Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, September 23, 2016

Where I May Have Acquired My Hope Genes

Mom with her original five.

So this week we celebrated Mom’s 85th birthday at a local restaurant with my siblings and Mom’s little brother who always seemed like more of a brother to us. It was a good time, with my brother making my sister laugh so hard she could barely breathe at one point.

As we celebrated Mom, we played a trivia game with questions based on the autobiography she published ten years ago. Even she didn’t get all the answers correct, but she did win the prize in the end.

One of my favorite stories from Mom’s life and book happened in 1950. Shortly after she and Dad moved into their first “real” home (a converted granary they had fixed up!), they were so proud to be able to order from the Simpsons catalog a complete living room suite—sofa, chair, coffee table, and two end tables. It even came with two lamps.

The trivia question surrounding this story was: What made this purchase so ironic?

The answer:  Their home didn’t have electricity!

Mom proudly placed the lamps on the end tables where they served as decorative ornaments for a year until the power company rolled through their district, stringing the wires that would make everyone’s world a little brighter. At the party, we teased Mom about whether she put bulbs in them and if so, did they burn out during the year? I suppose the house must have been wired for electricity when they built it, anticipating the day.

The reason I love this story so much is because it speaks of two things: contentment and hope.

The Bible says “We are saved by trusting. And trusting means looking forward to getting something we don’t yet have—for a man who already has something doesn’t need to hope and trust that he will get it.
But if we must keep trusting God for something that hasn’t happened yet, it teaches us to wait patiently and confidently.” (Romans 8:24 TLB)

Faith is about buying electric lamps before you can connect them to power, confident it will come. Faith is about waiting patiently for the fulfillment of our dreams here on earth, trusting that God is working out the details in his timing. 

Most of all, faith is knowing there is a “fully-charged” home awaiting us when our time here is done. So we can live out our 85 or 95 or 105-year allotment here, in the midst of life’s loneliness and disappointments, with peace and joy and patience and love. I’m grateful to have a mother who’s still here with us, exemplifying that very kind of faith every day.

Yay! A coloring book!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Day I Ate the Mayor's Good Eye

Me, the Cookie, and the Mayor
A couple of radio people showed up at City Hall for a short interview with the mayor this week, and they brought with them a delicious token of appreciation: a custom-made smile cookie from Tim Horton’s. This one had a thick mustache and was supposed to be a likeness of his worship himself. Guess they knew the guy’s a good sport.
I also guess he’d never had a cookie with his face on it before, because after the media left, he asked my coworker to take a picture. Since he hates being the only person in a photo and since I was the only other one around in our back offices—it being lunch hour—he decided he should pose with me and the cookie while my coworker snapped the photo.

I didn’t mind. But I didn’t really get it either. And, as is my way, I started harping even as we grinned for the camera.

“Why am I in this picture?” I said. “I did not make this cookie. I didn’t buy this cookie. I didn’t give this cookie to the mayor. And I’m probably not going to get to eat this cookie.”

That’s where I was wrong.

Probably just to shut me up, the mayor broke the cookie into thirds –although I think mine was by far the most generous “third”—and said, “Here. You can have half my mustache and my good eye.”

I didn’t argue. By this time I’d gotten close enough to the cookie to realize it was still warm and had chocolate chips in it. And did I mention it was lunch time?

I enjoyed every last crumb of the mayor’s good eye.

This made me think of two things. First, the mayor is far more generous than I. If I’d been given a cookie with MY face on it—no matter how bad the likeness—I probably wouldn’t have shared it with anyone. Well, maybe with Jesus. 

Which brings me to the second thing.

Somehow this cookie with the face on it reminded me of when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking him whether the law required them to pay taxes to the corrupt Roman government. Jesus picked up a coin and asked them whose image was on it.

“Caesar’s,” they answered.

"Well, then," Jesus said, "give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." His reply completely amazed them. 

(You DO know what was made in God’s image, right?)

Jesus is one smart cookie.

"God spoke: 'Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature...'"  Genesis 1:26

Monday, September 5, 2016

Jobs that Taught Me about Life: The Finale

It’s Labour Day and time to be wrapping up my series on jobs. I could write about my ten years at Portage Alliance Church that followed the college job, where I went from being the senior pastor's administrative assistant to a communications coordinator, to the director of creative arts. How I led the drama team and put together newsletters and PowerPoint shows and Sunday programs and schedules for the music and tech teams. How I wrote drama scripts and articles and produced Christmas banquets. How I got burned out.

Or I could write about how I traded all that for a part-time job at City Hall where I could simply do my job and go home. No evening meetings or Sunday mornings or putting in extra time. No people to lead. Knowing everything I did would be double-checked by a superior, so I could relax. How I studied through the required courses to obtain a Certificate in Manitoba Municipal Administration and got to attend a graduation ceremony for the first time since high school. How I would learn to conduct municipal elections and prepare agendas and minutes for city council meetings and so much more. How I would get to write speeches for the mayor sometimes. How hard it is to believe I’ve already been there over seven years.

Or I could tell about how the city hall job freed up time to pursue writing. How by the second year I would see two of the plays and several of the short sketches we’d done at church published, as well as some Chicken Soup for the Soul stories. How I’d ask for and get a weekly newspaper column. How I’d keep working on my novel, take writing courses, attend conferences, and make it to the finals in a contest that would attract the attention of an agent who would eventually sell my book and I’d see it published in 2016. How I’d sign a contract on my second novel just five months later.

Each of those paragraphs could easily be a story for another day. Each could tell of the lessons God taught me, the way he has been there leading and guiding even when I couldn’t feel his presence or see his hand. Even when health issues brought me to my knees in tears and defeat and I couldn’t understand how or why he heals some and not others. Even when I failed miserably to hear his voice.

Last week I was privileged to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville where I learned from Allen Arnold about how we can choose to exist in one of two realms: the Orphan realm or the Freedom realm. When we exist in the orphan realm, we believe life is up to us. If anything good is going to happen, it’s because we work and strive to make it happen. It’s a place of fear, of hoarding, of control, of never having enough because we don’t know we have a loving Father who wants to invite us into something better.

The Freedom Realm is a land of “with.” In it, our Father invites us to do the things we love with him. It’s a place of fierce dependence on God, of peace and joy, of knowing that control is an illusion. It’s a place where “pro and con” lists are a toxic way to make decisions because they depend on my knowledge of the future. It’s a place of knowing I am a beloved daughter of God and I can enter into a new adventure with him every morning, every moment, and not need to have all the answers.

It’s where I want to live.

We closed the session with a look at a popular video, Derek Redmond’s famous run in the 1992 Olympics where a torn hamstring stopped him on the track but where he got back up and hobbled to the finish line. You’ve probably seen it. It’s a powerfully moving clip all by itself. The world has held it up as a story of courage and never giving up. 

But it’s so much more. As I watched it again, I saw myself as that runner. The injury became my most recent wound, the loss of my newspaper column which was still stinging my heart. My Father comes down out of the stands to be with me. He fiercely defends me against those who would remove me from the race. And he supports me to the finish line.

Naturally, I was a complete and blubbering wreck. But it got worse.

The next morning during our worship time as we sang “Good, good Father,” God asked me something. “What if it’s about more than the lost column? What if that torn muscle represents your deepest wound, the thing that trips you up and speaks lies to your heart no matter how earnestly and frequently you’ve forgiven the perpetrator?” As I attached those hurts to the Olympics scenario, the fierce protection of my heavenly father’s love became more powerful still.

And I knew that’s where I wanted to live. Every moment.

Watch the video again. You’re the runner, hurling yourself down that track with all you’ve got to give. You’re in the lead, you’re set to win. Then life throws pain at you. You know what it is. That thing that happened when you were little. That thing that happened last week. Either way, you had no control over it. It hurt. And it still hurts. You believe it’s taken you out of the running. You get up and try to hobble along on your own.

But your Father comes. He defends. He supports. He comforts. He loves. He finishes the race with you. You are not alone. You do not have to live in the orphan realm. 

Derek Redmond says, in spite of the millions of people who have been encouraged by his story, he would still prefer to have won the gold medal in Barcelona that day. But God knows that the areas where we are scarred and wounded are a gateway to our greatest strength. 

Let him lead you there.

(To order Allen Arnold's book, The Story of WITH, click HERE.)