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Archive for July, 2020

I have come to be a believer in the words of the most influential artistic voices in Britain during the Victorian period, William Morris :

“Have nothing
in your house
that you do not know
to be useful,
or believe
to be beautiful.”

With each passing year, the more I desire, no … need the presence of beautiful things things around me. Beauty reduces my stress, puts a smile on my face, reminds me that there is good in the world, inspires my creativity and whispers to me “I was thinking of you when I dreamed up these lilies.”

Just a couple of weeks ago I decided to cut a few lilies from my small garden, to place in a vase in my house. Before they even began to open their scent filled the room. Each day has been exciting to watch them slowly go from no hint of the color to full and opened beauty.

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin.
Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor
was dressed like one of these.” Luke 12:27

As I embrace my inner lover of beauty I find that there is more out there. The sunrise, or sunset. The seasonal rotations of plant and flower growth. The scent of those vintage roses. The reflection on a pond or lake. Birds singing out the dawn chorus. The coastal and sky horizon. The grandeur of the mountains. The sound of waves crashing on the beach. Fresh snow falling (you knew it was coming).

The more beauty we see … the more beauty we see.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

whatever is lovely …

It’s an awaking of awareness of beauty. In a sense it is a change of thinking.

” … as a person thinks, so is he”

We are encouraged in Philippians that we are to direct our thoughts, our focus on the ‘good’ things … what is true, noble, pure, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy … lovely.

The practises of living prescribed in the Bible are ones that are truly best practise for us as God’s creation. In this scripture we are encouraged to focus on the true, the positives, the good, the lovely …

if we are practise life in this way, perhaps we will experience less stress, anxiety, weariness, sorrow and hatred.

“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.” Frank Lloyd Wright

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It can seem that our world is a dire place, with so many evil acts, selfishness and hatred. It can seem hopeless … we can feel hopeless.

For Christ-followers, hope is the gift that we have accepted, that we are purposed to share, in acts and attitudes of love.

1967 might have felt similarly hopeless. It was during the time of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights Movement, Detroit riots, China tested it’s first hydrogen bomb, the Six-Day war (between Israel and neighboring Arab countries).

It was at this time that song writers Bob Thiele and George David Weiss wrote a song, that would be sung by Louis Armstrong … What a Wonderful World … in the midst of such a hopeless time in history.

Thiele stated, “We wanted this immortal musician and performer to say, as only he could, the world really is great: full of the love and sharing (that) people make possible for themselves and each other every day.”

Though this song was not written or sung as a song of praise, or from a Christian perspective, I find myself thinking of the words of writer and theologian, Fredrick Buechner:

“The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

As a Christ-follower, I have been called to my family, my community around me physically, as well as this virtual one. My deep gladness is simple, it comes from the gift of love that God has offered and I have accepted … this is where I meet ‘my world’, who is hungry, ravenous for the life-giving hope of the love of Christ.

But I cannot meet my world’s hunger, I cannot offer nourishment from a place of hopelessness, from a place of fear. I need to first be fed the good fruits, be encouraged in hope which will allow the love to grow … hopefully spilling over to the world around me.

Garbage in = garbage out

Good people, we do life in the midst of such sorrow, for so many reasons these days … but we cannot allow it to dim the light that is in us.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” MLK Jr.

LR Knost, author, feminist, social justice activist, said:

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”

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Forty-nine years ago my parents spoke their vows, exchanged rings and sealed them with a kiss. This happened after a short engagement, in an old stone church, surrounded by family and friends.

Forty-nine years of for better … or worse, richer … or poorer, health … or sickness. Forty-nine years of love, and arguments, and silence, and disagreements, and children, and inlaws, and bills, and holidays and memories … so many memories.

They married, but their marriage did not begin as two, for my two-year old self was there to keep them from focusing too much attention on the other. Fifteen months later their son followed and twenty-six months another son.

There were numerous dogs and cats and even a few fish (but NEVER anything from the rodent family … NEVER).

In forty-nine years there were only two homes, one built by my dad’s father, the other a new home in a neighborhood with other young families. One phone number … just one.

They raised us kids, just like they were raised. Fed us what they had been fed. Spoke words, rules and wisdom that they had been given. Disciplined us as they had been disciplined.

In their house there was always yarn, cheese and the daily newspaper. Hockey ruled the TV most evenings and closed eyes were no indication that it was okay to change the channel.

The vegetables were peas, beans or corn (or all three at once). Most meals were made in quantities that would last much of the week and appeared in casserole dishes.

Physical ailments could be fixed with Vicks Vapo Rub, Absorbine Jr. or Polysporin. Home improvements could be fixed with a nail, tape (copious amounts of tape) or wallpaper.

Christmas morning always started before the sun even imagined rising and has always included a green tree. Birthdays were never without a cake, candles, ice cream and a call to serenade the birthday girl or boy (woman or man) with Happy Birthday singing. Spring was not spring without pussy willows. Hot summer days were for potato salad (with peas). Hot summer nights would hold the possibility of a drive to Sussex or the village for ice cream. Soap operas were enjoyed by both partners (though one wasn’t as quick to admit this truth).

One spent too much money when out, the other spent too much time away at the ball field (for better or worse … so the vows say and is the reality of marriage between humans).

In recent years summer evenings were spent on the swing, looking back, looking forward.

But there are other memories. Ones a daughter or son do not remember. Ones of just the two, in their wandering through married life together. They are the spectacular memories of words said and life lived that only one other person on the planet shares. These memories of joys and even heartbreaks bring wordless smiles and tears.

Memories of a long marriage are sure to awaken us all to the brevity of life.

It is in looking back that the preceding years seem to have gone in a flash. These memories of marriage are what we hold on to. They are the gift and the offering wrapped up together … the offering in their original experience and a gift when looking back at life and love shared.

The Bible says that marriage is a mystery. Maybe the memories of a long marriage are the unravelling of the mystery, slowly reminding us how fortunate we are to have these mental souvenirs of the past.

And, even though health may fail, though life here may have an end, the memories live on in our minds, in our hearts and even in the generations that are woven into the marriage story.

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I have hit that stage, as a woman, that hubby and I used to refer to as PMW … the post menopausal woman … children have grown to adulthood, no grandchildren, but there is a twinkle in her eye when she sees a little one.

Don’t worry … I am not quite at the yearning for grandkids stage, but I am more aware of the reality of the saying

the days are long
but the years are short.

Lately there seem to be littles at every turn. Friends with newborns, children who stop to chat when I am outside, the cutie who comes to our church food bank, whose smile melts my heart.

With each turn I hear the words, the voices of women my current age (the PMWs),

“time goes so fast”
“just savour every minute”
“don’t rush them to grow up”
“you’ll miss this stage when they grow up”

The thing is, I was never a baby-person. Oh, I loved my littles with my whole, entire momma heart, but I had babies so as to get teenagers. So, when they were (finally) teens, making me the happiest momma around, I just didn’t relate when the PMWs would say,

“don’t you wish they were still little?”

and I would smile and say, “nope.”

Yesterday I was emptying a cabinet and rediscovered the framed images from my kids childhood. My heart ached a bit as I looked at their little faces, remembering small hands in mine, busy and demanding days, sweet bedtime snuggles, stories and prayers.

But my ache, the source of the lump in my throat … it wasn’t because I long to go back in time to their childhood, but because I hoped that I had savoured the moments I was in, the moments of their years as littles.

Then, as if the young, exhausted, pulled-in-every-direction momma I was back then, was standing behind me, whispering in my ear, I heard her youthful wisdom say,

“time still goes so fast”
“savour every moment with them as adults”
“don’t rush them to the next stage of adulthood”
“you may, one day, miss this stage they are in now”

And so, I am going to take the wisdom of younger me … not long for the future, not yearn for the past, but just enjoy the gift of today. I may not see or speak to them daily, but I can take every opportunity to listen actively, to encourage them, to take every chance to speak words and actions of love to their hearts. I can pound on the doors of heaven for them each day.

For, these days too can be long, but the years are also short.

“Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise, 
making the best use of the time …”

Ephesians 5:15-16

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This summer the Wonderdog has been teaching me something …

we listen to and follow
those who know and care for us

It has been four months since work turned toward home, giving me ample time to spend my days with my fur friend. He is constantly with me, following me from the bed, in the morning, to the kitchen, the office, the family room or the bathroom. When out and I return home, opening the door from the garage, there he is, tucked into the back of the sofa, eyes transfixed to the door, ready to leap towards me as if I were coming home …

just. for. him.

He reminds me of that song we sing at Christmas time, about father Christmas …

“He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake”

Now he also stays close to my husband, sleeping under the desk, at his feet.

But … I am the one who most often feeds him, takes him out to the grass, gives him medicine, fills his Kong with treats, invites him for a walk, or orders him a puppucinno in the drive through. I am the one who invites him onto the bed for a nighttime cuddle, who taught him to love (or simply to endure) snuggles, who put drops in his ear and eye last winter. I am the one who takes him to sit outside … where he is so very tempted to bark at every passerby.

I care for him.

the good. the bad. the ugly.

And he knows it because …

we listen to and follow
those who know and care for us

As I was writing on my patio the other day, I realized that my foot was warm with his soft head resting there. Then I remembered that each day we had been outside lately, this is where his head would be … could he get closer to me?

He feels protected, secure in my attention to his needs. Even in my discipline and ear drops (his least favorite thing) he knows he is cared for. I know this because …

we listen to and follow
those who know and care for us

 “My sheep hear My voice,
and I know them,
and they follow Me.”

John 10:27

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The practises of Sabbath have been different during these months of working collectively to help hinder the spread of the Coronavirus.

No more do we head to our local meeting places of faith families, where we gather together to worship in prayer, song, reading the Word of God, giving of our tithes and being encouraged in our faith through all of those shared practises as well as through the sharing of a message that encourages us to hold close our relationship with the God of creation.

My Sabbath today has had a fine start.

Sundays are a backwards day for hubby and I, as I oddly sleep later than he, who rises to prepare for a full day of work. This is my solitary day … a day I am completely aware of and immersed in the presence of God in every area of my life.

My call to worship began when I awoke to staring from my bedside, the Wonderdog eager for an invitation onto the bed for snuggles.

After a leisurely awakening, the morning ablutions for my fur friend and I, I was off on my weekly trip to a small grocery store, just after it opens … still quiet, barely a shopper to be seen.

I listened to songs of faith.

Enjoyed a hot steaming cup of coffee while wrapping a gift for a new delivered one, unable to contain whispered prayers of thanks.

Listened to a podcast about the Christian faith that stimulated curiosity to go into the word.

Poured myself a cold glass of cranberry juice, spread fresh strawberry jam with a hint of lemon, on a scone (not a typical breakfast, but … the Sabbath should be a sweet day).

Filled the Wonderdog’s treat toy with his favorite mixture, then out to our small patio.

A gentle breeze brought scents from my hydrangea plants (once blue, that are now pink), and other floral perfumes from the neighborhood.

Though this patio, this property does not provide the peaceful quiet of our previous acreage, peace lives here, in the contentment of the provision, in the peace that passes my human comprehension.

I sit in my chair, sip from my glass, breath in the scents, smile at my sleeping Wonderdog, hear the sound of texts arriving from my sweetest loves.

I pray, words of thanks, or appeal for the needs of others, I seek wisdom and comfort from the scriptures.

No benediction … the Sabbath goes on.

“Then he (Jesus) said to them,
“The Sabbath was made for
humankind,
not humankind
for the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27

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Good intentions and a slight excitement coursing through my mind … something I did not have in my grasp in a long time.

I was going to head upstairs, sit at my computer and dedicate one hour … just one hour to editing the book I finished writing last fall.

Then I decided to first make a coffee.

Then the machine showed the message that it was time to descale.

I followed through with that process … that thirty minute process.

Then I thought I would cook the potatoes for potato salad.

Then I emptied the kitchen food waste container.

Then I finished taking the hardware off a wooden box I wanted to paint.

Then I went up to my office … to get a paintbrush to paint the wooden box.

The next thing I knew it was three and a half hours later, I still had to make the potato salad, call my mom, take the things on the kitchen counter to put away in the garage …

Rabbit holes … places where the time for my well intended plans go …

Writing, editing of my book was left at the base of the tree, while I slid down into one rabbit hole after another, until the time available for editing my book was gone.

As the time to write past I heard myself echoing the words of Paul, the author of the book of Romans (7:15)

“I just don’t understand myself. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I don’t want to do.”

Of course the rabbit hole that Paul was talking about was the rabbit hole that is sin. Nonetheless, I get what he is saying. And, well … sometimes I just think that it is some dark pitchfork-wielding character in my mind that keeps me from completing what I so want to accomplish.

Paul goes on to say, (19-20):

 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

That final comment resonates in my mind. For I do often feel as though I move from task to task as though on autopilot, moved by an invisible force.

Though there are many things in our lives that we have choice over, things that are not inherently good or bad, focusing on what we are called to do, being purposeful in our efforts to accomplish tasks that we are called to … that bring us life, takes effort. It often means having to put blinders on and moving forward.

Ah, perhaps today will be one that I will be able to the good I want.

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Fresh, Okanagon grown cherries. They arrived at my door yesterday. A sweet lady had mentioned that someone was travelling back from the fresh fruit mecca of British Columbia. Would I would like to purchase some?

Saying no to OK (Okanagan, not okay as in mediocre) cherries, I cannot do.

And so, they were delivered to my door, with a warm smile.

Cherries are such a delicious, sweet fruit. To have only had to wait at my house for them to arrive was fantastic.

I mean, I could go to the nursery, purchase a cherry tree, plant, fertilize and prune it. I could water it, stake it to the ground. Then wait for the fruits of my labor.

But, when the fruit just shows up … with no effort but to hand over a few dollars, perfection! Once I said goodbye to my delivery girl, I just wanted to taste them.

In the Bible there is the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus arrives. Mary plunks herself at his feet and Martha begins scurrying fast as a … rabbit, gathering a feast fit for a king.

Doing, doing, doing. Working swiftly, to present her best for Jesus.

Then Jesus says to Martha:

“few things are needed–or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”

That would hurt.

Martha, running around for Jesus, and he then tells her that Mary, sitting on her hind end, chose what is better.

This story was hard for me to get, because I am a doer. I just know that I would be in the kitchen, creating something to serve him.

Then I got the cherries.

With the cherries (such a rare, ripe treat), all I wanted to do was to eat them, enjoying their sweet fruit.

That is what Jesus asks of us.

When he arrives at our doorstep, he just wants us to recognize what a sweet treat it is to spend time at his feet. No production is needed. Just sit at his feet. Recognize that he is enough.

There is no other way to serve Christ … not even service to him … but to sit at his feet.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.
Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!
Psalm 34:8

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Listening …

Sometimes it seems that the silence is deafening. There isn’t revelation, direction, not even critique. Just silence.

When will he speak, lead, direct? When will a fire be ignited in my belly? Where has my get up and go gone?

Questions I have asked, of late … of God.

It is just silent. I have been around long enough to know he is there, here, within me. I still know he has a plan and a purpose, but … it. is. so. quiet.

Erwin W. Lutzer, in his book, Getting Closer to God, wrote:

“Of course, it’s easy to trust God when the bush is burning, the waters are parting, and the mountains are shaking— it’s those silent years that are discouraging. But blessed is the person who does not interpret the silence of God as the indifference of God!”

God is not indifferent, uncaring, unconcerned. He is still working.

But, it is so quiet.

Ever been to a body of water that is so quiet, it’s surface is more like a mirror than a body of life? It is still, quiet. There are times in our lives when we long for such stillness, when noise is all around, when the waters are teaming with life, ready for the catch. When we long for things to just be still, quiet.

I hear the Psalmist say,

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

I have no choice but to be still, for this is the season, yet … am I?

Worry and anxiety over that which is out of my hands, my control, can overtake my thoughts. There is no specific direction, no task at hand … and that makes me ill at ease, disquieted in my soul.

And the whisper returns,

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” 

Not to be irreverent, but as I read this verse, over and over, I found myself coming to the conclusion that what God is saying here could be interpreted as

just trust me and hold my beer

He is reminding us that he is God, that he hold the world and all that is in it, in the palm of his hand. Just be still … that is your job, your task, your calling.

John 13:7 tells us, You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

In the deafening silence it can seem as though God is not there, that he does not care, that he has no use for us. But, in these silent days and years, he calls on us to be still, to contemplate what he has done in and through us in the past, to trust our unknown future to this God who has more than proven himself in the past.

He has a plan … just keep listening in the quiet, meditating at the calm waters.

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* Tomorrow family and friends will bid this lady a final adieu … but we have been doing that for a couple of years now. This was my last visit with her, one I am so thankful to have had. If I might be so bold, if there is someone in your life who forgets more than they remember, go see them anyway … their soul is still here.

“I don’t think she will know who I am by the time I get there,” I stated to hubby one day, just weeks before I left for a trip to visit family.

My aunt (not pronounced ‘ant’) was diagnosed with Alzehimer’s Disease a number of months back. She has surrendered her license, her volunteer activities, much of her memory.

I had decided that if, when I called her on the phone, she recognized my voice, knew who I was, I would go visit her. Conversely, I had decided that if she did not recognize my voice, know who I am, I would not go visit her.

I want to remember her how she was …

That was my rational. One part, economical use of my time in the area, one part self-preservation (lets call a spade a spade … it was 1.99 parts self-preservation.

So, when I called her on the day of my departure (yes, this was something I procrastinated), when I said hello into the phone, I was shocked that she knew my voice immediately.

A thrill of hope ran through me, as I told her we would be stopping by for a visit soon.

It will be the same as always …

We arrived at the home she and my uncle have lived for as long as I remember. The home I spent countless weeks in the summer, playing board games, getting baking lessons, picking blueberries, watching movies and feeling like the spoiled niece of my (childless) aunt and uncle that I was.

The house, well-worn on the inside and out, signs of lacking maintenance by this eighty-something couple. Food, cooling on the countertops (breaking every food-safe rule), before being stored in the fridge or freezer. The outer porch piled with newspapers, saved for …

These props, extras in my periphery, meaningless to the woman I had come to see, who would know that I was there.

Our initial greetings were good, normal. Never an overly, outwardly affectionate woman, this aunt always had the sensible approach to life of Anne of Green Gable’s steadfast rock, Marilla Cuthbert.

With my first words, I made the first mistake … I asked a question about her whereabouts that morning. I knew better than to ask a question about something in recent history and I mentally scolded myself, as soon as my query was met by her uncertain response.

We visited nearly an hour, not another question from my lips.

We talked about my family, the distant past, looked at the wedding photos of herself, her parents (my grandparents) and her in-laws. I showed her photos of our kids, my hubby and videos of my lunatic dog that made her laugh.

She mentioned my sister who was travelling with me … actually my daughter. She looked … lost …

lost in the liminal space between a world she has confidently moved and navigated and one that she knows she should know, but the holes in her mind muddle the familiar into dark unfamiliarity … as though a constant joke is being told, and everyone gets it, but her.

As we prepared to leave I took a selfie with her, we each said goodbye (no doubt our last goodbye) and I whispered I love you.

That moment on the phone, when she knew my voice … that was what drew me to go see her. Maybe that was a push from another force, to honour this woman who planted the seeds of love and acceptance in me.

I needed to share in her lostness to remember that I need to love and care for others, not for how they make me feel, but for how I would want to be treated were I lost in a similarly disconcerting world.

I forgot that seeing her was not about me, but about her … what she needed.

That sensible aunt still lives within my memories and in her soul, to love when it cannot be reciprocated anymore is the most sensible thing to do …

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