Monday, January 31, 2011

Plus God, Minus Fear, Times Faith, Divided by None

Credit for the title of this post goes to my friend Dave who suggested it in a comment on yesterday's post. Thanks Dave!

By Belinda
*From each according to his ability; to each according to his need. 
We live moments sometimes that seem incredibly precious; as if God distilled sweetness and purpose and infused them into seconds that stretch into minutes that unfold with special significance. Such moments spanned the pancakes on Saturday morning as we passed the butter and maple syrup and I poured another cup of rich amber coffee.

It happened to be a Saturday that our two granddaughters who live downstairs were home, which is why the pancakes instead of our usual porridge.

They are on the cusp of young womanhood, these girls. Tori: a spunky but sensitive, witty and bright bookworm, almost 12 years old, and Tippy: a dreamy, emotional, gifted artist with the moodiness of the ocean and an almost 13 year old, which are almost the same thing.

Over breakfast I told them the story of my big adventure of the past few days. Tippy's eyes flickered with a serious interest that told me she was paying attention beyond polite respect borne of love; Tori, mind alert, was sitting straight, eyes dancing bright.

I told them how at work we were asked to help with a big cause called The Power of One, to help raise $42,000, by March 31, for people with disabilities in other countries who have nothing like the riches we in our country have. In fact, I had on my Power of One T shirt that very morning, I pointed out. Their eyes widened as I told them how I reacted at first, with defeat. Broken down into areas, our team had the task of finding five people who might be led to raise $500 each. They were tracking with me now.

I told them how at first I was like King Saul on the hillside across from the Philistines, looking at the giant Goliath with human eyes; and of my realization that I didn't want to be a King Saul, but a David who didn't look at the circumstance but at God who can do anything with someone who believes in him.

Ever since deciding that I had been wondering how God was going to accomplish this through us, not worrying about how we were going to do it. I told them I'd been praying and waiting to hear, when in the bathroom that morning I got my commission. God reminded me that I make a good pie and 25 pies at $20.00 makes $500.

Tippy gasped, "That's a lot of pies!"

"Well, do you think Omie can make 25 pies?"

"Most definitely," said Tori with a sparkle in her eye that spoke volumes.

"And girls--I'm going to send out a message on Facebook, telling the world I'm selling pies. Let's see what God will do!" I hoped they would file this story in their memories forever.

Well, what God did was this. Before the end of Sunday, there were 32 pies sold, and counting. Susan took on the role of personal pie promoter and shared the announcement on her FB profile. Word spread in church without any formal announcement on Sunday. Smiling customers who had ordered pie the day before on FB carried their foil wrapped treasure home for Sunday lunch. Josh Fenwick came over and said, "I don't know what this is about but you had me at 'pie.'" And Jamie from our cell group, the most creative customer, ordered one a month for 12 months.

Someone who couldn't afford a pie but who has a passion for the poor and for missions volunteered to come help peel and chop apples, and Susan, if she is over the flu that has her down but not out right now, will join us on Saturday for the next wave.

The Power of One, plus pie!

2 Corinthians 2:14 (New International Version, ©2011)
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.
* From Aurora:an experience in quilt, community and craft, by Jane Kirkpatrick

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plus God

By Belinda

Last week I wrote about my initial defeatist response to what seemed like a big task. Fortunately I woke up the next morning and remembered a truth believed, but all too rarely practised in my life: One human plus God has no limitations. 

And I decided to take God at his word.

This was important, because I, like everyone else, influence those around me. I think we would be surprised if we realized how much we do. Our families, co-workers; Church Body; people you might not even guess, are watching. Subconsciously the atmosphere around us can be picked up in even a short interaction.

Attitude is more contagious than measles, and for those of us who lead, it is even more critical to guard.

Waking up to the bigness of God and the irrelevance of my inadequacy meant that by the time I presented the challenge of last week to my team, I was pointing them in the right direction--God-ward.

I remembered the thrust of an address by Bruxy Cavey at a gala dinner I'd attended. He spoke of God's plan for accomplishing things on this earth being in partnership with people and that whenever God wants to do anything, he looks around and asks himself, "Now who am I going to do that with?" 

This seems highly inefficient to me when I think of how he spoke the world into existence with no help at all, but I love the way Bruxy explained this counter-intuitive method God has of getting his work done on earth.

He used the example of an adult baking with a child. Anyone who has done this knows that you have to make a decision--is this about efficiency--or relationship? God does things in partnership with people because what he values most is relationship.

And the wonderful thing is that the perfect relationship is a trusting one, where we say "Yes," and he says, "Great, let's go!" (forgive the poetic licence) and we step into a level of exhilarating adventure such as we would never experience by looking down at the waves and remembering we forgot to take swimming lessons.

As Oswald Chambers says in the January 29th reading for My Utmost for His Highest
God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know that this is what I should do”-and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance.
When it was time to share the challenge with my team, I acknowledge that humanly speaking it seemed daunting, but that only made it "God sized." It meant prayerfully moving forward in utter dependence and expectation.

There were no detractors. We are in for an adventure. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 28, 2011

To Grow in Courage and Character

 All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too. 

 When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works to your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you're just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you're going to make it, no doubt about it. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6, The Message)

By Belinda

It leaped out at me from the page as I read the first sentences Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago. Everything: every breath; every action; every experience lived; all of it served only one purpose for him. He wanted all of it to be used up for the cause of Christ.

As if piecing together scraps of fabric; some dark, rich, shadowy velvet, others bright, smooth satin,all telling a story; he sews a colourful patchwork quilt. Then he flings it out to comfort and warm the believers of his day, and ours with courage.

All of his life was an object lesson for his one passion--to communicate the good news that Jesus Christ was God come to this world in the flesh. He wanted to bring it home; down to earth; demonstrate what that meant.

I read on to verses 8 & 9:
We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead!..... (2 Corinthians 1:8-9, The Message)
It made me think again of the TV mini series Paul and I have been watching: Band of Brothersthe story of the paradoxically named "Easy Company" of the US Army 101st Airborne division. In one episode; in they try to hold the line around Bastogne against attacking German forces, in bitter cold conditions; with no winter clothing; insufficient food and ammunition during the Battle of the Bulge.The epilogue states that history tells of  General George S. Patton breaking through to rescue them. It adds however, that no member of Easy Company will ever agree that they needed to be rescued.

That kind of character; that steel; is forged only under fire.

Should fire come to any one of us, I pray that we would face it with the kind of courage these soldiers lived out. May we look to God alone, not for "rescue" but for strength; endurance and trust.

And may every breath we breathe be to honour him in our hearts, and to show a watching world what can happen when someone places their hand in his and dares to believe.

Fierce, Proud and Stubborn

Could that possibly be me???

Fridays with Susan...

I can remember - many times in fact - describing an older person, such as my dad, or my grandmother, as being "fiercely independent", or "stubbornly independent".   It only occurred to me in the last day or two that there is an implication, or an expectation in the way some use those particular phrases to describe people who are at a stage in life where they are generally on a physical decline.  There is an expectation that someone getting older should begin to become more dependent on those around them and if they resist that, we attach a negative sounding adjective to it.  Should the fact that they protect their independence, their ability to make their own decisions and to direct their own life, even making their own mistakes, come as a surprise to us or be seen in any kind of a negative light?

Fiercely independent.  Why don't we say, "courageously  independent".  Or "unwaveringly independent".  But no, it's "fiercely", or "stubbornly".  Negative sounding qualities.

The other day, sitting in the kitchen with a few of my kids, the conversation came around to the weight loss I've experienced over this past 3/4 of a year.  I expressed my need to "step it up" a bit to overcome the plateau I've been sitting on for weeks now.

"Mom, you should be excercising for an hour every day," says one of my kids.

"Sure," I'm thinking to myself.  "An hour of exercise.  Every day.  I'll fit it in somewhere between my toenail painting and navel gazing." But I didn't share that with them.  Possibly interpreting my silence as assent, another of my kids says, "That would actually be a very good investment of your time, Mom."

GRRrrrrr.  I felt something rise up in me.  "Hmphh," I think to myself again, "If I never listened to my parents telling me what to do, what would ever cause me to listen to my kids?"  In a purely self defensive response, not to the idea of exercise, but to the idea of anyone taking over any tiny shred of my personal autonomy, I blurted out rather irrationally,  "I would rather die ten years earlier than exercise for an hour every day.  Blechhh."

Well, that brought further reaction from said kids who I hoped were now realizing that any attempt to take over my health program and control my thinking on the subject was a hopeless cause, but instead they tightened the screws and increased the pressure, which, of course,  met with just that much more resistance from me!

We talked some more and my reaction was explained and ruffled feathers smoothed on both sides, but it caused those words to come to mind:  "Fiercely independent."

It was the first time I had actively thought about that phrase as being applied to me.  I'm afraid it won't be the last time.  So I'm practicing my responses:

I think I'm old enough now to make my own decisions.  Yeah, that sounds pretty good.  If that doesn't work maybe I can add, I've lived long enough to earn the right to make my own mistakes.  Or how about the simple, I can do it myself!, which I've actually been practicing regularly since before my 2nd birthday.

Hmmm.  (I'm smiling to myself here.)  I guess I'm at the stage in life where I am entering the  ranks of the "fiercely", "proudly", and "stubbornly" independent.  Bully for me!

But I think I could use a "kiddo" or two inserted into my collection of nomenclature right about now!  (See Belinda's post of two days ago - "Kiddos With Cataracts".)   Any takers?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Adjusting the Default Position

By Belinda

"So how was your day?" he asked, and in that instant I had a choice.

There were so many moments in the day to choose from. Whatever moment I chose to define the day, hung in the balance in that split second. Was it because at that moment I was standing over a big steaming pot of boiling water, wilting cabbage leaves for a mammoth quantity of cabbage rolls? I don't know, but I chose badly. 

I launched into a description of a big task added to a team already running hard to meet numerous deadlines. An impossible feat with a timeline too short!

I was flippant as I tossed out that moment into the atmosphere. It infused the air with something smellier than the cabbage leaves--but it took me a while to detect the odour.

I saw his shoulders slump; his brow furrow with concern.

The next morning, I woke up and belatedly sniffed the atmosphere around me and didn't like it one bit. I realized that I was choosing to look at things from a merely human perspective.

I thought of Moses; David; Gideon. I wanted to be like them, not King Saul of old, who quivered on a hillside when faced with an intimidating army. God plus anybody makes a formidible combination. How could I have forgotten that?

It didn't matter how big; hard  or impossible the task was, nothing is impossible for God. I had almost left him out of the equation.

Of course, Oswald Chambers had something to say on the subject in My Utmost for His Highest for today when I took time to read. The key verse:

If God so clothes the grass of the field . . . , will He not much more clothe you . . . ? —Matthew 6:30

Oswald Chambers says:

We have allowed the cares of the world to come in, and have forgotten the "much more" of our heavenly Father.

Paul and I have been watching the TV miniseries, Band of Brothers about "E" Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division during World War II: "A tale of ordinary men who did extraordinary things." It is an inspiring story of heroism...and leadership.

My perspective was back where it needed to be as a leader. I want to lead a team of ordinary men and women, who do extraordinary things...because we trust in God.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kiddo with Cataracts

By Belinda

I noticed increasing blurriness in my right eye about 6 months ago. I figured I just needed to get my eyes tested at first, but gradually realized it was more than that. Looking through that eye is like looking through a dirty window. I mentioned it to the doctor when I went for my physical in November. He shone a light in the eye and pronounced, "That looks like a cataract."

On one level I was relieved because it could have been much worse but on the other hand, well, I wasn't quite ready for cataracts.

I made an appointment with my ophthalmologist and he confirmed the diagnosis. He said he'd connect me with the surgeon right away.

"Don't I have to wait for it to get to a certain point?" I asked. I had heard about cataracts having to "ripen," like cheese or something.

He laughed at me. "It's pretty bad," he said, "You are a tough woman. This has seriously compromised your life, though you probably don't realize it."

I had my appointment with the eye surgeon and he wants to take very specific measurements (that's good with me!) which means I have to go without the contact lenses that I normally wear for three weeks prior to the test on February 4. This is fine except none of the three pairs of glasses that I own really work very well.  I've been wearing them and they help for distance, but close up work and paperwork is blurry and a strain. I've tried wearing just one contact in the other eye (it has a cataract too, but isn't affected by it yet.) That helps me see fine close up but distance is a blur. Oh my, I am looking forward to May when the surgery will be scheduled.

Meanwhile, I am surviving and trying not to mind the occasional teasing of friends and family and remembering to be grateful that surgery is coming up and excited that I may need no corrective lenses at all for that eye after it is done. Clear vision is something we take for granted when we have it. I will appreciate it so much when I get it again!

But today after several hours of squinting at paperwork and feeling old and tired, it was so nice to come home and find a cheery email from a friend who is younger than me, but with the subject line, "Yo Kiddo!"

Yes, I may have a cataract or two but I am "Kiddo" to somebody and that feels like a good thing right now! Thanks Dave. :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Dream Says it All

By Belinda

We sat across the breakfast table sharing notes on how we slept. Don't laugh, we are ageing Baby Boomers, this is what we do at breakfast! :)

"I was awake on and off all night," said Paul, "I kept having the same dream. We were at the airport, leaving for Israel; workers were laying tiles and focusing on getting them straight, but they were blocking our way to the ticket counter. And I was worried that we hadn't collected the things we were taking for the new Jewish settlers in Israel."

(Then came the clincher, the part that sums up the truth of our relationship!)

"And," he said,"I couldn't find my passport, and you kept saying, 'Don't worry, it will be all right. They applaud people who forget their passports!'"


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Crazy Quilt Day

By Belinda 
This is another "smattering," or crazy quilt day..
I lay in bed late, luxuriating in the knowledge that it was sabbath. No chores to do, no list to follow, not even a day of hospitality after church with last minute preparations to be made. Just a generous getting-ready-for-church time ahead.
While in the bathroom, sipping on a steaming cup of delicious black coffee as I powdered my nose and lipsticked my lips, the phone rang. 
"Did I wake you up?" It was my friend Frances.
"I called at 8.30 and there was no answer," she went on with the urgency of a friend who "needs to talk."
She told me of having a shadow week; a week of silence from God; of feeling adrift somehow and worst of all, knowing partly why; choices made.
Late yesterday evening, she had driven home from work through dark night spun with finest diamonds. As they danced and sparkled in her headlights, she thought with regret of the diamonds God offers and what we trade for his best. She had been disheartened, dispirited and discouraged  and wanted to tell me that yesterday's post here, New Day, had given her hope.
It was what God gave me to write, but when it was done it felt so little an offering, Knowing that it had encouraged Frances reminded me to trust God and not second guess him.
We marveled over the Daily Light for today and the comfort in the morning reading, all about hope, starting with Romans 5.5!
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
A ride then to church, along country roads bounded by brilliant white fields, like billowing snowy sheets hung out to air in sunshine. My soul danced in expectation wondering what God had in store; knowing he never disappoints hearts hungry for him.

Entering the church I found Susan in the foyer, dear friend that she is. We hugged and she teased me for my exuberant joy at seeing her and my, 'It's so good to see you," with a smiling, "Yeah, it's been two whole days!"

From the first song the whole service found me fighting to stay in my pew, not wanting to make a spectacle of myself by running to the altar, which was what I wanted to do with every fibre of my being. Thank goodness God obliged me with an altar call at the service end and there Frances and I met, with others hearing God's call, kneeling, standing, weeping, our pastor moving among us, laying a hand on each shoulder, praying for his flock of hungry sheep.One of the songs we sang, one of my favourites, was this one, Chris Tomlin's How Great is Our God.

Frances brought with her the plaque she told me she had bought for me iin an antique store last week, knowing how much I love swings (see the photo above left.) She thought it was a bit cheeky, as if if meant that I should know when it was time to get off the swing. I read it differently. To me the message is to know that moment to take flight, airborne, free from wood and chain, confident of a safe landing. I love it.

After church Paul drove some friends he'd picked up home, and I went straight to Simcoe Manor to visit Fanny and Bunty. I went to Bunty's room first and found her having a nap, but at the first tap on the door she was up, and delighted to have a visitor. Because of her daughter's request for visitors while she is away, we are getting to know each other. I know that she won't remember my visit, but I hope that a sense of "something" stays behind; an awareness of care and company. Half an hour in her company is a special kind of blessing to me. I went at first because it is what I would appreciate so much if my own mother was in a nursing home, but Bunty, in spite of forgetting from one moment to the next what we have spoken about, gives so much by simply being the beautiful person she is.

Her daughter told me that Bunty loves poetry and can recite her own and others' from memory. Today I brought with me  one of my favourite books of poetry, Sitting by My Laughing Fire by Ruth Bell Graham, Billy Graham's wife. We took turns, she reciting Joyce Kilmer's poem, Trees and I reading some of my favourite poems out loud. Each time I read, she expressed delight at the beauty of the poem and at my voice with its English accent. I love reading out loud and she loved listening. Each time she recited Trees, I revelled in the beauty of the poem. Before leaving, we held hands, hers warm and fleshy and mine cool and winter weather rough, and we prayed together for needs we had confided. Then she, leaning on her walker, walked me to the elevator, wondering if she would find her room again afterwards and I laughingly commiserating that I hoped I would find my way out of the maze of hallways that all look the same.

I found Fanny asleep and this week not waking to my voice. I softly sang a verse of Amazing Grace, hoping that it would gently bring her out of her deep sleep, but it didn't. I laid a hand on her shoulder and prayed silently. I hadn't the heart to do more to rouse her.

Pressing in, holding hands with friends, my crazy quilt day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

New Day

By Belinda

Last Saturday I wrote a post entitled Last Day but during the next week it seemed that over and over I heard the words, "It's a new day." Each time, the words were spoken with energy, hope and resolve. What a gift a "new day" is. We all need New Days--turning points; pivotal moments in our lives that are as unscripted as a brand new journal, fresh as newly fallen snow.

I've had a few New Days and I hope for more. I spent some time today reflecting on some of mine and was going to write about them, but I think the point I want to make is that I'm grateful that they exist at all.

I am thankful that we are Works in Progress and that a relationship with God is dynamic, vibrant, intimate and filled with hope.

I sometimes think of the twelve men who were Jesus's first intimates, What did he see in them? What does he see in us? I can tell you.. He sees possibility. He sees what we can be when we turn in our cards; "give up:" have a "Last Day;" Surrender All. Just like the disciples who remained after Jesus's crucifixion, and stood on the brink of the ultimate New Day, They emptied themselves and were filled with the Holy Spirit and that was when people saw something inexplicable in human terms--courage where there had been fear; boldness where there had been weakness; love and sacrifice and changed lives. Change is possible. We are Possibilities in Waiting. God is waiting, just waiting for us to be empty enough for him. I am in for that kind of New Day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Little More on Vision...

Fridays with Susan...

Further to Belinda's post of yesterday... 

When Jesus took Peter, and James and John up on the mountain where they saw him transfigured with Moses and Elijah, Peter and the others thought this was "IT!"  They wanted to stay there and build three temples,  one for Moses, one for Elijah and one for Jesus.  But instead, Jesus led them down the mountain again and into the valley - the valley of the shadow...

From that glorious vision of "Truth" glorified, they went straight down into the valley.  Not just to "the valley", but they were actually headed to Jerusalem - and to the cross.  On the way, having just seen that glorious vision, Peter and James and John made one mistake after another - from arguing about who was the greatest among them to being unable to set free one who was troubled by demons, to even denying Jesus, once, twice, three times.  And though Jesus had been revealed to them in his glorified form, instead of referring to that vision, he talked to them about his coming suffering and death.

Jesus gave them the vision, but it was only skin deep up there on the mountain... It really meant nothing at all until they had been to the valley where it was worked right into them through the tough things they experienced there.
This is deep truth and a journey not for the faint of heart.   To be invited on this journey, Jesus must trust us to be able to endure the difficulties - to learn deeply through the hard lessons - and to come through the other side.  Having been through the valley with him, we will no longer be seeing the glory as a vision, but knowing it and experiencing it as an integral part of who we are - of who we have now become.  It's what Jesus was referring to, I think, in his prayer of John 17 when he said, "I have given them the glory that you have given me..."  This is the process by which he gives us his glory - how it is that his glory is able to shine through these earthen vessels that we are to be seen and felt by those around us.  First he gives us the vision, and then he takes us into the valley where he works it into who we are.  Only then do we really "get it".  Only then can we really share who he is and what he has given to us with others.  Thank God for his comfort, and for his promise:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.  For thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff (his discipline!), they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord - forever."   Psalm 23

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blurry Vision

By Belinda
When God gives a vision and darkness follows, wait.
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 20th
Today My Utmost for His Highest spoke of the time after a vision being a time of shadow--the shadow of God's hand--when all we are to do is be still and listen. I welcomed that encouragement like a long distance runner welcomes a cold drink of water.

After I wrote the post entitled Last Day on Saturday, what I experienced was shadow; doubt and darkness.

I had written in passion, faith and confidence--not in self, but in God. A friend responded with an affirming comment and I responded back, but right after doing so, I felt uneasy and started to question myself. Had I been too sure of what I wrote? Too brashly confident?

The feeling lingered over the next few days, when all sorts of "old self" responses to people popped up in my heart. I didn't feel at all like somebody who had just had a "White Funeral" and Last Day.

It was confusing and disappointing and I could not write a thing more here until Monday evening's chatty post. But I couldn't write about this. What was this, I wondered?

So I was encouraged by this morning's reading and glad to know that darkness following a vision is normal. It is the time during which the vision is being "worked in." I am happy to wait; to learn to surrender all self sufficiency, because if I thought that "I" could do this, I know for sure I can't. My disappointment was in "self," which proves that I have still been trying too hard. And I have to learn that I can and need do nothing; it has all been done.

 8-9You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don't see him, yet you trust him—with laughter and singing. Because you kept on believing, you'll get what you're looking forward to: total salvation. (1 Peter 1:8-9, The Message)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Congratulations to a friend and fellow member of  The Word Guild , Ann Voskamp. Her first book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, released on Monday to incredible sales figures. On Number 4 on Hot New Releases in Books, Number 8 in Religion and Spirituality, and Number 13 on the Top 100 Books.

It does not release on until February 1, but it's rapidly rising there to #53 in Top 100 Books.

I read about the release yesterday, on my friend Marilyn’s blog and went right over to order a couple of copies through the link there to (In) Courage, where Dayspring has a time limited special offer. I love that there you can sponsor an additional book for anyone who wants the book and can't afford it. That sounds just like the Kingdom family.

Ann is the blogger whom I once tried to nominate for an award. She is so not into awards that she told all of her readers (over a thousand a day at that time) to vote for the blog of the dear lady who nominated her--and many of them went right over and voted for Whatever He Says. Well, God is using her beautiful words and sending them out to bless many.

Here is a trailer

You can read an excerpt on sribd :Here

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Smattering

By Belinda

A smattering of this and that...

I didn't write about this when it happened the weekend before last because I was so embarrassed. Molson and I went to visit two friends at a nursing home. All went well during our first visit on the second floor where the woman we visited has memory loss. She is the mother of someone in our congregation and is staying in the nursing home for four weeks while her daughter, who she lives with, is away. Her daughter had asked for visitors while she is there. I asked if she liked dogs, as I would take Molson with me if she did. She was delighted and told me that her mother's favourite T.V. show is  Sue Thomas FB Eye ; one I hadn't heard of, but based on a true story of a detective with a dog. The heroine is an expert lip reader and her hearing ear dog, named Levi,  is a golden retriever. It was love at first sight when Molson appeared and he was patted and stroked by the woman and a small crowd of other residents of the home who were gathering in anticipation of supper time.

When we went down to visit my other friend, who is Susan's special friend Fanny, we found her in bed, too high up to see Molson. She cried, "I can't see him," so I patted the side rail, to get Molson to stand up beside the bed. To my horror, he misunderstood and in an instant he obligingly crouched down then bounded over the side rail, and onto the bed, shocking me and frightening Fanny. He jumped right down but poor Fanny was so upset and I felt terrible. I went to tell a nurse what had happened, feeling like a complete failure as a visitor of the frail elderly. The nurse was reassuring but I was relieved to find that Fanny was drifting off into a peaceful sleep when I went back to the room. This weekend I went back without Molson. I just thought that they might think, "Oh, no, here she comes again."

Fanny seemed to have forgotten last week's episode though, and although she was asleep when I arrived, when I gently said her name, her eyes opened immediately and smiled in recognition and pleasure at a visitor; eyes of speedwell blue, in a face of softest white skin. Her voice was too faint to hear, so I did the talking, about things I knew she would enjoy being reminded of: her old and dear friend Rosie, who was known for her singing and yodelling and who Fanny was mourning so deeply when she went to heaven first, that I introduced her to my dear friend Susan, who didn't replace Rosie, but became the best friend anyone could have been to Fanny once Rosie had gone on. Fanny's eyes lit up with each triggered memory, and she made little sounds of pleasure.

I had arrived at the home part way through an interfaith church service being held in the lounge. Our church worship team was part of it and my friend Frances, a.k.a. Poppy, sang a beautiful solo. Before they left to go home and I went off to visit my two friends, Frances said she'd been shopping the day before in an antique store in Cookstown with her mother. "I bought you something," she said, and then, "Oh, but I shouldn't tell you, it's a bit saucy."

"What?" I said, "You have to tell me now!"

"Well, it's a little paperweight," she said, "And I know how you love swings. It says, 'Know when to get off the swing!'"

So, dear friends, I'm looking forward to getting my paperweight. I'm not sure what it means, "Know when to get off the swing." But I hope I know when it's time...! :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Last Day

By Belinda

Today in My Utmost for His Highest, I read about having a "White Funeral"--"a crisis of death"--and a "resurrection into the life of Jesus Christ."

This is something I have been pondering and writing about a lot lately. It is as though God is determined to establish a rock solid understanding of this principle within me, and in everything I read, whether scriptures or the same devotionals I have read many times before, the obvious requirement and possibility of this gift and grace is leaping off every page and line.

There is an absolute necessity of it if we are to experience Christ as both Saviour and Sanctifier, and now I believe that we should learn about it as the immediate next step after any decision to follow Christ, but I think that often we aren't taught, or don't get it if we are. It makes the step of baptism so clearly an outward demonstration of an inner reality. I think that many people could be baptised without fully comprehending all that it means. When I was baptised at 17, I thought of it as a sort of adult proclamation of my decision to follow Jesus and a demonstration of dying to my "old life" and starting a new life in Christ. It is so much more!

This week there was a situation when I was prodded out of my comfort zone in a friendship and reacted in a way that I can see now was about my own self protection and not out of a spirit of love because I focused on how I was feeling and not on what possible hurt prompted the actions of my friend. Jesus didn't care one iota about his own comfort. The only time I can think of that he asked anything for himself of others was in the Garden of Gesthemane, when he asked his three closest friends to pray with him. And they all fell asleep. Jesus went on to lay down his life out of blazing love for others. He was love exemplified as it is described in the passage Susan shared here last week. This is the same passage from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message:
3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love. 
   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
   Love doesn't strut,
   Doesn't have a swelled head,
   Doesn't force itself on others,
   Isn't always "me first,"
   Doesn't fly off the handle,
   Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn't revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, The Message)
So today, Oswald Chamber's challenge to me, fell on fertile soil and a ready heart. "Have you come to your last days really?" he said, "You have come to them often in sentiment, but have you come to them really?"..."Is there a place in your life marked as the last day..."

And I answered, "It is today."

I wrote in my grey, leather bound copy of MUFHH, on the page for January 15th, "2011, White Funeral, Belinda Burston."

A funeral sounds sombre, even a white one, but this feels more like a wedding day. It is a commitment of love to my my Lord, his family and those outside his family.

I expect testing. I even expect that I will fall flat on my face if I forget that it is God and not me whose power alone must reside and live love in me, but so be it if need be; babies fall flat on their face sometimes. Whatever it takes, I am celebrating my Last Day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hillside Goes to the Holy Land

Susan is having a very busy week but will be back soon!

By Belinda

"Will you be going to Bethlehem Belinda?" my brother Rob asked on Saturday. He seems as excited as I am that  I am headed to Israel on February 20th and is keenly interested in where we'll be and what we will see.

Paul and I are going with a group from our own and a neighbouring church, on a trip led by our pastor, who went for the first time a couple of years ago. To see the places he had read of in the Bible and preached about, made everything come alive for him. The trip had a deep spiritual impact.

Last night I drove to church for worship practice to find that instead we had another assignment from pastor--to record 6 songs for a baptismal and communion service that he'll be leading while we are there. There were just five of us: Esther the pastor's wife, who played the piano and sang, Paivi (Brave Raven in the comments section); Frances a.k.a. Poppy; Cheryl and me.

After we practised each song, Lorne recorded them, one at a time. It was profoundly moving knowing that these songs would be used to lead a worship service in the Holy Land, probably beside the river Jordan. This is one of the songs we recorded: The River, by Brian Doerksen. The other songs were Jesus Messiah; All for Jesus; I Will Rise; In Christ Alone and The Power of Your Love. Hillside goes to the Holy Land!

I'm planning to take my laptop and hope take you with us on the journey.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Honouring a Hero

By Belinda

A few months ago, Paul and I watched Irena Sendler In the Name of Their Mothers , an excellent movie about a Polish social worker who rescued 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during the Second World War.          

 Irena Sendler, died in 2008 at the age of 98 and was a woman of great faith, courage and heroism. This beautiful music was composed and dedicated to her: Sleeping with the Angels--Irena Sendler Symphony.

While I was at my writers' group yesterday evening, having a Night of Suspense, Paul was also out at the first meeting of a committee he was asked to sit on, to help plan a garden in Toronto in memory of holocaust victims. It turned out that he was the only man, and the only non Jewish person on the committee. An elderly woman on the committee revealed that when she was 8 years old, she was one of the children rescued from the Warsaw Ghetto by Irena Sendler!

When Paul and I had a chance to talk over breakfast and I found out that he had met this woman, whom he will be working with over the next few weeks, I thought about the link that she is with the past and the mysterious way God connects people.

Today I honour her memory and hope that perhaps someone who didn't know about her will discover a hero.

A Night of Suspense

By Belinda

In from the bone chilling cold and dark of an Ontario January evening we all stumbled, in to the hospitable warmth of Bonnie's house. We came shivering and with bodies tensed against the icy grip of winter, ready for tension of a different kind--an evening sharing writing on the topic of "suspense."

I had racked my brain intermittently for days but failed to come up with any inspiration on the topic, so I went empty handed, but looking forward to listening.

There were nine of us; women whose ages range from 40s to 80s on this particular night. Who knew that such gentle female souls hid talents in the macabre vein?!

We sat on the edge of our seats, gasping as we listened to each cleverly woven tale of suspense. We whispered under our breath, "No, don't do it; don't go down those stairs; stay in your room!" And we sighed in frustration as the main characters seemed determined to ignore our urgings.

I am prone to getting carried away by stories to an annoying degree--at least to judge from Paul's reaction when we watch a movie together. I am used to hearing, "Belinda, it's just a movie!" But I can't help it; from the first scene, or the first word, if it is any good at all, I am right there, cringing; crying or laughing out loud.

So tonight my palms were literally sweating as these writers wove their magic words into a dark cauldron of impending doom. There were creaking doors; squeaking stairs; power outages; feet dragging along a floor downstairs--even a vivid description of the London blitz from someone who'd lived through the terror of the dreaded "doodlebugs;" bombs that flew on motors then fell from the sky. By the end we were thoroughly and deliciously spooked.

One of our number, and I am serious; arrived after having just been interviewed by the police for an hour. A dead body had just been found in one of the apartments in her basement and they were doing an investigation. Our eyes widened at this news. How in keeping with the tone of the evening.

Next month I'm quite relieved that our assignment is to write a children's story!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Here Comes the Bride

By Belinda

Paul and I are reading Bruxy Cavey's book The End of Religion over our coffee and oatmeal each morning. It's been on my bookshelf for a year or so and after hearing him speak in December I wanted to read more of what he had to say. So far we have come to the conclusion that the track record of the church in pursuit of "religion" over the years, has been pretty depressing, which is why these verses below always were a puzzle to me. Not the part about husbands loving their wives, or Christ loving the church, but the part about "the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle." I could see lots of spots and wrinkles and could understand his love for us only in the sense that  "love is blind."
 25Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;26That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,27That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27, King James Version)

But if the Church is not the beautiful and holy bride spoken of in verse 27 of Ephesians 5, why not?

Did God  mean that only as he sees her "through Christ" is she "without spot or wrinkle?"

Is The Church going to be suddenly transformed at some point in the future? Or does verse 27 describe God's intent, for her, here and now?

In the preached messages and writings of Christians such as Watchman NeeOswald Chambers and Dietrich Bonhoeffer there is a consistent thread, as though through their voices and pens, God kept calling us to something higher; something that is possible; but not through our own strength, through his transforming power. The Bride is meant to be radiant. She is meant to attract with her beauty.

I think that the verse below from Corinthians means that the Holy Spirit wants to take up residence in us, and shine his light into every corner of our being that we will surrender to him.
1 Corinthians 6:19 (New International Version, ©2010)
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;
Our personality will not be obliterated or lost, but beautified by his infilling. He will soften the hard places, humble the proud places and replace selfishness with love for others.
2 Peter 1:5-8 (New International Version, ©2010)
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, January 09, 2011


By Belinda

I confess that I have not followed Jesus well to this point in my life. I thought that I had made at least a good attempt, but really I have been far more in step with the culture I live in than with the pattern Jesus lived; and they are both very different. You can read the Bible, as I have, and know it well, but have a sort of blindness to the implications for your own life.

For instance:

John 5:19 (New Living Translation)

 19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.

This is a verse that is quite shocking when you think of who Jesus is. Jesus laid down a pattern of humble dependence on God, of not running ahead of God.  By contrast, my life is driven by busyness; by plans and goals and deadlines that have been set without any consultation with God. How arrogant, when I contrast this with the way of Jesus.

Here is another example of this same spirit of humility and dependence on God:

John 12:49-50 (New Living Translation)
49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”

In the first example Jesus says that he does whatever he sees the Father doing and in the second, he says whatever the Father tells him to say. How different will my life be if I start out to follow in his footsteps?

John 12:49-50 speaks to his commands leading to "eternal life." But "eternal life" takes on a different meaning when understood as described in this next verse:

John 17:3 (Amplified Bible)

3And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent.

So eternal life takes residence within us as we know him. Knowing him I see the gap between my life and his. To follow him means that what he does I must do.

Oswald Chambers, who I have been reading much and meditating on lately, says:
The nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life; gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.

From the Inside Out

By Belinda

On Saturday morning on CBC radio, a psychologist was talking about why we make and break New Years resolutions. If we could make change that easily we would all be slim, fit and healthy.

We get it so wrong when we try hard to change our behaviour from the "outside in." It just doesn't work, but it takes a long time to figure that out.

I've known this theoretically for a long time--in fact my journals record the times when it was particularly clear and I experienced both the helplessness to change and the miracle of God's transformation in an area of my life.

While I've known and experienced it, I haven't lived it consistently or fully understood why it is so important to get this right. But I believe that it is a pivotal truth.

So how do you change from the inside out? I am learning that it is through communion with, and union with, Christ.

We are such a busy culture in the West but relationships take time. God will not be hurried, and learning to slow down and wait is hard. But there is no other way but to wait; to be still; to "waste time" with him.

Acts 1:4-5 (New International Version, ©2010)

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”

The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with him.
Oswald Chambers


By Belinda
Readers have probably noticed that my posts have been sporadic of late. I used to schedule them at 12.01 a.m. precisely and readers could count on one waiting in the morning unless a major disaster had occurred or I couldn't get to a computer (which to me amounts to the same thing.)

But there are temptations to post for the wrong reasons. Bloggers get affirmation from comments and the number of people who "follow" or read our posts and it's not so easy to unravel the motivations to write.

I want to write things here that are of worth to you, the reader. The only thing I can give that is of true worth is what God says to me. He doesn't say things all the time. Sometimes he just wants me to wait for him and to be quiet. So I'm learning to wait and not feel pressured by feelings that are driven by ego; to trust God's timing.

There will sometimes be humour here--or recipes; some family and friendship stories--and the story of our ongoing faith journeys. I try very hard to do the latter without "religious jargon" and as authentically and honestly as possible.

When people question what is written or ask for clarification and engage in discussion, it adds a dimension that enriches the whole process of writing. It pushes me to think more deeply and strive to articulate my thoughts more clearly.

In that vein, my friend Dave, added a comment to my January 4th post after I tried to clarify the concept of "dying to self." I hadn't really been writing about "dying to self" as much as about accepting by faith that "I" died "in Christ" on the cross, so that his new life could be lived in me.

Dave wrote in response:
Belinda, thank you for this. I think perhaps it's a matter of language. Everything I read here does not speak to 'death of self' ... being dead to sin and sinfullness is not really the same thing. I have always found the 'death of self' talk disturbing and frightening and I wonder if others, outside of the evangelical movement do too. What I read here in this post from the scriptures is about the journey towards selfhood. We all know what it is to 'dress up' ourselves when we go to work or to meet someone important. We all know what it is to be one person with a spouse, another with parents and even another with friends. We all know what it is to lose self through the expectations of others or in situations. I find that I can experience a horrible kind of death of self when, with all the pretending, I loose who I am. I loose the sense of who I was created to be. I find that faith gives me the courage to live fully as the Dave God loves, the guy that was created, the guy who I'm afraid to be much of the time. I don't think we're far off from each other, the sins of pride and of lust and avarice can be such huge distractions and offer such tempting delights. To be dead to the need for praise other than praise for the God you worship is a goal I strive for. 'death of self' 'birth of authenticity' however its said, what matters is the striving.

Dave wrote about finding the "death to self" talk disturbing and wondering if others outside the evangelical movement also do. I am sure that he is right. It's so important to present truth in a way that makes sense and is understandable. It may still offend or seem radical and it will be out of step with the mores of today's culture but let that at least be because it was understood correctly. Jesus often offended, but it was always the religious people, and he used simple stories to convey the profound.

So I'm working on it...truly writing Whatever He Says, when he says it, and clearly!

Friday, January 07, 2011

What More Can I Say?

Fridays with Susan...

Love is patient,

love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud. 

It does not dishonor others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs. 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

Love always protects,

Love always trusts,

Love always hopes,

Love always perseveres...

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, 8a


"God is love. Therefore love. Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love."  Henry Drummond


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Carrot Quiche

I have an old Purity Cook Book circa 1974; the year I was 24 and took on being chief cook and bottle washer for a crew of 16 hungry mouths most days--except for when we had company when the count went up to 20. :)

The cook book is well used and spattered but in recent years has sat on my cook book shelf, overshadowed by the newer books that I tend to use now, my current favourites being, for obvious reasons, the Light Hearted Cook Books and Health Cooking for the Rushed series.

But now and again I like to make an old favourite recipe and lately I've been doing that more often. This isn't about an old favourite though, but a new favourite from the old book. I love carrots and cheese and had often thought that I would like to try the carrot quiche recipe. It only took me 36 years to get around to it (I happened to have some left over cooked carrots!) It was so delicious that I will be making up for lost time and making it often. The sweetness of the carrots with the tang of the cheese and the crisp and flaky pastry all make for a delicious, low cost, quick and easy feast.

Carrot Quiche

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Prepare Purity Pastry (recipe below)
Roll out half and line a 9 inch pie plate.
Trim and flute edges. Do not prick.
Prepare and cook in boiling salted water
       4 cups sliced carrots
Drain on absorbent paper.
Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, pinch of nutmeg (I omitted all of these)
Beat together
      4 eggs
      1/4 cup heavy cream
Blend in
      1 cup grated Swiss cheese (I didn't have Swiss so I used Cheddar and it was delicious)
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (didn't use this)
      Pinch of pepper
Arrange carrot slices attractively (I just tossed 'em in) in prepared pie shell and pour egg-cheese mixture over top.
Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 10 minutes until pastry is golden. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 30 to 35 minutes or until set around the edges and slightly soft in the centre. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 servings

(I took some to work with me and ate it cold at lunchtime. It was even good cold!)

Purity Pastry
      1 and 3/4 cups Purity Flour
Mix in
      3/4 teaspoon salt
With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in until the consistency of course meal with a few larger pieces (I rubbed in gently with my finger tips)
      3/4 cup lard or shortening (or half and half) (I used shortening)
One at a time, sprinkle with
     4-5 tablespoons of cold water (I only needed 4--too much water makes the pastry tough so be careful)
Mix lightly with a fork until dough clings together and cleans easily from the bowl. Chill until ready to use.
Makes one two crust 9 pie or two 9 inch pie shells.

This isn't my normal pastry recipe but it turned out very light and flaky!


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

By Belinda

Yesterday...I shared the embarking upon of an adventure and it appears that I have a small band of friends on the journey. The journey?
Giving up:
* Self effort and "law keeping"
* Action independent of God, and
* "Religion" as a form or mindset
Taking up:
* Obedience to the still small voice of God
* True relationship with God, and
* The demise of my old self "by faith"

The fact that some friends heard in the words written here, a call that resonated with them, is exciting and sobering all at once. It is exciting because any journey is better with friends. It is sobering because I think of something Oswald Chambers said:

If I allow any private deflection from God in my life, everyone about me suffers. When once you allow physical selfishness, mental slovenliness, moral obtuseness, spiritual density, everyone belonging to your crowd will suffer.

The wonderful thing though, is that where once this would have lain on my shoulders as a doom filled weight of responsibility; "my" responsibility; "doom filled" because it is a standard I can't live up to; the very journey I am on is to get as far away from that kind of thinking as possible. Instead my responsibility is to  keep making small choices daily, to surrender my will and exchange the pale imitation of life in Christ, for the  vibrant explosion of his life in mine.

My friend Dave wrote in yesterday's comment section:

Belinda, we've really got to have a long chat with the 'die to self' concept. I'm not sure I get it. I get being true to self and being authentic and giving life to 'me-ness' in God. I just don't get death of self - so can you help me with this?

 I thought that I should try to answer that here, because it is so important. Dying to self doesn't mean losing my identity or "self," but becoming the newly created-in-Christ self. It is all that you said, Dave, but so much more.I can't get there by trying harder but I can get there by believing that I did die "in him." I've embedded a couple of passages from The Message paraphrase of the Bible that speak to this but really, when you start seeing this it is everywhere you read in the epistles. In this passage from Galatians, Paul speaks about the gravitational pull back to "the law" and being circumcised.

 11-13Now, in these last sentences, I want to emphasize in the bold scrawls of my personal handwriting the immense importance of what I have written to you. These people who are attempting to force the ways of circumcision on you have only one motive: They want an easy way to look good before others, lacking the courage to live by a faith that shares Christ's suffering and death. All their talk about the law is gas. They themselves don't keep the law! And they are highly selective in the laws they do observe. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast of their success in recruiting you to their side. That is contemptible!
 14-16For my part, I am going to boast about nothing but the Cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns that they dictate. Can't you see the central issue in all this? It is not what you and I do—submit to circumcision, reject circumcision. It is what God is doing, and he is creating something totally new, a free life! All who walk by this standard are the true Israel of God—his chosen people. Peace and mercy on them! (Galatians 6:11-16, The Message)

I've been reading Romans, where it is so clear. Here is a section paraphrased in The Message. Here it is--the two great gifts in Christ. As Watchman Nee puts it, Christ frees us from both "sin" and "sins."

 6-11Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin's every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ's sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to javascript:void(0)you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That's what Jesus did. (Romans 6:6-11, The Message)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Giving Up

By Belinda

So here we are three days in already to a brand new year and I haven't written one thing about goals for this or that area of my life. I'm not sure why that's the case.

I remember committing myself in previous years to getting more sleep. Since going to the sleep clinic last year, and resolving my problem with sleep apnea, my only problem seems to be getting out of bed! I am getting a good 7 or 8 hours a night and loving it. So no, I don't need more sleep, although I could do a better job of getting to bed on time.

Exercise? Well, my golden personal trainer gives me lots of encouragement and motivation in that department--at least to keep walking. But I do have a set of weights that I know I could use to develop more upper body strength and my friend Dave wrote a very funny blog post today at Rolling Around in My Head that reminded me of the importance of this. Besides I would love to have toned arms instead of "bingo wings" that wave in the wind when I raise me arms.

But maybe the real reason I haven't focused so much on goals in the way I normally do, this year, is that I really have only one, and it's big enough to keep me busy every day for the rest of my life.

Let me explain a little before blurting it out, or at least let me try. I've become convinced that there is more to this journey with Christ than I have lived out fully. Of course that will always be true, but I'm running out of time to lay hold of it, so that's what I want to do. I've nibbled at the edges of understanding but I want to not just "get it" mentally, but live out daily, a moving aside of self in order for Jesus to live out the new creature life in me, that is the second great blessing of faith.

Most of us who are believers have a solid understanding that we are reconciled to God through the sacrificial death of Christ in our place. We begin with joy, a new life and relationship with Christ at the point of believing in and accepting by faith, his sacrifice in our place. But then what?  We begin to learn new ways and standards of behaviour but we also learn experientially that it is impossible to keep them. So we can get stuck in confession, repentance, even self loathing (I have not gone that far myself!:))

I believe that God calls us to something higher and that what a cynical, sceptical world needs to see are people in whom the beautiful simplicity of Jesus's life can be seen, in contrast to a materialistic, self absorbed culture.

I absolutely know that is impossible if it's up to us. But we do have a part to play in the possibility of that coming true in our lives. Our part is the daily will to move aside for him.

I believe that as we daily say "Yes" to God's life in us, and believe that it is possible that he wants to and will, live in us and through us, we will begin an exciting new adventure such as we have not yet experienced.

The truth is, his word says that "I" died "in him" on the cross. I don't live like that is true because I am not claiming that truth by faith in the same way that I claim the first truth that he died "for" me.

I want to "press in" to; "lay hold" of; and "stand firm" in, that great truth. It is so easy to lose it because there is a gravitational pull towards what we are familiar with: self effort--trying harder--failing--repenting--trying again. So if this is the year of giving up anything, I want to give up trying, and allow God to be God in me.

That's all.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Life Story

By Belinda

The sign said, "Book Sale $1.00 Each." I had left home to run a few errands and one of them was a stop at the library to return some audio books. The sign drew me from my purpose like an ice cream parlour on a hot day. If I never buy another book as long as I live I will not run out of reading material, but I couldn't pass by without looking.

As I picked up a book to leaf through, a man on the opposite side of the table said, "These are mine." He patted a pile of 8 or 10 books that he had collected to establish that they were taken. I smiled and said that I wouldn't touch them. "Isn't this great though?" I said, "What a good opportunity."

He said, "Yes, I'm retired since March, with lots of time to read. I used to work--too much." And he laughed as if I might know what he meant by that.

His voice was cultured, with a hint of the Caribbean; warm and charming. He wore a knitted Nordic style hat and a thick coat. I was curious and asked what kind of work he had done before he retired.

"Well, I'd be happy to sit down and talk to you about that some time," he said.

He told me that he was staying at a local seniors residence while he sorted his life out, that he had a daughter of 51 and a son of 49. He seemed lonely, like someone who had lost their moorings somewhere along the way, and my curiosity deepened. I love listening to people's stories.

I suggested meeting at the library sometime or in the lounge at the seniors residence, but he said he'd found a coffee shop in town where he loved to go, and would I like to meet there for coffee? Before I knew it he was writing his name in my notebook; I gave him my number, and we had a date for the next morning.

When I told Susan, Brenda and Paul that I was having coffee with a man I'd met in the library, their responses made me think twice. Was I giving him the wrong impression? Possibly; and I reconsidered the wisdom of being so impulsive, but wise or not, I had made a commitment and it didn't feel right to go back on it.

So, the next day I arrived at the coffee shop ready to listen. The place is a popular meeting place in town and it was bustling with people. I scanned the booths and comfortable armchairs looking for the man but couldn't see him so I bought a tea and found a vacant table to wait at.

We spotted each other at the same time and waved. He made his way over to me and sat down. He had made been in the thrift shop across the road, which made him a few minutes late.

I bought a bowl of soup and he bought an egg and cheese bagel. I said, "It seems like you might be a regular here," and he laughed and admitted that he was.

Along with his coat he carried a dusty, hard sided black briefcase, which he laid on the seat beside him. As we began our lunch, I asked him about himself and how he came to be in town.

I noticed that this time he told me he had a son of 51 and a daughter of 49; the ages he'd told me the day before were reversed. Neither of them lived close by. His wife and he had divorced, "amicably" he said, after being married for 27 years--he told me that he had "succumbed" to his work. He was 78 and had worked in his own business until the spring of this year when he said that the recession forced him to wind it down, but I guessed that there may have been other factors that contributed.

He had closed up his home and put his library and other belongings into storage lockers just outside of our town and it was after travelling up and down to spend time at the storage lockers with his books and other stuff that he decided to check out the town and consider whether he might like to live here. And that is how he came to be here; he moved to be near his storage lockers.

"Where did you live before?" I asked.

The answer evaded him. He reached for his briefcase and said, "I will give you something to look at. It should have an address on it." He rummaged through the briefcase and handed me a plastic covered collection of yellow edged letters written by him when a project manager in the field of industrial lighting, 18 years ago.

As I leafed through the pages I admitted that the technical language was foreign to me. Some were proposals for projects. But they told me things about him--what he had done and where he had lived, for we found an address in the letterhead of one document.

He was a man of innate dignity and courtesy with wiry grey hair and beard and eyes that were slightly clouded. Although he was a healthy 78, age  was showing in subtle ways that became more evident as we talked although he was a good listener and conversationalist.

I thought about the importance of what people give their lives to. My friend from the library had the gifts of skill, intelligence and education and had given life to his to his work, a choice that he admitted and didn't seem to regret. But here he was in a strange town with a only a storage locker of belongings and a briefcase that held his life's story.

I looked at my watch and realized that the time was slipping by. I needed to get home.

"Maybe we could do this again sometime?" he said.

I thought of Paul's caution and said, "Well, maybe we will meet again in the library."

I left considering what holds value and is worth investing in. Because no matter how vigorous our health, life winds down, and what we invested in is what will be there in the end.