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Archive for November, 2019

Seismic Shift

When one’s world shifts, quakes … one can lose their footing, leaving that one to stumble off-kilter, muddled-minded through the simplest of daily functions. In the midst of the upheaval … the stumbling around in the aftermath of dust and debris, one cannot see that the rest of the world has not shifted, for the quaking beneath one’s feet was localized, individual … it was not, after all, shaking below the Earth’s crust, but the seismic shifting of souls that have been united since the beginning of time … pre-ordained by a Force far more powerful than tectonic shifting.

This seismic shifting is what I felt the other day, after breaking news of a loved one’s fall, from across the country … the tremors … they can reach around the Earth, when souls are closer than their physical containers.

Off-kilter is how that day began, from one coast to the other … moving toward the subduction zone.

Emergent cracking just below the surface rose above, showing the ugly head of destruction. When destruction begins the souls gather at the epicentre, hold vigil for those who need help, hold vigil for the survivors … for the souls who are left after the quaking stops (does it stop?).

The sands shifted under our feet, rendering us unsteady, off-kilter.

We have been shaken by this striking down of a soul so close … but not destroyed.

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She looked at me, really looked at me, as if wanting desperately to burn what she was communicating onto my mind, for the great and significant truth of her message …

… when the kids are grown (this is where her gaze was locked on me) … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s (she paused, staring off into the thoughts in her mind, her memory) … well it’s just fantastic.” Then she smiled and walked away, leaving me standing there, trying to absorb the deeper meaning, that I knew that must be there.

But, I didn’t stand there long, because this conversation happened about seventeen years ago. Our kids were ten, five and three. I had just returned to working outside of the home. Hubby had made a change from Youth ministry to lead pastor work. We had a house (mortgage included), boarders, family support on the other side of the continent … and we were not even in the busy years yet!

I had forgotten about that random moment, until recently … until I had slid, unannounced, into midlife, with a mostly empty nest, a different-than-planned lifestyle, inch-long hairs growing (overnight) on my chin and a body temperature gauge with a split personality.

Circumstances in life have been unpredictable … physical and emotional changes have been frustrating … relationships have been unpredictable.

Yet …

The circumstances, added to the emotional changes, the emptying nest and the experience of half a life of living, have forged a stronger, more confident and pleasant life together.

I think we reach this midlife stage and realize it’s time to poop or get off the pot! Crap or get off the can!

(Anyone else hearing that old song by the Clash? Should I Stay or Should I Go?)

Basically, we reach midlife and realize we are at a crossroads and we have to decide which of the two roads we will traverse.

Do we keep going, the same as always before?
– we may end up regretting a life of the same old thing

Do we take the other road, walking away from the path and the person on it?
– we may regret throwing those years away.

Or, do we recognize that we have someone beside us who we have been walking alongside of for so long, that we don’t know how much we don’t know about each other?
– this can be an opportunity for adventure.

To take that third option is to create a new path, a new road in the wilderness only to find out that … it’s fantastic.

Here’s the thing, taking a new path requires decision-making from both parties. One hauling the other along will not have the same effect as two individuals moving forward together. That said, whose to say that the unknown surprises along the path might birth excitement and anticipation in the one who gets hauled along by the other.

Though my memory for words when I am speaking forces me into an odd, verbal variation of charades … Though my partners in crime may forget what I just told him this morning … when the kids are grown … when it is just you and your husband again, it’s … well it’s just fantastic.

I we shall be telling this with a (contented) sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two three roads diverged in a wood, and I we —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost (and I 😉 )

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I have been pondering shame for a number of months. The word shame has become a derogatory word, whereas, in the past, it was a more widely acceptable one.

Truthfully, most words that evoke a negative feelings are more unacceptable within society today … for none of us wants to feel bad, feel guilt, or feel that we are being judged negatively.

I have been pondering whether shame is an intended part of the Bible’s larger narrative … after all we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Then I read Nehemiah 8. Here we read about Ezra, the religious leader, speaking to the community of men, women and children from dawn to noon at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews remember wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

Ezra was reading the Law to the people and it says that they understood what was being read. They were cognizant of the Laws that they had broken … their eyes were opened to their sins and they were sad, weeping and sorrow-filled.

As I read that I understood that what they might be feeling was shame. They knew that they had fallen short, they knew that they are been disobedient, and they hung their heads … in shame. Their reactions were pure, human reactions … the shame they felt was innate, natural.

But …

Their tears and mourning were the indicators that they knew their sin and they regretted it. This is the first step in receiving the promise of redemption.

Then Ezra, Nehemiah and the others who were instructing the people told them:

“This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” (8:9)

They were told to go and feast, to eat great foods and drink great drinks. To invite others, who had nothing, so that all could share in the celebration that is available to all. They were led to celebrate, because their shame could be erased.

And so they did. They celebrated “with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” (v. 12)

This is the difference that acknowledging our sins can make. When our eyes and ears are opened to the sin in our hearts, that knowledge is not for the purpose of shaming us, but to open the door to the hope that can erase our sins.

Christ is the antidote to shame … Hallelujah!

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

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Esther by Minerva Teichert

I remember being a little girl and hearing the story of Esther and thinking how lucky she was to be chosen as queen.

She has been called the reluctant, unexpected and chosen queen (among others). She was not, by birth, in line to be royalty, but she was chosen.

Esther was a Jew, living in Persia, with her relative Mordecai, because her parents had died.

Let’s stop here.

This was a tough reality for Esther, who was orphaned, by her parent’s deaths. We do not know how old she was, or what caused their deaths, but this young woman had been left alone by this tragedy, saved by her relative Mordecai who adopted her. This is not the road to royalty that anyone would want to walk.

Then the king (Xerxes), got rid of his queen, Vashti, because she refused his request to dance at his party for his drunken friends (keep this character in mind, later). His advisors wanted to make sure that this would not become normal wife behavior, so they had him issue a command,

“every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes.” (Esther 1:22 MSG)

(boy did he get a surprise when he chose Esther!)

Then they gathered “… beautiful young (virgin)) women into a harem (for the king to choose a new wife from)” (Esther 2:3)

Let’s ponder this …

These woman did not choose to enter a beauty contest, they did not choose to compete for the position of queen … she was apprehended, a prisoner, who would be chosen by the king after he would have done a test run on her (aka had sex with her, or also known as, raped her).

This is not the road to royalty that anyone would want to walk.

Then came the events initiated by Hamen, who was eager to eliminate the Jews.

Mordecai advised Esther, “don’t think that just because you live in the king’s house you’re the one Jew who will get out of this alive. If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13-14)

Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: “Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I’ll go to the king, even though it’s forbidden. If I die, I die.” (Esther 4:15-16)

She was ready to obey, but wanted to ensure that she was fighting for her people, with her people behind her. Her wisdom and leadership were shining in her decision-making.

What followed was her appearance before the king (at the risk of losing her life, for doing so), dinner parties for the king and Haman, then her standing up to Haman, by sharing with him how Haman was plotting the destruction of Mordecai, Esther and her people … all while risking her very life.

This is not the road to royalty that anyone would want to walk.

Yet, through all of these struggles, through all of these horrific events, Esther walked the bumpy road she was forced to walk … in complete respect and obedience for the advice of her adopted relative, Mordecai.

(“she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up” Esther 2:20).

Then she gets the honor due her … right?

Mordecai the Jew ranked second in command to King Xerxes. He was popular among the Jews and greatly respected by them. He worked hard for the good of his people; he cared for the peace and prosperity of his race.” (Esther 10:3)

The book of Esther ends with the above verse. It’s about … Mordecai! Sure he would seem to be a wise and virtuous person but … the book is called Esther!

She lived her life out as a trophy wife to a rich king, whose wisdom and personality equal that of a gnat.

This is not the road to royalty that anyone would want to walk.

Yet, this is the type of road that many walk. We all know far more Cinderella’s whose prince never comes, children are never granted, life is hard, poverty extends for their lifetime and yet … they walk, head held tall, because they know that they are royalty, that they are children of the Prince of Peace … and that peace that passes understanding is the crown that is unmistakably atop their head.

For the road to royalty is not about the road you walk, but about who is your King.

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Can you feel it? Hear it? It is emerging from all over our communities. It comes cloaked in joy, noise, warmth and excitement. It begins to appear when the summer is full, but now it does so boldly, loudly, brightly.

It’s the hustle and bustle of the coming season. It’s the red cups, and colored lights, and festive music, and craft fairs, and peppermint everything, and cardboard packages delivered to our doors.

For the next six weeks this season of celebration will be in the forefront, singing out it’s song in extrovert fashion.

There will be those of us who join in the dance, like a conga line, embracing that which brings us feelings of joy, nostalgia. There will be those who oppose the flamboyance of nativities, conifers and carols, calling them religious indoctrination.

In the midst of this season of hustle and bustle, of financial cost, of parties, and refreshments, and decorating, and songs of the season

quietly grows a branch

Zechariah 6:12 says,
“tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord” (my servant the branch – Matthew Henry Commentary)

Jeremiah 33:15 says,
“In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land” (the branch of righteousness – Matthew Henry Commentary)

Isaiah 11:1 says,
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit” (a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a branch out of his roots – Matthew Henry Commentary)

and Isaiah 4:2 says,
“in that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory” (the branch of the Lord – Matthew Henry Commentary)

Christ is the branch that grows, whose arrival is reason for the season … but Christ is not the reason for the hustle and bustle.

The environment of Christ’s birth was filled with hustle and bustle. His parents had travelled to the homeland of his earthly father, Joseph, to be counted for taxation purposes of the government. Bethlehem was packed with the noise and smells and stresses of the people and animals that descended on the town.

Advent, the season of anticipation, of waiting, has not even begun … but still, in the hustle and bustle grows a branch. In the quiet, it grows, stretching out, for us … to give life, to produce the fruits of this branch.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave.

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Please and thank-you … the magic words of childhood learning. If I had a nickel for every time I instructed one of our three, over their growing up years, to use these words as offering, well my financial future would be secure. Repetition has a way of ensuring information and behavior stick like super glue!

The magic words of adulthood are a not-so-famous pair, but are equally rich in meaning, benefit and practice …

thankfulness and joy

These two words, practices, are essentials for the Christ-follower. The thing is that you cannot have joy without thankfulness and you cannot have thankfulness without joy. The two are synonymous.

Neither joy, nor thankfulness have anything to do with happiness, to do with everything in life going as we wish. Joy and thankfulness are independent of the ephemeral or short-lived condition of happiness. Instead they are result of something eternal, holy.

Blogger, Corella Roberts, has said,

the binding agent of joy is thankfulness

Thankfulness and joy are fruits of the Holy Spirit within us. It is not us, in our own power, but he who is within us. They are the outpouring of the peace that passes all human understanding.

When the Prince of Peace resides within us, thankfulness and joy emanate from us, naturally and grandly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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“They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.”
Robert Laurence Binyon

in-war

Tomorrow, Canadians will show respect and honour for our veterans in Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country.

It is an annual pilgrimage for our family to a local cenotaph where we will sing, pray, and remember that freedom has not come freely, or without great loss.

But, loss is not only felt in death.

Many veterans, and their loved ones, have also experienced loss through the suffering of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). This disorder comes about through a traumatic event, which causes psychological injury. Professional treatment is imperative to healing and restoration of health.

According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “for military Veterans, the trauma may relate to direct combat duties, being in a dangerous war zone, or taking part in peacekeeping missions under difficult and stressful conditions.”

PTSD is not new, as it has had many names over the years, including soldier’s heart, shell shock, war neurosis, combat fatigue, and combat stress reaction.

What many, who live with the horrors of this damage, know all too well is that there is also shame attached to the horrors of an invisible moral injury.

Moral injury is “defined as a profound sense of guilt or shame resulting from a perceived moral transgression or sense of disillusionment resulting from an institutional betrayal” and “recovery from moral injury cannot happen in isolation.” Steve Rose

We humans need each other. Those who have suffered injury to their minds, for the sake of peace, of human rights, of freedom need to be shown and told, we remember your sacrifice too.

“Sin has made a great change in the world for the worse,
and Christ will make a great change in it for the better.”
(Matthew Henry Commentary)

May we be the hands and feet of Christ in making a great change in the lives of our hurting veterans.

We will remember all of them!

(This is a repost from 2016)

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Why would anyone want to be ordinary in a world of so many possibilities?

We are exposed to images of fame and wealth on the magazine covers every time we stand in the grocery store checkout. We turn on our television, our computer and are given glimpses of those who are known, whether in the arenas of sports, politics, entertainment or activism.

Sometimes I take this need for more, for better into my relationship with God. I think that I can (somehow) excel at being a follower of Christ. And I am not alone … for we have all been to funerals or read obituaries that make the person sound as though they had a unique and exemplary walk with our Lord.

But, our walk with God has little to do with what we offer him … for it is what he offers us that saves us … and it is what he does with our ordinary life that makes our life abundant.

This passage speaks so beautifully to our responsibility in our ordinary life (the Carole’s Notes in bold)

Romans 12 (MSG)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

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Today I am sharing a little story … micro fiction they call it.

It is a story I submitted a number of weeks ago to a micro fiction contest (I thought of it as an exercise … a workout). The participants were given a genre, a word, an action and twenty-four hours to write a 250 word story. It was such fun, a great challenge.

My genre was romantic comedy, my word was apologize and my action was getting bullied.

Here is Hit on in the Garden:

“Get your hands off my tomatoes!” 

Greta was marching towards her plot in the garden, swinging a cane in the air. Harold looked in the direction of the booming female voice, approaching him with a menacing swagger and furrowed brow.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”

“I … I am not a thief.”

“Well that is the most ridiculous thing I have heard. You sir, and I use that term loosely, have been caught red handed! Quite literally.”

Harold looked down to his hands, holding what was now crushed tomatoes in his hands.

“Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”

Harold looked up, meeting the determined stare of this woman accusing him of stealing tomatoes. Behind her glasses, she had piercing blue eyes, dramatic brows and lips that he immediately wanted to kiss. He couldn’t help himself, a smile began to form across his face.

“Are you mocking me?” Greta glared.

“No, I am in love with you.” Then he broke into laughter.

“You are stepping on my last nerve,” and with that Greta moved closer, swinging her cane at Harold.

Harold moved from side to side, to avoid the weapon.

“Mother! Are you bullying daddy again?” 

Greta turned to see their daughter on the patio. When she turned back to Harold, she remembered him as her husband.

“Harold, what I have done?”

Harold moved toward Greta, reaching out to her, “no need to apologize, I love getting hit on by you.”

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For the first time after months of late sprint to mid fall cooling by our ceiling fan, I had turned off our ceiling fan earlier in the day when I was reading and found the room chilly.

I looked up to it … still, silent and … oh my goodness! The dust caked on it like brown-grey fluffy edging.

Later I hauled out a cloth to clean the blades and fixture to see that this would be no quick dusting, but a major cleaning. After ten to fifteen minutes it was sparkling again, but I was mystified …

how did something that is in perpetual motion collect so much dust?

Apparently a moving fan is, quite literally, a dust magnet. The dust in the air (what we see as well as what is not visible to the eye) is charged, so is the ceiling fan, whose blades cut through the dust of the air, causing friction and the charged dust particles attract other dust particles, causing a build up of dust on the fan.

But, here’s what I was thinking …

There have been seasons in my life when I was living, day in and day out, like that ceiling fan. I was constantly in motion, never taking a break. I was working, volunteering, we had International students living with us, a big property to maintain, hubby was in a demanding job, all while our kids were in the midst of their busy teen years.

When I look back at those years, they are like a blur … it’s like my memory has been left in the dust.

Now that life is quieter, simpler, the demands are less and the activities I get involved with are ones that I first evaluate and even pray over before committing to. No doing out of guilt, only out of calling or responsibility. Our family is in a different season too, everyone more independent (at least they think so 😉 ).

I find myself, looking back, wanting to whisper to myself in those years of spinning circles …

slow down …
you’re gathering dust and it’s hindering your ability to see, it’s hindering your ability to function well, to appreciate what is truly important.

There will be seasons that demand that more of us … when the heat is on and we need to keep the fan spinning, but we need to choose to call a halt for a time, when the dust is building up and our beauty and function are hindered.

A story is told in the gospel of Luke (10:38-42), where Jesus and his disciples were invited into the home of two sisters. The one who invited them in went to work immediately to make a big dinner … but her sister sat at the feet of Jesus, listening as he spoke. After awhile the busy sister had a hissy fit and asked Jesus to tell her sister to help out with the meal.

But the Lord said to her, “My dear, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. She has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

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