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Welcome to my blog! Of course if we were visiting in person, I'd have the teapot out and we could sit and chat.
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Birthdays in Heaven

 Birthdays are milestones in our lives. Some we want to celebrate, others perhaps not.

  But I wonder, do they mark those occasions in heaven?

  Today is Andrew's birthday. His 60th. And if he lived, I'm sure there would be a party, some cake, the gathering of family.

  He has spent a third of his life as we count it, in heaven now.   I was married to him for nearly another third of his life.  We produced three beautiful children; well, God was the producer, but we were the parents!

 And today  I wonder, will there be a party in heaven??  Perhaps my mom will be there, and my Aunt Mary, so new to heaven. Perhaps our nephew Chris will join in. One can only imagine.

  And yet, in the heavens, does time and space really matter?  We are tethered here to this earth, pulled by gravity, and our days marked by days and weeks and years.  We have a finite approach to life. Sometimes it is good to think of the eternal, that life as we know it is brief, but there is something so much better to look forward to...

  So today, on this birthday, I pause to reflect. And remember.

   I remember one birthday where I begged a policeman I knew from Hope, where we lived, to deliver a birthday cake to Boston Bar, where Andy was working, as a paramedic.   He was not home for his birthday, but I wanted him to have cake!  The RCMP officer wasn't so sure if delivering cakes were part of his duties, but the cake arrived and the paramedics enjoyed the birthday.

  Another birthday we celebrated for Andy, a foster girl arrived, for we were an emergency home for children, and this runaway showed up on our doorstep just before the birthday dinner. Just a simple family affair, complete with cake.  Later, as I chatted with her, she told me that it was the first time in her life that she had ever sat down to a family meal, much less a birthday one. It was a birthday worth sharing.

  The memories sift through my mind.  Some of our most intense memories were made the year he died.  And I remember well his telling me that I was to move on, to remarry.  He knew his time was short.  I really didn't want to listen.

  But today I am grateful for those gifts.  The gift of my husband now and his support in my life.  Together we share five children and six grandchildren.  One little guy named after his Grandpa Andy.

  And as I gaze at the clear blue sky on this cold February day; I gaze into the heavens and wonder.  And I am grateful for all the gifts of this life, and I think of all those we love on the other side. Perhaps they cheer us on.  There is comfort and joy in that thought!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wrestling with life

   I don't really like the sport - wrestling, that is.

  In fact, I have never cared for fighting in any arena, including hockey.  But I understand it is an attraction, perhaps for those with a little more testosterone.

  In a study this week on the topic of boundaries, the topic of peace-keeping came up.  And I've always thought of myself as a peacemaker; I know I love peace over fighting any day.  But the adjective in front of peace-keeper in our study was not a positive one...there was a warning against chronic peacemaking.

  In other words do I crave peace so much that I avoid telling the truth?  Or being honest?  Good questions to ask, I thought.

  And for a girl who loves peace, it seems there is often a lot of wrestling going on... in the mind.  In fact, it might be more honest to say there is some wrestling with God.

  About the big issues. War and hunger, and disease.  Crime and hatred, which I simply cannot understand at the best of times.   And a subject that bothers me greatly, is one of Christians not getting along.  (I find this incredibly sad).  And how do I come to terms with diverse opinions and points of view within the Church world that are often as far as the east is from the west?

  I've joked... it seems my conservative friends might think me rather liberal at times, and perhaps I am!  And when I am in camp with those with more liberal views, I suddenly feel rather conservative.  A big sigh was felt at the end of the previous sentence.

  And although we all seek balance, and that is so important, I think we also long for the truth.  The only problem is the truth as I see it might (and probably is) interpreted differently by others.  And it is on this point that I often pray; pray fervently for wisdom that is not my own.

  And in the arena of faith, one desires to know the truth!  What comforts me is that we have a big awesome, somewhat mysterious God, and the apostle Paul puts it so well in that beloved chapter on love in 1st Corinthians:  "For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Not I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

  Don't you love that "I am fully known."?   Knowing God is limited, but it is good to know a God who fully knows me, loves me, created me.  Comforting thoughts for sure.

  As much as I want to get it right, I recognize more and more that really the answer is in learning to know God and seeking Him, even with all my questions, the questions I wrestle with.

  Perhaps, as a chaplain, I am confronted with these questions on a regular basis.  I was asked, just this week, why God would allow a life of suffering... one bad thing after another, no relief.  There is no easy answers to the questions that many have.  Triteness and platitudes have no place in the face of tragedy.  One wrestles with what to say, and how to respond.

  I do know that God loves and is present, even in the worst of times.  In fact, I have noticed that is usually when He shows up.  And whether my theology is spot-on or not, (and that is something only God knows), what I do have certainty about is that I can trust in His goodness, His love, His mercy.

  And that is a great comfort in a messy world with sadness, strife, and a lot of opinions.  Including mine.

 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tethering

  My mind went back today to my childhood... to a game I loved.  Tether-ball!!

  We had a great little tether-ball in our school yard at Harrison Hot Springs, where I grew up, and I loved to get there early and just bat that ball around the pole.  Never good at sports, the few games I tried and was good at, gave me a lot of joy!

  If you look it up on line, you can still buy the pole strung with the ball, but I don't think it is a common game anymore.  In fact, I am not sure I would even remember the rules.  I would have posted a picture, but I don't have one of my own; not even sure where I would locate such a game!

  I started thinking about the name, and it conjured up the image of being tethered... what am I tethered to, exactly?

  A number of things came to mind!  My cell phone, for one; no actually I have two of them.  One specifically for work, the other my personal computer offering mobile e-mails, Facebook, a calendar, texts, and even an occasional phone call!  There is a strong sense of panic when I'm not sure where it is!

  And then there is the IPad.  How did we ever get so attached to that thing?  We joked this morning, as we shared it, my husband and I, that we might actually have to get two.  How would we ever manage if we had kids at home!  As it is, we share it with the grand-kids when they come (although screen-time is VERY limited), and have found delightful games and puzzles to do together.  It has also become my recipe book, and sadly at times my social life.  Tethered....

  And then there are the spaces of the mind... tethered to thoughts I often wish I could dispel... sometimes thoughts of inadequacy, thoughts of wanting to please, wanting to be liked; thoughts that bind me more than free me.  I don't think I am alone...

  And yet perhaps, we do need to be grounded to something.  And in my pondering today, I think of what I am tethered to.  What I am focused on.

  Quiet moments of reflection.  Positive thoughts about others and myself.  Enjoying creation and focusing on the Creator.  The words from Philippians 4:8 come to mind: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." 

  So no, I won't be throwing out my technical devices.  I enjoy the connections they bring.  But I am reminded again to put them in their right place, and ground myself - tether myself to the things that really matter.  To the God I love, to my family, to finding nurture and strength in the quiet places of the heart.  Which doesn't need a WiFi connection, the last time I checked!

 

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Christmas Gift - Remembered in February

   It was just a few days before Christmas, and I was feeling sad for the many folks I knew who were in hospital - especially the one floor where the waits were long.  Many of the patients waiting for placement; home no longer an option.  Some were palliative.

  I invited some ladies from my church to come and sing.  I don't get to this hospital floor as often as I would like to visit, but it seemed to me some extra Christmas cheer was in order.

  And so, on a very snowy Friday morning, just before Christmas six women showed up at the hospital to sing carols on this ward.  What impressed me the most was the eldest member of the group - although VERY young at heart  had driven on her own through snowy conditions, and then we found out it was her birthday!  A bit dyslexic she said, as she announced her age... 48!  Oh well, what is a little number mix-up between friends!

  As we rode up on the elevator to the upper floor, we burst into song... I have never heard singing in an elevator... much less Happy Birthday in full harmony.  It was wonderful, and we arrived, full of smiles.

  After some organizing, and moving people in wheelchairs to the tiny sitting room, we stood and sang to an audience of six if I remember correctly.  And the old Christmas carols, sung in full harmony, filled the room and wafted down the hall.

  And then she recognized her... our birthday girl seeing in our tiny audience a former work-mate, now a patient, taking in the music.  It was a heart-warming reunion, these two senior women, holding hands, sharing memories of years long past.

  And again, as I have so often been filled with wonder, I was in awe of the timing, the last-minute choice to invite people to sing, two old friends re-united, tears in our eyes at this miracle of Christmas.

  We continued that morning to sing, walking down the halls, spreading music as we went.  One dear lady, completely bedridden mouthed the words as she lay in her bed, joining in as best she could.

  It was one of my best Christmas moments, and worth savoring, even as I remember to write it down some months later.  Because it tells the testimony of God with us, Emmanuel, present in the most difficult of circumstances, showing up to bring joy to each of our hearts.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Religion and Spirituality

I walked into the hospital chapel one morning, at my place of work, to find two men engaged in a lively discussion.

 "Are you the chaplain" one asked, and after replying in the affirmative, one of them asked me if I was spiritual or religious.

  It was one of those moments where I had to think quickly. Or more importantly, breathe a silent prayer of "Help!!"

  And the answer I received to my prayer was swift. As I thought of that moment later I remembered how Jesus answered difficult questions with another question. And that is what I was inspired to do.

 The question that came to me in that moment was:  "If you asked 10 different people to define religion and spirituality how many versions would you get?"

  The answer seemed to satisfy those who questioned me.  It broke the ice.  And we were able to have a rather interesting conversation after that.

 At the hospital my job is to offer spiritual care.  It is not often am I asked to define that.

  Working in a multi-faith setting, I am required to be sensitive to those who might not believe as I do. So I do a lot of listening. And praying for wisdom.  And God is so very faithful.

  I often go back to the simplicity of the first and second commands that Jesus taught. To love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength. And then to love your neighbor as yourself.

  Loving God takes a lifetime of learning, of listening. Loving, caring, listening, are all part of spiritual care.

  Is this religion?  I don't really know. In some circles religion has become a negative word. Religion is often defined by judgement rather than love. And yet, Jesus taught us that what is most important is to love...

  To be spiritual, as I would define it personally, is to be filled with the Spirit of God, filled with the love of Jesus. The book of Colossians  describes it well.  An indwelling of the holy.  It is an awesome thought, beyond imagining.

  I do know others might define spirituality in other ways.

  There is something to be said about not always knowing the answer. Religion or Spirituality?  It would depend on who is giving the answer, and their own definition.

  There is one thing I am certain of. The God I know, I love, loves me as I am. He calls me to love.  How I define it becomes less important than how I live it.