Friday, December 31, 2010

River Crossed!

Mom, surrounded by her children....
Newly arrived in the celestial city. 
Safe in the arms of Jesus. 
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.
They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10: 9-10
But now, this is what the LORD says -- he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; 
I have summoned you by name;
you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you...."
Isaiah 43

To all who have loved this woman along with us -
our sincere gratitude 
for your faithful friendship and loving care.  
God is very very good.  
(p.s. He was so gentle too!)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Journey

Yay!  Tonight it is MY turn to sleepover in Mom's room.  We trade spots from bed to recliner.  She sleeps most of the time now - an upgrade in morphine appears to keep her comfortable.  When her eyes are open, they rarely focus on us - in fact, she seems to be looking past us.  We sincerely hope she will soon see Jesus over our shoulder, reaching out to her.   

This is a beautiful 12X12 giant card designed and crafted by grand-daughter Meghan for grandma - presented to her on Christmas Day.  34 love notes were attached inside; a favourite memory or thought expressed by each of her grand-peeps... 
This is a painting commissioned as a 60th birthday present to Mom (a few years ago now!).
I remember the artist sitting down with us girls for a chat about Mom.  She needed to get a sense of her personhood for inspiration before beginning.  We think the end result was mighty bang-on.
At the time - I tried my hand at writing a story about the picture and now it hangs in an envelope behind the picture.  I meant to scan the story and post it so you could read it for yourself, but being next door with Mom for most of every day now,  I am forced to type it all out long-hand....this camera image didn't help much either.  
The Journey
The woman placed her devotional on the table and settled back into the pillows of the settee.
She surveys the garden with contentment, her gaze finally resting on the wheelbarrow by the garden wall.  Yes!  Today she is definitely going to finish the planting of those bulbs.  She pushes the comforter aside and pulls herself up to pick out the curled leaves in the topiary.
The garden is a source of never ending work but she remembers with a smile the feelings of pleasure & satisfaction it brings.  She reaches up to feel the ruffle on the apron... almost dry.
"Time to change" she decides, "and get on with this day."
I hear the screen door close behind the woman as she enters the house.  I look around me at this place so lovingly tended.  I think of the hands that never rest....always a project on the go!
Past the garden wall, out in the horizon beyond, the clouds are rolling back a new day....
Do I see the shape of angels in the clouds?  So subtly God is bringing to mind:  it is His mercies that are new every morning.  The wind blows a refreshing breeze that scatters the clouds; soon the sun will warm my place on the garden path.  My eyes are drawn to the movement of pant legs flapping on the wash line.   The trousers are worn-looking and so oddly out of place in the woman's wardrobe.
They beckon me closer.  I step up onto the porch and see close-up that the knees have been mended often.  Obviously, the woman has had to wear these for a long time.  The apron strings blow up past my face.  My fingers catch the hem.  It too says something about the woman.
The stories of service it could tell!  They would be many, the sound of them so familiar.
My hand comes to rest on the antique shepherd's crook.  
How this woman loves the theme of sheep and shepherd!  I see it suddenly in more places:
the pillow tapestry, the flower pot...
Ancient words play over again in my memory, 
"The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not be in want....Your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Yes, that must be it!  That is the source of the woman's secret strength.
I have an irresistible urge to tell this remarkable woman how much she is admired and loved.
I hasten through the door and call from the foyer, 

The clock shows 2:22am.  I must try and sleep with one eye on my beautiful Mom.  
Thank-you Father.  Please be gentle when you come to get her.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Phenomenal Mercy and Grace

Christmas Day was incredible.
All of us together in one place.
Ten great-grandchildren....
Thirty-four grandchildren....even Nicole from Florida!
Numbering fifty-five with significant others... 
(only engaged/marrieds were included here)  
Mom donned her prettiest housecoat - funky headwear and padded over to the couch for a half hour visit with us.  We sang, played our instruments, received words and gifts from Grandma.
Much Joy and many tears all jumbled up together.  
Absolutely wonderful.
Thank You Heavenly Father - that was a very precious provision.

Mom wants to impress the words of Psalm 103 on her family:
.....But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love 
is with those who fear him, 
and his righteousness with their children's children -- 
with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Cross at Christmas

My Mom.  
Still so young.  But still dying.  
No more chemo.  Relentless tumours.  Way more pain.  No appetite.
We're trying to find a pain medication that agrees with her body chemistry.
We were stretched out on her bed -- she spends increasing amounts of time in her bed -- 
this morning,  devo's was a rendering of Psalm 103... 
O my soul, bless God, don't forget a single blessing!  
He forgives your sins - every one.  
He heals your diseases - every one.  
(we smile at each other when I read this)
He redeems you from hell - saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy - a paradise crown.
(she's wearing it)
He wraps you in goodness - beauty eternal.
(she's beautiful alright)
He renews your youth - you're always young in his presence.
God makes everything come out right;
We have been very busy getting the proverbial 'house in order' - thankful for the time and ability to see this through and cope with the myriad emotions that wash over us.
We are praying to be able to enjoy each others company yet on Christmas Day 
when the whole shebang will be present.  
You have been praying haven't you?  
We are very thankful for this and ask that you continue to do so.
The final scene in John Bunyan's classic The Pilgrim's Progress shows Christian crossing the river to the celestial city.  Strong and mighty arms pull him up from his watery grave and embrace him with vigour, welcoming him into a splendour beyond description.  
To help someone prepare for such a crossing is....frightening, yes.  But less so now.
It's more like privilege.
And a very profound one at that.  
Almost a year in the making - our community project Great Hymns of Faith & Other Favourites is finally available.  It continues to be a great balm for a weary soul.
We missed the kafuffle over the moon.  
The way I see it?....we've had our fair share of amazing 'God displays' in different ways.
Imagine what a lunar eclipse would look like from His vantage point? 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Slow to change

The picture in the blog header....
It was time to change seasons again.
Heave heavy sigh.  
....but I'm still wearing my sandals out there.
And I don't care what you think about it either.
But seriously now, about seasons of change?  
I've been doing some personal reflection on the idea.
I've determined that I'm not much for it.  
Which of course, is a ridiculous deduction to make.
No change?  No growth.  
Change is the antonym of static or stagnate.

Here's another discovery:  
Change that really counts for something (radical OR gradual) costs you considerably. 
In many ways, the process will include pain.
It's like being that hunk of crude ore in the Silversmith story...
He holds it in the fire just long enough to separate the silver from the dross 
and doesn't consider the 'job' finished till he sees his reflection staring back at him.

So maybe it isn't change but it's season that wearies me?
I think I just need to go to bed. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Forgiveness - What it is and What it is not

First of all, let me say this:  Mom is slightly improved.  Please know that your prayers for 'peace' are both much apparent and appreciated.
Secondly, as to the title of this blog post - let me say unequivocably, I offer these thoughts not as an authority on the subject but as an ardent (albeit reluctant) student of same.  My observations are simply the result of serious but necessary soul searching and reflection of certain events in my pilgrimage.  Only by God's grace can I rightfully claim any richer understanding of the concept of forgiveness.
And no doubt - I have far to go.

We watched a very gut-wrenching movie together - Momsie and her three daughters. 
Amish Grace is an exploration of two vital tenets of Christianity: grace & forgiveness and is based on the true story of the 2006 schoolhouse murders of five Pennsylvanian Amish girls.  It was strangely fortifying to sit through this bawling our eyes out together; the vigorous discussion that followed the film was such that only Mom's signal for rest and her bed brought us to a truce - a revisit is likely to happen soon.  :)

It was an extremely well-acted, respectful rendering of a horrible human tragedy and this is the line (defended by the Amish 'clergy') that sparked such a fierce debate:  Forgiveness is unconditional.
Collectively, we had just sat under a series of sermons and read a few books on precisely that topic:  Repentance/Forgiveness Restoration/Healing.
Unconditional forgiveness?  Does the Bible teach that?
Have you ever challenged yourself to ponder the precept?  Want a discussion to grow by?  Stick three or more people in the kitchen, pour some beverage of choice and lay your cards on the table.
I think you'll be surprised.  Maybe even a bit rattled.  Not to worry.  Spiritual stretching never killed anyone.  On the contrary.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Prayer Warriors Unite!

You've been asking for a while now, I know.
I've been waiting for inspiration - giving Mom some space in this journey - watching her - wishing to be of better use in this coming to terms with 'stuff'.
The facts of the matter:
Momsie was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer last May.... two short years after her first foray into the chaotic world of chemo, radiation and radical surgery to purge herself from the cancer.
Her prognosis was a year to a year and a half with treatment.  'Treatment' means several rounds of poisonous chemo which the odd recipient at the Juravinski Cancer Centre doesn't comport well.
Like our mom.  She ended up taking most of her monthly cycles of chemo at half potency which she also rightly assumed would be far less effective.   Last weeks CT scan confirmed her suspicions; of her numerous tumours, that worrisome beast on her liver is twice the size.
Her pain is more constant now.  She is fiercely independent and trying to weather herself through it without
too much medication.  She doesn't like the effect that codeine in Tylenol 3 has on her system.
Carrying that pain around though, makes her weak and weaker still.
I mean shockingly so.
Now she's started a pain reliever called Endocet:  it contains a narcotic (oxycodone) and a non-narcotic element (acetaminophen).
I suspect that Mom's reluctance to incorporate this stuff in her daily regiment is a fear of developing a dependency on pain relief too early.  She saw what a zombie it made of her daughter Yvonne many years ago when Mom was her attentive nurse-maid.
It's a bit of a vicious circle.  She has no energy to speak of and yet hanging around like a limp dishrag has a negative effect on both the body and the spirit.  Is this resignation I see?  Is this a necessary and natural part of the journey?
She also has until December 21 (or 23rd?) to consider taking more chemo in pill form.  *sigh*
The conclusion of the matter:
We need to engage in prayer with you.  All of you.
1.  For the strength to pass this over to the LORD and to rest in Him.
2.  For courage to face the coming days with confidence and (dare I say it?) with joy.
3.  For relief from pain and a drug that she's comfortable (and may I add consistent) with.
4.  For clear direction regarding the decision for more chemo versus palliative care.
Thank you for loving Mom with us.  The Family of God is a great place to be.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Things that make my heart sing....

Sleeping in and finding this waiting for me in the kitchen...
The reliable return of the Pileated Woodpecker in our forest....
Raspberry fingers....
Tinkerbell fairies in crocks...
Unabashed bed-head way past lunch-time!
Wild and unruly shaped trees....
....with monkeys in them!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rich Mullins *sigh*

We're studying the first book of Peter this year in my Morning Bible study.  Wow.  What incredible truths we are learning to apply.  So timely.  Always so timely.  This epistle helps us to have the right frame of mind toward trouble in our life.  And who doesn't have trouble in their life?  I mean, seriously! -  If you're on the same planet with me - there's bound to come some trouble in your life.
Listen to Rich's song and be blessed.
Wish that guy was still on our planet -
but that's just selfish, I know.

There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothing to be afraid of
There's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
But reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there
There's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't nothing to be ashamed of
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there
Now, People say maybe things will get better
People say maybe it won't be long
And people say maybe you'll wake up tomorrow
And it'll all be gone
Well I only know that maybes just ain't enough
When you need something to hold on
There's only one thing that's clear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
But that ain't nothing to be afraid of
I know there's bound to come some tears up in your eyes
That ain't no reason to fear
I know there's bound to come some trouble to your life
Reach out to Jesus, hold on tight
He's been there before and He knows what it's like
You'll find He's there

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Screwtape Spin-off coming at you!

I miss writing and I miss you too.  I've been utterly swamped lately with some things grand and others not so.  You know how it is -- life at breakneck speed.  Not that I want to stand still or stagnate, but surely there is a happier balance?  A mysterious, elusive balancing formula?  Somewhere out there??
Here's a paltry effort on my part to post something worth reading... from the pen of RCA pastor.
Allow me to clarify:  The effort of mine is paltry (i.e. cut and paste from e-mail:) but this fella's writing is not.
Refresh your memory regarding The Screwtape Letters here and you'll know where this post is headed...
Helpful Tip:  Pour yourself a coffee or glass of wine first and commit to a thorough leisurely read, I do think you'll find it worth your while... Luv y'all!
Below you will find a fictional letter, written by Kevin DeYoung (an RCA pastor in Michigan), in the spirit of “The Screwtape Letters”  by C. S. Lewis.  Please read it;   I think it is outstanding.  In fact, please consider it “assigned reading” for all parents with college/university age children.  Share it with those children who will soon be leaving home to attend school out of town. These are wise words written at a time when the church is viewed by many Christians with increasing ambivalence.
Rev DeYoung's Introduction 
It is the season for the great migration of students to our institutions of higher learning. This week, next week, and into September, thousands of young adults will leave home and head off to college and university.  Many of these students are Christians. Some will look for Christian fellowship in their new home. Fewer will commit themselves to a church. This “fewer” is just as the devil likes it.  At one time or another every Christian writer tries his hand at a Screwtape Letter, the C.S. Lewis inspired form of address where you write like you’re one of the bad guys.  I don’t claim to be very good at it, but here’s my humble attempt. 
Pass it on to your friends and children. Churchless Christians are on their way to being no Christian at all.


Fall 2010, A.H. (Anno Hostis, “the year of our Enemy”)
My Dear Wormwood,

t’s been too long time since last I wrote. In my defence, however, it was dreadfully cold up above. 
How do humans endure such miserable conditions?  But poor weather aside, please accept my insincerest apologies for the delay in finally putting pen to paper. I trust all is devious and devilish between you and your subject. I am not an easy uncle to please, but your efforts over the past several years with your subject have been, I must admit, rather impressive. True, high school is a particularly grand time for opportunistic spirits like ourselves.  
But these advantages do not detract from your work, which has been to date, exemplary.
Your teenage subject has all the usual paradoxes of American youth we like to see down here: rebellious, yet disinterested; slothful, yet impetuous; disrespectful to parents, yet an irresponsible drain on their resources; tolerant of religions he knows nothing about, 

yet fiercely intolerant of the one he knows best. 
All in all, a splendid few years my injurious Wormwood.  Bravo!
It is because your work has proven so trustworthy over the last few years, that I now feel obliged to speak with you quite candidly about a matter of grave importance. Your subject is now enrolled in what the earth world calls “college.” I do not need to remind you what splendid opportunities these places afford us. But there is one particular danger, and you must see to it that it is avoided at all costs. 
And that danger is church attendance.
Though your subject seems safe from the clutches of our Enemy Above, you will recall that he has spent the majority of his Sundays, thus far, in church. The habit may not be easy to break. If he tries church for a few weeks, make sure it is a pointless endeavor. 
Do not forget our little rhyme:
“If to church one must go, lead him to an empty show. And when all we can do is meddle, makes sure on one church he does not settle.”
Church attendance is bad enough, nephew, but consistent attendance at the same church spells almost certain doom for our cause. If your human persists in his church interest, you simply must devise some way to shuffle him around from congregation to congregation. See to it he never knows the people he is worshiping with. Keep reminding him of how rotten the music is over here, and how long the sermon is over there, and how bland the coffee is at that other church.  Trust me, it won’t take much to get him floundering on church. 
Almost any excuse will do.
College students are nothing if not critical. They are trained in it daily.
Use this to your advantage, my dear boy. If your subject is determined to go to church, make sure he searches for the perfect church. Within a few weeks he will be fast asleep on Sunday morning, much to our Father’s delight. Speaking of sleep, do whatever you can do keep your subject out late on Saturday evenings? Drink, girls, football, video games, paper—it doesn’t matter. Just keep him up. You know perfectly well how our Father Below insists on busyness at all costs and how terribly he depends on sleep deprivation for his work. It’s a well known fact among the higher ranks of devildom, that silly humans suspect our interference in the big things–death, accidents, spinning heads, and the like. 
They never expect that our work consists mainly in distraction. 
So do not neglect our demonic bread and butter. Make Friday a fun day and Saturday a waste. 
He will have no choice then but to sleep on Sunday and use the rest of the day to get
ready for Monday.  Keep up your discipline my dear Wormwood or he will keepup his!
You will excuse me for my stern tone, but I cannot overstate the importance of this matter of church. Perhaps your youth prevents you from fully grasping the eternal significance of this issue. Heaven is at stake, my infernal child. Spirituality is one thing. God talk is generally harmless.  Student “fellowships” as they call them are tolerable for a season. 
But for hell’s sake, Wormwood, church is absolutely out of the question.
Of course, it goes without saying some churches serve our cause nicely. 
Dead tradition churches.  Silly entertainment churches. Social get-together churches. Political party churches. Loveless, divisive churches.  Doctrineless churches.
These are all wonderful. 
Our concern, and I must reiterate it is a deep concern, is with churches that act like churches, the ones that preach Christ and live out their blasphemous faith. Such churches
introduce many bad habits in our subjects. They become more thoughtful. They become more aware of our Enemy’s character and schemes. They learn to love each other, even people unlike them in situation and temperament.  This can only bode ill for our work in the long run.  At the risk of insulting your diabolical intelligence, allow me to remind me of your course in Youth Misery. 
Recall the Three S’s of Satan, our Sinister Snake (I know, he sometimes gets carried away with alliteration, but it does help jog the old memory). The Three S’s of youth misery: 
Keep them separate. Keep them selfish. Keep them searching.   
Allow me to expound.
The First S: Keep them separate. Our Bureau of Statistics (remember there are lies, damned lies, and statistics) has documented evidence proving that the best way to keep young people from growing into devoted followers of the  Enemy is to keep them far away from any of his grown-up, devoted followers.  Church attendance allows for too much interaction between old and young.   
With this interaction come manifold dangers: modeling, mentoring, service, and hospitality.
Listen closely. Groups of students meeting together for prayer and study is,  it’s true, a pernicious influence, but gladly, the influence is often short-lived. Soon, your subject will graduate and he will find that the rest of the planet is not like his university. He will not be surrounded by peers all his age with his same interests. It is to our advantage that he be unable to relate to anyone above the age of 25. 
This not only makes for misery, but it makes church involvement, 
and therefore the Christian life, much less likely.
This, of course, goes hand in hand with the Second S: Keep them selfish.
It’s really quite simple.  All of our human subjects are selfish, but the young especially. 
It’s hardly their fault. They have no spouse or children to think of, only themselves. 
They have food handed to them on plastic platters. And they live in a country that believes for some strange reason, pleasant enough to us, that history doesn’t matter, that the old are useless, and that youth culture should be prized above all else. And yet, I must hasten to add, don’t underestimate your subject. Human youths are capable of extraordinary acts of courage and bravery and accomplishment, as the Annals of the Enemy record.  Keep your youth far away from such examples.  
See to it that no visions of nobility or self-sacrifice or inspiration enter his head.

Which again, if I may repeat myself, is why church must be foresworn at all costs. It is at church that he will see examples of lived-out bravery and sacrifice. And, more importantly, it is at church that he will have to face his own selfishness. He will encounter music he doesn’t like and old people who do strange things and babies who smell and cry. (Incidentally, I only mention babies because your subject is male, as is mine. The female youth I am told must not, under any circumstances, be surrounded by small children, those children enticing the females to re-visit church rather than repulsing them away as with most male subjects). My point is that so long as the spiritual experiences of our youthful subjects can be catered to the whims and fancies of 18-22 year olds, the students will not likely stick with a church when they discover that churches must also deal with the whims and fancies of 8 year olds and grandmothers.
One more thing, students today love the idea of community. 
Do everything in your power to keep them loving the idea of community rather than loving their community.  As long as they love their vision of community instead of loving the actual fleshly people around them, they will never have real community and they will stay far away from church.

The Third S, and here I draw to a close, is to keep them searching. 
Use the native restlessness of this time to your advantage. 
Students think it is their inalienable right to be irresponsible and uncommitted. 
Feed this conviction. 
Do not, in any way, allow for your subject to consider commitment or service or what they call “accountability.” 
If he must be interested in God, keep it peripheral. Let him come and go and flit in and out of whatever spiritual venue suits him for the day. But see to it that he makes no promises, no commitments, no investment. And in the unlikely event that you cannot prevent such blunders, make sure there is no one in his life to hold him to his promises and commitments, especially those who are older and wiser. This goal is best served by keeping our patients away from church. 
Remember the cross-stitch (pardon my use of the foul word “cross”) above auntie’s fridge: 
“Keep them searching for the soul; never finding and never whole.”

All that’s left is for me to thank you for your patience in reading what has turned out to be a rather lengthy correspondence. Please do not hear my harsh words as anything but familial concern for your welfare and the good of our Infernal Kingdom. Would you be so kind as to write me back as soon as possible? These are weighty matters and we truly live in troubled times.
Might I suggest you use the post instead of email–what with your past internet struggles and dalliance with sermonography?
Say hello to your father for me. Best wishes in your malfeasance,
malevolence, and malediction.
Unscrupulously yours,  
Uncle Screwtape

Friday, November 5, 2010

Christmas Concert Coming up!

Am thoroughly pumped, excited, stoked and like manner preparing five songs from Ireland's most amazing hymn writers of this day -- Keith and Kristyn Getty.
Hit the link - visit their official website and be refreshed and reminded of God's amazing love by the sights and sounds.
We sure are over at CCS!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Better than I deserve...

That beastly bug stalking members of my household for the past month finally cornered me and is pummelling me into a prostrate position for the Sabbath.  
A good position for such a day as this, come to think of it.
It is 3am and I am gargling with salt water to get some relief from this raging sore throat.
I have decided to use this convalescence to concentrate on thankfulness today.

This summer I found this vintage photo while searching for suitable slideshow material 
for our sons wedding day. 
My heart thumps wildly as I reflect how lavishly God has answered 
a young woman's dream to be somebody's wife and mother.  
.... and then?
to my everlasting amazement....
He throws this in too.

So if you'd ask me how I'm doing today, I'd have to say between sniffles and wheezing:
WAY better than I deserve!
God bless your day too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Great Hymns of Faith and other Favourites

To stave the clamour about the delay of our new CD, I am posting this peace-offering.
We hope to have the final - finished - FABULOUS labour of love from the CCS community in your hands by November this year, at the very latest!
As you play this video however, you'll want to keep the volume down (considerably) because the louder you go the more distortion in the quality of sound.  Heave heavy sigh.  Smilebox is a great little program for slideshows but it doesn't rate too high in the transmission of personal music files just yet.  
I trust the 'better than nothing' motto will score me some understanding.
Only three songs were permitted on this video - another silly restriction of the Smilebox program.
But then, we can't give too much away can we?  
Besides, the warbling of sound waves on this preview is really 
too disturbing for ears that have tasted and tried the real deal.  
Soon now, very soon.

Create your own slideshow - Powered by Smilebox
Editor's addendum.  The pathetic soundtrack on the above slideshow was more than I could bear.
I refer you to this site for a most remarkable replacement:
Thanks to the SWEET sweat of the resident computer whizkid over at CCS.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

But...but....or 'Even so'?

From Holley Gerth and her column Heart to Heart with Holley - a much appreciated dose of inspiration that regularly finds its way into my inbox - and always in a timely manner.  Go figure.
Posted: 29 Aug 2010 10:00 PM PDT
One in a Million by Priscilla ShirerI've been hot on the trail of some God-sized dreams the last few years.
And the hardest part has not been taking the next step, finding courage, overcoming obstacles.
No, the biggest challenge has been the voice inside my mind.
It's the one that says, "You can never do this. This is in the way. That won't ever change."
You've struggled with that too?
We're not the only ones.
As Priscilla Shirer says in her book, One in a Million: Journey to Your Promised Land (B&H Books), the Israelites also battled fear and insecurities:
"If there's a single word that doomed this generation of God's people from experiencing Promised Land living in their lifetime, it's this one: 'nevertheless.'
They had heard with their own ears the assurances of God. They had seen and certainly tasted the cluster of fruit that more than verified, beyond their wildest imaginations, just how accurate God had been when He had described the land to them....
She goes on to say that we're all tempted to do the same.
I discover those words as I sit on my back porch one evening. As I finish, I lean back and stare into the deep summer sky.
I ask God, "What do I say instead?"
And like shooting stars, two words blaze across my mind.
Even so.
Yes, the situation is difficult and the obstacles seem insurmountable. Even so, God will deliver me.
Yes, I left my comfort zone about 100 miles ago and all I want to do is eat a vat of chocolate. Even so, God can use me.
Yes, it feels like the valley is dark, the mountains are high, and the enemy strong. Even so, God is able to get me to the Promised Land.
Even so.
Those two little words don't deny the difficulties or paste on a smile that says, "Everything is fine." They acknowledge life is hard. They recognize the obstacles.
But in the end, they shift our gaze from what we see to Who we know.
And that changes everything...
especially us.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Lovers Unite!

We're heading into the good 'ol Canadian winter months --- if I'm interpreting the frenetic squirrel behaviour around my place correctly, there may even be an early arrival of the white stuff.

I can hear the groaning.

Well of course it's not coming from those types --  the ones who automatically conjure images of downhill skiing, snowboarding or ice-hockey.  Those 'fist-pumping, high-fiver's' who actually (Ugh!) celebrate five month long, record snowfall winters.... y'know?  The ones who don't necessarily HAVE to drive to work everyday in the slush and worry about salt damage or the endless refill of their windshield wiper fluid or (Ugh! again) forgetting to use the antifreeze kind.
Yeah.  Not those types.
But hear ye now all groaners.  I have a plan, now that I'm older and proverbially wiser than those types.
I'm going to adjust and reconfigure the use of cold winter evenings.

Oh, I still might be prevailed upon to make ONE snowman or shucks, maybe even a snow-angel or two in the backyard if the wee peeps in my life hanker for it.  Consider THAT a done deal!  
As I will ensure the wood pile in the garage is high and dry for those toasty evenings around an open hearth and I will surely go ahead and roast wieners & marshmellows there too.
I might even ask my cautious hubby for permission.
Maybe not.
And I am DEFINITELY going to 'squirrel' away a good stock of reading material which at long last, leads me to the point of this blog post:
I'm going to recommend some books that have come highly recommended to me by fellow book lovers.
Books that have made definitive, lasting impressions on me.  
The wonder(ful) kind of books that I try and collect in hard cover for my personal library - 
so we can grow old together.
But there is a story behind this first recommendation.  Of course there is.  
It is only appropriate that a good book should inspire spin-off stories is it not?  
Hit the link above for the story line but remember, 
it'll be a spoiler for those who prefer to have a rousing story unfold by itself.
I took The Book Thief  to southern Germany this past June where I spent THE most undisturbed (aka quiet) two and a half weeks of my adult life at an alternative therapy cancer clinic with Momsie.  
It was all a tad surreal - reading a book about Nazi Germany while IN Germany (in the very territory described in the book!)  surrounded by so many wonderful German people....
...with the flight path of the nearby Luftwaffe  directly overhead the Leonardis Klinik - watching the fighter jets practise their thrilling drills --
Not the old relics shown above and below.   The incredible (Mach 1 type) fighter jets that flew over my head could be heard mere seconds before being seen and quicker than my shutter speed, disappeared as tiny dots on the horizon with only the terrifying speed of sound to betray their passing.  
I was utterly fascinated and equally frustrated in not being able to capture their image.
And if that was not enough to induce goosebumps (which incidentally, it did) - it turns out our Cook for the duration of our stay at Leonardis was none other than the archeologist Ludwig Hauber listed in this article:

At 88, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stanton Rickey needed no help climbing aboard a World War II bomber Friday to commemorate a reunion with history.
It was the two Germans with him, however, who held the links to his past.
Rickey and his European guests were brought together for this occasion after the Germans recovered pieces of the B-17 Flying Fortress that Rickey was flying when he was shot down during a raid over southern Germany on July 18, 1944.....

It's a good thing Mom and I were two of very few people staying at the clinic since Ludwig would regularly emerge from the kitchen to wile away the hours with his passion for WWII history.  And not a wonder he felt encouraged to do so --- I could only stare in wide-eyed wonder at the way actual history and historical fiction was colliding for me that week.  Added to the curious details of that experience was having Victor (our mad-cab driver) serve as personal historian about the American involvement in the war --- in the respectable English he had learned from the influx of Americans living at the army base in his hometown of Bad Heilbrunn, an army base only recently dismantled.  
Seriously, I felt like I was 'living' inside the book by the end of that journey.
Oh! the places you will go (thanks Dr. Suess) when you read.  
Next in line:

 The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
The twelfth in the series is due to hit the market in March 2011.
And don't even THINK about reading them out of sequence.  
This gem of a book, incredulously discarded at a local thrift store was happily re-discovered by a good friend and foisted upon me a few months ago.
Here's just one of many glowing appraisals:
"Delightful....It is hard not to be seduced and intrigued by this delightful series. 
I wouldn't even try to resist."
Indeed not.
 I am presently on a glorious breakaway from routine and somehow -without fail! - found myself, AGAIN with hubby in a specialty bookstore.  A familiar knowing glance steered me immediately off to the Used Book Section first.  I stood stock still in front of SIX hard cover first editions.  SIX of the twelve in hard cover for SIX bucks apiece.  My beloved sidled over with two things:
a kleenex to catch the drooling
and two strong arms to carry the load to the cashier.
I feel so --- understood.
Mo Willems is another must read author especially if you have kids 
anywhere in your periphery.  The same thrift store 'finder of gold' introduced me to these books last year and I wouldn't be much friend to anyone else if I didn't pay it forward.
Willems illustrates his own books in a manner that leaves you breathless from laughter.

 He also happens to be of Dutch descent and in his Knuffle Bunny series writes about a family trip to Holland to visit Opa & Oma.

Completely irresistible whether you are 5 or 50 --
that's all I have to say.
So there you have it, all my fellow 'winter's coming' whiners.
The beauty of a great book is the chance to travel the world and/or live vicariously from the comfort of your recliner.
So, if you don't like reading in front of a blazing hearth with a favoured choice of libation and company?
Go visit your doctor and find out what's wrong with you
OR hey,
....Go skiing instead.
Steer clear of the trees and if you break a leg?  I'll be down with my bag of books and have you up running and going places in no time.

p.s.  Looking back over a fairly long and extensive history of book reading/collecting/devouring,
I'd have to conclude that my all time favourite are the writings of Jan Karon.
(see link below)
Her work is nothing short of heart-stopping hilarious and divinely edifying at the same time.
Don't even get me started on these books.
I cannot recommend them more heartily.  Google her.
Gobble the hundreds of excellent reviews.
But by all means, do yourself a great favour and discover this for yourself!
The Mitford Series by Jan Karon

C'mon baby, light my fire!
.... I might do some knitting too.