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Archive for October, 2021

What accelerates your breathing?

What makes goose bumps form on your skin?

Causes difficulty swallowing?

Invites butterflies into your tummy?

What scares you?

Into every person’s life things will go bump in the night. Our fears are very individual, very unique to each of us. Some fears in childhood dissipate as we get older and mature, others (perhaps a fear of the dark) remain, but we learn to manage.

One person’s fear of thunder and lightening storms may be another’s delight. One person may love to climb to the top of mountains or towers, for the joy of looking below and another may grow dizzy just imagining it from below. Some are fearful of ever throwing anything out (hoarding), whereas others fear loosing the freedom of openness and space.

Some are paralyzed by their fears, others are energized and motivated by their fears.

Today is a celebration to fear … thus, we humans must, at least, revere it in some way.

As Jesus was with his disciples, after the last supper, but before his arrest. During this time he explained his coming departure, he encouraged them, he spoke words of hope to them, words to alleviate their fears. He constantly reminded them that they would not be alone, but that the Spirit, the advocate would be with them.

Fear of being alone is a common human fear. One that has existed since things went awray in the garden.

Jesus speaks (John 14:1-4) to this fear of perceived abandonment:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

When I read these words,

” … that you also may be where I am

I feel an instant peace, an erasing of fear. My breathings slows, the goosebumps disappear, the butterflies fly away. This, this very message and hope is the good news of the gospel.

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As I was walking down the stairs I came to the landing, but, because I was walking in the dark I paused, tentatively stretching my foot to see if I had indeed reached the landing or if I had one more to go.

Why was I stumbling in the dark?

Was the power out? No.

Was I trying to be stealthy? Ha! No.

Did I forget to turn the light on? No.

I was stumbling in the dark simply because that is the habit I have gotten into. At some point in my life I simply stopped turning lights on when walking through the house. It is a habit I continue today … one that is … stupid, possibly even harmful.

As I stretched my foot forward the other day a new thought emerged …

why do I walk in the dark,
when there is light at my fingertips?

Instantly I understood so much about myself, others, human behavior.

I saw, in my lifelong physical habit, the reason why we all stumble in spiritual darkness, even though the light of Christ is right there, illuminating our way through the life we live.

It’s habit.

It is simply what we do, over and over. Somehow a false sense of security comes from being blanketed in the dark we know … versus the light that is unfamiliar. Our eyes are closed by our routines. Our mind foggy with tradition. Our comings and goings shadowed by tradition.

We choose to walk in the dark, until …
one day, light a lightbulb going on in our minds,
we open our eyes
and see that there can be light in our life.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 
“I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

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When answers are not provided. When confusion swirls around us. When hurts are deep. When the world seems to be going, as my grandmother would say, to hell in a hand basket. When life is hard.

It is then that it is hard to see the evidences of God that are around us.

As I recently got to visit family and place of origin, I was reminded of the ever-present wonder all around me. It was like a reset for my soul. An infusion of wonder created by God. I arrived as the trees were just beginning to change, turning from green to shades of yellows, oranges and reds. Like an orchestra building to a crescendo, the season moved daily toward it’s final great work, splashing the brightest of colors for all to see and appreciate.

And what is it all about, these splashes of autumn color, but to bring us to an inner need to gives thanks, offer due praise to the one whose finger touched earth and gave us such a feast for the eyes.

Such a wonderful sight cannot help but cause one to appreciate the grandeur of God’s creation. It is the inner call to do as we were created, to fulfill our good purpose, to offer praise to our God.

And they were singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your works, O Lord God, the Almighty. Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations.

Revelation 15:3

Of the verse, above, the Matthew Henry Commentary shares this:

“The more we know of God’s wonderful works, the more we shall praise his greatness as the Lord God Almighty, the Creator and Ruler of all worlds; but his title of Emmanuel, the King of saints, will make him dear to us.”

Even when life is hard (maybe especially when life is hard), may we all take time each day, when prompted by the beauty of nature, the food on our tables, the jobs set before us, the image-bearers who walk among us, the very miracle of life to praise the Lord.

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For some birthdays are frightening, depressing or discouraging. This reality has made the makers of lotions, surgeries and self help books wildly wealthy.

Aging has never been a thorn in my flesh. Birthdays come and go, as do wrinkles, coarse hair (covered by my lovely stylist) … and, speaking of hair, I no longer pluck my eyebrows, but I am constantly discovering them on my chin (often long enough to put in a ponytail by the time I notice them).

For me, the greys can still be covered, the wrinkles make me smile and the hairs on my chinny chin chin … they get plucked.

I have a hope for my future, alive or dead, and an appreciation for each moment I have breathed.

Don’t get me wrong, if I were given a fatal diagnosis, I would sob my eyes out and I would feel fear and sorrow. But death is not my greatest fear as I rapidly move through this autumn of my life.

My greatest angst about aging is quite simple, that …

I am running out of time.

Time to do all the things, travel to all the places, spend time with the people, try the new experiences, share the love of God, time to live … to really, fully, intentionally, live this one magnificent and glorious gift of a life that I have been given.

I don’t want to waste a moment!

Sometimes the urgency within me to do all the things resembles one who scurries in a state of constant activity powered by something deep within.

But, now in my fifties there is a new factor that is irritating me … fatigue. This fatigue does not whisper, take a break, but stops me in my tracks, holding my mind and body ransom so that I no longer can do that one more thing. This only increases my passion to not waste the days, the hours, the moments I have been given.

“Lord, life is going by so fast!
It frightens me unless I remember your eternity.
We are as rootless as tumbleweeds
and will be blown about all our lives unless you are our dwelling place.
In you we are home.
What I have in you I can never lose and will have forever.
I praise you for this unfathomable comfort.
Amen.

Tim Keller

These words of Keller stopped me the other day. They reminded me that my purpose is not just doing, but being.

They are the truthful assurance of eternity, for those of us who have submitted to the will of God. They are the reminder that it is in Him we have our foundation, our roots. They are the reminder that even during times of fatigue, we are with Him and He is with us and in that here we also have purpose.

“I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills His purpose for me.”
Psalm 57:2

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Happy birthday to my firstborn.

There will be no birthday number talk, since … well, to rewrite Shakespeare,

“what’s in a number? One Mrs. Dunster’s donut would taste as sweet as two.”

I am writing this days before the day that marks your birthday. Writing just hours after being in my chlldhood home, sitting with my mum, your grandmother.

I heard your name quite a few times as I was with her. I heard stories about the months that you spent on the East Coast (the ‘other’ coast) as you did a semester at a university there a number of years ago. I heard about drives to look at the foliage, meals around your grandparent’s table, an early Christmas meal at your other grandparent’s home, your fashion advice for Grammie, the pet names you had for them. 

Mostly, maybe with the most excitement, I heard about how, since that short semester you have continued to keep in touch, with calls, texts and emails.

On this day of celebration of the gift of your very breath, this day I especially offer thanks for your very life, this day of gifts for you to unwrap … I just want to tell you how you have taught me about your great gift …

the present of intentional presence. 

If you have a gift that is wrapped especially glittery it is that of your intentional presence. When you are with someone, you are completely there, completely invested in the people, in that very moment. Not only that but you also make choices as to who you want to invest in and you apply your all to making the deposits necessary in their lives so that one day there will be dividends.

You invest in those you’ve chosen, even when there is little payback, even when the recipient has been unappreciative of your efforts. I believe you do this, because you are committed to doing that which is right, that which leaves few regrets, that which, one day, you believe in your heart will grow.

When you make those regular contacts with your ‘G-units’ (grandparents) you are ensuring that you have given them your sparkly best. Not only that, but you have also reminded them that they are a gift to you and your life. That they are still worthy of your time and effort. That they are still needed and wanted and thought of … even when they are out of sight and so far away. 

Keep doing what you’re doing girl. 

You were a gift, you are a gift, you will always be a gift as you give your intentional presence.

This you have taught me.

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On March 14, 2020 I had a ticket to fly from the west coast to the east, but then … Covid.

I wrote, a week before scheduled to fly across the country, “from the west coast to the east, from one home to another, my mind begins to prepare for the sights, smells and sounds that will, in all probability, trigger the emotions of grief when I arrive.”

It was to be my first time back, in my province of origin, in the home of my childhood, with the people whom I shared the beginning of life … after the death of my dad in the fall of 2019.

Firsts, after the death of a loved one, can be triggers of grief that still lingers in the heart and mind. They can awaken a loneliness for that individual, as well as for who you were with them … for not only are they gone, but so is the part of you that was loved, adored uniquely by them.

So when I recently boarded the plane headed in the direction of my life’s beginnings, as I returned to my childhood home and family … I was so very aware that there would be one missing from that reunion.

There was a great part of me
that feared
that the weight of his absence
would be crushing …
but it wasn’t.

Though he is no longer there,

no lingering hugs that speak the words of the heart,

no squinty eye smiles from eyes so blue,

no fresh biscuits from the oven,

no information about houses for sale in their area (hints to move ‘back home’)

… he lives on.

I felt his life as my brother offered to drive me from the airport, the long way, so I could see the sights (and as he cringed when I shut the car door too hard).

I felt his life in the lingering embrace of my other brother, surprised to see me standing in his driveway (and in his use of ‘huh’ when he didn’t hear what was said the first time).

I saw his life in my nephews eyes, shining bright.

I heard his life in my niece, as she greeted me with warmth and unhindered excitement.

I felt his life in the stories my mum shared … so many stories that speak of a life … not perfect at all, but a life well lived.

He lives on …

It is a bit disturbing to admit that it wasn’t crushing to return …

but he wasn’t absent, he wasn’t missing.

The best of who he was still is …

it exists in pieces,

shared by each of us.

The seeds of his life have been planted in us and they keep growing,

for he lives on … on both coasts.

One day, while there, I was walking around the streets of the neighborhood of my parent’s home with their dog. A man, walking toward me, said, “is that Daisy?” I nodded and introduced myself. In very basic language, he went on to tell me that he and my dad spoke often. That he was a nice man. That he missed my dad. I told him I miss him too. We walked and talked a bit more … his simple expressions of remembrance of my dad filled my heart … he’s still here, in Bill too.

There was no grief in this visit for me. Only memories of a good life and evidence that the seeds he planted continue to grow.

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I have always adored autumn. The colors of the leaves, the still bright skies, the sunrises and sunsets, the chill in the air as the day winds down.

As I drove down the highway the other day I was mesmerized by the beauty of day, of everything I could see.

As often said at this time of year, autumn’s trees reminds us that there is beauty in letting go.

I think autumn is an exhale …

After the newness and freshness of spring …

After the refreshment and reconstruction of summer …

Autumn is the experience of lung cleanings that are exhaled in thanks, in appreciation for the sunshine that might not return tomorrow, in recognition that this beauty will fade so we must be present in it now. It is acknowledgement that dark days are coming, but choosing to not let that reality steal from today.

Until the winter rains fall, until the chill moves into our bones, until the grass withers, the flowers fade and the final leaf falls …

“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”

Isaiah 40:6-8

Autumn reminds me that it keeps going on … nature, beauty, hope, life. The circle of life has no dark corners, no exit ramp, but that which God gives existence is kept alive in the seeds He plants within each living thing.

There is an autumn in life, as well. A season to exhale the past … joys and sorrows, growing and being cut down, things learned, memories made. We can pause in this autumn of life and see the beauty in our lives. We can look back, as though from a higher vantage point and survey how the many pieces of our lives fit together … that which was never present in the moment. We can exhale in understanding and acceptance that we are no longer in the spring or summer of our lives … and that is okay.

As we look over our lives, we can walk confidently into the next season, knowing that those pieces too will fit together … that we never walk alone.

We may feel as though we are withering, but really … we are doing the good work of dropping seeds into the ground, for many seasons to come.

I love these words of Beth Moore:

Thought I’d raise a little Ebenezer today. In a brutal time, Samuel set up a memorial stone & named it Ebenezer saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”
Ebenezer living is a heaven-raised gaze. Alert & deliberate daily dependence.
Of morning by morning.
Of Give us this day.
Of Today, if you hear his voice.
Ebenezer living is standing in the present moment, aware & awed that here we are, still alive and kicking and kept by God amid a fierce battle or in the wake of a season when we had no clue what we were going to do or how we’d get through.
Thus far my aging hand is still in Keith’s.
Thus far I can still lend some help.
Thus far I can get out of bed, walk dogs. Go to work.
Thus far I still enjoy things like the way a leaf rocks gently in the air, a lullaby, falling to the earth.
That’s far I still believe Jesus died and rose again and, because he did, I am changed & ever changing.
Thus far I still believe in the communion of saints & the fellowship of sacred joys and suffering.
Thus far I still bear my children close and have them in my heart though miles stretch wide between us.
Thus far, brothers & sisters, that which we thought would kill us
didn’t.
The world that we thought would fill us
didn’t.
The Lord who we thought might forget us
hasn’t.
The devil we thought would destroy us
couldn’t.
Here we raise our Ebenezer.
Thus far the Lord.

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If you don’t believe as I do …

then don’t talk to me,

don’t share my space.

For I do not want you in my space,

where I have to hear something

I do not agree with.

I don’t want you in my life.

If you don’t believe as I do …

then you are ignorant, uneducated, brainless.

For you don’t think as I do,

the only right way.

Me

Scrolling through social media for more than a second will convince us that the above words are the beliefs of many who post on such media platforms.

To me, such attitudes are far more dangerous to our societies, to the very survival of the human race than any far left or far right attitudes … for to reject each other based on our different perspectives is shallow, impulsive and a premeditated abandonment of a fellow human soul whose worth is, has never been and will never be based on our thoughts, attitudes or even behaviors.

I fear we are losing our grip on the value of our fellow humans, on human life itself.

To believe in the value of human life is love one another, as Christ loves us. This is the Good News of the Gospel. This is what can save our human race … it is the only thing that can. He does not love us because we agree with Him, because we do what He says, because we have it all together. As a matter of fact, He loves us in spite of the reality that don’t do or say or think as He does.

In Romans 5 we are reminded that Christ died for us, the ungodly … and this applies to us all … wherever our thinking and opinions and actions lie. Who that we know (including ourselves) will sacrifice … not for those closest, but for those who are so far on the ‘opposite’ side of whatever ideology we might hold to be true?

What brings us together … our human souls and the One who created us … is greater than what divides us. Perhaps we ought to water rather than cut down?

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Romans 12:3-5

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An oldie but a goodie image 😉

Here in Canada, turkeys are a-roasting this weekend as we pause to give thanks for all that makes up life and living.

For me, Thanksgiving is always connected to our youngest, our son.

At 10:10am, on Thanksgiving Sunday, October 10, he breathed in the air of life and I inhaled gratitude … for life is tender, fragile, not guaranteed.

Our very own Ben 10 is one I have immense thanks for, so today, gratitude is great, celebration is due.

As I feel and know gratitude for him, I pray that he always live a life of gratitude.

For gratitude is our exhale, and it is in the breathing out of thanks that gratitude is inhaled.

When we sit around a table, as we bow our heads in thanks for our food, his grace is always one of thanks.

I was reminded of this a few weeks ago, when he offered thanks for the food, for his sisters, for his parents. This is not odd for him to do, for he knows where who is the Giver. Yet, on this particular day, I was not feeling particularly worthy of such appreciation.

Since that day I have thought numerous times about his offering of thanks … for one who had not been graceful to him just hours earlier. His gratitude, despite imperfection from the one he expressed thankfulness for, has been a new lesson for me.

It is easy to be thankful

for food … when it tastes appealing
for work … when we are enjoying it
for education … when we are succeeding
for people … when we are in good relationship with them
for the new day … when it is sunny

Yet, gratitude is not simply for the things that feel good at the time, for our thanks does not come after, but before the blessing. Thanks is the attitude of faith in the One who gives, not an acceptance for what has already been received.

Gratitude is the attitude that preexists the reality of what we are given … whatever it may be.

In being PRE-thankful … in ALL things, we are preparing for the good, bad and ugly that comes to us in life. We are being cognizant that gratitude is due, even though our mortal self may suffer. This is a great mystery, yet, for those who practise gratitude in all things … a peace that passes human understanding is the gifted result.

Ben knows this. He lives this life of gratitude in all things. He is not perfect, for his closest teachers (that would be his parents) have not modelled this consistently, his humanness fights against such illogical practise. Yet, as I hear him give thanks, for those who have let him down, I am encouraged that his life is heading in the right direction.

Happy birthday Ben. My encouragement to you today, are from the words of Paul,

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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It is socially acceptable in our world to talk about supporting those with mental health issues. Equally we talk about supporting those who struggle and suffer with chronic physical health issues. There are many similarities in both.

Those who have physical illness that is with that person for years on end, often (if not always) also experiences pressures on their mental health. How can it not? For physical pain can exhaust, wear out and depress the one who sees no end to it.

When we read the words of Job, in the midst of his losses and sufferings, as he is questioning his very birth, his life, we can see how the physical losses and pains have affected his mental health :

” … sighing has become my daily food;
my groans pour out like water.
What I feared has come upon me;
what I dreaded has happened to me.
I have no peace, no quietness;
I have no rest, but only turmoil”

Job 3:24-26

Here’s the thing about chronic illness and mental health … it doesn’t matter how much social media attention we give to such suffering, when the rubber hits the road, both are hard to watch, hard to be consistent in care, hard to stand by … and yet support. And the reason it is so hard is because both chronic and mental health issues carry with them a unifying characteristic … pain that others cannot alleviate.

So, how do we support those with chronic health issues?

As one who is in such a position of standing by, I am looking for answers too. For there is often little that we can do to make things better, no amount of there, there will ease the pain, no special Bible verse or prayer or measure of faith that will do what we most want to do …

to erase the pain and suffering.

There is, in my opinion, only one thing that we can do, only one thing in our power. It is the most difficult task. The one that often seems fruitless. Yet, it is the one modelled by Christ himself.

Be there.

Be present with the one who is suffering.

Stay near, while others turn their backs, leave …

This is such a difficult thing to do, for the only thing we can truly offer is our presence. In this we are reminding the one who suffers that they are not alone, that they are still valuable, worthy.

In just simply being there, we are the hands and feet of God. We are being the vessels through which God can be with them in their wilderness journey.

Moses words, to the Israelites, speaks to the work of our being there, not just for, but with those who suffer chronic physical illness and the mental health stresses that can accompany such agony :

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

I have to say to be there, the mire can feel like quicksand at times, for you can begin to wear their pain, weakening your own mental health. This is why we have to ensure that we, as supporters, as advocates need to hold close to God. To stay connected to Him in prayer, to remember that we cannot be a support unless we are upheld by a stronger force.

Our job is to remind those who suffer that they are not alone.

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