We had a wonderful time with our two
youngest grandchildren, Alex age 5 and Lise age 3, when they were visiting from
Vancouver. We went to the Indian River Reptile Zoo, the Fish and Wildlife
Centre and the Peterborough Zoo. We played at the parks around the corner. We
read books. We had a busy week.
At supper, their last night with us, Tom
and I, lost in our sadness around saying good bye, rushed into the meal without
giving God thanks as we usually do. About halfway through the meal, Alex said,
“We didn’t ask the blessing.”
Feeling guilty I said, “Let’s say it right
now. Thank you for the reminder. We joined hands and I gave thanks for the
beautiful sunny day, our food, even the food already in our tummies, our family
and more. When our meal was nearly over, Alex turned to his parents and asked,
“Can we say a blessing when we get home to Vancouver?”
One week, of giving thanks at every meal
whether we were picnicking, or gathered round the table, had grabbed Alex’s
attention. There must have been something that touched his little heart for he
wanted to continue the practice at home.
For me, it had taken courage and
persistence to continue our mealtime prayers while our family was with us. We
knew it wasn’t part of their meal ritual. There is always the fear that we will
offend if we live our faith. Yet we did it, simply and regularly because that
is what we do. I’m sure God smiled when Alex asked his questions. I know I did.
We led by example rather than lectures, or
intentional teaching. We just continued our lives and our grandson felt God’s
touch. I am truly grateful.
I had a grand time this morning with my author friends from our Spirit of the Hills Writer’s group. We set up our booth at the Cobourg Waterfront Festival. The Festival runs today, tomorrow and Monday. There are hundreds of vendors, as well as a carnival and of course the fabulous Cobourg Beach. Lake Ontario is still a little chilly. I will be taking my turn in our booth tomorrow from 3:20 to 6:00. If you are in the area, please come by to say Hi, and check out our books. There are about 40 local authors represented in the wide variety of books. If you buy one of mine I’ll be pleased to sign it when I’m there. I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. Have a great day and give thanks for this fabulous sunshine and warmth.
Our five- year- old grandson crawled into
our bed this morning for a cuddle before his little sister woke up. Once he was
all snuggled down, he opened the conversation with “My Daddy said that people
come from Serbia (his dad is Serbian) to Canada because they want a good life
in Canada. In Serbia, people can’t agree and there was war. My friend at “Pooh
Corner” (his daycare) came to Canada because there is war in her country. They
couldn’t get along there.”
My automatic response was, “I’m glad
people can agree enough in Canada.”
His answer, “Me, too.”
Some people describe Canadians as “passive,”
and “pleasers.” I’m not so sure about that. I do know we can get upset about
injustice. As Canadians, we value our health care system that ensures medical
care for everyone. We value our educational system that gives all children the
opportunity to learn. We value our freedom to worship, our freedom to be who we
are. I don’t ever want to take the peace and freedom we enjoy in this wonderful
country for granted.
I’m glad our grandson, at age five,
already knows that we are truly blessed to be Canadian. Those of us who were
born here, and those who have come to make Canada their home, can get along. Of
course, it isn’t easy. God has exercised such variety in creation. It is a
In Canada, we have proven that it can be
done. We can get along. We can hear each others stories when we’ve made
mistakes. We can work together to do better.
July 1st is coming soon. As we
celebrate our country’s birthday, let’s give thanks for this beautiful mosaic
that is Canada. We know our mosaic can be a source of discord. Without work and
intention, we could become one of those countries in which people don’t get
along, in which there is war. Let’s commit ourselves to loving and accepting
one another as unique and special, God’s precious gifts.
I’ve been reading and writing and not posting. That doesn’t feel good to me. So here it comes. Words that aren’t quite clear. Thoughts that I’ve just poured down on paper.
How Do I Read the Bible?
Today, I was reading the gospel of John, chapters 8 and 9.
When I read the Bible, I usually read a short passage, a few verses. I read two
whole chapters because the I was looking for the end of the argument. In these
chapters Jesus is arguing with the scribes and pharisees. According to the
writer of John, Jesus is trying to convince these religious leaders that he is
God with us. Jesus keeps saying, God the Father is part of me, sent me. He
keeps telling them to open their eyes. In the midst of it, Jesus demonstrates
his healing power. Jesus heals a man born blind. Even this healing miracle does
nothing to convince his listeners, his questioners, his accusers.
When I had finished reading these two chapters, I picked up
Henri Nouwen’s, “The Only Necessary Thing”. In his chapter on the “Discipline
of Prayer”, he talks about Bible Reading and Contemplation. This morning I
read, “the word of God should lead us first of all to contemplation and
meditation. Instead of taking the words apart, we should bring them together in
our innermost being; instead of wondering if we agree or disagree, we should
wonder which words are directly spoken to us and connect directly with our most
personal story. Instead of thinking about the words as potential subjects for
an interesting dialogue or paper (I substituted blog), we should be willing to
let them penetrate into the most hidden corners of our heart, even to those
places where no other word has yet found entrance. Then and only then can the
word bear fruit as seed sown in rich soil. Only then can we really “hear and
understand”. (Matt. 13:23)”
And so I went back and thought about the writer’s words in
those two chapters. What was God trying to tell me this morning? This is what I
wrote down – what I heard from God – the seed God is trying to sew in my heart
In these two chapters I hear John spending a lot of time on “Who
is Jesus?” John relates Jesus’ words telling me Jesus is God with us. Jesus
declares it. The Pharisees don’t believe. Jesus offers proof by healing the man
born blind. This miracle does not convince them. As I thought about the
wholeness of those two chapters, I realized that in my heart I do believe that
Jesus was God with us, teaching us God’s “Way” of living, loving. I truly
believe that God lives within each one of us calling us to be a conduit for God’s
presence in our world. We are each God’s precious children. God lives within
us. I know there is no real logical proof of this belief but it is true. If
Jesus couldn’t convince people with his words and miracles, I certainly won’t
be able too. It’s a mystery. Proof in words and actions is not necessary. I
just need to be God’s loving child and help others to be God’s loving children.
That will take different forms over my life time. Sometimes I will do well.
Sometimes I will feel like a total failure. Always this is my path.
All I can do is live as God calls me. In everything I do and
say, I need to live God’s love. In my preaching, my blogging, my writing, I am
a conduit for God’s love. It’s that simple and that difficult, all at the same
time. With God’s help, I can always return to that purpose.
I have decided that Henri Nouwen is right. Instead of being
frustrated with those two Biblical chapters, instead of feeling as if Jesus is
just fighting a losing battle, instead of thinking that John is just trying to
convince me of something that makes no sense, I have heard a reassurance of my
own faith. I have heard God’s call once again especially in my writing.
So these are my thoughts for your contemplation. Read and ignore, that’s your choice. Or try reading those chapters in the Gospel of John and listen for God’s word for you. If you like write me and tell me what you have heard. I’d truly like that.
I find fuel for my life each day when I sit in my favourite chair, pen, journal, Bible, and book of reflections on my knee. This is my time with God. I read, reflect and write in solitude. My day is always better when I give this time for prayer. I’ve been practising a time of morning meditation for approximately forty years. It’s special sacred time that enables me to remember that I am God’s beloved child, abundantly blessed.
Most days this week, God’s brilliant sunshine has created a halo around a vase of wild-flowers proudly gracing my Tibetan trunk. Their regal beauty reminded me daily of two very important blessings in my life. First, they remind me to keep my eyes open all day to the beauty of God’s world that surrounds me. Second and even more important they speak of the love and care our grandson, Tim, age twenty-two, has for us. He picked them, brought them, arranged them and left them as a surprise greeting “just because”. They remind me to keep my heart open to God’s love that is offered every moment of every day, “just because”.
This week, God and Tim have worked together to touch my heart and fuel my soul. I am truly grateful. Without my daily discipline of prayer and meditation, I might have walked by those flowers and missed out on receiving the fuel I need for living.
My suggestion for each one of you is that you take a few moments every day to meet up with God in prayer. Why spend a day without acknowledging God’s presence, God’s power within you. God’s strength and power are there, available to you, whether or not you receive them, invite them into your life. There is no need to run on an empty tank.
In today’s world, many of us who are long time church members despair at the lack of interest our children show towards church. We brought them to Sunday School as children. They’ve seen our example. Yet they reject it all. We tried to sow the seeds of faith but they didn’t take root. What can we do?
We know the value the church community has for us. Our church family celebrates with us when good things happen, cries with us in our pain and supports us as we step into the world trying new things. Some people think the church is a social club.
Yet the church is so much more than a social club. We gather together in faith. Sunday morning worship and bible study lead us to think about what we believe, to grow in our spirituality. As we gather together we are safe to face the challenge of living, to ask the questions that whirl round in our heads. As we share our resources and our gifts we can reach out beyond the church walls, and the boundaries of our community and country to make a difference in the world. Building a personal relationship with God, we learn that we are never alone, abandoned. God is always with us. We can experience God in others. Of course we want all of that and so much more for our children. And so we lament their refusal to join us.
As I have thought about this, I heard God’s voice speaking in my heart. “Jan, what is Christian faith. I answered, “Following the “Way of Christ.” Then came the question, “What does that mean?”
I remembered that Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. These are the two greatest commandments.”
Jesus’ Way, has TWO prongs. Our children may not be willing to accept the first prong of Jesus’ way. They are not claiming faith in God in any form but when we look closely, they are living that second prong of Jesus’ “Way” sometimes even better than we do.
My one son, who has rejected religion in any form, lives the attributes of Jesus. He is kind and loving. He is accepting – of people of every race, color and faith. He cares about the environment, particularly the animals. He volunteers at animal shelters. He’s a committed vegetarian. In most of the places he and his family have lived, they have volunteered at orphanages as well. He shares what he has generously with others. Oh yes, he lives the “way of Christ,” better than many who profess Christianity in any of its forms.
I’m sure if each one of you look carefully at your children you will see that they too live the “way of Christ”. Some of the seeds of faith have taken root and blossomed beautifully. Yes, they haven’t accepted it all. Maybe they never will. Still they are, and always will be God’s beloved children. God is with them, caring for them. As Christians our job is not to change them or judge them. Our job is to love them, and to live the “way of Christ” ourselves. God will take care of the rest.
I take this one step further. Because every person in the world is God’s beloved child, regardless of faith or non-faith, our job is to love them. Our job is to be the best we can be on the path we follow. God will take care of the rest. And I am grateful.
Friday night we had decided to find a Methodist church for Sunday worship. It was time for a return to our faith roots. He had done the research. We needed to be up by 8. Methodist churches in London aren’t nearly as plentiful as Anglican churches.
Sunday morning, we had our route plotted. We would have a 25 minute walk after we left the above ground and tube, probably an hour of travel altogether. Tom had figured it out very well. Church was at 10:30. We arrived at 10:31 thinking we would be late. We hadn’t figured in the fact that this was a black congregation predominantly from Africa. They were devoted to God not to time. The congregation of about sixty people, with about 15 youth, is warm, and friendly. They totally understood hospitality. The service started about 10:45 and went to 1:00 p.m. The time flew by. We had lots of lively singing. I particularly enjoyed their offering tradition. When it was time, the lovely woman beside me whispered, we will be dancing our offering to the front. That is exactly what we did. Everyone stood, we sang and sort of danced around the church, filing past the offering plate on the communion table and back to our seats. St. Paul says, “God loves a cheerful giver. We certainly felt as if this ritual helped us to be “cheerful givers”. The whole service was fun. The emphasis was on relationships – our relationship with God and with each other. They had a birthday chair. Each person celebrating sat in the chair and enjoyed his/her own rendition of Happy Birthday. God’s angels filled this church.
After church we walked to Greenwich Gardens. This lively market was fun. We bought a few gifts to bring home. We talked with lots of friendly people. We had lunch.
After lunch we toured the “Cutty Sark”, a famous sailing ship that carried tea to England and around the world. Once again we followed an audio tour. Sunday was a perfect day, a wonderful way to end our journey.
We returned to Sara’s. I made us scrambled eggs etc. We ate and talked with Sara. About ten o’clock, she said, “I feel a bit puckish. We did too. So she baked us a pizza and garlic bread. We added cheese from our stash in the fridge. We had a little party. We crawled gratefully into bed about 11:30. Everything was packed. The alarm set for 3:00 a.m. We were going home.
Jet-Lagged and Home
I hope you enjoyed our trip. It was fun thinking about having you along and focusing on the angels of our journey. I would have included more pictures, but adding the pictures wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. There were some glitches transferring the pictures from my phone to my computer. Also many of the places didn’t allow pictures.
Tom and I had a great trip. We learned lots. We saw lots. We enjoyed each other and what we did. For me that is the purpose of a vacation. We are truly grateful this experience.
We decided that Saturday was Hyde Park Day. The weather was warm, a great day for strolling in the park. And that was exactly what we did but first we went to “Claridge’s of London.” Claridge’s is a hotel for the rich and famous. Our friend Diane whose surname is Claridge had asked us if we could take a picture of the hotel for her. We had thought we would have high tea at Claridge’s. We travelled by tube to the closest station. Our walk took us past the American embassy which was under construction. As is often the case with construction projects there was an extremely high wall all around the building. Tom and I chuckled as we walked by.
On the outside Claridge’s looked somewhat similar to many fancy big city hotels except… Standing on the side walk were three men dressed in tails and cravats waiting to serve us as we entered. Inside the opulence equaled that of the Renaissance. The huge vases of flowers were real. The elaborate plaster work was intricate and beautiful. We wondered through the enormous foyer and into the tea room. Of course there were white table cloths and flowers and …. The woman behind the reception desk smiled and welcomed us. Our jeans didn’t feel quite appropriate for the surroundings. We had checked on line the night before so we would know what to expect. High tea involved sandwiches, tea, and sweets. Which I’m sure would have been lovely and looked pretty on the plate. It was the price that surprised us. High tea at Claridge’s costs 65 pounds (about 110 Canadian dollars). Maybe if the Queen had joined us we could have justified that extravagance. Since she was busy with Donald Trump we decided to just have a plain cup of tea.
I smiled at the hostess and asked. “How much is a cup of tea.” Her expression told me immediately that I was not a part of “Claridge’s world”. She had to look down at the menu. Very formally she told us, “That would be 7 pounds fifty plus a service charge of 8 pounds. I didn’t even check for Tom’s opinion. 15 pounds fifty (nearly 30 Canadian dollars) for the privilege of tea at Claridge’s. “Thank you very much,” I said. We turned and walked away. We did take lots of pictures which was all that Diane had asked.
We were there. Winston Churchill is in the background.
It was a long walk to Hyde Park. Smart people would have taken a bus. We didn’t know which bus and it was such a lovely warm day. All in all we walked halfway round Hyde Park, saw some beautiful flowers, and watched people having picnics etc. I knew very quickly that This was going to be another 17,000 step day. Eventually, we found a place for lunch.
Along with this huge plaque that was 16 feet by 14 feet. There were sculptures of donkeys and horses. They looked exhausted and worn out.
After asking for help we caught a bus back to Covent Garden. We enjoyed walking through the shops. The street entertainers were great. We watched two of their shows. They helped us decide to buy a ticket to the play, “Waitress”. We knew already that the tickets, though expensive were at least within our range for a one time event. We had supper in a little pub called “The Honest Burger”. They even had gluten free buns.
The play was funny, nostalgic and touched our hearts. Good Decision. One of the workers there, one of our angels for the day, took our picture holding two pies. (The star of the play baked the restaurant’s pies.) After the play we spilled back out onto the street with the other theatre goers.
We hadn’t plotted our journey back to Sara’s. So we asked. One very friendly man heard us asking. He opened up his phone. Take number 50 bus, go ten stops and you will be at the tube. Take the central line across town to Polar Station. At Poplar you will change to the above ground and go out to Royal Victoria in the Docklands. At night in a strange city, this man felt like truly one of God’s angels.
We followed his instructions carefully. When we got to the tube station, I took a deep breath, put Tom in front of me so I couldn’t see down, and actually rode the escalator down two very deep levels underground. I was quite proud of myself. That whole late night experience wouldn’t have been possible without my angel Tom. He may not be perfect but he sure is understanding when it comes to me and heights and small places. With his help I stepped way out of my comfort zone many times on this trip. I was rather proud of me and grateful to him.
It was after midnight when we got back to Sara’s. We crept in quietly and collapsed into bed. Tom set the alarm for church.
These two days we walked miles. My fit bit registered 17,898 steps on Wednesday. We had intended using the Hop On and Off bus but instead we bought an Oyster Card for the local transit. London Transit is wonderful. It’s quick, easy, very accessible by lift and except in rush hour not too terribly crowded. We followed our pattern of sleeping in until 8. This slow beginning for our day kept us relaxed and fairly stress free.
We took the above ground railway to the boat bus and walked to Covent Garden. We wondered past a lot of sellers’ stalls and bought nothing. We checked out the live theatre productions and considered buying tickets to something but didn’t. We had lunch in Covent Garden entertained by a string ensemble in the courtyard.
We had a long walk along the river. Tom took my picture in front of the Scotland Yard headquarters. We walked past the parliament buildings and stopped to talk to a police officer. We asked about tours. He said the best tour was of Westminster Abbey. We walked over and discovered that there was a huge lineup to buy tickets. We decided it would be better to order the tickets on line and go tomorrow. We had a lovely quiet day. The only real angel this time was the policeman.
At supper time we ate in a typical British pub.
We returned to our lodging and visited with Sarah. She is a lovely young woman who loves to talk and discuss things, particularly religion. That was so good.
First task of the day, was arranging tomorrow. We decided to visit Windsor Castle which is in the town of Windsor on the outskirts of London. We had to organize where we caught the regular train and make sure we could get a ticket. That meant travelling to Waterloo station downtown. I would have to ride the “tube” down several layers into the earth. Since I struggle with feeling closed in, I knew this was going to stret……ch my comfort zone. We hopped on the DLR – the above ground transit – a piece of cake. One station and we transferred to the underground – the first layer. The train hurtled along screeching so loud on the corners and the downward slopes that I had to remove my hearing aids. The noise was painful. In about ten minutes we were at Waterloo station. The escalators up looked like at least 20 stories and we had to take two of them. The incline was frightful. At least we were going up so I didn’t have to look down. At street level Tom went up yet another level to buy our ticket to Windsor. I had had enough. I settled on a stool at a bar in MacDonald’s to wait.
The man beside me was eating – it looked like Timbits. I watched him pour HP sauce on his Timbits. I couldn’t resist. I asked, “What are you eating?” Turned out the Timbits were actually some form of breaded meat balls. The ice broken, we talked until Tom returned. He worked nearby and lived in the north end of the city. As we talked, my heart rate slowed. Riding the subway hadn’t been that bad, I told myself. Besides there is a lift so I won’t have to stand on those escalators to get home. Not that I like elevators. They too are closed in.
When Tom returned we walked out past the parliament buildings towards Westminster Abbey and beyond. We wandered through St. James Park which is lovely. We had a late lunch. And toured the Abby.
Westminister Abbey is an imposing elaborate structure. Beautiful inside and out. It has witnessed so much history. As I stepped inside, I remembered seeing the queen’s coronation on our brand new black and white TV, when I was a little girl. The self-guided tour focused on the many historical people whose remains have been encrypted in the Abbey. It felt like a tour of death rather than life. After a while, I grew tired of looking at stone sculptures of famous figures laid out on stone coffins. I gratefully found a seat in the main abbey sanctuary and sat down for a rest. After the tour we attended a special sung communion worship to celebrate the Ascension of Christ. It was beautiful. They ushered Tom and I and many others in to sit in the Quire (choir). Tom actually sat in the Canada chair – the chair where the Canadian ambassadors, and other dignitaries sit for special services. Tom of course was in his glory. I sat down below expecting to hear his voice soar out over me.
It just didn’t happen, partly because the actual choir took up a portion of the seats. They led the crowd sitting below us. The organ and the combined voices poured forth their song. Being one of many, Tom even at his best, would never have been heard. And Tom was not at his best. The beautiful formal Anglican service began with a procession. The lead man in a white gown overlaid with a gorgeous cloak of embroidered gold swung an incense pot. The aromatic fragrance rose up and swirled among us. Tom’s throat had closed up.
The priest and a number of others processed in behind the incense all of them dressed in white gowns with gold embroidered cassocks. I felt as if I was present at Lady Diana’s wedding or the coronation. The sermon was interesting, the music fabulous. I felt honoured to worship in Westminster Abbey.
Afterward, we had supper at a British pub. and took the “tube” (subway) home. Our day had been full. We were ready to sleep.
As you know, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa with my son Dave and his family. Dave and Jo teach at the international school of Johannesburg. Granddaughter Jenna graduates grade 12 this year and will be returning to Canada to study at Queens in Kingston.
This letter is about one of Jenna’s classmates and sports teammates, Noni Dube .
Noni is an amazing young woman. At the end of grade 7, in her township school, Noni earned a scholarship to the International School of Johannesburg. Her courage, intelligence, enthusiasm and hard work, have now earned her a 4 yr. tuition scholarship to Trent University in Peterborough. For a foreign student to study in Canada, they must have the money up front to cover accommodation, food, return flight, books etc. Noni lives in one of the “townships” of South Africa. Although her single parent Mom, is hardworking, she could never amass that kind of money.
Noni wants to study overseas because she understands that an international education will empower her to help her people. Already she is part of a program to help young girls from her township stay in school. Obviously a top student, excellent athlete and team player, Noni is loved by everyone around her.
I believe that education is the first step to world peace. As Mother Theresa so wisely said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one. This is our opportunity to share our abundant blessings through supporting Noni.
Noni’s teammates have opened a “Go Fund Me” site for Noni.
Please click Noni’s page . Read about Noni and her accomplishments. Please contribute to this beautiful young woman’s future. She needs your help, to help others.