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Archive for November, 2021

I fondly remember the bell being rung at the church I attended as I was growing up.

Each Sunday morning at a specified time, someone would knock at the door of my Sunday School class. When the door was opened an apology for interrupting would be whispered as the man would walk toward the spot where the bell was rung.

bong, bong, bong …

I do not remember how many times it was rung, just how it’s sound reverberated in my heart.

Church bells are not rung in cities, towns or villages as they once were. Alerts to the time of day, time to worship, have been replaced by watches, clocks, phones.

Yet, when I hear church bells (the real ones, that require a human ‘ringer’) today they take me back to that Sunday School class, as though the lessons learned were burned into my heart with each strike of the clapper on the inside of the bell. Lessons about submitting our life to Christ, loving one another, caring for others, honesty, commitment.

Those bell ringing memories hold another lesson …

Worship the Lord! Sing praises to Him.

That lesson reverberates in my mind in a song I remember, from when our kids were younger and we would be curled up on the sofa, with blankets and popcorn, lights out, to watch Little Women. Somehow this song, this carol written over 200 years ago, has stuck with me as one that herald’s the season of advent … with great and simple joy.

Ding dong, merrily on high
In heaven the bells are ringing
Ding dong, verily the sky
Is riven with angel singing
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)
E’en so here below, below
Let steeple bells be swungen
And io, io, io
By priest and people sungen
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)
Pray you, dutifully prime
Your matin chime, ye ringers
May you beautifully rime
Your eve time song, ye singers
Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)
GloriaDing dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Hosanna in excelsis)
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)
Ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong, ding dong, dong
(Gloria, Hosanna in excelsis)

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A blogger friend recently wrote about the Sears Christmas Wish Book and her memories had me drifting off into Christmas past.

What a delight it was each year when that shiny paged catalogue arrived. I remember gazing longingly at each page, dreaming of how much better life would be if I could have everything I wanted from it’s pages.

I remember staring longingly at the Barbie’s and all of their available possessions, the science kits, the board games and, as I got older, the clothing.

The anticipation was real!

Anticipation … that’s a word that adequately describes hope.

Hope … that is a theme as we anticipate what Christ brings to the world, during this time of advent.

Why hope?

Well, when sin entered into the human experience in the garden, it tarnished us, leaving us in need of a Savior, one to redeem us from sin. For when Adam and Eve sinned, they made a choice that, let’s face it, we all would have chosen, for we all want what God has and we forget that He has a plan, that we can rest in his wisdom.

But Jesus, he was the anticipated Messiah, the hoped-for Savior.

The oft spoken verse from Isaiah 7:14 will be read in this advent season,

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).

Immanuel … God with us.

Immanuel … God with us.

Immanuel … God with us.

There is not greater hope, than to have the presence of Immanuel, the Savior, Redeemer and King with us. It is the guarantee that we will not be alone, ever. He is with us! The most anticipated wish come true.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 

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I opened the envelope, with a bit of trepidation in my heart. The manilla envelope dated 1972, was written on in the meticulous writing of my mum, For Carole Wheaton ONLY then, circled were the words, adoption info.

I have known since a very young child that my mum had me as a single woman and that, when they married, her husband, asked to adopt me.

I have been fortunate to have always felt loved, wanted, adored by both of parents, one by blood and both by sweat and tears.

Inside the folded and excessively taped envelope were three more envelopes, two of them yellowed with the years, the third still white, written on the front, This is for Carole Wheaton ONLY.

I first opened the newer envelope. Inside, folded up was an older envelope, a letter from my mum, including the name of the man who is my biological link to life. I moved this aside.

Then the other two envelopes. The first I opened was the final adoption order.

The second one I opened was from the office of the lawyer who oversaw the adoption process. In the letter he says “I appeared before the Judge of the … County Court with the Petition and these documents and the Court is issuing an Interim Adoption Order which will become final in one years time.” I smiled.

Then I lifted the letter, to reveal a longer piece of paper, with a red sticker, stamped with the County stamp, and in bold lettering ADOPTION ORDER … so old-school official looking.

This was simply the best. This was the legal evidence of his pursuit of me to be his own.

Then, because dates have always been a thing for me, a manner that, in so many instances, I have seen the hand of God, I looked for the date of this adoption order …

It couldn’t be … was all I could think.

For, just two years ago (today), on November 25, 2019, my dad …

the only dad I have ever known, ever wanted to know … the father who chose me, bought me with a price (cause I have the invoice for the costs associated with my adoption), the man who raised me to believe I was valued, worthy … then man who gave flesh to my understanding of the love of God the Father, who adopted us in grace …

died, leaving what and who are seen, for that which is beyond the bounds of life and breath.

But, fifty years ago, today, I was adopted by my father. Today is like a birthday for me, for today I was grafted into his family, with all of the legal rights and responsibilities of a daughter born of flesh and blood. I was blessed beyond measure for the forty-eight years with him and how God, through His will gave me such a good father.

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Monday, November 22, 2021

What a morning!

Each glance out the window rewarded my eyes with a spectacular, changing sunrise.

Later, local friends on social media posted their viewpoints of that same glorious start to the day.

What a reward for being the early bird!

Speaking of birds …

Do you know why birds sing just before dawn? Scientists believe it’s to tell their mates that they made it through the night, as a way of saying, “I’m still here.” Maybe that’s why we sing, too, why we create art—as a way of saying, “I made it. I’m still here.”

Jeff Goins

I checked various sources of those knowledgable in the area of birds. The quote may or may not have scientific evidence of the reality of it’s message, but it still makes one ponder.

Maybe it makes one ponder because we read that quote with the Creator and know that his purposes for his creation … to worship Him … resonates.

The quote reminds me of Luke 19:40,

“I tell you,” he (Jesus) replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

All creation has one purpose, one calling, to praise and worship God.

May we awake each morning with the words of Reginald Heber in 1826 (almost 200 years ago),

Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
our song shall rise to Thee

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The Black Friday sales began as soon as the calendar turned November. Retailers, large and small, online sellers, local businesses, grocery stores and gift card merchants are peddling their wares in papers, on radio, on the sides of our social media apps and in our inboxes.

Gift purchasing is in the air.

I was thinking about gifts the other day. How gift giving has changed so much since I was a child. Way back when I was a child (not quite as far back as the stone ages, but in that direction) gifts were smaller, more utilitarian, often hand made and never returned (unless they were the wrong size).

Gifts were given as an expression of the giver and it was the responsibility of the receiver to do one thing … receive.

Today I think about gifts for our kids and realize they would rather just receive money. But let’s not lay blame on the shoulders of the next generation alone, for I remember, in years past that we also loved receiving gifts of money.

Then there are the other gifts. Ones that are grand, so grand you wonder how you will ever be able to reciprocate such an extravagant gesture. Or you wonder what strings come with such a gift.

Whatever the case we still struggle with the same thing … humility in receiving a gift.

Gifts reflect the giver. The giver is imperfect, as is the gift. In our learning to receive what one gives to us, we are also learning to receive the imperfections of the giver.

I was reminded of this one Christmas. It was our first married Christmas, just a couple months after we had walked down the aisle together, both of us wearing our rose-colored glasses.

It was afternoon of Christmas eve, when hubby announced he was headed out to start his Christmas shopping (yes, early afternoon of Christmas eve … and the stores closed at 5pm!). I asked if I could join him and, after a bit of hesitancy, he consented.

Once we arrived at the mall, I wandered while hubby did what needed to be done.

As the time for the mall to close neared hubby located me. He had very specific instructions for me as we walked back to the car. I could not look at the car and, once in the car, I could only look straight ahead.

Being the inquisitive sort, I proceeded to make guesses about what gift he got me, as we drove home. I guessed clothing, jewellery, etc. I laughingly guessed appliances like a vacuum … I mean, that would suck romance out of a relationship!

Finally, I stated (and I can still, thirty-two years later, hear my words reverberate in my mind), “it doesn’t matter what you got me, cause I’ve got you … well, except downhill skis, because I hate downhill skiing.”

Guess what I got for Christmas that year?

A few days ago, while packing up stuff in the garage for our move to a new home, hubby pointed to the skis, with the silent question of “can we get rid of them now?” hanging in the air. “No way are we getting rid of those. Those are the best gift you’ve ever given me. We just have to figure out which of our kids will inherit them.”

You see, those skis, that gift that I didn’t want … every time I see them, I am reminded of my need to humbly receive from my husband. I haven’t always done this well, as a matter-of-fact, I have been pretty pathetic at times in receiving gifts from him. When I see those skis, I do not see an imperfect, inappropriate gift, I see an opportunity to receive from the giver, with thanks, humility and appreciation.

Christmas is all about receiving gifts. It started the first Christmas, when the gift of the love and redemption that Jesus offers was delivered to humanity. The Giver has done their part, now it is our turn to do ours in humbly receiving it.

“Accepting the gift of Jesus Christ requires humility because you’re admitting that you can’t save yourself by your own means.”

Tim Keller

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Sunrise, Wednesday, November 17, 2021

In our neck of the woods things have been saturated by rain.

This has caused drains to back up, basements to flood, land to give way, livelihoods gone amuck, transportation to be cut off and lives lost.

Currently I am watching the time. For the police detachment in the area (once a lake, before dykes and pumps) of the most significant flooding, will soon be updating the public on the situation. Last night words like escalated, significant risk to life and catastrophic were used to describe the situation.

Our hearts are heavy.

Heavy for the those who mourn, who are hurting, who do not know what tomorrow brings.

As I sat at my desk, in these early morning hours on Wednesday, I glanced out the window. Though the image (above) just doesn’t do it justice, the light creeping up the horizon was glorious. The colors streaked across the sky grew, blazing in pinks, oranges, reds.

I smiled wide, took a big lung-cleansing breath.

As I absorbed the beauty of this new morning, this dry morning, I felt lighter, momentarily relieved of the constant whispering of my soul for those affected by the devastation of flood waters.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

Burden bearing … it is what we, who are Christ-followers have been instructed to do, on behalf of those who carry a weight too heavy for them to manage on their own. And so we take them meals, or send money to charitable organizations, or fill sand bags, or help them get their livestock to dry ground … or (and we all are asked of this) we lift them and their heavy burdens up to God, letting them rest in his hands.

in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ

As I dove into commentaries and writings by modern Biblical scholars, I saw that there are variations about what this law of Christ might refer to. Some thinking it refers to the Mosaic Law or the New Covenant expressed in the Sermon on the Mount.

As I read I could only come to one conclusion (and I am no expert or theologian) … the law of Christ is the new commandment that he gave his disciples. Those in the upper room on his last night, those of us who follow Him today:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

As we, who follow Christ, bear the burdens of those who suffer, we are fulfilling the law, the life of Jesus Christ. We are his hands and feet. We are the sharers of the Good News.

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When we think about sin, what does our mind conjure?

For me, it’s murder, abuses, lies, hate.

I am not exactly sure why, but I have been thinking about sin while packing up the belongings of our house. Actually, my thoughts have been about the value of the ‘things’ we choose to pack up to take with us through the next threshold of our life.

Thinking of and giving value to these ‘things’ is like a mirror into my soul.

There are things I have put aside, for the thrift store. Then there are the things I position into a box, concerned only with Tetris-like precision to make the most of every bit of space. Then there are the things I wrap … in paper, in bubble wrap … then I clearly label on five sides of the box FRAGILE and place it somewhere safe … so that nothing can crush it.

Fragile … what is really fragile in my life? What needs to be carefully, meticulously wrapped to prevent harm? What do I value most?

If you love anything in this world more than God, you will crush that object under the weight of your expectations.

Tim Keller

When I view something in life (not just in packing) of more value than God,

where is my focus?
where do my thoughts lite?
who do I hold responsible for the safety of that ‘thing’? person?

These are the most humbling questions to answer, for their answers are found buried in my heart.

When I live valuing something, but more often someone, ahead of God, my value is on them, not Him. My thoughts are concentrated on it/them. And it is me who I hold responsible for the safety of it/them.

This valuing another more than God is, quite simply, the sin of idolatry. I am making an idol of anything or anyone who I value more than God.

I, in all my humanness cannot keep another safe. I am like a moving box filled with my cast iron pans, heavy and awkward. Like those boxes with heavy objects my hovering around and above to keep them ‘safe’ can result in my crushing that fragile treasure.

There is one who is best equipped for such care … and it isn’t me.

Only God has the tender touch and the ability to lift what is fragile to safety.

Our sin of idolatry needs to be looked at closely. We are not loving another if we are not loving sacrificially … and the best way to love sacrificially is to hand that which we hold close, back to the One who loves them more.

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I found this St. Augustine quote the same day that I was introduced to the daughters of Zelophehad. Somehow, until this point in my quest to know and understand God’s Word, I had missed their story … until now.

Theirs is a story of unfortunate loss that could mean ruin in the lives of these five sisters. It is also a story of petition, of courage, of exceptions to the rule/law, of righting wrongs. It is a story of redemption, of liberation, of equity at the hands of God.

The story is told in the book of Numbers (I will paraphrase, but click on Numbers 27:1-11 to read from the Bible).

The Israelites had completed their wandering through the desert and God told Moses to take a census. This census (of adult males) would help in land distribution in the Promised Land, for the various tribes.

As the census was being completed the five daughters of Zelophehad (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah) approached the tent of meeting. They walked and talked directly to Moses, the priest and the leaders … in front of all present (no doubt, all men). They had no (male) advocate to plea their case, so they told their own story, plain and simple. This tells me that they were thoughtful and clear communicators, with confidence that was given from a loving and wise upbringing.

And what did they plea? Inheritance. As their father had only daughters, there was no legal claim to inheritance for these sisters. Their father would have been recorded to have been childless and his line in history (that of the tribe of Manessah) would end with him (no legal claim to a part of the Promised Land … no home).

I love how Matthew Henry states, “though it was yet unconquered, untouched, and in the full possession of the natives, yet they petition for their share in it as if it were all their own already.”

Let’s divert … this just sounds like faith to me. They ask for what they do not see, yet they believe … in their hearts and minds … that this heaven-like Promised Land, is indeed promised to them! Even as women in this barren land. They believe that they have something to inherit, that God himself has set aside a piece of heaven for them. The only way for them to have such confidence is if they had grown up immersed in the stories, not just of the Promised Land, but of the Messiah.

Back to the story at hand. They petition for land in the name of their father, for, in their own words, “why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?”

It is recorded that Moses did not discuss this with the other leaders, but that he “brought their case before the Lord.” He was not going to mess around with human wisdom, but went straight to the head honcho.

And God answered,

What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.
You must certainly give them property
as an inheritance 
among their father’s relatives
and give their father’s inheritance to them.”

God affirmed them. He affirmed their plea, their right to ask exemption, their right to live as (equal) landowners among the Israelites who were male. He affirmed them with hope, with a future.

Before the suffrage movement, or women’s liberation, yet after hundreds of years of this law not being challenged, these brave and wise women asked … and they received.

Amen

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Silence …

That is the most powerful part of a Remembrance Day service, for me. When I and those around me submit collectively to our thoughts about this day, it’s significance, those souls for whom the day honors.

In my thoughts, I will drift to my own children, thankful they have not been forced to decide upon such a high risk commitment. I will drift to those in ages past, within my family, who answered such a call … and the price that generations since have paid, for traumas unattended. Then, as if something visceral leads my eyes, I look around the cenotaph for those who have served … often frail, wrinkled … those standing often utilizing every bit of energy left within them … as if standing, not for their own memories, not for their own honor, but for those whose lives were snuffed out … in front of them.

There is a song I hear, often in our home. A song of commitment to one’s country. A song of honor to those who have gone before, who sacrificed their best, their own breath, for country. Not the place, for that is just sod and biology, but for the souls who make a country living, whole.

They did not die without reason. Nor did they die for a nation who imperfectly, embarrassingly has been corrupt in it’s treatment of others (Aboriginal, women, disabled, ‘different that us’).

They died for what we as a nation can be!
They died for the possibilities.
They died in an act of love.

For love is not about the one being loved, but the commitment of the lover to love without limit.

The beautiful, haunting hymn, A Vow to Thee My Country, was originally called, Urbs Dei (“The City of God”). It is a love song of allegiance to Two Fatherlands (another title for the original poem).

The first stanza focusing on a very Remembrance Day theme of loyalty to one’s earthly home (country).

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

The second stanza, focusing on the source of such national love, that City of God. This stanza is the glue that keeps all expressions and commitments to love in focus. It speaks of the perfect peace found within her fortress walls, with the very King of this city. It is a place … but, not just a location, for it is a place one can be while on the battlefields … of war, of life. For the City of God can be with us, if we vow to her King.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

And, in true Gustav Holst form, his composition (from his piece called Jupiter) provides measured moments of near silence for the depth of the words to be digested into your soul.

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11:16

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A dark and rainy Sunday, snug on the sofa, soaking in the Swindoll sermon, with steam coming from my tea cup.

Not a bad sabbath day, if you ask me.

Can you tell I love alliteration? Sentences filled with words that begin with the same letter or sound … it’s like music to my ears.

I love listening to a speaker who makes melody with their message, who turns simple sentences into poetry that not only shares a message, but also sings to my soul.

I think that is partly why I have always loved listening to the teaching of Chuck Swindoll. It also because he speaks the truth … with heaps of love. As the sermon finished I said, aloud,

I love how he preaches with a constant smile, with ample grace. There is never guilt piled on the listener, yet … I am always convicted by his message to do better, live better, love more.

This Sunday was not different. A study in Habakkuk. A reminder that God can handle hearing our pleas, our complaints, our whining. A reminder that God always listens to us. And that he answers. God’s answer to this prophet was not good news to Habakkuk’s ears. This too was a reminder … God’s plans are not just about the now, but the big picture that only He can see.

At the end of the message, Chuck gave five statements to “embrace as we claim faith in our sovereign God”. These were the application, the message in the message, the truths to hold on to.

  1. God is able, I am not
  2. God knows what is best, I do not
  3. God sees the end from the beginning, I cannot
  4. God should have His way in this, I should not
  5. God must be glorified through this, I must not

This message is better than any I could share. It is one I will be ruminating on for days. I just might contact my beautiful lettering friend, to see if she could make a little music with her markers and create a hanging reminder of this symphony of words for me and my house.

Chuck’s sermon is embedded below in the video. If you just want to hear the entire sermon part of the service, start it at 33:35, or, if you just wish to hear his five statements (a sermon in themselves), start at 1:15:40 (to 1:23:30 … the best 8 minutes of your day!).

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