Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All Thumbs

It has been a number of years since I travelled anywhere by train. A couple of weeks ago I made the trip from Guelph to Ottawa that way. It was comfortable and a great deal less stressful than driving on my own would have been. It had all the conveniences. You could purchase food and drink without ever leaving your seat in the event you hadn’t brought anything along with you. Wireless internet was available for those with laptops in their hand luggage. The attendants were pleasant and helpful and the whole trip went without a glitch.

I did discover that I am one of those people who find it impossible to read in a moving vehicle without suffering almost immediately from motion sickness. That meant that using my computer was also out of the question. I was left with very few options for occupying the hours stretching ahead of me. I could have slept I suppose but I wasn’t particularly tired. My seatmate showed little inclination for conversation and in fact, dozed off almost immediately. I glanced around at my fellow travellers and was struck by the fact that although every seat in the car was occupied there was not a single word being spoken anywhere. Each person seemed to be wrapped in his or her own personal cone of silence.

Everywhere I looked I saw gazes locked onto books or computer screens and ears stopped up with headphones attached to iPods or other devices. No one made eye contact at all with those seated right next to them. Every few minutes someone would pull out a blackberry or smart phone to check for messages and thumbs would fly over miniature keyboards as they responded or formulated text messages of their own. It always amazes me that anyone can type at such speeds using only their thumbs when I can hardly see the letters on the tiny keys without straining my eyes. We used to say that someone who was all thumbs was clumsy but that hardly holds true these days. It was fascinating to witness the silent activity going on all around me but it was also a little sad.

With all the ways that are available these days to get connected socially through electronics we’ve lost the art of connecting face to face. It’s possible to have a list of ‘friends’ numbering in the hundreds or thousands on social networking sites but I suspect it is a lot like an ocean that is only an inch or two deep. People who are very active on those sites often confess to feeling isolated and lonely. There is some value in tools like Facebook. The problem comes when they take the place of real interpersonal contact. We need the chance to look into each other’s eyes and share a hug from time to time. Human contact that involves more than our thumbs is essential to our mental and emotional health.

I don’t believe we were designed to walk alone. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to dispense with the handheld devices and lose the headphones from time to time to focus on the person next to us. If we’re not careful we’ll forget how.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Embracing the Seasons

October’s vibrant colors have given way to November’s somber grays and browns and we’ve greeted the morning once or twice to find snow dusting the grass like icing sugar. My brother, Dave, has reluctantly parked his motorcycle for another year and we are all beginning to think of the coming of winter’s short days and shoveling driveways. Until recently Dave has looked on winter as a time to hunker down and wait with patient endurance for spring to arrive so he could start living again. Last year he decided on a radical change of attitude. Instead of hibernating, he would embrace the season.

He bought himself a pair of snowshoes and a toboggan and began to accumulate some warm winter gear. He made a plan to travel to Northern Ontario where he would undertake a 10 kilometer hike across the ice of the North Channel to a tiny island in Lake Huron. There he would build himself some sort of shelter in the snow and camp for a couple of nights before making his way back. The trip took considerable planning as he tried to anticipate the problems he might face and sort out the minimum of what he would need to survive. He really didn’t want to pull any more weight than absolutely necessary. Finally, he came to our place to practice tramping around the yard in his new snowshoes pulling the loaded toboggan on the end of a rope that he tied to a belt around his waist. He thought he ought to be able to do 10 kilometers even if he’d never done it before.

The date of his departure arrived and it looked like the weather would be cold and fine for the weekend. We thought of him often during the course of those next few days, wondering how he was getting along and waiting eagerly to hear all about it. The trip went well all things considered. He managed the trek across the ice safely in spite of climbing over an ice ridge to set his boot down in water on the other side. A headlong sprint to solid footing saved him from a soaking. Unfortunately, the toboggan trailing on the end of the rope behind him got caught on the ridge and he was yanked to a sudden stop that landed him flat on his keester. He picked himself up and once he’d stopped hyperventilating, he managed to work the toboggan free. The rest of the crossing was accomplished without a hitch. Once he reached the island he searched out a flat spot in front of a rock face that would allow him to build a shelter and have a fire inside. There was plenty of dead wood around for fuel and he managed to gather enough to get him through that first night. He discovered just how much work it took to survive in the wilderness in winter. Every waking moment was devoted to the endeavor. He made improvements to his camp the next day and was able to pass the second night in almost comfort. At the end of his stay he left his isolated hideaway with the satisfaction of knowing that he’d achieved all he set out to do. In a small way he’d pitted himself against nature and won. There was nothing easy or fun about it but he came home feeling immensely pleased with himself. He could say without reservation that it was good.

There is no doubt that some seasons are tougher than others. I can hunker down and wait for better days before I start living again or I can decide, like Dave, to embrace each season as it comes. Embracing the seasons of my life will look different for me than it will for someone else. We’re all individuals after all. Perhaps this winter I’ll practice by trying something new of my own. I may even discover something about myself in the process. Whether it turns out to be fun or just plain difficult I’ll be able to say without reservation that it was good.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sabbath Rest

We’ve been having a series of teachings at church on the Anchors of Our Faith, one of which is Sabbath Rest. That particular message is still to come but I was recently chatting with the woman who will be teaching it and she was talking about how God has built a Sabbath into all of nature.

I look out my window and see evidence of that. The leaves have fallen from all the Maples in the yard. The last of the corn has been harvested and the fields lie dormant. Some of those fields will eventually be left to lie fallow for a season so that the soil has a chance to replenish itself. Animals designed to hibernate are doing their last fattening up before their long winter sleep.

God knew what we needed when He made it a commandment to remember the Sabbath. Unfortunately, many of us no longer make much of a distinction between one day of the week and another. People often have no choice but to work on Sundays and even for those blessed with having it a day off from regular work find themselves using that day to catch up on all the chores they were unable to get to during the week. I don’t find attending church particularly restful as Bev and I generally find ourselves serving in some capacity on most Sundays. There are those who do try to take what remains of the day for a bit of relaxation and I suppose that I fall into that category. We might use the time for visiting, or curling up with a good book, or perhaps going for a drive in the country. I’m not sure that is enough.

Over the course of my Christian life there have been seasons where I’ve felt like I have nothing left to give and I end up disengaging from just about everything, sometimes for a year or more. I know that I am by no means the only one to have experienced this. I somehow think we may be missing some of what God meant by Sabbath Rest and why it needs to happen on a weekly basis. Perhaps that’s why we end up feeling so weary and burnt out from time to time.

I am looking forward to hearing the message on this subject. I suspect I have something to learn

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Love Messages Gone Astray

My husband, Bev, and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this week. What a journey it has been! I think marriage is the wheel that God, the Master Potter, uses to build and shape us into the work of art He intends us to be. Merging two lives into one is never easy. We’ve had to learn a lot of lessons along the way, some of them more difficult than others.

We’d been married about 10 years and we were going through an unsettled time. We weren’t dealing with conflict but there was an ongoing sense of frustration, discontent and just plain unhappiness in our marriage. When we finally got around to talking about it we discovered that both of us were feeling like we were the only one putting any effort into the relationship. We felt unloved, unappreciated, and worst of all, that we were somehow a disappointment to one another. The initial conversation was extremely difficult. I am an emotional being and I reacted to the whole thing with a lot of fear, pain, and anger…not exactly productive. Bless Bev for being willing to try again after we’d had a chance to process things with God.

Someone loaned us a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and it was a revelation. The premise is that every person is unique in how they give and receive love. They speak their own love language and it may or may not be the same language that you speak. He talks about five different ways that people express and recognize love. They are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

A little self analysis began to bring some clarity into what we were experiencing. I was expressing love to my husband every day through acts of service and yet he was feeling unloved. The message was getting lost in translation. He was attempting to express love through physical touch and I was interpreting it as need. What I really wanted was for him to bring me a cup of coffee from time to time. We weren’t speaking the same language. We had to learn to recognize and value the expressions of love that we’d been completely overlooking up to that point. We also had to commit to learning to express ourselves in new ways, ways that would have maximum meaning to the one receiving.

We learned to see each other’s hearts in the everyday exchanges in our lives. We learned to deeply appreciate the many various ways our love reveals itself, both the natural and the learned. It’s made an unbelievable difference. The distance that had been developing between us through misunderstanding disappeared. It takes work to speak in a language that doesn’t come naturally but that’s what commitment is all about. It may not be easy or even comfortable but the results are truly worth the effort.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Giving Thanks

We celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend with a great dinner shared with family and friends. It was a time to remember the many ways we’ve been blessed throughout the year and to focus on what is good in our lives. I’m glad we have a holiday that is dedicated to giving thanks. On the other hand, thankfulness is an attitude of the heart that I need to practice year round rather than just on one special weekend in October.

There have been times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed by problems, both my own and those of others. Many times my prayers seemed an exercise in futility. I’d rattle off my petitions to the Almighty with no real sense that they were actually going anywhere. I pictured them bouncing around the ceiling like the bubble that bounces endlessly around the television screen when the DVD player is in sleep mode. Either that or I imagined them accumulating like cobwebs in the corners up there until it would get so crowded that they’d begin to drift down to settle on the floor under my feet. I couldn’t understand why my prayer life was so lifeless when the needs all around me were so great.

I was forgetting something important. In Philippians 4:6 it says “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God…” Thanksgiving was the missing ingredient. It was not only missing from my prayers but it was missing in my heart. I began to discover that a thankful spirit is something that needs cultivation. When I practice thanksgiving on a daily basis my perspective undergoes a transformation. Rather than focusing on problems, I find myself focusing on God, on His love and His faithfulness. My faith comes to life and the ceiling that once seemed like such an impermeable obstacle simply disappears leaving an open heaven above me.

The next verse goes on to say that if we present our requests with thanksgiving then the peace of God which is beyond understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Prayer out of a thankful heart gets carried heavenward on wings of faith and the result is a peace like nothing this world can offer. It sounds like a good deal to me. I’d better pay attention to the words of an old chorus we used to sing in church years ago. It said to “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Light in Dark Places

Not so long ago I wrote about the heavens declaring the glory of God after viewing the starry night sky in Northern Ontario. The memory of that sight still lingers, an inspiration and a reminder of His presence in my life. This past Sunday during our worship service it occurred to me that not only do the heavens declare His glory. Because He dwells in the hearts of those who belong to Him, we carry that glory within us.

There is a scene in Lord of the Rings, a favourite movie of mine, where Galadriel gives a gift to Frodo, the ring-bearer. She hands him a crystal vial and tells him that contained within it is the light of the elves’ most beloved star. She expresses her hope that it will be a light to him in dark places. Indeed it proves to be just that when, later in the movie, Frodo finds himself alone in the dark facing a dreadful foe. At the last minute he remembers the gift and holds it high. The light flares to life in all its glory, pushing back the darkness and causing Frodo’s assailant to shrink away.

I am like that crystal vial, a vessel that contains the light of God’s glory. That light is meant to be displayed to the world just as the starry skies display His glory for all to see. It is meant to be a light to others in the dark places of the world. Am I transparent enough for others to see His hand at work in my life? Do I glow with the kind of peace and joy and strength that comes from knowing that He loves me? When others look at me, do they find their hearts inspired to worship the God who is the source of all that is good in me? I’d like to be as radiant as the stars adorning the night sky but all too often I think His glory in me is obscured, hidden by the hurts or fears or sorrows that remain undealt with in my life.

I find I very much want to be rid of the things that keep the light that is in me from shining out to a hurting world. It’s time to ask Him to show me those things He has been longing to heal and set me free from. It’s time to give Him permission to blow the clouds away. I want others to look at my life and know that there is hope. Like Galadriel’s gift to Frodo, I have the potential to be a light to those in dark places. Lord, let your glory shine in me.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

To Hide or Not to Hide

September has come and gone in a flash. I’ve always thought of September as the month for getting back into some sort of routine after all the holidays and extra activities of summer. It’s a time for fresh starts and usually feels more like the beginning of a new year than January ever did. This year I haven’t been able to get my feet under me for some reason. The long list of projects waiting for my attention remains just that…a long list that seems to get longer by the day. There was no clear end to summer, no clear beginning of a new season, and the calendar is more crowded with commitments than ever. Of course we no longer have children in school so the difference between August and September is more about the weather than a change in our routines. In any case, I must confess to feeling overwhelmed by the number of things on my plate at the moment.

My normal response to feeling overwhelmed is to shut down and hide. I bury myself in a book or in movies and only emerge to look after basic necessities. I tell myself that if I can simply take a day to escape and do nothing at all I will come away from it refreshed and ready to tackle anything. The problem with that reasoning is that one day often stretches into many and I end up feeling guilty, mildly depressed, and just as overwhelmed as ever when I get back to real life. After all, no one can hide forever.

The truth is, escape doesn’t offer true refreshment. It doesn’t actually produce anything of lasting value. I only have to look at the end result to recognize that hiding from life is more of a desolation than a consolation. Twice in the first chapter of Haggai, God tells us to give careful thought to our ways. In Deuteronomy, Chapter 30, He tells us that He sets before us life and death and He admonishes us to choose life. The power to choose is a precious gift and a tremendous responsibility. I choose how I will respond to whatever life throws at me. I may not be able to choose how I feel at any given moment but I can choose how I will deal with those feelings.

What I really need is to take some time apart with God. I need to receive His love, His strength, His forgiveness, His peace. That’s what true refreshment looks like. Why should I settle for a cheap counterfeit that can’t really satisfy? There are other choices to make as well. I may have to brush up on saying no to a few things. As to the rest…well…how does an ant eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. Today I choose not to look at the elephant but to concentrate on the one bite in front of me. Tomorrow’s bite can wait.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Heavens Declare His Glory

When we were camping at Killarney Provincial Park we only had one day of perfectly clear skies. Late that night when campfires had begun to die and I imagined most people were thinking fond thoughts of warm sleeping bags, Bev and I were stumbling through the chilly darkness with only the aid of a small penlight. I was tired and less than enthusiastic. He assured me that the long walk to the lake would be well worth the effort so I swallowed the complaints that were bubbling up in the back of my throat every time I stubbed a toe or lurched into a pothole and instead, kept going. Eventually, we emerged on the narrow beach and came to a halt. The only sound was the soft gurgle and splash of tiny wavelets rolling gently over the smooth pebbles at our feet. Bev turned off the penlight and the night enfolded us.

“Now….look up,” he whispered.

The night sky stretched above us like a lofty cathedral adorned with millions upon millions of shimmering stars. The Milky Way was splashed across the heavens and every constellation stood out in sharp relief. My breath caught in my throat as I stood there humbled in the presence of such majesty. It was so beautiful it made me want to weep….one of those Holy Moments that can draw worship out of a tired and less than enthusiastic heart the way God drew water out of a stone in the desert. The heavens truly do declare His glory.

We never see stars like that in Southern Ontario even on clear nights. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We may not be aware of them but their presence, like God’s, is a constant in our lives. It’s just that we live in a very populated area and the lights of the city draw a curtain across our vision, effectively masking the display above us. It is in the absence of all other lights that His glory truly becomes visible. That’s something to remember the next time I’m stumbling around in the middle of what feels like a dark time in my life. It could very well be my best opportunity to see Him shine.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Sky's The Limit

We did some hiking on our most recent camping trip at Killarney Provincial Park and I noticed that the park office posted a list of tips for hikers. The one that stood out to me was the caution that every hiker should be aware of his or her own limits. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a very good grasp of what my limits actually are.

Although I have been known to occasionally bite off more than I could chew, I am much more likely to underestimate what I am capable of. My Daughter-in-law spent some years in the military and she told me about a Drill Sergeant she had in basic training. On long marches when she was absolutely convinced that she couldn’t go another step he would come alongside and point out a landmark in the near distance, telling her that all she had to do was make it that far. Once she got there he would choose another landmark for her to focus on reaching. She would end up going the distance in spite of what she thought were her limits. That Drill Sergeant helped her discover what she was capable of.

I’ve never forgotten that story. It applies to so much more than hiking. I don’t have a Drill Sergeant but I have a Heavenly Father who is constantly helping me to discover just what I am capable of. When I am feeling overwhelmed by what I am being asked to do, He helps me break it down into ‘bite-sized pieces’. If those pieces still seem impossible I break it down even more. There have been times when I’ve broken it down so far that my goal is simply to take one more step in the direction I know I should be going. Each step becomes a tiny victory and, in my mind, I hear His whisper of “Well done”. Even when I am convinced my strength is gone and I am at the end, I find myself lifting my eyes to the next landmark and taking another step. I’ve discovered that I am capable of much, much more than I might have imagined.

A year ago I was having a lot of trouble with my hips. I couldn’t walk without pain and I wondered if my hiking days were over. Since then I’ve lost just over 45 pounds and with a lot of careful exercise and daily doses of glucosamine I am fitter than I have been in years. I am walking pain free and so my husband and I took on a six kilometer hike up a mountain in Killarney Park yesterday. Slow and steady, one step at a time, we climbed till we could stand on the summit and take in the spectacular views. I felt I could almost touch the sky.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Experience With Death

Many years ago I was a nurse on a medical ward where death was often the end result of a long illness. Of course not every patient was elderly. There were instances where leukemia, some other cancer or cystic fibrosis caused death in those who hadn’t yet begun to live. At those times death seemed an enemy to be resisted and fought with every available means. It made me angry.

In the case of my own father who passed away in 2003, it seemed more like a reprieve. He had suffered congestive heart failure, a heart attack, and a fall that broke his hip. He would have ended up in a Nursing Home on leaving the hospital, with advancing dementia stealing away his ability to relate to the people who loved him. We couldn’t help but be thankful that he was spared that. I was more relieved than angry.

My mother couldn’t attend his funeral because she was in the hospital herself at the time. Her illness was terminal and when she was discharged she came to live with us for her final weeks. She was losing her battle with a very aggressive cancer and didn’t have a lot of time left. In her case, death was expected and so she was able to prepare. She put her trust in Jesus and dealt with the things she thought of as unfinished. She did her best to say the things she’d left unsaid for years. She always loved Christmas so each child and grandchild received a $500 cheque to buy a Christmas gift from her. Then we all had to parade them into her room to show her what she’d bought for us. She also loved to laugh so when one of my brothers brought her a tape of an incredibly silly song about a ‘Colo-rectal Surgeon’ she insisted on playing it for every personal support worker and nurse who came to the house. She even played it for the doctor who fortunately had a wonderful sense of humor himself.

I hated the disease that killed her and I still do. It was pretty terrible in the end and I was back to being angry as I watched what was happening to her. I took a lot of comfort in the verse that God gave me then. It was the one that says “these light and momentary troubles will seem like nothing in comparison to the glory that is in store for those who believe”. Hard to fathom that what she was going through would seem insignificant to her when she reached her destination but it was true nevertheless. I knew Jesus was waiting for her. I was with her when she took her last breath and I remember imagining her running to Him. In His arms she would finally be experiencing perfect, complete, unconditional love, and the sort of freedom she never knew in this life. Death was only a door. A part of me felt just a little envious.

My experience with death, particularly my mother’s death, has washed away any fear I might have felt back when I thought of it as an enemy. I have an idea of what is waiting for me. I don’t know if I will have the chance to deal with unfinished business when it is my turn so instead I will live my life so that I don’t have regrets. I will say the things that are important to say. I will cherish each moment, even the hard ones. I will do the best I can with all that God has given me. I will endeavor to love well because I am well loved. That’s all any of us can do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Designed to Provide

This is the time of year for putting all that garden produce into the freezer or the canning cupboard. Every August our kitchen used to be redolent with the smells of applesauce, jams and relishes. I remember the first years of our marriage when I was doing all that for my own family for the first time. By the end of the summer I would have row after row of sealed mason jars on the shelves, their colorful contents advertizing the goodness within. I took such pleasure in staring at all that evidence of my labor that I hated to spoil the effect by using them up. I discovered how incredibly fulfilling it could be to put something on the table that you have grown in your own garden or made from scratch. These days I only do a fraction of what I did then. The temptation to do things the easy way is pretty compelling.

My husband grew up on a farm where very nearly everything they ate was produced right there. I grew up where much of what the freezer contained was put there as a result of fishing or hunting or harvesting what grew in the garden or even wild. Our parents definitely felt a close connection between the work of their hands and provision for their families. Earlier generations would have felt it even more. Now we go off to work at a job that will bring home a paycheck to purchase the things we need to provide for our families. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that paychecks are deposited directly into banks so we never actually hold the results of our day’s labor in our hands. There are many degrees of separation between our jobs and the food on our tables. Much of what we set out came from the store pre-mixed, pre-washed, pre-chopped or even pre-peeled. Just add water and in a few short minutes the pancakes are on the table and ready to eat. I do take advantage of the easy to prepare products available today but I believe something gets lost in the convenience of it all. It is much harder to make the connection between the work we do and the food we eat. Consequently we miss out on some of the fulfillment that God designed us to feel in providing for our families. At least that’s true for me. I can’t turn the clock back and I don’t really want to but I can make a conscious decision to get back to basics from time to time. I have beans to pick and berries to freeze and perhaps I’ll take a moment to look at the jars of pepper relish in my cupboard before I finish my day.

“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value……She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls……” Proverbs 31:10, 11 and 15

Friday, August 20, 2010

Apricots in My Garden

Nine years ago my husband planted an apricot pit in our flower bed. No one was more surprised than him when it actually sprouted. When it grew to be nearly three feet tall he moved it to a spot right up against the brick wall on the southeast side of the house where it would get the morning sun. Apricot trees don’t normally grow in our part of the world. Our winters are often harsh and the summers can be short. Even so, it grew and last year it was covered in blossoms in the spring. We wondered if the fruit that was forming would actually ripen but by the end of July we were able to pick the apricots. We had enough fruit to eat and to make jam for the winter season. This environment is hostile to apricot trees but the brick wall makes all the difference. It shelters the tree from the elements and reflects the sun’s warmth to enable our tree to thrive and bear fruit even in harsh conditions.

Whenever I look at that tree I am reminded of my own life. We live in an environment that is often hostile to all that we believe as Christians. If I choose to stand apart and alone it becomes exponentially more difficult to live a fruitful life. People are important. There are times when, like the wall, I may need to offer someone shelter from the elements and if I can reflect the warmth that is God’s love for them, it may make all the difference in helping them to thrive. Of course, like the tree, I also need to let people get close enough to offer that kind of support to me.

I’m thankful for the people in my life. At times I may be the tree and at other times the wall but in every situation it is relationships that make the difference and allow me to grow.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Keeping Disappointments in Perspective

I recently got some excellent advice in a workshop I attended. I was told that whatever I do, I should commit to doing with my whole heart and to the absolute best of my ability. That makes sense to me. The problem is that after I’ve done my best I am supposed to somehow detach myself emotionally from the results. Even though that also makes sense, it is turning out to be very nearly impossible to do.

My prayer is that God will direct my steps and give me the courage to follow where He leads. So, I take a chance and knock on the door that’s in front of me. It’s easy to say that I will plant and I will water and God can be in charge of the results. In spite of my best intentions though, I find I can’t help imagining what those results might look like. Whole scenarios get played out in my dreams and even though I might appear to be carrying on with life in an ordinary way, the edges of my vision are colored with bright expectations. I know His plans for me are good so my waiting is a bubble inside that buoys up my days.

When the results of my efforts don’t turn out at all as I imagined and I am faced with a closed door instead of the path strewn with flowers that I was hoping for and more than half expecting, my bubble deflates like a worn out balloon. I am left with questions that don’t really have answers and that is cold comfort. The measure of my disappointment lets me know that I am far from emotionally detached.

That’s when I have to follow David’s example in the Psalms and remember. I remember who God is and all that He has done for me and gradually disappointment is displaced by a welling up of thanksgiving. Faith grows out of the ashes and my perspective changes. I may not be able to figure out the ‘why’ of it all. I can’t see the end from the beginning or how everything will ultimately work together for my good but I know that’s what He promises. I am at peace again.

Romans 8:28 “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

Loves and Hates

Love and Hate are strong words, maybe too strong to use for the things I normally think of in association with them.

I love walks in the woods, the music of nature, and the beauty of the earth God created….it feeds my soul.
I hate litterbugs.

I love a clever turn of phrase or a play on words that you sometimes stumble on unexpectedly when out for a drive. Things like “Hairway to Heaven” on a salon’s front door or “Brewed Awakenings” above the entrance to a local coffee shop.
I hate that I can never think of them myself.

I love being spontaneous…the reckless abandonment of schedules and timetables and normal routines can be so exhilarating. On the other hand, I also love schedules and timetables and normal routines….I might never get anything done without them.

I love the order and security that comes from a well thought out set of rules. I hate it when people just ignore the rules.

I love the satisfaction of a task completed well. I hate those tasks that are never possible to complete.

I hate being late for anything. Consequently, I am usually early which other people may very well hate, especially when I arrive before they are ready for me.

I love people in small doses, especially one on one. In all their endless variety, each one is unique in their personalities and perspectives, each with something valuable to offer simply in who they are.
I hate people in great numbers….crowds intimidate me and leave me stressed out and exhausted. The human race en masse can be a bit overwhelming.

That explains my love of quietness and solitude…no real surprise there. Silence lets my imagination soar and recharges my batteries. In fact, the older I get, the more often they need recharging.

I love a good story. If it is a good story I love it again and again and again.

I love both the bits of hard won wisdom and the confidence that have come with age. I hate the creaking joints and sometimes sleepless nights that have also come with age.

Of course there are loves that need strong words.

I love my family with all their many eccentricities. Words can’t express what I feel when I think of all that my husband has meant to me over the years. My heart bursts with love when I look into the sleeping face of my baby granddaughter. I will never cease to be amazed when I realize that that is how God feels when He looks at me. I cannot help but love Him in return.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Choosing to Trust

I learned a lot from the recent Eco Adventure Tour that my husband, Bev, and I went on at the Scenic Caves in Collingwood. It involved a Tree Top Walk which was a 600 meter long walk over 8 inch wide bridges suspended from cables strung between 16 trees all at a height of up to 60 feet above the forest floor. Believe it or not it was actually my idea. I wanted an adventure. Perhaps I am having a midlife crisis or maybe I just thought it would be a good way to practice pressing through in spite of my fear. It’s not so much a fear of heights as it is a fear of falling but it tends to keep my feet planted firmly on solid ground and I don’t like having fear dictate the limits of what I do.

Of course I knew that the guides were well trained and the equipment perfectly safe. Every participant has two safety lines securely fastened to cables above their heads. I could have acknowledged the truth of all that and remained simply an observer. The true test was in deciding to act on what I said I believed. And so I climbed the steps leading up to that first platform on shaking limbs and looked out at that impossibly slender bridge swaying gently in the breeze.
The hardest moment was taking that first step off of the platform. It was terrifying. I felt a little like Peter must have felt when he took that first step out of the boat to walk on the water in answer to Jesus’ call to join Him in what He was doing. I knew that if I fell the safety lines would catch me. Jesus was Peter’s safety line and when he started to sink, Jesus saved him. It may have only been for a few steps but Peter actually got to experience walking on water. It all came down to taking that first step out of the boat. I scraped together every ounce of courage I possessed, made a choice and stepped out onto the bridge. I found it got easier as I went along and my confidence grew. I never quite managed to loosen my white-knuckled grip on the cables that ran on either side (the bridge was actually suspended from these), however I think that if I did it again I might relax enough to actually look around and enjoy the amazing view. It helped a lot having Bev as my “buddy”. He stayed close and helped me whenever I had to move my safety clips to a new cable. Never underestimate the value of friends when you face a difficult challenge.

How many times have I said “no” to things out of fear? Sometimes it’s a fear of failure or of rejection. I may acknowledge in my head that God equips us for what He calls us to and that He can turn even our failures into victories but when it comes right down to it am I willing to step out of my comfort zone? I may have missed some of the “walking on water” experiences I could have had because I was too afraid to trust.

My Tree Top Walk felt risky to me but the only real risk was in my perception of it. I was never actually in any danger. That’s something I need to remember when God calls me to do something and my fear rises up to paralyze me. Whatever happens He will be right there to catch me. I just need to choose to trust and take that first step.

Recommended Reading: “If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat” by John Ortberg, Zondervan Publishing, 2001

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Solid Investment...Great Returns

Sometimes when I am in the middle of a project and things are flowing well I begrudge every minute I spend away from my desk. Having to stop to prepare a meal or attend to any number of other everyday tasks seems a huge imposition. That’s how I felt about taking a whole week to go camping right when I was finally making progress on some of the goals I’d set for my writing. At the same time I also recognized how important it was that my husband and I have that time apart. We try to keep our lives simple and our priorities straight but it’s a very short step to the place where we are so focused on whatever task is at hand that our relationship gets put on hold and we count on shared history to carry us through. That might work for a little while but I know from past experience that it can wear thin in a hurry.

So last week I shut down the computer and Bev put aside his latest woodworking project. We packed up all the gear in our little nugget box of a trailer and set off together for the campground armed with plans to invest in something really important…us.

Jesus taught us that we need to set aside time apart with the Father in order to foster an intimate relationship with Him. You can’t put a value on those moments or hours you spend just being with Him, getting to know Him better, experiencing His love, gaining strength and finding comfort as you rest in His presence. Why should it be any different for husbands and wives? We learned long ago to keep short accounts in our marriage so that our vacations are not about dealing with issues that have been swept under the carpet for too long. For us, vacations are about being together in a place apart, fostering the spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy that we crave in our relationship.

This past week was special in so many ways. The teamwork involved in setting up our tiny home away from home…strolling together along the waterfront and watching the waves roll in…our shared delight in discovering a patch of wild blackberries ripe for the picking…my husband’s strong hand reaching out to help me over the rough patches as we scrambled among the boulders and crevasses on the Bruce Trail…lying close in the dark as we listened to the crash of thunder and the rain beating a tattoo on the roof of our cozy shelter…long talks about our hopes and dreams and the things God is teaching us…the courage I derived from knowing he was at my back as I conquered my fear of heights to do the kilometer long zip line off of Blue Mountain…shared experiences knitting our hearts together. We gained strength and we found comfort as we rested in each other’s presence. It cost us one week out of our busy schedules but we can’t put a value on what we gained in return. Love grows if you take the time to foster it. It’s an investment well worth making.