Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas 1999

This morning I've been thinking about the Christmas of 1999. That was the year my brother David died.

Several days before Christmas my dad called. His statement was stark, void of embellishment, just the naked truth "David's dead". It struck me like a sudden slap, stunned me and I couldn't think. I hung up the phone without asking any questions, went and told the children that Uncle David had died and then called Pete. He asked me a barrage of questions I couldn't answer then I went and sat down by myself. It wasn't long before Grace came and sat with me, held my hand and said some simple words of empathy. Her actions and words wrapped themselves around me like a blanket. I didn't want to move, didn't know if I could, but Christmas was coming, it loomed overhead like a thick purple snow cloud. How were we going to get through it?

Christmas came closer, my parents came, broken and in pain and without David. I wondered how are we going to get through it? My brother Rob, sister-in-law Marian and their children came and again I thought, how?
We got through it. In the midst of our grief we had each other, we had the children and we had hope. We found the spark of joy in the darkness.

Christmas time is no different than any other time of the year when it comes to human suffering.
People die and loved ones grieve.
Families shatter.
People suffer loneliness and depression.
Hospitals are busy.

My family had each other and we held each other up. We had the children and they made us smile. We have Jesus and he gives us hope.
There are those who don't have what we have and are shut out of the light and warmth.

The lesson Jesus taught me through my pain is that instead of pursuing the spirit of Christmas there is more meaning in embracing the Spirit of Chirst and praying for and giving to others.
There are so many opportunities to give at Christmas, the local toy and food drive, the Red Cross, World Vision, Compassion, the Salvation Army and perhaps even an extended invitation to Chirstmas dinner.
To quote Jesus ..."the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
Whatever we do is only a small measure of what Jesus did for us but it is still worth doing. If we all do just a few small things there may be a few more smiles and a bit more light this Christmas.


The most wonderful thing about embracing the Spirit of Christ is that he doesn't abandon us after the decorations are down and tree has become compost.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Perfect Christ-mas

For many people Christmas is a wonderful time of year. They love everything about it and talk about the Christmas Spirit. I must be honest. The thought of Christmas coming fills me with a sense of dread. My stomach clenches, I wake up in the mornings with clenched jaws and a headache. Why?

Christmas for me is a hectic time. I love giving gifts but can't stand shopping or malls. I feel pressure to have the house decorated just perfectly, have scads of baking done and the presents wrapped expertly and under the tree before December 24th and still study for exams, go to work, do laundry, housework, cook meals and this year get a house ready to sell!

I love Christ. I love that God lowered himself to be born in the same manner that all humans are born but in a primitive barn. "He made himself lower than the angels" and he did it for love.

I love family. I love the gathering of family, the joy and the laughter of those who love one another deeply.

I love giving and Christmas is a perfect time for that.

I don't love the sense that we must somehow create the Perfect Christmas, we must create the perfect memories and traditions.

Every year I need to remind myself that if our house doesn't resemble the home on the Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping and my family has to eat store bought baking this year that does not make Christmas a failure. Every year I need to remind myself to relax and remember what is really important.

Jesus Christ was born, not so that we could have a winter holiday, drink eggnog, attend concerts or even gather with loved ones around the Christmas tree. He was not born so that once a year we could have some sort hazy feeling called the Spirit of Christmas. Then on December 26 rush madly out to boxing day sales where we swear at those who take our parking spaces and urgently grasp at the best deals of the year!

Jesus was born into a world of hopelessness, at a dark time in the history of a nation in order to be the world's Hope and Light.  Christ was born to be a sacrifice. The perfect lamb for the forgiveness of sin, our sin. He was born with blood and water destined to die a bloody, tortuous death by crucifixion and he did it out of love.

The most important thing about Christmas is not to create the perfect spirit of Christmas but to answer Jesus' question. "Who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)

We don't need a fat man in a red suit, a star on a Christmas tree, a turkey dinner. We need what God has to offer, the gift of the Spirit of his One True Son living in us 365 days a year, year after year. This is what I need to remember.


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Springs of Living Water

Before I met Jesus I was thirsty. I drank from many wells but came away more thirsty. I was a pre-teen pariah so I checked out the well of the cool. I thought I'd found my circle but it turned out I was a square and the water was polluted. I drank the party life and woke the next morning with a hangover thinking never again. Several days later I'd wake with another hangover. One day I said enough I'll try the well of human affection but that well ran dry quickly.
 
I knew where the best water was. The coolest, freshest, living water. I didn't want to go there, it meant abandoning the other wells I'd dug. I didn't care that the water of one was polluted, another brackish and one completely dry they were my wells and I wanted them.
 
I didn't know the joy of drinking cool, fresh water. I didn't know the comfort of having a source of living water.
 
One day Jesus met me at one of my wells and he said, "so how's the water?"
I said "not the best but its all I have so I guess it will have to do." 
He said to me "why settle? My water really is the best and it never runs out."
"Jesus, I'm afraid. I don't want to be dissappointed, left sick with dysentery, in pain and thirsty again.
Jesus said "Trust me." 
 
On a day when I was sick with dysentery, in pain and thirsty Jesus words came back. I was sobbing hot tears and I heard him say, "trust me." At that moment I decided to abandon my wells and let him lead me. 
 
There have been tears in my life. I have walked throught the valley of Baca (lamentation). Jesus is the spring in those thirsty lands. Jesus causes the deserts to bloom. He is my strength, comfort, peace and joy.  
 
Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
 O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
 For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
 
 

Monday, 22 October 2012

Here in the grace of God



Today my bible reading was the story of Jesus calming the storm.

"Then he [Jesus] got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." (Matthew 8:23-26)


  In the past when I read this passage I heard Jesus speaking angrily, gruffly as though saying "oh man not again, when are these people ever going to learn!" For the first time I heard a different tone in Jesus voice. I heard him speak gently to his disciples, without annoyance, anger or harshness but gently as though teaching children a lesson.

Reading this story reminded me of I Corinthians 13 so I read it too. These passages stood out to me, 1 Cor 13:4-7 "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

Reading 1 Cor 13 reminded me of Matthew 7:1-5. In this passage Jesus tells us not to judge others and says "In the same way you judge others you will be judged...first take the plank out of your own eye."

I realized that I don't love the way Jesus loves. I get irritable with others, am often easily angered, I don't bear all things, I am arrogant and rude at times, I don't always let go of wrongs but hang onto them. In short, I fall short and am in need of God's love, grace and forgiveness daily. But I don't always grant grace to others.

It amazes me how patient Jesus is with me. He didn't simply forgive me, he went to the cross for me. He made the ultimate sacrifice for me.

Who am I to withhold forgiveness, grace? Who am I to recount my neighbours wrongs against me?

"Here in the grace of God I stand."(Dave Bilbrough)

When I see my grievances in the light of Jesus cross, I see the pettiness and the grubbiness of my own heart and I repent.  Once again  I stand amazed at his love and his patience. It is his goodness that inspires me to let go of my paltry complaints and ask him to create a clean heart within me.

Love divine, all loves excelling,

Joy of heaven to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
All thy faithful mercies crown!
Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
Pure unbounded love Thou art;
Visit us with Thy salvation;
Enter every trembling heart.

Breathe, O breathe Thy loving Spirit,
Into every troubled breast!
Let us all in Thee inherit;
Let us find that second rest.
Take away our love of sinning;
Alpha and Omega be;
End of faith, as its Beginning,
Set our hearts at liberty.

Come, Almighty to deliver,
Let us all Thy life receive;
Suddenly return and never,
Never more Thy temples leave.
Thee we would be always blessing,
Serve Thee as Thy hosts above,
Pray and praise Thee without ceasing,
Glory in Thy perfect love.

Finish, then, Thy new creation;
Pure and spotless let us be.
Let us see Thy great salvation
Perfectly restored in Thee;
Changed from glory into glory,
'Til in heaven we take our place,
'Til we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise. (Charles Wesley)

I love this hymn but the last verse always gets to me. When we stand before this LORD who is love what will we do. We will realize our own "crowns" are nothing and will cast them down before Him who has the right to be called the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.








Wednesday, 26 September 2012

His Way

Have you ever been wounded? Have you ever experienced a wound that slashed through your life and affected every aspect? Some people can say no while others know that some experiences leave you scarred, perhaps even handicapped in some ways.

When I became a Christian I thought, was led to believe, that anger, hate and depression would automatically be swept away by the flood of Jesus love. Jesus' love dramatically affected me, I was no longer alone and knew an unconditional love like none other. However, I was surprised by the anger and hatred that lingered within me. I learned the words, "Forgive as you have been forgiven" and I really tried to but the feelings of anger kept coming back. I was ashamed of those feelings so I tried to push them down but they seemed to grow. As the feelings intensified I became even more ashamed so I pushed down harder. I cried, "Lord please help me to forgive," but still I didn't seem to be able to let go. Finally I became depressed, I hated myself and I thought about dying a lot.

 Around this time we started going to a new church, one that had a professional counselor on staff. I decided with fear and trembling to pay  him a visit. Over the course of months I told him my story, one that few knew, and he helped me to sort through the confusion. As we walked through my experiences step by step, we prayed and step by step, I let go of my pain and I forgave. After months I found relief from anger, feelings of hatred and my depression was lifted off me like a heavy wet blanket.

Forgiveness can be a complicated matter. Sometimes one can forgive easily because the wound is little more that an abrasion other times it is a deep and wide gash or a cut that that has been opened over and over again. These injuries need treatment and time to heal.

After my sessions were over I thought that I would never have to deal with those feelings again but some things go deep and lurk in hidden crannies and then pop up when least expected. At these times I seek out help and talk things over, hidden things tend to grow rotten and create problems, talking about them helps to sweep them away.

I am the one who has benefitted the most from forgiveness. I have peace and true joy in my heart rather than turmoil and pain.

Sometimes we feel that we can't forgive because it means letting the person off the hook. Forgiveness is not the same as making excuses for a person. When we hurt others there is always a price to pay so when someone misbehaves and willfully hurts others they need to be held accountable for their actions. The Lord does not excuse our bad behaviour we must come to him and contritely confess our sins to recieve his forgiveness and grace. We are saved to eternal life and God calls us his children but there are still earthly consequences for our sins, we do not escape them and we shouldn't. Jesus says "if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."(Matthew 5:23 &24)

Forgiveness does not mean making excuses for or letting people off the hook or allowing them to continue hurting others. Forgiveness means letting go of hurt, loving that person whole heartedly and praying for the Lord's blessings on them. Love and forgiveness do not always come instantly at our bidding or easily but if we are willing Jesus who is love can and will help us. I am thankful that he was patient with me and helped me.

I Corinthians 13

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Lately certain verses are resonating with me.

"Blessed [happy] are the poor in spirit [the humble], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3)
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal" (Matthew 6:19)
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."(Matthew 6:33)

These verses speak to me because sometimes I get caught up in thinking about how I look, the clothes I wear, my hair style, make-up, the stuff I own. I have been influenced by the media that tells me that I should try to "look seven years younger" or that I need to own a certain pair of shoes, dress in fashionable clothes and look a certain way (Good Housekeeping). The truth is that I can only take this kind of thinking for so long before I break down. Experience has taught me that this is not the way to happiness or a sense of fulfillment but that this leads to feelings of futility. With this world's "water" I need to keep returning to the well time after time, Jesus however promises that "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

Jesus knows the futility of setting my hopes and dreams on what our culture says is desirable, material goods, intellectual advancement, beauty or critical acclaim. Using these devices to fix what is wrong doesn't work because our satisfaction erodes with time and we must seek more. If I build a house out of sand adding more sand as it erodes will not fix the problem, I need to start over again using a completely different material. (Matthew 7:24-27)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."

Once in a while I forget Jesus words and I begin to build a little sand castle for myself and then Jesus reminds me of his words.

 "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness"

The following is an old hymn. We sometimes think that hymns are out of style but I have found that they hold wisdom that is often lacking in our culture and times. I know that I have much to learn from these oracles of God.


A Hymn of Grace

THE SOLID ROCK

Keith W. Ward



My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Daylight

Last month I wrote about my brother Paul who committed suicide.

Sometimes when we open up our hearts to others we expose dim, dusty corners. It's like opening the curtains on a sunny morning. What had been gray and indistinct becomes clear, you can suddenly see detail.

After I wrote that post, one memory kept coming back to me. It was the last conversation I had with my brother. The kids and I were in Owen Sound visiting my parents. At the time we had three children, a seven month old, a two year old and a nine year old. We'd spent part of the day with Paul. The rest of the day was spent keeping up with the children. During the afternoon and evening Paul called numerous times to speak with my mother. She was a patient, kind and understanding woman, her heart went out to anyone who needed help. She was a good listener, which is why Paul called her so often. Sometimes though, it's the compassionate, kind people who wear themselves out. That evening my mother was exhausted. When my brother called for the umpteenth time that day, I picked up the phone, he wanted to speak to my mother again. I told mom who it was and her face fell, she was wiped out, drained. I felt caught, my brother needed to talk, my mother was worn out. I thought maybe he would talk to me. I told him that Mom was worn out and needed a rest, too tired to come to the phone. Paul exploded! He screamed in my ear. At that moment I knew that any conversation was not possible so I said, "Paul I love you but I have to hang up now." He yelled again and I hung up. It was the last time I spoke to him, he died less than a week later.

Remembering this makes me deeply sad. I have never really thought about that last conversation. I didn't wanted to look at that memory, I kept it in a corner, half hidden. I was aware of it but I ignored it. I didn't want to look at it because it hurt too much and I had those awful niggling feelings of guilt.

Since I wrote the post that memory has been exposed to the fresh air and light of Jesus love. I have cried, mourned. I wish that my last conversation with my brother had been pleasant, but it wasn't. I have talked with Jesus about it and he is helping me to see the memory more clearly. My brother had attempted suicide before, more than once. He was a troubled young man and I was unable to help him, it was beyond me, beyond my mother, father or any of my other brothers. We did what we could and it wasn't enough. We are only human.

 Paul gave his heart to Jesus, he went through the waters of baptism, but still suffered in a way that few understand. He is with the Lord in a place where there is no sorrow or suffering.  The Lord gave me this portion of scripture long ago about my brother, "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." God's grace is greater than any other; he is full of compassion and mercy.


Wonderful the matchless grace of Jesus,
Deeper than the mighty rolling sea;
Wonderful grace, all sufficient for me, for even me.
Broader than the scope of my transgressions,
Greater far than all my sin and shame,
O magnify the precious Name of Jesus.
Praise His Name!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Runaway!


When I was young, I ran away from God.

At the age of twenty, I was a new mother, living with a man who was still married to someone else. We lived in Alberta. When the economy turned bad I returned to my parents' house while the man I was living with looked for work. At home, I encountered Jesus and came face to face with my own heart. He spoke to me of his love and goodness, of the sacrifice that he had made for me. I saw my heart in light of his goodness, purity and faithfulness. I saw my unworthiness. I had been living a half-life, solely devoted to myself and pursuit of happiness. I understood that he was offering me more than happiness or pleasure. In him, I would find a well of living water, fresh, clear and satisfying. As the months wore on he spoke to me and said "don't go back to Alberta, trust me, I will be all you need, I will fill all the gaps." I came very close to giving in, I even called the man I loved and told him I would not be returning. Then sanity returned. I had given over a year of my life to this man, had a child with him. I faltered in my determination to stay in Ontario. I called him back in tears and said, "Forget what I just told you, I'm coming back".

Once I had made the decision to return to Alberta, I closed my ears to Jesus voice, ignored the scratchy feeling in my heart that told me I was making a mistake. I ran away from God and into another's arms where I had no business being. I thought I could go back to life as usual but I had no peace. I could not turn off the voice of God no matter how hard I tried. I was lonely during the day and terrified at night. When my partner was away from home over night I could not bring myself to turn out the light, I would lie curled in a ball under my covers until I fell asleep. Everywhere I looked, I encountered the Lord's message, on billboards, in songs, at the library. Every time I turned around he was there and yet I was far from him. "Day and night [his] hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped." (Psalm 32:4) Finally, one day I could stand it no longer I got down on my knees and cried, "Oh God, forgive me! I can't ignore you anymore and I don't want to live without you! I don't care what I have to do; I want to have you in my life." At that moment I knew, he was asking me to leave the man I loved, the one I had a child with. I tried to get out of it, I asked the man if we could get married, but he said no. When he said no my heart sank and I said, "Well then I think I have to leave." There was no pleading, no argument, just "yes, I guess you do."

It was not easy; I cried for 7 days off and on, I could not seem to stop the tears. In the end, I got on a plane and returned to Ontario. As I walked away from the man, I loved, a weight fell from me, my sorrow disappeared and I was free. I never turned back.

When I left Alberta I didn't know if I would be single for the rest of my life. I could not see mysef ever loving another man. After a few years I began to long for a partner. My focus changed from living for the Lord to living for the day when I'd be married. My peace was disturbed, I became dissatisfied, lonely.  But God is good and he turned my eyes back on him and my peace returned.

One day the Lord brought a good man into my life, I fell in love and got married. Pete and I have shared 25 years together. God has been faithful, he has helped us change and grow together as we raised our children and made our way through life. It was the Lord's plan for me to have someone special, I just had to wait for his timing and his man.

The Lord has never let us down. At our wedding we sang the hymn, "Great is thy faithfulness" and I have discovered the truth of that. I am overwhelmed daily at his love and goodness. I am blessed daily by his grace. He has promised "I am with you always, even to the end of the age". He is faithful.

 I have also discoverd that the Lord is that "river of living water" and I need never be thirsty.

There is a river that flows from deep within.
There is a fountain that frees the soul from sin.
Come to these waters, there is a vast supply.
There is a river that never shall run dry. (Sapp)

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5




Friday, 29 June 2012

Eclipse

My youngest brother was spunky, boisterous and fearless as a child. He had charisma and his smile lit up his whole face. Paul never shied away from anything. He learned to ride a bike at an early age and I remember him joyously launching himself and his bike off a jump that older kids wouldn't attempt.

Paul was smart, athletic, out going and popular with other kids.  He sounds like every parents dream but he wasn't the easiest child to raise. From a young age he displayed an explosive temper. When he was four he lifted one end of our heavy dining room table and slammed it down breaking off one of its feet, in a rage of temper.

At sixteen almost everything changed, he became withdrawn and troubled. Paul started hearing voices and had uncontrollable racing thoughts. The world that had been spread before him suddenly closed in on him. He wasn't able to go to school, he lost friends. My mother and I sat up with him at night, he was afraid to go to sleep because of nightmares. He and I played countless games of cribbage and concentration. His room became his prison but it was worse than that, he was stuck inside a shifting erratic and uncertain world where anything could happen, it was a living nightmare. He couldn't get away because his monsters traveled with him everywhere. At sixteen he was admitted for the first time to a psychiatric ward, it was an unnerving experience for him. For the next ten years my brother was admitted time after time to psychiatric wards and hospitals. The doctors tried to find the right combination of drugs to help him but they never did.

When Paul was sixteen we were introduced to the mental illness called schizophrenia. It was a terrifying word to us we didn't understand what it meant. We slowly became educated. We learned that schizophrenics are not "crazy people" or "lunatics." Schizophrenics suffer from a chemical imbalance in the brain. The following quote was taken from a web site called camh.ca: Some people recover fully, return to their jobs or finish school; others find they cannot cope with their jobs or studies after an active phase of schizophrenia. Unfortunately my brother was one of the "others" he tried to hold down jobs and attend school but found that he could not cope.


At twenty-five, after years of being admitted, released and admitted to hospitals, after being prescribed one drug after another my brother gave up. He said that he'd been searching for years for the diamond in an endless pile of manure and had come to the conclusion that the diamond just didn't exist.


The phone call came while we were at church. In those days we went to a church out in the middle of a corn field and the church phone was located at the pastorate next door. At some point after church, I realized that my husband was missing. Someone informed me that he was next door answering a phone call. I don't why, but my heart sank and I decided to go to him. I walked toward him as he came across the field from the pastorate. As I got closer his head went down and I said "its Paul isn't it?" He answered "yes, your brother called, Paul is gone, he's committed suicide." The air was sucked out of me and I collapsed in a heap on the grass. Pete picked me up and carried me to the house. Everything happened quickly. People offered to look after our kids for us and then we were at home packing. I tried to pack to go to my parent's place but my mind was frozen, stuck in park. The day after getting to Owen Sound we had to make a trip to the mall because I'd packed so little. That time was like living through a long lasting total eclipse of the sun. Everything I thought I knew was wiped away and all I had left was one small point of light deep within myself. That light was God saying "I'm still here Ruth." The funeral was bleak, our minds filled with "what ifs?" My brother John sobbed all the way through it and I held onto myself tightly because I knew that if I let go I wouldn't be able to stop the torrent. 


Suicide is different from other deaths. My brother David died at forty-three and my mom died four years ago and I was sad, I cried and grieved but I wasn't completely overwhelmed. When Paul died the sun was blotted out and I walked around in a haze for months. To this day I can't talk about his death without tears. I've gotten over most of the guilt, the "what if I'd" questions but there is still that niggling feeling, that maybe? 


I really don't have any answers about why things turned out the way they did. I always thought that if something like this happened to me I'd lose my faith but I didn't. God by his grace sustained me through it all.



Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Dawn

Good morning! The words that go through my mind the most in the mornings are:


Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning my song shall rise to thee!

For me morning is the best part of the day. In the morning the day is brand new, the air seems fresher, the world cleaner so it is almost natural that I think of the creator. But I must confess that too often I see prayer and bible reading as a chore. Recently I had a little revelation, probably not a new one to most of you (it's not really new to me, I'm just a little thick sometimes). During one of my morning devotions it came to me like a flash, prayer is not a chore! It is an amazing blessing, a gift without rival. We get to commune with God, the creator of the universe, the all knowing one, the one whose love surpasses all others. Not only do we get to enter this place of intimacy but God wants us to. The Lord wants to have an intimate friendship with us, it is why he made us and prayer is the means by which we can spend uninterrupted time with him. If you are like me my most precious moments with loved ones are not when they are doing tasks for me or bringing me gifts but when we sit down together and spend time talking, listening and enjoying each others company. This is what prayer is meant to be a time for the Lord and his children to enjoy each other's company.

This morning I was reading Philippians 3:1-11 & this quote stood out for me:

"I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Phil 3:8a


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

David:Beloved

I awoke this morning thinking of my brother David. I do not know too much about my his early life because he was four years older than I was. I only know what my parents have told me. David was a very small baby, he weighed just over 4lbs when he was born and he spent some time in an incubator. His digestive system was too weak even for breast milk, he would projectile vomit what my mother fed him so the doctor prescribed a special formula and he grew slowly. He never crawled but rolled everywhere for the longest time. David walked later than most children but by 18 months, he was on his way. At five, David went to kindergarten like most children but it soon became evident that he was not like most children. He did not learn well and the teacher used the words mentally retarded to describe him. I never attended the same school as my brother, he was sent to schools with special classes. 


Growing up with David I came to understand how cruel life could be to those deemed different. David was what the world calls peculiar. He had ticks, often used a voice he called the frog, whispered beneath his breath and bounced when he walked. Children started to make fun of him. They taunted him, imitated the way he walked and called him names. The other children gave him the nickname, Hoppy.  David did not deal well with these things: what child does. He liked people and was gregarious. Being the target of malice must have been confusing and hurtful. He lashed out and ended up being shunted from school to school. It wasn't till we moved out of the city and he started school in Port Perry that he found a place at a school that worked for him. The teacher in charge of the special class was an unorthodox man and David loved him. After his graduation, there were few options for David. He enjoyed fixing TVs and radios so Dad looked into college courses but he'd never achieved more than grade 7 math.  He began to drink, to get drunk. Some people thought it was funny to get him drunk and then watch him. At some point David joined AA and his battle with alcoholism started. In the end, it won. David died at the age of 43.


It was the Christmas season. My parents came down from Owen Sound to stay with us. Several days before Christmas, they went to his apartment to pick him up. There was no answer when they knocked on his door. They knocked harder, and still no answer. They noticed that the lights were on even though David was normally meticulous about turning them off when he went out. They feared that something was wrong. They called David's social worker and he told them that he had not shown up for his usual appointment. They also discovered that he had not made it to his AA meeting that week.  My parents finally called the police and they let them into his apartment. They found my brother at the bottom of the basement steps; he was dead. He was drunk when he died.



David was a slow learner; he was peculiar, often rude and as an adult became an alcoholic but he was more than these things. He loved music, books and horror films, he had girlfriends through the years and he could fix just about anything electronic. I remember him running down the road pulling his toy truck behind him oblivious to everything around him, caught up in the moment. David received a tape recorder for Christmas one year, he recorded everything from toilets flushing to Christmas concerts and family conversations. He rarely walked anywhere, he ran. When he ran, he took no notice of the things around him. I believe he felt free at those times. He was a character; he could imitate a siren better than anyone I have ever met. He loved to use our video recorder. He told my husband he would rather be behind the camera than in front of it. He was not always easy to be around but I love and miss him. 


 David had faith; the chaplain at Whitby Psychiatric hospital told us that he rarely missed a Wednesday evening service. 
One of the things on my mind this morning is his favourite hymn. At church, David would often request the hymn For Those Tears I Died. I have copied the lyrics of this hymn. I think you will understand his love for it when you read the words. 


For those Tears I Died



You said You'd come and share all my sorrows,
You said You'd be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!


And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."


Your goodness so great I can't understand,
And, dear Lord, I know that all this was planned;
I know You're here now, and always will be,
Your love loosed my chains and in You I'm free;
But Jesus, why me?


And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."


Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul,
I know that without God I'll never be whole;
Savior, You opened all the right doors,
And I thank You and praise You from earth's humble shores;
Take me, I'm Yours.


And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."
(Marsha Stevens-Pino)


David's life has taught to try not to judge, we all struggle. Some carry burdens that we would be loathe to bear. Jesus does not judge, he shares in those burdens.



Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday

It's Good Friday. I want to tell you about Jesus' crucifixion, to convey the love behind it but I cannot even come close. This is what I can tell you that Love willingly walked into his enemies' arms, he became a spectacle, Love allowed men to beat him, taunt him and drive spikes through his hands, Love cried out "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" then "gave up his spirit." (Matt 27:45& 50).  He knows the anguish of betrayal; he experienced abandonment and pain. He died in my place. This is what I remember on Good Friday.

Jesus did not stay dead. He rose. Betrayal, pain, abandonment did not defeat him. He did not cheat death; he bashed it down finally. We do not need to fear it anymore. We have Jesus who went ahead of us and destroyed it.
This is what I celebrate at Easter. 

Jesus is alive today. He is that friend that sticks closer than a brother, my comforter, Lord and saviour. I have done nothing to earn his love; he gives it freely. This is what I live, breath and know everyday.



And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?


’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.


He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.







Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Continuing Story

Brone's life was full of misery. He was bitter and resentful. Over the years he found himself acting in ways that he despised, instead of being kind to those weaker than himself he was often impatient and harsh. He began to loathe himself.  After Brone met Joshua things began to change. Brone began to think "what if?" That small thought was like a slit in a curtain that had covered his heart for a long time. Now, when Brone was in the market he often heard the name Joshua and began to listen to what people were saying. Once Brone heard, "Joshua rescued that old lady" and another time, "Joshua helped my neighbour pay her debts". Once Brone heard someone say "they say that Joshua helps anyone who asks, he never turns anyone away." The rent in the curtain of despair grew. Brone started to keep his eyes open for Joshua. 
The day that Brone finally came upon Joshua was particularly dark. Jacob had berated him for something that he'd forgotten to do and Brone in return had shouted at a young one. He went to the market that day feeling depressed and hateful. As he turned away from the fish stall he came face to face with Joshua.
"Hello Brone"
Brone did not look at Joshua's face as he replied "Hi."
"How have you been since we last met?"
Brone replied "I've been wretched!"
"Are you ready to trust me and come with me?"
"Why do you even want me? I'm not what you think I am."
"Believe me when I tell you that I know you."
Brone struggled within himself, "how do I know that you aren't lying to me?"
"You've heard others speak of me. What do they say?"
"They say that you are a good man, that you help people."
"It is up to you. You can turn away, go back into the dark or you can trust me and leave it behind."
Brone took a deep breath, grabbed hold of the little courage he had and said "okay, I'll go."
So Brone walked away beside Joshua with his back to the shadows and his face to the sun.
They did not go far before they came to a trim little house. It was not unlike it's neighbours except that it was freshly painted a pale yellow and the curtains were open. 
Joshua said, "this will be your new home." 
They entered a neat living room and went through to the kitchen where a man was at the sink with his back to them. 
"Hello, Michael. I want to introduce you to your new housemate. His name is Brone"
Michael, turned, wiped his hands on his apron and said, "glad to meet you Brone."
"Michael, I'd like you to show Brone around, help him get settled in and show him the ropes."
"Sure thing Joshua, no problem"
"Well then, I'm on my way. Be well Brone."
Joshua left Brone standing in the kitchen with Michael "Come with me and I'll show you around."
Michael took Brone on a tour of the house and brought him to the room that he would be sharing with another young man. 
"Where is everyone Michael?"
"They are all out working."
Brone's heart sank when he heard this.
"We all have work to do. But don't worry it is fair and well suited to each person's talents. You'll be given your assignment in the morning."
"I don't think I have any talents."
"Joshua has a way of knowing what will suit each person. He will give you something that will be both a joy and a challenge."
Brone went to sleep that night in a warm, comfortable bed. For the first time in a long time he slept well and woke up refreshed.
As Michael said Brone was given a job to do and he was happy in it.  His new life was good. He and his housemates shared their responsibilities equally. Twice a week they would gather with others for a community meal. At these meals some would serve while others ate and then those that had eaten first would serve. While they lived, worked and ate together Joshua would visit often. He would teach them and take them out on "rescue missions" to find other lost souls. Sometimes small squabbles would break out but they were short lived, Joshua's teachings were about grace and forgiveness.
One day Brone was serving at the community meal when he saw Jacob enter the room. Alarmed and angry, Brone thought "what is that monster doing here?" He rushed to find Joshua and warn him of his old enemy's presence. "Joshua! Jacob is here! What should I do?"
"Go and serve him, Brone."
"What! Do you know what that man did to me? Do you know how despicable and untrustworthy he is?"
"I know him just as I know you."
"But he is so much worse than I ever was!"
"Jacob has left his old way of life and all who are willing to leave the old and embrace the new are welcome here. Trust me."
Brone went and served Jacob his meal but he could not look at him. Jacob said thank you and Brone did not reply.
After the meal Brone stayed behind to talk to Joshua.
"I don't understand why you made me serve that man."
"Because you need to let go of old grievances in order to heal. If you don't let go the old blackness will overtake you and you will be lost again."
"But I don't know how."
"You started tonight when you served Jacob. Continue to bless Jacob and one day you will find that love has replaced hatred."
Joshua paused then said, "Now I'm going to tell you something. Do you remember the conversation we had long ago? I told you that all children start in a place like Kadera and that some leave before they are ready?"
"Yes, I remember."
"Brone you were a child of nine when you were lead away. Jacob was barely four. The only life he's known has been one of cruelty and injustice. We must be patient with him so that he can learn to live a life of justice and mercy. Will you agree to help me in this?"
Brone, humbled by Joshua's words agreed. It wasn't an easy or short road but little by little he found that he was able to let go of pain and anger. Brone began to love Jacob and in the end learned to love himself.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Once upon a time

Zack lived in the land of Kadera. His life was pain free and easy. In the mornings he would bounce out of bed with a song. Kadera was a land of light. In winter the snow sparkled and was perfect for tobogganing and constructing snow people and houses. In spring the rain was clear and warm, the children would dance, sing and splash in the puddles. The summers were long and green and they swam and played games till dusk. They had naps under leafy elms and oaks, drank pink lemonade and ate sweet berries.  They played games among the branches of trees, swinging from branch to branch. As the days grew shorter the trees put on vibrant coats of gold, saffron, auburn and carmine. Hills were a challenge to conquer. they would run or cycle up them and then soar back down. It was not possible to be unhappy in Kadera. If a child fell and scraped a knee the injury healed quickly and left no scar. Zack was blissfully free, he ran like the wind was carrying him, scurried up trees like a squirrel, laughed heartily and sang without constraint.
The only thing that disturbed the peace of Kadera was that once in a while a child would disappear. Some one would be there in the evening and then in the morning they would be gone. The children would talk for a while about where their friend could be but then the snow or rain would begin to fall or some one would spy a rabbit and they'd be off to new adventures.
Zack was playing in the woods one clear summer day. He was high in a tree when he spied a stranger.  Curious, Jack scurried down and landed at the strangers feet. The stranger was unlike anyone Zack had ever met, he had to tilt his head back to see his face. There was a dark shadow on the stranger's face and it appeared to be growing out of his skin.
 "Whoa, you're tall!"
The stranger cleared his throat, held out his hand and replied, "I'm Jacob and who are you?"
"My name's Zack"
The stranger smiled and said "very glad to meet you Zack, I have come to open your eyes."
"But my eyes are open, I can see. You are standing right before me, the leaves on the trees are green and the sun is shining. What else is there?"
"Ah Zack, the things you don't know could fill an ocean and I can teach about them."
"Well then lets get on with it."
Zack and the stranger sat down with their backs against the tree and talked until the world around them grew pink and gold and Zack grew sleepy.
Jacob, seeing the his young friend's eyes droop said. "That's enough for one day. Meet me here tomorrow and we'll continue but don't tell anyone. This must remain secret or you will never see me again."
Zack agreed to keep the secret and ran home to a good meal and a soft bed. He slept soundly, his dreams were full of wonder.
He returned the next day, and many days following.
One day Jacob said to him, "I cannot tell you anymore, it is time to show you. You need to come with me and experience these things."
"I'm not sure. This place is good, I'm happy."
"Oh but you are missing out. There is a whole world out there to see. Spectacles you can't imagine."
Zack thought about it. He wasn't sure he wanted to leave his golden land.
"If you stay here you will never know what is beyond this place and I will not come here again."
Zack was beguiled. He wanted to see and experience the things Jacob had told him about.
"Let me go home, say good-bye to my friends and tell them that I am going away to have adventures."
"No Zack. You must come now or not at all. You're not afraid are you?"
Zack was unsure, torn.
"I'll look after you and show you the world. I won't let any harm come your way."
"Okay. But promise me that I can come back if I miss this place."
"I will never keep you from happiness."
So Zack and Jacob left the woods with their backs to the sun. They walked for days. As they traveled the world became barren. Zack began to worry that things may not be as Jacob had promised but he did not know his way home, he was lost. After a while they came to a drab place full of concrete and dingy buildings. He asked "what is this place?"
Jacob replied, "it is a city"
Zack was astounded, this place was grey, it stank and the noise was appalling. It did not look like the gleaming, joyous, exciting place Jacob had told him about. They came to a unadorned, unpainted house and entered.
Jacob said "Here is your new home."
Zack stared at the worn furniture, the grimy windows and scuffed floors. He felt tears behind his eyes and then his face was wet. "I want to go home."
"I don't think so. I have paid your way, for rooms and three meals a day. Now it is time for you to pay me back."
Jacob brought him to a room upstairs, shoved him in and locked the door. The room was filled with unhappy looking children. He stood there with tears running down his face, unable to look up. He found a corner, slumped down and fell asleep.
Zack's waking hours were filled with dull work and his sleep with terror. When Jacob was displeased with him he would beat him.
Zack dragged himself out of bed each morning. He no longer looked anyone in the face, he felt foolish, ashamed. Joy was gone. There were no more songs, games or stories. His old life was a fantasy. He learned to make himself small, keep his head down and speak in a low voice. Jacob renamed him Brone.
After many years Brone met a man in the market place named Joshua who struck up a conversation with him. Brone told the man about his life and Josh offered him a way to freedom. Brone said he just wanted to go back to his land of Kadera. The man told him that he couldn't go back. "Once a person leaves Kadera they can never return. All people start in a place like Kadera but no one stays there, sooner or later they must leave. Some leave at a young age, before they are ready. Others stay until they mature. For the young ones, like you were, it is an alarming experience that marks them for a long time. But there is a way. A new place, a new life." Brone listened politely but could not accept the man's words. He had been betrayed before, lead away by sweet words and glorious but empty promises.
Brone bid Joshua good-bye and went back to his dreary life.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Good News!

 "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." Phil 1:27.This was the bible verse for day two of 40 days in the word.

As I was pondering this verse the phrase "worthy of the gospel of Christ" popped out at me. How can I "conduct" myself in a manner that is "worthy" of it? I started by thinking about being well-behaved but then my mind took a different turn. I began to think about the gospel of Christ and what it is. The gospel is often referred to as "good news." If the gospel of Christ is news what is that news and what makes it good? It is the news that Christ died on the cross and rose again. It is good because it is about forgiveness, reconciliation, grace and love.  We have been separated from God but he loves us and has made a plan for our return to him. It is the news that we don't need to try to gain his favour by our actions he has given it to us. I have done nothing to merit my status as child of God. It was done for me by him. He took the insults, the scorn, the nails and thorns. He died in my place.
I believe what the Lord is telling me isn't that I am to be "better behaved" than others but that I have been granted a great gift which I did not earn. I need to be aware of that. My inner attitude and outer conduct toward others needs to be humble, gracious, forgiving and loving no matter what.  I have "sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23) I live in His grace daily. I still sin, he is working on me from the inside out. Not everyone can tell that "I am a new creation" all the time, in all situations.

The other aspect of the "gospel of Christ" is self-sacrifice. Too often, in too many situations my attitude is one of self-preservation. I must look after my own interests first. I must make sure that I win at all costs. This attitude has done real harm in the past. I fight tooth and nail for My rights, for My position. I have been insulted, My pride has been hurt. The craziness is that too often while fighting for my own I actually lose something. I throw darts and wound those who are closest to me, and I lose a little bit of their trust.  In my lack of humility I abase the gospel of Christ.


For me Phil 1:27 echoes Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

I believe the only way that I can achieve these things is to keep close to him, depend on him. I can't do this alone, I've failed a lot trying. Day three's verse says this "God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (Phil 2:13) and what pleases him?--->Micah 6:8
I know that I will fail to live up to this at times but the gospel of Christ means that I need to confess, accept forgiveness, forgive myself, pick myself up and carry on.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

My list of honour

Last Thursday was International Women's day, our local paper printed a list of women leaders in the community and the editorial featured the names of some of the prominent leaders of our region. I thought that I would write up my own list of women whose lives have inspired me over my lifetime.


Biblical women of note:


Ruth-as a widow she left the security of family and homeland to accompany her widowed mother-in-law back to her land. She gave her word that she would not leave her mother-in-law saying to her "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." Ruth kept that word. She cared for her mother-in-law, she went out into the fields and picked up the grain that was left behind so that they could eat. She inspires me to be loyal and keep the promises that I've made.


Deborah- she led Israel as a judge, people came to her for decisions about all kinds of things. She went out to battle with Israel. She inspires me to believe that God calls both men and women into ministry.


Anna- was a fixture at the temple "worshiping day and night," she was a widow and a prophetess. At 84 she witnessed the dedication of Jesus and recognized hem for who he was. Then she went and told everyone about it. She inspires me to remember that the physical world is not the only world and to let others know about Christ.


Famous women


Rosa Parks-She inspires me with her courage in the face of incredible opposition.


Mother Theresa-Inspires me with her self-sacrifice, her willingness to answer the call from God and spend her days taking care of the lowest of the lowest. She makes me remember that there is no such thing as the lowest of the lowest. In Gods eyes we are all precious. She is one of my all time biggest heroes. 


Everyday women who are anything but:


These women all raised their children and then returned to work. They have inspired me to believe that it is never too late to start something new:



Aunt Elizabeth- went to seminary and became a Presbyterian minister.
Aunt Margaret- went back to university after raising 8 children and became a teacher.
Anita Teeninga- went to college and received a diploma as a speech therapy technician. She had to leave her home for a year and live in a city about an hours drive away(more during rush hour).
Mary Blake- Took courses online and became a library reference technician.


These women are a large part of the reason that I have returned to school, without their example I may not have done it.



The following women have taught me that seemingly small acts of kindness can make a huge difference



Shirley Evans- she gave her time to me when I was a young mother with 5 small children. She came and visited, chatted and folded laundry. She brought me soup and picked up groceries and medicine for me when I was stuck in the house with a bunch of sick kids. She baby-sat for me when my mother-in-law passed away and then again so that I could go to counselling sessions.


Barb Buldyke- a woman who has often blessed me with prepared meals during times of difficulty. She has also done some child minding for me.


Val Penney- Blessed me with encouragement, friendship and many meals. When my mother died 4 years ago she and her husband drove the 3 hours to Stratford to attend the funeral.


Aunt Mimi-left her home and family to follow my father to Canada as she promised she would. She is a soft spoken, kind woman. She inspires me to loyalty and gentleness.



My favourite professional woman:


Amy Caughlin-my boss-  Took over as the CEO of our local library and saw us through a major renovation project. She has made the library  welcoming to people of all ages and a great place to work and study. She initiated programs for all ages. Our library now has programs for preschoolers, school aged children, teens and adults. The library has become a happening place because of this focused and accomplished woman.


The women nearest and dearest to me:


My Mother-Helen Neil Walton de Wever- She raised 5 children, went through many sad  and difficult times and never let them embitter her. She was welcoming and nonjudgmental.  Her strength came from the one who is strength, her peace from the one who is peace and her love from the source of all love. She has inspired me to seek out the Lord at all times.


My daughters- Tina, Anna and Grace- these three women inspire me with their strength, determination, creativity and devotion to a relationship with Christ. They cause me to marvel at the diversity of personalities in one family. 
They inspire me to actively pursue my relationship with the Lord.


Well this is my personal list, what does yours look like?