Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Celebrations

Somehow this year the Christmas Eve celebration at our church devolved into a Santa sing-song with apple cider. O, the intentions were right. I think the event started to disintegrate with the acquisition of a karaoke machine.

The short and sweet celebration was to take place between 7 and 8 on Christmas Eve. Four tables were set out in the sanctuary. In the centre of each table sat a fat red candle surrounded by Christmas greenery. The lights were dimmed.

At 7, there were two lonely red vans in the parking lot, but by 7:20, six families offered up 17 representatives. We were a somewhat laid-back bunch...ready to participate in whatever the evening held. The pastor sat behind the karaoke machine, a machine he was not familiar with. How hard could it be?

The titles of songs available on four discs were printed out on sheets distributed at the tables. Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World and Silent Night mixed in with I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We were encouraged to come up to the microphones placed in front of the karaoke screen.

The machine burped out, Angels from the Realms of Glory. Even to my unmusical ears it sounded very wrong. "Anaang-els frooom the Reaaaaaalmssss of ...." Amy volunteered to take the disc over to the manse next door to be cleaned.

In the meantime, singing along with God-glorifying Christmas carols on a malfunctioning karaoke machine seemed sacrilegious. We tried the less serious "Santa songs." These songs could take a little abuse from the machine without messing with our sense of propriety. We sang a number of seasonal songs including, Chestnuts Roasting by a Fire, Let It Snow, and the all-time low, Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer. We had fun acting out in front of the microphones and drinking the tasty cider. In no time at all, it was 8 p.m. and time to go home. The pastor prayed.

In our red van on the way home, our family decided to find a Christmas morning church service to satisfy our desire to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mystery Christmas Card

Every few years we get a Christmas card without a signature. One year the card wished us "Merry Christmas from the 5 of us." This year our Mystery card says, "Dear Marian and Dave and Family. We Miss you. We Love you. And Happy New Year 2009."

My theory is that my friend Marnie sends them. It's good to have a theory, then I won't spend a ton of time wondering about these cards. Thanks Marnie.

Maybe that's why people hang on to the theory of evolution--then they don't have to spend time thinking about a God who created the universe. I don't know, it's just a theory.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rest & What God is Giving

Three words you associate with rest:

peace

sleep

feet-up



Where do you rest?

on the couch

in nature

lying down or feet curled up

alone

in my car



What do you take with you?

the Bible

a book

nothing



How often do you rest?

hardly ever

anytime

everyday


We started our women's Thursday morning gathering with the above exercise.

We also talked about what God is giving. Sometimes we ask for one thing and He gives us something else. In our collective experiences, He inevitably gives something better than what we expect.

Here are two experiences. (I've changed the names.)

Several years ago at a church service, "Rose" went forward for prayer. She was asking God for healing for aches, pains and allergies. An elderly couple prayed for her. Immediately she felt the tangible presence of God. His weight was tangible. Nothing else mattered anymore. There was only the Word: Jesus--an immense love and profound rest. The Lord's tangible presence stayed with Rose for days. She didn't concern herself in the least about an important court case which would be coming up in three weeks and involved the future of her family. She was totally at peace. God's presence during this extremely stressful time was the gift. The physical healing came later. (By the way, the court case was dropped for lack of evidence.)

"Daisy" came to Flamborough Christian Fellowship looking for a quick fix--"in and out" healing. She asked for and expected a light dusting, while the Lord is doing a major spring cleaning. God is healing old hurts and transforming her life.

These are two of the stories that stood out.

Merry Christmas everyone!
Marian

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Being Willing to Have a Look

God is cleaning me up. He is using John Eldredge's book, Walking with God. In connection with a chapter called "Beware of Agreements," I asked, "Lord, what agreement have I made? What is pinning my heart down? Reveal any wrong agreements I've made?" I wrote the questions in my journal, not expecting to find agreements, except possibly positive ones. After all, I am a very positive person.

I went on to the next chapter, "Being Willing to Have a Look." I asked, "Lord what have I been avoiding? What don't I want to face or deal with?" An immediate truth filled my mind. I have been avoiding meaningful relationship with my siblings. I only relate to one of my four brothers. Why? It stems from an agreement. Many years ago when I was first married, someone mentioned that my relationship with my brothers could only be superficial because they didn't go to church. At the time I agreed.

For 30 years I have lived with that premise. I don't remember my brothers' birthdays. We don't celebrate Christmas together. We rarely talk on the phone. Finally last year when our parents died we were forced to spend time together. During that short, sad period of family history each brother showed himself loving and lovable.

With the help of the Lord, I am attempting to reconnect. Thank you Lord for highlighting my unholy agreement and forgive me. I can't reconstruct the lost years, but I can set a new pattern. Help me Lord.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cover Design for my Book


These lilies were given to us as bulbs by one of my husband's clients. We planted them six inches deep (as directed) around the big rock under the red maple tree at the front of the house.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Spiritual Attacks

Have you ever been with a group of women you can trust completely? You can share your untried opinions, tell your most secret thoughts, reveal unsavoury history, be completely vulnerable and know you are safe? That's what our Thursday morning study group is like. This past Thursday nine of us gathered around Linda's delicious cheeseball at Dini's to share our ideas and insights on, "You shall Know Them by Their Fruit" and "Do It Now" (pp 50-56 in John Eldredges book, Walking with God). We could feel God's love in the love and respect we held for each other.

Depending on our background and circumstances we each have ways we naturally deal with spiritual attack. We read psalms, we praise God, we pray in tongues, we plead the blood, we call on Jesus' name, we put on the armour, and sometimes we out and out rebuke the enemy.

Sometimes we don't recognize we are being attacked. We have a hard time believing that there is an enemy that hates us. Who could hate me?

Sometimes the enemy simply distracts us, gets us doing anything rather than study the Word.

We concluded our best strategy is to stay connected to our Lord and follow His direction like the well-trained soldiers we are.

Those are the generalities. I'd be breaking a trust if I shared the raw, real, right from the heart stuff.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm Joining Toastmasters

"Have you ever tried this - asked God what to read in the Bible?" That was an intriguing question presented in the lesson for our study of Walking With God by John Eldredge. I like intriguing questions. So, I asked God, "What should I read in the Bible. In my mind, I heard, "I Corinthians 15" which is exactly where I left off reading on my way through the Bible.

About five days later, yesterday morning, when I had finished both books of Corinthians, I asked the Lord again, "What should I read?" I also asked Him if I should join the toastmasters club. I have been toying with the toastmaster idea for some time. I never did anything about it. But soon my book will be coming out and I will want to promote it. Promoting means public speaking. I don't do that very well. So the toastmaster question was at the forefront of my mind, even ahead of, "What should I read?"

I presented my two questions to the Lord and waited. I heard, "Titus 2." I flipped over to Titus chapter 2 in my Message Bible and read, "Your job is to speak out..." The rest of the chapter is pretty good too. I underlined most of it.

Last night I attended a Steeltown Toastmasters meeting. It was fun. I'll be joining next week. Thank you Lord.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Grandchildren


Julianna and Owen Langelaar.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Do We Do What We Do?

Jesus said, "I do only what I see the Father doing." Ideally I want to live my life that way. What is stopping me?

Only about 1000 things. Firstly I'm not always focused on what the Father is doing. Secondly, various degrees and combinations of passion, obligation, routine, pride, curiosity, boredom, exhaustion, prejudice and all manner of human emotions figure into my decisions.

Thirdly, and this one is really bothering me right now is that sometimes I'm manipulated into what I do. Manipulation irks me. I specifically hate being manipulated into doing something that I would probably do anyway out of the kindness of my heart or by direction of the Holy Spirit. Being manipulated causes me to become wary, to think cynically, to speak evasively, basically to become someone I don't want to be.

I was whining about this a few years ago and someone wisely advised me to stand above the manipulations, do the kind acts I've purposed to do and not feel obligation or guilt about the rest. Enough generalities. Here is the scenario.

Today I have three commitments on my calendar. This morning I awoke at 5 a.m. to meet the first. I wholeheartedly volunteered to drive my friend Della to the Buffalo airport an hour and a half away. She is on a six-week mission trip to the Philippines. It's a joy to be part of this venture.

Tonight at 6 p.m I will be accompanying my husband to a fundraising dinner for the Bible League. Again, it's a joy to be part of this, especially since it means I won't be cooking.

This afternoon at 2:30 (that's one hour from now) I'll be driving my 95-year-old friend and neighbour Mrs. Z to the hospital for a medical test of some sort. I call her a friend because I like her and I even like doing things for her. On occasion, I've told her to stop with the beating around the bush, to just ask me what she wants and I'll decide whether I can help her or not. She actually listened and tried to relate that way, but....

Last week she phoned me. "Marian, my friend Ina can't drive me to the hospital for a test at 3 o'clock because she has another appointment at 4 o'clock. This just came up. Can you help me?"

This sounded straightforward enough. I looked at the clock and my calendar and decided that I could drop everything and help her. The hospital was only about 10 minutes away. "I guess so," I committed.

"That's next week Tuesday," she added. "You don't have to stay. I will pay you for the gas."

"Okay I'll bring you." I recommitted.

So last night she phoned (right in the middle of Corner Gas, which I was enjoying immensely), to tell me that the appointment would probably be very short and wondered if I could wait to find out how short it would be and bring her home as well.

Now it seems to me that is what she wanted in the first place and I was prepared to do that in the first place, but having it put to me in this ass-backward way, in the middle of humorous sitcom (they are hard to come by) irked me. I hedged. I said it would depend a lot on the weather. If it was raining I would have to give my daughter a ride home from school. We left it at that.

So there it is. Normally I would consider it pure joy to drive a 95-year-old friend who is going blind to the hospital and wouldn't even consider leaving her to find her own way home, but that I feel I have been weaseled into doing it.

Now that I've got that off my chest, and it's not raining, I think I'll bring a book along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Women's Conferences

Lately I've had occasion to ponder the phenomenon known as "a women's conference." When I think of a conference, I think of a meeting, longer than a few hours where a crowd of somewhat like-minded people listen to the wisdom of knowledgeable or at least entertaining speakers on subjects of interest. Those who are uninterested in these subjects tend to avoid these conferences unless of course said conference is work-related, in which case attendees get interested.

Women's conference, specifically women's church conferences, are in a sub-category. These conferences are attended by women and possibly a small handful of men. The men who show up usually work the soundboard, sing on the worship team, watch the doors or maybe even speak. At one women's conference I attended, the lone man at the conference was called on to deal with the bat quietly hanging from a book rack on the back of a pew. The whole morning would have turned out quite differently, if the book rack hadn't been in front of a row of women. As mentioned the bat was quiet, but the women weren't. In fact within seconds, women all around screamed and drew feet up onto the benches as the rumour of a rat in the building spread like brush fire. I don't remember what the speaker was talking about. As I recall she lost her train of thought, which really didn't matter because she had already lost her audience.


Rats and bats aside, I very much enjoy our church's semi-annual The Olive Connection National Women's Conference. The speakers are solid. The food is excellent. The fellowship is good. The presence of the Lord is awesome.

A few years ago I volunteered to be a representative for our church. That means I hand out registration pamphlets to anyone I think might be interested. There is a conference coming up on Saturday November 15th from 9:00 to 5:30 to be held at New Life Pentecostal Assembly at 85 Clench Avenue, in Brantford. The theme is "The Kingdom of God" as in "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God..." Matthew 6:33 which happens to be the wedding verse my husband and I picked when we married 37 years ago. This is the verse I have embroidered and framed to hang above our headboard in the bedroom. I'm looking forward to this conference.

As I hand out pamphlets inviting various women to come, I am rather taken aback by some of the reactions I am receiving. It's almost as if while I had my eyes closed, a campaign against women's conferences took place; almost like a sleeping bat became a rat and sent everyone screaming in another direction.

A good friend of mine confided that she went to a women's conference once long ago and vowed never again, "It was BORING!"

Another well-off friend surmised, "It's time to do a moratorium on spending." "Yes, that's a good idea!" agreed another. I could see it wasn't even worth mentioning that as conferences go, this one is a deal, $45 if you sign up before November first.

The next women I approached readily took the opportunity to draw my attention to the fact that God was not male. Further, she totally disapproved of the division of the sexes for purposes of conferences and let it be known that she much preferred the company of males.

Several women had conflicts of interest, some had legitimate financial restrictions and some women like me are very much looking forward to the event.

If you want to come, contact the registrar, Sharon Maxwell, at (905)659-0554. It's a great deal: $45 before November 1st and $55 if you register between the 1st and November 7th. Speakers for the day are: Rosetta Cummings and Rev. Heidi Dockalek. You'll be coming into the presence of God with hundreds of somewhat like-minded women. See you there...unless you have financial restrictions, conflicts of interests, etcetera.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Walking With God

At our weekly ladies' group we are studying the excellent book, Walking with God by John Eldredge.

This past Thursday, we began our study by talking about the GPS (Global Positioning System). GPS, metaphorically speaking, could mean God Please Speak. We can let God direct our steps and He "recalculates" when we head off in our own direction. He is always there with the right instructions, but He doesn't force us to follow His way.

It was noted that men really like having a GPS because then they don't have to ask for directions.

We all agreed that God speaks to us through His word and in countless other ways. Dini shared how He spoke specifically to her through a verse which appeared at the top of her computer screen. Sharon shared how He spoke corporately to the women planning the Olive Connection Conference. Linda shared how He spoke audibly when she needed Him. Sheila (I think it was Sheila) observed that the one time the teacher doesn't speak is when we are having a test.

We read 2 Chronicles 15:2, "The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you." The verses following show us that King Asa repented for the nation's sins, removed the idols and repaired the altar. Then he gathered the people "and they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord" (vs.12). Then they celebrated. We concluded that the pattern is first to clean up our stuff by repenting, then agree to seek the Lord and then rejoice because it's a done deal.

What is God up to? According to Romans 2:29,30, He is transforming us into the image of His son. He is "gloriously completing what He has begun." Our part is obedience. Sharon shared several examples of how God goes about His work. Sometimes he hard presses us, as in a mold and then trims off the excess bits. Sometimes He puts us on the potter's wheel and gently shapes us with water (Holy Spirit). Sometimes He uses the circumstances of life to transform us. He is bringing us to the place where "we count it all joy."

God is deeply committed to our transformation. "Give to the lamb the reward for His suffering."

Sharon shared Psalm 25 as a psalm about partnering with God during transformation.

Next week we plan to study and possibly digress from pages 25-37 of John Eldredge's book.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'll always be daddy's little girl or I never really grew up

Fourteen years ago, at the age of 70, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in his intestines. At that time I wrote:


"I don't ever want to go back to assuming that my Dad or my Mom will always be here, because I've been confronted with the truth. They won't. One of these years they'll be in heaven. I hope it's a long time from now."

Well, at 70 Dad had a successful surgery and lived on. Then about ten years later, mom was diagnosed with cancer of the mouth. She had extensive surgery, and radiation. After that she couldn't swallow and had to be fed through a tube directly into her stomach. Dad became the nurse. Mom was very upbeat, looking forward to the day she would be able to eat again. It didn't happen. She left this life just before Christmas last year. By then, Dad was 83.

Half a year earlier, my younger brother Al had challenged my unrealistic little-girl attitude toward my parents, particularly towards my dad. Even though I no longer assumed my parents would live on this earth forever, I did believe Dad always knew best and was totally capable of solving any problem and taking care of every situation. If he said he didn't need any help, it was true.


My brother pointed to the fantasy I was living and consequently I determined to grow up. I began by visiting my dad and mom weekly. If I spent more time with them, surely I would get the real picture.


Consequently, Monday mornings I would drop Elizabeth off at school and head down the highway toward my parents' home in Tillsonburg, just over an hour away. I would change the sheets on the beds, have a visit and maybe even a game of scrabble if mom was up to it. Dad would usually do some errands while I was there. When he got back he would offer me lunch. I would do the dishes, then be on my way.


If dad forgot to turn off the stove, or skipped lunch, or got cranky with mom there was always an unreasoning peace in my heart. Dad let me know he could count on the Lord to carry him through no matter how uncertain the situation.

But now, according to my brother Al, who had spent two weeks with dad after mom died, my dad was absolutely not capable of being on his own. It was my turn to stay with Dad. He did seem very frail. The fight had left him. I hoped he would bounce back.


My first night in the apartment, I was startled awake by a clattering noise. Was that dad? I listened for him to call out. Should I go see? What if he was in the washroom? I couldn't invade his privacy. I listened and waited. Nothing. I fell back asleep.


In the morning Dad remarked, "That was hell last night." He didn't offer an explanation. I was afraid to ask. The nurse came, took his blood pressure and suggested he go to the hospital. Standard hospital tests detailed a physically spent condition. According to the wisdom of this age, it was time for a nursing home. Dad said forget that, he was going directly to his eternal home. That's what he did despite the various apparatus including oxygen tubes designed to keep him here.


Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26







Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Blooming Introduction

My Book, Blooming, will be coming out later this fall. I'm excited. I've been working on the thing, writing and rewriting for more years than I care to mention. I began writing bits for a family life column in Christian Courier when my oldest daughter, Angela, was about seven. She is turning 30 this year and has two darling children of her own. (Grandchildren are the most darling of all children.)

To give you a taste of the book, here is the introduction:


Introduction

My friend Dini and I had at least 78 years of wall-papering know-how between us, so when the church was looking for volunteers to paper the master bedroom during the parsonage makeover project, that job had Dini and Marian written all over it.

When we showed up at 10 o’clock on Thursday morning, the walls of the unfurnished room had been sized, according to Dini’s request, and numerous wall-papering gadgets were at our disposal: two plastic smoothers, a measuring tape, a laser level for checking the plumb line, a flimsy plastic wallpaper tray, three useless card tables, a step stool, scissors and a pencil. The pastor’s wife showed us the beige wallpaper with a green pinstripe. It reminded me of one of my husband’s old suits.

The paper was very thin. To a less experienced team it could have proved a nightmare, but Dini and I knew exactly how to work with it. We measured, cut, and hung that room in less than four hours. Every piece lined up perfectly. We flowed, thanking the Lord at every corner. We would have trimmed the top and bottom edges as well, but the thin damp paper was prone to tear. The pastor’s wife agreed to finish up when the paper dried.

The following week at a ladies’ social it was rumoured that our paper had fallen off the wall. Mary heard it from the pastor’s wife. Of course, she was using the electric sander at the time, so she could have heard wrong. Tami, though, had seen the room. There was no paper on the wall. It was an unfinished room with blotchy walls. Dini and I were baffled. Professionals couldn’t have done a better, neater job. Never in our combined 78 years of wall-paper know-how had any of our work suffered such consequences. It couldn’t be true.

That night I had a revelation. The walls of the bedroom had recently been painted with a latex paint. The paint hadn’t had time to cure properly. The paper sucked the water out of the paint, the paint crumbled, so of course, the paper came down.

On Sunday morning the pastor’s wife approached wearing a sheepish look. I beat her to the punch. “The paper fell down.”

“You’re asking me if the paper fell down?”

“No, I’m telling you the paper fell down.”

“It didn’t fall down. I took it down.”

Right then, I could have ‘took’ her down, but, we were in church....

No, that was the old me. The ‘being-transformed’ me quietly questioned, Lord, what is this about? Surely, Dini and I didn’t spend four hours enjoying each other’s company, hanging paper perfectly just to have it torn down?

The pastor’s wife explained the stripes were dizzying and served to highlight every bump and jag, already clearly defined by the very thin paper. The pastor’s wife didn’t like it, so she took it down.

At the beginning of this book, I had my life papered neatly in straight lines. My Christianity lined up. I hung it myself with the help of my friends, my Bible studies, my private devotions, my mealtime rituals, my church attendance, and my acts of charity. One could see the imperfections in my self-righteous life somewhat highlighted by the ten commandments, but heaven would fix that.

Well, although the undercoat was good, God didn’t like the choice of paper. He took it down and He’s replacing it with the righteousness of His son–thicker, richly textured wallpaper that covers the flaws perfectly. At the top edge He plans to hang a border of blooming lilies.

The stories in this book reveal the day-to-day experiences of my sometimes frazzled self as I mothered six children over a period of approximately 15 years. The Holy Spirit subtly, yet dramatically, convicted and convinced me in the nitty gritty of everyday family life.

Most of the stories in this book were originally written for a “Slice of Bread” column in a Christian tabloid, The Christian Courier. Scripture verses and spiritual applications have been added for the purposes of this book. In writing the columns, I simply wanted to entertain others by sharing what was happening in our household.

When I began recording the stories, Marty and I had been married for eight years and were the parents of four children, ages seven, five, three and one. I lived Christianity from my head. As the years progressed, the Holy Spirit patiently changed me into someone who lives Christianity from the heart as led by His Spirit. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27.