Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
I'm honored you stopped by to listen to my thoughts and ponderings - and if you have a minute sometime, let me know you dropped by!

You can also find me on Facebook at Grace Notes, Thoughts and Prayers.

I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Does Hope have a Colour?

I was lying in bed this morning, waking up and looking out our window.  And I rejoiced that colour was returning to our world.  Not so long ago we woke to shades of white and grey.  And many in our country are experiencing another blast of winter, even though we are more than half-way through April.

Our view includes a large deciduous tree... and I love watching the changing seasons through the life of this tree.  Right now the branches are still mostly bare, reaching up and looking for warmth... much like me!

This time of year the robin comes and perches on her highest branches, and greets us each day with a good-morning song.  It is one of the brightest moments of my day!

These words came to me this morning as I held this picture in my view, my ears filled with morning-song of this favourite bird:

What would our world be
without colour?

The robin sang to us this morning,
a tiny patch of red
on an almost bare tree.
Tiny buds show promise
but tremble in the harsh winds of spring.

Spring does not always come easy
..... but it comes.

Brave shoots are everywhere
and my bright forsythia has burst
into a sunshiny glow of yellow
which causes me to smile.

Hope is like a bit of colour
in a bleak world.

Sometimes we have to hunt for it
like treasure
but it is always there.
For those who wait.
For those who seek.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Held

I have long loved the picture of the Good Shepherd carrying the lamb.

This image evokes love, care, trust and rest.

But little lambs and children, and most often anxious and stressed adults sometimes have difficulty with this.  We are independent creatures, and one of the first full sentences of any child is "I can do it myself!"

When I come alongside people with great pain or grief, I often invite them to imagine this picture... we are the lambs, can we trust the Shepherd?

In doing so, we let go of the anxiety, the pain, and our bodies relax into loving arms.

I have witnessed much grief recently, and collectively our country Canada is in mourning as well.  Sometimes there are no words.  And yet we need comfort.  We need hope.

I was struck by this word today... Held.

It reminds me of the "Footprints" poem, that famous poem where there was only one set of footprints and the author wondered where God had gone.  And then she realized that the footprints were those of God... and she was being carried.

There is a wonderful scripture from the prophet Isaiah which says "I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  (46:4).

Sometimes we hang on to sacred words and envision holy hands carrying us when we are bereft, in pain, and full of questions.  There is a surrender to what we don't understand.  This is radical trust, and it doesn't always come easily.

We are held.  We are loved.  We are not alone.

Good thoughts for today, and every day.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Alive

There is a great Charlie Brown picture that has been surfacing on facebook, where Charlie says to Snoopy: "Some day we all will die!", and Snoopy replies:  "True, but on all the other days we will not!"

It is true we live with the knowledge that we will die.  In my work, I see death on a regular basis.  It is easy to focus on dying and forget about living well.  Somehow I have to find a balance, and Snoopy says it well!

I'm still in the land of Easter, and have been thinking much about the resurrection.

For Christ-followers, this is central to our faith, for it is a risen Christ who brings us hope for eternity.

What I had not paid much attention to in the past was this wonderful in-between time after the resurrection, where Jesus appears - hundreds of times - as a risen Christ, before he ascends to heaven. These encounters are recorded in history books and give much reassurance to the doubting mind.

This Easter weekend, we watched the movie "A Case for Christ", chronicling the story of journalist Lee Strobel, who was a staunch atheist, and who set out to prove the invalidity of the resurrection after his wife converted to Christianity.  I was impressed by the quality of this movie, and the wrestling of Strobel, who loved his facts, and wanted to prove Christianity wrong.  In the end, he comes to faith.  I was deeply moved, and highly recommend this film, now on Netflix.

So the question surfaces for me, "How then shall we live?"

Every day is a gift, I say it often, and believe it well.  Every morning as I wake up I realize that I am alive!  Most of me works, and I am grateful that I am mobile, that I can speak, and for the most part have a functioning brain.  I don't take these things for granted anymore, and even though I purpose to take care of this body, I know it is fragile. 

I love the words of the prophet Micah who says that we are to act justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly...
The other amazing thought I'll leave here today, is this fact that this risen Christ desires to dwell among us, within us.  This is a mystery, and yet I have found it to be true.  There is such comfort in this, because in all we experience, in our sufferings, and in our joys, Christ desires to be with us, within us, surrounding us with a loving Presence.  






Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Wrestling with Suffering

Why does God allow suffering?

It is an age old question, and I was confronted with it again yesterday, not once, but twice; pleas for answers to unbearable pain.

I cannot look away.  I see suffering and I must acknowledge it.  There are days where it cuts to my core and I want to weep.  I feel it in my bones. 

To some extent we all look for ways to avoid it.  I believe it is worse in our culture where we worship comfort and live excessive lives.  It is our norm.  I've certainly bought into this, I love my comfort clothes, my comfortable house, even my comfort food.  There is no lack.

When people are confronted by deep loss, personal tragedy, and pain, the story changes.  And the questions come. 

I'm certainly not going to pretend I have answers.  I've read some amazing books and listened to some wonderful speakers which have helped me have some understanding. 

I wrestled with suffering when my young husband was diagnosed and told he had a 23% chance to live if he followed the prescribed treatment.  We struggled.  Some told us he would be healed.  He was not, at least not physically. The healing was spiritual, as he prepared for heaven.

In my "school of suffering" I began to learn, often with protest.  But even in those intense days, we had to choose trust, and even praise.  We experienced God in a way we never had before.  I felt the presence of the Holy in profound and intimate ways as we walked the journey of suffering and grief.

I think of this, during Holy week, when Jesus walked toward what he knew would be a gruesome and painful death.  Suffering was necessary for redemption. 

Jesus is the suffering Christ.  And I am called to follow, motivated by love.  I wear the cross, a symbol of suffering. 

I have come to a place in my wrestling where I believe that God doesn't "cause" suffering, but does allow it.  We live in a broken world.  Yesterday as I read the 23rd Psalm to a grieving family, I was struck by the last words which say:
"Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
     and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Forever is a gift we all can hold on to.

I have become convinced, and yes have experienced!, the love of God, the presence of God in the most difficult of situations.  If everything was peachy, my life perfect, would I need God so?

The miracle of Emmanuel is "God with us"; and the suffering Christ is the ultimate picture of love and sacrifice.  It is because of the miracle of Easter, the resurrection, that we can have relationship with our Creator.  As I've wrestled with mystery - and there have been some dark times - I've also fallen in love, with a God who loves me, knows me, created me, and gives me the promise of eternity.

We have this hope, even in the midst of suffering. 


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The wonderful world of Books

I have an e-reader, which I enjoy, but there is something about getting lost between the pages of a good book, settling into the chair and becoming immersed in a story.

Some reading is necessary, some is monotonous, some inspiring, some is challenging, some is pure delight.

Although reading is solitary - and that kind of rest is good - I like to hear what others are reading and learning.

That was the case recently when a friend recommended a number of books and I dove right in.  I dusted off my library card and found a whole new world of treasures.

I've now read three books by Lisa Genova, the author of the famed "Still Alice", a novel about a woman diagnosed with dementia, and this book became a major film.  I have not read "Still Alice" yet, but found myself fascinated by her novel "Love Anthony" about a little boy who suffers from epilepsy and severe autism.  She steps right into the mind of this child, and you gain a whole new understanding of what it might be like to perceive the world when you are autistic.

Genova is a researcher who creates artistic expression with her words and stories and brings the real challenges of physical and emotional difficulties that people face, to life.  This has helped me to broaden my understanding of some of these challenges.  The latest book I read was "Inside the O'Briens", an amazing account of a family dealing with Huntington disease.  I also read her novel "Left Neglected", about one of the possible side-effects of brain injury.

These books and stories are better than any textbook in my opinion (although textbooks certainly have their place!)  They have given me new perspective to understand some of the people I meet in my work as a chaplain.

Recently I had a conversation with a colleague at work and we talked about how it is our personal experience and often suffering that have been our hardest and best teachers.  There are books which bring us into the lives of those facing challenges and these stories can  teach us in a way that textbooks cannot.

Another novel I just read is by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn, "Healing Waters" which addresses the deep problem many women have with self worth and body image.  This book also addressed those difficult questions about suffering, and why does God allow it?  As I read through the pages, I was drawn into the struggle; it was a good and challenging book which kept me from any housework for a number of days!!

I must admit I love a good novel.  I dislike fluff and pre-fabbed happy endings.  Life isn't like that.  I want a book to challenge and inspire me, to stretch me into thought and imagination.

True stories and biographies are high on my list as well. 

And I love the ancient words of the Psalms, of Isaiah, the poetry of the Bible.  And the scriptures are full of wonderful stories of real people.  I recently spoke on the story of the Red Sea, and again it was a book that helped me to understand this story even better.  If you need encouragement, I recommend "The Red Sea Rules" by Robert J. Morgan, the subtitle is "10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times". 

What would we do without words, without language?  I think of the imagination of our Creator - and it is said we are made in God's image - and we have minds to think, and tongues to speak. These are gifts to us.  There is power in this, and also danger if we misuse it.

So, if you are inspired to read, happy reading!   And please share your favourite reads that you have discovered recently.  Here's to inspiration!






Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Anniversaries

Facebook is very good about reminding us about anniversaries if you check in regularly.

I'm trying to curb my FB appetite, but some days I am thankful for the reminders.

For instance, today my son posted a very sweet picture of myself and baby Andrew, taken and posted five years ago.  I love this picture!  We had travelled a long way to meet this new little grandson, and it was a delight. 



Mixed in with the memories of that week five years ago, was a phone-call we received while in South Carolina, that my mother had been hospitalized and was being transferred to hospice.  We were so torn! 

We were celebrating new life, but also feeling that we should be home, present with my mom.  I remember the FaceTime chat with her that week where she told us fiercely (as only my mother could) that we were to stay and enjoy our time. She promised, and I don't know how she could, but she did... that she would be around when we returned.

And she was... for three more precious months as we all prepared for her home-going.  My dad reminded us for those days this week.  He is meticulous in keeping a diary, and has records going back to when he was eighteen!  He e-mailed us this week telling us he was re-reading that diary of five years ago, those bitter-sweet moments we shared as a family.  It is in those moments indeed we recognize the fragility of life, the preciousness of family. 

As I am present to many others who are in the midst of saying good-bye on this earth, these memories stay with me, the lessons we learned still help me to understand, to be empathetic, to practice compassion.

Just this morning another memory came up, one that always stirs my heart quite literally... it is seven years ago TODAY that I entered into the hospital with weird symptoms... to find out I was having a significant heart attack.  I remember well thinking that it wasn't good timing, and perhaps they were wrong? 

The incredible part of that week seven years ago was that my dad was also in ICU, with severe complications after surgery, and for a few days, we were in the same ward.  Crazy memories.  Recently he turned 87, and we are grateful for his return to health!

I don't take my health for granted.  Every day is a precious gift, and I pray often that God would guard my heart and teach me how to live wisely with the body I have. 

Every day a blessing, and so many opportunities to love, to share, to make a difference.
  It is good to look back and remember,
       good to celebrate today,
            good to plant the seeds of hope for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

God cares about the little things

I've been spending time with the wonderful story of the Red Sea miracle told in the book of Exodus.  This is a miracle of epic proportions.  In fact I'll be speaking on this story this coming week, if you are in the Vernon area, part of our Lent Eccumenical series.  (Wednesday, 2 pm, at 1st Baptist Church).

It is a story which puts us in awe of what God can do.  To think God can part the Red Sea to make a way of escape, gives us faith that our Creator can also provide for us.

But what struck me last week as I moved about the hospital in my work as a chaplain, was how God cares about the little things.

I've been doing this long enough to recognize God's hand in so many ways, leading my steps.

Last Wednesday was a busy day, and I got there early... and there was a beautiful young women in the lobby, who I've had the opportunity to visit many times.  She was waiting for a ride.  Our conversation was meaningful, her diagnosis not an easy one to bear.  I saw it as a "God-appointment".  During that interlude, before I ever got to my office, I met two other people I knew... and was so glad we could have conversation.

Earlier in the week, I had been given the gift of little pockets made from greeting cards, much like the Christmas Card stockings we make every year.  But these were for everyday, and lovingly stitched.  And I wondered... how would I use them?

I looked in my filing cabinet, and spied two lip balms I had not given out at Christmas time.  Yes, they fit into the little pockets!  So I put them in my bag as I started my visitation.

The first visit was to a friend who had been in hospital for a week... and I said, I have something for you!  I gave her the little gift... and to my amazement, it was exactly what she needed!  She had asked her husband to bring one, and he had forgotten... and before we carried on our conversation, she applied it, grateful.

And we were both amazed by God's provision... it was a little thing, and yet I believe with all my heart that God cared about her need in the midst of what she was going through.

I also became aware of another women who was in hospital that day, one I have visited often.  I happened to know she loved a certain Disney character, and in the midst of her life challenges, this brought her joy.  I wasn't thinking about that though, on this busy morning, but happened to go to my storage area where I keep all kinds of materials, and prayer shawls and quilts.

There on the counter was a quilt... one I had neglected to put away days before.  The quilt had a disney character on it... and I realized at that moment... it was exactly what this woman loved.

I knew then I was to bring it to her, and I marvelled how God would put it in my path at that moment, because I was certainly not thinking about it, or even intending to bring her a quilt.

We talked together, she and I, about how God cares for the little things... and I believe that our Creator cares so deeply that there are reminders... beautiful reminders that God IS with us... even in suffering.

We are not alone.

These stories encourage me greatly and I pray they will encourage you as well.  The God who flung the stars in place, who created our beautiful world... the God who created a pathway through a sea to rescue the people of Israel - this God also cares deeply for you and me.  How awesome is that?