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Archive for April, 2020

“I can’t wait for things to go back to normal”

That has to be the most commonly expressed and felt sentiment of our day. We long for our ‘normal’ life, filled with the activities and habits and people that give breath to our life. We long for predictability and the possibility of planning for events and travel.

Our Covid 19 life of social distancing is so far from ‘normal’ and we just want it to return, in all it’s human-intersecting splendor. Even the introverts among us are longing for normal, to be with people (choice people, the ones who fill our cups).

Recently, while scrolling through Instagram, someone posted the following excerpt from a book, published in early February of this year. Beth Moore had written this book prior to 2020, prior to Covid 19, yet, this excerpt could have been written today (for today):

From the book, Chasing Vines

What are you asking for, desiring most? What do you miss from your before Covid 19 restriction life? What and who are you longing for?

Perhaps, you just want to hug your socially distanced children, parents, friends. Maybe you too long to sing with other followers of Christ in church. Perhaps you are missing your work community, or work. Maybe you just long to sit in a restaurant and share a nice dinner with someone. Maybe you miss your hair stylist, a manicurist. Or your athletic club, group or team.

The things we miss are often the normal, everyday people and events … the things that have become life-giving to us.

I keep hearing health and government officials speak of a return to our new normal, that life will not return to the normal that we knew before Covid 19, but, instead, a new normal will emerge.

I wonder what that new normal will look like …

But, here’s the thing, I don’t think that the new normal will be different from the old normal in that the people who we hold dear will be back in reach (literally). We will still participate in activities that keep us healthy, active and entertained. We will still worship our God, who goes ahead of us, with us and behind us.

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

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One of my favorite memories of our three from the days when they were still little is that of them wrapped in my arms … not sleeping, not even giggling … just laying in my arms, comfortable, as if they and I were appendages of each other. It felt natural, comfortable, content. It also felt something else …

it felt safe

They were me, me with they … as I held them safely and securely in my arms, close to my heart, I felt the safety that I was exuding to them … and it returned to calm me.

If there is anything about the days of little ones I miss, this is one of the top three experiences.

Years ago, it is said that the following story was told in a National Geographic, after a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park.

“A ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely
on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight,
he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny 
chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, 
keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base
of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing 
that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had 
refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had scorched her small body, the mother had remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, that those under the cover of her wings would 
live… “

Psalm 91:4, in the Message translation, tells us :

“His huge outstretched arms protect you—
    under them you’re perfectly safe;
    his arms fend off all harm.”

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This week I was delighted to see a photo of my maternal grandmother in her ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) uniform from WW2. She had told me stories of being a cook during the war, but I don’t think I had ever seen her in uniform. Another image of my maternal great grandparents came with a note into their personalities, their relationship … it made them come alive.

“Photographs are a bridge to the past. Black and white reminders of the way things used to be. Links to those who are no longer with us. Priceless treasures.” – Jim Starlin, Batman: A Death in the Family

It was a delight to see this (and other) images posted by a relative in Scotland.

Then another friend was musing about her boxes of photos, what to do with them, as so few people want these photos from the past.

I understand what she is saying. As an avid thrift store shopper I have noticed that more and more, photo frames and albums for sale that still have images of their previous owners in them. The dated clothing and faded colors disposable to their previous owner.

“A good photograph never belongs to the past; every time you look at it, it is with you, it is alive and it is in the present moment!” – Mehmet Murat ildan

Yet …

The blood, the history that lead to me is important to me. Maybe it is partly because, with each birthday, I feel my own mortality and it causes me to wonder, will I be remembered by those who come after me? Will the life I have lived matter to those who follow, whose cells share my DNA?

One day, I will cross the big pond to meet these relatives who I have only heard of and I will ask them to introduce me to the heartbeats, the personalities and lifestyles of family I only know through a sparse collection of images.

“Look at the people in the very old photographs! They are gone forever but they still can give us messages with their eyes, they still can touch our hearts with their looks and they still can give us courage with their standing upright!” – Mehmet Murat ildan

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When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise, Sunset
swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
laden with happiness and tears
– Fiddler on the Roof

Back in October I wrote the following words in a blog post To Know God and to Make Him Known :

“So, we stay here at home, while he does what we dreamed for that little boy … that he go his way. And in his going, he will come back again to share his discoveries and joys with us. Our role now, as parents to the adult son, is to support and encourage him. Go with God, my boy-man son.”

They were in God we trust words, as our son prepared to embark on ten weeks away, at a YWAM DTS (discipleship training school) in New Zealand and two months on a mission trip to Thailand.

On March 8 my wandering son returned home and I have been trying to find the words to share about his trip, his return.

The day he returned I stood at the airport … waiting. When he walked into view, I just couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms. Reunions are like the beauty of a sunrise, brightening everything it touches.

The trip … well, it’s not mine to tell, so here it is, our son’s discoveries and joys … and sorrows … and joys

kind of like the sunrise and sunset of life.

In Ben’s words :

Alright it’s about time that I tell you all about my trip and the amazing work that Jesus has been doing in me, my new friends and the nations that we visited!

I left BC (Canada) in October of last year and my reason for leaving was that I was spiritually dead. My faith was burnt out and it was not my own belief. I wanted to understand the reason behind, what had then become, tradition and repetition. I was struggling on multiple fronts. Family, Church and Faith at the centre of them. So, I decided to go to YWAM Marine Reach with 2 of my best friends.

This was also my first time off continent, I have very well covered North America but this was the first time that I was on my own going to another continent. When I was on the 14 hour from YVR to ALK, I was overcome with a combination of worry and excitement!

Man, I was not disappointed. Before classes even began we did life stories and that was incredible. You can connect with people so much more when all the cards are on the table and most definitely did connect with a few new friends, whom I now care dearly for. These excellent people are pure gold and I miss them dearly.

During the Lecture Phase, each week we would have a different speaker and they would each have different topics. Lecture Phase last for roughly 11 weeks and there were so many great speakers and I’d love to talk about them all, but I’ll focus on 2.

During week 4, we had a speaker by the name of John Bills. He was speaking on the topic of Identity and where we find it. It was exactly what I needed. Asking ourselves the important questions of do we love ourselves like Jesus loves us? Do you understand that what you are actually worth? I came to many realizations about my self worth, and realizing it is not selfish to love yourself. If you understand how Christ sees you, many of the lies that Satan promotes as truth lose their hold you.

During week 7 we actually had to leave Marine Reach because the July school was actually returning from Outreach. So, the October School went to the Mata Mata Base and we had a speaker named Mark Parker, who taught us about Lordship. Now, before we even got to the base, the staff were telling us stories about this guy. It was pretty obvious this guy was a legend. Lordship was a extremely impactful week for me and many others. For me, it was coming to the understanding that Jesus is my saviour but that he is also my Lord and now I follow what he desires for my life.

We also had some unreal trips! Later on me and a few other guys returned to Mata Mata and got to go to Hobbiton. For those who do not know, Hobbiton is the old set for the Lord of the Rings movie set. All of us preceded to geek out the entire time.

I also struggled a fair bit. During lecture phase my grandfather on my mom’s side of the family died. Before I had left, my parents talked about the possibility of that happening but you can’t truly never see these things coming. I knew the stakes.

During the day I learned of my grandfathers passing, I left lectures and went to the chapel. I wept and cried out to God. I spent the rest of the day to myself until the evening when I found my friends and told them the news.

Later that week, we were having a worship night when I suddenly got a vision of my grandfather and Jesus in heaven together. It was amazing, because of the timing. When time change was accounted for, it was exactly 3 days after he had died to the minute. It also gave me assurance of his fate. I miss my grandfather but I know he is in much more capable hands then my own. His memory is completely redeemed.

Like all things do, Lecture Phase was ending. So it was time for my team, Kingdom Come, to go Thailand. Now, I was headed to another new continent. We were now all headed different ways. I was calm and under control till about 20 minutes into the car ride, when I was drenched in tears.

Now Thailand is wild! We did almost exclusively kids ministry and it was amazing. Over our time in Thailand we gave out over 1000 copies of the New Testament translated into Thai! We participated in healings and spoke the gospel in schools all over Thailand! In Thailand 94.6 percent are estimated to be Buddhist, 4.3 percent Muslim and 1 percent Christian. Some of these kids had never heard about Jesus.

Our team was made up of 4 Americans, 2 Germans, 2 Swiss, 1 Tongan and me, the Canadian. We had 5 guys and 5 girls and we had ups and downs, but at the of the day they had my back. Whether it was prayer or just simple conversation, I knew that we would get the job done.

We stayed in three locations: Tak Fa, Bangkok and Thoen. All of the locations, we worked with different ministries and but it was always the same mission: To make Christ known.

We spent 7.5 weeks in Thailand. It was real hot but now I miss it, Canadians don’t know the meaning of heat. It was time to return to what at this point we considered as home, New Zealand.

We had a beautiful last week together as a school and well, the rest is history. To say my time in YWAM was transformative would be an understatement. It has filled my empty cup and now it’s time to continue pouring out.

Or at least that’s what I thought I’d be doing right now. I thought I would be helping at camp and the ministry that is going on there. However that doesn’t seem like that will happen for a while (Covid-19).

However, my spirit has not dampened. During this time, we need to be digging into the Word more than ever before. In this time, we need to be hearing what God might be saying.

I would like to thank all the people who supported me! Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am now. I can’t wait to see you when this mess is all over. So much to say! Bless you!

What’s next, you may ask? I am currently looking a for job, sitting during this whole debacle is not good for my soul. 😉
It is my hope this coming summer that I’ll will be back at camp serving as a counsellor, not for the glorification of myself but for the glorification of God. I believe that God has also called me back to be a staff member at Marine Reach.

And although the future is uncertain, we know that we serve a God who was, is, and always be in control.

Last summer, we all received popsicle sticks that had different words on them. The word that picked up was Restored. While I was at YWAM the Lord reinforced this concept. That is the season I am in.

Blessings during this season!

Sunrise, Sunset
swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
laden with happiness and tears
– Fiddler on the Roof

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I want to be a gold digger.

Not like … a real digger of gold, with a lamp on my head and a pick in my hand … though, maybe …

In my relationships, I want to seek the gold, the good in people. I want to dig further into them, to see the nuggets of the purest gold … that which has been refined through a life of both faithfulness and struggle.

This does not come natural, though. It requires intentional effort, for I am a selfish person, who is titillated by gossip and conspiracy-theories.

Thus, Proverbs 11:27,

anyone can find the dirt
in someone,
be the one who finds
GOLD

Simple to say … not so simple to do.

But, I think that, if we make it a focus, if we are intentional about where we allow our minds, our thoughts about others to go … in other words, if we become gold diggers … we will reap priceless riches.

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This week’s random thoughts was at the top of a friends post on Facebook.

As I read the list of ten … let’s call them the week’s learnings during this time of self isolation in the shadows of Covid19, I heard a song from childhood …

count your blessings

Now, at the end of that week, feeling rather depleted from a week that had a fair number of downs that seem to overshadow the the ups, I am revisiting my friend’s post.

As I look back over the week, this post and two other memories pop out for me.

There is a family that I follow on Instagram. Their beautiful daughter (and their whole family) have been fighting cancer for almost fifteen years (she is about twenty now) … through one diagnosis and three relapses. After over a month of self isolation, they are naming something each day that they are each thankful for.

A sweet teen, who carpooled with me to school (and whose heart and soul I adore), dropped off a belated birthday gift. Part of it was “The One-Minute Gratitude Journal” with spaces to write what I am grateful for each day.

Hum …
Coincidence?
I think NOT!

Saint Augustine (of the late 300s-early 400s) said,

“we are an Easter people
and
alleluia is our song.”

What he was saying is that as people (all people) who have been given the gift of Easter, the gift of the sacrifice of Christ, our song, or message (maybe even to ourselves) need always be praise to the Lord.

To offer thanks is to recognize from where our blessings come. To offer gratitude is to see what we have … even when we are in a place of many have-nots, of depletion, of lack.

And so, I wrote my list, of this week’s random thoughts … thanks. And, you know what, I have much to be thankful for … much for which to sing praises to my Lord … alleluia!

I encourage you to try this too … I’d love to hear from you … what are your random thoughts and thanks this week?

  1. Zoom visit with a dear friend
  2. Daily after work walks with our son
  3. A delivery of a belated birthday gift from the sweetest teenager I know
  4. Able to help my mom accomplish a level of technology
  5. A charcuterie board that looked and tasted wonderfully
  6. Discovering a great new TV series to enjoy with hubby
  7. Conferences with students who have the most amazing work ethics
  8. Sunny days
  9. A bunny hopping leisurely ahead of me while walking on a trail
  10. A church small group who is like oxygen

Count Your Blessings
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Who couldn’t use a little
Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney
singing Irving Belin’s
Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep?

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Though the Easter weekend has past, somehow it could almost feel like it never happened.

I have to admit that I didn’t do too well with my lenten sacrifice. I had intended that each day I would read a number of chapters in John, starting with the death of Lazarus and going to Jesus’ arrest in the garden. Despite having the time, with self isolation and social distancing becoming a reality, contemplative reading was not something I have done much of these weeks.

The one lenten practise I did maintain was a frequent, silent praying of what is known as the Jesus Prayer,

Lord Jesus Christ,
Son of God,
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

I put an image of it on my phone’s home screen, so I saw it every time I went to turn my phone on (and man, have I turned it on often during these days of Covid 19 updates and breaking news).

I have been constantly reminded, in the lead up to Easter, who I am in relation to Jesus. What he has done for me.

Then Easter, during this season of Covid 19, came … and went. No crescendo of voices on Easter morning, no large family gatherings, no face to face Easter embraces and greetings of “He is risen” to respond, “He is risen indeed.”

Yet …

The words of song, the words of an ancient creed, have been mulling in my mind for weeks …

The first writing of the Apostle’s Creed was in 390AD …

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

In this time of Covid 19, in the light shadows of the Easter weekend, we are called to the question,

what do I believe?

And the words of this Creed echo in my mind, in my heart. For this is what I believe is the essential belief of we, the Easter people. The people who follow, not blindly, but in faith of the one who died for our good … both here on Earth, but even more so, for the eternity that awaits us all.

So, my soul sings what I believe, reaching a solo crescendo … one reached by millions of followers throughout the ages.

We all have to answer the question of Pilate,

“What shall I do, then,
with Jesus who is called the Messiah?”

And I believe what I believe
is what makes me what I am
I did not make it
no, it is making me
it is the very truth of God
and not the invention of any man
I believe it

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