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Archive for January, 2018

oak-tree-looking-up
I felt the tension rising through my body, mind and soul. Not bad news, but not desired news. I felt the questions, the fear … truly unknowns are dire for one whose imagination can reach to far darker corners than bad news itself.

Then, as though I was created to do so, I lifted my eyes …

The trees in the distance, one to two hundred feet tall, swaying only slightly in the wind.

Then the voice, that still, small voice, never audible, except to my heart

never present, except when I least expect it

except when I most need it …

look at those trees,
the wind has little power.
They stand
despite the years of flood,
the years of drought.
I’ve got this …

It is so easy to forget just how much God loves us, just how much he cares about the big and small details of our lives.

For me (and probably most of us), the problem is that I forget to listen. It is so easy to forget that he speaks to us … through his Word, through his people, through his creation. It is just so easy to forget … him.

I need to remember him, I need to rely and trust on him … he who made me … you know, like a tree.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
    that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
    its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
    and never fails to bear
fruit.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

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exam

As the semester was coming to mid-January, I could see the stress and worry creeping into the faces and body language of so many high school students.

Wide-eyed, full of questions …
or stone silent.

Looking for reviews, study notes  …
or affirmation.

Totally unaware of how to study …
or already immersed in it for weeks.

Last week I was reminded, yet again, of something that is so important to remind students …

their worth does not come from an exam mark

Exam week is a fascinating time to work in a high school. As one who loves to observe behaviours and body language, it is prime time to study both teachers and students.

The teachers are concerned with ensuring that enough exams have been printed, did all students how up to write, and then there is the marking (followed by report cards).

The students carry a different weight.

Sure, there are those who just show up, and write their exams, with nary a care in the world, but that is a unique student, who may be blessed with never having an intimate knowledge of high blood pressure, stress or anxiety.

Most students carry the burden of the exam, and on top of the appropriate amount of concern for their academic performance, some carry much, much more.

The constant message, intended as encouragement by teachers, peers, parents to take their exams seriously, can birth an unhealthy perspective, turning their academic results into personal value. Whether real of perceived, many students feel that their exam results determine their worth, as a person.

Each exam has such students poised to write who believe that lie, and it is written in their eyes, their furrowed brows and, for some, in their absence, as they are still home,  close to the porcelain god in their bathrooms.

If for no other, it is this unhealthy perspective that makes me appreciate working in a school that allows corporate prayer. For each exam begins with prayer.

I tell them to drop their pencils and pens, to clasp their hands … not because they need folded hands to come to God, but to allow them to feel that they are alive, real.

I tell them to be quiet as we pray … not because God can’t keep track of what is being prayed, but so that they might have opportunity to hear their own breath rise and fall, taking focus off their worry.

I tell them to close their eyes … not because they can only pray with eyes closed tight, but that they might allow their eyes to rest for a moment from seeing the exam in front of them.

We pray together, asking that God might clear their minds, to perform to the best of their abilities.

Then I pray one last thing, that God would remind them that this is just an exam, and that he reminds them that their value does not come from an exam result, but from him.

And that is my prayer … for any exam can be rewritten, any course can be redone, but to think that those things are more important than oneself can be fatal.

 

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flood

Sometimes I wonder if I am too real and honest, too often.

I write about when I have had good days, and you certainly know the opposite comes my way. My hope is that, through my vulnerability, you might see that you are not alone. I also hope that, through my ups and downs, sunny and straight or dark and twisty, that you will see that you are not just not alone, because I share but because God is truly accompanying us each and every day … we are never alone.

Such was the case, just the other day …

Hubby had not slept well the night before … I knew that when I awoke, at 3:30am, on his side of the bed (he would say that is not uncommon … but, I digress). I was ready for work early, so I whispered to him that I would take our son to work for 8am. This ‘selfless’ offer also meant that I could stop at the only coffee shop I know to offer steeped tea! (I am SO selfless).

So, I let the younger man know what time we had to leave by, grabbed his lunch for him (I am so thoughtful), and went to wait for him in my vehicle.

The confirmed time came … and went. When younger man arrived, I asked him to close my garage door (which is not working right), by holding the button down until the door was down, and come out the other side … but he didn’t hear what I said about holding the button down. So, it went down, then stopped, then up, then down, then up, then … you get the idea (and I was now 6mins behind schedule).

He then got to experience something that I can only describe as a momma rant … that probably confirmed why he loves having his dad drive him to work.

Then, just as I was settling down (his wise silence put me in my place), and started to take the bend in the road, I was halted, literally, by a line of red brake lights, as long as the eye could see … seriously!?

Not only that, but it seemed that the road report on the radio indicated there were incidents and accidents all around me!

I was able to take a detour, and got him to work on time, but too late for my steeped tea.

For the next number of minutes of driving, I sputtered and spewed in my mind about how things were not going my way, and I wasn’t just thinking about my steeped tea.

As I was mentally taking stock of every unappealing twist in my week, my mind drifted to the words of the song I awoke to that morning:

“Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name
It is well with my soul”

There is something about the words, “it is well with my soul” that creates an immediate grounding, security and reset in my mind.

Never, in all of my life, no matter the upset, struggle or stress, have I not been able to say, it is well with my soul, for my soul has always been, will always be, in good hands.

And the focus changed.

And the trajectory altered.

With the reminder that it is well, with my soul and when I cannot see what is up ahead.

 

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snailTo persevere is to practise persistence, pertinacity, tenacity.

It is to keep going, even when the going gets tough.

It is not easy to keep going when the going gets tough. When life gets tough, we tend to pull back, making a U-turn or a dead end stop. We often change our trajectory, looking for greener pastures. There is a reason that there is a road less travelled … it is bumpy!

Sometimes we do need to avoid the tough road, but often it is the only route to our ultimate destination.

For some it is the pursuit of a career, requiring either night courses, after tiring days at work, or starting a less-than-desired job, knowing you need to pay your dues before you will reach the career of your dreams.

For some it is the pursuit of parenthood, beyond a couple’s biological ability, and through human dissection of every area of their lives to be granted permission to adopt the child of another.

For some it is the fight for a marriage that seems as though were hopeless. Going to any and all lengths to, not just prevent it’s demise, but to flourish into a mutually-gratifying relationship.

For some it is that thing that is controlling their very life. Perhaps the addiction comes through an activity, substance or way of thinking, and will require personal tenacity and assistance from others … the greatest struggle being to acknowledge that the problem is our own.

For some it is tests and treatments that seem worse than the diagnosis itself.

As I continue in my personal study of Hebrews 12, I haven’t made it very far (ironic? I think, yes).

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us
Hebrews 12:1b

As I continue in my pursuit of the sin that hinders, Hebrews is instructing me to not just persevere, but to run with perseverance. I find myself wondering if, what the author is really saying is to persevere in running from my sin? Now that sounds like an intense cardio a work out! That sounds like something that would require an immense and constant choice to be tenacious, persevering.

But … (and doesn’t the Bible usually provide a but?)

that is not all.

The verse continues, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. This is no Amazing Race or Survivor, where obstacles are put in front of us to make us stumble or fail. This is a path with an unknown end to us as the runners, but breadcrumbs have been placed to keep us going in the right direction, by the one who knows of the prize at the end.

This is hard, but the prize is worth persevering through the tough stuff.

Another day on the journey.

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300

Some days are just laced with too many face palm moments to keep track of … (do I hear an amen?).

We all have them and would rather they be past events rather than present ones.

As I drove down the road, rain pelting everything in it’s reach, I finally went from face palm to arms raised in frustration … forfeit.

I had reached the stage of frustration when I am finally able to ‘hear’ that still and small voice.

Later that evening I discovered a song by Matt Redman, called Gracefully Broken .

here I am
arms wide open

pouring out my life 
gracefully broken
all to Jesus now
holding nothing back
I surrender

Surrender …

Surrender is often viewed as giving up, giving in to the inevitability of the events of the situation we are currently experiencing. That does not have to be the only view of surrender.

To surrender can also be to yield, or hand over, not as an act of defeat, but as an acknowledgement that what we are holding so tightly will be better dealt with and cared for in the hands of another. In this we are acknowledging, not our defeat, but the power we have access to for all we love and hold dear if we hold it with our arms wide open.

“All to Jesus now
Holding nothing back

I surrender”

 

 

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Angel-army

 

It is so easy to look at our life, or a particular situation and blame systems, governments, society or individuals for the problems in our lives. It is so easy to vilify those around us; their actions and motivations.

Years ago I read a fictional book that was very popular at the time, about spiritual warfare, called This Present Darkness, by Frank Peretti.

Ephesians 6:12 encapsulates the them of this book:

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

When the book title came up in a conversation, recently, I was intrigued to return to Ephesians 6, and to see what it said, in context.

The instruction, from Paul, is to encourage the believers to be prepared. This makes me think of the motto for the Boy Scouts, “be prepared”. When their founder, Robert Baden-Powell, was asked what it is that they should be prepared for, he responded, “why, for any old thing.”

Ephesians 6:10-18 begins with an introduction:

“… be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”

Not from us is our strength found, but in him! A good reminder for those of us, who independently, and arrogantly think we can do it … alone.

Then, wrapped around verse 12, is the recipe for his strength:

(“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”) verse 12

He tells us to:

“Put on the whole armor of God” (v.11)

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (v.13)

His instructions to “put on” and “take up” stand out to me. It would seem as though his armor is fully available to us, but we are responsible to dress ourselves.

And this is part of the freedom we have, as believers. He does not force us to wear the armor, that will save our very existence. He lays it all out, he tells us that putting it on is his plan … and then he leaves the door open, and it is up to us to choose whether or not to dress for battle.

No guilt trip, no pressure … freedom to choose.

And this is what he presents for us to dress in”

  • the belt of truth
  • the breastplate of righteousness
  • as shoes for your feet, the readiness given by the gospel of peace
  • the shield of faith
  • the helmet of salvation
  • the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God

But, he doesn’t end with the armor, for he reminds us to cover all of this with prayer, and to not give up.

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication … keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints” (v.18).

I think that my favourite part of this letter, from Paul, is how he ends it,

 Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (v.23-24)

As I reread this letter, as I contemplated the darkness in our world and in my individual life, I found myself feeling … well … a little under dressed. I am guilty of taking God up on the freedom he gives to me. I am guilty of walking into battle short on armor. I wonder how much more prepared I might be if I were to accept the protective armor that God has waiting for me?

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This is the day!

Tuesday …
Not that regretful Monday, or that anticipatory Friday.
Just Tuesday, humdrum, mundane, Tuesday.

But, this is the day.

A gift …
It has never been before, and will never will be again.
Just how will you and I unwrap it?

This is the day.

Unmarred …
With not a single mistakes in it (yet).
Just to keep it that way.

This is the day.

This is …
The day that the God has given us,
With no promise of another.

We do well to rejoice,
be glad,
and squeeze every bit of life out of it.

This_is_the_day_the_lord_has_made_16x16_-_600

 

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A mom, juggling a toddler in one arm, her purchase in another and a preschooler at her side was being asked by the preschooler if she could carry the purchase.

“As long as you don’t drop it,” came the moms cautious reply.

In seconds, milliseconds really, the purchase was dropped to the floor.

The mom and I caught each other’s eye, as we both laughed, hearty and uncontrollable.

Her stunned daughter, eyes swaying from her mom to myself, stood in amazement as her faux pas was not corrected, but the focus of laughter between her mom and a stranger woman.

Though we did not know each, the sharing of time and space, and common experience, provided a human connection that allowed laughter, normally reserved for comedians and close relationships.

Once our shared laughter came to an end we wished each other well, and went in our different directions, to our different lives.

But … this momentary meeting stayed with me.

I found myself recollecting this meeting throughout that evening and the next day, smiling, once again, at the instantaneous error and laughter. Each time I recalled that moment, I found myself thankful for child-like joy, with a stranger, over a little child’s mistake.

It was a unity, though, not just in humour, but also in the realities of being a mom of developing humans.

You see, we laughed together, because that instance is just one of many (though, usually, the mistake doesn’t happen so immediately after the instruction), in the life of a mom, of a parent. Raising children is a guarantee that there will be mistakes by the child (and by the parent).

This young mom had the wisdom to recognize in her littles, what we sometimes forget as they grow up … they are still learning, and mistakes happen.

But, mistakes don’t stop when childhood ends. Teens and young adults, moms and dads, keep making mistakes.

It reminds me of a response my grandmother gave me once, when I made a statement about someone who was living a less than exemplarily life,

“it’s not over yet”

She was stating that mistakes are often the result of learning, and that the real life-learning assessment doesn’t come until the end of our lives.

Certainly one mistakes can affect our life, but it is a step in the journey of life, and our mistakes can help us in our learning journey. Our mistakes are not the definition of our lives, but what we learn from them, how we react to them.

That old saying, don’t cry over spilt milk communicates a similar message, in reminding us to not concentrate on the mistakes we make, but simply clean them up, and move on.

I have to say that as I have reminisced about my laughter with a stranger, I keep whispering prayers of thanks for her ability, as a mom, to laugh at childish mistakes. And for her reminder to view my own adult children’s mistakes similarly, and, for that matter, my own.

 

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107672898.M60Dql1r

Boxing Day I was roasting a turkey, anticipating the arrival of some of the most special people to our Christmas feast all while padding around the house in my pjs and bare feet.

As I was placing napkins at each spot, movement outside the doors caught my eye.

A small crow walked to the bottom of the deck stairs, looking up as if it’s stare would bore hole in me.

I went outside towards it. It did not fly away.

I wondered if it was hungry with snow covering the ground. The peanut and almond butter I set at it’s feet went untouched.

I approached, slowly, cautiously. I bent low, and noticed how soft and fluffy the feathers on the top of it’s head looked … as if it were still young. I took a deep breath, and reached out … it didn’t move as I gently touched it’s head.

The day before, a crow was hovering near our front patio door, our kitchen window and deck. I felt certain that this was that same bird. Felt certain that it was asking something of one of us, of me.

I rummaged through my container of rags for an old towel.

I approached, reached out, petted it’s head, then slowly, carefully, lay the towel over the back of the bird, and scooped it up into my arms.

And it let me. It was as if I was simply fulfilling it’s wordless wishes.

For the next fifteen to twenty minutes I held that bird in the crook of my arm, watching it’s chest rise and fall, it’s eyes open and close, standing, barefoot, on my deck, while my turkey roasted and my preparations stood still.

Until the bird was still, and tears fell.

God said, “Don’t come any closer. Remove your sandals from your feet. You’re standing on holy ground.” Exodus 3:5

 

 

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IMG_3788

A couple of months ago I had an experience that made me realize that our kids are grown up.

I happened to check my phone in between classes, one afternoon, to see that I had a couple of voicemails, and a number of texts. As I am rarely that popular, I checked them further, only to realize that hubby was in hospital (but okay).

As I only had one class left, I opted to stay at work, and just leave a few minutes early, in order to avoid the crowded parking lot upon school dismissal.

Once in my vehicle, I made a quick call to one daughter, who informed me that she and her siblings had all been in contact with each other. She was headed to hang out with her brother, while her sister had gone straight to the hospital to be with their dad.

I arrived at the hospital to see that hubby was being well cared for by hospital staff, with his daughter at his side (and even a few church friends).

Once we got home, the kids had arranged to get hubby’s car home.

As I lay my head on my pillow that night I was a thankful woman. Thankful that hubby was sleeping beside me and thankful that our kids have moved beyond childhood and into independence.

This experience reminded me that they choose how to practise their independence as well as their sense of interdependence within our family care of, and for, each other. But this is not because of exceptional parenting … this is because they have chosen to act in such a way. For they are responsible for their actions … that is part of what growing up is all about.

I was also thankful that, though our parenting has not been flawless, they love each other and that leaves me thankful beyond words.

“In your love for your brothers (and sisters),
show tender affection toward one another.”
Romans 12:10

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