Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Brenda the Splendiferous

By Belinda

The heat of the day hung gently in the sun porch this May evening. The garden beds are filled now with burgeoning blossoms. A white bridal wreath spirea vies with the deep pink flowering almond bushes and stately pale lavender and deep purple iris stand at attention around the bird bath. 

I came out to the porch to study, but succumbed quickly to an irresistible pull to sleep. When I woke up Brenda was outside the sun porch window in purple checkered pajama bottoms and a turquoise fleece jacket, on a lawn chair; head bowed, blond hair falling forward over her face as she filed her toe nails, unaware of my presence nearby as I had the blinds pulled down low against the setting sun. Molson lay at her feet, ears alert, surveying the neighbourhood.

I allowed myself the luxury of a gradual return to full wakefulness and then called a greeting.

She turned in happy surprise, and, social being that she is, gathered up her manicure accoutrements and came inside to join me.

We sat together, the quietness broken only by the gentle hum of a neighbour's lawn mower and the chirping of a host of birds hidden in nearby trees and I asked her how her day was.

It's a high pressure time right now at the end of the school year where she works and her brow furrowed as she thought back to the day gone by and the days that lie ahead this week. 

"We'll get through it, we always do," she said, but then she caught her breath as she remembered one more thing that she had to do tomorrow. She is highly conscientious and tries to stay ahead of things and do the very best she can but this time is hard. I suggested she write it down. She took out her i-phone and made a note.

She talked about how we affect the people around us. She said that just choosing a greeting that went beyond the normal "Fine," or "Well," in response to ordinary polite conversational inquiry, affected the atmosphere. 

"When people ask me how I am, I always say, 'Fabulous!'" she said, "but today I told them that I have to come up with a new response."

She said that she had decided on, "Extraordinary!" but a co-worker said, "Brenda, you should tell people that you are 'Slendiferous!'"

"Splendiferous isn't a word!" laughed Brenda, but her coworker showed her in the dictionary that indeed it was. And it is, to my surprise, a late middle English word, meaning "brightness bearer." What a perfect word for Brenda, who is so much like my dear mum.

I'm not sure that I would dare a "Spendiferous," but I may venture a borrowed, "Fabulous," or even an, "Extraordinary," for the rest of this week--and see what happens.

My daughter; my teacher.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

God Didn't Disappoint

By Belinda

I got up this morning and came downstairs with such a sense of anticipation.

With hair still wet from the shower, and a steaming cup of black coffee in hand, I sank into our soft golden leather couch and pulled out books from my lime green needle-cord book bag.

Among other things that I read, I chose to read my favourite psalm: number 84! I read it slowly, enjoying the beauty of the very familiar words. 

I noticed verse 5, which says: Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways of Zion.

And I wondered what it means--to have a heart in which "are the  highways to Zion."

All too soon I had to finish getting ready for church and put aside my pondering for the moment. 

In church I thought about today being Pentecost Sunday, and about the wind and fire that came on the first Pentecost after Christ's death. Less welcome thoughts lurked like intruders at the edges of my consciousness, threatening distraction. The thoughts were of potential losses, but I corralled my wayward mind, laid them down and let them go--not just the thoughts, but the potential of loss of anything in reality. I realized that if all I have is God, I have everything, and anything else is a gift from him to be received in gratitude.

Later in the service I had a picture of a figure, arms wrapped around a bigger figure, pressing into him in a wind storm. Her clothing streamed out in the wind, but she held on tight to the one she was clinging to. The wind blew away all else but him, but he remained.

Out in our sun porch, at the end of this good day, with a crescent moon, high, high in the sky, I opened a book in which I write out favourite scripture passages. I think I found the answer to my morning question in a poem I wrote there, inspired by Leviticus 27:21: When a field is released in the Jubilee; it will become holy, like a field devoted to the Lord....

I long to be to you my King,
a field devoted to the Lord.
For you my soul and spirit sing
For you my heart beats, and I cling
to you alone

I long to have my heart ploughed deep;
a field devoted to the Lord.
The hardened clods of clay that sleep,
Awakened, broken, in his keep,
for him alone...

Belinda, February 11, 2008

A Song for Pentecost

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pentecost Anticipated

By Belinda
Make me fruitful by living to that love,my character becoming more beautiful every day.If traces of Christ's love artistry be upon me,may he work on with his divine brushuntil the complete image be obtainedand I be made a perfect copy of him,my Master
Valley of Vision: The Love of Jesus, p.45

I am fast approaching my 62nd birthday and thinking of the fact, that if I do retire at 65, I will have 3 more years in my role at work.

Such a short time--and yet the span of Christ's active ministry on earth.

I feel the drawing of God to spend time waiting, listening, seeking to understand his call for the 36 precious months that could fly by in a blur of outside pressures unless I am intentional and deliberate. 

I want to follow his purpose and design, to fully step into the place he has made me for, whatever that is.

I don't want to "put in time;" survive; meet deadlines or "get by." I long to make the difference God wants me to make.

Tomorrow we celebrate Pentecost. I read some chapter 2 in the book of Acts today, about the rushing wind and tongues of fire that were the tangible signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit two thousand years ago.

Wind and fire! 

Wind blows away everything not firmly rooted. Before a rushing wind, dead leaves and branches fall; dust and debris blow away.

Fire burns up wood, hay and stubble, leaving behind things of lasting value:

1 Corinthians 3:11-13

King James Version (KJV)
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.

 I am waiting; I am listening; I am anticipating Pentecost!

Luke 10:41-42

New International Version (NIV)
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried(A) and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a](B) Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Impromptu Concert and a Sun Dappled Porch

By Belinda

I love 4.30 on Fridays. Not because I get to go home from the office for the weekend, but because a kind of hush descends. Emails stop (actually some time before 4.30 they slow down from the rate of a racing heart on a monitor, to the slow blip, blip of the heart of someone in a deep resting state,) the phone is silent, and outside the streets grow strangely quiet. 

Tonight, after a crazy busy and short week because it had a holiday Monday in it, I had more work than would fit into the time available--and another busy week ahead. So I called home to check in with Paul, and sank into the comfort of the quietness. Then I kept plugging away so that I could go home, if not with all my hoped for tasks done, at least with the prize of one or two things completed.

Just before seven o'clock, as I was packing up to go, I heard organ music from the house above my office. It was beautiful. I stopped to listen. Someone who lives upstairs plays the piano, but surely this couldn't be...I knew that the staff working teaches music--maybe it was her, I thought. 

I couldn't leave without going up to find out. And I opened the door to magic. In the corner of the living room, at a keyboard by the window, sat a tiny, wiry man. He wore a baseball cap, from which escaped dark curls. His feet barely reached the floor, and his awkward movements belied the skill with which his fingers plied the keys. He didn't notice me slip into a chair, but the other person in the room put out a warm, soft hand to hold mine, and asked when the next meeting of our anger management group was. And was he still in it, he wanted to know as well.

"Next Friday," I said, "And of course you're still in it!"

I knew the song being played, so I sang the words, "This is the day that the Lord has made, we will be glad and rejoice in it." The man at the keyboard, heard and smiled at me, delighted to have someone sharing the joy of the music.

"What time is the meeting next Friday?" asked my other friend.

"I'm not sure," I said, "I gave you a paper with the times."

"Three!" shouted the keyboard player.

I applauded the end of the song and said I loved the music. As I went down to get my bags to take to the car, an old hymn was being played. I stopped to listen and enjoy for a few more minutes, then reluctantly closed the door behind me.

I had something to deliver to another group home in town on my way home. The evening of this beautiful, warm, sunny day, was more like a lazy summer day than spring and I drove into a maze of subdivision streets with people on lawns with sprinklers going, friends out walking, the town alive with life and living.

The home has an old fashioned front porch and as I approached I saw people on it. The staff laughed and waved with her free hand (the other held a cup of after supper tea) as she saw my car pull up. A log book sat on a cushioned love seat and one of the women who lives in the home sat on a comfortable looking chair. I joined them and sat on the window ledge. 

"What're you doing here Belinda?" asked the woman on the chair.

"Oh, just dropping off stuff," I said, and settled in for a few minutes of enjoyment, beneath dappled sunlight filtering through the impossibly green leaves dancing over our heads as we chatted about this and that.

Another person came out and joined us and then another poked his head around the door in welcome.

Sitting on a porch with friends, after an impromptu concert. 

What a perfect way to end a work week. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Immersion Method

By Belinda
Thou hast led me to place all my nature and happinessin oneness with Christ,in having heart and mind centred only on him,in being like him in communicating good to others;But I need the force, energy, impulses of thy Spiritto carry me on the way to my Jerusalem...

The Valley of Vision; Christ Alone p.41

John 17:22-23

The Message (MSG)
 20-23I'm praying not only for them
   But also for those who will believe in me
   Because of them and their witness about me.
   The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
   Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
   So they might be one heart and mind with us.
   Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
   The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
   So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
   I in them and you in me.
   Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
   And give the godless world evidence
   That you've sent me and loved them
   In the same way you've loved me.

Dear Readers,
I've written less lately for a couple of reasons. One is that I've been doing research for a short speech that I was writing. It's a privilege I have each year, writing this particular presentation speech--but the way I go about it is the immersion method--saturating myself in everything I can possibly find out about the person receiving the award that the speech is connected to. Although it is only 500 words long, and most of what I come to know about the person can't possibly be included, I feel the need to come to the writing of it with as intimate a knowledge as possible, of the person it is about. I want to go deep, and hope that somehow that depth is distilled into each word! I have no idea if I succeed in my quest, but it's the only way I can happily do this thing.

As well, I have been trying to get to bed early enough to get up early and have time for God time in the morning one on one. Paul and I pray and read together, but precious as that is, it meets a different need to one to one time with God, where he can seep into me, and we can become one. The immersion method.

Kind of like my speech writing, in which I hope that the hours of time reading and getting to know the subject of the speech will show; I have more than hope--I have God's promise--that as I spend time in his Presence and saturate myself in him, it really will show in all that I am, do, say and write.

With the busyness of life, I had let this treasured time get squeezed out. Eventually I just dry up, like a plant without water. I am nothing but an empty husk without him.

So that's where I've been and what I've been doing dear readers. I don't know you all, but I cherish you and the fact that you check in now and again. I trust you enough to think that you prefer quality to quantity, and the quality comes from only one source. It isn't me. :)

Love you! Belinda

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

By Belinda 

I was recently at Banting Memorial High School in Alliston and loved the art hanging on the walls in the hall where I was about to watch a play.

It's been busy and I'm trying to get to bed earlier lately! So tonight I just want to share the work of some gifted students.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Word Guild Leslie K. Tarr Award 2012

The Word Guild Leslie K. Tarr Award 2012 Media Release
www.canadianchristianwritingawards.com and www.thewordguild.com 

This release is available as a downloadable Word document at

The Word Guild To Honour Outstanding Canadian

World-Renowned Canadian Author, Philosopher, Theologian, and Humanitarian Jean Vanier to Receive 2012 Leslie K. Tarr Award for Career Achievement

TORONTO - On June 13 The Word Guild will present the twenty-fourth annual Leslie K. Tarr Award to Jean Vanier, 83, the son of Canada's 19th Governor General, Major General Georges P. Vanier, and a Companion of the Order of Canada. 
Named in honour of its first recipient, the late Leslie K. Tarr - a journalist, editor, and teacher - the award celebrates a major career contribution to Christian writing and publishing in Canada. Previous recipients include award-winning children's author Jean Little, two-time Governor General's Literary Award winner Rudy Wiebe, Janette Oke, whose inspirational novels have sold more than 28 million copies, and theologian J. I. Packer.

The award will recognize Vanier's lifetime of work as a Christian author, humanitarian, theologian and world leader in affirming the value, dignity, and giftedness of men and women the world over who live with developmental disabilities.

"Jean Vanier is one of Canada's best known writers and thinkers, whose work emanates from a Christian worldview," said Wendy Elaine Nelles, co-founder of The Word Guild, which administers the Tarr Award. "His spiritual reflections about what it means to follow the teachings of Jesus in everyday life have had a profound effect on thousands of readers. And the influence of his writing and speaking has crossed denominational, religious, and cultural boundaries."

Described by his friends first and foremost as a man with heart, Vanier is best known for his founding of L'Arche, a movement that began in his home in 1964, when he invited two men from an institution to live with him in a small house, which he named "L'Arche" - French for "Ark," from the biblical story of Noah. Today 135 L'Arche communities operate in 33 countries on six continents. L'Arche began in Canada in 1969 - L'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which holds the distinction of being the oldest L'Arche community in North America.

L'Arche Canada's website describes L'Arche as "...an international organization of faith-based communities creating homes and day programs with people who have developmental disabilities." It "...espouses a 'community model of living'..." and "...recognizes the spiritual and religious needs and aspirations of its members, and respects those who have no spiritual or religious affiliation."

Vanier also founded Faith and Light in 1971, "...an organization which brings together on a monthly basis people with a developmental disability, their family and friends," and which number 1,800 in 80 countries.

A prolific author, Vanier has authored or co-authored more than 30 books, published between 1971 and 2008. A number of these books have had worldwide influence, including Becoming Human published in 1999.

Vanier's works reveal the heart of a man drawn by compassion and his love for Jesus, reaching out to an often forgotten world, to people who feel isolated and who need community. Though they live with intellectual challenges, Vanier embraces them as having much to offer the wider human family, not only in their giftedness, but also in the gift of themselves.

In an April 2012 letter to friends, Vanier draws his readers into his life today and into the spirit of the man who has made an indelible mark on the lives of so many thousands of people.

"It is wonderful to live close to La Ferme," he writes. "I continue to give retreats there, some of which are on the official programme, and others which are not. These are for people off the street, for people who have suffered a lot in life through broken marriage, or for others, who live the pain of exclusion.

"And then, I am present in some L'Arche formations. I carry on giving the sessions on the Gospel of John (in English and in French). Thanks to these sessions, I continue to penetrate into the heart of this inspired writing, where I always find new treasures. These sessions renew my outlook on our suffering world, and on our God who is calling us to hope and to work for peace - when everything seems impossible."

"Even in moments of horrific suffering, Etty Hillesum used to say, 'life is beautiful.' Yes, in spite of the horrors and fears, God is alive, creation is alive, the sun is shining and there are so many men and women full of kindness, competence, and compassion for other people in their difference and vulnerability. There is hope."

The Leslie K. Tarr Award is sponsored by Foundation Distributing Inc. and administered by The Word Guild. It will be presented on Wednesday, June 13, during The Word Guild awards gala at the World Vision headquarters, 1 World Drive in Mississauga, Ontario.

During the gala, The Word Guild will also present awards in 35 categories - including fiction and non-fiction, poetry, articles, and song lyrics - and the $5,000.00 Grace Irwin Award, Canada's top literary prize for writers who are Christian. The event, open to the public, starts at 7:30 p.m.

Go online at canadianchristianwritingawards.com/awards-gala for more information.

The Word Guild is a growing team of more than 325 Canadian writers, editors, speakers, publishers, booksellers, librarians and other interested individuals who are Christian. From all parts of Canada and many denominational and cultural backgrounds, they are united in our common passion to positively influence individuals - and ultimately the Canadian culture - through life-changing words that bring God's message of hope. 
The Word Guild encourages the exploration of God-given gifts and talents; provides opportunities for people to work together; and fosters excellence in the art, craft, practice and ministry of writing, editing and speaking.  
In addition to Write! Canada, its annual flagship event, The Word Guild sponsors a number of awards programs for published and unpublished writers, including Canada's largest literary prize for writers who are Christian, the $5,000 Grace Irwin Award. It also holds an annual black-tie writing awards gala in Toronto, and regional Write! events in locations such as Vancouver, Winnipeg, Halifax, Montreal, and London, Ontario.
Three categories of membership, renewed yearly, are available: professional writers and editors; associate members, who are beginning to put together a body of published work; and affiliates working in publishing, bookselling, libraries, etc. Membership benefits include discounted rates for Write! Canada.
More information at www.thewordguild.com 
Media: For photos or more information, email Judy Bingley, The Word Guild Administrative Assistant, at info [at] thewordguild [dot] com

Susan's Favourite Things

By Belinda

Susan's favourite things were hidden away in the comment box. Readers here haven't heard from her for a while, and I knew you would enjoy reading about her own unique favourites as much as I did. :) Here they are:
1. Favourite comfort food: Chocolate. No contest.
2. Favourite piece of jewellry: My mom's wedding ring, but it's way too small for me to wear it - or I would! I'm thinking of having it made into a necklace...
3. Favourite movie of all time: There are LOTS of close seconds, but I think "Lassie Come Home" has the slight edge - such enduring love, and a happy ending - what's not to love? My first dog was a collie. It was a male which meant we couldn't call it "Lassie" but I insisted on "Laddie" as the next best thing. (At least that's how I feel this week. A different movie could be remembered as my favourite next week.)
4. Favourite television theme song: Gilmore Girls. "Where You Lead" by Carol King 
5. Favourite drink: Diet A&W rootbeer but not the bottled/canned versions - only from the fountain machine thingy in the store. 
6. Favourite piece of clothing: My long black sweater - wish I'd bought two at the time!
7. Favourite hotdog topping: My own homemade relish (my dad's original recipe) and mustard. And I LOVE hotdogs - I could eat one every day.
8. Favourite accessory: I don't have a favourite accessory. I guess my favourite one would be not to have to have one at all!
9. Favourite television show: The first season of Gilmore Girls.
10. Favourite thing to do with an extra half hour: Pull a grandkid up on my knee. 
11. Favourite joke of all time? Usually the last one I heard..

Sunday, May 20, 2012

By Belinda 

My friend Janet Sketchley posted this song on her blog God With Us:Finding Joy, last week. I LOVE Peter Furler and love this song, which I hadn't heard before.  The lyrics say it all--and they are on the video clip, written so that you will not miss them.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Just for Fun

My dear friend Dave wrote a post entitled Julie Andrews Take Note in which he shared a few of his favourite things. 

He invited readers to do so too, and link back to his post. So here goes. If you join in too, please link back here, or share your favourite things in the comment section:

1)Favourite Comfort Food: I LOVE homemade macaroni and cheese, made with a proper homemade sauce, topped with tomatoes and buttered toasted breadcrumbs. This is so high calorie that I rarely make it but I think I feel an attack of macaroni-itis coming on! Maybe for this Thursday's cell group--that way I get to share it and will not be tempted to eat it all. :)

2)Favourite Piece of Jewelery: It's a silver necklace that my mum's mother bought for her when she was young, so it is probably about 65 years old. The small pendant of cut glass set in silver, changes colour from mauve to aqua blue, depending on the temperature (I think.) I wear it most of the time. I once lost it and was devastated! I had been in three different towns that day and immediately called people to hunt for it. One of my coworkers found it in the parking lot opposite my office. I will be eternally grateful that it was found.

3)Favourite Movie of All Time: This is hard. I have a few that I immediately think of, but I think I have to go with, What About Bob, starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. Here is a video clip someone put together with their favourite scenes from the movie. I laughed so much watching them that I cried. In the movie, Bob, the psychiatric patient, drives his psychiatrist to insanity. When I rented it in England, years ago, and watched it with my brother, Rob, he said, "So...are you trying to tell me something Belinda?" :)

4) Favourite Television Theme Song: Mine is from a British TV series that I used to watch with Mum during the 1960's: Stranger on the Shore. It was the story of a French au-pair girl suffering from culture shock in England, and there were obvious parallels with Mum's life, as she had come to England as an au-pair from Holland almost two decades earlier. According to Wikipedia, the haunting theme music, released as a single in October 1961, became the UK's best selling instrumental of all time, remaining in the Top 50 for 55 weeks. Here it is:.

5) Favourite Drink: Java! I love nothing more than a black coffee in the morning.

6) Favourite Piece of Clothing: It's a sleeveless black top with white polka dots and a scoop neck, trimmed with a frill around the edge. It is pretty, feminine and it makes me happy when I wear it.

7) Favourite Hot Dog Topping: Yellow mustard--and preferably just on the wiener without a bun.

8) Favourite Accessory: A belt that my brother gave me. It was hand made 30 years or so ago when he was living with us in Canada. It is brown leather and has a pattern embossed on it and has a hammered silver metal buckle. When I was in England a few years ago I was going to buy a belt and Rob dissuaded me, saying I could have his as it was much nicer than anything I could have bought. It's sort of on permanent loan.:)

9) Favourite Television Show: Candid Camera! I guess I just love to laugh. :) Here's a funny clip.

10) Favourite Thing to Do With an Extra Half Hour: I would say "read," but the truth is I am doing it right now--wasting some time here. :)

11) Favourite Joke of All Time: This is where I give up. I can never remember jokes. I remember the joke but not the punchline--or the other way around. But as you can tell from my other favourite things, I am a great audience for others telling jokes.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Moments in Time

By Belinda

I got lost in old photographs this evening. I found these when I was in Alvechurch in March. 

I'm so thankful for photographs. I have many albums upstairs in the loft room, but in 2006 I went digital and started saving photos in Picasa albums. 

It was so good to look at photos of my Alvechurch visits over the past 6 years. I have the photos on my laptop and even some short video clips. How precious they are, and how wonderful it was to retrace those wonderful moments.

Time goes by so quickly. These photos are from the 1950's and 1960's and even those moments seem like only yesterday. In the top one I think I was three. In the second about ten and in the third fifteen--a mere 47 years ago!:)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Celebration; but No Gloating Please!

By Belinda 

When I returned from our January visit to England I wrote a series of posts on a situation that I ended up in the middle of. It had felt rather like finding myself in an episode of The Twilight Zone--Rod Serling's anthology series, in which ordinary folks suddenly found themselves in extraordinary situations. I was into science fiction as a teenager and used to love the eerie story lines of episodes of The Twilight Zone, in which a bizarre and ironic form of justice always seemed to be dished out very satisfactorily in the end!

For those who didn't read the posts at the time and are interested in catching up, the links are below. Unlike an episode of The Twilight Zone though, this situation looked pretty hopeless:

Close Quarters Part One 
Close Quarters Part Two 
A Quick Update 
The Gathering Protest
The Saga of the the Stones Continues

Mum became ill in February and when I went back to England for her funeral in March, something related to this story happened. It would have felt odd to write about it back then because a much bigger drama was unfolding in my life. Now, though, I would love to catch you up!

In the post, The Gathering Protest , I left the elderly and disabled residents of The Close rallying together to protest the crazy chain of events that had resulted in a plan to remove their parking privileges and which had large stones, painted white, placed on the grass to prevent anyone parking there if their parking spaces were taken by people renting the community hall. All of the residents signed a petition and sent it in to the local housing trust.

In March Rob and I spent my first week there taking care of many paperwork details and one of them was going to the local housing trust to inform them of Mum's death.

We were sitting in an office there when Rob's cell phone rang. He answered it and it was the very person to whom I had written an email in January when the issue began. She was wondering if she could arrange a meeting with Rob. Rob said, "Well, you will never believe this, but we are  here, right now, in your office!"

She was as amazed as we were at our coincidental proximity! She came right down to the office to chat with us for a few minutes. Initially she wanted to know why, after Rob saying that he wasn't going to pursue the issue any further, a petition had now arrived. There was a definite frost in the air. 

Rob explained that while he had personally decided not to fight on, once the residents of The Close knew what was happening, they were incredulous and decided to take action. I explained to her how it had felt in the meeting where her staff member had told us that if the carefully worded parking signs were not saying what was she felt was right, the signs would be taken down and replaced by signs that did and how a situation that could have been resolved escalated unnecessarily. By the end she seemed to be listening. It felt as though the meeting was meant to be.

After I came back to Canada though, Rob mentioned in one of his phone calls that the residents had received another letter from the housing trust stating that the signs were indeed going to be changed. It was so disappointing.

Last Saturday, I was just getting ready to call Rob when the phone rang. He told me he'd been outside talking to the neighbours when his alarm went off inside the house. He said to them, "That's so I don't forget to call my sister."

He had a written a list of things he wanted to remember to tell me about and one of them was pretty astounding. 

The Close residents had written a letter in follow up to the decision that the signs would be changed, asking for a public meeting with the housing trust. They had found a clause in their original agreement stating that this was a requirement for any change being proposed.

That meeting had happened during the previous week in the community hall with the woman that Rob and I had spoken with in March. 

Rob described the little hall with 25 or so people packing it tight.Then the woman turned to Rob and asked if he would call the meeting to order.

Rob said, "Belinda, you know that my comfort zone is talking to about two people." I do! But Rob spoke up. He said that initially people looked up in a little bit of shock when they heard his voice. It must be an example of God's quirky sense of humour; he gave my shy brother quite a loud and commanding voice.

He ended up speaking to the issues, and here is the wonderful news--the entire situation has been reversed. The residents of The Close keep all of their parking rights and the only signs going up will strengthen and clarify those. And the stones are being taken away as they would prevent access to emergency vehicles.

What wonderful news to receive on a Saturday morning! I said to Rob that I was so excited and I would write a blog post with this great update.

"Belinda," he said, and I knew a warning of some sort was coming; "I don't want names mentioned and no gloating."

Well, I agree. No gloating. But surely a celebration is in order. This Twilight Zone episode ended as it should. A very happy ending. :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wild Words and Dandelions

By Belinda

The lawns in town, including ours, look like the face of a grizzled old man who hasn't shaved for several days. That's what the long stalked, gone-to-seed dandelions, reminded me of this morning! Yes, that is a suitably unkempt image.

But I was thinking of other things besides the wild lawns of Bond Head as I drove to work. I was thinking of conversations gone equally wild. 

You see, our cell group finally finished our study on the book,Holy Conversation and we almost missed an article tucked away, right at the back, almost as a little extra:Holy Conversation The Lost Art of Witness. Someone suggested we read it, and when we did, we spent the evening discussing it (if you're interested, you can find it by clicking the link.)

The article talked about the four factors of genuine conversation, quoting Australian lecturer in practical theology,Geoff Broughton.
The factors are: mutuality, reciprocity, openness and respect.

Richard Peace, the author of Holy Conversation, asks:
What might witness look like were it characterized by a mutuality that includes all partners in the conversation (over against monologue)? What might it look like if all the conversation partners were free to express their thoughts and experiences? What might it look like if there were an honesty that did not so much seek to present a party line as to share one's insights and experiences both positive and negative? What would witness be like if there were a profound respect for the uniqueness of each person's God given life experience?
The whole article was excellent, and I had been pondering it when someone else, in an unrelated conversation a few days later, said that a friend had asked if she had noticed that around our dinner table, allowing others to finish sentences is a rarity.  I immediately knew it was true. I realized that what I have considered animated conversation is often just bad manners and I am as boorish as they come when it comes to interrupting others or tuning out and focusing on my next opportunity to talk! It's something that I'm working on and this "hard truth" really hit home. How can we have a "holy conversation" if there is no space for people to complete a thought even in a simple conversation?

I feel as though God is enrolling me for a repeat of Kindergarten--"Conversation Kindergarten!" I need to learn all over again about taking turns. 

That verse in the Bible about our conversation being gracious and "seasoned,"  is what I need. I don't really mind going right back to the basics as a student of mannerly speech, if only God takes over my tongue!

Colossians 4:6

Amplified Bible (AMP)
Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone [who puts a question to you].

Sunday, May 13, 2012

In Celebration of Friends

By Belinda 
(Who has a very early start tomorrow morning and therefore is recycling a post from the past!) 

"Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow-ripening fruit." Aristotle

I have been enjoying a book on CD entitled The Art of Friendship, 70 Simple Rules for Making Meaningful Connections, by Roger Horchow and Sally Horchow.

In Malcolm Gladwell's, The Tipping Point, which I listened to last month, he mentioned Roger Horchow, the founder of The Horchow Collection, the first luxury mail-order-only retailer, and a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, as an excellent example of a group of people he called "connectors." Roger is a master at maintaining a high number of relationships.

In The Art of Friendship, Roger says, "Life is too short to spend it paddling around in shallow waters." I agree!

To me, friendship is an endless voyage of discovery, an exploration of uncharted lands. There is no end to the pleasure to be found in the company of friends and any happiness is magnified many times over when shared with them.

The Art of Friendship intrigued me so much that I'm listening to it for the second time. I want to be a better friend. After all, I believe that the gift of friendship is one of the greatest joys God gives us in life.

Friday, May 11, 2012

For the Lost Boys

Note by Belinda

At our writers group meeting on Tuesday, Susan Starrett, shared a powerfully written piece of slam poetry that she wrote, on a video that is now on You Tube. It tackles the topic of the sexual abuse.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Story of Ian and Larissa

Note by Belinda

This video was posted on my friend Jenna Wickens' Face Book page; originally from http://www.desiringgod.org/ . It gives Love a whole new dimension to consider. The story is entitled, "This Momentary Marriage." So much to consider in this story.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

A Cord Ingly

Last Tuesday at work, a few of us had lunch together in a restaurant, to celebrate the birthday of someone on my team. 

As the menus were handed out, I didn't have to fish about in my purse looking for reading glasses. No--they were nestled handily, midway between my chin and chest on the cord I had bought the day before.

I pointed it out to my co-workers, with both enthusiasm at the convenience, and chagrin at needing one.

The two guys on our team were now deep in "guy talk," seemingly oblivious, while the ladies at the table educated me. Apparently there are cords and there are cords. 

Mine kind of looked like a black shoe lace with loops at the end, but I learned that they can actually be accessories and came beaded, or as necklaces with little key ring things dangling from them on which you can hang your glasses. Wow, I had no idea. 

As the possibilities expanded I made a mental note: "Go buy a better cord." Ah, the power of advertising! But my week was so busy that I soon shelved the mental note and got on with things more pressing than cord shopping.

On Friday morning, one of the guys on the team, a fifty-ish fellow, but still a young nipper by my standards, had a support meeting with me. As he came into the office and parked in a chair, I noticed something dangling from his glasses, behind his head. It was a dapper leather cord. I looked at it, raised my eyebrow and smiled.

He said, "As soon as I left the restaurant on Tuesday, I went right to Walmart and got one!" He usually keeps his reading glasses perched on top of his head.

We had our meeting and as he got up to say goodbye, he reached up and adjusted his cord. As I smiled at the unconscious gesture, he said, "Belinda you need a better one, I'm going to get you one."

"No, no, that's okay, I'm going to get one!" I said.

"You're right, it's a personal thing," he replied seriously.

Such moments make me smile! :)

This morning at church, Susan, Frances and I were on the worship team. I showed Frances the purple beaded cord (bought yesterday) attached to my glasses.

"Yes, I heard all about those," she said. She is about 15 years younger than me so she had fun laughing at the stage I had arrived at in life.

But during the service, between songs, she picked up her devotional book from the floor to share a reading with the congregation. She squinted at the small print, but it wasn't helping. She looked over at me with a wry and apologetic smile. I was proud to hand over my glasses, bedecked in purple beads, which swayed in front of her from my glasses perched on her nose as she read with ease. 

Ah, friends, if it hasn't happened to you yet...it will, but at least you will know that you have an array of options. A whole cord wardrobe awaits if you so choose. :)

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Mum's Obituary

Rob told me last Saturday that Mum's obituary, written by Rev. David Martin, rector of St. Laurence Church, Alvechurch, had appeared in the May edition of The Grapevine. The church newsletter is delivered to all homes in Alvechurch.

A lady who was born in Holland and moved to Alvechurch in 1959 died on 6 March at the age of 85.

Pieternella Kaatje Janny Cater was one of eight children born into a family in Rotterdam, Holland during the Second World War.  Three of her siblings survive. Her childhood was spent in war-torn Holland, but, in 1947, she came to England and met her husband-to-be, Chris, at Speakers Corner, Hyde Park.  They married in 1948 and shared fifty-five years together until his death in 2003.

She was the mother of two children – Belinda and Robert – grandmother to four – John, Tim, Peter and Brenda – and great-grandmother to six – Katherine, Stephen, Joshua, Emily, Tiffany and Victoria.

Having worked as a typist in Holland she came to England as a nanny to an Austrian family living in London.  After living for a time in Caterham, Romsley and Hagley, she moved into Bear Hill in 1959 and took up employment with Autocar Transporters – a firm based at the Brickyards on Scarfield Hill.  When the company relocated to Wythall, she accompanied them and remained in their employment until 1981.

Subsequent homes in Alvechurch included Snake Lane (1997-2004) and Tanyard Close (2004 –2012). She was a member of Alvechurch Baptist Church during the ministry of Sister Connie, and also of the Monday Sycamore Club.  She had friends in his country and in Canada where her daughter lives.

She will be remembered as a person who exuded unconditional love.  This was based upon a strong faith under-girded by daily bible reading and prayer. She saw the best in everyone and was positive, well-organised and creative.  Added to this went a sense of humour.

Her funeral was held at Redditch Crematorium on Tuesday 20 March.  The hymns sung were The Lord’s my shepherd and Amazing grace.  After the service a reception was held in The Ark.

What Really Matters

By Belinda

It was just over a week since the last meeting of the Anger Management-Peace Like a River Group. The stormy weather upstairs, that led to the founding of the group seemed much more settled. 

One of the group members asked yesterday morning, when were we going to meet again, and if the book (recommended by our friend Dave) had arrived yet. I said it hadn't, but I was sure it would be here soon and we'd meet then. 

But as I moved something in the piles around my desk yesterday; as if it were meant to be; from somewhere they had been hiding unseen for several months, and so long that I had forgotten them, I found pages from a training, that happened to be about extreme behaviour.  The pages were an Anger Diary and Inventory--perfect tools to spark a discussion at more than one session. 

So this morning as soon as I arrived at work, I went upstairs, knocked on the door, interrupting a fine breakfast of French toast; with an invitation that was accepted; to meet late this afternoon.  

The day zoomed by, I kept my eye on the clock and  prepared an agenda. 

As we all headed down to the other side of the house, we passed one of their housemates, sitting in an orange chair. In fact he sits in the orange chair a lot of the time. 

"Can I join too?" he asked.

"Sure," we said, and he got out of the chair and came along.

The group set some rules, and checked in as to how the week had gone. There were a couple of real situations that were hot topics and the friend from the Orange Chair got up several times out of anxiety, almost leaving to have a cup of tea. But each time he sat down again, saying, "No, I'm staying."

 One person did leave in an angry huff, but was surprised to get a pat on the back for that later. After all, leaving angry was better than staying and exploding.

In 45 minutes we were done but giant steps were made in understanding boundaries and mutual respect. My heart and soul sang at the opportunity and privilege to be part of the dynamic.

I went back to my desk, packed up my briefcase and laptop and  left for a dinner date with Paul, but  before leaving I went upstairs to say goodbye. 

Three members of the group were busy making dinner together with their support staff. 

It was one of those moments when I knew what I wanted to do when I retire, when there is no more paperwork; just be with people and be part of  days like this.  

Later on, as we drove to the restaurant for dinner, Paul listened as I went on about how the time to invest in teaching is hard for staff to find with all that they have to do, but so worthwhile in the long run. I remembered how, forty years ago, as an idealistic graduate, passionate about his work in the institution where he then worked, he developed and taught classes on social skills, nutrition and health for the people with intellectual disabilities that lived there. 

Then he said this: 
"It isn't always 'what' is being taught that makes the biggest difference in the lives of people."

He said, "It comes down to, you're touching somebody's spirit as opposed to their intellect."

"Even though the people in the institution who attended, may not have understood everything that was presented, they were obviously aware that somebody cared enough to spend time with them, and if you are modeling the interaction and behaviour that you would like them to exhibit; almost like osmosis, it begins to happen."

It made me think of our first group meeting, when I had nothing but a heart to help and our adapted paper on not feeding the flames of anger; and how in spite of that, the people listening honoured me with their attention and participation. 

Paul had just shared a huge insight into what really matters. Yes, it is important that you have tools that people can understand and that will help, but it's not the most important thing. I think it matters that you care to teach, because in doing so, people know that they matter.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Getting from "Here" to "There"

By Belinda

One of the books I'm reading at the moment is,Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. The book is recommended reading for a course I am taking on Conflict Mediation. The authors had me at the title (and the sub-title: "Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts.)

So far into the book I am convinced--we all have blind spots and are adept only at spotting those of others. In fact, the chapter I am currently reading starts out by quoting Matthew 7:3 to illustrate this point:

Matthew 7:3

New King James Version (NKJV)
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?

The trouble is that all too often I read the Bible as though it is a collection of stories, about "someone else," (those handily self righteous Pharisees,) rather than turning the searchlight onto my own heart; asking the hard questions of myself.

In my course we learned the principle of moving from judgement to curiousity when considering the actions of other. That is such a potentially powerful shift; from: "You did this"--and sometimes even "because..." to: "I saw (or heard, or felt) this; help me understand..."

I do poorly at this. But the first step is to know what to aim for.

At this point in the book I am tempted to hopelessness, so convinced am I of the blindness; both willful and unconscious; of the human race.

But I serve and trust the God of all Hope. This is this morning's Daily Light: 

But the fruit of the Spirit is… peace.
To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
God has called you to peace.—“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”—May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.—You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.—“Whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”Great peace have those who love your law.

  • Morning: Galatians 5:22; Romans 8:6; 1 Corinthians 7:15; John 14:27; Romans 15:13; 2 Timothy 1:12; Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 32:17; Isaiah 32:18; Proverbs 1:33; Psalm 119:165
Listening to him...I do so little of that in comparison to listening to the clamouring voice of my own opinions and prejudices. 

Dear Lord, forgive me. Thank you that your ways are predicated on the fact that we know little, and what we think we know is often distorted by our own pain, upbringing, and the warping of the world. How I thank you for your promise in Romans 12 , that transformation is possible. Thank you that you are the opener of eyes, minds and hearts.

Only with God's transforming work in us, can we get from "here"(the land of the blind)  to "there," (the land of those who see with his eyes.)