Friday, April 30, 2010
In her book The Pregnant Virgin, Marion Woodman tells us that we should not be afraid of change. She says that we should look at the amaryllis bulb, its development into great bell flowers after its apparent death, and have as much faith in ourselves as we do in the blossoming flower.
Yesterday, I saw green shoots poking out of the earth. I had forgotten that I had planted bulbs in the garden last fall but, when I saw the green shoots, I remembered that I had put the dried hyacinth bulbs in the cold wet earth. They were given to me as potted plants, their purple flowers spreading God’s praise through their heavy scent, like incense in a church service.
Now these bulbs are pushing up through the earth after spending a winter in the dark, cold soil. They give hope of new life; they give memories of a past kindness, and an understanding that new life comes after apparent death. Last year’s flowers died, the leaves took in nourishment from the sun to feed the bulbs. The leaves died. The bulbs dried and, to all intents and purposes, were dead. But the nourishment they had taken in was stored in their bodies ready to push up new life when the time and conditions were right.
Now, I wait and watch their progress, hoping for beauty and life out of dryness and death. The purple hyacinth bulbs will ring out their praise in sweet perfumed silence and their essence will rise up to God’s throne.
May we, too, after experiencing difficulties in life or dry creative times, push forward in new life and beauty, having faith in ourselves and giving praise and thanks to God for all his goodness.
Blessed be the living Christ who suffered, died and rose again that we might have life and live it abundantly.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Romania is a land of poetry, even in the midst of the darkness. Understanding almost no words, yet I felt the poetic flow of language rich with meaning. I saw the joy, so startling against the hopelessness. I felt the passion as they prayed.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
A few weeks ago a busy part of the world came to a standstill—at least where air transportation was concerned. A young bride-to-be had booked a flight so she would arrive at just the right time, but the wedding day came closer and closer, and she wasn’t able to be there. What is a wedding without a bride? There was no substitute way for her to make it in time.
Parents of a young family asked her parents to come baby sit for five days so they could visit England on business. That stretched out to ten days. The grandparents felt quite capable of five days, but as time went on they grew more wearied of keeping up with all the activities of teen and pre-teen students. The worried parents investigated driving to Italy to get a flight from there, but had they been able to afford it, the necessary transportation to that destination was not available either.
Many people, not just those stranded by the volcanic ash, began to realize how dependant we are on air travel and precise scheduling. It isn’t just travel that is affected, but food supplies, mail, goods and much more. Life as we know it would change in many ways if planes could no longer fly.
Just this morning, my computer took a bit of a temper tantrum. I am so used to flicking a few switches and being in touch with my friends, my colleagues, my work, my creativity instantaneously. Again I became acutely aware of how dependent I am on that little device no larger than the binder I used to carry to high school way back when.
My calendar which keeps me from forgetting most of my scheduled activity was hidden in my computers depths. The talk I am to give this Saturday morning was ensconced in its catacombs. The poem and its introduction that I am to read at the launch of Grandmothers’ Necklace in Kitchener Saturday afternoon wasn’t printed out. I was keenly aware that as I have often jokingly said, “Half my mind is on my computer!”
The planes eventually did fly again and life settled down to a semblance of normalcy. My son came to my rescue, walked me through several tries until (YEAH!) we got those document back again. But in the mean time, I had a bit of fun wondering how most of this generation would get along if suddenly we were back to the restrictions of say, 200 years ago. There would most certainly be a painful relearning of basic living.
In all this musing, my heart became thankful for the One who said He is the same yesterday, today and forever! And thank God, because of the Man of Sorrows, I know him intimately, for he is my Rock and my Redeemer!
Later that night, I heard a loon calling out on the lake, a sure sign of open water and springtime. I love the sounds of a loon. There is a haunting, lonesome quality to their call coming over the water late at night. But in the next breath, you’ll hear the sweet trilling warble that sounds so much like laughter that people have coined the phrase: “laughing like a loon” (and then quite inaccurately taken it a step further to say “grinning like a loon”). They are fun to watch if you’re out canoeing on the lake. An expert diver and swimmer, the loon will disappear under the water and not reappear for what feels like a very long time. Then suddenly, they’ll bob up again far off in the distance in a totally different direction than you thought they would! An elusive bird and one that I was glad to welcome back after a long winter.
My husband even said he heard some frogs croaking when he went on a walk yesterday.
My thoughts were on spring and the newness of life – and God’s mercies – new and fresh as the green grass of springtime.
This morning – ah, this morning… Well, to start off with, it’s snowing. A lot. The sky is gray and the thin, gray ice on the lake will soon have a layer of snow insulating it, keeping it from completely melting. The little patch of moving water under the bridge will stay open but outside my window, the world is like an old black and white photo – everything in shades of gray.
I looked up the verse that had been going through my head – the one about God’s mercies being new every morning. It’s from the book of Lamentations, chapter 3 and verse 23. It was written by Jeremiah – the “weeping prophet.” As I read the verse in context, I began to realize that it had been written not in the exuberance of springtime but in the cold, dark winter of the soul. Jeremiah’s words, so often repeated in song and verse, had been spoken out of a heart filled with deep sorrow and crippling pain. He felt shut off from God: “…when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer.” The world felt dark to him - and lonely: “I was a derision to all my people… He has broken my teeth with gravel stones…my strength and my hope is perished…”
Then, out of the ashes of despair, Jeremiah wrote these words: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his mercies fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
Jeremiah, though still in a dark, desolate place, was not “consumed.” There was still a small flicker of hope that could be fanned into a bright flame of courage, and Jeremiah could once again hear the voice of the Lord saying “Fear not.”
Though I long for blue skies and the warmth of summer sunshine, it is often in the cold and dark of winter that we are attuned to His voice speaking gently to our hearts. His words, “Fear not” echo down through the ages from Genesis 15:1 to Revelations 1:17 and were often on the lips of our Saviour as he walked this earth: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32).
Spring will come and one day soon the ice will be completely gone off the lake. But for now, it is enough to know that, whether gray skies or blue, God is faithful and His mercies are new every morning.
Author of Jasmine, published by Word Alive Press, released this month and available in bookstores across Canada.
Jasmine Peters is doing everything in her power to avoid talking about, or dealing with, what happened to her. But when the past interfaces with the future, Jasmine not only puts herself at risk but also endangers the life of newly commissioned RCMP constable, Andrew Martin.
Monday, April 26, 2010
This morning as I was walking with my girlfriends, we started to discuss how sentimental we’ve all become. As we age, we’ve discovered that keepsakes actually matter more to us than they did in our youth.
One friend was explaining this fact by sharing a story with us. She said she went through a lot of work and effort to make small quilts that she gave as presents to her children or grandchildren. After they were used for their initial purpose and as the years went by, they were eventually used in some other constructive way. The other way she noticed was that they ended up at the bottom of the dog kennel. By the pained expression on her face, it seemed to me that she would prefer her children were more sentimental. She had hoped they would cherish these homemade quilts in much the same way that they were created.
I also shared a story with my friends about my hammer. In the above picture, my hammer is the first one on the left. Many years ago when I was a preschooler, I used to work in the garage with my Dad. He was a self taught carpenter as well as a general handy man. I loved to spend time with him in whatever way possible. At that time, he gave me a small hammer to call my own. Over the years after I became a teenager, I didn’t think too much about that hammer but when I got married and left home, my Dad gave it to me.
A couple of months ago, one of my granddaughters phoned and asked if she could spend the day with us. Her dad was on the way out and he promptly dropped her off at our house. Grandpa was busy hanging pictures using my trusty hammer so I asked our granddaughter to hand the hammer to Grandpa when he needed it. I then explained to my six year old granddaughter that I used this very hammer when I was about her age. She looked at me with that quizzical look of hers and asked “really”. I’m sure she wondered if I was ever really that young.
I proceeded to tell her how precious this hammer was to me because it was a gift from my father and one day I would love to give it to her but I wanted to wait until she could realize the importance of it. I want to pass my hammer along, but as simple and as old as this gift may be, I want her to keep it and do the same. Now isn’t that silly? Well not “really”, at least not to me. My hammer signifies a lovely memory and a cherished part of my life. The words that I write have much the same meaning. My words are my hammer. It’s why I write. I want my words to be passed along down the line to all those who are willing to read them. I have a message. My message means an awful lot to me. Does yours? If so, please join me in song and pass your hammer along.
If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morrrning, I’d hammer in the eeevening…..all over this town!
Author of “I’m Not Perfect And It’s Okay”
Website - www.doloresayotte.com
Blog Site – http://doloresayotte.wordpress.com
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I realized a few days ago that one of the most significant conversions to the Christian faith came about as a result of questions. I was reading in Acts, chapter nine. The story recounts how Paul, formerly Saul, saw a blinding light and heard a voice. That voice asked him a question. It said, “Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Interestingly, Saul replied to this question with his own question, “Who are you, Lord?”
These two questions set the stage for Paul to do the only thing that he could do during the next three days while he suffered from temporary blindness. He was able to mull over the answers to these questions.
Why was he persecuting these followers of Jesus, and thus Jesus Himself? What was he afraid of? What did he hope to accomplish by rooting them out and destroying them? What was it all about?
Coupled with these questions was the question of who Jesus was? Was He really alive as His followers claimed? Was He interested in the lives of those who committed themselves to Him? Was He truly God? If so, what chance did he, Paul, have in fighting against Him? Was he on a dead end street?
As he debated possible answers to these questions in his own mind, the One who spoke to him was preparing to respond to his needs. He would not necessarily be given clear-cut answers to his questions, but he would be given what he needed, someone who would accept him as he was.
Ananias was a follower of Christ and to him was given instructions, not questions. The Lord said to Ananias, “Go to this man, because he is praying. “
His questions were leading Saul to realize that he did not have answers and he had to look beyond his own limited capacities to seek wisdom. His questions led him to prayer. They led him to bring his questions to the only one who really has all the answers.
Instead of giving pat answers to those questions, the Lord was preparing to give the answers that Saul really needed. He was sending someone who would be able to restore his sight, but he would never see things the same way again, because he had entered into a new relationship with God through Christ Jesus. No longer was He fighting Him, He was seeking Him in prayer.
Ananias, just like you or me, was apprehensive about approaching this man who was notorious for his persecution of the followers of the Way of Jesus. He knew that to come into the place where he was and talk about God sending him could stir the man to accomplish what he had come to Damascus to do, search out the Christians and throw them into prison or have them killed.
But the Lord tired to help Ananias see Paul from his perspective, not as the man he had been, but as the man who by the grace of God he was becoming. He saw in the intensity of this man of conviction the capability to suffer in the way that was going to be required by those who would choose to live by the values of the Kingdom of God.
The Lord helped Ananias to see that here was a man who was capable of being a chosen instrument of God to bring the name of Jesus to Gentiles, and kings and the people of Israel. But the price would be much suffering.
Ananias listened to God and then I expect that as he went into the house where Saul was staying he listened to what Saul had to say. Saul must have talked to him about the way these questions had been playing on his mind as he sat in the darkness. He may have told Ananias that he found that despite all of his education and religious training, he could not figure out what God was doing. All he could do was bow before Him and ask for wisdom and understanding and mercy.
Ananias, who himself was filled with the presence of the Spirit of the Lord, placed his hands on Saul. I can just imagine him placing his arm on Saul’s shoulder and saying, “Saul, my brother, Jesus sent me to tell you that He is going to give you everything you need. Since you are opening your life to Him, He will come and live in you in the person of His Spirit.” Then as he spoke, the scales fell from the eyes of Saul and from that day he really did see everything in a new way and left us a record of that in the library of books that he wrote that became part of the New Testament canon.
I am sure Saul had more questions, and as we read through his writings, we find him raising many of them. The interesting thing is that the radial change that had taken place in him also raised questions for others. The account of the story continues by telling us that as he began to share with others the new way of thinking that he had come to, those who listened were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on the name of Jesus?” “Hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
I suspect their questions led some of them to think more deeply about what they believed, and what might bring about such a radical change in a person. I believe that these questions started them on the journey to faith in Christ.
Aren’t questions wonderful tools to point us to Jesus?
Friday, April 23, 2010
A question was posed on The Word Guild discussion forum, asking, "What do you do when you are itchy to write but feel stuck, blocked - can't go anywhere. How do you get unstuck?"
I remember when I was stuck on where to go with my novel. I took an extra long walk and talked all the way. I discussed with God the troubles I was having and by the time I returned home, I had my answer!
Lisa Wilson does a freewrite. “You know, pick one of those crazy exercises from a book - write for five minutes about what is going on in this picture - that sort of thing. I find that helps to get the 'creative juices' flowing.” She also suggests writing from a different point of view. “If I'm working on a particular project and feel stuck, I'll try writing from a different POV, (even if I know I won't be including it) or start the next scene in a new way than I have before, a flashback, new setting, whatever. Often, I won't include those in the finished project, but these short starts get me going again.”
Jane Harris-Zsovan agees with Ed, “I think all of Ed's suggestions will work. For those of us with a visual, tactile, or auditory orientation, sketching, painting, dancing, singing,
praying out loud, or even story-boarding will also help.”
Carla Coroy likes to talk to friends. “When I get stuck like that I know that it's time to call one of my friends. I have a few that will always stir up a passion in my through our conversation and when we get off the phone, I'm ready and raring to go!”
Donna Dawson shares, “When I am stuck, I pick up a local newspaper and start reading. You would be amazed at what will jump out at me and get me started again. Sometimes it's an article. Sometimes it's the comics. Sometimes it's the crossword puzzle.”
How do you get unstuck?
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I love the NHL Playoffs. It reminds me about what it means to live for Jesus.
Every year the best teams in the league shoot it out for a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup. Whether you are first place or eighth, one thing is clear for every player who laces up for a game:
This is it.
They have to win. Now.
Especially when it comes to Game 7 or another elimination game, each team knows it is all on the line.
There are no more chances to come back and try this again.
That’s the big difference between the regular season and the playoffs. In the regular season you can afford to lose four out of seven games at any given time and still have an opportunity to make the playoffs. But in the post season – losing four games in a series means you go home.
Each player has to go hard. Every shift. Every race for the puck. Every pass. Every shot. They have to count. They have to go 100% full out without any thought of being able to rewind and redo something.
It’s like Christianity. Each day, each moment I have the opportunity to live for Christ. Surrendering to Him. Doing devotions. Surrendering to Christ. Loving my neighbor as myself. Sharing my faith. Serving Jesus.
Life is not an exhibition game. It’s not even the regular season. It’s playoffs.
This is the only shot at life on earth that I have.
I can’t come back and try this over again. This is it.
If I’m down 4-2 and I’m playing in game 7 in the visitor’s building with three minutes left in regulation – I can’t afford to complain or wish that I had it some other way or ask to try it again. I have to press on toward the goal.
Or if I’m playing at home and shellacking a team 5-0 with the crowd going crazy, I need to keep at it, keep looking up to avoid the hits, and press on to the next round.
The most passionate Christians are like the best teams in hockey. They don’t look back. They don’t coast. And winning (staying faithful) is everything. They know this is it.
Like a great player who gives it 100% every shift, it’s a reminder to me to live for Christ each day.
Paul is the author of The Urban Saint: The Charles Mulli Story and Father to the Fatherless: The Charles Mulli Story and the director of Among Thieves.
Consider, for example, that major Canadian newspapers are in bankruptcy protection.
Journalism organizations are struggling.
Pretty much anyone who is not supported by your tax or charity dollar is struggling (and maybe some of them are too). For example, here is an article I would recommend to any writer or avid reader, to understand the situation we face now. Brief excerpt:
According to Grandinetti, publishers are asking the wrong questions. “The real competition here is not, in our view, between the hardcover book and the e-book,” he says. “TV, movies, Web browsing, video games are all competing for people’s valuable time. And if the book doesn’t compete we think that over time the industry will suffer. Look at the price points of digital goods in other media. I read a newspaper this morning online, and it didn’t cost me anything. Look at the price of rental movies. Look at the price of music. In a lot of respects, teaching a customer to pay ten dollars for a digital book is a great accomplishment.”Solution? Adopt a business approach to your writing. Yes, it is a ministry, but if no one is willing to pay for it, well ... what are alternative best uses of your time?
Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Ah, but perhaps your car will rest in the gentle hands of dozens of skilled surgeons and nurses around the world, as scalpels and hypodermic needles, saving lives.
What that car was is not quite what it was becoming, and what it was becoming was not clear until it was complete, and finally revealed. By that time, no one involved in the process knew what it had been before, neither did they care.
Rom. 8:28-29 (NIV) And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
1 John 3:1-2 (NIV) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Rev. 21:4b-5a (NIV) There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!"
He is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press).
His current project is ghost writing an historical biography.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Apparently many Toronto churches are not interested in attracting newcomers. New to the area, my wife and I immediately began visiting congregations. It was, alas, a largely dispiriting exercise.
I opened our church explorations by looking on the web. In spite of careful internet research, more than once we arrived at a church only to find that worship was at a different time than that posted on their website. When I noted to church leaders that their service was at a different time than publicized, they turned the responsibility back on me: “Did you phone to check?” Yet the purpose of a website is to give accurate, trustworthy information. Besides, phoning is not that reliable: phone messages also are not necessarily updated. They often give wrong information.
At church, there are other barriers. Recently, at a church for the first time I wondered what I needed in terms of hymnals or order of service. But when I asked an usher, she looked at me, without responding. I was left to interpret her silence: “What are you doing here, anyway?” “Who wants to know?” “What, really, is your problem?” I asked again and still no response. So I stood aside, watched what other congregants picked up, and did likewise.
Worship services adeptly remind newcomers that they are outsiders. Almost invariably there is a welcome, especially to “visitors,” but announcements are cryptic, often referring to the first names and not explaining who people are. Allusions to denominational agencies and institutions are an acronym alphabet soup.
The worst part is after the service. People warmly greet each other, but often ignore guests. I can recall only two or three times when someone approached and initiated a conversation. At one point, I actually decided to join a neighbourhood church. I walked there that day with that resolution. After the service, I wove my way through the busy, crowded, noisy foyer. I was surrounded by handshakes, hugs, and laughter. People noted me out of the corner of their eyes, but no one made a move. At the coat rack, I slowly donned my jacket and once more ran the fellowship gauntlet. Again, no conversations were initiated. “I don’t need this,” I concluded as I walked home.
On one low day, elsewhere, I initiated a conversation with a pastor. I told him that I’d like to talk and gave him my business card and my phone number. I never heard from him.
If we were not committed, highly motivated Christians we might have given up. We know how to look for churches, what we need in church, what a church is supposed to be, what to ask for. It takes a lot of resolution to keep going back week after week to visit and to throw oneself on the (nonexistent) mercy or hospitality of strangers. That is a high threshold to climb. I wonder how less motivated newcomers cope or respond.
It is well established that moving is one of life’s most stressful transitions. It’s a simple act of Christian compassion, then, to help people through such a change, especially in Canada. Statistics suggest that over half of Toronto’s population were not born in Canada.
If my wife’s and my experience is normal, I expect that many people do not feel welcome to attend. What do we expect will happen to people whose Christian commitment is not secure? Or someone who came to church reluctantly? Or one who has never been part of a church? Or one who wants to explore the faith? The kinds of non-welcome we regularly experienced may actually deter folks from trying once again.
The next time I hear a church complain about declining numbers, I’ll have to bite my tongue. Otherwise I might say: “Serves us right.”
Arthur Paul Boers is the author of The Way is Made by Walking: A Pilgrimage Along the Camino de Santiago (InterVarsity) and holds the RJ Bernardo Family Chair of Leadership at Tyndale Seminary, Toronto.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Rather than finding this disturbing and swallowing pride that we’re not the only one having a pity party or suffering through something, it’s more helpful to see it as supportive. Just think of the myriad of people who can share with you how they found their way through the smoke and mirrors and finally came out at the end – relieved, happy and ready to begin again. Perhaps you could think of the old cliché “There’s safety in numbers” and realize that if others can survive in similar situations, than you can too.
Recently, I decided to redesign my web site, begin to blog and make some of my grief articles available through download. This is a major task and at times, I wondered at the wisdom of setting up a new site. Talking myself out of it at times, convincing myself that I had other things I could be doing. Then I became aware of many people, all ages, who suffer in grief and who would benefit from visiting a fresh web site and gleaning supportive information.
The more I began to work in it, the less work it became. The more I reread articles I had written in the past, the more relevant they became to the present. The more I looked at the grief issues I’d resourced over the years, the more powerful they became for future research.
In a recent email, I counted nine grief issues that had played havoc in the sender’s everyday life. In a contemporary novel I’m reading, the characters are coping with several issues of grief, all at the same time. And when I watch the news, grief visits most situations. As I look around my own life, I see grief weaving itself in and through my week. Yes, it’s something we live individually, but it’s also, something we share together. And so this is one area that as I work anew in grief ministry, I realize there are many others in the same area offering valid ministry, as well as countless people managing their grief in different ways.
When I ministered in the West, my husband and I went to a dinner meeting at a local Canadian Armed Forces Base. A picture hung over the fireplace, and remained indelible in my mind’s eye. A group of people walk together on a path leading from a backdrop of fire and desolation. They all have something in common with one another. They have come from a collective experience. They are wounded. They are all going in the same direction and they are leaning on each other.
So it is in most things we do. So it is in the grief we experience. So it is in the hope we celebrate.
Friday, April 16, 2010
I have been studying for the online Bible Study that I am leading in the fall. Psalm 139 is an important chapter that we study. So I thought I would start there. I didn’t get very far when Psalm 139:3 stopped me in my tracks.
“You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am.”
I always knew about the “path” that I am continually trying to locate and stay on. But telling me where to stop and rest was something I don’t ever remember reading or learning before.
If I had to pin point my location on the path I would say that I am at a resting place. I have tried fighting against this rest stop. I can see the road ahead of me and I want to keep moving and reach for the goals that God has me striving for.
The more I fought the harder God tried to hold me in the resting place. Why would I want to fight rest? Looking back on the last two years I am asking myself a lot of questions. Currently I am enjoying the rest. I now know that this is a time of “being still” and taking time to study and prepare for what God has next. I am enjoying it and treasuring this time that I get to spend with my Lord. I am learning and growing tremendously; I have learned to be thankful for this time.
The question arises again. Why did I fight this? Why did it have to come to the point of health issues and job loss for me to give in and give myself over to a period of rest.
As a society we are driven to succeed. A period of rest could look like laziness and lack of dedication to the calling that God has placed on your life. I was enjoying what I was doing for God, why would I want to stop? I was helping people-- encouraging people to live their lives with and on purpose. I won a National award for my book-- why would I want to stop when everyone was asking when my next book is coming out?
Now that I have chosen to stop and rest I have a clearer vision of what God has in store. It is bigger and greater than anything that I was striving for when I was fighting the rest, and something I would have never seen if I didn’t have this time of rest.
Every moment you know where I am and why I am there. May I continue to be obedient and trust that you know the path better than I may think I do.
Cj Carleton is the 2008 Canadian Christian Writing Award winner for her first book “What Makes You Unique? Discover the Truth or Believe the lie”. Learn more about Cj and her upcoming Online Girls Bible Study by visiting www.cjcarleton.com You can also connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
Where would the NHL be today without artificial ice? Where would Coca-Cola and Pepsi be without the ice-cold ‘pause that refreshes’? Where would your family dinner be ‘at’ without your trusty kitchen fridge? How easy it has been for humanity to produce heat by fire. Yet we have quickly forgotten how hard it has been for humanity to produce cold by any means.
The earliest method of refrigeration was the storage of food in caves and cold springs. This method of storing food in cold places slowly changed, as people began keeping food in their cellars, in their outdoor window boxes, in the snow, or underwater in nearby lakes, streams, or wells. For most of human history, perishable food have been preserved by drying, smoking, pickling, heating, and icing.
The ancient Romans were as fond of putting ice in their drinks as we are today. In the 1st Century AD, no Roman banquet would have been complete without the provision of lavish amounts of ice or snow for guests to put into their wine goblets. The famous Roman philosopher Seneca condemned snow-shops and ice-cold drinks as a clear sign of ever-growing decadence. The Roman emperor Elgabalus used donkey trains to transport a literal mountain of snow to his hot summer villa: an early form of air conditioning! Mideastern Sultans used their camel-driven postal system to transport snow all the way from the Lebanese Mountains to Cairo, Egypt. In the early days of the British Empire, perishable Norwegian ice would be sent 8,000 miles around Cape Good Hope to colonies in India.
The invention of the icebox led to more efficient refrigeration. Ice was delivered to houses by the IceMan, and was used in wooden iceboxes that were lined in tin or zinc and insulated with sawdust or seaweed. In 1868, ice blocks cost 5 times more per pound than first-quality beefsteak. By 1890 the U.S. was exporting 25 million tons of ice cut from her northern lakes.
The irony of artificial refrigeration is that some of its greatest breakthroughs came in the chilly land of Scotland. From 1750 to 1850, Scotland was the world center of scientific and engineering thought. It was in 1748 that William Cullen of Scotland demonstrated that the evaporation of ether in a partial vacuum produces cold.
Ninety years later in 1837, James Harrison, a Scottish journalist, moved to Australia from Glasgow and set about designing his own refrigeration machine. In 1855 he succeeded in creating and patenting an ether liquid-vapour compression fridge. The compressor worked by exerting pressure on a refrigerant gas, forcing it to pass through a condenser, where it cooled down and liquefied. The liquid then circulated through the refrigeration coils and vaporized again, cooling down the surrounding air.
Australia was in desperate need of refrigeration because of its lack of natural ice needed for keeping food cool. Harrison was convinced that the economic salvation of Australia lay in the marketing of her millions of sheep and cows to the millions of Europeans. But without refrigeration, it was impossible to ship the mutton across the 100 Degree-plus Equator.
Harrison spent his last penny to equip the Norfolk ship with a chemical freezing mixture for twenty tons of beef and mutton at Melbourne. But when the meat arrived in London, it was discovered that the chemical tanks had leaked and ruined the entire cargo. As a result, James Harrison went into bankruptcy, even being forced to sell his successful newspaper business. Though Harrison was financially devastated, he did open the door for the economic salvation of Australia. Other successful refrigerated voyages followed, which finally convinced Europe that Australia had something to offer, and that frozen food could be both safe and delectable.
There is a wise old saying: ‘As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him.’ (Proverbs 25:13). I give thanks to God for James Harrison the determined Scottish inventor who CHANGED Australia, who CHANGED our workplaces, who CHANGED our family kitchens by his invention of the cold. God grant us the Serenity to accept the things that we cannot CHANGE, the courage to CHANGE the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Reverend Ed Hird, Rector, St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver
Anglican Coalition in Canada
-previously published in the Deep Cove Crier
-award-winning author of Battle for the Soul of Canada
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
(The following is a Guest Post by Grace Fox who is the author of four books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation. She has written hundreds of magazine articles for publications including Focus on the Family and Power for Living. She’s also a popular speaker at women’s events and national co-director of International Messengers Canada. Grace can be found at www.gracefox.com )
There’s a big difference between having religion and having a relationship with the living God. A recent trip to the Ukraine provided me with an unforgettable visual in this regard. It happened in Odessa, at one of Europe’s largest Orthodox monasteries.
Upon entering the fenced grounds, two girlfriends and I covered our legs and heads with scarves. Only then could we proceed into a chapel adorned with burning candles and paintings of various saints. A half dozen worshipers sat in silence on straight-backed wooden chairs along the right wall. Several more occupied a bench against the back wall.
Suddenly a man’s snoring shattered the silence. His filthy clothes, straggly hair and beard, and the stench of urine betrayed him as a vagrant seeking refuge from the cold. A worshiper barked a command in Russian at him. The sleeper jerked his head and squinted through alcohol-glazed eyes before returning to his slumber. The worshiper turned away, muttering. Disgust etched his face.
We tiptoed outside where we found a small cemetery. Silk flowers and pussy willow branches decorated the graves. These willow branches, once blessed by the priests, guarantee good luck for the next year. A necessity, I suppose, for the deceased still trying to reach heaven.
We also saw a black BMW with a bottle of vodka perched on the cobblestone beside one rear tire. It’s hard to explain the car’s presence considering all visitors’ vehicles were parked along the public road outside the fence. My hunch is that the owner – perhaps a man of political influence – used his clout (and maybe a bribe) to drive into pedestrian-only territory to avoid walking in the rain. But the vodka bottle? Likely deemed inappropriate for a place of worship, so it waited outside for its owner’s return.
We peeked into other unlocked buildings and found intricate mosaics, marble floors, and gold throughout. The monastery’s architecture and cleanliness inspired awe. Its atmosphere, however, did not. It left me feeling sad and empty, for while the facility boasted religion’s finery, it lacked life and warmth.
My Odessa experience has caused me to reflect on the contrast between religion and relationship. One insight recurs: Religion focuses on a polished exterior. It traps people in performance and leaves them hoping, in vain, to please God with good deeds. Relationship, however, focuses on the interior – the heart condition. It provides confident assurance of God’s forgiveness and acceptance through Christ’s death and resurrection. It promises an abundant life filled with peace and hope not merely for the hereafter but for today, tomorrow and every day between now and eternity.
My experience has given me a fresh appreciation for Christ’s redemptive work. It has also forged in me a greater passion and urgency for those trapped in mere religion. Millions around the world are living without hope and dying without knowing Jesus. My relationship with Christ compels me to do something on their behalf so they, too, might know Him. And so, I will pray, give, and go.
How about you? Will you join me?
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
"God Morning, Glynis!" she wrote. Before long another message from my friend popped into my inbox. She was following up her original note with a profuse apology. How foolish she felt misspelling "good."
Monday, April 12, 2010
I’ve been pedaling a bike at the Wii Resort, trying desperately to earn all the stamps. I’ve conquered the six individual races, and the two three-day races, but not the six-day race. The six-day race takes 20 minutes to complete. I’ve been pedaling it about twice a day for at least the past six days.
This has become more than a simple distraction. I go to sleep seeing my Wii Mii on a bike. I wake up thinking, “Today I will conquer the bike race.”
What a pathetic goal.
“You should produce much fruit and show that you are my followers, which brings glory to my Father.” John 15:8
Marian den Boer
Author of Blooming
Saturday, April 10, 2010
“When you choose your vocation,” I often told our children, “pick something you’d get up and do every day, whether or not you get paid!” I’ve lived that philosophy, writing and speaking far more for love than money for over two decades, writing full-time for the last dozen.
The climate for writers has always been “overcast, with sporadic showers.” Freelancing fees have increased little since the 1970’s. And unless your name is Rick Warren, Max Lucado, or JK Rowlings, among very few others, to be a profitable writer these days one must either be employed by a media outlet, an entrepreneur, an expert in social media marketing, or a panting, self-promoting, pain in the nether-regions.
I know some writers who manage all of the above.
But this particular author has never had the business sense to coax a living wage from writing. Altogether, my words have likely garnered only a few years of equivalent full-time wages. Every time I’ve tried to push past that, I’ve lost my love of the craft and my creativity.
Nevertheless, like most of my readers, my husband and I have a mortgage that needs regular feeding, a car that guzzles gas, and a table that looks best decorated with food. His vocation provided most of that.
But when the pirates of West Nile neurological disease invaded our little boat in the summer of 2007, one of the things they stole from my husband was his ability to put in regular hours at any kind of consistent job. Though he is able to do many remarkable things, his lack of stamina and energy have persisted—along with other, more severe, long-term effects of the disease.
God has not, however, released me from my commitment to write. Instead, he has provided for the Preacher and me. In almost three years (and long before) God has seen to it we have never lacked for anything. He’s done that through many means—disability insurance, speaking engagements, book and article sales, the amazing generosity of those who believe in our ministry of writing and speaking, and a previous (and very fine) job for me as a magazine editor for three fascinating seasons, a job that ended with the downturn of the economy.
We’ve had humbling moments. Hours. Days, days. Once, very recently, I (flapping about in worry like a windsock in the breeze) rushed out—without Divine permission—and took an entirely unsuitable job. I quit immediately after my first and only shift, disappointing many others who had hoped for a keeper.
A mistake is an opportunity to learn, they say. I learned again that simple trust is always the best option when faced with a fiery furnace, whether the furnace is stoked with fear or unpredictable circumstances. And that God always knows best.
Leave the writing life? Not yet. God keeps providing more life to write about!
Are you worried about finances? God knows the way through. Trust. Listen. Follow. And let him direct.
Friday, April 09, 2010
I speak of it now because when I lived in the city, I didn't really pay attention to nature and what I was waking up to each morning. What took my attention was whether I would make it to work on time, what the traffic would be like. Was the car going to start? The level of my eyes never drifted farther from the head level of the thousands of people who started their work day each morning balancing a cup of coffee and a brief case.
Living in the country forces you to look about. You don't need to close your curtains, as there is no one around who can see inside. You want to look outside to see if the deer have come through on their morning forage. It's spring and you might catch sight of a new flock of migratory birds flying across the clear blue sky. The first robin shows itself pecking between the new sprouts of green grass.
Driving with no buildings, busy intersections and other obstacles to block your vision, gives way to countryside views and highlights that spread for miles. Any journey from a country home makes you look about, if anything, just to ‘see’ what is around you. The foothills of Alberta offer the most breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains in the fall, winter and spring. Agricultural fields pattern the landscape with different patches of colour in the summertime. Pass a wetland and you never know what gifts nature will present to you on any given day.
The following are just a few of the awesome gifts Mother Nature has presented me while living in the country that I’d like to share:
- A fawn lying like a lawn ornament amid the bushes.
- A palm-sized toad who returns each year to catch insects by our entrance way.
- A dancing display from a beautiful male bluebird while he woos a female outside my office window.
- A wing feather dropped from the sky by a passing bald eagle – picked up and cherished as the gift it was meant to be.
- The hunting fox that jumps and with needle-like precision pushes his nose into the one-foot hard crusted snow to pluck out a mouse.
- Calving and foaling seasons. Watching the new babies with their caring mothers, praying the temperature outside will not dip too low.
- The three wolves that showed themselves eleven years ago in the coulee. It was like watching a National Geographic episode for the short time they ventured out into the clearing.
- The several individual black bear sightings and the one cougar sighting. Exciting but scary.
- Being able to write the date and viewing location in my “Birds of Alberta” book every time I come across a new bird that we haven’t seen in our area.
- The flock of pure white snow geese heading north in a perfect V formation. The starkness of white on blue will forever be imprinted on my mind.
- The wetland a couple of miles from our house where I slow down every time I pass, as you never know who it might be sheltering and providing food for at any given time on any given day.
Patricia L. Atchison
Writing & Publishing Blog: www.aboutwritingandpublishing.com
Thursday, April 08, 2010
“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.”
right through to the 22-chapter poem known as The Revelation of Jesus Christ.
I would like to encourage you to also spend time with more recent poetry. The Kingdom Poets blog is designed to help introduce you to a wide variety of poets who effectively communicate spiritual truths. Here you’ll be able to discover the poets whose work is most meaningful to you — whose style speaks most effectively to you. Every Monday you’ll be able to read of another poet. When you find one you particularly like, post a comment and buy a book by that poet.
By reading poetry you’ve never read before, you will develop the
sensitivity that enables you to be a more insightful reader of scripture.
Who are the poets that I suggest you read? Follow the link and find out. I think you’ll be surprised at how wide and rich and deep the tradition is — and how poets from various times and of different styles can speak to you.
Check out Kingdom Poets become a follower, and leave a comment.
D.S. Martin is Music Critic for Christian Week. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
The lake spread out before us, calm and serene under a blue sky. High banks rimmed with evergreen and poplar trees hemmed us in, with imposing mountains looming in the background. As our large houseboat puttered along we smiled at one another. What could be more relaxing than this?
Then the wind picked up. The lake became a bit disturbed. My son-in-law, Rick, put down his fishing rod and hurried to the bow to tell us a storm was coming. I looked back to see white caps rising on the water and swaths of rain pounding down on the trees on both banks behind us. Rick said something about beaching but before we could find a spot the storm was upon us. It was too late to turn into the wind, so we ran with it, my husband white-knuckling the steering wheel as he tried to keep the boat straight. Waves grew as the storm's blast increased. Water started coming up over the bow. We rode the storm for the next hour until it passed over, glad to finally find a sheltered cove in which to beach once the wind had died down.
As the men secured the tie-downs I stepped out onto the lower deck and gasped. A vibrant double rainbow arched across the sky. Then we noticed the end of the smaller bow was right there before us, on the small beach. Rick leaped over the railing and ran toward it but when he got closer he could no longer see the bright glow of colour. We directed him until he was standing in the exact spot where the rainbow ended. Thrilled with such an unusual opportunity he raised his hands and hooted as we snapped pictures.
"God's promise," someone said in a soft voice and I remembered. God has promised to keep us safe, promised to bless us and even delight us, if we will but delight in Him.
How much we would delight His heart if we would run to him as Rick ran to the end of that rainbow. He wants to shower us with His blessings. All we have to do is be there to receive them. But too often we don't take time to talk to him, don't listen for His voice, don't even read the love letter He sent us. We stand at a distance and stare when we could be right in the middle of the blessing, discovering his goodness like the treasure at the end of a rainbow.
The Psalmist David wrote - "They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." (Psalm 36:8& 9).
May we all find ourselves there.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
Of all the fascinating images in the Bible, the tabernacle ranks right up there with the most intriguing. Many have studied this earthly tent, over which God's glory hovered as the Israelites wandered through the desert. Some extract meaning from its dimensions, the materials used to construct it, each piece of equipment employed in tabernacle worship, even its colors.
My study of the tabernacle has not yielded anything nearly so sophisticated - just some devotional thoughts which I have written in the form of old-fashion, traditional poetry. I hope you can relate.
i Materials (Exodus 25:1-9)
God asks from you an offering
He doesn’t want just anything
requests rare blue and scarlet thread
acacia wood, ram skins dyed red.
Bring to Him all your silver, gold
the bracelets, earrings you were told
to spoil from Egypt when you left,
bring willingly, don’t feel bereft.
The only gold you’ve ever owned?
Bring it to Yahweh, lay it down.
All your best treasures He will take
with them His Tabernacle make.
Not badger skins or incense sweet
our treasures to lay at His feet
but home, health, money, family
technology and time that’s free.
Confronts us with the same request
present to Him all of our best
a testimony house He’ll build –
our tabernacle with Him filled.
ii Construction Notes (Exodus 26)
The inner hidden part
the socket, loop and clasp
of linen, silver, bronze and gold
reflect God’s love of sterling art.
My inner house please mend
thoughts, words and private deeds
they’re often plaster, iron and tin
that crumble, rust and easily bend.
iii Pattern (Exodus 27:8)
Silver, wood and bronze
with gold take.
As it was shown you on the mountain
Mercy, love, forgiveness
As it is shown you in His presence
© 2010 by Violet Nesdoly
What does the tabernacle signify to you?
Personal blog promptings (come visit during April for more poetry fun!)
Writerly blog Line upon line
Kids' daily devotions Bible Drive-Thru
A poem portfolio
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