Let the Past Sleep

Our yesterdays present irreparable things to us; it is true that we have lost opportunities which will never return, but God can transform this destructive anxiety into a constructive thoughtfulness for the future. Let the past sleep, but let it sleep on the bosom of Christ. Leave the Irreparable Past in His hands, and step out into the Irresistible Future with Him.

Oswald Chambers

I could tell she was frustrated. The young woman standing beside my piano stopped singing and turned her face away. It’s hard to sing with a lump in your throat. I know. I did the same thing more than once when I was studying voice. I told her that discouragement after taking singing lessons for a few months was not unusual. A few months was enough time to learn about changes she needed to make, but not long enough to remember all of them at the same time and definitely not long enough to let go of familiar ways of singing that could eventually hinder her progress.

“For a while it will feel like trying to hold several beach balls under water when you only have two hands. Something always pops back up,” I told her. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Relax. It will come.”

I don’t teach anymore, but I needed to be reminded of my own advice after these past few months. My creative process feels like it was wrapped in newspaper and packed away in a forgotten box. I sit down to write or sketch and realize my brain is as blank as the page.

We’re mostly settled into our new place. I should be ready to get back to some of the projects I was working on before we decided to move but something has been stopping me. As I prayed about the blockage, three similar articles came to my attention in the same week. The message they carried?  You need to say goodbye to the past and grieve for the loss of the familiar, both good and bad, before you are ready to move on.

I know this move was the right one at the right time. We had so many answers to prayer including selling our house before it was listed and finding a new place (without stairs) in the new city on the first day we started looking. In spite of my anxiety that I would forget something essential, everything fell into place and we realized, on the day of the first snow, that our prayer to be finished with the moving process before winter was answered.

But I have realized that even though everything looks like it is in place, I still have unfinished business.

I asked the Lord if there was anything I still needed to let go of. I remembered walking in the snowy silence of the forest near our old house. Around the snow-covered tree trunks that fell in that big windstorm a few years back and down a deer path, there was a stump where I used to sit and pray. Suddenly tears welled up. I miss my stump! I miss my trees and my mountains! I miss not being able to walk very far (one of the reasons behind downsizing) and I especially miss my time with the Lord out in nature where I most easily feel his presence.

“What do I do with these memories and feelings, Lord?” I asked.

“Give them to me,” I heard.

I wrote memories on a sticky note and put them in a little paper box. More memories came, not just of beautiful people and places I loved, but also sad memories of goals unattained, of relationships that remain unreconciled, of disappointments with myself. I wrote down my worries for people I wanted to help (okay, fix) but I left them behind still suffering pain and mess. Finally, I realized that I left behind a young, energetic woman who could accomplish much more in a day than the one who sits writing this now.

There is always grief involved in saying goodbye, I guess. I added to the pile of sticky notes in the little box and tied it up with a piece of string.

“Lord, I give this to you. It’s not as impressive as I wish it could have been. There’s some disappointing and embarrassing stuff in it, but I know you’re not surprised because nothing surprises you. You know all about it. There’s some good stuff in there too, really good stuff — and it’s hard to let go. But I trust you. I know you have more to show me and a purpose for the time remaining in my life no matter the circumstances. Here you go.”

Transformation comes with the willingness to cooperate with God’s process. (I think I wrote that somewhere.) When our hands and hearts are clinging to the old there’s not much room for the new. Letting go of the past is the only way to move forward. The little box is a symbol of my intention to do that.

This is not the end.

Slow Down

This has been a difficult time in British Columbia. A massive storm caused floods that destroyed roads and bridges and triggered landslides. The photos are heartbreaking. We are okay in our new home In Kelowna, but since the highways between here and the major west coast port and main agricultural areas of the province were closed we are very aware of the devastating consequences of the storm. People who had been travelling were stranded and trucks and trains carrying goods couldn’t connect with the interior of the province (although I believe one round-about route is open for essential travel now.)

Panic buying started a week ago and many shelves were empty by the next day. The grocery store near us had no fresh produce (other than cilantro and a few potatoes), no meat other than expensive steaks, no eggs, no dairy products, no bread, no rice, no canned or frozen vegetables or fruit, and no toilet paper. For those of us accustomed to abundance, it was a shock.

When disaster occurs I go into survival mode. My mind races ahead to prepare for all the possibilities we could face. Perhaps it comes from being a mother who had to anticipate dangerous situations children could get into or inconveniences I could face if I neglected to pack everything I could possibly need in the diaper bag. I like to be prepared, but after years of trying to be ahead of the game, I realized I had taught myself to expect a worst-case scenario. This time I decided not to rush out and buy more than we usually bought for the week.

In the midst of the panic I heard a song by Jonathan Ogden that was new to me. It was called “Slow Down.” I still have so much to do with settling in to this new place that the thought of slowing down was, frankly, a little annoying. Then I realized that God was using the song to speak to my heart about the need to slow my racing thoughts and listen for his voice.

The oft-quoted scripture verse, “Be still and know that I am God,” is in Psalm 46 which describes situations that are anything but tranquil. The first three verses in The Passion Translation read:

God, you’re such a safe and powerful place to find refuge!
    You’re a proven help in time of trouble—
more than enough and always available whenever I need you.
 So we will never fear
    even if every structure of support were to crumble away.
    We will not fear even when the earth quakes and shakes,
    moving mountains and casting them into the sea.
 For the raging roar of stormy winds and crashing waves
    cannot erode our faith in you.
(Pause in his presence
)

Lately I’ve been having dreams about the importance of staying close to God in these perilous times. I know it’s absolutely necessary to lean on him and trust his ways. Sometimes his ways are counter-intuitive, but the impossible becomes possible when let God be God.

This is not about passivity or laziness. We still work to help feed and house evacuees or doing whatever we can to help those affected by the storm. This about learning to quiet our souls and becoming more effective because we come from a place of rest and trust where fear doesn’t call the shots.

Surrender your anxiety.
    Be still and realize that I am God.
    I am God above all the nations,
    and I am exalted throughout the whole
earth.

That My Heart May Sing

Moving to a new city in a time of pandemic adds complications to an already complicated endeavour. It’s hard to get to know people in our building of residents who are all over 55 years old. Most of us have experienced nearly two years of abnormal social interaction. Posters on doors, windows, bulletin boards, and in elevators reminding us constantly of pandemic protocol orders, and daily doses of fear-inducing you-could-be-next public announcements in every kind of media do not exactly encourage people to welcome strangers with open arms.

It’s hard to read expressions behind masks. It’s easy to interpret closed doors, steps back, averted eyes, and offers to send the elevator back for you as snubs when frightened people are just practising contamination avoidance. It’s understandable, but it still feels like living in a world gone mad.

I feel like the new kid at school trying to find a friend, but this time I’m wondering why the other kids treat me like I have cooties. Oh right. It’s not just me. It’s the madness.

Someone told me once that their job often left them feeling socially isolated. He had one of those trusted positions where he saw people in moments of weakness and knew embarrassing details about their personal lives. His best friend and his own confidante had just moved to another country, and he felt the isolation deeply. He spoke to God about it, lamenting that he had no close friend he could rely on. Then something changed. It was one of those times when he heard the voice of the Comforter strongly in his spirit. “I can be your friend.”

Sometimes I wonder if these times of not having people to turn to for comfort, are to push us toward closer fellowship with God.

I’ve written before about how God speaks to me in music. This week I woke up singing an old pop old song – or at least the line from an old pop song. It was: “I can take all the madness the world has to give, but I won’t last a day without you.”

I realized that my heart was singing. My spirit was rising up when my head was stuck in logic mode. Even in my sleep there is something inside me that needs to praise God and refocus my attention on the true foundation of my life: The Three in One who is my Creator, my Saviour Hero, and my Friend.

It’s funny how a pop song can turn into a worship song when it comes from the heart and is directed to the One worthy of all praise. I looked up the rest of the lyrics.

Day after day I must face a world of strangers
Where I don’t belong, I’m not that strong
It’s nice to know that there’s someone I can turn to
Who will always care, you’re always there

When there’s no getting over that rainbow
When my smallest of dreams won’t come true
I can take all the madness the world has to give
But I won’t last a day without you

So many times when the city seems to be without a friendly face
A lonely place

It’s nice to know that you’ll be there if I need you

And you’ll always smile, it’s all worthwhile

When there’s no getting over that rainbow
When my smallest of dreams won’t come true
I can take all the madness the world has to give
But I won’t last a day without you


Touch me and I end up singing
Troubles seem to up and disappear
You touch me with the love you’re bringing
I can’t really lose when you’re near

If all my friends have forgotten half their promises
They’re not unkind, just hard to find
One look at you and I know that I could learn to live


Without the rest, I found the best

When there’s no getting over that rainbow
When my smallest of dreams won’t come true
I can take all the madness the world has to give
But I won’t last a day without you.

(“But I Won’t Last a Day” by Roger Nichols and Paul Williams)


Like the Psalmist I can also sing:

You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 30:11,12

Simplifying Can Be Complicated

Autumn Path

I suppose that since I write a blog about change, I can expect to encounter more opportunities to learn about change. My answer to kind readers who are wondering where I have been and have been checking up on my welfare is this: I am ok, thank you very much for taking the time to ask. I am weary and sometimes exhausted. I am emotional –sometimes embarrassingly so– but it is well with my soul.

We are now living in our new place. The last boxes have been unpacked. We’ve taken a carload of stuff we didn’t need to haul out here down to the thrift store in our new city. We’ve replaced some of the things we should have brought that we donated to the thrift store in our old city.

Things have changed since the last time we moved over three decades ago. We’ve discovered that some items we need to make this new place more functional are out of stock and will not be available for several months. There is a shortage of labour all across the country. Arguments over who to believe about Covid responses are as heated here as they were where we came from.

Health and safety protocols have changed attitudes and the process of meeting new people in more ways than we expected. I have to remind myself that what once would have been interpreted as a snub is just people who have spent months in isolation in our 55+ building being cautious. We’re adjusting to living in a much smaller space with strata council rules needing to be considered at every turn as well. We’ve been re-introduced to traffic jams and the sound of sirens.

We’ve also discovered that orchards and vineyards are beautiful in the autumn and living close to the center of a city saves a lot of time in transport and money for gas (petrol) because many shops and services are within walking distance. I can now see sunrises from the kitchen window. We’ve met beautiful, welcoming people in the faith community. The joy of living near family is something we have not known for many years. Family connection is a major reason for all this bother – and well worth it.

I’ve been back in a learning season. This has been more of a practicum than a classroom environment, but I’ve learned that God usually follows up revelation of a concept with rubber-meets-the-road experience to increase understanding.

This course could be called “Upgrading Through Downsizing.” It has been both harder and easier than I thought it would be. I found myself in frustrating situations more than once. Faith grows when circumstances are so ridiculously impossible that you can do nothing but trust God. When he shows up with a creative solution (which sometimes arrives as an amazing miracle and sometimes reveals false assumptions and the need to redefine success) it gets easier to trust him next time.

Previous life-lessons taught me how to let go of baggage. This venture has been about letting go of freight. I miss my friends, my music books, my garden, my familiar spaces, and the cherished items that carried memories. But there is no room for them anymore. This is a new day, a new assignment, and a time for getting used to different.

There is excitement in moving toward something new. There is also a type of mourning in letting go of the familiar. As I took time to rest and recover physically, I realized I also needed time to recover emotionally. While discovering new possibilities is exciting, letting go of the familiar involves all the stages of grief. Skipping those stages is like stuffing the feelings in another box marked “this side up” and tripping over it like the last plastic tub of miscellaneous stuff I don’t know what to do with that still sits beside my desk.

Perhaps this has been the greatest lesson of this season: I will not have grace to extend to others if I fail to extend grace to myself. Time is a precious gift that I have chosen to open and enjoy. I’ll be back to writing soon.

Right now, my little granddaughter is waiting for me to come pick her up. She wants me to teach her how to sew.

Kelowna Sunrise

You’re Gonna Be Ok

So I’ve learned from my experience
    that God protects the vulnerable.
    For I was broken and brought low,
    but he answered me and came to my rescue!
 Now I can say to myself and to all,
    “Relax and rest, be confident and serene,
    for the Lord rewards fully those who simply trust in him.”

Psalm 116:6,7 TPT

On the way back from an appointment with a medical specialist, (an eleven hour return trip for me) I stopped by this reservoir on the Cowboy Trail in southern Alberta. On that day two years ago, I received more information about another complication in my already complex health condition. It didn’t help that I forgot the backpack with my wallet in it at the place I was staying. I needed it for my health insurance card for the hospital and my credit card to leave my car in the underground parking maze. I went back for it, praying the whole time I wouldn’t miss my appointment and arrived, frazzled, with seconds to spare. (Have you noticed God is right on time but never early?)

On the trip home, I stopped in this beautiful place and had a chat with God. I felt anxious and very vulnerable. I reflected upon the reflection and realized the water could never produce the beauty it bore. Like the water I didn’t have to manufacture my own peace. I simply needed to keep my eyes on the giver of peace, whose nature is peace. I don’t know how to relax and rest when I know I can forget important things like my wallet. Serenity is not a natural trait. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is peace because he IS peace.

Back in the car, a song played these words, “It’s not the end. It’s not the end. You’re gonna be ok.”*

If I am in him and he is in me, then his peace is my peace. This is more than reflection. This is absorption. Learning that I am loved and accepted allows me to become what I am not without him – and I m not without him because he promised to never leave. I am changing.

This season brings more challenges. We have decided to move to another part of the province to be closer to adult children. They have pointed out that we are aging and need more help. They are urging us to let them do that for us. I am tempted to be overwhelmed by the daunting task of fixing up our property to sell, de-cluttering, and looking at finding a new place to live in a city where real estate prices are double what they are here. The process of parting with a houseful of stuff with so many memories attached is emotionally daunting. The prospect of parting with good friends made over 36 years in this place I love is even more daunting.

For the past few months I have felt the Lord telling us to prepare for a change. What that change was I didn’t know. The thought of moving into a place without stairs, where it would be easier for me to get around, felt like preparing for the end, like seeing a sign my exit ramp loomed up ahead. Then a little while ago, a prophetic artist had a painting for me. It was of a woman joyfully walking beside a lake. She said, “God wants you to know it’s not over yet. He has more for you.”

Today I choose to walk in God’s peace. I may be surrounded by half-sorted boxes of art supplies, music books, sewing fabric, and writing materials potential, but like the woman walking beside still water that day at the reservoir, and the woman dancing beside a sun-dappled lake in the painting, I will simply trust, leave the past behind, and take one step at a time toward the next thing.

Care to join me?

*”It’s Gonna Be Okay” by Jenn Johnson, Jeremy Riddle, and Seth Mosley

Dig Deep

How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord;
    within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,
    they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.
    He gives to them a brook of blessing
    filled from the rain of an outpouring.
They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,
    and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.

Psalm 84:5-7 TPT

Valley experiences are common to all of us who draw breath in this world. Some valleys are deeper than others. I’ve watched people who impress me walk through tough times as if they have a secret resource that allows them to remain at peace in spite of everything. When I ask them how they do it they tell me, “It’s in the dark places and stressful times that God’s grace is most plentiful. It’s not as easy as it was before. You have to dig. But that’s where profound silence invites you to come closer. That’s when you can feel his heart of love for you.”

New Life

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice
    as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you.
    Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar
    and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.

-Psalm 3:5 TPT

The tree in our front yard that failed to bloom for the past two years is loaded with abundant blossoms this morning. I was afraid it was dying and would never bloom again, but its glory has been restored.

Sometimes I am disappointed with people. More often I am disappointed with myself. Patience and perseverance are character qualities that don’t come easily. This morning the plum tree, thick with flowers and glowing in the morning light speaks to me of a new day, a new season, a fresh vision.

Lord, I lay out the pieces of my heart, the successes, the failures, the disappointments and the dreams. I wait again for your fire to fall on my heart and renew a right spirit within me.

Blooming Outside the Box

A friend asked this question of those of us who have not been able to attend in-person church services for months at a time due to restrictions imposed by pandemic protocols: What have you missed about church attendance if you have been a regular church attender?

Note: I’m not addressing arguments against either the potential misuse of political power in church closures or the potential lack of consideration for the vulnerable in defiant church openers right now. That discussion tends produce more heat than light when many people in church leadership are doing the best they can with information that is still changing.

This is what I miss about attending local church on a Sunday morning. I miss seeing people who are not on the internet. Some people cannot or choose not to participate on Zoom or other media meetings. Sadly we are losing touch.

I miss corporate worship that includes children and young adults and, well, everybody together in the same place.

I miss celebrating the sacraments together.

I miss hugs and kind touches on the shoulder.

But thinking about my response to this question has made me realize something. Quite a while ago I learned that if I wanted to go deeper in knowing the Lord I could not depend on once a week attendance in a pulpit-centered church in a dedicated building no matter how much I liked the pastor/s. We have moved and been moved several times throughout the years. Every group seems to specialize in favourite doctrines and passages of scripture after a while. Many pastors teach at a level that new believers will understand. Steak dinners are rare. Easily digested blender-processed food is more plentiful. It’s risky to address mystery and pursue what it means to know God at a deeper level without appearing elitist or annoyingly holier-than-thou. I learned to appreciate what was offered and seek more through books, podcasts, webinars, courses, and conferences myself.

Some popular churches focus all their efforts into looking after God’s P.R. and continuing to do what they do best. I admire them, but eventually, something always seems to be missing. Although I’ve gone kicking and screaming, the Lord seem to arrange circumstances that kick me out of the nest if I get too comfortable in places like this. Sometimes, it’s the drive to know Him that pushes me out of the box.

I’ve taken courses from all sorts of lovers of Jesus who are outside the local church and outside my usual tribes. I’ve been involved in both online and face-to-face “parachurch” ministries for quite a while. I now realize that, for me, parachurch organizations have often been a healthier example of being the church than the pulpit and pew crew. The causes parachurch groups support may be different, but they have this in common. Participants are passionately involved and have actual relationships that are the result of working together in hard-won unity. They go beyond “fellowshipping” with the back of someone’s head. The ones that aided spiritual growth the most realize the necessity of prayer and worship and acknowledge the problems of being limited to denominational-style distinctives and limited forms of expressing praise. They recognize diversity and that people flourish in an environment where creativity is honoured and lay people can offer their best.

The question I am tempted to ask now, instead of what do you miss about church services, is this: What do you miss when church means only in-person attendance at a traditional time and place? If your local church has been closed or has switched to online services, has this time of being the church out of the brick and mortar box revealed anything to you? In what ways are you seeing signs of new growth? What has blossomed in your life?

There is a divine mystery—a secret surprise that has been concealed from the world for generations, but now it’s being revealed, unfolded and manifested for every holy believer to experience. Living within you is the Christ who floods you with the expectation of glory! This mystery of Christ, embedded within us, becomes a heavenly treasure chest of hope filled with the riches of glory for his people, and God wants everyone to know it! (Colossians 1:26,27 TPT)

Soul Movement

But as for me, I will call upon the Lord to save me, and I know he will!

 Every evening I will explain my need to him.

    Every morning I will move my soul toward him.

    Every waking hour I will worship only him,

    and he will hear and respond to my cry.

(Psalm 55:16-17 TPT)

Sometimes it is easier to worship faith than to worship the faithful One who gives us faith. The faith walk in real time means keeping our eyes upon Jesus and not whatever method we think prompted God to give us the desired responses to our requests last time.

By his life Jesus demonstrated that character matters more than comfort. Following Christ includes valley experiences where the fog obscures the view and disorients us, making us aware of our weakness. But here’s the thing: The Holy Spirit now walks through this before us, beside us, and behind us, and he is not worried. The path is familiar to him and he knows what lies on the other side.

My cry? That I might know Him.