REFLECTIONS ON FAITH ISSUES

My grandson, who is all grown up now and a Catholic priest, is one of God’s greatest gifts to me.  I loved him as a little boy and love him as a man.

We have ongoing discussions about faith.  I tell him he has to be patient with me as I have been a Protestant much longer than he has been a Catholic. (Bet he is grinning as he reads this.)

I’ve had pretty heavy doses of the Anglican faith. (I was involved there for the first 12 years of my life), and I attended all the Pentecostal and Baptist Vacation Bible Schools available every summer for about five years and spent many years in the United Church. I’ve been a Presbyterian for about 25 years.  But Catholics were not on my horizon until daughter Lyn married one…it opened a lot of doors I had never entered before.

I have attempted to explain to him the simplicity of being Presbyterian…no symbolic clothing  or traditions, although George, our minister, does wear a clerical collar on Sundays.  No meat free Lenten traditions, no adoration of Mary or the saints…although we do name our churches after saints…(explain this to me please.)

I went on to discuss how my husband never wore a wedding ring, but everyone knew by his life style that he was married and although I used to write letters I now use the computer or the phone to communicate…the method I use doesn’t matter, as long as I get the message across.  It is how we live and how we communicate that tells others about us and what we believe.

And God has such special ways of using us…He knows our needs and the needs of others and in a unique way he places us just exactly where those needs can be met, so my grandson preaches in a Catholic sanctuary and I sit in a small Presbyterian church, praising the Lord I love.   God knows our hearts and that is what is important.

So my emails to this special young man, fly from computer to computer and I thank God for this gift of a grandson who loves the Lord like I do.

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FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

The above is of course a title to a James Bond movie…I can no longer remember what the plot was about but titles seem to stick a bit more in my mind.

Some time ago I read The Shack because my grandson read it and asked my opinion. I deny him little so picked it up from the church library.

On page 108, Mack shares with Papa, Jesus and Sarauy the stories of his children.  Then he realized that they knew all about them and ponders why they had bothered to ask him about them.

The reply is that they (The Trinity) takes delight in seeing them through Mack’s eyes.

At a recent bible study someone asked why we needed to pray to God if he knew all things.   I guess it is much like my knowing exactly how my daughter felt when she held her first child and yet I delighted in her sharing that experience with me.

Seniors have lived through much and they love nothing more than  sharing those experiences with anyone who will listen.  Often listeners are few and that is sad as they have so much experience with life and you can learn from them.  It takes “self-rejection” to sit and listen and delight in someone else’s experience.

On Friday mornings when my Bible Study group meets I remind them that what I share with them that morning is just MY understanding of God.  He may have a somewhat different message for them as he knows the way of reaching into their hearts…he knows their past, present and his future plans for them.

I pray the message that they receive on Friday mornings is a glimpse of what he wants to say to them…because his message is for their eyes only.

LEAVING A LEGACY OF LOVE

One advantage about living in a community for fifty years is that in the same way you watch your children grow up, you can watch your town grow up too.  with growth you gain something, but it costs.  I enjoyed my girls growing up, but must admit the teen-age years were a trial at times, but the finished product was well worth the worry and heartache.

A small town’s growth is similar.  Gravel roads and wooden sidewalks were replaced by asphalt roads and cement sidewalks, which was nice but we lost the ambience of a laid-back community.  I remember the time my daughter’s bike was stolen from the outdoor and only pool we had.  I actually felt violated…stealing just wasn’t an option in town then, but we see it on a continual basis today.

Our town’s population was about 8,000 when we first arrived.  It is now somewhere near 70,000.  Much of what has been achieved is the result of the vision of those who are long gone.  But the standards of generosity, sacrifice and sheer hard work are still very present.  Those early residents left a legacy of love.

Nowadays I get quite discouraged when I hear about the tragedies happening right on our doorsteps and wonder if there ever will be a bright tomorrow for our grandchildren.  Yet, the early pioneers faced obstacles that create horror stories for books.  I remember hearing of a man who left his wife and twelve year old son, in a tent, in the winter, in northern Alberta, to head back out through the trails to Edmonton, to get his cattle.  I have no doubt it was true.

We are a growing community but still exhibit our past pioneer roots.  We may seem a bit odd to others but we still speak to strangers.  At that matter, yesterday while waiting at the Garage for my car, a lady beside me of much younger vintage advised me to check the weather before I left as rain was predicted and the roads might be icy when I was driving home. She actually was concerned about me.  But I am finding my white hair often brings out the best in people, especially if I smile a lot.

Growth always has the aspects of good and of temptation.  We must ensure that when we are building for the future, it is to God’s glory…otherwise that new addition to the church has no value. The time we spend on that Church Bazaar, should create fellowship as well as a boost to the building fund. Our church meetings are just meeting if God’s presence is not seen in our attitudes towards each other…it is hard sometimes to live in harmony, but it is by God’s request that we do so.

Like the past pioneers we still have lots of growing to do in our town but I pray the principles and the presence of our faith will still be part of the legacy of love we leave for future generations.

I’M REVIEWING THE SITUATION

I’m sitting with my bottom on one chair and my feet on another. There is little furniture left from my home, in my new Senior’s residence, but this is still home and it brings me comfort.

My room is a collage of memories…photos, paintings, even a pretty plate I had given to Harry’s mom when we were going together. (Now that is really ancient history). Harry’s photo is hanging just above the big glass frame he gave me on our 50th wedding anniversary.  It is filled with photo’s of our wedding and a big one in the centre of the two of us dressed up for our daughter’s wedding.  The caption reads “50 years of Romance.”  Sometimes that man could just melt my heart.  The small photo shows him with his “Mona Lisa” smile, and yes I have seen the Mona Lisa.  It is a very small painting with just a hint of a smile.

The china cabinet I once had is at the old house. It was one I had brought from my childhood home and contained a mumble jumble of pieces from my childhood and from our travels.  They now sit in a box in the basement and my daughter’s memorabilia grace its three shelves now.

It is hard for me to accept that this is my life now…a small room with two big windows overlooking a park like setting…a tiny frig and a microwave allowing me the freedom to give a friend a cup of tea and a cookie. As I type a deer is grazing on the bit of green he can find near the fence in the field. Blue jays, magpies and chickadees often visit the fir trees near by.

But there is peace here and friends and family to comfort me, when I feel a bit lost; my Bible Study group to share my faith with and my trusty computer to bring the outside world onto my doorstep.

I thank God each day for my eyesight. It is not perfect but allows me the freedom to walk where I wish, and to visit with friends.  My hearing is not as it once was but the rest of me is holding together quite well.

My over ten years of widowhood have taught me to accept loss and although my memories are packed into many things still at my old house, where my daughter lives, I have the vision of a new landscape, new friends and new opportunities. God has always been with me but now he is truly front and centre of my life.  It is rather bitter-sweet that I had to lose something to gain something else, but there is somehow a message there for me…so I will listen…I will listen carefully to what He wants to share with me.

LETTING GO AND LETTING GOD

One thing about being a Senior, is the realization of how much you have taken for granted through the years.

Of course you always gave thanks for special things like your years with your spouse, your children, grandchildren, new home. etc. etc. but things like being able to night drive, opening stuck jar lids, lifting sand bags into the back of the station wagon in winter…were such a part of your life you never thought they might be taken from you some day.

But, those things that have been left behind are replaced by blessings you never thought about years ago.  Who knew grandchildren would grow into such devoted and accomplished individuals, or that the sight of great grandchildren would warm your heart and fill your face with smiles.

God never leaves a vacuum.  But you do have to be open to his plans and be wise enough to lay aside some of those things of which you had claimed ownership and which were somewhat precious to you.  Letting go is hard to do.

I watched while my dearest friend cried as her Parkinson’s no longer allowed her to paint anymore.  I have a small gallery of her paintings…some done especially for me.  But my heart broke with hers the day she was told her eyesight was failing rapidly.

I see another friend with a sudden physical impairment that will reflect on her ability to garden…and she had the prettiest garden in town for years and years.

I still mourn the loss of Harry…54 years was a long time to live with someone and my life seems so empty without him.  But God said “Share your faith”, so I lead a bible study class every Friday and I write a blog once or twice a week.  My Eldership attendance is down now the car is sold but I still have a deep concern for all those who are part of my church family.

God has not forsaken me.  He has just re-routed me.  So I have let go of some of the old pleasures and responsibilities and my days are often now filled with new friends at my Senior’s residence.  This place is filled with stories of sorrow and achievement that would fill a library and what a joy to listen and share them. Actually it is quite exciting each morning to walk out of my room, down the hall and see what the Lord has for my assignment for today.

 

LET THERE BE LAUGHTER

Put together an empty basement, a box of bulrushes and a playful puppy.  Leave alone for two hours while you go shopping and you have the recipe for an almost unclean-able mess.

When I returned home the basement was completely covered with fluffs of bulrushes.  Sitting in one corner was “Freckles”, our little spaniel, with a tired but satisfied grin on his face. He’d had a wonderful time.

But alas, it was me that had to clean up the mess.  Trying to clean up the fluffs was nearly impossible.  As I approached with the mop or the vacuum cleaner, it would just back off.  Freckles sat in his corner and I really think he was laughing at me.

God would have understood about my frustrations…He’s been trying to gather us up and found we were just as impossible to collect.

I sometimes think our sins are like the bulrush fluff…lots of fun chasing around but murder to try and clean up and wipe up the basement of our lives.

But I loved Freckles, much the same as God loves us.  Freckles brought laughter to my life and I actually have a three minute movie (remember those old movie cameras?) of Freckles running around the back yard, chasing Willy (the neighbour’s dog), jumping over my sister in law and I, giving us the wildest action movie I have ever seen.

I’m finding God has a terrific sense of humor.  Each morning we have this game with my earrings..will my arthritic thumbs allow me to attach the tiny butterfly backs?.. some morning he says “nope, not this morning,” and I smile and accept my limitations.  Some days he says, “Okay, go for it.”

Some days I reach into the microwave for my hot drink and find I forgot to turn on the machine.  He laughs with me and says, “You’ll have to wait two more minutes.”

He sent my friend Rae over the other day.  She is not only my computer expert but also a much loved friend.  She sometimes calls me “Radar” after the TV star.  As a neighbour she had often heard Harry call me this name, as I appeared at his elbow with a cup of tea he had been thirsting for.  I laugh again when I hear it, remembering the man I loved so dearly.  I was getting over the flu and the laughter was something I really needed.

Yes, the God of laughter sends it to us in so many ways…puppies,. earrings and memories, just to name a few.  He know exactly what space we are in and is determined to meet all our needs.

TOMORROW MAY NEVER COME

I really shook up my Bible Study ladies the other day. We had had about four deaths of well-known people, in the last month and it had put us in a contemplative mood.  I said…”Let’s pray for the next one in our group who will die.”

You have to admire my courage if not my tactlessness.

I had had a similar thing happen at a Catholic graveside funeral and I know how it shook me up when the Priest said exactly that.

Friday morning I had been reading Max Lucado’s “And the Angels were Silent” chapter 6, “Risky Love.”  It speaks of taking chances…of not being afraid of the future..of Mary in the bible pouring perfume over Jesus feet, not caring what it cost.

It speaks of the time line of our lives and what we are “saving” for and why?  Scripture tells us our days are numbered and we are to live them to the fullest.

Now this is hardly the kind of article you would expect from one raised in the ’30’s…those hard depression years when we lived so carefully and which have marked every survivor.  But sometimes we need to live a little or even live a lot!

In my refrigerator is a small jar of maple syrup..the real thing from eastern Canada.  I decided a long time ago that I would save it for a special pancake celebration. (Yes, pancakes can be just as much a celebration as turkey dinner.)

Guess what?  That was ten years ago.  My husband never did taste that maple syrup and now neither will I…it sits as a reminder of just how silly you can get at times…when you carry your “savings” too far.

The ladies spoke of instances in their lives when they had been recipients of “Risky -Love” unexpected kindness, a hug, a generous and unexpected smile from a stranger.  One lady shared that she had been wanting to take guitar lessons and a dear friend visited her and presented her with her, much love guitar…it takes a special kind of person to give so selflessly.

I remember as a child during the depression, watching my mother fix a plate of food for a homeless man sitting on our back door steps.  That small gesture influenced me to help feed and care for the helpless which I was able to do as a hospital volunteer.  I’m sure Mom had no idea that her gesture had affected me so much.

“Risky -Love ” is nothing new to parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents.  The family is probably the greatest recipient  and giver of “Risky-Love.”  They don’t save it up for tomorrow…they are constantly spending all their love for their loved ones today.

So love a little more, laugh a little more and trust a little more…God has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  And he won’t!