Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An Exchanged Life

By Belinda

2 Peter 1:3-4
New International Version (NIV)
Confirming One’s Calling and Election
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
What I have finally understood--fully, completely and clearly; as never before; is that at the moment of our receiving Christ's sacrifice for our lives--with our messed up attempts at goodness; selfish motivations, greed and potential for the basest of sin--at that moment, an exchange takes place. His life for ours.

All along, this was the answer to Patricia's question: "How could God ask us to be perfect?"
We will be perfect because he is--he in us, living his life through us. 
I have been getting the picture clearer and clearer over the past year, until now, it is so obvious I can't miss it as I read the Bible it seems to be there on every page in the New Testament (the books from Matthew to Revelation.)

A thing can be true and real, but unless we know it, understand it and grasp onto the truth of it, it may as well not be, for we won't live it out.

My insufficiency doesn't matter, because he is all sufficient--not just for my past sin, but for my present helplessness.

I always thought that he was leaving the work of the Kingdom in the hands of very shaky men and women--but I was wrong.

His plan was to be in us, loving the world through us;  illuminating us with the beauty of his character.

The full gospel--the full good news--is of freedom as well as forgiveness; redemption and regeneration. It's the message of the Christmas angels, "Peace on earth, goodwill to all men."

Peace comes to our lives only as he lives in us and when he does, we can bear no ill will to anyone.

The light that we are told not to hide under a bushel basket, is his light, in us.

There is so much more and I will continue over the next few days as I am able. This is just a start and I hope it makes sense.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Patricia's Question

By Belinda

Her question, asked some 30 odd years ago, went unanswered. I wish I had told her then that I just didn't know the answer but I would try to figure it out. Of course it has taken me all this time to understand. I'm a very slow learner.

Tonight I went looking for her letter. When I finally began my first wave of cleaning out the loft room a couple of winters ago, I had carefully sorted all the letters I had saved in boxes; I have never been able to throw letters away.

The letters are all neatly filed in date order now, in sheet protectors in binders. I hadn't looked at them for a while, but I was struck by how a lifetime can be traced in letters. I also had a wave of nostalgia for a pleasure lost to the generation growing up now--that of opening a letter and sitting down to read something more carefully composed than a text message.

The letter I was looking for was from a girl named Patricia, whom I once taught in Sunday school. The class was for girls aged 12-14 and I was in my early twenties. We formed a bond of friendship that lasted. I still hear from some of them from time to time. One nearly broke my heart by telling me years later that the thing that kept her alive in a horrific situation of abuse, was knowing that I would miss her on Sunday if she ended her life. I'm glad that her life turned out to be happy, with a good man and a son she is a wonderful mother to, but I ache when I think of the thin thread of love that held her here. We have no idea what lies behind the carefree guise of childhood for so many children.

As I turned the pages, I found letters from other girls, and even one from Patricia, but it wasn't the one I was looking for. Which is odd. But it doesn't really matter, because I remember the question. Or maybe I imagined that she asked it. It was a good one though.

She asked how God could ask us to be perfect--and what did he mean by that?
Matthew 5:48
English Standard Version (ESV)
48(A) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect
 Over the years I have pondered that imperative. What did he mean by that indeed?  Surely only he is perfect. But would he tell us something so clearly if it wasn't possible? But how is it possible? I mean, I know who I am. I know how fallen and fallible I am--and how many colossal mistakes I am capable of. I look around and see an imperfect and sadly selfish and cruel world.  

Was he talking about some time in the future, when everything will  finally be as he always intended it to be? Somehow that never really rang true for me. The statement seemed to either hold a tantalizing promise or be a cruel joke. The second choice was never really an option for me because of who I know him to be.

So as I pray about how to unpack what I have come to understand, tonight I start with the question. Patricia's question.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Belinda Burston: A victory of faith over evil

I wrote a reflection posted on, for the upcoming anniversary of 9-11. Here is the link.

Belinda Burston: A victory of faith over evil

Long Ago Christmas

By Belinda

I don't mean to be rushing things, but...

My Christmas decorations are in my formal dining room (that is never used for "formal dining)..

I have some Christmas memories of long ago to share...

and my friend Dave said that he is officially in the mood for an old fashioned Christmas story, having been at Santa’s Village this week with his family.

So, going back over 70 years in England, from the memory bank of Uncle John:

Grandmother Hartwright (the former Mary Jones) with her daughters Freda and Nancy (before they were married,) boiled the Christmas pudding for hours in a cloth and made their own mincemeat (as I also did in my "Earth Mother days" in the 70's.)

Instead of a tree they had a piece of hedge (how English is that?)--a yew--with candles. After Christmas it went back into the hedge (early recycling.)

One Christmas, Uncle George and Aunt Velma came from Canada (she was a Canadian.) Their children, Paul, Ainley and Mary Alice were with them and Uncle John said that, "We were all down in the cellar, a long building. We slept bed after bed like a barracks.

Uncle John Snr, Aunt Edith's husband, came around like Father Christmas."

They used to play lots of games: Snap; Ludo; dominoes and matching card games. This was before the war.

It was a great feasting time and involved a goose, "before the time when turkeys came into fashion or production."
Uncle John said, "We had to be quiet while the King spoke over the radio. King George the V1 was a good Christian king. It was almost a sacred moment."

Winters were colder. There was mistletoe and holly to decorate Grandma's house--and lots of cards. There used to be three deliveries a day!

The postman received a Christmas tip (probably well deserved after delivering all of those cards,) and so did the baker and milkman. It would either be a monetary tip or a mince pie. The butcher used to give them a pound of sausages for Christmas.

And there were oranges (such a treat!) lots of nuts and bowls of little sweets.

Uncle John and his older brother Ron always had an empty pillowcase on the bottom of the bed on Christmas Eve, and they would wake up to see if Father Christmas had come yet. This job is incredible and I love it, but sometimes I wish I had more time so that I could proceed and not a negaive person.

Uncle John's best ever Christmas present was --a set of wooden bricks--a thing of wonder in his opinion at the time-- and they had lead soldiers. He said, "It's a wonder we weren't all poisoned.

Church was part of every Christmas day.Aunt Dora was a musician and she played the piano or organ.

During the war, when there was a blackout enforced, but children would come around and sing carols.
They would sing carols; and not just a verse and then a knock at the door, but all the verses.

Well, that's it. Are you getting in the mood? I know it seems like it's a long way off, but it will be here in no time now that summer is on the wane.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Foundations of a Family of Faith

By Belinda

The Hartwright siblings written about in yesterday's blog post were the children of Thomas Harwright and Mary Jones.

Thomas Hartwright (Paul's great, great grandfather,) had served as a soldier in the Boer War (1899-1902) and came back to Upton upon Severn, a small town in south Worcestershire. He was living on the streets, a destitute alcoholic, but was taken in by an elderly Christian woman. As a result of her kindness and influence, he found faith, and his life was transformed. Later he had a market garden between Upton upon Severn and Malvern and would take vegetables for sale up to Malvern in a baby carriage.

He married a woman named Mary Jones, a seamstress who had earlier travelled far afield to France. Interestingly, Sam, one of Thomas's great, great grandchildren; studied horticulture and now has a market garden, and his wife Jackie is a seamstress who makes costumes for The Royal Shakespeare Comany in Stratford-upon-Avon. History seems to have repeated itself in their union, three generations later.

Mary and Thomas had four sons and four daughters. Two of the sons, Austin and Cyril, served in the Royal Navy in World War 1, and it was in the navy that Austin learned confectionery skills which he later used to open a shop.

A man named Francis Burston married one of Thomas and Mary's daughters, Marjory. He prayed when World War 1 began that he would not have to touch a gun and God answered his prayer, as he became a batman, a servant to an officer. He caught Typhoid fever but survived the war.

Thomas was instrumental in starting a church in Malvern and in subsequent generations, there have been several pastors among his descendants. 

An elderly woman reached out to help a young man living on the streets and the ripple goes on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Great Launch

By Belinda

When I published this photo on Facebook; of a boat on the Birmingham and Worcester canal, which  runs through Alvechurch; our son Pete, who can be depended upon for humour, left this comment: "Fine time to start reading the manual..."

This story is not about that boat, but another long ago boat--this is an "Uncle John story."

First a little family history for the sake of context:
Paul's grandmother, who was Uncle John's mother; Marjory Burston, grew up a Hartwright, one of eight children.

Besides Marjory there were three sisters: Freda; Nancy and Dora, and four brothers: John; Austin; George and Cyril.The siblings would have all been born early in the 20th century--in fact Aunt Nancy only died within the past several years, aged 100.

Dora married a man named Edgar and Marjory married a man named Francis and both couples moved to Canada, probably during the late 1920's. George also went to Canada and married a Canadian girl named Velma. When The Great Depression hit, it was difficult to survive and Marjory and Francis came back to England with their son Ronald; Paul's dad (Uncle John's older brother--there were five years between them.) Ronald remembered the ship hitting an iceberg and picking up pieces of ice on the deck, on the way back to England and being accompanied back to Canada by other ships so that it could be repaired. Uncle Edgar who had a taxi business stayed in Canada with Aunt Dora.

When Uncle John was growing up, Uncle Edgar had an old boat that he had brought up from Wales and put in the car garages where he worked on restoring it.

The great day came for the launch. The boat was towed behind a car to the slipway in Worcester where it slipped into the water. On board there was: Marjorie, Francis, the children John and Ronald, and a lady whose name is lost to history! Near the village of  Hanley Castle they had a mooring place but going down the river the engine failed. Uncle John said that it was fortunate that they were going down the river.

In desperation Francis got a plank from the bottom of the boat to use as a makeshift oar, but the river carried them on, late into the summer evening, until finally, after darkness had fallen, they managed to get near enough to the shore to disembark. Uncle John remembers that their boots were filled with water and that they had to walk, squelching and soggy, from the river to a phone booth and phone for someone to come and rescue them.

"We were tired--wet and weary--in the pitch of the night. A big adventure for a boy!" remembered Uncle John, "It wasn't like a light canoe--it was a big, heavy boat. Fortunately we got past the weir before the engine stopped working."

So that is the story, recorded now for posterity. And there seems not to have been a manual in their case!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Love Shows

By Belinda

Today was 42 years since our wedding day and  43 years and 8 months since Paul and I left a Christmas party together on December 23rd 1967 and didn't look back.

Last night we agreed--just dinner together--no need for any more fanfare than that (not even a card)--and a movie at home afterwards.

In the morning I glanced at a pile of movies on the coffee table in our den. I picked them up one by one and looked at the descriptions. No "action movies," among them. When he joined me downstairs he said, "I tried to get them with you in mind, Love." I smiled because he knows me well, and anticipates my taste pretty perfectly most of the time.

We finished breakfast and then I called England to let Mum know what day it was. Pre-stroke she would always call. The Dutch tend to consistently honour special occasions with a card or call, but now we call so she won't be disappointed that she missed it.

Rob answered the phone, surprised but pleased to hear from me midweek. He chatted for a few minutes on speaker phone, telling Paul that he had taken his diet up a notch. He said, "I'm working on more frequent, smaller meals. I've mastered the more frequent part--now I'm working on the smaller."

Then Mum came on, her dear voice saying a happy, "Hello."

"Mum, it's our anniversary!" I said.

"Oh, is it?" she replied, "I didn't know it was today."

"That's why we're calling. We wanted you to be part of it."

Later on we sat across from one another at The Pickle Barrel. I told him that I loved him for the way he takes care of  his family, and how much I had admired his wisdom and leadership qualities ever since I first met him. "I saw those things in you right from the start," I said. And I waited in vain for him to respond in kind. How I wanted him to tell me that he loved me.

I almost missed it, he had done that from the first thing this morning.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Seal of Approval

By Belinda

I was still in England in early August and checking in on family happenings on FB when I read Brenda's status on August 6, "Wedding dress shopping with the BFOTB today..."

"Wow," I thought, trying hard not to feel a million miles away--but I did! Especially when her status later that day was, "Success :)"

And then when our friend Paivi persuaded her to email her a photo of "the dress," and sent back the message...

"STUNNING!! You're a vision!!" 

...well, I resorted to a FB message of my own.

"Hey Brenda, I can't wait to see the dress. Did you really email it to Paivi??? I look forward to seeing you soon. Only one more day here. I will cherish every minute."

Hidden between the lines was longing. I was due home from England on August 9, but important things were happening while I was away!

A message came back that put my heart at rest: "I have it on hold right now but I want your final approval! A girl needs her mom's ok on such a big thing."

And so, the very next weekend we had a date at a bridal store in Barrie; Brenda, me and Tori (Tippy could not see what all the fuss was about and stayed home!) Three generations, there to experience the ultimate in female bonding.

It was so much fun. I had my camera of course. The important moments in life have to be captured.
When Brenda put the dress on hold, apparently the girl who drew up the sale the week before was new and threw in far too many "deals."

"We will lose our jobs if we give it you for this price," the seasoned staff wailed.

Brenda waved the sales slip and said, "Well then what do I do with this? This is what I budgeted for."

They conceded that they would have to honour the deal, but now Brenda worried, "I don't want you to lose your jobs."

They confessed to melodrama, while insisting that she had a deal in a million. :) It was all part of the game.

The best looking girls in the store.

When Brenda asked Tori if she saw a dress she liked, she said she loved the Kingfisher Blue dress behind the chaise lounge--mainly because it's her favourite colour. When she posed in front of it, she was an adorable mixture of budding sophistication in taste and ingĂ©nue in practice.

The excitement is building--oh, I almost forgot the dress. Paivi was right. She looked STUNNING! And I am sorry but I have to save THAT surprise for December! :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

To Obey is Better than Sacrifice

By Belinda

Reading a devotion on 1 Samuel 15:1-23 this morning, I was reminded of Keith Green's song, based on that passage. It is so counter culture but maybe that means we should listen.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mission Accomplished!

By Belinda

 I worked hard all day in our loft room. I hoped that I would get a good chunk done today and finish it off on Monday.

I stopped at 4.00 to go to the library and get a few groceries we'd run out of and when I got home I made dinner and had a break with Paul. We enjoyed the film Amelia, about the life of legendary American pilot Amelia Earhart.

By the time the film was over and the dinner things in the dishwasher, it was 10 to 9. I decided that I had enough energy for a little more work on the loft room. An hour and a half later, to my surprise, it was DONE! Kevin can move in any time he likes now.

I thought that I would throw out a lot more stuff than I actually did. I confess to shuffling more of it than I should have kept, to other parts of the house, but a lot of magazines did get put in the recycling bin. I intend to have a second go at the stuff in the low cupboards that run along beneath the roof on one wall of the loft room, after Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, I had to take all of the Christmas decorations out of those cupboards and put them in our mostly unused formal dining room, because I'll need them before the wedding in December. I think that having them all down there waiting for Christmas might be a great thing. This year I might be one step ahead in getting ready.

 Poignantly I found written directions to Uncle John's home in Worcester. I threw away the scrap of paper because he has moved on to heaven. One day I might actually remove his name and phone number from my phone. I haven't done it yet!

But with joy I stumbled upon the notes that I took during one conversation with him around our kitchen table. I had asked him about his memories of Christmases of his childhood and as he started talking I started writing. He went on to other stories and I kept taking notes. I had lost track of where I had put them and there they were today, under a pile of papers

Maybe one night this week I will transcribe some of the notes into a story on the blog. At least that way they will be both saved and shared! 

Nocturnal Wanderings

By Belinda

It's Friday--my favourite evening of the week. I got home from work and Paul had a movie waiting! We watched Oorlogswinter (Winter in Wartime,) a Dutch film with English subtitles. I had really wanted to see it when it was in the theatres but missed it. It was a lovely surprise to find that Paul had rented it.

The movie did an excellent job of portraying the complexities of relationships within a family and a community in wartime Holland and the young star Martijn Lakemeier, gave a compelling performance.

After the movie it was time to take Molson for a walk; we both needed to stretch our legs. As I bent down to tie my shoe laces, I tried to avoid Molson's wet kisses of gratitude. Then we were off into the warm summer evening.

I had ear buds in, listening to a book on CD as we walked down our street. But hearing a plaintive wail, I took them out to listen. Bagpipes! At the next but one house to ours, someone was practising the bagpipes in the garage. In the dusk of the evening, the notes of a haunting Scottish ballad floated across the fields. I would have gladly pulled up a seat to listen but I am practising not dilly-dallying and that would certainly have qualified.

As I walked, I admired he wild-flowers growing at the side of the road.and began snapping photos.

On into the deepening evening darkness we went. It  made everything look mysterious and beautiful. This is the Bond Head community hall, where fiddle concerts, auctions and art shows are held.

A lighted window in an old and run down house. Finery where you'd least expect it.

And here is the busiest intersection in Bond Head! :)

When I got home, the phone was ringing. It was an old friend, who long ago stayed with us in the loft room that I am tidying up for Kevin. She called to say that she reads here every day, and although she is happy in her city job and apartment, she said, "I miss trees and grass and cell group" and loves the photos of Bond Head.

Dear old friend, your call made my evening. :)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Making Room for Kevin

By Belinda

We are making room for Kevin in our home (he and Brenda are getting married on December 17!)

Because Kevin has a new tenant for the upper level of his house (the bottom is already rented out) on September 1; he is moving in with us until the wedding, while his furniture is moving in with Brenda.

They are combining two households into one space, which means a lot of sorting and culling. Meanwhile, one day when I was not here to protest, and much to my mortification, Brenda took Kevin upstairs to our exceedingly messy loft room to show him where he would be sleeping. Poor Kevin surveyed the clutter of scattered papers and magazines and said, "But where will I put my stuff?"

Brenda said, "Oh don't worry, I think Mom is just in the middle of cleaning out the room."

I figured I had better live up to that hope and thus began an overdue major sorting out of not just one room, but several others, in order to make room for the stuff that needs to move from that room to somewhere else.

I started with the linen closet in my bedroom, which was stuffed with sheets, tablecloths, and place mats that I never use but were too nice to throw out. Brenda is usually steadfast when I try to pass something on to her (or maybe palm off on her would be more accurate,) but when she saw the place mats her eyes lit up and she said, "I can use those!"

The humour of this struck us both at the same time. Here we are, both working hard at "making room for Kevin," in our respective spaces, but my stuff migrating to her space seemed hilariously counter productive.

Tackling the loft room was more daunting and I put it off by cleaning every other room instead. I now have a neat and tidy laundry room, kitchen cupboards, bathroom cupboards and drawers. I can put it off no longer.

My friend Marilyn, at As Good a Day as Any (fighting procrastination . . . or at least thinking about it) (don't you just love that sub heading?) wrote a post entitled Where to Start that was helpful. It was about a stone mason, just building, brick by brick and not dilly-dallying. "Dilly-dallying" is one of my favourite pass times, but it doesn't get the job done.

I decided while I was away in England that the piles of magazines that I guard with my life, would have to go. I planned to be ruthless. Well, I have been ruthless--if only selectively. I rescued  the ones with headlines too interesting to toss out and the rest have been consigned to the recycling. For me this is a baby step in the right direction. Much more needs to just go, and this weekend I pray that it does. Where does it all come from? I feel compelled to save any scrap of paper that contains anything mildly interesting. It is ridiculous; a sickness, I think.

The arrival of Kevin just may effect a cure!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

An Evening of Celebration

By Belinda

Tonight was our writers group meeting, and although we had a small number in attendance for various reasons, it was a night to celebrate! One of our group, Carolyn j. Morris, a teacher and speaker,  is now a published author.

Carolyn's summer has been a whirlwind of book signings and marketing meetings and she is loving every minute.

Each step of the journey of publication has been God led, with connections unfolding in a way that only he could orchestrate.

I will write more about the book itself in the near future, but tonight we shared Carolyn's joy by sipping our tea and coffee from the fine china and eating ice cream cake!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Walk in the Evening in Bond Head

By Belinda

It is ten days exactly since I shared photos from a Walk in the Evening in Alvechurch. Tonight, I was tidying up the kitchen after supper and getting ready to spend an hour doing housework, when Brenda popped upstairs and said, "D'you want to come for a walk Mum?" and then, seeing my torn look, "Oh, no, don't worry."

"No, no, I'm coming," I said, "I can do this when I get back. I need the exercise."

 I put on my shoes and grabbed my camera even though the light was fading fast; Brenda grabbed Molson. We stepped out into a beautiful evening with the faintest of breezes sighing and rustling in the treetops although the leaves were barely moving. I thought of a windy walk on this past weekend when the treetops had sounded like an ocean storm with crashing, rushing breakers.

The sun turned these trees to burnished gold.

It's routine; Sidney sits on his lawn and Molson says "hello."

Long, straight streets. So spacious after the compact lawns and streets of Alvechurch.

My favourite picture of the evening. Peeking through the lighted window of a century home.

The house in the photo below used to be the Bond Head post office. I had a post office in my Alvechurch evening walk too.

Wow, Bond Head will be 175 years old next year, while 175 years ago, Alvechurch was about 1000 years old. :)

I just love summer porches with their temptingly empty rocking chairs, just waiting for someone to sit down in them with a good book!

We are on the home stretch here!

I find lighted windows irresistible.

An adventure with goldenrod, golden dog and a golden girl.

Friday, August 12, 2011


By Belinda

My brother Rob dropped me off at the airport early in the morning on Tuesday and after making my way to my airline counter, I joined the queue of passengers taking the same plane from Birmingham to Toronto.

A small woman with sparse brown hair asked if this was the line for Toronto. I told her that I hoped so!

I turned away from her and looked around, interested  in watching the other people in line. Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement. A man who appeared to be in his early 70's but tall, upright and well built, with white hair, closely cropped, and pale blue restless eyes in a face that was unlined with slightly puffy skin. He was very talkative and active and in conversation with an airline staff who was, for some reason, directing him out of the building. He went, and  I watched him as he paced awkwardly behind the floor to ceiling glass panes, ill at ease, not seeming to know what to do with himself. It seemed unnatural for a man of his maturity to be banished outside, something seemed off kilter.  "A nervous flyer," I thought, "maybe had a few drinks."

On the plane I settled into my seat and he was there again, a few seats ahead of me on the right hand side of the aisle. He was fidgety, troublesome to the flight attendant who was assisting him. "I go through withdrawal symptoms," he said as she tried to settle him down.

The passenger who was seated beside him was reseated elsewhere. As he left, the white haired man said, "You wouldn't want to sit by me; I'd do yer  'ead in after two minutes."

Periodically the flight attendants intervened, dissuaded him from buying alcohol. He loudly protested that he couldn't understand why he couldn't pay in cash. He cast about, looking for someone to engage in conversation but most of the passengers in his vicinity studiously kept their eyes averted.

Part way through the flight to my surprise, he found someone to talk to. It was a child, a little boy, seated across from him. I noticed that he had a gift for connecting to a child, and they talked, from then on, for the rest of the flight.

As we landed at Toronto, and taxied down the runway, he and the boy, who was named Andrew (we could all hear the conversation,) tried to spot as many planes from different airlines as possible. It sounded like they were both having an equal amount of fun. He, an adult, had entered the world of the child. Children don't see things as adults see them. Children don't judge.

The 7 hour journey was over though; we were there. The plane came to a halt and the Seatbelts On sign went off. People stood and opened the overhead luggage bins.

I heard the man say, "Well, Andrew, goodbye. See you again sometime." It sounded like he was leaving a friend. 

I wondered where he was going and to whom. Was he a grandfather coming to see his family? How would the visit go? If there were children it would be good, but maybe bitter sweet for the adults.

Sometimes you wonder what brings a person to the point at which your life intersects briefly with theirs. He wore loneliness like a garment.

It is loneliness that makes the loudest noise. This is true of men as of dogs.
Eric Hoffer

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Elders in the Faith

By Belinda

This morning a note that I wrote at some point in my copy of the  Daily Light for August 10, reminds me that it is the feast day of St. Lawrence, and that Martha, a woman who impacted many lives,and who lies in the graveyard of St. Laurence Church in Alvechurch, was born on this day in 1817.

On my first day home in Canada, it is special to be connected with Alvechurch in this small way--like a final wave from an old friend.

Today's Daily Light has verses that could describe Martha; this dear lady, who, like another dear woman;Trudy Cluderay; still living in Alvechurch; shone for God in her quiet way and influenced a community for good.
Blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Philippians 2:15—“You are the salt of the earth, . . . the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 5:13, 14, 16
As the news is filled with updates on the lawlessness and rioting in major cities in England, it makes me ponder "eldership," particularly the potential a whole generation of ageing Baby Boomers have, in their families and circles of influence. If we know Christ, we have something that so many in this world need badly--they just don't have any idea of who he is and the difference he makes in a life. We may not be preachers or eloquent in sharing what we know, but God can use us if we simply ask him to and then just live out what he taught; through the power of the Holy Spirit; available to speak a word for him as he leads.

Monday, August 08, 2011

By Belinda

My last evening in England. My suitcase is packed and all but two of my goodbyes have been said. It is quiet, even though it is only 9.30 pm. Mum goes to bed early and Rob has retired for the evening to his flat with his faithful dog, Bruce.

I can't help thinking of the day before I left Canada for here; a Sunday.

That morning at the end of our church service, my friend Poppy (a.k.a. Frances--the butter cream icing Frances) came over.  She was smiling; eyes bright; intent on telling me something. She was dressed in a blue floral sleeveless dress and was bathed in a delicious fragrance. Her eye shadow matched the dress and her dark blond hair framed her lovely face in tamed curls.

Just then, Esther, the pastor's wife approached in a hurry. "David wants you to come to his office to meet two new visitors from Bond Head," she said, urgently. Frances had not finished what she was saying, but released me with an understanding look, as I turned to follow Esther.

On the way to the back of the church, Joyce, another friend, her dark eyes also signalling a message, approached and reminded me of the frozen chicken and dozen eggs her husband Fernando had sent for me, and which she had to pass on before I left.

Torn between the waiting pastor and ladies and the transfer of the frozen chicken, I explained my current mission. Joyce went to get the chicken and eggs, while I went on to the office.

What a contrast with my time here. That busy morning could be a metaphor for my life in which I often feel pulled in several directions at one time, all of them good.

Here it is like skidding to a halt in comparison; nothing is rushed; the clock ticks; routine is all. We find our rhythm here quickly. My routine fits in seamlessly with Rob's and Mum's and all is well, peaceful and unhurried.

It has been almost 8 years since Mum had the stroke that brought her to this place in her life where she is dependent on the support of others for so many of her daily needs. The great blessing is that she is content in her world as it is.

One night after I said prayers for us both, her soft hand holding mine, she and I both gave a light squeeze at the ending "Amen."

"It's nice," she said, "I don't have prayers so nicely organized like yours are--they are rather muddled."

She gave a little smile and added, "But the Lord understands."

I said, "Yes, Mum, the Lord reads the heart."

Such a contrast: Her last 8 years of life so inactive when I think of all my rushing around. She quietly waits for her busy child to land here. And I always do; punctuating my life with "full stops" and hers with exclamation points! :)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

All on a Summer Sunday

I left Mum's flat in Tanyard Close at 10.15 and walked down Tanyard Lane, passing by the grand, cream painted  Red Lion pub on the corner of Tanyard Lane and Red Lion Street.
(Click here to see inside the pub, plus the excellent menus and interesting history.)

 But I did not stop at the pub. I was on my way to Alvechurch Baptist Church for Sunday worship; a home away from home on Sunday mornings in England.

In less than five minutes I was there, and through the open door was hailed by familiar friends.

The church is an elongated octagon with three rows of straight backed, polished wooden pews; five rows separated into two in the centre by a low barrier and 7 rows on either side along the window walls.

If Mum's friend Trudy Cluderay was there, sitting in her usual spot, I would have joined her, but she was taken ill just before her 97th birthday on July 29th and has not been able to get out to church. So I found an seat in an empty row at the back, in the centre aisle.

On the screen hanging from the ceiling on the right of the small platform a projector displayed a message suggesting that we, "quietly and prayerfully prepare ourselves to worship God." But no one heeded the message; the church was alive with the chatter of voices--children's shouts mingled with the multiple lively conversations of the adults. I thought to myself that if I were God I would like the noise better.

That indefinable smell, common to old buildings hung in the air--I guessed at furniture polish and old cloth. The light streamed in through Gothic leaded windows onto the floor of worn herringbone wooden  parquet tile.

The pianist/organist sat down at the piano and began to play a Bach prelude. Everyone talked on, but I enjoyed the treat of the beautiful music, greatly.

A plump woman named Anne, a little older than me, I would say, sitting on the other side of the wooden wall dividing our pew, told me her birthday was today. She joked that her son had asked for 50 volunteers to give her "the bumps."  "Only a son could say that," she said with a rueful smile.

("The Bumps", a torment common in countries such as the U.K., Ireland, and the U.S.,[1][2] involves the friends and family of the person whose birthday it is taking him or her by the arms and legs, and "bumping" him/her up into the air and down onto the floor.[1][3] The number of "bumps" given equals the age of the person in years plus one "for luck".[1][3] Usually "the Bumps" are administered only to children, in part because as people grow up they become too heavy for the process.[1] Wikipedia)

Fiona, the minister, stood up and began the service by pointing us to the announcements in our bulletins, especially reminding us that, "Next Sunday, there will be a church picnic after the service, in The Meadows." People were asked to bring a picnic chairs and a picnic lunch of sandwiches to share.

"We shall make our way to The Meadows for fun, after coffee in the hall. Plan b, if the weather is really bad, is to have the picnic in the church hall and pretend that we are in The Meadows."

Then she stepped down to address the children before they went off to more energetic activities in the hall. The theme for the service was. "Faith in Adversity," and as she told them a story about a tightrope walker, the adults listened with as rapt attention as the children. First she explained what a tightrope was as the children didn't know, then she demonstrated how the man in the story would walk up and down the rope, strung tightly between two buildings. "Sometimes he even carries things," she said, "Like a tray of drinks. Can you think of something he might carry?"

"Bananas!" volunteered one enthusiastic child, bringing a ripple of laughter.

The man sometimes took a wheelbarrow across. "Who is brave enough to sit in my wheelbarrow?" he asked, but no one was.

Fiona said that in such situations we need faith and the strength of God. I felt like it would take a big leap of faith for me to get into that wheelbarrow no matter what. I hope others were more responsive to her point! :)

She told a funny story about a man who took a photograph of his beloved to a photography store to have it copied. This involved taking the photo out of a frame. When the store clerk took it out, there was a note on the back of the photo saying:
Me Dearest Tom,
I gives you me heart. I will love you forever and ever. Nothing will ever separate us,
And there was a post script:
If we ever break up, I want this picture back.
Obviously not a good example of starting out in faith!

At the end of the service I said my goodbyes to this small group of faithful Christ followers and headed home to lunch with Mum, carrying the love of many friends with me.

Later in the afternoon I walked in the opposite direction, to Snake Lane, to visit our friend Trudy. I hadn't wanted to knock on the door before, in case she couldn't come to open it, but at church Anne told me to just go in through the door and call out, "Is anybody home?" so that is what I did.

I found Trudy in the kitchen, struggling with the cap of a medication container. She is losing her sight and could not read the instructions that said to line up the raised arrow on the top and bottom of the opening. The pills got sorted out and Trudy came and sat down. At the church I had been told that the rule was to keep visits to ten minutes so as not to tire Trudy out, but she had so much to tell me that I know we went way over that limit. It was good to see this wonderful, faithful friend and hear all about her recent adventures.

This photo is of her late husband. I took it years ago at Alvechurch Baptist Church, as he played the piano during the coffee time after church. Trudy treasured the photo as she didn't have any recent ones of him. She keeps it on top of the piano.

Approximately 45 years ago Mr. Cluderay was Mum's piano teacher. She strove to practice faithfully after work, but although she played the accordian beautifully by ear, she didn't keep up her piano lessons for very long.

Trudy was thrilled to show me the photos below, of her granddaughter in New Zeeland, with her two children. For years this granddaughter was prayed for as she had a serious medical condition.

Eventually she had a bone marrow transplant and recovered, but was told she would never be able to have children due to the effects of heavy duty medications she had taken.

A young man fell in love with her and wanted to marry her in spite of the fact that she couldn't have children. God had other plans and, as Trudy put it, "Here are the children who were not supposed to be."

Before I left I asked if I could pray with her. Trudy eagerly said yes, and we clasped hands. I thanked God for her friendship, prayed for recovery from her ailments and thanked him for the light that she is in Alvechurch. She is a great example of faithfulness to God and of what
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote:
 "The essential thing 'in heaven and earth' is...that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living." 

Saturday, August 06, 2011

By Belinda
I wish I could add fragrance to a blog post but you will just have to imagine the most delectable smell of fresh strawberry! They were so far removed from the hard, flavourless, force grown variety so often on sale in the grocery stores.
Rob and I went to Sainsbury's for a few groceries and after carefully checking the freezer shelves, I bought a tub of Mackies of Scotland Traditional Luxury Dairy Icecream to accompany the strawberries waiting at home. The tub said that the icecream was made on the family farm with fresh, whole milk from "our own herd" in Aberdeenshire. It turned out to be a great choice as it tasted like old fashioned icecream from childhood, with no artificial taste, just delicious vanilla.

Later in the day, Rob's younger son, Tim, joined us for supper. He has grown so tall all of a sudden that I am beginning to feel quite short! We had a conversation about the book I was reading and he said, with interest, "I should start reading books. I don't read at all." Well, if I have inspired a young man to read that would be a good thing and I would love it!

Mum had not felt well yesterday when we were away on our day trip to Wales. We felt so badly about that. And then last night she had such a bad chesty cough, that we worried that it was the start of pneumonia. Even though she pointed a finger at us and said emphatically, "No! I don't want to go to the hospital," we seriously thought we might have to go. But we prayed and dosed with cough medicine (even though I read that it isn't supposed to help, I find that it does) and today the cough is much less worrying and sound just like a chest cold.

I was counting blessings today; there are so many. This time is so precious and I am so grateful.