Unanswered Prayers at Christmas Time?

Years later when another Christmas was fast approaching, my children and I were coming home from a medical appointment in the city. It was somewhere around 5:00 p.m. and the sky was already dark as I drove in a southerly direction  back into town. My children could hear me praying out loud as I drove. A very dear neighbour was terminally ill with cancer, and I was begging God for a miracle of healing. The next day I planned to stop in to see her at the hospital, if she wanted visitors.

She had been battling stoically, but privately, and even that summer when I happened to bump into her on the sidewalk with her rainbow toe socks, and Birkenstock sandals, she didn’t want to talk about it.

I dropped the girls off at the house. Our son was away. I then turned around and went back to the office to finish up where I left off. When I got to the shop my husband’s face said it all. She was gone.

With my head buried in my hands, I quietly sobbed behind my desk. With only an hour left until closing, my husband insisted I go home. For some reason I picked up the phone, and called our eldest daughter to give her the devastating news, and to announce I was coming home early. God then prompted my daughter to be an instrument of hope in the moments that followed.

We lived only a few blocks west of the store, but the blocks stretched into miles. I pushed my foot down on the gas pedal, but the van belligerently crawled along. Streetlights lined the road, but not one of them seemed capable of beating back the darkness. The bleak winter night grew blacker than ever before and threatened to swallow me whole. My lungs lamented beneath my ribs. Why had God not answered my prayers?

“Why did you allow her to die?” my spirit screamed into the darkness.

“Her children needed her, her husband needed her, and I needed her!”

My emotions were all over the map. I felt betrayed, and deeply wounded. For one very dark moment I believed God had abandon us all. I cranked the wheel to maneuver up our driveway. There on the peak of an enormous white snowdrift, which had conquered our front step, was one small candle propped in a mason jar, shining defiantly.

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God could have healed my friend, he could have made the moon stand still, but instead he chose to reveal himself to me through a tiny yellow flame, and the love of my children. The vast expanse of snow was indeed a vicious cruel reflection of the unfair world we live in, but the candle’s flame profoundly commanded the view, and spoke volumes.

“I hear you, and you are not alone” I heard Christ speak as I stared at the incredible view.

Christ’s presence lit up the sky and surrounded me. I went into the house and embraced my children. Together we walked to the window and silently watched the flame of the candle burn brightly.

Cindy Palin

Once Upon a Christmas Past…

Once upon a Christmas Past…

Struggling with pneumonia, I laboured to pull out the piano bench quietly. Once seated my right foot found the middle peddle, and pushed it down to the left to lock it in place. This way I could play and not disturb anyone’s sleep. It was the middle of the night. Only the street light’s glow on a fresh fallen blanket of snow lit the keys before me.

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Christmas was coming, and I had been too sick to do any shopping or baking. Little did I know that a song would be my gift to those I loved.

“Seasons come and seasons go, and every year the sight of snow, threatens to paralyze my soul. Christmas finds me questioning your gifts of joy and suffering and memories send me off in search of hope.”

My parent’s marriage had its ups and downs. When they divorced Christmas was never the same. I know now that Christmas does not hinge on humanity’s imperfect state.

As I wrote at the piano, their pain and mine, of never being a whole family again, flowed out of my heart and onto the page. Mysteriously, for every sorrow a remedy followed. Each melodic, aching admission turned into a revelation of hope.

“I am weaker than most; you came to a manger. I am broken to the bone; you were pierced for a stranger. The past has left its mark, but Christmas heals the heart with memories of a child who offers hope.”

The next day I printed the song onto fancy paper and fashioned small pillows with pockets, from scraps in my sewing closet. Each pocket was sized to hold a copy of the song.

When Christmas day arrived, our family drove almost two hours north to my sister’s place for dinner. Unfortunately I was still very short of breath, so I attended the festivities in my pajamas. Like Linus from ‘Charlie Brown’, I toted a blanket behind me. Although my ‘song pillow’ gift to everyone was small, I trusted they too would be lifted by the musical revelation of hope God had inspired.

Cindy Palin

His Bride

Last night I couldn’t sleep, and decided to watch a “no brainer” kind of movie. Some of the subliminal messages kept rippling in the rain this morning. I got my coat on, and went for a walk in a nearby park. Nothing like a stroll in the fresh autumn air to turn our eyes towards our creator. His light illuminates the beautiful truth.

As I shuffled through the dying leaves my mouth couldn’t help but smile. I felt so glad to be alive. In my moment of gratitude words came out of my mouth, words that brought the dilemma of this dying world, and the promise of life to light.

Some of these words may not be understood without an understanding of scripture. If you have questions about some of the terminology, make sure you ask them. Find someone who owns a Bible and dig in.

This song is a message for those who believe, and yet doubt in God’s power. How many times have I prayed for someone’s relief, and doubted it may happen? This song is a message for those who believe, but have forgotten where they’ve come from. This is a song of conviction, and of hope, and a song to soothe the weary caregiver’s heart (Gal. 6:9).

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His Bride

Verse 1.

She comes and goes in different colours. She changes clothes but underneath,

the sound of axes in the forest remind us all about the thief.

Her yesterdays keep on repeating, despite the prayers upon our lips.

But if He’s given us tomorrow, there’s still a hope that she’ll be His.

Chorus:

So bend your knees all God’s children, arm for battle, sound the cry.

And do not weary of your mission until this daughter is His Bride.

Verse 2.

We come and go in different colours, we wear your robe but underneath

our accusations of each other bring us so humbly to your feet.

And under grace our hearts keep beating, your ceaseless prayers have called us forth.

And while we’re certain of tomorrow, there are still more who will be yours.

Chorus:

So bend your knees all God’s children, arm for battle, sound the cry.

And do not weary of your mission until this daughter is His Bride.

©Cindy Palin, September 22nd, 2017

The Conversation Has to Happen (2017) Review

Quote from Juliette Lewis

I want to personally thank Andrea Hawiuk and Friends for the generous and informative conference on Depression and Suicide, The Conversation Has to Happen (2017). Every story shared offered new insight for those suffering, and those suffering along side of. Thank you also for inviting several of the agencies in Olds to participate through a showcase in the Pomeroy Inn and Suites Foyer.

 

I was moved by Rev. Dr. John Pentland when he humbly introduced a friend to share about the loss of her Son Ty. I was also very inspired by John’s response to “Thirteen Reasons Why“. I want to follow his practice of writing thirteen nuggets of wisdom to encourage our children to embrace life.

I was in agreement with Mike Ryan when he brought our attention to society’s different treatment towards alcohol versus drugs. They both alter our mental state.

Jim Marland and his program Can Praxis is ingenious and so necessary for veterans and first responders.

Dr. Jody Carrington’s choice of videos were helpful in teaching us how to connect with one another.

Thank you Rick More, and family for sharing your story about Lindsey, and the Smiles Thru Lindsey Foundation.

Terry Coles – thank you for your honesty and humility. Blessed to have heard your story.

One particular topic that was not discussed at great length was how some of our cultural entertainment trends are catalysts for further suffering. Violence, death, and fantasy, all contributing to darker mood swings, and often times an unrealistic view of life.

Thanks to Wayne McCracken and Don Matchullis, very tasteful touch with the musical choices.

 

Cindy Palin – Director of CAPCC – Olds Location

 

 

 

 

Climbing Mountains?

I don’t like climbing mountains, so I was surprised to find I am a mountain climber. The rocks are life’s challenges. The sheer height is fear of failing. The climbing gear is my relationship with Christ, and His Word. And the climb? My continuous choice to overcome.

I was looking for useful tools the other day for a friend who is fighting depression, and came across a podcast by John Piper (his youtube channel is Desiring God). Thanks Julie for suggesting it.

As embarrassing as it is to admit – I can’t remember which bible verse he quoted, but He tells us the best way to overcome depression is to gaze at God. At first I scoffed “oh come on – it can’t be that simple.”

You never want to give people advice that you can’t take yourself, so I pondered John’s words.

I didn’t understand.

“How do I gaze at You?” I asked God.

And then I sat very still and quieted my thoughts and waited. An answer came. You gaze at God by not staring at the world.

I personalized “the world”. What did that represent for me? I had been watching mystery/crime television, when I could have been playing music, or writing, or even resting. The information consumed left me feeling fatigued and restless. Images of struggle and death were the last flashes before I fell asleep. Not something a mountain climber needed to reach the summit.

A light bulb moment, fuel for the fire, energy for the climb! If you find yourself slipping, if you find yourself stuck, if you recognize you are out on a limb going no where – perhaps some reflection is needed on what or whom you’ve been staring at?

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Matthew 6:22 (NIV)

Guess what? I skipped television tonight and wrote instead, as well as visited with some friends. Our conversation was very focused on….you guessed it, my best friend. tonight I think we’re going to be mountain climbing in my sleep:)

 

 

The Father’s Heart

One out of four women in North America will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. This song is dedicated to our little boys and girls, and to our mothers and fathers, to our sisters and brothers who have suffered sexual trauma. May we all continue to work towards solutions. I know there is hope and healing available from our Father’s heart.

 

Louder Than The Lies

Recently,  building with Shelter Canada in El Salvador, I noticed one of the family’s relatives had a television in their nearby home. I was immediately reminded of a dear friend of ours who visited a Zulu Chief in South Africa. Upon his arrival he noted that the Chief was watching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “terminator” role on television. Even more recently I was having a discussion with someone in my own neighbourhood regarding a prominent Hollywood celebrity who works as a bounty hunter.

All of these observations, and subsequent conversations have something in common. Each occurrence was in the midst of an impoverished reality, people needing homes, food, education, facing life threatening situations. I ached at the thought of the pseudo reality many have chosen to live in. I grieved at the realization millions of souls around the globe are influenced by false truths that offer no real food for their spirit. Many of the messages streaming into our minds are negative and violent, encouraging a tough and calloused approach to life.

A character’s persona, and imaginary world, whether on television, in a video game, music video, or novel – offers the observer an escape from reality, a reality that may be very difficult. This escape is only temporary. Reality is always right around the corner.

What kind of real food do we need to be sharing with one another so our lives have purpose, and meaning, and hope? What kind of truth can we be living out loud to help our loved ones, and neighbours get up every morning and seize the day? With God’s help truth can be louder than the lies.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Tech Speck, Seat 36B

From the moment I was seated, I mean packed like a sardine in a tin tube, I could feel it, the overwhelming pressure to push a button, flip a switch, plug a cord in. I had faint recollections of my decision to abstain from technology on the trip, so faint I found myself with my ear buds firmly planted and fashion television boldly taking me where no dress had gone before, all before the plane had plotted its course for El Salvador.

flight-screensAnd then it happened. My conscience rap, tap, tapping on my heart. What is it I’m afraid of Lord? Afraid of too much silence and what You might reveal? Afraid of possibly hearing You speak? Afraid of peace and serenity, the sound of the wind?

That’s what I want, to challenge our cultural norms, to analyze and discern before I completely forget what Your voice and creation sounds like, before I become just one more robotic speck in an endless drone of white noise.

I pulled my ear buds out, shut my phone completely off, and tucked my belongings back under my seat in front of me. I looked out the window at the clouds and waited….  We’re so conditioned to watch the computer, clock face, or phone screen that we’re missing the sky, we’re missing You.

Here I am Lord, in seat 36B. You have my attention.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Psalm 139:22, 23.

 

Remembering El Salvador….

I never thought I’d go, and now I’m memorizing every face and every street in case I don’t get back, so I will not forget.

photo-2016-11-02-8-14-54-amThe bus climbed the green filigree mountain, up and over the winding road into Victoria’s town square. I marveled at how the driver magically maneuvered around each narrow street corner. We were living in a movie. We had entered an enchanted fairytale, surrounded by Spanish adobes, and ornamented arches with scrolled barred window frames. I felt like Lucy stepping through the wardrobe’s portal into the land of Narnia.

In Victoria, El Salvador
we found something better than a fantasy novel full of talking animals in a frozen forest. We met family in a tropical jungle of bamboo and bananas, oranges and lemons, flowers and chickens. We played with children and attempted to learn the women’s tortilla technique. We shared stories wrapped in two different languages, sweating under November’s heavy hot sun.

We built houses together, pointing, laughing, digging and pounding. We walked to tasty rice and bean breakfasts, and scrumptious Pupusa dinners in the yellow restaurant where San Salvador’s volcano can be seen smiling through the mist from the end of the street.

We prayed, and worshipped together bringing glory to the Father, and fire to our faith. We fell in love with kindred spirits and trusted when we had to tear ourselves away that one day we would meet again, whether here on earth or in eternity.

Gracias, Gracias, Gracias, to everyone of you. Many of your names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, and also on our hearts.

 

Until We Meet Again

There had been many embraces but none like goodbye....(our team just got back from building houses with Shelter Canada in Victoria, El Salvador area).

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The Cathedral standing in Victoria’s town square, an example of El Salvadorian architecture

Even the El Salvadorian sun bent low over the white Cathedral’s spire for a closer look. The fumes from the breakfast fires, the burning garbage and endless truck exhaust no longer hovered overhead, but crowded in my last pockets of air for the departure ceremony.

I knew we had come to lift them up, but now their arms opened wide and lifted me, and pulled me close, face to face for one last slow dance. Arms wrapped firm but gently, pausing intentionally for the rhythm of our hearts to synchronize, for our gratitude to turn to salt and run together in one mighty river of life down our cheeks.

And then instinctively my eyes squeezed shut imprinting their faces on the pages of my memory – family forever – until we meet again, precious brothers and sisters across the miles.

*Not only will our team continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in El Salvador, we will remember their faces – the face of Christ. Many thanks to Shelter Canada for the opportunity they have provided for teams to build houses in El Salvador. Many thanks to Olds Baptist church and our community for the prayer and financial support, and many thanks to our team leaders.