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Archive for March, 2019

What is Home?

A week in my childhood home is coming to an end today as we fly back across the country.

Coming back home to visit leaves me with a mental conundrum … what is home?

Each visit back I experience the joy of being with my parents and other family members, time with old friends, bumping into people from my past who greet me warmly, as well as familiar places, tastes and sights.

Over these days ‘back’, I realized that I have now lived in the West longer than I have the East, longer than any other place … village, town or city. It is a stunning realization for me.

It is a realization that accompanies another, more disconcerting one … this is not my home anymore. It leaves me with an ache in my heart, akin to grief … for so much of my identity is tied, not just to the people, but to this place.

I love my past, the place of my upbringing. I love how the air smells, how rock along the Bay of Fundy have a pink hue, how the sky goes on forever and the sun lasts so long into the days. I love the spoken accents, distinguishing the variation of language and county. I love that please, thank-you and sorry are offered as regularly as a door held open for whoever is near.

Of course it is the people who I will have an eternal connection with, even as our daily lives go on, independent of each other. It is, not in speaking of the present, but the past that unites us once again. We share memories that bind us more tightly, at times, than blood.

That past, is our common bond, that which will always give us community together … and community, even if it is primarily of a distant place and time, will be our home … away from home.

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One of the things I love about visiting my province of origin is the grandeur of the sky.

There are no mountains to shorten the horizon and an absence of cloud cover to shade the sun from showing how far it reaches. It just seems to go on forever … and I am in constant awe and wonder looking out at it.

Psalm 19:1-6 makes me think of this upward and outward spectacular, great big sky when it speaks of the heavens:

“The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvelous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep on telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, their message reaches out to all the world. The sun lives in the heavens where God placed it  and moves out across the skies as radiant as a bridegroom going to his wedding, or as joyous as an athlete looking forward to a race!  The sun crosses the heavens from end to end, and nothing can hide from its heat.”

What a reminder that this great big sky is the craftsmanship of God himself, that the sun was placed there by him. It is, though, verse three that sticks out particularly to me:

Without a sound or word, silent in the skies,
their message reaches out to all the world.

This verse makes me think of the quote, “preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary” (often attributed to St Francis of Assisi). Though I cannot be sure those are the words of St Francis, I do think that he, such a appreciator and steward of God’s creation, as well as one who would have mediated on God’s word, would know and understand this verse from the Psalms, both in word and in deed.

Our message is communicated in our words, but also in how we live our lives.

Elliott’s Commentary on this verse tells us “the communication of the sky is eloquent, but mute; its voice is for the heart and emotion, not the ear.” Our silent worship, through everything from performing our jobs, dealing with cashiers in a store, caring for our earth and all living creatures speaks to the hear and emotion of God and of those around us.

It can be ‘louder’ and more clear than any sermon, any worship service … it is our voiceless testimony of how far we allow God to work in and through us.

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As the fiftieth birth-DAY migrated into a week, I have to say I am feeling satisfied and abundantly loved.

From a thoughtful luncheon with my work sisters, to a surprise dinner with family and friends on the west coast, to a dinner with family on the east coast, to messages and cards and well wishes on social media I have felt the love from near and far.

Fifty can’t be so bad when one has been so lavished upon!

50?

Fifty used to be … old!

Now it is just another day, another year, another day doing the things that make up a life.

I kinda thought I’d have it more … together … by now.

I thought I’d be physically fit, always look put together in my clothing and accessories, I thought I’d be spending more time on sandy beaches, I thought I’d be more wise, more mature, more …

I am none of those things and I guess that could be disappointing or even discouraging, as I turn fifty. The thing is, usually I am too busy living life to even consider those areas where I have missed the mark.

Dreams and aspirations
are good and valuable,
but living the life
that is currently right in front of your face …
that’s where the magic is,
where the surprises come,
where the life in the living is experienced.

Don’t get me wrong … I still have moments and days (and weeks) where I feel the disappointment, the failure, the shame of not being where I wish I were. Yet, what I have in my life is so good, so much better than a dream could conceive.

Truly I live a wonder-filled life.

All the days of my life are a dream come true, for “your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).

“Feet on ground 
Heart in hand 
Facing forward 
Be yourself” 
Jane Arden

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Blessings

The approach of significant events (birthdays, anniversaries) makes one reflective, contemplative.

As I approach (at fright train speed) such a significant life event, I have been pondering not just my years lived, with all the accompanying successes and failures, but also where I hope to go from here.

I recently read the words of Solomon’s Benediction (1 Kings 8:54-66), and found great inspiration in his blessing of Israel.

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and plea to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven. 55 And he stood and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised. Not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he spoke by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers. May he not leave us or forsake us, 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his rules, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, with which I have pleaded before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant and the cause of his people (Israel), as each day requires, 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Solomon’s blessing made me think about blessings, beyond the sometimes pithy #blessed. As one looks at a life lived, in process and to come it is truly impossible to respond with anything other than,

I have been blessed
I am blessed
I know I will be blessed

Solomon had just experienced the blessing of God, hands outstretched to receive. Then he stood, and took what God gave him, and shared it. asking for God to give to them what they need for each day, for the cause of Christ, which is the reaching and changing of hearts towards the Lord God.

This is our life’s calling … yesterday, today and tomorrow.

This prayer, written in or before 1506, by hands not known, is the spirit of my prayer today:


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Whether it is a vacation, a weekend or a snow day, we all need (physically, mentally and spiritually) periodic breaks from the everyday of life.

At some point in my life I remember a slogan, whose origins I do not remember (and could not find in my web search):

a break from the everyday

I love my life, my job, the routines and rhythms of my days … that is what gets me up and keeps the hamster on the wheel.

But …

it is the times of break from the everyday routines that are the fuel for the everyday.

I experience, what I like to call my undiagnosed ADHD, as soon as a break begins. It is a struggle to sleep (though exhausted) and a struggle to sit still. I am like a child at Christmas … not wanting to waste a precious second of this gift of time (usually refinishing a new ‘treasure’). Eventually sleep does come and a book or puzzle does get pulled out … and I breath.

The season of Lent is a similar break. Perhaps the break is from a habit or pleasure, perhaps it is the addition of prayer, or fasting, or both.

Lent culminates in the remembering of Christ’s final week … the entrance to Jerusalem, the final supper, betrayal, night in Gethsemane, arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, death, and rising again.

It is his rising again that gives us breath, that makes our everyday hope-filled. It is in his rising that gives us a break from the emptiness of routine without hope of renewal … renewal that lasts an eternity.

Sabbath Poem V,
Wendell Berry

Six days of work are spent To make a Sunday quiet
That Sabbath may return.
It comes in unconcern;
We cannot earn or buy it. Suppose rest is not sent
Or comes and goes unknown, The light, unseen, unshown. Suppose the day begins

In wrath at circumstance,
Or anger at one’s friends
In vain self-innocence
False to the very light, Breaking the sun in half,
Or anger at oneself
Whose controverting will Would have the sun stand still. The world is lost in loss

Of patience; the old curse Returns, and is made worse As newly justified.
In hopeless fret and fuss, In rage at worldly plight Creation is defied,

All order is unpropped,
All light and singing stopped.

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Sanctuary

The news of the murder of forty-nine Muslim worshippers, in their sanctuary, makes the hearts of all worshippers break … for we all know the vulnerability of associating with a belief.

The fact that these people were attacked in their place of worship, their sanctuary, makes it seem an even greater violation on humanity and of hatred.

A sanctuary is a safe place, a place where those who feel they may be persecuted or harmed may go to be protected from the world and it’s laws (separation of church and state in a very practical way). I cannot hear the word sanctuary without hearing Quasimodo declaring it in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

For blood to be shed in a sanctuary is a particularly devastating and cruel violence.

In January, bombs were detonated at a Catholic church in Jolo, Philippines, killing twenty-three. Last fall almost a dozen Jewish worshippers were killed at their Pittsburgh synagogue. An article at www.nbcnews.com documents numerous such killings over the past decade.

Sanctuary is not just a place, it is also a state of being … one that is birthed in our faith, one that is borne out of shalom, a peace that passes understanding.

The freedom of a sanctuary, freedom of religion is a precious gift. Our faith ought to be a place of sanctuary … our sanctuaries places of worship to the one in whom we have put our faith.

Freedom of religion is a gift that we have in many, but not all, places in the world. Even where we have been given that gift, it can still be violated.

So, what do we do about such hatred, such violation, such violence? We go to our sanctuaries, we pray, we worship … we take advantage of this freedom that we have. And we remember those who are hurting, those whose lives have been turned upside-down by such horrors.

We pray for them, we pray for us.

“Worshipers never leave church…
we carry our sanctuary with us wherever we go.”

Aiden Wilson Tozer

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Time(s) Change

This week the Pacific Northwest is living in future … waking an hour earlier than our inner, habitual clocks are accustomed. By this point in week one of Daylight Savings Time our excitement for the longer, lighter evenings has past, as has our vitality.

This annual ritual, and the exhaustion that follows it, reminds me of other times when we move forward into the future, with excitement, then the reality of change gets us down.

I remember one of our kids, so excitedly counting down until they could finally start kindergarten. The day they had waited for finally arrived and they couldn’t wait … until it was time to step into the class without mom or dad. An inner struggle occurred as they looked forward, into the kindergarten experience they had dreamed of, yet looking into the eyes of the pair whose presence brought security. Eventually they stepped over the threshold, with not even a glance back.

I remember the excitement of moving … until I had packed a hundred boxes, and the house barely even looked like I had started. It didn’t seem worth it! After the packing, then the many days of unpacking in the new house, after the boxes were finally out of our new home … the pains of the process to get moved faded as we nested into our new home.

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.”

Habakkuk 2:3

Soon, the uncertainty and fatigue of change will pass, and we will be sitting on our decks, at the lake, on a boat, at the beach staring off at the sunset, marvelling at how light it still is at such a late hour … vitality not only returned, but reborn.

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If I were to write a proverb it would be,

Two things are guaranteed to make one unhappy :
expectation and comparison.

For our expectations can place a heavy weight of performance on ourselves and others, and comparison is always between what we know and what we think we know.

Those of us who tend towards perfectionism, struggle especially with these practices, always wanting better, always seeing what we want in the lives of those around us.

Though high expectations can motivate us to reach for the stars, they can also become unwritten ‘rules’, enslaving us in our pursuits. Though high expectations, placed on others, can sometimes be good (when our expectations are for service we pay for, fair treatment from others) they can also isolate us from those who love us, sincerely yet imperfectly.

Though comparison can sometimes open our eyes to new and different ways of doing things, more often it is used like school students, peeking at the mark their peers got on a test, mentally positioning themselves (ourselves) above or below them in value.

When God had announced to Abraham and Sarah that they would finally become parents (at a most … unnatural … age for this to occur, he asked of them (Genesis 18:14):

“is anything too hard for the Lord?”

In God we can place our expectations and he will not just meet, but exceed them. There is no other to compare to him. He is beyond human comparison.


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My upbringing has never allowed me to see that my being female is anything but equal to my spouse, my male siblings, peers, co-workers or members of my community.

Whether it was my place in my family, workplace or the plan of God, I have never believed (or been led to believe) that I am anything but equal to men.

I know this is not always the case, for all women.

I know of and know well, women who have felt manipulated, abused, undervalued and kicked to the floor (literally and figuratively) by male counterparts.

And I will simply never get it, never understand how any individual could believe that they have that right.

Men and women have been interdependent of one another since our creation in the garden. Men need women, women need men. This interdependence is a most powerful example of the concept of yin and yang, comparable to the ‘a time to’ verses of Ecclesiastes 3.

In the Ancient History Encyclopedia, the definition of Yin and Yang is that “all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites.”ides come in to shore, then move back out to the oceans.

Women and men are different, yet equal. Their interdependence is the force which should pull them together, for mutual, societal benefit.

For men who view women as a substandard creation is antithetical to the narrative of the Bible, to God’s intended plan.

It was through Mary, a young woman, who God first shared his plan of delivery of his son to our world, through she, herself. It was to a woman, Mary Magdalene, who Jesus first revealed himself for after rising from the grave. The roles they played were complimentary and significant to the story of the life of Christ.

Never once does Jesus hurt, abuse, demean or mock a woman. Never once does he turn his back on the needs of a woman. As a matter of fact, it was when a woman was behind him, who (Mark 5:24-34) had been bleeding for twelve years, that, through just the touch of his cloak, she was healed.

He treated woman with the same love, care and tenderness that he did men. He is our model and we all (men and women alike) must ensure that we are following his example.

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Happy International Women’s Day!

I love being a woman, been raised by an amazing woman, have raised a couple of women, work with and for a number of women.

I do believe that if we can find our strength, our confidence and our comfortability in our own skin, we can do just about anything we set our minds to.

The theme of International Women’s Day this year is #BalanceforBetter. On the IWD website it says, of balance:

“We notice its absence and celebrate its presence.”

The idea of this theme is, perhaps, a bit more applicable to women in developed, as opposed to developing countries, where women’s struggles are, perhaps, more foundational. It applies to “gender-balance in business, government, media, wealth, sports coverage, etc.”

I am old enough to have seen changes in our world, regarding this desired balance. I remember when leaders in all areas of society were men. Women have worked hard to achieve positions of leadership and visibility.

I am young enough to have not known what it was to be persecuted for my gender (other than once … and that was by another woman … but that is a story for another day). Over twenty years ago I worked as a Drafstman for a well-established Engineering company. It wasn’t until recent years that I realized I was their only (and first) woman hired in that position. I just knew that I was thrilled to have gotten a job there.

For me (and I know that there are other narratives out there that tell a very different story), being a woman has never hindered me, my goals, my future. I know that part of that has to do with who I am, how I interpret events in my life. I also know that I am blessed, benefitting every day, from the women who went before me, paving the way of balance for myself.

Recently, while assisting a high school student on an assignment, I was introduced to Pink Teas. In the early 1900s, as women, in Canada, were striving for the freedom to vote (and, first, to be recognized as ‘persons’) they found that through organizing these ‘Pink teas’ … women-only events, complete with lace doilies and finger foods … more women were able (allowed) to attend, and the events would not be interrupted by opponents.

These events, and the work of the Famous Five (Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards) resulted in England’s Privy Council declaring that, indeed, women are persons. Lord Sankey declaring “The exclusion of women from all public offices is a relic of days more barbarous than ours.”

Balance is better, better for all people. And balance is best achieved when the door is opened to us all to achieve our place in business, government and society by our merits, our hard work, our giftedness.

Perhaps, in Canada today, our greatest example of female leadership is a woman who has spoken up and stepped down from a position of power, out of personal integrity, out of knowing that her position (provided for out of balance) is not as important as truth.

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