Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Battle Rages On

My husband has a dear friend, one he has never met, one who lives all the way across the country. Sometime ago this man’s wife took his three children and left with a restraining order in hand that he was not to contact them. My husband has been praying fervently for several weeks that there might be some contact over Christmas. It did not happen. What to make of this. How is God working in it all?

Do you have issues like this in your life? Oh! I know! nothing as bizarre, nothing as serious as our friend’s story But let’s be honest - do we have absolute peace in our lives? Is our health everything we would like it to be? Can we count on our job being there for another year and paying what it has paid for the last? Are all of our children conducting their lives exactly as we think they should? It goes on and on!

In mulling this over in my mind this morning I became re-convinced of something I came to believe fifteen or so years ago. Exactly when this world was created and exactly how I don’t know! Exactly who God will save and on what conditions I don’t know! But this I feel fairly certain about. There is a huge battle going on between God and Satan and God wants to use me to win that battle. How He needs to use me I know not, nor can I ascertain the amount of hurt I will suffer nor what form it will take. But one thing I know, I will not be called to endure more than I can bear and that in the bearing I will learn and become a better person. And so, it seems to me, that even in the worst of what life has to offer I should be able to find peace. I should be able to say with Mary this Christmas: “May it be to me as You have said.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Inheritance

I was raised in a home where money was scarce. Most of my clothes came from boxes given to us by other people or were made from material that my mother ripped up and remade to fit me. I remember my mother making me a dress from new material when I was six, a white voile dress with yellow flowers. She bought me a new dress when I was eeven and made me a suit from new material when I was fifteen. Those stand out in my memory. I think everything else fell into the first described categories.

My mother lived until she was past 90. The last five years of her life were spent in her own room at the Meaford Nursing Home - a place she loved and enjoyed to the full. Her rent for this modest space was something around $2000 a month. Despite the very modest means of her life and the expense of these last years, when she passed away there was a modest inheritance for each of her six children. That was the most poignant part of her passing to me - not that I had a little cash but that after all the years of careful living financially, she had cared for a family and then for herself and still a little to spare at the end. It was our inheritance.

When I picked up my devotional book this morning the page fell open informing me of another inheritance. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled.” John 14:27. My inheritance!! My little inheritance from my mother is long gone - spent!! Yet this huge inheritance from my Father above, at the deepest levels of my emotion, of my thinking, of my attitudes, of my behaviors, so many times sits unused, unspent. I wonder why! Do you know?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Fun Galatians

We have just returned from a fun vacation (a fun Galatians to great-granddaughter, Bayleigh). It rained, it snowed and the purpose of the trip, at least in the hunter's minds, was probably not realized. But what fun it is to have great-granddaughters, to be around little ones when one is in her eighth decade (think I have the right one) was. For any readers who don't know Remington is our little dog. He was outweighed, out heighted and all the other outs by the five other family dogs in the crowd, not to mention outrun by the two little girls who at three and almost two have found their legs. I made the mistake of taking Remington to the cabin where the little girls and one very large dog lived for the week. He did very well with it all for a while, but then on one race through the sunporch he lifted his leg at the table leg and you know what ensued. Bayleigh, following close behind, stopped and called, "Mommy, come quick! Reninghan just spilled his juice." I hope my memory retains this one into my ninth decade!
Why am I telling you this? To encourage you in several directions. If you have a marriage you are thinking of canning, think again! A family held together through the generatons is worth working for! If you have a son-in-law or daughter-in-law (this doesn't apply to you, girls!) that you don't like much, learn to! Good family relationships cannot flourish where love does not flow freely in all directions. If you have some possessions that are more important to you than the children in your family, change your mind! I guarantee that antique piece of furniture, that new carpet that you are protecting, that old car or whatever else is dear to you won't have a good word to say about you at your funeral. My most prized possession at this point in my life is my relationship with my grandchildren. And I feel pretty donfident that as the next generation increses in number and in years they will swiftly become a part of that 'prized possession' circle.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Isaiah 61:1

“ But to really understand Grace you have to do more than study it academically or quantify it theologically. To Get what Grace is, you have to have it offered to you in a moment when you are so repulsed by your own sin that you expect anyone who knows to be equally repulsed. “
The above came to my desk in the form of an e-mail to my husband from a pastor for a church all the way across the country. I don’t know this man, nor do I know what fellowship he was pastor for, but I know my heart breaks for him and his family. His wife and his three children are gone, the house where they lived empty. He has no home, no job and no family. Why? Because Satan won a major battle in his life and there was no one there to snatch him back from the abyss. And this story is being repeated in one form or another over and over again all over this land.

Why does Satan hold such sway over every segment of society? Where are the Christians, where are the churches who are supposed to be modeling, sharing, passing out in abundance the love of a God who wants to heal a broken heart? Please read with me a paragraph from John Eldridge’s book ‘Waking The Dead.’ “Satan realized he couldn’t stop the church. Oh, he tried. He arranged to have Jesus killed as a babe. He tried to seduce Him as a man. He tried to marginalize His message by having the religious establishment discredit Him. Finally, he had Him crucified. It backfired. Badly. Then he tried to stop the young church through intimidation and through death, having most of them killed. It also backfired. So he turned to a backup plan. If you can’t beat ‘em...join ‘em. Infiltrate their ranks dressed as an angel of light. Then slowly bring a veil over all that is good and beautiful and true. Take them captive through their own religion.”

And so, here we are today with churches of every creed and kind protecting their own way of thinking, sequestered with their own ki nd, and if they reach out at all it is to persuade others to think like them. And no one is fighting the war against Satan. Indeed, most of us would not feel like we were part of a war, or if we do, we have mis-identified the enemy. And mis-identified the battle field - in our own hearts. Would we be like Jesus? Then we must ‘heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and open the prisons of those who are bound.’ Isaiah 61:1.

Look again at what my hurting brother said: “ But to really understand Grace you have to do more than study it academically or quantify it theologically. To Get what Grace is, you have to have it offered to you in a moment when you are so repulsed by your own sin that you expect anyone who knows to be equally repulsed. “

When is the last time you have been repulsed by your own addictions, your own sins? When is the last time you have tried to lift a hurting soul up by telling them how God is helping you with your addiction, your sin?

‘But I have no addictions.’ you say.. Then that makes you better than Paul, way better than David. And lots better than me. I have several and each one is more serious than chocolate!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Ugly Orchid

In March of 2008, in response to a death in the family, a dear friend brought me an orchid. This little plant had three blooms on it - they stayed for a long, long time, then one by one fell off. Not knowing for sure what to expect, I carefully watered the little plant regularly and was greatly excited when a new shoot came forth from the stem. Even though it didn’t look a lot like the stem that had produced the three flowers, I was sure that was what it must be so I carefully tied the little shoot so it would grown up, though its natural bent was to grow straight west from the stem. The little, sprout headed upward with a westerly veer to its growth and, after I don’t know how much time the original stem produced two more blooms.
These little blooms did their part to brighten my life for several weeks then one by one fell off. So what would come next? It was several weeks later that I noticed another of the fat, fleshy sprouts heading west from the stem. Soon there were several headed in all four directions and places in between. What are these things? What are they for? I decided they must be roots that would eventually bury themselves in the soil and the plant would grow a lot bigger. But I didn’t want a bigger plant!! I had no place to put it.
At this point I called the florist to see if it would be OK just to cut them all off. “Oh, no!” she said, “You might kill the plant.” Though she was certain that ‘cut off’ these ugly shoots would be the demise of the plant, she was not sure what they were. She suggested I bring it in and let the florist tell me. And that was the plan!
But, in the meantime, a neighbor had given me a pretty outer pot for my little orchid so my decision was, since I couldn’t cut them off, I didn’t have to look at them. So I stuffed them all down between the two pots. Out of sight, out of mind so it was mnay weeks before I took my orchid to the florist.
When she saw what I had done she was aghast. “The plant can’t breathe.” she said as she pulled them all out and I brought my plant home with tentacles sticking out every which direction. Ugly, yes but now they could feed the plant. One day when I was ‘ugh’-ing how much I disliked the look of these shoots, I couldn’t help but think what a great illustration of the hurt and pain in our lives that they illustrated.
Hurt and pain are neither pretty nor comfortable but there is no doubt in my mind that they are necessary. I know of no character in the Bible who fulfilled the great purposes of God outside of pain. And when we think about it for just a minute, it doesn’t take long to realize that the pain came from diverse sources: Joseph from the mistreatment of others but the pain served to illustrate the providence of God, Job from intense physical and mental pain, which if not caused by God, certainly used by God to sear on the hearts of those who will listen the absolute sovereignty of God, David whose hurt and pain, for the most part, was the product of his own sinfulness. But David’s pain and sorrow has been, down through the ages, the stellar example of God’s forgiveness second only to the Cross of Christ
But, very much as I did with the ugly orchid tentacles, we try to hide the hurt and pains of our lives - the pain of our own failures, the pain of betrayal by others, the pain of loss of all sorts of things - job, finances, children gone from home, death of someone we love and so on, and the disappointment in just life itself. The result is much like the result when I tried to hide the ugly tentacles of my orchid. Our soul can’t breathe!
Elizaeth Lesser in her book ’Borken Open’ said this: “Adversity is a natural part of being human. It is the height of arrogance to prescribe a moral code or health regime or spiritual practice as an amulet to keep things from falling apart. Things DO fall apart. It is in their nature to do so. When we try to protect ourselves from the inevitability of change, we are not listening to the soul. We are listening to our fear of life and death, our lack of faith, our smaller egos will to prevail. To listen to the soul (to God - parenthesis mine) is to stop fighting with life - to stop fighting when things fall apart; when they don’t go our way; when we get sick, when we are betrayed or mistreated or misunderstood. To listen to the soul is to slow down, to feel deeply, to see ourselves clearly, to surrender to discomfort and uncertainty, and to wait.”
Will you look at my orchid again with me? One day not long after all the ugly shoots were exposed, I noticed that a number of them had wilted and shriveled up and the leaves of the orchid looked so much healthier. But new ugly tentacles keep coming. Again I was reminded of our hurt and pain! Stuffed away it only festers and causes us all kinds of problems. But acknowledged, in most cases shared with another human being, and always given to God for His tool to teach us what He wants us to learn, the pain has meaning and soon is pain no more. But since we always need to go a step higher spiritually, those pain tentacles reappear and a new lesson must be learned. This is the journey of life!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Practicing Death

We do not know where death awaits us; so let us wait for it everywhere. To parctice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave. Michel De Montaigne.

I can't seem to get this quote out of my mind since I read it. I sat down awhile ago in my favorite chair and when I did the leaves of the red maple shimmered in the sun as they moved back and forth in the breeze. Two yellow finches flew by in my line of vision. When I got up to take my coffee cup to the kitchen ten, tall 'from the same plant' rocket ligularia commanded me to look. And round about them were the black-eyed susans, the astilbe, the bergemot and the lilies all vieing for my attention. How does one practice death in settings like this? I suspect it has to do with focus.

I have a grandson who practices and practices and practices piano or anything that has to do with music. He can give me birthdates and deathdates of all the great composers. He informed me in our 'last might' conversation that he will be a music professor. Will he? I don't know. I do know he is focused enough that at 16 he gave up a week's vacation at the beach in order to practice and study for a music exam tomorrow.

Why don't we see the practicing of death in the same light? Perhaps it is because we see death as a painful thing, a depressing thing, a scary thing. Is it because we really don't believe what we say we believe? When I sat in my chair and watched the shimmering leaves the thought came to me; "How do I practice death right here, right now?" And I couldn't help but think that it would be quite like stepping from a beatiful flowered filled verandah over the threshold into an even more beautiful house. This afternoon I go to the Nursing Home where every room is filled with someone waiting to die. I have never thought of it 'til now but I believe those rooms that are cheery, with folks in them who are at peace, are the rooms that are home to some sweet soul who, though they probably would never couch how they feel in these words, have spent time practicing death.

So I go back to the job at hand - picking out all the stitches that went into joining eighy-four small triangles in the wrong way. And while I do it I will try a little 'practicing death.' It seems to me that is what someone somewhere called 'where the rubber meets the road.'

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Of Ringing Ears and Relationship

One day last October my ears began to ring. On the assumption that they would stop any second, I am sure I said what I always heard in a similar circumstance at my Mother's knee - "Somebody is talking about me." If that was true they have not since stopped. My ears have been ringing constantly since that day. Sometimes it is more ftrustrating than others but I am always aware of it, exept, perhaps, while I am sleeping. What to do about this? It appears that there is little if anything that can be done. I have tried a couple suggested remedies but the side effects are worse than the malady. And so I go about my days ever conscious of my ringing ears.

Paul in Philippians says this: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.." Osawald Chambers says:"the spiritual saint never thinks of his life as secular or sacred; he sees the means of securing the knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life...." I believe these things that I have just noted with all my heart but the constant awareness of it, the deep acceptance of it so that I am as constantly conscious of it as I am the ringing in my ears often eludes me.

How to change this lack, to improve this consciousness has often had me stymied. When I shared this confusion with my husband he reminded me of Brother Lawrence who 'practised the presence of God." Unable to find the copy of Brother Lawrence's book on the same topic that I know we have I googled 'Brother Lawrence." Before I had finished typing his name Google brought it up for me. I was amazed to find several entries on the beginning page about this man who died in 1691. What would have caused his memory to be relevant all these years later and part of our modern communication? Could it be his humility before God? He spent most of his life working in the kitchen of a Carmelite monastery. And as he cleaned those pots and pans he 'practised the presence of God.' And so I will practise, practise, practise.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Weak and Feeble

Jesus said in Matthew 11; "If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago." Jesus breaks away from His own conversation to say to His Father; "I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned..."
Oswald Chambers says; " the weaker and feebler you are, the better. The one who has something to trust in is the last one who will come anywhere near saying---"I will serve the Lord."
How is my Wednesday morning in July trust working for me when the sky is cloudy and the temperature 52 deg. F. Matthew 11 also says: "Wisdom is proved right by her actions."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Of Politics, Philosophy and Foxglove

I am not a political major nor have I ever held any kind of office except President of a Quilt Guild for one year. So, that I would venture to have anything to say politically is risky. But here goes!!
We hear those in power in one political system talk of 'winning the hearts and minds' of the people in another political system. At the same time the second political system blames the first political system for 'meddling' and in so doing is the cause of a failed election. I visited Englend many years ago and rode on a boat down the Thames and witnessed a billboard which read, ###### Unemployed. Will England Ever Work Again. A few years ago I visited Germany and witnessed the difference in the landscape, the difference in the number of delapidated buildings and so on from East to West. At the same time, I sat in with a group of prior East German teachers who had lived under the Communist rule for most of their lives. They were quick to talk of the good life they experienced under Communism. They had jobs, were guaranteed vacations, didn't have to think about who to insure their automobile with etc. This morning the man who 'madeoff' with the life savings of so many was to be sentenced for his greed but that will never bring back what his victims have lost. I watched one day as the politicians in the country that I live in yelled and screamaed at each other in an attempt to bring the government down but at the same time not quite bring it down because the opposition party wasn't in the right financial position to win a new election. I listened the other day to a medical expert give advice to the forty or so million people who live with no medical insurance and their access to medical care is in an emergency room after hours of waiting. To shorten that wait the advice was if one knew anyone who worked in that hospital be sure to drop their name. That would shorten the wait!! There was no suggestion to the people who had already waited for hours, who watched as their position in line was shoved further back by the namedropper.
Here's the philosophy. I have concluded from the little spot where I sit on this spinning globe that no political system will work without a myriad of flaws and failures unless the Golden Rule is practised. Likewise, there is no political system that would not work if the Golden Rule was practised That sounds easy, doesn't it? And it only took me a second or so to type it. The only problem is that the concept stretches far beyond the halls of Parliament or Congress or........
Saturday was a beautiful day on the shores of Georgian Bay. The man I live with deems that a very necessary part of our physical possessions, in order to live successfully on this part of the Great Lakes, is a fishing boat. Since the fish always seem to be sparse, I have found another good reason for this monster to take up most of our garage. In a little town about eight miles by water, there is the best ice cream parlour you can imagine. So on Saturday, with son, daugher-in-law and two grandchildren along that is just what we did. This particular ice cream store has no inside seating but two picnic talbes outside which gives a nice place to sit and lick before the half mile or so walk back to the boat. But on Saturday the tables were full. I felt irritation if not anger when I saw this. After all, we had come a full eight miles!! I was the one elected to stay with the dog outside. A minute or so into my wait the one table emptied. What I went through to try to position myself so that I could save this whole table must of been funny to watch!! The ice cream came after a while, we all had a place to sit so life was good!
It was on the ride back home that I became aware of just how far my actions and reactions were from the Golden Rule. What I had proposed as a solution to the failures of the governments of the world I was not able to put into practise with my own family at an ice cream parlour.
I think I hear someone suggesting, 'Yes, but that is only human nature' or 'God's grace covers those kinds of lapses.' The latter is true and I am so thankful for it but let me share what my phlox is telling me.
I have a phlox blooming beautifully in my garden just now standing tall at about seven feet. It is hard to form an accurate judgment as to the height of a phlox when from my five foot frame I drop my head back as far as it will go and the top of the phlox looks wa-a-ay up there. Why it is so tall I know not for sure. But I suspect, that from Phil Phlox's shady spot in the garden, he stands just as tall as he can to be nearer to the SUN. In the simple segments of a life's journey, like going to an ice cream store, I wonder how much happier we would be if we stood just as tall as we could in order to be as close as we could to the Son who, without failure, practised the Golden Rule.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What Was Is!

How to prepare for old age - practise a serene spirit and a grateful heart before your God.
I just came in from the Nursing Home and almost without exception I can say it is my favorite thing to do. Louise, from her Alzheimer riddled brain was busy getting ready for Christmas - the family was coming home. When I was ready to leave she said, "Oh,no! Don't go. I have made you a pie and put clean sheets on the spare bed" - indicative of her life. Though I only met her two weeks ago I dearly love her.
Then I went to see Verna who is strapped in her chair until someone puts her in bed. The position they lay her down in is the position they will find her in when they get her up to sit in her chair until the next bedtime. In our conversation today she said this to me. "If i have been able to draw someone closer to the Lord since I had my stroke, I would gladly have another one."
It is not possible to share in exchanges like this and not be lifted up, not come away desiring to be better than one has been. And so I look forward to Friday when I will again share a couple hours or so of my afternoon with the dear folks in the Nursing Home.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I Learned From A Farmer

I met a farmer about a week ago. At least, he was! He was busy running his Ontario farm, raising his boys, loving his wife when things suddenly changed. He went out one morning to do the usual morning chores but this morning, when he returned to the house his wife was blind. I can only imagine the concern and confusion that ensued. Doctors appointments and tests followed and the diagnosis for his wife was MS.
What to do now? The farmer and his wife decided that God had some plan for their lives that they knew not of at the moment, but they would entrust their lives to Him and see what happened. As he told his story to us we were amazed! The details of how everything happened that happened I either didn't hear clearly or can't remember but I know they ended up in Africa working to share the story of Jesus with the tribal people in Senegal.
My husband asked, "Which denomination were you with?"
His response, " No denomination. I just taught holiness."
He told us how he never asked for a dime in all that he did but had their needs met anyway, he told of delivering medical help to the people though his formal education hadn't gone far past Grade 8, he told of purchasing an airplane for $400 which he used, without training in how to fly it, to take needed help to the tribal villages.
My curiosity could be contained no longer. My question, "What do you mean, you taught holiness?" His eyes teared up, his voice cracked as he said, "I taught the wonderful gift of Jesus, I taught how much God loves us, that He wants to dwell in our hearts but can't except through the amasing gift of His son." At this point, he waved his arms to encompass the town and shared his sadness because he doesn't feel that most churches are focusing to the poing they should on that great gift. His passion for the atonement I won't soon forget.
His wife? Somewhere along the way in her more than three decades in Senegal, her sight was restored. The MS? I don't know. I know she lives today in the Nursing Home that I visit weekly. I read a line a few days ago: "There is no reality except God's reality." I thought of that line when I visited her. She has Alzheimer's. When I found her she was sitting in the Common Room, a huge clothes basket full of face cloths, dish cloths etc beside her. The contents of the basket she was folding and refolding over and over again. I spoke to her and said, "You are very busy." Her answer, "Yes, the children need these for school." We talked for a while, her in one sphere of reality, me in another. When I witnessed the serenity in her face, in her tone, in her movements I was not sure whose realsity God would take as His own. I said I will come and see you again. She said that would be nice but be sure and ring before you do. We might not be home.
I will go and see her again. I will ring before I do!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jonah Or Not?

It was great fun to be with our children and grandchildren yesterday for our grandson's graduation. However, besides the downpouring rain that dampened our enthusiasm a bit at times, Grandpa lost a tooth off his denture just after he finished his dinner. This morning he was able to find a denturist who, for $96.00 glued it back on (Crazy Glue would have been cheaper). He did come home with, besides the glued in tooth, a story that sweetened the loss of the $96,00 just a bit. The denturist has it that a fisherman was fishing and got himself a nice catch. When he cleaned the fish he came upon a set of dentures. For some odd reason these teeth had a man's name on them. Said fisherman was able to track down the man to find out that his teeth had been missing for five years. A fish tale or a Jonah story?? I'll let you be the judge!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A new blogger I am. I am not at all sure I have done any part of it right. But here goes!
Several years ago I watched as a mockingbird picked up a small tufted titmouse in his beak and twirled him around unmercifully. I watched that same mockingbird or one of his brothers do similarly mean things over and over. I couldn't help but wonder how he could be so mean. Then seemingly, I knew. He had no song of his own!! When I did a little looking on the internet on mockingbirds, I found they , indeed, do have a song of their own but seldom sing it. Rather they mimic the songs of the birds around them.
There seemed a 'faith' lesson in this to me. Perhaps we Christians fuss and fight, dicker and divide, because the faith song we sing is not our own. I want 'the song that I sing' to be my own, my relationship with God to be deep and personal, the experiences of my life to have 'growth' meaning for me and perhaps for others. Hence, the name - 'A Song of My Own.' Hopefully, the notes will become sweeter as I go along.