Friday, February 27, 2009
But You were silent. I
Envied luxury. I
Faltered and fell,
Grieved at my
Idled in self-defense,
Juggled confession and cowardice,
Kissed pride and kicked pride until
Lament seized my soul,
Mended me and made me
New. Now I splash in the
Oasis of your mercy, I sense a
Plan in the pain, a
Quiet in the question, a
Redeemer for the renegade.
Still waters invite me to
Touch the green grass at river’s edge, to
Unbuckle my load and lay it down. And as for the
Vagabond of yesterday, that flirting, accusing rogue, to
Wave him on, and
eXchange a thousand trophies for a single tender touch from You, to
Yield to your silence, and to lay myself down in your lapis
by Pam Mytroen
I'd forgotten I'd written this poem until yesterday when I stumbled across it in St. Peter's Messenger magazine. Fun surprise. It is about a time in my life when I made a big blooper. I felt horrible about it but was too stubborn to accept God's mercy. When I finally did, I felt like I was curled up in his lap surrounded by his deep love. I wrote this acrostic style poem inspired by the acrostic on the Hebrew alphabet in Psalm 139.
God's love reminds me of the beautiful lapis lazuli stone. It is a semi-precious mined stone known for its deep, infinite blue.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
“Be still” — that is perhaps the hardest instruction that anyone could give me. So many things in my life happen far too slowly for my convenience. Mental, emotional, and spiritual stillness are just as hard as their physical counterpart. You would think that after so many years of walking with the Lord that I would have learned by now that He comes at exactly the right time, that my fussing and fuming only spoil the atmosphere of awe, of joy, of peace, of grace, that should be the aura of the believer. “Be still”
“…know” — certainty, the conviction that rests on faith, that has been proven by experience, that feeds the stillness that God requires. How quickly I forget what I supposedly “know” in the face of the circumstances of the day. Perhaps it is in the stillness that I allow myself to remember what I know—that God reigns and that He never abandons His children, that He never comes late.
“…that I am God” — Moses heard the great “I AM” statement and that was enough for him and for Israel. That God is, and that we know Him by faith and know Him in the experiences of our lives, should promote that stillness that needs to characterize our lives. He knows us perfectly, we need to know Him more perfectly every day. That knowledge grows in the stillness.
And when we are still and know, and reaffirm in our own hearts that He is God, we will become the instruments that exalt Him among the nations and in the earth. That is our end, our mission, our joy.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
"To be significant, work must be personally meaningful. Speak only for yourself. You need not try to comment on the world, or on all mankind. Try, rather, to make a simple and honest statement about a single idea with which you are familiar. If you succeed in this, your specific comment is far more likely to contain a general element of truth. As I am neither a deep thinker nor a profound one, I make no attempt to be profound in my work. I can offer only a personal response, and if that response arrives at something basic, it will evoke a response in someone else."
From Applique Stitchery by Jean Ray Laury
Whether our art is writing, painting, stitching or gardening, the personal response Laury speaks of is crucial to authenticity. Imitation might be the highest form of flattery but lacks the twist of originality that reflects the creator's personality.
When I live my life as a personal response to God's presence and truth and allow him to work as he will, my life will be a unique creation that I pray will "evoke a response in someone else."
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
God will always get us to where we need to be. No need to worry.
Monday, February 16, 2009
That was our introduction to Willie, our new puppy. A few hours later, she leaped into the van behind me and curled up at my feet. She slept there all the way home, and as she did, we continued our argument over what to name her. In the end, it was Dad’s suggestion that won out.
Dad’s secretary had found Willie lying on the yellow line in the middle of the road. She was a skinny, shy puppy, lost and exhausted. But the secretary couldn’t keep her, and so asked around work if anybody wanted a dog. At that time, we already had a dog; a big black Shepherd/lab cross named Shadow. But Shadow was getting old, and we knew soon we’d have to find another dog. Mom decided that now was the right time, and we went to get Willie.
Dad named her Willie after country legend Willie Nelson and his song “On the Road Again.” When he’d first suggested it, I said, “But she’s a girl!” That was the reaction that everyone else had upon being introduced to Willie. We forever had to explain, “Yes, her name is Willie.” But Willie fit her, especially when we found out that in Australia, winds similar to tornadoes are called willy-willys. For when Willie gets excited, she turns into a regular willie-willie.
At home, we introduced her to Shadow. He paid her scarcely any attention; she groveled at his feet, showing herself most submissive and friendly. They got along well, and Willie was soon at home on our acreage.
We spent the next weeks getting used to Willie and introducing her to her new home. As a puppy, she loved to play. Over the next weeks, she accumulated a collection of “toys”: odd sticks, some rags, one or two rawhide bones, a well-chewed ball. She’d line these up on the front lawn, and dash from one to the other, grabbing it, tossing it into the air, and dropping it before racing to the next toy.
From Willie’s attitude toward other dogs in her first months with us, we figured that she had been abused once by dogs. A month after we got Willie, I took her for a walk around the block. Shadow walked very slow and soon fell behind while Willie frisked around me. At the bottom of one hill, a huge dog came out barking at us, his hackles up and teeth showing. I turned around and saw Shadow at the top of the hill, with Willie halfway up and running as hard as she could. I decided it was a good idea to follow her.
Shadow died about three months after we got Willie. We’d had him for as long as we’d lived on our acreage – fourteen years – so he seemed part of the place. But with Willie there, it didn’t seem so much that we were losing a dog. It was simply Shadow’s time.
The vet guessed that she had at least five different breeds in her, but greyhound was certainly predominant; Willie loved to run. In the summer, Mom got the idea to take Willie for a run on her bike. After that, just seeing Mom or I with our bikes was enough to get Willie bouncing, ready to run. We clocked her doing 25 mph down the hills – the only time we could keep up to her. She runs best in the morning, when it’s cool. If it’s hot, she hits every puddle or slough on the way, and arrives home wet, muddy, and ready to play.
She’s a smart dog, and soon learned “stay” and “heel”. One thing she’s never learned, to my brother’s disappointment, is to play fetch. Somehow she seems to think keep-away much more fun.
One Christmas, the boys received a country CD from Mom and Dad. That was all the music they played for the next several months. We soon had every song on the CD memorized. But one day when they were playing it, I stopped suddenly, listening to the first song. Then I exclaimed, “That’s Willie’s song!” And sure enough, it was – Willie Nelson singing “On the Road Again.”
I hope Willie never goes on the road again. She wasn’t a stray long enough to be a wanderer and stays around our acreage. She’s the smartest, goofiest, most idiotic dog that I’ve ever met. But she’s our Willie, and whenever a certain song comes on the radio, we look at each other with a smile, because it’s Willie’s song.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Since moving back east in 1986, I’ve always wished that I could see them again. I always kept fond memories of the fun times we would have and how unique our relationships were. I never had the desire to move back to Fort McMurray, although I still have family there. So, I simply kept my memories as they were, memories. That was until this past summer.
My husband and I visited Gander, NL this past summer and we decided to purchase tickets to see the band, Great Big Sea. We met a friend we knew from those days in Fort McMurray, who left the city when we did, in 1986. She told us that her brother was home visiting and pointed him out to us among the crowd. We approached him and wow, what a delight to see our good friend that we hadn’t seen in nearly 25 years. There were hugs between Jeff and my husband, Gerald, and then it was my turn, then we hugged again and again. I got caught up in the emotion and cried tears of joy, which caused everyone else to follow suit. My dream was unfolding.
Shortly afterwards, another friend came along, then another and then another. All this took place rather quickly. We were all overjoyed of what was taking place. People around us were staring and perhaps wondering what the commotion was all about. It was almost a shock to me because I wasn’t expecting to see them, and we haven’t been in touch with each other either. We counted about 20 out of the 25 of the group of friends we associated with. This group of friends went back to NL to celebrate a family reunion and all decided to attend the concert. But to see almost all of my close friends from that time of my life wasn’t only what I wished to see some day, it was a dream come true! It was truly an amazing experience for me.
We parted that night with our hearts warmed, and for me, personally satisfied knowing that dreams do come true; my dream came true! On the way back to Nova Scotia, I pondered the new memories, but I also began to think about my reunion in heaven, when I meet once again many friends and family who have already left this earthly home. If I was overjoyed after some 25 years of not seeing my friends, how much more joy can there be when I reach heaven to see my loved ones and meet my Saviour face to face. The longing and anticipation will not only be a wish or a dream, it will be a promise completed from God’s Word. He promised eternal life, which is my future home in Heaven. Awaiting me there will be my Saviour and loved ones.
To think that God gave me the desires of my heart and He delighted me with His favour. What a blessing! What overwhelming joy! And it is no coincidence then that my favourite Bible verse is found in Psalm 20:5, which reads, “May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I pray for the child whose screams of fear go unheard because of the gunfire. Only two children remain uninjured the newspaper reads.
Monday, February 9, 2009
I need time to write. Can I best my own record of ten minutes transporting bags from car to front door; of twenty minutes propelling contents from front door to freezer, pantry, storage room, kitchen and bath? Then out to the mailbox, down the stairs, read the rejection letters, turn on the PC, and gush out ideas? Not a hope!
Writing is not for the fast lane. Those deadlines may require speedy spurts. Those contest closures require rapid acceleration, but the routine, the daily doing cannot be pushed like a full cart down aisle three. Savoring sounds, remembering phrases, noticing nuance takes time. Characters are not born and formed to full maturity overnight — not in life, nor on paper.
Landscapes curl slowly into view for my pen’s description. They do not snap past like souvenir slides on a Kodak carousel. Incidents long forgotten trickle into the mind and out the end of my fingers much more like meandering streams than rushing rapids.
For writers, smelling the roses might mean a fond reevaluation of an old classic, a few hours in a book of sonnets, a walk through the dark corners of the local library, or even a long chat with a regional expert who has forgotten far more about our topic than we will ever know, an expert who needs just the right questions to rouse his recall. Our roses smell like old parchment, dusty paper and long-dried ink, splendid, stimulating smells, but not for hurried noses.
In spite of all our enthusiasm, the words may refuse us when we need sleep or edibles to coax them out, or perhaps a husky hug from someone who cares. Writing is not for mechanical men and women but real people who get tired and hungry and who resist being pushed too hard and too long by life’s demands.
Slow down. The best may flow at low gear, not overdrive. Some of the greats testify that one sentence can take entire days for the birthing. Those with pen in hand and too impatient souls may never find out whether that one sentence hurriedly written could have been a touch more explosive had they only slowed down.
Rush, rush? It may have its place, but only a small place. I can scurry through the mundane, only so I have time to slow down . . . and sit still . . . and write.
Friday, February 6, 2009
- Read Part 1POWERFUL DEFENDER - a story of Elizabeth Bunyan
How gloomy everything was without John, Elizabeth mused this April evening as she walked the few blocks from their home on Cuthbert Street to the County Jail in the heart of Bedford.
He had been kept in prison since the November day, almost five months ago, that he was arrested. The hoped-for baby was a long ago dream, for a few days after John was imprisoned, it had been born prematurely and died.
Though their house was only a few minutes’ walk from the jail, and John was allowed visits, she didn’t get to see him that often, for there were the children to look after. At ten years old, Mary was responsible, but because she was blind, Elizabeth hesitated to put her in charge of Beth, little Thomas and Joseph. Today, though, she’d felt the need to see John so desperately, she’d asked a daughter of a church acquaintance from Elstow to come for a few hours, so she could get away.
Perhaps today John would have word about when he’d be released. Or if not, at least he’d give her the courage to go on. He was always so full of faith and optimism, just being with him would help.
Mr. Cobb, the warden, answered her knock on the heavy wooden door. "Welcome, Mrs. Bunyan," he said. "John will be happy to see you." He took her to the jail’s tiny, dim common room and a few minutes later John arrived.
It was good to feel his strong arms again and look into his brown eyes. But today they didn’t sparkle like usual. As she told him the news from home, he seemed preoccupied and burdened. "How is it with thee?" she asked.
John gave her a long look, as if sizing up her state of mind. "It seems I won’t be freed as readily as I thought," he began. "Cobb called me in for a talk today. He was most civil. But..." John looked at her with concern, "I’m afraid the news is bad."
Elizabeth felt the familiar rise of panic. "What is it?" she asked, keeping her voice calm.
"Cobb told me that at the next assizes, if I don’t promise to stop preaching and holding meetings, they may well banish me – or worse."
Elizabeth was stunned. She’d hung on to the hope that it was just a matter of time before they’d realize that arresting John had been a big mistake. But banishment or – the gallows?
"What wilt thou do?" she asked.
"I could make them that promise," John said, looking down. Then he lifted his face and she saw in his eyes a mixture of defiance and regret. "But I can’t do it. God knows how I’ve struggled with fears for myself. For thee. For the children. By taking this stand I feel like I’m tearing down my house with my own hands. But my conscience won’t let me give in to them. I would rather be obedient to God and make Him responsible for my concerns than deny what I know is right and thus take things back into my feeble hands. But it means I must look death in the face."
"Don’t say that, John," Elizabeth said. "Surely God will send someone or something to help deliver us."
"Maybe He will," John replied. But his voice lacked its usual conviction.
Elizabeth was shaken when she left the jail. She had never seen John so discouraged. He seemed to think he really might be banished or executed. Suddenly the weight of it all – John’s predicament, the responsibility for the children, their poverty without John’s income – felt overwhelming. He had always been there, capable, ready with answers and solutions. But now he too was powerless. If John couldn’t help, then who?
There was only One. Oh God, she prayed silently, we desperately need Thee.
A few days later, friends from church stopped by her house.
"John wants thee to come," they said. "We’ll stay with the children."
Elizabeth was out of breath when she knocked on the jail door.
John’s broad smile and twinkling eyes filled the prison’s common room as he entered. "Great news, Elizabeth!" he exclaimed. "I’ve just heard that in honor of the king’s coronation, prisoners are being set free. And they can’t banish me or change my sentence in any way till the business is done! This may prove to be the answer to our prayers!"
"Are you on the list to be freed, then?" Elizabeth asked.
"No," replied John. "We must apply. I have twelve months to sue out a pardon. I’ve heard that one does that through the courts in London."
"Will they let thee go to London?"
"No. I had thought that I would send thee."
Elizabeth felt fear and resistance rise inside her. Did John know who he was asking to speak for him? She - who got all tongue-tied, flushed and choked with emotion at the smallest thing - speak to the authorities? "Wouldn’t someone else do a better job?"
"There is no one else." John replied. "Thou must go."
Continued next month...Violet Nesdoly
Thursday, February 5, 2009
“La Café Amore”
Is it really mine?
I stood back and admired my sign again, for the third time this morning. My left hand still embraced the lock on the carved iron door. Though I’d been open for six months my hands still shook everyday as I opened my restaurant.
Especially this morning. I noticed him again. He had driven by yesterday too, I was sure.
The little bags of cinnamon and saffron dropped and spilled on my shoes in puffs of orange and yellow. I felt, more than saw him as I brushed the spice with my mail back into the bags. He approached on the steps behind me as I hurried to clean up the first of my daily disasters.
What was that scent? Not the exotic aroma of saffron. Fear. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth.
“Can I help you?” I asked. My face flamed as bright as the cinnamon on my hands and under my nails.
I can help you right back to your fancy car. Men with name tags and briefcases make me nervous. I don’t need another messy rehab.
“Oh. Hi.” I left the rest of the spice and stood. Maybe I do want to get into a mess. With this guy. His thick dark hair had been finger combed to messy perfection, complementing his five-after-nine in the morning facial shadow. A quick vertical inspection and I was already singed by the heat. Mmmm. I could get cozy here.
After all, Saskatchewan winters are made for the wood stove. And this guy was putting out. Something told me though, that I shouldn’t be staring at his chiseled jaw. I focused on his chest instead.
“Come in.” My upper lip stuck to my teeth. I pried it off with my tongue. Quit being so nervous. Just runway material breathing on me. And now he thinks I’m Forest Gump’s sister.
My bright orange and red Moroccan rug greeted us as we stepped in. I flicked on the lighting. Wrought iron lanterns came to life above and on the wall sconces.
My morning routine of inhaling deeply and enjoying the ambience was dampened with the guy behind me. Instead of running my hand over the iron backed chairs and along the flowered mosaic tiles over the fireplace, I marched in rhythm to the clicking he was orchestrating. I looked around, and hoped for at least a smile but I saw a silver pen instead, and this thumb giving the clicking orders.
Maybe my lemon meringue pie would appease Mr. Silver Pen. Or perhaps a glass of bubbly mint tea. Nah, he didn’t look the type. He looked French. And I could do French. I do have chocolate filled pastry, I thought, as I meandered through a Moroccan salon, set with a knee high mosaic table and iron day beds.
Freddie, focus. I’m stable. I’m past the depression. I will keep my job this time.
I stopped and re-arranged a group of silk embroidered pillows. Somebody had left them all in a row on a day-bed. I tossed the pillows until they resembled a windswept pile of autumn leaves. One fell on the floor. Perfect.
This is my café. And I’m going to hang on to it. I’ll never go back again.
Mr. Savoir Faire slapped his briefcase on the counter beside my till.
Now my legs were shaking too, in rhythm to his pen.
What does this three piece suit want?
I stepped into my tiny kitchen and stood behind the till. He had blue eyes. And they were round and soft. But his voice betrayed them.
“Coffee?” I asked. I knew what he’d say. ‘Chai Tea Latte.’ Of course he’d want real tea, not syrup for this Da Vinci. And skip the whipped cream. Cinnamon maybe.
I thought I detected a smile but it faded when he pulled a business card from his jacket. I grabbed the till, determined not to sign a contract for overpriced laundry service. What’s that phrase Marsha has been trying to teach me? NO. That’s it. No, I’m not interested. But I was interested. I was. In his eyes. There was something hiding behind them. He needed me.
“Pardon me, sir?”
I glanced at his business card lying on top of his briefcase. “Health Inspector”.
I stepped back. If only it was a chai latte he’d wanted. I’d even talk laundry service. A cold chill crawled up the back of my neck. I pictured the kitchen behind me. I had bleached the countertops and sinks last night. Breathe. I had changed the filter on the drinking water. But the cooler? Could rigamortisis grow at 40 degrees? I had enough dead cilantro in there to feed a herd of camels.
He pointed his chin, that perfectly sculpted chin, at the door to the cooler. I could get distracted. Wish he could. No, Mr. Professional was fixated on my cooler door.
Just when I’d thought he couldn’t complete an entire sentence, he said, “I’d like to see the thermometer from your cooler.”
The hair on my arms lay back down. Ahhhhh. No need to worry about the ufo’s, those unidentified fuzzy objects, growing on the carrots. I'll just pluck the thermometer from the back wall and bring it out. But of course I opened my mouth and discovered a new meaning to the word stupid. “I’ll take you right in.”
(First scene of a little romance I'm working on)
Monday, February 2, 2009
My thumb is blackish-green. I used to have a couple of beautiful Christmas Cacti that lasted for years—emphasis on the “used to.” My Anthuriums are doing wonderfully, as are the Hibiscus, Geraniums, Aloe, Palm, and Spider plants. At the moment, the African Violets are perky—but that could change suddenly, and for the worst.
Feeling quite “green” about things, I decided to try my hand at orchids. One of our pastors is quite knowledgeable on the subject and offered to give me a couple of starter plants when he next divided his impressive stock. He also gave me detailed instructions on how to care for my new “babies.” These I have followed almost to the letter.
Then I “stole a march” on him, as they say. A friend and I were looking for potting soil in one of the many gardening shops here in Caracas when I spotted the Lady Slipper. I asked the price and knew immediately that this was a steal of a deal. Pastor Rocky’s thumb was not the only thing that was green when I told him about the newest baby in my orchid nursery.
For a long time I mistakenly referred to orchids as parasites. In my ignorance, I wondered how anything so beautiful could attribute its splendor to the ability to suck the life out of another living being. The truth is that the varieties of orchids that grow on trees simply use those other living beings as anchors and take nothing from their hosts. They draw their life from the air.
One spiritual lesson strikes me from this tiny bit of information.
In ministry I look for the “orchids”—those who want to know God, not just take from me the information I might be able to provide about Him; those who need support from me, but understand that they are sustained by their relationship to the Lord.
Plants come and go. My black thumb may kill my Lady Slipper one day (though I will work hard to prevent that), but my eternal consolation is that my spiritual orchids are guaranteed by God to flourish forever.