Saturday, December 31, 2011

Why I Find The Book of Job Comforting

Real theologians, theology professors and the like tend to pat me on the head and plaster a confused little smile on their faces when I tell them I find the Book of Job to be a comfort and a joy. Yes, to them I am understandably a bit of an academic idiot. There is so much suffering in the book, so many unanswered questions about God and man, so much debate as to whether or not Job is a real person or a mythological figure in a story written to tell us truths about God.....on and on the discussions go.  But it is my favourite book in the Old Testament.
My reasons for clinging to the Book of Job in times of trial, minor though those times are in comparison to my hero Job, are quite simple. (okay, simplistic if you must)  The comfort comes to me first at the beginning of the book where I learn that it is possible some of our suffering is for the purpose of confounding the evil forces in the universe; always a good thing in my opinion (Job 1: 6-12), and then at the end in the form of God's answers to Job's questions/Job's response ( Job chapters 38-42).
What I learn and take comfort from in this otherwise terrifying book of suffering, is that God is bigger than anything my mind can comprehend.  He is greater than any and all.  He doesn't fit into any sort of category my own or an other human mind can come up with.  In other words there is a being greater than the greatest human being who is ultimately in charge of the universe.  I can give up all my fears and unanswered questions, and otherwise reach out to one greater than anything or anyone else.  I do not have to rely on other imperfect human beings for the outcome of my life or the outcome of the world I live in.  The greater being I trust in is endless and knows what he is doing with me and with the world from begnning to end.  I can put my life and fate into the hands of someone trustworthy, whether or not I understand or appreciate everything that comes my way in life. This God doesn't always appear to be loving according to my own hopes of what love entails.  He doesn't protect me from every illness or accident or sorrow.  He doesn't take away the free choice of others to be as unloving and terrible as they want to be. To be able to choose love, then logically there has to be hatred.  To choose peace means there has to be anger.  We have the power to choose......and yet we never know when  the God of Job is going to step in and do something completely unexpected.  I don't know how it all works.  It doesn't really matter to me in many ways.  What I do know is that my creator knows what he is doing. My faith in an invisible spiritual being who has such ultimate control of all the universe and is ultimately the embodiment of love and faithfulness and ultimate justice in the midst of his terrible awesomeness brings me great comfort.

Friday, December 30, 2011

When All Else Fails, Watch Movies

Since it is going to be a long winter spent indoors I have decided to try to watch a movie every day or every second day to pass the time and to get my head out of the house for a couple of hours.  It may be more difficult than I ever imagined as there are so few worth watching. For the most part I refuse to use rentals because I have the movie channels on my satellite dish that I am all ready paying for....okay, I am a cheapskate.
So far I have seen:

Red Riding Hood:  an amazing amount of sillyness filmed basically on one small set.  By the time the surprise came at the end I didn't care and the biggest surprise of all was how that much sillyness could be filmed on basically one small set.

True Grit (the new version):  nice that it lost the smarmyness of the original and was more enjoyably adult, but....

True Grit (the original)....I am a sucker for John Wayne and Disney type smarmyness and I still love this one. 

Hook:  have always loved the first 45-60 minutes of this movie.  For me it degenerated once the Peter Pan adventures actually started, but the intro is most interesting and it draws me in every time.

The Adjustment Bureau:  an ode to humanism that is none the less somewhat witty and a lot of good fun.

Jane Eyre (newest version):  Dame Judy Dench was the only actor I recognized in this agonizingly slow moving yet cinematographically beautiful rendition.  I loved it.

The Lord of the Rings triology:  Not much of a fantasy movie fan and first saw these on a 13 inch tv screen, ho hum.  I enjoyed them more than I thought I would, probably because I never was a fan of J. R. Tolkien. Since I have no imagination I admit that I found The Hobbit, for example, a crashing bore.  I did enjoy seeing these movies again on a MUCH larger tv screen, letting the director create the visual images that will help me enjoy the books in future. I enjoy Liv Tyler as an actor.  She's been in some real dud movies and deserves better...like LotR's.

27 Dresses: I know I watched it but what exactly was it about and who was in it?  Did I stay awake???

Baby Mama:Puleeeeeeeeze........NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Almost reneged on my agreement with myself to watch each movie to the end....which is why I won't even start watching any movies with Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler or Will Farrell or any other of the apparently many bathroom joke actors pretending to be comedians.

 Kung Fu Panda:  I LOVE this little movie.  It is humorous and cute and if I can't always buy into its world view, it is still such fun I don't care.  Kung Fu Panda 2 is a big let down but still love the characters.

The Shrek Trilogy:  Was forced kicking and screaming to see the first one, laughed and laughed so was eager to see the other 2.  Such crazy fun!

Despicable Me: a great little animated film!  I just loved it, loved the humour, loved the message and moral of the story.  This and the ones listed above have redeemed the whole animated genre for me.  Stopped watching cartoons when I was 6.  Great to find some full length ones that adults can truly enjoy without resorting to the basest kinds of humour.

Okay, it is going to be a long winter, but this is going to be a fun project with so little to watch on network television these days.  (other than Parenthood which I never miss)  Oh, and I promise not to discuss every movie I watch.......seriously, I won't....promise......

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Simple pleasures

A nice thing about not having any distractions these days is that I can enjoy the simplest things.  I can take time to notice things like breakfast!  haha  Today I had blueberry yogourt and swiss cheese and 2 wonderful specialty crackers. (one was fig and olive, the other was apricot and rosemary)  And lunch!  Dell made amazing chicken curry, brown basmati rice and Indian spiced vegetables...a little sweet and sour cabbage, carrot, onion dish that set up against the hot curry so nicely. The Indian herbs we picked up in Calgary a few weeks ago are authentic and fun to learn to use. Dell makes excellent Italian food but he excells at Indian cuisine.  For dinner I am finishing off the last of a casserole lovingly provided by a friend.  It will be salty and meaty, hearty, and prairie delicious. After a one month withdrawal from any kind of fast food, overdose of sugar, and using carbs to cheat on the food preparation time,  I am becoming so attuned again to the nuances in the herbs and spices that just eating a meal is a joy.  Small amounts of wonderful food are more fulfilling than great huge helpings of carbs and fats.  Having a second helping of any of these amazing dishes is to ruin the experience.  Rediscovering the joy of eating slowly and savoring each flavour is making mealtimes a wonderful source of entertainment and fun.  And there is no feeling of needing snacks in between meals.  A snack would cheapen the mealtime experience because half the fun is waiting..........yum! When I can walk again and start cooking I have a whole array of new things to try preparing, and a better appreciation of taking the time to do it properly.   

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Oooh, and one other really cool time........

Just one other incident to share and then I will stop.  But it spoke to us of real community in the church and these days that seems so rare too much of the time.
One winter there was very little construction work available in our area.  It effected us and also 2 other couples we were close to.  We all had small children; in fact one of the couples had just had triplets.  So there we were:  6 adults with 8 children to provide for, and not enough work.  Well, it was an amazing winter.  The 3 men covenanted together to share any and all income equally between the 3 families.  When one man got a job, either all 3 men worked together on it, or if that wasn't possible the man who did the job split the paycheques 3 ways.  Our job as wives, we decided, was to stay home with the kids and pray together each day for the guys.  We split employment earnings, personal gifts, groceries, vehicle gas; you name it and we shared it between us all winter long.  As a result our families survived the winter. Just at the end of that time, right before construction jobs opened up again, I was visiting at the home of one of the couples.  The man of the house opened up his wallet and said he had made $30 that morning milking cows and so here was our $10 share.  I was touched that even though we were all starting to get work he would make this last contribution to our original agreement.  So we prayed together and I asked that the Lord return to the man 100 fold what he had just given to me.  A few minutes later a car drove up, a man hopped out and ran to the door.  He told my friend he had been looking for him for several days because he owed him money from a job long ago and was convicted because he hadn't paid my friend properly.  Yup, he paid him $100 right then and there.  Is God's provision always so spectacular?  Nope!  But he always finds ways and circumstances to let us know he is in charge of our provision.  It builds our trust in him.  It takes fear away when times are tough.  It isn't easy to blog about things like this because it may make my blog come across like the poorly written personal testimony books that I so despised in the 1970's, many of which were later proven to be fraudulent.  But that aside, I am so thrilled by the goodness of God.  Finances have been our arena of greatest testing but there has always been a way through and past and around as soon as we have been able to admit we need God.  We haven't been able to do it ourselves. Other people have other areas of constant testing. Financial disaster due to ill health has been ours. Maybe our experiences will be of help to someone else and maybe not, but remembering and recording God's faithfulness helps me a lot as I face the future.     

And then there was the time........

Oh, it is so good to remember the things God has done in the past and to know that he never changes. The future is bright no matter what it looks like right now.
Yeah..wow...one day in the midst of our financial disasters a good friend was visiting.  He lived in a different town about 90 minutes away.  While he was there a mutual friend came to our door.  She was a dear elderly lady living on a small widow's pension and was in a similar type of monthly financial bind as ourselves.  She wouldn't come in, she just said hello and handed me an envelope. Then she left right away.  It never occurred to me that she had put money into the envelope.  We helped each other out from month to month with sharing groceries.  If one of us had gas in the car and the other didn't we would give each other rides.  Without thinking I opened the envelope in front of our out of town friend.  Inside that envelope was $70!  I started to cry because I knew what a sacrifice she had made for us.  Our visiting friend knew about this lady's financial situation and was shocked that someone on a teeny widow's pension had given us money.  Being the curious type who won't take no for an answer he pushed and pushed until we finally admitted we had been struggling for a long time.  Then we brushed it off and continued our visit. Our friend went home but he was back 4 hours later.  He brought us 10 fold what the dear widow had given us and once again the mortgage got paid a few days later.  He was stunned that we had been going on this way for a long time and yet very few people knew.  We thought it was best if only God, and a scant few friends in the same boat, knew the extent of the problem. That left God free to provide for us however he chose when jobs didn't work out or didn't pay enough to cover everything.  How could my husband and I ever say that God doesn't care about us?  Looking back it is a claim we simply cannot make. The loss of stress now over unexpected bills, late cheques etc. is the most amazing thing I have ever experienced.  God is very real to me.  He is my heavenly Father.  

Dealing with a slightly different reality

Since my husband became a minister we have had a monthly paycheque.  This is fairly new for us.......in fact we went without a regular monthly cheque for most of the past 30 years.  It is called self-employment.  For us it wasn't a good thing.  Years of self employment + my husband's chronic fatigue syndrome + my arthritis etc. added up to our complete failure to provide for ourselves year after year.  Add in a small child.  Add in building a house that took too long to put up and cost a small extra fortune.  Add in a succession of broken down vehicles, each in worse condition than the last.  Add in the social humiliation of being "have nots" in a prosperous "have everything" town.  And what do you get?  You get the perfect opportunity for the Lord to show himself to be truly Jehovah Jireh, our perfect provider.  Christians are tested in many ways, and each situation and individual is unique.  The details of God's moving in your life will be different than in mine, but he makes himself known to all who seek him.  In our lives it was financial provision where the Lord became very real.  Years of having people come to our door, people who didn't know the extent of our financial crisis, looking perplexed and apologetic even, handing us envelopes filled with money or gasoline coupons and saying things like, "Ummm, I feel kind of embarrassed but I was praying for you and God asked me to give you this."  I well remember the first evening the reality of our financial downturn hit us.  Our mortgage payment was due the next morning and for the first time we didn't have it.  We didn't even have a dollar to our names to put toward it.  I started crying right around midnight because I couldn't believe we had no money at all....anywhere!  The previous week my mother had passed on a card to me from a family friend and I hadn't opened it yet.  My eye lit on it as I was wiping up the tears and I opened it.  Inside was a card and a cheque for the exact amount of our mortage payment plus enough over and above that for us to tithe.  The person who sent the card had no way of knowing we were in trouble.  My own mother didn't even know.  She couldn't have told him.  He said he just wanted to do something nice for us and wasn't sure why, it just seemed right.  And thus began several decades of watching God take care of us when we couldn't take care of ourselves.  We always worked, we always failed in a big way.  But spiritually we grew closer to the Lord.  The embarrassment overtook us sometimes, the frustration, the hurt of not being able to be like the "normal" people around us, the lost opportunities and not getting a break sometimes seemed beyond our ability to cope, but each and every time payments were made on time, groceries appeared, there was gasoline in the vehicle to get to work.  There was that chance few dollars that stayed in the bank long enough to make unexpected car repairs.  One Christmas we ended up with 3 grocery hampers and 4 turkeys........more than we could use and so lots to give away to others who had not been similarly graced.  I like remembering.  I like knowing that we are not dependent on this wee paycheque that we now have each month.  We depend on an awesome God who takes care of our every need even when we look outwardly like complete failures.  It makes it all worthwhile.

Joyful Realization

It is one month today since I broke my ankle.  That means that of my 4 to 5 month predicted recovery period, the first month is over!  So now it could be 3 to 4 months before I am walking again.  If the next few months fly past as quickly as this one has all will be endurable.  This possibility will keep me happy for days!  Feeling a bit antsy at the moment as we had melting snow yesterday, now ice of course, and a fresh coat of snow on top. Dell has gone out to shovel and I can't relax until he is safely back indoors.  I think the falling trauma is going to be with me for awhile.  Everytime someone leaves our house I tell them to be careful not to fall.....Dell also has a cold, so again his 5 days off after Christmas are not what he had hoped for.  But he was reading a little book this morning titled Attitude of Gratitude, filled with quotes by Mother Teresa and Lao Tzu and other good theologians and philosophers.  Today Dell is also grateful that life is as good as it is for us both.   

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Salute to Annie Johnson Flint

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) was a prolific popularly published Christian poet who spent her life suffering from the crippling effects of arthritis.  I first read her poems in the early 1970's, soon after I met Jesus and began shopping for greeting cards in Christian bookstores.  It was easy for me to read her poetry and consign the poems to the "sappy little old fashioned ditty" list.  Her style of poetry and the sentiments expressed were not my own and I had a built in suspicion of any poet whose writings appeared on popular greeting cards.  However at that stage in my young and healthy life I totally missed the point of what she was saying, and the depth of her heart felt love of God and of life in all its pain.  One of her most popular poems of that time was What God Hath Promised.  The first 2 lines are:
God hath not promised skies always blue, 
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through...........
And on it went for several stanzas that I could barely force myself to read at the time.
The point that I missed while I was busy mocking the writings of Annie and other Christians of her generation is that what she is saying is true! Sometimes life just sucks and that is all there is to it.  Even Christians suffer and sometimes suffer endlessly on this earth. Out of that kind of suffering a wonderful love for Jesus can grow and flourish if we don't become bitter during those painful times.  For that to happen we need to be fully aware that  Jesus is close to us, the friend that stays closer than a brother, and it is up to us to remember his presence in the deeply sorrowful experiences of life. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, but our minds and hearts can become clouded and bitter and miss the constancy of his presence. Life and health and relationship with God can become complicated and frightening and the pat answers we learned in our early Christian lives are not always sufficient to draw on in the bad times. We need to know Jesus, and know him and know him and know him every day.
I was talking to friends last night who were bemoaning the present fate of a wonderful preacher and evangelist in their family, now sidelined permanently by dementia.  The unfairness of such a fate being dealt to one who was so faithful to the Lord all his life struck us all with great force.  But even as God's disciples we still inhabit our earthly bodies until we go to be with the Lord.  Sometimes we see miraculous healings......and sometime we don't.  Hebrews Chapter 11 is wonderfully helpful to me when I don't understand God allowing his own disciples to suffer after years of faithfulness to Him. The entire book of Job roots me into the inscrutableness (is that a word?) of God and confirms his ultimate love for me and for the entire universe no matter what else is going on in the here and now.  Annie is right that life is not going to be wonderful or simple or understandable all the time.  My respect for her love of God has grown as I have aged and realized her simple poems contain great spiritual truths about life.   

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Christmas services, celebrations, dinners are ended and today is hopefully a day of some rest for one and all.  I love the Boxing Day tradition of First Footing that my family practised for many years.  Apparently good luck was yours for the new year if your first Boxing Day visitor was a dark haired man bearing gifts.  We had a Scottish family friend that would arrive fairly early each Boxing Day morning with gifts for all of us, and my dad would do a few rounds of visiting to some of our single friends after that, bearing boxes of mom's good holiday baking.  For me as a child it eased the post-Christmas present opening let down.  A little treat to open Christmas Eve after church, the  massive blow out of parcels Christmas Day, and then our friend's little gifts Boxing Day morning.  Turkey leftovers all day and then a week of turkey pot pies and creamed turkey on toast made for a wonderful week leading up to New Years Eve.  My parents nearly always went to parties then.  Dad would wear a a fancy sport coat or suit and mom would put on her newest little black dress with simple flashing diamond pins or broaches and a new lipstick.  I often was toted along as our main babysitters were family friends who attended the same parties.  If it wasn't too late when we arrived I was allowed to participate in some of the games, or at least watch the adults playing card games and charades and drinking pretty cocktails and eating finger food snacks.  My best fun was being put to bed at the hosts' houses where I got to fall asleep in the middle of large beds, surrounded by the guests' fancy fur coats.  Ooh, it was lovely.  Good memories!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Feelin' blue

This morning I realized that the son is leaving for home in a couple of days.  He has been visiting here for a week and it has been so wonderful having him.  He is a responsible adult now, caring, has a great life and regales us with many tales about his art and his life.  Haven't been at all weepy with this broken ankle but it is threatening today.  I can feel the tears hiding behind my eyelids.  It is too far to the airport for me to go and see him off on Christmas Day, but my exhausted husband will get a couple of hours to himself on the drive home that he will enjoy.  So what is it that makes us old fogys so emotional when the "kids" fly away home to return to their homes and lives?  This is a first for me.  Is it my ever advancing age?  Is it because I am kind of miserable over this ankle and the loss of activity? Is it a new awareness of my age and how our parent/child relationship is naturally going to change over the next 10 to 20 years? Am I all ready feeling that loss of spontaneity that comes as the parent approaches middle and old age?  And how is it possible to love a child so much? How does God feel about HIS children, like how does he REALLY feel? (As in not what do I feel and then expect that God feels the same way)   How can parents NOT love a child so much? Okay, enough of the blues! Time to go eat brunch and give these emotional questions a rest....but I still want to know how God FEELS.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

God's Gentle Slap on the Wrist

The idea of giving is really on my mind these days.  I woke up this morning remembering an incident that happened several Christmases ago as if it happened just yesterday:  Dell and I were involved in a small church plant.  Every Christmas Day members of the congregation joined the pastor's family to sing songs and spread a bit of Christmas joy in the form of warm mitts and scarves at the local detox centre.  This particular year it happened that both Dell and I had new scarves we hadn't worn yet.  In fact I think they had been in the closet since the previous winter and still had the tags on.  I felt we should give these scarves to the detox centre. Dell wasn't so keen.  After all, just because we hadn't worn them yet didn't mean we wouldn't still need them.  I understood his reluctance.  We had no money at the time to replace them.  So we compromised and I gave mine and he kept his.  A week later I received a parcel in the mail from a Japanese friend in Tokyo.  In the parcel was a brand new womens scarf even nicer than the one I had given away. I was thrilled but not surprised by God's generosity.  But my poor husband got his cumuppance for trying to be such a good steward:  the following week we received a parcel from a friend in Florida.  In the box was a lovely new mens scarf!  We could have given away Dell's original scarf too but used the idea of "good stewardship" to thwart God's original plan to return to us what we should have joyfully given away in the first place!  Lesson learned?  We can only hope so...... 
"Give and it shall be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over........" (Luke 6:38)  A scripture quoted out of context and yet the principle seems universal in God's kingdom.     

My elderly buddy...quite a character

I have received a request to talk more about my elderly home care client mentioned in the 20 Years Ago posting.  His name was Mr. Morrison.  I began working for him when he was 78 and left his employ when he was about to turn 90.  He was a hard man, a farmer and carpenter and home saw mill operator out in the pre-foothills of Alberta. His word was law it would seem in the running of his business and family.  He and his wife had adopted several children over the years.  Back in those days, the 1940's, people who had more children than they could afford to raise would drop the kids off in farm yards and fields in this area and hope that some kindly farmer couple would take them in.  For all his hardness, Mr. Morrison had a soft spot for these abandoned children and he and his wife seemed glad to have them as they had no children of their own.  He talked often about those days, about the toughness of the men and the practicality of their "womenfolk".  His wife died of horrible cancer in her middle age and he never got over it.  Several years after I began to work for him I discovered that the big bag in the coat closet that went clank every time I hung up my coat was actually the urn with his wife's ashes that he could not bring himself to bury.  The daughter who was closest to him died in a horrific car accident during my time of employment and the pain for him was intense.  He never got over it.  In a way I never have either because the day of the accident I was supposed to have been with her, but a last minute sinus infection caused me to cancel my participation in our outing.  I still shake when I remember that day.  Mr. Morrison  loved lots of drama and we employees provided all that he needed.  There was myself and another older lady, a variety of Philippinas and a retired Hungarian school teacher, as well as a rather crude fellow who sometimes forgot to remove his pornography from the living room before the rest of us arrived for work.  Mr. Morrison was a gentleman who would have been horrified by that sort of thing.  Mr. M. had severe Parkinsons but he rarely let it stop him from doing what he really wanted to do:  helping me sort out the long electric cord for the lawnmower, getting him into the handibus when he got lonely and decided to go hang out the hospital, and driving his car out to his old farm where he delighted in having me drive through his son's newly planted fields just because it aroused such a response.  I can't remember now many times we were in soil up to the mid tire height and I lived in fear of getting stuck out there.  Mr. M. loved a good practical joke, especially if it was played on his worst enemies.  He swore he was not a church goer but in his sleep at night he would sing hymns, all the verses, in a still beautiful tenor voice. His vision was bad, his friends nearly all passed away, his family didn't always please him, and the Parkinsons and other health issues made his every waking moment difficult, but his sense of humour never flagged. He loved to fall down in the kitchen after supper if he was alone, in the times before he needed full time assistance.  It meant he could press his health line button and have firemen and ambulance drivers racing to his door and chopping it open with an axe in order to reach him.  haha  One day he fell backwards into his own bathtub and couldn't reach the health line button.  We had to call my husband to come and get him out of the tub, but Mr. M. was not injured and was killing himself laughing about all the trouble he was causing.  He was good to all his staff, appreciated everything we did for him in his gruff way.  He died in hospital a few months after I stopped working for him. I miss Mr. Morrison.     

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Tale of 2 Churches

"O come to the church in the wildwood,
O come to the church in the vale....".

A pastor friend of mine told me an interesting tale recently.  He, like my husband, has a 2 point parish.  One church, not the wealtiest of the 2, and with a small congregation, knows a lot about giving of their time, talents and money.  The whole community knows about this little church because they have a representative at every community event, they give to every charity in the town and even assist churches of other denominations in their fund raising for missions and seminars.  They help out at every nursing home and provide services and music regularly there and elsewhere.  They pulled together every remaining financial resource at year end and gave my pastor friend a bonus that was so huge it left him in tears.  Other individuals in that congregation gave him personal cheques, baking, gift certificates........the outpouring of gratitude for his work among them and in their town was nearly embarrassing. They trust God to restore their fortunes and they give and give as a matter of habit.   But he has another congregation.  They live in constant fear about the state of their finances.  They are terrified to give anything to anyone very often.  They are worried constantly about the state of their accounts.  They do not wish to tithe to ministry or outreach. They do not wish apparently to have a godly reputation for service in the community.  The contrast is outstanding. Giving outward vs hiding inward.  It makes me look at myself and analyze anew my own reasons/fears/joys connected to giving to others.  Am I being faithful in my own tithing to outreach and mission and to my own church affiliations?  Am I constantly reminding myself of how God has used each gift I have given to bless not only others but even myself in the process?  I am glad I talked to my pastor friend and that he shared his concerns with me for his churches.  God has always restored my own finances or "stuff" when I haven't been afraid to let it go for the sake of others.  Am I still willing to be giving or am I wrapped up in my own needs these days?  A good thing to reflect on at this season known for giving and helps.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Favourite Older Hymn

I suppose for many people this hymn by J. Lincoln Hall and Frank E. Graeff, 1901, would be considered very old indeed.  However some of the songs we sing regularly in our own church are from the 1700's.  So age is relative in this case.  While to younger folk the lyrics are sappy and the tune terribly corny, to older folk like me there is a lot of truth in these sappy lyrics.  For us it reaches to the heart of a personal relationship with Jesus that has been sorely tested over several decades....what difference does he make to me as I go through life suffering its problems along with everyone else?  One of our worship leaders once said that songs like this just play on our emotions and are the worst kinds of hymns, but I have to disagree with her just a bit.  Sometimes the emotions need to be exercised within the safe boundary of Jesus' loving arms.  We have emotions and sometimes they need to be directed back to the source of their creation.  Here are the lyrics of the hymn:
1. Does Jesus care when my heart is pained too deeply for mirth and song?
As the burdens press and the cares distress, and the way grows weary and long?
2. Does Jesus care when my way is dark with a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades, does he care enough to be near?
3. Does Jesus care when I've tried and failed to resist some temptation strong?
When for my deep grief I find no relief, though my tears flow all the night long?
4. Does Jesus care when I've said goodbye to the dearest on earth to me?
And my sad heart aches 'til it nearly breaks, is it aught to him, does he see?
Chorus:
Oh yes he cares; I know he cares.  His heart is touched with my grief.
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Saviour cares!

Is it theologically correct?  Is it too personal and based on emotion?  Is it simply a tear jerker?  Don't know, don't care......just know it brings me closer to him when I struggle with the cares of this world.  If you don't know this dear old hymn that your gran or great gran probably loved, see if you can google or youtube it and hear it for yourself.  It may encourage you sometime when you least expect it to.

Countdown to Christmas

It is a snowy morning after a long break from the white stuff.  It is pretty.  Dell is down south at his other church congregation watching the Sunday School play especially written for today's performance.  Then the weekly race is on to get back up here for the other church service.  Quite a feat of timing to miss the one train crossing on the way back.  Twice we have been caught sitting waiting for that train to clear the track so that we can be back here in time. It can sit there motionless for up to 40 minutes and there is no way around it. We were only late once, fortunately.
Our Christmas countdown is shorter than some:  our son is coming THIS week.  We will take him to the airport on Christmas Day so he can return home. I have been staggering about the kitchen on my crutches preparing the potato casserole and the yams, preparing carrots and getting the turkey into the thawing process.  Dell and Eli will cook the bird Monday, prepare some stuffing and add some baby peas to those farm fresh carrots.  There will be waldorf salad.  There will be baking and iced cream with brandy soaked figs.....and a small glass of white wine for myself so that I can avoid those figs....and iced cream....NOT my faves!  After we have thus buttered our son up and lulled him into a false sense of security we will then spring our news on him:  HE has to help clean the house and fix me some meals and do some dishes while he is visiting!!  Nyaaa Haaa Haaa 
Actually he is very good about such things and helps without being asked now that he is an adult person. But it hurts my heart not to be able to spoil him the entire time.  He has had a tough year and could use some of that.   I wasn't a great mom.....too scared for 18 years that I was totally inadequate...but the relationship we have now is one of my biggest blessings in life.
The countdown begins........thank you Lord for my son.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

About 10 years ago

The good changes began a little over ten years ago.  My husband was too ill to continue doing full time carpentry and although we had paid off our mortgage we were unable to maintain the house any longer.  We had to make a change and make it quickly. Short version is that we ended up selling our house and moving to Tokyo to work with TEAM.  Once again the provision from friends and family to go on a mission was astounding.  It was a wonderful year that was cut short due to the death of my father in law, but it was long enough to feel we had accomplished the changes we needed to start making to change our lives.  We came home 10 years ago.  My husband Dell spent the next year unemployed researching his chronic fatigue and getting some real help.  I took a temporary job but it was the worst of the worst of jobs and I lasted only a few months before deciding to take a break as well.  By the following spring Dell had been accepted into seminary and we moved to Calgary and then to Saskatchewan for his education.  Watching him blossom again after all the dark years is an experience I won't forget.  It was so wonderful.  He is very academic but has a way of bringing his knowledge into every day life and situations and that makes him a good preacher person.  His last year in school he went to India to the OM campus in Hyderabad, about this time of year, to do several courses and that was an amazing experience for him.  For chronically impoverished people we have had the most fantastic experiences all over the place.
So all these memories are giving me fodder for future posts.  It seems reflecting on what has been will be a main theme here.  So now need to take a few days to think about it all and decide what would be best to blog about in more detail, and how to expand my horizons so it isn't all about me and mine.   

20 years ago

A lot happened between 30 years ago and 20 years ago:  I was in my middle 30's and trying to cope with raising our son and taking a lot of care of my husband who was suffering from burnout and chronic fatigue.  I call them the nightmare years.  Our carpentry business was failing due to my husband's health issues and I worked a series of jobs, each more horrible than the next, trying to keep us going.  Sometime I will chronicle all the provision that came directly from God and all his people during a very dark 10 years or so.  I don't know how we survived as a couple and as a family.  Many people have suffered more than ourselves but at the time it seemed that the light would never appear at the end of a very long black tunnel.  They are difficult years to think about.  As I remember that time it seems unbelieveable the way we were provided for. I don't know how it all fit together to bring us to our present circumstance but it did and I am so grateful, SO grateful.    Good things I remember are our discovery of our present church affiliation, my husband's discovery of work and healing in Japan, and a good friendship of my own forged with an elderly home care client and his daughter that I was blessed with for several years.

30 years ago

Let's see now......about 30 years ago I was 26, married and living in the then much smaller than it is now town of Didsbury AB.  Grew up in Calgary, and although it barely qualified as a city, Didsbury seemed like the end of the rural earth to me.  We began life as a married couple in a little old house filled with mice and spiders but not much insulation in the walls.  The entrance porch was so cold we used it as a freezer for our leftovers that winter.  When the owners decided to tear the house down only a few months after we moved in it was kind of a mercy!  We were given 4 days notice to get packed, find a place, and move but even at that the wrecking crew was taking down the house before we had the last of our things removed.  Lost a couple of wedding gifts in the tear down, but at least we had a place to go: an elderly army barracks building turned into a 4-plex.  It was a ruin but thanks to contractor friends it was able to be repainted in jig time so we could get moved into it. The Cox Family:  our salvation in so many circumstances in those days.  Friendship, parenting, employment, a spiritual family for us........what an amazing bunch that we remain friends with to this day.  The 4-plex was owned by now deceased Emerson and Pearl Shantz. ( loved the names)  They were an amazing older couple who seemed to take to us as Dell was able to do many of the small repairs Emerson could no longer handle.  Each year they lowered our rent by a few dollars a month.  But the poor old place had its problems.  The day we moved out the hot water tank blew up, drenching the new tennants and all their belongings.  Our church family moved us out of Didsbury and up to Olds.  I will never forget the line of people stretched outside passing our belongings from person to person and then repeating the procedure in Olds. I was expecting my son at the time and so our pastor drove me out to his house in the country to stay with his wife so I wouldn't over do it.   How kind!!     

Where were you in...........?

Woke up this morning reflecting on the past 40 years or so...that's what a person does I suppose while waiting on assistance for a morning bath and rearranging her boot cast.  My husband is so tired I may be waiting awhile.  So a good time to blog!
40 years ago I was 17 years old, in Grade 11.  All 4 of my grandparents had passed away over the previous year and a half so it was a stressful time in our home.  My most precious and beloved Pop, paternal grandfather, had passed away and I was a bitter, angry teen who felt left behind by the person who loved her most.  My parents had not taken me to BC for the funeral because I had exams to write at school and it took me a long time to understand and forgive them.
Pop was a wonderful character, peasant Irish from County Armagh.  He loved me unconditionally.  He was the kind of grandpa every kid should be blessed with. He was Irish Presbyterian but I don't know when he last darkened the door of a church. Pop's Christianity was simple:  "If it's in the Bible Sis, it is true."  I have no idea if he read the Bible much, but his faith in God was strong.  His wisdom was simple: "Either it will happen or it won't happen." That statement calmed many childhood fears. His driving directions were the best: "Just follow the white line!" haha  He bought me my first real bed so I could get out of my hated baby crib, my first cigarette at age 5 to cure me of the urge should it arise in future, and my first taste of wine. He lived right across the alley from us, I saw him every day of my life for many years and he took me everywhere with him. Pop was a Jack of all Trades working with gasoline tanks, electricity, tools.....you name it.  When I was very small he would take me with him to work many a morning.  The day began with a nice long coffee break at Calgary's National Bakery....17th Ave SW in the 1950's!  He would order "one and one":  a coffee for him and a 7Up for me.  Then we would go down the street to Bennett and Emmett electrical supplies where I would play with the secretaries and have a cookie.  Then off to whatever small community outside Calgary that was having an underground gasoline tank installed that day.  Pop would work on the project while I amused myself in the truck or in the gas station, or at the home of whatever kindly older couple he had met in that town previously.  Times with Pop were always happy.  He and grandma came for dinner nearly every Sunday night.  Once again Pop was practical in his approach: as soon as the meal was done, he would thank my mother for the meal and head for home.  Dad used to get upset with him for not staying to visit after dinner, but Pop always said, "You invited me for dinner and dinner is over so it is time to go home."  haha  He would always wink at me.  I think he really did it just to annoy dad. Pop was a man of the earth, the practical, the trades.  Dad is a musician and composer and teacher.  I don't think they got along as they were so different from each other.  All my memories of Pop are happy and when he died of cancer it was and continues to be the saddest day of my life.  Every child should have such a blessing as he was to me.     

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Advent Reflection.........

 .........but first 3 quotes from real theologians:

From Calvin Theological Seminary: "Secular society knows a little something about Christmas but virtually nothing about Advent. The danger for the Church is to end up going in this same direction. In our rush to get to the manger, we are tempted to downplay—or completely ignore—the Advent themes that the Church has long believed are necessary so that we can come to the cradle of Christ in the right way." (http://cep.calvinseminary  link to Advent)

Dan Clendenin: "Praying to God for mighty acts of deliverance is an entirely human and genuinely Christian response to the pain and suffering of the world, of our neighbours, and of our own lives. I intend never to stop praying for God's miraculous intervention; such prayers remain a staple of my morning runs. But the season of advent that we now enter adds an important qualification. God is not a Cosmic Concierge. Human experience gives the lie to the delusion, so deeply embedded in the American psyche, that every problem has a solution and that every question has an answer. Sometimes we must wait." (http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20051121JJ.shtml)

Lamin Sanneh who teaches missions and world Christianity and history at Yale Divinity School says "God has staked the divine honour on the project to redeem and sanctify……God’s word [is] powerful; it places God at the center of our ventures, as the first and final surety. Christians, therefore, wait for the feast to come with grateful hearts even though in the interim their minds are set on unresolved troubles and unreachable horizons. Advent is quality time, not because of its [noisy] and crowded demands, but because it provides a time for us to receive God’s word and to collaborate in its fulfillment by being the connecting rod between vision and action."

As a latecomer to Advent churches I found myself woefully ignorant of its tradition and practises.  The idea of spending time in lament and even despair for several weeks prior to the excitement of the celebration of Christ’s birth was originally abhorrent to me, in all my ignorance of the Advent season.  And yet it made sense of my hitherto unexplained sadness, all through my adult life, in the weeks preceding Christmas.  Since the time of my recognition of Christ as the way to God, I knew something had changed in my emotional response prior to the annual Christmas celebration, a kind of darkness in my thoughts and feelings, but I had no explanation for it.  Finally I discovered the season of Advent.  Indeed it is a time for introspection, for admission that my life is not all it should be; a time to examine the darkness surrounding a world of political upheaval, wars, economic crises and violence; a time to admit that neither I nor the most experienced of world leaders have answers that will ultimately rescue the world around us; a time to face the darkness and despair around the globe and the accompanying feeling of hopelessness.  Participating deliberately in the Advent season is giving me new hope in the deliverance the birth of Jesus Christ is bringing not only to me but to all the suffering world.  The truth that Jesus Christ is indeed The Answer is even more meaningful as I now deliberately allow myself to feel, during the Advent weeks, deep sadness for the misery of our world, to contemplate my own personal failures and distresses, to begin to grasp the reality of a Christ-less existence.  At Christmas I now more fully realize and experience the joy of a better understanding of the impact of Jesus’ birth upon the world; an overwhelming joy to see how his existence as Lord of Lords moves us all toward the ultimate deliverance from despair: the return of Jesus Christ as the Ruler and King of all creation.  As we wait here in the darkness of Advent we have hope.  The hope is Jesus Christ…the true light of the world.
[I originally put this on a great blog called Cheese-Wearing Theology.....check it out if you are into great theologlical discussion] 

A tough time of year

Last night we lost an elderly parishioner.  She had been ailing for some time.  A daughter, also bordering on elderly, has lost her best friend.  The funeral will be next week.  Sadly this is likely only the beginning of the "funeral season".  It starts up about this time every year, bringing new sorrows to the Advent season and sometimes tainting the joy that is Christmas for the families involved.  Yes, we believe as Christians that we will meet again when we are all reunited in heaven with God and that brings a type of joy, but at the same time it doesn't remove the loneliness and sorrow NOW.  Admitting that earthly death is probably a blessing for the relative who has passed on, the end of their suffering has been achieved, seems so theoretical to those who are even temporarily left behind here.  This Advent I am so aware of suffering in the lives of friends and family.  This week it seems that every email, every phone call brings more bad news of illness, accident and, even death.  Being married to a minister makes it all the more real....the suffering of others.  It also makes the comfort of the Lord more real.  The suffering is binding together members of the Christian community as they reach out to help each other, to pray together, deliver meals to each other, telephone each other with words of comfort, visit each other with hugs and gifts to lift the spirits of those in need.  The light of Christmas is dawning as the season of Advent is drawing to a close; not only in church services but in the lives of people here in my town and elsewhere.  Through tragedy and even the smallest of woes we are assisting each other to heal because we have the hope that is set before us:  Jesus the Christ, the Comforter, the Provider, the one who sets us free in our hearts and spirits no matter the circumstances that surround us.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A prairie concert evening

This happened last fall but it is too good not to share. We escaped the house and got out to a concert!!  A couple who have just joined the "Buy a Foreclosure Condo in Palm Springs" crowd couldn't use their tickets due to being away at their aforementioned condo, so we went to hear Dave Carroll of Eastern Canada.  He and 2 of his band members did a great job.  He is an excellent song writer and composer but is currently best known for his YouTube trilogy about when his guitar was broken by United Airlines baggage handlers back in 2008:  United Breaks Guitars et al. We had a very good time enjoying the music, but the best part for me was that a few people we have met lately were there to visit with at intermission and afterward.  Aaaaaah, at last..........a SOCIAL EVENT!!!  We were up until 1am debriefing and eating hamburgers. haha  Yeah..........we need to get a life...........seriously..........the only bad part was after the concert.  We decided to support the man by purchasing a CD.  He was signing them and this was apparently a huge deal for some of our aquaintances.  They were lined up 3 deep around Mr. Carroll and suddenly I got pushed forward (because I am their clergyman's sainted wife) to have my CD signed.  Being very shy actually, although there are some of you who won't believe that, my main thought was:  Where is God with a lightning bolt to strike me dead when I most need it????
 
 "Oh, aren't you getting it signed?"
 "Umm...no...." 
"Oh no, you HAVE to get it signed!!  Mr. Carroll is right here signing them.  He will sign it for you." 
"Ummm...no, it's okay actually."
 
"Come on come on.....here you go next in line, you go next in line!"
"Mr. Carroll, Mr. Carroll, this lady is next up!"
"Oh, um, okay then.......if it takes the attention off me I will have it signed now.....um, thank you Mr. Carroll.........um, my name?  Um, it is Susan....no, SUSAN.....no, SUSAN!!"  (now AKA The Elderly, Hollering Embarrassedly, Groupie who wants to sink through the floor and die....big sigh....)  "Oh, umm, gee, a big message here on my CD.....'it is a pleasure to meet you Susan, love Dave'..........oh, um....it is a pleasure to meet yourself as well.  Yes, yes I AM with that man in the clergy collar actually........oh, your step grandfather was an Anglican clergyman....oh how interesting...........well....how 'bout that eh?   Yes, um.........well we have lived here 9 months now.......yes, we have.....um......from Moose Jaw of late.....oh, you and the band stayed in Moose Jaw last night....well, isn't that fascinating.....yes, um......well, thanks for the autograph........okay, um...well...... enjoy the rest of your road tour.  Oh, 6 concerts in 7 days in the prairies here........yes that is very interesting...um, well, 'bye now.  Um....thanks again.....um......'bye..." 
"There now, wasn't that fun??  He TALKED to you!!!  Isn't that NICE??" 

"Umm....yeah that was nice.  Dell we need to go home.......yes NOW!  I prefer to slash my wrists in private....." 


It was actually a repeat of earlier in the evening when we had tried to hand in our tickets and get a programme and choose seats:
Usher #1:  "Oh, did you sign up for the intermission draw  for one of  three door prizes?"  
"Um......no.....actually we have enough doors at our house...........um...........hohoho?

Blank stare.  "But did you sign up for the intermission draw for one of three door prizes?"
"No, I think we will just go and get our seats now."
 Usher #2: "Oh, I don't think you signed up for the intermission draw for one of 3 door prizes did you?"
 "No, really that is fine, I don't need a door prize." 
All together now Ushers: "But you can't win one of 3 door prizes if you don't sign up for the intermission draw." 
This followed by capitulation on my part as I signed up for the intermission draw for one of 3 door prizes, of which I won a total of zero.........as expected.  People here sure don't want complete strangers like ourselves to miss out on anything.  Sigh.........I am learning to just do as I am told here.  It saves the embarrassment of repeated requests that draw attention from curious onlookers............sigh...........just another of those joys of small town living............I realize that these people want only the best for me but I think for future events I will borrow Harry Potter's Cloak of Invisiblity! Have a great day rejoicing that you live where you live!

Now that I feel more secure......

Okay will post twice in a row this morning just to get used to finding my own blog and how to post. I live in a very small prairie town in western Canada and I want to take this space over the coming months to process my life here. I am the middle aged wife of an Anglican priest, mother to a grown son who is a fabulous artist, a frustrated theologian due to my lack of academic abilities, but never happy to settle for the status quo discussions on religion. Jesus loves me and I cannot be dissuaded. He is my closest friend. I love humour and can see it in nearly every situation, even when least appropriate...sigh.... Okay, now I feel set up with this blog. Will start posting when I have more to say that is interesting.

Not a computer techie/tekkie/techy/aaaargh!

So have just spent the last 10 minutes trying to locate a setting to update my own blog! hahahaha Oooh, old age plus no need to use a computer for much other than email and minor research equals total incompetency. I admit it, I am hopeless with computers. But with a broken ankle it is going to be a long winter so maybe I will learn something! There is hope!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Excitement began earlier this fall

So Dell has the 'flu' right in the middle of my fall deep cleaning of the house project (poor baby is in tough shape!), and that means I can't run the vaccuum in the evenings. Needed to find something quiet to do tonight after 9pm and wow, did I find the perfect project to take on when someone else in the house is sleeping: cleaning the computer keyboard!! Facts I have now learned:

1. there is nothing more boring than cleaning a computer keyboard

2. there is no quieter way to spend one's time than cleaning a computer keyboard (provided one can keep one's mouth shut when the urge strikes to swear loudly at the stupid, dirty, ##*%$# computer keyboard)

3.
it is possible to carefully clean a computer keyboard with Windex until your spouse or other significant other sneaks up behind you, after being awakened by the dead silence you have worked so hard to create, and hollers, "WHY IN BLAZES ARE YOU USING WINDEX TO CLEAN THE COMPUTER KEYBOARD??? DON'T YOU KNOW YOU COULD SPILL DROPS OF WINDEX DOWN UNDER THE KEYS AND RENDER THE ENTIRE KEYBOARD USELESS???? REMEMBER THE TIME YOU SPILLED AN ENTIRE GLASS OF ORANGE JUICE ON THE COMPUTER KEYBOARD IN TOKYO AND I HAD TO GO AND STEAL A NEW ONE FROM THE MISSIONS OFFICE??? DO YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO STEAL A COMPUTER KEYBOARD FROM A MISSIONS OFFICE????" ) Sigh...........

4.
it takes 10 minutes to defend yourself for spilling a glass of orange juice on a computer keyboard 11 years ago and another 3 minutes to calm down in order not to repeat the performance with Windex.......or rubbing alcohol

5.
it takes only 1/4 of a bottle of rubbing alcohol to clean a computer keyboard using exactly 37 Q-Tips

6. it isn't possible to clean a computer keyboard properly using less than 37 Q-Tips

7. you will never want to clean a computer keyboard ever again as long as you live

8. the next time your spouse or significant other is ill and wants to go to bed at 9pm you will tell him to wad industrial earplugs into his ears because you are going to be vaccumming!

Pax, and no charge for this boredom curing hint.

At Long Last

Just as the rest of the world is getting tired of blogging, I begin...haha. What's new? I have held out for so long, a blogging Luddite, but a broken ankle necessitating months of recovery has pushed me into this at last. The blog is for me, to get my ideas out where I can see them, and I feel intensely pretentious doing this, but it is a way to spend an otherwise long winter.