Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Living on Grace and Gratitude

By Belinda

It's a year since I wrote about my mother in law in a post titled: Celebrating Someone Special She was turning 84 then.

On June 2nd she will be 85. This photo, with Paul, her middle son, was taken four years ago when he turned 60.

I was at a meeting this afternoon when my cell phone rang. When I heard my daughter-in-law Sue's worried voice on the other end I left the animated group of people deep into planning a course curriculum and found a quiet place to listen. My sister-in-law had been trying to reach us, but Sue didn't know why. A call to my answering machine at home gave the reason. I found a message there from Wendy saying that something had happened to Paul's mom--a stroke she thought-- and she was in hospital in the city of Barrie.

I quickly called Sue back and then went back into the board room and gathered up my laptop and briefcase with a quiet and hurried explanation to those who were reading worry on my face. Whispered promises of "We'll be praying," followed me out of the room as I left to drive the 70 km north to Barrie, calling Paul, Peter and Brenda on the way to the car.

Within an hour the city of Toronto was far behind me and I was passing the interchanges of Barrie. My boss had called while I was en route. He quickly promised that the office in Huntsville would be praying too.

As I pulled into the parking lot of the ultra-modern new hospital, I met sisters in law, a niece and several nephews on their way in too, and Paul was already there.

We were pointed to "Trauma 2" in the emergency department, with the admonition that only two visitors at a time would be allowed. And there we found her, smiling, cheerful, able to talk although her speech was slightly slurred; her right side paralysed, but happy that it was that side, because she is left handed.

We spent the next several hours rotating through the room, while a swallowing assessment was done and a bed was prepared; listening to the story of what happened.

It was mid morning when she had decided to go to her bedroom to check the computer and see if I had posted a new blog post--my almost 85 year old modern-mother-in-law! :) She felt unwell and had a feeling that she might be having a stroke. She sat down on the computer chair with wheels and pushed herself with the leg that still worked, to the computer, where she tried to reach Paul on Skype. He had just left for a meeting and wasn't in his office. She tried her grandson Tim next, who was downstairs. He didn't answer her Skype call either. He was asleep with the computer turned off.

Mum banged loudly enough to wake Tim up. When he came upstairs he saw that something was terribly wrong, and he called 911 even though she was protesting not to.

Mum's 85th birthday celebration will be in hospital but she is here and with us. We gathered around her bed before leaving and prayed our thanks.

Over forty years ago both of our mums used to sit together after church and talk about us (Paul and I) and how they hoped that one day we would get together. And we did, eventually!

And now we pray our thanks each morning that we still both have our mothers. We know that since they are both 85 this year, each day is a gift. We are living on grace and gratitude.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Epic Leadership

By Belinda

Epic (genre), stories depicting a series of heroic feats--according to Wikipedia.


Stories of heroism inspire me; so do virtues such as courage and sacrifice. In fact, my friend Susan, who knows me well, once gave me The Book of Virtues: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories to take with me on a plane journey. Although it is a children's book, I love it.

At the same time as working on the practical elements within in our control in situations that can be described as difficult--there is a critical power to be harnessed with great potential to bring positive change; the power of story.

I'm talking about the story people tell themselves. If that story can change, there is nothing that can defeat us. It may be true that the words "tough," "difficult," and  "stressful," are apt, but if we rise above those words and change our descriptors we can change our experience of the situation. We can soar instead of sink--and I believe that this change can even alter the outcome of situations.

There are times when we must look beyond the surface evidence, through eyes of faith, to see what God can make of the messes we find ourselves in. The Bible is replete with examples such as that of Elisha, who prayed for his servant that the Lord would open his eyes when he despaired of attack by an enemy and he saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire.

So an element of leadership, especially spiritual leadership, is being able to "see," and to inspire others to a vision beyond what seems to be.

Think about the story of Deborah in the book of Judges 5. What an inspirational story that is. And read verses 10&11--I think they are about "story:"

10-11 You who ride on prize donkeys comfortably mounted on blankets
   And you who walk down the roads,
      ponder, attend!
   Gather at the town well
      and listen to them sing,
   Chanting the tale of God's victories,
      his victories accomplished in Israel.
    Then the people of God      went down to the city gates. (Judges 5:11, The Message)

Our culture knows this principle and put to use without God it will still have a positive effect because truth is truth. But it is a spiritual principle first and foremost. There is an unseen world and there is a spiritual battle behind every physical battle. Our job as leaders is to hold this truth up; impart stories that inspire and demonstrate Epic Leadership.
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
   propose your plan, but it will not stand,
   for God is with us. (Isaiah 8:10, New International Version)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Story Continues...

By Belinda

Readers may remember several posts I wrote last year about the tragic death of a  police officer who was a family friend during his teenage years (see Remembering Vu Pham )

I also wrote about his partner, Constable Dell Mercey, in this post: A Life with a Purpose

One of our cell group members, Jane, who is a chaplain with the Toronto police force told me that at the end of March this year, Constable Mercey was named Trooper of the Year, an international award, for his bravery on that day, which he has never spoken about publicly until this interview with The Toronto Sun

The story continues...

The Word

By Belinda

 12-13God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it—no matter what. (Hebrews 4:12, The Message)

This is just a note to share a verse that I read this morning. In Hebrews we read of the power that is in God's Word (see verse above,) and how true it is that a simple verse that we may have read many times before and just passed over it, can suddenly shine out at us as though in living technicolour on a page of black print on white paper.

The verse that touched me this morning was the text for today in My Utmost for His Highest, but it had nothing to do with the point that Oswald Chambers was making in the devotional he used the text for, which was on prayer.

When I read the verse from John this morning, I was moved to tears. His love washed over me as I thought of Jesus saying these words to the twelve rugged men he was leading and preparing to leave.

 I share it here because perhaps someone else may need to read it today.

John 16:27
For the Father Himself LOVES YOU 


because you have loved me 


and have believed 


that I came from God.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Presents! :)

By Belinda
Today I received two perfect yet very different gifts.

It was at the end of cell group and our big hallway was crowded with people putting on coats and gathering up books while holding conversations oblivious to the others going on all around at once as they readied themselves to go out into the dark, rainy night.

Jamie said, "I bought you a small gift," and ran out to his car to fetch it.

A few minutes later he came back in with a big Benix bag and inside was something weighty. The mysterious bag contained a rolling pin!

And not just any rolling pin. This one has specially weighted handles so that they stay in the right position--and the surface is non stick.

I cannot wait for Saturday when I think I will be making rhubarb pies and can try it out. I smiled and smiled at the unexpected gift.

It must have been the day for gifts to shower down like the rain beacause this morning Susan and I were at a training session where our friends Dave and Joe were manning the registration table

.Dave is a friend who delights in giving  perfect gifts. He said that he had one each for Susan and I.

Susan's was shortbread in a kilt shaped tin of Royal Stuart tartan. Perfect!

Then Dave asked me to close my eyes and hold out my arm. Obediently I did, feeling slightly sheepish as the crowds were gathering for registration and were already eyeing Susan's shortbread enviously.
I felt something clamp onto my wrist with the sensation of a handcuff! I looked--and this is what it was--a beautiful blingy bracelet--which I knew immediately symbolized  Dave's knickname for me when he isn't calling me "Kiddo." I am "Blog Princess!" :)

This was a day full of friends bearing gifts that brought a smile to my heart.

And if I do start to feel a bit like Cinderella in the kitchen with my rolling pin, I will put my feet up and put on my Princess Bracelet, have a cup of tea---and await Prince Paul.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Practice Pies

By Belinda

I had the idea a few days ago. Instead of buying a gift for their teachers at the end of the school year, I asked Tippy and Tori if they would like to give their teachers each a pie baked entirely by them. Their eyes danced "Yes!"

Of course first there would be the baking of practice pies.

"When??" they wanted to know!

So we planned the practice for the very next evening--why wait?

I was home for only a few minutes and preparing a quick bite to eat when I heard their footsteps on the stairs. They had not forgotten!

I explained that three kinds of apples go into the pies and in what proportions and then first began the pastry making, involving measuring, cracking eggs, the explanation of so many things that I do automatically but found myself struggling to articulate.

I sounded like a stranger to the English language as I demonstrated, explained, coached and encouraged. They didn't seem to mind my inadequacy as a teacher.

They did remarkably well. It was hard work: measuring ingredients; making pastry; peeling and slicing a pile of apples; learning the art of rolling out pastry.

By the end, Tori was flagging visibly. I recognised the same exhaustion on her face that I saw when I taught her to knit and she had had enough. But she persevered and didn't give up.

I could tell by the feel of the pastry that it was excellent. I was amazed at how well they did and poured on the well deserved praise.

Tippy surprised me with her gracious response, "We had a good teacher." Oh, she is growing up and growing kind.:)















Tori's pie is above and Tippy's pie on the right. The pies are as flaky as the best pie I have baked!

I told the girls they too good to be called practice pies.
They were justifiably proud of their beautiful pies. My legacy is in good hands!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Heart Cry

By Belinda

We sat across the table of a coffee shop, two old and dear friends, Susan and I.

Heart to heart we poured out our passion and prayers and remembered one whose voice called a generation to Christ--the late Keith Green. In this song, across the three decades since he sang this, the message still resonates.

Faith That Hurts, Faith That Heals

A friend and member of our writers group, Magda Wills, wrote yesterday in follow up to Dave's post, to say, "Years ago when the movie Left Behind came out I reacted with a strong determination never to see a film that induces fear. Around the same time our Canadian Chapter of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW) hosted a seminar on the topic of spiritual abuse. I wrote down my story which was published in the NACSW newsletter The Catalyst. When I read your blog this morning  with David's personal story I felt moved and called to share my own rapture story on the eve of Hurricane Hazel, the storm of the 20th century in Ontario." (Thank you for sharing with us Magda~ Belinda)

By Magda Wills

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not yet fully formed in love.   (I John 4, The Message)

The little girl pressed her nose to the window, tears streaming down her face as she watched the worst storm of the century raging outside. She had come home from school with her brother to find her parents were not there. She was frightened and felt isolated in the big house in rural Ontario with no adults around. She missed the comfort of her old home back in Holland where her grandmother had lived with them. She had always felt so secure there.

At first the fear was for her parents safety, but as darkness set in and the storm raged on, a new terror struck her. What had happened to her parents and baby sister? She remembered the sermon in church when the minister provided a rather graphic account of the last days. He had told children in the congregation that during the rapture naughty children would be running around looking for parents whom God had taken up to heaven. The minister had described the end of time as a horrific storm with thunder and lightening. As the memories of this sermon came to mind, a new and even deeper terror struck her. She began to fear the rapture had come and she had been “left behind,” doomed for hell.

The little girl’s parents eventually came home, having been stranded on a farm down the road where a bridge in the lane way had been washed out. She was relieved to see them but the terror of that night remained with her for years to come. For thirty years she was frightened of thunderstorms until, after ten years in an adult Sunday School class given by a social worker, she was gradually able to let go of the toxic image of God learned during her childhood.

This story was shared in a small group discussion at the Canadian Chapter meeting Work on October 19 when Steve Cadman Neu presented a seminar entitled “Abuse in our Spiritual Home.” Participants who had experienced spiritual abuse in their lives were encouraged to tell their stories. This is my personal story that I still find difficult to relate. Past criticism for over-reacting and denial that this episode actually happened make me feel vulnerable even now as I write.

In his book Becoming Human, Jean Vanier writes “Wisdom grows when we cast a critical eye not only on ourselves but also on the group to which we belong.” Let us not confuse critical thinking with criticism; let us be willing to search our spiritual home to see whether there is any use of fear and control that can lead to spiritual abuse. Let us promote a safe environment for wounded people to tell their stories and find healing just as I did in the adult class led by a member of our profession in our church nearly twenty years ago. With God’s grace, the faith that hurts can also heal. 

Editor’s Note: Faith That Hurts, Faith That Heals (1993) a title of a book by Stephen Arterburn & Jack Felton, published by Thomas Nelson.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Rapture

With the kind permission of my friend Dave, I am publishing a post written by him about the recent "rapture that wasn't,"  that is being simultaneously published over at his own blog: Rolling Around in My Head

I know that it may be controversial here, but if it is a point of view not thought about before or even necessarily agreed with, that surely is one of the reasons why we write; not to convince, but to cause to consider.  
Blessings! Belinda 

By Dave Hingsburger

I'm going to say this all wrong but I'm going to say it anyway.
Here goes ...

Everywhere I've gone over the last couple of days people have been talking, lightheartedly, about 'the rapture that wasn't' ... the big 'uh oh'. Someone tried to talk me into a kind of sympathy for those who gave up their life savings, their life pursuits, in the false belief that the world was going to end. Part of me, of course, felt a kind of sadness and sympathy for their ultimate disappointment.

'But wait,' says the bigger part of my brain, 'they're disappointed that they weren't selected to fly to heaven and all the rest of us in the world aren't writhing in pain and torment.' They actually expected earthquakes and disasters to wreak havoc on humanity, well on the part of humanity that didn't have membership in their little club. I have trouble with that. I have trouble with that whole idea. I have trouble with 'them' against 'us and God'.

When the concept of 'the rapture' was first explained to me, I understood it instantly. The idea of 'the chosen' and 'the left behind' is a constant in human history and a constant in my life. Anyone who endured high school knew that there were those that were raptured into smugness and all the rest of us who were uninvited, unwanted and unacceptable. There has always been a standard that allowed some to be selected and others to be shunned. 'The rapture' always seemed to me, not so much as to be a sense of being transported by noble emotions as it was to be a kind of self exultation of those with privilege.

As a young gay man, living with the terror of discovery. I saw the self satisfaction of heterosexual couples, who paraded their relationships, drew hearts over their 'i's, and branded overpasses with initials and kisses, and felt their assumption of normalcy, their arrogance in staking out and claiming love as acts of violence and intolerance  Their rapturous proclamations of God's blessing and God's plan made their God a God of 'ynah, ynah, ynah' rather than a God of love. Oh, I know 'the rapture' exists, I know what it is to be left behind.

As a man with a disability who has had to fight off those who saw healing of body, not change of society, as God's will, I know what it's like to live a life considered 'unblessed'. I have turned down the 'laying on of hands' and the opportunity to confess the sin that crippled me - I have spurned offers of love that looked a lot more like hate. 'There but for the grace of God' is said in one breath, 'I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair' is said in another. Um, yeah, thanks. Thanks for telling me that God graces you and damns me. Thanks for telling me that my life isn't worth living. Oh, I know 'the rapture' exists, I know what it is to be left behind.

So its hard for me to feel sorry for those who feel let down that they aren't having a milkshake in heaven while the rest of us are wallowing in sewage and waste here on earth. It's hard for me to crack open my heart, the one I'm told is sinful, the one I'm told is prideful, the one I'm told has crippled me - to feel anything much at all.

And yet, and YET, I believe. I believe in God who loves me. I believe in God who cares for us. I believe in He who walks beside me. I think I believe, because, when the dust settles, He and his ways, He and his love, He and the message of his life, were left behind too. I know this because I met Him, here, in the life I was given - and that, to me, is rapture.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Radical Freedom of the Kingdom

By Belinda

Earlier this week the grey skies, rain and cold, seemed as though they had settled in forever. I set out for work each morning in a raincoat and armed with an umbrella. Like other Ontarians we switched between a brief fling with the air conditioner and back to the furnace.

Tori came upstairs one morning before school. "Omie, can I borrow an umbrella?" she asked.

Waiting for the school bus at the end of the road can be a miserably soggy business.

I gave her one of the set of two umbrellas I bought from Costco a while ago, with a caution to remember to bring it back. She nodded her head and thanked me and went downstairs again, clutching my favourite stylish black and white collapsible umbrella.

A minute later, after a "God prod," I followed her down.

"Darling," I said, "You can keep the umbrella."

Her eyes widened, "I can? How come?"

"Well," I said, "I have two, and you know what Jesus teaches about that?"

At that moment she didn't.

"He says that if we have two coats we should give one to a person who has none. And if someone makes you carry a load for them for one mile, you should carry it for two. So, the umbrella is yours."

I am not sure if I made a lasting impression, but God gave an opportunity to demonstrate a Kingdom principle through action and I took it.

Today I read the next chapter in our cell group study of The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey; chapter 10, "Thy Kingdom Come."

Bruxy put it this way: when it came to the"carrying the load for someone else" scenario:
".Jesus taught them..if a Roman soldier commanded them to carry his gear one mile, they should obey the command, and then offer to carry it a second mile ( Matthew 5: 38-47;Luke 6:27-36). The first mile is slavery. The second mile is freedom."
It is so radically counter culture to give freely. But I can, because...:

10 ...every animal of the forest is mine,
   and the cattle on a thousand hills. (Psalm 50:10, New International Version)

...and the one speaking in that psalm is my source of provision. He is the source of my goods, my energy, my gifts, talents, everything. He is not about to run out of anything and neither will I if I am what he intends me to be: a channel for his resources to those in need of them.

And this is freedom.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Moments that Sparkled in a Busy Week

By Belinda

Life continues busy but yet I am compelled to write--my abiding joy. No long thing but two moments of simple joy to share:

Yesterday, I left the office late, knowing that Paul had a late dinner meeting. I headed for Costco in Newmarket to do some necessary shopping. We have had almost non-stop rain in Ontario this spring, and it was raining when I went into the big store. With my few purchases made, because I had no hungry spouse waiting at home, I decided to splurge and buy something to eat on the way out of Costco. I stood at the counter debating--1/4 lb hot dog or an ice cream cone. It was a hard decision and I knew that when the woman behind the counter said, "Can I take your order please?" I would have to make a split second decision. When the moment came, I went with the ice cream. For supper! Of the two I figured I needed a 1/4 lb hot dog less.

I licked the delicious, decadent, thickly creamy ice cream on the way out, pushing my buggy to the door. It was still drizzling, the sky still gray, but I had treasure in my hand. I stowed my stuff in the trunk, got in the car and leaned back in the seat. I watched the rain while I licked the cone and enjoyed sitting still, not rushing, simply enjoying a moment of doing nothing at all but sheer relaxation and indulgence.
***************
A conversation with an intriguing woman, who said she came from academe and became a Christian 10 years ago. I was curious; how did she come to faith? She said that there was a long story behind how she came to the point of seeking for Christ (which I would love to hear some day,) but she didn't know any Christians. So she went to a church and had a conversation with the Rector about God. At the end she asked him, "Am I a Christian?"

He told her, "No, you are a theist," and he told her to go and read the Gospel of John.

So she bought a Gospel of John and went to a restaurant (this is the part I loved). She  ordered a litre of wine, told the restaurant staff to hold the food until she told them to bring it; started drinking and reading and halfway through the book of John she stopped drinking and left the restaurant, a Christian.

A litre of wine and the Gospel of John. How very cool is that for a coming to faith story?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Visible Leadership

By Belinda

I eye the clock in my office and force myself to stop for lunch. The temptation is always to plough ever onwards, but it is not a healthy habit and I am always exhorting my team to stop--useless to do so if I myself set a poor example.

I close my laptop resolutely and turn the ringer on my phone off. I am hopelessly distractable and the sight of an incoming email or the ring of the phone and I cannot resist responding; but as the ever present busy hum of the laptop is silenced, peace settles.

I reach for a book from the bookshelf; any book will do to occupy half an hour productively. Why does even a break need to be "productive?" I am a hopeless cause, I think.

I choose a book that seems to have short chapters and large print: The Key to Great Leadership; Rediscovering the Principles of Outstanding Service Perfect. I start reading with curiosity. The author is Peter Burwash, not someone I am familiar with, and the book was published in 1995--not exactly current, but as I read on my interest is piqued.

Part 1 is headed: The 12 Universal Principles of Great Service Companies; and what I read resonates. When I get to the third principle, which is "Visible Leaders," I realize that Peter Burwash is writing about the importance of one of the principles I have been learning to incorporate into my own leadership over the past few months. In fact it was a whole  movement a few years ago; called MBWA (Management by Walking Around.) Sometimes we need a reminder of lessons learned by great leaders.

My lunchtime reading of that day affirmed the rightness of my direction and strengthened my resolve to win the battle of people over paper. Our work, which is in a people oriented field, has become laden with layers of work that takes us away from people contact. We all deal with it in our own way. Some are naturally skilled and efficient at processing paper. Others learn to delegate well, but that has its own issues. Some resign themselves to a doing different kind of job than we used to and that we really have a passion for because it is what we are expected to do.

I think we have to start a counter revolution back to people and I somehow think that the results will do more than all the checklists and reports.

I am trying to pick up the phone more often; listen more; hang out; sit with; be there, more.

It isn't easy to go against the tidal wave bearing down upon us. I hardly know how to do it but I'm trying and I know it's a battle worth winning.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Extravagant People

By Belinda

Sam and Jamie, are my two best pie customers. They ordered a pie a month (Jamie for one year and Sam for two) for our Power of One fundraising effort at work. I think the fact that they are both bachelors makes them  especially susceptible when it comes to pie. Sometimes I feel that I am shamelessly taking advantage of them but then I think of the cause (global missions to children with disabilities,) and I'm okay taking their money.

When April turned to May and they knew another pie was on the way, Sam said to Jamie, over supper at cell group, "I'll fight you for them. The last man standing takes both." :) Jamie demurred and kept his pie.

But Sam made me smile as he danced out of our house on Thursday with his May pie. He said he planned to give half of it away, because, he sang with joy, "I have 19 more of them coming!" He felt "pie rich" enough to be generous--he had pies in the bank.

I laughed about it to myself because if he only knew, he could have pies for life (well my life at least) if he wanted them, but it made me think about riches of a different kind.

I've been pretty busy lately. People often tell me that they think I get a lot done, or that I'm one of the busiest people they know--it's just me being who God made me to be; but lately I've been extra busy, not necessarily by choice but by circumstances outside my control.

As a result I have had scant time to wallow in lavish amounts of time in God's presence by sitting down and reading, praying and journalling. Studying Bruxey Cavey's book, The End of Religion (see Internet Monk for a thoughtful review) helped prevent me from thinking I was spiritually going downhill rapidly because of that. Instead I realized that what matters is not the ritualized, formalized religious things I do; much as I cherish and need the disciplines that put me "before him." What matters is keeping God close in my heart.

I found myself trying to imagine not having a relationship with Christ; not knowing his grace, goodness and love in my life, and it made me shudder at the emptiness, loneliness and hollowness that life would be for me without God. When I thought of the richness of my faith, and all that it means to me, I thought about Sam and his pies. He doesn't keep a good thing (well he thinks they are good) to himself, because he has a supply of more where that one came from. His pie supply is nothing compared to the riches of life in Christ and shouldn't we who have that be the most generous in sharing it?

I'm not speaking specifically of sharing the Gospel in words, although I would never fail to share the hope and joy that I have in Christ, if someone was interested. No, I'm talking about something that is almost harder than verbally sharing faith. I'm talking about being generous with things like grace; love; forgiveness; mercy and kindness--those things which we in the Kingdom have been shown in such abundance by God through Christ. That should mark us, surely? We should be the most extravagant of people in those qualities. I'm really not speaking to anyone else but me. It was a thought that made me want to be at least as liberal as Sam is with his pies, because I know that there is boundless mercy for me; boundless grace; boundless forgiveness; boundless kindness; boundless love.

And I am so grateful for that.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Saturday Smile

From Rob, my brother, a joke!

I made an appointment with a psychiatrist because I couldn't shake my belief that I was a dog. 
The psychiatrist agreed that it sounded as though I had a psychological problem. He told me to lie on the couch and he would ask me some questions. 
I said, "But I'm not allowed on the couch." :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

This Good Day

By Belinda

I came home at the end of the day to the company of our two resident granddaughters.

Brenda and Paul were elsewhere tonight and the girls don't leave for their dad's until the morning, so the three of us had the house to ourselves.

The rhubarb is ready for its first picking. I mentioned this to Tori, who wanted to see. I told her, as I showed her which stalks were the perfect length and thickness, how I used to love to dip a stalk in sugar and eat it. Her eyes widened and wordlessly begged to try, so we plucked a perfect stalk; red, green, and tender. She wonderingly stroked the soft, pink end that had slipped from its green sheath with a tug and once inside her face puckered with delight at the sour taste bursting through the sweetness of the sugar she had dipped it into.

We talked about our day. The school that she and Tippy attend, Sir William Osler; (named after the famous physician who was born in Bond Head,) is celebrating its 50th anniversary tonight and their day was spent helping get the school ready.

Tori said they had to clean their classrooms because, "We have to show them that Sir William Osler did not go downhill."

Ever since I saw the sign outside the school advertising the anniversary, I have had a hard time reconciling the fact that this 50th anniversary means that the school opened in 1961. That year seems ridiculously recent to me.

Tori told me about the photos of old students on the wall, of the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's, and said that her favourite was one of a child with a strange expression. I asked her if it was a girl or a boy. "A girl," she said, "I think; at least. they had long hair."

"Ah, the 60's," I thought.

Both she and Tippy asked me what the best part of my day had been. I told them that Grandma Susan and I had started the day on our knees in my office thanking God for something wonderful that happened. What it was is another story and not mine to tell here, but know that it is a miracle of God's goodness and there was no more adequate response than kneeling, eyes wet with tears, hand in hand and praising God.

After supper as the twilight lingered, we all went out for a walk around the village with Molson. They sprinted and tried long jumps while I hoped no one would trip and skin knees on concrete pavement, but kept from saying so. I wondered aloud when Tippy walked by my side, how her gift of art would be used when she grows up.

"I was thinking that this morning when I woke up and was drawing in my bedroom," she said, "I wondered what God was going to do with this gift he has given me."

And this grandmother smiled.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reverend Roffey's Raisin Pie

By Belinda

My oh my, another pie--Reverend Roffey’s raisin.

It was after I conquered the making of raisin pie and acquired a dangerous taste for the flaky, sweet concoction that Brenda, who had commissioned it in the first place, told me that Reverend Roffey's dream raisin pie was made with sour cream and raisins (Reverend Roffey is the chaplain at the college where she works.)

Since it had to be the pie he longed for, I needed to find a recipe for this fabulous pie. On a hunch I plucked a Mennonite cookbook off my shelf and searched the pie section, profusely populated with all sorts of pies. "Surely I will find it here," I thought, and I was right!

On Saturday I made several pastry shells as well as apple pies (for Jamie, Sam and Caliene, a friend from work) and tonight was the night to actually venture into the uncharted complexities of a pie new to me.

I simmered the raisins to plump and juicy perfection, drained them, measured back the right amount of liquid; added brown sugar and began to heat it all back up. The next thing was to add cornstarch and stir in beaten eggs. I was madly stirring when the phone rang. It was Pete.

I felt a little neglectful of Pete when focusing on mothers and daughters alone in my Mother's Day post. He is wise, a lover of Susan his wife and his family, above all else next to God. He is brilliant in figuring out how things should work logically and systematically and he loves to communicate ideas and thoughts. One day I hope he starts writing down what he knows and thinks in books, because what he tells me in his long conversations is always worth hearing.

But now I stood with a phone to my ear with one hand, stirring a rapidly thickening mass of raisins, eggs, sugar, cornstarch and water--a tripled recipe because I don't know how to ever make one of anything. All that was required of me in the conversation was the occasional sound to prove that I was there. I truly was gripped with interest, but also with an awareness of the importance of not burning the raisins or ending up with bits of poached egg in the mixture.

Any such bits were fished out (next time I will add the cornstarch and beaten eggs before I start heating the mixture.) I transferred the stiff concoction into a large bowl and stirred it as I talked in order to cool it down. When it was cool, I folded in sour cream and cool whip and then poured it all into the waiting pie shells. By that time Pete had gone back to putting a son to bed.

Reverend Roffey's pie is in Brenda's fridge, ready for work in the morning. And we have two to be shared with our cell group tomorrow night. I wish I could put out a little plate with this post with  slices for readers to sample--but perhaps if you try hard you can imagine it!

Take a Deep Breath

By Belinda

In the midst of all the media coverage of the recent Royal Wedding, a radio program focused on advice to the young couple.

A wise person said, "Take a deep breath before you speak--and then, don't speak!"

What excellent advice that was--and not just for Will and Kate. I wrote it down and have thought about it a lot. I've even tried to put it into practice since then--practice being the operative word, because it will take lots of practice for me to learn this skill.

Imagine if we all did that--what hurts might be prevented; what regrets might be avoided. All by simply holding our breath for the few seconds it takes for anger to subside; pride to be swallowed; cool heads to prevail.

I should have remembered this yesterday. I came up against a salesperson who said to me, "We can't that. It's the rule."

It was a rule that didn't make sense to me but it was also the fact that it was being applied with such determination that made me feel disrespected and devalued as a customer. I didn't want to leave with that feeling so I asked who her manager was.

"She's the one who was helping and told you it couldn't be done in the first place," she said.

"Well, who is her manager?" I asked.

She called over another busy looking woman who only confirmed that this was "right from corporate," and was in the interest of processing customers through the checkout line as quickly as possible and without keeping people in the line up waiting a few seconds longer.

I know that the expression on my face had hardened and that I was not making her day with my questioning of "the rule" and using up more precious seconds. But there was no arguing with it even though what it told me was that speed was valued more than the customer. Maybe they think that saving a few seconds is serving the customer!

As I drove away I thought about writing to "corporate" and telling them how their rule made me feel, but somewhere along the way I decided to mentally "drop it." I was beginning to obsess! So I let it go and had a happy evening.

And while I still consider the rule just silly, if I were to revisit the conversation I would hope I could take a deep breath sooner and in spite of the sales staff's  lack of regret at enforcing a silly rule, not shoot the messengers with my attitude.

Yes, "Take a deep breath before you speak--and then don't speak;" It may not, of course, apply in all situations, but it may be profitable in many, at least that's my take on it.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mothers and Daughters

By Belinda

Once upon a time, long ago in a far away land called Holland, a little girl was born.

She grew up to be a  natural beauty, with abundant dark  hair, almond shaped blue-grey eyes and high cheek bones.

One of eight children, and with four beautiful sisters, Pieternella had special qualities of personality--a quick sense of humour; ready laughter; a deep love of her mother; love of home and family; "a party waiting to happen" at the least excuse to celebrate; a people person who unselfconsciously reached out to all people she met; with the ability to be happy with the smallest things as long as those she loved were happy; someone who exemplified unselfish love--with a dash of obsessive-compulsiveness thrown in for good measure. And God chose her to be my mother.

God gave me other gifts and qualities, but I missed many of hers. I was shy, not at all a pretty child--and was mortified when Mum talked to anybody and everybody. She was outgoing and I was introverted, preferring to curl up with a book and find other worlds to live in. I thought that she was the most beautiful woman on earth and I loved the smell of her handbag--a unique blend of Revlon lipstick, Polo peppermints and lighter fuel.

Her most frequently used expressions were: "Isn't it exctiting?" "Be careful how you cross the street," and "Don't forget I love you."

When I grew up, God blessed me with the great treasure of a daughter of my own; Brenda. Unlike me she turned out to be outgoing; quick witted; a people person who gathers friends where-ever she goes. There is not an introverted bone in her body. In fact, she is very much like Mum. She has all of her unselfish love and she is the mother to her girls that I was blessed with in my Mum. She has her beauty, ready laughter--and even a dash of her obsessive-compulsiveness.

In no time at all, it seemed, she became the mother of two beautiful daughters--one of whom, Torie has a wit that has the potential to scathe, gathers friends easily, but is also shy and a lover of books above all else.  She is uniquely Torie.

Tippy is artsy and emotional; not a reader or writer, she has depths from which she speaks through her art--and sometimes through words and hugs.

We span over eight decades of living, laughing and loving and as long as one of us lives, none of us will die, for parts of us carry on with each successive generation.

From our family to yours, we wish you a Happy Mother's Day.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Results Cycle

By Belinda

Today I took Fierce Accountability training for the second time. The first time was with my peer team earlier this year; this time it was with the team I am privileged to lead.

How great to have a reason to take it twice, because the principles got worked in even better the second time.

The training talks about a "results cycle." It starts with CONTEXT then goes on to ASSESSMENT; EMOTIONS; BEHAVIOUR and RESULTS.


I thought a lot about the importance of context, which was defined as: opinions; truths; beliefs and attitudes. I realized the importance of spending adequate time clarifying context; examining my opinions; truths; beliefs and opinions and assessing them for accuracy.


In a recent situation I had a faulty context which determined my behaviour and end result. Not spending sufficient time ensuring that my context was solid caused a faulty result.

I've learned how important it is to ask questions; listen deeply and assess accurately, possibly by taking time to observe directly. Because I haven't done these things well, I have made faulty judgements based on wrong assumptions. 


The first of the 7 principles of  Fierce Leadership is MASTER THE COURAGE TO INTERROGATE REALITY.  Look at all of the evidence, not just that which confirms your existing biases. 


I made a note in the margin of my book, "Pharisees--blind guides." 

24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. (Matthew 23:24, New International Version, ©2011)
Those words could describe me sometimes. I feel some compassion for these blunderers of the Bible because their problem has been my problem; not establishing a foundation of clarity from which to work. If they had only taken time, with an open heart and mind to interrogate reality, they would have seen who Jesus was. 


There was a quote in the text book by Albert Einstein:
Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.
 I love that last part: In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity. It fills me with hope.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A Legacy Worth Leaving

By Belinda

Once upon a time there was a leader. She led for a long time and knew a few things, or so she thought. Others looked to her for guidance and some even called her their mentor. She was respected; well thought of, and, as she looked towards the few years left before retirement, she turned her thoughts towards the legacy she wanted to leave.

She loved to write and thought that she would surely have enough material for a book on leadership to leave for those who would follow.

One day she woke up to find that she had been in a sort of dream and nothing was as she thought it was. She discovered that she had made many mistakes and had a great deal yet to learn.

"A book on leadership?" she thought, aghast, "What arrogance to think that I had anything to say!"

Instead, she saw clearly, that everything she thought she knew was elementary. She had important things to learn about what it means to be a leader.

Instead of basking in years of rosy reflection and words of wisdom, she wanted to leave behind a different kind of legacy; one borne of example lived out; an example that has at its root, a love that loves others more than self. And she was grateful for years left to do better
 1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.
 8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
 11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
 12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
 13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (1 Corinthians 13, The Message)

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Remembering Uncle John

By Belinda


The last time we were together was on October 30 last year, the day before I left England to come home to Canada. He took me out for lunch at the Coach and Horses and when we said goodbye, we were hoping to see each other again, "next time." He always looked forward eagerly to seeing us, either in Canada or England.


"Next time" will be in heaven. On April 13 he died.


The Daily Light for that evening had these verses from the book of Revelation chapter 21.


There will be no night there.
But the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.—They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.
Tomorrow in England there will be a celebration of his life; this is my way of joining in.


Uncle John was Paul's uncle really, the brother of his father Ron. Both of them were ministers of the gospel with a passion for God above all else.


Paul's father died in 1986 when only 62, and by that time we had lost touch with Uncle John, the quieter of the two brothers.


It was on one of our trips to England in the 1990's that someone mentioned him to us and said that he was working at a Christian book store in St. Stephen's church in Redditch on certain days of the week. We found him there and I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw how much he looked like Paul's father just before he died.  We met his wife, Aunt Dorothy, who sadly died suddenly shortly afterwards. She had been in ill health for some time and Uncle John had never travelled away from England because she was not able to.


After Aunt Dorothy's death though, he began to make up for lost time and began a long series of missions trips. He went to Kazakhstan several times as well as to several trips to Turkey and then India and Africa. He was already in his 70's and he amazed us with his ability to rough it on these trips.


In between he would come to us and be spoiled. He travelled with us to Tofino on Vancouver Island, driving with us through the Rockies from Alberta to British Columbia. Paul took him to Inuvik and Mishkeegogamang, Ottawa and Quebec City. His energy was amazing.


But we worried about him as he entered his eighties and showed no signs of slowing down, booking preaching/teaching tours overseas with gruelling schedules. Last year he came back from India unwell and was hospitalized. Eventually, after many tests were run, the tentative diagnosis was dengue fever.


We noticed when he came to visit us in August last year, that he was slower and more frail. It was during this visit that I wrote a blog post titled  Faithful Followers about a pastor in India who was believing God to provide for his needs after having two consecutive visits from a crow holding coins in its beak. At our friend Dave's suggestion we gave an opportunity to readers of Whatever He Says to donate$10 to this cause if they felt moved to. When I went to England in October, I took 200 British pounds as a gift from our readers, for Uncle John to send to the pastor.


Early this year he was off again for three weeks of preaching in Africa. He came back very tired and unwell and ended up in hospital again. Eventually he was diagnosed with cancer, and rapidly declined.


Uncle John was never so happy as when he was preaching or teaching, so we know that he spent himself completely doing what he was called to do. If there were ears to listen he loved to share his knowledge of God's Word. In countries such as Africa and India he found people who were hungry to hear and fellow pastors who welcomed the wisdom he had to share as an elder man of God.


His views on some things we found stern and different to our own, but somehow we managed to navigate our way around those things and focused instead on the lots we agreed on, sharing our family with him (he had no grandchildren) and creating a place of relaxation and refreshing for him. Especially after Aunt Dorothy's death, when he had to take on tasks such as cooking, shopping and laundry, he appreciated being "looked after" a little.


We are going to miss him very much.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Wonderful Wedding and Our Family

By Belinda

I slipped downstairs in the darkness on Friday morning.

Paul, who had been grumbling all week, like The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, about the non-stop Royal Wedding coverage, had kindly set the TV up on a high definition channel the night before, and put the two essential remote controls, side by side on the coffee table--even giving me a demonstration before going to bed to make sure nothing would go wrong in the morning. I am a TV remote phobic; convinced that any button I push will not work--and normally this affects my life not one bit. :)





After a few nerve-racking tries, to my relief, the picture and sound did come on and I settled on the couch, snuggled in a blanket with my laptop at my side. The laptop was because a few miles away in Alliston, Susan also would be up. We planned to connect by email and touch base, watching "together" even though separated by a few miles of fields.

"I'm up," she wrote at 4.19 and missives flew back and forth from then on.

It was as the Princes Harry and William were driving to Westminster Abbey that I realized that Mum would be watching too!  Five hours ahead in time, but watching exactly the same thing in her living room. I picked up the phone.

"Hello," it was her sweet voice.

"Mum! It's me--are you watching the wedding? Isn't it wonderful?"

"Yes, darling. Yes, it is." and she gave a little chuckle.

We laughed at how we could be, for probably the only time ever, watching exactly the same thing at the same time, while 3,000 miles apart.

From then on I kept in touch at key moments--just calling to share the excitement--the first glimpse of Kate; her dress; the bridesmaids and pages; the walk down the aisle on her father's arm; the ceremony.

Rob was not home. I gathered from Mum that he was out "getting food." My hunter gatherer brother.

The night before I had asked Tippy and Torie if they wanted to come up and watch the wedding with me. Brenda leaves for work at 7.00 and said she wasn't into watching the wedding before then. They girls were stunned at the very idea of getting up that early in the morning. Torie in particular is comatose in the morning; they are, after all a teenager and pre-teen. They need their sleep; although strangely that doesn't seem to be the case at 11.30 pm. :)

At 8.20, as I watched the crowds moving down the mall towards Buckingham Palace, I thought of the girls downstairs and hated them missing it all. They would surely be up and ready for school by then so I went down to invite them up for a few minutes. Torie was awake but still getting ready for school in a daze. Tippy came up and sat beside me on the couch. A few minutes later Torie slipped into a nearby chair. Together we watched the vast crowd in front of the palace and the sense of electric anticipation, waiting for Prince Willam and Catherine to step out on to the balcony. We saw movement behind the curtains.

"Do you think if I started chanting, 'Kate, Kate, Kate, Kate,' it would help?" I asked.

The glass doors opened, and the crowd cheered. The girls watched, wide eyed; enthralled, the first quick kiss.

And Torie bestowed on Brenda that evening, the reproach of failed motherhood, "How come you never taught us about these people?" Apparently everyone at school that day was talking about The Wedding.

On Saturday when I called Rob and Mum for our weekly chat, Rob said that indeed he had gone to Sainsbury's  during the wedding, to do some shopping.

"I bet it was pretty empty," I said.

"Yes it was Belinda," he said, "and all the staff were gathered around the TVs that they sell in the store, watching the wedding."

In church this morning I found my small flock of  Burston grandchildren in a pew.

"Did you see the Royal Wedding on Friday?" I asked.

Four dark  heads nodded in unison. The two boys were not quite as committed as the girls, who got up at 4.00 am. They came down at 6.00 am.when the bride and groom were ready to "get to the point."

I laughed and told them that I was up at 4.00 myself.

"The best part," I said, "Was calling Omie in England on the phone and 'watching' the wedding with her."

William looked up at me, his hazel eyes wide, and said, "Did she go to the wedding?"

"No," I laughed, "She was watching it on TV on the couch in her home."

"I thought she would go to the wedding because she's over there." he said. Perfect William logic.

So that was how The Wedding was for our family--we had it covered from Grinch to "Happy and glorious, long to reign over us," and everything in between.