Category Archives: Holidays

Airports and “Old Folks”

Day Two

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.

“A Gift of Love”

I offer you these thoughts for Mother’s Day.  As I post this I am very aware that not all women become biological mothers. Some are not able for many reasons. Some do not want to be mothers. Some take the place of mothers who for whatever reason are unable to fulfil their role as mothers. I was blessed with three fabulous children, and two mothers – one through adoption, and one biological. I needed to write this.

A Gift of Love

At the first of our Easter family gatherings this year, our niece told me she was pregnant. Her face radiated with joy as she shared her dreams and plans. Her youthful innocence and joy reminded me of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Like all young Jewish women of her time, Mary dreamed of being the mother of the Messiah. Her “yes” must have felt wonderful.

Being a mother comes with exhilarating, all-encompassing joy. Our hearts have moments of such intense feelings of love, purpose and caring that we have no words to express them. AND juxtaposed beside that joy are excruciating moments of pain, beginning with labour and delivery, continuing through the long nights of babyhood, the trials and worries of youth and more. Yet most of us in our darkest times would never give up being mothers.

In the Christian Easter story, the preciousness of the role of mother is lived out. Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, from the torture of the cross, “Mother, here is your son.” And to his best friend, John, “Here is your mother.” In his culture, Jesus’ mother, a widow, needed her oldest son to survive. Even from the cross, Jesus ensured his mother’s security. Mary, her heart breaking at his suffering and death, receives also the joy of his love and caring.

Too many mothers, like Mary, have watched their child, ravaged by illness, physical and mental, for days, months and years. They know Mary’s pain. They understand the strength that Mary gained as she received her son’s gift of caring.

As Mary stood at the base of the cross, Mary still didn’t know the future. She didn’t know about the resurrection. She didn’t know that Jesus would still be living now, more than two thousand years later in the hearts of men and women who have come to love him.

We, Mothers, today, don’t know the future either as we live on the mountaintop and in the depths of despair. As I congratulated my niece that Sunday afternoon, I prayed that whatever the future holds for her and her child, she would always know the gift of love that comes with motherhood, precious beyond measure.

Yea!!!!!! I’m Seventy-Five

“YEA!!!! I’m Seventy-Five

Today’s my birthday. I’m seventy-five. Friends tell me that is a special, milestone birthday. For me, each day is a milestone and a gift. This morning, “Our Daily Bread” book of reflections asked me, “How has the light of Christ turned my life from darkness to light?” I could fill a book with answers to that question. This is what my response was several hours ago.

Tom and I start each day with prayer together. He begins with, “Thank you God for our life of faith together.” I am so grateful that we are together and that we share a life of faith. Tom has been God’s gift of Grace for me since we met.

After my divorce, I spent five years in counselling. It takes two to build and two to destroy a relationship. It was easy to see my spouse’s responsibility in that destruction. I wanted to understand my responsibilities as well. I wanted to learn about them, accept them, accept God’s forgiveness and grow past them. And I did. Then I spent another seven years learning how to love myself and others in a healthy way. All of that prepared me for God’s precious gift of Tom. After nearly 16 years of marriage, he is and always will be God’s gift of love and Grace in my life.

God has been my companion since birth. I have been blessed with the love of two mother’s. Today I am so grateful that I have learned beyond doubt that I am God’s precious child and so is absolutely everyone else.  That is such life-giving knowledge. It changes my perception of every moment of every day.

I know that my next 25 years (?) will have challenges for sure. AND for sure God’s love will be with me, comforting me, guiding me, empowering me. I’ll have lots of love and laughter. I’ll have tears and frustration. And I know that with God all will be well.

What a delightful gift this morning, to have this blog and the opportunity to share my faith and delight in living.  For me, the light of Christ, my belief in the presence of God’s love with me and with the world, brings light to the darkness of my world every day. I am truly grateful.

” Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28: 19-20

At taste of theology for Holy Week

Image by James Chan from Pixabay

What does the “torn curtain” mean?

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.

Love Covers A Multitude of Sins

Unconditional Love

On Valentine’s Day we talk about love, especially love for spouse. The stores tell us to buy a gift – usually an expensive gift – but at least a card for that special person in our life. Over and over, and not just at Valentine’s Day, we are encouraged to speak words of love to our children, our spouse, our friends. “Tell them you love them before it’s too late,” is the command.

The Bible adds another dimension to the discussion about love. “Above all love each other, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

“Love covers a multitude of sins.” What a beautiful thought. St. Paul is speaking of unconditional love. It’s not that love wipes away those sins. It’s that we love anyway. As human beings we are aware of our child’s, our spouse’s failings. Often those failings are aggravating, frustrating. We worry about their consequences. We believe this child has to learn another way. Sometimes those failings cause us or other’s pain. This short bible verse tells us that our love continues to flow in spite of what we do or say or think.

For me, this verse speaks about forgiveness – not forgetfulness, not acceptance – but forgiveness. I remember hearing a story long ago about a conversation between two people – Linda and George. They were discussing their spouses.

George said, “How do you cope with the fact that your husband squeezes the toothpaste tube in the middle. My wife does that. It drives me crazy.”

Linda answered, “When we got married I decided that every time I was irritated I would write down the irritation and at some point I would discuss it with Lenny. Once the irritation is on the list, I let go of it. Over the years, I’ve discovered there are many more important things to discuss, than some of the ones on my list. Important things like how we spend our next vacation, which house to buy, the time he lost his job through downsizing, my mother’s illness. That list of irritations never seems important enough to give it air time. Loving, caring for each other always takes precedence.

“Love covers a multitude of sins,” is a very important principle. It carries us through to forgiveness so that bitterness does not spawn and grown.

Valentine’s Day Is Coming Soon!

A Gift of Love

Valentine’s Day is coming soon. As a child, I dreaded the day. I remember writing a valentine for everyone in the class, even though I knew I would receive only a few. Although finding something suitable in the package of fifty my mom bought and the task of signing them all, was hard work in my mind, I didn’t want anyone in the class to be left out. No matter who they were it felt good to think they would receive at least one valentine. Taking care of the lonely, the excluded, has always been important to me.

Today, as a senior the only valentines I write are to my grandchildren and my sweetheart Tom. At Christmas it’s easy to think of others we don’t know, because the donation boxes and kettles are everywhere. On Valentine’s Day, the focus is more on me and who loves me. Think I’ll change that this time. In a bag in my room are four new pairs of warm men’s socks. Somehow they got left forgotten at Christmas.  I’ve decided rather than returning them to the store, I will take them to the Salvation Army along with two valentines. That feels like a tangible and valuable way to include the lonely and excluded this year.

What can you do to make Valentine’s Day, a day of giving love beyond your family? Is there someone in your church or at work or your senior’s centre that you believe will find Valentine’s Day a lonely experience. Can you make a meal, bake some cookies, create something in your workshop, buy flowers or a plant and bring it along with a card to brighten their day.

The reality of life is that we don’t have to wait for a special day. We just need to stop in the midst of our crazy lives and open our eyes and hearts to the people around us. We already know that bringing joy to someone else will bring healing and energy into our own lives. Remember Jesus’ words, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, you failed to do it to me.” (Matthew 25:45 NIV)

 

Happy New Year!!!

To Stumble or Walk with Purpose

For the last few months, I have been just stumbling along. For sure, I have accomplished everything that needed to be done. For sure, I’ve had some good times playing with Tom, and family. I have certainly been busy. But, underneath my busyness has been that wonder- what next? What is my purpose? I didn’t publish a book in 2018. Maybe I’m finished writing? I know that’s not true. Today, I read the reflection for New Year’s Day, in Our Daily Bread. It’s based on Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

What can my hand find to do, I wondered. I smiled and picked up my pencil and wrote:

  1. There’s your children’s story, “The Elephant at the Manger,” maybe it’s time that became a book. Immediately I thought, but I don’t have an illustrator. There are many avenues for removing that obstacle. It will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  2. Last year you gathered a bunch of new biblically based short stories you have written over the years. Maybe it’s time you created a new short story collection. I chuckled when I thought, that too will require effort – “doing with all my might.”
  3. You’ve thought about writing a book for intermediate readers, even talked about it with your daughter and granddaughter. Maybe it’s time you gave that some real effort – “doing with all your might.”

I chuckled and said, “Okay Lord, I hear you. My purpose is to write and it’s time I got back to it on a regular basis.

Maybe this is an exercise for you, my readers to consider. As you enjoy the sunshine on this first day of 2019, pick up a pencil and start writing about the projects you might like to do, the things you would like to make happen this year. Just set your hand free to write. For sure, all of them will require real effort. You may believe you don’t have the time or energy to do any of them. Write them down anyway. For sure you won’t accomplish any of them if you just stumble along, wondering, feeling like something is missing. Take some time today to think about your life. Give yourself a chance to “Walk with Purpose” into 2019.

Happy New Year!!!

Trust – ‘Cause God Don’t Make No Junk!!

Image result for god makes no junkYears 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)

Try a New Habit.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances?

In the Bible St. Paul says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances.” (1Thessalonians 5:18 )  “Give thanks in all circumstances?” Impossible! Wrong! I can’t give thanks when I lose my job, my loved one dies. How then do we follow St. Paul’s words?

Check the prepositions. St. Paul says, “Give thanks IN all circumstances,” not “FOR all circumstances.” Search for the goodness of God, IN the midst of grief, fear, disappointment. There will be goodness.

When my daughter was badly injured, I wasn’t grateful for the accident. At first, I could only be grateful she wasn’t paralysed, and for the ER doctor who consulted the specialist in Kingston as soon as he saw the X-rays. As the days passed, I gave thanks for the young Mom who brought her two-week-old twins to my daughter’s hospital bedside. As Mom laid her baby on my daughter’s chest, I saw her first real smile, and knew healing would come. My gratitude list from that accident is long. When I opened my heart to the blessings, they were there.

In tough times, the search for blessings is easier if we have already developed a “gratitude habit” – a habit of seeking out and giving thanks for the blessings in our lives every single day. Internet research reveals the following two principles concerning developing a habit.

  1. New habits require over two months of repetitions and still they are fragile, easily discarded. Therefore, forget about the time required and do the repetitions.
  2. Make the commitment. Then failures won’t matter because you will just resume doing it. Neither your financial resources, your health, nor your age, nothing can steal your ability to give thanks once you’ve made the commitment.

Seeking out and recognizing our blessings is worth the effort and practice. This Thanksgiving, I suggest you develop a gratitude habit. It may not mean more money, or things, or success, but it will mean more joy in your life. The gratitude habit will shift your focus from not enough to counting your blessings.

Mother’s Day! What Do I Say This Year?

What else can I say about Mothers’ Day? Between preaching and writing columns, haven’t I already said all I have to say? I turned to my Bible.

“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is human kind that your are mindful of us, human beings that you care for us?”         (Psalm 8:3-4)

The psalmist is overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe and the generosity and abundance of God’s blessings given to us. I thought of my moms, very different from each other, yet generous in their love for me. God blessed me through both of them.

Being a Mom is a commitment that continues even into the next life. What do mothers do for us? When we are little, mom’s job is physically exhausting: feeding, clothing, sleepless nights. Then, our troubles were small, the “fixes” simple. And, we returned her love with hugs and words of love.

Mothering teenagers is emotionally tougher. Our troubles are bigger and we don’t always want Mom’s help. She job is let go a little and watch us make mistakes. That process intensifies in our young adult years. We know everything, Mom, nothing. Our hugs are fewer and further between. We often don’t notice her in the background worrying, praying and trying so hard not to interfere.

I’m sure today it amuses both my moms when I struggle to keep out of the way of my own grown children. When I succeed, I can hear both moms cheering for me. When I interfere and offer unwanted advice, I feel them reach through that veil that separates us and say, “Yes, leaving them to struggle is tough, but you’re doing okay.”

Neither of my moms was perfect, but I was blessed by their love. This year I celebrate Mothers’ Day by remembering the work of their hands, the abundance of their love. This year I thank God who blessed me with their care, their example, their ability to stand back and let me fail, their joy at my success. This year I offer my poem of thanksgiving to God.

Thank You, God, for Mothers

When I consider your gift of mothers in this world,
Their caring, the work of their hands,
Their loving, the gift of their hearts,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

When I consider how hard it must have been for them,
To let us make our own choices                                                                  knowing the pain those choices will bring,
When I consider the abundance of support we have received,
I am humbled that you have created mothers for us.

Thank you, God, for mothers, some more perfect than others.
Thank you, God, for knowing that we need a mother’s love.
Thank you, God, for being a mother for us all.