SAWDUST BURNERS

The title to my blog might mystify some of my readers but maybe there are a a few that still remember ‘sawdust burners’.  We had one in our kitchen when I was a ‘kid’.  The ordinary black-topped stove had a large metal bin on one side that actually ate sawdust.  The sawdust flowed down, feeding the fire below and heating the adjoining stove.  It actually worked very well and I ate many a meal that was cooked on that very stove.

Storing the sawdust was a bit more of a challenge and we had a spare room in the basement that contained the sawdust (and a chute outside that when opened allowed the sawdust to feed into the room.)  I am sure it would break all codes and regulations today but no one seemed to be concerned so much about those things years back.

My job as the oldest of the three youngest, was to go to the basement, bring up the sawdust and Mom would pour it into the metal bin.  I recall hauling one 5 gallon pail up then eventually being big enough to haul two of them at a time.  I was a bit of a tom-boy and loved the challenge.

Sometimes the burner needed fuel in the evening and it was my job to go down to the basement and get it.  That meant turning on a series of lights along the way.  One evening I inadvertently left on the light in the room with the sawdust…not a good move as the new load that had been delivered the day before, had pretty well filled everything to the ceiling.  I don’t know what sent me down an hour or so later but I noticed the light was on and when I went to turn it off I smelled something.  Even in those days I had a nose like a blood-hound. I have trouble seeing and hearing but a scent I can pick up anywhere.

When I got Mom downstairs we realized that yes, some sawdust had started to smolder.  It was by the grace of God I hadn’t burned the house down.   The odd thing is that the house did have a fire years later, when I was long gone.  All the upstairs rooms were destroyed, including my bedroom which still holds so many memories for me.

When I look back I can see God’s grace and mercy in so many situations in my life.  I must have kept Him busy.  I was a precocious child…not mentally but physically … trying out anything.  The climbing rope in the gym didn’t stop me (I went right to the top).  I helped my uncle put a roof on our two story house.  I was small but fearless.  And eventually I learned to carry four, yes four, five gallon pails of sawdust to the kitchen, from the garage, where eventually the sawdust was stored as a safeguard from my burning the house down.

It is hard to give up those adventures of the past…now carrying in the groceries is a challenge but God is still keeping watch over me and I think I am still giving Him a few laughs.

SIGNS

I spent my childhood in a small town in the Fraser Valley of B.C.  Idyllic would best describe those growing up years.  A very few people had cars and we walked everywhere.  It was good exercise as the whole town was built on a hill.

Our home (yes, on a hill) overlooked the Matsqui Flats, the Fraser River and from the back yard I could see, in the distance, Mt. Baker, (and alas, I took this view for granted, and it was so beautiful.) A small mountain was in the foreground and each winter there would be a scattering of snow on it, in the shape of a spaniel dog.

I can still hear my mother exclaim…”Well, I guess winter is here, the dog is on the mountain.”

I see a rainbow and in it is the promise of God’s grace. I see the Canadian geese  fly
overhead in April…spring is around the corner.  I see on Facebook, my great-grandson sporting a space in his teeth…one tiny tooth gone already, the baby boy is growing into a man…well down the road, but this new tooth will go with him,  God is revealing his plans.

My own fragility is becoming more apparent…no night driving, can’t see properly, no big meals, can’t digest them, no climbing up the 15ft. stepladder anymore, my balance isn’t that great…so many signs are telling me,…Pat, you are no longer young, no longer middle-aged, you are old! “Baloney, I am older,” I say to myself…but God says, I have sent you signs that point the way to a new future.  Not one I am afraid of, for He is with me all the way, but one I am attempting to plan for as I like things organized…I can almost hear God laughing at me as I type this as He knows I hate leaving a mess anywhere.

A friend of mine died recently. I spoke to her three days before, knowing she was not feeling that well.  Should I have just dragged her off to the hospital?  She had family in town.  Was it my place to take action, or would it have been intrusive?  I guess there will always be regret…but were there ‘signs’ that she was really ill…did I miss them?

God is not silent although He seldom speaks audibly.  He doesn’t have to, as all creation shouts out at us…”Look, I am here…I painted this sunrise for you, caused this giggle in a child, put this ‘purring’ in a kitten, this sweetness in your orange juice, this affection between two people, this love for your child…look, I am here!

A well known hymn states, “Open my eyes that I might see, glimpses of truth thou hast for me.”  It wouldn’t be a bad idea to start each day with a similar prayer on our lips for God is constantly sending us messages of his love for us.  We just have to open our eyes to the signs.

SINGING CHRISTIAN SONGS

I pop into my usual pew and glance up to the front of the church.  The hymn numbers are all lined up in a row on a board.  I know most of the hymns we sing regularly and I love them.  They are familiar to me and in this instance…familiarity does not breed contempt.  Once in a while I get shaken up as without checking my hymn book, I sing out words that were used years ago, but have been changed..yes, we did use some rather old fashioned words way back, but they seemed to fit.

I recall a grandmother reading a story to a small girl, out of her favorite book.  “And the child cried…” The grandmother stopped but the little girl continued in her small, sweet voice…”bitterly.”  The words were familiar and needed even though she didn’t exactly know the meaning.  That’s how I felt about those strange and wonderful words we used so many years back, in our hymns.

It is easy finding the Christmas songs for they are all together…you don’t have to leaf from front to back, wondering if you’re going to find the right hymn before the singing begins.

God has arranged things in life much the same way.  We chase all over creation looking for satisfaction in our everyday lives and our dreams for tomorrow and he says, “Look, it’s all here…in scripture, in song, in fellowship…in the church.”

And it is a learning experience like none other…learning about relationships with God and with his children.  I read recently on the web site, ‘Rough Cut Men’ (an interesting web site)..that not going to church because it is full of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of the out of shape people there.  Try that one on the next person that gives you that excuse.

I guess one should think about where they spend most of their leisure hours and what it is teaching you.  I do lots of reading…yes, my books are piled around me like lumber.  I’m not sure if they are building me into the person God wants me to be but I am sure they have impacted on my life.

But even with the best of literature at our finger tips, none of us turns out perfect.  As an example I watched a character on TV speak to a group. He was wearing a winter coat and a striped scarf.  As the monologue proceeded, the scarf was half off in one segment, disappeared and reappeared several times.  I reversed the taped program about three times to be sure I’d seen it correctly. Yup, they had really messed up. If a big TV producer can, then I guess I shouldn’t be so hard of myself…errors happen.

But God says..”I have a place for you, that will help you with those ongoing errors…go to church, listen, share, sing, love, ask for forgiveness and hug your neighbour…things will be better tomorrow, trust Me, for I will always be there for you.

 

OF MOMS AND MEMORIES

“If you were given the chance to sit down with someone from the past, chat and have a cup of tea, whom would you choose?”

An interesting question.  I put it to my ladies group on Friday and was truly surprised at the answers. 80% of them are widows so I was expecting the answer would be…”my husband.”  Sorry guys, that was not the answer, well, maybe one said that but the answer at the top of the list was..”My Mom.”

Actually it was at the top of my list too.  I think as we age (gracefully of course) we begin to be aware that our Mothers were real people, and coped with a lot more than we had thought.  After a lifetime of handling my problems I far better understand the limitations placed on my mom.  I don’t know if I could have come through with flying colours like she did.

And of course there are regrets.  I think we all want to say, “I’m sorry,” for of course mistakes were made.  “Independent” was my second name and although I didn’t get myself in too much hot water, I now better realize that Mom must have had some very anxious moments waiting for me to arrive back home from some of my adventures.  I could have made life easier for her but I charged on fearlessly.

When I left home it was nearly six years before I got back to my home town..oh yes, letters were exchanged but I was so far away and three years were spent with the armed forces in Germany.  What heartaches she must have suffered.

A cup of tea would have solved a lot of those problems…they were always the answer in my house…upset…have a cup of tea…rejoicing… have a cup of tea…tired, sleepy, cold? It was the answer to all of life’s ups and downs.

I think Jesus was so wise in sharing that he called his Father “Abba…Daddy” for the intimacy that exists in parenting is unique…a Mom or Dad contains the sum of what we where when we started out…there is an acceptance there that is found in no other place.  I guess there has to be, for there we are seen at our very worst and at our very best.

Every day I am filled with thanksgiving for what I have in my life but the greatest gift is a loving “Abba” who sees me at my worst, anticipates the best and forgives me constantly.  And often, without the tea mind you, we sit and chat and He listens to my concerns and my day is better because I know He truly cares about me and is there watching over me.

THE IRISH IN ME

I sit quietly beside my friend June and wait for the service to begin.  We have sat beside each other in church ever since I left the choir a few years back.  Like a good Presbyterian, I have claimed that seat in the pew as my own.  Some time ago I arrived late, only to find someone else in my place.  “George” I said to the minister, “We have a real problem , someone is sitting in my pew!”  We had a good laugh and I moved elsewhere, finding that sitting somewhere else did give a different view of the congregation and the choir.  Maybe there is something to be learned in getting out of your comfortable pew every once in a while.

Today, I settled in, then finally realized that the organist was playing “Danny Boy”…now that’s a first (and it wasn’t even St. Patrick’s Day.)  A few minutes later another Irish melody surfaced.  I gave June a little poke in the ribs…”Hey listen, aren’t those Irish songs she is playing?”  June replied in the affirmative and I said “Well, I guess it is okay, as long as it is ‘orange’ Irish not ‘green’.”  She laughed and looked at the young people in front of us and said, “I think we are the only ones here that understand that joke.”

The Irish Protestant/Catholic ‘troubles’, is part of history and you seldom hear of it anymore. I always claimed a little bit of Ireland as I had a paternal grandmother born there.  Like a ‘promised land’ it was one place we never did get to and I never will.  But my youngest daughter married an Irishman and that will have to satisfy my longing for my roots.

Music has played such a part in my life.  I miss attending choir and this morning they sang an anthem that was so familiar to me that I could hardly stop myself from stomping up to the front and joining them. I think all of us have found times when music has transported us to another place or another time.  It is certainly spoken of in Scripture…instruments and angel voices…and even the heavens singing.  I think God likes music too.

I feel badly that I cannot get into the music of today…but I can still remember and sing most of the lyrics and songs of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s.  After that my memory is a little more vague…

My personal hymn book has little checks on all the hymns I know…I hope the angels that sing in heaven know them too.  I can’t imagine a heaven without music.

And although I don’t expect to hear “Danny Boy”, who knows, maybe God likes Irish music too!

 

GLORIFYING GOD IN OUR OWN WAY

My morning ‘walk about’ is a tradition that helps keep me mobile and includes a ten minute swift or sometimes not so swift, jaunt from the kitchen to the front door and back.  When it is -30C, it is the only safe place for little old ladies to walk.

This morning I wandered into the bedrooms and living room and counted all the stuff hanging on the walls…thirty-eight paintings or photos or memorabilia that has been given me.  This includes a massive painting of a dock and seagulls that once hung in our travel office, (it had high ceilings too.)  I have one of a great big lion that was in the same office and I could bring it up from the basement.  It gives a different meaning to the lions laying down with the lambs and might intimidate my bible study ladies who would sit beneath it.  Actually THEY are NOT lambs, and have been known to challenge both me and Max Lucado over questionable sections in his bible study books.

But there are other paintings; several that a dear friend now departed, did for me. What treasures they are.  And of course there are photos of my girls as little ones, with dimpled arms and big blue eyes. I have a half dozen of Harry, all reminding me of the fifty-four years we had together.

Yes, the house is full of reminders of incidents in my past..they are not spelled out in words but rather in paints or portraits.  They are a visual memory of events that marked my life.

I recall speaking to my Catholic grandson about the painting of saints, etc. in his church and he told met they were reminders to people about the events in the Bible. As a Protestant, I had always thought they were worshiped…he straightened me out about that and this morning I realized that of course, as much as my paintings and photos reminded me of the joys of my life, why not have reminders of Christ’s life portrayed in the church.

I think things have changed a lot through the years and now there are many wall hangings in our church..made by loving hands and adding to special celebrations at Christmas and Easter.  We praise the Lord with song and word; why can’t we praise him with paint brushes and quilted pictures too?

So whether you sing in the choir, make coffee for after church, teach the children, dust the pews, shovel the walks  or give out Sunday bulletins..or whatever, it is done for the Lord and for His glory…and it all praises His name.

 

 

MEETING AND GREETING

Doctors are in short supply in northern Alberta and if yours should die or decide to retire, it creates anxiety in his/her patients that I am sure can be felt 100 feet off the ground.  Consequently should a new doctor appear in town there is a surge of the population running to his office.

When you phone there is a “Meet and Greet” appointment set up for you.  If they don’t want you I am not sure what they do, but you are a bit anxious at that first appointment.  I know; I’ve been there.

It is sort of like being at heaven’s gates…will they let me in?

This situation (well, the doctor one, not the heavenly on..yet) played out for me a few weeks back.  I sat apprehensively until the doctor walked into the room.  He was a young, good looking man who won my heart immediately when he glanced at my file and said, “I can’t believe you are eighty.”  How can you not respond to someone who greets an elderly Senior like that?

After explaining why I was there…he checked my ears as my hearing is failing, and I asked him if he would accept me as a patient.  He looked at me quizzically and said “Well, you are here, right in front of me.” I hope God is as gracious when I encounter those pearly gates.

And yet scripture admonishes us that not all that call him “Lord, Lord,” will be accepted.  Sort of keeps you on track, questioning your motives about many things.

I’ve had a good relationship with the Lord for decades.  He is well acquainted with my failures and occasional successes.  He knows when I am having a bad day…week, or month and I spend time talking it over with him.  And, the neat thing about it is, I don’t have to make an appointment…he’s right there in my mind…I just have to brush out all the garbage that is interfering with out communication.  Sometime the answers are immediate and sometimes I wait…much like trying to get an appointment with my doctor.  But there are answers and God is ever faithful, and sometimes the ‘medicine’ given is not tasty or appealing but God always knows what is needed and his plans are always the best.  And I trust him.

And if YOU are a doctor please accept my appreciation for the work you do and thanks for being there when times are especially tough.  You are doing God’s work…and his work is always a blessing.