Saturday, October 29, 2011

Too Holy to touch?

A woman that I know recently bought The Message version of the Bible. She’s been growing spiritually and has been excited about practicing the presence of Jesus in all aspects of her life. She wondered this week about the fact that she has difficulty actually opening the Bible and reading in it. In fact, seeing it on her bedside stand intimidated her so she hid it in the drawer. She was sad about this but couldn’t figure out why this was so.

I mentioned to her that I’d written a blog awhile ago about how much my old Bible has become an old friend that I cannot part with because it’s underlinings tell the story of my journey with God. Fear struck into her at the thought of marking the Bible…as though this ‘book’ is too sacred to mark up. This kind of reaction had not even occurred to me when I wrote the post but I can fully understand where it came from for her.

As we spoke further she realized that this belief is related to her upbringing…similar to how she thought in the past that she couldn’t talk to God directly, that she had to go through a priest. Prior to this, she would have said that her religious background played very little of a role in her life but this conversation made her realize that it had in fact impacted her greatly. Her reaction to my revelation about my Bible brought back some memories for her.

As a child she was an altar girl in her church…

The Bible was big…it was gold…it had its own altar. The altar girls washed their hands thoroughly before even going anywhere near it. It got ‘incensed’ and was put in a little window until it was opened by the father. One didn’t just put it on ones lap and flip through it. It needed a shrine.

As she spoke she realized that this is why the sight of her Bible beside her bed intimidates her. This scene plays in the back of her mind when she sees it there. Then she doesn’t feel worthy to go near it, much less to read it on her own. She wonders how she got this far in life without the realization that the Bible is a book that anyone can touch and be near…and read…without the pomp and circumstance. She is intrigued by the realization of this long held belief and is still processing it.

The thought of marking it up still is not something that she can picture herself doing in the near future.

I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow in her personal relationship with God over the past year, and I’ve listened to how much she enjoys recognizing His presence in every detail of her life. So I have no doubt that she will soon hold The Message on her lap and regularly read it for herself since this is her desire. I look forward to hearing about how the Holy Spirit breathes life into the words of this 'book' for her...

Sunday, August 28, 2011

STORIES: Boring or inspiring?

One day when he joined my immediate family for a picnic in the park, my maternal Grandfather told a few stories. He was apologetic afterward believing that we would not be interested in hearing stories from an 'old man'. I can't speak for my brothers but I loved them. I wish that we would have encouraged him to tell us many more stories about his life and the life of his family.

In September, I’m going to visit my family in Ontario for a few weeks. I have started a list of the stories that I want my mom to tell me so that I can write about them. You've heard about
the difference between Mennonite religion and culture. I've also given you a picture of Sunday afternoons in the colonies. Since I’ve told you about weddings, I thought it might be interesting to have an explanation of the dating ‘rituals’ that preceded the tjast.

Mom has told me in the past about the process of baking for a family of 17 in an outdoor oven. That and other stories of growing up in a family of that size without the benefits of electricity and automobiles are bound to be stories of interest.

I also want to get the story behind a wonderful photo that I have of her brothers building a whole outdoor miniature village which they played with for days (partial photo posted here).

Other stories will emerge as well, I'm sure. And perhaps photos out of the ‘archives’ to go along with them.

Stories...definitely inspiring!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Proverbial Closet

Almost every morning I wake up and say, ‘This is the day that the LORD has made, I will rejoice and be glad it in.' It’s not because I’m so pious or naturally joyful!! In fact I have a tendency to see the glass half empty and lean towards the critical if I’m not careful. So, I need to make that daily commitment of choosing my attitude...and even then my halo sometimes slips during the day.

A few days ago, I added a new wake up phrase.

In all the times that I’ve read Proverbs 31 I’ve not taken any particular note of verse 25 but as I read it this past week, it stuck with me. In my New American Standard Bible it reads:
Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

I love that! Yes! So every morning when I go to the proverbial (pun intended) closet, I know exactly what I'm going to wear...

Clothed with strength
, i.e., power over changes of earthly circumstances, which can easily shatter and bring to ruin if ones foundation isn’t solid.

Clothed with dignity, i.e., being worthy of honor or respect; having self respect.

This garment of powerful strength and true dignity allows me to look confidently into the future, and arms me against all sorrow and care.

Just for today, I can find the strength that I need for whatever I will face, and I can carry myself with dignity in the midst of it. Clothed with strength and dignity I can face the future with a smile…

Now, how many days does it take again to build a habit??


Thursday, June 9, 2011


I've enjoyed following Keith Jennings' blog for awhile now. Here is a portion of today's writing:

Context matters.

Whether you are starting out in your career, re-starting your career, or just plain stuck in a rut, don’t waste time trying to “do what you love.”

Instead, start by doing something out of your love for others. Serve them. Help them make money. Or save money. Or save time. Or save energy. Or protect something or someone. Or feel a certain way about themselves. Actually try to do all these!

You will find your success through others’ success.

And you will discover a career you’ll love through your love for others.

Click here to read the full blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Velafnis, Tjast and an obsolete kissing song...

Wedding plans being made in my presence for the past few months got me thinking of things that I’ve heard my parents speak of concerning their younger years in an Old Colony Mennonite setting. The following information was relayed to me by my mom.

Velafnis (pronounced like ‘falafel’…falafnis) was an engagement event that happened a week prior to the Tjast (wedding)

On the Thursday prior to Velafnis, children from every home in the village were sent to the home of the bride with butter and milk.

Friday morning all the single girls young and old arrived with kneading bowl in
hand to prepare the dough for ‘kringle’ (photo on right) and buns. After this, all but two of the girls went home. The two girls went around the village to deliver a portion of the dough to each home. This was then prepared, baked and the completed bread returned to the Velafnis site in the evening.

A big cauldron called a ‘Mieagropen’ (or ‘Mieagrope’ if you’re from ‘jant sied’) was used to cook the Pl├╝memoos (cold plum soup). Also, after the men slaughtered the ‘Beest’…the beef was cooked and taken out of the broth to chill. It would be served cold at the Velafnis. The broth was then used to make a Mieagropen of Kommst Borscht.

On Saturday morning, two boys with hay box wagons and horses collected tables, benches and chairs from everyone in the village. The Velafnis home was cleared out to make room for their arrival.

If the groom was from another village he was chauffeured to the Velafnis site in the morning. The whole village as well as relatives from far and wide arrived for the noon time meal by horse and buggy. Valet service was provided. Since not all the buggy's would fit on the yard, they were taken to other areas for the day and brought back when people were ready to leave.

Then the eating and socialization began. The older girls would serve tables, clearing and replacing dishes with clean ones. The younger girls washed them.

The young people congregated in the brootlied (bridal) room and parents socialized in the ‘Big Room’ ie. Living room. After the meal, the young people were invited into the room where the parents were. Two songs were sung from the old Gesang Buch (song book). After Faspa (mid –afternoon snack) was eaten there was another song from the Gesang Buch.

Only the jugend (young people) stayed for the evening meal. At one time the jugend would then go back into the bridal room where a Kuss Lied (kissing song) was sung as the couple kissed. This was no longer done when my parents were married because it caused a stir with church leadership.

On Sunday of that weekend the couple was ‘uptjeboaden’(banns of marriage).

The week between the Velafnis and Tjast meant that the engaged couple travelled to the homes of all the relatives and villagers to pick up gifts like a measure of material, tea set, or towels. It the relatives lived outside the village the couple may be served a meal as well.

The tjast (wedding) followed the next Sunday’s church service. Immediately after the service, the congregation was invited to say while the couple, both dressed in black, sat in front of the podium for a brief ceremony. No rings. No fanfare.

The newlywed couple usually lived with the husband’s family initially, sometimes with the wife's family.

Monday was back to work as usual.

(You might also enjoy 'Sawdust, Knackzoot and Faspa')

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sawdust, Knacksot and Faspa…

Saturday was a day for cleaning and getting everything ready for Sunday. Fresh Soagespoohn (sawdust) strewn across the freshly cleaned floors signified the end of a productive day. The sawdust kept the floors clean from dust longer.

Sunday was visiting day. Families either sat at home waiting for another family to come onto the yard. Or they drove around to other people’s places until they found someone at home. Traditionally, they sat in their vehicle until the host noticed them and came out to invite them in.

If you happened to be staying at home this particular week, you would have your meddachschlop (mid-day sleep aka nap) right after lunch while slowly roasting the knacksot (sunflower seeds) in the oven in preparation for guests that could potentially arrive mid-afternoon.

My mom tells me that this did not happen in her family, but in many homes the men settled into one room while the women were in another. The men were heard to chat about community events and farming; the host may show the men around the farm. The women talked about homelife, children, and about who had been ill or had passed away.

Both the front room (living room) and kitchen held big bowls of the roasted knacksot. The men would put large amounts into the pockets of their pants, and the women would place them onto a handkerchief in their laps. Many a person would stuff their cheeks with the knacksot, and shell them one by one with their front teeth, gently pushing the shell to just below the lower lip letting them all gather on the chin until they fell down to the floor on their own. Others sent shells flying right onto the floor to mix with the sawdust. Children enjoyed the crunch crunch crunch of this Sunday ‘carpet’ as they ran in and out of the room while playing.

Around four o’clock the faspa (light Sunday afternoon meal) would begin. The men ate first while the women served. Everything sat ready in the kohma (pantry room off the kitchen): the buns, kringle, Zockastetja (sugar cubes), freshly churned butter, suppsel (plum jam mostly), brown and white cookies with coffee. The Zockastetja were dunked in coffee and eaten with the buns.

When it was their turn to eat, the women took the spot that their husband had vacated and ate off of the same dishes. And, of course, the women continued their visiting while cleaning off the tables and washing dishes.

Sweeping up the Soagespoohn mixed with knacksot shells after the events of the day scrubbed the floor clean. Another weekend done.

Monday was laundry day…

Check out the blog post that inspired this post:">"No Cheese or Baked Goods Have ever Been Baptized into a Mennonite Church" ...You might also enjoy Velafnis, Tjast and an Obsolete Kissing Song.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's Wise to Think alot about Death?

Focusing on death would seem to make one a morbid person to our natural way of thinking.

But look at what I found recently in preparing for a presentation on grief. Ecclesiastes 7:3-4 (nlt) says: "Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time."


Shortly after this, I went to see a theatre production of ‘Tuesdays with Morrie.’ at Gallery 7. In short, it is about a journalist’s weekly visits with his dying professor. Morrie feels that people refuse to believe that they will one day die. As a result, they have many regrets as death comes closer because they have not lived their lives as fully as they would have liked. Morrie says, "The truth is . . . once you learn how to die, you learn how to live." Morrie wants Mitch, the journalist, to see how he can appreciate the smaller, more genuine things in life, knowing that his death is approaching. I thought this spoke to what the writer of Ecclesiastes was saying in part.

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~Norman Cousins.

Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live. ~Henry Van Dyke


Death never takes the wise man by surprise; He is always ready to go. ~Jean de La Fontaine

For the Christian, it goes beyond learning to live well here on this earth. We also live in the assurance of what comes after this life. Death need hold no fear because Christ has won the victory over the grave in His death and resurrection. So physical death takes us into the presence of our Saviour with whom we live forever.

“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” ~Seneca

We live because He died and rose again. Hallelujah!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Precious Little Hands...

I have a vivid picture in my mind of an event and I hope that I can do it justice in ‘painting’ it for you.

Two love seats and one large comfy chair…one of us seated on each with my big black cat taking up residence on the arm of the chair that my friend is in. My friends ‘daughter’ is seated on a love seat, happily sipping (gulping is perhaps a better description) her glass of cranberry juice. I’m seated on the other love seat closer to my friend as we chat about some things going on in our lives. Soon there are tears flowing (well, we’re women after all…)

As the tears start to flow, the daughter puts down her glass and comes over to gently pat the face of her ‘mom’, wipe the tears and give her a hug. She then sits back down. We continue to talk. After a time my friend and I decide to pray. I reach my hands across to her and we join hands, close our eyes and begin to talk to God. Suddenly we feel small hands touching ours, hands that are wanting into the circle of prayer.

Did I mention that my friend’s ‘daughter’ is a woman with Down’s Syndrome? She's all of 4 feet high and when asked how old she is, she says that she's 8 but really she's closer to our age. Like my ‘daughters’, my friend did not give birth to this precious gal but for all the reciprocal love that is there she might as well have.

So, of course we each joined a hand to one of her hands, with fresh tears in our eyes and continued to pray. This picture is still vivid in my mind's eye.

I’ve seen writers like Henri Nouwen and Mike Yaconelli speak of how much individuals like this ‘daughter’ have had to teach them. Both of these men speak of spiritual awakenings and growth as a result of such relationships. I can attest to that in my own life.

I am so blessed to have relationships with many a person with a ‘disability’ whose 'ability' to love openly and unconditionally is often much greater than my own.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The older I get, the less I know…

I was thinking the other day about
how true it is that the older I get,
the less I know even though I thought
I knew so much when I was younger,
and that this would never
happen to me.

In attempting to write about it and
looking online a little,
I came upon a blog
which stated it so succinctly
that I wanted to share it with you:

"As youth, we think we know it all.

As adults, we fight to hold onto what we think we know.

In the end, we have to let it all go.

Learning teaches us there's too much to learn.

The more we understand God, the more incomprehensible God gets.

We can live to learn. But why don't we learn to live?

Try to love one more something today that we didn't love before.

Try to lay one more brick to shelter someone else before the sun sets.

Try to let go of something, so we can lend a hand.

The older we get, the less we know.

The less we know, the more we must rely on God and each other.

The more we must practice community and communion.

It's as if our world were designed for this very thing."

I think that says it all so why reinvent the wheel by writing another blog about it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mice, Lemons, Limes and Master Plans...

After my previous blog a couple of you have asked me if I’m changing my day job. I can see how that post could have been interpreted that way since the examples that I gave were of people who did so. Other than the normal ebbs and flows of being self employed, my day job is settling back in to where it was prior to leaving Canada, including the speaking and teaching engagements. There may be a little work on the side unrelated to my profession that could develop but all in all, I’m where I need to be right now work wise.

My midlife ponderings and plannings have more to do with other areas of my life. Those of you that know me know that, due to circumstances beyond my control, the better part of last 4 years have been focused on financial and physical survival. How well do I know the truth of Steinbeck’s phrase in Of Mice and Men when he says:"The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry." I have learned to loosely hold on to any plans that I make knowing that His plans are not always my plans. And I also know that He can help me make delicious lemonade of those lemons in life’s situations. It's a good thing that I LOVE lemonade…actually lime-ade is my preference.

Much of my life is getting back to ‘normal’:

* I am back to doing respite with a lovely young lady that used to spend time with me before I left for Mexico.

* I’ve been involved behind the scenes in a theatre production again and plan to pursue that on a more regular basis.

*The writer’s block is gone, and besides my posts here there are many partially completed writings in my writing file.

*I’m getting into redecorating my home in a way that reflects who I am. When I returned to BC in 2008, my place was initially a mishmash of donated furniture and items thanks to friends and their families.

*With this home, I inherited a big ole cat. I’ve always wanted a dog, and I got a cat who thinks he’s a dog instead. It’s all good.

*I have a huge patio where I’m getting back into doing container gardening again.

So, as I attempt to expand on the statements at the bottom of my previous blog, I seek prayerfully to redefine my life, to bring out my creativity at this stage of life, to build on my uniqueness, my gifts and abilities. A new dream has been emerging…and it continues to emerge…it just needs to be flushed out as they say. Or in keeping with the lemon/lime theme…perhaps squeezed out would be a more apt description.

I want to choose to live in the moment and plan for the future. And that plan includes listening closely to what the Master Planner has in mind for me.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What We've Learned so Far:


A stage of life that conjures up various images and stereotypes: The man that buys a red sports car. The woman who is dressing way too young and ‘cougaring’(going for younger men) around town. Both seeming attempts at recapturing or holding on to their youth.

It’s a time of life where external beauty is beginning to fade for some and where younger people are often chosen to fill vacancies at companies instead of the more experienced middle aged person.


What’s a person to do? How does one age gracefully? At this point it’s easy to slip into resignation and coast into the golden years. Or it can be a time of reinventing ourselves and pursuing passions that have been pushed aside at busier times of life…perhaps even using them as a means of income as we develop them.

Two individuals come to mind immediately when I think of the latter.

One is my younger brother who had a heart attack a couple of years ago. Soon after that he quit his job in kitchen design and started pursuing his passion for photography. He still has a day job as well, one that is less stressful than the one he held previously, but he is beginning to make a name for himself in doing what he loves. Aside from having his works displayed at a local gallery and selling online, he’s been commissioned for several larger projects for local professional offices. And so it grows…

Another person that I know left her law practice a number of years ago and opened up a dog kennel on her property. It is not without it’s challenges but she’s happy about her choice and enjoys working from home.

I was perusing my library the other day looking for a book for a client when I came upon one that I’d been given awhile ago but had never read. What We’ve Learned So Far: Thoughts on Turning 50 is a compilation of writings by today’s Christian women leaders.

I turned to a chapter called “Pursuing Authentic Dreams” by author/speaker Brenda Poinsett. She suggests putting your dreams for the future into writing. Put what’s in your head onto paper. Several statements may help you flush it out if you have trouble getting started:

~In my 50’s or 60’s I want to be….or I want to do…

~By the time I’m 75, I will have wanted to…

~In my mind I see myself as a person who is…and who will…

~Over the next 20 years I want to commit myself to…

If your vision is God given it will allow you to be true to yourself and it will build relationships with those around you. Define it, refine it, let it bring out your creativity, your uniqueness, your gifts and abilities. There will most probably be some challenges along the way and the usual opposition from some but will be well worth it as you discover meaning and fulfillment at this wonderful stage of life.

I have to confess, I've had times of leaning towards coasting but I have a renewed excitement. I'm going to spend some time contemplating the statements above and go for it!!

How about you? What's your story? How are you choosing to look at mid life?

Friday, March 4, 2011

An Old Friend

In 1977 I bought an NASB (New American Standard Bible) while in Bible school. Now in 2011, the pages are disengaging from their binding faster than I can tape them and I’ve purchased a leather cover to hide how worn the original is. But no matter how tattered it is, I have difficulty reading only from the new Bible that I purchased a few years ago.

This old Bible has red markings at certain verses. It has blue and pencil markings at others. At various places it has dates noted in the margins...dates that remind me of what the LORD was teaching me at that part of my journey.

Someone posted a Psalm today and I realized that I could write a whole chapter of my life just based on the various dates that were written in the margins of that particular place in the Bible.

I like my new Bible, it keeps my eyes from being drawn to only those verses that have been underlined or dated. But my old Bible is like an old friend…it tells the story of my life. The story of my spiritual journey.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

the Pegs...

If you've read my blog at all, you will know that I talk alot about love. That's because the Great Commandment is summed up in LOVING GOD AND LOVING OTHERS...The Message translation of the Bible says:
"These two commands are pegs; EVERYTHING in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

As I said in my previous blog, our cities could be transformed if Christians would simply live out the second half of the Great Commandment. Earlier this week in a blog post called 'church in the neighborhood' the blog's author, Leonard Hjalmarson, wrote the following:

In January of 2009 a group of pastors gathered to think and dream about what it would look like for the churches in their area to come together to serve the community. They asked the mayor to join them and talk about his dream for the city. They also asked him to talk about hindrances to that dream coming true.

He came with a list of pervasive issues and problems: at-risk kids; elderly shut-ins; decaying housing; hunger and homelessness. Before he started speaking he shared this: “it occurred to me that what our city really needs are good neighbors. The majority of the issues we face would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just become a community of people who are great neighbors.”

The pastors left convicted. Here they were asking the mayor what areas of the city were most in need, and he was telling them that the city could be transformed if Christians would simply live out the second half of the Great Commandment.

Hmmmm...'nuff said? I know, I know...there's the big question of 'Who is my neighbor?' I'm thinking that if we need to split hairs about that then perhaps we are not loving them.

Lord, give us an ever increasing awareness of what it means to love them in concrete ways.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't Confuse it with Navel Gazing...

If you do confuse it with navel gazing, and thereby choose to avoid it, you will miss out on an amazing transformation of not only yourself...but your country...and perhaps even your world...

I saw Dave Blundell of Hungry for Life on 100 Huntley Street a few weeks ago. He was being interviewed about his recently released book Hungry For Life: A Vision of the Church that Would Transform the World. (click on the 100 Huntley link to view the interview)

When I looked up the book on Amazon I saw that one of the reviewers accused him of encouraging navel gazing. I have not read Dave’s book…yet. But I know him and have heard him speak many times. He is one who encourages people to look honestly into themselves in a way that draws them closer to the LORD and challenges them to live out His Word.

I think that we sometimes confuse ‘navel gazing’ with ‘humbling’ ourselves… which starts with what may feel like navel gazing but doesn't stay there. I want to draw your attention to one of my favorite Old Testament verses:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14.

Follow the steps of this powerful verse:

Humble youself…Maybe a little navel gazing involved at this point but then...


Seek His Face….no longer gazing at the navel at this point. Now looking into His wonderful eyes which then leads us to...

Turn (from wicked ways)…repentance essentially means doing a 180 degree turn..

then...God hears…

He Forgives…

He Heals Our Land…

Sure we can stay at the navel gazing stage. But that is not true humility. True humility looks inside but is then moved to pray, to seek His face, then turn.

After which a glorious thing happens!! God not only hears us but He heals our Land…

That is what Dave is talking about if I understand him correctly. He is challenging us to look honestly at our hearts to see if we are indeed getting to know God in a way that brings about the change that His Word says will be brought about when we honestly know Him. When we honestly know Him we will begin to see healing changes IN OUR LAND.

That is powerful! Let's do it...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Freedom....Choice and Responsibility

Many of us desire freedom in and from various things in our lives.

When we are free we have CHOICES. When we make choices, we then become responsible for the consequences of choices made. Some people are not truly aware of that aspect of freedom. Others are very aware, choosing to stay within the confines of whatever is keeping them from freedom for that very reason.

Responsibility is a key aspect of maintaining freedom.

The following are a few quotes that help to explain this concept:

"Man does have a choice of action. Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms--to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

Fundamentally, therefor, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him--mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp...inner freedom cannot be lost...It is this spiritual freedom--which cannot be taken away that makes life meaningful and purposeful." Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl

'You were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another' (Galatians 5:13)
God wants us free, but freedom is not license. I believe we are free by the grace of God to live a responsible life...True freedom doesn't lie in the exercise of choices, but in the consequences of the choices made...If we choose to walk by the flesh, we are responsible for the consequences of the choices we make. If we walk by the Spirit, God says He assumes responsibility for the consequences. (Galatians 5:16)" Walking in the Light, Dr. Neil Anderson

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cher had it wrong, It's not in his kiss...

It's in His face, His eyes...
Have you ever had the kind of friend who has your back no matter what? The kind of friend who makes you feel accepted even when you do the most foolish things? Or who holds your hand while others are walking away?

As I read Psalm 105:4 this morning I thought of a very dear friend whose face I would seek in a crowd when I needed reassurance. His accepting, loving gaze always gave me a quiet strength to keep my chin up regardless of what had just happened...or was about to happen.

It struck me today that that is what it is like to seek God’s face. When I’m scared, I can look in His face and He gives me strength to take the next step. When I’ve made a foolish choice, I can look in His eyes and see kindness instead of getting a tongue lashing. This makes me realize that I don’t need to be ashamed and it brings a new resolve to be more careful not to make these choices in the future. I can look to Him no matter what and be strengthened and encouraged to carry on.

The friend that I mentioned earlier passed away and sometimes I still miss him terribly. But the LORD, my GOD, He is available to me for time and eternity!

'For the glory of God is man fully alive; and the life of man consists in beholding God'. St Irenaeous,
Psalm 105:4 ‘Look to the LORD and His strength, seek His face always,”

It’s in His face, In His eyes…

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grab My Hand...

I started the day off feeling a wonderful peace.

I'd had a great sleep. My devotional time was awesome. I had my day all scheduled.

Then one thing after another happened work wise to the point where I began to wonder for the first time about that 'stepping out of the boat' thing from last year. I can't say that I felt anxious but I was feeling quite vulnerable about my future.

As I've said in a previous blog, I'm doing a fast at the moment and I had the fleeting thought that I was being tested today. I decided to go reread my The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast devotional. I've also been reading Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presencesimultaneously so I read it right after.

Essentially, they both encouraged me, as always, to praise Him in the midst of it, to focus on things above, to meditate on the whatsoever things of Philippians 4:8 Which was great.

But the thing that really got me was the 'Daddy' talk! To trust His promises. Don't you just love the picture of a daddy holding his child's hand while the child joyfully skips along...fully trusting that daddy has things under control.

Jesus Calling devotional says for today, in part,
“Sit still in the light of my presence and receive my peace…Hold my hand in childlike trust, and the way before you will open up step by step.”

How comforting. It restored the peace to my spirit.

Lest you think that I have a halo...that I have always been able to immediately just trust Him upon focusing on verses such as these...let me tell you that that is not the case. Just ask those that know me. It has been a long journey to get to this kind of trust. But I sure do love the results of this journey! I love that I can grab a hold of His hand knowing that He is a Father who indeed does keep His promises!

Thank you, Abba, Thank you, Daddy,
that I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory
Psalm 73:23-24

Saturday, January 22, 2011

No cheese or baked goods have ever been baptized into a Mennonite church

Isn’t it amazing how many memories are attached to the foods that we eat or have eaten? I love how a recipe or a photo or a conversation about a certain food brings back fond memories of childhood Christmases at my grandparents. Or memories of family gatherings. Or...

Yesterday local ladies were interviewed on Global News. Mennonite Girls Can cook blogspot has now had 2 million hits and they’ve recently published a cookbook. They are now posting recipes from various cultures but they started out posting traditional Mennonite recipes for posterity. I would venture to guess that part of what has drawn so many people to this blog is the same thing that draws me back again and again: nostalgia and an attempt to keep the memories alive by cooking those things of yesteryear.

For those of you who are thinking, "But I thought that Mennonite was a religion." let me explain the background a little. In one of my first blogs at this site, I wrote about my own cultural background and the importance of the stories of our lives. The memories that these foods evoke are part of my story...and perhaps yours as well. While I have not worshiped in a Mennonite church for many a year, my cultural background remains Mennonite. This differentiation can be confusing for some but suffice it to say that it has become both a religion and a culture. The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada has a rather humorous explanation :
Today…one can go to an area with a Mennonite population and see signs advertising "Mennonite baking," "Mennonite furniture," "Mennonite quilts," and even "Mennonite maple syrup!" To my knowledge, no syrup or baked goods have ever been baptized into a Mennonite church - they have never decided that "this is the church for them." In such cases the word "Mennonite" does not refer to a religious group, but rather to people of a certain ethnic and/or cultural background.

And I would hasten to add, ‘Mennonite Cheese’ to that for those from Mexico since Mennonites there have become quite well known for ‘Queso Menonitas’.

They may not have been baptized into the church but, at the risk of sounding irreverent, many a Mennonite food has been sprinkled, dunked and even immersed...chocolate sprinkles, dunked in coffee, immersed in gravy...and so on...

I have awesome memories of:

Apricot Suppsel: Picking apricots with my dear Leentjemum in her yard at Blumenort.

Cabbage Borscht! Christmas at Grandma and Grandpas as a child.

Bubbat! A great cousin gathering on one of my first visits to Mexico as an Adult.

Knackzoot (Spitz): Ohhhhhh, the memories with that one...that's a blog for the future I think...messy floors come to mind.

And that's just a start.

It's not as much about the food as the memories that they evoke of times with loved ones...and the stories that emerge... Thanks 'Mennonite Girls Can Cook' for this trip down memory lane!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Corrective Lenses?

Remember yesterday's blog about self focused North Americans who need to learn to be God focused, other centered people? I always chuckle at how God (some may say happenstance) works. I've been doing the Daniel Fast and the Day 10 devotional ties in so well with what I was sharing yesterday that I want to share a bit of it with you.

Kristen, the author, talks about waking up with a headache and getting the woe-is-me's...tunnel vision. When she opens her Bible to I John 4:11-12 she reads:
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

Her headache does not go away immediately. But she begins to think about the fact that God's love is not given purely for our own enjoyment. It is meant to be shared with those around us. Her headache has given her tunnel vision - which in medical terms means a loss of peripheral or side vision. This tunnel vision kept her focused only on her own needs and blocked out the needs of those around her. Looking to God in reading His Word made her realize that it was impossible for her to love others when she couldn't even see them because of her tunnel vision.

This takes me back to one of ">yesterday's quotes: Focus on God trusting Him to meet your needs, then peripheral vision returns enabling you to love others in the midst of whatever you are going through..

To echo Kristen's prayer in the devotional:

"Father, it is easy to get so wrapped up my my own life that I become oblivious to the needs of the people around me. Help me to humble myself so that I can share your life-changing love."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Overflowing...and that's a good thing...

In the past week the LORD has been reminding me through various means that we
as North Americans have become a very self focused culture by and large. I won't go into the details of that at this moment but I do want to share with you a couple of quotes that may inspire and encourage a change in focus.

I saw a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote earlier today which said:
"Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness."

Lysa TerKeurst talks in one of her blogs about being

God focused” and love directed.

That sounds like the perfect way to be unselfish.

Lest you think that that's advocating a cheesy hold-hands-and-sing-Kumbayah kind of love take a close look at I Corinthians 13 to see what other centered love really looks like.

LOVE is patient, Love is kind.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

As you can see, this kind of love is anything but cheesy...and impossible to do without the God Focus. St Bernard of Clairvaux says it well when he says:,

"........we should seek to become reservoirs rather than canals. For a canal just allows the water to flow through it, but a reservoir waits until it is filled before overflowing, then it can communicate without loss to itself. "

LORD, remind us to stay focused on you. Fill us to overflowing as we do so, and let it spill out to those around!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Round Tuit

My youngest brother and I were just conversing about procrastination. It reminded me of a book that I bought as a joke at a little book shop in Whistler while my niece lived there. Turns out it had valuable information.

The book is called The Procrastinator's Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now.
It is a well written book and the author has an entertaining style of presentation.

I really would like to tell you more of what I learned from this reading and I will ...when I get a round tuit!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Speaking of Simplicity...

"...don't be anxious about your life, about what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." Matthew 6: 25-33

Understanding all that that implies and to do so is to live in simplicity.

Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Discipline states that freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking first the kingdom of God. This freedom from anxiety is characterized by 3 inner attitudes:

1. If what we have we receive as a gift from God (i.e. live by grace in dependence on God),
2. If what we have is to be cared for by God (i.e. we trust that He is able to protect what we have) and
3. If what we have is available to others (i.e. we share all that we have with anyone in need).

The reason that we find it so difficult to make what we have available to others is because of our fear of the future. We cling to things rather than share because we are anxious about tomorrow. Taken together, these 3 attitudes define what Jesus meant when he said, "Do not be anxious..."

Foster further states that this inner reality is not a true reality until there is an outward expression. He believes that there are 10 controlling principles for this outward expression:

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status

2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you...refuse to be a slave to anything but God.

3. Develop a habit of giving things away. If you find that you are becoming attached to something, consider giving it away to someone who needs it. De-accumulate.

4. Refuse to propagandized by custodians of modern gadgetry since "new" features are often only a way of inducing us to buy what we do not need.

5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Owning things is an obsession of our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion. Share things.

6. Develop a deeper appreciation for creation. Get close to earth. Walk. Listen to birds. Enjoy the texture of grass and leaves. Marvel at the rich colors everywhere...Psalm.24:1

7. Look with healthy skepticism at all "buy now, pay later" schemes. They are a trap and serve to deepen you bondage. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible condemn 'usury' for good reason. ("Usury" =charging interest which was viewed as an unbrotherly exploitation of another's misfortune, hence a denial of Christian community.)

8. Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech. Matthew 5:37 If you consent to a task, do it. Avoid flattery and half truths... honesty and integrity... reject jargon and abstract speculation whose purpose is to obscure and impress rather than to illuminate and inform.

9. Reject anything that will breed the oppression of others. May God give us prophets today who, like John Woolman, will call us "from the desire of wealth' so that we may be able to "break the yoke of oppression."

10. Shun whatever would distract you from you main goal of seeking His Kingdom and Righteousness.

Psalm 62:10-12 "If riches increase, do not set you heart upon them...Power belongs to God...For He recompenses a man according to his work."

Proverbs 11:28 "He who trusts in his riches will wither."

Hebrews 13:5 "Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for He has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you.' "

God give us courage, wisdom and strength always to hold as the number one priority of our lives to "seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness," understanding all that that implies. To do so is to live in simplicity.