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.
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.
I was running errands today, which required a lot of loading and unloading. Back and forth I went between the indoors and the outdoors. On my last run I flung open the door to the outside world, and was greeted with an amazing heart warming sound and sight. I heard my friends, the geese, honking at each other. I looked up to witness the fine feathered flock paint their “‘V’ across November’s sky. Usually their familiar song stings my heart. After all, their flying south means Old Man Winter has swallowed up all of autumn’s warmth, and the last of our coloured leaves.
This time their song was saying something else. I stood, both feet planted in the parking lot and listened, and watched carefully. It was almost as if I was afraid I might miss something important. I watched until they disappeared into the glare of the late afternoon sun. I was awe struck. I had made a new discovery.
I’ve always known their V shaped flying formation is to prevent wind resistance. But this time I saw something more.
A few geese fell out of formation, and the perfect ‘V’ was ruined. I wondered for a few moments what the stragglers were up to, but then recognized a consistent pattern. Could it be the geese took turns with each other? Those in front would tire, so others would take their place?
I couldn’t help but smile. God uses His creation to teach us something every moment of every day. What I was witnessing was a lesson for all of mankind – a perfect ‘team work’ analogy. My curiosity got the best of me, and I went home to look up more information about geese, and their flying habits. To my surprise I found an article that echoed exactly what I had been musing about, and said it very well.
In 1977 “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” hit the big screen. The title means humans observing aliens. This past weekend when I traveled to the coast and back I had the experience of “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind”, which stands for humans observing humans.
There was the intoxicated fellow of asian descent who wanted to butt in front of me in the boarding line-up at YYC. I knew he had missed his Zone 1 cue, because he stayed too long at the bar. His pungent breath gave him away. I let him in. I was amused with his greying pony tail. Why is it men think a pony tail or top knot is cool?
Then came the ever so late stewardess who dramatically arrived behind me in in the security line up. Her exaggerated watch glancing, toe tapping, and head poking up and over the conveyer like a spastic gopher, got under my skin. She would inch forward, and I would inch forward, and she would huff again. “Tough time in traffic?” I wanted to ask. “Bad case of asthma?” The lady in front of me was so kind, and let the frantic stewardess run ahead. She could have asked, rather than play charades. Secretly I hoped when she walked through the full body scanner, Scotty from Star Trek would beam her up to another planet. Poof!
I couldn’t forget the red neck from the outskirts of Saskatoon, sitting behind me on the plane, who insulted the fellow coming down the isle to sit right next to him. Ole’ Red Neck blurted out “Look Martha, why do we always get someone REALLY BIG sitting next to us?” Thankfully for Red Neck, the Big Fella was very kind and didn’t use Mr. ‘mouth piece’ as a seat cushion. And to clarify Big Fella wasn’t big at all, he was tall.
On my way back to Vancouver there was a man waiting to board the Ferry at Langdale Station, who told a little girl in her stroller, to pull up her pants and say ‘no’ to crack. What was he thinking? His remarks were highly inappropriate! I was stunned. There are those people who should think twice about opening their mouths in public. Her mother did not respond, but stared off into the distance. If it had been my little girl the stranger was speaking to, I would have stuffed him in a crack between the board walk.
I spied a ‘stick figure of a man’ wearing blue jeans, a lumberjack vest, and a toque, carrying nothing but a plastic shopping bag. When we boarded the Ferry he disappeared, only to appear next to me in the elevator. I wasn’t sure which button to push to get us to the passenger deck, so I asked for help. He pushed a button and then turned to me and said “I have bad teeth…..and lung cancer”. “I am so sorry” I replied. “It’s okay, I smoke, but I am trying to quit”. It took a few seconds for me to recognize an opportunity for prayer, but the elevator door opened, and he was gone. After lunch I went to find him, before he threw himself overboard. I spotted him talking to another perfect stranger, only this time letting him know he was “paramilitary, and he didn’t like killing people, because of what it does to your insides.”
I found a place to sit on the warm side of the sun deck, just out of the wind. Along came a woman wearing a kid’s polka dotted blanket for a scarf, over a khaki rain coat, wearing floral rubber boots, with her pants tucked inside. She waddled, kind of sort of, or maybe that was the wind. I thought her idea of walking was better than my sitting, so I got up and circled the deck.
I noticed a charming down syndrome man who road the 257 Express from Horseshoe Bay to downtown Vancouver. He tried to talk to the lady next to him, but she said she couldn’t understand him. I could, and I was sitting across the isle.
I hid behind my sun glasses and watched. He removed his hat and glasses and rubbed his face, then ran his fingers through his hair. He eventually moved closer to a young woman, who had a large tiger patterned suitcase. He told her he liked her suitcase, and reached out to touch it. She nodded, then quickly turned away. Every once and a while a ball of white would protrude from his lips, and my stomach would turn, thinking it was saliva and spit. Turned out it was gum. I couldn’t help but think he was very courageous. Who did he belong to? Was it hard for them to let him ride the bus alone? Was he ever greeted warmly?
To my disgust I witnessed a very tall elderly gentleman ‘hack a lube’ (is this even the way you spell it?), on the skyline pathway, a few feet away from me. I almost threw up right then and there, but miraculously held my breath. I concluded he had probably been an orphan his whole life, with no mother to teach him manners. He was dressed like a businessman, with the behaviours of a barbarian.
Once I got seated on the Sky Train at Canada Line Station, I witnessed a middle aged man come running through the open door. His lips were pursed and he was making an odd breathing sound like a woman in labor. Once he was seated he continued to furiously push his air in and out loudly, his lips never changing shape. I quickly scanned his person for a backpack, a bomb, a terrorist? He pulled out a piece of paper and nervously flapped it around. He rocked back and forth in his seat. After some time I realized he may be mentally challenged in some way, but very brave, and able to navigate to his next stop. He took his backpack with him. Whew!
I was almost home, plane touched down and I paused from observing the human race, and looked into my heart instead. I asked myself “Do I love my fellowman without measure?”
My “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind” made me realize something astounding. God is amazing. He loves us all without measure. He loves the drunks, the tardy. He loves those who put both feet in their mouth. He loves those who are sick and hurting, and those who commit fashion suicide. There is no intellectual prerequisite for God’s love. He loves those who mind their manners and those who are socially inept. He even loves me, which ever category I find myself in at the moment.
While walking to a meeting this morning my thoughts drifted to a relative who seems to have traded the faith of her youth (in Christ Jesus), for the moon and the stars. I’m not sure what happened. I think of the verse in Galatians 5:7b “…who cut in on your to keep you from obeying the truth?”
I’m reminded of history, where Israel was rescued from the Egyptians by the hand of God, and in a short span of time – were complaining about the desert and worshipping idols.
Why is it some will be rescued and seek to know their rescuer deeper, while others will be rescued and tire of His faithfulness? I believe God can give us the gift of faith, a desire to seek Him more. As I get older I thank him for his mercy, and pray that I will not wander off after some pretty, empty thing…..
The Pretty Things
Vs 1. You can sway, you can swoon, you can stare at the moon
but I know the one who hung it for you.
Can’t you hear him calling for you now?
But it’s all about the pretty things, the sound of your voice analyzing.
Your heroes wear capes, and the cross is passe – hey,
I’ll take Jesus any day.
Vs 2. You can gaze at the stars, read your horoscope charts
but I know the one who knew your birthday
long before your parents said hello.
But it’s all about the pretty things, your ideas advancing.
Let your heroes parade, there’s no room for a grave, hey,
I’ll take Jesus anyway.
Chorus: When tradition falls hard, and contrition fades
I will not be alarmed, He predicted today
When the moon waxes cold and your magic is frayed
Lay your pretty things down and pray.
Vs 3. You can question the truth, you can trust in your youth
but I know that somewhere in the middle
everyone plays second fiddle soon.
Well I highly doubt the pretty things, it’s all about the meaning,
and the life that He gave when the stone rolled away, hey,
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This morning I have enjoyed looking at pictures of friends’ children all dressed up to go back to school. Oh what memories I have of those days, not only of my own children going back to school, but what it was like for me. As I pondered some of those memories I realized the ‘back to school’ phenomenon is still a thing for me, and will likely continue to be – for the next two years.
One of my greatest joys, once our youngest child had left the nest, was to go back to school. I had several reasons for my decision. I didn’t want to wallow in an empty house. I wanted to learn something new, but most importantly I wanted to grow in my faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Word. When I graduated from High School I was not in the mindset of wanting to attend a Bible College. Today I am.
I am an online Canvas student with Briercrest Seminary and College. They are situated in Caronport, Saskatchewan. Because of my work, and day to day responsibilities I am only able to take one course at a time, rather than delve into the whole program at once. I usually register in the fall, and the course time frame varies.
Currently I have registered for BLST 230, Paul and His Letters.
I believe staying in the Word helps us gain the wisdom we need as individuals, for our marriages, and as parents, no matter how old our children are. Staying in the Word is going to get me across the finish line of faith, and give my children continued hope in a confusing world.
Who knows, perhaps some of the truths that stand out over the next six months will be shared here in my blog.
Are you interested in going back to school? What stage of life do you find yourself in? Perhaps raising your little ones is the school you are in right now,? That my friend is a challenging curriculum, one in which God’s Word can certainly shed some light.
These past few days have carried heavy news to my heart, and the hearts of those I love. When I feel helpless to find comfort or bring comfort to others, I know where to hide. I cozy up on my Heavenly Father’s lap and close my eyes and let the tears fall. Psalm 56:8 tells us that God catches our tears in a bottle. He sees them. He feels our sorrow. He hears our prayers. And there in my hiding place I beckon you to climb up on his lap. There is room for you too.
My Paradise and Heaven
Dedicated to Amanda and her family, and to mine, and to ours together, as one day we will enjoy such sweet reunion.
Is He a mere three letter word, this God I put my trust in?
Is this presence that calms my fears, a ghost of my imagination?
Have the prayers I’ve prayed each day and night sailed into some abyss?
Have the tears I’ve cried, and all my sleepless nights gone unnoticed?
Is my reflection of pure peacefulness, a mask or a mirage?
Who then has quenched my thirst and grown my courage?
Who washed away my hopeless state, and turned my eyes upward?
There is a God my heart knows well, I take Him at His word.
Upon the wind, under the sun, the earth expounds His praise.
Shall I not too be wise to share His wonder all my days?
Is He a mere three letter word, this God I put my hope in?
He is my breath, my life and death, my paradise and heaven.
Our daughter is about to leave for full-time missions. It may sound silly but I smiled as I pulled the stale waffles out of the refrigerator. They are summer memories of three of our adult children in the kitchen eating one of their favourite foods.
We were saving them to toast, but forgot them in the back of the top shelf. Now I fear they may choke the toaster.
As I dump them out of their plastic storage bag, I can hear my daughter downstairs, stuffing her duffle bag full.
What have we gotten rid of in our lives in order to pour into our children, the very best of all He is?
Life is full of object lessons. Life is a series of getting rid of the garbage and filling our souls with nutrients.
“Train up a child in the way he should go…..” Prov. 22:6
Ephesians 4:22 – 24, setting aside the old life and being renewed.
Grant my children godly discernment and wisdom to know not what, but whom to hold onto.