Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Whose Fault? - guest post at Tim Fall's blog

Today I'm very happy to have a guest post up at Tim Fall's blog, "Just One Train Wreck After Another."

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Whose Fault? 

The other day I went to take cash out of the bank machine.  The prompts the machine gave me looked a little different from the way they usually do, but I wasn’t fazed:  it had been a while since I’d taken money out, and they update these things all the time, right?

But then a notice popped up saying, “YOU WILL BE CHARGED A $2.00 PROCESSING FEE PLUS YOUR OWN BANK’S CHARGES.”  Did I want to proceed, or cancel?

Click HERE to read the rest at Tim's place....

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday morsel: "My Redeemer lives"


I Know That My Redeemer Lives

"I know that my Redeemer lives":  
What comfort this sweet sentence gives.
He lives, He lives, who once was dead;
He lives, my ever-living Head.

He lives triumphant from the grave;
He lives, eternally to save.
He lives, my mansion to prepare;
He lives to lead me safely there.

He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death.
He lives, and while I live, I'll sing;
He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.

He lives -- all glory to His Name!
He lives, my Jesus still the same.
And O the sweet joy this sentence gives:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Text: Samuel Medley, 1738-1799.
Music: Lewis D. Edwards, 1858-1921 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April "Twitterature"

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly "Twitterature" post to share what I've been reading.




It was my 50th birthday last week and I received many books as gifts:
- An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- The Thorny Grace of It by Brian Doyle (I reviewed that one in my March "Twitterature" post)
- Everything I Need to Know I Learned From Peanuts
- Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey

I'm looking forward to getting through this awesome stash! I've started with the Downton Abbey book and am enjoying it for all the interesting background details and sumptuous photographs.




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For our book study group last month I read Parker Palmer's To Know as We Are Known:  Education as a Spiritual Journey.  This is one of Palmer's earlier books; in it he hasn't quite developed the comfortable personal voice that characterizes his later books like Let Your Life Speak.  Some parts of the book are too abstract for my taste (for example, the epistemology section, which for some of my book group's members was the best part); but it contains some very profound reflections on how our education system has become objectified and how the classroom should be a free, safe space to seek truth within relationship.  I would certainly recommend this book for any person or group interested in education and the quest for truth.




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I also read Evolving in Monkey Town:  How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions by Rachel Held Evans.  Held Evans grew up in Dayton, Tennessee (home to the Scopes "monkey trial," hence the title), a conservative town where being a Christian meant being an expert in apologetics with a doubt-proof world view.  But when her own doubts started creeping in, she realized her faith needed to change:  she had to face those doubts and start asking the questions she'd always been afraid to ask.  I loved this book.  Held Evans is so frank and open about her journey from confident certainty to a more humble acknowledgement that being a Christian didn't mean she had to have things all tied up in a neat package.  "God's ways are higher than our ways not because he is less compassionate than we are but because he is more compassionate than we can ever imagine." 

(Note:  this book has been re-released under a new title, Faith Unraveled.  Good call.)



Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday morsel: "there are no 'big' lives"

Micha Boyett is one of the bloggers I follow; in fact her former blog, Mama:Monk, was one of the first Christian blogs I started reading on a regular basis.  She has just published a memoir entitled Found:  A Story of Questions, Grace, and Everyday Prayer, which I'm very excited about reading (when I get it:  it is already out of stock at Amazon!).  The following excerpt is not from her book, but from a recent post entitled "Just as I Am" on the OnFaith blog; here she reflects on what she learned -- as an exhausted mom, weak in faith -- from her visit to a monastery:

"I began to notice that my life was small like the monks, full of motion and monotony, and also goodness. My life was valuable. And as I discovered its value, I began to believe I was known by a God who loves small things, a God who calls the daily repetition of my life sacred, despite my unimpressive spiritual resume. I began to believe that there are no 'big' lives. Everyone is ordinary. Everyone is living the same minute, the same hour as I am. We all walk through our days as they’re given to us. We all choose, moment by moment, whom we will be and how we respond to the time we’re given."



Wednesday, April 09, 2014

milestone


Today is my fiftieth birthday.

It sounds so strange to say that.  Inside I feel (and outside, I may still appear) very much like the awkward, eager-yet-timid girl I used to be, not a middle-aged woman who can now attend the 50+ Club at our church.  (Woo hoo!)

I've never understood those who refuse to admit their age.  To me, reaching a particular age, whether a milestone like 50 or any other number, is something to celebrate, especially when you look at the alternative:  NOT reaching that age.

On my birthday last year I had a little party on my blog to say thanks to my blogger friends for the encouragement, fellowship and wisdom I've received from them.  That was really fun.  But today I'd like to take a few minutes just to honour the people I consider most influential in my life so far. 

My dad and mom, Arnold and Meredith MacEachern.  I could say something glib like "Without them, I wouldn't be here today," but that would be a much too flippant way to refer to the two people who have been so important in my life.  My dad is a humble person who always helps others and gives everything for his family.  One of my earliest memories is seeing my dad on his knees praying by his bed; that is the kind of thing that stays in a person's mind forever.  My mom is a very hospitable, creative person who graciously accepts everything life has to offer and truly embodies the word resilience.

When I was growing up the people I looked up to most were Chad and Nancy Stretch, who attended my church.  They were always faithfully serving God and His people.  I babysat all four of their kids and always enjoyed being in their home, and I admired their loving relationship with each other.  Even now as they humbly devote time and energy to establishing their new/old congregation -- which is slowly rising out of a difficult church split -- I continue to respect their devotion to Jesus and to doing whatever He calls them to do, wherever and whenever that might be.

Allan and Lois Andrews were also very influential in my teenage life; they were in a Christian singing group that I was part of.  Allan encouraged me in my singing, taught me to play the guitar, and was an important mentor figure to me; he was also the master of ceremonies at Richard's and my wedding.  Lois influenced me by her beautiful voice and her joyful, worshipful spirit -- and still does.

When I left home to move to Kingston and attend Queen's, two people who affected my life most notably were Doug Caldwell and Bill Van Groningen
- Doug was the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship staff worker, and when I attended an IVCF meeting and heard him talk about a trip he had taken with his family (it was something about how God wants us not just to fast, but to feast), I wanted to be in his small group.  Doug taught me so much about the parables of Jesus, about how to really study Scripture, and about the grace of our prodigal God.  I still treasure my friendship with Doug and with his wife Sue Caldwell, with whom I've become closer in the last year and have shared many walks and great conversations about life and literature. 
- Bill was the Christian Reformed chaplain on campus, and when I first heard him speak, it was not just his impressive beard but his incredibly gifted way of talking about the Kingdom that drew me. At that first talk I heard him give, I must have looked extremely wide-eyed and interested because a couple of days later I saw him on campus and he said, "Hey [or, more likely, G'day] -- I saw you the other night!"  We have been members of the same congregation as well and have had significant conversations about the challenges of living faithfully in the Body of Christ.  Although Bill now lives in the U.S. with his wife Connie and we don't see each other, he is still one of my most valued friends and mentors.  Maybe it is because Bill recognized me and saw me on the inside that I consider him such a strong influence.

Also on this list of important people are Sam and Shirley Vander Schaaf.  I met the Vander Schaafs when Sam periodically visited our former church as guest preacher.  They came to our home several times, including for Richard's and my fortieth birthday party in 2004.  We were shocked and heartbroken when Sam died of a heart attack in 2010.  He was a very thoughtful, wise, real person whom I greatly admired and enjoyed talking to.  Shirley is warm and caring and has a gift for making the person she is speaking to feel special and loved.  I admire, and can only hope to emulate, her faithful trust in the Lord.

Another person who has made a significant impact on my life is my friend Lori Vos.  I met Lori when we were both M.A. students in English at Queen's; after starting out as classmates and officemates we developed a friendship that's lasted for 27 years.  Lori is a beautiful person, inside and out.  I look back with gratitude at our many deep and life-giving conversations about faith, suffering, books, writing, and a few thousand other things.

 And of course there is my family.  My husband, Richard, is without a doubt the most influential person in my entire life.  As this song by The Weepies puts it, he "turned me into somebody loved."  Richard is the most conscientious, faithful, humble person I have ever met.  He is also really funny.  But since he's reaching the big 5-0 milestone in a few weeks himself, maybe I'll say more about him then.  (And please, no "robbing the cradle" comments:  I'm only 27 days older, after all.)

My kids, Allison and Jonathan, have profoundly and permanently affected me as well.  For eight years of our marriage, Richard and I wondered if we would ever become parents; the last few of those years were quite difficult at times.  When Allison was born and the doctor announced, "It's a girl!" I felt as if a lifelong dream had come true -- which it had.  Allison is now a beautiful, intelligent, creative girl whose quiet courage in dealing with life's challenges is truly admirable.  And Jonathan is an enthusiastic, affectionate boy whose devotion to simple pleasures and routines has helped me learn to embrace both the joys and the limitations of my life as a mom of special needs children.

So today I celebrate the people who have helped make my life what it is -- and I celebrate my life.  In spite of the challenges in my life, and in spite of the fact that on more occasions than I care to admit I am crabby and grumble about insignificant things, I can say I'm a contented person.  I wake in the morning with hope in my heart because I feel loved by God and thankful that He gives me the strength to do what the day will require of me.  I'm grateful that today I am healthy in mind and body:  I can enjoy my work as a writing instructor; I can write and read and play my guitar and sing and go for walks; I can cook and bake and do laundry and pretend to houseclean.  I have faith, family, and friends; therefore I am blessed.


Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;  you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance. 
 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;  even at night my heart instructs me. 
 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.   With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;  my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:6-11 

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