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.
Flying is amazing and can be tough. Assigned the middle two seats in a row of four in the centre of the plane, we slid our sceptical bodies into place. One saving Grace was the 1/2 inch of clearance forTom’s knees with the seat ahead. Our dreams of Tom pacing up and down the 18 inch aisles every time his hip started to complain, were the first to take flight. The youngish man, who sat on my left, smiled and said hello, as he sat down. So far, so good, I thought. He took one look at both of us and said, “Just wake me up anytime you need to get up. I’m going home and I don’t sleep much on planes anyway. He did get up willingly and with a smile, each time we asked. Now that’s an angel. I’m sure the quiet young man seated on Tom’s right who slept for most of the flight, would have wakened If we had asked. Thankfully, we didn’t need to disturb him. We scouted over to my left and stood up as needed.
We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 11:05 Frankfurt time on Friday. We had lost 6 hours in real time. Neither of us had slept for even five minutes. Maybe it was excitement about the trip or maybe not. Regardless we felt like we were about 110 years old.
Tom hobbled off the plane and sank gratefully into the wheelchair. We piled a carry-on and a knapsack on Tom’s lap. A friendly and strong young man, pushed Tom’s wheelchair and pulled a carry-on, down the endless corridors to the elevator. I limped along beside, my knapsack secure on my back. At the elevators, our wheelchair angel, passed us on to another angel, Katie, an enthusiastic youngish woman. She looked at our papers. “Shaking her head,” she said, “You’ve ten hours to wait! We’ll go to the wheel chair lounge.”
“But we’re flying economy,” I answered.
“No matter.” She helped us settle on the two lounge chairs, organizing our luggage. She pointed at the corner, “There’s coffee and tea right over there. I’ll be back to take you for supper. If you need anything just ask at the desk.”
God’s angels certainly are caring for us, I thought. The chairs were made of plastic wood, a little hard, at least we could stretch out. We slept for about an hour. My trip to the washroom revealed the children’s corner and a small bed. It was just big enough for me to curl up. Best of all, it had a slightly soft, one inch thick cushion on it. I slept another hour, at which point both of us woke. Once again, Katie the wheelchair angel appeared. This time she whizzed us off in a golf cart, gave us a riding tour of that part of the airport and finally, deposited us at a Bavarian restaurant.
Of course, I took pictures of both food and restaurant. The meal was good, sort of. I ordered the traditional meatloaf slice and potato salad. The slice tasted a great deal like a giant hot dog. Tom, of course, reminded me that hotdogs are skinny frankfurters. Tom fared a little better with his pig’s knuckle. The best part of the meal was a sweet mustard sauce that transformed everything.
Our meal over, we retired to the nearby movie lounge. The big soft chairs, and charging station meant we could power up our technology and connect to the internet. Several hours passed. Tom laid down on the floor to sleep with his legs up on the chair, as he does sometimes at home. I posted yesterday’s blog and answered a few emails. I couldn’t stay awake any longer. We gathered up our luggage and started to walk back to the lounge. In less than a minute, angel Katie appeared, her golf cart a gift from heaven. Two solid hours of sleep in the kid’s bed helped a great deal. When I woke up, I noticed a sign: “This area is only for unattended minors.” I chuckled and thought, that might describe the state of me at the moment.
At 9:00 p.m,. Katie ushered us to the gate for our flight for Johannesburg. We flew off into the sunset. This flight was longer, but more luxurious. We even had real stainless-steel cutlery with our late night dinner. It reminded me of flying Ward Air years ago. Of course, there was wine, beer and liquor aplenty to drink. The meal was served on formica dishes, not plastic. It tasted pretty good, too. International flights are radically different from Air Canada’s domestic ones.
David will pick us up at the airport in Johannesburg. I think I’ll sleep all day Saturday. It’s not the jet lag it’s the inability to sleep. Years ago, when I was flying to New Zealand the seats were bigger and the flights weren’t full. Yes, it was forever on the plane, but I could stretch out across three seats.
More angels tonight. They lifted and lugged suitcases, brought us headphones that actually worked, and helped us work the controls on the on-board entertainment system. I watched a movie, wrote this blog, read my book and just stayed busy instead of sleeping. At that point, I had become to tired to see the angels that surrounded me.
Hi everyone, we have had quite a day, a memorable start to our trip. I’ve decided that during this trip I will keep my eyes and ears open for God’s angels. This morning God came first in grandson Tim. He stays with us, although he spends most of his time at his mom’s home, caring for the dogs. This morning Tim was with us. He lugged the two heavy suitcases out to the car. Of course the car was full of books which he had to carry inside. We heard not a word of complaint. It was almost as if we were doing Tim a favour by letting him help us. He came and went all morning.
Tim brought his sister, Ellie, for lunch. Two of our special angels to see us off. It was lovely. They took pictures. Their hugs were a great send off. Surely, God was there in them surrounding us with love.
On the way to the home of Tom’s brother, Bob, we delivered some books I had borrowed from a fellow writer. We had a wonderful conversation about writing and faith and church. We stopped much longer than we had intended. It felt like we had been God’s angels for each other. God was certainly present in our conversation.
We enjoyed our conversation with Bob on the way to the airport. We unloaded, hugged goodbye, and headed straight for Air Canada’s special care desk. We were four hours ahead of flight departure. Both Tom and Bob were amused at my need to arrive so early.
All was well until we stepped up to the desk to check our luggage. Tom reached for his passport. “Oh my God,” he said. “I’ve left my sports jacket hanging over the car seat. In the pocket is my wallet and my passport.” It would have been fairly simple if we could have called Bob who was driving our car back to his condo for a 3 week rest. Bob keeps his cell phone in his own car for emergencies only.
Without the passport, we couldn’t check our baggage and board the plane. Traffic of course was frightful at 5 p.m. and Bob took an hour and a half to drive across the city through supper time traffic to his condo. In the meantime, Tom was frantically calling Bob’s condo every five minutes . You can imagine our relief when Bob finally called to tell us he was on his way back through the traffic to bring the neglected blazer and documents.
The Air Canada agent assured us all would be well, because we had arrived at the airport so early. I just nodded and smiled. a trip that normally takes about 40 minutes. Bob’s first words when he handed Tom his jacket were ,”Brother you owe me big time.” And of course, we do. Were there angels in the midst of our turmoil Of course. The Air Canada reps who were so helpful and reassuring certainly felt like God’s angels. They couldn’t have been more understanding even as they kept shaking their heads and telling us we needed that passport.
For me, I thanked God that Bob went directly home after he dropped us at the airport. I thank God that Bob’s friend Anne made sure that Bob got the message. We had called her when we couldn’t reach Bob at home. Bob was definitely God’s angel. I’m sure it was only family loyalty and Bob’s native generosity that brought him back to the airport. Four times across the city during rush hour traffic was definitely angel work.
The wonderful Air Canada staff cheerfully coped with two upset passengers. They loaded Tom into the wheelchair and delivered us through the long journey within the airport to our loading gate with a half hour to spare.
Yes, we are not alone on this journey. It could have started out as the trip from hell. Instead, with the help of God’s angels, we have weathered the obstacles without an unkind word to each other or from anyone else. We are truly blessed.
It’s Easter Saturday. At our house we’re preparing for our Easter family gathering and my birthday. In the quiet of work done, and services ready for tomorrow, I have paused to think again about our Easter story.
In three of the gospels there is a small detail buried amidst the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. When Jesus says, “It is finished.” And hangs his head in death, the story says, a darkness descended and the curtain that separated the outer temple, where people came to worship, from the “holy of holies” that only the priest with the sacrifices was allowed to enter, that curtain was torn in two. According to scholars, that meant the separation between God and the ordinary human person was ended.
In Jesus’ day, people brought animal sacrifices to the priest. The priest’s role was to present the sacrifices to appease God’s anger with the people’s sins. There was an entire culture built around this practice. With Jesus’ death, came the belief that sacrifice was no longer needed. His death was the last and only sacrifice. From this comes the understanding that Jesus died for our sins.
For me, understanding God as angry and needing to be appeased by Jesus’ horrible and tragic death has always been difficult. Over the years after much discussion and study, I have come to believe that Jesus died because of our human fear, greed, and lust for power. God, in Jesus, loved us so much that Jesus was willing to give his life, not to appease God’s anger, but to show us God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. For me, the significance of the temple curtain torn in two is, God gave us a new understanding of God’s love and forgiveness. We no longer needed a priest and sacrifices to feel God’s love. God’s love is there for us no matter what. There is nothing we can do to drive God’s love away. Most of the time we don’t deserve God’s love but God loves us anyway.
Even in today’s society, we like to think in terms of guilt, judgment and punishment. But God’s thoughts and ours are different. God’s love is bigger than any of that. God has loved us from our beginning. God will love us through our foolishness, through our cruelty, through our goodness. God just loves us.
Because of that unconditional love, I do my best most days to love others as I know God loves me. When I fail, I know I can pick myself up and try again. God is with me as my support, coach and parent, God wants me to be the best I can be. God celebrates with my success and cries with me in my failures. Always God loves me as God loves all of God’s creation. That is the blessing of our Easter story.
Tomorrow I will post my sermon that will be delivered at Lakefield and Young’s Point United Churches.
I’ve been reading The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by T.E.Carhart. It’s not an exciting adventure story but it is a fascinating presentation of piano’s and playing them to make music for your soul. In the Chapter called The Master Class, a famous pianist, named Sebok, speaks, “The best technique is one that does not exist, a kind of disappearing act so the real focus is on where the technique comes from: an inner calm…not the same as relaxation…” rather from all human emotions but not fear. “Music is blocked by fear…There is no such thing as music note by note just as there is no such thing as a book, word by word. There is no perfection, just a life long process of making music; once technique and commitment have been suitably mastered, you have to decide for yourself the right interpretation. It is a complex message.”
As I read this today, I realized that for me, Carhart was giving words to my understanding of faith and life. The Bible like a musical score is a document not to be understood word by word, but as a whole. It gives direction for me to interpret for my life. I can master the techniques it gives – the commandments and the teachings of Jesus. I can make the commitment to knowing them so completely that they disappear and my life becomes God’s song through the interpretation of my living.
I call it “flying on God’s Spirit”. Others call it “letting go and letting God.” Occasionally, I achieve that amazing interpretation. Usually those moments come when I am loving someone, caring for someone, preaching, mentoring, and writing. Worry about self, and how I am doing and what is right totally disappears. I get out of the way and God’s Spirit shines through. Theologians call it becoming “the Christ” for that moment.
As Carhart says, “there is no perfection” in making music. My thought is that there is no perfection in living. There are “moments”, wonderful, spectacular moments when my soul is at peace, and my interpretation of God’s music reaches out and touches souls – mine and others – through my writing, my preaching, my living. For those moments I am truly grateful.
Years ago, I had a form of this poster in my office. I wanted people to know, that regardless of society’s judgement, or yours or mine, that all human beings are valuable because God made us. No one is junk to be thrown away in the trash.
Today, as 2018 slips away, and I pray for family members who are walking the home stretch of their journey with cancer, these words carry an additional meaning. They bring the assurance of a new life beyond death. Faith in a loving God tells us that death is not the end, not the relegation of our beings to the trash heap.
My faith tells me that death is a transition into something new. Some faith traditions speak of reincarnation – an opportunity to return to this life as someone else – animal or human depending on how we have lived this time.
My christian tradition speaks of death bringing a new form of life with God where there are no more tears, sickness, hunger, thirst.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
Although none of knows exactly what is ahead, today this poster reminds me that we will never become trash. There will be a new life. I think about this next life as a new adventure filled with forgiveness, understanding, and joy. We are God’s precious children, conceived in God’s love, carrying a spark of God’s love within us. The future, like the new year brings mystery, for sure. We can step out in trust, knowing God is with us, creating us and God doesn’t make junk!
” For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 NIV)
This is day five of our sister’s week. Each year since our Mom died, my three biological sisters and I have gathered to spend a week together. We add spice to our laughing and talking, by enjoying a bit of sight seeing. This year we’ve expanded the family circle to include our aunt and her four girls as well as a family reunion that lasted all last weekend. What a fabulous time we are having. Each day, I have given God thanks for helping me find this wonderful family, seventeen years ago.
Families sometimes have struggles, for sure. As human beings we can be mean, spiteful, even cruel at times. Yet when we focus on love, joy, & acceptance, as our crowd has been doing this week, joy explodes and pours out all around us.
Today God has reminded me that the whole world is our family. We are not called to judge people as enemy/friend, useless/valuable, different/equal. Instead, God has given us millions of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, sons and daughters, we haven’t yet met. All we need do is open our hearts to embrace all people and watch love explode into the world.
Today, let us give thanks that we are all God’s children, one family. Offer your love to the world. Trust that God will make it grow.
There’s lots to read about parenting today. In the news media we hear about “helicopter” parents. The metaphor is perfect. These parents hover over their children, sometimes nearly suffocating them with kindness, help, and protection. Up until two weeks ago, I too judged today’s “helicopter parents.” I was never that kind of parent when I raised my children,, I thought. I gave them lots of room to try things, to live and figure life out without me hovering over them.
In less than one second, Saturday morning, May 11, my smugness evaporated. My strong, healthy daughter slammed onto the ground in a fall from a horse. Our lives changed. Her fall was no one’s fault. The accident happened. One of her vertebrae exploded as it crushed from the impact, and now protrudes into her spinal canal. The good news, the blessed news, is she has no paralysis. For that we are grateful. The orthopedic spinal trauma specialist said if the damaged vertebra remains stable she won’t need an operation. In twelve to eighteen months, she will recover.
Since the accident, I have been a total “helicopter” parent. With no thought of shame, I hovered at the hospital. I fretted as they fitted the brace on her body. I stood close when she stood for the first time, nurses right beside her to help.
It’s been nearly three weeks now. She’s walking with a walker. The brace supports her in the same way as a full body cast. Both she and I look ahead to the months of pain she will endure as her body inches toward recover. I realize I cannot remain the helicopter parent. I must give her room to heal both in body and soul. I have to trust that as a mature woman she can make wise decisions about the amount of activity she can do.
Once again, I am learning to trust in God’s goodness and love. As both my daughter and I face the journey ahead, one thing I know, “God’s goodness enfolds us regardless what happens. God’s strength and wisdom empower us. God’s love can bring joy even in the midst of our struggles.
Today, I consciously choose to trust in God, to give thanks that we are not alone. God is with us. Today, I cry out with the biblical father seeking healing for his child in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, Lord. Help me with my doubts and fears.” (Mark 9:24)
The last few days, my thoughts have focused on Jesus’ story of “The Lost Son.” In movies, books, and life, I seek happy endings. I smile when the lost son realizes his folly and returns home. I nod when the grieving father runs out to meet him when he is still a long way off. The elder son’s response of anger and righteous judgment feels good and proper. The father’s response also feels good. Will the elder son understand his father’s plea for love and mercy? We aren’t told, so I can fill in my happy ending. Both sons have learned how to love. Father is wiser.
How does Jesus’ story end today? Too often today, addiction swallows us up leaving us lost, sleeping on the streets, even murdered. Sometimes it’s our commitment to overwork, an extramarital relationship, total self-indulgence, that carries us away from family, loved ones, God. Unlike the lost son in Jesus’ story, we don’t return home. We may have started home many times but we stumbled again and again and again. We can’t stay on that homeward path.
And so, too often, as parents, spouses, children, friends, we are left sitting at the gate, still loving, still praying, still hoping, still weeping. The opportunity to run down the path, arms open wide, love pouring forth, never comes.
Too often, as elder siblings, we keep plugging away, doing our best, resentment hidden and growing, judgment made. We want to hang onto our rage, our self-righteousness. We’re sure we are right. We don’t want help forgiving those who are unforgivable. We don’t want to face God’s unconditional love, God’s endless mercy, let alone participate in it.
Today, whether we are the lost son, the elder brother or the loving parent, we go to our death still paralysed, still lost on life’s journey. And so we think there is no possibility for a happy ending.
For me, the Good News, the “happy ending” comes when we learn to trust our Christian story which tells us that the power of God’s love is so strong, God’s plan for each one of us so flexible, so creative, that even death cannot keep us paralyzed. In fact, death, in whatever form it comes, opens the way for “new life,” the happy ending.
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
Jesus’ own life story tells us that whether our death brings forth the possibility of new life, transformation, abundance.
Today, whether we are facing the loss of a beloved person, the ending of a life-long dream, the closing of our precious church,– wherever we find ourselves present in Jesus’ story, we can trust that the resurrection will come. God will not be defeated. We may not see the transformation, but it will come, if not in this world than in the next. Weeping will end. Joy will come with the morning. We are not truly paralyzed. We can open ourselves to understanding, forgiveness and love. We can receive God’s peace that is beyond our understanding because we can trust in God’s transformation, whenever it happens.
We have hope, for God has assured us there will be “a happy ending” in this life or the next. Our transformation is guaranteed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We can hear and live Jesus’ words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27) For this, I am truly grateful.
As seniors, we hope we have learned a few things about life. Most of the time these learnings have come to us the hard way. Our wisdom is precious. we would like to share it and save our children and grandchildren from going through the same trial and error process that we did.
Occasionally, the urge to offer advice becomes overwhelming for me. Still, I know it’s not my call. When advice is requested, I can share my knowledge. Otherwise, my call is to give support and pray. Fulfilling that role requires patience, trust and even courage.
As Easter approaches, I’m thinking about Jesus’ mother. When Jesus headed for Jerusalem that last time, I can only imagine the worry and possibly anger his family experienced. They would have wanted him to stay in Galilee where he was relatively safe. Still it wasn’t their call. Even after his resurrection, I’m sure there would be some friends that still vibrated from the pain and yes, anger with Jesus. If he had only stayed home. If he had only listened to me. Their feelings may have even got in the way of fully experiencing the joy of his resurrection.
For me, one of the resurrection messages for parents, grandparents, friends and family is: it’s not our call to totally protect our children or any of our loved ones. Like Jesus, they have to make their own choices. The wonder of the resurrection is that we can have patience trust and courage, because we know that God’s miracle of love for them will be far better than anything our precious knowledge can do. In the end they too will have new life.