of places to touch down, and as I pulled into the Sears parking lot I had a sense of accomplishment so far. I had found a dress that I could afford for an upcoming gala, and Christmas presents for two out of six grandchildren. I felt encouraged and cheery.

As I entered the front doors of Sears, it was evident that the store was in full Christmas swing. A few minutes earlier I had felt one step ahead, but the Christmas trees, fully decorated and lit, and the Christmas carols playing over the P.A. system, served to inject me with low level panic and I bought another Christmas gift on the way to my destination, to stave off the anxiety.

I found the escalator and mounted it, clutching my wrapped Christmas gift and got off at the housewares floor. It was crowded up there and I felt mildly claustrophobic as I scanned the maze of displays and jostling people. I found the Bridal Registry. It had a note taped to the front that said, "Printer is very slow." That was a metaphor for my next desperate half hour.

The printer wasn't actually as slow as the note promised. I theorized that they just wanted to discourage people from printing off the lists. It took me only three tries, following the computer's instructions, to find the right person's registry file, and the printer delivered 4 blue sheets of paper printed with gifts that the bride and groom-to-be had chosen.

Registries are a good idea--in theory. They limit the possibility of duplicate or unwanted gifts and help you find gifts in the right colours. But from that point on the theory goes awry.

I scanned the list of chosen gifts, and found those in my price range. Then, with several possible options in mind, clutching my sheaf of blue sheets, I headed in the direction of Kitchen Wares.

I started by looking for a slow cooker. They are invaluable tools in a kitchen. Suddenly I was surrounded by woks, kettles, rice cookers, coffee makers, toasters and blenders--but the slow cookers seemed to have gone into hiding. No problem; I switched strategies and started looking for a kettle--not just any kettle; the right kettle of course. Every conceivable make of kettle except the one I was looking for seemed to shine at me from the shelves. They looked lovely and I was tempted to just pick up one I liked, except that I didn't think that would work with a registry. Someone else, more skilled at kettle hunting than me, might buy the kettle that the happy couple had picked out and then they'd have two. I switched to toasters; same result. Where all of the Hamilton Beach toasters were hiding, I don't know, but they weren't on the shelves, I'm sure they weren't.

I gave up on Kitchen Wares and wandered over to the bedding and towel department. It wasn't any easier. I felt as though a conspiracy to drive me crazy was afoot and it was succeeding. I hunted for the particular Whole Home fitted sheet; sateen; in Pine Cone, on the list. I wandered the rows of sheets: 400 thread count; 320 thread count; 200 thread count--the shelves loomed high and endless. I began to cast about for assistance. Wild eyed by now, I found a victim to latch onto, a pleasant looking middle aged sales woman who was pottering around by a cash register. "Help!" I cried, "I need help."

She spoke to me calmly and reassuringly and said that this wasn't her department but she would be glad to help if I gave her a minute. I exhaled, feeling that there was hope after all. I passed the list over to her and followed her back to the sheet shelves. She began to wander the shelves, following my earlier footsteps. She peered at the item number on the list and we both stood in front of the shelf with the right make and thread count, but with every item number except the one on the list. She agreed with me when I shared my feelings about registries.

"Wait a moment," she said, "I'll go and get help," and she left with the blue sheets, to find someone who worked in the bedding department. I continued looking through the slippery plastic bags of bed sheets and gasped as my eyes fell on the prize; a fitted bottom sheet in Pine Cone that neither of us had been able to find moments earlier! I quickly ran to find the sales woman but she had vanished from sight in the maze of shelves. I went back and waited obediently for her return like a child who had lost her mother.

When she returned, it was with another sales woman. This one was also middle aged, with dyed blond hair that was coloured pink on the ends. She wore heavy black eye liner around her eyes and a red satin scarf around her neck. She took charge of the list with a confident air and the first woman, having safely handed me over, went back to her department. What a God-send this woman was. She was thrilled to have something to do and she quickly scanned the list and made suggestions for combinations of items that would work. Together we hunted for them, but she knew what she was doing. In no time I had a pillow and beautiful towel to add to my bottom sheet and she was ringing them up for me. When I thanked her she said, "That's what I'm here for." I could have hugged her.

The next day; Sunday; the shower was held in the afternoon, at the church the bride-to-be attends. I sat beside a friend from my own church, a woman a few years older than me, who retired a few years ago from nursing. I mention this only to point out that she is an intelligent woman. There was a lovely lunch of sandwiches and squares, and several games.
In conversation, the bride-to-be mentioned that the registry was put together after her fiance was given a scanner to zap the bar codes of items they needed. I'm thinking that there has to be an easier way to connect would be purchasers with the items on the list, besides the torture of wandering endless aisles, looking for the grain of sand on the beach of potential selected items.

After the cake was cut and served with coffee, the opening of the gifts began, with the accompanying cards being read out. When the card from the friend sitting next to me was read out, and the gift opened, I noticed she had bought the same distinctive green checkered Roots towel I had bought. "Did you go to Sears?" I asked. She nodded. I laughed and asked how she had managed with the registry. She howled and rolled her eyes. She told me that she had been so overcome with exhaustion that she had to ask if there was somewhere she could sit down while a sales woman took over from her and searched for items. I took perverse comfort in knowing that she was a fellow victim of the torture disguised as the Bridal Registry.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

By Way of Explanation

By Belinda

My dear mother-in-law just called to check in on her need for a ride to church this morning and after chatting about my mum, with whom she is dear friends; she said, "So, you've had pressure this week?"

I stopped for only a second to think of how she would know that, but quickly realized that my missing blog posts was her clue. It made me realize that being "incommunicado" without explanation was not good. So I apologize to faithful readers who I know are out there, and hereby announce that I am back!

I treasure every one who honours this blog with a few minutes of reading time most days and never take lightly the fact that in a busy world, you choose to visit here. I had a very intense work week, that spilled over into the evenings, resulting in my being too tired to write. The busy week is past and I am so happy to have time to write again. I will start catching up with all that is stored up in my heart, brain and fingers, over the next few days. Thank you again for being out there to write to. Although I don't know many personally, I see familiar "locations" daily and wish I did know who you are. Anyway, I love and appreciate you. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Lesson According to Geese

Fridays with Susan...

I love how God weaves all kinds of life lessons for us into his creation.

Like Paula expressed a week or so ago, in her post  Perspective , I have always loved geese.  It's not unusual to catch me running outside of a fall or spring morning in my sock feet on damp cold ground to answer the call of a passing, honking "V". 
When geese are flying south for the winter in their V formations, each "follower" goose derives the benefit of the one flying just ahead of it. Aerodynamics work to form a bit of a slipstream behind each successive goose flapping its wings that makes it easier for the one behind it. The leader has the hardest job. With no-one to follow they have to flap all the harder than those geese who get to be the followers.

When the lead goose begins to tire, it will fall back in the formation and let one of the followers take the lead for a while. To be able to make it for the long haul, the leader has to have the wisdom to know when to fall back and let the energy of others support them for a while in their role...

It was my first day back from vacation and I was feeling as disoriented as someone lost in a blizzard and began attempting to slog through drifts of paperwork and "issues" that were waist deep and weighing me down.  I came into the staff office but I wasn't ready to meet with someone there who was waiting to meet with me.  I had nothing to give, no strength to lead with.

Jenn met me head on.  As I walked through the door she met me with a string of positive words that warmed my heart and gave me sudden strength.  As I listened to her encourage and bless, I realized that in that moment she was the leader as God gave me the good sense to fall back and get behind her for a bit.  Keeping my mouth shut and following her that morning got me through the day without falling prey to an avalanche of negativity and discouragement.

I actually felt like I was a terrible leader that day.  I didn't have what it takes, did not have the strength to say the right things, be the right person.  But someone I was leading did...  Failed again.

But then I remembered the geese...

It actually takes a good leader to know when to fall back sometimes and let others use their gifts to create that slipstream while they fly a bit easier and have a chance regain their strength or bide a bit of time until the pressures ease off.  It really is okay not to be the leader ALL the time.  It really is...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alpha and Omega

Note from Belinda
I have had some pressures that prevented a written post today but wanted to share this beautiful song by Israel and New Breed, which I have posted before. It never fails to call me to a deep place of worship of ALMIGHTY GOD. Worship Him with me today dear friends. Whatever your need today--He is Alpha and Omega--the beginning and the end.
Blessings, Belinda

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Defining Characteristic

By Belinda

I recently read about the conversion to Islam of English broadcaster Lauren Booth. This isn't a commentary on the propoganda frenzy that has ensued, or a critique of her conversion, but I was struck by a couple of aspects of her story and wanted to write here about them here, today and tomorrow.

It was October 31st and I was on my way back home from England again, feeling, as I often do, that my heart straddles two continents.

One of my rituals en route is to pick up a Daily Mail for Paul. He loves to catch up on some fresh English news. It was Sunday, so it was The Mail on Sunday that I picked up this time and reading the paper made the three hours of my bus ride from Birmingham to Manchester airport, pass quickly.

The paper had an article by Lauren Booth, entitled, Why I Love Islam (...and so do my daughters.)

It was the "why" part of the title that grabbed my interest. Why would a contemporary western woman gravitate to Islam? While I am sure Lauren Booth is well known to everyone in Britain, I didn't know her or anything about her. I now know that she is the half sister of Cherie Blair, the wife of the former Prime Minister of England, Tony Blair, which makes her conversion to Islam rather provocative.

One of the pivotal experiences Lauren Booth described was arriving as a journalist on the West Bank. The Israeli authorities had kept her suitcase and she was walking around the centre of Ramallah, shivering, when an old lady grabbed her hand.

Talking rapidly in Arabic, she took me into a house on a side street. Was I being kidnapped by a rather elderly terrorist? For several confusing minutes I watched her going through her daughter's wardrobe until she pulled out a coat, a hat and a scarf.

I was then taken back to the street where I had been walking, given a kiss and sent warmly on my way. There had not been a single comprehensible word exchanged between us.

It was an act of generosity I have never forgotten, and one which, in various guises, I have seen repeated a hundred times...
Interestingly nothing in the article defined the woman as a Muslim--perhaps Lauren Booth assumed that she was. What struck me though, was how profoundly an act of such kindness impacted her in a world full of cynicism and selfishness. And yet the act was a demonstration of the very spirit implicit in Jesus's radical teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:40-48 (New Century Version)
40 If someone wants to sue you in court and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.41 If someone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles. 42 If a person asks you for something, give it to him. Don't refuse to give to someone who wants to borrow from you.

Love All People

43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemies.' 44 But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.[b] 45 If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.46 If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that.47 And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don't know God are nice to their friends. 48 So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
I was challenged to consider the old woman's generous and spontaneous kindness as a benchmark for the walking out of my own faith. If I saw someone shivering in the street outside my home, would I invite them into my house and raid my own closet to clothe them?  While I know so many do quietly give and live the message of Christ, what impact would it have if we lived the Sermon on the Mount--if I lived it?
To be continued tomorrow...

Monday, November 08, 2010

Nights of Fear

By Belinda

Although he has a marshmallow soft heart with the people he loves, my brother's dog Bruce puts on a fierce show with other dogs. The last week and a half though, have reduced him to a trembling bundle of terror after sundown.

November 5th is  Bonfire Night in Britain, a night when the capture of Guy Fawkes; who hatched the gunpowder plot of 1605; is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. The fireworks were going off in the village after dusk for several nights before I left on October 31st and the loud banging that sounded like gunfire, continued nightly until November 5th.

Bruce took to hiding in a cupboard. Rob had to pull him out by the collar with his tail looking like it was glued around his bottom and between his legs, so that he could put his yellow bed in the cupboard for him to lie on.

This past Saturday, on our weekly phone call, Rob said that Bruce had a proper little camp in the cupboard, where he would cower, a ball of jelly, until about 1.00 a.m., when he felt it safe to venture out.

There had been some tips on television in Britain, on how to support pets frightened of fireworks. Rob said that one recommendation was not to reassure them because it only reinforces their fear. Although that would not have been my instinctive approach, I could see the point.

A friend with a chronic illness told me that she wondered where God was, she felt so alone. Someone helped change her perspective when they said, “When you were in school having a test, the teacher was there but she was silent.”

And I was surprised to read in a magazine article recently, that Mother Theresa struggled with an overwhelming sense of isolation from God. It existed for most of her years of ministry among the poor of Calcutta.The reality of God does not depend on us feeling his presence, but how difficult it must have been to feel so cut off from him.

God could be developing our spiritual muscle; faith, trust and maturity during such lonely and dark times. And like Rob with Bruce, he is close by, loving us intensely, but allowing us to develop confidence in the darkness.

Hebrews 12:11 (New International Version)

11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Invitation Accepted

By Belinda

Years ago, just before going to England for one of my visits to be with Mum, and Dad, prior to his death in 2003, I asked him if we could read a chapter of the book of John every day while I was there. I must have been going for 3 weeks, because John has 21 chapters. I so love God's Word--it speaks to me so profoundly; and we were kindred spirits on so many levels, that I thought, "If only he would sit with me and allow the words to speak to him, how could he not 'see?'" But Dad said, "No," politely but firmly. I was so disappointed, but of course, in hindsight, I can see that Dad would have been scared to death of that kind of pressure.

This year, while I was in England I thought of how wonderful it would be to study the Bible with budding young adults the age of my older grandchildren (pre-teens,) so that they could absorb the truths of the Bible in more detail and depth than is possible during an hour in Sunday School. I longed also to impart an understanding of the importance of being drenched in God's Word, and knowing it well, to a generation bombarded by so many other voices and influences.

The morning after I arrived home, our two granddaughters, Tippy and Tori, who live downstairs, were getting ready to head out for school. I went down, as I often do, for hugs and goodbyes, and I asked them, would they like to start studying the Bible with me? To my joy, they responded with a resounding and enthusiastic, "Yes!"

Not wanting to put any pressure on them, so I told them to come upstairs after school when they were ready--I would be here as my first day home was a day off.

Later that day I saw the long yellow school bus pull up outside our house, bright in the clear autumn sunshine. I saw the girls get off and walk down our winding, tree lined driveway, littered with fallen leaves, wind in their long hair and backpacks slung from their shoulders. I heard their voices, bubbling with animated conversation as usual--they are eachother's best friends. I heard the bang of the side door to their apartment, the thud of bags dropping to the floor and the soft thunder of Molson running up the stairs to greet them.

I waited, and wondered...had they said yes just to please me? They are both sensitive souls and I know that they love me as dearly as I love them.

Would they even have remembered after a busy day at school?

I gave them some time to settle in, and then I could wait no more! I found an excuse to pop down with some item that needed to be delivered downstairs. I opened the door--and met them on the stairs coming up, trendy teen Bibles that were gifts from their mom, in their hands.

"You remembered!" I said.

"We've been looking forward to it," they replied.

So, one on each side of me on the couch, we began a journey together into the book of Esther; one of my favourite stories, filled with drama, intrigue, and lessons on character.

Half an hour later they closed their Bibles, with shining eyes. We have a date for next week--the next time our schedules allow. Already they know why it is important to know the Bible for ourselves--and I pray, oh, how I pray, that they will see the beauty, wisdom and passion in the Big Story of God's love--and come to love it for the rest of their lives.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Two Women on a Plane

Fridays with Susan...

When I first saw her, she was standing in one of the airport shops at Heathrow.  She was obviously part of a religious order.  Sturdy black shoes poked out from under an ankle length grey/blue skirt.  Her head was covered with a fringed shawl and she wore a large cross around her neck.  I immediately felt sorry for her, tied up in all that "religion".  I wondered if she could know Jesus at all...  I wasn't three steps past her before I realized how silly was that initial response and my judgmental attitude.  I repented right then and there and hoped, naively, that I would have some kind of a second chance.

I saw her again when we boarded the plane.  Our seats were in the very back and hers in the very front.  I had to walk right by her, passing next to her aisle seat.  I was too shy to say anything as I shuffled past, pulling my carry-on along with me.  Others queing up behind me meant I had to keep moving down the aisle.  I barely had time to catch her eye, but that was all I needed.  Her face, in that fleeting moment when our eyes locked, smiled back at me with the warmth and love that was unmistakably the evidence of a heart that knows Jesus.  I had wondered if she could possibly belong to Him and there he was smiling back at me through her eyes.  Not a word passed between us, just a look and a smile, nothing more. But the blessing of that encounter rested on me and I am feeling the warmth of His love through her eys even now.

A few steps down the aisle and our progress was stalled by a woman who was trying in vain to get her bag to fit into the overhead rack.  She was pulling and cramming and jerking the poor bag around to no avail.  A woman across the aisle tried to be helpful.

"The crew will help you with that..." she offered.

The woman snapped around and her words came out in an angry hiss.  "These are OUR seats and OUR stuff is supposed to fit HERE."  She was clearly offended that someone else had put their bags in "her" space.  She was peppering her vitriolic commentary with one expletive after another.  She went back to cramming and banging and pushing things around.  Suddenly the bag was clear and she SLAMMED the lid down with a disturbing Bang!, accompanied by a loud "Hrmphhh".  She threw herself into her seat and folded her arms across her chest, making a spectacle of herself to all those around her.  It was hard not to laugh.  I was so thankful that I was able to keep moving down the aisle and that our seats on the long flight were nowhere near hers.

Two encounters with two women on one airplane. It made me think, really think.  What was it Francis of Assissi said....?

Preach the gospel at all times.  If necessary use words.

Lord Jesus, give me grace to preach the gospel today. Just like that first woman.  And if necessary, give me the words.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Another wonderful guest post this morning, from Paula Walker. Thank you, Paula!

For as many of my 69 yrs as I can remember, I have loved the Fall in Southern Ontario. Everything about it: Crisp mornings, rustling leaves, harvest moons, clear night skies, and the profusion of colour : reds, maroons, oranges, yellows, tangerines and everything in between.

But most of all, I love the geese.

My Mum taught me to follow the geese. Everything stopped at our house when a flock flew over.

We would we dash outside, always trailing behind Mum, just to get a better look. One of the huge bonuses of my current home, is its location directly under a geese 'flyway'.

In the spring, we welcome their return and all summer, we watch them training the babies, preparing them for the long trek south.

They are a pretty straggly bunch until late September. When suddenly, this year's 'recruits' seem to get it and learn to fly in formation. For all of October, they fly in ever better V's directly over the house. Well trained, I drop everything to run out and watch at the first 'honk' of any approaching flock.

This year, I decided to go to the local provincial park, just west of town, where the geese touch down before heading back many miles east to another provincial park, attempting with much repetition to teach the young ones just how it's done !

I decided to take my nephew Justin with me for this great adventure. Justin has Cerebral Palsy and uses a power chair for mobility of his limbs. No mobility is needed for his mind I decided after our grand outing.
I took a couple of my lady friends and Justin out to the park to watch the geese as they taught the young ones the rallying cries and the process of lifting themselves from the water to the sky.

It was totally awesome.

On the way home, we diverted to 'Tims' for hot chocolate and trying to get a little enthusiasm out of Justin, I said "What a super day!"

"Yeah, Yeah" said the unimpressed young man, "Three old ladies and a bunch of birds !"

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Can You Thank Them?

 By Belinda

(Written Oct. 31)
It's my last day here in England, and from that precious day, 2 hours stolen for lunch with Uncle John and cousin Stephen, at The Coach and Horses in Weatheroak.

There, I entrusted the 200 pounds sterling from Whatever He Says readers , into Uncle John's care. He will send it to a pastor in a province close to Orissa in India.

Uncle John held the fat white envelope containing 10, 20 pound notes, in his hands and said, "Can you thank them?" So that is what I am doing!

He is going to send me a photo of the pastor, which I will post when I get it.

I know a little more of what has been going on with this man since I told the story of "The Bird in the Window" (see sidebar for link.)

He used to be a businessman and realtor before entering the ministry. While in real estate he helped a doctor find the perfect house. The doctor later went to Dubai to work but has since returned.

When the doctor heard that the man who had helped him find his house had gone into the ministry, and that he had a vision of starting a clinic and providing free health care to those who can't pay, he said that he would donate time, and would also ask several other doctor friends to join in the work.

The pastor also recently prayed for Bibles and received a stack of Bibles that stood taller than he was.

He has set up a sewing shop for local widows with no other means of supporting themselves and has had several sewing machines provided through donations.

It seems that the crow that came to the pastor's window on two successive days, with rupees in his beak, when he was so discouraged, really was a a bird of promise.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Welcome Home

Susan sent this to welcome me back to Canada. I loved it so much I had to share it. I send it out back to Susan, who arrives back in the wee hours of Wednesday, and Jamie, who comes back on Thursday!

Missing You

Note of explanation by Belinda; post by permission of my friend, Dave Hingsburger, whose blog, Rolling Around in My Head , is one of my daily reads.

God had me and five of my friends on the British Isles yesterday: Jamie in Ireland with his daughter Candace; Ron and Susan were on Skye and are now in northern England; I was in Alvechurch, close to Birmingham, in the West Midlands--and Dave and Joe flew into Birmingham where Dave will be starting a three week speaking tour, arriving so tantalizingly close to my departure that there was no way to meet. It was so hard to know that they were so close, yet unreachable, that I sent Dave an email with the subject line: Missing You, Literally!

When I arrived home in Bond Head last night, there was an email from Dave and it was so beautifully written, and such a fitting farewell to Alvechurch for me this time, that I asked if I could publish it and he said, Yes! Here it is:


You know, years ago when I was a child, I liked to sneak upstairs from Sunday School and into the sanctuary after the services were over. I would sit all alone in the pew in the hush and quiet. I always felt at peace there. I always felt safe. It struck me then that I could feel that God had been present in that space. Like that feeling you get when you've just missed someone you really wanted to see. Like if you'd been 5 minute earlier you would have had a wonderful reunion. I felt the presence of 'him who was there 5 minutes ago' linger.

why am i telling you this?

Joe and I were driving to Birmingham along M42 and noticed an exit for Alvechurch. We looked at each other. I reached up and clicked the GPS off and we drove through wonderful, beautiful, country roads heading for Alvechurch. We arrived and I saw in real life what I'd seen from your photos and in my mind when reading your blog. We drove through the village center seeing the Red Lion pub and the ramp up and in.

Suddenly I felt that feeling again. Someone important to me had just been here. Someone who I missed meeting only by mere minutes. I had that feeling I had as a child sitting in church. It was a lovely feeling.

We see a lot of villages like this one in England, but Alvechurch was different. I'd lived here, I'd lived it's history, I'd lived here as a child. All through your posts on Whatever He Says. Reading your writing has allowed me to experience this little town as if remembered rather than as if discovered. Alvechurch has, I realized, become part of my history because I've spent time visiting in my mind.

Like when I went to Aberdeen the setting for a series of novels I like.

Like when I went to New York, the setting for movies I'd seen.

I wanted to thank you for that. I felt oddly proud of the beauty of your little village.

I felt you there.

I felt like I'd just missed you.

I was a child again, having just missed God but knowing that we would, however, meet.

Like you and I will meet.

Over tea.

Dave Hingsburger and/or Joe Jobes