August 29, 2008

Extreme Grandparenting

(Photo: My sweet (happy) little granddaughter, Jocelyn

What is it about a gurgling, drooling little cherub-cheeked baby that melts my heart? I might be having a bad day for one reason or another and then in romps my 2 1/2 year old Trenton, ray of sunshine, and all seems well with the world. Jocelyn, my newest little addition to the grandma files, is just at that cooing age. Once we establish eye contact, it's game over with Grandma. I melt and our conversation begins. She gurgles as I purr with love for her. The more I smile at her the bigger her grin. She cares not that I don't have hair. She is much more interested in what I have to say and how our eyes meet. I could sit and 'chat' with her for hours. There's something about babies that defies the human condition. I know that we are not born perfect but the way a baby looks beyond the outer shell and into the soul, seems pretty divine to me. She loves me because she senses my heart and my adoration for all things baby. Her smell is new. Her smiles are infectious and her ability to make Grandma forget the worries of the world is almost magical.

When I look into the eyes of a child, I wonder. I wonder if there was a conversation with Jesus before she was knit in the womb. I wonder if there are thoughts running through the tiny mind of a baby as she gazes past grandma's wrinkles and laugh lines. And then I wonder how God does it.

I know the Bible tells us that we don't have the same thoughts as God. So I understand that my mind is unable to grasp the full concept of creation. Nor am I really required to fully explain it. But when I look at my sweet little grandchildren, I begin to appreciate the miracle of life. The wonderful way babies are made. The incredible and consistent way growth occurs and the absolute delight we as adults, can glean from the little ones, when we take the time.

Jesus taught us a hard and fast lesson when he told his Disciples (n Matthew 19:14 to not be nitwits and of course to let the children come and sit on his lap and hang out with him (slight paraphrase.)

If we think of how that lesson applies in our lives, maybe we wouldn't see indiscriminate yelling or coersion by bullying as an option for raising children. Perhaps the moral of the story is that we need to take the time to coo and gurgle with the little ones. Or to hug without ceasing or to not cry over slopped milk or stains on the lace doilies.

Man, I should have had my grandchildren first. I seem to know a lot more now than I did then. Or...maybe I should have spent more time reading the instruction book (wherein I would have found Matthew 19:14)

Lessons From a Weapon of Grass Destruction - Lynda S.

I'm painting. No need for Van Gogh, Picasso, or The Group of Seven to worry though; I'm painting my apartment. After the paint comes the decoration. I'm planning "The Farm" as a theme for one of my guest rooms, and that sent me searching for my dad's saw and scythe. To my distress both were badly rusted—the victims of the high humidity here in Venezuela. I needed some expert help.

My colleagues, Bevin and Janie Wray, are entertaining Janie's sister and her family over these two weeks. Calvin and Rita farm just outside Calgary and I was pretty certain that a farmer would know about rusty implements and how to fix them. Sure enough, Carl had an answer to my dilemma.

I soaked two towels in vinegar, wrapped one around the saw and the other around the scythe. Then I wrapped both tools in plastic wrap to keep the towels from drying out. By the time I got back to them later on that evening, it was obvious that something was working—I could see through the plastic wrap that the towels were brown! The smell, as I unwrapped the tools, was not pleasant, but the rust was gone just as Cal had told me that it would be.

It was a good thing that I chose old cleaning rags to do the job. Even though the towels went immediately into the wash, they will bear the marks of rust for the rest of their days.

There had to be a spiritual lesson in this little DIY project. I thought about my life, rusting with sin. Then Jesus came, like that vinegar-soaked towel, and wrapped me in His love and forgiveness. My sins, like those rust stains, He bore in His own body, removing them forever from mine.

However, unlike my old towels, the rust stains of sin were not just transferred, they were eradicated completely, washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God, They simply ceased to exist.

Somehow, I suspect that every time I go into that particular guest room where dad's tools will be hung, I will never be able to look at his saw and scythe in the same way again. What do you think?

August 24, 2008

In His Time - Jan Keats

Have you been waiting a long time for an answer to prayer or for that something special to happen in your life? Do you feel the eagerness or anxiety? Some people cross off the days on a calendar in anticipation of an answer. It could be a prayer that you’ve been praying for a long period of time, or it could be an immediate need that requires steadfast prayer, or it could be an anticipation of a call to come through for that job offer.

Do you remember when God do come through after praying and waiting? How do you feel then? Relief? Joy? Satisfaction? Did you remember to praise God for His guidance? Maybe your special prayer request hasn’t even been answered yet and it seems that it’s nowhere in sight. Yes, it may seem that way but what does God’s Word tell us about that? Do you ever wonder and say, “Where is God when I need Him?”

God is in our midst to hear our prayers and grant forgiveness. God is in our hearts to seal the promises that He has made until the day of redemption. The Bible says that the Spirit is God’s guarantee that He will give us everything He promised and that He has purchased us to be his own people.

God is in our midst to protect, guide and strengthen us. In the Old Testament there’s a verse that says: “For the Lord is the one who goes with you. He will not fail or forsake you.” Deut.31:6
He walks with us all the time and He answers our prayers all the time but…it is always in His time! The prophet Elijah prayed earnestly that it would not rain and for 3 ½ years it didn’t, then he prayed that it would and God gave the rain.

Sometimes our prayers need immediate attention. Queen Esther was faced with the potential death of her people; her entire race that lived in the region. So she urged her people to pray for 3 days just to muster up the courage to talk to her King to plead with him to stop the death of her people. Job was another person who suffered and needed God in a desperate situation, but he continued to trust and believe that God would come through despite all the trials that he went through.

In James chapter 5 we read about Job’s patience. “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. Job is an example of a man who endured patiently. From his experience we see how the Lord’s plan finally ended in good, for He is full of tenderness and mercy.” (James 5:10,11)

Are you able then, to rest in the Lord? To rest on His promises? You can trust the God of glory to shelter and comfort you when the going is tough. Just watch God shine His grace upon you! Just watch God at work as you pass on to others the same hope and grace He sustained you with!

Copyright Jan Keats

August 22, 2008

I’m a collector

It’s not Avon bottles, stamps or the usual collector’s items, but if something interests me, I clip it, buy it, stack and file it until my space is stuffed. But lately—and I don’t know whether it’s my age, or from watching the Olympics—I’m realizing that an excess of anything unnecessary or unused slows me down.

Age says there is not enough time to use it all. I will not live long enough to write a story about every idea in my bulging filing cabinets, nor will I have time to read all the books on my shelves, never mind those on my ‘must read’ list. And despite all appearances, there is not enough room in my stomach to make every recipe that I’ve ever clipped.

Likely advancing years are making me anxious, not about dying but about using my time wisely. Everyone has a few regrets, but I don’t want frittering away my hours to be one of them.

I’m not sure watching the Olympics belongs in that frittering category, but when I’m making meals and doing dishes, I’ve noticed how all the athletes, whether swimmers, runners, rowers, or even weight lifters, enter their competition venues lean and without encumbrances. They are prepared to do their best for the homeland they represent. They seem entirely focused on the task at hand, not distracted by the other competitions across the room, nor the guy in the next line, and certainly not by carrying a bunch of baubles and other stuff.

Some of them may have taken Hebrews 12:1 to heart. It says, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . . .”

I know that weights and sins ruin my running ability and all sorts of other abilities. When I read of the “sins which so easily ensnare,” my collections pop to mind. Among them are worry, resentment and anger. All three trap my energy and release it in ways counterproductive to running races. These obviously have to go.

However, “lay aside every weight” seems distinct from “sin that ensnares.” These weights could be collections of material goods, like my stuffed filing cabinet or my stash of quilting fabric, and I am convinced that the shelves at Bibles for Missions or the Goodwill Store look much better overflowing than mine do, but I’m also convicted by the athletes in another way. When the bell rings, they hop right to it without any weights like procrastination, fiddling and tweaking. I am seldom as ready to get started on anything, even the easy stuff.

But I can think of many ways to avoid hard work too. Reading the business section in the newspaper (after the comics, lifestyles, front pages, and city news) will do it. So will saving email that should be deleted, which is bad enough, but I can also spend hours sorting it. Or what about cleaning the clean, or color-coding my task list? Nothing ever gets checked off when I’m in one of my “I don’t feel like it” modes.

While I’ve been confessing some of my sin collections, like worrying when I should pray, or resenting and ranting when I should forgive, I also realize that some of my fiddling is sin too. I should be on my knees with that collection of tough stuff instead of rejecting God’s help by doing what I think I can handle all by myself.

Until I die, I suspect that from time to time God will remind me to take a look at my collections. He doesn’t mind all of them. I can keep the memorabilia. He just wants me to know what is worthy and what has become a weighty and hindering load, and then get rid of it.

© Elsie Montgomery

August 18, 2008

God's Faithfulness

What a delight it was to attend our friend’s 65th wedding anniversary. The celebration not only honored them but also the faithfulness of our God.
The bible verse chosen for the occasion was Isaiah 32:17, “The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” This fine couple definitely exemplify a Christian being clothed in Christ’s righteousness. They have been a real blessing in our congregation and to those they come in contact with. Their children rise up and call them blessed.
Even though they lived through the war and the depression and had their share of trials and pain, they kept the faith.
Their son shared that throughout his childhood he never heard his parents argue; there was always peace in the home. I am afraid that will never be said of me. I like to state my mind even if it is in disagreement. But, perhaps when I’ve matured another 20 years, I will become more graceful.
Ken and Mary’s love for our Lord and their faithfulness in serving Him has and continues to be an inspiration to me. GM

August 15, 2008

Job Training

In the last few days my Bible reading has taken me back to the story of Joseph. I love that story! Yesterday I noticed something I hadn't seen before. This tale contains a fair bit of repetition, which I suddenly recognized as the repetition of education. During those first years in Egypt, Joseph was in school - and retaking the same subject, just at different levels:

University - Potiphar's house: "Then he made him overseer of his house and all that he had was put under his authority." (Genesis 39:4)

Grad School - Prison: "And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing." (Genesis 39:22)

I wonder if Joseph ever got discouraged all those days of serving, wondering what had become of his boyhood dreams. After he connected with the Butler, asked him to take up his case with Pharaoh, and then nothing happened, did he ever battle discouragement or even depression? Who would have blamed him if he did?

Then one day, with no warning, it came.

Graduation Day and the offer of a Plum Job - Pharaoh's Assistant. And didn't the job description have a familiar ring to it? Pharaoh: "You shall be over my house and all my people shall be ruled according to your word." (Genesis 41:40)

Highlights in Joseph's Life - by Annie Vallotton

What does this have to do with you and me? It tells us to keep being faithful in what we're doing, for God's training takes many guises. We may not feel that it is preparing us for anything. In fact, it may seem we're going around in circles, taking the same subject again and again. But God knows exactly the amount of expertise we need. In due time we'll graduate. Our steadfastness through all the training will ensure that we are ready for the Plum Job that's waiting for us.

August 13, 2008

Chocolate Fix - Pamela Mytroen

Wanda removed her sweater and jeans and stepped on the scale. Not quite. She dropped her underwear and took off her watch. Almost. Earrings and hairclip hit the floor. Yes! The last ten pounds were gone. She snatched the picture of the fudge-sundae from her mirror and licked it.

“Tanya? Let’s go. I’m ready for my skinny treat.”

“Yum-Yums is closed.”

“I’m starting to shake. I need chocolate,” said Wanda.

“Let’s try the confectionery on the corner instead. They have hot-fudge sundaes,” said Tanya.

"Yeesh, where's the safe house when a woman needs a needle and liquid chocolate? This place is closed too!" Wanda catapulted off the speed bump in the drive-through. "Maybe Shop Mart is still open."

“Ever consider using your signal light?” asked Tanya, grabbing the door handle.

"Should we break in?" asked Wanda peering in Shop Mart's dark windows.

"It's a good place to let me off."

"Tanya, my mom keeps chocolate candies in her purse. Let’s go!”

“Wanda, watch out!”

“Just a shopping cart. Minor scratch!” said Wanda. She squealed out of the parking lot.

Wanda screeched to a stop in front of the Nursing Home, ran in and found her Mom’s cleaning cart.

“Mom, I’m grabbing a few candies from your purse! Thanks!”


“Ahhhh, I love the way it melts in my mouth,” said Wanda as she settled into the car again.

She slipped the wrapper off another candy and popped it in her mouth.

“Want one Tanya?”

“Would it help peel me off the ceiling?" asked Tanya.

Tanya took a candy from Wanda and turned it over. “You’re really desperate, girl.”

“I know, Tanya, but it’s been sixty-three days. Mmmmm.”

“It may have chocolate in it Wanda, but I’m not taking Ex-Lax.”

“Ex? Pyech! Oh no!”

Tanya tightened her seat belt and turned on the air bag.

Wanda did a burn out and headed for the intersection.

“Does the color red mean anything to you Wanda?"

“Hang on!"


"Right back," said Wanda. She dove from the car and ran to her house.


“That was quick," said Tanya. “Glad to see you’ve come down a couple notches.”

“There is one good thing about Ex-lax.”

“It gets you off the road?"

"I just weighed myself again, and I lost another five pounds.”

“I lost five pounds just driving with you."

"I’m skinny enough we can have two treats tomorrow,” said Wanda.

“Give me the keys Wanda."


"Where's that safe house you mentioned?" Tanya rubbed her hands together and gripped the steering wheel. "I need caffeine. Now."

Silly stories by Pam

August 08, 2008

The Ride of Your Life -- Janet Sketchley

A few summers ago, my eldest son talked me into going on one of those crazy amusement park rides. As long as I kept my eyes closed, I felt safe in the secure hold of the seat. We spun in crazy circles and flipped upside down. It was exhilarating. And terrifying.

I had to peek. As soon as my eyes got involved, the self-preservation instinct kicked in. I froze.

The Bible says, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7 KJV). When life’s trajectory is erratic and feels like it’s out of control, we can’t ask to stop the ride. Sometimes our circumstances carry us willy-nilly. We can’t steer – it’s enough to just hold on.

Will the bystanders pity our pinched, green-tinted faces, or will they be amazed that we are secure enough to find joy in the midst of the confusion?

The Apostle Paul wrote about rejoicing in all things (Philippians 4:4), not because our lives are free from pain, but rather because the hand of God holds us and carries us through.

When we stop looking for our own solutions to life, and pause to sense God’s firm hold, we show a powerful testimony of our Sovereign Lord’s ability to love and care for those in turbulence.

We may not like the ride, but let’s hang on and trust the One who is holding onto us. God hasn’t dropped anyone yet.

© Janet Sketchley, 2008
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

Drop by the free books page on my blog and leave a comment before midnight, August 21, for a chance to win a copy of Reverend Mother's Daughter, by Mary Haskett.

August 05, 2008

Where's Your Place?

I love the line in the well-loved 23rd Psalm that reads, "He restores my soul." I don't know about you, but my soul needs constant restoration. Daily life on this broken planet contrives to batter and attack my soul, leaving it bruised and hurting. To restore something is to renew or rebuild it, to "put back into a former or original state."

Since I am a new creation in Christ, when he restores my soul, he puts it back into its lovely new state - the one he created within me. But I must place myself in his care in order for him to restore me. I can do that anywhere, at any time, in the car, at home, in the office or wherever I am.

But I find much restoration in creation, away from buildings and man-made things. Walking through the woods, tramping along a sandy beach, or standing on a hill with the wind in my face is restorative. I can't help but focus my thoughts on the great Creator of beauty. I am amazed at intricate seashells, the movement of tides and currents and the infinite range of colour in nature.

An hour, an afternoon, a weekend or a few days soaking up the order of creation and I return home renewed, rebuilt and restored.

Where's your place?
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August 04, 2008

Dare the Devil

Alan Taylor’s black ‘76 Chevy smashed into the bridge guardrail Friday night at precisely 11:42 p.m. A split second later, it catapulted into the power lines, flipped over on its back and dropped like a dead raven on the Amtrak rails below.

At 11:57 p.m., Alan slumped upside down inside his car. At least the seat belt works. He moaned, lifting his left arm. He tried to move his legs. What am I doing here? He wiggled to free himself. Twisted metal came between him and the buckle. He felt blood flowing into his head. He laughed. Good thing I’m drunk. Yeah, good thing I‘ve been hanging upside down every night at the gym. The alcohol continued to do its job. Look at me — not a tense muscle in my body. I’m in great shape for the shape I’m in. I can sleep anywhere. Craziest trip I’ve taken. Might as well relax; the police will be along soon.

The state highway patrol officer was certain no one was alive in the car. He glanced at his watch. It must have happened after 11:40 or the eastbound Broadway Limited would have further remodeled the Chevy — along with everything inside it. He wondered what getting hit by a train would feel like. I bet it wouldn’t have made any difference to whoever was in this car. Dead is dead.

Alan’s mother worked all day in the retail outlet her husband owned before he died. Before retiring, she soaked her feet and took two pain killers. I don’t want to wake up during the night. I am so tired. I really need to sleep. She shut her eyes at 10:14. It seemed only moments when she opened them again at 11:05. She glanced at the clock. I don’t want to be awake. This is absolutely crazy.

For a few minutes, she stared at the little sparkles in the ceiling and tried to find Orion or Ursas Minor. Then she rolled several times, first to the right but her shoulder ached; then to the left but her right arm went numb. Why, God? Why can’t I sleep tonight? It has been a long day — and a long week. This isn’t fair.

She stumbled to the kitchen and put a mug of milk in the microwave. When it was warm, she walked sipping into the living room. Outside, the well-lit street was quiet. She was glad they were finally able to move away from the tracks. That Broadway Limited used to wake her up every night at 11:40. When Dave died, she used the insurance money to upgrade. This was a good move. This milk is good too. She felt sleepy again and returned to the bedroom. Just as she turned back the covers to crawl in, she heard a train whistle — it was the Broadway Limited. How can that be? We live twenty miles from the track?

Something is wrong. She slid out of bed and dropped to her knees. Lord, watch over that train tonight. You alone control what is happening. You are able to protect it and anyone concerning it. She prayed for its passengers, then for people who might be on the crossings. Alan. He’s okay. He’s at work, at Leek’s Cafe. He called and said he would be working until midnight. She prayed: Lord, keep Alan out of the path of that train. Keep him safe tonight. Help him to understand that You love him. May Your goodness lead him to repentance. She crawled under the sheets, closed her eyes and was instantly asleep. It was 11:41.

Alan looked again at his watch. It was 12:06. He was no longer laughing. My mother will never trust me again. I told her I already had my license back and now she will find out. What will I tell her this time? I keep lying to her. I really don’t want to but she keeps asking personal questions. I have to say something.

He wished he had been a little kinder to her at supper. She talked about his future. She said I have so much potential. Yeah, I think so too — so why can’t I get a decent job? And why does everything I touch turn into a bill at the end of the month? Why can’t I get my act together? Why did dad have to die anyway? I am so bloody unlucky. Look at this mess. My car is totaled. Why does everything happen to me?

He could see the broken power lines above him. He could smell the oil and gasoline bleeding out of his car. By turning his head, he could see the Amtrak bridge and the broken rail. He knew what time the trains came by; he used to live less than 500 yards from this spot. I just missed the 11:40 express. God — what a coincidence. His mind stopped, suddenly sobered on that thought. Only God could do that — only God. Why would He bother with a bum like me? I don’t deserve any favors. I... He... why me? For a few minutes, he tried to shake thoughts of God but could not. Tears began rolling out the corners of his eyes and up into his hairline.

The state highway patrol officer slammed his car door and slid down the embankment beside the bridge. He pointed his flashlight directly in front, fearful he might stumble onto a hot wire from the power lines or broken glass and sheared metal from the Chevy. He stopped. What is that noise? It sounds like someone singing... in the car. He reached the battered mass and peered inside.

Police Log: Arrested and booked Alan Taylor, twenty, on charges of reckless and drunk driving, driving without a license and speeding. Unable to give a breathalyser but car contained several bottles of beer and the suspect behaved in a manner consistent with someone who was not in control of their faculties.

“Can you believe this,” the officer laughed? “This black Chevy hit the Amtrak bridge rails and somehow flipped upside down off the bridge, hit the power lines, broke a bunch of wires, landed top down on the tracks below, minutes after the train goes by — and inside the car, the drunk driving the thing was hanging upside down. It took us nearly an hour to get him out of there. The lucky idiot didn’t have a scratch on him. Want to hear the really strange part? When I got there and even the whole time he was in my custody on the way to the station, he had the face of a child. He looked like someone who just got a medal or something. He kept singing some song over and over — not in tune mind you, but it sounded a lot like Amazing Grace.

Elsie Montgomery

August 01, 2008

Brick Walls - M. Laycock

I've been fighting frustration lately. Frustration with people who seem bent on destroying something beautiful, frustration with doors that slam in your face, frustration with pounding on brick walls that show no sign of crumbling. I confess I was ready to quit a couple of days ago. Ready to turn my computer off and walk away.

But then I managed to have a good night's sleep. (Amazing what that will do for your atttitude!) And then I received an e-mail from a woman telling me how much she is anticipating my sequel. And then I found this video clip.

It's of a university professor named Randy Pausch, giving his last lecture because he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He showed slides of his CAT scan, then he talked about acheiving his childhood dreams, dreams about creating something worthwhile, dreams about doing something important, dreams about just having fun.

I watched in awe as he laid out the pattern of his life - a life in which, in one way or another, he had managed to accomplish all of his childhood dreams. There was no spiritual message in his lecture, yet seeing how his life unfolded you couldn't miss the blessings of God.

He made a few statements worth noting.

The first one is - "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. So be prepared."

The second is - "Brick walls aren't there to keep you out. They're there to show you how badly you want to accomplish your dream."

And the third - "Enabling the dreams of others might just end up being the best part of all, and certainly the most fun."

I listened to this video as I cut up another stack of bookmarks - another small battering ram for that brick wall.