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Showing posts from December, 2006

We Need Each Other

Romans 12:16 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
14-16Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.

I have friends who are fascinated by technology for it's own sake--they are driven by curiosity and love playing with new tools. I'm not like that but I'm glad they are because I need them in my life. I am loathe to change for the sake of change and slow to catch on to the utility of new gadgets. About a hundred years after everybody else I wake up to the possible advantages of a given item and only then do I drive myself to break the technology barrier.

We are all born with a tool kit with several pieces missing. It's important to know that our tools aren't just for ourselves but to be shared with ot…

It takes All Sorts

Proverbs 15:15 (New Living Translation)
15 ...for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

I don't get much sleep and I like it that way. Even though my eyes occasionally betray me by turning as red as a closet vampire's or by slight puffiness (all right, bags), for the most part my body supports me very well in my poor sleeping habits.

My soul-mate and husband, Paul, seems to have given up on taming my nocturnal lurking--we do generally seem to run on different internal clocks. One of the good things that happens in a relationship though, given enough time, is that you begin to flow with each other's idiosyncrasies like water flows around rocks; the things that once may have driven you crazy--now--not so much.

I think that sleep cuts into my day too much and I fight every night to ward it off as long as possible. The morning--ah, that's another story--the bed so reluctantly slipped into, seems to develop magnetic powers overnight and when I know it's time to get up…

The Book

James 4:8 a (New International Version)
8Come near to God and he will come near to you.

I can see it and feel its texture in memory, even now, nearly half a century later. It was a small book in every dimension except thickness; and weighty. Its delicate pages were almost gossamer thin, rustling as though whispering to me when I turned them--and they creased easily. The front and back of the faded blue cover were slightly loose through much handling, but I think that if it could speak, the book would say that it liked being creased and loose rather than in pristine condition, gathering dust on a shelf.

The book belonged, and still does, to my brother Robert, three years younger than me, and it was his christening bible--a gift from his God-parents. It was the only bible in our house, with the exception of Mum's black leather bound bible in Dutch, which might have been in Zulu as far as my ability to read it was concerned!

Inside the front cover of Robert's bible, someone had writt…

The Christmas Menorah

John 1:9 (New Living Translation)
9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

As Christmas drew near this year, Frances, one of my friends, announced that she had my gift--and that she had traveled "all the way" to Thornhill, to find it. She couldn't wait until Christmas Eve, when we'd be at her house after the Christmas Eve service, and I could open it. I was excited, and curious too, wondering what the mysterious gift could be.

It was a long and narrow package and well taped together, but as I pulled away at the layers of tissue, I was as mystified as ever. Whatever it was I couldn't tell until it emerged from its tissue cocoon. It was a Jewish candlestick--a menorah. It was a most unusual one--made of fine black painted metal, with the service candle holder in the centre, and with four candle holders on either side in the middle of little chairs that swiveled. She said she chose it because my house is a "house of …

Looking Forward

Luke 8:15 (New International Version)

15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

During this week--the week between Christmas and New Years day, I tend to be even more reflective than normal. I don't make New Year's resolutions exactly, but I do ponder about a focus for the year ahead and often a Bible verse pops out at me and I think, that's it, that's my verse. I have several "life verses" that cover the fly leaves of my various bibles--and I've gathered them together in one place, in a file on my computer, along with prophetic words or words of confirmation/affirmation that have been spoken to me and which I treasure. Words of blessing are of great significance in confirming and shaping identity, as are harsh words of criticism and shaming.

Anyway, all of that is to say that one of my friends drew my attention to the verse above from Luke 8, which was in yester…

Boxing Day

8.45 a.m. December 26th 2006
It is our family Christmas celebration today and all is ready, awaiting the arrival of six grandchildren, two children and their spouses, and a friend who joins us for special celebrations.

There is a certain hush when all of the preparations for a special celebration have been made and you are waiting for it to begin--a sort of calm before the storm.

After a mild and sunny lead up to Christmas, this morning as I look out of my kitchen window, snow is falling--how perfect! Silently the snowflakes fall as if from some inexhaustible supply above. They look as light as goose feathers and yet they plummet to the ground with purpose, as though bent upon their mission of transforming the world into winter.

A scarlet pomegranate-scented candle fills the room where I now sit with its fragrance and the gentle flame gives a bright glow, its black wick rising from a crimson sea of melted wax.

The oak wall clock ticks on as comfortingly as the heart-beat in the chest of a …

With Open Hands

In 1979 I read Henri Nouwen's book, "With Open Hands, " and what he had to say about living with open hands rather than clenched fists inspired me to write a four verse poem expressing my thoughts about living life free from defence mechanisms--although it wasn't as easy as I thought to lay them all down.

The first verse of the poem came to mind as I thought of Jesus and his vulnerability in coming to earth as a baby.

With open hands I stand before the world
I lay my weapons down for Jesus' sake.
Naked, unmasked, defenseless--it's my choice
Because I know that he my hand will take

Ezekiel 36:26 (New Living Translation)

26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

If You Knew the Gift...

John 4:10 (New International Version)

10Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

It's Christmas morning, very early, and all the world is waiting.

Yesterday, Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, we were at church in the morning and the evening. There was a great sense of togetherness in anticipation of something special.

For the adults there was anticipation of being together in celebration and worship, as well as anticipation of the personal traditions and rituals some of us engage in. I found my mind wandering for a moment during the morning service and thinking of life as a string of Christmases like beads on a rosary.

The children of course were anticipating something more concrete. One of our God-daughters, Eden-Belle, gave us a small present, a treasure taken from her own store of belongings and wrapped up for us in purple foil paper, covered liberally in s…

A Dog Named "You'll Have to Tri Harder"

Brenda loves her volunteer job doing data entry at Maple Lanes, a golden retriever kennel near Alliston. She records the details related to various litters of puppies on the computer--where the puppies go, to whom and for what purpose. The pure-bred dogs go all over the continent, some as far away as Yellowknife, Alaska, and some are trained for such unusual jobs as detecting bed bugs or termites!

One dog's name struck her as unusual; her registered name was "Maple Lanes--You'll Have to Tri Harder"--and her "call name" was Tri.

"Ah, now there's a story," Sherri, the kennel owner said when Brenda asked her about it.

Something had happened to one of the puppy's legs after birth--it was swollen and bruised and Sherri thought that maybe its mother had stepped on it. The puppy was put on antibiotics to try to save the leg.

Sherri's aunt--who was like a big sister to her--was dying of cancer, and the call that she'd been dreading came from h…

Discovery

Psalm 16:5-8 (Amplified Bible)

5The Lord is my chosen and assigned portion, my cup; You hold and maintain my lot.
6The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good heritage.
7I will bless the Lord, Who has given me counsel; yes, my heart instructs me in the night seasons.
8I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.


Each season of life has its unique blessings, which is why I've never looked back with longing to the past. Why would anyone exchange the adventure of "now"-- the excitement of being part of God's unfolding plan--for a re-run of the wonderful moments of the past?

The last couple of days I've shared some thoughts on finding our purpose--discovering that who we are--even more than what we do--is a gift to those around us.

In earlier seasons of life, thinking deeply about this would have been more of a luxury. Being a busy young mother of small children had many blessings, but lots of time …

More on Being--Fully

An added reflection on yesterday's thought about being freed to be morecompletely who we are:

When I first heard someone say that God will ask us one day why we weren't more like he made us to be, it made so much sense to me that I felt a release to relax, let go and be me. I stopped worrying about being quiet or being prone to expressing affection more freely than the average person. I generally became less insecure about who I am. I was more able to celebrate who others were while being content to be me.

Whoever we are, I think God wants us to be vibrantly and intensely who we are and not a diluted, "averaged out," version. I think he wants the essence of who we are to be fully fleshed out.

I'm really looking forward to reading the book I mentioned yesterday, "Cure for the Common Life" and finding out more about "Living in Your Sweet Spot," but one thing I have learned already is that being in it means saying no to other things, even those that…

On Being--Fully

Romans 8:29-30 (New Living Translation)
29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

This morning I was reflecting on finding the place for which God created us. I believe we all have a place, a role, an assignment and a message and when we recognize it and embrace it, we will fill a spot that no-one else can.

I once heard Pastor Rick Warren, author of the best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, say that God will ask us at the end of our lives, "What did you do with what YOU were given? Why weren’t you more like YOU?" That made me want to be true to who God made me--to sing my own song with all my heart.

Pastor Rick also said, "Never confuse prominence with significance – they are …

Gentle Jesus

Isaiah 40:11 (New International Version)

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,
Look upon a little child,
Pity my simplicity,
Suffer me to come to thee.

Our children, Peter and Brenda, used to pray this first verse of a hymn by Charles Wesley every night when they were small, followed by a prayer for God to bless a whole string of relatives and probably a few pets. The words may seem to some to connote weakness, but having grown up with them and similar descriptions of Jesus in other hymns, I never saw them that way.

The words came to mind this morning as I read the lovely verse from Isaiah and reflected on the gentleness of God expressed through his son, Jesus. The world can be harsh, unkind and cruel, but in Christ, the simplest, most unsophisticated soul can find a place of acceptance, refuge and welcome. I know--I have found it.

1 Kings 3:7 & 9 (New Li…

Seeking Him Seeing Him

Our Air India flight had originated in Delhi and daughter Brenda and I had joined it in Birmingham. We landed in Toronto and were patiently waiting for our luggage to appear on the carousel when we saw him. He looked like a sultan out of 1001 Arabian Nights, dressed in a beautiful and exotic costume. As we waited, my eyes were drawn to him and I wondered who he was and where he was from. He wore a belted robe of richly patterned fabric and beneath it he wore trousers of the same fabric, gathered at the ankles. On his bare feet he wore silken slippers that curled up into points at the toes and he had a mustache that curled up on either side too. The crowning glory was a majestic turban with a piece of fabric that stood up jauntily at the front. I found myself wondering if the wise men from the east, who came to seek Jesus the new born King, had looked like this noble looking man.

I thought about the wise men this morning as I read from Matthew 11, the words of John the Baptist, needing …

We are Back!

Just a quick note to say that Brenda and I arrived home safely from England tonight and it's good to be back on Canadian soil.

Our week away together as mother and daughter, to celebrate Mum's 80th birthday, was incredibly precious and we have so many memories to cherish.

I didn't end up with as much solitary time as I usually need to survive--it has been a "people week--and a week to go with that flow!"

I want to thank the Lord for the gift of time with Mum, and our husbands for generously letting us go off without them while they kept the home fires burning.

Tomorrow, God willing, I will be back to as close to normal as I ever get and writing again!

To Sleep--Perchance?

Today is our last day in the U.K.--Brenda and I fly home to Canada tomorrow, but my sleeping pattern has yet to become just that--a pattern!

A funny moment--on the flight over, the plane was half empty and we passengers were told to sit where-ever we chose. One man made himself totally at home. He changed into pajamas and stretched out across the five middle seats of the plane and slept soundly. In the morning he went back into the washroom and changed back into his clothes!

The first night that we were here, Brenda was exhausted, not having slept more than an hour during the flight. I, on the other hand, had fallen asleep almost immediately and dozed most of the next day. So when we went to bed at the end of our first day--an early night at 9.00 p.m., Brenda fell asleep but I was wide awake still at 2.00 a.m. I read by the light of a tiny flashlight, but eventually decided to get up and read in the bathroom. Meanwhile, Brenda woke up and needed to use the bathroom and was waiting patie…

Disposable?

From Alvechurch in the U.K.. Here to celebrate Mum's 80th birthday:

On Monday morning we went to Sainsbury's to purchase food and party supplies to take over to the Sycamore Club--Mum's seniors group in Alvechurch. The Sycamore Club is a group of 20 or so seniors that gathers every Monday for the day, for company and lunch.

We bought rose and white wine, chocolate cake and jam sponge birthday cake, festive party plates and napkins and disposable but pretty champagne flutes with golden bases into which the goblets which were also festively decorated with party streamers, clicked.

We arrived just before 2.00 p.m., afternoon tea-time at the club, and began to take orders as to wine and cake preferences. A few people preferred tea, but the atmosphere was jolly and festive. The "disposable" champagne flutes were the biggest hit though. There were cries of, "Aren't these lovely?" and "Did you bring them from Canada?" "Do you mind if I take min…

The Path of Peace

Luke 1:78b-79
...the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.

How beautiful these words from the song of Zechariah are. How we need to know that path of peace. Our world is so pressured, so busy--and it is easy for even those of us who know and love Christ to lose our peace.

The way to find and keep it is to daily steal away with him, hear his voice speaking to our heart through his Spirit and meditate on the words he left with us in the Bible.

As we do this we shall find strength, joy and peace. He will guide us in our troubles and shine his light in our dark places.

Lily: My Need to Unwind!

Contributed by Lily Appelsein... (while Belinda is away in England, celebrating her Mum's 80th birthday)

The following verses are from Isaiah 59. As I sat in a restaurant waiting for my lunch order to be ready the other day, I opened my Bible on the table in front of me, and these familiar verses struck deep at my heart again.

The Kingdom of God is such an upside down, backwards kingdom… It is so different from anything man could ever come up with and so counter to any other religion out there that I can’t help but be struck with awe, time and time again. Once your eyes are spiritually opened to be able to see this Kingdom, there’s no way you could ever want to pursue any other belief system.

I read from Isaiah 59:

6 “Is this not the fast which I choose
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?

7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to …

A Call to Quietness

Luke 10:39,42

This morning in my devotions I was reminded of the importance of deep relationship with God (as opposed to surface skimming).

It's from that relationship with, and in him, that we have anything at all to offer to others. In our busyness, especially at this time of the year, we can become to him, a casual acquaintance, rather than an intimate friend.

Our relationship with him must be the primary relationship in our lives--less negotiable than brushing our teeth. We will have to fight hard for that though--and deafen our ears to other voices and impulses that draw us from his feet.

The prize of his Presence, and our usefulness to him, is more than worth it--but we have a Foe who knows this better than we do sometimes--and he will pull out every weapon in his arsenal to thwart our efforts to maintain that relationship.

Dear Lord, please still our hearts and our nervous systems, which are so quick to jump from the place of quietness at your feet. Help us to find the peace, st…

A Short Hiatus

Dear Friends,
I leave for a week in England on Saturday, December 9th, returning on the 17th.

My daughter Brenda and I, are going to celebrate Mum's 80th birthday, which is on the 15th of December.

I may not be able to publish any posts next week, as I will probably be busy during that short time, but will continue writing in my journal and catch up when I get back.

I'll miss you all next week! God be with you--and stay tuned!
With love,
Belinda

Questions

"The only dumb question is one that isn't asked." I don't always live by this maxim--I've often wanted to ask a question, but haven't, for fear of looking dumb. I have a colleague who is not shy about asking clarifying questions in meetings and no one thinks any the less of her. In fact I think the rest of the group is always glad she asked.

A few days ago I was reading Numbers 12 and Luke 1 and got to thinking about questions.

In Numbers 12, verses 1-16, Miriam and Aaron, Moses' siblings, are gossiping behind his back and questioning Moses' special role as God's messenger to the people. "Hasn't the Lord also spoken through us?" they said. Miriam was struck with a skin disease by God. Moses pleaded for leniency for her and God allowed her disgrace to be a mere seven days outside the camp.

In Luke 1 in the account of the pre-Christmas story--the angel announced to a bemused and bewildered Zechariah, that he is to become a father in his …

The Secret Life

Matthew 6

A reminder to do deeds of goodness secretly—a needed reminder—how many people did I tell that a young person with no place to stay was living with us for a few weeks? Pray in secret too. Wow, what a challenge—to cultivate a life of quiet holiness. I need to hear and heed that message. Lord, please guard my lips from boastful and imprudent speech.

Three times; regarding giving, praying and fasting--Jesus says, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” There is a clear choice—praise of man or reward of the Father.

Finally there is Jesus’ wonderful, freeing command to be free from concern about the provision for our needs. God will take care of these things and our concern and energy should be spent in seeking him and his Kingdom.

Reading the gospels—hearing Jesus’ voice—the voice of the one who lived and died that we might know God—is always refreshing and new.

The Full Extent of His Love

John 13:1 (New International Version)

1It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.

He had used words, but the ones into whom he had poured three years of teaching were slow to understand. The Teacher used the powerful tool of story telling--he used metaphor and analogy--he used object lessons--bread and fish. Still--it was getting close to test time--and the results weren't promising.

What was it he really wanted to convey before he left? There were only hours left now and they were ticking away so fast. But there was time for one final demonstration--one final lesson. Love; it was love he wanted to show them; the full extent of his love.

The men were hot and grimy. As they entered the room were they would celebrate the Passover together, beads of perspiration trickled down their faces and laced their lips with salt.…

The Great Mystery

Hebrews 2:9 (New International Version)

9But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

On Sunday our pastor preached on the text above--he spoke about trying to get his mind around the fact that the Creator became one of the creatures. He said it would be like the maker of Play Dough becoming the dough.

That Jesus, part of the Godhead--the Eternal Trinity--voluntarily stepped from eternity into time, and became one of us, is almost unfathomable. That he was driven by love for mankind is also hard for us to understand.

I find myself pondering what it must have been like for him to subject himself to experiencing death--to voluntarily die when he didn't have to. And then, not to die even a natural death, but to offer himself up to be "put to death," and such a death--death on a cross.

Angels sang at his birth, and yet he was making himself,…

The Best Christmas Party in the World

I'm just winding down from the best--the absolute best Christmas party in the world. I'm afraid I'm just too, too, tired to write anything that requires concentration tonight--this Cinderella is about to turn into a pumpkin!

The party was attended by over eighty people--about sixty were people with disabilities supported by Christian Horizons and the rest were their support workers. I look forward to this party from one Christmas to the next and we all work like crazy in the days ahead of it--everyone throws their all into the cause of "The Party."

I guess the best way to convey what it means is to see it through the eyes of one of my friends. This friend heard about it after the fact two years ago. She felt jealous and left out when she heard how much fun we all had at it--so I invited her to help the next year. Last year she plunged in and worked alongside us in the kitchen; and then serving turkey and all the trimmings to the hungry horde. She got to experience …

The Gift

It was Christmas Eve—Annie’s first Christmas working at a new job, supporting people with developmental disabilities. It was great to have the job and she loved it, but on this particular night she was feeling disappointed. At her last job with another agency, she had worked over Christmas. It would have been her turn to get this one off, but here she was again, the rookie, and working the shift everyone wanted off. Her husband and kids had gone to family in Quebec, leaving her behind in Ontario. She felt very sorry for herself.

A hush always descends on group homes on Christmas Eve. People fortunate enough to have family go home but there are always people left behind. The group home may be their home, but they aren’t fooled; “going home” means going to where family and friends are. People feel it keenly at Christmas when they don’t have family that can take them home. Even staffing is minimal, to give as many people as possible the chance to be with their families.

Edith, one of the w…

The Power of Story

Yesterday nine of us gathered for a Christmas celebration at my house--eight managers and one financial comptroller. We all work for a non profit agency--a Christian ministry to people with intellectual disabilities.

The day is a cherished Christmas tradition and part of it is reading a story or two out loud. I had been up until 3.00 a.m. that morning, writing my story. A year ago or so, I'd heard it from one of our support workers and the moment she began telling it, I grabbed a pen and scrap of paper and started scribbling notes as fast as I could. Then I tucked away the scrap of paper to write it down one day, but forgot about it until the eve of the party.

I've read it out loud twice since I wrote it, and both times, people who knew "Edith" the subject of the story, have responded the same way. It triggered memories and a flood of other stories about her. We laughed as we remembered her ability to quickly defeat an untried greenhorn, we voiced respect at her master…

Moz the Fire Eating Dragon

One year when I flew back from England, my seat mate was “Moz” (short for Maurice), a young engineering student who was from Warwick and who was going to do his third year of university at Waterloo on a student exchange. He had been there since September, but because the previous weekend had been Thanksgiving in Canada and Monday was a statutory holiday, he flew home for the weekend!

I was interested to hear his impressions of the difference between the culture of Canada and that of England. He said that fellow students at Waterloo seemed much more serious about learning than his experience back in England and he was impressed by the way that the faculty of the university went out of their way to make sure that the students knew where they were going and what they were doing. That was good to hear.

Moz had spent the previous year in Australia and he still had an Australian twang. His hobbies were fire breathing and juggling, having once had a roommate who worked in a circus and then get…

A Good Name

Proverbs 22:1 (New International Version)

1 A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

I met someone recently who said, "I've heard your name over the years," and then her eyes smiled into mine as she added, "It's nice to meet you."

At that moment, I thought of the inestimable value of a good name. My name would not be synonymous with extreme academic achievement or even high status professionally, but I hope that something good clings to it--that it is associated with kindness, integrity, and respect and valuing of all people.

What is the value of a good name?

It can be drawn upon when our character is called into question. While we are accountable for our actions, we need not be panicked into self defense.It is an asset when networking, as in the meeting I mentioned at the start. The tone of that day was cordial from the start.It brings glory and honor to God. As his children we can bring praise or shame to th…