Showing posts from May, 2009

Two Completely Different Lives

"I have lived two completely different lives thus far," he said. He was only in his thirties--was he talking about a career change maybe? No; it was something far deeper; he was trying hard to express the difference an encounter with Christ had made in his life. Imagine what it would take to change a man's view of women; his perspective on money and, in fact, the whole path of his life. Something profoundly real and good would have to happen to have that much power. Stories like his are the greatest evidence for the reality of God. When a person starts to tell me his or her faith story, I get ready for something wonderful. Eyes fill with tears, hands reach for tissues, hearts spill over with a gratitude that is hard to express and I am right there with the person, because I understand. It may sound weird but I was grateful that I solidified my faith at the age of 16, having grown up in a non church-going family. I knew that I had made a personal choice; a decision that ma

Leading with our ears

Another week of ruminating on how to connect with others in helping ways. Another week of pondering the connection between suffering and sustenance for our souls. Another week of visioning for a future profession and ministry: how to be a life coach and one day a counsellor/therapist coming from an authentic place within myself. In this process I have been joined by a blog reader who does her own writing, research and ruminating on similar subjects. This week she shared some powerful words from Larry Crabb's book, Soul Talk. : Every person who relates with people - whether as coach, counselor, spiritual director, therapist, pastor, elder, caregiver, spouse, parent, friend or mentor - needs to speak Soul Talk. And that means we must stop talking so quickly out of what we think we know and learn to lead with our ears...If we learn the discipline of silence as we engage in conversation and think passion as we quietly listen, perhaps we'll spend less energy figuring out what to do

Riding the Bulldozer

"But from everlasting to everlasting, the Lord's love is with them who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children - with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." Psalm 103:17,18 I've watched the landscape change over the past few weeks on a piece of land south of Tottenham. First the surveyors came in with their instruments and planted little florescent orange flags here and there. Then little black fences were built around the entire quarter section of rolling farmland to contain the silt that would soon be stirred up. Then the equipment moved in and huge yellow machines -bulldozers and earthmovers - tore out all kinds of trees, removed entire hills and created great swales. One day there were farm fields with some very hilly sections, and just a few weeks later, there is a gently rolling landscape laid out like a brown earth blanket and ready to have an entire subdivision laid out on it. I couldn't believe how much

Still, RUN

I love people and never get tired of sitting across from someone, looking into their eyes and listening to what they have to say. What I just wrote sounds as though I am a good listener, but all too often I am whirling around faster than--than a washer on the spin cycle! Anyone with a smidgen of interpersonal radar would not find that inviting. But, thank goodness that in spite of "me," I sometimes do see the one in front of me and just enjoy "what God has made" in that other person. And what he makes is delightful. The snippets of wisdom I glean from conversations, I take away to ponder later. Today someone told me that he had coached a girl's basketball team to win two championships. I had such fun listening to his coaching stories. His eyes sparkled as the stories came with laughter in his deep voice. Of the training, some girls would say, “I’m tired, I’m not doing it.” He would smile and say, “I know. Still, RUN.” He said they would complain as they ran, but

So We Practice

Sounds, smells and feelings, laid down in memory as a child, are so powerful. A whiff of eau de cologne can evoke a strong memory of Oma's handkerchief and Polo peppermints and lipstick the inside of Mum's purse. Paraffin lighter fuel--that would be Mum's apron pocket! I have always loved listening to a piano being practiced and I think it goes back to happy summer days in Holland as a child, at Oma's. I would sometimes press against the screened window in the long, dark back room of her second storey flat, listening and looking for fascinating glimpses of the lives of people I would never know; the people that lived in the flats bordering on the courtyard. The old, tall Dutch houses created a barrier from the city sounds of traffic and trams, and made the sounds from within the courtyard echo louder : The wind in the trees, snatches of conversation, the chirping of birds; someone behind an open garden door practicing the piano... So now, when I hear my granddaughters d

From the Archives: Deeper into Truth

I was in my car, waiting for the lights to change when the woman caught my attention. I watched her as she crossed the road into the plaza. Her dark blonde hair was short and spiky--slightly unkempt--her face was pale and had a slightly quizzical expression. Her clothes were odd. Beneath the skirt of a cotton dress, she wore turquoise leggings and over her dress a short, light brown jacket. "An artistic soul," I thought at first,"Someone who marches to the beat of their own drum." Then she put a cigarette to her mouth and took a long drag on it as she hurried along--and with that small action, my impression changed--her eccentricity seemed of a different kind as she hurried along the street. I thought of how quickly an impression can change based on very limited information and I thought of how limited my ability is to "see" well at all. My friend Irene and I were chatting recently about the Johari Window. This window is a diagram related to how we appear

Christopher's Story Part 3 The War

In 1944, Chris was working in a reserved occupation, glass blowing, in Lancashire. But it also happened to be a traditional recruiting area for the Brigade of Guards. In spite of being officially prohibited from enlisting, he managed to do so and his service record shows that he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at Wolverhampton on May 22nd 1944. He was 23. Although the regiment was formed in 1656, during King Charles the 11's exile, and was originally named the First Footguards, the name Grenadier was given after 1815, when they defeated the French Grenadiers at Waterloo. Then the bearskin of the grenadier company was adopted by the entire regiment, and the "grenade" replaced the former badge of "royal cypher and crown." Chris, whose hard earlier life had given him little to take pride in, must felt a sense of belonging in the army such as he had never had before. H e was assigned to the King's Company, an elite corp.  because they were short one man and

Wisdom Listens

The past two weeks have been busier than usual, with long hours. Even though it was only a four day week because of the holiday last weekend I was so looking forward to Friday. When I finally left the office in which I spent Friday afternoon, I urged the other stragglers to leave as I bid them farewell with a sense of joyful anticipation. Today I did a bit of this and a bit of that--talking on the phone to family, folding laundry, digging in the dirt and pulling weeds--a spot of shopping too. Then finally as the twilight gathered, I stepped out with my golden boy for a walk. The air outside the house was cooling down, but the moisture in the air still clung to us. I considered how Christmassy Molson looked, with his mismatched red collar and green leash--like a reindeer that had showed up for the wrong seasonal celebration. But he was happily oblivious. He cared only for sniffing the trail, and he did it, nose to the ground, with the concentration of a forensic detective. My senses wer

Yikes! Wrong Song on Thursday

This morning when I told Frances about my Thursday post about her arrangement of Psalm 136, set to the tune, She Moved Through the Fair, she said, "That wasn't the song, it was My Lagan Love!" This explains the "finagling" I referred to that had to be done, in order to make the words fit. Apologies to Frances. Here is the right song. But we do get to enjoy two absolutely lovely melodies. Frances's version, was based on the Kate Bush rendition, but I can't find it on You Tube, so here is the most lovely I could find, by Boreen.

Placing a "higher value" on suffering

I have never forgotten her words, spoken softly but firmly as she taught our teleconference class in Christian life coaching. That was back in April of this year, the first month of my wonderful training. My classmates from Singapore, Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and more places, and I, from Muskoka, Ontario, listened and engaged through the long distance phone lines and dutifully took our notes about the differences between regular and Christian life coaching. The main difference that stood out for me was encased in her words: "We place a higher value on suffering." Those words were in some ways a truism for me, a "duh". Okay, so we get it. We Christians know all about suffering and its value, I guess, or are supposed to. But in this day and age of the prosperity gospel, the wonderings about whether we are doing something wrong if we have difficulties, we need to be told that. Especially in the world of life coaching. For that is whe

Nolan Visits The Government

It's funny how children will take bits and pieces of their limited knowledge and knit them together into their own version of "reality". Last weekend, we took five-year-old Nolan to Ottawa for a special weekend away with Papa and Mommy'sMum. When we asked him where he would like to go, he chose "Ottawa" over all other offers, including Niagara Falls, Agawa Canyon, Science North, and various other adventures. He hears a lot about "the government" in his household, and maybe that was the attraction. He has a dad that half jokingly blames any and all of his financial woes on having to pay the government so many taxes, and a mom who does her best to clean up any wrong perceptions by explaining that the tax money daddy has to pay doesn't just go to "the government", but is used to build highways and hospitals and parks. When we arrived in Ottawa, the first thing Nolan wanted to see was "the government". So we took him to Pa

Give Thanks to God

Among the loose, precious pieces of paper between the pages of my Bible is an ivory page, bearing the familiar embellished handwriting of my friend Frances. It is an arrangement based on Psalm 136 that she wrote and sang a few years ago, to the tune of She Moved Through the Fair --a beautiful Celtic song. Frances's voice is perfect for Celtic folk music, and I've never forgotten how lovely it sounded. All I can do to help you experience it is to type out the words and add two video clips. One is of DadGad playing the tune on an acoustic guitar. It is incredibly beautiful. The other is of Sinead O'Connor singing the song in 1997. You might be able to imagine how the words might fit with a bit of finagling! :) I hope you enjoy it all--the words and the music. Give thanks to God for He is good His love endures forever Give thanks to him the God of Gods His love endures forever Give thanks to Him who is Lord of Lords His love endures forever Give thanks to Him who does great th

Knowing by Heart

Psalm 139:1-4 (New International Version) 1 O LORD, you have searched meand you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise;you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down;you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD Her husband of forty or so years was doing the talking, but I was watching her. Her subtle response to what he was saying was priceless to observe. I don't remember what he was saying, but I remember every slight shift of her expression.She had no idea that she was being so acutely observed; that I saw her quick glance away as he spoke; the merry twinkle of the eye; the lips pressed together as if to hold back the words that threatened to escape--and the tiniest of smiles. All of them combined to say, "I love that man, but right now he's singing a familiar song that doesn't make as much sense as he thinks it does--and I'm not saying a word." Her response made

Taking It Up a Notch

"From the Archives" will be tomorrow instead of today. God birthed a different post for Tuesday, and "just in case" someone else out there needs to hear it, here it is--and I hope it makes sense. :) A sobering thought just struck me: We don't just live our lives "with" our children and grandchildren; we live them "before" them. With every response we teach them more powerfully than words ever could, how to be, and what is important. Is what I want to teach them being adequately represented by my words and actions? Not really. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think that much good is lived out before them, but there is something I need to be better at, and that is demonstrating how much I love them by the time and focused attention I give them, individually and as a group. I have, in my busyness, fallen into the trap of "being with" them often, cooking wonderfully hospitable meals and creating a place of welcome, but not so often "d

Pieternella (Nelly) 1941-43

The words on the back of the photograph of the young man read: "In remembrance of my beloved son Gerd. For my little, dear Nelly! From Frau Marie Weers. 18.3.47. Gerd was born 25.3.23, on a Sunday, in the morning at 8 o'clock." __________________ Each day people's lives are changed forever in big ways and small by those whose lives touch theirs. This is how it was in 1941 when Kaatje (Kitty,) my mother's sister, who was 11 at the time, came home in a state of excitement. She couldn't wait to tell the family about the wonderful new friend she had made. His name was Gerd von Minden; he was 18 and in the Kriegsmarine; the German navy; on a boat docked in the Schie river in Rotterdam. Before long, Kaatje brought him home to meet her family, with his 19 year old friend, Kurt Reske, who was from Prussia They found a place of friendship, and family, in our family, while they were stationed in Rotterdam from 1941-43. Oma used to wash and starch parts of Kurt’s unifor


On Saturday, I, with my daughter-in-law Susan, my granddaughter and her friend, all set out for Hamilton for a Michael W. Smith concert at Copps Coliseum. We left at 10.30 a.m., intending to enjoy this day to the full, and we did! Every single minute of it was perfect. We had tickets in the Artist Circle, thanks to the generosity of my friend Susan's sister Brenda, who sadly couldn't make the concert herself. To add to the excitement we had an invitation to the V.I.P. lounge to meet the artists who would be opening for Michael W.Smith: Jon Bauer, High Valley, Kevin Pauls and Christine Evans. We had lunch at Kelsey's upon arriving in Hamilton, and then found the nearest mall to shop in until 4.30, when the V.I.P. lounge opened. And so we found ourselves ushered in through a separate entrance to the crowds that would be arriving later. I was right out of my comfort zone, but planned to hide behind my daughter-in-law and granddaughter and let them do any meeting and greeting t

"All That is Here are Humans"

This week I was helping my daughter with a class presentation about the effectiveness of UN Peacekeeping in the world. One of our sources was Romeo Dallaire's book, Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda ,his account of the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990's when he was in charge of the ineffective UN force at that time. What he experienced and witnessed drove him into despair and madness for a time, and through his faith and therapy and the faithful love of his wife, he came back to sanity and is a powerful voice in the world today against the hypocrisy of many policies of our western governments. I was riveted by something he said in the introduction: Engraved still in my brain is the judgment of a small group of bureaucrats who came to "assess" the situation in the first weeks of the genocide: " We will recommend to our government not to intervene as the risks are high and all that is here are humans". Besides the rage I feel along wi

Food for Thought

Our daughter Beth lives next door with her family of husband, brother-in-law and five little boys, and if her lights are on, I can rarely resist checking in. She has four lazyboy chairs in her living room, perfectly situated for conversation and when it is after 10 p.m., as it was tonight when I turned off of our laneway and into her driveway, her crazily active boys are sure to be all in bed. Perfect for a good night chat. I can't tell you what a blessing it is to have such a good friend living right next door. Tonight we talked about a number of things that were concerning us. She told me about how she was addressing a particular issue and I told her how I was impressed at her assertiveness and the tenacity to see a wrong righted where she had a God-given responsibility to do so. "How come you're like that?" I asked. "What gives you the courage to stand up for yourself until the issue is dealt with?" I was thinking of my own passive nature (passive doesn&#

The Devil's in the Details

Whoops--I started this post and accidentally pressed the publish button with just the start of the title, "The Devil." I'm sure some people wondered what that was about. I will try again! _______________________________________________________ I have never counted myself as an excellent out loud story teller. The trouble is, occasionally there is a story that I want to tell. If my stories were paintings they would be in the style of the impressionists; those 19th century French artists who used tiny dots or brush strokes, of light and dark and colour, to create the impression of whatever it was they were painting. Viewed up close all one can see is seemingly random dots. From afar, the portrait or scene is clear. The older I get, the less I worry about unnecessary details, and have got used to my children saying, "Mom, that's not what happened." I throw out the approximate facts, not with any intention of misleading, but I honestly just want to make a point

The Fruit of Our Faith

2 Peter 1:3-9 (New International Version) 3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. These inspiring words from 2 Peter tell us that fai

High Horses and Other Modes of Transport

Proverbs 16:18 (New International Version) 18 Pride goes before destruction,a haughty spirit before a fall. My eyes fluttered open as the grey light of dawn filtered into my room. Stretching in the warm cocoon of my bed, I reached into the crispy cold air of my bedroom with my outstretched arms. Something important was tugging at my sleepy brain, and slowly I remembered; I had an adventure planned for this morning!  As quietly as I could, I slipped from between the covers. Shivering and teeth chattering, I quickly dressed and padded downstairs, careful not to wake my sleeping parents and brother. My parents certainly wouldn't have understood my mission -- and my brother, three years younger, would have wanted to tag along.  Leaving the still silent house with a couple of apples in my pocket, I stepped out into a world already alive with chirping, twittering bird-song and began to run through the frosty grass towards the meadow. There she stood, my friend Mer

Christopher's Story Part 2

In this photo, Christopher is in the 2nd row from the bottom, and is 2nd from the right. . In the second photo he is in the second row, on the far right In the third, back row, far right, already showing the proud posture that would stand him in good stead as a soldier. Fourth, in his early teens, taken in the mid 1930's At 17 (1938) I am curled up very comfortably, in a wing backed reclining armchair and waking up from a delicious afternoon nap. My eyes register movement from outside the window. The branches of the Magnolia tree, heavy with luminous pink blossom, are nodding in the afternoon breeze. The clock ticks away seconds and minutes, a comforting sound when there is no rush to do anything in particular. It is Mother's Day, in May of 2009 in North America, but my mind is drifting back, far back across 8 decades to the 1920's, 30's and early 40's and to England, the place of my birth. It is time to pick up Christopher's story where

Mother's Day

Mothers I am a mother. I sometimes wound as well as heal. I unintentionally sometimes inflict guilt--and knowingly, as well as unwittingly, cross boundaries. I have the terrifying power to crush a heart with a look or a word. There are days when I feel more like a toxic waste dump of generational junk than the ideal woman of Proverbs 31. Motherhood humbles me. I find myself doing and saying things I was sure I would never do or say. I regret, repent and cannot forgive myself for some mistakes. Motherhood drives me to my knees before God. It fills my heart with a love that is a physical ache sometimes. I am overwhelmed at knowing that I would be capable of terrible things if anyone threatened my children. The violence of that instinct shocks me. Motherhood pulls out of me my best and sometimes my worst. And sometimes I wonder how God could entrust children to such blundering hands. But he does, and somehow they survive. And wonder of wonders, they find it in their hearts to love, and fo

Bright, Beautiful, Faithful and True: Tribute to My Mother

This is my second Mother's Day without my mother, who died on March 31st, 2008, in my arms, in the last month of her 95th year, of colorectal cancer. Her face and body were shrunk to a fraction of their former beauty and strength, but still she died with dignity and grace. I, despite many years of emotional hardship in my relationship with this powerful figure in my life, was able to lovingly pray with her a number of times in her final months, and crawl into bed beside her to rub her back. My sister and I shall never forget the tender moments of my mother's final days, and the opportunity God gave us to show our love to the mother who was faithful and true to us in the ways she knew. Although we are relieved to not have her sometimes critical spirit and sharp tongue wound us at times, are released from receiving surprise emotional "kicks", we miss our mother, and we always will. We look back on the life of Dorothy and are able to celebrate the person that she was abo

New Every Morning

Thunder. It cracks and then rolls across the stratosphere bouncing and echoing for miles and miles across the fields. It is shockingly, jarringly loud. Even Ron, who sleeps through everything, is jarred awake and says a little comically, “Did you hear that?” Lights go on in the house next door. Two little boys, whose bedroom is downstairs must have heard the thunder too and are running for the safety and security of Mom and Dad’s bed. I imagine they are being pulled in and tucked up close, with whispered words of comfort soothing and quieting their souls as their heartbeats begin to slow back down to a normal cadence and the warmth of their parents’ bodies lull them back to sleep. I lie in the dark and listen to the rain come, countless tiny drops forming individually and then falling from heaven to create a muted drumming sound, washing the earth clean and forming the perfect backdrop to my thoughts. Slowly, imperceptively, the sound of the rain softens and fades. Now I hear the inter

Somebody's Mother

I don't know who wrote this poem, but it is very old. It was shared with me by my beloved Aunt Agnes MacDonald many years ago. (Thursday--my friend Claire Alexander found the author of the poem: Mary Dow Brine. The anthology it comes in is the "Poetry for Children" edited by Amy Neally. Thank you Claire!) It makes me cry whenever I read it. It is unashamedly sentimental and it touches me somewhere deep. Because this weekend we honour our mothers I am sharing it with the readers of Whatever He Says. The woman was old and ragged and gray, And bent with the chill of the winter's day; The street was wet with a recent snow, And the woman's feet were aged and slow. She stood at the crossing and waited long, Alone, uncared for, among the throng Of human beings who passed her by, None heeded the glance of her anxious eye. Down the street with laughter and shout, Glad in the freedom of "school let out," Came the boys like a flock of sheep, Hailing the snow, piled


At the end of a long and busy day at work, glad to be home for the evening, I steer my somewhat beaten up Honda into the curving driveway leading to our front door. I notice and appreciate, the fact that it is still daylight. Outside the garage doors a child's bike stands abandoned and on the curving patio outside our sun porch sits a lawn chair with an air of having been recently vacated. Signs of the start of the season of sunshine and outdoor pursuits. I open the car door and reach for my briefcase, empty thermos and another bag, full of books, lunch box and bits and pieces that overflow as I try to wrestle them strategically into place for the trip into the house. As I head for the door, a child runs around the corner of the house with the grace of a gazelle, long hair flowing behind her, cheeks rosy with fresh air. "Hide and seek!" she pants conspiratorially as she disappears around the other side of the house. My bags land with a thud on the floor in the hallway, bu

Paying Attention to Two Worlds

The natural world amazes me. My senses are saturated with beauty daily--I pay attention because that's the way God made me--I can't help it. Yesterday, in anticipation of a hot day ahead, I had pulled down the blinds and the windows were open to catch the cool breeze before the heat came. Outside, the wind blowing through the trees sounded like waves washing up on a beach. Wooosh--wooosh went the wind "waves"--while the blinds tap-tapped at the window frames. This morning though, was motionless. I sat in my green room and watched the stillness outside. Not a leaf moved. The sky was ominous grey and the air hung moist and heavy. I could hear only the occasional distant chirping or calling of birds and the tick-tick-ticking of our golden oak wall clock--a minimalist concert. The clock's rhythmic keeping of time contrasted with the random, free form sounds of nature. The ticking reminded me that time can be a taskmaster--but the world runs according to time--it seems

Pieternella (Nelly)

My Mum: Pieternella Kaatje Janny Schipper, known as Nelly, was born in Rotterdam, into a world between two wars: World War 1 and World War 11. She arrived on December 15th 1926, three days after her mother Kaatje's 31st birthday. One of her earliest memories was of her twin brother Jan and sister Kaatje, being born May 28, 1928. At that time the family was living at their baker's shop. Nelly had three older siblings. Two sisters: Cornelia Adriana and Adriana Dingena, and a brother, Dingenis Pieter. Nelly's father, Jan Schipper, named the children, and each child's middle name was the first name of the next child. The twins each took one of Nelly's middle names: Kaatje Dina and Jan Adrian, although Kaatje was known as Kitty to her friends. The twins were followed by two more children, Dirk Louis and Alijda Marina Helena, making Jan and Kaatje's family of eight complete. The years leading up to the start of World War 11 were hard, with ten mouths to feed on the me