March 24, 2019

Faith To Step Out - Shirley S. Tye

The Bible states that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 NKJV). The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes faith as “complete trust or confidence; a firm belief, especially without logical proof”.  Hebrews chapter eleven lists many people who acted in faith and the amazing things they accomplished.  Do I have faith to chart a new territory? Is God challenging me to chart a new territory? 

Since retirement from full-time work, almost every day feels like a new adventure; even the simplest things sometimes are challenging.  However, my so-called ‘adventures’ are a long shot from the adventures some people experience.  Driving to new places on out-of-town charters present new challenges each time; mapping the safest route, searching satellite pictures for places to park and turn around a forty-five-foot-long bus – the silly thing doesn’t bend around corners and takes up a great deal of space.  The film industry presents its own challenges; what exactly are the directors and producers expecting; how to portray a character as a believable person; how long will we be working in the cold to shoot one scene?  Is it time to eat?  

My adventures and challenges are not exciting, and they do not require deep faith.  When something new pops up, I simply tackle the job and hope I do it right. I sit on two boards, and when given a task to do, I ask God for wisdom and talent to get the job done.  And away I go, just as I did when parachute jumping in my twenties.  I threw myself backwards off the airplane strut, plummeted spread-eagle several feet and trusted the parachute had been packed correctly by my instructor.   

But with age comes fears or perhaps it’s an abundance of caution.  I’m no longer daring, leaping into things, or off things.  If God were to challenge me to chart a new territory today, would I be up to it?  Perhaps not. However, 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NIV) tells us that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Wow! Image that!  Whatever God calls me to do, I’ll be able to do it because He will supply all that I need to accomplish the task.  Yes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV) I need not fear or doubt when the Lord calls me to chart a new territory.  He has told us not to “fear but to be strong and of good courage because He goes with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NKJV)

Well then!  If God calls me to rise to a new challenge, I’ll be ready because He will make me ready.  Whether or not the task sounds logical to my limited understanding, I’ll have complete trust and confidence, and faith to step out because He has promised to be with me. What an amazing God we serve!

March 22, 2019

Heading Into New Territory by Alan Anderson

Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

I’m heading into new and unknown territory for me. Some people refer it to “old age.” I don’t know when one is supposed to know old age has been reached. All I know is I have never been there before but I know it’s just around the corner. It’s seems natural to be growing older. I wonder what being “old” will be like? I sense eternity is on the horizon and I find comfort in that future.

My years of being involved in ministry have caused me to listen to my teachers, those older than I. They have taught me challenges and blessings of old age. As one older lady said to me “Old age ain’t for sissies!” I believe her. The blessings include doing life on a more unhurried basis, especially if one continues to enjoy good health. These days with spring drawing closer I spend time outside just watching the birds eat from the old coffee maker I turned into a birdfeeder. No reason to rush from this simple pleasure.

I believe spending time with my elders, my teachers, has helped pave the way for me, as I grow older. The time with them was a study in aging. I saw the joy of old age in their eyes and the cries of old age from their hearts. The loudest and most heartbreaking cries came from those whose beloved children had died before them. As they told me, that’s not supposed to happen. Crushing yet humbling words, I pray I never experience such a sorrowful loss.

I remember being invited to a birthday party for a lady who turned one hundred five years old. She was the center of attraction and she loved it. She was a library of stories going back decades. She taught me of the enduring love for our parents we may enjoy even to our old, old age. One day when I visited with her we both realized Mother’s Day was not far away. She turned to me and said, “Here I am over one hundred years old and I miss my mom. In fact I miss both my parents.” I will always remember that sweet endearing statement.

As I get older I am aware I have more years behind me than I do ahead of me. As a Christian I also know life does not end with my earthly death. I guess I am at a point in life where such a thought is acceptable to me. Such a prospect as a life after this makes this one even more worthwhile. It’s like living in the here and now is giving me practice for the life to come.

I find comfort in my faith in God as I walk into the later stage of my life. I am reminded from the Bible that God loves me. Wow, what a precious truth to embrace. His Word also assures me He has prepared a place for me and I will be in this place forever. Such assurance is humbling. You see, faith in God means I am not earthbound. My citizenship is not confined to this life.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.—John 14:3 (NIV)

If you read this rambling blog post to the end I thank you. As I write it is like I am chatting with friends. You are the kind of friends who make life less lonely and more meaningful for this aging writer. I mean, where would life be without writers or readers? We are in this life together my friends. Thank you for being my companions.

You can read more by Alan Anderson on his blog Scarred Joy.

March 21, 2019

WANTED: Experienced Cartographer, Attention to Detail Necessary ... by Jocelyn Faire

Set up signposts to mark your trip home. Get a good map. Study the road conditions. The road out is the road back. Come back, dear virgin Israel, come back to your home towns. Jeremiah 31:21 The Msg

Everything in life is much simpler when we are given a detailed map, course outline, or precise instructions to follow. But Life doesn't work that way. It's the twists and turns that develop us. It feels as though I have had a decade of uncharted territory ... actually fourteen years of it ... actually, life is uncharted territory. You would think I would have learned something by now ... and I have.

I have learned that as long as one lives, learning opportunities abound, and I learn best through complications in life.

I have learned that navigating through these uncharted troubles of life requires a great deal of emotional energy. 

I have learned that faith is not the opposite of doubt, faith is acting out our trust.

I have learned that faith is an operation mode that requires practice.

I have learned that we speak ourselves in the direction we want to go.

My recent uncharted territory comes in a unique format. With my marriage of two years, I inherited nine grandchildren, these nine children come as Lego parts of three different sets. On the flip side, I am learning how to be the inherited grandmother. For the youngest children, I will be the only remembered grandma. As two-year-old Brynn stated while we drove past a cemetery “Grandma B is in heaven.” Her two sisters told her that she'd never met Grandma B. These little ones have taken to me well, and I to them. But I also carry self-inflicted guilt as my own grandchildren live overseas and I have limited time with them. My mind began a deceptive mathematical withhold love kind of reasoning in order to keep my biological off-spring in first place; as if love invested here would lessen the amount of love left for my grandkids. In the last two years, my writing time has dwindled while my love of life has increased. Much of my writing of the past dozen years, has come from a place of deep pain. And now the resurfacing of joy has surprised me; this is all new territory.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6 NIV
Afraid of Heights
It was a year ago that I had a nasty tumble while downhill skiing with my husband. The diagnosis was an avulsion fracture, and two torn ligaments of the left knee ... I was one-legged for three months. This year I determined to ski again, my husband was not quite as convinced. But we went, and I must say it was a huge success. I am doing the final edits on this post as we drive away from the mountains. While skiing, I thought of lessons
learned on mountain tops ... this year a new Fear of Heights reared its head. As I pondered this, I equated this to uncharted territory. I have struggled through despair ... in fact in the grief years, I questioned my right to be happy. Sometimes grief becomes a well-worn garment, we grow accustomed to its heaviness. When spring bursts forth, we feel naked without the winter coat, it all seems too sunny.

It would have been reasonable and easy to give up the skiing, given that I now live in the flattest province of the country; yet, I persisted. But when I got off the chair lift ... the rubber hit the road in the form of skis hitting the snow. Two anemic pieces of fibreglass are supposed to take me down a mountain? I had reason to be afraid. It would be easy not to try. What if I would get hurt? But what if I didn't? I'd done the physio.

Some of the same questioning has come to haunt my writing as well ... It would be easy to quit, but what if I succeed? What does success look like? Hundreds of people on the same mountain each with a different goal in mind; some snowboarders do aerials, some blaze down the mountain, some parents strap their kids alongside and traverse together, there were many other grey heads on skis. We studied the ski maps before we jumped on the chair lifts, the difficulty level was colour coded. As we interacted with other skiers, we explained: we ski like grandparents—because we are!

So I have learned that while navigating new territory or ski slopes—get a good map, follow a trusted guide, and cheer one another on along the way.

March 20, 2019

To See The Uncharted - Denise M. Ford

These thoughts come to mind as I mull over the idea of this month’s blog theme,

Uncharted Territory…
To open my eyes and see,
To clear my vision to interpret,
To know the meaning of another person’s gaze,
To trust the message within a shared look.

I open the door this morning to peer through the darkness to allow my field of vision to settle on the silhouettes of the spruce boughs.  Their branches are slowly brushing against each other, untangling themselves beneath the dawning light.  I struggle to bring the details into view, to see the dark green outlines forming before me, to bring meaning to their beauty.  In my mind I hear, 
“Come, come discover today, see what is uncharted yet set before you.”
The past few days have broadened my perception and my concept of how I might interpret this theme. Some personal interactions have given me the opportunity to witness how I can see and make sense of personal uncharted territories.  The way the spruce boughs revealed themselves to me this morning reminded me to consider these moments.
On Saturday, while babysitting my grandson, I marvelled at his interpretation of his world.  At nearly 9 months old he has mastered the quick pivoting head move to assure himself that his mommy or his daddy still remains in his line of vision.  When suddenly he becomes aware of their absence his ability to enjoy his surroundings disintegrates into fearful anxiety.  He cries as he loses sight of them.  His uncharted territory appears before him: Nana and Pop-pop staring back at him instead of mommy and daddy.  His eyes reflect his fear and his confusion. In my mind I hear his unspoken questions,
“Where am I?  Why did they leave me?  Am I alone?” 
On Sunday, while walking hand-in-hand with my granddaughter at the local ski hill, we pass an elderly gentleman.  His eyes look wildly about as he grabs the arm of his companion to steady himself.  The man is obviously in an unfamiliar setting, stepping onto a snowy path, the sun casting a harsh glare directly into his eyes.  His wild gaze clearly means he can’t see beyond his precarious position.  His uncharted territory appears like a vast wilderness oppressing and paralyzing him.  In my mind I hear his silent screams,
“Where should I go? Can you take me away from here!” 
On Monday, I spend the afternoon reading to pairs of first graders at the local elementary school.  I meet them at their classrooms, and we chat as we walk to the small reading room.  I try to look directly at them so they can see my genuine interest in what they tell me.  “I was hoping I would see you today,” one young boy says to me.  He runs ahead and when I arrive, I see him sitting at the reading table with his head tilted up toward me.  His eyes look up eagerly to connect with mine.  In my mind I hear an innocent yet mischievous message,
“I’m ready, let’s have some fun!”
Sometimes our eyes allow us to gradually see what might be possible as a new day unfolds before us.  Sometimes our ideas of how we see ourselves in a certain time and place form exaggerated feelings and we react fearfully and uncontrollably.  Sometimes we find ourselves directly engaged in seeing and understanding a message that is sent within a shared look.  To see and to perceive becomes our new uncharted territory.  To ask ourselves,
“What is it that I am seeing?” “Can I face it without fear?” 
“Can I sort through the confusion?” “Can I trust the situation?”
I am currently in a program of vision therapy to improve the way my eyes track and focus.  The goal of one exercise is to correct the choppy motion of my eyes as they try to focus on an object as it moves from point to point.  In order to reassure myself as I do this exercise, I have placed a picture of the face of Jesus on one end of a popsicle stick to use as my focal object.  I find it fascinating to look into the eyes of Jesus, to follow Him, to earnestly train my line of vision on His eyes. As I finish, I usually spend a bit of time simply relaxing and gazing into Jesus’ eyes.  Sometimes I hear those same questions that came to mind over the past few days:
“Where am I?  Am I alone?  Why did you leave me here? 
Where should I go? Can you take me away from here?”
But if I allow myself to settle into the line of vision of Jesus’ eyes, I am reminded of the words I heard this morning as the spruce boughs formed their outlines before me,
“Come, come discover today, see what is uncharted yet set before you.” 
As I look up to Him, I silently state my promise,
“I am ready to have some fun!”

I pray for each of us to open our doors to uncharted territory so we can find and see ourselves in new and exciting spaces!!

As a post note: As I am typing this my daughter-in-law sends me a text to let me know that her first attempt at adult swim class was a success.  However, the goggles she bought to use didn’t work like she had hoped.  While her vision may have been slightly impeded by the pool water, she conquered her childhood fear and managed to discover in her own words, “a safe space for me to relearn what I already knew, so I didn’t feel overwhelmed.”  I wish I could tape one of my Jesus stickers to a new pair of goggles and let her use it under the water!!