Monday, June 30, 2014

Daughter's University Graduation

June Journalling

1.     Many tears at church today as our Pastor announced his retirement. Even though I knew it was coming, it was hard now that it’s official, but I’m happy for him and his family as they begin this new chapter at the end of August.

2.     I got my orthotics this morning. I need to break them in slowly. It’s going to take some time to straighten myself out.

3.     Busy night last night. Also orientating a new nurse, which I like to do, but it takes longer to stop and explain why you’re doing what you do at each step.

4.     Last night. Urology night. I hate urology night, have I mentioned that before? Enjoying the orthotics. I feel like I’m walking straighter.

5.     Exercising my civic duty/privilege and voting in the Provincial election. Our youngest daughter will be working on election day at one of the polling centres nearby. She also interviewed for a job today with the Black History month society. It’s only for six weeks, but it would help her out with her schooling costs. Also went to a musical my niece is in this evening. She has a great singing voice and can act as well.

6.     So many appointments today; physio, the weight doctor, a massage, then off to shop for a grad dress and shoes for my daughter for Tuesday.

7.     We went to the Niagara area to the wedding of a couple in our church. It was outdoors in a chapel in the woods, and then indoors for the reception. It was casual but very well suited to this adventurous couple. Perfect weather, though I got a sunburn. Our daughter went to Kingston today with her new housemates and they signed a lease on a beautiful semi-detached colonial side split. Very clean and nice, and reasonably priced and a few blocks from the lake and a short walk from the university.

8.     Church was awkward today. There’s been some fallout about our Pastor’s retirement as many are thinking of it as a resignation and are unwilling to accept it. Ah, church life. There’s no life like it! I feel bad because we haven’t had strife in the church for at least ten years and I remember now that I don’t like it. My poor husband, as he has stress at work and stress at church. At least he feels his home and marriage are a haven. Can you imagine if all three were pressing in on him?

9.     Physio this morning. It seems to be helping. I went without taking any muscle relaxants since last night. When the physiotherapist was putting his weight onto my back I felt like I would break. My daughter told me to be tough. “Pain is just weakness leaving the body.” It was good for a laugh. Also printing out documents for the upcoming writer’s conference this week, and beginning to pack.

10.  My youngest is graduating from university. I can’t believe how quickly the years have gone by. So proud of her. She is graduating with an Honours B.A. with distinction, in Peace, Conflict and Justice Studies from University of Toronto. Then we’re going out for dinner at Port in Pickering. Update. My youngest also heard about her summer job. She will be working at the Ontario Black History Society for six weeks starting in July. Yay!

11.  Annual meeting tonight. I hope it goes well, or at least not as bad as it could. Worst case scenario we would have to leave the church. I’ve been there 30 years, and he’s been there 37 years.

12.  The meeting did go as poorly as we feared. I’m afraid of how this will end. I hope it doesn’t split the church. In other news, I’m off to Guelph for the Write! Canada conference for writers who are Christian. I’ll be gone Thursday thru Saturday. I hope my back can handle all the sitting.

13. At Conference. I had professional photos taken and attended great classes and had great feedback at appointments with agents and editors. I met so many nice people and learned so much.

14.  Home and back to see World Cup Soccer. I am cheering for Germany, who happen to be favoured to win this year. We recorded a few games while I was away. After 37 years at Faith, and 28 of those in leadership, my husband handed in his resignation tonight. I’ve been there 30 years. My heart is breaking. I will especially miss my Women of Faith group.

15.  Father’s Day. We attended a nearby church where we know some people and the preaching is good. It still seems so surreal not to go to Faith. My husband feels such a release from the stress. He needed to look out for his health and well-being. I’m not there, yet. It seemed to happen so suddenly.

16.  Still ruminating all the events of the week through my mind. I guess I am grieving and included in that is anger and resentment, sadness and confusion. I think this was totally unnecessary and I wish it didn’t happen. I am trying to let go and look forward to what the Lord has for us in a new place, but it’s so hard to not think of myself as a member of Faith. I pray for the people there, I love them, and I know others will take our place.

17. Work is a little less crazy this week, thankfully. Sometimes I have hot flashes that steam up my glasses. Isn’t that ridiculous?

18.  My mom will be going to Finland for the whole summer. It will be so different without her around.

19. Pay day. Always a good day.

20. I had massage this morning at physio. Quite nice. Our daughter and her husband came to spend the night and we ordered in. They wanted to see my mom before she goes away.

21.  A beautiful summer day. Longest day of the year. My husband re-stained the deck. The icy winter did a number on it.

22.  We went to Newcastle Baptist Church this morning. I like the feel of it. We felt welcome. I felt funny when the Pastor welcomed us from the pulpit, mentioning we were from Faith. He doesn’t know otherwise, and we don’t really want to talk about it. This place would be nice if we retired and lived closer but for winter or for service and having people over, it’s not feasible.

23. Three nights this week.

24. Friends over to talk it out.

25.  I’m sad that people are filling in the holes of their understanding of the ituation and totally getting it wrong. We didn’t leave because of the resignation issue, but that seems to be the story going around. As much as we want to clear my husband’s name, we won’t tell people the details. We just want to let go and move on, now.

26. I ordered some books with the gift cards I got for my birthday. Some of them were books on writing that were recommended at the conference.

27.  In spite of the food at the conference, which I couldn’t control, I lost more weight. Total of 10 pounds in 7 weeks. The main thing is I’ve lost 12 inches overall. And my blood pressure is improved.

28.   We had our dinner party tonight. Our theme was Canadian Summer fresh and the menu was cherry sangria, caprese bites, mushroom and garlic bruschetta, spring pea soup, walnut pear and bleu cheese salad with maple vinaigrette, grilled quail, bison bites, and Atlantic salmon with smashed roasted potatoes and bacon wrapped asparagus, and strawberry shortcake trifle for dessert. Yeah, it was delicious, and the weather was awesome.

29.   We went back to a nearby church again. We already know quite a few people from there and the women were happy to hear we may attend there. It was encouraging. My mom headed off to Finland tonight.

30.  My nieces are going to live in Paris, France for a month. Pretty awesome experience for them.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Other Books at the Judgment

By Pia Thompson

 “…books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” Rev. 20:12

Books are timeless. They are portable, personal, public and permanent. With many copies of the same book, they are a reliable record of an event. They existed before electricity, and can exist when the power is off.  They are the bookends of history. They were around at the beginning of the world, and will be opened at the end of the world. They don’t require a password to access them, or any special training to operate.

Creation was recorded in them, the genealogies and the early history of man, and all the works of God in history. Gen. 5:1 refers to the first book written as the Book of Generations, which recorded creation and the fall. Throughout Scripture, there are references to the Chronicles of the Kings.

The Bible contains sixty six books, yet it is one Book. It has one theme. It was written over many centuries by forty authors in several languages. It has many stories or narratives, yet they are all part of the meta-narrative, the grand story of how God redeemed sinful humanity to become the Bride of Christ. All of history is His Story. These things were “written for our learning”.

God has been keeping records. Names, deeds, and words, are all recorded in books. On that awesome Last Day, the Bible says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”  Rev. 20:12

The main book seems to be the Book of Life, which is a list of names. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev.20:15

But what are these other books mentioned in Rev. 20:12?

Malachi 3:16 says, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who  fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”

This is to contrast the conversation and conduct of believers with the preceding words of murmuring and complaining by unbelievers. They said it was useless to serve God. But our delight as believers is to talk about our Saviour. The amazing thing is that He takes notice of it, approves, and records it in our favour. This is a Book of Remembrance.

Psalm 56:8 says, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”  Here we see that God is aware of our sorrows and in a sense saves our tears; none falls to the ground without His notice. He records our grief in a book. He knows. He cares. I find this to be so poignant a picture of our loving and compassionate God. I call this a Book of Sorrows.

When Job was in the midst of his suffering, he lamented, “Oh that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!” Job. 19:23 Job wanted a permanent record of his words. This would give some meaning to his suffering. He got his wish. Someone has taken note. His words were recorded.  I call this a Book of Suffering.

Jesus warns that a record is kept of our idle words, and we will be held to account for them. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:36,37 Our words have eternal significance. The Bible often condemns sins such as insults, gossip and lies as severely as adultery and murder. 1 Tim. 1:10, Rev. 21:8

I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a sobering thought. Like Job, when he is rebuked by God, says, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4 Or Isaiah, when He has a vision of God on His throne, and he is aware of being a “man of unclean lips”.

We tend to downplay those sins as somehow less heinous than adultery or murder, but God takes them very seriously. Whether there’s another book for our idle words or not, the idea is that there is a record. Ultimately, every facet of every life is “stored” in the mind of God. He doesn’t forget. The information doesn’t need a backup.

While judgment is a fearful thing, it is also comforting to know that in that Great Day all injustices will be made right, that God has seen our suffering and sorrow, our fellowship and deeds. He inscribed our name in His Book of Life even before we trusted in Christ. Perhaps the tears He wipes from our eyes in Heaven will be after He has reviewed our lives. When it’s all over, we are secure in Heaven because of Christ, and the efficacy of His blood to cover all of our sin.

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:4
First Published in the June 2014 issue of Barnabas magazine.

Is a Mid-Life Crisis Real?

If you were to ask the average North American what a mid-life crisis was, they would tell you it’s that time of your life, usually in your 50’s, when you re-evaluate where you are in your career, finances and relationships. If you’re a man, you may buy a new ‘toy’ like a sports car or a big screen t.v.

But ask someone in the developing world, or the ‘real world’ as some would call it, and they would have no clue what you’re talking about. It’s debateable whether such a thing even really exists or if it is merely a ‘first-world social construct’.

Only we in the west have the privilege, or should I say, the audacity, to be discontent with our wealth. To question whether we are as happy as we had hoped to be, or whether our house is as big as we dreamed of, or our children as well-behaved, our jobs as satisfying, and our relationships as fulfilling as we dreamed of as children is rooted in a false sense of entitlement.

The underlying premise, whether spoken or not, is that we deserve to be happy. A singer of Christian contemporary music left her husband for another man because she said, “I wasn’t happy, and God doesn’t want us to be unhappy.” But God’s ‘goal’, if we can put it that way, is not our happiness, but our holiness.

So is a mid-life crisis real? Not in the sense that we use it to justify extravagant purchases or be discontent with our lives. It’s just a coincidence that many major life events occur in the fifth decade of our lives; that taken together, can feel like a crisis. During that time we may have a change or loss of a job, experience an empty nest, the death of our parents, a health crisis, or marriage breakup, for some.

These crises would lead us to reflect on our lives. At that age, we realize we may have only 20-30 productive years left before our bodies or minds begin to fail us. We hear that clock ticking. We are on this conveyer belt of life and we know it’s not slowing down because we want it to.

That can be good or bad. Bad, if we compare ourselves to others. There’s the myth of the greener grass in our neighbour’s yard. We play, ‘if only’, and inwardly spurn the gifts God has given us. We may have regrets, remembering our early dreams and goals, feeling we have not accomplished them.

We can be discontent and look for a change in circumstances or relationships to improve our situation. We can turn to ‘retail therapy’ to fill a void. That void cannot be filled with ‘things’. Our satisfaction must be in Christ.

So how can a mid-life crisis, if we’ll call it that, be good. Only if we use the time of reflection on past blessings, and even trials, as well as a recognition that we are mortal, to consider how we can use the blessings God has given us, not for our own satisfaction, but for God’s glory and the benefit of others.

“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd

Pia Thompson

First Published in Summer 2013 issue of Barnabas magazine

Sunday, June 1, 2014

50th Birthday Party!

May Journalling

1.    Thirty years ago today I came to Toronto. I was twenty, very na├»ve and wonderstruck by the big city. I gaped at the sky scrapers and stared too long at the punkers in the Eaton Centre who had rainbow rooster mohawks. The first month I lived downtown with my sister and her roommate, just a block from where I now work. It was magical to live over a food court, even though I had no money and was still job hunting. In those days, you had to pound the pavement to fill out job applications in person. I got a job as a nurse’s aide in a hospital, where I met my husband. It was a difficult job but I got something good out of it. He was working in housekeeping to put himself through university. I like to say he swept me off my feet because he was washing a floor the first time we spoke. He still washes my floors.

2.    First appointment with an endocrinologist to see about doctor supervised weight loss. This way it’s free. I start on Monday. It’s mostly meat and veggies, no carbs in phase one which is the first fifteen pounds. Then we’re heading out to Ancaster for the Sovereign Grace Fellowship Ladies’ Retreat, the same one I spoke at last year. The speaker this year is Sharon James and I’m looking forward to hearing her. There are fourteen attending from our church.

3.    Four couldn’t attend the SGF Ladies’ Retreat, because the driver was sick, but the ten who went had a great time, although many of us were tired.They dangle two of my favourite things in front of me; bags and books. So I bought a bag to carry the new books I bought. I know, I’m weak.

4.    Good to be back at church but exhausted from the weekend.

5.    Dental appointment this morning, then first day on the new diet. I felt the lack of sugar a little bit, but overall, not bad. I’m not hungry at all, it’s just new to not reach for carbs, dairy or fruit.

6.   Busy night with a few confused and needy patients.

7.    Good night.

8.    I feel the weight coming off already. I have dropped inches off my abdomen in just a few days. Incredible!

9.    Slept all day. Too exhausted to do anything, even laundry.

10.  Bought my dress today for the party. It’s red. I love it. I have next week off to finish the planning.
11. Mother’s Day.

12. Physio appointment this morning and then to the dentist again for an exchange of my metal fillings. They showed me some stretching exercises. I found out I need a root canal. It will be done on Thursday. Should I be nervous? Also my sister’s birthday today.

13. Prepped all the jars and candy for the candy bar. I want to be ready to just pack up and go on Saturday. It’s coming up!

14. My mother-in-law’s birthday today. Mani-pedis with my youngest daughter. I hope the nail polish lasts until the weekend for my party. Also went to physio again, and made Atlantic salmon, broccoli and mushrooms for dinner. I’m coping okay with the diet. After one week I lost 4 pounds and 4 inches. Progress. Also excited to receive the proofs for Testimonies of Faith, the book I’m editing for our church’s 50th. Even the sample cover is nice. I’ll give it a read-thru and send it back.

15.  Physio in the morning, then my root canal. I also saw a chiropractor for the first time and they did one of those spinal adjustments. It wasn’t so bad, neither was the root canal.

16.   Last day of prep for the party. I paid for the cupcakes, picked up the flowers, and scanned a few more old pictures into the computer for the slide show. My earliest memories of my grandparents include the strange Finnish tradition of photographing them seated at a table full of flowers. They looked old. They also didn't smile. As a nod to my forebears, I did the same, although I broke tradition by daring to smile.

17.  Party! It went well, about 60 guests. The food catered by Astra Petamus Foods was delicious, the cupcakes by Cake Expectations were the best I ever had, and it was so good to see friends from far away.

18.  Leftovers from the party for church. Delicious. Now to clean up this mess.

19.  Victoria Day! Physio this morning. Walked for an hour and 15 minutes with my husband and daughter along the shores of Lake Ontario. Then we bbq’d and my brother-in-law and his wife came over for a hot tub. I posted pictures of the party.

20.   Physio, chiropractor and fit for orthotics this morning. Dropped off the cupcake stand back to the cupcake lady. Back to work tonight. I sent the last of the candy and cupcakes to my husband’s work.

21. Work, just work.

22. So I’m on track with my weight loss. Five pounds, and 8.5 inches. They can even measure how much of it is fat vs. water. Mine was 4.2 of fat and .8 of water.

23.  My back is getting worse and worse. It’s definitely muscular stiffness, probably a side effect from my Lyrica. I’m doing physio, chiropractic, massage, hot pads, muscle relaxants every four hours, orthotics, weight loss, and stretching exercises. What more can I do?

24. Massage after physio this morning; lovely. Then went to Doors Open Toronto with my youngest. We tried to get in at the Don Jail, but the wait was two hours long. Then we went to the Toronto Necropolis, Osgoode Hall and my husband’s workplace, which was on the list for the first time. They had 1400 through on the first day. Totally wiped out afterwards from all the walking.

25.  We had a providential dinner and wedding shower for a couple at our church who are getting married in two weeks.

26. Back to the dentist this morning to re-do my root canal. Lovely.

27. Four nights this week. Tonight was crazy busy as I had a patient who went to ICU so my other patients were covered by my colleagues for four hours while I focussed on her.

28. Another busy night, I guess that’s why they pay us the big bucks.

29. One more. Not so bad.

30. Slept all day. Sent back the proofs from the Testimonies of Faith book.

31. Lovely day, beautiful weather. Started the day with a massage, physio and chiropractor for my aching back. I also found out I’ve lost a total of 7 pounds so far, along with almost 12 inches of fat. A foot of fat, how gross does that sound? And there’s lots more where that came from, but at least it’s trending down. My husband and I cleaned the house and did some yard work. Then we bbq’d jerk turkey and went for an evening stroll in the ravine. I also did some more prep work for the upcoming writer’s conference in mid-June. I’m excited to be going again, but frustrated that with my year of health issues, I’m hovering at the 95% done mark on my novel and can’t seem to write, The End.