Monday, August 26, 2013

Going with Christ

Saturday dawned. The washing machine slish-sloshed the first of several loads. 

It was golden, warm and sunny and on my agenda I had Friendship Sunday invitations--six of them!

The thought of that sent me to my basket of devotional reading for a few minutes of spiritual muscle building. There is nothing like a leap out of your comfort zone to bring you to your knees, and going out into the neighbourhood with six invitations, qualified.

As I read, I found a prescription for inspiration in a short sermon of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, delivered on January 1, 1934 in London. January 1st, that universal day of good intentions! 

Bonhoeffer wrote:
So a new beginning is not something one can do for oneself. One can only pray for it to happen... But we can pray only when we have realized that there is something we cannot do for ourselves, that we have reached our limit, that someone else must be the one to begin.

And he went on to speak from his text, Luke 9: 57-62

Luke 9:57-62

The Message (MSG)
57 On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.
58 Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”
Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”
59 He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”
60 Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
61 Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”

I was getting a message loud and clear! It was magnified when I read the Daily Light evening reading for August 24 which only served to light the fuse on my by now fully loaded rocket ship. 

Brenda was coming for tea at 11.45, so I left right away at 11.30, sure that I would be back in 15 minutes.

I had noticed that the invitations did not have the address of our church printed on them so I decided that if no one answered a door I would go to the next house. Leaving them in the doorway would be a waste. I would only hand one to someone personally so that I could give directions.

In my journey there were three houses at which the door was not answered, but I had four lovely conversations and handed out invitations that were received with thanks! 

My next door neighbour was very busy getting ready for a trip with her extended family, but said that if she could manage it she would come.

I met a lovely young couple with their little girl; new to the neighbourhood. We chatted about their house, all that they had done since moving in, how long we'd lived here (25  years!) They thanked me for the invitation.

The next door was opened by a young woman who listened as children ran in and out, stopping in curiosity to listen too. She seemed interested and said thank you.

Her next door neighbour was interested in the church as they were traveling further than they liked to their own church--and the woman had been praying for the woman next door who had seemed interested when I gave her the invitation. "Maybe we could come together," she said. We talked a while about churches and our histories, which had some things in common. 

"Do you have a Bible study at your house on Thursday nights?" she asked, "We notice all the cars when we drive by on our way to Awana." (Awana is a children's program.)

It was only then that I realized I was half an hour late for tea with Brenda and had to run to make sure I didn't miss her!

45 minutes out of the boat, casting a net and seeing what God would do.

Bohoeffer's sermon finishes with these words:
Let your new beginning with Christ be followed by a story of going with Christ....I can think of nothing better.

Friday, August 23, 2013

That's My Problem

I picked up the invitations as I left church two weeks ago; for the final Friendship Sunday of the summer.

We've had two "Friendship Sundays" so far over the hot summer months; church services that are deliberately welcoming to visitors. Dress is casual, we have a short and engaging service, and then a BBQ lunch with everyone bringing salads and desserts to share.

It's been fun and I've enjoyed these Sundays. They feel festive and friendly and I've seen many new faces in church.

I've been great at bringing salad and dessert; not so great at bringing a friend.

So that's why I picked up a bunch of the invitations to a corn roast, printed on stiff card and gaily decorated. This time I would invite everyone in our neighbourhood, I thought. 

But instead of giving them out, I didn't. Last Sunday came and I beat myself up before leaving for church with a salad and a Bavarian Apple Torte, feeling badly that yet again I would arrive without the most important ingredient. 

It didn't take long for me to realize that something else was out of place. There were no tables set up downstairs, and no other food in the kitchen. I realized that Friendship Sunday was August 25, not August 18. I wondered if this was a hint of what my life was going to be from here on--me showing up for things on the wrong day!

But this did mean that I still had a chance. All was not lost.

Tonight at cell group as we prayed at the end, I asked for prayer that I would have the courage to give the invitations out--not be so shy and reticent. Every time I thank God for the blessing of knowing him intimately, I try to imagine my life without this relationship with him, and I can't. I am so grateful that he walks with me through all of my highs and lows. 

Why then am I so reluctant to invite my neighbours to share in the joy that I know?

Susan stayed behind for a second cup of decaff coffee after cell group. As she walked through the kitchen she put down her empty cup, glanced at my neat stack of invitations waiting there and said, "See, that's your problem--I hid mine!"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Rolling Around In My Head: Count Them One By One

Hi Folks,
My life continues a little crazy right now. It won't always be so, but while it is I am going to lean into the writing of my friend Dave, who wrote a post that blessed me when I read it tonight.

Rolling Around In My Head: Count Them One By One: (post expresses Christian sentiment) Whenever Joe and I leave home we each make sure that we've got some spare change with us. We wa...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Gratitude

In March 2011, inspired by Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, I started a gratitude journal. 

I continue the journal to this day, jotting down little and big gifts that I am grateful for. It is a sign that I do not do it often enough that it is only number 398 that awaits my pen's next recording.

But it is a habit that I love, even though imperfectly practiced, and every now and then I look back through the entries in the little book bound in green satin and embroidered with a merry riot of red, orange and lilac flowers. 

And when I do, I am reminded again of past occasions for gratitude. I smile and am grateful again for these things and so glad I recorded them. In a way they are more than mere recounting of things to be grateful for; they trace a life blessed by a Giver of good gifts.

Here are a few entries and their numbers:
44) Sky pink reflected on snow at day's end.
46) Two grandchildren who play with bowls of dish soap bubbles for more than an hour, happy to stir and pour.
49) A crescent moon smiling in a deep blue night sky
74) For freedom when agenda's and self will are surrendered
83) For a mother-in-law with whom I have sweet fellowship
87) Early mornings when the world is just waking up and I am among the first (a rare occurrence)
89) A first spring walk with Molson--lots of mud, but he was so happy!
90) That I get to work with Iris, Susan, Frank, Greg, Lori Lei and Terry
101) Books--the possibility of opening one and entering another person's experiences or thoughts--or another world, in story
105) Hope beyond what we see now
107) For friends who call on Saturday morning to talk
110) For the peaceful ticking of the clock and the sun through the window warming the room
122) For the morning coffee pot--the hissing and spurting of  hot water and the trickle of the delicious amber brown into the bowl of the coffee pot
134) Vision--seeing everything--stars, grass, people, movies, photos to be snapped
150) For second, third and fourth chances
175) For the privilege of writing the article, Faith, Freedom and Fealty, with Dave
176) For the honour and gift of meeting Sue Mosteller
195) Possibilities--the fact that life is not fixed or frozen--we grow--or we can. Yes, we grow older, but we can also grow wiser; learn; become better; kinder; more effective in our lives
212) For the late in life learning of how to bite my tongue, and the wisdom of doing so
243) A gruff heart opening a little with an unexpected expression of kindness--well, the heart may not have been gruff, but the expression of what is there has been blunt, and harsh, often. Then suddenly a sweetness and gentleness. Dear Lord, thank you. Please bless that one and protect the tiny flowers budding in her heart garden. Don't let them be nipped by frost or in any way stunted
244) For those who tell me my faults. For the Holy Spirit who then compels me to acknowledge them
366) Watching God at work in a situation; offering ourselves as instruments that do not know the way ahead--and seeing him take us and use us. There is nothing more exciting
397) For very precious friends

And the last one includes you! 

I recommend Ann's book and this practice of gratitude.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Lady in Gray

For the past two days I have attended the Willow Creek Summit, via satellite. It was an opportunity to invest in learning, skill development and inspiration. 

It's been busy lately, so it was with anticipation that I mingled with about two hundred other leaders at the start of yesterday, grateful to be pulled out of the race for a couple of days.

I couldn't help looking around me at people. On the way into the building I noticed a short older woman wearing slacks and a tee shirt and sensible shoes built for comfort, not style. She had a slight dowager's hump and a softly rounded body.  There was nothing remarkable about her features. She wore glasses and her hair was permed into a gray halo.

As she wandered the crowd, purse in hand, she looked slightly out of place among all the eager beaver leader types. But something in her drew me. 

It seemed that everywhere I went during the two days: the gym at refreshment breaks; the bookstore; the washroom; she would be there, on her own, going about her business.

I was tempted to say hello and find out who she was. I wish I had, but I was always on a mission to spot someone I was looking for or buy a book or something.

I was sitting with my coworker and friend, Irene, and Paul; and we moved to the back of the auditorium because it was warmer. There, in row in front of us was the woman, sitting between two friends with similar permed grayish white halos. 

As Irene and I reacted to exciting concepts, profound thoughts, humour, or inspiring stories, we laughed, clapped, or responded out loud to what we heard. Then we noticed that the elderly ladies, whom we christened, "The three amigos," were doing the same thing: making eye contact with one another at key points or responding to a pertinent point vocally or by nudging one another. I loved their engagement.

In the washroom on our final break, the little old lady was at the sink, leaning over towards a mirror, purse on the sink in front of her as she applied lipstick! This just made me smile; my lips had been on their own since their once daily application of lipstick during my morning toilette.

When I get to be "even older than I am today," I hope I don't count myself out. I'll be avoiding a gray halo but I hope I'm like her, applying lipstick in a washroom at a conference where I sit with good friends, learning something more about a topic I am passionate about. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Dear Friends, I needed to check in to say that I haven't vanished from the earth but have been wildly busy; so much so that I just haven't had time to think, much less time to write!

Sorry for not posting this sooner--back soon! :)