Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time Capsule

When I was in England in March, I opened up a cook book belonging to Mum, and out of it fell a folded up letter, yellowed with age. It was from me, written on Easter weekend, in April 1981! The reason it was in the cook book, I soon realized, was that it included a recipe for Spanish Rice.

Reading the seven page, handwritten letter, was just like stepping into a time capsule. It captured a moment in time. My goodness, I was just 31! Peter was 11 and Brenda was 9.

We lived, at that time in our lives, in a big, rambling farmhouse on two acres of land between Newmarket and Aurora. The road that we lived on was called Second Street back then and it was a dirt road lined with fields and other farms. Now it is Bayview Avenue and lined with housing estates and shopping centres.

We lived with and cared for, 12 gentlemen with disabilities and the story of how that came to be and what those years meant to us, is a story for another day, but suffice it to say that I was chief cook and bottle washer, among other things, and those days were some of the happiest of our lives.

On this particular weekend, one of the things I was raving about, was the arrival of a brand new dishwasher, my first ever. Since I was quite exhausted a lot of the time back then, I was ecstatic. Here is what I wrote (please forgive the over use of exclamation marks (it is a habit from which I have only recently been delivered:)

Happy Easter to you all! It's five past three in the afternoon here. I just accidentally had 40 winks while I was supposed to be having a cup of coffee. And I always thought coffee was supposed to wake you up!

First of all I must share the exciting news that the dishwasher arrived last Wednesday. I just can't put into words how wonderful it is! It has far exceeded my hopes and expectations. I've been really set free from slavery! Ha ha!

I never really thought a dishwasher would be a great help to me until recently. I don't know if I told you that Jean and Don Rowe moved to Newmarket in February. They live just around the corner from us now. Anyway, I was at Jean's house and she has a dishwasher. She was saying how it keeps your kitchen always so tidy and how she loves it, and I started thinking about it. Then Paul asked me if I would like one and I didn't hesitate! Everything goes in it--plates, saucepans, even plastic things, which I thought you wouldn't be able to put in. And everything comes up spotless! Cleaner than by hand. I can't wait for you to see it and enjoy it with me. I know I am very, very lucky, and I do appreciate it so very much. It gives me about 4 hours a day more than I had before and so far I have used them well. This morning before I left for church, everything went in from breakfast, plus quite a few dishes from yesterday evening when I'd been baking, and when I came home I just had to unload it and put it away!

Believe it or not, I actually went on for another half a page about this appliance, ending by asking if they had any suggestions for a name for this new delight in my life, and by saying:

I hope I'm not boring you with all this; I'm just so very grateful and happy with it.

Well, it made me smile to read it and I hope it makes you smile too. I was certainly grateful don't you think? :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Waste: it is all a matter of perspective.

The Kingdom of God has laws that just can't be assessed by human logic. Nothing makes sense if you try to understand it that way. You have to let go of human perspective, and when you do, the rest of the world will think that you have taken leave of your senses.

Jesus said that he would bring strife and division among families and I can see why that would be if people really follow his ways.

When I chose to pursue faith at 16, my father worried that I was missing out on life--wasting my carefree years. I had, until that point, been immersed in a busy social life that included art, folk music, dancing and parties. I remained just as busy, but now it was with prayer meetings, Bible studies, youth group and practicing with a gospel singing group. When I married the pastor's son, he must have thought my fate was sealed! Even though I was always his daughter, who could do little else wrong, faith separated us for the rest of his life, in ways that were painful for both of us.

Paul and I have been slowly reading Watchman Nee's, Normal Christian Life, and are almost finished. We just read that he had been a brilliant young lawyer before becoming a preacher. This explains the systematic way he lays out his theology. He writes of going back to his hometown of Foo-chow in 1929, with his health broken, walking along the street with a stick. He met one of his old professors, who was shocked at what had become of him. Watchman was momentarily shamed and shaken at the fact that this man he respected, asked him, "Are you still in this condition, with no success, no progress, nothing to show?" It was a turning point for Watchman, but not in the way the professor probably hoped. Watchman felt the Spirit of glory resting on him and turned more resolutely than ever to God's path for his life.

We also read of an older woman who had a great impact on Watchman's life. She knew the Word of God like no one he knew and had great insight and wisdom. He was so frustrated that she didn't get busy and hold meetings--preach the Word to many people--expand her realm of influence. It was only later that he realized that the young men in whose lives she quietly invested, were her work. Watchman himself was a fruit of her life work; a man who was to spend 20 years imprisoned in China for preaching the gospel, and die while still in prison in 1972. But almost 40 years after his death, his words still have a profound impact on followers of Christ.

If we follow Christ there will be accusations of waste. Think of the woman who poured a fortune in perfume over his feet. What a waste of money.

Jesus spent lavish amounts of time alone on a mountainside praying, when there were crowds of people waiting to hear what he had to say--crowds of sick people waiting to be healed. What a waste of time.

A man hung on a cross, cut off the prime of his life. What a waste of power.

A Pharisee of Pharisees and Roman citizen, turned his back on his education received at the feet of Gamaliel; a privileged life that was on a fast track to influence in high places. Paul exchanged all of this for a life of repeated beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment and eventual execution. What a waste of an education.

Waste? No, of course, not really waste at all! For in the Kingdom of God, losers are winners and dying means living. Those with the least are those with the most. Nothing is as it seems. If we are going against the flow, we are probably going in the right direction.

Galatians 6:14 (New International Version)
14 May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New Living Translation)
17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

From the Archives: Originally published January 7th 2007

We were talking about the book I'm reading right now, "Cure for the Common Life," by Max Lucado. The book is about finding your Sweet Spot--your purpose--your reason to be--and with the start of a new year my friend was giving this some thought so I told her about the book. One way to find clues to our Sweet Spot is by thinking back to what we did naturally as a child when we had time on our hands. The book says that what we loved to do then may well hold the key to the gifts we have to share with the world now.

Childhood; you would think it would be a carefree time--a time of play, exploration, and dreams--a happy time of innocence and wonder. That's what God intended it to be--and although for a fortunate few it is, all too often it is much harder than that. So many people can't even remember a lot of their childhood.She thought for a moment, and her words were casual as she shared a memory that came back suddenly, relatively recently--a glimmer in the fog of forgetfulness that was her childhood. She told me how she remembered going to Sunday School as a child--but it was what she did afterwards that she wanted to tell me about. After coming home she would slip downstairs into the basement as soon as she could, without being seen. Down in the cold unfinished space with the cement floor and cement block walls, she would line up her dolls and teach them the lesson she had just learned, mimicking the teacher. She did this in secret, too insecure and afraid of being laughed at to let anyone see what she was doing.

"I grew up in a normal home," she said, "It was really called survival. I taught the dolls in secret--it was not a confidence building home."

Funny how a few words can have such an impact--as these did on me. I thought of a little girl who had a gift, a God given passion to teach, but whose home was not a safe place to reveal who she was.

I thought of the fact that God places his own image within each human being and that he designs and forms each one of us personally, into unique gifts to the world. And I thought about an adversary who is bent on actively opposing everything God intends for a life.

Here's to unwrapping "the gift" that we are meant to be.

Here's to recognizing that there are two agendas for our lives and choosing God's!

And here's to never crushing the gift in anyone else.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)by Eugene H. Peterson
13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;you formed me in my mother's womb.I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!Body and soul, I am marvelously made!I worship in adoration—what a creation!You know me inside and out,you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,how I was sculpted from nothing into something.Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;all the stages of my life were spread out before you,The days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Christopher's Story Part 1

Christopher Leslie Cater, born to Lucy Cater, May 4th, 1921 was my father. He died January 22nd 2003.

I decided to tell his story a little differently, as if I were there. I started this story a while ago for my writers group and never finished it. Now I have to, although the rest of the story may be related differently!

The boy rubbed a clean spot on the grimy window of the bus and peered out. The bus jostled and bumped its way along the streets, the squeaking and rubbing of brakes bringing the bus jolting to a halt every few minutes, in order to take on and drop off passengers.

It was 1925 and the streets of Birmingham were bustling with fishmongers, greengrocers, butchers and bakers on their way to the Bull Ring market. The clip-clop of horses pulling carts laden with goods, blended with the shouts of the vendors. A pungent smell of onions and other fresh vegetables, wafted through the open windows along with that of the fish market.

The face of the four year old boy lacked the curiosity and excitement that you would expect on his first bus trip. Instead, apprehension shone from the intelligent, sensitive, blue–gray eyes that were fringed with extraordinarily long lashes. His hair was as fine, soft and fair as corn silk and a distinctive dimple cut a cleft right in the middle of his handsome chin, just below his finely shaped lips. He wore a light brown knitted pullover with a collar striped with a darker brown around the edge, and closed with three buttons at the neck. He also had on a pair of short, worn, corduroy trousers, long knitted socks and well worn lace-up shoes, the best clothes he had.

Christopher’s only comfort came from the woman on the seat next to him. Auntie Agnes, his only aunt among six uncles, was nineteen, but was a mixture of big sister and mother to him. She had always been kind to him. Her dress was simple and plain, but her finely featured face had a gentle prettiness and her warmth and familiar scent almost made Christopher think that all was well.

Then the churning began in his stomach again; the terrifying reality was that he was going be left with Agnes’s sister Lucy; his mother--but a mother he had never met. Auntie Agnes would go back to Birmingham, to the terraced house in the slums of Hockley that was home and he would be left all alone with a stranger.

He was too young to understand why, but she had left him with his grandparents after he was born. She never came to visit and he had the feeling that she wasn't welcome there; that she had been in some kind of trouble. But his grandparents were getting too old to look after a child anymore and now that he was four, they said she had to look after him.

He must have fallen asleep, because suddenly he woke up, with his head bumping against the window. Rubbing his eyes, he saw the most beautiful green hills and fields and, instead of city streets, the bus was now swaying along tree lined country roads.

“We’re almost at Wassell Grove, now, Chris,” said Auntie Agnes, “Are you all right?”

He didn’t answer.

The next time the bus stopped, they got off and walked up a steep hill towards the farm where Auntie Agnes said his mother had a cottage. On top of one of the hills--Auntie Agnes said it was Witchberry Hill--he could see a tall, thin structure. She told him that was the Hagley monument.

Breathing heavily now, and both of them wiping the perspiration from their heads, they looked up. There was the small cottage, and a woman was walking towards them. She was wearing a pinafore and wiping her hands on it as she walked. As she got closer, she looked down at Christopher, who was shaking now with fear. She had a strong looking face, with high cheekbones. He noticed her hands, which were big for a woman.

“Hello Leslie,” she said. He noticed a sharp edge to her voice.

“Leslie?” That was his middle name, but he was Christopher. Everybody called him Christopher or Chris. Instinctively his hand reached for his Auntie Agnes’s...

Christopher's story will continue in two week's week: Pieternella's story, part 1

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Third Option

We had a few minutes before leaving for work, to chat. The night before, we had been talking with some friends about Inuvik in the far north. Paul visited there a few years ago with his Uncle John and loved it. He reflected on the mixed population of Inuit and white people.

"A lot of people up there who aren't associated with mining, are trying to run away from something or someone," he said. There must be so many stories, so many broken people with broken dreams, I thought.

He told me about his last day in Inuvik. He and Uncle John decided to go for a walk through town and went into a coffee shop which had locally produced art for sale. Uncle John went over to a display to have a look.

Paul noticed a man sitting up against the wall, almost like he wished he could hide behind it. He looked to be in his early thirties; slight of build and of medium height. Paul felt a compelling urge to go and talk to him, so he went over and started chatting. He mentioned in conversation that he was a Christian and that was when the man started telling his story. Uncle John, looked over and saw that they were engaged in an intense conversation, so he continued browsing the shelves.

"I've preached in Europe and all through the States; a lot in Ireland, too," said the man, "But really, I was a street preacher."

Then he told of marrying, and succumbing to the expectation that he settle down and pastor a church. Somewhere along the line he got squeezed into a mold that didn't fit and the pressure of family and a church became too much.

One day he ran--and never went back. He'd been up there for a year or so and was living in a tent through the summer. He had no money, but some of the Inuit kids--those into drugs and prostitution, became his friend and brought him food. He said that they were so kind to him. Much kinder than the Church had been.

Paul encouraged him to face what he was running from, with God's help.

"I think God sent you to me today," said the man, "I was in utter despair, but you've given me hope. I know that I have to go back and deal with it."

"People deal with their problems by either fight or flight," Paul said to me; "The people up there have chosen to fly."

"There is a third option when we are in trouble," I said, with Psalm 46: 10 in mind:
"Be still, and know that I am God;"

We opened our Daily Light on the Daily Path to read before leaving for work, and among many verses that were along the same lines, we read Isaiah 25:9:

9 It will be said on that day,“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.This is the Lord; we have waited for him;let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

Yes, there is a third option.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

More Than Enough for Me

Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.
Psalm 37:5

He who promised is faithful.
Hebrew 10:23b

Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Numbers 23:19b

Some of you who read my post last Saturday will remember that I went to Missionfest Toronto, primarily to make it possible for my daughter and her friend to hear an inspiring speaker. I wondered what God might have for me, the ex-missionary, the Life Coach/Counsellor-in-training, and how I would react again to the big splash of Missionfest this time, in the context of my experience of it over many years since its beginnings out west, which I shared in with my husband in our earlier life as missionaries.

Well, I still struggled with the feeling of Missionfest being like just another big trade fair in a huge facility on the outskirts of Toronto. I didn't like the darkened auditorium in the middle of the day to hear a worship band that was way louder than necessary, and I was concerned at the fervency that didn't seem to be there anymore in the atmosphere. I missed the excitement and hubbub of activity and spontaneity of earlier years, and I noticed the numbers of booths seemed reduced, as well as those who attended.

Nevertheless I was blessed, as always, by Brian Doerksen in concert, a Christian worship leader/songwriter whose faithfulness, personal testimony and sacrifice have always impressed me, not to mention the anointing on his music, simple as it is. My daughter and her friend were not disappointed in Shane Claiborne, the speaker they had come for, and talked about his message for the rest of the weekend. They found the information they wanted from YWAM (Youth With a Mission) and Urban Promise. Other friends we bumped into were excited by words and resources that blessed them for their upcoming mission trip. We shook hands with Michael Coren and chatted candidly with him about current issues on his program, and I spoke to several colleagues of my husband's from days gone by.

My friend and I managed to make it into the latter part of the Women's Forum, and appreciated the affirming and solid, although familiar teaching. I wondered what God might do about the new directions in my life. I was not to be disappointed. As we were instructed to join in threes to be prayed for by the speaker and each other,one of the hosts at the back table came over and joined us. After we prayed she asked me if I was a teacher, sensing something in the way I prayed for her. The conversation opened up, and we discovered we had both been missionaries in East Africa. She is more recently returned and going through some of the struggles I have wrestled with since our return eight years ago.

When she saw Life Coaching on my card, we talked about making a probono arrangement where I would coach her for free in this transition phase and she would help me by being my client as I am in training! I had been thinking that coaching returned missionary women could be one coaching niche for me. So here I am now, one phone coaching session already done, and another one going on in person in Toronto as you read this. God is so organized!! Instead of me worrying about how to try out clients, He hands me my first one - a very lovely lady,confirming my conviction that my being and doing are interconnected in this"ex-missionary" phase of my life. This gift felt like a firstfruits of His promise to me of faithfulness of leading me into a whole new life ahead of me, of which Life Coaching and counselling are a part.

That made my day, but it was only noon, and we planned to stay around a while, so we went to one workshop, on Arts and Mission. When I found it was about a TV type video website I wondered what it would have to do with me. The founders and organizers of Images of You TV (www.ImagesofU.TV) were very professional and courteous as they shared about how they promote mission and Christian events through their TV style website. ...and then I found an inspiration forming right there in my head - I asked pertinent questions in the session and afterwards..and...lo and behold: a vision for a future video section of my business website to share voices and stories from Africa...beginning with my husband's return trip there this summer - an opportunity to honour him and his life's work, and my many friends, Ugandan and missionary, who are still there. As if that was not exciting enough, the organizer overheard my discussion with the other volunteer workers and said she wants to do a story on Jim and his past work and trip when he comes back. God is opening up a new way to use my experience as a missionary, to bless what I have been and known, and to find new ways to bless those with whom so much of my big story of missionary life has been connected.

I had stepped out in obedience to make something happen for my daughter. God met me where I was, in transition between the past and the future, and danced in the present with me. Regardless of atmosphere or lack of it, my own kind of cynicism or preparation for disappointment, He showed His faithfulness to me and to the promises He has given me, in the past and the present, for the future.

There was more than enough for me, in a quiet and yet satisfying way, at Missionfest. I am reminded again that it's not about the event, and never is; it's about God and what He can do when we trust Him and believe His promises to us. We move out in our sailing craft on to the open sea, and then we open His sealed orders.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Righteous Indignation

God. Angry.

I grew up thinking those two words were the perfect example of an oxymoron. Except where it applied to me. God could NEVER be angry. Except at me. At me, he was ALWAYS angry. Without a break and without fail. That's the way it was. (I'm not sure how that worked that God could never be angry yet at the same time he was always angry - at me, no less - but then I never claimed to be entirely rational!)

At Cell Group tonight we went back to our study "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality". I could probably write all night, and straight into next week about all that was stirred up in me and the things we talked about. But let me just stick to one of God's emotions, as depicted in Psalm 18.

God emotes. The Bible attributes a number of emotions to God, but the one that most intrigues me is "anger".

But "God is love". How does that equate? How can "Love", be "angry"?

Here is a powerful description of God's anger, in Psalm 118:

"7 ... the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;

consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it...

...15 and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils."

What made him so angry?

If I interpose myself into this psalm, which is not much of a stretch for me, it says I was in big trouble. The enemy had me wrapped around his little finger. He had played havoc with my life. My situation was absolutely desperate and my circumstances horrible. It's not hard to apply that to my life which included abuse, loneliness and misunderstanding before I met Christ. And then I cried out to God...

That anger - as expressed in Psalm 18 - was the anger He felt over what the enemy had tried to accomplish with my life. What happens when I cry out to Him? He reacts:

6 From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears.
7 The earth trembled and quaked,
and the foundations of the mountains shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
8 Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
9 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
10 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
12 Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced,
with hailstones and bolts of lightning.
13 The LORD thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
14 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies ,
great bolts of lightning and routed them.
15 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bareItalic
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of breath from your nostrils.

What happens to that kind of anger from God? He is holy, and in his holiness, he is also just. How does he reconcile his anger, and also justice? Where does it go?

You'll have to stay tuned for Chapter 2 in my next post, but here's a hint:

16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,

from my foes, who were too strong for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,

but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a spacious place;

he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Me and My Coach

I decided to check in with my life coach tonight--you know, those special assistants in living that only the trendiest people have. They are usually quite pricey, but mine is exceptionally reasonable.

Besides I had already tried to write a blog post and inspiration was as scarce as yellow bananas at No Frills (they are usually all green, except for this evening after work, I have to say, when they were the perfect shade of yellow with just the tiniest tinge of green at the ends.)

While out with my coach I decided to share a bit about me. You might think that I share a lot about me here, and I do, on a certain level, but there is sharing and sharing.

Today at work I went to a new training in our agency on facilitating personal planning meetings for the people who are really our employers--and who happen to have disabilities. The training was to help us do a really great job of facilitating, "the meeting" at which they share their goals and dreams. I'm smiling at the thought that part of the discussion at the meeting was on how to actually tempt some people to attend their own meeting. It can be a pretty intimidating thing to open up the most sacred ground of your heart--that of your hopes, dreams and goals, in public--even a supportive public.

By coincidence I had spent the better part of Sunday afternoon thinking about my own personal mission statement and goals. I sat in a big floral cushion padded wicker chair, in our window enclosed sun porch, enjoying the spring warmth and light filtering through the half closed blinds.

I looked at my well used day timer and the page at the front headed Mission Statement and Annual Goals. It was no longer pristine, as it had been a couple of months ago. No, it was a mass of indentations and traces of pencil lead--evidence of previous attempts at what I was trying once more to do on Sunday. This time I decided I would do it on my laptop, so that I could play with the wording more easily. I didn't find it easy to pull the essence of my hopes and dreams from my heart and into words and out onto paper. I did manage it though, and once out, they shot me into the week with clarity of purpose.

So I thought I would share some of what I wrote. I don't know whether I did it rightly or wrongly, according to the book, but it worked for me.

Here is my mission statement:
To live, work and lead as a disciple of Christ; demonstrating:
· Passion
· Purpose
· Intentionality
· Discipline
· Integrity

Passion: Proclaiming and demonstrating a particular truth with faithfulness and integrity; inspiring others to follow.
Purpose: Actively seeking God’s agenda and planning to accomplish my part in it.
Intentionality: Deliberately choosing actions focused on key priorities.
Discipline: Choosing to avoid distractions, in order to focus on the truly important.
Integrity: Living true.

I wrote some goals too; work and personal goals, and they have really brought focus to my days since writing them down. They might be boring to share in full here, but one was to exercise daily 45 minutes, 5 days out of 7.

So tonight after coming home, I sat down at my laptop with nothing to write, and a large head with a friendly pair of brown eyes and moist brownish pink nose, landed on a corner of the keyboard. Behind the head was a furry body with a wagging tail. The furry expert at non-verbal communication, said, "Walkies?" I could not resist.

And this is how I came to be out in the fresh, cool, evening air, walking with my golden coated coach with the tail the colour of toasted coconut --and thinking that maybe I should be brave enough to share some of me, if I expect the people I work for, to do so!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A King's Ransom

Friends, this morning, another post from the archives. It was previously published here on July 13th 2007. May it be a blessing again.

I flipped through the pages of my Bible this morning looking for something and thought of what lay beneath my fingers--such a treasure.

Promises; stories; exhortations; wisdom; prophetic words; visions; encouragement; hope, comfort and so much more are packed in vast quantities within its leaves.

God's Word is a surgeon's scalpel--able to skillfully separate thoughts, intentions and motives--when it is read by one with a seeking heart.

It is a treasure--hidden in the drawers of motel rooms--and on dusty shelves everywhere.

Today--crack one open and read, if you haven't already. If you don't do it regularly, take up the challenge to do so every day for a month.

Even if you think that you only have time to read a verse or two, read them slowly.


Meditate for a few moments.

Allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

Become a treasure seeker--for you have at your fingertips--a King's ransom.

Evening Reading from the Daily Light:

Seek and read from the book of the Lord.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”—“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.—By the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.—I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.—That through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Isa. 34:16; Deut. 11:18; Josh. 1:8; Ps. 37:31; Ps. 17:4; Ps. 119:11; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rom. 15:4

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

From Being to Doing

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (New International Version)
11With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

Purity + Power + Promptings = Purposes fulfilled

Three keys shimmer in this verse, like small gems set in a larger piece. They might easily be overlooked, unless one peered closely at the finer detail.

To be counted worthy of his calling...Could we ever be? Our worthiness is in Christ's standing in our place before God and our acceptance of that gift. Not only must he stand in our place though, but he must be given room and right within us: to live his life, in and through us--to transform our broken, wounded selves; to gently heal and straighten crooked pathways.

Yes, Lord, I want to "be counted worthy," but all of it, I know, must be your doing, in response to an open, waiting and yielded, heart.

And, oh, that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose. I am full of good purposes unfulfilled. How I long to break the cycle of efforts sidelined by distractions. Dear Lord, I need the power spoken of here; your power, flowing in and through my good purposes.

And from the character of Christ in me, and his power infusing my purposes, I pray that the actions prompted and guided by my faith, will then be fulfilled--accomplished--realized!

The path is so clearly traced in this verse. Actions are to flow from who we are in Christ, and by his power, from "being" to "doing." The usual topsy turvy process is upside down. How I love to plunge into action and busyness. How hard it is to pause and let him saturate me with his presence and power. How fruitless are the efforts that flow from that method. How hopeful I am that I may yet reverse my natural bent.

Monday, April 20, 2009


My maternal grandmother, Kaatje, was born on December 12th, 1895, in the village of Wemeldinge in the province of Zeeland in southern Holland. In this photograph, she is on the right, not wearing the national costume.

The circumstances of her birth, had a profound impact on her identity. Her mother, Adriana, known to her family as "Ajône,"(the Zeeuwse form of the name,) became pregnant as the result of an assault, only confided years later, to her granddaughter, Adrie; and then as a secret.

We can hardly imagine, over one hundred years later, just how much hardship fell upon Ajône with the birth of her baby girl. Kaatje was born into a conservative society in which women were naive when it came to sexuality and pregnancy. Judgement fell upon the woman who was pregnant without marriage and the child came into the world with a stigma that would follow her into adulthood.

Ajône would never have another child and named her daughter, Kaatje, the Dutch form of the name Katherine. I wonder, did she choose the name because of its meaning? Of all the names to choose, this one held special meaning for the child: Pure. One hundred and three years after Kaatje's birth, Ajône's great, great, great grandaughter; one of my granddaughters; would also be named Katherine.

Kaatje grew up working very hard. The Dutch are known for their diligence and industriousness, but Kaatje learned earlier than most what it meant to work, and even on the Sabbath, she worked; at knitting black socks.
Ajône, our Opoe, worked hard too, taking in washing for other people, to support herself and her daughter. Later in life she owned a barge named Lena, on which she would deliver cargo and by then she had married a widower named Piet van der Werff, a kind man who loved her and treated Kaatje with much love and affection.

Amazingly, hardship did not embitter Kaatje. I remember her laughing about the adventures she had with her childhood friend, Pietje De Mul, with whom she would collect sheep manure for their flourishing house plants that were the envy of others. She loved all animals, especially cats, and laughter came readily to her. Her heart was always for the underdog in any situation. She was tenderhearted, generous, loving, kind and always she was busy making something, either sewing, crocheting or knitting.

Incredibly, in the late 1980's, I met a Dutch lady living in Newmarket, Ontario, and through polite conversation, I discovered that she was Pietje de Mul's daughter. And on top of that, Pietje was living with her in Newmarket. She would have been in her nineties by then. How I regret not asking to meet her.

Kaatje married Jan Schipper (son of Cornelia Kole and Dingenis Schipper and one of nine children.) Jan came from a well off family and they were not very approving initially, of his choice, but when they married, she was already carrying his child. This is their wedding picture, for which I thank my cousin, Deborah Martinez in Switzerland!

Tante Corry, their first child, was born in 1919 and then Tante Adrie, Deborah's mother, in 1921. Uncle Dick came next. He was born on September 25 1925 and Pieternella, my mum, on December 15th of 1926.
Oma told Mum that she had not planned to have any more children after Uncle Dick, and Mum used to think, "How awful. She wouldn't have had me then!"
A childless friend of Oma's, Tante Marie, as well as the doctor who delivered Mum, wanted to adopt her, but Oma could not think of parting with one of her children.

She would have four more children: twins, Kaatje (Kitty) and Jan, born in 1928 and later, Alijda and Dirk.

In this photo, Mum is sitting on the table, with Tante Adrie on her left, Tante Corry on her right, and Uncle Dick on the far right. Mum was always rather quiet, but Tante Corry was used to taking charge of the younger children, and Tante Adrie would always say exactly what was on her mind.

There was not much money because Opa couldn't work much. After the 1914-18 war, both he and Oma had been very ill with the Spanish flu and he developed very bad asthma.

He had always wanted a bakery and Opoe helped set him up in business, but working with flour was the worst thing possible for his asthma. The business did not go well as Opa;s heart ruled his head. He gave bread to people who couldn't afford to pay, and he lost money through loaning it without any written agreement. He didn't believe in insurance, and finally, when they had a fire in the bakery, it ruined them.

When Opoe came to visit though, it was always a feast. She would come with a big bag, and the children knew that it held treats. They would stand around her like vultures, waiting to see what she had brought for them.

Mum is very like Oma in personality and she adored her mother. When she began to learn about Jesus Christ, and how he would come back some day, she always thought that it was her mother who was Jesus, in disguise, because she was so perfect.

Years later I would think something very similar of her!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Perfect Saturday

This Saturday felt like spring at last. It is hard to believe that just last Sunday, for the Easter Sunrise Service, I dressed in many layers of warm clothing and wore gloves. Susan, who stood beside me, said that her ears were hurting with the cold and I wondered if Lowell Tippet, the trumpeter, might find his lips freezing to his instrument.

But this morning it was warm and the windows were open, letting in fresh air, sunshine and birdsong.

Peter and our three youngest grandchildren, Emily, Joshua and Stephen, were coming over for breakfast, so I made a big, fragrant pot of coffee, and soon a copious quantity of bacon was sizzling tantalizingly under the grill, to accompany the pancakes that were bubbling on the griddle and piling up into a steaming mountain.

The feast was heartily devoured and only one lonely pancake was left over. The coffee pot was drained and refilled and while Peter, Brenda and I sat around the breakfast table chatting, the children went off to play, or watch Saturday morning sports on TV.

At noon, Peter and children all piled back in their van to go home, and I got on with laundry, cleaning oven racks, attacking a bulging refrigerator that desperately needed sorting out and going shopping.

All day long I held onto a determination that before the day was done I was going out into it with my furry friend Molson, but by the time I got home from grocery shopping and put everything away, Paul thought that it would be a good idea to have supper.

So I put together some delicious leftover ham, scalloped potatoes in cheese sauce and french cut green beans, and we ate supper while watching a movie.

By the time the movie finished, it was getting dark, but I grabbed a flashlight and called Molson up from downstairs, and out we ran, into the cool evening air.

We alternated between running, and walking briskly, through the sleepy, quiet, darkening village, passing two backyard bonfires with red sparks flying up into the night air and the delicious scent of woodsmoke.

Sidney, a golden retriever with a light curly coat, who is always tied out on his front lawn, barked at Molson, who cried softly under his breath as we passed, but other than that, he paid no attention.

We surprised a white cat sitting at the end of her driveway. She hunched up as we walked by, and Molson's ears perked up with interest. She eyed us warily from her post until we were safely past. On we walked, with Molson's eyes laughing up at me with pleasure at being out.

We were on the last stretch and almost home, when we passed the house where Rambo the boxer lives. He is always tied up by his kennel and barks viciously with a gutteral snapping and snarling as we pass. Tonight though, he seemed to be running loose and his people were out in the front of the house as well. As soon as he saw us I knew we were in trouble. I watched in horror as he bounded across the road towards us. I shouted out, but before his owners could get there he was on top of Molson and I watched helplessly as the muscular Rambo and Molson rolled over and over with vicious sounds emanating from the furry ball they had become. Three men pulled Rambo off and checked Molson over. He was fine and they were so sorry. Apparently Rambo has a wireless fence now, but his battery must have been low they said. I made a mental note not to walk past their house in the dark again. Apart from being ruffled and having wet fur, Molson was his normal calm self and seemed none the worse for being pounced on. He trotted on quite happily.

When I got home, Susan had sent me an email with a play by play of her day, some of which she had spent hiking on the Bruce Trail; with six of her grandchildren, her daughter Abby, a friend of Abby's and her two children, and a dog named Otis.

Susan wrote of the dog: "Otis the rather corpulent bassett hound. (I wanted to call him "Bloatis". Then I thought that he had quite a handy name, really, because if he was swimming you could call him "Floatis" and if he was carrying something, you could call him "Tote-is", etc, etc. Anyway, I digress.)" That made me laugh!

So we both had adventures with grandchildren and dogs today, out in the fresh spring air. It was a perfect Saturday.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Sealed Orders

As you read this I will be moving around Missionfest Toronto, milling with the crowds at the hundreds of booths of mission societies and Christian organizations. We will be well provided for at a beautiful facility near the airport, with all the latest "mod cons" as my Brit friends would have said. When the time comes my daughter, her friend, my friend and I will attend workshops of our choosing or cram in to hear the next famous plenary speaker or worship artist. All the info we could possibly need about it, and much more, will be in a glossy program handed to us in our first moments. An amazing way to be with the rich to learn about how to serve the poor, either in money or in faith.

I hearken back over twenty years to Missionfest Vancouver, held in the gymnasium of Burnaby Christian Fellowship, British Columbia. We were newlyweds, staffing our booth for ACTS, Africa Community Technical Service, the small mission my husband founded and ran, overhead and salary free, out of the basement of his home in North Vancouver. It was in the early heady days of missions finding their voice in the mainline body of Christ. We were taking courses on being a World Christian, and giving talks about our work with cut and pasted newsletters, home made displays and African artifacts. Our tiny children bounced around as I taught action songs to Sunday school groups like "I am a House of Prayer". Ah, those were the days. I knew who I was, and what to do. Life was busy and exciting. We were missionaries who had a message, whether sitting at a booth at Missionfest or talking in a church or writing up the latest info on our doings in a newsletter. I used to say that it was much more fulfilling and uplifting to be part of Missionfests than to go to "charismatic" conferences.

Now I visit so my daughter and her friend can hear a wonderful speaker espousing a simple life, Shane Claiborne, a guy who often gets sent away from churches because of his clothes, until he tells them he's their guest speaker. I wonder what else will be relevant to my life? I am excited that Missionfest has come this long way in those twenty plus years. Or am I? What does it say about the western church that this vision has been enriched and fulfilled over and over again, even if it is held in a posh place in a big city? I suppose that is the way things happen here in North America. And if it results in people making important choices to support various mission efforts or answer a "call" to the "mission field", then I guess it will have fulfilled its mission.

Well,I'll wait to tell you next week how it was. I am sure God will have some precious moments for me, whatever their content. He will continue His journey with me, walking me through my life with His "sealed orders". One thing I know for sure now, although it has taken some time to get there: I don't need to apologize for not being a "missionary" any more. I don't need to prove my human "doing". My human "being" is enough for my life in Christ, and enough for me.

This is thy work, these are thy possibilities; contentment to sail with sealed orders, because of unwavering confidence in the wisdom of the Lord High Admiral.

F.B.M. (April 16 in Streams in the Desert)

Friday, April 17, 2009

No Small Thing

I sat in the back of the church with a war going on inside me. The rest of the congregation was moving forward to take communion, but I felt glued to my pew. What I really wanted to do was bolt. In the other direction! In the next 20 seconds or so, a thousand thoughts raced through my mind.

Communion means something to me. It’s the place where I allow the emotions to arise which are evoked by the greatest sacrifice ever given – and it was given for me. It’s the place where I remember, as He taught us to do, just what Jesus did in order to relieve me of my sin and guilt and make a way for me to be able to approach the Father and to be a full member of His family, a full partaker of His love, a full recipient of his fatherly embrace. It’s where I remember that He made a place for me. A place of belonging so secure, that the very gates of hell and all the fury of all the demons cannot shake it.

Communion is a renewal of His covenant with me. “I died for you. I did everything that could be done. All that is left for you to do is to believe. To believe and accept it for yourself.”

But it’s also a renewal of my covenant with His family. We go forward. We receive the elements. We take from one loaf of bread. The Bread of Life. One sacrifice. One life, laid down for the many and which makes the many one. The renewal of the covenant which gives us true “family” and a place in the family of God. It is a renewal of our commitment to one another – to unity – no matter what.

That morning I just couldn’t do it. There were people in that room that I could just not take communion with. The hurt was too deep. I had every right to be bitter. And that “right” just would not let go. I made every attempt, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t change my heart. I would have to take communion another day. Perhaps when those people weren’t there… Or when the situation had been sorted out and the pain dissipated.

I stood up. I almost turned and walked away in that moment. I came so close! But I knew that if I walked away from those people who I could not renew my covenant with that morning, I was also walking away from Jesus Himself.

“Lord,” I prayed. “I can’t do it. My heart is hard. I want to have communion with you, but I need to have a clean heart. I forgive them, Lord. I forgive them. If I go forward to that altar, will you meet me there?”

As I stepped out into the aisle, my heart was not one bit less bitter. But it was a step in the right direction. It was a step toward Jesus, and it was a step toward faith that He could change my heart, even when I couldn’t. As an act of my will, I chose to forgive. But I couldn’t change my feelings.

It was only twenty steps or so. But by the time I was standing in front of that altar, ready to receive the symbols of the body and blood of Jesus, He met me there. My heart was softened – toward Him and toward each one of His kids that stood there with me. I saw myself as much in need of forgiveness and a renewal of covenant as any other person there. By the time the bread, His body, touched my lips, and the sweet taste of crushed grapes filled my mouth, my heart had been turned. I stood in front of that altar that morning and felt him change my heart. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t. But Jesus met me there. He did what I could not do for myself.

Suddenly – instantly - the war in my heart was over. I knew I would be able to walk through this painful situation with God's grace flowing through that once hardened heart. I stood at the front with my brothers and sisters, the good the bad and the ugly in all of us, all together, and I took the body and the blood into me, the same way they did and I knew we were "one". I suddenly felt commissioned now to join Him in the work He wanted to do in this situation. Just moments earlier I had been so worried about "how to be" with those people – “how to be” in that situation. I forgive as I have been forgiven. I love as I have been loved - unworthy, but loved. Suddenly the lights were on. It was all good. It was all grace...

A heart that in an instant went from challenging God’s purposes, to joining Him in His work. A changed heart. That’s no small thing.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.—“Water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’” Psalm 69:2,3 ESV

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Tribute to Hope

Friends, some of you prayed faithfully for Hope Fitzgibbon, a friend who died on Saturday the 13th of April. I went to the visitation on Tuesday evening and waited an hour and a half in a long line of people who wanted to pay their respects to her family. The person I saw lying in the coffin was not Hope, but a shell that once contained her spirit. I was reminded of the words of the angel at Jesus' tomb, "He is not here, he is risen.

Joy, her daughter, wrote this tribute and posted it on the Care Pages where daily updates were posted during Hope's illness. For those that didn't know Hope, it is a chance to meet her. Be blessed.


By Joy Fitzgibbon

My Mom was "the kindest and the best of women," to paraphrase Jane Austen. She was extraordinarily gifted: everything that she touched became beautiful. She had a gentleness that was evident to all, she loved extravagantly and she lived vibrantly. She was, above all, a woman of God who placed Jesus at the centre of her life, experienced the fullness of His Spirit flowing through her and shared a depth, intimacy and confidence in her walk with Jesus that was without rival. It was a privilege of inestimable proportions to be raised and loved by her. I cannot begin to find the words to tell you how much I respect and love her.

I love the way Mom saw this world: She had an irrepressible and enlightened eye for the beauty all around us. She created beautiful things and moments. She was brilliantly creative-one of the most gifted people I know. She brought order and beauty to whatever she laid her hands upon-whether a display at the store, a cake or dinner, or an arrangement of flowers. She loved to learn and would ask questions and take courses and do what was necessary to learn a new craft or skill - whether it be sewing, stained glass, home décor and design, merchandising, floral design, cake decorating, cooking. You name it, my Mom could do it. She was fearless and relaxed in the face of such challenges. She was in her element and she just shone whenever she did anything creative.

She was able to look at broken things and see the potential beautyhidden beneath them just ready and waiting to be nurtured and created.These were beautiful reminders of how the Lord nurtures us as, despite our weaknesses and sin, and how He carefully and painstakingly re-creates us in His image.

She taught me to appreciate beautiful things and to not be afraid to learn - even through mistakes. She was a classy woman who also taught me to value beauty as it is a reflection of the hand of God, our brilliant Creator. She showed me the importance of taking care in how we do things. When we set a lovely table with candlelight, special linens and china and make a yummy dinner, for example, we show love and care to our families, friends and ourselves. We make the simple act of eating together a celebration. She showed me how to create a warm home and sparked in me both the love creating beautiful things and the confidence to do so. She created a home that is a refuge from the cacophony of life, where we are safe, warm, nurtured and strengthened for the journey. Her desire to create a supportive nurturing home for Dad and I leaves me with a wonderful legacy - a safe place for us all and a deeper understanding of the gift of hospitality as a way of showing God's love to each other and to friends and strangers alike. Through her beauty, my Mom brought graciousness and dignity to our lives.

Her creativity was clearly evident also in how she lived her days. I don't think I have met anyone who loves to seize unexpected opportunities like my Mom did. She saw the potential in situations and people and ran with it without undue concern about her previous plans. As a creative free spirit Mom would not be penned in. Dad and I would often chuckle. We'd be headed in one direction and suddenly Mom had us heading in a totally different direction because there was a great waterfall over there, or a wonderful store that had unusual things, or because an idea just popped into her head that she had to follow up on. She saw that unusual rose at the back of a garden, or that russet red robin hopping along the ground; both of which I would have missed while sailing on by in my needless hurry. Her intuition was impeccable in a way that 99% of the time paid off handsomely.

There was a structure and a brilliance to her mind. She seized the moment, lived life in the fullest and took advantage of opportunities that many of us might easily miss. She taught me to stop, listen and see the beauty God has given to us to nurture and strengthen us on the journey. She taught me to listen to God's creation for signs of His love. She taught me how to be more flexible and ultimately obedient to the Lord as I embrace the often surprising opportunities that He puts in our paths. I learned from her to live in the moment and celebrate life.

The lives the Lord touched through Mom also became beautiful. She loved extravagantly--just like Jesus--and sought to be an authentic reflection of Him. Mom always thought of everyone else other than herself. She gave so generously to Dad and I and many others. She was always bringing home things that she thought we might like. I've lost track of the number of times that she presented me with a new piece of jewellry, a book, some sweet treat or favorite breakfast or brought home Tim Horton's just because she knew I was writing and needed some incentive. Mom loved giving to people. She was like a kid in a candy shop. She gave without reserve, with deep love. There wasn't a stingy bone in my Mom's body.

She also gave of herself through her open and gentle spirit. Her openness and warmth made her a safe place for people--particularly the many of us who are wounded, suffering or lonely. Mom took time for us all exploring the details of people's lives with a deep compassion.

I've lost track of the number of times through the years that she sawsomeone in need and quietly and generously ministered to them. She didn't announce it, she just gently, unobtrusively and humbly went about it. She was a wonderful example of Christ's love and compassion and a beautiful model for me of how to live as a reflection of Him.

Mom was a loyal and a loving wife. What a blessing to have a Mom who demonstrated such love and praise for her husband and my Dad. I remember watching her at the grocery store several years ago. Dad decided to surprise her, coming early to help her with the grocery shopping. As he was walking towards her, she just beamed with such a glow of love for him. She said, that even now, 42 years later, she was still breathless by him and thought he was so wonderful and handsome. Her sparkle of love for him after all these years and complete respect of him--his background, his many strengths, his challenges and his preference--is all a wonderful example of a Godly wife.

She cultivated moments to celebrate, laugh and live life lightly. My Mom had a spectacular sense of humour. She was mischievous and sharp witted. She made me laugh so often and pulled me out of my natural tendencies towards introspection. I love the way she laughed and brought joy to those around her. She embraced opportunities to create moments of sacred reflection too--thinking deeply and widely about the world and about God's hand in it. She showed us how to live the breadth and depth of the passion God has created within us.

I could share freely my deepest feelings with my Mom. She could be trusted with my heart and to not crush my spirit.

It was such a privilege and a delight to spend time with her, laugh with her and learn from her.Mom showed me that to honor our closest relationships is one of the greatest joys and responsibilities God has entrusted to us.

My Mom was a gentle woman but a strong one. She was one of the strongest, intelligent, resilient and most independent people I know. She thought with her own mind and had her own opinions even if she didn't always express them because she was concerned about others' preferences. She encouraged me to be a woman who is not a victim, but a capable, Godly woman who seeks after Christ's heart and will go, in His power, wherever He sends her without hesitation. She trusted in the Lord even in the darkness and even when she struggled with the most difficult question of life: Why do you allow me to suffer, Lord? I am so grateful for her for asking that question and for ultimately letting the answer rest in Christ's hands, and placing herself there too. She showed me what it is to rest in Him and yield to Him as He works His perfect purposes in our lives, for His glory and for our best.

She showed me how to be a woman of God deeply committed to and extravagantly loved by Jesus. Who is strong and yet a lady: powerful because she is ruled by the Holy Spirit, confident in her femininity and leading passionately with her heart and hands as well as her mind. A sacred woman who serves others, in the name of Jesus, with deep character and passion. She loved Him with all her heart, soul and mind. She spoke with courage, what Christ laid on her heart. She often gave me counsel that was so perceptive and so firmly rooted in the love and truth of Christ that I knew it was straight from Him. She showed me what it means to be a messenger for Christ and to be His vessel in this world.

What a special privilege it is to be raised by a Mom who has experienced the working of the Holy Spirit in her life in such full and powerful ways. She taught me, and demonstrated such an openness to His working and showed great wisdom and understanding in seeking Him. It is a rare gift to live in the presence of such mature, wise and humble Mom and Dad who are fully open to receive what the Lord has for them. She taught me so much as she consistently allowed the Holy Spirit to move in whatever way He wishes and as she desired to act in accordance with His voice. She and Dad created an environment in which I naturally absorbed and learned the rewards of such openness in my relationship with Him.

She was an incomparable, startlingly beautiful, lovely and strong woman. What shines above all, however, is that her heart belonged to Jesus, whatever came. That He is our refuge through the trials and triumphs of life. She showed in the past few years that nothing takes away her submission to His ownership as He walked her through such suffering. Somehow, I had this sense that she was falling even more deeply in love with Him. What a blessing and privilege it was to be raised by such a Godly Mom.

She taught me how to live and she taught me how to die. The night Mom was diagnosed, she sat down with us and said her thank you's and good byes. She apologized to Dad and I for what this would mean for us. Then she said, I'm going to fight. And fight, courageously, she did. Unless you were there, every day, for the past six months, it is hard for you to imagine the suffering that my Mom went through. Leukemia patients suffer so much and my Mom bore it valiantly. She was a woman of great courage. When it was clear that the Lord was calling her home, she had no fear, simply a peace and a communion with the Lord. She was a woman of great trust in her Beloved.

Mom was a precious gift to Dad and I who brought such joy and sweetness to our lives. We were abundantly blessed by her love.

I adored my precious Mom and I am heartbroken at her passing. I miss her desperately and the pain is acute. There are so many things that remind me of her, so many "Mom moments" where I can hear her or see her as if she is here. But she is not. I said to Dad the other night, crying, "How will we ever live without her?"

And yet, I know that the Lord is present with us, through His spirit, and that Mom is present face to face with Him. I could never wish her continued suffering. It was intolerable. I can almost see her now, dancing, completely free-physically, emotionally and spiritually, with a radiant and exuberant smile on her face, laughing in the light and love of Jesus. She would not come back now even if she had a choice.

I also know that the Lord will walk us through these days. My beautiful Mom has taught me to trust Him without hesitation. Even if I experience fears, to still look to the One who calms them all. And so I do that tonight, grateful for my beautiful Mom who taught me all about Him and helped me fall in love with Jesus as my Beloved and my Everything.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Faith, Love and Hope

1 Thessalonians 1:3 (New International Version)
3We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

I'm still in the running on the Marathon of Biblical Proportions, but oh, I am soooo far behind.

We were supposed to be through the Bible by the end of December and here we are in April and I just finished 1 Thessalonians this morning. I confess this partly to console fellow laggards if there are any out there.

I laugh, but really I'm not too worried. I'm enjoying my solitary trot, even if Paul does rub in from time to time that he is leaving me in the dust as he races through for the second time. I can't help it; I am a contemplative soul at heart and God does arrest my steps sometimes, just as I start to read. He did it this morning just three verses into Thessalonians--the words danced on the page before my eyes in a pattern. I found myself pondering:

Work produced by faith

Labour prompted by love

Endurance inspired by hope (in our Lord Jesus)

"Hmmmm," I thought, "So faith produces work." James tells us that faith without action is dead, so that makes sense. Faith should result in an impulse to do something practical in response.

Labour seems a step beyond mere work, however. It makes me think of rolled up sleeves and worn out knees. It is a response that flows from a glad heart of love. We gladly pour ourselves out for others when we love.

Endurance is the final point. I loved that the New International Version says that endurance is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus. Hope is the breath that envigorates the work or labour. Inspiration means to breathe, therefore a heart filled with hope breathes life and energy into what we do. Even when the going gets tough we can endure when we breathe in hope.

And it is all summed up beautifully at the end of the book:
1 Thessalonians 5:8 (New International Version)
8 ...putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Living with Freedom and Purpose

Dear Readers:
Today, a re-post from Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Every culture has a worldview. For instance, North America’s culture is focused on the individual, whereas in Africa and the Far East, the family or community is the centre.But what of the Kingdom of God--how does the worldview of the Kingdom fit with the culture we live in? Do we even realize it is different?

Our culture highly values achievement, setting of goals, accomplishing numbers of things in all areas of life. This seems so plausible and productive—what could be wrong with it? After all, aren’t hard work, discipline and productivity worthy virtues?

Of course they are, but sometimes my own life feels as if it’s spinning so fast that I could be in danger of missing something far more important if I don’t take time to consider what I’m doing—and why.Jesus said, (John 10:10 (New International Version)) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

The thief is Satan, the one who was set against God from the beginning. He steals many things from our lives and not always in obvious ways. Things that appear on the surface to be good, may draw us away from God and his plan for our lives.I’ve lived my life in a struggle to do more in less time—convinced that if I only arranged things in a different order, perhaps I’d be successful—blind to the fact that there is a finite amount of time in each day and some of it needs to be used to rest.

Is this the way God wants us to live? I don’t think so.I’ve found myself living under the tyranny of the “To Do” list. I will always be a list maker. A list helps me to focus and get things done—and I love crossing things off when they're done. But I’ve decided that mentally I will no longer call it a “To Do” list, but a “Possibility List.” I want to be open to the possibility that God might have a different agenda for my day—and I don't want to feel frustrated or guilty if he does.

Another key to a lifestyle more in keeping with the Kingdom of God is to spend some time discovering who God made me to be. Ephesians 4:11 says that, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” I believe that we are all born with a purpose a reason to “be”--one that we are uniquely crafted for. As someone once said to me, “Writers write.” It was a statement of fact.

The enemy’s strategy is to dilute our uniqueness and blur God’s vision for our lives. In our childhood we reflect the seeds of God’s purposes more clearly—and it is as we get older that they are forgotten, set aside for the duties of life. There are some good books that take the reader on a step by step process of rediscovering the things that made our hearts sing as children—and then through a process of considering how to fulfill the calling for which God created us.

Once we discover who we are, we are freed to “be” that person and to make choices to focus more deliberately in those areas, and just as importantly, to say no to things that are not in line with our strengths and passions, confident that God has gifted others in the areas we lack.

To make the switch from “doing” to “being” is a radical change. The focus is less on activity and more on letting our actions flow from our unique identity in Christ. We lose our joy in life when we spend time in guilt and condemnation over what we should have done—another trap of the enemy.

Act 17:28 says that “In him we live and move and have our being.”

There is also contentment and peace in giving up expectations—mainly those of ourselves. I don’t mean to give up all motivation, initiative or energy but to relax into life in partnership with God.

Jeremiah 45.5 says, “Should you then seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” It has been my experience in life that God’s plans for me exceed any that I might have for myself and he leads me on adventures I could not have imagined. If he has done this while I still had one, and sometimes two, feet in a world so different to his, I can hardly wait to see what is in store as I yield my life more fully to simply being—and being available—for his will.

Monday, April 13, 2009


"What I can recall of her life, I wouldn't wish on anybody," said my dad, Christopher, of his mother, Lucy Cater.

She had been "shamed on all sides," thrown out of her home, and told to never darken their door again, when she became pregnant. She had no where else to go but to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers and when her time to give birth came, she bore a baby boy in Dudley Road Hospital in Birmingham.

He never knew her, or saw her, for the first 5 years. His grandparents brought him up in the slums of Hockley, in Birmingham. The conditions were appalling. One memory he had was of his grandmother, Mary, an Irish woman whose maiden name was Royle, sticking her finger in a can of sweetened condensed milk for him to suck on.

The place was alive with fleas. It was a terraced house and there was a cellar and an attic in which he loved to play with wheels and pedals and bits of machinery.

The toilets were down the road; public toilets with one cold tap.

There was also a communal laundry room, with a boiler and a mangle (wringer) and dolly tub, which was a tub with a wooden dolly, to swirl and agitate the clothing. After the washing it was the thing to have a bath in there. It was very primitive, but the community feeling was great and everyone "mucked in together" and helped one another.

Everything was very crude and poverty stricken and they really didn't know where the next meal was coming from.

Lucy, in disgrace, worked in a sanatorium as a cook. It was cheap labour, but she had no choice.

It was there that she met and married the elderly, widowed gardener, named Leonard Parkes, whose family Bible I still have. His first wife's name was also Lucy. In the Bible, his birthdate is recorded as 1849, so when Christopher was born in 1921, he would have been 73. I believe that Lucy was 17--a difference of 56 years. The photo at the top left of the page, is Lucy, and on the back is written, "Parkes," so I believe that it was taken after she married Leonard Parkes.

After he died, she had to move from the house she shared with him, and once again she was on her own and destitute.

It was at this point that the boy was sent to live with the mother he did not know. His aunt Agnes (in the photo, with Lucy,) took him to Wassall Grove, a mile and a half outside the village of Hagley, where he and Lucy lived in a cottage on Haywood's Farm.

They lived in abject poverty with Lucy working for the rector for half a crown a week and eating whatever they could get. Sometimes it was rhubarb stew on a slice of bread.

Lucy was a member of the Salvation Army then, and she would play old revivalist records. I have her old Sankey hymn book, given to her, "On April 18th 1918, by a friend," it says inside the cover. That was 3 years before my dad was born. She used to frighten her boy with the story of Daniel in the Lion's den.

Later they moved to a schoolhouse and she married Peter Thornburgh, a brutal man who knocked her about and knocked her little boy about too.

Dad always wished he could have met his father and asked him questions, but Lucy refused to her dying day to tell him who he was. Although she named him Christopher Leslie, she always called him Leslie, a name he hated. Later on he learned that she had worked before his birth, for a jeweller in the jewellry quarter of Birmingham, named Leslie Holland, and his aunt Agnes said that he was his father. This was never confirmed.

Although his stepfather wasn't a loveable man, he was the nearest thing he had to a father, and he asked him numerous questions, especially when he found out that he had fought in the 1914-18 war. But some of the things he told him, he wished he hadn't, for they didn't reflect well on him if he actually did do them.

Eventually Lucy had three more children: Frank, Sidney and Patricia and still lived in the schoolhouse with Peter Thornburgh many years later when Christopher began a family of his own.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

More on Adriana

Today I found in some notes from conversations with my mum, a few more details about Opoe (Adriana Paauwe, my great grandmother.)

Adriana was 18 when Oma was born in 1895, which would make the year of Adriana's birth 1877.

Mum told me that Adriana wouldn't marry Oma's father for some reason that no one knew at the time. She knew only that he was a very tall man (Adriana was quite tiny.) It was after Mum told me this that Tante Adrie confided in Mum, as I mentioned in last week's Monday post, that Adriana's reason for not marrying him was that she had been raped.

Oma spent a lot of time with her grandfather, Adriaan (I had thought his name was Cornelius, but that may have been another grandfather,)who loved her. Adriana had to work, taking in washing to support her child.

Later she had a barge and the barge was called Lena. Mum told me that when she was on the barge she didn't wear the national costume, which was her normal dress.

God Permits What He Hates to Accomplish What He Loves

Philippians 1:12-13 (New International Version)
12Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.

Philippians 4:22 (New International Version)
22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household.

I sat in the Saturday morning sunshine, reading the four chapters that comprise the book of Philippians, a letter written by the apostle Paul, from Rome, where he was a prisoner, in chains. Far from a depressing letter, however, the word "joy," and "rejoice," pop up over and over again.
What I noticed though, was something else--the beginning and the end of the letter. There is a story there. Paul was in God's perfect will being in chains.

At the start of the letter he mentions that it was evident to the whole palace guard that he was in chains for Christ. In other words, he was in chains for no other crime than sharing his experience of faith; a radical story.

He was in the very heart of the mighty Roman empire, and his imprisonment served only as an opportunity for people who would not otherwise have known, to hear the gospel; the good news that we are celebrating all over the world today--Christ is risen!

The letter ends with greetings from Christians in the very household of Caesar himself!

That morning I got the news that a dearly loved friend, Hope Fitzgibbon, had died, after a valiant 6 month battle with cancer. No one could have fought more bravely, or been supported more lovingly by family. She was covered constantly in faithful prayer. She had a significant ministry in the two Christian bookstores she and her husband owned in Barrie and Newmarket.

In human terms her death is impossible to make sense of, but I do believe that God touched people's lives through Hope's illness and through the gracious, faithful dignity with which she and her husband Bob and daughter Joy walked through this valley. They rubbed shoulders with people in Princess Margaret, Mount Sinai and South Lake Regional Centre, who had perhaps never considered that God might exist, and they showed them the grace and beauty of Jesus in every word and action. They consoled and helped others that were suffering grief and loss. I have to believe that as Paul wrote, so it is true of Hope's tragic illness, "What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel." One day we will know just how.

Susan's sister Brenda, who is struggling courageously with a severe depression, wrote on her blog, His Eye about an address made by Joni Eareckson Tada to Dallas Theological Seminary on the theology of suffering. Brenda found comfort in something Joni said to them, that God permits what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves...Perhaps there is an inkling of an answer there. Isn't that what Easter is all about?

My heartfelt love and prayers are with Bob and Joy, as well as Hope's extended family and close friends; also the staff of both of The Treasure House stores.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Running For Our Lives in Easter Joy

Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. Habakkuk 2:2

I shall never forget the words of a girl I walked with on the island of Iona on the west coast of Scotland in the summer of 1976. I was a Christian; she wasn't. I was troubled and worried; she wasn't. I was carrying the burdens of my life and the world on my mind and heart; she was making choices and getting on with her life with vibrancy and joy. As I poured out my concerns and hesitations to her, she said "You have to run to meet things."

Those words embedded deep within my spirit. Mind you, it took some time for them to bear fruit. And it has taken time to really understand what they mean. She had an understanding and a secret about life that I had not yet found, despite my adventuring into life in Scotland, and my attempt to embrace a radical Christian life. I am not recommending that being a non-Christian is the way to go. But I have often found that we Christians lack the zest for life that an Easter people should have. We have kept on the graveclothes instead of putting on the garments of resurrection. We can become so caught up in our struggles that we lose our vision or don't know how to find the one that is best for us.

This Easter season I can celebrate that God provided me with a vision that I can both realize with some comfort and also run to meet. In a dream last fall he dropped the words "Life Coach". I got up and did an internet search and discovered a wonderful Life Coach training program. They were interested in me, and all my training and experience fit with their requirements. They were grounded in reality, certified and able to provide both solid secular international accreditation and a Christian track, with Christian teachers and students! It seemed too good to be true. I tested the vision for awhile, prayed it through, talked with others, let it die for a season, and then applied. Now I am in training and loving it. It fits with who I am and have been, and who I want to be. It also makes me and empowers me to run to meet the future, call forth what I need to become next in my journey to be all that I can be. And it brings me to life, resurrection life, after a season of many dormant dreams. It calls me and allows me to be what I dream of being, and to help others to do that too.

I wouldn't be here today if I hadn't been listening and watching, and getting ready to run, and running at times to meet the future. Often I would run into the wrong places or take off too soon and then have to slow down, I was so eager to be off and running. Despite my struggles, my faith was telling me that God had something for me to take me into the future in a new way, to make sense of the struggles, to use them to help myself and others, and to ignite my passion so I could ignite it in others. It fit with the revelation that was in my heart,that was written deep on the tables of my spirit, by God's hands.

Streams in the Desert again speaks to us about such expectation:
The old homely proverb says: "They that watch for providence will never want a providence to watch for," and you may turn it the other way and say, "They that do not watch for providences will never have a providence to watch for." Unless you put out your water jars when it rains you will catch no water.

We want to be more businesslike and use common sense with God in pleading promises.Those who come to the bank in earnest present their checks,they wait until they receive their gold, and then they go; but not without having transacted real business....Our heavenly Father would have us do real business with Him in our praying. (April 6)

Living with hope and vision enables us to run the race of our lives with zest and vigour. Trusting God to provide what we need to do this is like running to meet things. When we know how to do that, we can proclaim it to others. I want to be someone who does that with joy and enthusiasm. I don't want to have to go to my non-Christian contacts to get my energy for my life. I respect theirs, and learn from it. But I shame my own heritage, my own understanding and fellowship with God, if I do not, despite all the warfare and discouragement, believe in His providence over my life. I shame His joy in my life if I do not run with joy the race set before me. Only then will others see what I have and want it, and come alive themselves, not only in Christ, in His resurrection promises for our heavenly destiny, but also in the visions for the rest of their lives.

Don't ask yourself what the world needs.
Ask yourself what makes you come alive,and then go and do that.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Harold Thurman Whitman

This Easter season may we all come more alive than ever before, in Him, and in the visions for our lives, and may we run with joy all the rest of our days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Simple Good Friday Meditation

Good Friday. The one day, the only day, that I would not have wanted to be alive when Jesus walked the earth. To see what he went through - for me, and for you - would have been unbearable, I think. Especially when I search my heart and know how absolutely undeserving I am of that kind of love. Absolutely undeserving.

What can I say? He suffered. In ways beyond belief and human understanding, he suffered. The Son of God. He died. The King of Glory, died. Horribly, he died. He did it for you and He did it for me.

What kind of love is that? What kind of value does that place on each of our lives? What kind of devotion should it elicit from us in return?

I am standing here this Good Friday morning, knowing what kind of a friend I am to to Him, and to those He loves, in comparison to what kind of a friend He has been to me, and I know that on that Good Friday so long ago, someone should have died all right. But it should have been me.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5: 6-8 NIV

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows... But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53: 3-5 NIV

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Passionate Friends

Friends, this was originally posted January 5th 2007. Tonight I am tired, so am leaning on a repeat! :) The thoughts mean much to me because friendship is such a strong value in my life. I pray that it is a blessing.

John 15:15 (The Message)Eugene H. Peterson 11-15
I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I'm no longer calling you servants because servants don't understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I've named you friends because I've let you in on everything I've heard from the Father.

From a place of trust the words come out, unfiltered, tumbling with abandon, expressing the shape of a heart, the set of a mind. With anyone else the words would be more guarded-- weighed, measured--but with a friend, words can dance free.

Words--sound-symbols for things and thoughts--they need to be out in the light to live--to stretch their wings--to be tested. Held close to the chest or closed within, they lie dormant, unheard, unchallenged, untried--stunted in growth or in mutated form.

But out in the rarified air of friendship they become tools for the shaping of minds; the developing of philosophies, the forming of positions.

Through passionate, intense conversations we learn what we really think--and we shape and are shaped, sometimes painfully and with hard won honesty.

What kind of a Creator would make beings with the capacity for this kind of friendship?

One who will be that kind of friend to any open heart.

Proverbs 27:17 (New Living Translation)
17 As iron sharpens iron,so a friend sharpens a friend.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


The last few days I had a very slight inkling of something in the air--maybe!

Yesterday I had driven up to Huntsville in a snow storm for a meeting. Lana Joy and I decided not to stay for lunch, but head for home.

A little way down the highway I realized that the blue tooth ear piece for my phone was missing and I had a feeling I knew where I had dropped it. When I got to Orillia and dropped Lana Joy off, I called my boss. In a jiffy he was outside looking for it and found it in a snow bank.

He said, "Don't worry, I'll give it to you when I see you--sometime."

Then there was Susan. We had a support meeting scheduled for this morning but she emailed me over the weekend to ask if I would help her pick out new glasses at 11.15 and then she asked if she could have her support meeting over lunch at The Buttery--her treat.

I forgot to reply to that email, and she emailed me again and said, "You never told me if you could have lunch." She's not usually that persistent if I forget something; she'd be more likely to forget right along with me.

So this morning I said to Paul, "I'm going out for lunch with Susan at The Buttery. You know I'm wondering. It just might be my 25th anniversary party."

"Isn't that a bit vain, thinking that? And I hope they would invite me if it was your party," he said indignantly.

And so it was that I found myself at the mall helping Susan pick out glasses. Susan, who kept surreptitiously glancing at her watch.

As we walked to my car in the parking lot, I asked, "So, what made you choose The Buttery for lunch?"

Susan raved about the caesar salad with the anchovies in the dressing.

We walked into the restaurant. "Table for two?" inquired the hostess.

"Yes...I think so," said Susan, her eyes casting around the restaurant.

And then I saw them--my entire team was there,and the District Office team, and my long time friend and co-worker, Irene, who now leads a team in another district. And there sat Paul, mightily pleased with himself for helping with the surprise!

I sat down beside my boss, in the chair with the balloons, and there was my blue tooth ear piece, waiting for me. It was all perfect.

My anniversary was actually on January 1st, but we have all been so busy, and then I had the crisis with my mum. But suddenly here I was with some of my favourite people in the world, and celebrating.

Irene told some hilarious stories from our years of working together, about my serious lack of bargaining skills, and about the time time I could not be convinced that the message on my pager from someone speaking Chinese, was not her playing a joke on me.

My boss tried to make a speech but was overcome by emotion. He has a tender heart; a quality that is very touching. My team gave cards with loving messages and overwhelmed me with too many gifts, which I will treasure even more for the love that lay behind them.

I can't believe that 25 years have gone by so fast. And how many people get to count each of their team as a dear friend?

Things don't change much in my life. Married for 40 years this year; same church for 34 years--and 25 years in the same organization. My friends can't shake me off either. But there is a richness of a certain sort in doing life this way. I am so very grateful.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Gentle readers,
Last week when I posted on Five Generations, a few faithful readers said, "More please." So I thought that for a while I would post some family stories once a week, on Mondays.

When I think of the mixture of people whose blood runs in my veins, I think that it will be an interesting challenge to write about them and try to tell their stories, bit by bit.

Today's post is titled for the earliest family member that I know much about; my great grandmother, Adriana Paauwe. She lived in a village named Wemeldinge in the southern province of Zeeland, in Holland.
A street in Wemeldinge (photo by Andre Speer.)

Adriana was born in the early 1870's--I'm not sure of the year--and had two sisters, Dina and Saar, and a brother named Piet.Their father's name was Cornelius, and all that I know about him is that he was known as "Christelijk," or a Christian, man.

Adriana became pregnant in 1895, while single, and although the father of the child she was carrying wanted to marry her, she refused. It must have taken great courage to say no to a man she didn't love, knowing what that would mean for her--a scandal and hardship as the single mother of a baby girl she named Kaatje.

She treated the child harshly. Kaatje was brought up to work hard every day except Sunday. On Sunday she knitted black stockings.

Adriana held onto a secret shame, a shame that she shared one day with one of Kaatje's daughters; the granddaughter named for her, my mum's second eldest sister. She wanted someone to know the truth; that the child she bore was the result of a rape. She told Tante Adrie the name of the man, a shopkeeper in the village she grew up in.

Tante Adrie kept the secret until her old age. She was going blind and was living in a nursing home and starting to become forgetful, when she passed the secret on to Mum. She told her that when she found out who their mother's father was, she went to find him and confronted him in his shop. She said to him, "I am Adriana's granddaughter--I know what you did to her." He ws shocked and speechless. That was it; she had nothing more to say to him; just that she knew. I guess knowing the truth is important, especially when someone you love has carried a shame that wasn't theirs for so long.

Adriana became a business woman, owning a barge namd Lena on which she carried cargo from one place to another with the man who loved her and married her later in life, Opa Piet van der Werf. He loved her little girl Kaatje too. His first wife had died by falling from a boat and drowning. Her silver wedding ring is in my jewelery box. They had a little brown speckled dog name Kees on the barge.

As I wrote last week, by the time I knew Opoe and Opa Piet, they were in their eighties and nineties and as brown and wrinkled as raisins. We loved to visit them in their tiny, doll-like house in Zeeland. They slept in a cupboard in the wall, which had a bed in it. We stayed there when Robert was 6 and I was 9. Because the house was so small, we had to climb a ladder into the loft, where we slept on a bed with squeaky springs. I was so scared that I deliberately made Robert frightened so that he would hold my hand for comfort!

Opa Piet had one tooth in the front of his mouth, which usually held a pipe, and when he kissed us it felt as though we were attached to a vacuum cleaner! He would pick pears for us from the trees in their garden and peel them with a pocket knife held in brown shaky hands that would also pat us lovingly on our cheeks.Opa Piet and Opoe died in the nineteen sixties and they ended their days in a lovely rest home in Wemeldinge called Vredebest. I'm glad that Adriana found love and peace at last, and her heart had softened long ago towards Kaatje.

Above is my grandmother Kaatje, in her teens, and below is my mother, Pieternella, dressed in the national costume of Zeeland.

Opoe and Opa