Just Give Me a Moment

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I remember those wonderful summer days at the lake. Around about five o’clock families would pick up their toys and towels and wander off to prepare supper. If I was lucky I could stay there while the others slap-slapped their way up the trail to the camper in their flip-flop sandals. Sometimes in that transitional space between hours I had the dock to myself.

I trailed my hand in the cool water, smelling the scent of damp wood against my cheek and felt the gritty sand drying on my legs as I lay on my stomach on the gently rocking wooden island. A lull stretched beyond the distant sounds of swings clanging in the park and canoes scraping the pebbles on the shore. Smoke from barbecues leaked out from between tree branches and drifted heavenward like summer worship.

I had no profound thoughts, no plans, no particular emotion. The dock was like an island in time.

That’s kind of how I feel this week. After the drama and trauma of the deaths and funerals of both my Dad and my brother-in-law in less than two months I am tired, but not overwhelmed. I believe both of them are with the Lord. But I don’t have the energy to either celebrate or cry right now.

It feels like Jesus is just sitting quietly here with me like a close friend, making no demands, requiring no soothing of his own emotions, making no particular suggestions about what I should do next. I’m tired, but I’m OK. We’re OK.

In a while Mom will call me to put on some dry clothes and help set the table. There will probably be some game involving a ball or frisbee that the boys want me to join in on later. Dad will lay down his novel and get up from his lawn chair to chop wood for the fire we will sit around when the crickets sing in the darkness. Tomorrow we pack up and drive back to the city and get back to work.

But for now, on this little square island, there is only the sound of the waves lapping the planks, and the gentle sun pressing its comfort into my stretched out body, and I am at peace.

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Open

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There is a difference between shyness and quietness. Shyness is based on fear. Quietness is based on peace.

A person at peace can be open to others without being driven by either the need for attention or the need to hide imperfections. They are neither wrapped up in themselves nor demanding the spotlight.

A person at peace knows who they are and that they are loved perfectly by the One who created them.

A person at peace can afford to open themselves up to others and quietly share the Father’s love because there is plenty more where that came from.

The Father’s love demonstrated by Jesus the Messiah is the only love that satisfies the cravings of the soul.

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”  – Jesus of Nazareth

Courageous Virtue

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Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

— C.S. Lewis

We lost our innocence that day on the Sherwood Park freeway. We didn’t know about tornadoes. Of course we had seen pictures and news reports, but we had never experienced a wind that moved oil tanks or leveled factories or wrapped cars around steel lamp standards or sucked people out of their vehicles. On that July day in 1987 we came up from under the overpass on the freeway out of Edmonton moments after the tornado passed and saw the devastation. The tornado was moving on to a residential area where other people, like us, were expecting only a thunder-storm. Many of them died.

There are still arguments going on about whether it was an F4 or F5. Tornadoes are so rare this far north that we had no warning system. All I know is that like the neighbourhood where I used to live, my sense of stability was tossed in the air and dumped in a field of debris somewhere. It could happen here. For years my eyes watched the clouds on hot summer days when we visited family on the prairies. They still do.

As we were driving from Edmonton to Calgary we were caught in a rainstorm so heavy we had to pull over on the shoulder of the highway until it lightened up. A few miles down the road I saw this cloud. Since I was driving I asked my husband to get a photo out the window on my phone. As much as I love cloudscapes I knew it wasn’t wise to stop. It was wiser to pray and keep moving south. Two of our adult kids and their families were also somewhere on the road oblivious to what a cloud like this might bring. I watched the cloud slowly break up and breathed a sigh of relief when they all showed up at our destination.

The next day our daughter and daughter-in-law and five of our grandchildren were in a van driving into the city when signs beside the highway flashed a tornado warning. They saw the ominous clouds and the beginning of a funnel cloud and decided to turn back. Apparently the tornado did touch down briefly before dissipating. It was a minor event, but I am glad for a warning system we never had in 1987.

We grew up with parents who lost their innocence when they experienced war and famine and economic disaster and epidemics of diphtheria and polio that killed and maimed. Many of us do not understand the courage it takes for some people to go on with their lives after trauma. Some of the people from our parents’ generation learned to walk in freedom from fear or expectation of the same thing happening again; some did not. They lived lives hunkered down in sad negativity, protecting themselves from disappointment.

Some learned to be watchmen and put up early warning systems because they had seen this before. They gave good advice: avoid debt, don’t fall for nationalistic political rhetoric or give a leader too much power; research preventative medical practices and take advantage of things like dentists, vaccinations and vitamins; practise water and land conservation methods; plan ahead for natural disasters; expose and deal with crime and corruption in high places before it becomes systemic; don’t ignore poverty and injustice; make amends; forgive; stop the quarrel before it breaks out.

There are watchmen with prophetic gifts who, like weathermen, can automate warnings, “Turn back. This way danger may lie.” It would be unfair of them not to give warnings if they see that hazards lie ahead like weather conditions that could produce a tornado. But — warnings need to be for the purpose of freeing people and en-couraging the virtues to flourish, so they will not be hampered by fear or overcome with a sense of dis-couraging condemnation.

The warning my daughter and daughter-in-law saw prompted them to go in another direction and take the children swimming at a pool in a town outside the danger zone. They had a marvelous time laughing and splashing and enjoying being together.

I am grateful for warnings, but even more for re-directions that instill courage to live fully.

Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole.

(from Soldiers of Christ Arise by Charles Wesley)

Save

Crossing the River

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Tough day. My husband’s younger brother succumbed to lung disease yesterday. The news was so hopeful a little while ago, but he suddenly went downhill. The doctors said they found previously undetected small cell lung cancer that left him too weak to fight an acute illness. His family and friends surrounded him and wept as his heartbeat faded.

I am thankful for our 11-year old grandson who reminded us that even in this there is hope.

Today we try to work on funeral plans with his wife. We can’t speak Spanish and she can’t speak English. Bob was always the translator.

Today we try to comfort his mother, who seems even more frail with the shock and we live in a conversation on replay.

Today we try to gather up legal loose ends and financial unknowns. We step on each others toes in our efforts to step in to the empty spaces.

Today we wince as individual ways of handling grief clang against each other.

Today we can still be glad, as our grandson pointed out, that we have a close family that cares. They immediately gathered from across the country when they heard the news.

Today we can be glad, as our grandson pointed out, that we know Jesus, and that Uncle Bob knew about his grace.

“You know, when you think about it, this is really a happy day for Uncle Bob,” our grandson said in the ICU waiting room. “Today is the day when he will see how wonderful heaven is and get to be with Jesus.”

There is hope.

 

And then one day, I’ll cross that river.

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.

And then as death gives way to victory,

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

(from Because He Lives by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

Poopyface!

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I could hear the hollering from out on the deck where I was watering flowers. I didn’t need to run to see if there had been an accidental amputation. The door flung open and our little grandson howled, “She called me a poopyface!”

She — the accuser of the brother and temporary devil’s advocate in disguise — was his pretty little sister and now she was sitting on the couch, happily in possession of the iPad abandoned by her brother in his frantic search for justice.

“And are you?” I asked.
“Are I what?” he said, wiping tears with the back of his hand.
“A poopyface.”
“No! I am not!”
“Let me check.”

I examined that handsome little face he held up to me and sniffed it dramatically.

“No, indeed you are not. If you were I would tell you and we would clean it up right away, but you are as good-looking and good-smelling as ever. You are not a poopyface, so what she said means nothing. She just wants to upset you. Don’t give her the satisfaction. Ignore her and she will leave you alone.”
He went back in the living room and announced, “I am not a poopyface and hey! You can’t have the iPad. I was using it.” Amazingly she gave it back without a fight.

Earlier all three of us had been playing dinosaurs in the garden. T-Rex was always lurking, ready to harass a hapless parasaurolophus just minding his own business. But our parasaurolophus and triceratops knew how to flee such threats, jumping geraniums and running through the giant lobelia forests to get away.

One of the ways our peace can be stolen is when the accuser of the brethren ambushes us and distracts us from our true identity – essentially calling us “poopyface.” Look at that disgusting stuff in your life. Everyone can see it and smell it a mile away! Did God really forgive you, because you look like a poopyface to me!

When we go running to the Lord he says, “You are clean and beautiful.” More than that he tells us who we are in his eyes. In the first couple of chapters in Ephesians alone we find his reassurances. This who you are now:

You are blessed
You are chosen
You are holy
You are blameless
You have a destiny
I have adopted you (in that culture adoption meant being made a partner in the family business with full signing authority, as one who represented the father)
You are lavished with grace
You are wise
You have understanding
You are for My praise and glory (I’m proud of you)
You are sealed in Christ
You are saved
You have a guaranteed inheritance
You can have a spirit of wisdom and revelation, enlightened eyes, knowing hope
You are raised from the dead
You are seated with Christ in heavenly places
You are greatly loved by Jesus
You are made alive in Christ
You are being prepared to receive My incomparable riches
You are My masterpiece (my poema – poem)
You are part of one new man, eligible for all the promises given to the chosen people
You are under My peace
You are called for a purpose

And according to his words in the book of Peter you are a royal prince or princess and a fully qualified priest granted permission to come into the holy presence of God – because the Creator of the universe absolutely adores you.

Have you been accused of being less than who Jesus says you are? Wipe your tears and go get your stuff back. Don’t let anyone steal your identity. You are not a miserable orphan sinner who has to try to live by your wits and create a purpose for yourself anymore. Know the truth and let it set you free.

 

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