Thursday, September 29, 2011

Finding Peace

By Belinda
It was during Sunday's worship practice that I turned to Frances, who had moved last Friday to the house of her dreams in the country, and said, "I don't know where you are any more!"

She understood immediately what I meant; my sense of disconnection; not knowing where to place her in my thoughts. I had seen the photos of the house on Face Book, but it wasn't like seeing the house in context of its surroundings.

"Come and see it after church," said Frances and included Susan in the invitation and on the spur of the moment we took her up on her invitation.

Frances and Brian had moved from a home that they had made beautiful, in a subdivision in Alliston, but both of them longed for the country and wide open spaces. A next door neighbour with a penchant for noisy hot tub parties that went into the wee small hours added to the sense of urgency.

When they found the house in Mansfield, 20 minutes from their home in Alliston they fell in love with it.

It needs fixing up, which made it affordable, but both of them are still YOUNG! Susan and I looked at one another as we left, happy for our friends and happy for ourselves too, that we were not the fixer uppers! :)

When I arrived home at 3.30, there was a message on our answering machine, left just 25 minute earlier by my dear friend Dave. He and Joe were passing by on the highway, and they have a ritual of calling every time they pass by the Bond Head exit.

"Hello," called his breezy voice, "We're passing your house and just had to call!"

I immediately called them back, and we chatted and laughed for a few minutes. Then, and this is the real point of all of this, he asked me if I had read his niece Shannon's latest blog post. I love Shannon's writing but I hadn't read the post so I went there right away when I got off the phone. I read the post she'd written and it spoke to my heart, reminding me of things I knew and had forgotten, that very morning as it happens.

I share a link here to the post on her blog, Half Soled Boots, so that you can go there too, if you like. You will find it worth your time to read it. Enjoy; take in its truth--and peace be with you.

Half Soled Boots: Peace Be With You

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Can Never Tell

By Belinda

I left for the worship practice on Sunday morning thinking to myself that I wouldn't  be an asset to the team at all. I had been in denial all week with a cold.

"Take a decongestant," said Paul.

"I swear by vitamin D," said Susan.

And Terry said, "Cold fx," does it for me."

I thanked them all politely but said that I expected my immune system to do its thing.

I believed that it would through streaming nose and tickle in throat. It let me down a bit. I have to admit my expectations were not met!

All this to say that by Sunday, my voice; never anything more than "nice" and not strong at its best; was squeaky. But I am nothing if not as steadfast as the Tin Soldier in the old fairy tale, so I went to the practice ready to bow out if not needed.

Frances, who leads our team, was there already. I was amazed really because she had just moved house on Friday and had also been unwell with a kidney stone. Added to that I discovered that during the move she had broken her toe!

She seemed to be coiled as tightly as a spring. She was...."intense" describes it well. Susan was there already and seemed much more laid back. Pastor Dave was telling a story, but Frances was cutting off his sentences and firing off instructions like bullets--focused on the sheaf of worship songs in her hand and figuring out the flow of the service. Fortunately Pastor Dave didn't seem to notice. He cheerfully carried on talking, not worried at all. But he wanted to be sure we knew that there was a special guest to fit in; Jack MacFadden, a local author and retired teacher, who was making a brief presentation.

It turned out that there had been a scheduling blip and our usual pianist, Esther, was teaching Sunday School that day, but there was no other pianist arranged.

Esther was now going to both play and teach, which meant delaying the children going down to Sunday School, and Esther was slightly (well more than slightly) in a flap about the whole thing as she had planned to be downstairs preparing for Sunday School, not upstairs practicing with the worship team.

All of us (except for Susan, I shouldn't lump her in!) were definitely below par!

I spotted Jack coming in with Paul as we were finishing our practice. I hadn't met him before but knew that he had founded the charity, "Coats for Kids," in nearby Bradford and since connecting with Paul, had been instrumental in many warm winter coats going north to the First Nations community Paul and our church care so passionately about: Mishkeegogamang.  On Sunday Jack was at the church to make an announcement about an upcoming book fair, "Buy a Book--Share a Book," on October 13, when people would be encouraged to buy a book for Mish when they buy one for their children or grandchildren. As a writer and educator he is passionate about literacy.

So I wanted to meet this man. I went down to talk to him and in a few minutes of listening to him my regard only grew deeper. I felt that I was in the presence of a great man of great compassion, dignity and humility.

Someone pointed out that it was now 9 minutes past 11 and we hadn't started the service! Was it really that time already?? Frances got Susan's attention (she was in deep conversation at the back of the church) and one by one we all mounted the platform.

I felt self conscious, which I know you aren't supposed to be when leading worship. Our focus should be on God and not ourselves, but I couldn't help it. I felt insecure and inadequate and out of sync. I couldn't look at Jack, sitting patiently in the front row, ready for the time of his announcement; I looked everywhere else but at him!

Finally, our part of the service was over; the children were dismissed to Sunday School with Esther and Frances handed the service over to Pastor Dave who welcomed Jack.

Jack started by singing the praises of "the choir." That was us! He said he stood beside Paul and had to listen to him who didn't sing as beautifully as his wife. :) We all laughed and relaxed a little.

Paul left church to drive Jack home. Jack is recovering from a double hip replacement and isn't driving yet. I went with Susan to see Frances's beautiful new home in Mansfield after the service, so it was later in the afternoon when we saw each other again.

I told Paul what a pleasure it was to meet Jack and how I wished we had been at our best.

Paul said, "Do you know what Jack said to me? He said, 'It's the most uplifting church I've ever been in--from the singing of "the choir," to the welcome.'"

All I saw were all our rough edges. Jack saw "genuine."

It showed me again that no matter how weak we are, and maybe when we are at our weakest; God can use our offering in spite of ourselves!

Post Script:
Today's reading from My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers, is titled, "The Conciousness of the Call." He ends with this:
If a man or woman is called of God, it does not matter how untoward circumstances are, every force that has been at work will tell for God's purpose in the end. If you agree with God's purpose He will bring not only your conscious life, but all the deeper regions of your life which you cannot get at, into harmony.1 Corinthians 9:16

Go to the Instrument

Samira Wake-Up

By Belinda

We've been trying to get together since late August--Luisa and I; two busy friends, juggling appointments and schedules. We hadn't seen one another for some time and there was so much catching up to be done!

After a false start or two, I planted a figurative flag on September 27. Nothing, I promised, would encroach on this day; it was sacred to this particular friendship!

We arranged to meet  at 9.30 for breakfast at the Cora’s at Dufferin and Steeles and I began to look forward to it more and more as the day approached.

I had not been to that particular Cora's before and so I printed off the directions. The travel time was supposed to be 40 minutes, so I planned to leave at 8.30, leaving time for a leisurely drive to the restaurant.

I had the day off from work and felt so peaceful driving down towards the city with no agenda but God's for our time together. I didn't even turn on my car radio as I drove, or listen to my latest audio book from the library. Those sounds would have intruded on the day somehow.

Such was my reverie that I drove right past my turnoff on highway 7! I was very glad that I had enough margin time that I could get off at Finch, the next exit, go east to Dufferin; up to Steeles, and still be on time.

Ha! That would have been the case had I just turned around and gone back up the highway, but Finch was moving at a snail's pace due to construction at Keele Street. I didn't know that of course, and patiently inched my way along,  glancing periodically at my watch with increasing alarm! I realized that I was going to be late. Then it was just a matter of revising exactly how late I was going to be every few minutes.

I imagined Luisa sitting in Cora's waiting. We had both anticipated this day so happily that at least she wouldn't think I'd forgotten. At last, after an excruciatingly slow crawl along Finch Street, I arrived at Dufferin and was on my way back north.

I got to the small restaurant in a strip mall at 9.45 and hurried inside. "I'm looking for someone who might be waiting for someone else to arrive," I said to the waitress. She waved her arm around the restaurant, "Take a look, it's not very big." I scrutinized the tables carefully; Luisa wasn't there.

"Did you notice anyone leaving because they gave up waiting?" I asked.

"No, no one did that," said the waitress, showing me to a table, "Do you want to wait?"

I said yes, settled into a seat and ordered coffee. It was unlike Luisa to be late. I had not checked email that morning and wondered if she had left me a message; perhaps something had come up--some last minute emergency. I chided myself for not exchanging cell phone numbers.

Then I realized that there was nothing at all I could do but relax and enjoy the gift that God had given me. It wasn't the gift I was planning on; breakfast with Luisa, but I was in Cora's with a cup of coffee and I decided to order breakfast. I have never eaten alone in a restaurant before and always wondered what that was like. I happened to have a book with me in which I had one final appendix to read.

I checked the menu and found to my joy that "Ode to Oatmeal," was back on it. I love oatmeal and Cora's oatmeal has English cream on the side; strawberries around the edge; a sprinkling of blueberries in the centre, and maple syrup.

Between sips of coffee and spoons of delicious oatmeal; I finished the book. I decided that there was a certain kind of pleasure in this eating alone thing. I had just put the book away when someone came through the door in a hurry. It was Luisa, looking abjectly apologetic and harried!

What glad hugs we exchanged. She had slept in and woken up in a panic when she realized what day it was. If I had arrived on time, I probably wouldn't have been there any more when Luisa arrived. God saw to it that we didn't miss each other by slowing me down, and he gave me the gift of finishing a book I'd been wanting to finish as well.

How is it possible to talk for four hours and still have things to say next time? But we did. That is one of the gifts of friendship.

One little snippet from our conversation: Luisa, a musician, has just finished 5 years at the University of Toronto. We were talking about music lessons and my abject failure a few years ago when I took them. My teacher told me that if I just practiced for 10 minutes a day, that was all I needed to do but each week I felt guilty because I couldn't seem to manage it. Truthfully, I chose not to. I had a fantasy of playing the piano, but wasn't willing to do the necessary  work. I was amazed though, that only ten minutes a day would have been enough.

Luisa nodded and said that a PhD student at university had told her about research that shows that it isn't how long you practice but how often. She said that there is something about "presenting yourself to the instrument." Her fellow student said that going to the instrument ten times a day is better than spending 10 hours practicing.

I had given Luisa a copy of The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers, explaining that it is a wonderful "prompt to prayer," and so small that you can keep it with you always and open it for many interludes of prayer and devotion during the day.

When Luisa talked about going to the instrument, both of us instantaneously looked towards the book.

I reached out, gently touched it and said with a laugh, "Go to the instrument."  :)

Monday, September 26, 2011

By Belinda

Having been to the beautiful, historic land of Israel this year, I felt I needed to share this article, posted by a friend to her Facebook page. There is so much unbalanced and biased reporting on Israel that I didn't want to miss an opportunity to share the truth.

Scottish Professor Speaks Out Against Boycott of Israel

Here’s an incredible letter written by a non-Jewish Scottish professor to his students who voted to boycott Israel.
scotlandThis is a MUST READ article that needs to be disseminated in every university. If you have children or grandchildren in university please make sure they publish this important letter in the students’ rag or post it on the university bulletin board.
A Scottish professor responds to campus boycott. The Edinburgh Student’s Association made a motion to boycott all things Israeli since they claim Israel is under an apartheid regime. Dr. Denis Maceoin (a non-Jew) is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. Here is his letter to those students. AN EDUCATED NON-JEWISH TAKE ON ISRAEL.
Dr. Denis MacEoin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly, addresses The Committee of the Edinburgh University Student Association.
Received by e-mail from the author, Dr. Denis MacEoin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly,
TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association.
May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain ‘s great Middle East experts in their day.
I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University . Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.
I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel . That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.
Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel . I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel , precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.
It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.
Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.
That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).
In Iran , the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran ? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa . They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do in South Africa .
Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters.
In Israel , women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.
It seems bizarre to me that LGBT groups call for a boycott of Israel and say nothing about countries like Iran , where gay men are hanged or stoned to death. That illustrates a mindset that beggars belief.
Intelligent students thinking it’s better to be silent about regimes that kill gay people, but good to condemn the only country in the Middle East that rescues and protects gay people. Is that supposed to be a sick joke?
University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.
I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel . I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.
Israeli flagIsraeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya , Bahrain , Saudi Arabia , Yemen , and Iran . They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai’s…. Need I go on?
The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.
They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930′s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?
Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.
Yours sincerely,
Denis MacEoin
Please SHARE this important article with your friends and family, especially with students…

Oceans of Emotion

By Belinda

We rented  Soul Surfer for 7 days and Paul and I watched it last night. So good on so many levels!

When it ended I applauded. Couldn't help it!

Brenda walked by the room and said, "You have Soul Surfer!?" She immediately planned a movie night tonight with the girls.

The Blue Ray DVD wouldn't play on their machine so they came upstairs to watch it in our TV room and when I  finished having supper in the kitchen with Paul I made popcorn for all of us and sat between Brenda and Tippy on the couch to watch the rest of it with them.

Based on the true story of 13 year old Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack; the movie is a true inspiration in terms of courage, character and values.

I admit I shed some tears last night when I watched it for the first time. It touches the heart and is very moving, but sitting between Tippy and Brenda I felt as though I should have worn a rain coat. Both of them sniffled loudly through the whole thing. I kept passing tissues. There was no end to it.

"Are you guys crying?" asked the self contained Tori from  her solitary perch on a chair.

"Aren't you?" I asked.

"I like it, but I'm not crying," she said, and she didn't, not once!

Tippy on the other hand went from loud snuffling to full blown sobbing as footage of the real Bethany Hamilton came on at the end. Tippy is the one whose emotions are close to the surface, as stormy and turbulent as the ocean itself, but this was a veritable tsunami of tears. It was so funny that we started laughing. This made Tippy laugh into her sobs. Have you ever heard a teenager sobbing and laughing at the same time? It's a very funny sound let me tell you, something like an agonized donkey. We all had fun with it.

Brenda said, "Is this going to be on the blog?"

I said, "No, it's too personal."

But Tippy said, "It's all right. It would be a funny story."

I went with that, she was smiling.We were on a roll.

Rolling Around In My Head: What I Learned From Susan

Our friend Dave wrote a lovely post today about our mutual friend and sometimes writer here: Susan. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Rolling Around In My Head: What I Learned From Susan: Though people often refuse to believe me, and I've never understood why, I am a very nervous and uncomfortable public speaker. I know I do i...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The BBQ (or Molson Works the Crowd)

By Belinda

I woke up on Friday morning to the drum of rain on the skylight. As I brushed my teeth and went through hurried preparations for my work day--hurried because the dark morning outside meant that I had wakened later than intended--I listened to the weather forecast. Two days of rain were forecast. Not good news. All day long it rained steadily.

Our events committee at work had planned a Fall Family BBQ for Saturday and at the last count there were 70 people coming. We had no contingency plan. Rain or shine we were having a party--but it would be so much better if it shined. I wrote on Friday that I was praying that the weather forecast was wrong.

On Saturday as soon as morning came I rolled out of bed, padded across the carpet to the window and peaked outside. No rain! I whispered a prayer of gratitude.

As I prepared for the day I listened to the weather on CBC Radio for the second day. The forecast had improved to cloudy with sunny periods. Again I thanked the Lord for the revised weather forecast.

As I put on my running shoes Molson misread the sign as a walk coming. He started snorting and sneezing, which he does when he's extra happy about going out.

"No, Molson, it's not what you think," I said, laughing, clipping on his lead, and opening the car door. He jumped into the back seat with no loss of enthusiasm at all and not a backward glance. As long as I was going somewhere, anywhere, he was up for the ride.

I couldn't help thinking that once again I could learn from our dog. Something about being flexible and falling in with God's plans when his are different to mine. :)

As we drove out of our driveway at 10.30 to head to the conservation area, I gazed up into the deepest blue sky. We had the most beautiful Fall day imaginable for the BBQ.

And we had such fun. The sun warmed our faces and shoulders and a gentle breeze fluttered the leaves above us, still summer green. One by one, vans arrived and people climbed out, some with wheelchairs and walkers rolling over the grass.

Families mingled, marshmallows were roasted in the fire pit and games were played. The strains of two harmonicas drifted in and out of the sound of conversations and the hours went by so fast.

Molson was the most popular guest at the BBQ. Like a newborn baby handed from woman to woman at a baby shower, he went from person to person; petted, walked, and fed surreptitiously.

I told one family member how Molson came to belong to us--how Brenda had been doing data entry as a volunteer at the kennel where he was born, and how he was reclaimed from a less than responsible owner. I told him how the kennel owner offered him to her free, on condition that he be available for occasional stud services.

The man I was speaking to smiled. "What a life," he said dreamily, "where can I get a job like that?"

Of course Mo Mo does so much more than that. He has a mission and he is fulfilling it perfectly.

My friend Dave called today and we were talking dogs. He said he disagreed with a behaviourist who said that dogs don't have emotions and that people project their own emotions onto them.

I so agree with him. God's breath is in all things. And he put a special puff of his life into dogs--I'm convinced.
"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole." ~ Roger Caras

"My little dog -- a heartbeat at my feet." ~ Edith Wharton

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friends, Finch Blocks and Happy Fridays

By Belinda

On Wednesday morning my office phone rang. I excused myself from the person I was meeting with because I'd been playing a game of phone tag with some people I needed to catch. It wasn't either one of them. The breezy voice on the end of the line was Frances--my friend.

 "Hello dear, are you busy?" she said, the question sounding oddly incongruous at that moment.

 "Well, I'm meeting with someone right now--can I call you back later?" I asked.

 "Oh, I'm so sorry," she said sounding annoyed at herself for calling, "I wrote a song, I just wanted to sing it to you."

I promised to call back at lunchtime, but lunchtime ended up being 2.30 and when I called her Brian answered the phone and said she had just left to pick up a daughter from school. He promised to let her know I'd called.

It was later, in the evening, when Paul and I were watching a movie that Frances called back. Paul paused the movie and I carried the phone into the next room.

 Frances had written the song to the tune of Song of the Exile from the movie King Arthur. She set the scene in the movie for me, where the actual song begins, Land of bear and land of eagle, and said, "Now just imagine a drone in the background."

Then, her beautiful voice began to sing  the words from scripture; words of praise to God;  that she had set to the music. I closed my eyes and listened, goosebumps breaking out on my arms; my heart lifting in praise along with hers.

"That's it!" she said, happy that her mission was accomplished. I told her I loved it, we hung up and I went back to Paul and the movie.

"What did Frances want?" asked the very patient Paul.

"Oh, just to sing me a song," I said.

He looked at me as if this was yet another one of the mysteries he did not expect to ever understand--or need to. :)

On Thurday night, Susan arrived for cell group with the granola bars that she had been inspired to bake after I wrote about the cardboard protein bars I'd been eating to keep body and soul together on the run.

When she proudly put them on my kitchen counter top, one of the cell group members, Elizabeth, looked up from chopping cucumbers for the giant salad we were making, and said, "Oh, Finch blocks!"

Susan's lovingly prepared granola bars in several variations of yummy nuts and seeds with miniature chocolate chips and raisins too, looked wonderful to me. I love anything that looks like birdseed. I broke off a piece immediately and it was delicious.

They were breakfast and lunch today, supplemented  with a banana.

I'm praying that the weather forecast for Saturday is wrong, because at work we have a big fall bbq planned in the local conservation area rain or shine.

But I'm happy that it's the weekend, no matter the weather and grateful for the blessings of friends, "Finch Blocks" and Fridays.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Liver has Landed

By Belinda

When I  visited Rob and Mum in July, I wanted to take a treat for my furry friend Bruce; the outwardly ferocious but inwardly sloppy Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

I couldn't take the Chewmaster Chicken Strips that Molson adores because they were too heavy, so I found a lighter Chewmaster option--Liver Bites. The whole bag only weighed 500gram--about 1 pound.

When I first unpacked them and showed them to Rob, he looked very serious, virtuously pursing his lips and saying, "I don't know, Belinda, I don't want him putting on weight." And he set a limit of  four a day.

I pointed out that they were only 8 calories each, but was very faithful in adhering to this instruction, even if each piece felt like a weightless piece of air as I carefully doled them out.

Bruce loved them from the first wiff--and learned to catch them in mid air in his salivating alligator jaws.

Rob, who loves Bruce to bits, was a pushover and forgot all about the four a day limit. I mean, this is the dog who sits beside him and Mum as they eat and just about wills the food off their plates. I steadfastly refused to give in to the intense stare. Rob holds with the theory that dogs do this because they have been conditioned from ancient times to eat food from the hands of their master. "Not this master," I thought! I hold with the theory that what is on my plate is mine--call me a meanie if you wish. :) However I am the Doggie Treat Fairy.

Since I left, Rob has been carefully rationing them out. Bruce has grown in his love for them and knows exactly where they are on top of the kitchen cupboard. Two weeks ago Rob told me that he was down to the bottom two inches in the bottom of the bag and said, "Belinda he sits by the cupboard and just STARES at the bag."

I said, "Well, then I will have to get him some more!"

"For when you come over again?" Rob asked.

"No, I mean to send."

"Really Belinda?" said Rob, and you would have thought I had promised him the world.

Rob is so content with little, that it is always hard for me to find anything to add to his happiness in the realm of gifts, so I was thrilled to find a small thing to bless his heart. Something for Bruce means more to him than anything for himself.

I went out that afternoon to Costco and got the Liver Bites, packaged them up in white biodegradable plastic bags bound with festive packaging tape and addressed it to "Bruce" c/o Rob Cater.  Last Monday the package left Canada by air.

On Saturday when we chatted I asked if the parcel had arrived. It hadn't, but Rob was so surprised that it was already on the way. I was sure it would arrive on Monday, and sure enough on Monday morning, just before I left for work, Rob called excitedly to tell me the treasure had arrived.

He said that Bruce helped unwrap the package and that he knew what it was.

"Belinda," he said, "I wish you could have seen him. His eyes were on STALKS!"

And I have been laughing ever since at that mental image, as well as carrying a ton of joy in my heart at making Rob's day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

All About Perspective

By Belinda

The way we look at things is so powerful. And here is something I've been pondering lately as an attitude check.

What if that difficult situation that just unfolded at the end of a work week supposed to be over already, was a question on an interview for the job I have? How would I answer the question?

I do a lot of interviewing as part of my job, so I get to watch people rise to the challenge of questions all the time.

I always admire quick thinkers because I am not one! The energy of some people amazes me, and the depth of character that sometimes shines out. I love it.

It's normal for people to come primed and pumped. Occasionally though, I may meet someone again a few months down the road and the excitement and energy is not as high. The person seems to have lost their "zing;" petered out of passion.

I don't want to be like that. I don't want to encounter a difficulty and say, "I can't do that!" or worse, "I won't." I want to remember that there is a long line of people who would love to be in my shoes right now and be grateful to have such a job; such a challenge; such an opportunity.

Just thinking that thought is a mental bootstrap lifter--an attitude checker--a gratitude pill. We all need them sometimes. It's all about perspective.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Then and Now

By Belinda

Rob and I have shared so much in our lives; the same womb (at different times) for starters; and then in four of the homes I lived in during my childhood, he was there. We had the same parents; large extended family, and a small but precious circle of family friends.

His experience of it all though, was much harder than mine. Being a son, he bore the brunt of some of the dysfunction we lived with. He was hurt at  home, and at school too; where he was a target until he grew big and strong enough to be scary, pumping iron to put on muscle.

And he lived on in our parents' home long after I left for a happier life; a home torn apart by unhappiness, and hurt fuelled by alcohol.

Apart from so much in common, the reasons we turned out differently are not so hard to figure out, but we are bound together forever by a strong and deep bond of love.

Today it's Saturday. I'm calling and he answers the phone. Soon we are joined on the other line by Mum and the three of us share our week since last Saturday.

He tells me that Dr. Potter made a house call to check on Mum this week for a fungal infection. The doctor commented on how well Mum is looking. Rob gave the carers a chance this week to treat the infection, but that they weren't successful and now, he says with resolve, he is taking over. He told the doctor what he was doing and Dr. Potter said, "That's exactly the treatment I would prescribe."

We talk dogs (we do this endlessly because we both adore them;) children ("Being in a relationship is so good for him" he says of one son); carers ("If they're nice to Mum that's all I ask,")  X Factor and the latest celebrity news.

He is content in his life at 58. He says, "I am sitting with a warm muzzle on my knee; a new car outside; a healthy mother and sunshine streaming through the window. What more could I ask?"

I have a brother I love dearly, whose care has made all the difference in the world for Mum. And I am so grateful for him.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Name that Flavour

By Belinda

I love cooking  food and eating it. This pleasure is one of God's great gifts.

I am grateful for the way he designed the tongue, with multiple taste buds:  amazing flavour receptors, all over, poised to identify salty sweet, sour, bitter and umami flavours. How cool that every morsel on it's way into the body has to pass over the tongue and that the trip can be so delicious!

But lately I've been noticing something disconcerting in processed foods. I don't tend to eat many of them but I do have things like protein bars and instant oatmeal in the cupboard, to keep body and soul together on rushed days. It's interesting that they have flavour titles that are recognizable, but put on a blindfold and it would be hard to tell what they are supposed to be.

Yesterday, instead of making a delicious pot of creamy Scott's Porage Oats or Cream of Wheat, I grabbed a package of instant oatmeal and although I often use the microwave, this time I boiled water in the kettle to "reconstitute" the contents. As the hot water hit the so called "oats," a flavour smell arose from the bowl that was unidentifiable. I had to look at the box to find out that it was "High Fibre Cinnamon and Spice." I wouldn't have guessed! And the last time I checked, Cinnamon was a spice.

My protein bars come in three flavours: Double chocolate; peanut butter and chocolate; and chocolate toffee. For one thing, is it not possible to make a protein bar without the word "chocolate" in it? And secondly, take my word for it that without looking at the wrapper, I would not know what I was eating. I eat them as "filler"--so that I feel like I've eaten and won't feel like wolfing down a dozen candy bars before the next meal, but it is hardly a pleasurable experience!

I don't expect this misleading naming of products to change. As long as companies are trying to sell us things they will do so with an image in words and pictures that aims to create an expectation. Being honest and saying, "Pick any bar--don't worry they all taste like cardboard" would hardly accomplish their goal now, would it? :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Initiation

By Belinda

I got home from work two nights ago to the appetizing smell of something delicious cooking downstairs.

Tori popped up a few minutes later to borrow our Parmesan cheese.

"Sure," I said, handing her my Costco sized square plastic bottle of fine cheese.

Later on, Brenda returned the cheese.

"Thank you for sharing your "post-best-before-date" Parmesan cheese with us," she said.

"Oh, no, I didn't realize," I said, and checked, relieved to find that it was only one month past the date; a few more months to go yet! :)

Kevin had asked, "It'll be all right, won't it?"

And Brenda, who grew up with me feeding her, confidently assured him that it would be. :)

He has survived initiation.

A Prayer

By Belinda

This is a "poem prayer" that is still a heart aspiration. Although I don't live it out as constantly as I wish I did, I want to. I believe in generosity of spirit.

If I am guilty, let it be
Of loving much
Of trusting much
Believing more than "eye" can see.
Let generosity my trademark be
And if perchance the world should take from me
The Lord will make the balance up--you'll see!

August 18, 1985

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In the Click of a Mouse

By Belinda

It used to be "the blink of an eye," but now all it takes is the click of a mouse and you can find yourself wishing you had not been quite so speedy with your "trigger finger."

Twice lately I've thought, "Now why did I just do that?!"

When I recently had an article published in an on-line publication I was excited about it and wanted to link it to my Facebook page but instead of clicking the FB button, I accidentally clicked that I "Liked" it. How silly did I feel, having proclaimed for all the world to see that "Belinda Cater-Burston Liked" her own article. My friend Susan told me tonight that it is possible to "un-like" something. This might prove to be useful information for someone else out there! I wish I had known. It must be like "un-friending" someone on Facebook!

But that was mild compared to what happened early this week when I received an invitation from someone to connect with them on Linkedin, a professional networking website. I intended only to accept their invitation, but my finger must have twitched momentarily, because to my horror, I found that with the click of a mouse, I had sent an invitation to everyone in my email address book. I would never do this on purpose. I steadfastly refuse any application that requests access to my email address book, but the dirty deed was done. And I don't believe I could have "un-clicked." :)

That was that, I thought. No use crying over clicked mice. I receive frequent invitations to connect to people and if I don't recognize the name I usually just ignore the invitation.

But people were so kind. I started to get a steady stream of emails from friends asking me to explain what Linkedin is, or apologizing that they didn't want to join. I didn't expect people to take the trouble to connect personally and I felt both touched and guilty that a) some people didn't want to reject the invitation without letting me know why, and b) that I had caused them the trouble of explaining why.

I did end up hearing from some people with whom I hadn't connected for a while as a result of this. It was wonderful to catch up with the latest news in one another's lives. That was one nice side effect of my fiasco.

Then there was an avalanche of announcements about people with whom I was now connected. Sometimes I didn't know who they were--but they must have been in my address book. :) I am connected to most people on planet earth at this point.

I hope that any friends who have not already emailed me will accept this group apology and explanation. :)

And although the book of James says that our tongues are the most unruly members of our bodies,  the index finger of my right hand is giving my tongue a run for its money.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The "Bond of Bond Head."

By Belinda

I am dog sitting Molson this weekend, which means I am temporarily Mo-Mo's Mama, rather than his doting Grandmama. He seems to know when the transfer from Brenda to me is made and makes the switch effortlessly. I can't say it's from one Alpha dog to another. We are both too smitten for that and I defy anyone not to be by this golden teddy bear of a dog.

I read somewhere--I think it may have been in Prevention Magazine, that gazing into the eyes of your dog, releases Oxytocin in the brain. I just had to look up what Oxytocin actually is; it is the love hormone !! This explains a lot!

What's not to love? I mean, it's hard not to love a creature who is adoring of you. His eyes never leave me unless he is lying next to me and making physical contact. That means he knows where I am and it's safe to go to sleep. Otherwise he is on alert, head raised at my slightest movement, ready to go where I go. Rob calls it the "bond of Bond Head."

He is happiness on four legs. Every bone in his body is HAPPY. Today I went into the garage to find coolers for the food in our freezer so that I could defrost it. He entered the garage at my heels with body language that spelled  "adventure." What could make hunting for coolers buried somewhere in the depths of the garage fun? Mo-Mo.

And I can't help but think that he is a picture of how my relationship to God could be:

  • My eyes on his in adoration
  • Connected by touch at all times
  • Always looking for what he is going to be up to next in my world 
  • Ready to join him in the adventure
  • Happy just to be with him
Mo-Mo--I want to be like you.

Get Out the Kleenex

By Belinda

Talking to Rob and Mum this morning and Rob said that The X Factor is really heating up in England. Went on You Tube and discovered Samantha Brookes. A star is born. Wow!

Rolling Around In My Head: The Gathering Place - remembering those with disab...

Rolling Around In My Head: The Gathering Place - remembering those with disab...: It's just outside my door. The gathering place. The place where those of us with disabilities are to go in a crisis. Should there be a fire,...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

In the Soup

By Belinda

Every day my brother has a date--with a feisty woman in a long blue robe. This summer while visiting Rob and Mum  in England I noticed that no matter what, every day, he vanished upstairs to his flat when Judge Judy was about to come on t.v..

While Mum's carers were helping her get ready for bed, I would run upstairs to Rob's flat to take his dog Bruce out for his last walk of the day, and Rob would be watching the show.

I got into the routine of sitting down with him when I got back with Bruce--and watching the end of the program with her frequent rapid fire dressings down of hapless plaintiffs bringing flimsy complaints, and her ability to quickly sort out fact from fiction.

One day this week, Paul handed me the channel changer and while flipping through, trying to find something to watch while we ate supper and there was Judge Judy. I couldn't resist.

When the program ended, I said to Paul, "You know, she reminds me a lot of Irene," (one of my best friends.)

"Oh," he said, "I'll have to tell her."

"No! Don't you dare!" I laughed, thinking that if I was going to tell her that I would give a bit of context and an explanation.

Imagine my surprise, when the next day, I got an email at work from Irene. The subject line was: "Really...???? :-)"

The email continued: "Chatting with Paul today and he mentioned I remind you of Judge Judy.....really...?????"

"Oh, no," I thought! But wrote back, "Yes--really--but I can't believe he told you that! Of all the things Paul forgets--and I expect him to forget--he remembered that."

(When I am surprised at something Paul tells me that I didn't know, he often acts surprised back and says that he told me that before and don`t I remember? I am convinced he`s bluffing half the time at least. But I know that he forgets a lot of what I tell him. :))

Irene wrote back, "'s funny because when Paul asked me "did Belinda tell you who you remind her of?".... I said "yeah, Cracker"....he looked confused and said Judge was really funny on this end as well."

Now I had forgotten about Cracker, a criminal psychologist from a British t.v series, but it was true, and now I had to think about what Cracker and Judge Judy had in common! Irene said it was their ability to size people up, which she has an uncanny ability to do quickly, but I see that according to Wikipedia, Cracker, for all of his failings, was also cerebral and brilliant--a description that also fits Irene.

Meanwhile, between emails I called Paul's cell phone.

"I can't believe that you told Irene what I said about Judge Judy," I sputtered.

"I told you I was going to," he said.

"Yes but you forgot what I said, when you said that."

"I have to go," he said sounding nervous, "I'm taking someone out for some soup."

"That's because you're in it!" I laughed.

And I am grateful for understanding friends.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


Paul and I went to the prescreening of the movie Courageous last week. Go to see it when it opens, the weekend of September 30th and support this movie!

You will be inspired, blessed and challenged to examine priorities.

Monday, September 05, 2011

More on the Exchanged Life

By Belinda

 On Sunday morning the worship team sang the Chris Tomlin song, I Will Rise. The lyrics of the first verse resonated more deeply than ever as I thought about what I tried to begin explaining last Wednesday.
There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won He is risen from the dead
And I will rise...
 "The grave  is overwhelmed"...oh, how I love those words! The graveyard of "the law;" the dry bones and dust of  "the will" apart from his will.

I recently began using The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers, as a guide to meditation and devotion. It was recommended by my friend and sister in the Lord, Ann Voskamp, and from the moment I first opened its pages I loved that small, black leather bound book. So much so that it has become one of my greatest treasures, next to reading the Bible.

From every page there blazes an understanding of God and of the beauty of his plan for the redemption of Man that leaves me breathless, and I realize that these men knew God deeply; grasped the whole of the Good News and lived with resulting overwhelming joy and peace.

In the preface, the editor, Arthur Bennet; Canon of St. Albans Cathedral, England; lists the 14 men whose writings make up the book, but individually the author of each prayer or devotion is not identified.

These lines, from page 80-81, express what I have understood at last--that Christ did and more than that-- does--all that is necessary to satisfy the chasm between man and God, and between what man is and what God asks us to become:
Thou has taught me the necessity of a Mediator, a Messiah,
to be embraced in love with all my heart,
as king to rule me,
as prophet to guide me,
as priest to take away my sin and death,
and this by faith in thy beloved Son
who teaches me
not to guide myself,
not to obey myself,
not to try to rule and conquer sin,
but to cleave to the one who will do all for me.
Thou hast made known to me
that to save me is Christ's work,
but to cleave to him by faith is my work...

Hudson Taylor, the great missionary, and founder of the China Inland Mission, once wrote:
It is the consciousness of the threefold joy of the Lord, His joy in ransoming us, His joy in dwelling within us as our Saviour and Power for fruitbearing and His joy in possessing us, as His Bride and His delight; it is the consciousness of this joy which is our real strength. Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change.
Again, I share these verses from 2 Peter, that I have been meditating on much for months. Everything is summed up in them and I pray that the Holy Spirit brings them alive to you as have been made alive to me:

2 Peter 1:3-10
New International Version (NIV)
Confirming One’s Calling and Election
 3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.
8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.
 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble,