Friday, September 29, 2006

Heritage (September 28)

Just a short post to let anyone who comes by know I’m still here.

The family Powerpoint and other things have kept me very busy this week. At the urging of Roseann Ekman I joined a Bible discussion list called the Berean Spirit and it is easy to spend a lot of time discussing those questions that I’m mulling over in my head.

We also had a second visit from the McMillans (Dave & Heather) on their way back west after having been in Mexico for 3 months. Dave made a presentation and gave a short Bible lesson at our Wednesday services. Some very challenging thoughts on how Jesus related to people from the healing at the pool in John 5. Always enjoy visiting with Dave – Our conversations are open, challenging and I pray leave me on a closer walk with God. (see my July 4 post for more info on the McMillans)

One of the things that I’ve become more aware of as I scanned pictures and worked on the Powerpoint was the extent to which my family heritage has shaped my thinking. – and that is good. However, there are some dangers if we fail to examine that heritage and make our own path towards a richer and better heritage for our own children & grandchildren. Maybe I’ll explore this topic at a later date.

I’m including my lesson from Sunday – and I’ll sign off – We are traveling this weekend to Beamsville to a dinner at the school to honor my brother-in-law Art and my sister Ruby for their years of work at the school. (click HERE for more about Art & Ruby)

The following weekend is the family “do” so my posts may be erratic over the next couple of weeks. Check by when you can to see if I’ve gotten back to it.

Sunday's lesson

Foundations of Faith - Overview

This lesson is an introduction to “Part 2”of “Back to the Basics”

Review – The basic concept of this series is that people often experience “plateaus” or “slumps” in various endeavors of life. I use sports to illustrate what I mean. Individuals and teams often hit plateaus or get into slumps. One approach to dealing with this is to “go back to the basics” and see what may be missing in those things that is an obstacle to “breaking through” and achieving “new heights”.

For the first part of the series (over the summer), we looked at the following

1. How we “understand” or” interpret” the Bible (a topic called “hermeneutics”)

We asked
-- “Why doesn’t everyone understand the Bible in the same way
-- Why are there so many different views about the “beliefs and practices” that define Christian “churches”.

2. What we understand the Bible to say about “What is the church?” and the “gaps” between this teaching and the actual way it is used today. We also discussed why it would help our growth to eliminate those “gaps” and provided some practical suggestions on how we could do that.

For the rest of the fall we will "shift gears" and look at what I would call “foundational elements” of being a Christian in today’s world.

You know someone who has had no interest in talking about Christianity. You have become friends and they have agreed to talk about “Why you are a Christian”? You want to start with a “diagnostic” (to find where they are in their thinking) – They have agreed to let you ask them 10 questions. What questions would you want to ask?

In this first lesson we listed the questions that the clas smembers threw out and then we reviewed those question by asking the following questions.

Will they understand this question— (Do we all understand this question in the same way?)
might you misunderstand the answer because you are “assuming” they believe things that they don’t believe. (if you ask about believing in Jesus and the answer is NO – is it because they don’t even believe in God or the Bible and they don’t know who Jesus is)
Does the answer really tell you anything about “what’s missing” that would cause them to want to study more – i.e. how can you use the answer to “open a door” that has been holding this person back. )

I’ll provide the list of questions I got in class next time – For now “What questions would you want to ask?”

God Bless Charlie

Sunday, September 24, 2006

That’s the Breaks

Doesn’t seem like a lot a lot happening this week but at the same time I seemed to be too busy to prepare a post.

Linda was sick all week with a cold and that threw our “routine” out of kilter. I have a number of projects on the go and I’m finding it difficult to keeping them all on track. But so far I’ve been meeting my commitments.
It also rained a quite a bit this week. In any case I spent almost the whole week “glued to” the computer – which is bad for my posture, left me with an aching back and disturbed Linda because, as I’ve mentioned before, I get too focused on what I’m doing and our communications get strained.

The main project for the week was scanning pictures from our albums -- for 2 reasons -- both related to the upcoming family reunion on October 7-9 (Canadian Thanksgiving). The first part was helping Linda get the pictures she needed for scrapbook pages – our family gift to my Dad is a scrapbook of family memories. I’m also planning a Powerpoint presentation to show at the reunion Monday evening my sister Goldie came by with a couple of boxes of album sand went through them so I could scan a few pictures to use in the Powerpoint. Linda finished the scrapbooking part Friday and I have a lot of stuff – but haven’t gotten to actually putting it together. Need to do that next week.

I have the regular demands of delivering my courses at AUC. On Monday at the department meeting I volunteered to supervise a student for a ”reading” course in Math -- something I haven’t done much of for along time. I think it will be fun – but also will require me to brush up on the material. I have to make the adjustment to realize that these commitments will require about 15 hours a week between preparations, lectures and marking.

Tuesday evening was the quarterly information session to review the various ministry efforts at Pinehill. Lloyd & I had committed to making a report from the elders as part of this communication and coordination process. Monday and Tuesday I drafted reports to cover the main activities we were involved with. Friday morning Lloyd & I met to cover over the reports and to discuss various ministry issues. Yesterday I finalized the reports and updated my notes on the things that Lloyd & I are working on. I also had to prepare my lesson for this morning. My monthly bulletin article is due Monday.

Wednesday was Linda’s birthday (and also our daughter(-in-law) Sarah’s). Since Linda wasn’t feeling well I didn’t plan anything that day. Her niece Alyssa who is boarding here this fall went out and got her a Birthday cake. She had a number of calls from family & friends including a call from Hunter & Camdyn that evening to sing Happy Birthday to her. Friday night we did “dinner & a movie” to celebrate. Well – it was a take-out dinner- whitefish from Sandro’s and DVD movie but we enjoyed our ”date” and spending the evening relaxing together.

We watched the “Great While” with Robin Williams. – a bit of a “dark” comedy - nothing great but had a few laughs. Then we watched “The unfinished life” with Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman - a family drama about rebuilding broken relationships – I suspect that one could find many lessons about the “unfinished” parts of many of our lives—threads of hurt and disappointment that are dragging us down – and how we can - through restoring (or strengthening) our relationship with God we can also resolve those ”unfinished” things in our human relationships. I say “could find” because I tend to just enjoy and absorb movies – rather than spend a lot of time analyzing & discussing “what they mean”. I do find that some scenes & events in a movie "stick with me" and come to mind later as an illustration of a spiritual principle.

There was an ADnet Board meeting on Wednesday p.m. which required a little bit of prep work. At least I didn’t end up with any new commitments as a result of the meeting. After the Board meeting, I needed to go to Staples to pick up some printer cartridges and paper. On the way thereI realized that the brake pedal wasn’t holding. I managed to get home driving slowly and using parking brake (regular brakes still worked on 2 wheels because front & back are separate systems) ”

Thursday we had it towed to Art Taylor and got that fixed. We were thankful it happened here at home – not while we were on the road. But at the same time it was an expense that piled on top of other recent unexpected expenses. Tough on the budget but I’m trying to accept that I need to be content “with food & clothing (and I add shelter) (Matt. 6:19-34, I Tim. 6:8) (see also John Mark Hicks recent post on “possessions” - click HERE)

Anyhow – that’s my week and that's the breaks (or brakes as the case may be)

God Bless

p.s. Pray for our friends the Stones. Their daughter is teaching in Thailand and they are concerned because of the military takeover. Pray for her safety and the well being of those people—of course there are many other problem spots .There were 2 Canadian soldiers from an area about 150 miles east of here who were killed in Afghanistan this week.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

200 Years of Wedded Bliss

So here’s a math question.

How many couples (all married the same number of years) does it take to have 200 years of marriage?

The answer: Well it isn’t 1 – I don’t know of anyone to-day who lives that long.

It likely isn’t 2 because I’m not aware of any couples that live that far past 100.

3 doesn’t work – unless we are going to count part years.

4 is OK – we can likely find 4couples who have celebrated Golden Anniversaries this year (I know at least 2)

But the real answer is 5 because that’s what we had at the Miller’s house last night.

I think this may be rare – although others may have similar stories. In the summer of 1966, 4 couples who were attending the North Livingstone Church of Christ were married.

Ted & Laura (Smith) Miller led off in June,

Les & Georgina (Weir) Smith were married in July,

Eric & Donelda (Weir) White were married in August

and then we -- Charlie & Linda (Goodmurphy) Whitfield --were married in September.

Laura, Les, Donelda and I were “3rd” generation “members” (our grandparents having been “founding members” of the congregation). As I recall Georgina started attending services at the church when her older sister married a member10 years earlier(1956). Ted, Eric and Linda were drawn into our church family by their interest in their respective partners.

So in 2006 those 4 couples -- from the same small congregation and all married within a 4 month period --- all celebrated their 40th anniversaries. Wait a minute – that’s only160 years of marriage! So for the rest of the story.

Ted was a school teacher. Early in his teaching career he became friends with 2other teachers who it turned out where married in the same year. So the Langdon’s and the Rowe’s also celebrated their 40th anniversaries this year. The alert mathematicians will now be saying – now you’ve gone over – this is 6 times 40 or 240 years.

Paul & Dawn Rowe

Guess its time to go back to Saturday night and start this story over – actually back to a couple of weeks ago just after we returned from our little anniversary trip (See my posts for September 3 & September 7). We had been discussing the fact that it was also the year of Ted & Laura’s 40th – because we had stood up for them and they for us. We were “kicking ourselves” because we had overlooked this fact in June – due to all the other things happening in our lives at that point. Anyhow, we received a very nice invitation to attend a dinner party at the Miller’s for a “Group of 40’s friends”.

So Saturday night the Smith’s, White’, Rowe’s and Whitfield’s gathered at the Miller home for dinner and a fun time talking about old times and what was going on in our lives. The Langdon’s had to send their regrets due to a conflict with a prior commitment – hence the 5 couples totalling 200 years of marriage.

Interestingly, 3 of the 4 “church” couples, are still attending the “North Livingstone”(now Thessalon) congregation. Linda & I are the “oddballs” although we have landed only 60 miles away. Ted & Laura were our closest friends in High school and we do see each other “off & on” – we also would see Les & Georgina and Eric & Donelda at various church events, weddings & funerals but it seems like we seldom had a chance to visit and share “life experiences” ”—we didn’t know the Rowes but they are a fascinating couple. Paul grew up on Manitoulin Island and knew some of the people I know there as a result of my mother’s roots in that community.

I said 200 years of wedded bliss—that is likely a misstatement—there were 200 years of marriage – but at least speaking for Linda I know it wasn’t all blissful because she had to put up with me and all of my foolish ways.

A few months ago Roger quoted some statistics on marriage breakdowns within our fellowship – and if I recall correctly) it was 1 in 3 -- So 4 of 4 lasting 40 years seems to beat the odds. It may in part have to do with the high regard for marriage that was modeled by our parents & grandparents. Maybe there was something in the water. I’m not sure but I do know for both Linda & I we went into it with the belief that the vows ”until death do us part” really meant something and it never occurred to us that there was any other option but to stick it out and work through the valleys – I thank God that we had so many ”mountaintop” times that we always had those to hold onto when things got tough. We pray that we have given that same sense of commitment, loyalty and determination to our children in their marriages.

Onanother note, we had a guest speaker at our services this morning. Norm Morrell from Ice Lake. He had a very interesting journey having come to start learning about the Bible and coming to know Jesus 2 years ago when he was 59 years old. He is ”on fire” to share his experience with others and it is good to see someone who is studying the word wanting to share those lessons. We can anticipate that as he continues to learn and grow his lessons will serve to "spur Christians on to love & good works". But for now hearing the things that convicted him of the need for a relationship with God through Jesus and hearingabout the process of being ”born again” serves as a good reminder ofwherewe havecomefrom and can help when we have opportunity to share that with others who are seeking Jesus.

We also had the pleasure of a visit by Bill & Alma Bunting at services this a.m. Alma is my cousin and we had visited them when we were in Texas in April. They had been in the area visiting with Alma’s immediate family. They have a 5th wheel trailer but their employer had insisted that they travel in his 36’motorhome. Linda & I enjoyed a quick tour of the “rig” before they left for Michigan.

This was sort of in the category of ”it never rains it pours” – we didn’t find out that Bill was going to be here until after we had made the arrangements for Norm to speak. Bill is an excellent speaker and we would have liked to have had him provide a lesson – but that wasn’t possible due to the prior arrangements.

The big news this evening was that our daughter Melissa has set the date for the “wedding” (blessing ceremony) – for September 15 2007 – just a tad over a year after their marriage last week. Working on plans and taking care of the details will likely keep Linda & her busy for much of the next 12 months.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Recovering from the ride

I compared last week to a ”roller coaster” ride – as our emotions climbed into joy in anticipation of our daughter’s marriage and then plunged into sorrow at the SIDS death of our niece’s 4 month old daughter. We closed out that particular “ride” on Monday as we attended the funeral.

It was a difficult experience but it seemed that being surrounded by friends and family helped Jessica & Mickey at least begin the process of grieving and coming to accept that life goes on . Linda spoke at the funeral at Jessica’s request. She was reluctant to do it because she was afraid that she would break down and not be able to finish what she had prepared. However, she wanted to “be there” for Jessica so she went ahead. She said she prayed and she knew others were praying for her. From that she experienced a peace and calm and did very well. – (see Philippians 4:6-8)

She shared her experience with observing Jessica pouring out a mother’s love on her child, spoke as a grandmother to empathize with the pain of grandparents who loved this child so much and shared her conviction - from Matt.19:14 - that Magdalena was with Jesus now. It was a heart felt and comforting and I admired her for her strength and demonstration of her faith in God.

When we get off a roller coaster ride we often feel “conflicted”. On the one hand, the adrenalin is pumping and we may want to do it again, On the other hand we may feel a little “dizzy” and just want to take it easy. We also know there are other rides and other things to do. In this case,I wanted to “catch my breath” and move on to some other things that had piled up during the previous week.

I had 3 main goals—one was to get started on scanning pictures and preparing a Powerpoint for a family event honoring my Dad’s upcoming 90th birthday. The birthday is in January 2007 but the family is getting together over (Canadian) Thanksgiving (October 7-8). Various members of the family are supplying pictures but I wanted to go through ours and scan ones that showed him with our family.

The second goal was to get caught up and- even get ahead on my preparations for the classes I’m teaching at Algoma University this term.

The third goal was to get caught up on a backlog of email and do some ”blog browsing” to catch upon what some of my blogging friends were up to.

At the end of the week I felt a little discouraged because I had “chipped away” at all of these things but hadn’t really accomplished anything like what I wanted to—Some of this was due falling back into to my “buffet table ”approach” to setting goals (I take more than I can handle). Some of it was being distracted by other things – some of my own making (like playing computer game sand doing the puzzles in the newspaper -- and some of it was ”Murphy’s law”.

Thursday morning I discovered I couldn’t download my email. I spent an hour or so “rebooting” – reinitializing the network devices, checking routers, checking that I could get at it by webmail, looking at the ISP website to see if they had any “problem alerts”, confirming (erroneously) that the problem was just with my laptop. Finally, I called the ISP and discovered that they had made a change to the mail server” name that I hadn’t heard about.

Friday morning I started having problems with a “flaky” INTERNET connection. Again I went through all of my own re-booting- resetting procedures but nothing worked. So again I called the ISP who after having me re-check a bunch of things internally decided to check with the cable provider. Sure enough they had a problem soI just had to wait for them to fix it.

These 2 problems cost me 4 hours of troubleshooting and got me derailed from working on things I could have done without the INTERNET so all in all I’d say I “wasted” a whole day because of technology – ain’t it great stuff!!! On the other hand, on Tuesday I was able to set up my “All-in-one” printer, FAX, scanner with no problems (once I read the instructions) and spent several (nostalgic) hours going over old photo albums and scanning pictures for the “Powerpoint family album” so it’s great when it works.

I also got some email and “blogging” done. I posted my “Sunday lesson” on Wednesday. I was honored to have positive comments from John Dobbs and Bobby Valentine because I have been blessed by their insights in scripture and inspired by their dedication to “knowing and following Jesus”.

For any interested in pursuing the questions I touched on in my “lesson” I would recommend looking at Bobby’s recent blog entries and the associated comments. (to do so click on the following links)

Discussion of Kingdom Come - Bobby's book with John Mark Hicks

A vision of the church

Unity - Its' importance and our failures

I also exchanged some emails with my cousin Wilma discussing our thoughts about a John Fisher (Purpose Driven Life)devotional Growing through regret that dealt with the concept that character is developed by “having regrets” that come from being aware of our sins and shortcomings.

Finally (last but far from least) I corresponded with Roseanne Ekman about their visit here and she sent several pictures of their family and home in Minnesota. I also exchanged a few notes with John Dobbs who it turns out knows Roseanne— it actually was a bit of “fun” because he knew her primarily from participation on a discussion list and said to me that he hadn’t met her. When I forwarded that comment to Roseann she responded with a picture from Tulsa workshop “chastising” John about his lapse of memory.

In any case it was an example of how God works in ”mysterious ways” because (paraphrasing slightly John Dobbs comment ) we were “delighted to learn that our old acquaintances (the Ekmanns) were acquaintances of our new friend John Dobbs.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Back to the Basics-Lesson 2

In my post of August 27 - Are-you-in-slump? I started sharing material from our Adult Bible class at Pinehill. This is will be of most interest to people fromwithin our "fellowship" or someone who is familiar with many of our "traditional" aproaches to teaching about becoming a part of "the body of Christ".

The theme of "back to the Basics" is taken from our experience in other areas of life where sometimes to make progress we have to first go back and deal with some thing we are missing in the basics. I found this carton that illustrates this need for some basic improvements (in this man's golf grip and swing)

The following was covered in classes September 3 & 10th. There is some overlap with the August 27 lesson but this is summary outlining "gaps" between "what we say we believe" and "what we practice" and giving "strategies" or approaches for closing those gaps.

Over past couple of weeks we have looked at our usage of the word “church” and “church of Christ” – how we understand it, how the world understands it and how it is used in the New Testament.

Our discussion has confirmed to me several things that I believe can “limit our growth”.

1. My first observation is that the word “church” as it is commonly used in the world and by many in the churches of Christ conveys something different than what most of us understand as the Biblical meaning

What do we say we believe? Most (if not all) of us here understand that the Biblical meaning of “church” is the “called out ones” (in other words it describes the status of our relationship with God. We also understand that that God does the adding (Acts 2:47) We believe that “being in the church” is of utmost importance.

What do we actually practice? We talk about”going to church” rather than “being the church”. We talk about the church as a building. We talk about “our church” or “the church” based on a the “label” (sign over the door) which we understand to convey a “standard” set of beliefs & practices There seems to be a “gap” between “what we say we believe” and “what we actually practice.

What is the consequence? This practice (however well intended) can limit our effectiveness in communicating that we want simply “to be a part of the church that Jesus died for” . It can also distract us from our main task of being “salt, leaven & light” to so that other people come to want the same thing. ?

How can we improve? (What can be done to “close the gap”?)

One way is to “go back to the basics” and change the way we talk about “church” -

a) talk about being Christians (no more – no less)

b) talk about being part of the family (of God)

c) talk about having confidence or assurance that God has added us to Christ’s body

d) talk about assembling with the church or about attending church services or going to do something with those in our church family. Talk about how we get together to honor and celebrate the relationship we have with God and with each other through Jesus

e) Above all, we need to avoid words and actions that make “attendance” equivalent to “relationship” and those that confuse “place” with” people”

2. My second observation is that we frequently use the term “Church of Christ” as a way to identify a specific set of beliefs & practices - This identifies us by "what we believe" not "who we are".

What do we say we believe? We describe ourselves as “non-denominational”. We say that we want to be ”Christians” only. We say that we want to use the teachings in the New Testament as the sole source of determining our beliefs and practices. (speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent)

What do we actually practice? We are very eager and ready to describe our understanding of what the New Testament pattern is for becoming a Christian and for worship. We have pamphlets, books and Bible study guides that describe these “core” beliefs backed up with lots of scripture “quotes” and explanations of why those scriptures mean what we say they mean. We have persuasive arguments to counter the views of others who see the topic in a different way.

What is the consequence? There are two possible consequences of our common practices

1. we become denominational in our thinking and practice. A denomination is a religious group that adheres to a specific set of beliefs and practices. When we talk about what the churches of Christ believe and reduce those things to a (relatively)small list of things that need to be believed and practiced to be accepted in our fellowship, this seems to make us a denomination.

2. In our passion and conviction that we need to be Christians as outlined in the New Testament writings, we start talking about “the church” or “the Lord’s church” – as if we are the “only ones” who understand what God intended about these things. We convey to others that we are the “only Christians” .

In general, I don’t think very many of us really believe we are the “onlyChristians” . (although I’m sure that some in our “fellowship” do). Certainly those who initiated the restoration movement called for people to be “Christians only” – (but so far as I know they never taught that this would made us the “only Christians”.).

Another consequence of the way we teach and talk about the “Church of Christ” is that (it seems to me) we are often “confused” and inconsistent at best and hypocritical at worst when we talk to and interact with others who say they are Christians.

How do you respond to someone that says “I’m a Christian”, I believe in Jesus”? Do you have reservations unless you find out they attend a “church of Christ”

On the other hand, I wonder about passages like (Rom.14:4, I John 4:2 and Phil 1:18) – are we dishonoring Jesus when we reject those who are proclaiming him as Lord?

At the end we can be “torn” – we are “reluctant” to be seen accepting other Christians whose beliefs and practices are different from ours but we are also “uncomfortable” with thinking that we alone have got it right.

I think many of us who “grew up” in a church of Christ or who left a “denomination” to become a part of a Church of Christ have a “discomfort” in this area. We understand so clearly and are strongly convicted about those things that webelieve the NT teaches about “becoming a Christian” and about the “New Testament pattern for the church” that we find it difficult to accept (extend recognition as a fellow Christian) to anyone who believes and practices differently than we do. (Ironically this passion for "doing things right" also ends up creating a "Heinz 57 varieties" of "churches of Christ" as we fuss over over almost anything imaginable.)

There are two extreme responses to resolving this “conflict”

1. We compromise, “waterdown” or “sidestep” talking about our beliefs to avoid seeming “dogmatic” and “divisive”.

2. On the other hand, we can become very “rigid” and tell others bluntly that ”we are right (and by implication saved) and they are wrong” (and by implication lost).

Neither of these extremes is “sound doctrine” The first one fails the test of “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Roms14:23). The second fails the test of love (among other tests).

It seems to me that we so often, in our passion for truth, have missed the point of Jesus’ prayer (John 17:20-21)

“that they (those who believe in Jesus) may be one as Jesus and the Father are one so that the world may believe that (God) have sent (Jesus) .

Ephesians 4 reiterates the importance of

“keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” – of proclaiming “one body, one Spirit, one hope one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God”.

Yet we focus more on the things that divide us (within and without), we argue and fail to

“to live a life worthy of the calling (we) have received.

We fail to be completely humble and gentle; patient, and bearing with one another in love.”

How can we improve?

One way is to “go back to the basics” and change the way we talk about the “church of Christ ” -

I suggest that we

a) talk about being a group of Christians who have come together as a family (or community) in response to our common faith in Jesus.

b) talk about how those beliefs provide us assurance of God’s grace and the transforming power of his Spirit.
c) talk about how –regardless of what we experience – good or bad – in our daily lives we are experiencing “life to the full” (John 10:10) as God grows his fruit within us (Gal 5:22-23 )

d) talk about how we are diligent in searching the scriptures to come to know Jesus better each day and how we would welcome any one to join with us we continue to do that.

e) talk about how we are on a ”journey of faith and discovery” -- a journey we have found leads to a (growing) belief in Jesus and desire to know him better and serve him better. A journey, which gives us an increasing assurance of his saving grace & spirit being at work in our lives.

f) talk about the fact that we have developed deep convictions about what the Bible teaches about how we become Christians, how we live as spirit directed servants, and how we worship to honor God, and while we respect those who have come to a different understanding from the Bible, we must – to preserve a clear conscience before God -- teach and practice those things until we come to a different understanding.

g) talk about the “name” church of Christ as a (Biblical –Rom. 16:16) label of convenience that we use to describe congregations that have similar beliefs and practices – congregations where we can expect to feel “at home” if we need to visit elsewhere or move to a new community.

Well -that's it for now--I pray that as we think on these things and "reason together" we can come more fully into that "walk in the light" that God has called us to.

God Bless

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A roller coaster week

It’s Sunday afternoon. I should just be posting my lesson from today’s Bible class and then taking a nap!! —however, it has been a “crazy” week and I need to do an up date on several things that have excited us and others that have saddened us. If God gives us tomorrow I will try to post the lesson then.

Where to start? I also gave the sermon this morning at Pinehill and it was on the subject “Begin at the beginning." One of the things I mentioned was the familiar quote from Lewis Carroll’s delightful children’s book “ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1865)”. The quote occurs in the final chapter of Alice, when the Knave of Hearts is placed on trial – having been accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts .

“The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked.
'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'”

So –beginning on Tuesday, we worked like the proverbial beavers and finished the garden project. (first picture shows it after removing the old stuff) It was very satisfying despite the sore backs and aching muscles. It was good that we wrapped it up because by Wednesday I was beginning to feel the pressure of needing to prepare a lesson for Sunday morning and I did get most of that done on Wednesday & Thursday. (2nd picture shows it finished after 15 wheelbarrows of soil mix and re-planting. )

Thursday we had the pleasure of receiving a call from Melissa saying that she & Alexander were now married and on their way to a short honeymoon. It was a joyful, with some tears welling up, and we were able to extend our congratulations to Alexander and her. She had called and talked to her mother Wednesday night—all bubbly and sharing fun she had had with the preparations—getting flowers and other last minute details. I told my Dad (who had ”eloped” with my mother and gotten married with only the preacher and a couple of witnesses present) that Melissa and Alexander had followed their example –except they had told their parents before hand that they were going to do it. We talked to her for a long time today and she gave us the "blow-by-blow" of the marriage ceremony and how she was feeling. It made it more real for me to hear her talking about it. She also sent some early pictures -- she says there are better ones on the way.

Thursday night we finalized plans for Linda to ”go on tour” for a month starting October 9. The impetus for this was a call from our daughter(-in-law) Sarah last weekend. Kevin had just been told by his thesis supervisor that he needed to have his dissertation proposal and application for internship completed by November 15. He has been caring for Will while Sarah work’s and he has had a part-time job doing psychometric evaluations. In order to meet the deadline, he needs to give up the job and reduce his time with Will – Sarah said “We need you now” and Grandma didn’t need a lot of urging so she will be there to help for3 weeks. She will then fly from Vancouver to Chicago to watch Hunter & Camdyn while there Mom & Dad go for a cruise to celebrate their 15th anniversary.

We had learned earlier in the week of the passing of Mabel Whitehead—she was in her 99th year and had lived a full life remaining alert and full of life until very recently. Mabel and her husband Elmer were an active part of the Pinehill family up until Elmer’s death in 1991. Shortly thereafter Mabel moved to live with her daughter in North Bay and had remained there until her death.(moving to a care facility for the past few years)
In addition to our fond memories of Mabel from our church relationship, Elmer was the brother of my brother-in-law Morris (who is married to my oldest sister Goldie). Because of these connections, we went to Thessalon Friday morning to attend a memorial service for Mabel.

Our sister-in-law Marilyn had done some leg work and arranged for my family and Linda’s family to get together in Bruce Mines for a dinner Friday evening to share a late celebration of our 40th anniversary. We were looking forward to that event –and our plan was to spend the afternoon visiting with Linda’s Mom and then go to the dinner. I had brought my computer with the intent of doing some final touches on my sermon and preparing a Powerpoint outline to be used with it.

However, circumstances overtook us and the dinner had to be cancelled and our other plans changed.

When we arrived at Linda’s Mom’s we discovered that Linda’s 4 month old grand-niece (her brother Joe’s granddaughter) Magdalana had died suddenly in her sleep that morning. This was a devastating blow to Jessica (the mother) and her family. The baby was her only child and Joe’s only grandchild. (I had made a brief reference to the baby’s birth in my May 3 post-Rebuilding bridges)

We spent the rest of the day with Linda’s Mom – a lot of the time Linda was fielding and making phone calls to other family members. Arliss & Theresa both came by - to share in the bewilderment and sorrow that such a thing had happened.

We had given Jessica & the baby a ride to Thessalon in early July when Linda went down to help celebrate Arliss’ birthday – a precious memory for Linda – The picture taken at the party shows Jessica (in the background) with her 2 sisters Angela and Rebecca holding the baby.

When these tragedies happen, we feel so unequipped to know how to help and how to comfort. We turn to God in prayer – offering up grief, pain, anger … we have no answers…We feel guilt because we instinctively- selfishly think “Thank God” it wasn’t my (grand)child. Even the confidence that this child is “safe in the arms of Jesus” doesn’t stop the sense of helplessness—of not knowing how to comfort -- how to soften the pain – and so we do the best we can to be there with them and help them through. The funeral is tomorrow –Linda has been asked to say something about Jessica & Magdalana – I am praying that her words will provide some comfort. She doesn’t like giving talks and this will be difficult for her—but it was Jessica’s request – so she will do her best—.

In the midst of this “roller coaster” week, we were preparing for a visit by Bob & Roseann Ekman. They were here in Sault Ste Marie almost 30 years ago when Bob was the “preaching” minister at Pinehill. They left here in 1981 and we hadn’t seen them for well over 20 years. We have kept contact off & on by email and we were delighted when they contacted us about coming here to visit. They arrived yesterday afternoon and we had a great visit before, during and after dinner.

Russ Ward came by for a while. He was one of a number of people who had been brought into the church as a result of their work here. Bob had come to preaching later in his life and Pinehill was his first assignment. While their work here was fruitful in many ways, there were also some ”rocky relationships” with others. This morning after services Bob came up and offered an apology and asked forgiveness for those past mistakes. He said it had been a growing conviction that he needed to do this and it was facilitated by their move to Minnesota which put them within easy driving range of the Sault. I trust that it completed a healing process for any that were offended during the time Bob was here. We pray God’s blessings on them as they work with the church in Minnesota.

So its been a “week to remember” –If you are reading this we solicit your prayers for the Goodmurphy family as they deal with this tragedy. May they seek and find the God that God can work through tragedy for those that love Him. And there is no ending to this saga but this is the end for now.

God Bless
Charlie & Linda

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Back to … school?

I thank those who commented on my “Charlie & Linda” post. JD (Hope Remains) ) commented and made reference to it on his site. Linda thought it was a bit much for me to make those comments publicly but it is what my heart was saying and I wanted the world (or least those of you who visit this site) to know how I felt and to give her the honor due to her. Several of my brothers and sisters sent congratulations by email. Lawrence (my youngest brother) and Lily sent a neat e-card showing 2 “dancing” matches with the sentiment that we were a perfect match (Click HERE for the “non-customized” version). Several of our church family gave us cards.

We enjoyed our overnight getaway in the “BBB”. – peace and solitude and time to reflect on 40 years of marriage. We both agree that it is unlikely that we will have another 40 years since that would put us both into triple digit ages – we’ll leave that up to God and just enjoy the time we are given.

We have frequently taken a “nth” honeymoon trip on the Labor day weekend – we tend to like to be spontaneous and not make reservations or other firm plans. Sometimes that has worked well and other times – not so well. Almost 30 years ago – not long after we moved to the Sault - we decided to take a trip into Michigan . We (I) forgot that there is a Mackinaw bridge walk on Labor day – as a result all the motels for miles around were fully booked. After driving a couple of hundred miles and ending up in Grayling at midnight without a place to stay we pulled the plug and just drove home. That’s the stuff that builds memories and makes or breaks a relationship. In our case these little misadventures have given us lots to laugh about as we think about making another of these “spur of the moment” trips. At least with the “BBB” we always have a place to sleep if we can find a place to park it.

Anyhow – for many years we had to be back from those trips because school (in Ontario) starts the Tuesday after Labor day. This hasn’t been a concern for at least the past 5 years since Melissa graduated from University – although for the 4 years she was at Queen’s we often celebrated our anniversary on the road to/from Kingston or in Kingston helping her move and get settled in. (Of course if I was teaching we usually had to be back for that so it was only a couple of years that there was complete freedom to get back “whenever”)

This year we are back into the “school” thing because Linda’s niece Alyssa is boarding with us with she attend Algoma University. Having someone around every day will require some adjustments in our lives but we are happy to see and experience that youthful enthusiasm.

I’m also back to teaching and this week we came back to finish up the gardening project. Finally, I am back to thinking through how to help our church family "fill the gaps" that have been left by the Lansdell's departure.

There is a theme here.

How often do we have this need to “get back” into a routine of doing thedaily things that we want to do, into completing projects, into making changes that we want to make, into discovering and getting on with new projects.

This has me thinking of 3 things that God has called us to do.

First, as outlined in my recent post (Sunday August 27) is we are called to an ongoing “transformation”, ever increasing faith and spiritual growth- we are called to a journey – not a destination.

Second, I’m also reminded that God knew that we would sometimes “plateau” or even “go into a slump” and at times be ready to give up. This is shown by the number of times we are encourages to “keep the faith”, to persevere in the face of trials, and to “not grow weary” .

Third – God has called us to a “rest” – but a rest were we honor and connect more fully with him that we are able to do in the course of “having Him in our daily living”. Mike Cope has a post pointing to a book on this subject.

Life is a journey with hills and valleys, a journey, which as the Chinese proverb says requires us to keep taking the “first step” , it requires focus and direction. We also need to think & plan to be sure we are on the right track -- or t least not the "wrong one". While need to "keep on keeping on"life also requires some time to stop and “smell the roses” by communing with God. My prayer today is for the wisdom to seek balance in these things.

God Bless

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Charlie & Linda - September 3 1966

Sonnet XLIII
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee ? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life !--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Proverbs 5:18-19

May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.

Guess How much I love you?

"I love you right up to the moon and back."

(from the the story about Little and Big Nutbrown Hares' efforts to express their love for each other
by Sam McBratney)

On September 3 1966 I married the most beautiful woman in the world. –My love for her was more than can be expressed by the poetic phrasing of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or the erotic truths of the Proverbs or the childlike grasping for words of the Nut Brown Hares.

Forty years later I have discovered that I didn’t then know what beauty really was—her beauty has grown with each year, each tear, each laugh, each child, each pain, each hug and each time she has forgiven me. (and that’s been a lot of times)

Forty years later I have discovered that I didn’t know then what love really was. My love for her has grown with each year, each tear, each laugh, each child, each pain, each hug and each time she has forgiven me.

Happy Anniversary Linda-I love you - in uncountable ways – yes even -“right up to the moon and back” and I remain “captivated by your love”

I will be yours until God calls us home

p.s. I'll go back to my plan about posting a Bible thought on Sundays - next week. This week we are "running away" to celebrate.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Katrina-after a year & a bit

Over the past couple of weeks as August came to an end there has been a lot of media coverage discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and what had and hadn’t been done to help people put their lives back together.

Linda focused on the TV reports and I watched some of that –but a lot of my update on “Life after Katrina” came by following the blogs of John Dobbs –Out Here Hope Remains and Dee Andrews – The Wind Vane Chronicles.

John’s posts on August 29 , August 27 and August 25 give a good perspective on what it has been like on the Gulf Coast and some of the “lessons learned”- However the one that touched me the most was Looking up for Hope posted August 30 2006.

If you look at the slideshow of pictures you will see one with a Canadian flag—That was Linda’s handiwork -something we left as a piece of us to thank the people at Central for giving us this opportunity to serve. I want to share my comment to John regarding that posting “JD - Tell Jeff – Thanks for the ceiling tiles. It brought tears to our eyes as the memories flooded back as we watched the slide show I pray we can find away to return but for now it looks as if God is leading in another direction. Perhaps he will open a door that we haven't yet seen”

I also noted this from John’s post this Friday “Robbie Woods was helping out around the church yesterday and put together a filing cabinet I had bought for my office”. It so good to know that Robbie is still “walking with God”—We had the privilege of having him share with us his story about a ”wasted” life that led to a loss of every thing important to him, about the way he had encountered Jesus and had been brought to his knees. He was baptized around the time we were there and he was such an encouragement as you could almost see daily ”spurts” in the “transformation” that came from a “new life’ (Romans 12:2).

Robbie had a gift of making things from palm fronds.We have a rose and a cross that he made on display in the “BBB” as a reminder of him and all of the people we met in Pascagoula. John informed me in an email that they are hopeful that Robbie will soon be able to return to a ”regular ”job. We pray for this and his continued faithfulness to God.

Dee has also talked often about how Katrina had changed so many lives including hers. On August 25 she posted a blog describing what she was doing and feeling at that time in 2005. She had intended to continue the ”retrospective” for several days but by August 28 she had decided that it was better to look forward-to move on rather than reliving the pain of the past year.

She wrote in part “I do not want my life so tied to the past that I cannot see the present or the future. Many people do that, I think. In their need to remember, not forget, they embrace the loss so fiercely they become entangled in it. It ensnares them, robbing them of any further joy in life. I'm not discounting or dismissing loss and sorrow by any means. I have been - at times - consumed by loss and sorrow. We all have. As the young minister so eloquently and powerfully expressed it yesterday in both sermons, if we love, we can be - will be - tragically struck and burned with "rivets of grief," as can God. (He told me last night he'd borrowed it from a much older minister, but that's good I think. Beautiful imagery and he used it well.) But we scar up. We heal. We go on. We must not let the wounds fester so that we are immersed by them.”

My comment on that post was as follows

“Dee - I have tried to apply something I heard in "management training" that seemed very spiritual (although I never tried to see if I could support the thought from the Bible)

Anyhow --it seems to say something similar to what you have said here.

We should let our "vision" of the future shape our actions. Rather than - as we so often do --dragging the "past into the present" we should put the past into the past and draw the future back into the present.

Maybe better way to say it is "Live your dreams today" rather than (re)living the pain (and mistakes) of the past.

Thanks for the reminder that life is ahead - not behind -- and God is there showing the way.”

I share these thoughts for 2 reasons- one being that it has amazed me that 3 weeks of work –a mere drop in the ocean of what needed to be done - was enough to make a lasting impression on our lives-indeed we have been blessed more by giving than anything we could receive – and we have received so much more than we gave – we have friends, we have memories, we have an increased sense of God’s presence “in the storms of our lives” (see the “I” of the storm).

The second reason is hope that the faith and servant’s heart that is shown by these people might touch others and encourage more to go to ”receive the blessing of giving”

God Bless
Charlie & Linda