Saturday, January 31, 2009


Just received an email this week that said, "It's almost spring in Canada!"


Snow is an amazing and complex entity! It comes falling silently, millions upon millions, each flake perfect and distinct. Consider its many faces. It may lie deep and drifting, crunch under the weight of our boots on cold winter nights, or deceive us as we try to make our way over its hardened, glass like surface until it is gathered up into the clouds. The first winter we had sheep, one wintery morning I was startled to see one of my spring lambs stumbling to walk. I was even more startled that a second lamb began to stumble a few minutes later. "Now this was curious!" As I pondered this strange sight, wise shepherd that I am, s..l..o..w..l..y the problem became evident. Over night the snow had hardened into a crust that allowed the sheep to walk on top of it for a few steps until a hoof would sink beneath the crusty surface. The whole picture was rather amusing to see many sheep stumbling over the surface of the snow. Snow is very clever too.

After yesterday's snowfall followed by a night of cold winter winds, our driveway was drifted over by morning. My husband left in the morning with our truck, leaving us with a broken snow plough. We were snowed in.

My daughter who is one of the most determined young ladies I know (You might call it stubbornness.), decided that she was going to drive through the drifts, regardless. With all the resolve in the world, she was not going to go through those drifts that lay taller than the bottom of her car, given the laws of force and motion. We cannot achieve the supernatural (things of God) by the natural ways of this world no matter how determined we are. It just doesn't work that way. So, about a third of the way down a very long driveway, she embedded her car into one giant drift.

Without a tractor, it was time to get out the hockey sticks, fence posts, shovels and anything I could find to poke through the snow lodged under the car which was also sitting between two drifts. She had pushed so much snow under the car that the wheels were not going anywhere. After poking, digging and smiling for thirty minutes, I gave up and called the big guns in. My wonderful kind neighbours came with their heavy duty snow plough and their strong muscles and my little determined daughter rolled on finally after learning yet another life lesson, I hope.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Pretty Vessel

Each day, several times a day, I empty the ice out of the water buckets in the barn and refill them. I use the old fashion method of taking the buckets and slamming them against the frozen ground. From these efforts, over the winter, I have built up a sheet of ice for the sheep to slip and slide on in the paddock, unfortunately for them.

Layer upon layer, the ice has built up, like the memories of the years in our lives, some pleasant but some filled with disappointments, unfinished dreams, and always some hurt, cleverly hidden. These memories command our attention. We are those who sigh...shake our heads...think, "I wish!"

My mother gave me this piece of pottery many years ago. I enjoyed using it to carry warm water to the rabbits in the barn as it was such a pretty vessel. However last week, I forgot to return it to the house and it cracked from within. Now it has lost its purpose, left to sit, a reminder.

Isn't life like that sometimes? Over the years, the disappointments, lost dreams, hurts build up until we forget who we once were. When did we change? What was it that we wanted so much to do? Our passions subside; we grow cold. There are very few of us who age gracefully. During the past several months as I have been visiting my neighbour and friend in the chronic care ward at our local hospital, I have met two gentlemen who felt burdened to tell me, a total stranger, how they were saddened that they had not been better people. They had grown cold.

I don't want to grow cold. I want to remain feeling warm and secure. I don't want to do just what needs to be done. I want to be a beautiful precious vessel, doing just the right thing for love. How might this happen? surrendering our disappointments and hurts to our Lord. Having done that, as if by magic, we become beautiful and filled with purpose. These are not just pretty words. Stop.....feel the warmth of His gaze upon you. There will be a new song on your lips...warmed from within.

I brought my pottery inside and sadly discovered that when it was warmed up, it was only the ice that held it together.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Song In the Night

I have long been familiar with the call of coyotes at night. After being awakened from my dreams by their howling, it takes me less than three minutes to plant my feet on the floor, wrap myself up in a house coat, jump into my rubber boots and head out to the barn. I never rest in the fact that the sheep are enclosed in an electric fence. Come certain times, the coyotes follow the deer which follow the creek that runs through our property, very close to my barn. I am sure, my sheep are well known for their distinctive odour in and throughout the surrounding woods, especially on hot summer nights.

It is not the howling of the coyotes that sets my sheep to bellowing loudly, but the appearance of me in the dead of night in my nightie and rubber boots for I bring excitement. I bring food! Before they work themselves up into a fevered pitch, I try to quiet them down by throwing a few flakes of hay at them. It is futile to get them all into the barn where I can lock them safely inside. There are always one or two that hang annoyingly in the dark shadows outside the barn. Finally out of frustration, I yell loudly at the invisible coyotes who by this time have begun to move on, anything to get away from this wild woman in her nightie and rubber boots. It is a familiar happening but it is not the noises of the night outside that disturb me now but the noises within.

For two weeks now, I have had to listen to Danny, my barn cat, howl at the windows at night. He is only now beginning to accept his predicament. It is now the angora rabbit I brought inside, out of the cold, that awakens me each night as he smashes his water and feed dishes around. He has always done this but it has never bothered the sheep very much. Having dashed down the stairs to refill his water dish last night, I had just settled under my lovely woollen blanket, when I heard something ripping paper in the kitchen. Ah yes- that would be Golda, the cat, ripping open the new cat food bag I had unfortunately left on the kitchen table. I chose to remain under my warm blanket knowing that in the morning, there would be a large gaping hole in the food bag. Ellie, my daughter's chinchilla, comes to life each night, running up and down, over and over, rattling her large apartment sized cage as she goes. Hank by this time has decided that this is all too much for him as he gets up, flipping his water dish over to let me know that he is thirsty. Then two seconds later, Pepper, my Schnauzer, decides that it is time to start his day and go outside.

There is no escape! I lie in the midst of one interruption after another, catching some sleep in between each interruption. My mother would say, it is because we have too many animals. Do most people sleep throughout the night uninterrupted? When things are working right, it a wonderful plan of God, to have us go softly into the night to find our rest. But like the plea of Dylan Thomas, I have raged against the dying light and did not go gentle into the good night. The analogy is not perfect but the words work. I know this place well. There have been times that I did not find rest in Him. It is really about waiting. It is all about waiting...waiting to be nourished by the presence of God. We must not let ourselves be troubled as we become focused on ourselves and "disturb the nourishment of the life of God" within in us.

It is light now and I have moved on but in the distance, I can still hear Buttons, my rabbit, continuing to clang his dishes around. I will take a deep breath and quiet myself and as I wait, He will be revealed in me.

As you wait...He will be revealed in you.

"By day the Lord ordains His kindness
and by night His song is with me-
prayer to the God of my life.
" Psalm 42

This beautiful thought of the psalmist speaks of hearing God's song in the nights or being mindful of God's kindness, he responds in the night with a song.

How lovely!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Four Stories: Four Cats

Despite the extreme wintery weather, my sheep are taking some time to leap and frolic in the paddock. The return of the sun after several cloudy overcast days, seems to have energized them. A similar behaviour is occurring in the woods behind our house. Some of the deer have been dashing through the woods, chasing each other, while others take turns cautiously creeping up to the feed pile behind our house, nibbling at the corn. They stand alert, ears straining to listen for any disturbing sounds, muscles tensed, ready to run in an instant. I continue to watch as a majestic 12 point buck emerges out of the woods. As he moves quietly to the feed corn, a crippled doe along with her fawn, moves out of his way, respectfully.
Hank,my border collie and I will visit the feed pile this afternoon and examine the tracks left in the snow, perhaps putting some more corn out. And we too will perform the ancient custom of leaping and frolicing in the snow. I have lost one of my beautiful Angora rabbits this week because of the extreme cold temperatures. So, I have brought my last remaining rabbit, Buttons, into the house to be pampered and spoiled for the remaining winter where he will thrive. I have even brought the barn cat in as his nose is bright red with the cold. I thought it might be a good time to introduce you to our cats.

Fluffy (also known as Igor)was rescued from another farm that had too many cats. When I found him, he had very frost bitten ears along with a tormenting case of ear mites. To prevent more frost bite, our vet removed what was left of his external ears. Without any ears and his deeply set yellow eyes, most people who see him, remark how ugly he is and for that reason, he is a lonely cat that receives little love and attention. Shortly after he arrived, we had to remove most of his teeth due to dental disease. It was a most fortunate day for my toothless friend when I brought home to our farm.

Golda, our next cat, is a bold and sassy girl which causes trouble between her and the other cats. She emerges out of the house each morning as if she owns the yard and everything in it. One would hardly suspect that she was a cast off at the side of the road. She is frequently guilty of publishing my posts prematurely as she walks on my keyboard.

Danny, you have already met in a previous post. After messing with a rabbit, he arrived at my door a few days later with a badly lacerated and infected eye. A rabbit's foot in the wrong direction, can leave a nasty reminder. We had to sew a button on Danny's forehead, which we attached to his third eyelid so he would have a ready made eye patch. To prevent him from scratching off his button, he wears a "buster collar" which is most upsetting to him as he cannot bathe himself and what is a cat if he can't bathe himself. Pirate Danny spends the nights prowling the house, upset that he cannot be outside hunting.

Finally, we come to Muffin. Although Muffin spends most of her time sitting at the window looking out, she can never quite summon the courage to go out. Muffin came with our house. We found her under our back porch although she had been neutered and declawed. It took quite some time before we could convince her to come into the house and once she did, we didn't see her for several days. As Muffin came with no tail, we suspect she was traumatized as a kitten. She is not a cat that one can just pick up and cuddle; you must wait for her to come to you. Sitting on my couch with a blanket folded around me, I watch Muffin attempt to walk over to me but she is looking anxiously at the folds in the blanket. She begins to place one dainty little paw down on a fold but decides it is too risky and dashes away. That is how Muffin lives in her world. She carefully considers how uncomfortable she will feel in order to seek out a brief moment of affection. We understand this and ask no more of her than she can handle.

We did not choose any of our cats. They came to us one by one, each with a unique, different story. And each new day, they tell their stories to me...always different but always the same. Since the world began, we have told stories to each other and especially to our children. A young child quickly learns of the magic of "the story" as they enter into it. It reveals to them the truth in others and in themselves, leaving a lasting presence of something wonderful, something deep. From these early days as children, we learn to listen to each other's stories and if we have learned well, we will touch the hearts of others. No matter whether you are ignored like Fluffy, bold like Danny, saucy like Golda, or deeply wounded like Muffin, you each have a story that is valuable to bring to the world, to share with others. Through the writers of the gospels, we know the attraction and power of "the story." We know that every story they told of what Jesus did in Palestine, He does today. He didn't just change lives then; He is changing lives today. His life and power remains in "the story." in the arms of love.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

So You Want To Be My Friend?

The snow continues to fall. It lies on the backs of the sheep. Danny, our barn cat, is in trouble again. He has been confined to the house because of an injury which I will tell you of, in my next post. He is not happy as he goes from door to door to window to door, sniffing the drafts and scratching and meowing, continually plotting an escape each time the door opens. Because he thinks he is ready to go out, he is planning a hunting trip that he hopes will take him out into the winter landscape. It is cold, windy, and the snow is deep; Danny will stay inside today.

We read in John 15:11-17:

"I have spoken these things to you that my joy might be in you, and that your joy might be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. I no longer call you slaves, because the slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have made known to you, everything that I heard from my Father. You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and I have appointed you to go out and bear fruit, of such a kind that it will remain. I have done so that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. These are my orders to you, that you love one another."

What did Jesus say? He calls me His friend? There have been many times in my life when my heart has ached for someone to call me friend. Loneliness is a part of every human life. "It is part of our common humanity. It draws us together." It draws us to God. But the world shuns such neediness, so we hide it under the illusion of "this beautiful world." We find ourselves excluding and ignoring the angry, hurt, wounded, weak, handicapped, and those who have failed, because of our own poverty of spirit. We are consumed by our own lives, our own plans.

Today many young and old people are waiting for someone to lead them out of despair into hope If they only knew the hope that is in Jesus Christ and by His spirit, He is already at work in them. His spirit will move in people and places we could not hope to imagine. And so it is today as it was in Bethsaida, Jesus attracts people to Him and as He does, the plan of God is unfolding and unfolding. It flows from the Father to the Son, into the hearts and minds of those whom Jesus has called. Although it was John who guided these first two disciples to Him, it is the Father who draws the hearts of these young thirsty men. Later Jesus will say, "I have revealed your name to those whom you took from this world to give to me. These were yours and you gave them to me." (John 17:6) When you already belong to someone, things will move according to their plan. As these two disciples began to follow Jesus, He turned to ask, "What are you looking for?" These were the first words of Jesus in the gospel of John. "What are you looking for?"

With those words, little by little, they will enter into a relationship with Him. It will proceed according to a plan. "Rabbi, teacher, where do you live?" Jesus responded, "Come and see." And they stayed with Him. Then Andrew goes to find Simon, his brother; then Philip comes; then Nathanael. And by the end of the fourth day, Jesus will have gathered around him six disciples who in time will take His message to the four corners of the earth. He did not call them to give them the plan of salvation, a set of rules, an ideology; He called them to be His friends, his partners. He shared His vision. He opened His heart to them. His friendship was the heart of His message to them. There is a vitality and a driving force to these first few days in the ministry of Jesus that is thrilling to read. As it was for the disciples, it remains a new journey, that once we know Jesus, "will take us not away from the world but into it." The heart of His message is about friendship, community, humility, washing each others feet.
The experience of discovering love in order to love is learned slowly over a life time. For me it has been a long journey. For those of us who have little to share... for a while, we will share our weaknesses. And when we have absolutely nothing, we will share our trust.

You might ask as Nicodemis did, "How can this happen?" Jesus is not simply an example to follow which leaves us frustrated and defeated as with many New Year's resolutions. No, He is more than that. He is a Saviour. It is God in us that does things. He wants to live life through us as He is the vine and we are the branches. We will walk together with the same vision. He will abide in us.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to work in a small cottage hospital in Burgeo, on the south coast of Newfoundland. One evening as I was tending to our small group of patients, I felt a small tug on my dress. I looked up to see a painfully thin woman who had come into the hospital from an island down the coast. Her life of toil and hardship was etched onto her face in many lines and creases. From her mouth sang the words, "Will ye bide with I tonight." One of the nurses who came from this area, called over her shoulder as she was passing out of the door, "She wants to know if you will sleep with her tonight, to keep her warm?" Now...over twenty years later, I still see her beautiful face in my mind as I see others from over the years that have cried out in their own way, "Will ye bide with I tonight?" It grieves me greatly that I did not always see their beauty, their needs.

We are simply humans "enfolded in weakness and in hope, called to change our world, a heart at a time."(Jean Vanier) This is the mysterious tranformation that results in joy each day, to know and fulfill the Father's will in us, our keep each other warm... close to our hearts. This is our rising sun.

May His shalom be with you and go forth from you. Pam

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Long Ago, Even Before He Made The World....

In Ann Nolan Clark's simple but thought provoking children's story, Secret of the Andes, we read of young Cusi, son of the nobility of the ancient Incas's, as he helps Chuto, keeper of the royal llamas, guard and protect the flock. Searching his heart and the secrets of his life, he comes to accepting his destiny, his calling. Cusi vows with words that that cut themselves into his heart until life's end, to keep the royal llama flock intact, breeding them with wisdom, tending them with knowledge, giving them out with judgment and then someday, guiding, training and protecting a new shepherd to take over when he himself will rest in the place of the ancients. His religion becomes his life and his life becomes his religion.

Listen as Cusi for the first time, goes to greet the sun god, as a child of the sun.

Cusi wakened to the sound of llama-humming. Such a beautiful sound, he thought, even more beautiful than the music the minstrel blew on his Pipes of Pan....The llamas stopped humming. Chuto was coming among them. He was greeting them in the Indian way. He was telling them that the new day was with them, that they must be up to graze the ychu grass. He came to where Cusi lay snug and warm with his black head cradled in Misti's long black hair.

"This is a new day for you, too, Cusi," Chuto said to the boy. "Today you will come with me to greet the sun." Cusi leaped to his feet, startling Misti with his quick jump. He had wanted many times to go with Chuto into the gray dawn to greet the sunrise. Chuto always before had refused him. He had said, "Not this day. The time has not come." But today it had come. Cusi lost no time in following the old Indian through the flock of resting llamas, across the meadow of ychu grass to the far end of the valley.

The morning was cold with the coldness of before dawn. It was gray with the grayness of before dawn. It felt unfriendly because the world had not yet wakened to make it happy with living things.

Chuto was a dark shadow moving in the gray shadows. Cusi followed him swiftly lest he become lost in the earth clouds that billowed around them.

When they reached the far side of the meadow Chuto turned abruptly into a path between two stunted, twisted trees. Cusi had not been here before because he had not thought that the twisted trees were sentinels to a secret trail. At once the path led downward, steeply downward. It turned and curved and circled among the giant boulders of a canyon wall. Cusi was panting now, partly from excitement and a little from fear of the dark shadows and misted forms and the unsure footing of the unfamiliar secret trail. Suddenly his feet felt firm rock beneath them. He knew he was standing on cold rock steps and then that slowly, carefully, gropingly he was climbing down, climbing down, climbing down.

Suddenly he had reached the bottom. The trail now led through a narrow, deep-walled canyon. A few more steps and they came to the end of the trail. It was brighter now. Cusi looked around, stunned with delight. He and Chuto were standing on a flat tablelike rock of pure white marble. Around them was a circle of tiny trees, gnarled and old and growing huddled together, guarding their secret. Beneath the marble rock lay, quiet and still and dark and deep, a pool of night black water. There was no sound. There was no movement. No wind blew through the twisted, tangled branches of a tree. No bird chirped its morning prayer. No twig broke beneath the fleet foot of a running fox. No wavelet rippled in the somber pool. Chuto turned to face the eastern sky that arched above the dwarfed tree tops. He waited. Cusi waited. The whole world waited.

Slowly the gray sky turned silvery blue, then golden yellow, then flaming red. The sun, a giant ball of fire, rose in majesty. Chuto raised his arms and chanted his sunrise call as Indian men have chanted since the world was made and the Inca was born. His words rose skyward, word upon word upon word. The world stayed still to listen.

Chuto chanted:
"O Sun! Great Father of the Inca
who have gone before us.
Great Father of the children of the Inca
who remain in this world.
Forget us not though we are few in number.
Forget us not though our ancient greatness
is now but a shadow
in the memory of man
Forget us not though our ancient pride
is as the dust of the earth
blown before the willful wind."

"O Sun! Great Father of the Inca!
Shine in thy glory upon us in safety.
Shine in thy glory upon us in peace.
Shine in they glory upon us in wisdom.
Keep our minds clear in thy light.
Keep our hearts young in thy warmth.
Keep our feet straight in thy path,
for we are thy children,
O Sun! O Sun!
Great Father of the Inca."

Chuto finished his chanting. The sun had risen...."Come, Cusi, We go back the way we came. There is but one trail here."

Such anticipation!! The coming of each new day for these ancient people, pointed to their God and gave them each and every day, an opportunity to declare who they followed! The coming of the sun brought warmth, beauty, familiarity and purpose to their lives. Such thoughtful people like Cusi and Chuto will always seek and find truth for themselves but there will be some things always beyond their obtaining.

We worship an ancient God who "long ago even before He made the world, loved and chose us in Christ, to be holy and without fault in His eyes." (Eph. 1:4) In the small village of Bethsaida, many years later, Jesus said to his disciples, "Ye have not chosen me but I have chosen you. (John 15:16) Paul in his letter to the Ephesians emphasizes, "for He chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as He decided long ago." (Eph. 1:11) What was significant about Him choosing us? What difference did that make in the unfolding of His plan? Please join me in my next post as we consider how having been chosen, should revolutionize our lives, our world...and point to who we are in

Let us anticipate our God and be ready to follow.