Sunday, 25 November 2012

The small miracle of extended warranties



Have you ever walked into a raging windstorm?

Swirling debris pelts you, and you close your mouth and even your eyes at times in defence. Step by step you go forward, but your one thought is, "When will this be over?"

This week was a bit like that.

Crisis after crisis (some of my own making, I admit) had me reeling and unprepared when the next one hit. Feeling an affinity with Job, I stumbled through each day, crying out to God and definitely not walking in the joy of the Lord.

In the middle of this week-I-want-to-erase, I washed my phone.

I blame distraction. While getting dressed in the early morning, I gathered together a basket of laundry. I love the "multi-tasking" feeling of accomplishment when my laundry is being washed while I am on the train going to work. Because the dress I was wearing had no pockets, I put my phone on the laundry basket, and set it on the landing. Bustling to make lunch, style my hair and get out the door, I was pleased to realize I had the two minutes necessary to run down and throw in the laundry. I left the house feeling accomplished.

As I boarded the train, I realized I'd forgotten my phone. Because it is my access to everyone and everything, I felt like my right arm was suddenly missing. When my friend got on the train, I used her phone to call my husband. A worm of fear had begun to crawl around my middle. "I'm pretty sure I left it on the counter, but just in case, can you check the washer, too. And phone me at work to let me know."

When the call came, I burst into tears.  Having to replace an expensive phone just before Christmas when things were already tight was going to kill me. Not replacing it wasn't an option. We'd just cut off our landline the month before and were now "cell only."

I pulled the file I had on the phone (which I hadn't opened since the day I filed it) and went to the store where I bought it. The news wasn't good. With 17 months left on the contract, it was going to be an expensive mistake. (In the spirit of true confessions, I have to tell you. This isn't the first time I've done this.  About three years ago, I did exactly the same thing with another phone.  Which is why I have a bruise on my head from pounding it against the wall. Figuratively.)

The salesman was flipping through my contract, when his head jerked. "Wait a minute. You've got the Apple extended warranty. You can go to their store and get a new phone--no questions asked."

Really? Really. I now have a brand new, not cracked (my other one slipped out of my pocket and had an unfortunate encounter with the pavement) iPhone, and the Christmas budget is intact. Extended warranties. Wow.

Can I get an extended warranty on my life? Could I hand over the stupid things I say or the unwise things I do, and have them go away? Be replaced with a godly attitude and wisdom?

Unfortunately, it's not immediate like my phone, but God does promise that He will work with me, if I ask Him to.

Prov. 15:1a "A soft answer turns away wrath."
Prov. 10:11 "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life."
Prov. 12:18 "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Prov. 31:26 "She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is in her tongue." (Oh virtuous woman, how I long to be like you!)
Eccl. 3:7 "There is a time to keep silent and a time to speak."

And finally--James 1:26 "Those who consider themselves religious and do not keep a tight reign on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless." (Ouch.)

Colossians 3:17 "Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

So, Lord, it's a new week. Remind me--constantly--that I am your child, and help me live each moment to please You.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The small miracle of the list



I can't remember.

I wasn't there.

For those of us born in the generation after World War II, the best we can do is actively listen to the stories, and try to imagine how it felt. But is it even possible to imagine the horrors of war, or the agony of waiting at home? I've never been personally touched by it. My Dad wasn't in active service, and although some of my uncles were, I was never close enough to them to hear their stories. They all came home, and lived fulfilled lives. I grew up with the Viet Nam war, but didn't understand the issues or know anyone who went. I am blessed every day by the freedom that those who fought purchased for me, many with their lives, and I am thankful.

But remembering was difficult.

Something that happened this week changed that.

I was standing waiting for the slowest elevator in the building, and glanced at the bulletin board beside it. Two papers were posted, listing residents who are veterans, and giving others who may have been missed a chance to sign up. All the names will be read and honoured during the Remembrance Day service. Several columns identified whether they were army, navy, air force or merchant marine, and whether they were veterans or veterans' wives. I scanned the names, and began to reflect on how many of the names I know.

People I know.

Mary and Charles and Bruce and Alan. Dorothy and Claire and Brian. Men and woman who fought and served when they were younger than my youngest child. Who walked willingly into unspeakable situations for me. Who waited in agony at home for letters which came only sporatically, and were weeks old and filled with holes when they finally arrived. Men and women who lost brothers and fathers and friends because they believed it was important  to keep our country safe. To keep me safe.

The names on this list are people I talk with every day. They are men and women who gave a portion of their young lives to serve me, and now I have the incredible priviledge to serve them.

Then I knew. I remember. Thank you.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The small miracle of small steps




I'll never get a good neighbour award.

Not that I'm a bad neighbour. I'm a quiet neighbour. I live my life side-by-side with people in my townhouse complex and smile shyly at them as we put out our mutual garbage. We all hibernate in the winter, emerging in the frozen night to go to work. and slinking back under cover of dark at the end of the day.A snowfall will bring us from our lairs briefly, where we puff and complain about the weather, as we fling snow with abandon. We grunt words like, "Tough." "Canadian, eh." and "This was nothing, you should have seen..." and creep to our cozy homes when the task is complete.

In the spring as the buds emerge and the grass greens, I spend more time outdoors and begin to greet my neighbours with shy smiles again. We rush past each other with a few friendly words.

I don't  know their names.

Last spring, as Hunter walked the lake for exercise after his heart surgery, he talked to people. It's who he is, and I was amazed. When we walked together, he gave me the condensed version of what he had learned. "That's Sally. She has three kids. The oldest is in university, and she's worried about him. Her husband works for Hydro and she's a nurse." I gaped at Sally as she jogged by with a friendly wave. I'd seen her before and didn't know a blessed thing about her--not even her name. Although I don't have Hunter's outgoing personality, I realized I wanted to learn to connect with my neighbours in a way that worked for me.

"Lord, is there a way a shy-but-essentially-friendly woman can reach out to her neighbours?"

The answer was on Facebook.

I heard of a couple in the U.S. who offered coffee and baking to the adults on Halloween. Interesting.

I decided to try it.

That's when everything went wrong.

After a crazy-busy day at work, I got away a few minutes late.The nature of my long commute is that, if one factor (like a missed bus) occurs, the whole thing dominoes out of control. I got home 30 minutes late, it was already dark, and little people in costumes were on my doorstep. I almost gave up, but an unexpected lull in the crowd gave me the opportunity to get my curbside cafe together. Then this shy-but-essentially-friendly woman stood hollering at the parents who were shivering at the curb, "I've got COFFEE!"

They came.

Through the sodden leaves and the raindrops they wrapped both hands around styrofoam mugs and smiled. "Forget the candy. This is definitely the best house." declared one dad.

Today, I am thankful for neighbours, my community, and the small miracle of small steps in connecting with them.

"Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up." Rom. 15:2

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The small miracle of propping


It looked like a gentle breeze could blow it over.

The old barn had seen many harvests, been a safe house for cattle, and stored hay and corn husks. It was leaning to the left, and shivered as if it wouldn't make it through another winter. Rather than pulling the sorry building down, the farmer cut some pine poles, and propped it on the leaning side. It may not have been pretty, but the poles allowed it to function.

The farmer thought about how he was like the old building, and how he often "leaned to the left" in his weakest area. He began to pray, "Lord, prop me up on my leanin' side."

I received this story in an email, and it caught my imagination. I am intimately acquainted with my "leanin' side", and God has been propping me up in this area all my life.

I lean toward fear. Insecurity. That voice inside that tells me I'll never measure up, and in fact I'm about to topple over at any moment.

For you, it might be anger, gossip, over commitment or pride. There are any number of issues that can make us lean, worn down by what life brings us each day.

The good news is, God knows our propensity to lean, and He's there to prop. In fact, He does better than prop. He invites us to be yoked with Him, and He will carry part of the load.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matt. 11:28-30

It's not just about propping. God wants us to discover a whole new way of living that involves leaning on Him in my weakest area ("When I am afraid, I will trust in You." Ps. 56:3) Old patterns, old voices, old leanings--I will choose to live life another way. I will lean on Him rather than leaning toward my weakness.

I don't have to be perfect at it, because He is. When I fail, He forgives, and on we go. My steps toward being straight and strong are baby steps. Sometimes (although I know better) I lean to the left, and listen to the voices of discouragement and defeat. But these days, only briefly. 

"I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and strength, my God, in whom I trust." Ps. 91:2

Thanks, Lord



Saturday, 29 September 2012

The small miracle of ten dollars



Have you ever had a branding moment?

Something so catastrophic happens that it marks you for the rest of your life. You remember what you were wearing and the smells and sounds, and especially how you felt when it happened. Thinking about it makes those same emotions spring to life, and you are suddenly right there, in the moment.

For me, it was in the subway.

Several years ago, I often didn't carry much money in my wallet. The bottom line was, I didn't have much money, and often didn't have cash. It was never a crisis, because my credit card and my bank card carried me through most situations.

Except one.

At that time, you could only use cash or tokens to get on the subway at Kipling station, which is the west end of the line. I would get off the train (for which I had a monthly pass) and board the subway every day at Kipling. On this day, I was on the train when I realized the change in my wallet wasn't enough to board the subway. A frantic search in the depths of my purse (had any change fallen down there?) and my wallet (was there a token stuck in the lining?) revealed my worst fear. I didn't have enough money.

When I got off the train, I tried to use my bank card with the ticket seller to get cash back, but that wasn't possible. There were ticket machines in the subway, but you needed cash for them. I couldn't turn around and go home (as my heart longed to do) because there would be no westbound trains until evening. With growing horror, I realized my only recourse.

I would have to beg.

I approached a woman going through the turnstile. I held out the change I had, and began to explain my predicament, but the shame of the situation rose in my throat and squeezed out the words. Tears spilled down my face unbidden, and my cheeks flamed with embarrassment. She must have understood, because she reached into her pocket and found the change I needed. I grabbed it like a crust of bread to a starving person, and rushed onto the train. It took several stops for me to cease shaking and crying. From that day several years ago, I never leave the house without checking my wallet for change.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was on the subway, when a young man stepped forward. He looked to be in his early twenties, clean cut but a little ragged around the edges. I didn't notice him until he started to speak.

"So, I've had a run of bad luck, and I'm just trying to get home. I need to get to Union Station, and then take the train to my town. I don't have enough money to buy the ticket, and I wonder if anyone would help me. I still need $30, and I'd appreciate anything you could give me."

Immediately, I was back at Kipling, frantically searching in pockets and linings for enough change to get to work. The powerful emotions of those moments washed over me, but this time, I was able to be the beneficiary. A ten dollar bill sat in my wallet, and with a quick prayer, I gave it to him. He looked surprised at the denomination of the bill, and then melted into the seat, as if trying to disappear.

I don't know if he was legitimate. My gut feeling is that he was, but there are ways in which it doesn't matter. I think I was handing the money to that horrified woman at Kipling station, and reminding her that even in the most out-of-control situations, God is in control.

A lesson she is still learning. Daily.


What "branding" situation have you been in? What have you learned from it?


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The small miracle of successful days



I love to accomplish things.

There's no better feeling for a person with my personality type than to make a long list of tasks, and then begin to cross them off. When I was a mom at home with small children, I would make my ILT ever day. That stood for my Impressive List of Things. At the end of the day, I would show it to my husband (who was far too smart to ever say, "What did you do all day?") If all or most of the items had been crossed off, I would feel it was a successful day. I had accomplished!

My list was typical:

  • clean the house
  • laundry
  •  run errands
All these things needed to be done, but many years into it, when the children were mostly grown, I began to realize that the ILT had become more important than God wanted. I was becoming 100% Martha. Don't get me wrong- I love Martha (and so did Jesus) but she got things out of perspective sometimes. So do I.

I began to wonder what God's ILT would look like.

  • I'd really like to talk with you today. "Come near to God, and He will come near to you." James 4:8
  • I have things I'd like to say to you today.  "Don't stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night think about what it says, so you can be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will prosper and succeed." Josh 1:8
  • How's it going with the fear thing? "I will never leave you nor forsake you. So you may boldly say, 'The Lord is my Helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?" Heb. 13:5,6 
  • I made today for you. Can you give it back to me? No matter what happens? "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps. 118:24 
  • Here's the thing. I am with you. I love you. You are my special, beloved child. Today and every day.  "For you are a holy person who belongs to the Lord your God. Of all the people on the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his own special treasure." Deut. 7:6


      • So today, Lord, I give you my list, and decide to take a look at yours.





    Monday, 17 September 2012

    The small miracle of flowers in concrete


    It was a sight so arresting, it halted my journey up Christie Street.

    From the side of the curb, only inches from the street, were flowers growing from a minuscule break in the concrete. Beautiful purple cosmos bloomed where there should only be rock and pavement.

    There is a lesson here.

    More than "Bloom where you are planted." These flowers weren't planted. They sprang forth in the most difficult of places and spread their beauty among the feet, the tires and the bustle of a busy street.

    All of us have times of concrete in our lives. Difficult situations that don't improve, even with fervent prayer. The illness goes on and on, the struggling financial situation you can't get on top of, the relationship issue doesn't get resolved. There are times when the concrete hardens and the situation doesn't change . We storm the gates of heaven, but for a period of time, we are called to live in the concrete. And bloom.

    Why? Every situation is different, and many times, there is no answer to that question this side of heaven. My poor lifestyle choices, or my own sin may have caused the concrete, but often, there is no discernible reason. The concrete is there and I am here and I need to find a way to cope with it.

    The neat thing is, I am not alone.

    God is the god of the concrete, and He promises to be with me. "Shout for joy, you heavens: rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts His people and will have compassion on His afflicted ones." Is. 49:13

    He is there in the middle of the concrete situations, holding me up and encouraging me to bloom.

    Blooming doesn't mean dealing with the situation perfectly every time, but facing the daily challenges, and finding a way to not only cope, but thrive. At least some of the time.

    Blooming is the blind lady with the incredible sense of humour. She bemoaned the lack of men in her life, and asked why I didn't bring my husband. When I replied he was sick that day, she batted her sightless eyes and said, "I'm a nurse!"

    It's the woman who was diagnosed with cancer, and said, "Well, when I lose my hair, I'm getting a wig, and it's going to be red. I always wanted to be a redhead."

    It's the couple who can't have children, but celebrate every child that comes into their lives as a gift from God.

    Blooming is acknowledging the concrete is there, but concentrating on the flowers. Looking for God's hand and God's help.

    "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you." Deut. 31:5,6



    Are there "stuck in concrete" issues in your life? How are you blooming?

















    Friday, 24 August 2012

    The small miracle of anniversaries



    August 20, 2012

    You and I may be the only people who remember the significance of this day. And you are gone, so there is only me.

    Thirty-five years ago, this day changed my life. Today my mind traveled winding paths of memory, thinking about you and us and what was and is.

    Of course, we thought we were grown up and ready to face life. I guess we were for 25 and 23. There's only so much maturity you can pack into those brief years of living. I was working as a librarian's assistant and you were teaching guitar. We lived in a two bedroom apartment and had no car. We were poor, in love and learning how marriage worked. How each other worked. How God worked.

    There were so many experiences. We had children, we moved; you got a job in your field and then a better one. I quit mine to have a baby, started a business and then another one. All our parents died. I closed my business and got a job downtown. You got a job you stayed at for 20 years. Our children grew up, married, and we became grandparents.

    You got sick. Then sicker. We went to the CN Tower to celebrate our 30th anniversary. Two months later, you died.

    One day, years before, we had a conversation entitled, "What would you do if I die?" It seemed odd to be having this morbid discussion, but it was one of those conversations couples sometimes engage in. "I will never marry again." you said. Hmmmm, I'm not sure what I think of that. I kept that response to myself.

    "You will marry again, though. And I think you should."

    Perhaps because of the subject of that conversation, it stayed with me when thousands of others fled.

    Here I sit, all these years later, celebrating our thirty-fifth by myself. I am so happy that your pain (physical and emotional) is over, and that you experience the wonderful love of our Saviour daily.

    So today, I want to tell you two things. I'm sure you know them, but I need to express it.

    I always loved you. There are ways in which I always will.

    And--you were right.

    Happy thirty-fifth, Bill.

    Sunday, 12 August 2012

    The small miracle of teachers



    In 2003, I took gerontology online. Other than that, I haven't been in school for decades.
    I still have two children finishing university degrees, but neither of them has lived at home for years.

    So why do back to school ads still make me edgy?

    As a kid, those ads meant an end to the fun and adventure of summer. Routine, chores, HOMEWORK, assignments and the dreaded report cards were all a part of back to school. As a mom, it meant shopping trips for school supplies, clothes, new uniforms and books and the sound of ka-ching, ka-ching at every turn. When school started, there were pizza days and book orders and fundraisers and more ka-ching. Then all three children had their birthdays. Then it was Christmas.

    No wonder back-to-school gives me hives.

    All that aside, hours of life are spent in school, and teachers can make a difference. I remember two teachers  who were a huge influence in my life.

    I've never had a good relationship with numbers. In grade three, I was struggling with multiplication, and my teacher was getting frustrated with my inability to understand. Her solution was to bring me in front of the class and have me do the problems on the board. As I stood there, she ridiculed me. Every brain cell froze, and humiliation caused tears to slide down my face.

    I received several messages that day, and although they weren't true, I believed them for years. You are hopeless, YOU ARE STUPID, you can't do math.

    As I journeyed through my years in school, this message went with me. In grade 10, a math teacher told me he would pass me if I never took math again. My marks in all other classes hovered around 60. I was an average student, and I was convinced I was stupid.

    In grade eleven, I met another teacher who changed my life. He challenged us to think, to reason and to ask questions. He taught me history, and a love for that subject was born in me. He made us look for the "why" behind the "what", and as an atheist, forced me to understand my new-found faith in new ways. After the first semester, he met with my parents and said, "Someone has convinced her that she is stupid. She is not. I am going to convince her otherwise."

    I had the good fortune of two years in his classes, and by the end of grade 12, my marks were in the high 70s to mid 80s. After high school, I completed two degrees at seminary, and he came to see me graduate.

    And all those years later, when I went back to school to take gerontology, I won two awards for my grade point average.

    So today, I am thanking God for the small miracle of teachers, who can make a difference, and for the one who gave me back the confidence in myself, so that I can write this today.

    Thanks, Mr. Allman.

    p.s. I still can't do math, but thankfully even cell phones have calculators now.


    Was there a teacher in your past that was a small miracle in your life?

    Friday, 27 July 2012

    The small miracle of giving


    A dollar a day. The concept fascinated me. Could I change the world with a dollar a day?
    When our church challenged us to put this amount aside for missions, I was thankful that at this season of my life, I could do this. I am a concrete and visual learner, so I bought a glass container for my dining room table. I needed to watch the coins drop, and hear the muffled tinkle as they bumped.  I needed to see them climb the side.  It became a game, as my larger coins went in the jar. I paid with bills, and gleefully hoarded change until I got home and was able to add it to my stash.
    Our church held a benefit concert to bring hope to children and young people. Three specific charities were selected, and and I decided to support the organization giving AIDS orphans a chance for an education. The concept that I could touch and improve the life these children infused me with wonder. The next day, however, I began to think about one of the other causes, which involved digging wells to provide fresh water in a third world country. People were getting sick and dying from diseases we don’t hear about in North America, because they had contaminated water. Troubled, I wandered around the house. “The water, Lord. What can I do about the water?” I had already spent my designated amount, but the conviction wouldn’t leave me. Then the jar caught my eye. It was only about one third full, and I hadn’t planned on emptying it yet, but…The coins made a satisfying clamour as they spilled. One third of a jar of coins can still amount to a significant amount of money! I was able to contribute to this cause, also.
    Then came the night I had company for dinner, and someone joked, “Is this for tips?” I hesitated. Should I explain? The person asking had no church background. Plunging ahead, I replied, “No, that’s for world hunger, clean water and AIDS orphans.” That led to a discussion of the Christian’s response to world need which wouldn’t have occurred without the jar of coins on the table.
    My granddaughter, who was three at the time, noticed the “moneys.” “Did you know there are children who are hungry? Grandma’s saving money in the jar so we can buy them food.” She may not understand money, but she knows children and hunger. I grabbed my wallet and she enjoyed adding coins to my collection. I was thrilled to introduce her to the concept of giving. Every time she comes, she puts “moneys” in the jar for poor children.
    Then I understood. I had set out to change the world, but giving was changing my world—and me.
     Amazing dividends for a dollar a day.











    Wednesday, 25 July 2012

    The small miracle of light

    At 3:00 a.m., my mind isn't functioning at the top of its game.

    When I rolled out of bed in response to my doggy's summons, I stumbled into the hallway and hit the light switch. Nothing. Must be burned out. It wasn't until I'd felt my way down the stairs that it occurred to me that all six lights on the fixture couldn't be burned out. The power was out.

    I keep a flashlight in a drawer in the living room for just such a calamity, so I turned it on and let Cinnamon out the back door. As I crawled back in bed, I thought, "I hope they get this fixed before morning." They didn't.

    When my alarm went off, I faced reality--the power was still off, and my blow dryer wouldn't work. This was a crisis.

    I showered in the dark and attempted to fix my hair. The result was flat and hanging in my eyes and I wondered if anyone would notice if I wore a bag on my head on the train. Lunch took precious extra minutes to create as I longed for a third arm to hold the flashlight. Worst by far was the lack of coffee. I stood staring at the barbecue, wondering if I could heat some up on there. If I'd had just a few more minutes--

    The spiritual application is obvious. It's possible to survive and cope without light and power, but it's not comfortable.

    God knew that.

    From the moment He made us, He desired communication and fellowship with us. Adam and Eve walked and talked with Him daily until they blew it. The Old Testament is full of man's attempts to cope with the gap that sin left between us and God. Then God sent Jesus to be our Saviour, our Friend, our Light, so that close communication with God was possible again. Many years ago, I opened my desperate heart to Him, and He has been my Power and Light ever since.

    So why do I sometimes stumble around with a flashlight?

    The truth is, I forget. Even with years of seeing His faithfulness in all kinds of situations, there are times when my default reactions of worry and fear take over. It annoys me that I can be praying about a situation one minute and find my mind wandering into the land of "what if" the next. Will I never learn? My Father is so patient, and when I despair, He reassures me.

    "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Phil. 1:6

    So today, Lord, I put the flashlight away in the drawer, and turn on the Light.

    Friday, 20 July 2012

    The small miracle of stuff


    We all have stuff. Nothing wrong with that.
    The problem comes when our stuff has us.

    The Parable of the Stuff

    There once was an elderly lady. She had lived lots of years, and now she wheezed when she walked and puffed when she got up and squinted when she tried to see. For all the years she'd lived, you'd think she would be wise, and in many ways she was. But she had one problem.

    She loved her stuff.

    She wasn't rich, and truthfully, some of her stuff was in tatters. But it was hers, and she got anxious whenever she couldn't find it. Some of her family took some of it away, because her room was crowded, and they were afraid she would fall over it. She became upset and thought they had stolen it, and she demanded they bring it back. In fact, whenever she misplaced anything, she immediately assumed it was stolen. She had her stuff in boxes and cartons and bins and in a container under the bed. She never went out, and  never had fun, but her stuff was safe. She had her stuff. Or it had her.

    That's an extreme example, but keeping a balance in this area is a continual challenge. We want stuff, and then we want better stuff. When it get it, it needs to be washed and ironed and cut and fertilized and cleaned and maintained and polished and vacuumed. Our stuff takes a lot of work.

    There was a man in the Bible who cornered the market on stuff.

    "Speaking to the people He went on. 'Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.' Then He told them this story. 'The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself. 'What can I do? My barn isn't big enough for this harvest.' Then he said, 'Here's what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I'll gather in all my grains and goods, and I'll say to myself, Self, you've done well. You've got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life.' Just then, God showed up and said, 'Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods--who gets it?'  That's what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God." Luke 12:13-21 (The Message)

    The key to the whole "stuff" thing is attitude. God doesn't say not to save for retirement, or that you can't own and enjoy things. The reason why this farmer got called to task was his attitude. He was focusing on looking after his stuff, rather than sharing it. He wasn't looking to help the poor with his bumper crop, he was building bigger barns.

    HOLD YOUR STUFF WITH AN OPEN HAND.

    It was probably 40 years ago that I had the privilege of hearing Corrie Ten Boom speak in person. Her words imprinted on my soul and molded my life. She said, "Hold everything in your hands, lightly. Otherwise, it hurts when God pries your fingers open." As someone who had everything taken away by the Nazis when her family hid Jews during the war, she learned this lesson.

    So, I was wondering--what's in your barn?


    Is God prying open your fingers in some area of your life?




    Sunday, 15 July 2012

    The small miracle of expectations



    The day had been a culinary disaster.

    I have a reputation as a good cook and an even better baker/dessert maker. At work, I am always trying new recipes, and usually they are great. Usually.

    The other day, I made something called "Strawberry Cream Dessert." Cookie base, jello, cool whip, strawberries, orange juice.--sounds like the perfect treat for a hot day. When I went to cut it into squares, it hadn't set. No problem. I'll use a spoon and scoop it onto the plates.


    I have to tell you--it looked like pink vomit.

    Residents who were brave enough to try it assured me it tasted alright, but my reputation was bruised. Everyone who approached the cart which held the plates of the stuff, backed away and said, "What's that?"


    I went home and began to make dinner. Hunter wasn't going to be in until 8:00, and in my mind I had a lovely dinner planned. Chicken done on the rotisserie, green beans almondine and raspberry ice milk made in our new ice cream maker. I put the chicken on, and ran upstairs to get changed. In the five minutes that took, my chicken turned into a crispy critter. Apparently medium is too hot.Discouraged, I pulled off as much burned skin as possible, and covered the damage with barbecue sauce. Not beautiful, but acceptable. I dumped the package of beans I bought three days ago in to pot and discovered they were rotten. Next stop was the compost. I looked at the ice cream maker and decided tonight wasn't the night for its premier run.

    When I cut into the chicken, it wasn't done. It had to make a trip to the microwave. Twice. My expectations of a "lovely dinner" were in tatters.

    If there's one thing I've learned about expectations, it's that they can mess you up. It's important to dream and have goals. Some of my goals are much loftier than a good meal or a fancy dessert, and I've worked hard to accomplish them. There is a balance to be achieved between pursuing goals and dreams and releasing my expectations to God. I often lose sight of the balance.

    The key is this: "This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps. 118:24

    Each day is a gift from God. My job is to be thankful, and honour Him in it. It's not about me, it's about Him. The cool thin is, when I make it about Him and rejoice in the day, whatever it brings, He makes it about me and teaches me. Not long ago (like last week) I would have had a good cry over a day like that. I would have said all kinds of nasty things in my mind about what a loser I was. I would have lost my joy.

    But I am learning (learning being the operative word--I have not arrived in this area) to give my expectations to God, and lighten up. We laughed about the chicken and made wraps. Hunter reminded me of a certain blueberry pie disaster the week before, and I reprimanded him for bringing that up, and we laughed again. The "pink vomit" at work brought smiles to many faces, and made for much hilarity all afternoon. The sting is already gone. Only the joy remains.

    Some of my dreams are of paramount importance to me, but I have learned to release. I will work and study  and market and do whatever is needed. But at the end of the day, it is His, and I will have joy.

    Saturday, 30 June 2012

    The small miracle of kindergarten


    My granddaughter will be going to kindergarten this fall, which brings to mind one of my favourite pieces of writing. I wish I'd written it.

    All I really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten

    (a guide for Global Leadership)
    All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
    These are the things I learned:

    • Share everything.
    • Play fair.
    • Don't hit people.
    • Put things back where you found them.
    • Clean up your own mess.
    • Don't take things that aren't yours.
    • Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
    • Wash your hands before you eat.
    • Flush.
    • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
    • Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
    • Take a nap every afternoon.
    • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
    • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
    • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
    • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
    Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
    Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
    And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
    [Source: "ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN" by Robert Fulghum

    There's some powerful wisdom there.

    Look.

    Looking is the whole basis for seeing God's small miracles in your life. God puts them all around you, but developing the habit of looking for them is a discipline I am still working on. I forget so easily. Especially when I am out walking in this summer weather, there is so much in the miracle department. Have you ever examined the delicacy of a fern? Or stood looking into the sky to see the top of an enormous tree? Or watched a colony of ants at work? Think for a minute about the variety God put into His world. He didn't have to make all the colours, shapes, textures and sizes, but He did. Imagine if everything was green? Green is my favourite colour, but not to the exclusion of the others. Especially in summer, I am so thankful for the riot of colours among the flowers. It feeds my soul to look at them. When you go out in the world, hold hands and stick together. I've always remembered that line. It's a scary world sometimes, and we need to hold hands and stick together. So many times in my life, a friend has come alongside me when I am struggling, and we have crossed the road together. I have done this for others, too. I'm pretty sure God made us that way. That's why He invented friendship and marriage and families and church--all places to hold hands and walk together. 


     By yourself you're unprotected. 
       With a friend you can face the worst. 
       Can you round up a third? 
       A three-stranded rope isn't easily snapped. Eccl. 4:12


    We have a lot to learn from those five year olds! 


    What part of this classic piece do you relate to?

    Saturday, 23 June 2012

    The small miracle of delight

    Friday night. Going home.

    My entire focus was on a mindless moving toward the goal--home. I could do that commute in my sleep, and sometimes did. Even though I had to work Saturday, there was something special about Friday night, and I couldn't wait for it to begin.

    As I exited the subway, a scene caught my eye for a millisecond. A mom stepped on an ascending escalator with her little boy. He looked about eighteen months, and was as cute as only a little guy that age can be. As he trooped on, his look was one of delight. This was going to be fun, and he couldn't wait.

    A few seconds, and he was gone from my line of vision, but the look on his face stayed with me. Delight. A few minutes later, I stepped on the descending elevator, and tried to see it through his eyes. I didn't quite achieve delight, but it was kind of fun. More fun than stairs, for sure.

    How much delight has God placed in my path, and I've missed it? My eyes glaze over and the delightful world passes me in dull familiarity.

    I stood watching the wind toss the weeds in the field across the tracks. Felt the sun warm my face. Listened to a whole community of birds chattering to each other. Delight is an attitude of the heart, and it needs to be consciously cultivated.

    So today, I choose to delight.

    I delight in God's world. It's a day of blue skies and moderate temperatures and summer growth everywhere. But even if it was storming or (heaven forbid) snowing, there is delight if I will look for it. Today I will open my glazed eyes  and see all that God has put there. Not everything is beautiful, but I will look for the surprises. The planter filled with blooms among the concrete of the subway, and the delicate beauty of the weeds.

    I will delight in the people God put in my life. They're not delightful all the time. Neither am I. But today I will be thankful, and try to infuse the joy in that little boy's face into every encounter. When someone greets me with genuine pleasure, I feel validated and important. I will pass that on.

    And Lord, you ask me to delight in You. Sometimes, I get used to the fact that You love me. Today, I will ponder the wonder of this. "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Ps. 37:4 NIV The God of the universe knows me. Loves me. Cares about the details of my life.

    Delights in me.

    Wow.

    How do you plan to practice delight?



    Sunday, 17 June 2012

    The small miracle of fathers

    My father, Luffey Everson
    (affectionately known as Bubba
    when he became a grandfather)
    on his birthday in 1985.
    Bill Peachman, on the day of
    Benjamin's dedication in 1986. 
    Ben is in his arms,
    Ruth is beside him and Rebekah 
    beside her. In the blue dresses 
    are my nieces Sarah (curly hair)
     and Shannon.


    It's hard to be a father. Or a mother. This whole parenthood thing is fraught with potholes and places to stumble from start to finish. There are so many ways to get it wrong.

    It's  incredible to be a father. Or a mother. This whole parenthood this is such a humbling privilege, and full of so much reward. It is beyond beautiful when you get it right.    

    My dad was the pharmacist  in our community of Long Branch. Everyone on the Lakeshore knew him, and in those day, many went to the pharmacy before they went to the doctor. He worked hard all his life, and was respected in the community. 

    He called me his "little honey bee" which got shortened to "Bee" when I got older, until the nickname was dropped in my teens. I don't remember my dad telling me that he loved me, but I always knew he did. His love language was gifts, and he would bring me little things that made the message clear. On Valentine's Day, I always got my own little heart shaped box of chocolates, and he was famous for mushy cards on birthdays.  When I was sick, he would bring me home puzzle books and paper dolls to keep me busy, and some Saturdays he would make me breakfast in bed and bring it to me on a tray.   

    When Bill and I had been married five years, we moved to Mississauga. We lived in a rented townhouse, which was a step up from our rented apartment in Scarborough, but we didn't know how we would ever get into the housing market. Although the days of mountain-high interest rates had passed, and housing prices had moderated, we had two little kids, one income, and no way to save for a down payment. My parents came to dinner one night, and during dessert, my dad said they had something they wanted to tell us. Alarm bells went off in my head. My dad didn't talk like this--what was going on? It was then he announced that they'd decided to give us the down payment for a house. They didn't want to be in on the decision, and there were no conditions. It was a gift. I was stunned. 

    I still live in that house today. Thanks, Dad.

    Many young couples are nervous about having children. Will I be a good parent? Will I make the right decisions? What will we do if this happens? We were no different before our first was born, but for Bill there was an added challenge. He had come from an abusive family, and he was determined that his children knew he loved them and cared about them. When Rebekah was born, he learned to change diapers (even though it grossed him out) and played his guitar for her. The two of them would dance wildly to "The Cover of the Rolling Stone." 

    He had an intuition about his kids when they were sick. When Rebekah was 4, she developed a cough and squeaky voice in the middle of the night. I would have toughed it out until morning, but Bill took her to the ER, and that decision saved her life. She had epiglottitis (a disease they vaccinate for now) and was in ICU for several days.  He sat in the ER for hours with Ruth while she received ventolin masks for her asthma. He always seemed to know when it was time to get help. 

    More than anything, he wanted his kids to know he loved them. When Ruth was part of a gymnastics family day, he attended, even though he was in the throes of a kidney stone attack. We left near the end, but almost didn't make it home. I wasn't driving at that time, and maneuvering a  vehicle while in extreme pain is a challenge. But he wanted to be there. He and Ben went to out of town gymnastics meets, and made some great memories. 

    And he was proud of his kids! He always downplayed his own accomplishments, and was never convinced he was great at anything--even the guitar. But his kids--Rebekah's art and her skill at thinking and reasoning, and Ruth's poetry and her ability to making friends, Ben's gymnastics talent and his easy-going personality--all of these would be the topic of late night conversations. He loved each of them for who they were and who they were becoming.

    Nobody gets it right all the time. Both Bill and my Dad made lots of mistakes. We all do. The small miracle is that, by God's grace and with His help, we do get it right, and have an indelible influence on the lives of our children.

    So today, this Father's Day, I pay tribute to you both. Daddy, you were a good father. You gave me a legacy of working hard and making something of myself. 

    Bill, you loved your kids, and they love you. What greater testimony is that to a life well lived?

    Happy Father's Day.

    Thursday, 31 May 2012

    The small miracle of prime rib and broccoli

    God is usually gentle with me. A nudge, a reminder, a word, and I listen. Occasionally, however, He needs to grab me by the shoulder, look me in the eye and say, "What the heck are you thinking?" There are times I need to go to the woodshed.

    I had one of these times in my early twenties that I've never forgotten.

    The church I grew up in did "church" really well, but it wasn't a place where a personal relationship with Christ was encouraged. I found this relationship at seventeen, and it rocked my world. I wanted to share it with everyone, sometimes with more enthusiasm than wisdom.

    When I heard a family singing group was coming to our church, I wanted to crawl under the pew and stay there. There were seven of them--Dad, Mom and five kids. They were sincere in their love for the Lord, but they were hokey. Embarrassingly, cringingly awful.

    They not only sang, but illustrated their music with Bible vingettes, complete with "costumes", which consisted of bathrobes worn over their suits. The tie showed--who ever heard of a prophet with a tie?  I sweated and grumbled and squirmed through the entire evening.

    Then the incredible occured. My father, who had gone to church all his life but never made it personal, commited his heart to Jesus

    Because of the influence of this ridiculous family group. Ouch.

    God looked me in the eye (which was difficult, because I was hanging my head) and said, "Daughter, do you hear Me?" I heard.

    Romans 14 talks about accepting believers when they (horror of horrors) aren't the same as me. God, through Paul, doesn't mince words.

    "Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently." Rom. 14:1

    Paul focuses on one issue- food. What a Christian should eat was a big deal back then. It was also a source of contention in the church. Believers were snubbing other Christians because of their convictions about a correct diet.

    Crazy, huh?

    No. Because this can be applied to any issue that separates believers. Bad habits, immaturity, cultural differences. Extreme geekiness.

    "What's important in all this is that if you keep a holy day, keep it for God's sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you're a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli. None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters. It's God we are answerable to--all the way from life to death and everything in between--not each other. That's why Jesus lived and died and then lived again: so that He could be our Master across the entire range of life and death, and free us from the petty tyrannies of each other." Rom. 14:6-9 The Message

    "The petty tyrannies of each other..." Pretty pointed stuff, Paul. He goes on.

    "Eventually we're all going to end end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement, facing God. Your critical and condscending ways aren't going to improve your positioon there one bit....So tend to your knitting. You've got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God." Rom. 14: 10,12 The Message

    So whether it's broccoli or prime rib or bathrobes with ties, God made us all different and can use us at any stage of our walk toward Him. He calls us to celebrate our differences, not disdane them. His commision is  to help each other along the road, not criticise. To love, above all.

    Because tomorrow, He just may use an unlikely saint in a suit and bathrobe to touch your life.


    Monday, 28 May 2012

    The small miracle of tasting His goodness

    I was such a doll person as a little girl. Maternal instinct poured out of me, and every one of my dolls was coddled and comforted and treated like gold. I remember a "Tiny Tears" doll (if you know what I'm talking about, I know how old you are.) with curly brown hair that was my baby for years. I didn't own a lot of dolls, but when I ran out, I would make more dolls from tissues, and tuck tissue blankets over them. My tissue usage was a topic of serious discussion between my mother and me.

    My Grandma West had a bed covered in dolls. When I visited, I stood mesmerized, watching them. Grandma would buy cheap, plastic dolls and crotchet frilly dresses for them. She sold them and donated the money to charity. I peeked from the doorway. Dolls in ball gown, baby dolls, fashion dolls in skinny skirts, and fancy dolls in regal robes. Every possible style and shade was represented.

    But I couldn't touch.

    I seemed perfectly reasonable to Grandma. She was going to sell these dolls, and didn't need grubby fingers messing with them. What she didn't know, because she didn't understand me, was that dollies were my children, and I would have treated them with the greatest care. Even the tissue dolls were handled with care, and were the subjects of elaborate imaginings. As I stared in the room, I saw balls and dancing,wide-eyed babies being strolled through the park, and well-dressed business women on their way to their jobs in the city.

    But not with me. I could look but not touch.

    In talking about my Grandma this week, the memory came to me of standing in the doorway, staring at the dolls. The feelings followed--profound sadness, insecurity, anger. Why couldn't I touch those dolls?

    Isn't it amazing that God isn't like that?

    "Taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Ps. 34:8 Or my personal favourite from The Message, "Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see--how good God is. Blessed are you who run to Him."

    God stands in the room and beckons to me. To you. "Come in. Play, enjoy. Read My Word. Talk to Me. I have so much for you. Come!"

    What is my response? Do I fly into His arms, eager for all He has for me?

    Or...?


    How have you tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord today?


    The small miracle of health



    Have you ever stubbed your toe? Had a paper cut become infected? Come down with the stomach flu?

    Whatever it is, when one part of my body isn't working correctly, I become acutely aware of it. I try desperately to protect that toe or infected finger from further bumps, and I'm profoundly relieved when the bug passes. I'm thankful for maybe a day. Then life takes over.

    The reality of who I am (and you, too, I suspect) is that I pretty much take for granted when my body keeps on ticking along, no matter what I do to it--until it stops. Then I howl in protest and scramble to make right choices in an effort to restore equilibrium. (It works that way with cars for me, too)

    The problem is, when everything's working well, I stop caring. I make poor choices based on my priorities at the moment. ("I'm too tired to exercise. That creamy dessert is too yummy to resist. I need to rest, but I want to finish this, so I'll keep going.") I don't start caring again until my body starts to scream.

    I've noticed a disturbing trend.

    The older I get, the longer it takes to recover from poor lifestyle choices. Even worse, sometimes recovery isn't possible without drastic measures that I'm not willing to take or able to afford.

    Wisdom comes with a high price.

    On the positive side, living a healthy lifestyle on a consistent basis does produce change. I've always loved vegetables and whole grains, but my downfall has been my sweet tooth. I'm learning to cook for a diabetic, discovering fruit again and making alternatives that rival the original. Salt has almost disappeared from our table, and the dreaded exercise, when shared, is almost pleasant. Almost.

    The small miracle of health. I'm not short of breath or sluggish, and my body smiles at the great fuel I'm putting into it. The challenge is to be thankful when everything's working well. Or isn't. And all points in between.

    "Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time, thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." 1 Thess. 5:18


    Is there an area of your health that you're thankful for today?

    Sunday, 20 May 2012

    The small miracle of living life



    I was baking cookies with residents the other day, when one of the ladies who lives in our apartments waved at me. We had become friends during the years of difficult experiences in her life--the dementia, decline and eventual death of her precious husband. It had been over a year, and she was slowly rebuilding the blocks of her days, and finding new ways to express who she was. When I saw her, she was on her way to be a volunteer reader in our care sections.

    It had been several weeks since we had connected, and I was waiting for the cookies to bake, so I slipped out to the hallway to give her a hug. In our brief moments of sharing, I told her the news of my marriage. She was ecstatic. For a tiny lady, she had a hammerlock hug. We laughed and giggled like schoolgirls over my ring and the details I was able to squeeze into those few minutes. She left, and I ran to pull the cookies out of the oven.

    Abruptly, I realized she was standing beside me again.She seized my arm, fixed her piercing blue eyes on my face, and said, "Live life. Life is short."

    Indeed.

    She and her husband lived life. They had amazing experiences in the time God gave them, and they cherished a love that was unusual and precious. Her only regrets are that there wasn't more time.

    This weekend, I want to clean the house, wash the living room windows and garden.  Maybe some laundry and groceries. These necessary items need doing, and there is a restlessness in me that won't be satisfied until they're done. My constant struggle is balance. I say, "When this or that is done, then I will live life." Problem is, there is no end to my list. I can always find another "this" or "that."

    Lord, help me in all my tomorrows to live life in the midst of the mundane that needs to be done. Life is in the window washing and the laundry as much as in every other experience. Help me to release my task-focused nature and focus on You and Your gifts to me. Fill me with the joy of living life, today. Whatever today holds.


    What changes do you need to make, today, to ensure you are living life?

    Monday, 30 April 2012

    The small Miracle of Holding Hands




    One weekend about a year after I became a widow, a friend and I were watching the first four movies in the “Love Comes Softly” series. Based on the bestselling books by Janette Oake, Clark and Marty meet on a wagon train going out west. Marty’s husband has just been killed in an accident. She knows (although no one else does in the beginning) that she is pregnant, and the untamed West is no place for her. She will have to go home, although she’s not sure where she will go. Clark’s wife died several years ago, and he is trying to raise his strong-willed daughter on his own while working the farm. He asks her if she would consider marrying him. She will raise his daughter, and he will protect her and give her a home. Grieving and angry, unsure about farm life and raising children, there are many conflicts, but Clark is patient. After one particularly tender line (and yes, I did know this was a movie, and as such, not realistic) I turned to my friend and said, “Where do you get one of those?”
                That was the first time I considered marrying again. Every time after that , we referred to the search for the man God had for me as “Clark.”
                Remember when you were pregnant, and it seemed that everyone had a protruding belly?
                As the time passed, and my loneliness deepened, and it seemed to me that everyone was holding hands. I had to look away.
    I kept a journal during those years, and when the pain became intolerable, I would write a few lines.
    “Loneliness crouches on my shoulder daily.  When I see a couple of any age showing affection, it will lean forward and poke me with its bony finger, and laugh.  I turn away and get busy, and it sits back.  “But you have a full life, your kids, your friends...”  It’s true.  I have wonderful, caring friends and the best family in the world.  I have fulfilling work and a second career as a writer.  None of that addresses the grinding ache in my soul for the love of a good man.”
    “I’m no good at this widow thing.  I’m OK at putting a good face on it, but inside I am ripping
    apart.”

    Two years ago, I decided to buy an artificial Christmas tree. I was standing in Canadian Tire,
    waiting for the young man to bring me my purchase, when a couple my age came into my line of
    vision. They were “kibitzing”—he had grabbed a feather duster and was trying to dust her back,
    and she was laughing and shooing him away. Suddenly, tears were running down my face, and I
    had to leave the store. That level of married love having fun together was more than I could
    handle. I knew I had to take my search to the next level.
    For the next year, I entered the world of online dating. I made many stupid, naïve mistakes, got
    hurt, and met 17 scammers. Most of them I could spot immediately, but a few deceived me. After
    a year of this, I almost gave up, but didn’t know what else to do, either.
    "Lord, marriage is your idea. I know it won’t solve all my problems, and there will be challenges, as there always are when two people of different personalities get close. I’m not really looking for prince charming, just a godly man who will treat me like You want him to. I want to serve him and honour him and submit to him as he submits to me. I want to serve You together! My heart’s desire is to spend the rest of my life joined with someone who loves You and loves me, serving You together, praying together and serving others together. God, I know that’s what you want, too. I pray that you will bring that man into my life. I’m tired of the deception, the rejection and the downright rudeness that I have been experiencing. I don’t believe that this is your plan for me. You promised me “a future and a hope” and I’m asking for that now. I love you, Lord, and I thank you that you love me. You’ve seen every hurt, you’ve gathered every tear. Now, Lord, please fulfil your will, and bring the right man into my life."

    Then, as just the right time, God sent my “Clark.” Except his name is Hunter.
    Monday, April 30th, before God, and among family and friends, we will hold hands and make vows to each
    other, and become husband and wife.
    Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper you, not to                      harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”
    God, You are so good!

    The small miracle of communication




    Imagine a world of Weebles. Rotund little wooden creatures to are weighted on the bottom, so
    they wobble, but don’t fall over. Weebles have painted bodies indicating their careers, but
    minimal facial expression. As they go about their daily activities, they wobble, and may bump
    into each other, but they turn away and keep going. Weebles don’t communicate.
    I’ve met a few Weebles in my day.
    They are busy people, and have an agenda. They may say words, but seldom communicate. They
    keep to themselves, keep busy, keep to the program.

    I am thankful, today, for the small miracle of communication.

    I am writing this on a plane, on my way home from the most incredible communication
    experience. For five days, I sat with, talked with, learned from, shared with and heard the heart
    and passion of other writers. The Christian Writer’s Guild Craftsman course has these days as the
    cornerstone of the course, The 12 students  are at different levels in our writing, but none of us
    are beginners. We were learning from writers of the caliber of Jerry Jenkins, Dennis Hensley,
    DiAnn Mills and Steven James. Each of these highly successful authors has a heart to share the
    craft with others, and train the next generation of writers. We asked questions and wrote notes
    until our fingers stiffened,. We got to know each other, and hugged and prayed for each other.
    We encouraged each other. And in the course of the week, we grew. We are a psychiatrist a court
    reporter, a retired cop and a pastor, but we are more. We are writers.We are not Weebles.

    God gave us communication in many forms, because His desire for us was to be community. We
    need each other. He wants us to rub against each other, not just to wobble on our wooden way,
    but to touch each other—to communicate. It’s how He made us. He communicates with us, wants
    to hear from us, and wants us communicating to each other. All these are His gifts. When we
    communicate, we are richer, we grow and learn. Sometimes it hurts. But I’d rather be a feeling,
    and sometimes hurting person than a Weeble any day.

    Think of some of the ways God has allowed you to touch others today through the small miracle
    of communication.


    Monday, 23 April 2012

    The small miracle of adventures


                                                         

    I know adventurous people. They get an adrenalin rush from hanging off the CN tower or skydiving or facing sharks. They are always looking for new adventures.

    The apostle Paul was like this. Full of energy and zeal, he faced shipwrecks and beatings and all kinds of dangerous situations with the spirit of an adventurer. I bet he threw off the covers and exclaimed, "What do you have for me today, Lord?"

    I am not like that. When adventure comes my way, my modus operandi has been to pull up the covers, peek my nose out and ask, "Are you sure, Lord?"

    I relate more to Moses than to Paul. Some of us see Moses as the strong "10 Commandments" type figure, standing at the Red Sea with his rod extended. He became that, but before the exodus and the Red Sea experience, God had a lot of work to do. First, he killed a man. He was found out and he panicked and ran. He settled in Midian, married and probably expected to be a shepherd the rest of his life. But God had other plans. Adventures.

     I love Moses' whiny exchange with God at the burning bush.
    God: Moses!
    Moses: Yes?
    God: Take your shoes off- this is holy ground.
    I have a job for you. My people Israel are miserable. I want you to bring them out of Egypt to a land of milk and honey.
    Moses: (in a squeaky voice, pointing to himself) Me? You want me to free your people? Why me? What makes you think I can do this?
    God: I will be with you, and when you've brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship right here,
    Moses: They're not going to listen to me! Who should I say sent me?
    God: (getting slightly annoyed) Tell them I AM sent you. Now GO! I'm going to make some nasty stuff happen in Egypt because Pharoh won't listen to you. You'll see miracles and plagues. You just wait. Those Egyptians will be begging for you to go. Eventually.
    Moses: (getting really whiney now) They won't listen to me. They won't believe me. I can see them all laughing at me now.
    God: What's in your hand?
    Moses: Huh? You're God- surely you know this is a staff...
    God: Throw it on the ground.
    Moses: (skeptical look) O...K..(throws it down and it becomes a snake) AHHHHHHHHH!
    God: Grab it by the tail.
    Moses: The tail? (does and it becomes a staff again.)
    God: See- they will trust you because you have talked to God. Put your hand in your shirt.
    Moses: Is there a snake in there? (Does it- and pulls his hand out- leprous.) OH GREAT!
    God: Do you get it? I am behind you. In front of you. All around you. If these signs don't work, pour some water out, and it will turn to blood. They will get the message.
    Moses: But God...
    God: Yes...
    Moses: I don't speak well. I stutter and stammer.
    God: Who made your mouth? I WILL BE WITH YOU.
    Moses:(crying, pleading)  Please send someone else!
    God: (definitely ticked off at this point) Your brother Aaron will speak the words, but you will tell him what to say. NOW GO!!

    Can't you hear it- God thundering and Moses sniffling? Man,I can relate. God and I have those conversations all the time.

    That's not the end of the story, or the end of Moses. We know that Moses became a great leader, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. Years later, he still had his whiny moments. ("God, Your children--oy vey!) Although Moses allowed God to use him through protests and with his heels firmly dug into the ground, he grew and was used, when God called him to adventures.

    It's not the end of me, either. I still occasionally pull the covers up and try to ignore God's call, and I have my whiny moments. But God has called me to many adventures, and each time, I have learned to trust Him a little more. Here is a recent conversation:

    God: Ann
    Me: Yes, Lord?
    God? What have you got in your hand?
    Me: Ah...my laptop?
    God: Yes. Go forth and write. You will take courses to prepare yourself. The final course will involve you going to Colorado Springs by yourself. You will fly to places you've never been, have a layover, go to a hotel in a city you don't know with people you don't know. You will learn to be a better writer, and you will have a blast.
    Me: But, Lord...
    God: Ann?
    Me: Yes, Lord?
    God: I will go with you. Shut up.

    Leaving Wednesday on my great adventure. Bon voyage!

    Thursday, 12 April 2012

    The small miracle of trusting God


    I'm a pretty flexible person. There's not a whole lot that's a deal breaker with me- I can go for chicken or fish or steak or a vegetarian dish. We can go out or stay in. I like a variety of movies I like to try new things. But there's one thing that can drive me crazy.

    I hate loose ends.

    I don't care it we do this or that- just tell me. When I know, I will make plans around whatever we are doing. If it changes, I will change my plans. I like to anticipate and organize.

    But sometimes God doesn't tell me the plan. And it drives me nuts.

    God has been walking with me around this mountain for many years. Every time I have a victory, and learn to trust Him and let go, I think, "Whoo Hoo- I've finally learned to trust!" And God smiles and says, "Let's try it again." During a recent year long journey, I gathered every verse I could find about trust, and posted them on my fridge. (After all, there is no place in my house I frequent more.) In the middle, I wrote the words that God spoke to me one Sunday in church as I cried out to Him.
    YOU NEED TO TRUST ME. -God.

    Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and read. And read. And read.

    Nahum 1:7 The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him.
    Psalm 9:10 Those who know your name, trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
    Psalm 27:8 The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him.
    And my personal favourite: Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. (I'm afraid a lot.)

    Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and cry. And rant.

    "Lord, I know You want me to trust, and I'm trying, but do You have any idea how hard this is? And how much it hurts? And how frustrated I am? (Protracted pause as I consider what I just said. Sigh...) Yes, I know You understand. You're God." Then I read more.

    Psalm 25:2 I trust in You: do not let me be put to shame, not my enemies triumph over me.
    Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, my God, in whom I trust.
    Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding:
    In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

    Sometimes, I stand at the fridge and try to reason.

    "Lord, I was just wondering if You had considered this possibility? Because if you did it this way, it would work out so perfectly. At least I think it would. Of course, I am me, and You are the Alpha and Omega, but I just thought I'd mention it..."

    And God smiles, and draws my eye to the verse in larger font that He gave me when I started the journey into widowhood almost five years ago.

    Jer. 29:11 'For I know the plans I have for you, " declares the Lord, "Plans for welfare and not calamity, to give you a future and a hope."

    Welfare...future...hope.  Okay, Lord. I'm listening. Again.


    Does anyone else struggle with trust?

    Thursday, 29 March 2012

    The small miracle of influence



    In the twelve plus years I have worked with the elderly, I have been touched by amazing people. My heart is filled with their stories, both funny and touching, and the ways they have influenced my life. Like having a hundred grandparents, I am rich with the gifts each of them has given me.

    In all the people, and all the experiences, there was none so precious as Miss S. I said good-bye to her last August, and I miss her every day. I wish I could kneel by her wheelchair and tell her about the joy in my life. Her mouth would form an "Ohhhh", her eyes would sparkle and she would give me her brilliant smile. We would hug, and she would want to know every detail.


    I remember the day I first met Miss S. And even the week before she died, she remembered it, too.

           It was during my first year at Christie Gardens, just before Easter. I was working in our dementia unit, and ran out of some essential ingredient for hot cross buns. With a room full of residents waiting for me, I didn’t have time to run to the grocery store, so flew to the tiny store in the building. Miss S. was shopping, and in her typical friendly, interested-in-everyone manner, she asked me what I was doing. That led to a discussion of hot cross bun making methods, and eventually, an exchange of recipes. It also led to a special friendship that lasts until today.
           Within the next year, she suffered a major stroke that took her to hospital and rehab, and eventually back to our first floor care sections. Miss S. was a fighter, and this loss of independence was difficult for her. I visited with her during admission, and she expressed her frustration at not being able to dress herself or take care of her most basic needs. Like many stroke victims, she cried easily, especially during those first days. She fought hard to walk again, and to be as independent as possible. Again and again, her spirit rose to the top, even when her body was dragging behind.
           Miss S. was a great cook, and when she could no longer actively participate, she loved to be a part of cooking and baking activities. She would advise us, and if we were doing it wrong, she would inform us in no uncertain terms. She hated that I sometimes wouldn’t measure ingredients precisely, and would give me “THE LOOK”. The look was a piercing, we-are-not-amused stare that could be intimidating. When Miss S. didn’t like what you were doing, she made it clear. Sometimes, I would tease her about it, and then she would break into the most beautiful grin. Miss S.’s grin lit up a room like nothing else could. And if what I said tickled her, she would start to laugh, and then she would snort. There were many times when a disapproving look ended in a laugh and a snort.
           Miss S. loved hugs, which was handy, because I loved to give them to her. Often when I came to work in the morning, she would be sitting by the desk, and we would have a hug before I even punched in. I don’t know about her, but it made my day. There’s an empty spot by the desk now.
           The day I came back from work after my husband died, Miss S. was waiting at the desk for me. I knew that was going to be a hard day, and when she saw me, she burst into tears. I of course, joined her, and knelt by her chair while we let the storm pass. After a few minutes, I leaned back and looked at her and said, “Well, you’re not helping!” At that point, she grinned and snorted, and we both had a great laugh. The rest of that difficult day was better because of my time with Miss S.
           She loved my granddaughter. Nothing could bring a smile to her face and an excited “Oooooh!” than to hear Hannah was coming to visit. She would dote on her, and the feeling was mutual. “She’s a pet!” she would exclaim to me for days after.
           There were many times when Miss S. became ill, and I wondered if this was the end. Each time left her a little weaker, but she fought back. I always knew that when the last day came, it would be a difficult one for me. I always dreaded it.
           During her last illness, I went in to visit a few times, and she didn’t know me. I wondered if I would be able to say good-bye, or if she would just drift away. In the last week of her life, I received a special gift.
           I went into her room, and said her name, and this time she opened her eyes. I said, “It’s Ann.” and her face lit up with recognition. She gave her brilliant smile.
           I gave her a hug, and told her, “I came in to tell you I love you.”
           She held my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “I love you.”
           Because it was Miss S., and we were like that with each other, I let the tears fall as we talked. “Do you remember the hot cross buns?” She chuckled. There wasn’t enough energy for a snort this time, but she was amused. We talked for a few more minutes, and then I told her that I had a program to run. In typical Miss S. fashion, she flapped her hand at me, as if to say, “Go!”
           “I smoothed back her beautiful hair, and said, “I’ll come and see you again.” Then I paused. I didn’t know that for sure. I added, “But if I don’t, I’ll see you in heaven.” Again, she looked in my eyes and said, “Yes.”
           That was the last time I saw Miss S. But she will be with me always. Every time I eat a fresh “to-mah-to” (which must never be put in the fridge) or put an ingredient in a recipe without measuring...or eat a hot cross bun...I will be thankful for the influence she had on my life. 

    Although I wish I could kneel by her wheelchair and tell her of my joy, I know  she is where no wheelchairs are needed. She is walking freely, smiling hugely, laughing  and snorting.

     And...she knows. 


    Has there been someone in your life whose influence has been a small miracle?