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Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

I thought that I was done with this subject … then … more words flowed out onto the screen. I guess the ripples are still in motion …

It is akin to floating, or maybe I just long to feel the motion of the ripples on the water. I long for peace …

Nope, that doesn’t do …

Most of time I live and move through my days as always, then something jogs my memory, or I bump my knee and like the pain of an old injury resurfacing, I dissolve in a puddle …

No … still inadequate …

I’ll see him in one of my kids and I almost burst with a combination of joy and sorrow …

Nope …

How does one describe walking through the first 365 days without a loved one? How does one, adequately, define the experience of great loss? How does one say, at the same time … the pain of loss is always there and life goes on? How does one meander through year one with everything the same, yet every first a reminder that everything is different?

Short answer …

I don’t know.

This experience of year one without my/our dad, my mom’s husband, the next generation’s grandfather, a friend, neighbor, cousin does not make us experienced, experts. It just leaves us longing for what was, for time snuffed out.

Not only do we feel the void his death has left, we feel and know that it has changed us, our relationships with each other, for his empty space has removed scaffolding in our relationships with each other, causing us to either be stubbornly unmoved (a fallacy, as Seismic Shifts move us all) or completely unmoored, bounced around by every wave, every ripple.

Every ripple … the ripples of his life, breathless for almost a year, are still moving.

I saw it when my younger daughter filled my kitchen with biscuits from his biscuit recipe, when my nephew worked in his garden in spring and when my niece showed up to help clean his garden as summer was fading. I see it when my older daughter calls her grandmother to check in on her, when my son wrapped his arms around me, offering wordless comfort as I melted into a puddle. In how all the grands love their dogs and cats.

I saw it in the stubborn, in the drop everything and run, in the sadness and the frustrations and the avoidance techniques of my brothers … of myself.

He is in our risqué humor, our desire to help each other, our love of music and movement, in the colors of fall and the earliest maple syrup and pussy willows in spring. He is in the late night game, the local hockey team, eyes closed, but don’t you think about turning the channel. He is in the beauty and fluttering of a hummingbirds wings, the enjoyment of an ice cream cone or a meal surrounded by one another. He is in the contradiction of our striving and contentment. He is laughing … that deep belly laugh that often ended in him coughing up a lung. He is on the swing in the cool of a summer evening, reminiscing with our mom.

 “In the Ramtop village where they dance the real Morris dance, for example, they believe that no one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.”

Terry Pratchett – Reaper Man

Dad,

the water still ripples.
the clock is still wound.
the wine is still ripening.

and dad … the crop you planted … it’s growing strong,
and the bounty of it will never come to an end.

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It was a Thursday morning, just like today.

Just like today, the sun shone brightly that day, after days of grey and gloom and rain.

At a glance, one might say that it was the calm after the storm … for me, a year ago, it was the beginning of the storm after the calm.

Twelve months later it is still a mix of calm and storms, everyday life and everything is changed, laughter and tears, stability and wobbling.

Twelve months of grief for my dad, followed by grief for his sister and her husband, a cancer diagnosis and treatment for a brother, the diagnosis of chronic disease for a daughter as well as illness for another, the loneliness of our mom and a world pandemic to round it all out.

Grief doesn’t happen in isolation. Life, with it’s joys and horrors just keeps happening, with little concern for our pain and processing.

There have been times when I have felt, metaphorically, buried alive with grief, disappointment, fear, tragedy and sorrow. Days when I got out of bed, but stayed on my dung heap from morning ’til night. Days when I didn’t have anything left to give … to anyone, even myself.

And the one who I had previously gone to, when there was no other … he was gone too. And I felt it. I felt the vacuum of his absence, the loss of the undergirding he had always provided.

And what have I learned?

  • I have learned that life is short … too short for regrets, excuses. We have today, this moment … that is all we know we have.
  • I have learned that speaking of your pain validates the pain felt by another.
  • I have learned to say I love you instead of good bye … to family, to friends … it will one day be too late to speak them, don’t save them like fancy china … throw them around like confetti.
  • I have learned to lean into my sadness, to cry when the tears surface, to say the words, “I am sad today,” to feel the feels of grief.
  • I have learned that it’s okay to take a break from helping others … saying no or not volunteering to help someone else is okay when your cup is empty.
  • I have learned that even helpers need helpers … from my husband, to a couple of friends, to my counsellor … these people have been the ones throwing me flotation devices when I was taking on water.
  • I have learned that even though I have struggled to write during this year, I have managed to continue to practice this daily discipline.
  • I have learned (again) that God never leaves us in the valleys of life, including grief … and he shows himself in people and wonders that can only be of him.
  • I have learned that grief is not something one can go around, but we must go through it.

It has been a year … started with a beautiful, sunny morning and ended the same.

Though the void left behind will never again be filled, I am hoping that this sunrise was the calm after the great storm.

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I am reading along in the Bible and …

WHAT DID I JUST READ?

The Lord spoke to Moses, as one speaks to a friend.

Exodus 33:11

Moses is having a one-on-one session with God … nothing too wild or crazy about that … then there is that line that makes my head shake.

I read it again … and again.

God

Creator

Redeemer

Judge

Master

Healer

Almighty

Most High

Shepherd

… friend?

I can easily see God as the warm and welcoming (and disciplinarian) father, who loves, comforts and leads my life. To see him as a friend … that is not so easy to comprehend.

I immediately sought out understanding from various Bible commentaries, most of which seemed consumed with the ‘face to face’ part … as though the physical position of God (did he appear in human form? did Moses see the face of God? how could Moses still be alive if he saw God’s very face?).

The physical was not where my amazement and imagination took flight, it was the relational. The very God of creation spoke to Moses, as one speaks to a friend.

This exchange occurred not long after God’s own people, the Israelites … tapping their toes and thinking that Moses was taking too long up Mount Sinai getting God’s top ten commandments, had a golden calf constructed so that they could have a shiny new god to pray to.

And what did Moses say to God? He intervened for those impatient, ungrateful Israelites. Moses even had the nerve to ask God to accompany them on the rest of their journey.

Moses was growing into the leadership position that God had ordained for him! His confidence, not in himself, but in the plan of God was firm.

“The Lord spoke to Moses, as one speaks to a friend.”

Now, take note (as I did) that it was God who spoke as a friend, not Moses. God set the pace. God was experiencing and wanting Moses to experience something unique, different from so many others.

Was God delighting in the faith of Moses? In his leadership abilities? Or was God delighting in his heart … was Moses heart transforming into a heart like God’s?

Kinda makes you want a heart like that … as one after the heart of God.

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In the Pacific Northwest it is storm season. The torrential rains and the strong winds appear usually from November to December. Some years the impact is barely noticeable, whereas other years they provide enough impact for headlines such as STORM OF THE DECADE (or CENTURY).

While listening to the weather forecast this morning I heard about successive storms expected to hit our coast over the next few days …

and I got so excited!

Just like last evening, while out with a friend for a walk and coffee. When we started walking back to where our cars were parked (three or four blocks away) the heavens opened up and lightening flashed brightly in the distance. We sought temporary refuge under an awning, enjoying the light and sound show until the rains eased.

It was spectacular.

Just like the ones to hit our coast, just like all such storms, it eventually passed.

The next morning I awoke to a bright sunrise … the calm after the storm.

Storms in our lives … the kind that flatten us, leave us with more questions than answers, the kind that can skew our hopes and throw our future plans and dreams up in the air … those storms aren’t as delightful or entertaining as a thunder and lightening night sky performance.

Yet, like thunder and lightening, like wind and rain, these storms of life come and they eventually touch us all.

I don’t have wise and life-changing words for such storms. I cannot say that the loved one will be healed, that the money will be there, that the stress and anxiety of your life will dissipate.

I can tell you, from my faith and experience of the storms of life and of the God of all … you are not alone. Even when it may feel that you are out to sea in a dingy, paddling with all your might (or curled in a ball in fear) … you are not alone. He is with you.

When you pass through the deep, stormy sea, you can count on me to be there with you. When you pass through raging rivers, You will not drown. When you walk through persecution like fiery flames, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you.

Isaiah 43:1-2

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“Just linger for a moment or two” I heard myself say. “Carole, you’ve gotta learn to linger.”

Five years ago, life was different.

Our oldest daughter was preparing to her first apartment, next daughter was living at home while studying at a local university and our youngest was still in high school, where I worked. We lived in a large home, on a sizeable property that demanded of us constantly. Hubby worked nowhere near just a forty hour work week as a pastor in a local church and his job trickled down into seen and unseen responsibilities for myself. It was our first year in a few with no International students as part of our home and family.

I was tired, perpetually tired.

It seemed that I was constantly in demand, in motion. I was either cooking, or driving, or working, or weeding …

and now …

life is different.

Our oldest two daughters are out on their own, our son still mostly living at home, sometimes working out of town, currently working locally. I still work the same hours, but it’s different. Hubby no longer working over full time as a pastor, now working a couple of part time positions. We sold our large property for a townhouse close to everything.

Life is … simpler, quieter, less demanding.

But, learning to linger … it does not come natural after years of living based on the urgent. The growing pains from a life of busy to less slow are very real.

In my adjustments to this new way of life and living, I am beginning to learn to linger … but it is a learning, a process of slowing oneself down.

It means pausing to smell the flowers, to listen, to ponder, to wonder.

It also means pausing in my day and lingering in the awareness of the presence of God. To put the book, the phone, the keys down … maybe even closing my eyes, and letting God know that I know he is right there, with me.


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At the funeral of Sister Margaret Lowe, 1918

Today, as Canadians, we remember those who gave their lives and youth in service to their country, their communities and to the pursuit of peace in other countries, around the world, in various conflicts in odd … virtual services of remembrance due to the pandemic.

It is not something I can personally understand, the idea of leaving the safety of my home, family and community to travel into an unfamiliar place filled where one’s life could be snuffed out at any time.

I wonder if I would be so selfless.

Military members and numerous volunteers have been, and continue to be so selfless.

One group of individuals who have given in times of conflict and world struggle are nurses.

Predominantly (but not exclusively) women, these nurses who cared for the wounded in field hospitals and even close to the front, risking and even losing their lives in their service.

Days that were long and resources that were often short was their wartime nursing norm. In a place of the horrors, fear and death all around them, they had to have steady hands, clear minds and the ability to dole out what must have seemed a daydream … encouragement and hope.

There are countless stories of servicemen in WW1 and WW2 who credit their lives to nurses who cared for them after injuries. They tell of having rediscovered their desire and purpose for living from the steady, patient and encouraging voice of one at their bedside, in their darkest hours.

This current pandemic is a close-to-home reminder of the selflessness, commitment and sacrifice of those who serve their communities as nurses.

As I bow my head, this Remembrance Day, my thoughts will be specifically, of those who gave in wartime as well as those who continue to do so.

They were young, as we are young,
They served, giving freely of themselves.
To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,
To carry their torch and never forget.
We will remember them.

We will remember them.

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I think that one of my favorite chapters in the Bible is John 15. It begins with the vine and branches, migrates into how the world hates the disciples and ends with the work of the Spirit. Though they may have three different titles, they are all about abiding.

Charles Swindoll says that to “abide” with God (the vinedresser) is being at home with him. I love this translation for it feels warm, connected … it feels like a choice.

Indeed, abiding is a choice.

Often the verse of focus is John 15:5 :

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you are at home with me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing …”

But verse 8, where Jesus says how it will be known if we are at home with him is equally important :

“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

An apple tree cannot produce oranges, A grape vine cannot produce tomatoes. And a branch that is intwined with others, but not attached (not at home with) the vine, produces nothing of the fruit of that vine.

Though we may produce fruit in our lives, it is only because we are attached to the vine … at home with God.

I was remembering recently at time when, as a teenager, I met someone, who was sure he knew me from somewhere. He asked where I worked, and I told him I worked at Tim Horton’s. His eyes lit up, as he then named the location where I worked. He said that he went there frequently and always knew I was a Christian because of how I treated the customers.

As I remembered that story I found myself wondering … is whose I am still evident to a stranger? Can strangers identify me by the fruit of how I live my life? can family and friends?

is it obvious that I am at home with Christ?

I can only hope that the fruit of my living is Him. This comes only as I allow Him to produce the fruit of my connection to Him.

There are many who claim that name of Christ, but the fruit of their lives does not indicate that they are at home with the Lord. Our fruit is in what we say and also in what we do. We know this, because we can easily see the contradictions in their lives.

The most evident fruit of the spirit of God is love … if what we see from ourselves or others who claim the name of Christ is not love … they are not at home with Christ.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“God didn’t want me to do more for Him.

He wanted me to be more with Him.”

― Bruce H. Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance


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Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

That is the start of a poem, a nursery rhyme from the seventeenth century about religion, politics, treason and an impassioned ‘guy’.

this post has nothing to do with any of those things …

I heard the line a few weeks past and, in an instant my mind raced to the significance of the fifth of November.

On November 5, 1943, with the miraculous simplicity of the birth of a baby, the baby boy who would become my dad, breathed his first breath … and like a rock dropped in the water, ripples spread out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

As I remembered the fifth of November, it was a memory of that date last year. I didn’t want to forget to wish him a happy birthday, so I called as I was driving home from work, speaker on full … so that I could hear him not hear what I said (yes, he had hearing aids. No, he didn’t wear them).

“Hel-lo” the phone came to life quickly … my mom not picking up calls that day, knowing that most would be for him, wishing him well on his birthday. He loved birthdays and relished the attention on his.

I don’t remember what we spoke of, though I am certain that he told me about who else had called him, where he and mom had gone to dinner, and how whatever he had eaten was “some good.”

What I do remember for sure is that it was our last conversation and … I was miffed at him.

It was so clear that he did not hear much of what I said (damn pride about those hearing aids). And … he just wasn’t right, not himself … and I longed for something better.

As we said good-bye, I rolled my eyes, wondering if he had heard much of what was said. I was miffed at him … and that was our final conversation.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

This will forever be my final memory of talking to my dad. Within days he was not feeling well, then taken to hospital by ambulance, then …

If I could have a redo, I would have called him back the next day, been more patient, asked more questions, said I love you until I was certain that he heard it …

But, there are no redos … we only have today, this moment.

Thankfully, I have a lifetime of good memories with my dad, far more good and warm and positive than this last humdrum conversation.

Death is a part of life and we cannot live in relationship with other humans thinking that we have tomorrow.

Do it, today. Say it, today. Live with no regrets.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

November 5, 2019, was my dad’s seventy-sixth birthday. Twenty days later he breathed his last, but, like a rock dropped in the water, ripples are still spreading out, forever changing the lives of so many.

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November

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As Jesus stood on a mount, delivering his sermon to the crowd, he taught them about how to live. Primarily what he taught was that our hearts should be pure, that we do good especially when no one is looking, that God is God.

In the midst of this Sermon on the Mount is a profoundly simple yet … profound instruction on how to pray.

The Lord’s Prayer has been called “a prayer of prayers”. When we prayer, whatever we pray, we are praying the Lord’s prayer.

I have heard of elderly people, immersed in their own world of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, who sit, lifeless, in a chair much of the day. Then, when they hear the familiar words of the Lord’s prayer they come alive again, reciting what they learned generations ago (this is also a good reminder to ‘hide’ God’s word in the hearts of our children and of ourselves).

“The function of prayer is not to change God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”

Soren Kierkegaard

It changes me … prayer changes me. If I am ‘real’ and honest when I pray (and how can I not? for God is not hearing my words so much as my heart) transformation of my mind and heart take place, drawing me closer to the heart of God himself.

When we are low on words. When our human aching cannot muster a whisper. When there is nothing left but the groaning of my heart … I pray, as Jesus taught:

This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is

the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

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I have nothing left. I am just at the end of my rope … at the end of me.

Those were my words, my prayer, in the midst of a time of struggle, a time where I didn’t have the answer, the solution, the ‘fix’ for the problem.

As I spoke the words, at the end of me, an odd sense of relief was felt from within out. It was as if my verbal confession freed me from invisible, self administered chains. It was as if this was the most wise next step.

Baffled, that this peaceful feeling could accompany the equivalent of waving the white flag in defeat, I then remembered to whom I was praying.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 

1 Peter 5:5b

Pride … such a human disease of pandemic proportions! And I am not always so quick to admit that I have been infected. I think I need to do all the fixing, the solving, have all the answers. Then, along comes reality and my pride takes a hit … reminding me that there is a higher power, a greater one, who has a plan and purpose that can come of the chaos in my life … and he doesn’t need my efforts, so much as my obedience, my reliance on him.

“Coming to the END of MYSELF and all SELF effort…seems to be the very point that God steps in and shows HIMSELF to be more than ENOUGH.”

John Paul Warren

That peace that accompanied my forfeit … that was God, as I submitted my ‘power’ to him. I still was worried, I still had concerns and I still had more questions than answers, but I had been reminded that I was not alone, that I did not have to do anything … except trust, stay close to him.

“God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

Matthew 5:2-3

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