Saturday, November 27, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
On a gloomy day, I love the light that a simple lamp casts upon a certain space. It is a gentle light that invites you in and you settle into this place.
It is where you are content without company. It is a happy place, an honest place; one that as a child, you visited but forgot about as the years sped by.
Into your private place, you take your favourite books, things you like to put your hands to. It is here that you sink into your deepest conversations with God. Thing that you love comes into that room under its light.
I have such a room. My daughter helped me organize it, if indeed it is organized as I bring things there to lie on my table; only to discover they are not special enough to stay and are put into piles to be sent elsewhere. Everything is touched often and moved around. Some brightly coloured knitting yarns sit in baskets only because they look nice. I don’t allow things to stay that cause me to feel guilty or overwhelmed. My husband will sometimes come in and share some private thoughts with me but it is only for a few moments and then he withdraws. My cats sometimes sneak in, hoping to be allowed to stay but they too retreat, unnoticed as they are. My dog Hank sits quietly beside me.
I guess it is not a surprise that there is a similarity between the soft bidding light of my secret room and my barn where the colours, textures, shadows are all deep and comforting.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
My attention has turned to the weather. If only we had not planted in mid August, the seeds would not have died and the rain falling now would be nourishing the new pasture coming up…if only. The sheep are hiding in the barn. No one is moving in the paddocks. Kitty is saturated, meowing at the window. Hank has taken over my place in the bed and I am cosy in my fluffy housecoat. I love gentle rainy days in the fall of the year.
But I have known how it is to live with weather that visits you with harsh winds and rain often. It plays with you as it comes and goes, moving in and out to sea. And you wait.
The women of Shetland write: “We are having heavy rain and gales just now. Dark and miserable, but I suppose since it is winter, we can’t complain. I have been knitting two jumpers.”
“I have been so busy. We have just finished the harvest, with a good crop of vegetables. I was glad to get out of the fields before a persistent gale came from the southeast with lashing of rain. Now the ground is sodden, but it’s certainly not cold.”
“You will have heard about the calamity of the oil tanker aground at Sumburgh. It’s surely a dreadful mess.”
“We are well here. It is very wintery today, gales, and cold rain. I have a peat fire on and it is warm, sitting writing. I am knitting one or two small presents for Christmas as it is getting so near, and I have baked my Christmas cake.”
“November so far has been quite wonderful, most days no wind and lots of sunshine. Unfortunately, on the two occasions when the wind gusted gale force, two klondyker vessels went aground. One we can see from our windows, at Bressay lighthouse, the other is on a rock north of Lerwick. There were sixty and seventy-five crew all rescued by helicopter and lifeboat in the darkness of the night. It was a very dangerous mission.”(Feitelson:The Art of Fair Isle Knitting)
I remember in February of 1982 when the Ocean Ranger, the off shore oil rig, went down to the bottom of the sea along with its 84 crew members on a stormy night off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. We were devastated and waited throughout the night for any news of hope. Newfoundland, an island, has always had a strong sense of identity and disasters at sea was felt strongly by all. I lost a friend and fellow worker who was on duty that night as a nurse. They send the rescue helicopters and boats out but they all came back empty.
Monday, September 27, 2010
One morning recently, I walked downstairs to find a note on the kitchen counter by my husband. I think the cat had scratched him that morning and he was not in good humour. It read something like the following:
“ You have 30 sheep, two chinchillas, three cats, two dogs- one of which is blind and deaf and has diabetes, a bird (none of which earn us any money) and don’t you think that is a little excessive and extreme.”
I had to think. Was I excessive? All the cats were strays and wandered into my life. He is right about the sheep. They are eating machines and I haven’t yet learned how to earn much money from them. The chinchillas are really my daughter’s and one cat belongs to my other daughter who deposited her with us. I do all the work for the animals but they have chewed the furniture and spoiled the wood floor and cost us a bundle at the vets….Am I excessive?
Yes, perhaps I am. It is my weakness and yet it is who I am. I am also excessive and extreme about my faith. I have learned to treasure it as most of what I once had is slowly slipping through my hands. My faith is what remains.
Without a doubt I believe that the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, covers us so completely all over that we are saved. By His spirit, we are nurtured, made beautiful, saved from ourselves and the things of this world, saved for Him. It will come to a choice between the things of this world or the world to come... between life and death. How more extreme can it be? His voice echoes through time, “What is it you want?” He waits to hear your answer.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
This is the “art” that appeared on the wall in the study of the house belonging to Jesse and Katelyn…
This is the girl who created the “art” which appeared on the wall,
in the study of the house belonging to Jesse and Katelyn.
This is the smile of the girl who created the “art” which appeared on the wall in the study of the house belonging to Jesse and Katelyn.
…who isn’t allowed to play with crayons any more.
This is the girl with the smile who isn’t allowed to play with crayons, who created the “art” which appeared on the wall in the study of the house belonging to Jesse and Katelyn
….and knows that God still loves her!
Grandma is so tired!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Our two vehicles sped fast along the southern shore of Quebec, myself in one and one daughter in the other. We were racing to reach Riviere du Loup where we would take the road south into New Brunswick before Hurricane Earl reached the gulf area. I had stayed up late the night before reading internet reports on the Hurricane and 35 to 45 mm. of rain was expected to fall over a short time in Riviere du Loup. Heading south into western New Brunswick, the rain followed us which was heavier than expected. But we were managing well to stay out of the storm’s path and not enter Halifax, our destination, before the power was restored. Driving along, I listened to the reports from people throughout the province as they talked of ocean swells, rattling doors, cooking over propane stoves. As the storm made its way up the centre of Nova Scotia, there were those who for a brief time sat under the eye of the storm. The winds abated, the sun came out and all was calm. They waited…then slowly the winds began to change direction and the fury of the storm was once again upon them.
What does one do in the eye of the storm knowing what is to come. You do what needs to be done, what life has taught you, what your spirit tells you. You reach deep to where you don’t usually go. And you wait and listen…
“Thou hast hedged me about that I cannot get out.”
As one elderly fisherman, living where the hurricane was suppose to land said, ‘we’ve been through bad weather before…we know what we have to do.’
The storm will come and you will be ready because He is with you.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Beyond Four Walls
The minister came week after week, leaving me each time with something to ponder. As my strength was renewed he brought me books on all manner of things and opened my eyes on a new world.
One day he asked me what I had been doing since he saw me last.
“Oh a lot of the time just lying looking at the sky.”
“Well, you would see all kind of cloud formations-stratus cumulus, nimbus, high cirrus. I’ll bring you the pictures and diagrams used in the lighthouse here and you can become a weather prophet.”
“I like the night sky,” I said. “and the moon and all these millions of stars.”
The minister nodded. “And yet,” he remarked, “each one is individual. To quote 1st. Corinthians For one star differeth from another in glory.”
On one occasion, I was out on the balcony scattering crumbs for the birds. He looked up at the gulls circling overhead.
“You know,” he said, “I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of migration. In the book of Jeremiah you can read of the flight of the white storks which came from northern Europe in huge numbers to cross Israel and the Nile valley. And a wheatear is smaller than a sparrow yet it can fly from Greenland to Spain across two thousand miles of sea. There you have a small miracle, a built-in instinct of greater omplexity than the most elaborate scientific instrument.”
What a wonderful psychologist this country minister was” All the time he diverted my attention from myself extending my imagination beyond the four walls of my room and making me feel part of the world outside.
On a day of howling wind, I told him I was ill at ease. “I think it is the wind which unsettles me.” I said.
“Maybe,” he replied, but what is wind but a current of air moving in many shapes, blowing where it listeth. Can you imagine it encircling the globe? In Greece the warm Etesian winds, in Canada the Chinook of the Rockies, and in the Argentine the raging Pampero blowing out to sea. Here I find the wind often exhilarating; and what a spectacular effect it has on the waves! You appreciate that surely?”
When the time came for me to return home, restored in body and spirit, my friend and mentor bade me farewell urging me to read my Bible daily.
As I sadly watched him ride off on his bicycle I was vividly aware of the privilege it had been to know, even for a short spell, the warmth and compassion of this man of God.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I like to think of things that were once long ago and far away. This past Spring I planned to take my children to Scotland, our family home. I had carefully planned out all the details of our trip. I had arranged that we would visit Iona (in the Inner Hebredies) where the gospel was brought to Scotland by St. Columba in 563.
After the arrival of St, Columba and 12 other Irish monks, Iona became a renowned centre of learning where many Christian and historical documents were scribed. The Book of Kells was begun if not completed there. In 1208 a convent of Benedictine nuns was established there. It was the ancient burial ground for many great Scottish, Irish and Norwegian kings. Was there something about this Holy place that bred greatness where God could take a“heart as stony as flint,” and striking fire, transform it (H. Vaughan) as a people were converted to Christianity. The thought of it moves me deeply. Amidst the darkness, the silence, the drought of mid summer…
I imagined after arriving there, we would wake to the morning stillness over the abbey ruins. I had hoped that in this stillness, we sense the overwhelming isolation of what God sometimes calls us to…when all else fades and the battle consumes us. Deep down, do we not wish God would touch us and call us to greatness in His kingdom rather than being left with the feeling of being between two worlds. There would be no doubts. We would belong to his kingdom and He would call us to enter the battle alongside Him with our swords in hand.
However even before I bordered the plane to Scotland, I was not feeling well and when we arrived in Oban, I went to the hospital, forcing us to cancel our ferry trip to Iona. As I lay in my bed, listening to the ferries full of people coming and going to the islands, I was reminded of a true story by Kay Grierson, I had read when I visited St. Giles Cathedral in Edinborough in 1973. I had stuffed the page into my purse and have kept it these almost forty years.
On a holiday a few years ago, I was urgently admitted to hospital and there, for several months I remained. Relatives and friends were far away. Life was pared down to essentials, to the simple question of survival.
The hospital was small, a converted country house set among trees, with an open lawn reaching down to the cliff edge. At my request the nurse never pulled the curtains of my room, and each night I used to lie and watch the sky darken, the stars appear, and the moon send a glistening path across the sea. For the first time in my life I was keenly aware of the significance of the psalmist’s cry, When I consider Thy heavens, the work of They fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou are mindful of him?
One day I saw, away in the distance, a tiny figure cycling round the headland in the teeth of the gale. As he reached the hospital I saw he was dressed in heavy oilskins and sea boots, and I took him for a fisherman. He propped his bicycle against the wall, untied a basket from the handlebars, and pushed open the swing doors.
Minutes later Matron showed him into my room and introduced him as the minister of the local church. He looked at me thoughtfully. “Aye,” said he, “and it is Job’s sad sighing which is in your mind?-Thou hast hedged me about that I cannot get out.”
He smiled gently. “But you are only laid aside for a little while, and you will learn a lot from the experience. Look, I have brought you a Bible.”
Before leaving, he bowed his head, and his benediction brought a little quietness to my troubled spirit.
Next day being the Sabbath, I lay watching the country folk coming along the cliff path to the Kirk. I could just hear the bell pealing. I took up the Bible and read about Job bemoaning his lot. Poor Job, I thought trying to identify myself a little with his misery.
Then suddenly I realised that I was not miserable. I was happy lying in that tiny room, cut off from friends and family, and unable to get out of bed. I was happy, because on that still and peaceful Sunday morning I was appreciating a little of that peace which passeth all understanding. I was something which even in my happiest days I had never before known.
To be continued….
Follow prompt to take you to You tube. Thanks.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Walking along the edge of the pasture today, I found a stopping place for the deer. Secretly the deer hide here, behind a small stand of pine trees and through the branches, they watch the path which follows along the pasture, entering the woods. It is a sanctuary.
Like all sanctuaries which we are attracted to, the time comes when we begin to direct our gaze beyond our dwelling place – like the curving path where the daintiest and most charming blooms lie just beyond; or the almost ethereal clearing in the woods where the filtered light from above beckons us; or through the thick underbrush where the secretive Brown Thrush manages to walk on through the thicket always just beyond our gaze.
Whether in the garden or on life’s road, our awareness of movement through space and time is a gift we should not ignore despite how charming these spaces and the secrets they hold from time to time may be. From room to room we are beckoned. Beginning with gentle anticipation or hope, we begin to feel a hunger that sharpens over time. Gazing beyond the things of this world, one’s anticipation heightens slowly along with our imagination; and we begin to consider new thoughts of hope that are strange to us.”Supernatural hope is the virtue that strips us of all things in order to give us possession of all things. To have true hope, we must abandon ourselves to Him and His love. Hope is a confidence that He deposits in our souls and it knows no limit. It is the gateway to comtemplation as we dwell in Him…moving on…moving on.
Finally over time, we will say as the psalmist did:
As the deer yearns for streams of water,
so I yearn for You, O God.
My whole being thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and see
the presence of God?
My tears became my bread day and night
as they said to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These do I recall and pour out my heart
when I would step in the procession,
when I would march to the house of God
with the sound of glad song of celebrant throng.
How bent, my being, how you moan for me!
Hope in God, for yet will I acclaim Him
for His rescuing presence. Ps. 42
Good friends, it is rare if we have not experienced great darkness in our lives . For those of you who are walking through trials, may you share the hopeful vision of this psalm.
Hidden within this Psalm is the word “arag” meaning “Yearns.” This word appears only twice in the bible. Although the meaning is uncertain, some think it may refer to the sound a thirsty deer makes as it drinks, and others to the animal’s bending its neck toward water. So subtle…gentle…suggestive of little consequence… yet in time, it will lead to steps of joyous commitment.
For the times when our lives are enfolded in persecution, hopelessness, poverty, isolation, sickness…abandon yourselves and and present circumstances; looking beyond…for His rescuing presence as you trust in His mercy and obey Him.
“Behold He stands behind our wall;
He is looking through the window,
Gazing through the lattice.” Song of Solomon 2:9
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus,
and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Mary, who casts aside all regard for those around her, those who might misunderstand and criticize; Mary with her long hair let down, in extravagance, - so much in love. It is as if no one else was there, only Jesus and Mary. We are shocked by her boldness.
And yet… do we not all long to be like Mary…to fill the air with our extravagant love? He longs for you to draw near to Him as Mary did and feel how He loves you. You cannot help but respond and that is what made Mary special; she was compelled by His love. “A bruised reed, He shall not break and a smouldering wick, He shall not quench.” The Lord will inflame you with His love and you will become extravagant.
What will you give in response to His love? Paul said, “I have been grasped by Christ and now I am grasping Him.”
William Barclay writes: “…the whole Church was filled with the sweet memory of Mary’s action. A lovely deed becomes the possession of the whole world and adds to the beauty of life in general, something which time cannot ever take away.”
What will you give in response to His passion…or will you say, “I never knew.”
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Growing up, there was a certain monotony in the weekly services at our quiet little Presbyterian church. We Presbyterians were led to to mistrust beautiful ornamentation and religious symbols, any more than a touch of colour, and mysterious language. But being children, we longed for drama to help us understand the one story about a king who came to earth long ago and who we still worship today… an epic story; the story that brought us together every week; a nonending story. Again as children, it would have been exciting to find some of that drama in mysterious prayer beads, rising whispers of incense, protecting holy water, touches of precious stones but instead we found the richness and drama in the plain but solid oak cross hung in the chancel, the impressive oak beams which framed the vestibule, the mysterious symbols carved into the oak lectern and communion table. Our services were orderly and quiet but thought to be pure. Beauty came in the repetitive hymns sung over the years. It also came in the pious and faithful souls that sat in the pews faithfully throughout those years.
We all knew which pews we sat in each week. In the pew ahead of us and to the right sat two unmarried women: Miss. Rachel Jarvis and Miss. Della Anderson who lived together. While Miss. Jarvis was tall and slender; perfectly dressed with short neat curly hair- Miss. Anderson was short; heavy with stooped shoulders which caused her dresses to sag; and her silky grey hair often slipped out of her bun. She had some facial hair and rarely looked at you directly. Miss. Jarvis was the town’s librarian, articulate and efficient. Miss Della Anderson was quiet and assisted Miss. Jarvis at the library. Miss Anderson seldom spoke to us children but Miss Jarvis was often asking us questions as she helped us choose our books in the library. Like our plain Calvinistic church… so Miss Della Anderson was plain.
Years later, Miss Della Anderson spent her last days in hospital. Often Rev. Cruikshank would visit her in hospital and during each visit, Miss. Anderson would recite the “Lord’s Prayer.” Slowly over time, the prayer began to slip from her memory except for the first sentence “Our Father, who art in heaven;” until the day came when she could only say, “Our Father.”
Today, I took my grand daughter to the park and as she was swinging, I began to teach her to pray the “Lord’s Prayer.” The entire prayer and even the first sentence was of course too much for her. But she knew to fold her hands and with a sense of excitement and respect said, “Our Father”. It will take many years for her to understand the depth of the disciple's prayer. She will learn that no matter where she might search for love in life, above all else, the Father, is waiting to love her , He will impart His richness, love, beauty inside her and over time she will grow more beautiful to Him. In Hebrew, a name represented everything about that person…his character and his heart. “Della” means noble.
“To him that overcometh, I will give a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. What can be more a man’s own than this new name which even in eternity remains a secret between God and him? And what shall we take this secrecy to mean? Surely that each of the redeemed shall know and praise some one aspect of the divine beauty better than any other creature can. Why else were individuals created but that God, loving all infinitely, should love each differently. C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
We would all do well with a good dose of that hope because really... sometimes that's all there is.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Golda, my cat, also has a new purpose. With the coming of winter, there are always a few mice that wander into the house from the fields, through some tiny hole...many tiny holes. Each night Golda refuses to go to bed but remains in the kitchen- sitting, alert, alone, waiting in the dark. I am happy to say, I have not seen her actually catch her prey but woe to the little mouse that sets foot in our kitchen as Golda sits and waits.
Before the printing of books in early and medieval times, monks in monasteries scattered throughout Britain, would sit for hours each day, transcribing religious texts and detailed records of life in early Anglo-Saxon Britain. It was King Alfred that believed "words as well as fortresses would hold the newly created English nation together." Scripture texts and prayer books with richly coloured illustrations, with borders of flowing foliage and gilded pages were slowly crafted over months and years by the hands of monks. It was their life's work. When the monasteries were raided and ransacked by the Vikings and Danes, followed by the supporters of Henry the VIII and finally Cromwell's troops, these sacred texts were spirited away by the terrified monks as they were treasures of history and the church.
One such Irish Celtic monk, perhaps one cold lonely winter's night, scribbled the following poem into the margins of a manuscript.
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
"Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
Better far than praise of men
"Tis to sit with book in pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.
Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Often times a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Often times my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.
'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
Anonymous, translated from Irish by Robin Flower
We who fret about the flow of time and missing life's experiences, should ponder that it was a noble life, compelled to sit alone, day after day, scribing religious texts, seeking and preserving wisdom. So you too Golda, leaving your kitty days behind, are noble as you find your place, alone and in the dark... compelled by some inner voice.
The Book of Kells, St. John's Gospel
Saturday, January 16, 2010
At times, there is a voice that rises deep from within. It speaks of heartache, turmoil, belonging, wonder, growth, joy, hunger.... It is not the voice of passing moods nor those spoken in haste or to please, but it comes from where we find the very "life of our personality." It lies so deep that it is unknown even to us at times. But what we can't comprehend or see, our bodies speak for us as we write, paint, scult, sing... It is a tedious and a complicated process for some. As we wait, our reflections turn to contemplation. It cannot be hurried or forced as we remain attentive.
In the bleak winter landscape, I stand by the barn, watching a lone Grackle fly across the field, stopping on a nearby tree. Gathering all he is, he opens his mouth and I wait for for him to find his voice. Had he been joined by the sweet songbirds of spring, I would not have noticed him as his song is unimpressive normally but today on this winter's day, it goes out into the air and I wait for him to finish. Looking almost embarrassed with his effort, he hurries on across the field into the woods. Winter seems not to be the time for singing.
Within me is a deep longing for God and I hear it in my voice as I write. Like my friend the Grackle, I am tempted to be embarrassed with what I am and what I have and hurry on. But in gathering ourselves, every sentiment, struggle, promise and offering them up to God, we enter into a deeper and wider experience where there are no boundaries and anything is possible. What begins with an openness to share, leads us into prayer. It is how we will meet and know Him better and learn to sing, even in the winter time of our lives.
Friday, January 1, 2010
I envy the sheep as they keep their night vigil, senses keen, watching the night unfold. The sounds of the night will not pass unheard. It is the sheep that will watch the silent wanderers that pass through the farm at night. They will watch the cats out cunningly hunting for rabbits and mice in the moonlight...not like Hank. They will hear the owl calling from the woods long after I have closed the door.They will watch the stars and moon work their way across the sky. They will lift their heads as the mice venture out of the shadows to drink from the water pail. They grow comfortable with the night's shadows. They will not extract what they prefer from the winter's night, unlike us, but will know all of it. And when their heads bow in sleep after watching all, they are never far away.
As Hank and I return to the house, I turn and take one last look...straining to listen for far off and near sounds that I am meant to hear...and then step into the house. People sometimes ask me why I choose to raise sheep. I suppose that sharing in the winter's night vigil is one of several good reasons.
I pray for you all that the journey of 2010 opens doors, brings you challenges and excitement yet moments of intimacy, lets you know that you know that you know... you are home indeed and loved!