Saturday, February 23, 2008

Snow Fun (February 23) **Updated**

I wrote this on Monday and (silly me) I thought I had posted it. My friend Dee left a comment about my last post "chiding" (mildly- thanks Dee)me for not having posted anything new. So I looked and sure enough - I had it all written up but hadn't sent it out. I now realize what happened -- I wanted to put in some pictures so I uploaded them and did some other things and then got distracted -- etc. etc.

My sister has been visiting all week -- she and I are the "middle kids" and are the "bridge" or the "anchor" (interpret that as you may) in our family of 8 - (there are 3 older than me and 3 younger than her) --and we are also the closest in age with a scant 14 months between us.

She is staying at my Dad's place and along with my other 2 sisters has done a pretty thorough clean-up and "clean out"of his apartment. He is 91 now (the picture is at the family gathering we had for his 91st - my brother-in-law Morris is in the background). We (2 brothers and 3 sisters who were here) also spent a lot of time in conversation looking for how we could best support Dad in living a safe, health, happy life.

So the week has been very busy and perhaps that explains the "mind gap" that lead to me thinking I had posted this when I hadn't.

I originally published this without pictures but I have now added them and did some minor editting.

** Written Monday February 18 2008
We have made trips south for the past 3 winters. For 2 years we left in February and, while we had a taste of winter, 2005 & 2006 were quite mild and had very little snow – especially during December & January. Last year winter was pretty well over when we left April 1 – but 2007 was a very mild winter with very little snow.

The winter of 2008 has – despite the sputtering start (we had 2 major starts of snow & cold – one in December and once in January that we followed by a complete meltdown. But since mid-January it has just been cold or snowing – we had the winter storm of a century about 2 weeks ago. (The picture looking out our driveway taken after ourlastbigstorm will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. The bank at the road tops 7 feet (2 metres) We haven't seen snowbanks like this for at least 10 years.)

Now this is a winter playground – snowmobiling, sking, snowshoeing, skating, sledding – you name it – this is the place to be – except when it is mild and there is no snow. So this year those who enjoy snow fun are in their glory.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons Linda & I aren’t into snow sports anymore. (and as you can see in the picture she finds it a bit chilly at times). Clearing the snow from the driveway nearly everyday gets a little “old” pretty fast. So for us “it’s no fun” in the snow .

I have finished my course and we had thought we’d be headed south soon. But it seems God has had some other plans. Both Linda & I have been involved in some local ministry (service) activities that we just couldn’t see ourselves walking away from.

In addition to the counseling and teaching related to specific situations, Linda is using her nursing skills to help Barb who has just had a knee replacement. My Dad has required extra attention and care this winter. Linda’s mother was hospitalized with congestive heart failure last week – although it appears to have been treated and she should be home today. I spent a day last week helping with some drywalling at the church building (and my back is still telling me about that).

I have just completed a series of lessons on the nature and purpose of our church assemblies. Mainly trying to “re-calibrate” away from the emphasis that we seem to drift into where we stress “going to church” rather than seeing that “being the church” means that we will assemble for various reasons, at various times for various purposes. As I see it, -- for Christians -- all of those assemblies are a part of our “life worship” and are necessary to meet the “one another” “encouraging, building up and equipping” that is so frequently mentioned in various New Testament scriptures. I don’t think we do it deliberately but it is clear to me at least that we have often equated “attending church services” with proving that we are Christians -- whereas (and I agree this is maybe a subtle distinction) , I believe we assemble because we are Christians. To make a it clear I’ll express it the way I saw a fellow blogger express it a couple of months ago. “An apple tree doesn’t produce apples to prove it is an apple tree – it produces apples because it is an apple tree”

Trying to express this shift in emphasis to someone who is ingrained in “going to church to worship God” thinking is difficult. I’m not pointing fingers at others when I say this because I I know this is true for myself. I have intellectually understood for a long time that “going to church” wasn’t what “church” was all about”, however, this emphasis on “going to church” was the reality of my behavior and speech for many, many years. And I’m not sure I’ve completed overcome the reality of that ingrained “habit” (similar to what I mentioned last time about overcoming bad habits – it’s a long way from knowing to changing – or so it seems with me).

In a lot of ways – what ‘ve expressed in this posting seems to be similar to what on the surface might seem to be contradictory statements made by the apostle Paul in writing to the Phillipians --

On the one hand, he says “I’ve learned to be content whatever the circumstance”

Phil 4: 11-13:“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

On the other hand he says (paraphrasing) “I’m never satisfied – I keep pressing forward”

Phil 3:10-12: I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Of course these aren’t contradictory because he is speaking of different things.

In the first case – he’s telling me to be content rather complaining that is “s’no fun”. God has placed me here for now and I should be content in those circumstances—even if we do decide to head south in a bit so we can be content in other circumstances – where we are we can be content if we are in God’s family.

In the second case he is saying that we will never achieve a perfect understanding or perfect behavior but we need to forget whatever level we have come to in the past and keep forging on looking to Jesus to continue transforming us towards the perfection that will be ours in eternity.

God Bless

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

January thaw (Again) - It's getting to be a Habit

Well it’s actually February -- the remainder of January has flown by.

Our trip to see Kevin was great –despite a few incidents –not the least of which was a 2 hour detour on the trip down due to the highway being flooded. –as I said before rain and major thaws in January wreak havoc in an area that is geared up for snow this time of year.

We had a good visit with Kevin as well as with my sister Ruby and her husband Art – who graciously opened the “inn” to give us a place to stay. My brother Lawrence dropped by for a couple of hours one evening and we also saw my niece Trish – again—She was here over Christmas so it had only been a week since we had seen her. Linda visited with her friend Arlene one morning and we spent Friday evening at with Kevin and his in-laws Bill & Trish at their home –great dinner and nice visit including a viewing of some digital pictures and video clips that Kevin had brought. It was heartwarming to watch Will opening his Christmas presents. Of course it would have been a 1000 times better to have been there!!

When we returned I dived right into teaching the 3rd round of a course on Fridays. It has taken less time to prepare than previously but still has been an extra load that meant something else has to go. Mostly that has been the time I would have spent in ”blogland” both visiting and posting –

A week ago we had another one of the thaw cycles and over the weekend it was mild, the snow was melting, the roads were bare and it looked like spring. Tuesday was drizzling a bit and had started to rain when a major winter storm swept in. We had high winds, lots of snow and the city was completely shutdown for the day. The most snow I’d seen at one time since 1995-96 when we had record snowfalls – but the wind was the most severe I can ever recall. Gusts up to120kph (70 mph) - knocked down trees, damaged (and broke off) traffic signals, a number of major power outages and highways in all directions closed. I was glad to be able to just sit inside and watch it all unfold.

Tuesday we had helped Paul & Michelle move to a new apartment and we were saying prayers of thanksgiving that the storm didn’t arrive that day--

We have had another thawing trend this week— but it snowed last night unlike the rain that was being forecast just south of us.

I was saying to a friend last week that I rather missed the days when we had winter – once!! – even if it lasted 4 or 5 months it was easier to deal with than instead of 5 or six winters which is what it seems like with these freeze – thaw cycles.

But one thing that seems clear about weather in Sault Ste. Marie is that there is no normal weather – it is different every year -- It is unusually cold or unusually mild or we have unusually heavy show or an unusual absence of snow. This year we have had unusual extremes setting records on the warm side and on the winter storm side.

The weather this year has me thinking that these cycles are a metaphor for life.

(As hard as it will be for some of you to believe :) :) ) I have some bad habits – character issues that I struggle with – perhaps by the world’s standard’s they might be seen as minor but to me they have always been a source of frustration.

One of those is my tendency to get overly preoccupied with a specific task and ignore everything that is going on around me. And even if I am interrupted and start to do something else, I easily drift back to thinking about that “one thing” (Now I’ve said it is a “bad habit” even though in many situations this ability to focus can be a good thing – but it is bad when it goes to the extreme of shutting out important things that need attention – for example if it happens when I’m driving – and it has!!).

The area where this has the most impact is when it drifts into my communications with Linda. It is very hurtful to her if she is trying to communicate with me and I seem oblivious to her or if I have started listening and then “drifted away” – I suspect that there are other wives out there who can relate to this.

Over the years I have applied a number of “strategies” to avoid having this tendency cause a (temporary)breakdown in our communications. For example, when I was working, if Linda called I had to either stand up or turn my chair in the opposite direction so I wouldn’t try to keep on working while talking to her.

One thing is certain is that ultimately love does "conquer all" because we always work our way through these things – but knowing that doesn’t make the pain any less real when it happens. I guess it’s (somewhat) like knowing that you will get past this storm but you still have to shovel the snow!!

Working at home has created new challenges in this area of "listening" but we have worked out some things that generally keep me “present” when we are talking.

So what does this have to do with the cycles in the weather? Well despite knowing that this can happen and despite having proven ways of preventing it – it always seems to go in cycles.

I suppose in some small way I can understand the problem of addiction. You find a way to stop – to break the habit and things re going fine but you get overconfident or lazy or whatever and start to ”push the limit” – and all of a sudden it happens again as it did this past weekend.

As I was praying about this (again) it occurred to me that this was a small reflection of the general situation of the human condition in our relationship with God that Paul wrote about in Romans 7:17-25 (The message)

"But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."

This “cycle of failure” to do what I know needs to be done is, of course the reason why I need Jesus to act as a mediator in my relationship with God.

However, if this principle of "doing what we don't want to do" applies in our relationship with God , it also seems to apply to our relationships with each other. I am blessed with a loving partner who always (eventually) foregives and in the long haul our relationship is likely made stronger .

BUT as Paul also said earlier in Romans 6:1 we can’t use God’s grace as a rationalization for not caring about our failures – (So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not!) (The Message).

God still holds us accountable and expects repentance and I thank God that he also gave me a partner who extend grace in our relationship but also loves me enough to hold me accountable and to expect change.

So I can’t rationalize it and just say that’s the way it is – I need one more time to seek away to break the cycle.

I sometimes wonder why God doesn’t just “take this away” – but I wonder if this may be one of those ”thorns in the flesh” that are needed to continually remind me not only of God’s grace which is sufficient but also of the grace extended daily by a loving partner.

Well - moving on; Only one thing to share about my “virtual reality” visits – My friend John Dobbs and his lovely wife Maggie have said goodbye to the church n Pascagoula and headed to Forsythe (Monroe) Louisiana. I wish him God’s richest blessings in thisnew work. You can read all abut it on his “Out here hope remains” blog (

Thanks to Dee and Wilma who have recently commented about the gaps in my posts. I hope that there will be more time in the next month for”surfing the net” andbeing moreregualr with my posts. -- time will tell.

Linda is getting cabin fever and with my course wrapping up in 2 weeks we are looking to “hit the road”. But we have n’t really figured out where we want to go – so far there hasn’t been any “Macedonian call” –similar to 2 years ago when we felt compelled to make our “Katrina” trip.

God Bless