Wednesday, March 28, 2018

When Does Your Rooster Crow?



 Ah, Peter. The outspoken, impulsive disciple. He was zealous, eager. He'd promised to even die for Jesus, then, a few hours later, he denied he even knew him. Not once, but three times, within Jesus' hearing. Then Jesus turned and looked directly at Peter and Peter remembered. Jesus knew.

​Peter’s trinity of denials during the last hours before Jesus was crucified showed him his own fallability. Jesus responded the next time they were face to face, after his resurrection, with probing questions but ultimately giving Peter ultimate grace, forgiveness and his commission. Peter went on to be a powerful apostle, and a key founder of the early church.

I have found the large trauma to be the one where I fully throw myself on the Lord: my mother’s cancer, Andrew’s ski injury at 15, the death of Brent. In those times, I know there is nothing I can do, so I must trust and I am held.

But the devil is in the details. I create my own suffering when I forget that God’s strength is perfected in my weakness, in the triviality of my day, when I can’t seem to just do the simple mundane task of keeping my papers in order on a daily basis for making timely claims on my health insurance benefits or doing my taxes or even having the right ingredients on hand to make supper.

Oh, I can trust God when I suffer great loss, (“To whom would we go? Only you have the words of eternal life” - also said by Peter!) but trusting the Spirit’s leading in the day to day, mundane, necessary, maintenance of life? Oh, I can do that without him.

I deny Jesus every time I think I don’t need his guidance,
every time I think “I’ve got this!”
Every time I forget to listen for that still small voice.

Prayer: Lord, forgive my unbelief, my forgetfulness that you looking at me, walking with me to guide and love and empower me to feed your sheep in every way I encounter them, in every place I go, giving wisdom for every decision, and for every tiny task. I need you, oh, I need you!



Friday, March 02, 2018

One Word Check-Up


Just putting this back up here to keep it in the forefront of my mind. (If you're new to this blog or the One Word concept, see my January 3 post.)

On the upside: 
  1. I've gone deeper in my workouts. Literally. I do deep water workouts at the pool three times per week, pushing myself to target specific muscle groups, mixing cardio with strengthening and stretching.
  2. I've gone deeper into Bible study, pulling out the concordance and dictionary to expand my understanding. 
  3. I've searched out new creative outlets via Threaducation (needlework, crazy quilt, banners, embroidery animation) workshops and visited a museum exhibit to delve into the history and view various examples through the centuries. 
  4. I've gone deeper into my own personal soul care via a 30-day reflection as my choice for the lenten season.
On the downside,
  1. It's touching some deep pain. Not quite what I expected with this One Word experience, but it's good. Delving into pain can be like diving. You need protective gear and plenty of oxygen. You can't stay down there forever, you have to limit the pressure and take it slow, surfacing to replenish yourself and rest before diving again. But you see things you wouldn't see if you didn't go to the depths.
  2. I've discovered that being still is a skill I do not yet possess. I'm always thinking. Or doing. Or sleeping. Or talking. To "be still and know" seems counter-intuitive. I learn best by doing. Or so I thought. But it's impossible to "be still and do." So it follows that "knowing" is not the same as "learning." God doesn't say, "Be still and learn I am God." 

Going deeper:

How do I know my husband? I spend much time with him. I listen. I watch. I question. Some of my favorite times are when we are just sitting still, together, in the love-seat, his arm around me, and we are just quiet together. No music. No TV. No phones. Not even any talk. We have plenty of the rest through the day.

Why should it be any different with my Creator? 

Translating physical stillness to spiritual stillness will be a continuing part of this journey as I explore what it means to "know" God.

Of course I learn, study, pursue, explore, converse, engage, with others and with God. I regularly do this. But being still? That is going deeper. 

Please understand, this is not "all or nothing" or "one or the other." Nor is it an emptying of the mind. I'm no expert, but it seems it is making room, holding space, becoming mindful of God. 

Take a deep breath now. Exhale. Breathe regular and even. Dive into stillness. 

Saturday, February 03, 2018

A Goalie Mom Rant



Everybody hates the goalie.

If he's your opponent, he's the last barrier to your score, your glory.
If he's your teammate, he's rarely the hero (if you win) but he's always the goat (if you lose).

In any hockey game, players and fans alike seem to forget that the puck had to get past five other players before it gets to the goalie. He's always the last. He's always the one to blame.

Good goalies are hard to find. They are even harder to train. There's rarely any knowledgable goalie coaching at any level below the NHL, perhaps not even there.

Add to that, the opposing team doing whatever they can to screen, obstruct, and get past the defending goalie.

Now the pendulum is allegedly swinging away from protecting the goalie to allowing pretty well any goal that crosses the line even if the goaltender was hit, slashed, shoved, tripped, or worse.

How many officials have ever been a goalie?
Has Gary Bettman ever been a goalie?
Has Bettman ever played hockey?

Why are decisions (about how the goalie interference rule is interpreted) being made by people who have never played between the pipes?

Give the goalies a voice. And give them room to do what they do.

The pendulum needs to swing toward tighter restrictions, not less. The only way you ensure fair play, and a legitimate goal is this: don't touch the goalie, especially inside the crease.

Let every person play their position to the best of their ability without interference.
Then IF you score, you can celebrate with a clear conscience.




Wednesday, January 31, 2018

On Death and Suffering


Suffering humbles us. ​Sickness can bring us to despair. Pain crushes the spirit. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Plans destroyed, unexpected injury, disease, loss, all these sideline us or send us spiralling into depression. In the midst of the interminable blackness, the searing agony, we cry out. "How long, oh Lord?"

The prophet Isaiah records a near-death experience of Hezekiah, king of Judah in Isaiah 38 (it also is recorded in 2 Kings 20). Hezekiah was ill and the prophet gave him a word from the Lord. Now, one would expect this to be a word of encouragement and strength, but no, God said to get his house in order, "You're going to die. You will not recover."

Great news? Not so much. God was gracious in at least giving him time to get his affairs in order. Hezekiah then did what I think most of us would do. He turned his face to the wall and wept bitterly. But he prayed, and he prayed privately about the matter to God. He reminded God how he'd lived: he'd walked faithfully, with wholehearted devotion, and he'd done what was good in God's eyes. Now, God knew this, but in the depths of his despair, Hezekiah reminded God anyway.
Note: Under the Old Covenant, blessing and cursing was sent by God on the basis of obedience or disobedience (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28).  More about this in a moment, but for now, back to our story.
Lo and behold, Isaiah gets an update. "Go tell Hezekiah," the Lord says, "I've heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life and I will deliver you and this city..."

And God did. Hezekiah's response was nothing short of poetry. It's recorded in ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭38‬. I've taken the liberty to add line breaks and poetic formatting. On the left is Hezekiah's report, and on the right is what he said to God.

In the prime of my life 
must I go through the gates of death 
and be robbed of the rest of my years?

I will not again see the Lord himself 
in the land of the living; 
no longer will I look on my fellow man, 
or be with those who now dwell in this world. 

Like a shepherd’s tent 
my house has been pulled down and taken from me. 
Like a weaver I have rolled up my life, 
and he has cut me off from the loom; 
day and night you made an end of me. 
I waited patiently till dawn, 
but like a lion he broke all my bones; 
day and night you made an end of me. 
I cried like a swift or thrush, 
I moaned like a mourning dove. 
My eyes grew weak as I looked to the heavens. 
I am being threatened; Lord, come to my aid! 

But what can I say? 
He has spoken to me, 
and he himself has done this. 
I will walk humbly all my years 
because of this anguish of my soul. 


Lord, by such things people live; 
and my spirit finds life in them too. 
You restored me to health 
and let me live. 

Surely it was for my benefit 
that I suffered such anguish. 
In your love you kept me 
from the pit of destruction; 
you have put all my sins 
behind your back. 

For the grave cannot praise you, 
death cannot sing your praise; 
those who go down to the pit 
cannot hope for your faithfulness. 
The living, the living—they praise you, 
as I am doing today; 
parents tell their children 
about your faithfulness. 

The Lord will save me, 
and we will sing with stringed instruments 
all the days of our lives 
in the temple of the Lord.

Here we see a king subjected, first to confronting the reality of his own death, then pleading with God for his life. At the end of it all, he concludes that the suffering was for his benefit. That God, in love, kept him so that he can continue to praise him in the land of the living and tell his children about God's faithfulness.

Hezekiah triumphantly declares his conclusion:

The Lord will save me and we will sing for the rest of our lives.

So what's our takeaway? In the midst of our suffering, we pray and weep bitterly. God may choose to answer by delivering us, extending our life on this earth. But far more often, it seems, we do not see a miraculous healing, nor a promise of extended life.

How should we pray then, under the New Covenant given to us in Christ, where we are justified now only by faith in Jesus (Galatians 3:13-14)? We don't plead for ourselves based on our good behavior. "Hezekiah’s principle of prayer isn’t fitting for a Christian today. We pray in the name of Jesus (John 16:23-24), not in the name of who we are or what we have done. We come across similar pleas again and again in the prayers of God’s children of old. The Psalms abound with them. But we do not find them in the New Testament. The Church bases its pleas on Christ’s righteousness.”(1)

We know that Jesus suffered and died. His prayer was also to ask deliverance, but ultimately, he prayed, "Not my will, but Thine be done." His obedience made our salvation possible.

Due to the realities of being human under the curse of sin, all of us suffer -- for many reasons beyond illness. Yet when we, or those we love, may be afflicted by disease and are near the point of death, like Hezikiah, we weep bitterly and plead with God to extend life. This is not wrong. But to demand healing based on our own personal goodness, is contrary to the model given us by Jesus. He lived a sinless life, but God did not answer his request for deliverance.

Sometimes, God grants healing and extends life. Other times He does not. This is one of the most challenging tests of faith. Trusting in God's sovereign will. We know that suffering, sickness and disease can come for various reasons, and it is dangerous to try and understand these reasons or declare their purpose with certainty from our time-limited, earth-bound, human perspective. Romans 11:34 says "Who has known the mind of the Lord, and who has been his counsellor?"

As Christians, we understand that in death we go to be with the Lord. John Trapp suggests, “...why should a saint be fond of life, or afraid of death, since to him it is as his father’s horse, to carry him to his father’s house?” The sting has been removed by Christ and so can we agree with the apostle Paul,  "to live is Christ and to die is gain"?

In the same context (Philippians 1), Paul addresses his suffering as he was in chains in prison. He could have boasted about his good life, and demanded God intervene, but he acknowledges that what was happening to him actually served to advance the gospel (v.12) and instill confidence in other believers (v.14). His testimony was this:

"I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." (v. 20)

His final charge to the Christians at Philippi, and to us, is this:

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. 

I have lived through many suffering days, and walked at length through the valley of the shadow of death. It was, sadly, often as a result of my own human failings, or the failings of others, and rarely due to suffering for the gospel of Christ. This blog is filled with a decade of my struggle, musing, frustration, lessons and poetry on this very subject. Too often, my response to difficulty was not worthy of the gospel. I did fear evil, I did stumble and fall. This was not a small matter, my extended time of living "in the far country" in my heart and attitude, where I wept bitterly and turned my face repeatedly to the wall and pleaded for God to save me, rescue me, transform my circumstances, deliver me.

But God... but God... in his mercy, continued the good work he had begun in me (Philippians 1:6), despite my rebellion and disobedience, regardless of my good works, out of his infinite riches and unsearchable judgment, he showed mercy. He continues the process of redemption begun at the cross in Christ, and the shaping and sanctifying continues to happen over time as I seek after the Lord and respond to his refining fire.

I can echo with Hezekiah what God did for me: It has caused me to walk more humbly because of the anguish of my soul. My spirit finds life in Him, the one who restored me to health and let me live. "Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish." In God's love he kept me from the pit of destruction and put all my sins behind His back. And like the Psalmist, he has given me beauty for ashes, the garment of praise in place of a spirit of heaviness. He has turned my mourning into dancing.

So, how should we then live while we continue to walk and suffer on this broken earth in this fragile bodies, these jars of clay?
When I look to myself, I grieve. When I look to the Lord, I receive.
In very practical ways, each day I must dwell in his presence, soak in his word, and speak the truth of God's promises over my heart. His mercies are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness! We do not have to fear evil (persecution, death, disease, suffering) because the Lord is with us. He is our shepherd, we will not lack. He makes us rest in lush pastures, leads us beside still water, restores our soul, leads us into right living for his name's sake. We do not have to fear evil because he is with us, his rod and staff comfort us, he prepares a table for us, anoints us with healing oil, fills our cup to overflowing. Goodness and mercy follow us while we live and when we finally die, we will live eternally in the house of our Lord forever (Psalm 23).

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thy will be done, on earth, in me, for your name's sake and for your glory. By your mercy and love, grant me sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Amen

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Walk a Mile in My Shoes?


I’ve had them several years. Custom orthotics made to specifically fit my flat feet. Sometimes I wore them, sometimes I didn’t, because switching between boots, shoes, and runners was a hassle. I finally caved and bought a second pair of orthotics to make things a bit more convenient. When the knee scope on March 30 triggered a tear in an ankle tendon, my feet needed all the support they could get, so I started wearing orthotics faithfully, inside and out. No sexy strappy summer sandals for me.

(Poor Henry, he really likes when I wear sexy shoes, but here I am, wearing sensible, supportive shoes, day in, day out. "I am strong woman," I say, flexing my biceps and speaking with a deep, thick, Slavic accent. "Musht wear shturdy shoes; goot to pull du plough.")

One day I couldn’t find the second pair. I looked high and low, in every boot, in every shoe, but the second pair had completely vanished. Sigh. Back to switching the first pair between different footwear every time I changed.


On a day when I had a number of errands to run, I was in a rush, and chose not to take time to swap the orthotics out of my gym shoes. I wore my good Clarks Wave walking shoe instead and tossed my workout shoes (with the orthotics) into the gym bag in the back of the vehicle.

One of my errands was at Costco. I didn’t think much of the beep I heard when I tossed my keys into my purse, but when I returned later to my vehicle, my heart stopped for a split second as I stood and surveyed the scene. The back hatch was sitting open (perhaps triggered by my remote key fob) and my gym bag was gone. A crime of opportunity that would yield almost no value to the thief but would cost me a great deal of money to replace. It held my swim gear, workout clothes, runners and, of course, the pricey custom orthotics. My only pair.

I ordered new ones, limped through life for the three weeks until they arrived and began swapping them out again. Snowboots are the hardest but they have become a daily requirement in Calgary since the snowfall started before Christmas. Boots are good. I often left the orthotics in them and started walking barefoot in the house again.

And enter gradually increasing foot pain to the point where, today, I was inspired to look once again for that illusive disappearing pair of orthotics I’d lost last winter. Again, I searched all the boots in the garage: hiking boots, rubber boots, old winter boots, even older Sorells, and really old (like 20 years) snowmobile boots. Remember those big white heavy padded knee high not-so-stylish-but-oh-so-warm monstronsities?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Zero.

Then I started in on scouring the hall closet. Rain boots, Harley boots, two old pair of Clarks Wave walkers (sure fit me like a glove), two pairs of Uggs. Really? Why?

And there, then, finally, in the deep recesses of the back side of the closet behind the shoe rack, I find ONE orthotic, laying loose. Could it be?!!! Excitedly, I dig further. Eureka!!! Praise Jesus!

Rejoice with me, for I have found the matching pair which was lost!

There are so many lessons here:
  • clean up the closet
  • give away some shoes and boots
  • don’t be too much in a rush 
  • always wear proper footwear
  • be careful how you handle your key fob
  • listen to the still small voice prompting you to look once more…
That's all well and good, but really, this is a blog post about joy. Taking time to stop and savour this precious, simple, little gift that will make life a little more comfortable, a little less hassled. And that is worthy of gratitude.

Thanks for listening in. Do you have a "rejoice with me" story?

One Word 2018



Do you have #OneWord for 2018?

What is it?

The #OneWord movement began as far back as 1999 and became a best-selling book. It is a personal choice to find, choose, or receive a theme for the year that is represented by one word. Resolutions don’t work, but many have found that #OneWord gives them the focus and simple clarity to make sustained life change over the coming year.

This post is not about the book. It's about my choice of #OneWord for 2018.

How do I find it?


Don't get so mired down in the process of finding your word and “doing it right” (whatever that means) that you give up, so keep it simple. Look at what others have named for 2018: hope, focus, anticipate, soar, fearless, enjoy, attentive, commitment, light, release, embrace and on it goes, as unique and distinct between humans as each individual and different snowflake

My Word for 2018

Previous words in past years have included gratitude, presence, love, good. Each year the word is different and reflects the context of my current life. This year the word came to me even before my birthday in December. Like a gift:

Depth.

It was inspired by this article: Go Deeper, Not Wider.


Ways to Keep #OneWord In Mind

There are numerous options, but I have to find what works for my temperament and attention-deficit tendencies.

I love the idea my friend Kendra used in 2016 and I used with great delight in 2017: Establish a jar to collect good things that happen during the year. Put brightly colored note paper and pen beside the jar and write down the good things that happen each day, each week, or whenever you think of them. Or just put things in the jar that remind you of something good. (In the case of OneWord, I will include this year things that related to pursuing depth in my life). On the next New Year’s Day, open the jar and read them. This was a wonderful experience for me in 2017.

Make some kind of artwork with your #OneWord and hang it where you’ll see it every day. Perhaps a poem, a painting, a carving, glasswork, quilt, 3-D print, Lego build – the list is endless.

It’s a great idea to blog or journal around my #OneWord theme. It’s likely that I will write about the phrases above and other variations on the theme. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s all good.

Download and print the OneWord promise poster found here.

If you want to know more

There is a book. I haven’t read it. It’s better that I keep things simple. But if you want to check it out, go to getoneword.com

I’m not trying to persuade you to do this or suggest this is an “Easy Button” to life change. It’s simple a clarifying tool that I have found helpful.





Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Things I've Learned: 2018 Edition


The turning of the calendar page often brings reflection, even personal inventory. Here, I offer you a collection of thoughts, meditations and lessons from this hard fought life. Feel free to sample, test, and take what meets your hunger for this present time.

Everyone changes, everyone grows
Seek growth in yourself, acknowledge it in others. Think how different you are from where you were 5, 10, 15 years ago. Aren’t you wiser now? Different? Would you always, forever, want to be viewed by how you were then? No? Then allow the same of others. Let your view of others escape from those carefully-guarded pigeon-holes. Extend grace.

Whatever you are looking for, you will find. 
If you continue to look for evidence that things are bad, or that others are falling short, that’s all you will see. But if you assume good will, good intent, and ask yourself “what’s good about this?” or "what does this make possible?" then you will readily begin to see hidden gifts and the potential for joy.

Give spontaneous tributes
Have you given a tribute lately? Give it now. Tell others what you appreciate about them. Even small things. Say it while that person is able to hear what you love about them. Set aside the petty trivialities of how they aren't doing things "the right way" (read: your way) and praise them for what you'd miss if they were gone. Say it now. Today. Repeat tomorrow. Don’t wait for their funeral. Trust me on this one.

Give compliments
Even to strangers. Your server, that harried clerk, the bus driver, the people who are usually faceless. See them. Tell them something specific about how nice they look, their kind smile, their patience, their efficiency. I've even told strangers they look amazing, and you should see them blossom.

Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.
Let’s eliminate the practice of judging whether or not someone has “aged well.” Youth and beauty are temporary by-products of time and DNA. You can’t control either. (1)

Beware the double standard 
We are apt to be far more severe with others than ourselves. We judge others by their performance, which is clearly seen to be faulty, while we measure ourselves by our intentions or ideals, which, while undoubtedly excellent, often result in no performance at all. (2)

Strengths can become weaknesses when overused.
Strengths, taken to their opposite extreme, can compromise performance, sabotage relationships and even derail a career. (3) My strength of "problem solving" becomes a problem if I walk into every situation thinking, “What’s wrong with this?” and then begin to internally criticize, or worse, actually give unsolicited advice.

Seek simple. 
We often get so mired down in the process of “doing it right” (whatever that means) that we never get started doing it.

Keep a Joy Jar.
Grab a scrap of paper and write the date and one sentence about something positive today. Put it in a jar, box, container. (something you already have). Do the same tomorrow.
Or whenever something good happens. Put in the ticket stubs from that great concert or movie. Then at the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve or Day, dump them all out, read through them, enjoy the flood of memories and surge of gratitude for the joy-filled life you’ve had this year. (4)

Keep your own solemn vow.  And keep it to yourself.
Promises or resolutions spoken out loud may trick the brain into thinking it's already accomplished what was spoken. It releases the reward endorphins in our brain so we get the sense of accomplishment before the promise is actually fulfilled. As a result, we don't do the work necessary to actually keep our promise or reach our goal. Honor yourself enough to keep your vows. (5)

Be Present
Don’t make a future list of what needs to go away or come to your life. Stop trying to fix your past. Promise yourself only one thing this year: be present. Speak it only to yourself. Whisper it: "Be present." In every moment, in every situation, in every joy, with every difficult person: be present, focused, attentive, fully engaged. Make this agreement with yourself. (6)

Pray
Is it possible you are starting the New Year with an anxious heart? The early Christians used what is called a “breathe prayer” to help those situations. It is simply this: As you inhale, say the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” to yourself, then, as you exhale say the words, “Lord, be my peace.” Repeat this pattern until you feel the tension lessen or go away completely.

When we live in the awareness 
of our desperate need for God, 
we are filled in unexplainable ways. 
~Brad Harback

Attend to the one who provides every good and perfect gift. God doesn’t intrude. Look for God, invite God, open your heart to the one who rescues, redeems, heals, restores, comforts, guides, loves and fills us in unexplainable ways. Today, if you are feeling anxious, give the “breathe prayer” a try, and may God’s peace be with you.




Inhale: "Jesus Christ is Lord."
Exhale: "Lord, be my peace."








1. Original quote here.
2. Inspired by this article and this scripture.
3. From this article on managing your strengths.
4. Thanks to my friend Kendra for the Joy Jar idea.
5. More here about vow keeping.
6. More about being present here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Result of the Love of Thousands



I've never been particularly intrigued by my ancestry. I enjoyed the anecdotal stories, but didn't spend time researching family history. However, today, inspired by a question from one of my nephews, and by the listing of Jesus' genealogy in the Christmas story, I dug out both my parents' genealogies and discover the following names in my lineage.

Nickel
Jantz
Nikkel
Thomas
Unruh (both sides)
Eck
Wedel
Toews
Voth
Quiring
Janzen
Ediger

My maternal great-great grandparents were born in Ostrog, Russia, great-grandparents in Poland, grandparents in Kansas.

My paternal ancestors originated in West Prussia @1750 AD.  In 1893 great-grandparents left South Russia and sailed to North America. Their 9 year old son died during the transatlantic voyage and was buried at sea. My grandfather was 14. The family landed in Quebec, then continued via train to Kansas where they settled near other family members who had previously migrated.

Of all the people I have encountered in my life, I often sensed there might be relatives among them. Even Henry's family surname and mine were listed in the same community in the 1700s. I think I have Facebook friends that share many of the surnames in my list above. Six degrees (or less) of separation, indeed.