Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Bad English Patient

By Belinda

I had gathered up my briefcase and turquoise lunch bag and was heading out the door, when I saw Paul heading gingerly but purposefully into the bathroom. I sensed a mission in process.

I'd been trying to anticipate his needs and keep him safe so I wondered what I could do to help.

"Paul, what are you doing?" I demanded, in my best ``she who must be obeyed`` voice.

"I was going to wash my hair," he said. And it turned out he had plans to kneel down and put his head under the tap in the shower.

``Oh, no,`` I said, ``You are not supposed to bend your back. I`ll turn on the shower and if you take off your t shirt I`ll shampoo your hair.``

So I turned on the shower to warm up the water, took off my coat, and with his head and my arms in the shower stall, I did the honours with the shampoo, as we both got a generous spraying of stray water.

"Ahh," he sighed, his eyes closed in ecstasy, "That feels so good."

I smiled, and thought, ``Yes, we have reached the age when it has come to this.``

When we were at the hospital on Monday, the nurse told Paul to make an appointment with his doctor after a couple of days to get his dressing changed. Originally he was going to wait until Thursday, but decided he would go a day earlier at about noon. I was concerned and Brenda was worried about him driving so soon, and she left for work hoping she could get the time off and come home and drive him.

``Make sure you leave your cell phone on, so I can reach you,`` were her parting words.

I left and drove north for my meeting and it was during a break that I turned on my cell phone to check for messages. There were two. One was from our pastor. He said he`d called to see how Paul was but couldn`t get him on the phone. The other was from Brenda. She wondered if I knew where her dad was as he wasn`t answering the phone.

I called home and Tori, who was home from school with a sore throat, answered the phone.

``Tori, do you know where Grandad is,`` I asked.

``No,`` she said, ``His car isn`t in the driveway.``

The eagle had not landed but had vanished. Brenda was on her way home to drive him, but he was long gone.

When I got home much later, Paul was safely back where he belonged, with a new dressing in place and looking much better--and taller. He had even been for a walk around the block! I can`t believe how much difference it makes now that he is standing erect. It`s amazing how much he had hunched over with the pain he was in.

We continue to thank God for gifted surgeon`s hands and release from pain for Paul.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

To Explain...

Quick note from Belinda

To explain my absence--just in case anyone out there wonders what happened to me. :) 

Paul had back surgery on Monday, and although it was day surgery (which is amazing,) he did need some tender loving care. I have been busier than usual making soup, making sure he isn`t fainting while walking to the washroom and generally ensuring that he is safe and supported. He is making the most of it while it lasts. :) 

The wonderful news is that this operation, to remove pressure on his sciatic nerve, will give him back his walking legs. He hasn`t ever stopped walking, but did so in great pain and with the knowledge that his right leg could give way at any time. This problem should be resolved once the bruised nerve heals. Then he just has to go for physiotherapy to strengthen his back muscles. 

How grateful we are for excellent health care and the privilege of good treatment by skilled hands. We thank God for all of these blessings.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tori's 12th

By Belinda

She turned 12 on Friday, this girl that I love, and we celebrated with supper at Crabby Joe's in Bradford.

Both her mom and I were driven to list her qualities in our birthday greetings.

Her mom wrote this on Facebook:

Brenda Burston
is wishing her beautiful, smart, funny, loves all animals especially horses and dogs, can't get enough of her cousins and Omie and Grandad, park loving, ipod playing, elite hug giver, sun worshiper, cottage dreamer, kind hearted, fiercly loyal, "don't mess with me" daughter Victoria a very happy 12th birthday. I love you girlie! xoxox

I wrote in her card:

A lover of all creatures fluffy
A writer of very good stories
A devourer of books
A girl who has wit and knows how to use words well
And who has her own taste in clothes

Our gift to Tori was a soft fluffy grey and blue grey "reading blanket," and a gift card for Chapters. 

As we were winding up supper I asked her if she'd like me to take her to Chapters to use her gift card. She straightened up in instant animation, eyebrows shooting up and her head nodding yes!

So we set off into the dark night for Newmarket--Tori anticipating the thrill of a new book or two.

When we got to Chapters, I automatically headed in the direction of the children's section. I soon realized I was on my own. Tori had made a bee line for the teen section (what was I thinking?) 

The next morning at breakfast, Tippy, Tori and Brenda came upstairs for pancakes. Tori was not the sparkly girl she'd been the evening before, but having read far into the night (how I remember those nights) she was seriously groggy. 

Brenda used to wake up at 5.30 in the morning singing when she was a child and is still bright and booming in the morning. 

Tori covered her ears.

"Does that help?" asked Brenda.

"Only when you talk," said Tori and she covered her eyes for good measure.

"Does that help? asked Brenda again.

"Only when you look at me," said Tori.

"I think I feel another Facebook status coming on," said Brenda.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Surrendering the Sunglasses

By Belinda

I buy certain things in sets of two. There are things that I buy in irrational quantities, but that's another blog story; this is about items for which I have a reason for duplicates: gloves and sunglasses--things I tend to lose and for which I keep a back up pair. 

I've been doing so well with gloves ever since I bought two sets that clip together as pairs. I have caught them just in time, dropping to the ground from my lap as I stepped from the car several times, and I recently found one of my pairs lying neatly outside the post office exactly where I had parked the car the previous day--but I still have both pairs. 

Recently though, I lost the one pair of sunglasses I had left, and which I been so careful to not lose all winter. My eyes are light sensitive and I need sunglasses when driving so after checking the lost and found box at church and finding only a pink and grey paisley silk scarf that I didn't even know I'd lost, I resigned myself to buying another pair, and a spare.

So last weekend I bought two pairs I loved from a local drug store. One had a zebra print frame and the other a leopard print. They were funky and cool and I was all set. I kept one pair in the car and the other pair at home. 

On Friday afternoon I had a pre-op appointment with an eye surgeon, after which I drove back to my office. It was when I got into the car to drive home that I realized I couldn't find my sunglasses. I went back to the office and looked around in case they were on my desk, but they weren't. I checked under the car seat. No luck. I thought back to the doctor's office and could not remember wearing them on the way back to work. Somewhere in the doctor's office, or perhaps in the downstairs wash room where I had stopped to re-insert my contact lenses, my sunglasses and I had parted company. 

I can't tell you how disappointing this was to me. I even tried calling the doctor's office but got the answering machine saying that they answer the phone only on Monday to Thursday during the day, and on Friday during the morning. What is that--answering the phone "only on Friday morning?" I knew they were in the office NOT answering the phone. I had been there. 

I obsessed over my lost zebra print sunglasses. I confess I spent much too much time perseverating over where I could have left them. 

Finally, this morning, I decided to let go--to surrender the sunglasses. Instead of fretting, I decided to hope that someone else would find them and enjoy them; my loss would be their gain. This helped a lot. My perspective changed and I could go on and buy another pair.

I hope I'm not alone in my absent mindedness. Do you find yourself continually losing certain items? I wonder if this little idea would help you--thinking that someone else might be enjoying your lost things, and wishing them joy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Happy Friday Smile

I know, you are wondering what's happened to Fridays with Susan; well, Susan will be back, but she has been busy and last night she said, "My brain had turned to jello. It literally physically felt like it had spontaneously turned in to head cheese and was oozing out my eyes and ears." On that very picturesque note, I will share a little video that made my day yesterday when I first saw it. I will add the little blurb by Jesse's owner at the bottom. It will make you feel happy. :)

Presenting, Useful Dog Tricks!! Whoever said tricks can't be useful? Jesse loves helping around the house, and I just love his happy attitude and smile on his face =o)

*Our relationship is based on mutual respect, understanding, and trust. We have a wonderful relationship and bond, and that is the foundation of our training. We train all behaviors through the use of positive reinforcement*

Jesse chooses to do the behaviors in this video, and has so much fun bringing smiles to people's faces. He gets treats for doing his tricks, and enjoys learning new things. Tricks are just one of the activities we enjoy doing together. When not doing tricks, Jesse can be found playing with his cuz ball, chasing squeaker tennis balls, digging in search for lizards, de-fluffing stuffed toys, swimming, and a companioning me on outings. Jesse loves adventure, and lives each and every day to its fullest. Jesse is my best friend, heart dog, and truly a member of the family, and I love him with every beat of my heart.
~Heather and Jesse~

Wanna learn more about Clicker Training? Check out Karen Pryor's website at:
to get started.

Special thanks to Josh Woodward for the use of the songs "Coffee" both Full & Instrumental version. His music is under Creative Commons. Check out more of his awesome music at:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Celebrating the Spatula

By Belinda

A small pile of three packages of cream cheese, a flat of eggs, some sugar, vanilla essence and a can of raspberry pie filling--oh, and of course, graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and brown sugar for the crumb crust--dessert is in the making for cell group tomorrow night. We'll be celebrating Tori's 12th birthday and Debbie's grown up birthday and their favourite cake is cheesecake.

As I reached for the perfect tool to scrape the creamy filling into the springform pan, already lined with a golden crumb crust, my mind zoomed back--how many years? I was 12--the same age as Tori will be on Friday--and in my domestic science class ( translation--"home economics")  in England. Miss Jones, the domestic science teacher was Welsh, as many people with the surname "Jones" are, and her voice was clipped and melodic all at once. She had short, sandy red hair, pale freckled skin and blue eyes and always wore a button down smock over her clothes--no doubt to protect them from stray batter flying through the air.  Oh, and she wore high heeled, pointy toed shoes. I must have studied her closely to remember all of this and I think I must have admired her greatly because I remember many of her pronouncements with the clarity of this morning's news broadcast.

I remember the day she brandished a new tool in the air and with great animation introduced us to "the spatula." This wonderful tool, new to all of us and endorsed by Miss Jones, the authority on all things domestic, was to the wooden spoon what communication through the internet is to the mail service. Miss Jones demonstrated for us how a bowl that was apparently skimmed of as much batter as was possible, actually had LOTS left, and she proved it by scraping its sides with the spatula--and voilà--a whole pile had been hiding "somewhere!"

Ever since that day I have fully appreciated that tool and am never without several of various shapes and sizes. I tried to discover tonight who invented the spatula and when, but Google and Wikipedia came up dry. I guess even they have their limits. :) All I know is that 48 years ago Miss Jones found one and impressed upon our young minds how great a thing it was in the kitchen and I have never forgotten.

In that time span so many new inventions have come and gone (remember Commodore 64s and palm pilots?) but the humble little spatula has maintained its grip on the stage of fame. What would we do without them I ask myself? So today I celebrate whoever invented this rubbery (or silicone if you have the latest thing) tool and say, "Thank you!"

Monday, March 21, 2011


Matthew 19:19 (Amplified Bible)

19Honor your father and your mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself

By Belinda

Paul and I are deep into a documentary set: BBC- History of World War 11 which is really a compilation of many documentaries put together over the years and related only by the overarching topic of the war.

The most compelling parts on many levels are the interviews with people, who relate their personal experiences, reliving the traumatic events as though they happened just yesterday. I am captured and deeply moved by these eye witness accounts; grateful that someone did the amazing  work of  recording this living history before it was lost. The interviews with veteran soldiers of all ranks and of all armies: Japanese; German and British are fascinating when you strip away the uniform and see only men who fought, often proud soldiers and skilled in battle, no matter which side they fought on, and having a mutual respect for fellow soldiers who engaged in the art of war.

One dark and ugly theme emerged however, and that was the dehumanization of the "enemy." We heard repeated by soldiers from several armies that they considered a certain nationality or group inferior; "sub-human;" and this was a rationale that enabled them to commit atrocities. The Germans on the Russian front considered the Russians, and before them the Poles, and the Jews; to be inferior, and the Japanese considered the Chinese inferior to their own race when they invaded Manchuria. I dare say there is no nation on earth free from the guilt of this error in which lies the seed of hatred and the excuse for abuse that would seem inexcusable if carried out against one's "own kind." Over and over when the interviewer asked how they could have treated other human beings as they did, seeing them as "less than" they were was what made it easy.

I found myself thinking of the verse in the book of Matthew about loving your neighbour as you do yourself, and wondering...does it mean that in our neighbour we need to look for our own face? If we did, how could we look down on or despise anyone?

 Prejudging--I've done it  (a word linked to prejudice,) but I find myself surprised, enriched and humbled whenever I truly listen to another human being with the only agenda being to know them.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


By Belinda

Robins hop in the street and we feel ridiculously excited; mud puddles shrink smaller every day; the sterile, black-brown of winter tree bark gives way to the faintest flush of green and pink life--as if a resuscitation is under way! Another long Canadian winter-kingdom of icy cold yields to the irrepressible, insistent usurper: Spring!

Spring: the emblem of of Hope When All Seems Lost; when a vision is sealed in a stone cold tomb and dead. Spring is a reminder to trust in certainties based on trust not evidence; to trust in a promise.

The endless cycle of the seasons replicates the cycles of life and carries a message of hope and faith.

Each fall I can't help it, I mourn for summer too quickly gone like an insatiable lover for her beloved. August comes and the first tinges of scarlet and gold in trees that still shimmer greenly lush in summer heat. "Too soon!" cries my heart.

I grieve the passing year as the cars come down the highway from cottage country, weighted down with canoes strapped tightly and piled high with sleeping bags, pillows and bags of belongings headed for the city again.

In the blazing beauty of a Canadian fall there is sadness in the pungent scent of decay and the funeral pyre smoke rising from a thousand backyard bonfires.

In the deep of a long Canadian winter, when the ground is frozen many feet deep, it is hard to comprehend that life will burst from that stone cold death, and yet...every year we get to witness a miracle as tiny insects begin to creep and crawl from the earth and green burgeons relentlessly.

There are so many winters. The long silent years between the biblical books of Malachi and Matthew--400 years more or less. How interesting that Malachi ends with a promise:
1-3 "Count on it: The day is coming, raging like a forest fire. All the arrogant people who do evil things will be burned up like stove wood, burned to a crisp, nothing left but scorched earth and ash— a black day. But for you, sunrise! The sun of righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings. You will be bursting with energy, like colts frisky and frolicking. And you'll tromp on the wicked. They'll be nothing but ashes under your feet on that Day." God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so. (Malachi 4:1, The Message)

 The book of Matthew begins the four gospels with the fulfilment of a promise; the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

The book of Acts and the epistles start with another promise:
7-8He told them, "You don't get to know the time. Timing is the Father's business. What you'll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world."
 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 1:8-11, The Message)
And of course, the final words of the final book in the Bible, the book of Revelation, ends with these words: yes, another promise:

Revelation 22:20-21 (New International Version, ©2011)
 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”   Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen
In spite of the cold death of winter we believe in spring because we have seen it come year after year.

I believe in the promises of God because when I read the Bible I see prophesies already fulfilled in such numbers and exactness that I wonder that the National Enquirer hasn't caught on. And I therefore know that the prophesies for the future will be certainly fulfilled. In fact I believe that prophecy is really telling what has already gone before but has yet to be lived in time.

In the winter of our own dead dreams, our seasons of loss and grieving; God is at work as surely as he is at work in the cold winter season. He is creating the material of spring to come.

And he is the God of Promises never Broken.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Running; friend what are you running from?Running; friend where are you running to?
Will you ever know real peace? 
Friend why don't you turn and stop your 
Psalm 139:7-12 (Amplified Bible)
7Where could I go from Your Spirit? Or where could I flee from Your presence?
    8If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.(A)    9If I take the wings of the morning or dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    10Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.
    11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me and the night shall be [the only] light about me,
    12Even the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.(B)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Our Friends in Israel

By Belinda

We cherish so many happy memories of our time in Israel, where we met some wonderful people, especially Danny, our guide. He served as a sergeant major in an elite parachute regiment with the Israeli army; is a veteran of three wars, and as he strode out ahead of us, leading the way over hills and ruins, I often felt as though I was in boot camp. Lots of great exercise. :)

His knowledge of history was incredible and trying to absorb and I struggled to remember everything he told us, but failed! I am sure I caught only a tiny fraction, but I was so grateful for all that he poured into us during the time we spent with him. From the moment he met us at the airport with Mottie (Mordecai) our driver, he devoted almost all of his waking hours for 8 days to making our trip amazing.

Olga works in the office at Yaffa Tours and made all of the arrangements for our tour. She came along with us on the final days we spent in Jerusalem, just being present, making sure everything was as it should be and finally going with us to the airport and facilitating our way through the intense security procedures as fast as possible. She was a lovely, gracious woman, originally from Russia, married to a professor.

One of the fascinating bits of information Danny gave us concerned the catch of 153 fish recorded in the last chapter of the gospel of John.

He told us that numbers are always significant in scripture, which makes sense, otherwise why would the number of exactly "153" fish be mentioned?

He showed us on a white board, the numerical value of the words Elohim Ani--or God am I. This was one of the times I struggled to catch all that he said, but I had my camera handy so I took a photo of the board as it came around the bus.

Did God convey a message in the number of fish?

Danny told us he was a "non-religious" Jew. It was hard to understand how someone could work amongst the physical evidence of God's hand at work in the history of Israel and yet not be as profoundly affected as we were by being there. When I asked him what it all meant to him he said, "History," and he said he was too much of a sinner to be religious, although he loved watching how other people responded to being there. It's a good thing knowing God doesn't depend on not being a sinner, but only God can show a person that. We've been praying every morning since we got home for our friends in Israel.

I'm sure that we will soon be forgotten by these people that made their land come alive for us in such a wonderful way, but I will never forget them.

John 21:7-14 (The Message)

7-9Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, "It's the Master!"
   When Simon Peter realized that it was the Master, he threw on some clothes, for he was stripped for work, and dove into the sea. The other disciples came in by boat for they weren't far from land, a hundred yards or so, pulling along the net full of fish. When they got out of the boat, they saw a fire laid, with fish and bread cooking on it.
 10-11Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish you've just caught." Simon Peter joined them and pulled the net to shore—153 big fish! And even with all those fish, the net didn't rip.
 12Jesus said, "Breakfast is ready." Not one of the disciples dared ask, "Who are you?" They knew it was the  Master.
 13-14Jesus then took the bread and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. This was now the third time  Jesus had shown himself alive to the disciples since being raised from the dead.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Maybe I'm a Chicken but I'm Happy

By Belinda

After defrosting the windows of my car, I left the house at 6.30 a.m.; an earlier start this morning. I relished the sense of being among the first out and about in the early morning quiet before the day really got humming.

I was doing a bit of running about, "helping" (and I really use that term very loosely) set up a computer lab for some training.
A stockily built man hurried towards the Go Station, a bag strapped across his chest, head down, eyes still groggy. A woman coming down the road behind him yawned as she headed in the same direction.

 A man at a bus stop clutched a paper cup with coffee and a bagel wrapped in waxed paper--the morning survival kit.

A pink flush spread across the pale blue morning sky as the dusky dawn gave way to daylight and I noticed palm trees silhouetted against the sky--the plastic palm trees of the Palm Springs Car Wash. I have seen real palm trees recently--and the Bradford car wash palm trees were a spidery imitation of those lush and bushy trees!

My mind was back in Israel at the Dead Sea, thinking of how many times I have been asked the question since I got back, "Well, did you do it? Did you float in the Dead Sea?"

I went into the change rooms and after a brief surprise that they were communal, changed--trying to avoid seeing other people's naked bodies and feeling slightly like Mr. Bean in his skit where he changes on the beach.

I gingerly picked my way down to the beach on a path of sharp stones, thinking that I should have rented rubber sandals back at the change rooms.

Down at the shore, lined with the thick mud that is so reputed to be healthy and which some nearby women were enthusiastically daubing over their bodies so that they looked like African tribeswomen, I tried the water with my feet and decided that enough of me had been "in" the Dead Sea!
This was a disappointment to Paul, who seemed very invested in me actually floating in the water. "You can't come all this way and then not go in," he said reproachfully.

"Whose vacation is this?" I asked, "Shouldn't it be me who decides if I want to go in?" 

I had no desire to soak myself in salty water which would have to be rinsed off under a cold water shower and then have to peel out of a wet bathing suit in a room of shivering nakedness. 

I knew that I would have much more fun watching other people who actually wanted to be in the water having fun and floating, and recording that in photos for them. So that is what I did--and had a wonderful time doing so!

This is Esther, popping up above the water! And just below is Pastor Dave, thoroughly enjoying the experience of weightlessness and inability to sink.

And if I seem like a chicken--I'm good with that! :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Sight

By Belinda

The Teacher clears earth grime from the lenses of my eyes and helps me to see more clearly.

He reshapes; re-forms, my heart. If he didn't do this simultaneously with the revelation I would despair.

Puffed up pride on one hand and disdain on the other--twin sister smirches on character. No one could have told me it was so. I would have denied it; would not have seen it. But, ah, that gentle Teacher, Holy Spirit; Revealer and Counsellor--he showed me and I can never be ignorant again of that propensity in me.

Now, humility borne of truth; insight. Awareness of my smallness and true significance--not less than, but not greater than. Repentance and regret that I was blind to such a (now) glaring heart shadow; that it took so long to see.

Mostly I am grateful to God, who loved me as I was, loves me as I am, and as I will be and who is in intimate relationship with me, caring to reveal, caring to change, and always in love.

Psalm 119:103-104 (Amplified Bible)
103How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!(A)    104Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Piece of My Heart

By Belinda

Tonight I checked an email account I don't use much and there was an email from my cousin Deb who lives in Spain. It was sent February 17 and included a link to the beautiful song by Ofra Haza, Yerushalaim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem, City of Gold.)

The evocative song tugged at my heart, which is missing a piece, left behind in Jerusalem; this beautiful city of soft gold and copper.

This is razor wire, meant as an unforgiving barrier to keep one people from another. I saw the shape of hearts in the wire and could not resist the irony.

This was one of our first views of Jerusalem--the Eastern Gate. Two faiths await the arrival of Yeshuah (Messiah) at this gate; the Prince of Peace. Ezekiel prophesied about the gate being shut in 600 B.C.

 1 Then the man brought me back to the outside gate complex of the Sanctuary that faces east. But it was shut.
 2-3 God spoke to me: "This gate is shut and it's to stay shut. No one is to go through it because God, the God of Israel, has gone through it. It stays shut. Only the prince, because he's the prince, may sit there to eat in the presence of God. He is to enter the gate complex through the porch and leave by the same way." (Ezekiel 44:1-2, The Message

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Posted by Picasa These are the southern steps to the the temple, with the Mount of Olives facing the Eastern Gate, in the distance.

The steps are staggered in width, with two short and then one long. A young Israeli woman showed us a 3 D presentation on the temple as it was before its destruction by the Romans in A.D.70, and explained that the reason for the staggered steps was to cause those ascending them to pause on the longer steps and reflect, and to approach the temple with due reverence:
The risers on the steps are low, between seven and ten inches, and the treads vary between twelve and thirty-five inches; this irregularity forces a person to adopt an slow and deliberate gate when using the staircase, as if in a procession. The Jerusalem Temple and the New Testament )
It makes me think of the word "selah" which appears in the book of Psalms and Habakkuk 3. Some believe the word is a musical direction to the singers or instrumentalists to pause or take a breath. The Amplified Bible adds  “pause and calmly think about that” where ever the word appears--an invitation to slow down and consider God, just like the steps.

As we come together to worship tomorrow, although the steps to our churches may be uniform, or maybe you'll be riding up a ramp; may our hearts be slowed down to Sabbath speed and be uncluttered, worshipful, and open.

Happy Sabbath! Or as we heard in Israel, Shabbat Shalom!

Psalm 66:4 (Amplified Bible)

4All the earth shall bow down to You and sing [praises] to You; they shall praise Your name in song. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

Friday, March 11, 2011

One Time Blind

Note from Belinda

My work buddy Frank and I were talking this morning and he mentioned One Time Blind. I had never heard of One Time Blind, so he showed me this skit, which was relevant to our discussion at the time. I just had to share it here. Loved it--and there are more if you Google One Time Blind!

The Power of One

Fridays with Susan...

I was tired beyond words.  It was Friday and I should have been anticipating the 5 o'clock horn and a restful weekend at home.  But that was not to be.  I had been there since 7:30 that morning, dealing with a relentless onslaught of challenges and problems.  It was somewhere around noon that I found out I wouldn't be going home for supper with my family, but I would be staying until at least 10:00 o'clock that night, and probably later.  Even with me doing a double shift - split between administrative duties for the first half of the day and then spending the late afternoon and evening hours working directly with the energetic young people our team supports, we would still be understaffed.  Even in the best of circumstances that meant working really hard, but this week we were faced with a very unusual set of circumstances which had taxed every member of the team to the limit.  I knew I would be having to lean unfairly into my hard-working and deeply caring teammate, Doreen.  Because of the nature of our challenges that day, she would be carrying two-thirds of the workload and responsibility (twice what would normally have been expected) while I took the easier load.  Even then, I was so tired from a week fraught with unexpected and unbelievable challenges that I didn't know how I was going to do it.  I was struggling hard with my attitude.  I couldn't stop the downward spiral of feelings.  It wasn't even close to the first time that week that I had to work hard not to give in to tears.

I can't remember if I called Belinda, or she called me, but I will never forget her words.  "What can I do?  Would it help if I came there?"  Most of you know that Belinda is not only a dear friend, but she is also my direct supervisor at work.  Working together so closely comes with its own special set of challenges by times, but it also comes with great blessing.  There is no-one I have more respect for in the field we work in and no-one I would rather look to for leadership.

I mumbled something back about how her presence would be helpful - even if she were able to serve up dinner on the plates and change the loads of laundry over as needed.  She said, "I'll be there as soon as my meeting is over today."  Even while we were making arrangements about when to expect her and what she would be bringing, I didn't quite believe my ears.  Help was on the way.

She arrived late that afternoon with coffee and herbal tea - some for the young people who live there and some for the staff who provide support.  She found a place to hang her coat and tuck away her purse.  Then she set right in to work alongside Doreen and I doing whatever she could to help.  Because she was unfamiliar with the how things are particularly done in that program,  we started firing off orders  and directions.  She took it like a real trooper.  The positive energy level in the program rose immediately and stayed until long after she left around 10:30 that night.  She came to us after an already long day of meetings with colleagues and stayed until she must have been ready to drop.

There were many kind and encouraging words which were directed our way that evening but the one thing I have heard repeated over and over again this week was simply that she had said, "This was a real eye-opener.  I can't believe how hard this team works."  She was letting us know that she "gets" it.

I suppose I could write for an hour or two about how far-reaching - and lasting - are the effects of that kind of leadership.  For instance, I felt my own attitude lift and the negativity subside.  It wasn't just a temporary feeling, either.  A full week later I am still valuing the efforts of my team more, and criticizing less.  And it didn't stop there.  The entire team, as they learned one-by-one of Belinda's willingness to come alongside and physically, literally share our burden, all of us experienced a sense of being valued in a way that could never have come through words spoken over a telephone or written in an email.  The power of her message lay in her decision to step into our hour of need and become one of us.  She identified with us.

Hmmm. When Jesus came to earth, didn't he do just that?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Forever Changed

By Belinda

Susan was right when I left for Israel and she began to call me her, "Friend who would never be the same."

One significant impact of going to Israel was that reading scripture will never be the same. Reading about places I have seen, or have a context for is like seeing a movie in vivid colour and 3 D or Imax, when all you have experienced before is black and white silent movies. I can "see" the events I am reading about now and they seem so real and alive.

I realize what a great privilege it was to go to Israel and I have felt compelled to share the blessing of my experience with others here (encouraged, friends, by those of you who wanted to hear all about it.) My prayer too, is that none of what I experienced would be wasted. To be drenched in so much history and such a rich culture, not to mention the spiritual significance, was not to be forgotten but to be unwrapped one gift at a time and deeply treasured. I am sure I will be unwrapping for some time to come!

This morning I received one such gift; let me share.

Upon arrival in Israel we stepped from a plane onto a tour bus. To say we were dazed is an understatement. There was not a moment to be lost of course, but I am afraid that some of it was lost on us that day because we were so tired. I wrote about some of what we saw: about Joppa and Caesarea Maritima, but not about our next stop before reaching our hotel in Tiberias; Mount Carmel.

Our tour bus climbed the mountainous terrain, jostling its load of 28 sleepy passengers who peered groggily out at a landscape that had become dull and rainy. In fact it was the only rainy day of our unseasonably warm and sunny week, but at that point we didn't know it. A chilly wind whipped at our clothing as we climbed to a high vantage point from which we should have seen a wonderful view, that was unfortunately veiled by a rainy mist.

The rest of the week unfolded; a wonderful, crazy, condensed crash course on biblical history--like a magic carpet taking us on a journey into the past--and our hour on Mount Carmel drifted into the recesses of my brain, until this morning.

I happened to reach the story in my reading, of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, so beautifully depicted in the frieze below; one of several illustrating the account written in 1 Kings18:16-45.

It wasn't until I got to verse 45 that I realized the gift God had given us that day. The weather was not an accident but just perfect: God allowed us to see exactly what Elijah saw:
 45-46 Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab's chariot until they reached Jezreel. (1 Kings 18:45, The Message)

The account of Elijah the prophet inspires me now more than ever before--this man who stood for God in a pagan culture and whose faith was uncompromising so that he dared to trust God completely and put everything on the line. No safety nets; no plan B. And James tells us an astounding thing. Elijah was "a human being with a nature such as we have." This story was not about a powerful man, but a powerful God. The God whose power is available to us as it was to Elijah. Do I dare to believe? Do I dare to trust as he did? I stood on his mount, I saw the rain, felt the wind. I know his God.

James 5:16-18 (Amplified Bible)
16Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
    17Elijah was a human being with a nature such as we have [with feelings, affections, and a constitution like ours]; and he prayed earnestly for it not to rain, and no rain fell on the earth for three years and six months. [I Kings 17:1.]
    18And [then] he prayed again and the heavens supplied rain and the land produced its crops [as usual]. [I Kings 18:42-45.]

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Food!

By Belinda

Tonight I thought I'd write about the food in Israel, which I loved! Paul did not love it and to all who know Paul this is not a surprise. He lost 5 pounds while there.:)

Being accustomed in Canada to bi-lingual packaging (French and English,) it was mystifying to find the little packages of beverages in our hotel room and know only that it was Classic "????" I shook the packages and could guess which ones held instant coffee and which held a tea bag, but what kind of tea bag? I boiled water and adventurously opened the packages one by one, not knowing what treat the message on the package was advertising.

In the hotel restaurants, there was an array of various coffees, tea, and cold drinks. in the morning, but in the evening no coffee or tea! This was an adjustment to those of us addicted to a hot drink with a meal.

At sundown on the eve of Sabbath, or Shabbat, everything stops and as much as possible, even in hotels, it is "do it yourself," or not at all. At breakfast on the Sabbath, coffee is instant! No coffee pots working that day.

Our breakfast and supper meals were part of the package deal with the hotels, but lunch was on our own. Often when we stopped for lunch on  the tour, we had the choice of several options recommended by our tour guide. We enjoyed falafels, lots of salads and hummus and pita sandwiches.

This meal; chicken schnitzel, may not have been strictly Middle Eastern cuisine, but it was delicious, with the chicken coated with a thin crispy fried crust, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Everywhere the markets had an abundance of Jaffa oranges and pomegranates that could be made into fresh juice on the spot.

This was breakfast one day: smoked herring, sardines, a delicious cheese,  yogurt and bread.

Breakfast buffets contained vegetables and salad, fruit salad, lots of fish, cheese, breads, bagels, hummus, honey and sweet loaves.

Supper buffets had couscous, rice or potatoes and an abundance of salad, roasted vegetables: eggplant, peppers, mushrooms and several choices of entrees. Being a vegetable lover I often was happy to pile on the vegetables and a little rice or couscous.

Dessert at supper time was a choice of sweet loaves/cakes; fruit salad or yogurt. And date honey was a sweet treat, made by crushing dates and extracting the juice in a thick sweet paste. Delicious on yogurt or oatmeal!

We walked for miles each day, making it easy to enjoy the food without paying for it in pounds and inches. We snacked on granola bars and almonds that we had brought with us from home. I had a big bag of left over almonds in my luggage going home and when I told the security customs officer who opened my case that I had brought them from Canada to eat in Israel, she politely told me, "We have these in our country."

I loved the Middle Eastern diet. This is one of my personal favourite recipes, shared by a friend. It is delicious.

Morrocan Vegetable Ragout

I haven't worked out the calories per serving of this recipe, but I don't think it's very high. The only ingredients with much in the way of calories are chickpeas and raisins, and it's not as though there are large quantities of them in each serving. There is virtually no fat except 1 tbsp oil and some in the chickpeas. Bulgur wheat provides the fibre. This really is yummy. Although it originated as a vegetarian dish, I add cubed, cooked chicken.
1 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1.5 tsp coriander powder
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
.5 tsp ginger
.25 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cups cubed, peeled yams
2.5 cups water
1 can (19 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (14 oz.) stewed tomatoes
1 cup bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
.5 cup raisins
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In Dutch oven, saute onion in oil until tender and golden (7-10 min.). Add the seasonings and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add yams, water, chickpeas, tomatoes, wheat, raisins (and cubed chicken if using). Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stiring occasionally, until yams and wheat are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, about 25-30 minutes. (I do it in a slow cooker for a few hours.) Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Audrey Dorsch

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sunday, March 06, 2011

A Perfect Sabbath

By Belinda

A golden smile in the form of a crescent moon; hung in a deep night blue sky,  as I drove north to visit a friend in the hospital.

I had left behind the debris of a perfect day in my kitchen. One load of dishes were swooshing in the dishwasher while the next load piled the counter.

I left behind a house that looked well used. There were crumbs on the floor and a pair of sponge giant feet abandoned in the den; enough disarray to signal life.

As the tires covered kilometres my mind recounted moments of a day passed well.

Morning communion with a beloved church family.

Return to a home filled with tantalizing aromas of a meal almost ready.

A family gathered around two tables--twelve of us.

Tales of our recent travels shared with ready ears eager to hear every detail.

Then a ritual request from two youngest grandchildren: "Omie, can we have some bubbles?"

And two bowls of dish soap bubbles, keep two children happy for more than an hour. They laugh as they stir and spoon them from bowl to bowl and I wonder how it is that the simplest things never grow old.

Because I shook them up in an empty ice cream container, Little One Who Notices Everything said, "Omie it's good that you are re-using. We're learning about that at school."

And "Are you going to keep that to make bubbles?"

And now it sits, not in my blue box, where it was headed, but up on a shelf, waiting for the next time it's needed.

Such a perfect Sabbath. And I am so grateful.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Communion in Jerusalem

By Belinda

Tomorrow we will be celebrating communion at our little country church, and I will be thinking back to a week ago on Friday, when, led by our pastors, we celebrated communion in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.

The garden is one of the possible sites of the empty tomb and the evidence for this being the site is compelling. Don Weglo, a retired veteran broadcaster with Kiss FM Vernon BC, Canada, was our guide.

He is in Jersualem, volunteering with his wife, for 3 months at the Garden Tomb. I thought how wonderful that would be! You can find out more about the Garden Tomb at the website

Don pointed out what looks like a skull in the rock face Golgotha—Skull Hill . Although the crucifixion is usually depicted on top of a hill, the Bible just says that it was at a place called Skull Hill. Don told us that it would most likely have been at the base of the hill, which was at a crossroads, where executions were done to make an example of the criminals to passers by.

This is my photograph of the image of a skull in the rock face.
Next, we lined up for our turn to go inside the tomb.

Don told us to be sure to turn around and see the sign on the inside: HE IS NOT HERE FOR HE IS RISEN.

 This could really be the place that the body of Jesus had lain and yet there was not really time to process that because others were waiting outside to file through.

We found the spot in the garden that had been reserved just for us. Around us other groups of believers were singing and worshipping in many languages but they faded into the background as our pastor laid out the elements for our communion service and Pastor Wayne read the familiar passage from scripture, where Jesus broke the bread at the last supper and said that it was his body, broken for us. 

As we listened to the recording made by our worship team at church Paul and Elwood served us communion; the juice in little olive wood cups that pastor bought at the garden and which we all kept.

The air grew chilly as the sun went down, but surrounded by songs of worship and the sense of holiness and peace in that place, our hearts were bound together in the warmth of God's love.

 1-4 After the Sabbath, as the first light of the new week dawned, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to keep vigil at the tomb. Suddenly the earth reeled and rocked under their feet as God's angel came down from heaven, came right up to where they were standing. He rolled back the stone and then sat on it. Shafts of lightning blazed from him. His garments shimmered snow-white. The guards at the tomb were scared to death. They were so frightened, they couldn't move.
 5-6The angel spoke to the women: "There is nothing to fear here. I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.
 7"Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.' That's the message." (Matthew 28:1-7, The Message)

Thursday, March 03, 2011


Fridays with Susan...

I didn't do a post last week because it just didn't feel like I would have anything that would "fit".  I didn't want to take away anything from Belinda's trip and what she was sharing with us.  I would have felt like I was jerking everyone away from what was the ordained theme - from what was truly important.  So I didn't write at all.

But this week I have my own connection to the Holy Land.  In fact, I have an actual piece of it.

While Belinda was walking the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee - the sea that is bounded by the hills that Jesus walked early in the mornings while praying and communing with his father, the sea that ripples with the waves he walked on, the sea whose torrents were calmed at his command - she stooped and picked up a stone.

On Wednesday, when I picked her up to travel a stormy, wintry backroad to a meeting in Barrie, she pulled it out of her purse and handed it to me.  My eyes instantly welled up with tears.

Jesus never changes, but I do.  I don't know about you, but when I can't see him, feel him, touch him, there is something in me that has a tendency to view him almost as a fantasy - a construction of my imagination, I guess.  Instead of a real live, interacting, accessible PERSON who wants to relate WITH me.  I can slip into all I know "about him", leaving behind the reality that he is just that - REAL.

I've been thinking a lot this week about the difference between "the real Jesus" and my "imaginary Jesus".  Thinking about Belinda on a boat in the Sea of Galilee, has been so very helpful in bringing me back to reality, to opening my eyes to look for, and to see the "real" Jesus again...

I took the stone she offered into my hand and squeezed it.  It's real all right.  Even though I knew it would sound a little silly, I said, "This stone could have been touched by Jesus' foot!"

Belinda laughed and said, "It could!"  Considering the number of stones which skirt the Sea of Galilee, it was statistically pretty unlikely.  But I liked the thought and kept it bouncing around in my mind.  A few minutes later it surfaced again...

"If this wasn't the stone that Jesus actually touched..."

"Actually touched..."  Her eyes were twinkling merrily as she interrupted me.

I laughed, because I knew how silly I sounded at the moment, while at the same time knowing that she 'got' me and I was on safe, safe ground.   I continued.  "If this wasn't the stone that Jesus actually touched, well, this stone touched a stone, which touched and stone which touched a stone, which touched a stone, which touched Jesus' feet!"

Her laughter filled the car and warmed my heart.  "That's probably true!" she said.

There's nothing holy about it in and of itself.  Even if Jesus had touched it, it still wouldn't make it any holier than any other stone - he is the Word, after all, and it was by Him that all things were spoken into being - including every single rock and pebble on earth, never mind just the stones that rim the Sea of Galilee.  But having that stone in my pocket, the stone which was picked up from where he physically walked on earth helps me to be grounded in the fact that who was and is and is to come is real, real, real.

"As real as you sitting here beside me in this car,"  I said as I reached over and gave Belinda's forearm a tap for emphasis, "That's how real Jesus is here too.  He's right here in this car with us!"

I have never had any desire to visit "The Holy Land".  I've never felt like it was something that could be profound or life changing or different from visiting any other place. But having now seen it through Belinda's eyes and with her perspective, I can see that it was an incredible privilege and opportunity to experience the sights and sounds and smells first hand.  My perspective has certainly changed.

My gratitude list has to begin with:

1.  Belinda took us with her on that trip to Israel.  I'm grateful for her generous spirit in sharing with us so liberally!
2.  Belinda knows that the simple things are often the greatest treasures, and she brought back a stone from the Sea of Galilee - for me.
3.  That as real as the stone that is now in my pocket, so are God's promises.. He's will never leave me or forsake me.  Ever.  Not on his life.

I am blessed.  I have this stone in my pocket which touched a stone, that touched a stone, that touched a stone...  that maybe, just maybe actually touched the foot of Jesus. Is that cool or what?!

Cultivating Thankfulness

Colossians 3:15 (New International Version, ©2011)

 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
By Belinda

On our trip to Israel I took Ann Voskamp’s book, One Thousand Gifts. As you will know from our itinerary, time for reading was scarce, but the plane journey each way was 11 hours! I  began the discipline of writing down my list of one thousand gifts as soon as I got home.

Last night Tippy and Tori had supper with us as Brenda was late coming home. I couldn't wait to tell them about my little journal. Their eyes sparkled with interest as I shared what it was and told them how Ann came to start her own list of One Thousand Gifts. I read them my list, that began:

1)  Coming "home."
2) A "welcome home" email.
3) Children who return for "one more hug," again and again."...

And I asked them, "Would you like to your own gratitude journals?"

Two heads nodded! I went to my drawer upstairs of future gifts and found two little note books in turquoise and brown with a little flap that folded over to close them magnetically and put them into their waiting hands. They began right away. I made it onto Tippy's list three times: "Great" grandparents: Omie's cooking; Omie's heart of love.

As I chopped and sliced vegetables for our salad, two young heads bowed in concentration, writing down thanksgiving upon thanksgiving until they were out-thanking me.

My number 22: "Two granddaughters, cultivating thankfulness."

Colossians 3:17 (The Message)

 15-17Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. - Having An Attitude Of Gratitude -- Ann Voskamp -- 1/2 - Having An Attitude Of Gratitude -- Ann Voskamp -- 2/2

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Yad Vashem

 Isaiah 56:5 (New International Version, ©2011)
5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
   a memorial and a name
   better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
   that will endure forever.

By Belinda

On a Jerusalem winter Friday morning that was bathed in warmth and sunshine, our group of pilgrims visited Yad Vashem the Holocaust museum.

Yad Vashem means "a place and a name" or "a monument and a memorial": Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future.

I, who grew up in the shadow of a war fought and ended five years before my birth and who has lived haunted by what I know of my parents' experiences during it, wanted to see the museum, but I was unprepared for the deep emotional impact it would have.

First we went through the Children's Memorial.At the entrance is sculpted a smiling child's face.

We left the bright sunshine of the present behind and entered a dark cavernous space with memorial candles reflected infinitely through mirrors, and representing the one and a half million children who died in the Holocaust. 

The children's names, countries and ages are read out in an endless list; so many that it takes many years before a name is repeated. 

Holding a handrail we filed through in the dark; the silence broken only by the names of children. The simplicity of this packs an emotional punch.

My tears began at the smiling face of the child, so incongruous; and fell steadily as I slowly walked through the memorial. I groped in my pocket for a tissue and the one that I found was sodden with tears by the time I came to the end. I have six grandchildren, whose ages span 8 years, and as children of their ages were named, my heart broke; over and over it broke.

And I learned of a hero I hadn't known of: Janusz Korczak; a Polish born Jewish doctor, whose ideas and writings were radical at the time in terms of how children should be treated. 

He chose to devote his life to the care of the many orphaned children that wandered the streets and created a place of love and security for them in his orphanage.

The time came on August 5, 1942, for the 192 children in his care, to be taken by the Nazi's to what he knew was their death. He was offered personal exemption, maybe because of his celebrity as a writer, or maybe someone had paid a bribe for his freedom. But he refused to leave, saying, "You do not abandon children in the moment of their greatest need." 

And he dressed them in their Sunday best and went with them.

Eyewitness Joshua Perle described the scene:

A miracle occurred. Two hundred children did not cry. Two hundred pure souls, condemned to death, did not weep. Not one of them ran away. None tried to hide. Like stricken swallows they clung to their teacher and mentor, to their father and brother, Janusz Korczak, so that he might protect and preserve them. On all sides the children were surrounded by Germans, Ukrainians, and this time also Jewish policemen. They whipped and fired shots at them. The very stones of the street wept at the sight of the procession. 

Wikipedia also has information on Janusz Korczak:

Korczak's evacuation from the Ghetto is also mentioned in Władysław Szpilman's book The Pianist:
One day, around 5th August, when I had taken a brief rest from work and was walking down Gęsia Street, I happened to see Janusz Korczak and his orphans leaving the ghetto. The evacuation of the Jewish orphanage run by Janusz Korczak had been ordered for that morning. The children were to have been taken away alone. He had the chance to save himself, and it was only with difficulty that he persuaded the Germans to take him too. He had spent long years of his life with children and now, on this last journey, he could not leave them alone. He wanted to ease things for them. He told the orphans they were going out in to the country, so they ought to be cheerful. At last they would be able to exchange the horrible suffocating city walls for meadows of flowers, streams where they could bathe, woods full of berries and mushrooms. He told them to wear their best clothes, and so they came out into the yard, two by two, nicely dressed and in a happy mood. The little column was led by an SS man who loved children, as Germans do, even those he was about to see on their way into the next world. He took a special liking to a boy of twelve, a violinist who had his instrument under his arm. The SS man told him to go to the head of the procession of children and play – and so they set off. When I met them in Gęsia Street, the smiling children were singing in chorus, the little violinist was playing for them and Korczak was carrying two of the smallest infants, who were beaming too, and telling them some amusing story. I am sure that even in the gas chamber, as the Zyklon B gas was stifling childish throats and striking terror instead of hope into the orphans' hearts, the Old Doctor must have whispered with one last effort, ‘it's all right, children, it will be all right’. So that at least he could spare his little charges the fear of passing from life to death."[3] 
Some time after, there were rumors that the trains had been diverted and that Korczak and the children had survived. There was, however, no basis to these stories. Most likely, Korczak, along with Wilczyńska and most of the children, was killed in a gas chamber upon their arrival at Treblinka. There is a cenotaph for him at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.
The visit to the Holocaust museum was deeply moving too, with a series of audio visual presentations documenting the rise of Nazism and the rise over two decades, of Anti-Semitism. We must never forget that such insanity is possible and be prepared to speak out against it when and if we hear it raised again..

Video about Christians and the holocaust