Showing posts from February, 2008

Answering the Call

by Susan Stewart L et us go up and take the land for we can surely do it! Numbers 13:30 Those were Caleb's words as he returned from scouting out the promised land. He chose to focus on the promises of God and his ability to bring them to fruition rather than on the size of the obstacles. He was confident in God's ability to bring them through, in spite of the negative voices around him. It's Friday night. I've had a really full week, both at work and at home. I spent an extra long day today, complicated by things like staffing shortages, sewage backups and one distraction (most of them legitimate) after another. The "to do" pile grew far larger today than it was yesterday. I've run out of places to stack things as the piles of paper threaten to overwhelm me. I think they are like Belinda's Amish friendship bread; they keep multiplying and I have no idea how! (I wish I could give some of them away to my friends like Belinda keeps doing.) It's been

Prayer--More Powerful Than We Dream

Numbers 16:47-48 (The Message) The Message (MSG) Eugene H. Peterson 47-48 Aaron grabbed the censer, as directed by Moses, and ran into the midst of the congregation. The plague had already begun. He put burning incense into the censer and atoned for the people. He stood there between the living and the dead and stopped the plague. Paul and I are still slowly digesting Watchman Nee's little book, Sit, Walk, Stand , a tiny bit at a time over breakfast each morning. We must seem like very slow readers, but we want to absorb this teacher/preacher's thoughts and consider them well. We had just finished reading Watchman's words about the great legacy to the Church; the name of Jesus, in which we are invited to pray, when I read in the book of Numbers chapter 16, verses 47-48, the story of the plague that was judgement for the sins of the people and which was stopped when Aaron the priest, burned incense before the Lord and atoned for the people. The image of Aaron, standing b

More than We Ask or Imagine

It is Tuesday--cell group evening--cell group without Paul who left on a business trip on Sunday; Paul who is the technical part of my brain. I push my way in through the front door, laden with rustling bags holding crusty Calabrese bread--fragrant and yeasty, a cake to celebrate a birthday—and a favourite ice cream—Iditarod. The butter chicken made the night before is soon on the stove warming, the rice heating in the microwave and green beans steaming. Darkly delicious coffee drips into the waiting glass carafe, redolent and promising. I wrestle the screen into submission, sweating with the unaccustomed effort of hoisting it on high. People begin to arrive. Laughter, plates clattering, cutlery distributed, many hands loading plates with plentiful food, spreading soft bread with pale yellow, salty butter. Latecomers arrive, they too gather plates of food and soon, replete, with coffee or cold drinks in hand, it is time for session 5 of the Alpha series. I tell the traditional Alpha op


By Ang Cat It started in November. The Toronto Mass Choir came to our church. They are a gospel choir and they rocked the roof off in rambunctious Caribbean praise and soothed us with gentle waves of soulful worship. We danced and sang and praised our God and Savior~King, Jesus. At the end they announced that they would be having another Power Up workshop weekend in February, a time where participants go to learn different aspects of music and ultimately to learn to sing with a gospel choir. Well, we did. My friend Carolyn and I just came back from a romping, intense, dancing, shaking, laughing, learning, exhausting one of a kind weekend. Each of us attended different kinds of workshops ranging from Song Writing and Musicianship 101 to Hip Hop Dance. Yes my 41 year old friend went and pulled all her muscles trying to contort herself into different shapes as she leapt in the air and then spun on the floor. She is still limping. The prize of the whole weekend though was the time spent wi

My Right Hand Man

Paul always gets edgy when he’s going away. He is ready several hours early; bag packed, coat at the ready and his nervousness always rubs off on me. This time it’s almost time for him to leave and we have lunch before he goes. I feel like half of my brain is leaving; the half that knows how to turn on the T.V. and operate the array of 4 remote controls that lie on our coffee table. This is not a big problem. I can happily exist without T.V., but on Tuesday night at cell group there is a projector to operate. I’m definitely nervous about that. Author Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, explains an interesting aspect of relationships; Transactive Memory. Although the words “transactive memory” don’t spring to mind the moment you think about intimate relationships, he says that this is part of what intimacy means and that couples, families and work groups form unspoken agreements about who will remember what. We don’t all need to know everything; we just need to know who kno

Ponder the Beautiful

I drove into the winding driveway banked with snow on either side. There were lights on the pond as rosy-cheeked children in rainbow colours glided on silver blades. Some dads were feeding wood to the red-bricked oven on the farthest side of the pond and a string of lights went from tree to the outdoor fire place. Snow covered hardwood trees, silhouetted in the winter evening, provided a backdrop for the picture before me. If I were a painter, I would be compelled to capture this scene on canvas. I allowed my eyes to feast, desiring it to pour into my soul. I enjoyed the outdoorsy fragrance, coupled with the burning wood and was warmed and reminded of the beauty of sound I experienced earlier in the day. I closed my eyes and I could still hear the lovely music of the violin - beautiful renditions of Mozart, Bach, Brahms,Beethoven, Schumann, Suzuki, played by various children at my eldest daughter's violin recital. The performance was delightful and Hannah's teacher had throw

Friends on the Journey

Tonight Susan and I were talking about Whatever He Says and what it means to us to write on this blog. I've always recorded reflective thoughts in journals but I didn't think seriously about sharing them with others. At a writers conference; Write! Canada, about 5 years ago. N.J. Lindquist, in her workshop, Discovering the Writer in You, said that when God gives you something to say, you should treat it like gold; that he doesn't just give it for you, but you have a responsibility to share it. Marilyn Yocum, another instructor, challenged me when she said, "Don't say you have a 'call' and then disrespect the Lord by not following through on that call." Towards the end of April 2006, I started sharing the thoughts God gave me each day with a group of friends by email. That year I went to Write! Canada, and reconnected with Marilyn Yocum. After the conference we corresponded by email for a while and she asked me what my vision was for my writing. I w

On Being a Grandmother

By Susan Stewart I am posting this from the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls, where Ron has business meetings for a few days. I have Matthew and Eliana, our two five-year-old grandchildren in tow. We do our thing while their Papa is in meetings and he joins us whenever he can. Although my energy is being taxed to the limit, I have been thoroughly enjoying looking at this beautiful part of the world through two pairs of five year old eyes. Yesterday, Eliana, Matthew and I stood behind the barrier right at the brink of the falls, watching tons and tons and tons of water tumble over the edge into the mist shrouded gorge below. Two little faces with shining eyes peered through spaces in the stone and wrought iron fence, not worried in the least about the spray that was turning to bits of ice in the frigid air before hitting their faces in a fine spray of tiny ice crystals. Eliana put her fingers in her ears against the thundering roar. I thought about how many times I had stood in

Last Word on the Amish Friendship Bread

Today I awoke knowing that it was "the 10th day." This meant that in addition to a staff training in the morning, an afternoon meeting, coffee with a Irene and a late interview, I had Amish Friendship Bread duties to perform. My "bag on the counter" took up residence the night Ellen planted it here in mid January, and it has grown to be like a benign family pet, being squeezed and "burped" and fed regularly. My friend Alex asked me what it was that was growing in there and I had to admit that I didn't really know. As each 10th day dawns, I no longer think first of what I need to accomplish that day. Oh no; now it is all about where I am going and who I can give one of my 3 extra "bread-baby" bags to. This morning, I had to hustle before leaving for work to get the blobs of bread batter divided up. Imagine my perplexity when I found that I had used my last large Ziploc bag and forgotten to buy more! That slowed me down for a minute, but I had

A Willing Captive

I have been thinking about my friend Dave's objection to the "slave" metaphor for our relationship with God, over the past couple of weeks. Oh my goodness, his comment provoked much reflection! Even though I wrote a post (Passion and Truth) about not clinging to language or things that are cultural roadblocks on a person's faith journey, in my heart I felt a nudging not to discard something so significant. And so it came to be, after the rest of our cell group friends had left for home last night, that Susan and I had one last de-caff coffee together in the quiet of the now empty, big back room. We sat side by side in the lamplight and in comfortable wing back chairs, and talked about it, and she said, "But we don't have to stay. We could leave." And I said, "Yes." In a sense we found common ground with Dave, who said, "I give God my praise (and love) as a free man," and I agree that we are not "en" slaved. The point is that

Groundhog Day, A Parable

So many people I know love the movie “Groundhog Day”. It’s a gentle comedy situated around a crass weatherman (played by Bill Murray) who has to go to Punxsutauney to report on the groundhog and whether or not he sees his shadow. As the sequence of events unfolds, this man and one of the female members of the news crew, played by the beautiful Andie McDowell, begin a rather unusual adventure of friendship and romance. Every morning that Phil wakes up, the same day has started over. Groundhog day looms on the horizon again and again as his alarm buzzes. The only difference in each of the days same sequence of events, are the ones he changes by his choices. Gradually you see him realize that he can choose, that what he did yesterday causing anger or unfriendship or disgust, he can change by his responses and therefore his circumstances for the good. At first his better choices are still fueled by innate selfishness and a desire to have the girl through manipulation. But then, you se

Meditate, Think, Ponder, Wonder,

I'm a Sunday School teacher, scheduled to teach every four weeks and the class of 16 or so grade 4-6-ers includes 4 of my grandchildren. Last week was my second time up to bat. I fell in love with the children the first week. Anyone who has spent an hour with 16 unique individuals; sponges for God but full of mischief, knows what it is to be well and truly hooked. Well, that's what happened to me at least. Last week the lesson was all about Adam and Eve's fateful decision. The children learned about decision making and how to greatly increase the odds of making a good one by praying about them first. I spent time on Saturday cutting out white oblongs, yellow diamonds and red octagons from poster board, for the children to make into road signs, on which they could write messages to help them remember how to make good decisions; messages such as "Stop," "Think," or "Pray." Most of the children took their signs upstairs with them to show their par

The Friend

We welcome a new writer: Vivienne Teloive He spent most of the night holding me. I would ask him to let me go so I could die and he held on tighter. I would tell him that the world would be better off without me, and he asked me if I had asked the world. I said I was a drain on my friends, he asked me if I had asked them. I said the pain was too much, he reminded me that I survived before. He reminded me to breathe. He didn't leave me alone. He held on, helped me to hold on. He held me till I fell asleep. Is this what God does? Is this what friends do? Psalm 118:17 (New International Version) 17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version) 11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

All You Need...

by Susan Stewart I spend a lot of time in my car just listening... Listening to music, to talk shows on the radio, sometimes simply for that still small voice... Lately I've been listening to Dallas Willard's book, "Divine Conspiracy". It's blowing me away, as my poor friends are becoming aware of. The man is a self-confessed "thinker" - that's the way God wired him - to love thinking things through and then writing about them. And God is using those things to speak in a still small way - deep and healing things - in the quiet most remote recesses of my heart. This week it was some of his thoughts about love that hit home. (I guess that's appropriate - this being so close to Valentine's Day.) What he said that struck me is that the only remedy for us messed up ego-centric human beings - the only way to undo the self referential inward spiral bent toward complete and utter self-centredness - is to be adequately loved. To be loved. It

The Amish Invasion

My friend Ellen left it at my house one evening in January in a ziploc plastic bag and accompanied by a recipe with the print slightly splodged. She was smiling when she gave it to me, but I noted a slightly strange and desperate gleam in her eye. "Amish Friendship Bread," said the writing on the bag, but it actually was a glob of batter that over the next 10 days, lay on my on my counter top requiring daily attention. The instructions said that I had to "feed" it at 6 and 10 days, and I did my duty faithfully, "mushing" it on the other days and periodically "burping" the air that built up in the plastic bag as surely as flatulence after brussels sprouts. My grandchildren observed the bag with interest and got into the habit of squeezing what seemed almost like another family member, whenever they passed by. On day 10 I divided the growing batter into 4 bags and baked two loaves from what was left, keeping one bag, to start the process all over a

The Battle

By Tracy Huurman The battle rages on. Light against darkness, clashing like warriors in the fields. The darkness is heavy, oppressive. It smothers the light, tries to choke the life from it. The light dims, flickers...has darkness won? Has the light been snuffed? Has the very breath of life been stolen from the light, never to shine again? The darkness lies heavy, still and unmoving. It's weight is powerful, painful, crushing. Occasionally the darkness pulsates, but it is not a heartbeat, no. For the darkness does not have a heart. Tendrils develop and become entwined and entangled, pulling, tearing, pinching, scratching. The darkness is ever-moving, ever changing, ever torturing. But wait, what is that? A flicker of light? Was it not extinguished? Did the darkness not triumph? No, the light was merely weak, immobilized. The light is slowly gaining strength, burning brighter and stronger every moment.The tendrils of darkness begin to lose their grip. They become disentangled. As th

The Sword

I was at Becca's soccer game the other night. It was a little oasis for me, Daddy home with the boys and me on the bench alone, watching...and to my surprise listening. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You; because he trusts in You"(Is 26:3 NKJV). Is that You Lord? The voice was quiet, but a firm prompt to listen. Then the prompt took shape as I watched the game. The children were running hither and yon, kicking the ball like mad, dashing to the next position and then the ball came at them again. The field seemed full of shots, in every direction, as two games were played at separate ends. It could be overwhelming to the onlooker, or the player, if you weren't prepared. It felt like my life...tested, tempted, attacked from every angle, like the enemy was using me for target practice. Yet in this quiet place on the bench, I heard His voice again, "Do you trust Me?" Yes Jesus. "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from

Like a Field Devoted to the Lord

Leviticus 27:21 (New International Version) 21 When the field is released in the Jubilee, it will become holy , like a field devoted to the LORD;... I long to be to you my King, A field devoted to the Lord, For you my soul and spirit sing, For you my heart beats and I cling To you alone. I long to have my heart ploughed deep, A field devoted to the Lord, The hardened clods of clay that sleep Awoken, broken in his keep, For him alone. Belinda

Joy in the Journey of Endurance

By Joyful Fox I look at the mounds of snow pushed into the guardrail at the end of our street, driveways awash with waist-high banks of winter white, gleaming, glistening and calling children to conquer. Across the field, wheat-coloured grass and brown shrubbery rises above drifted swirls. Even the rooftops are covered in this blanket of eiderdown. The dark silouette of trees, marked by a cascade of whiteness, is serene and beautiful. I am thankful to be alive... a part of this day. I think of the storm earlier this week and the joy with which my children shoveled so much snow. I think of endurance. We have studied The Antarctic this week. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn along with my children. Antarctica is the coldest place on earth, winter temperatures reaching -120 degrees F or colder (not including wind chill whose average speed can reach 100 mph on any given day) - makes our temperatures in central Ontario seem balmy by comparison. So really, what's -20 degrees F?

Passion and Truth

1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 (New International Version) 19Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 21Test everything. Hold on to the good. The use of the metaphor of slavery to describe our relationship with God, prompted passionate discussion and, at least for me, a lot of thought. I learned that metaphorical language, if not relevant to the culture, becomes a barrier between people and God. If that's the case, we ought to examine our language. Even "church" can be a barrier--an obstacle people might trip over on the way to Christ. I don't mean The Church as the universal Body of Christ, but church with a small "c," in which we do things in certain ways that must look strange to a person coming in off the street. They might mistake "church" for Christianity and be forgiven for thinking that they have fallen in amongst weird people; people who strangely enough, turn into normal human beings the moment they leave t


Tonight's post was written by my 18 year old son, Joel. Joel is a good kid, tall and thin, with narrow hips and a head covered with an unruly mop of naturally curly blonde hair that obviously will forever resist taming. He has a girlfriend, an ipod, and a job at MacDonald's. He helps to run the sound system at church each week. This is his last year of high school and he has no idea yet what he wants to do next year or with the rest of his life. We talked late last night, and he told me that he couldn't understand anyone being depressed. "We have so much to be thankful for," he said. Yeah. He's got that much right... Joel Stewart: Imagine living in Kibera. Africa’s second largest slum, home to anywhere between 6 and 12 million people. It’s impossible to know exactly how many live there. Essentially, they don’t have a home. There'll be no place to call your own. 600,000 people filling up each square kilometer with no high-rises makes it difficult t

Knave, or Slave?

A short while ago one of our readers, Dave, was bothered when I quoted someone, in my post entitled Panic as saying, "I obey him because I am a slave and he is a King." Dave wrote: I've come back and re-read this post a couple of times, not commenting because I didn't want to seem negative. But I realize that I like it, on my blog, when people disagree. I have to say, the 'I obey him because he is a king and I am a slave' really really really bothers me. I don't think God asks for subserviance or a King / Slave relationship as it exists in this world. I have always believed that Jesus stood up to those in power - as necessary and questioned authority - as was his mission. I worship God as a free man, not as a slave. I give God my love as a free man, not as a peon. I give God my praise as a free man, not as a sycophant. I think asking any person who has ever been enslaved - in this life on this earth - you will not hear words of love about their 'king&#

Congratulations to Dave!!!

Congratulations to Dave Hingsburger, a faithful Whatever He Says reader and fellow blogger, for winning the gold medal for the Best Activist Blog of 2007 in the Canadian Blog Awards for his blog on disability issues, Chewing the Fat. As if this was not enough, Dave also won the bronze medal in the category of Best Blogosphere Citizen! Yeay Dave! We are celebrating with you. If you'd like to congratulate Dave, you can do so at

Kindred Spirits

I never met her but I feel that I know her well; Amy Carmichael. She died in 1951 at the age of 83, the year after I was born, but when I read her books and poetry, age and the separation of years is irrelevant. She is a tremendous role model and inspiration, but also a kindred spirit, and often I see a string of words that she wrote and my heart sings, "Me too!" January 31st was such a day. Edges of His Ways , is a collection of some of the thoughts that she recorded to share with her "family" at Dohnavur, the community and refuge she founded in India. On the page for January 31st, she wrote: ...As each new day begins it is true to say, I have not passed this way heretofore; joys that I never met before will meet me today; surprises are awaiting to delight me... I too, know the Father who loves to delight his daughter and I laugh with delight at the surprises when they come. Later that day, as I was driving down some snowy highway in bright sunshine, bound for a de

Knowing God

We talked hubby and I...after my guitar lesson, where my instructor and I had talked about Jesus, about hanging on to Him, even in the face of sin and falling away. After, Frank and I watched a You Tube ad for the Bible Experience (a new audio presentation of the whole Bible). It sounds FANTASTIC. Check it out. There are many different versions of the ad. The one that is 10 minutes and 48 seconds is the best. Anyway...the thrust of the conversation was, do we really know God. And are we grateful for what He has done for us. I've been reading a novel about the life of Mary Madgelene. In it the scene unfolds where Mary anoints Jesus feet with the precious ointment, spikenard. She weeps over Him and dries his feet with her long, luxurious hair, much to the disgust and shock of the leaders of the Jewish community who were present. When they confront Jesus with this, He calmly points out that a person who has been forgiven a great debt is more grateful than one fo

Something Better

Hebrews 11:15-16 (New International Version) 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country —a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. On Saturday, I went to pick up my book order that was waiting at the Treasure House, our local Christian Bookstore; four copies of the little book by Watchman Nee; Sit, Walk, Stand. I wanted to give them to some friends who were also eager to read it after I had shared how much the book had impacted me. While I was there I ordered an additional 4 copies. At a little over five dollars, this little book is a treasure. I've been listening to Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, on CD, and have been fascinated by his description of the "tipping point" that occurs as a result of something small happening, resulting in a momentum that causes an effect out of proportio


She was beautiful, this young friend I hadn't seen for a while. It took me a moment or two to realize what it was--ah, yes, the tan. In the middle of a Canadian winter, she glowed. Her blue eyes popped against her golden complexion, emphasized by the turquoise and silver jewelry she wore. She wore her blond hi-lighted curls in a short bob that framed her lovely features. She had arrived back home from a tropical island vacation just that morning and she bubbled over with descriptions of the resort, the wonderful time of reconnecting with children --rebuilding intimacy and relationships that can falter and crack in the pressure and rush of our north American lifestyle. The food, the horseback riding, the other recreational activities all sounded wonderful. She spoke of the staff at the resort, the men showering flirtatious attention and compliments on the female guests, including herself and her daughters. Not wanting to miss a minute of this time away, she was up every morning earl

Martha's Dream

Incredulous laughter bubbled up within me as I listened to my friend Martha describing her dream of the night before. Her dark eyes shone and her brow furrowed as she tried to explain it. English is not her first language, and she did not know the word for fighting with a sword. "I was wearing the special clothes," she said, "I had the thing on my head and I was using a sword." "Fencing;" I said, "You were fencing and that was the mask over your face. It's so amazing that you were dreaming about fencing." She looked puzzled; smiled, shook her head of dark curls and went on excitedly. "I went all the way until my opponent was on the floor, his sword was across his body and he was totally defeated. It was so easy; just a case of moving forward. There was no effort." She paused then, and took a deep breath, looking at me curiously. I told her that just the night before, I had told a true story in a blog post, about an elderly woman who

The Canadian Blog Awards!

As I came through the front door, laden with groceries, the phone was ringing. On the other end was the warm, deep voice of my friend Dave Hingsburger, and he was telling me that the Best Religious Blog announcement had been made; Whatever He Says has won second place! That is second place in all of Canada. What an incredible honour. To check the announcement out go to Congratulations to Jordon Cooper, of , a pastor from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who won first place! Thanks to Dave for nominating Whatever He Says and for starting this exciting adventure. Thanks to my fellow writers, Susan Stewart, Ellen Fox and Angela Catrambone. Thanks to all of our faithful readers; you are the reason we write! Most of all I thank God for the joy of writing whatever he says.

A Tale of Two Sisters

Once upon a time there were two sisters, as different as night and day. At least that’s what everyone thought - including them. One was brunette, the other blonde. One had a sprinkle of freckles across her nose, the other just wished she had. One loved her dolls and listened to her parents, did her homework and washed the dishes right away whenever she was asked. The other was outside at every opportunity – running, jumping, shouting – just playing hard and spurning anything that looked or felt like "responsibility". One sister kept her clothes clean, her shoes polished and made sure her socks always matched her outfit. The other sister was too busy chasing adventure through ditches and woodlots - building forts, climbing trees, catching frogs - to ever worry about what her clothes looked like or to keep her shoes from getting scuffed. One sister - the older - felt it was her responsibility to look out for both of them, but the younger sister rejected her wisdom, throw